I just got back from Utah celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday! How epic is that to reach level 80? We like the term “leveling up”. It sounds better than just “getting older.” She looks pretty phenomenal for 8 decades on this earth. This amazing woman bore 11 babies. All single births. And he had 4 miscarriages as well. I’m number 6, so I’m smack dab in the middle. I know, it explains a A LOT. But I tell everyone when they hear this for the first time that when there are 11 kids, 9 of us are”middle children”. Here we are in birth order from oldest to youngest starting with my oldest brother Mike on the far left. We surprised her and when we all showed up at my niece’s play, Dad bawled like a baby. I still can’t believe we pulled it off. We’re all terrible liars!
I was reflecting on a few things that have come up the last few days before we left town.
Right before I left, I was talking to a friend who told me she is about to file for divorce. My heart breaks for anyone who goes through this, especially right at the beginning when they don’t know what to expect. There’s so much fear and anxiety with the unknown. I consoled her but wanted to help her by giving her some expectations based on my experience. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier. It was for me. When my son was younger, he was starved for his Dad’s attention and struggled for many years. His father and I did therapy with my then 7-year-old son, and he would literally grab my hand, then my ex-husband’s hand and attempt to bring our two hands together. That’s what he thought he wanted. He couldn’t understand why we weren’t together and thought that all his problems would be erased if we just got back together. No one ever wants to get a divorce and break up their family. I never wanted to watch my son suffer every day because of my decision. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
But I finally got crystal clear on what I did want: to show my kids what a healthy loving lasting relationship looked like.
When I relayed this story to my friend who is about to embark on the dissolution of her marriage, she started to tear up. Then I told her what my current marriage is like now and what her future could look like, to give her some encouragement and hope. My husband and I are on the same path. We have disagreements, but our dreams are the same, and we work on them together. Side by side, hand in hand. Working through disagreements and differences. One mission, one direction. Two partners rowing the same direction. My son is eighteen now. He sees that, and he wants to follow in the footsteps of my husband. He just started working for him, he loves it, and he’s thriving.
When I described what could be, her response was, “I can’t even imagine that.”
To that I replied, “Oh yes you can!”
Everything is created from your imagination. Everything you have right now and everything you have done (or undone) started as a thought. Our kids, our jobs, our homes, our shoes, everything started as a thought first. So when you think about what you really want to have and create in your life, including all the relationships, it all starts with your imagination!
Then the work begins. Taking action.
The path to attracting my soul mate began in the mirror. Creating beliefs in yourself and loving that girl in the mirror. Creating what you want begins with imagining exactly what you want. Creating a list in the notes in your phone so you can read it and edit it every day. Then, take small baby steps toward it every day. That’s where most of us get tripped up. I know I did, time and time again. It doesn’t happen in a few days or weeks or months. Things take time. That’s why I set small quantifiable goals. Why “quantifiable? Well, how do you know if you’ve reached a goal if you can’t quantify it? You can’t accomplish “I want a great relationship.” You have to define what a great relationship means to you. We’re all different. All of our relationships are unique to us.
I heard a great story about Walt Disney. I didn’t know that Walt Disney passed away before the opening of Disney World in Florida. As the story goes, on opening day, a journalist walked up to Walt’s brother Roy and said, “Isn’t it sad that Walt didn’t get to see it before he died? To which he answered, “Oh, quite the contrary. He saw it every day for years.”
The quote might not be exactly right, but the power in that response still gives me goose bumps. Walt SAW Disney World a decade (if not decades) before anyone else “saw” it. It was alive in his imagination. And he turned his imagination into reality.
We can, too.
I spent a lot of years stifling my imagination. I wanted love so desperately, I did whatever I thought the guy I was dating liked to do (BTW, I call my EXs “teachers” because I believe everyone can teach us something if we really focus on the lessons). I wanted to do whatever he was interested in. I wanted to be the perfect girlfriend. It didn’t occur to me to discover what truly lit my fire and do that, until after I had single for many years. One teacher I met in Park City loved to ski (hello, he was in Park City.) While everyone was skiing, I had spent the day at the spa and then in the hot tub. I had always been too afraid to ski. So after I got home from the trip, I took a 2-hour skiing lesson and skied for the first time on a ski slope in Arizona. I never skied with said Park City teacher. He dumped me right before we were supposed to go on a trip to Mexico, and I went alone. The next year, I went skiing with my girlfriends, and I tore my MCL in my knee and spent the rest of the day in the ER. Then I spent the next 5 months in a knee brace, feeling sorry for myself, downing my sorrows in wine and thin mints. (Whyyyy did it have to be Girl Scout cookie season??) So, on the one hand, I conquered my fears and learned something that I had been terrified of my whole life. On the other hand, I was doing it for the wrong reasons and didn’t do it because I wanted to. Then I got seriously injured and was miserable.
I never actually realized I did this until I watched #RunawayBride. When Richard Gere asked all of Julia Robert’s ex-fiance’s how she liked her eggs cooked and they all replied, “the same as me” with three totally different ways they prepared eggs, I thought, “Oh no. I do that.” Not only did I not ask myself what I truly loved to do, I had no imagination. I wasn’t visualizing the relationship I truly wanted to attract. I wasn’t visualizing the life we would love together. I wasn’t visualizing my Disney World. I don’t like snow. I don’t like to ski. I’ve never been since, and I’ll never go again. I’m a beach gal! I love war weather! That’s why I moved to Arizona in 1997! And I love the mountains, but without snow, thank you very much! I love the sun on my face, (here the wrinkles) and I love to hike. I wanted a partner who loved to be outdoors hiking with me. And I don’t like camping. I like sleeping indoors. I don’t like bugs, and I can’t sleep on the ground. All I do all night is twist and turn, getting a heart attack with every noise as I count the minutes until the sun will rise and I can wake up!
And yes, it’s not solely about the activities you do. It’s only part of the equation. But if you are single, doing the things that you really want to do with your future partner and doing them now helps build that belief muscle that he will be right by your side soon! Visualizing that “he” (the partner I wanted to attract) was right by my side while I was hiking alone helped strengthen that belief that my future soul mate was on his way. Perhaps hiking on the same mountain at that same time and I didn’t know it. That keeps you on the path to attracting that special someone who loves the same things. If you’re not single and you want to attract some good friends, perhaps getting out there and doing some of your favorite activities will lead to you meeting some people with similar interests. Earlier last year I had the intention of attracting some new girl friends who were like minded and with whom I could truly relate. And I joined an entrepreneur group called the Arete Syndicate. It’s totally changed our lives in every way. We have monthly calls with the founders, and the women in the group have our own weekly call on Monday mornings where we learn and support each other. I’ve created new lasting friendships with incredible women who have flown to Arizona from Canada, Texas, and California to visit me! Four of us started a separate mastermind group where we meet every other week on Zoom to brainstorm, support each other and keep each accountable so we can achieve our goals and dreams. It started with a thought. Then I took action. Bam. I have new friends who I love and adore!
If you love country dancing, go country dancing. Even if it means going alone.
If you love the opera, go to the opera.
Do you love camping? GO CAMPING! Someone’s gotta love it! Sorry, I won’t be coming with you.
Your happy place is watching the sun set with your toes in the sand? Make it happen.
If you love poached eggs, eat poached eggs. Your soul mate will love you for exactly the person you are when you know who you are and you know what you want.
Doing the things that help you love and enjoy yourself, that feed your soul and create more joy in your life help you attract the genuine, joyful breathtaking, selfless love of someone else.
I did. And now, for John and me, there’s no “me” anymore. Most of our goals begin with “we.” Our dreams begin with “we.” When we imagine our future, it’s a future of “we.” We’re on the same path. Now that doesn’t mean we love to do exactly the same things at exactly the same times. But it does mean we support one another for who we are and have no problem trying new things. We’re genuinely friends.
In his book “The Seven Principals for Making Marriage Work,” John Gottman nails it:
“Happy marriages are based on friendship.”
He and his wife spent decades studying married couples, and I listened to him on a podcast recently where he said, and I’m paraphrasing, that the activity doesn’t matter, it’s how you treat each other. We’ve all seen those couples kayaking together yelling at each other the whole time.
“But Karen, I can’t even imagine a husband like that. One who would try the things I like to do. One who would share my dreams.”
Perhaps it’s because you haven’t imagined what that life looks like. And maybe that’s because you aren’t yet friends with yourself. Do you love who you are? Do you do what you enjoy so that you’re feeding your own soul? Do you lift yourself up and create joy in the life you have right now? That leads you towards others who will lift you up and help you create more joy. Even a soul mate if you want to attract one!
P.S. I talk a lot about how I ultimately found my soul mate in my book “Becoming Mrs. Stanley. The Single Mom’s Guide to Creating the Life you Want”. Spoiler alert, it’s not easy and it takes work. But oh baby, is it worth it! Next time you’re hiking, biking, jogging or driving, take me along! My audio book just hit Audible.