Love, Part One
Epilogue to Love
August, 2000: I sat in the splendor of the ocean view setting of the Bel Air Bay Club and watched my friend Lisa and her fiancé repeat their “I do’s” in the brilliant light. I stamped the vision into my mind and declared to myself “this is where I’m getting married." I was 44, single (as in barely dating), with no real prospects and never married.
Ten months later, I stood in the same spot at the Bel Air Bay Club, repeating my own “I do’s” with my own fiancé.
We’ve all heard the adage that a single woman over the age of 40 has a better chance of being struck by lightning than getting married. So how did I beat the odds and marry “Mr. Right” a month before my 45th birthday?
The bigger question is how did I arrive at the age of 44 to find myself seriously single, with a mediocre track record in romance, and no prospects?
The simple answer is that I undervalued myself.
Don't Confuse Effort with Results
In my early 30s my career was my top priority and clawing my way up IBM’s middle management ladder left me with little interest or energy in nurturing a relationship. It was no surprise that I jumped from one short-term liaison to another.
After several years of this pattern, I knew that something was missing from my life – I needed to be in a real relationship! I used my work strategy of “plan your work and work your plan” and decided that I simply needed to put in more effort on my relationships.
I committed to myself that I would do this with the next guy - I would hang in there and not run away from responsibilities and I would truly invest myself.
Years later, a future mentor would share a great saying: “Don’t confuse effort with results.” I wasn't there quite yet.
The Final Holiday Breakup
I decided that I needed to go into therapy and learn to make better choices.
I knew an FBI agent who specialized in profiling, and he referred me to a Psychologist who specialized in treating female law enforcers and was very experienced in treating strong independent women.
This no-nonsense therapist was exactly what I needed - someone who was not going to let me off the hook. She was practiced in exposing the elusive and persistently kept digging until she exposed the hidden.
One of the first questions that she asked was “What are you feeling?” Not how I was feeling, but what was I feeling? I searched inside and struggled for an answer; after a few moments I admitted that I didn’t know.
I was shocked that I couldn’t verbalize or describe what I was feeling. I didn’t feel anything. That’s how empty and out of touch I was with myself.
The therapist made me understand that I used work as a distraction. I had no clue that busyness is a form of distraction and a way of avoiding and feeling pain.
She gave me a homework assignment to ask myself multiple times a day “What am I feeling right now?” As I drove around Los Angeles, I asked myself that question at every red light (and Los Angeles is filled with red lights): “What am I feeling right now?” “What am I feeling right now?”
Over time, I could attach descriptions to my feelings. Curious. Anxious. Angry. Lonely. Hopeful. Sad. Afraid.
Death by a Thousand Paper Cuts
The therapist kept nibbling away about the reasons that a long-term relationship from my 20s hadn’t worked out. I continually avoid her inquiries. What did the reasons matter? The relationship was over and in the past.
One day she would not let me get away with it. She gently explained that people often avoid details about an experience because they are ashamed.
I finally shared some of the details of that 5 year relationship with a dynamic and successful older man. He was the life of the party and always talked me up in public. Behind closed doors he had often belittled me and discounted my contributions; it was death by a thousand paper cuts to my self-worth.
There are different ways that we allow others to weaken us. Some actions are obvious in their disrespect and harm. But other demeaning behaviors are insidious and less obvious. The harm caused by those who say they love us while manipulating our fears and weaknesses can be more devastating and soul sucking – and can take longer to recognize.
Freedom from the Past
Even though years had passed since I walked away from him, I was ashamed to admit that I had let another person treat me this way. I believed that allowing this behavior reflected a weakness in my character. Over time this expanded to a deep belief that I simply was not a good person and didn’t deserve to be with a man who would treat me well. I let that shame become a wedge to allowing anyone into my heart. It was understandable why I had chosen my career instead of love.
My therapist pointed out that I had been young (24) and desperately wanting a mentor when I met this older, successful and charismatic man. My naiveté at that period in my life wasn’t a character flaw. It was just that I didn’t know better, and once I did, I freed myself from that relationship and moved forward.
Connecting those dots was a huge relief. We feel relief when pain is eliminated. I had been in pain and didn’t even know it.
This therapist allowed me to forgive myself and recognize that I am a good person. This revelation liberated me for the rest of my life.
A Real Boyfriend...
I continued to date different men, but I took the pressure off of myself and stopped trying to achieve a relationship on a timetable. As it turned out, I reconnected with a man that I had known years earlier. Greg and I dated casually at first and I didn’t think much about where it was going. The weeks turned into months and I found myself in a relationship.
I finally had a real boyfriend!
As an entrepreneur he was constantly busy kicking off new business concepts. As a workaholic myself, I understood the axiom of “work comes first”. That he was often unavailable, chronically tardy and forgetful was simply part of the package and it was OK at first. We were compatible and I loved his family, especially his lovely mother and sister.
But the longer we dated, the more that I wanted from Greg - more time together, more attention, and a commitment for marriage. Whenever I brought up marriage, he would say that he wanted to marry me when the time was right. I would feel better for awhile, but nothing changed.
Being Single is Exhausting
I was starved for more, but I continued to feed off of the crumbs of attention that Greg threw out to me because I didn’t think that I could meet anyone better. He checked a lot of the boxes. Wasn’t that enough?
Moving to the Next Step
I was feeling increasingly frustrated, vulnerable and undesirable. Why didn’t Greg want to get married? What was keeping him from taking the next step? Lacking a genuine commitment, the only balm for my open wound was to keep hearing his reassurances that marriage was on the horizon.
Greg and I had been dating for over 4 years and I brought up the topic of marriage again. Once again, he reassured me that we would get married and this time, he actually gave me a timeframe: “Next Year.”
I was elated. That night, back at my home, I settled in my bed and reached for the journal on my nightstand to document our conversation.
"Greg and I talked about getting married," I wrote. "He said it's just a matter of time and when his business gets on track then we can get married - and it will happen next year! I'm so tired of just being his girlfriend. I am so ready to move to the next step!"
Copy and Paste
The 5-Year Investment
I felt like I had been hit in the face with a wet newspaper. I was an educated and successful woman. How could I have been so foolish? If this had been a business deal, I would have walked away and moved on to a more promising prospect. Yet, I had invested nearly 5 years into this project.
I jumped out of bed and found some page markers in my briefcase. I placed a colored tab on the pages of each journal where I had recounted the same marriage conversation. The visible evidence could not be ignored.
I flopped back on my bed and wept. Tears of humiliation ran from my eyes and trickled into my ears.
I whispered to myself: "June you are an idiot."
My journal entry had captured the truth: I was ready to move on to the next step . . . a step onto a path that did not include Greg.
The next time I saw Greg I told him that I had accepted the fact that we were not ever going to get married. I told him that I wasn’t ready to break up with him yet (remember…it was October, and I didn’t want to spend another miserable holiday by myself) but that we would go our separate ways after the new year.
Throwing Down the Gauntlet – Moving On
And that’s exactly what happened. That was one of the first times in my adult life that I actually lived in the moment – we enjoyed the next few months and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family and attended a blowout New Year’s Eve party to bring in the year 2000.
Once I threw down the gauntlet, I didn’t dwell on the outcome. And neither did Greg, because he didn’t take me seriously.
Was there a tiny part of me that hoped that he would propose before the deadline? Yes, but I knew the odds were against me. I woke up on the first day of the new year, January 1, 2000 and looked at Greg snoring loudly, and my eyes filled with tears. This was it. Proposing to me wasn’t on his radar.
The next day I drove to his home with the few belongings that he left at my home and the key to his house. I knocked on his door and said, “I told you that we would break up at the beginning of the year, so now it’s time.” He was genuinely surprised. I gathered my belongings from his house and retrieved my house key from him.
As I left, I stated, “Do not call me. Do not email me. Do not contact me. I need to move on.”
I went home and cried my heart out. Over the next few weeks he called me and emailed me. I did not let myself respond. At that time in my life, that was the most difficult decision that I had ever made. I broke up with someone that I was in love with. I was terribly lonely for many months. There were times that I wondered if I should go back to Greg, but I didn’t.
Will Anyone Ever Love Me?
When all of your friends are enthusiastically supportive of your breakup, that tells you a lot about how overdue the decision was.
No one disliked Greg – but they could all see that he had never made me a priority. Being apart from him gave me a greater perspective of the relationship. If one of my friends had been in that relationship, I would have advised that they break up a long time ago. I had been so entangled in wanting things to work that I couldn’t even listen to my own advice.
I spent the month of January feeling hurt, lonely and amputated. I wanted to hear Greg’s voice. I wondered if he ever thought about me. Mostly, I wanted Greg to have an epiphany and declare that he couldn’t live without me. I wondered if I would ever love again. I wondered if anyone would ever love me.
Reading through my journals gave me strength of conviction and I was not going to go back to him.
I also knew that the next relationship would be with a different sort of man because I was a different woman than I was 5 years earlier.
Letting Go and Moving Forward
Friends were eager to fix me up and I started dating. I was no longer hesitant about stating my needs. I was clear that I wanted marriage in my life. That drew a line quickly with those men who were not interested in marriage. I talked to God every day and had conversations about sharing my life with a loving man.
In the early 90s I had been introduced to the trans-denominational Agape Church and continued to attend every week. One evening, Reverend Michael Beckwith’s message was like a ray of sunshine that hit my heart.
He said to forget about what we are seeking . . . he said that when we live our lives for a higher reason that what we want – our heart’s desire – will be there for us. I interpreted that to mean when we disengage from our wants and focus on our higher purpose – to be kind and let God live through us - then what we want will be there for us. It was about letting go.
In the late 90s, I was introduced to Guru Singh. My initial interest was based on what I thought was stress reduction through Sound Therapy.
The person who referred me described Guru Singh as a “white guy wearing a turban.” If this sound therapy really worked, then what did I care if this guy wore a turban or a pirate hat? I got the number for Guru Singh and made an appointment for what I thought was stress reduction.
During our first meeting, he looked straight at me and asked: "Do you like what you do?"
The question was simple but multi-layered. I sensed that he was not merely asking about my work, but about the nature of my life. It was not the question itself, but the meaning behind the question that was unsettling.
I needed and wanted to answer in a thoughtful and sincere manner. My scripted responses wilted in the small room. Similar to the time when my Therapist had asked “What are you feeling?” I was again faced with a question for which I was at a loss for a response.
Thus began my journey of the “Spiritual Therapy” that I didn’t know I needed.
Meditation Baby Steps
I met with Guru Singh on a monthly basis. He asked insightful questions about the men I dated and pointed out how each one was not available and cautioned me against choosing another Greg – no matter how comfortable it felt.
He also gave me a CD (remember those?) of Guru Singh leading a 12-minute guided meditation for relaxation.
At that time I didn’t understand the value of meditation, but I had a combo alarm clock and CD player next to my bed and often fell asleep to his guided meditation and woke to it every morning. I was unaware that this mediation was percolating through my consciousness in a positive sense.
Six months had passed since Greg and I separated, and I felt lighter and happier than I had in a long time. I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen in months, and he said that I looked five years younger than when I was with Greg. I hadn’t realized how stressful it was to be with Greg. When Guru Singh told me that he was proud of me for my growth, I knew that I had turned a corner.
44 Years of Field Research
I was 44 years old and had been dating for over 30 years. When I reviewed my last 20 years of dating, there had only been one man who had sincerely treated me with respect and genuine love – and that was when I was 24 years old. That seemed pitiful, but at least there had been one . . . instead of dwelling on what hadn’t happened, I focused on his good traits.
Alex had made me a priority and treated me like a queen. He wanted to marry me. I had broken up with him in part because I wanted to expand my life. As much as I loved Boulder, Colorado, I wanted to build a career and live in a big city.
Two decades later I had no longing to be with Alex, but I wanted to be with someone like Alex. He had been well-mannered, well-dressed, enthusiastic, optimistic , and could cook up a storm (how many men in their 20s know how to cook with a pressure cooker?). And, most importantly, he had always treated me with respect.
It was around this time that I wrote another one of my lists registering the traits of “Mr. Right”. The list included the usual qualities such as Confident, Fit, Funny, Romantic . . . and I added some new ones: Strong Values, Strong Character and most importantly, Respect for Me.
The Definition of Insanity
Nine months had passed since I broke up with Greg. I hit a low spot. I felt lonely and wondered if I should try to get back together with Greg. I shared my feelings with Guru Singh and he nixed that crazy thought. He spoke about shifting my energy from “I’ll never meet anyone” and changing my unsuccessful strategy of meeting the right man.
We have all heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
But what if you don’t know what else to do? What if your Game Plan sucks? That was me. I had confused effort with results. But I didn’t know what else to do.
Guru Singh spoke about approaching it sideways, at an angle . . . and using something softer, like an affirmation.
Call Off the Man Hunt
Wait. An affirmation? Weren’t affirmations for people who listen to pan pipe music?
Guru Singh went on to say, “You will know the man you’re meant to be with because he will recognize who you are.”
Translation: You can call off the manhunt; your man is out there looking for you.
At this point, what did I have to lose? Guru Singh sat patiently while I labored with writing my affirmation . . . I had to make my affirmation specific to my needs, in the present tense – meaning it is happening real-time, right now. And don’t make it too long because I’d be repeating it multiple times a day.
I wrote “I believe that I am truly beautiful, compassionate and loving. The man who loves me recognizes this and cherishes me.”
What You Want is Happening Right Now
Close but not there. Guru Singh reminded me: make it in the present time; what you want is happening right now.
“I am beautiful, smart and compassionate. The man who is in love with me desires and appreciates my qualities and cherishes me for the rest of my life.”
I repeated this affirmation several times a day to such an extent that it felt natural and believable.
Most importantly, I was able to move about in a state of detachment from this want that had overridden my life, while simultaneously aware and knowing that this is what I would have.
A sense of knowing was growing within me and I stopped feeling the need to search.
"He is Very Close"
It was late October 2000 and I managed to see Guru Singh before heading out to visit my parents in Tokyo. We sat cross-legged across from each other as we always did, and he closed his eyes and became very still. He would do this occasionally and enter a meditative state while I sat quietly.
He opened his eyes and said “He is very close. You’ll be meeting him soon.”
That just creeped me out.
I was not a fan of psychic predictions and believed that psychics and fortune tellers were just witch doctors planting fantastical seeds in peoples’ brains.
A Mother’s Advice & A Japanese Ritual
A New Year. A New Century.
January 2001. A year had passed since I broke up with Greg. I had not only survived that heartache; I was over him. I had actually seen him driving on the street one day (with a woman sitting next to him) and I felt nothing. No twinge, no rush of adrenaline. Just calm.
A gym acquaintance had been trying to make an introduction to his friend for business networking. I had already reviewed his friend’s company website and knew there was nothing his friend could help me with. I wasn’t enthused about connecting but I had run out of excuses.
I gave the go-ahead to call me and we finally spoke on the phone in mid-January.
As Chief Marketing Officer, Jim Bardwil had the gift of gab and gave good phone; he managed to keep me on the phone much longer than I had expected. I glanced at my calendar and realized that I had a meeting close to his office that week, so I agreed to swing by for a quick meet and greet.
A Nice-Looking Gay Man
Two days later I waited in his company’s lobby eager to get the meeting behind me. When Jim stepped into the lobby, I was struck by his edgy stylized black jacket and slacks – more of a creative look than your usual business attire, his gleaming bald head, stylish frames and diamond stud earring.
“What a nice looking gay man” I thought to myself.
He thanked me for taking the meeting and enthusiastically shook my hand. He led me into a conference room where I was surprised to see that he had invited a group of his colleagues. He reviewed one of their initiatives which was support for breast cancer research and mentioned that his wife had died from breast cancer.
So maybe he wasn’t gay.
The Business Meeting that Wasn't
After the meeting, he walked with me to the parking lot and peppered me with questions which is how we discovered that we attended the same gym.
I sat behind the wheel of my car and thought “Either he is the yakkiest guy I’ve ever met, or he’s interested in me.”
We ran into each other at the gym the next evening before my aerobics class. He said he would catch up with me after my class. Later when I stepped out of the class and I didn’t see him, I left.
He called my office the next morning to thank me for some information that I had sent to him and also asked where I had disappeared to the night before. I explained that I didn’t see him, so I left the gym. He admitted that he had been hoping that we could have gone out for sushi after our workouts.
Oh. So this was more than business. He was interested.
Not an Axe Murderer
The next day, on Saturday morning, I went to the gym and once again ran into Jim before my class. He said he would catch up with me after class. When class ended, I didn’t see him, so I left.
My cellphone rang when I was running errands later that afternoon. It was Jim.
As he had before, he kept me engaged on the phone and somehow, I asked him if he wanted to join me and my dog Max at the dog park later that afternoon.
He accepted enthusiastically (I later discovered that he didn’t really care for dogs that much). I asked him for his address and told him that I’d swing by to pick him up. Somehow, he made it sound like there was no other option but for him to meet me at my house (hello Axe Murderer!), and uncharacteristic of my usual caution, I gave him my address.
An hour later, the three of us were on our way to the Brentwood dog park and Jim casually mentioned that his close friends lived on my street. Unbelievably, I knew them. I also knew that they had high standards so that provided some validation that he was not an axe murderer after all.
Thank you Daruma – the Wish is Fulfilled
The dog park turned into coffee. Coffee turned into dinner. He was an open and enthusiastic conversationalist and we talked for hours.
We saw each other every day afterwards.
Ten days after I met him in his office, we decided to be exclusive.
Eleven days later, he asked me to marry him.
The next morning, he looked me in my eyes and said, “From this day on, you are my first priority.” No one had ever said that to me.
These were the magical words that I needed to hear. Jim sensed my breaks and cracks that I had filled with gold; he embraced my Kintsugi self.
And . . . I remembered my Daruma! I brought it out and explained its significance to Jim. We filled in the eye together and thanked the Daruma for making my wish come true.
No Data, No Spreadsheets, No Graphs
Less than five months later, we stood overlooking the ocean at the Bel Air Bay Club sharing our wedding vows in front of family and friends, with Guru Singh officiating on our life as a married couple.
Did everything move quickly? You bet it did.
If you had asked 100 of my friends and/or business colleagues to describe me, the word “spontaneous” would have never surfaced. I was a practical person who used data and realism with a sprinkling of “gut” intuition to think through my decisions; I prided myself on making choices based on facts, not feelings.
In this case, I had no data, no spreadsheets, no graphs or PowerPoint presentations. My feeling nature - my internal compass - knew it was right, and it was.
Our relationship had moved faster than light. We crammed a lifetime of experiences into a condensed period of time. But there was a reason behind the fast pace of our relationship, which would be revealed to me in the coming years.
As for my next relationship . . . I clearly had more lessons to learn and the breaking point was “Doug”, an attorney who was struggling with keeping his solo law practice on track. I was patient, listened to his needs and didn’t run away. After six months of watching this smart man smoke increasingly more weed, blame others for his problems and grow more aimless, I blew up and broke up with him in mid-November.
Thanksgiving was a pitiful and lonely holiday for me (Note to Self: avoid breaking up with someone right before a holiday).
I had put in hard work and effort. I had been patient. What went wrong? What did I do wrong? Was there something wrong with me?
Most of my friends encouraged me to move on. They didn’t like that he didn’t prioritize me. But I stayed with Greg. I loved him. Plus I was in my early 40s. I had dated a ton of men, and the thought of going back on the market and dating again made me feel tired.
Married people forget how exhausting it is to be single.
When you’re married, you have a built-in date for the weekends; you have a vacation buddy. You don’t have to make plans in advance on what to do and who to do them with; you don’t have to text and call around to find someone to hang out with because it’s all built in. I didn’t want to spend my Saturday nights alone.
I tucked the pen into the spine of the closed journal and placed it on the nightstand. My eyes wandered to my older journals stacked on the floor.
It was getting close to midnight and I had an early meeting, but my hand reached for an old diary. I began to flip through my entries from the previous year.
My eyes widened. There was my handwriting in a different colored ink: "Greg and I talked about getting married. He said it's just a matter of time and when his business gets on track then we can get married next year! Yea!"
I flipped through the journal, the same words resurfacing through the pages on different dates. I grabbed the other journals and found more of the same; it was a copy and paste production minus the computer.
During my trip to Tokyo, my mother reminded me of an ancient Japanese symbol of good luck and perseverance, the Daruma (Dah-Roo-Ma) which has been used for centuries throughout Japan to achieve a goal or have a wish fulfilled.
All one has to do is state the goal or wish, paint in the doll’s left eye, and then work for that goal every day. When the goal or wish becomes reality, the other eye is painted in to give the Daruma eyesight as a thank you for helping you. It’s kind of like the Japanese version of a vision board.
My ever-wise mother suggested that I use this ritual for my goal of getting married. Of course I did exactly as she suggested. What did I have to lose?
Love, Part I: Lessons Learned – Filling the Cracks with Gold
1. When you recognize and believe in your value, your relationship will reflect it.
When I finally accepted and believed in my own self-worth, I attracted the man who recognized me at my deepest level. Guru Singh said to me, “You will know the man you’re meant to be with because he will recognize who you are.” Your relationship with yourself will determine the depth and authenticity of your relationship.
2. Engage with a trusted advisor who can guide you through facing your fears and blockages.
For many years I allowed shame about my past to cripple me from developing genuine and healthy romantic relationships. I didn’t even know that I felt this way. My Therapist unearthed and identified that shame, put my past choices into perspective and allowed me to forgive myself. I put that shame in the rear view mirror and was free to architect my own life.
3. Introduce a different angle . . . the smallest shift can make all the difference.
Introducing and embracing an Affirmation changed the groove of my mind from a “wanting” state to living in the present state of that which I desired. “I am beautiful, smart and compassionate. The man who is in love with me desires and appreciates my qualities and cherishes me for the rest of my life.” Affirmations are not just for people who listen to pan pipe music.
4. Disengage yourself from the outcome.
If you are too attached to the outcome, your internal compass won’t work. Every person you meet could be “the one”; a relationship with a person can “feel right” as you unconsciously step into disaster and drama. Shortly before I met Jim, I detached myself from the frantic obsession of finding Mr. Right and tuned into a knowingness within me that I would meet my match. I had to disengage in order to become engaged.
5. Slow down. Reconnect and Feel.
I like to be busy and active . . . and there is such a thing as being too busy and too active. For years, I used work as a distraction and became disconnected with myself. I didn’t understand that busyness can be a form of distraction and can anesthetize one’s emotions. Making work my priority had shut down my connection to feeling and awareness. When I began to recognize what I was feeling, I began to make fulfilling choices for myself.