Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Farewell to Frogs: Final Thoughts


There’s something I need to tell you.  Something that’s taken me two-and-a-half years to put into words.  

As you’ve probably guessed by now my dating blog is coming to a close…Well, maybe not a complete close, but definitely a transition.  I’m moving my content to a larger site where I’ll be able to write and share insights about far more than just relationships.  That being said, I’ve thought long and hard about what would be my FINAL FROG BLOG POST.  I mean, it has to be good, right?  You deserve nothing less, and I believe the greatest way to honor your loyal readership and support is by giving you the single, best piece of advice I have to offer, the Number #1 Relationship Tidbit I’ve learned over the past (nearly) three years of dating blogging. 

[Drum roll, please.]

Guys and gals, if there is one word of wisdom I would like to impart before I leave the dating blogosphere for good, it’s this:  Character Counts. 

That’s right.  For both men and women, when it comes to dating and eventually settling down, this idea of characterwhich extends far deeper than mere “personality” or Myers-Briggs typetakes on utmost importance because it defines a person’s moral courage and convictions.  

Character does not mean being overly pious or self-righteous; it means having personal integrity.  Speaking frankly from my own experience, I have never (ever) broken up with anyone because they didn’t make enough money, didn’t have the right job or pedigree, or because I simply wasn’t attracted anymore.  In each and every ended relationship, I’ve chosen to walk rather than stay based on this one simple, yet important, principle:  my counterpart’s quality of character was just not up to snuff.  Conversely, over the past several years I’ve dated a fair share of millionaires, models, CEOs, professional athletes and pseudo-celebrities, and what I must tell you is that no amount of fame or fortune can induce me (seduce me?) to settle for someone whose personal morals, values, and beliefs do not firmly mirror and even challenge my own. 

It stinks, really.  Because if I were able to hold my nose and look the other way, rather than acknowledge major moral character flaws, I would have been married 10 times by now.  And, of course, I understand we all have traits that need improvement, myself included, but it’s extremely important to me that my partner not only be aware of his own need for personal growth, but also be relentless about pursing a higher level of moral consciousness. 

For me, it always comes down to these few crucial questions:  Can I trust this person with myself, my secrets, my shortcomings, and even my children, for a lifetime?  In other words, will this partner be trustworthy:  honest, faithful, and capable of keeping confidences?  Do I know this person will impart the same values to my children that I wish to raise them with?  It’s when I can’t answer these questions confidently that I begin to doubt the relationship, and it's wrestling with their answers that has often kept me up at night and plagues me in the pit of my stomach. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll be the first to tell you that looks, achievement, success, athleticism, money, and social stature all play a role in human relationships (you’ve read my thoughts on Social Exchange Theory).  HOWEVER, when looking to settle for the long-run, virtue of character can never be overrated.  Why?  Because it’s virtue that makes a man or woman trustworthy and character that determines integrity (the ability to be true even when it hurts or goes unnoticed).   

Finally, before I bid farewell to Kissing Frogs for good, I’d like to address the two biggest mistakes men and women make when it comes to relationships (both in dating and marriage)--but you’re gonna have to wait for my next post to find out!

Stay tuned and stay true.  ;)
C



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lenten Home Stretch: Restoring Factory Settings

Hey there, Readers!  Long time no see!   
If you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging lately, it's because I gave up dating for Lent.  That's right, for the past five weeks I've been on a "fast" from recreational dating, and by that I mean unintentional relationships, "duty dating," and otherwise courting just for fun.  Needless to say, as a dating blogger, I haven't had much to write about.  I did, however, during this time, manage to do a lot of heart-wrenching soul searching--and isn't that the whole point of Lent anyway?  During my dating fast, I had some time to hit the "reset" button and not only restore my soul, but return to my default "Factor Settings."  My hope is that you too, through whatever Lenten practices or sacrifices you've made, will find your unique, God-given "settings," the characteristics and talents designed to make you the very best version of yourself.   

Each of the following "settings" takes a lifetime of growth and development, and I am, by all means, still a work in progress.  However, I avidly believe that in order to meet the right one, you must first BE the right one.  Therefore, knowing yourself and striving to become your best self is an essential part of the process of finding life-long love.  Below are my five unique "settings" as they relate to life, love, and even my future mate. I hope this will inspire you to come up with your own list.

  1. PERSONAL:  Over the past few years, I’ve finally gotten in touch with the “real” me, which I believe to be a creative soul.  Sometimes that creativity comes out verbally (through writing) and sometimes visually (through art and design), but at my core, I believe I am an artist at work, crafting compositions of words and spaces into an aesthetic synergy somehow transcending the sum of its parts.  I've also learned that I am an innate teacher, and sometimes I share what I know through speaking, and other times (like now) through writing. 
  2. PROFESSIONAL:   After multiple jobs and divergent career paths, I’ve used what I know about my core competencies to literally craft the work that I do today.  A decade ago, I let other people tell me what they thought I was good at and what I should do.  Today it's the other way around.  And I feel truly blessed to be doing what I love. 
  3. SPIRITUAL:  Now this is, by far, the most important, but also the toughest area of growth.  What I’ve learned over the past decade is that my faith is non-negotiable.  I can’t live without it, and I can’t live with someone who doesn’t share it—and I don’t mean someone who just checks the correct box in an online dating profile.  I mean someone whose faith is as real and pertinent in their life as it is in mine.  The way I look at it, if faith doesn’t change your life and the way you live it, then it’s not really faith at all--it’s just religion.
  4. MENTAL/PSYCHOLOGICAL:  I’m a quiet and introspective soul who can now fully embrace those characteristics that have always been inherent to my personhood.  However, it wasn’t always that way.  I now realize that I need a partner who understands and appreciates my thoughtful inner life, not only because it fuels my creativity, but also because it brings wisdom and knowledge to others.
  5. EMOTIONAL:  Now this one I think I’m still working on.  I've always been headstrong and independent, even as a young girl, and sometimes it’s hard to balance my inner strength with the leadership I’m looking for in a future mate.  What I’ve learned, in a dating sense however, is that I require someone whose quiet fortitude inspires me to let him lead.  I’m looking for a man whose strength of character I can respect.  Someone who has the moral fiber to not only do what’s right, but the loving courage to stand up to me when I step out of line.

So those are my basic factory settings.  What are yours?  Now that I have a good handle on who I am, I believe I’m better equipped to find my perfect soul mate.  I would encourage you to think long and hard about who you are, and to embrace it.  Then, look for someone who inspires and motivates you to be all you were meant to be, so that the two of you can become even better…together.

That's all for now, folks.  Happy Easter everyone!

Yours in Life and Love, 
C


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Master Cleanse for the Soul: Week 3 of Lent


Today when we hear the word “fast,” it’s more likely images of lemon-water, green juice, and cayenne pepper come to mind, rather than thoughts of peaceful meditation and penitence.  And to be completely honest, when I consider “fasting,” more often than not, even in my most ethereal moments, giving up food has more to do with shedding a few extra pounds than achieving a higher level of spiritual awakening.

This year for Lent, like many of you, I'm experiencing the practice of fasting, and while everyone chooses something different to free themselves from during this 40-day period, the goal is the same:  to rid ourselves of what we do not need to focus on prayerful meditation.  We seek not only greater solace within ourselves, but hope to achieve breakthrough in our relationships with others and with God.  And while inherently noble, these lofty aspirations are no small order, so what makes us think that a practice as simple as “giving something up” can actually bring them to fruition?

After experiencing the physical benefits of spending a year of my life “cleansing” my body through a series of raw vegan detox programs, I am now in the process of doing the same for my soul--not intentionally, but because sometimes life calls you to do things you don’t want to, but at the same time know that you must.  This is exactly how I felt when I started my raw vegan regimen, and it's how I feel now as I embark upon this Lenten season of sacrifice. 

What I’ve learned through Lent is that clearing the cobwebs from your soul is painful, just as painful as a detoxifying Master Cleanse, when hunger plagues you night and day.  What's more, is with every pang of hunger there is an equally gnawing itch to satisfy those physical desires, to renege on commitment, to “cheat,” and to go back to a lesser way of living.  

I’m about halfway through my Lenten detox, a "spiritual" Master Cleanse, if you will, and while I don’t have all the answers yet, there are a few things I’ve learned so far.

1.  Detoxing is painful...



First, just like a physical detox, a spiritual detox is chock-full of pain from the start.  The first food cleanse I ever did was both the best and worst experience of my life.  The day I started I caught a horrible cold that really wasn’t a cold at all; it was my body letting go and getting rid of what it did not need.  As a result, I had the most terrible cold and flu symptoms I can remember.  In the beginning I was sleeping constantly.  I could barely function.  I was tired.  I felt lethargic, even depressed.  My muscles ached so badly I couldn’t even get out of bed for a walk.  Then the hunger set in; it was so gnawing and acute I couldn’t even sleep at night.  I wanted to cheat.  The pangs in my stomach were so unbearable I often doubled over in pain, barely able to stand or even walk.  At one point, I was too sick to even drive, so a friend of mine took the wheel while I lay listless, prone and outstretched on the backseat of my car.  (I think eventually someone force fed me crackers to bring me back to life.)  Looking back, it's something of blur now.

2.  But the aftermath is worth it!


What I remember most, however, was how I felt when I emerged on the other side.  Not only did I have a great sense of accomplishment, I felt more calm, more stable, more alert, and Heavens to Betsy, I even lost two pounds!  That’s all it took, and I was hooked.  I was addicted to the extremity of it all, the asceticism, and the exhilaration I felt when it was all over.  Sure, it stunk going through the pain and sacrifice in the moment:  no dinners and drinks with friends, no cup of coffee or tea to start the morning, no allowing food to comfort and soothe my soul…but something amazing was happening on the inside, something of which only I was aware.

My hope is that the spiritual cleansing Lent provides will be the same.  Eliminating much of the daily busyness and fuss I don’t need has freed my time for greater quiet and deeper reflection, and through that process I have learned some valuable lessons.  The worst part about silence is that it forces us to turn our thoughts inward, and if your inner life is not developed, or if it hasn’t been cleaned up in a while, it can be a scary place to go.  

3.  The toughest moments yield the greatest results.

 

I love the idea of Lent because it forces us to do Spring Cleaning in our soul.  I’m only halfway through the process, and yes, it has been painful and wrought with mistakes, shortcomings, and difficulty, but it has also revealed things about myself I would have never known otherwise.  Have you ever noticed that it’s always following the most painful moments of life that you reap the greatest benefits when you finally pull through?  It’s right at that tipping point when you’re tempted to give up that your mind and body grow, whether it’s during the physical exertion of a workout or a challenging problem at work.  Your soul is no different.  It’s in pushing through the pain that we experience the benefits of our hard work.  The same way a master cleanse clears out toxins you didn’t even know you had inside, the spiritual practice of Lent cleans out the dusty, dirty places of our heart.

Even if you haven’t given up anything for Lent, take time out today for a peaceful reflective moment…and just see what comes up.  We endure all sorts of pain for the short-term gain of firming our bodies.  Why not spend some time shoring up our souls?  

Just some food for thought (no pun intended)...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Idle Hands: 20 Days (Done) and 20 Nights (to Go)

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Idle hands are the devil's workshop"?  Probably not.  It's one of those old-school "grandma-isms" people don't really use anymore, but when I looked it up I was surprised to discover this statement is actually in the Bible.  (If you don't believe me, Google it.)

Today marks 20 days (and 19 nights!) of abiding by my commitment of no needless dating during Lent.  And I'm hating every minute of it!  :)  However, this sacramental sacrifice has done some good.  It's shown me just how much time I waste on useless "recreational" dating, and by that, I mean those pointless (unintentional) dates you go out on just for fun.  Like many women, I too am guilty of dating for entertainment.  (Sometimes it's the activity or venue that's entertaining and sometimes it's just the person you're with!)

Over the past few weeks, without the usual wining and dining of potential suitors filling my calendar, I've found myself home alone much more often, and consequently, bored out of my mind.  To fill up this "down time" I've done all of the following to keep myself busy:  scoured clean every square-inch of my apartment (twice); revamped my website (I've been meaning to do this forever); eaten everything in my pantry that even resembles a complex carbohydrate (I left my dog's treats alone this time);  learned to make vegan cookies (they're actually quite good); caught up with old friends, and even called my mother.  I am so bored it hurts--literally.  Without anything better to do, I've been hitting the gym twice a day, which may very well explain why every muscle in my body aches and why I can't stop stuffing my face.  At first, I thought my subconscious was desperately attempting to fill the emotional void within, but on second thought, maybe I'm just hungry!

But what's most frightening, is that I'm still going out on some dates (ones deemed "constructive"), albeit a fraction of the number I used to go on, which made me realize how much time I actually waste on dating.  Just imagine how effective and efficient I would be if I cut out dating altogether...Or would I? 

See, the problem with boredom is it tends to get us into trouble.  Ever since I started my Lenten commitment, I've been relentlessly pelted by temptation.  Despite the struggle, however, this entire experience has lead me to the following conclusions thus far:

  1. I waste a lot of time reacting to temporary emotions/needs/desires rather than working diligently and constructively toward a long-term solution to those needs.  Am I spending my time or investing it?
  2. The minute you commit to something (anything), temptation will be knocking at your door, and the distractions that are most dangerous are often the ones that seem the most innocuous.
  3. "Giving something up" for Lent really does free your time and mind for greater introspection and meditation.  However, despite whatever "bad" things we give up, we are only as good as the things we substitute in their place.
  4. Everything in life has both a price tag and an opportunity cost.  Idleness can be costly too.   
  5. Finally, and this truth may only be relevant to me, but I believe, at its core, our deepest quest for love is really just a shrouded search for God (for truth, for acceptance, for understanding of the cosmos and our place in it).
So in this sacrificial and sacred space within the spiritual practice of Lent, I am learning all sorts of truths (not all of them pleasant) about my self, the state of my soul, and my own search for true love.  And since I can't satiate my appetite for acceptance, affection, or validation using external sources, like dating, I am forced to turn to deeper inner truths...and chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate!

Only 27 more days (and nights) to go.  What are you letting go of this Lenten season, and what are you learning from it?

Yours in Lenten Love, 
C


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why I Can't Marry Freckles...


I’m sitting across the table from my most recent match.com date.  He’s a French professor at a prestigious university (a recent European transplant).  He’s tall, attractive, and ridiculously intelligent.  I’m mesmerized by his adorable accent, but there’s something distracting me.  I’m not sure what it is.  Op! there it is again.  I keep looking at his…I can’t take my eyes off of--STOP! Stop looking at them and look at his face!  But I can’t tear my eyes away.  Despite the fact he’s still chattering on and on about the French political system, for me the room has gone silent as peripheral sounds fade and my senses hone in on the hundreds, maybe thousands, of specks on his forearm.  Freckles.  His arms are covered in freckles.  For me the date is over.  I can’t marry freckles. 

* * *

When I was about eight years old I went to a birthday party at a park that had a clown.  Can you guess what her name was?  Freckles, and painted prominently on her face were big blue circular blots.  And all the kids at the party waited in line to get their faces painted just like Freckles.  Even as an elementary schoolgirl, face painting was never really my thing, but I decided, this time around, to go for it.  As the tainted clown brushed the thick, itchy pigment onto my face, painting me into her likeness--speckles and all--I proudly announced, “I don’t have freckles.”  Thanks to my mother, as a young girl I was very proud of my soft, creamy complexion, similar to hers.  “My mom says most kids my age have freckles, but I’m lucky ‘cuz I don’t.”

“You have a few freckles,” the jaded clown retorted callously.

I was shocked, almost in disbelief.  The minute I got home I scrubbed the paint off my face and positioned myself just inches away from the bathroom mirror for a proper inspection.  I knew my life was coming to a crossroads.  The moment of truth had arrived.  I took a long inhale and peered deep into my reflection.

There, for the first time in my life, appeared tiny little specks on my cheekbones just underneath my eyes.  I was devastated.  I counted them.  One, two, three, four…6–9 on each cheek!  Why hadn’t I seen them before?  How could they just appear on my face out of nowhere?

* * *

Decades and a painful laser-removal process later, I still have not made peace with my freckles (nor clowns for that matter).  They did disappear for a time when I lived in England, only to return within weeks of me relocating to Southern California.  

But this story really isn’t about freckles.  It’s about the internal voices that shape all of us.  As a young girl, I thought I was beautiful because I didn’t have freckles, and one careless observation from an overly honest jester undid all of that.  I guess my point is, words are powerful.  They frame our personal narratives. They alter our reality.  Words have the ability to set and change the course of our lives.  They can inspire or they can impede. 
This Lenten season, I'm pondering the question:  How can I use my words, my voice, to positively transform the inner monologue of others?