Comforting Words: DOF 4: A Woman with a Past

Sunday, January 13, 2008

DOF 4: A Woman with a Past

Torn between getting dressed and going to the grocery store or writing this post – my final decision is obvious.

It is another Sunday morning that I woke up to … not another human face on the pillow next to me -- Angello, my dog.

If he was not sick and slowly leaving my life this scenario would probably be depressing. Who wants to wake up to a dog every darn morning?

As a child growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, on a couple of occasions I heard a particular song by the National Folk Singers. At the time the significance of the words did not truly resonate with me – now it is a totally different story.

All the words of this folk song escape me now – the vital ones I recall: “Before me go married and go hug up mango tree…mi’, mi’ will live so mi’ one!”

Despite the seeming ‘sadness’ of my waking up to my dog – as the song says – it is much preferably to being ‘married’ and unhappy!

I have both a tendency and a propensity to read several books at the same time and right now I am going through three:
1. Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self by Sarah Ban Breathnach
2. The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz
3. The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey
The first two I am reading maybe for the third or fourth time but this is my first read of Covey’s latest.

All three books have a common theme – one that I recognize as applicable to the single life.

Once upon a time – I hope – it was an horrible thing to be single. Women over a certain age (20) without a partner (read as man) were considered ‘spinsters’ – what an awful word!

Until the advent of the pill and the subsequent sexual revolution – a woman of my age (40+) and status (single, divorced or widowed) would be put out to roost.

It is the fact that this has not only changed but women like myself, especially those of us who are DOF’s (Dating Over Forty) are now celebrated that makes me so excited by Breathnach’s book – to the point of recommending it (and her other one – Simple Abundance that I also read about thrice) to all women and even men.

The entire book, a collection of essays, is a treat but it was the one on “Becoming a Woman with a Past,” that had me saying “Amen, Alleluia!”

I am a Woman with a Past and so is every one of you who have survived life challenges – in their various forms. Breathnach writes: “There is nothing more alluring, intriguing, and romantic than being perceived as a woman with a past. Except, of course, knowing that you are one, which makes you glorious. Magnificent. Powerful."

I love it! The thought and more so the knowledge that I am (and you are) a Woman with a Past is so empowering it is almost scary. In fact, it is scary for many who you meet as a woman DOF. Well, that has been my experience at least.

Potential dates do not know what the hell to make of you as a Woman with a Past! What do you do or say to a woman (or man for that matter) that enters a room knowing that she is glorious, magnificent and powerful – wounds and all?

My experience has been varied – in person, on the phone or through internet dating sites. However, several things are common. And this is where Ruiz book comes in. He calls what others do – those who do not know what to do with you – as shooting their poisoned arrows at you. They try to change you in some way or another, from their place of fear and brokenness – although they would never admit this.

“You are too this; you are too that; you shouldn’t say this; you should be like that,” are just some of the things they will shoot at you to convince you that you have no right to be glorious, magnificent or powerful.

Ruiz advice to you/me – Women with Pasts – is “you have to accept yourself and love yourself just the way you are. You are what you are, and that is all you are. You don’t need to pretend to be something else.”

Over the last few months of my stepping out as a DOF, there have been so many opportunities for me to fall back into the old trap – distrusting who I am meant to be. As a single person on the proverbial market, everyone wants to have a piece of you – in more ways than one.

I remember a minister back in Jamaica saying that if you give everyone a piece of you – what will you have left for yourself? “Nothing,” would be my response. Dating Over Forty does not have to be compromising yourself and who you have grown up to be – absolutely not.

In fact the opposite is true. It is your past and who you have become that has probably made you single in the first place but it is also what has made you a priceless commodity.

My lesson in this regard is – do not sell yourself short! Do not settle – because you wake up to your dog on a fine, relatively warm for January Sunday morning!

Covey’s book is written largely with a management focus in mind; however, as he himself noted, the principles can and ought to be applied to daily living and relationships. I am reading this one slowly because of this comprehensive approach – figuring out how to “walk” these principles in all areas of my new life.

One point that grabbed me by the short and curlies had to do with expressing one’s voice. Covey teaches that you must find your own voice – meaning your own style of expressing your uniqueness – then help others to do the same.

Part of being able to do this is living by your conscience – you know that still small voice in all of us that whispers to you when you are supporting life or destroying it. This is what Covey wrote:
“People who do not live by their conscience will not experience …internal integrity and peace of mind. They will find their ego attempting to control relationships. Even though they might pretend or feign kindness and empathy from time to time, they will use subtle forms of manipulation and will even go so far as to engage in kind but dictatorial behaviours.”

Reading this, I first had to admit to myself – “been there, done that.” After releasing the negative energy of being in that place and asking for forgiveness, I was then able to see how this played out and continue to play out in my life now. Actually, less so now than before as I am able to ‘suss’ out those people who have tried to enter my space in recent months whose true purpose was to test my will to become the best human being that I can be.

As a Woman with a Past and one who is DOF (or man, never forget that it applies to both genders), you have to be so attentive to these “players,” I like to call them. Their talk is sweet. They pretend as if they have it all together and that you are a nincompoop because you speak your truth openly and without hesitation. Their wish would be that you just do as they say or recommend because they have ‘stuff’ and you do not.

My question to them has been – “Who told you that I want to be a mini-you?”

And so, my wish for all Women with Pasts (and men) is that as we continue to date, we never let go of who we are.

Quoting again from Breathnach and extensively so to close this post:
“…Authentic success is something much, much more…” than surviving the betrayal of someone loved and trusted.

“Authentic success is …. Surviving the betrayal of someone you loathed and tormented. Yourself.”

How do we stop betraying ourselves – even as we try to date?

“By stopping it, that’s how, just stopping it. Today. By praying right this moment for the courage to learn how to transform the self-loathing into loving every day through your passionate choices.”

My passionate choice is to be the glorious, magnificent and powerful Me.

What’s yours?



Works Cited:

Breathnach, Sarah Ban: Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self, 323 – 325
Covey, Stephen: The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, 82
Ruiz, Don Miguel: The Mastery of Love, 81

Photographs, as usual, courtesy of Renato

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