Meditation on Gratitude

Capturing feelings of gratitude can be extraordinarily hard. It is often fleeting and ephemeral, not something tangible that I can pin down and examine.

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But in the last few days I’ve been focusing on the flow of energy in my life, and my reactions to recent events – disappointing and painful – and how my attitude to these events is influenced by my core beliefs.

Those beliefs are not always helpful or positive, so at a very deep emotional, mental and physical level I’m doing some work on changing that.

One of these long-held beliefs is a variation on the theme of not being worthy – ultimately worthy of loving. This premise is one that so many of us carry throughout lives like a lead coat of misery or shame. A rainbow of morbid grays that weighs us down and contributes nothing to our emotional or mental health.

I’ve decided to cast mine off and reclaim my inner space as an optimistic, confident woman who is indeed deserving of respect, someone’s time, being heard, being supported, being treasured, being satisfied, being adored – and being loved.

In some ways my ‘cougar’ identity – read ‘mature, sexually empowered woman’ – is one face I hold up to the world. There are others too.

I’m sure this new period of determined growth will influence my dating life and my desires in the coming months.

I’m henceforth inviting in people who will help me grow, specifically towards re-building my core (unconscious) beliefs to be life-affirming, self-affirming and loving.

Part of what I will be working on during the next two weeks is creating a vision board. I have never done one of these before, although in a way my whole, beloved home, particularly my bedroom and study, is about holding beauty, strong positive energy and ideas through language (quotes), images (cards and pictures, artwork) and of course, cherishing the physical (through touch and intimacy).

This is my first living space (house) that I alone own – I’m responsible for the roof over my head (to also shelter and protect my children) by my own labour and dedication. Before now everything I owned belonged jointly to the ex-husband. It is immensely liberating to go it alone – although I share the space with my children, I know that one day it will be all mine. It is my safe space and my sanctuary.

This is a deeply empowering fact that I don’t take for granted. I am grateful for my ability to provide for myself and my family in work that enriches me, and helps me grow and learn every day. It is also work that allows me to enter ‘the zone’ aka the flow; a place where we are lost in our endeavours. I am grateful for this state as there is no more rewarding career than one that allows you to connect with this energy through whatever means is your calling.

I am also grateful for the reciprocal love, warmth, listening, and sharing of my friends and immediate family.

That may seem obvious but in feeling gratitude I can’t go past the most observable source, which includes the people who I spend the most time with day in, day out, week in, week out and in some cases, year on year.

There are many other aspects of my life I’m grateful for, including my good health. I’m also working on being genuinely grateful for my physical body (without succumbing to the notion of myself as a flawed and less-than-perfect specimen of womanhood).

I’m hopeful that shifting some of these unhelpful core beliefs and subconscious attitudes will also shift something in the type of relationships that I attract into my life.

And of course, you – dear reader.

I am grateful for you. I am grateful that what started out as dipping a toe in the waters of experimentation (never having read a blog before, much less followed dozens!), close on 9 months later I have a solid following and much more importantly, a genuine feeling of community channeled via blogging and specifically, WordPress.

In 2017 (September to December), Unleashing the Cougar achieved 4,547 views from 1,251 visitors, attracting 433 likes and 409 comments.

In 2018 (to end May), Unleashing the Cougar achieved 8,055 views from 2,492 visitors, attracting 596 likes and 562 comments.

Highest all-time views were in March and April 2018 with 1.9K each month.

The top 4 countries to view UTC during these 9 months were United States, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada, with surprising numbers in France, Germany, the Netherlands and India.

In 2018 (to end May) I have written 41,229 words or 22 posts, and in 2017 (from September), I wrote 46,423 words, or 36 posts. I have long posts on average, because I tackle meaty subjects, and they sit around the 1800 word mark. And UTC has gone from zero to 264 followers in these 9 months – for every one of these people I am honoured and thrilled.

Thank you again to everyone who has read or commented on this (still) work-in-progress blog. Thank you to the women and men I have ‘met’ and collaborated with, some of whom have become my first blogger friends – and one I have even met IRL!

As always, I am grateful for feedback, suggestions and opinions, especially constructive criticism because that’s how we learn and grow.

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Eve Lawrence 

Little Miss Shy …Goes Online Dating

One of my besties recently brought this book back from the UK as a gift for me.

She’d seen the title and immediately thought of me – not that you’d think ‘shy’ as soon as you clap eyes on me, but she knows me well. (For those of you interested in the MBTI, check out INFJ).

This ‘adult take’ on the famous Mr Men is so ‘on point’ it’s not funny. It takes readers through the hilarious journey of peculiar and mismatched dates – here’s some dialogue to give you some idea:

“But we’re the perfect match!” said Mr S. Mall
Little Miss Shy slowly backed away and shut the door.
The next day she received an invoice for the chocolates he’d brought her, his travel costs and two weeks of therapy sessions.”

I love the way Little Miss Shy Goes Online Dating ends – stay tuned for that – and the modern social lens through which the book is viewed. It accepts not only the weird and wonderful world of online dating and the altered social landscape that the internet, smartphones and social media has wrought, but also the wider variety of ‘acceptable’ when it comes to relationships.

Nowadays we don’t have to settle for the traditional ‘walk-down-the-aisle-in-white’ type of marriage (although it’s personally shocking to me how that ideal has made a comeback). But while we’re talking marriage, it doesn’t have to be the mainstream concept of unquestioned monogamy either.

I’ll soon be adding my voice to the widespread social dialogue that’s been cooking in recent times about monogamy as a social ideal, and the problems inherent in that model we’ve been handed down through generations. So stay tuned for that.

The types of relationship options that exist now would be an anathema to my own parents and certainly to my great-grandparents. The idea of polyamory , RA (relationship anarchy)  or open marriages,  ‘living apart together’ or actively choosing to be single were mostly foreign concepts in previous generations.

Of course in our modern post-internet age it’s also acceptable, if not expected, that if you’re single you take opportunities to meet people and be sexually active. This is the ideal that most of us strive for, to sit somewhere on the spectrum of looking for ‘the one’, finding ‘the one’ or perhaps finding one or more relationships that make us feel content or potentially even ‘happy’ (that elusive state).

When I first considered the idea of ‘dating’ men again after my marriage of more than two decades imploded, I knew that I wasn’t ready to launch straight back into a monogamous relationship. I’d regularly bucked against that strangehold over the years, as many people do, and I was fresh out of ‘jail’ so I wasn’t about to leap back into a chastity belt with only one keyholder.

It had taken me a while to even recognise men as a desirable species so I was taking baby steps towards some kind of new life.

I also didn’t want to have to live up to someone’s expectations about the whole dating thang. I didn’t want to edge towards another live-in partnership.

And then there was sex. I wasn’t ashamed of my craving for sexual intimacy, in fact I saw it as my right and a driving factor in my search for meaningful experiences.

As regular readers will know, I have delved deep into the issues of perceptions of female desirability, and motherhood as a state that can potentially render us sexless or invisible.

Enter the creation of the MILF, the ‘yummy mummy’ and the cougar! I learned about all of these social constructs as a virgin in Online Dating World, after struggling in The Matrix with my eyes closed during those cocooning years of marriage and raising kids.

Although I grappled with being named a cougar or a MILF, I knew one thing for sure. Just because I’d gestated children and had a separate identity as Mum, it didn’t mean I had no right to a life of my own. My ex tried his best to bind me to sexless, maternal servitude but I remained determined to carve out a niche that gave me power, satisfaction and escape.

I also banned the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary. I ‘should’ be having candlelit dinner dates or walks along the beach? Nonsense. I didn’t have free nights, so my exploration was going to be conducted in daylight hours. I ‘should’ be dating men my own age? Rubbish. I’ll date anyone I damned please, and if young men are interested in me, all the better! I ‘should’ be looking towards another long-term partnership. Bullshit. I wanted to play the field and experiment. I’d been married my whole adult life, and I was just beginning to feel the first seeds of regret. I was glimpsing life on the other side, and the world of potential I saw was enticing.

But if I didn’t want marriage or monogamous partnership, what other choices did I have? What was there in the multifarious, shady world between casual sex and marriage?

To be continued…

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