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FINDING YOUR LOVE LIFE (Part 1)

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By Teresa D. Cochran

Where do I start?  I really don’t know where or how I ended up here, still single.  I mean I’ve worked hard.  I’m fairly successful at what I do.  I have ambition and strive for more in life.  To grow and evolve.  I’ve been told I’m attractive.  I’ve also been told more than once in my life that I’m the most beautiful woman that man has ever seen, but was that man right for me?  I’m smart.  Educated.  Kind.  Caring.  Romantic.  I think pretty funny.  I’ve tried in person dating services.  On-line dating.  I’ve tried not on-line dating.  For years, not dating… I’ve been the member of multiple meetup groups in my area. I attend many social events.  Meeting people, organically, for years (which is my favorite way to meet). Waiting for the right person to come into my life.  I’m still waiting.  I thought I had to have my happy ending before I could right this article.  So instead I’ll start now, with Part 1 of – I don’t know how many.

How do you find your love life?  I feel like this is the burning question I have.  For years I believed just living my daily life that it would happen.  I would be going about my business and I would meet someone, date, and eventually get married and have a family.  I did date and have a very serious relationship with someone for four (4) years in my early 20s.  I met him at work and actually knew him for about three (3) years as a friend before we ever started dating.  I can tell you, that’s probably why we dated for so long because I had already be given the opportunity to see him daily and see his character, and I loved him as a person.  Just the nicest guy in the world.  Fast forward four (4) years later into our relationship and I couldn’t figure out why he had not proposed to me.  I thought, why are we still just dating?

My boyfriend had also dropped out of the junior college we were both attending together at the time, which I thought maybe was just a break he was taking but he never went back.  That weighed on me as well.  So after trying very hard to remain committed to the relationship, I finally decided it was over.  It was not growing and evolving.  I had outgrown the relationship.  I was shocked to find out he was perfectly ok with breaking up and ending the relationship.  I was like, “Wow! So I spent four (4) years with someone who was lukewarm about me?”  Well, I don’t want that to happen again.  So as the years went on, I never did meet anyone else I really was interested it committing my entire heart and soul to.  Then, I was in my early 30s when dating services started to appear.  I’m not talking about on-line dating.  That didn’t even exist yet.  Well, not the really popular ones like Match and eHarmony.  I might have chatted in a chat room with a couple of people but that was all weird to me.

I worked with someone who had met her then boyfriend, and to be fiancé, at a local dating service where you had to go in person to have your current pictures taken, a video interview, and “your picture and paragraph,” placed in a three (3) ring binder for men to peruse.  I know it seems very archaic now, but I was like, “Well, if she found her boyfriend that way it should work for me too!”  Haha, silly girl, it was not to be, but the dating stories I have… Well, they are comical and will eventually will be part of a book I’m writing.  After one year of awful dates, I was now about 33 which would have made it about 2003.  I decided I was certain I would never use a dating service again and certainly not an on-line service.  That just seemed crazy and impersonal to me

A very popular new on-line dating site had launched in 2000.  It was a dating service that asked you a series of questions to match you, rather than just a picture and a paragraph.  It was sometime after the launch of this on-line dating service, several years, that I went out to dinner with friends.  One of my girlfriends was standing there with this very attractive man she had met on this dating site, and they were engaged!  I told them of my failure with the prior dating service.  Both of them stood there, all cute and couple like, and told me I needed to do this new dating service.  I was like, noooooooo (insert face palm emoji).

Then, more time went by.  I had progressed in my career, was moving into my new condo, and I was ready to finally meet someone.  Finally.  Now.  For sure.  This was around 2009.  So nine (9) years after this very popular dating site launched I joined.  This was back before you had a dating app on your cell phone.  I literally had to sit down at my computer at home to get on-line on the website.  I committed to one year.  Then, during that year I went a little crazy and I think I joined like five (5) other popular on-line dating sites.  It was a little nuts.  I went out on a ton of dates.  I talked to a lot of men on the phone.  A lot of which I never went out with because I was already done on the phone call, and I said no thank you.  When all was said and done, I did on-line dating seriously for about two (2) years, but I was super picky as I was still in my late 30s and had delusions of grandeur that I would meet the man of my dreams, marry him, and have his children.  But the majority of the men had already been married, had children, and were just divorced so we weren’t even on the same page.  So the internet dating ended in about 2011, about the time I turned 40.

Another three (3) years later, I was like, what am I supposed to do?  I went to a life coach.  Not just for my personal life but for my professional life.  The life coach asked me if I had heard of Meetup.com.  I hadn’t.  When she explained that I could join different activity groups and attend in person, and meet new people in a non-dating pretense type format enjoying things I already enjoy, I was like, “I’m there!,” Sign me up!”  So that brings me to 2014.  I’ve been a member of multiple meetup groups.  I’ve read my articles and writings at open mic night.  I’ve met and made some of the most amazing girlfriends.  It led me to take a group trip to Napa through wine country.  I’ve maybe talked to a couple of men that I might have been interested in but it just seemed to me they were all busy trying to date every woman in the group that they could.  It’s just not my style.

I did try another new dating app for a few months in the beginning of 2017, but that was not for me so I deleted it (insert face palm emoji, again).  In the fall of 2019, I read something somewhere that said I needed to “make myself visible.”  So I found myself joining dating apps yet again.  At least this time, I could do it from the comfort of my cell phone, which has made it much easier to use the on-line dating apps, but the results continue to be the same.  I did date someone for a little awhile but in the end was not right for me.  So I’m back out there and not really happy about it.  Not to mention, how do you date in the middle of a pandemic?  I was going to cancel my last dating app subscription but they enticed me with 50% off for the next six (6) months.  So I begrudgingly renewed.  I mean the first six (6) months I was not even visible or active, because I was dating someone (insert third face palm emoji).

It’s funny when I talk about, with a lot of people, all that I have done to try to put myself out there to find that perfect someone for me the response I usually get is, “Don’t try.  It will just happen when you are not looking.”  If you do the math, I’ve been alive 49 years.  I’ve been an adult available to date and marry since I was 18, which was 1989.  So that’s 31 years I’ve had to really search.  I’ve maybe been involved with dating services/apps for a combined total of four (4) years over my entire life.  So that’s 27 years I haven’t actively been “searching.”  It just makes me laugh when people tell me that.  Because I didn’t search.  I’ve wanted to meet men organically only, but here I am yet again.  It also makes me laugh when people tell me I need to be on a dating app, and now you know why.

With all of this said, I am a very blessed woman with a wonderful fulfilled life, family, and friends.  So I continue on my dating adventures.  Well, now at least that I’ve written this Part 1, I can pick it back up with Part 2 with the next installment of exciting adventures in dating.  I’m interested to see what happens next.  Cross your fingers for me.

FINDING YOUR ZEBRA

By Teresa D. Cochran

What’s the saying, “We’ve all got something.”  Well, don’t we?  Whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, scoliosis, periodic paralysis (my favorite), autism, leukemia, depression, bi-polar disorder, OCD, ADD, recovering from bodily injuries…the list goes on.  We’ve all got something.  These are just a few of the things that the immediate people in my life, that I personally know, deal with on a daily basis.  I have to say I’m pretty impressed how most of us handle ourselves each day.  We get up, we brush ourselves off, and we live our lives to the best of our ability.

I remember at 15 years old after spending the day at a family birthday party.  There was cake, chips, and soda.  It was a party, so not unusual food and drink for a teenager.  We stayed the night at my grandmother’s 1940s bungalow house.  You know the kind with one window AC unit in the dining room, and my grandmother believed in waiting until a certain date on the calendar to even “turn on” that window AC unit.  So, the smart girl that I am, I decided to put a floor fan on a chair right over me in bed that night to keep the direct air on me.  Little did I know that I was about to create the perfect storm.  Two of the three “triggers” for a very rare condition that I have would be ignited.

My triggers are 1) high carb meals, 2) extremely cold conditions, and 3) extreme muscle fatigue.  My condition is hereditary and I did not know until that evening that I had this very rare condition, periodic paralysis.  I awoke in the early morning and immediately realized I could not lift my extremities, body, or head.  I was physically paralyzed from my head to my toes.  At this moment, all I knew was that I was paralyzed for life.  I was scared to death.

My parents ran over and started assessing me.  To my amazement, they seemed to know what the problem was.  They picked me up, moved me to the back bedroom, and started feeding me potassium rich foods and potassium supplements.  I asked what was going on and they explained this hereditary condition that I had.  My response was, “Well, you could have told ME!”  Turns out there were many other things my parents could have told me, but there are some things we are meant to learn and experience on our own.

I was not paralyzed for life, but I went on in my life to learn that my three triggers would show back up and they could take me down, literally, in any given situation.  My ultimate strategy was to learn how to avoid the triggers, and learned that when two out of three triggers were present it would almost always bring on a periodic paralysis attack.

People with my rare medical condition are called “Zebras,” which means that others with my similar condition do not necessarily have the same “triggers.” No two people seem to be alike.  When doctors are trained in medical school they are trained to treat horses, but I am not a horse.  I’m a Zebra.

Because I have become so good at maintaining my triggers I can go years without having any symptoms or attacks, that when it does happen I’m caught off guard and surprised.  You would think I would remember I have this condition.  I don’t.  I forget all the time because I don’t wake up to a struggle every day, but everyone is not that lucky.

Some struggle each day to get up, but they do it.  Some people are in such physical and mental pain throughout the day and it’s not periodic.  They can’t forget about it.

I recently started working with a new colleague.  We hit it off!  She immediately felt comfortable enough to mention her scoliosis.  That day I completely forgot about my own struggle, because I am so fortunate that I don’t “have” to think about it every day.  The next day, it came up again.  I said, “I’ll see your scoliosis, and raise you a periodic paralysis!”  I explained my rare condition, and her response was, “You win.”  LOL!

I realize now, I do win.  Not because I have the bigger “badder” “something,” but because I am not forced to push through my own struggle at every moment of my day.  I’m fortunate in that I am able to set my “something” aside on a daily basis.  I do have to make sure I pay attention to my three triggers, but I can get up and live my day without constant pain or physical road blocks.  Not everyone can say that.

I think when I first learned about my rare condition and attacks continued to happen over the years, until I learned to control them, I felt scared about my condition and the unknown.  Having something that no one else seemed to have never heard of, including doctors.  Now, as the years have progressed I have the realization that we are all in the same boat.  We’ve all got something.  We are all getting up every day, finding our Zebra, and making it happen in whatever way works for us.

I’m proud to be a Zebra.  No Zebra has the same stripes.  This Zebra is one of a kind.

FINDING YOUR FORGIVENESS

By Teresa D. Cochran

In another installment of my series on Finding Yourself we look at Finding Your Forgiveness. How do you forgive yourself foremost, forgive others, live for today, and not relive your yesterdays?

Yes, the dreaded “forgive” word. To forgive or not to forgive, it’s really not the question. You must forgive for yourself, not for others. Basically, “forgive yourself” no matter what the circumstances. Let your hurt go for you. Whether you feel someone has wronged you or you have wronged someone else. It’s the only way to set your heart and mind free from your own thoughts. What I call “getting out of your own head” and moving forward. So let’s get out of our own heads. This is a good one. Definitely a good one.

In my early twenties I spent four years dating what, on paper, would present to be what I thought was a wonderful young man. Someone who I imagined marrying and having a family with. Somewhere, four years into the relationship he said to me, “I’m not good enough for you.” I cared about him so much, loved him, adored him, and respected him. I couldn’t believe he was saying this to me. I briskly and immediately told him, “YES YOU ARE!” I thought four years of my life and the possibility of “forever” and you’re not “GOOD ENOUGH” for me. He was telling me his truth and all I wanted to see was that he didn’t want to step up to the plate. Well, in reality, he just didn’t want to step up to my plate. So he wasn’t “The One.” Would there ever be “The One?”

Failed and lost relationships are just one of the many areas of life where we search for forgiveness, for ourselves, and to forgive others who we feel may have wronged us. No one person is perfect. Although, we can perceive and idealize someone in that way, I think it only sets us up for disappointment. The most important thing is to find someone who accepts you for you. There is something to be said for unconditional love of another who is not an immediate family member. Loving and accepting someone because you want to not because you are expected to. This is true in friendships and in love. So how do you forgive someone for hurting your feelings? How do you forgive yourself for hurting someone else’s feelings? It can be as simple as letting those negative feelings go, let them out of your head, and choose to move forward with positive thoughts. By saying to yourself, “That was yesterday and this is today, and today is a new day. Anything is possible!” Forgive yourself for your mistakes as well. You have to, to move on. I once read forgive quickly and never regret anything that made you smile. That spoke to me. This can mean to forgive yourself quickly too.

Having positive thoughts in any difficult situation can help. I know it’s easier said than done. Some people naturally gravitate towards negative thoughts and others gravitate towards positive. Like the saying, some people see the glass half full and some see the glass half empty. I see the glass half full, always. I also believe happiness on a daily basis is a choice. I’m not saying I don’t get mad and frustrated at times, and feel hurt or not appreciated. Sure I do, but in those moments I choose to let the hurtful things roll off my back, like water rolling off a ducks tail. In most frustrating situations I just find myself laughing. I say to myself “Really?,” and then I shake my head and move on. My Nana was a serious laugher, seriously, and thank goodness I take after her.

How do you forgive your boss or co-worker for rude comments or indifference in the workplace? I’m still working on this one, but in my experience if your boss is not open to listening and hearing you, pulling out and dusting off your resume is really the only choice. Then the day you give your two weeks’ notice, I have no doubt the forgiveness and elation will come. No doubt.

How do you forgive a family member or loved one for betraying your trust or insulting you? It seems like your family and extended family, such as in-laws, can be harsher than a stranger off the street. Who can relate to this? Well, I don’t have in-laws but I have several friends that do and the way these extended family members can treat the spouse of their family member is unbelievable. What person thinks they have the right to project such judgment onto another person? A person that is loving their child? I just don’t get it. Having the support of your spouse is instrumental in getting through the family get togethers. When inappropriate comments escalate, your spouse should support you by either, watching you say good-bye and walking out the door for that visit or they can get up and leave with you. Either way, you have every right to get up, smile, say thank you for a lovely time, and let them watch your fabulous backside walk right out the door as you put your hand up and wave politely good-bye. In that moment you should forgive their actions and be prepared to see them again at the next get together with graciousness, as their actions do not define you or how you feel about yourself so what they say just isn’t on your radar.

Just as I’m writing this, just as you are reading this I’m saying, yes, you can forgive. You can let all of the past go. All of the wrongs, the feelings of fear and doubt. You can simply choose to let it go and choose you, and your future happiness. You are more important than any other one experience you have lived with or any other person that has wronged you. Sure, those people and experiences shaped you but this is your one life. You decide what matters and what defines you. So think about it, now armed with the knowledge that, if you know nothing anyone else says or does defines you, only you define you, how could you not choose to forgive? How could you not see how another’s insignificant poor actions have nothing to do with you?

We only have control over our own actions. Never the actions of others. We also have control over the value we give to others’ actions. If we give it no value, it holds no value. So in our search for “The One,” the one love of our life, the one true friend, the one dream job we want, the close family or in-laws, what is the answer? To forgive, let go, that’s the answer. Life will bring you happiness, sadness, joy, fear, anxiety, love, confusion, and more. None of these are necessarily bad things. To feel is to be alive. To be alive is a great gift. To find the meaning of your one life is the point and purpose. The rest just doesn’t matter. It’s a blip on the radar of your wonderful gift. So get out of your own head, get out of your own way, and get busy living and enjoying the rest of the life you have left.  In your way.  On your terms. You decide.

 

FINDING YOUR STRENGTH

By Teresa D. Cochran

When I think of the word “strength” I think about inner strength not just physical outer strength.  In life changing difficult moments, how do you find your inner strength?

Most everyone, who was old enough to remember, remembers where they were on September 11, 2001. I was at the end of a two week vacation standing on top of a mountain at a monastery in Toledo, Spain.  I was traveling with two Spanish women.  I was the only blond looking American in my small traveling group and my Spanish speaking skills were and still are “un poquito” and not enough to pass me off as Spanish speaking in the least. When we returned to the charter bus down the road it was all over the radio, about the twin towers coming down after two planes crashed through them.  All of this had to, of course, be translated to me by my traveling companions.  Everyone was speaking Spanish around me and I had to rely on my friend to translate.  It was difficult.

One of my travel companions, a very good friend of mine, was a flight attendant for US Airways at the time.  I had flown over to Spain first class on what they call a buddy pass, which means I did not have an assigned seat and would agree to fly standby until a seat became available.  We only had maybe two more days on our vacation before we were going to fly home.  I had to get back to work.  My friend and I decided to make the best of it and go out our last night in Madrid before we made our trip back to the airport to fly home.

While out that evening, my friend became angry at me and walked away from me down the streets of Madrid leaving me standing in the road by myself in a strange country where I did not know the language.  I returned to the hotel room.  Once she returned she angrily yelled at me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t believe I was seeing the person that I had known for years start to unravel in front of my eyes.  I believe now it was because she was a flight attendant and was freaked out about the whole situation we were in and I was the moving target in front of her.  What happened next I could not have ever anticipated or imagined.

We arrived to the airport on the date we were to fly out a few days after September 11th and there was only one US Airways flight out of Spain each day. We were turned away from a flight that day.  For several days we continued to stay at a hotel near the airport and go back to the airport to attempt to board a plane.  We were continuously turned away each day due to our buddy passes (a pass, by the way, I will never use again to fly).  I realized then that not only was I not flying home first class I did not know when I would get home.  Then all of these thoughts entered my head, of our country possibly going to war, my travel companions possibly getting a flight that I could not get on, and being an American overseas that cannot blend in as anything other than an American.  In the unknown, I was done waiting for this one airplane and one airline to get me home. I realized at that moment I had to “flip the switch” and make my trip home happen no matter what.

I started going to every ticket booth for every airline in the airport.  I must have gone to twenty ticket booths.  Some airlines could not say when they would start selling tickets.  Some said it would be thirty days or more.  Then, I finally came upon Spanair.  They had a flight the next day and, yes, it was flying into New York.  I ran and told my friend,
”We’ve got to buy these tickets to get home.”  She said, “There is no way I’m flying into New York, no way.”  I said alright but that I was going by myself.  I bought the ticket and I got on the plane to New York by myself.  I flew over the smoldering rubble of the twin towers just days after September 11th.  I could have never imagined I would have ever been strong enough to make my trip home happen like that, but I was and I did.

We all have difficult challenges in our lives whether it be the job we do not like, the relationship we think we may not want to stay in or lose, the loss of a loved one, and for a lot of us all of the above.  Other than the passing of my maternal grandmother in 2012, September 11th was the biggest life changing difficult moment of my life.  I know all of us have stories about where we were on September 11th, the relationships we have, our jobs, and about the loved ones we have lost in our lives.  Some of us have had to bear a heavier cross than others.  Finding your strength in difficult moments, well it’s just difficult.

How do you move forward, how do you find your strength?  For me, it was getting out of my own head and telling myself I was going to take action to make a change.  I envisioned the change and I put it into action, and when I accomplished the action it felt really amazing.  This, of course, is only one area in my life.  I took the action I’m talking about over fifteen years ago.  I have other goals and changes I’m on my way to making now.  Writing a series of articles themed on finding yourself, including this article, is one of them.

Having a goal and focusing on it can be a great strength builder.  Even, if you set small daily goals each day whether that be walking around the block or cooking a healthier dinner at home than the one you would have eaten out.  Visual reminders of your goals are always good.  I have a cute pair of jeans that I have hanging on my closet door that I aspire to wear this fall. So I look at the jeans each day to remind myself of my goal.  If you don’t make a goal, make a plan for yourself, you can end up staying in the same place for a long time.  A place you don’t necessarily want to be.

How do you find a goal?  That’s easy.  You have to want whatever that goal is and then take the daily steps to lead you to that goal.  A lot of people will stay where they are in life because of past experiences and because it’s safe and safe is nice, but it’s so much more incredible when you find your inner strength, take the leap, and take action in your life.  Think of the possible reward of taking that action.  When you step outside of your comfort zone, “flip the switch” and go after what you want, whatever that may be, you have found your inner strength.

 

 

 

FINDING YOUR CONFIDENCE

by Teresa D. Cochran

Being confident in you can be a tricky trait, especially when you are younger and unsure of yourself, but even more so when you are older and still haven’t found your confidence in life.  High school as we all know can be a challenge.  It doesn’t matter if you are the unknown student or the most popular student in school.  It’s a challenge, each individual, with their own expectations of others and then the expectations of others on them.  The stereotypes that people can project onto you, the way people perceive you, the way we all see each other, it’s just not necessarily who we really are inside.

People will challenge you throughout your life and by that I mean project onto you their perception of who you are.  You know the saying you can only make a first good impression once?  Well, I don’t believe that.  I believe you have many opportunities to impress people.  You just have to want to do that by being present in the moment.  Recognizing and kindly acknowledging the people around you, no matter if they are the unknown student or the most popular student in school.  At this point, to you, they should hold equal value.  You never know the depth of someone until you take the time to really get to know them.  You should never shy away from engaging someone in conversation.

If you are older and still feel finding your confidence a challenge, it’s okay.  Just listen to the voice inside.  Trust yourself.  You’ve made it this far in life and I’m sure you have friends and family surrounding you.  So you’ve done something right.  You most likely have been building confidence little by little over the years and it just hasn’t reached the surface yet.  Give it a little more time.  Focus on being present in the moment and teaching people how you want to be treated.

People are very opinionated, especially me.  Everyone has an opinion and they’re entitled to it.  That doesn’t mean that it’s your truth.  The key is to not allow others to project their perception of you onto you. Wanting to take the many opportunities that will arise to you in life to teach people who you really are, just by being you.  You don’t have to change who you are. You just have to change how you react to others.  Basically, you’ll never change them but you can change how you feel and react by not giving it power and believing in yourself.

Here’s a confidence building exercise:  I know this may sound strange, but stare at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself the positive things you like about yourself and the positive things you have in your life.  You don’t have to do it for long.  You could start each morning before you walk out the door for the day and just tell yourself it’s going to be a good day.  I know this won’t work for everyone.  If you don’t want to look in the mirror then just stand at the doorway before you leave your home and say out loud, “this is going to be a good day.”  A positive mind set is important to having a confident day.

I was one of the fortunate ones.  I found my confidence at 17 years old.  I remember caring about what everyone thought of me up until that age.  Then, I just decided I cared more about what I thought about myself.  At that moment, if you didn’t like me, you didn’t like me and that was okay.  You can’t please all of the people all of the time.  That was a hard one for me to learn.  My confidence came from many days in my early years staring in the mirror and telling myself that I was worthy and good enough, and you know what, I am, and so are you.

Even with confidence, people will still continue to challenge you throughout your life.  I believe that challenge is teaching us how to be more patient and compassionate towards others.  Once you realize you have the power to fuel your own confidence and no one else can fuel it for you, you are on your way.  You can find your confidence at any age in life.  You just have to look within yourself.