Tag Archives: self-love

Relationship Timing and the Fragility of a True Connection

Two different women in the last few weeks have lit up my chemistry match. Both of them mentioned their boyfriend.

I might get bummed out, but I wasn’t. I was actually happy for both of them. Not so happy for me, but hey, I can wait. I’m in no hurry.

I said this to the last woman over breakfast tacos, “Relationships are fragile. If you’ve got one and it works out, congratulations. They are hard. I am really happy for you. If it doesn’t work out, then I’m still here. Either way I’m happy for you.”

And while I have that tongue in cheek desire to ask, “So how’s Brad?” I don’t. That would be shitty and passive aggressive. What I can do is let them go. Stay connected via chit-chat, but not make any suggestive comments. The relationship will either take care of itself or it won’t. And as far as I’m concerned, my relationship is coming.

What I’m building during this alone time is a new familiarity with my goals and desires, outside of any relationship. If I stay single forever, THESE are the things I want.

  • A stronger more committed relationship with both of my teenaged children. (This is 100% up to me.)
  • The creative drive and time to stay with my process.
  • Time to workout and time to rest.
  • Healthy meals.
  • Some inner source of self-love (must be in place before starting a new relationship)

Alone I am able to focus on these thing without distraction. I have no other pulls on my time and energy. Alone my general state is happy. But I long for a lover and companion. What I learned last time, however, was that even if you have all that you think you want, you may be missing some unknown ingredient. I think for me, that ingredient was the ability to love and forgive myself for my mistakes and ongoing flaws. I’m constantly working on them, but there they are.

We’ve all got our issues to discover and work on. The better I understand my own issues the better I can be in relationship to someone else and theirs. So as long as these other women are in relationships that are working for them, I am happy to continue down my own path of discovery. I wouldn’t want to be a backup or a rebound relationship anyway. They allowed me to catch a glimpse of what is possible for me, next time.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  coffee date, creative commons usage

My 50-year-old Body: A Love Hate Relationship

There are parts of my body I have hated ever since I knew to notice. And even at 51, I still have a problem with parts of my physique that do not bend to my will nor respond in the first two weeks of a renewed exercise program. Let me count the ways.

[Update: please check out my new site FitbyTech where I will explore this body/fitness/health issue in more detail.]

selfie this morningLove handles – had’em since I was born (slimmed them down tremendously while I was a competitive swimmer in high school, I even had a 6-pack for a brief period of time)

That fold of extra skin between my neck and my chin. It’s not actually a double chin unless I take a selfie looking down. So I always take them looking up. Duh.

I had some professional photos taken last summer and the photographer asked me, “So what are you worried about in your photos? What’s your thing that you want to be conscious of, so we can get it right?

“Double chin,” I said, without hesitation. He nodded his head in agreement. “Me too.”

I love where my body has arrived at this age. I’m not uber-fit, but I don’t consider myself fat either. And that is a HUGE accomplishment.

The love handles have been with me since I was a kid. And at various times in my life, even as an adult they grow or shrink depending on my overall fitness. And sometimes I can be fit and fat, amazing. Since I started noticing girls, and sucking in my belly (about 6th or 7th grade) I have been aware that I was a big-boned boy. There are plenty of things I can do to stay more fit, but I will probably not make it back to my swimmer body again. Ever. Fine, let’s move on.

The neck/chin area is a bit more difficult. I think it’s more about aging than anything else. Some people have surgery to tuck that extra stuff back in, but that won’t ever be my path. I got what I got, and I can work with that.

That self-acceptance has been hard won. I am still battling overweight demons at 51. Amazing. I’m better, but I still HATE my love handles. HATE HATE HATE them. And how healthy is that?

Not very.

There are two other things I need to get off my chest, while we’re on the subject of self-hatred. My physical stamina and recovery time has changed dramatically. When I play a competitive tennis match, for example, I’m going to feel it the next day. And if I play a tournament and last more than one round, I’m going to feel it for a week.

My self-acceptance is not quite what I would call self-love, but I really appreciate the term self-care.

And my eyes are going a bit wonky too. I first noticed my right eye was not as sharp as my left when I was in my mid-forties. I was amazed and disappointed. I was so proud to be the only member of my family not needing glasses. Like it was some accomplishment, or award I could take credit for. When I realised, in the middle of Whole Foods Market, that the Juice Bar sign was very blurry in my right eye, but sharp as a tack on my left; I thought maybe I was having a stroke. I just needed glasses.

Overall that’s not too bad. My list could be much longer. And I’m pretty happy with me. And there are things I absolutely love about being an “older” man.

I don’t buy into the drama most of the time. (I can choose to ignore, avoid, and delegate things that are gross or hard.)

I love where my body has arrived at this age. I’m not uber-fit, but I don’t consider myself fat either. And that is a HUGE accomplishment. I’ve always felt fat. Today I feel pretty fit. And I would love to see my abs, and I’m counting on it, but I’m not going to start marathoning or starving just to get there.

I am pleased with my mind and the wisdom the years has brought me, both about the world and about myself.

I’m quick to love. I have a lot of trust that I can manage.

I’m also quick to leave any abusive relationships.

Sex is something I crave but don’t need. [Aside: Amazing how important the Viagra market is these days. I think sex has a lot more to do with our brains and less to do with our dicks. But I’ve never imagined the need for a pill to help me get an erection. I’m sorry for those guys, and I suppose it could be in my future, but I’m working my exercise routine to help keep it from becoming part of my requirements.]

I am very happy with my kids. I love being dad. I would rather spend time with them than do any other thing on the planet. Hawaii would be nice, but Port Aransas with my kids is paradise to me.

I’ve got a lot of stories to tell. And I love to tell stories. It’s part of what I do for a living by writing social media strategies and a blog. But I love talking to people too. I love hearing their stories and comparing notes.

My self-acceptance is not quite what I would call self-love, but I really appreciate the term self-care. And by caring for myself I am showing love for parts of myself I have always tried to hide. I’m not ready to show you my love handles, but I’m ready to take off my shirt and go for a swim any day of the week. And I can imaging a scenario, at midnight, somewhere near a river, taking off all my clothes and going skinny dipping with someone special.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Please check out my new site FitbyTech where I will explore this body/fitness/health issue in more detail.

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+++ I welcome your comments and suggestions, as well as your participation on Facebook and Twitter.

image: selfie looking up, the author today 4-29-14

The Playboy Effect: Obsessed with Youth and Fitness

OFF-playboy

Back in the day before the internet, Playboy Magazine was a head-rush for the imagination of curious little boys. Finding a Playboy Magazine somewhere was like a high that lasted for lustful days, depending on your imagination and usage. But needless to say, it was the gateway drug for things to come in out sexual futures.

But of course Playboy Magazine offered a very top-heavy, warped version of attainable beauty and theoretical romance. Yes those beautiful women existed, you could see they were real in the pictures. (This was before Photoshop.) And some of us as young men got stuck there with the Playboy bunny as the ideal female. Um, WRONG. But it was difficult to get the images out of our heads when comparing what we saw and imagined in Playboy and reality. Rarely was there a woman in our sphere, much less interested in us, who could fulfill our reinforced and revisioned fantasy of a sexy and beautiful woman.

Jump cut to today, and there are some concerns that the free access to pornography is corrupting our minds and our expectations of sexual fulfillment. Often the pornography is sublimating the actual pursuit of a real “flesh and blood” relationship. As in the movie Don Juan, how can Scarlett Johannsen even come close to the raw punch of full-on punch of 19-year-olds ready for action. All action. And always ready.

That’s not the way the world works. And even as an adult I know my early experience with Playboy Magazine has had a lingering effect on my sexual preferences. And the current mainstream media obsession with rail thin 19-year-old goddesses is way out of hand and off the map of reality. Unfortunately even my 11 year old daughter is considering dieting because of the images she sees in her pre-teen magazines. It’s gross, what we’ve done to objectify women’s sexual bodies, and how far we have distorted those images. It is much the same way Playboy set an unrealistic body type that was accompanied by breast-waist-hip measurements.

If a woman I was interested in really wanted a six-packed 30-year-old I would have little chance of attracting her. And it is physically impossible for me to get back to the fitness and beauty of my youth. GOOD. I don’t have to worry about that.

Not even trying to contemplate the drugged death spiral that must accompany a young boys exposure to online pornography, I am aware that my vision is still clouded, my reality is still framed, and beauty is still judged by the media’s representation of beauty today.

When I see the 20, 30, or 40-something yoga goddess in LuluLemons, I get an immediate hit of dopamine. But it’s not real. It’s about as real as the foldout in Playboy.

The lie of this fiction and obsession with youth=beauty is that produces a false sense of desirability from us males. At the base of our brains we are animals, and we are looking for the best, healthiest opportunity to further our genes by procreating with the attractive female. And a freshly minted, athletic, woman is entering the peak of her child-bearing attractiveness, according to our reptilian brains. She is IT.

But she’s really not IT for me. And I’m working to understand and parse out the reality from the pornography that still runs through my mind from time to time. Stay with me for a second while I take this a step further to exemplify a point. My 11-year-old daughter is beautiful and perfect. She’s athletic. She loves brightly colored fitness clothes. In some ways she’s a mini-version of these older generations of beautiful young women. But she’s not at all sexual to me. And that’s the connection I am trying to make in my brain about these media images, and passers-by who are amazingly youthful and beautiful. Youth and beauty are great things. They keep our species going.

I am not interested in procreating any more, nor having a relationship with a 20, 30, or “early” 40-year-old. I’m sure there could be exceptions in the last category that could show up and make a convincing case, but in general, I am more interested in women within a 5-year range of my own age. And when you take the yoga babe standard to the early 50’s you are really talking about a rare breed. I’d love to meet her, but I’ve sort of moved on. In fact I’m a bit suspicious about the ultra-fit, ultra-hot women at my age.

So my attempt to reconnect with myself and my more age-desired vision of beauty has changed dramatically from my Playboy-hazed youth. And as I try to decouple my image of beauty from the mass media obsession I look to find beauty in women all shapes and more within the realistic construct of my own fitness. If a woman I was interested in really wanted a six-packed 30-year-old I would have little chance of attracting her. And it is physically impossible for me to get back to the fitness and beauty of my youth. GOOD. I don’t have to worry about that.

Happiness is fleeting. Hang on to it. Youth and fitness are fleeting too. First you’ve got to get comfortable with yourself.

Today, for myself, I am much more interested in fitness in terms of health, blood pressure, and what it feels like to be in my skin. When I’m over weight I feel it. When I’m in a more trimmed state I feel better, and I know my health is better. So I’m not doing crunches to try and attract the younger babe. I am exercising and eating better to be a more self-satisfied version of myself. And I suspect as I further decouple from the stacked deck of the Playboy bunny I will get even more interested in a woman of my own age who is a bit more realistic in her fitness and happiness ambitions as well.

Happiness is fleeting. Hang on to it. Youth and fitness are fleeting too. First you’ve got to get comfortable with yourself. Then you can start examining and reconstructing what YOU see as beautiful. Real-world beauty untouched by Photoshop.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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