Mid-life love is a blessing — even without the happy ending

When you throw your whole heart into something, it’s hard to pull your whole heart out. It takes time, sometimes a long time.

Sometimes you can’t muster a big, bratty smile; you can’t rip the rug out from under heartbreak. And that’s OK. Sometimes a brat just needs a little time.

A few years ago, a friend of mine made a video to celebrate his milestone birthday. He decided to interview his former girlfriends and those of his closest buddies because he and his friends were turning the same age. He wanted to get the women’s perspective on who the guys had been, back in the day.

Deepening your heart

I was a former girlfriend of one of his friends so he interviewed me. When he asked if there was value in reflecting on your past and how relationships change you, I said yes and that, “You’re the same person you were but hopefully with everything that happens you become a lot more comfortable in your own skin, a lot less self-conscious and your heart gets deeper…too.”

Those last few words are especially poignant for me now because I recently broke up with that friend, after dating him for several years.

What happened to cause it, is not something I can fix. That is what makes it so hard. This is one of the biggest losses of my life. It is not the outcome I want but maybe it’s what he wants. Regardless, it seems I have to let it go.

Soulful connection

It is also hard because I was extraordinarily blessed by that relationship and so was he. We had a connection that many people search their whole lives to find.

If you are smiled on by the gods, you may connect with someone you love in a way you didn’t even know was possible. Somehow, the deepest part of you, the soul of you really, connects with the soul of the other person.

It’s not an emotional, mental or physical connection and you don’t instigate it. You have nothing to do with it; you are just a witness. When it first happened I phoned to tell him but before I could speak he said very softly, “I know Kath, I felt it too.”

The lesson

Before this happened, I never knew that some people are blessed to have that kind of connection. After it happened, I thought that a relationship with that at its core, could never fail. But there are no guarantees, no fairy tale endings. 

The blessing

The blessing is that it did happen. I have the memory of that tender, sweet, extraordinary closeness and that is a lasting gift.

Being a brat is about going deep, not just skimming along the surface of life. It’s about having the courage to be vulnerable, to offer your whole self with faith that you will be loved, flaws and all. Maybe that’s why the gods give you a blessing like this once in a while.

The little girl in me still hopes for a fairy tale ending, but the brat in me will wrestle that out of her.

What he and I had was real and that will have to be enough.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

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Taking a birds-eye view of your challenges gives you fresh perspective

Did you ever wish you could fly? Ever wish you could just soar above everything? Get a fresh perspective?

I have. I even used to dream about flying when I was a kid. It was the one recurring dream I had and it was awesome!

Free as a Bird

My dad designed and built our house; he and my mom bricked the whole thing.

The house had a big picture window in the centre. Directly below that was the garage with a long driveway leading up to it.

There was a high bank of lawn on the left side of the garage driveway and a high bank of lawn on the right.

In my dream I would fly high above the left lawn, arms stretched out wide, swoop down over the low driveway, then up and over the right side of the lawn. After a few passes, I’d swing up even higher where I could see everything.

It was such a rush!

They say dreaming about flying is related to feelings of empowerment and freedom which makes sense. 

How have you been ‘seeing’ your challenges?

But I’m writing about birds-eye views because I’ve been reading a great new book called, “Stop Playing Safe,” by Margie Warrell.

The book is all about how to take more risks, overcome fear and become more courageous in your career — and your life.

Stop Playing Safe and Luna

(people, not cats)

Warrell suggests that taking a birds-eye view of your challenges can really help you see them more objectively. 

Imagine you are looking down at your life right now. How do you see it?

“So try to observe how you’ve been observing things. Observe the critical judgments that you make. Step back and notice the type of lens through which you view your life. Is it tinted with optimism or pessimism, excitement or anxiety, anticipation or dread, confidence or self-doubt? Notice how that lens shades your interpretation — of people, situations and yourself — and consider how those interpretations may be serving you and how they may be failing to serve you.”

You may discover that how you’ve been seeing things has caused some of your stress and unhappiness.

This non-judgmental way of looking at your own thoughts says Warrell, can help you tame the ones that are no longer serving you.

What would Steve Jobs do?

She also suggests you think about how someone else, looking down at your life as you are now, might see your challenges.

If they were to see what you’re dealing with (and how you’re dealing with it) what might they suggest you do differently?

Thinking from the perspective of someone else, can give you lots of fresh ideas. Those ideas can spawn solutions to get you unstuck and moving forward.

Warrell suggests you think about your situation from the perspective of inspiring people like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, George Washington, Warren Buffet, your favourite writer… 

“Free as a Bird”

I’m going to go do that right now —  just as soon as I watch this flying video.;)

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

What your shopping quirks reveal about you

Ever notice the quirky little things you can’t resist doing in a store?

You know, obsessively alphabetizing the DVDs in the sales bin. Or neatly folding — in thirds — all the jammed up jeans.

Shirt buttons

I am a compulsive shirt un-buttoner.

I have to undo the first two or three buttons and loosen the shirt up a bit, right there on the hanger. Can’t help it. 

My coat buttons in the dead of winter, are another story. I do not like being cold. But shirts are made to be undone.

Those first few buttons are meant to weigh down the shirt just enough so that each side falls away from my neck.

I can breathe, the shirt can breathe, everybody’s happy — except the scowling sales clerk behind me, buttoning up the rejects.

I’m glad I am not a guy; I’d never have mastered that buttoned up shirt and tie thing.

Touchy-feely books

When I see raised words on the cover of a book, I have to touch them. I cannot resist. And, if those words are in a metallic colour (sigh) like gold, copper, silver, blue or red, I am a bee to honey!

Perdita book cover

Books are a tactile experience. People who love books will tell you this. Feeling real leather, raised type, the texture of the paper — these things are as much a part of the experience of buying a book as the words inside.

What are the things you can’t resist doing in a store?  They reveal a lot about you.

If you’re feeling stuck in your life or career, think about those quirky little habits of yours. They offer clues to your personality and even aspects of your work style.

I’m not a buttoned-up sort of person. I thrive in open, creative environments where there’s lots of collaborating and brainstorming going on.

Being a brat is about embracing your quirks and having a little fun with them.

When people tease you about your shopping habits, tease them right back. They’re probably closet DVD straighteners.

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

How to reframe the hurt and move on

Some days you don’t feel like being a brat, especially if you have recently ended a relationship. It may be hard to move on because you keep remembering the good times. You long for them.

But you wouldn’t be out of that relationship if it had been truly good for you.

On days when you wonder if ending it was for the best, remember one thing:

You are no longer in a relationship that is hurting you.

Recurring hurt

This is especially important if what hurt you was the result of a recurring issue that was never addressed.

If something was hurting you on a regular basis but never dealt with, then it was only a matter of time before things reached this point.

Yes, there were many great times and it’s going to take a while to stop being pulled back, by their memory.  

But the happy times will never make up for the fact that you were repeatedly hurt because of something that was never addressed.

Reframe your sadness. Reframe your longing with these words.

I am no longer in a relationship that is hurting me.

That relationship is in your past. Not your present. Your past.

What was hurting you is back there too.

If you find yourself longing for your former partner, yet feeling the relationship could never move forward, repeat those words several times.

Some days you don’t feel like being a brat

Some days you don’t feel like being a brat; you don’t feel much like stirring things up and pushing out there to make yourself heard, to make positive change.

Sometimes the change comes slowly, quietly, even painfully. Sometimes you are living in the shadow of the sun and regrouping some of that energy.

This is one of those times. But reframing the hurt can help you get out past it.

You’re no longer in a relationship that is hurting you; you’ve left it behind.

That is huge.

(P.S. Don’t throw something away if there is a chance it can be healed. If you think your old relationship has that chance, investigate it by all means.)

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

How Katharine Hepburn changed my life

When I was a kid I lived in the country, far away from the big city.

I knew that if I wanted to go to university — and get away from my current circumstances — I would have to make it happen myself. I would have to organize it and finance it on my own.

But sometimes when you feel you’re on your own, you’re not. Often there is someone whose example gives you the courage to make a major change.

For me that person was outspoken actress and icon, Katharine Hepburn (below, in a 1940 still by Clarence Sinclair Bull, for The Philadelphia Story). She played feisty, independent-minded women in films and was much the same off-camera.

Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story, 1940 by Clarence Sinclair Bull

“That’s all there is to life, being part of it.”

I read those words of Hepburn’s and I never forgot them.

As a teen I desperately wanted to be part of life — a richer, bigger life — which to me meant going off to university and living in a big city. There was energy there, intellectual stimulation and fresh, new ideas and ways of looking at the world!

I had outgrown my circumstances. I needed to stretch and grow and learn, to be challenged. I was hungry for it.

Hepburn’s independent spirit reinforced my resolve. I watched her films and read everything I could about her. Her passion for life and her view that you must take responsibility for your own destiny inspired and empowered me. It made me feel bold and strong.

Where would I be without Hepburn’s inspiration?

How I could have changed the course of my life without her inspiration is something I won’t allow myself to consider. Altering my circumstances was so critical to my well-being and to my future, that I cannot imagine what would have happened had I not done it. I won’t let myself imagine it.

Feeling inspired gives you courage and reinforces the courage you already have. It helps push you to make the changes that will move you forward and into a healthier place.

Katharine Hepburn’s advice for living:

  • “Life is to be lived. If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting. And you don’t do that by sitting around.”
  • “Without discipline, there’s no life at all.”
  • “The thing about life is that you must survive. Life is going to be difficult, and dreadful things will happen. What you do is move along, get on with it, and be tough. Not in the sense of being mean to others, but being tough with yourself and making a deadly effort not to be defeated.”
  • “We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers – but never blame yourself. It’s never your fault. But it’s always your fault, because if you wanted to change you’re the one who has got to change.”

But don’t forget your sense of humour. This quote inspires Bratty Kathy every single day:

“If you obey all of the rules, you miss all of the fun.”

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Don’t cry over chipped teeth

I chipped a piece off one of my back molars several weeks ago. It was bound to happen; I eat so many seeds and nuts I’m basically a squirrel.

But that wasn’t the cause. Nope. I bit down too hard during an orgasm.

No, no one else was injured.

I know I should go to the dentist and have my tooth fixed but I don’t have any insurance.

So I look on the bright side; every time my tongue slides back there, it reminds me of something awesome.

And every time I put money away for the dentist, I’ll have a smile on my face. That’s not so bad.

Besides, there’s a lesson in everything. This one is, don’t clench…your teeth.;)

c 2013 Kathy Barthel

Why Bratty Kathy?

Friends told me I shouldn’t do it; I shouldn’t call the blog Bratty Kathy.

Chatty Kathy they understood, but Bratty Kathy? They worried that people might think it was all about sex.

They worried that what I would say might be misinterpreted. Marketers thought that well-mannered women wouldn’t consider themselves brats and might not embrace the blog.

Kathy on stone ledge piece of grass in mouth 698 px W x 498 px H

Giving brats a bad name

Those things never occurred to me but it turns out that the word brat does have a negative connotation. Even my beloved Oxford English Dictionary describes it this way:

Brat= (n) derogatory a child, esp. an ill-behaved one (origin unknown)

When I google images of “bratty women,” I find idiotic pictures of women sticking out their tongues. I had no idea there were so many art directors and photographers with such a singular lack of imagination.

My definition of a brat

“brat” = (n) someone who goes against the grain, stirs things up to make people think, to make a difference, witty, clever, surprising, a maverick, sexy, fearless, optimistic, aware, ageless, alive.

I know quite a few women who fit that description and who would probably like to get their pictures taken.

Owning it

Bratty Kathy is about them and about everyone who has ever fallen in love, thought they looked fat, worried about money, felt old or lonely or had an awesome love life. SPOILER ALERT: there will be sex.

Bratty Kathy is about getting out of your own way so you can live the life you want in the wild and unpredictable 21st century.

It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and owning who you are, all of it, including your flaws. Especially your flaws. It’s about grabbing your life by the throat and living it. It’s about not being suffocated by the “accepted wisdom” that tells you what you’re supposed to do, or what you’re supposed to think, or what you’re supposed to feel, just because of your age. And if some of those limiting beliefs are in your own head, ditch them.

Kathy jean jacket 398 px x 398 px

Here’s a little chart to show you what I mean:

THE ACCEPTED WISDOM WHO YOU REALLY ARE
Old Ageless
Out-of-touch Aware and engaged
Sexy?  Are you kidding me? Sexy and…H O T
Humourless Funny and witty
Status quo Rebellious
Stuck-in-your-ways Flexible and adaptable
Dull Kick-ass

In other words, a brat.

Bring it on

When I read those words in the right-hand column, I think about my grandmother when she was 83. My wedding photos were being taken in the park and she was sitting on the grass, feet straight out in front of her, snapping pictures. All of those words fit her, including sexy—just ask her boyfriends.  My grandmother was a well-mannered, well-brought up woman and most definitely a brat. It is to her (and to my mother who is not a brat) that I dedicate Bratty Kathy.

If the OED says a brat is “ill-behaved,” bring it on.

P.S. A friend of mine told me about hanging out with his 20-something kids and sharing their experience of being young and full of promise. His bittersweet story has stayed with me, along with the idea that it can be hard to feel hope and promise when you’ve been beaten down a few times. But that’s exactly why Bratty Kathy exists—to recognize that none of us is full of bratty bravado every day and that to put your whole heart into something, to push your spirit, talent and voice out into the world, is risky.

Bratty Kathy will always be powered by a tender heart because to shine like a brilliant, flawed sun takes guts and sometimes you are regrouping after a failed attempt. Sometimes you live in the shadow of the sun.

Bratty Kathy is about all those bumps in the road that you never saw coming and the idea that to make it work, you may just have to bend the rules on occasion.  That’s often where the fun is.  Just saying so makes me feel bratty again…

c 2013 Kathy Barthel