"Sometimes the only power you have is to tell your story." -Evelyn Wilde

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gambler's Fallacy


We struggle to introduce ourselves to strangers these days. "This is my...fiancé" we say, ending the sentence in an upward inflection, as if to convey it's complicated.

We’ve decided to refer to one another as 'my man/woman.' Taking a page out of the romance languages of French and Spanish to describe the person your heart lays claim to.

It's always been a bit complicated for us, though. I'm considering creating a graph that charts our relationship from 2005: dating, marriage, several separations, divorce, and now, engaged. It is not that uncommon to remarry your Ex. Hollywood has examples, usually dysfunctional, but it does happen to the unfamous, too.

Divorce probably wasn't the best idea for us, emotionally or financially, but it seemed at the time (at least to my fiancé) the only option left.

I think if we hadn't officially ended our marriage I would have hung on, as I had for the two years that preceded; hoping he would realize what he needed to, without abandoning me.  I was still very much in love with him, despite the pain we had gone through, maybe even because of it. 

I don't think, however; that we would be together today if we had stayed married then. He needed to feel the void and I needed to fill mine. I needed to find the bravery to move on and he needed to feel the fear of my permanent absence.

Over a few months, my ex-husband plotted his way back into my heart. I had moved to London and was struggling to create a life there again. It was tough. I thrashed around that city for a good while.

There is always the risk of returning to a place (or person) you loved so much (at one point in your life) and not feel let down by their current incarnation. People, places, things; we are all made up of the same stardust, compelled to evolve and change.

A friend who worked in finance once described how people avoid taking their losses. This phenomena is termed Gambler's Fallacy in Psychology: failure to recognize a chance event and gives the belief that an outcome can be predicted that is based on chance outcomes in the past.

The problem with not taking your loss is that it often prohibits future success, as people keep doing what they already did, believing their luck will turn around eventually. It takes intelligence and a lot of guts to take matters into your own hands and accept the loss.

My man and I are trying to get our life back on track. I can get triggered pretty easily. We still poke at the old wounds and tender spots. We also continue to seek out the support of couples and individual therapy, to process and proceed; hoping not to repeat too many of our old patterns.

We are committed to creating something not based on the past; a relationship that might not be exactly new but is different, better. We are who we are though. The past cannot be erased, especially in such familiar territory.   

Friday, July 11, 2014

Shrug and Scroll

I saw the film Her a few months ago and thought it was brilliant for many reasons, primarily because it made me think about the possibilities and limitations of human connection.

In the film, an adult man falls in love with his Operating System and experiences the rise and fall of emotions of a very real romantic relationship, despite the fact that his paramour only exists in his hard drive.

 
A recent public radio interview cited the film when it revealed that investment is enthusiastically being made into computer technology that can replicate and read emotion to create something termed affective computing.

While many of us are spending more time facing a screen than another human being, we are doubling down, not backing away. Which makes me wonder how much further can we take our disconnection from reality before it becomes pathological?

In the media autopsy conducted after many gun massacres,(video) gaming has long been cited as a probable indicator of violence, as it can result in social isolation. Although violence and Autism are not necessarily linked, Asperger's Syndrome (a diagnosis on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum) has been included with more frequency to describe the perpetrators of recent horrific crimes.

Autism is fundamentally a disorder of connection: a disconnect from feelings, empathy, and communication. If coupled with social stressors it can lead to violence but I would posit that video games- where social norms no longer apply- are especially dangerous to those individuals who are not hardwired to decipher the boundary.

Autism is a disorder with symptoms clearly defined in the DSM V as being "...present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life." Would it not be conceivable that there could also be a possibility where symptoms become acquired?

If a child's reality is primarily experienced by plugging into a screen, communicating through head sets, YouTube comments and Twitter feeds, are we not effectively grooming ourselves into symptomology that, at the very least, resembles many of the criteria for diagnosis?

Although my points are not necessarily connected to one another either, I found myself thinking about all of this as I stared at my computer this morning.

A friend and I corresponded about how I had shut down my LinkedIn account.  It was no longer something I could pretend added any value to my life. I had never gotten any work from it and, despite being 'endorsed' by people I respected, I never felt validated by any of it.

I had ironically proclaimed my emancipation from "Facebook stalking with a suit on" - on Facebook. To which my friend replied: 
 
The LinkedIn endorsement button is like the very least one can do for someone else. How little effort does it takes to click on the random name that appears? I don't know half of those people beyond Grad School or tertiary social contacts so who am I to say if they have the adequate skills in Contract Negotiation, or Transponding, or whatever other bullshit CV skill LinkedIn pulled out of their assholes- but at least they didn't ask me to actually write them a recommendation?!

Moments later a story appeared on my news feed about the world's first indoor city planned in Dubai:

A kind of pick'n'mix urban collage, the project samples bits of cities from around the world with gay abandon. There will be a "celebration walk" modelled on Barcelona's Las Ramblas, a bustling billboard-lined theatre district modelled on New York's Broadway, and a shopping area based on London's Oxford Street – all sealed under snaking bubble rooftops.
 
Horrified by the thought of my niece and nephew living in a world where they can only visit the Epcot versions of New York or London; pollution, corruption, and apathy rapidly eroding away culture from Sydney to Saigon. I passionately shared the story on my Facebook page. 


Dubai's very own Broadway ... Photograph: AFP/Getty


A few hours after that outrage a friend asked me if I would be available to babysit her daughters. I started to rack my brain for where to take two small children on a Summer Sunday, in South Florida, that would be air conditioned and interesting.
 
I am not writing this without self awareness that I, too, am an offender. The only advocacy I can muster is clicking a pop-up petition or sharing an article via my social media accounts.

Russell Brand recently rallied for a Revolution in London against government cuts, corruption and an increase in state surveillance. The most radical outcome was that people actually turned up- in person- to protest alongside him.

Given the state of our current society and a future that is already resembling the stuff of science fiction and fantasy we, me, must show up. Not out of paranoia or some sort of Technophobia but because our lives actually depend on it. If we give in to the apathy, the real world, the one outside of our climatized pods, will be too hot, dirty, dangerous, and expensive to inhabit.

Our emotional, physical and spiritual connections to other people, and the communities where we live, are becoming extinct, in real time. We must look up from our screens and into each others' eyes so that the world we live in and leave behind for our children is authentic; not a virtual, fabricated, mash-up of Earth's greatest hits.




Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Family Affairs


If I were to visualize the Halcyon Days of England it would take the form of a Cath Kidston tea set.
 
Cath Kidston's pretty aesthetic seems to have inspired numerous TV programs which claim to be 'Great' and 'British': baking, allotments, sewing, & crafts. Apparently, Post-Modern Austerity is competitive, voiced by Kirstie Allsopp and has it's own brand.

My mum was born in Sussex in 1948. The same year as Prince Charles and the National Health Service. She left England in 1970 to follow her parents to Zambia, where my Grandad had a contract through the British Government. There she met my father and never returned to live in her country again. Her version of Britain is preserved in amber. My mum talks fondly of Carnaby Street and seeing The Beatles in concert. She has bucolic memories of farthings and double decker buses yet she also remarks (every time she returns) how strange it is to hear black people with English accents.

 
I would like to believe the British people (who have actually lived in their country for the past 45 years) voting for far right parties in the recent election, are reacting to understandable economic frustrations, yet also hold the warm and fuzzy memories of an England that was mostly white and affordable, too. Nevertheless, the reality for most, as Caitlin Moran pointed out in her fantastic collection of essays, Moranthology, is far from twee: (her dad, recalling 1950's Britain)..."It was sodding miserable. there were lice, it was cold, and everyone was racist...the only good things about the old days were 1) the bacon was better, and 2) you could smoke in the post office. And that's IT."

Watching the television program Gogglebox has done more to confirm my belief in England than any Party Political Broadcast or gardening contest. The cast are the real people of this great country and they are brilliant. I could go on and on about my adoration of the Siddiqis and the Michaels'. How much I want to have cocktails with Steph & Dom, eat crackers with June & Leon, or have my hair done by Stephen & Christopher but you could only appreciate my obsession if you tune in on a Friday night as well.

Watching them has come to feel like watching TV with family and I find their opinions on politics especially interesting. They have spoken often about the recent vote. Their opinions are as varied and complex as all of ours. The media and politicians like to put voters into the same boxes as they tick, but people's choices and private logic are far more layered and emotional.

The recent election brought up feelings towards Europe, Scotland, and Cornwall, which feels to me, like a family in crisis. When a family is struggling a Therapist will always look first to see if the parents are alright because if they aren't, no one is. I believe England are the parents in this scenario and need to step back from the kids (and all their moaning) to focus on their relationship with each other.

Let Scotland go to college, allow Cornwall to have its own room, Wales can talk funny, and we'll just let the Ulsters sulk. If we allow the family to fall apart, cutting ourselves off from our ancestors (Europe) and all our cousins, we will be weaker for it, and so will they (they just don't realize that right now). Instead of looking at all the trouble the extended family is causing, let's look at ourselves: put our own house in order.

England is a great country, in Europe, a far bigger and stronger Continent. London is a magnificent city, in England, but certainly not the only city worth investing money and interest in. Perhaps it is time the family finally had that talk they should have had in the 1960's.
 


 
Are there too many immigrants draining the social systems of a generous state? Yes, there bloody well are. I've said it. I'll burn on the cross of political correctness but I don't hate the immigrants because of a flawed policy. 

Do many people born abroad, or down the road, take advantage of the benefits available to them? Yes, they bloody well do but I don't think we should take the only lifeline some people have away from them. Every citizen should contribute to this country and the volunteer scheme of receiving benefits is a brilliant first step towards a renewed pride in the country and its citizens.

Perhaps the guilt of the fallen Empire has made the English complicit for decades. The conquered have cashed in on a passport and settled back in the motherland. That's not their fault. It's a bit like eating all the food in someone else's fridge and leaving an IOU; you can't be shocked to find them drinking from your juice carton the next morning. Chucking everyone out who doesn't fit into our subjective version of what is 'Great' and 'British' isn't really an option, either. Let's be honest, Brits can't even end a dinner party without it getting awkward.

In general, I actually find the English character to be quite kind and generous. They always root for the underdog and love to peel the skin of the top banana. Many cover up that vulnerability with moaning, passive aggression, alcoholism and sarcasm but they're very sweet really. That generosity has been exploited by the worst and unappreciated by most; immigrant, Scottish or other.

In my time living in London I have witnessed shocking displays of behavior, that run the spectrum from cruelty to kindness, performed by every color, creed, and credit score.  Personally, I believe that good manners, connection to others and altruism need to come before church (temple, mosque, etc.) or bank, building and interest rate. I want to live in a house where, if you are behaving like an asshole, you are excused from the table, no excuses.

Just look at the London skyline to see how we create monuments to church and finance but can't build an affordable housing community for our citizens. Look at how our tax code and immigration policy are to blame for failing systems, yet we punish the tax paying citizens for a problem we elect and employ people to solve.


What every English citizen needs to answer is this: What does it mean to be English in 2014? What qualities do we value?  How can we embrace others and still hold on to ourselves?

Before we can answer those fundamental questions how can we be any good to the Commonwealth, Europe, the world, but more importantly, ourselves?  Define those points and not only do you have your policy, but you have an identity.

Those are big questions to answer. Might I suggest we start with the people over at Gogglebox? They'll tell you what they think, and we should all be listening.  
 

Friday, May 9, 2014

And I You

If two people love each other, there can be no happy end to it - Ernest Hemingway
 
Is a happy ending even realistic any longer? Haven't the Princess fantasies all been debunked by Buzzfeed by now? Is it even that shocking to admit that your perfect life is just a carefully constructed version of what is, in reality, a pretty average existence? I get criticized for being so honest and transparent about the mess of my life (mostly by my parents) but I see the truth as powerful and, for the 6 people who actually read my Blog, you're welcome.
 
 
So here I go again. Literally, I'm moving again. I'm returning to Florida, again. To the man who divorced me and to a life I have tried to enjoy numerous times before. I'm leaving a city I love and the autonomy I fought to achieve for something I'm still fighting to not find fault with. Why would a woman closing in on forty make such an ostensibly foolish choice?
 
Kate Moss, who fabulously turned 40 this year, is credited with saying: Never explain, defend or justify. My English Grandad, Cyril Catt, never said I love you. As his American grandchildren, my sister and I would embarrass him with our flagrant declarations of fondness. Steadfastly, his Saxon reply would always be "And I you."

I loved and hated that about him but I get that reserved British affection now. I appreciate the value of holding something back for yourself. 
 
What the lists, newsfeeds, and glossy magazines (which Kate still graces) won't dare disclose is that you can have that capsule wardrobe and 101 moves in the bedroom (that will make him go wild!). You can climb the career ladder with a baby slung on your breast. You can eliminate belly fat and create the perfect banana bread recipe but your happiness does not actually give a toss about any of those accomplishments.
 
Writing this Blog has helped me sift through the noise and information that I have been processing, on a constant loop, for years. If I have to read another article about how to shift the perfect white shirt from day to night it will not add any more value to my life. The internal battle of judgment and self doubt that I have grappled with since Junior High School has not improved because of 21 Reasons Why (fill in the blank). 
 
Age, Therapy, Meditation and Yoga have helped to burn off some of the Maya (illusion) modern life bombards us all with. I am far from achieving Nirvana but I am getting closer to an approximation of what I want. Not what I've been told to want, or thought I wanted, but what gives me, Natasha, serious, mundane, lady wood.
 
These include but are not limited to:
 
1. The hope of a decent Driving License photo one day
2. Steam Mops
3. The man I still love
4. Becoming a mother
5. A cat & a dog
6. Upcycling
7. Getting paid to write
8. Meeting a couple who are fun to hang out with (but aren't into their Church or Swinging)
9. Instagram
10. A proper tumble dryer
**Seriously, Britain. Hanging wet clothes all over your homes is just sad at this point. The Easy Bake Oven, Washer/Dryer combo, you've all accepted as progress is not even close to what is possible!
 
I'm glad I spent the time back in London. It might not be the success story my Instagram feed would indicate but it has been sobering, albeit damp and wrinkled.
 
When I get on that plane in a few weeks and head directly back into the fucked up mess that insists upon being my life, I will look out the window and whisper "And I you."  I'll know the feeling is mutual, we just want different things.
 
 
 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Kids Are Not Alright (*and neither are the Teachers)

Before I rev up this rant let me establish some credibility: I have ten years of experience in Education, in the UK and USA. I have been a Special Needs Teacher, Coordinator and Contract Teacher in mostly low socio-economic primary/elementary schools. I've worked with older children but the majority of my experience is with naughty boys, ages 4-11. I left the field in 2011 to retrain as a Mental Health Therapist and earned a Masters Degree in Education in 2012. I have taught recently, much in the way I waitressed in my 20's; reluctantly, for fast money that does not require illegal activity.
 
Having said that, my latest stint has finally resolved what I have suspected for years: Teaching is fucked.

 
Since returning to London a few months ago (and the work of Supply Teaching in the East End), several events in the news have caught my eye: A Special Needs teacher who gave his student a kidney, the recent knife killings of a beloved teacher in Leeds and an honors student in Connecticut.
 
Several school shootings in the USA last year and the increase of weapons found in British Schools have done little to shift the education policy of either country (much less the right to bear arms in the US) and the planned teacher's strike in the UK seems to be falling on apathetic ears.
 
So, in an effort to stand on the side of both teachers and students, please allow me to explain a day in the life of a school, circa 2014 (in the UK/USA- I cannot speak of anywhere else but welcome the insight).
 
It must be said that there are amazing teachers working in every school, even the ones which are deemed as Poor or Failing. There are progressive Heads/Principals who value new ideas and defend the old ones that still work, as well as dedicated parents who put effort into their child's school and view the parent/teacher relationship as collaborative.
 
However; what I have mostly seen and experienced are tired, frustrated, functional Alcoholics who endure their jobs for the vacation time and a rare child who confirms their faith in the future of humanity. Not because teaching attracts misanthropes; quite the opposite. Teaching programs are full of idealists who want to make a difference. The job unfortunately turns most of those bright, young things into cynics within years.
 
So why is that?
 
  • It might be because thirty children in a class is too much for one person to teach effectively. One lesson taught by one teacher does not fit all. Inevitably every child's needs cannot be met. Teaching Assistants are not always trained properly so their presence sometimes hinders rather than helps but at least the UK still has Teaching Assistants. The United States did away with the majority of those jobs a decade ago; leaving teachers alone all day with students or, if they are lucky, relying on a volunteer for sporadic help.
 
  • The marking/grading, meetings and planning for 25-30 children (over a 100+ in Secondary Education) add hours to every day. The misinformed assume a teacher strides out of work at 3:15PM but most regularly stay until the lights go off. Despite their efforts, the curriculum expectations are rarely met and every few years a new scheme is introduced. Much the way Premiership Football teams change their managers; you just start getting a handle on the mechanisms when impatient bureaucrats citing "lack of performance" insist upon out with the old, in with the new. Millions have been spent on curriculum and yet children in the UK and USA fall behind other countries in league tables every year.
 
  • Teaching has traditionally been a female occupation.  Nursing, Secretarial and Teaching work were often the only options for the fairer sex, until as recently as the 1970's. Women are biologically predisposed to nurture and that generosity can often result in the inability to say "No." This selflessness has been exploited by (primarily) male bosses/administrators who will pile on more work with little to no reward. 'Caring Professionals' carry these burdens until they break. Instead of fighting back, most will internalize the 'failure' and either abandon or become disillusioned with their career. 
I'm sure men who work in Education have the tendency to nurture at their own expense, too. When I saw that teacher on Educating Yorkshire hobbling into school when he should have been in the hospital or read about the (male) teacher who donated his kidney, I thought "Wow. Most teachers just metaphorically feel that way- way to take it up a level, Dude!"

Which is why the asinine reaction to the Sandy Hook School shooting in the USA- to arm teachers with guns in schools- is akin to giving an Addict a blank prescription pad. The doorknobs who think a teacher with a gun would stop violence have never stood in front of a room full of obnoxious children for seven hours.
 
  • The reality of a child's life today does not resemble my childhood, much less that of a child in in the 90's or early 2000's. Today a screen has the answers and holds our sustained attention (adult and child alike). The paradigm of one teacher standing in front of a class of students is as relevant to today's child as an Atari

Speaking for myself, as a day to day teacher, all I want from a class is compliance and quiet. The bright, chatty kid will probably get yelled at because trying to get through five lessons that I didn't plan, with thirty, squirmy ten year olds, of varying abilities, is like herding cats. Some teachers are better at it, they have their tricks and treats, I just end up yelling out of frustration.
 
  • What other power do teachers have but their (raised) voice? Schools have been stripped of corporal punishment (which I'm not condoning), parents often view the teacher as adversarial, and the message a teacher too often receives from administration is: Its your fault students fail and misbehave but we (the education system) have nothing to offer beyond a 'Time Out' chair and a sad face.
 
 
So having said all that here is what I believe needs to happen in Education.
 
  • Formal lessons taught on computers with teaching geared towards the role of a Learning Facilitator, focused on targeted curriculum planning for each student's needs.
  • Interactive Arts and Physical Education incorporated daily.
  • Emotional Literacy classes (Group Therapy) aimed at teaching empathy, sexual and mental health, manners and the art of conversation.
  • As children move towards Secondary School they can specialize, enter into training/apprenticeship schemes, or prepare for higher education. *Universities and Colleges all require computer based entrance exams and are adding more on-line classes every semester.
 
These are suggestions that require greater minds to realize than my own but I see no better option than embracing technology and rethinking the way we educate. Policy makers and the general public can continue to dump on teachers, cower to children and parents, bemoan the violence and mourn the lives lost and squandered. We can all wax lyrical about "when I was a child..." but that won't help the teachers and kids who are failing to realize their potential in schools today.

You got any better ideas?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Game, Wink, Match

...And we are put on earth a little space, that we might learn to bear the beams of love.
-William Blake
 

As I stare down 40 there are a few experiences I was hoping to avoid, or perhaps even bypass altogether: Learning to drive a manual car, travelling to India, a mortgage, and Internet Dating.

I had one attempt in my late 20's on Salon.com. It was all very circumspect a decade ago. You still kept it to yourself and pretended like you met this new person in an adorable RomCom scenario, possibly involving a spilled, cold drink. I chatted to a nice man, we met, smoked a joint, and I realized it was not something I wanted to pursue. My memory tells me I didn't even kiss him but, at 27, I was still desperately looking for validity in sex so I might be selectively forgetting an indiscriminate shag.

Nonetheless, the experience was obviously not a brilliant one, as I never tried it again. I met my ex-husband when I was 30 and hoped that would put the full stop on singledom.

Flash forward to 2014 and Internet Dating is as common as divorce. There are numerous sites as specific and/or shallow as people themselves. The latest is a phone app that ostensibly encourages the user to play a human game of Snap with the people in your general vicinity. After a few manic swipes, I was contacted by one guy who told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I wasn't looking for sex it was a waste of time. Delete.

Still motivated to try new things, I signed up for a three day free trial on Match.com' which claims to be the world's largest dating site. I know several couples who have met thanks to its algorithms of the heart so I loaded a flattering selfie, whacked a softening Instagram filter on it, and proceeded to create my profile.

I was asked numerous questions, so specific about myself and a potential date that it was a much bigger investment than the Marry, Snog, Avoid App had been. Questions I don't think I had ever asked previous boyfriends until months after we had consummated the relationship, or possibly never: Do you want children? How often do you exercise? How would you describe your personal style? It was all very "This is me in a nutshell" (as per drop-down menu) but I think mine just came off as slightly cracked. I went ahead though, championed by the encouragement of single friends who thought it was great and another lonely night in by myself.

Within minutes of publishing my profile, my laptop began to pop and beep. Winks, favorites, messages and banners, followed by emails telling me all those things were happening- just in case I had missed the carnival going on inside my hard drive.

Random men were sending curt, misspelled messages indicating an interest.
"Hey. U pretty" "Wassup- you want to meet??" "Hello. I like ur profile. Wher u from? I bet u smell good."
On and on it went. Some slightly more eloquent and considered but, after 48 hours, I shut it down. I had spent way too much time managing the messages and 'winks' I had received and, even though I made a point of looking at each gentleman's profile, there was always something that made me pass: they didn't get the joke, they had five kids, way too eager, or the dreaded mirror selfie snapped in the gym.

I'm sure several really lovely men passed by me but it was way too much information to process. I was overwhelmed, slightly flattered by all the attention, but mostly it just made me feel sad. I felt a general human sadness for all the lonely people in the world and a more specific, egocentric sadness for myself and the marriage I once had.

The truth is I still love my ex-husband, despite our divorce, my relocation to London, and all the pain and suffering he has caused and I have accepted.

Jane Eyre says at some point "...I loved him...I could not unlove him now..." and I do wonder if that ache ever truly goes away.

For now, I'll keep my head down and avoid any actual winks. Although I might just keep a glass of Chablis on the ready. You never know when you might literally bump into Mr. Right.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Goddess of Compromise


A Yoga retreat can open your eyes in many ways: A sunrise that inspires you to forgive, realizing Lululemon's embarrassingly 'curvy' girl fit, the wonders of avocado, and just how many women are out there, in mixed company, referring to themselves as Goddesses.

I met several on my last retreat, many of whom are making tidy incomes in the Goddess trade. They hold gatherings and conferences with titles like How to Get Everything You Want From Your Relationship which promise to deliver the goods if you want to feel your "...rich, sexy, sensual, free, beautiful, wise self...come unleash your power!!"

I want those things. I've been sitting on the sofa in fat girl, yoga pants for days and feel none the sexier or the wiser.

Who is my Goddess? Must I name her and create some sort of alter to her Goddess-ness? Is she who I truly am and by not acknowledging and honoring her power, have I sentenced myself to a life of shitty jobs, failed relationships and small dreams? What a bitch!

I consider myself a Feminist. Is that sort of like being a practical, vintage Goddess? If I attend a day long workshop (and pay 1/4 of my rent) to sit amongst other Goddessi-in-Training to hear the wisdom from fully realized Goddesses, will that transform my life into an episode of Sex & the City?

If only it were that easy.

As much as Landmark, Tony Robbins, Life Coaches and all the other charlatans will tell you the way to greatness lies just beyond the green curtain (made of the cash in their bank accounts). Sadly, the reality is that the idea of greatness exists because not everyone can achieve it. These subjective experiences appeal to our need to be special & unique and then brilliantly package their snake oil so, if you are still on the sofa in  pants the next day, its because you didn't try hard enough.

I really like the women I met on that Retreat. I'm not trying to rain all over their henna tattoos. One could argue that any effort that promotes women in a world where we are still dealing with sexism, unequal pay, the majority of household work, and weirdo's snapping photos of us scarfing down a surreptitious snack on the London Underground is a positive.

I suppose what I take issue with is the premise that we can have everything we want. ESPECIALLY in a relationship with another person. Having just consciously uncoupled from an actual man with whom I had a marriage, I can tell you one of two things: 1. Either I wasn't honoring my Goddess or 2. Compromise = Relationships.

When people who have managed to sustain their relationships, or are reflecting on the carnage, they describe a variation on the eventual realization that "we wanted different things," "we grew apart," "I made his needs matter more," or "we took turns getting what we wanted."

What I found so interesting about all the Goddesses I met on that Retreat was that all were single and, when asked what they wanted to manifest (a very Goddessy word) they all said, without exception, "a relationship" (with an actual person- in their cases- men).

Perhaps therein lies the rub: the conviction that you will be able to get everything you want (from a relationship) and actually being in a relationship. At some point, the math just won't work.

 “Suffering ceases to be suffering once it finds a meaning,” wrote Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search For Meaning. “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is.”

I'm certainly not an expert on relationships. I've been married twice; once to a gay guy and then to a man whom I still love (and can't seem to figure out why). What I do know is this: when two people can strike an ephemeral balance between themselves and another- without being unrealistic, codependent, demanding, or pathetic- that's magic.