40 Shades of Grey

Looking in Mirror

I remember the first few months of my divorce; I would look at myself in the mirror and feel like there was a huge weight on my shoulders. I would also look at myself and feel like I was a different person.

I remember the first few months of my divorce; I would look at myself in the mirror and feel like there was a huge weight on my shoulders.  I would also look at myself and feel like I was a different person.  I still looked like myself but I felt like I was wounded and I didn’t know how to heel the injury.  Fast forward to present day.  I have really been focusing on my friendships and my family.  I went out with one of my close girlfriends last weekend.  She is 42 and newly engaged.  We have been close friends for the last 10 years.  We have gone through the ups and downs of dating and as her close friend it is so great to see her excitement during this time of her life.  As we sat down having cocktails overlooking the ocean at the Loew’s Hotel in Santa Monica she was reminiscing over the last decade.

Girlfriend:  I tell you, life is so interesting.  You really have to enjoy your life and live in the moment. 

Me:  That has been a recurring theme lately.

Girlfriend:  Trust me, I understand.  I met my honey later in life.  But if I had met him before I did neither one of us would have been ready.  You see, the 20’s are for making the mistakes.  The 30’s are for learning the lessons, and once you reach your 40’s you hit your stride.  You’ve made the mistakes and learned the lessons.  And you are at a point in your life where you say fuck it!  I am who I am and it’s okay.

Ironically, this wasn’t the first time I had heard that saying.  But perhaps it was the first time I was really paying attention to what she was saying.  The very next day, I met up with another group of my girlfriends who happened to be in their early 40’s as well.  We were celebrating my girlfriend’s 40th birthday.  It was a beautiful day in Malibu.  We sat outside at Gladstone’s eating Oysters and having some wine.   We were all sharing our dating horror stories and just bonding.  All of us at the table had gone through a divorce or some type of heartache at one point in our lives and had made it to the other side.

Me:  What are some of the lessons you learned in your 30’s?

Girlfriend:  Let me tell you something.  You are young.  You cannot settle!  Lots of times we settle and we put up with a lot of shit that we shouldn’t.  If something doesn’t seem right, keep it moving!

Me:  How do I know if I am not being reasonable?  In the past I have been accused of not giving guys a chance.

Girlfriend:  Oh please, if it’s not right it’s not right.  You know when shit doesn’t feel right.  You can’t force stuff.  I’m not telling you to be a raging bitch.  But I don’t want you to be in something just because you don’t want to be alone.  I don’t want you to put up with crap just because you think you can’t get better or you’re getting “old.”  Chile’ please. 

There seems to be a certain stride that women hit once they turn 40.  I noticed it in a lot of my friends.  First of all, they all look beautiful.  There is an inner and outer beauty that radiates from within.  There is a certain amount of confidence I notice in women in their 40’s as well.  When I was going through my divorce my mother once told me, “You have earned your battle stripes.”  I realized those times when I was looking at myself in the mirror I WAS looking at a different person.  I no longer lived in this fantasy world.  I had gone through the trenches of a bitter breakup and I made it.  I realized I was becoming a true grown ass woman.  You see, in my 20’s I saw things as either black or white.  There was no in between.  I was going to be married by the time I reached 30, it would last forever, I would have my 2.5 children, and a house with a white picket fence.  By the time I reached my 30’s and was in a bad marriage, I still saw things as black and white, I was determined to make things work in spite of the fact I knew deep in my soul I was with the wrong person.  I was willing to shrink who I was to fit into his small world in order to make him happy.  But by the time I was going through the divorce that is when my black and white world was suddenly turning gray.  And that’s when I realized as a 35 year old women I am in the midst of becoming the woman I was supposed to be.  Without the experience I had I would have still been living in my black and white fantasy world.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that I have a lot of my close girlfriends who are in their 40’s.   They are like big sisters to me and there is such a love that we share.  And there is also authenticity.  We don’t bullshit around; we say it like we mean it.  Although I have sometime before I hit my 40’s (I ain’t trying to rush shit).  I realized I was finally hitting my stride.  I was in the middle of learning those lessons.  I had already made the big mistakes and now was my time to learn from them.  It’s amazing what happens when you decide to focus on you and not finding a relationship.  I am hyper aware of a lot of things around me.  I yearn for those perils of wisdom.  I can’t lie, in the last few months I had those moments of feeling like, I’m getting older.  If I don’t meet someone by the time I hit 40 the pickings are going to get slimmer.  I live in LA; men will think I am too old.  I want to have children one day.  I need to hurry up and find someone before I hit 40!

 

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I don’t think it is a coincidence that I have a lot of my close girlfriends who are in their 40’s. They are like big sisters to me and there is such a love that we share. And there is also authenticity. We don’t bullshit around; we say it like we mean it.

That’s why it is important to surround yourself around positive people who have some damn sense!  I was already beginning to do exactly what I was doing in my late 20’s and look where that got me.  Now at 35 I had learned the lesson.  When you let fear and worry dictate your actions you end up making major mistakes.  I am finally learning to enjoy my “grey” time.  Life isn’t just black and white.  When you mix the two colors together you become a fully authentic woman.  When you earn your battle strips you learn what roads lead you to another war.  When you begin to embrace who you are at any age life becomes worth living it to the fullest.
 
Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+        

The Company You Keep

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I refused to speak to or associate with any negativity. Not to be a bitch but I needed to protect myself.

I had finally returned to the land of the living.  I was feeling like myself again and I was also feeling hopeful after that chance meeting with “Ron.”  So I made another conscious decision to spend more time with happily married couples, people in love, and positive energy.  I refused to speak to or associate with any negativity.  Not to be a bitch but I needed to protect myself.  It is always a great reminder to be around people who actually love each other but not only just that, they love you and want the best of you.  Over the weekend I attended a bridal shower of a friend of mine who was getting married in June.  She had been through a previous marriage and divorce. She met her soul mate around a year ago.  To see the sincere happiness on her face during her shower was… inspirational.  I believed in love and I wanted to believe that the second time around could happen.  I remember a little over a year ago I was considering moving to Chicago.  I had gone there for work and I felt like I was a super star.  Brothas acknowledged me.  They went out of their way!  And I liked the vibe of the city.  I told my girlfriend this and her response was, “Are you crazy?  You don’t even have a plan!  Are you just going to move to Chicago and not have a plan?”  She definitely had a point.  A few weeks later I was in Chicago for a layover.  When I got off the plane and walked through the jet way, which took a total of 20 seconds.  By the time I was finally in the airport.  I couldn’t feel my legs.  They were frostbitten.  I realized then and there if this is what the weather was like in Chicago in December I was going to stay my ass right in LA.  I grew up in New Jersey and yes it was cold during the winter time but the level of bitter ice cold in Chicago was more than I could stand.  My 13 years in LA had made me allergic to the cold weather.  And my friend had a point.  It would be one thing if I had already met my soul mate who lived in Chicago and I moved for love.  But why in the hell would I move to Chicago without a plan in hopes of meeting an imaginary man?  If I didn’t I would spend my time alone and cold.  At least in LA I can be alone but take a drive in my convertible in the middle of December with the top down.  But fast forwarding to present time seeing her so happy gave me hope.  And encouragement that the second time around could and would be better.

The next day I met up with two of my married girlfriends at Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica.  My one girlfriend friend was happily married to a man who adored her.  Their family looked like one of those families that are in a picture frame when you buy one from the store.  They are gorgeous and the level of respect and love they have for one another is again inspiring.  My other friend had been married for two years and I was with her when she met her husband at the UCLA Jazz fest Memorial Day weekend a few years back.  Their courtship proved that when you marry a man who is your friend and who loves you unconditionally you have a strong marriage.  I was telling them how I had just gone through one of my dating depression and was so frustrated with dating.  You see, if I wanted to I could have already been remarried if that all I wanted was just marriage.  But Like my friend whose bridal shower I went to the day before, I was looking for something more.  I was looking for the real thing.  And I wouldn’t settle until the real thing happened.  All of these dating lessons I was learning since the divorce made me realize that it is better to be alone and lonely than with someone and lonely.  Once again, being around people who are happily married gives you a sense of hope.  Also, if you really listen they offer perils of wisdom.  My one girlfriend told me, “Right before I met my husband.  I had made myself okay with being by myself.  I was travelling and just enjoying my life.  I made myself okay with me first.” When I went on further to tell them about my crazy ass week and self doubt my other married girlfriend said, “You have to be very careful with what you put out into the universe.  There are things that might run through my mind, but I don’t say that shit out loud.  When that negative thought creeps up I push it down.  Don’t speak bad shit into existence.”   It is so good to have real friends.

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I was glad I had girlfriends in my life that kept it real and that were positive….Seeing my friend so happy and with a man who genuinely got her really touched my heart. And she said, “Ladies, miracles do happen.”

Then my final stop for my weekend of unexpected self discovery was happy hour with some of my college friends at Sonoma Wine Bar at the 3rd Street Promenade Mall in Santa Monica.  A girlfriend of mine had started dating an amazing guy.  Seeing my friend so happy and with a man who genuinely got her really touched my heart.  And she said, “Ladies, miracles do happen.”  Seeing her smile made me realize that was true.  Misery doesn’t always love company.  Being around these wonderful women made me realize a few things:  first of all, the common denominator they all had is they reached a point in being fine being by themselves.  It didn’t mean they didn’t believe that would meet the right man but they made themselves okay with being where they were at the time.  They also did not settle just to be with a man.  They went with the flow and waited for the right man to come along.  They didn’t force it.  They just lived their lives and when they met their soul mates he didn’t complete them he merely enhanced where they already were.  These were all things that I knew already but I found myself forgetting this.  And then when I really sat down and thought about it, I realized that is one of the major reasons I ended up marrying the wrong person in the first place.  I worried that I wasn’t going to get any better and I found myself dealing with bullshit just because of my fear of being in the dating game.  I find that lately I think I have been tested.  I’m not sure if these tests are the universe’s way of making sure I am really and truly ready or making sure I really learned my lesson.  But I was glad I had girlfriends in my life that kept it real and that were positive.  It is easy to get advice from the wrong people.  I remember when I was going through my divorce different people were so quick to give me advice on what I should and shouldn’t do but when they were in a similar situation it was interesting to see how they didn’t follow any of the advice they gave me.  It is so important as woman that you keep positive people around you and that you stay positive. Because when you are in a low and vulnerable position you can become a victim of bad advice and bitterness.  I don’t have a major dating story to tell you all today, but I felt the need to reiterate age old wisdom.  Watch the company you keep….     
Monique K.Bradley

 

 

I can be found on: Facebook | Twitter | Google+