About a year ago, I encountered my first temptation. Perhaps it was because I am in the “midlife crisis” category at 39 years old. I suppose this had been bubbling up over the past decade, though, that consisted of a marriage, birth to two sons 20 months apart, moving three times, buying and selling two homes, changing jobs, changing careers (x5 between me and my husband), traveling internationally every other year to visit the in-laws…plus the daily demands of work, housework, taking care of my babies, taking care of my husband, taking care of my clients…
Seriously, I was set up for either a dramatic meltdown or a love affair to fill a void of emptiness that consisted of routine, mundane, uneventful pivots day by day. I just couldn’t live in this world that I had created. I felt empty.
Well, given any proper temptations many might choose the affair, which is exactly what I did.
Why do people decide to have affairs? Well, its not really a decision but more of deep, often unknowing, desire to fill a void in one’s heart. I certainly had a void. I was missing true love and passion. I was missing the deepest love for over a decade since my life shifted dramatically from a care-free, adventurous, sensual, open-spirited, professional agile young woman into the deep, dark trenches of adulthood. I didn’t really like this chapter of life called “adulting.” I finally appreciated Peter Pan in a whole new light and yearned for the feelings I so adored from my youth.
But before allowing myself to indulge in a deep, romantic affair, I had to seriously ask myself if it was worth the time, energy and perhaps even selfishness that it would require. How secretive would I have to be? How would this impact my family? My friends?
Well, when you start to feel like you are running on empty, sometimes you decide to take a risk – a big one. And so, I did. I dove into the pleasures of a love affair, slowly and discretely.
A love affair with myself.
And, 12 months into it, I can admit that it feels tremendously good. So, so good. Like, ooey, gooey, guilty juicy-pleasure good.
As an executive coach who serves clients who are very successful professionals (think premier business schools, top consulting firms, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs), I am very intentional about integrating self-care into my client sessions. While most have limiting beliefs about the importance, value or priority of self-care, research shows how we will thrive when we put a continuous spotlight on our personal needs.
As I was integrating this topic more and more into my coaching work, I soon reflected on how I was not practicing what I was teaching. So, I decided to take a massive plunge into the world of self-care — a very deep dive into an intimate and intentional mindset of self-love.
There are many spaces of self-care and self-love that I could have pursued. I tested and tried a variety of ideas based on a broad range of scientific research to influencer blogs. This is where I landed with my personal love affair.
Every night I not only make sure that I have at least 8 hours of sleep, but I have created a ritual for it. I begin by starting each morning making my bed. It is a sacred space to be prepared thoughtfully for the evening ahead. It takes only a few minutes but the joy of seeing a beautifully made bed at the end of the day brings such joy. After I read to my children and put them to sleep, I don’t simply plop into bed anymore. I am thoughtful about preparing for sleep by washing my face with favorite products, selecting my sleepwear of choice for the night, and lighting the room in a way that is inviting. I journal my reflections for the day or do some reading before shutting the lights. It is a very calming, loving ritual that makes me feel so sensitively loved each evening.
I also decided to commit to exercise to shift my mood into a sustainable loving, positive, strong mindset. This meant that I had to be fully dedicated to finding what movement most inspired me so that I would be consistent and committed sans excuse. I tried cycling, weight-lifting, power-walking, running, BeachBody – I was open and willing. But it wasn’t until I landed on Buti Yoga that I knew this was going to be a very sacred part of my love affair. Buti Yoga is described as “a powerful blend of tribal dance and primal movements. It is not your guru’s yoga. Buti is for the boss babes. Buti is for every woman comfortable enough with her sexuality. This unique style of yoga incorporates movements that our bodies crave, and that our body’s systems flourish from.”
I have never approached exercise in a romantic way but Buti Yoga has invited me to love my body and soul in every minute of the practice. I dedicate one hour 5–6 days a week for this part of my love affair. It is scheduled into my calendar one month in advance and I take the appointment as seriously as I would a client meeting.
In the busyness of family and work, I had forgotten to make space for friendships as I had always done growing up. Think of the time that you devoted to friendships in elementary or high school years. The profound authenticity and vulnerability that was possible through girlfriends was unparalleled to any other relationship. It was with the truest of friendships where I could cry my most devastating tears or laugh until we nearly wet our pants. I needed to bring that back into my world, and I have done so by devoting moments each day to say hello to a friend, having a ladies dinner once a month, and surprising someone with flowers on a dismal day. My heart and soul feel so reconnected to this crucial community; to my girlfriends. They make me feel so strong and loved.
I often find pure joy in indulging my 8- and 9-year-old sons with experiences like a vacation to Universal Studios, warm homemade brownies awaiting them after school, a small note in their lunch boxes. With the intention of stepping into a love affair with myself, I decided to test out the idea of intentional indulgence on myself. For me, it means going to my favorite bakery once a week and selecting from the decadent chocolate deliciousness. This year, as I approach 40 years old, I decided just last week to book a vacation to Galway, Ireland with a few of my favorite girlfriends and have a glamour day at the famous horse races (think Kentucky Derby style but with Guinness!). Giving myself permission to be intentional about self-indulgence reminds me that I am worthy of happiness and it is OK to love on myself. I matter.
And, finally – and perhaps most importantly, as my marriage has ebbed and flowed over the past decade as many do, I decided to reconnect with my most intimate and sensual self so to be able to bring that into the physical love I give my husband. It had been so easy when we were dating to make true time for physical passion but slowly and surely that space felt so distant. As I embarked on this love affair with myself, it did something incredible for my relationship with my husband. The Buti Yoga, sleep infatuation, girl-time, and self-indulgences created a yearning to share more of my heart, soul and body with my husband in a way that is so incredibly real – think of your all-time favorite romantic movie scene. It feels like that for my on a regular basis now. After a decade of marriage plus raising babies into children as well as building a business, I had almost felt hopeless that I could rekindle this fire in my female soul. And, yes, it is possible to light it up again. And, it is a delicious feeling that I would prescribe to all of my married friends.
Why did I choose to have an affair? I had to. I had to do it to reconnect to my heart, body and soul; to embrace the passion that was missing in my life, my “being.”
And the consequences? Let’s just say that my husband, sons, friends and clients are very grateful to be surrounded by someone who feels empowered, authentic, and vivacious. This is one love affair that I hope to have forever more – one with no regret.
This piece originally appeared on Thrive Global.
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