Janet Hogan, co-founder with partner Ralph of Botanica Weddings, shares the big issues every couple needs to be aware of, before they say “I do.”
Up until just 5 years ago, my great escape was alcohol. Ralph and I could truthfully say we never drank more than two glasses of Bundy rum and coke a day. What we failed to mention of course was that over the years, those two glasses had grown bigger and bigger, until finally we were buying glass shaped vases from the homeware department of Myer.
I can't say that there was one particular moment when everything crashed and I finally saw the light. But our move to Bali created the space I needed to revisit everything that was wrong with the world. And it all pointed straight back to me.
In the process of getting to know myself, I read a fascinating book, The Three Marriages by David Whyte. It had nothing to do with serial divorcees but rather the concept that each of us has three key relationships in our life:
- That with our significant other (or as Ralph prefers to be called, my "better half");
- Our work/career - or, how we spend our 9am to 5pm, (or 10 or 11pm, if you work for Botanica Weddings!)
- And last, but absolutely not least, the relationship we have with ourselves.
Whyte maintains it's this last relationship which is the most important one of all because someone can only love you to the degree that you love yourself. If you don't think you deserve to be loved, nurtured, and cared for, no one else will think so either. And even if they try to love you, you won't even realise it. So if you really want to experience happily ever after, you have to begin with number one.
Remember the 10,000 hour principal? That if you do anything for 10,000 hours you will invariably become really amazing at it? Well, developing self-love is no different. If you practice it as a daily ritual, I guarantee you will get to develop a lifelong affection for the person looking back at you in the mirror. Instead of noticing every blemish or counting the crows feet, imagine simply seeing someone you really, really like. Someone who instead of making you frown, makes you smile. Here’s my personal formula for achieving just that.
1. My wake up tonic
Once, I couldn't even imagine starting the day without my mandatory, high octane double shot cappuccino. Today, that's been totally replaced with something that not only wakes me up more, but is good for my digestion, is said to reduce belly fat (!) and gives me loads of energy. And no, this is not some new tricky dicky diet drink; like most things that are good for you, it comes direct from mother nature. Every morning, the first thing I do is drink the juice of one lime (you can substitute this for a 1/2 lemon), diluted in at least 200 ml of room temperature water and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt (less chemicals.) I find this is best drunk as you watch the sunrise, standing barefoot on a soft grassy lawn. But if your inner city apartment doesn't afford you that luxury, the drink alone will do the trick. To find out more about how a simple cocktail can change your life, go to http://www.strengthsensei.com/start-day-right-lime-salt/
2. Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Next, I write down 10 things I am grateful for. Expressing gratitude is like exercising the most important psychological muscle in your body. At first you might scratch your head and say: “Why be grateful and what's there to be grateful for, my life sucks! But just write down anything: "I remembered to breathe", "I have a comfy bed", "The sky didn't fall in.” The act of practising gratitude, and consistently focussing on how fortunate you are, and not on the negatives, will transform your life.
A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that the physical act of writing down what you're grateful for every day doesn't just boost your mood, you sleep better, become more resilient and may even experience less pain. Expressing gratitude is also the great antidote to fear. Every time I feel that telltale knot in my stomach, I write down 10 things I am grateful for it and simply dissolves away to nothing. It's like taking a Quick Eze for your soul. If I were to say what one thing has changed my life the most, it would be learning to feel and express gratitude. (And before I forget, let me thank you for reading this blog thus far!)
3. Set one big intention for the day
This is the big brother of “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” What’s the one thing you would like to achieve today? This is a really big one for me personally, because I am so easily distracted. But if I can identify just one thing I would like to accomplish this day, and then do it, I not only feel great, I start to trust and like myself more.
4. Put yourself first
I've put together a big book with pictures of everything I want to attract into my life and I review this every morning, while I listen to my favourite epic movie soundtracks. I may look a lot like a 55 year old woman in her pyjamas dancing around her office like a complete fruit loop, but in my mind I'm Lara Croft skewering my green troll demons like marshmallows.
I, like many women, used to play myself down and willingly sacrifice myself on the altar of martyrdom (“Are you still hungry, darling? Here, have my dessert!”) Today, I've learnt to put myself first. I have 10 life affirming statements that I say to myself but my favourite is the last one:
Earthly pleasures are my birthright. I have earnt them, I attract them and I accept them so that I am constantly reminded of, and rewarded for, my great contribution.
Wow, now according to the new me, not only do I get to turn left when I board the plane, I actually think I deserve it!
First a warning: I'm going to get a bit spiritual here but before you reach for the delete button, bear with me a little longer. The reason you may not want to know about going deeper with yourself, is because you probably have never really done so, and that makes you uncomfortable. Many people still believe that meditating belongs to the realm of tofu and colonic irrigation, but science proves otherwise. It is essential for all of us. And I will go out on a limb and say what I know to be true; until we are prepared to go deeper than our preoccupation with the soap opera of our everyday life, we can never know true joy, peace and happiness.
Now I confess to not being quite up there with Buddha and Gandhi (although I’ve subtly encouraged my family to call me "Jandhi” so often, I think may have some lofty expectations there!) I am, in fact, the original Miss Busy Brain. What, me? meditate?! If I quieten my mind, who's going to wake up the kids? Besides, the second I close my eyes I have so many great ideas and remember so many things I have to do…
But as Martin Luther King said, "I have seen the promised land" and I know exactly what he meant, whenever I get a glimpse, even just a fleeting one, of the soul that lies within me. It's a feeling of blissful, electric connection.
But it takes practice. Would you walk off and say "I can't play the piano" after just one lesson? Of course not, so why give up on something much more important - your happiness. Persevere, even if you find it really hard to quieten all those essential ideas and must-dos. You only need 10 minutes a day. And remember, there may be only one or two types of meditation out of the hundreds out there, that suit you. A great place to start is https://www.headspace.com, the world's biggest and most popular online meditation site.
Or just try the following, it’s probably the most basic and effective form of meditation of all, courtesy of one of my favourite life coaches, Cheryl Richardson.
- Turn off your phone and eliminate any interruptions.
- Find somewhere comfortable to sit, preferably with your back leaning up against something solid, (you really don't have to do all that sitting on your legs like a yogi and palm facing upwards stuff.)
- Set a gentle sounding alarm to go off in 10 minutes.
- Choose a word you like to focus on and keep using the same word to meditate. I use the word "love" because that's the energy I want to summons up but any word that feels right to you will do. Focussing on the word will prevent your mind from wandering off, all over the shop.
- Close your eyes and imagine turning your energy and attention inwards.
- Breathe, relax and focus on bringing your attention to the present by focusing on your word. You might repeat it to yourself, see it in front of you or write it in your mind.
- When your little brat voice tries to stop you with "I can't do this", just say "thank you for sharing" and ignore it. Eventually you’ll become really good at re-focussing.
Keep it simple, spend 10 minutes a day and take it one day at a time.
6. Do what you love
What do you do that comes as easily to you as breathing? It may be a particular dish you like to cook. Or singing. Or reading vampire novels. In Ralph's case it's buying antique houses from some godforsaken island in Indonesia on his Amex card - while I think he's picking up the kids. (Lucky he has such an understanding wife!) Whatever your favourite thing is, allow yourself the pleasure of practicing it, at least once a day. Write it at the top your daily to do list. Doing what your heart says to do is you finally listening to your inner child, giving a voice to your soul and sharing your special gift with the world.
7. Get to know the person in the mirror
How many times have you walked up to the mirror, furrowed your brow and started judging the person staring back at you, or worse, not even recognised them. As a young bride, I had more self-esteem issues than a teenager has pimples. It's not that I wasn't pretty - if you go back to the February 1979 issue of Dolly magazine, you'll see my smug little mug there on the cover - but that was part of the problem. I thought who I was began and ended with what I looked like. It took me nearly 50 years for that person in the mirror to stop smirking and start smiling. Believe me, you don't want to wait that long. So start your falling-in-love-with-your-real-self practice, right now.
Your mission is to look at yourself in the mirror every day and say out loud: "Hey, I really like you." If your inner monkey starts throwing the usual rotten bananas at you like: "You're an idiot." Or "who under the age of 90 talks to themselves in the mirror?" just respond with: "Thank you for sharing" and hold your gaze. I guarantee you that no matter how glum-faced you are when you begin this exercise, you won't be able stop yourself breaking into a smile. It takes a bit of practice but it's worth it, in fact I believe it's essential. What you are doing is building yourself up from the inside out so that no matter what happens in your life and relationships, you'll always have yourself to fall back upon. And that foundation of love is the best guarantee that your marriage will live happily ever after If you do any or all of the above, and commit to doing it every day, you will start to build a relationship with the most important person in your life. And that is the most precious gift you can give to anyone - including yourself. As the late Wayne Dyer famously said:
You cannot be lonely if you like the person you're alone with.