Tag - Still I Love

Valentine’s Day Tip – Start by Loving Yourself

If you aren’t currently in a relationship—and especially if you’ve recently ended one—you might not be looking forward to Valentine’s Day. The lovey-dovey cards, heart-shaped candy boxes, sappy commercials, and made-for-TV movies can all feel like too much. (And let’s not forget about the unofficial my-partner-is-better-than- your-partner competition that takes over social media this time of year.)

Avalon Brandt, who is happily divorced, understands how difficult it can be to spend Valentine’s Day without the one you love—and she has some advice to help you survive the next few weeks without strangling Cupid.

“Our culture has made Valentine’s Day couples-centric, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Avalon, author of Still I Love: Loving After Three Divorce (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com). “I use this time to consciously reset how I feel about love in general, and myself in particular. One lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that if we don’t know, respect, and appreciate ourselves, it’s unlikely that anyone else will, and we’ll continue to attract unfulfilling, dysfunctional relationships.”

In Still I Love, Avalon tells the compelling story of her three marriages and divorces, which she navigated on the long road to earning her degree as an attorney. While Avalon’s story reads like a movie script, it’s interwoven with heartfelt observations and advice that will speak to anyone who has dealt with a broken heart and divorce. And most importantly, Avalon’s continuing belief in love—romantic and otherwise—will provide hope and healing.

Here, she shares 12 ways to show love to yourself—which is the first step toward attracting the relationships you need.

Identify all the things you love about yourself. Maybe you can’t stop replaying insults from your ex. Perhaps you constantly hear your mother’s critical voice in your head. It’s possible you dislike certain things you see when you look in the mirror. Wherever they come from, it’s so easy to listen only to these negative voices.

“This Valentine’s Day, focus your attention on more positive messages,” Avalon advises. “Figure out exactly what you love about yourself. Is it your smile, your hair, your laugh, your shape, your intellect, or your talents? Allow yourself to not only acknowledge these things, but to bask in them.”

Strengthen your existing relationships by celebrating other people you love. Make a mental list of the people who enhance your life: family, friends, mentors, colleagues, etc. Consider reaching out and making plans with some of them, or writing a “thank you for being in my life” email.

“When you have been disappointed in love, it’s easy to focus only on what you lack: a partner,” Avalon acknowledges. “But one thing my divorces taught me was the true value of all the other relationships in my life. I don’t share romance with my friends and family, but those relationships are still full of love. As February 14th approaches, put your energy into valuing and nurturing the people for whom you’re thankful.”

“De-friend” and distance yourself from people who are bringing you down. It’s amazing how far others can drag us down without our consciously realizing it. Especially at a time of year when you’re already feeling vulnerable, take a fresh look at your friend list and back away from people who act in a way that makes you feel worse about yourself.

“Maybe you need to block your ex from your newsfeed—even though you split ‘amicably,'” Avalon suggests. “Perhaps you should stop spending so much time with the ‘friend’ who constantly talks about how wonderful her life is (while implying yours isn’t), or with the coworker who has perfected the art of the backhanded compliment. You don’t have to sever all ties—but don’t sacrifice your self-esteem, either.”

Forgive your ex—and yourself. Even though your relationship is over, you may still be angry at your ex—and chances are, it feels good! Perhaps you’re savoring the fact that you have the moral high ground. Or, you might think, it’s better to be angry than to be depressed. Certainly, says Avalon, allow yourself to process your anger and resentment—but eventually, try to let go of those negative emotions. You may find it helpful to remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean you’re condoning your ex’s bad behavior. Rather, it means that you’re choosing to let go of resentment, blame, and anger.

“You can’t fully love or be loved if you can’t forgive,” Avalon says. “As long as you’re living your life with bitterness and anger eating away at you, you’ll be a prisoner of the past. Learn the lessons you can, stop playing the blame game, and move forward.”

Re-evaluate your daily life. Try to look at your daily routine through fresh eyes. What do you like about it? What don’t you like? What energizes you and what drags you down? What can you change to make yourself happier and feel better?

“The changes I’m talking about may be big, like researching a career path that would be more fulfilling,” Avalon says. “But they might be much smaller, too—like deciding to stop going to the grocery store that always reminds you of shopping with your ex, or quitting the spinning class you dread and signing up for tai chi instead.”

Plan a fun evening out (no chocolate and roses necessary). Odds are, you know other people who might also be sad or resentful that they’re flying solo this Valentine’s Day. Reach out to them and make arrangements to meet for drinks, go ice skating, or enjoy a potluck meal, for instance.

“One caveat: Consciously choose to stay positive, not to wallow in bitterness,” Avalon stipulates. “Look at this gathering not as an excuse to air your dirty laundry and rehash the past, but as an opportunity to support and encourage one another while enjoying the holiday.”

Give yourself a break. Be a rebel. Take a look at your to-do list and cross something off of it even though you haven’t actually completed that task. (Gasp!) Then do something nourishing instead.

“Get a massage, read a book, take a nap, go for a run, see a movie—whatever!” Avalon instructs. “Just make sure you’re nurturing yourself. The point is to see yourself as a human being who is worthy of being celebrated and indulged—because you are!”

Challenge yourself to be the voice of dissent. Anytime we go along with the crowd or keep our mouths shut instead of saying what’s really on our minds, we feel disingenuous, and our self-esteem takes a hit. Saying what we really feel and being true to our opinions is a courageous act of self-love.

“This could be as simple as speaking up in a colleague’s defense at the water cooler, or telling your friends you don’t like the restaurant they’ve picked for dinner,” says Avalon. “So many of us fall into the trap of living our lives to please others while not making waves, and in the process, we become disconnected from our true selves.”

Take yourself out on a date. Of course you would like to be going on a date with a romantic partner who likes, respects, and values you. Avalon freely admits that even though she has found happiness after divorce, she still hopes to find love again. But, she says, your desires for the future shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your life now.

“After my second marriage ended, I made a special effort to discover life beyond being a wife,” recalls Avalon. “For me, a big part of that was exploring and enjoying the spectacular dining scene in Washington, D.C. At first, it was strange learning how to enjoy a meal alone. I got curious looks from maître d’s, waiters, and other diners. But over time, I began to dwell less on what other people were thinking and more on savoring each satisfying bite of my meals. Sounds simple, I know, but learning to enjoy a meal alone became a crucial survival tool that enabled me to reconnect with myself after a disappointing marriage.”

Affirm a bright future. To help yourself stay focused on loving yourself, find a personal mantra and remind yourself of it frequently. Your mantra might have to do with moving on, finding someone new, or personal development. Don’t discount the power of the words you tell yourself. Positive or negative, they are powerful tools in focusing your intentions and shaping your attitude.

“As my first marriage was ending, I remember buying a calligraphy set and writing on construction paper some words and themes to encourage myself,” Avalon recalls. “I wrote on one sign the words ‘I’m on my way to the top one step at a time.’ I drew a ladder beside the words and I taped the sign on my bedroom wall. Every day I read it, several times a day, and slowly I started to feel myself changing, just a little at a time.”

Clarify your vision of Mr. or Ms. Right. Is it possible that your past romances have failed because you’re looking for the wrong type of person? Are you hoping to find someone who mirrors your favorite movie character or someone who will solve all your problems? Do you tend to overlook flaws and incompatibilities when the other person is funny or flattering?

“This year, stop daydreaming about what you want in a relationship and get real about what you need,” Avalon advises. “I learned valuable lessons from each of my divorces. And while I have had opportunities to enter additional relationships in the more recent past, my experiences taught me that committing to any of these men would be a mistake. Saying ‘no’ to individuals I liked and even respected was difficult, but it was also one of the most powerful acts of self-love I have ever shown myself.”

Remind yourself that February 15th will be here soon. No matter how much you focus on showing yourself love and boosting your mood, you may still feel the “Singles’ Awareness Day” blues—and that’s okay! It’s normal and natural for a holiday focused on romance to bring up feelings of sadness. When this happens, Avalon advises you to remember that February 15th will come.

“This is some advice I had to give myself recently,” she shares. “I was listening to a love song, started to think too much about my past relationships, and the next thing you know tears were streaming down my face. I had to get myself together quickly before I ruined my makeup! My point is, nobody is immune to negative feelings, so when they hit, allow yourself to experience them for a few minutes. Then remind yourself that this too shall pass—and maybe turn the radio to a song that will make you smile and dance!”

“Even after experiencing infidelity and divorce, love is still the center of my existence on Valentine’s Day and throughout the year,” Avalon concludes. “My number-one goal and priority is to value, honor, and love myself. I affirm this intention by looking into the mirror each morning and saying with a smile, ‘I love you.’ Then, I show myself love through actions big and small, such as the ones I’ve shared here. I encourage you to do the same!”

About the Author: 
Avalon Sequoia Brandt, Esq., is the author of Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces. She is a successful attorney in Baltimore, Maryland, who for 13 years has practiced complex civil litigation. From 1994 through 2001 she worked as a family law attorney in her firm, Wilson & Brandt, P.A.

Over the years, Avalon has appeared as a guest speaker for career day programs at various public schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Since 2008 she has served on the Board of Directors for L.I.F.E. (Living in a Free Environment), Inc., a successful non-profit that provides housing, daily activities, and job training for persons with physical and mental disabilities. Avalon is a member of the New Psalmist Baptist Church where she has worked in numerous capacities for over 35 years.

After unexpectedly experiencing divorce, Avalon decided to share her story with others. She still believes in love and has a strong desire to be married in the future. In the spring of 2015, Avalon will launch her workshop, “Still I Love: Healing for Victory.” In this workshop, Avalon will explore with others what it means to love and how to overcome the pain of being hurt by love.

About the Book:
Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com) is available at www.stillilove.com or Amazon.

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Beat the “Alone for the Holidays Blues”

From your corner of the world, the holidays aren’t looking so holly-jolly. Whether you’re divorced, have recently endured a breakup, or are less-than-contentedly single, you’re not looking forward to the seasonal social swirl. This festive, family-oriented time of year highlights your own solo status—and all of the negative memories and emotions associated with it.

Author Avalon Sequoia Brandt, who has been through three divorces, understands.

“Being single during the holidays—especially when the past year has been full of heartache—is its own special form of torture,” says Avalon, author of Still I Love: Loving After Three Divorce (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com). “Familiar traditions, beloved holiday movies, and even songs on the radio conspire to remind you of what you don’t have. And while there’s no way to magically erase the loneliness and disappointment you’re feeling, the good news is that there are tactics you can use to manage your pain and even experience some joy during this time of the year.”

In Still I Love, Avalon tells the compelling story of her three marriages and divorces, which she navigated on the long road to earning her degree as an attorney. While Avalon’s story reads like a movie script, it’s interwoven with her heartfelt observations and advice. Avalon’s reflections on how she has succeeded in maintaining her positivity, resilience, faith, and belief in love will speak to anyone who has dealt with a broken heart and divorce.

Here, she shares eight strategies to help you navigate the holidays (and the heartache they may bring) on your own:

Pencil some events into your holiday calendar (even if you don’t want to). In your current state of mind, it may be tempting to spend the next few weeks like the Grinch: alone in a dark cave. But Avalon urges you not to isolate yourself until after the New Year’s Eve ball drops. Shunning all special events will only reinforce how lonely and unhappy you’re feeling.

“You don’t have to fill your social calendar to bursting,” she says. “Just choose a handful of events to attend—preferably, ones that feature people or activities you enjoy. Who knows? You might be surprised to find that you’ve been laughing with your girlfriends for several hours without obsessing over your ex! Maybe you’ll even meet someone new.”

In particular, reach out to other “Grinches.” Odds are, you know other people who might also be sad or resentful that they’re flying solo this holiday season. Reach out to them and make arrangements to meet for drinks, go ice skating, or enjoy a potluck meal, for instance.

“One caveat: Consciously choose to stay positive, not to wallow in bitterness,” Avalon stipulates. “Look at this gathering not as an excuse to air your dirty laundry and rehash the past, but as an opportunity to support and encourage one another while enjoying the season.”

Start a fresh new tradition for yourself. No matter what the future might hold for you, you’ll always be spending the holidays with yourself. That’s why Avalon says it’s important to learn to enjoy the company of the person in the mirror. This holiday season, she challenges you to start a new tradition that will boost your self-esteem, put a smile on your face, reconnect you with an interest, and/or remind you of how wonderful you are.

“After divorcing, I taught myself to look forward to the holidays by singing in church, because I love music,” Avalon recalls. “Your new holiday tradition might involve volunteering in an animal shelter, treating yourself to a massage, attending a concert, or taking a day trip. There’s no right answer here. If it will bring happiness to your holiday, it’s fair game.”

Let your negative feelings out. If it’s a continual effort to put on a happy face around so many loving (or at least functional) couples when all you want to do is wallow on your couch with a glass (or three) of eggnog…then wallow! Negative emotions are a normal part of being human—especially when you’re feeling lonely, hurt, and disappointed—and you need to process them so that you’ll be able to move forward.

“Whenever you feel angry, sad, in despair, confused, or any other negative emotion, allow yourself to experience those feelings,” Avalon urges. “If you can, call a trusted friend who will allow you to vent without judgment. If you’re at work, retreat to a quiet place and let your emotions flow freely. If you’re at a party, step outside for a moment. Get the pain out of your chest. Whatever you do, don’t bury your feelings in an attempt to convince yourself and others that ‘everything is fine.'”

Have a response ready for uncomfortable questions. During this time of year, family and friends whom you may not have seen in awhile will want to catch up on your life. But this year, you’re dreading their curiosity: “What happened to you and Jess?” “It’s too bad you and Cameron couldn’t work things out.” “When are you going to introduce us to somebody special?”

“Unless you wear a sandwich board that says something like ‘Don’t ask me about my divorce—or else!’ you’re going to have to field some questions,” Avalon admits. “You can save yourself a lot of awkwardness by taking time beforehand to compose a response. For example, ‘Cameron and I just weren’t right for each other. I’m looking forward to what 2015 might hold.’ Then, change the subject as soon as possible. Don’t allow the conversation to dwell on painful aspects of your personal life.”

Don’t force yourself to show holiday cheer. If you’re miserable or uncomfortable at any particular event (say, if Great-Aunt Eleanor won’t stop pestering you about why you’re single, or if your ex unexpectedly shows up), you don’t have to force a smile and a good attitude. You don’t even have to stay.

“Yes, I’m giving you permission to end the conversation, to hide in the bathroom for awhile, or to simply leave!” Avalon says. “Your well-being is more important than being polite, especially if someone else’s insensitivity is hurtful. If you need to disengage for 15 minutes or for an entire evening, do so.”

Be thankful. It sounds trite, but having an attitude of gratitude really can be a game changer. Challenge yourself to identify things for which you’re grateful, whether that’s family and friends, your career, your pets, your yoga teacher, or the jar of cookies on your kitchen counter! At the very least, focusing on something other than your heartache can take your mood from “miserable” to “mediocre.”

“Personally, after my divorces, I found it helpful to focus on how thankful I was to have supportive friends and family around me,” Avalon shares. “Even though one area of my life was causing me heartache, I knew I was fortunate to have so many people who were willing to listen and who reminded me of how wonderful I was.”

Tell others how they can help. If people who care about you know that you’re feeling heartache (and they will), they’ll want to help. Allow them to, and don’t be shy about telling them exactly how they can make your holidays happier.

“Your best friend will not mind if you call her and say, ‘I’ve been feeling down—can we meet up for coffee this weekend?'” Avalon assures. “Hopefully, she’ll also respect your wishes if you ask her not to bring up your divorce. Remember, your friends and family care about you and want the best for you. Ignoring or downplaying your pain probably won’t fool them. When you invite them to support you, you’re doing everyone a favor.”

“While holiday stereotypes center around images of happy families and loving couples, the truth is, that’s not always an accurate representation of reality,” Avalon concludes. “There are quite a few people out there who, by choice or not, are flying solo. If you’re among our ranks, I encourage you to take good care of yourself this holiday season. And I wish you a new year full of love, joy, and success.”

About the Author:
Avalon S. Brandt, Esq., is the author of Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces. She was educated in the Baltimore City Schools. In 1994 she graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. She is currently employed with the law offices of Saul E. Kerpelman, which represents children for injuries resulting from childhood lead exposure. Prior to joining the Kerpelman firm, she was a partner with the law offices of Wilson & Brandt, providing legal representation in custody, divorce, child abuse, and criminal defense cases.

Avalon has a strong desire to help young people successfully achieve their educational and career goals. She has been a speaker for career day activities at various public schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Since 2008 Avalon has served on the board of directors for the corporation L.I.F.E. (Living in a Free Environment), which provides housing and daily activities for persons with physical and mental disabilities.

In 2011 Avalon was appointed as an advisory board member of U2Can a non-profit organization that provides guidance, support, and training needed to empower parents to be their child’s first teachers of reading. U2Can encourages primary caregivers to be actively involved in their child’s education and to foster positive beliefs in academic successful outcomes.

For over 30 years, Avalon has been a member of the New Psalmist Baptist Church in Baltimore, where Bishop Walter Thomas Sr. is currently pastor. She has held many leadership roles, including serving as ministry leader to young adults and conducting workshop presentations for women.

About the Book:
Still I Love: Loving After Three Divorce (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com) is available at www.stillilove.com or Amazon.

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How to deal with holiday loneliness

From your corner of the world, the holidays aren’t looking so holly-jolly. Whether you’re divorced, have recently endured a breakup, or are less-than-contentedly single, you’re not looking forward to the seasonal social swirl. This festive, family-oriented time of year highlights your own solo status—and all of the negative memories and emotions associated with it.

Author Avalon Sequoia Brandt, who has been through three divorces, understands.

“Being single during the holidays—especially when the past year has been full of heartache—is its own special form of torture,” says Avalon, author of Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, $18.95, www.stillilove.com). “Familiar traditions, beloved holiday movies, and even songs on the radio conspire to remind you of what you don’t have. And while there’s no way to magically erase the loneliness and disappointment you’re feeling, the good news is that there are tactics you can use to manage your pain and even experience some joy during this time of the year.”

In Still I Love, Avalon tells the compelling story of her three marriages and divorces, which she navigated on the long road to earning her degree as an attorney. While Avalon’s story reads like a movie script, it’s interwoven with her heartfelt observations and advice. Avalon’s reflections on how she has succeeded in maintaining her positivity, resilience, faith, and belief in love will speak to anyone who has dealt with a broken heart and divorce.

Here, she shares eight strategies to help you navigate the holidays (and the heartache they may bring) on your own:

Pencil some events into your holiday calendar (even if you don’t want to). In your current state of mind, it may be tempting to spend the next few weeks like the Grinch: alone in a dark cave. But Avalon urges you not to isolate yourself until after the New Year’s Eve ball drops. Shunning all special events will only reinforce how lonely and unhappy you’re feeling.

“You don’t have to fill your social calendar to bursting,” she says. “Just choose a handful of events to attend—preferably, ones that feature people or activities you enjoy. Who knows? You might be surprised to find that you’ve been laughing with your girlfriends for several hours without obsessing over your ex! Maybe you’ll even meet someone new.”

In particular, reach out to other “Grinches.” Odds are, you know other people who might also be sad or resentful that they’re flying solo this holiday season. Reach out to them and make arrangements to meet for drinks, go ice skating, or enjoy a potluck meal, for instance.

“One caveat: Consciously choose to stay positive, not to wallow in bitterness,” Avalon stipulates. “Look at this gathering not as an excuse to air your dirty laundry and rehash the past, but as an opportunity to support and encourage one another while enjoying the season.”

Start a fresh new tradition for yourself. No matter what the future might hold for you, you’ll always be spending the holidays with yourself. That’s why Avalon says it’s important to learn to enjoy the company of the person in the mirror. This holiday season, she challenges you to start a new tradition that will boost your self-esteem, put a smile on your face, reconnect you with an interest, and/or remind you of how wonderful you are.

“After divorcing, I taught myself to look forward to the holidays by singing in church, because I love music,” Avalon recalls. “Your new holiday tradition might involve volunteering in an animal shelter, treating yourself to a massage, attending a concert, or taking a day trip. There’s no right answer here. If it will bring happiness to your holiday, it’s fair game.”

Let your negative feelings out. If it’s a continual effort to put on a happy face around so many loving (or at least functional) couples when all you want to do is wallow on your couch with a glass (or three) of eggnog…then wallow! Negative emotions are a normal part of being human—especially when you’re feeling lonely, hurt, and disappointed—and you need to process them so that you’ll be able to move forward.

“Whenever you feel angry, sad, in despair, confused, or any other negative emotion, allow yourself to experience those feelings,” Avalon urges. “If you can, call a trusted friend who will allow you to vent without judgment. If you’re at work, retreat to a quiet place and let your emotions flow freely. If you’re at a party, step outside for a moment. Get the pain out of your chest. Whatever you do, don’t bury your feelings in an attempt to convince yourself and others that ‘everything is fine.’”

Have a response ready for uncomfortable questions. During this time of year, family and friends whom you may not have seen in awhile will want to catch up on your life. But this year, you’re dreading their curiosity: “What happened to you and Jess?” “It’s too bad you and Cameron couldn’t work things out.” “When are you going to introduce us to somebody special?”

“Unless you wear a sandwich board that says something like ‘Don’t ask me about my divorce—or else!’ you’re going to have to field some questions,” Avalon admits. “You can save yourself a lot of awkwardness by taking time beforehand to compose a response. For example, ‘Cameron and I just weren’t right for each other. I’m looking forward to what 2015 might hold.’ Then, change the subject as soon as possible. Don’t allow the conversation to dwell on painful aspects of your personal life.”

Don’t force yourself to show holiday cheer. If you’re miserable or uncomfortable at any particular event (say, if Great-Aunt Eleanor won’t stop pestering you about why you’re single, or if your ex unexpectedly shows up), you don’t have to force a smile and a good attitude. You don’t even have to stay.

“Yes, I’m giving you permission to end the conversation, to hide in the bathroom for awhile, or to simply leave!” Avalon says. “Your well-being is more important than being polite, especially if someone else’s insensitivity is hurtful. If you need to disengage for 15 minutes or for an entire evening, do so.”

Be thankful. It sounds trite, but having an attitude of gratitude really can be a game changer. Challenge yourself to identify things for which you’re grateful, whether that’s family and friends, your career, your pets, your yoga teacher, or the jar of cookies on your kitchen counter! At the very least, focusing on something other than your heartache can take your mood from “miserable” to “mediocre.”

“Personally, after my divorces, I found it helpful to focus on how thankful I was to have supportive friends and family around me,” Avalon shares. “Even though one area of my life was causing me heartache, I knew I was fortunate to have so many people who were willing to listen and who reminded me of how wonderful I was.”

Tell others how they can help. If people who care about you know that you’re feeling heartache (and they will), they’ll want to help. Allow them to, and don’t be shy about telling them exactly how they can make your holidays happier.

“Your best friend will not mind if you call her and say, ‘I’ve been feeling down—can we meet up for coffee this weekend?’” Avalon assures. “Hopefully, she’ll also respect your wishes if you ask her not to bring up your divorce. Remember, your friends and family care about you and want the best for you. Ignoring or downplaying your pain probably won’t fool them. When you invite them to support you, you’re doing everyone a favor.”

“While holiday stereotypes center around images of happy families and loving couples, the truth is, that’s not always an accurate representation of reality,” Avalon concludes. “There are quite a few people out there who, by choice or not, are flying solo. If you’re among our ranks, I encourage you to take good care of yourself this holiday season. And I wish you a new year full of love, joy, and success.”

About the Author:
Avalon S. Brandt, Esq., is the author of Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces. She was educated in the Baltimore City Schools. In 1994 she graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. She is currently employed with the law offices of Saul E. Kerpelman, which represents children for injuries resulting from childhood lead exposure. Prior to joining the Kerpelman firm, she was a partner with the law offices of Wilson & Brandt, providing legal representation in custody, divorce, child abuse, and criminal defense cases.

Avalon has a strong desire to help young people successfully achieve their educational and career goals. She has been a speaker for career day activities at various public schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Since 2008 Avalon has served on the board of directors for the corporation L.I.F.E. (Living in a Free Environment), which provides housing and daily activities for persons with physical and mental disabilities.

In 2011 Avalon was appointed as an advisory board member of U2Can a non-profit organization that provides guidance, support, and training needed to empower parents to be their child’s first teachers of reading. U2Can encourages primary caregivers to be actively involved in their child’s education and to foster positive beliefs in academic successful outcomes.

About the Book:
Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com) is available at www.stillilove.com or Amazon.

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Lost in Love? How to Find Your Way Back

At first, it seemed like a fairy tale. Romantic dates, long phone conversations, a beautiful ring, a gorgeous wedding, and a home you loved. He completely changed your life: new friends, new activities, new restaurants, even a new zip code. You did almost everything he suggested because it made you happy to make him happy. But now, despite your best efforts, your relationship is in trouble. You have no idea how you got so far off track and no clue how to figure out what’s best for you. You aren’t even sure who you are anymore.

          If this scenario sounds painfully familiar, you aren’t alone. Author Avalon Sequoia Brandt knows what it’s like to lose yourself in love…but the good news is, she has also learned how to find your way back.

          “Falling in love with someone is one of the best feelings in the world, but while the idea of oneness is romantic, it can also be dangerous,” says Avalon, author of the new book Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces (Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com). “When you’re in the midst of a relationship, it’s all too easy to lose sight of your own goals, interests, priorities, friends, and more.

          “And once those things have been lost, finding your way back to a self-actualized, fulfilling life can feel very daunting,” she adds.

          Avalon speaks from experience. In Still I Love, she tells the compelling story of her three marriages and divorces, which she navigated on the long road to earning her degree as an attorney. While Avalon’s story reads like a movie script, it’s interwoven with her heartfelt observations and advice. Avalon’s reflections on how she has succeeded in maintaining her positivity, resilience, faith, and belief in love will speak to anyone who has dealt with a partner’s infidelity, emotional unavailability, incompatibility, or addiction.

          “Especially in my first marriage, I compromised myself by allowing my husband to dictate what I did and how I felt—though I didn’t realize that was happening at the time,” Avalon recalls. “For example, I am extremely extroverted and enjoy socializing. Adam was the opposite. So I gave up my socializing, to a point, and spent most of my time with Adam. I poured myself into Adam and gave no thought to my own interests. There was only one thing that I wanted: I wanted to be in love and get married. So when our marriage ended, I had a lot of catching up to do with myself.”

          Here, Avalon shares nine experience-tested tips to help find your way back to a fulfilling life after getting lost in love:

If you’re still in the relationship, talk to your partner. If you believe that your own needs and preferences consistently take a backseat to your partner’s, your first step should be to share your concerns with him (or her). Remember, nothing will change if you don’t voice your feelings, which your partner might not be aware of. His response will tell you a lot about the current health (and perhaps the future) of your relationship.

“Having this conversation can be easier said than done,” Avalon acknowledges. “You may be worried that stating your position will offend your partner or drive him away. But that’s a risk you have to take for the sake of your own mental and emotional well-being. The best case scenario is, of course, that your partner makes a conscious effort to meet you halfway and invest more in your interests and priorities. If that’s not what happens, though, you may need to reconsider the relationship.

“In my first marriage, I often found myself home alone while my husband Adam went out,” she recalls. “I would tell him that his actions were wrong and inconsiderate to me—and he’d respond with soothing words. But his hurtful behaviors continued to happen. At the time I wanted to believe that Adam meant his apologies—but in hindsight, I realize that his choices were the writing on the wall. They very clearly conveyed that I was not his priority.”

Avoid romanticizing your partner. If you’re in a relationship, the idea of ending it can be incredibly painful. So consciously or unconsciously, you may find yourself fixating on your partner’s positive qualities and downplaying his hurtful or unhealthy behaviors. Even after the relationship has ended, you might look back with nostalgia.

“To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying and admiring all of the good things about past or present partners,” Avalon clarifies. “But it’s important to be honest about that person’s flaws, too. Otherwise, you run the risk of believing that your partner is ‘perfect’ and blaming all of the relationship’s problems on yourself, which can be fatal to your self-esteem. Romanticizing your partner can also keep you in an unhealthy, manipulative, or controlling relationship long past the point of wisdom.

“My best advice is to listen to your intuition,” she says. “Even if it’s uncomfortable to admit, you know when you’re lying to yourself and mentally covering for your partner. Hold him to the same standards of behavior and accountability that you set for yourself.”

Pay attention to how you’re feeling. In our hectic, mile-a-minute, on-the-go world, many of us are so busy and preoccupied that we don’t take the time to really check in with ourselves and how we’re feeling. Too often, it takes a major event (a health scare, an anxiety attack, or—yes!—the dissolution of a relationship) to wake us up to the fact that our lives are unhealthy and off track.

“That’s why it’s so important to keep your finger on the pulse of your emotions and intuition,” says Avalon. “Whether you’re in a relationship or not, get into the habit of asking yourself, How does this mesh with my values? Am I honoring myself and my goals? Am I being authentic, or am I calibrating my words and actions to please someone else? When you’re more in tune with yourself, you’ll be in a position to make small adjustments when you first notice that you’re feeling ‘off,’ making it much less likely that you’ll wake up one day wondering, How did I get to this place, and what happened to my life?

Make the hard decisions. Ignoring a bad situation or a less-than-ideal reality won’t make it go away. If you’ve lost yourself in love, sooner or later you’ll have to make hard decisions like: Do I move out? Is this relationship officially over? Should I cut off contact? If hanging on isn’t healthy, be honest with yourself. Remember, your long-term well-being may require (and is worth!) short-term pain.

“My marriage to Adam taught me the lesson that wishful thinking won’t make a bad situation better,” comments Avalon. “That’s why, during my second marriage, I made the decision to look for a separate apartment without my husband’s knowledge. He wasn’t willing to take responsibility for his regular nights out, drinking, gambling, and aggressive behavior, so I knew that it was up to me to decide what my future would look like. After a lot of thought and inner struggle, I admitted that while I wasn’t yet ready to end the marriage, putting physical distance between my husband and me was the only way I would feel safety and peace.”

Stay close to (or reconnect with) your family and friends. When you lose yourself in love, it’s common to drift away from family and friends. Maybe you’ve been focused primarily on your partner and haven’t invested much in other people, or perhaps you’ve purposefully put distance between yourself and loved ones who questioned the wisdom of your relationship. Whatever the reason, it’s time to reconnect and repair any damage that’s been done.

“The people who love you and who have known you for years will keep you grounded and remind you of who you are, if you allow them to do so,” Avalon promises. “Throughout my marriages, my friends and family stood by me and supported me when I wanted to give up. They also served as a great sounding board. Looking back, I wish I had listened more closely and taken more of the advice that they offered instead of allowing my desire to be in love and in a marriage dictate my decisions!”

Take yourself out to dinner. …And start doing other activities solo, too! Go grocery shopping, see a movie, take a walk in the park, or go to a worship service with only yourself. Essentially, says Avalon, challenge yourself to go about your routine as an individual, not as one-half of a couple. If you want to reclaim your life after losing yourself in love, you must learn to be confident and comfortable on your own.

“After my second marriage ended, I made a special effort to discover life beyond being a wife,” recalls Avalon. “For me, a big part of that was exploring and enjoying the spectacular dining scene in Washington, D.C. At first, it was strange learning how to enjoy a meal alone. I got curious looks from maître d’s, waiters, and other diners. But over time, I began to dwell less on what other people were thinking, and to savor each satisfying bite of my meals. Sounds simple, I know, but learning to enjoy a meal alone became a crucial survival tool that enabled me to reconnect with myself after a disappointing marriage.”

Get back into an old hobby. Before immersing yourself in your relationship, what did you do for fun? Where did you find fulfillment? Return to those activities. When you focus on something that you, and only you, enjoy—not something you shared with your partner—you’ll jump-start the healing and growing process.

“Pull out your flute or your art supplies,” urges Avalon. “Join a community softball team or hiking group. Sign up for a book club or cooking classes. Go back to school. Developing yourself is empowering and motivating, especially after you’ve been in the habit of doing what your partner preferred. One of the best decisions I ever made was applying to law school after my second divorce. Not only was I finally pursuing a goal I’d had for years, I was keeping myself moving forward and focused on the future.”

Help someone else. As Avalon has pointed out, it’s important to concentrate on your own needs and desires after losing yourself in love—but she also warns against becoming too self-focused and isolated. Serving others, she says, is one of the best ways to combat feelings of loneliness while making connections with others and regaining personal purpose.

“In my thirties, I started and ran a ministry to help young adults become spiritually mature and personally grounded,” says Avalon. “My goal was to provide them with the tools to handle new freedoms and to navigate common pitfalls and temptations that might get them off track. I remembered the difficulties I’d faced, and I wanted to help others avoid some of my mistakes. I believe that I did make a difference in some of their lives, and that is one of the legacies of which I’m most proud.

“I have come to firmly believe that my success is not measured by whether my relationships are successful, by how much money I make, by what my job title is, or by the house I live in,” she adds. “It’s measured by the positive impact that I have on others’ lives.”

Show yourself some TLC (emphasis on the L!). You may have had a relationship that ended badly, but you don’t (and you shouldn’t!) have to live without love. For the sake of your present and your future, you need to learn to love yourself. Create and savor your own rhythm in life, no matter what others may say. Only when you have discovered and embraced who you are can you love others freely and unconditionally.

“Even after my divorces, love is still the center of my existence,” confirms Avalon. “Yes, I still hope to find a lifelong romantic partner, but that desire no longer dictates my happiness and drives my actions. Instead, my number one goal and priority is to value, honor, and love myself. I affirm this intention by looking into the mirror each morning and saying with a smile, ‘I love you.’ Then, I show myself love through actions big and small, starting by luxuriating in a long, hot shower!”

          “I fell quickly and deeply in love with the men I married, and, especially in my first two marriages, temporarily lost parts of myself as I invested in and clung to those relationships,” concludes Avalon. “But here’s the silver lining: Those experiences forced me to stand on my own two feet, to seek out survival tools, and to focus on and invest in myself. I have serenity because I know my heartaches have equipped me with everything I need to live a life of fulfillment.”

 

About the Author:
Avalon S. Brandt, Esq., is the author of Still I Love: Loving after Three Divorces. She was educated in the Baltimore City Schools. In 1994 she graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law. She is currently employed with the law offices of Saul E. Kerpelman, which represents children for injuries resulting from childhood lead exposure. Prior to joining the Kerpelman firm, she was a partner with the law offices of Wilson & Brandt, providing legal representation in custody, divorce, child abuse, and criminal defense cases.

Avalon has a strong desire to help young people successfully achieve their educational and career goals. She has been a speaker for career day activities at various public schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Since 2008 Avalon has served on the board of directors for the corporation L.I.F.E. (Living in a Free Environment), which provides housing and daily activities for persons with physical and mental disabilities.

In 2011 Avalon was appointed as an advisory board member of U2Can a non-profit organization that provides guidance, support, and training needed to empower parents to be their child’s first teachers of reading. U2Can encourages primary caregivers to be actively involved in their child’s education and to foster positive beliefs in academic successful outcomes.

About the Book:
Still I Love: Loving After Three Divorce
(Avalon S. Brandt, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-615-98121-5, $18.95, www.stillilove.com) is available at www.stillilove.com or Amazon.

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