Red Flags: Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

“In the beginning, what red flags did you ignore?” My therapist asked me in my second session post break up. I sat there speechless for a moment. At first, I wanted to get defensive and say there weren’t any.  Then as I opened my mouth to say so, I realized it was probably not true.  She told me that there are always red flags, some flags are redder than others, but there are always red flags.  She sent me home with homework: I had to think back and spot all the red flags that I ignored.  What were they?  Why did I excuse them? How red were they?

Sitting in that office on that couch I just couldn’t admit to myself that there were red flags in a relationship that seemed so perfect.  After being out of the relationship for more than a year, I can tell you every red flag and how red it was. I can even tell you the day one flag was waving, so bright and shiny like it was waiting for a bull to come charging, and instead of paying attention, I brushed it away. Actually, I rolled it up so quickly and shoved it in a trunk and put that trunk in the back of a garage and then put things in front of that trunk hoping to pack away the existence of the flag.

Of course that never works. If you’ve been in a relationship that didn’t work out you too can look back and see the signs. If you can’t I beg you to go back. Like Clare says in Patterns Versus Change  we’ll continue the same patterns until we learn from them.

I am not saying that any of us are free of flags. I think that we all have our own flags in a variety of colors and that’s what makes us unique. But some flags should be hints while others are red alert warnings. Not every person you date will be the right match for you. My last relationship was the picture of perfection. What every girl is supposed to want. I ignored the flags because society’s idea of “perfect” trumped my idea of “perfect.” Working on my therapy homework, I unpacked the garage after leaving my session and started looking at the flags I ignored. What an eye opener that was!

What happened next? My confidence in dating, trust within myself, my own choices, and eventually, love. I grew up, grew strong, and got honest.

As a coach for relationships and goals there’s often lots of red flags that I hear about.  My Duty Dating was the perfect red flag training ever for my life. As I listen to friends, clients, people at coffee shops (I do eavesdrop, but it’s all in the name of research), I ask myself “how red is that flag” for me?  As an outside observer, things look different.  Flags that are really really red to me, might be orange to you.  Its not my job nor my place to interfere or interpret your flags. Side note: friends want your advice that doesn’t mean you can judge their flag coloring (see No More Projections Please). However observing others is a good and less invasive beginning to viewing your own flags. I want you to practice recognizing the red flags that pop up or stand out in your life and in those of others, and then also observe what patterns or feelings arise.

Lately there’s been some sadness and disappointment in the dating world with my friends, clients, even from some of you readers. You meet someone, there’s excitement, smiles, something to look forward to and plans for your weekend. Then a few dates later, combustion!  Or worse: silence. We’ve all been there, I’ve been there. Can you get upset, sad, disappointed and or stab a voo doo doll?  Sure, for a moment.  Maybe you give yourself a day; mourn the loss of “what could have been.” Then pick yourself up! Dust yourself off, and ask yourself the tough question. The honest question. What Red Flags did I ignore? What behaviors did I pay no attention to or excuse away?

Dating can be hard. Life can feel lonely. But do you really want to be with someone just so you’re not alone? I didn’t think so! Get excited about a date but remember while you’re hoping their into you make sure you’re into them! Show off your colors and take a look at all of theirs. There are two people in a relationship. Even if one of you walks away, or stops calling you, at least you will not have been a participationless bystander. You were a an equal partner in the relationship (again at least should have been). Not that I want you to think that if something didn’t work out its your fault! I am absolutely not saying that. We all have choices. We choose what to pay attention to, who to give our attention to, and how we deserve to be treated.

On your next date, instead of excusing the guttural reaction because someone is cute, your type, the first date in five years, dig deeper.  Ask the tough questions. You may be surprised. Something you thought was red is orange. Something you thought was yellow was bright freaking RED.

We have no control of others actions. We can only control our controllables. If you are honest with yourself, totally love and value yourself, those red flags will stand out like a Viking at the Art Museum (not that Vikings don’t go to art museums just that Vikings stand out pretty much anywhere).

You won’t “fall” for every opportunity…not because you’re pessimistic but because you’re in control of your ship. You have awareness of your wants, needs and desires. Red flags just get in the way of those things. They delay your happiness. Why oh why, my loves, would you let your own self get in the way of your own happiness?

Shed those red flag preventing glasses and see your own wants, desires, happiness. Let those in who support you. Show them who you are and see them for their true selves. See the red flags. See the other colors of them. Make a decision, and try it out. If it doesn’t work with this person, at least you were honest. Try the next person; maybe their flags are the right colors for you! Then you two can roll around in your other colored flags and run off into the sunset holding your sans red flags hands high!

Xx~LL

Round Peg, Square Hole, or How To Make Situations Work For You

Whenever I hear this analogy I think of the kids toy, either the wooden puzzle like thing where the player replaces the cutout shapes in the correct spots or the plastic tetrahedron like thing that the small plastic bits are pushed from the outside into the center. I have a vivid memory, or maybe it’s a created thought of trying to make one just work into a spot. Not having the cognizance yet to know that a triangle shaped piece goes into a triangle shaped hole. (I also was BIG on coloring outside the lines for a good amount of time as well). I’d try to manipulate both the piece and the whole. Sometimes I’d find a different hole that it would “fit” into but it wasn’t the correct one.

There are several views or thoughts on this one. First, the child hasn’t learned that a certain shape corresponds to a specific hole-but in time with practice, will understand. (Mind out of the gutter. That’s a different topic!) Second, there is creativity and ingenuity in trying to make things work that just don’t. Third, conformity is something that will develop as an adult, so why bother to force the child to conform now—conformity is overrated and dampens creativity!! Maybe the last one isn’t extremely popular; and I’m sure there are more thoughts on this. Feel free to share yours by comment below, tweet (@liveclarelesley) or email (liveclarelesley@gmail.com), about this subject.
But moving on…I was always trying to put whatever I had in my possession into whatever place I wanted. I got pretty good at it. Creative and intuitive they’d say about me. I LIKE being thought of as creative. I LIKE being thought as ingenuitive. I delight it these traits and make it my daily quest to continue to maintain my status in these areas. This is a blessing and a curse. As an adult I’m daily handed a crate of shapes to deal with. Some days, I go with the flow and put the right parts in the right spots. Other days it feels like all I’ve gotten handed is square pegs, and all that are in front of me are round holes. Some of these days are awesome. Sometimes I can make magic happen. No, strike that, often I make magic happen because I’m not about to be limited by only what I’m handed. Now this is instinctive for me, but I think everyone can learn to do it. The first step is thinking positively.

Not to sound all new-agey or sparkly optimistic, but there really is something good to every situation. And, in a way, you asked for whatever change happened. Last spring, I was sitting around my apartment for months wishing my room was just a little bit bigger or that I had more space to spread out all of my stuff. Well, I was told in April with two months notice, that I need to find a new apartment, that the person I’m renting from is moving back in. It sounds harsh, but that is kinda the way it is in New York. Even though I was upset—this was the fourth time I’d had to pack up and move in less than 15 months, and looking for an apartment is time consuming and a complete crap-shoot, moving was good thing. There are many things, I started to realize, that I wasn’t a fan of about that space. Yes, it met many of my needs, but it didn’t meet all of my wants. I squeezed myself into this round hole with my square peg, because 12 months ago it was a necessity. But, I now can search around and figure out exactly where I’m going. It’s a frustration that I’ve moved so much, however, its allowed me to get rid of lots of things I don’t need or use. It also makes me better at packing things up and moving.

Figuring out how to make Lemoncello when life hands you lemons (you can make Lemonade if you want… I’ll take it a step further, and have a party, too) isn’t as difficult as it may seem. First, you have to come to terms with whatever happened. I had to move. Ugh. Ok, moving on. If you sit and allow yourself to continue to be upset, then you’re not going to be creative and figure out how to get out of the situation with which you are faced. Figure out all options. This is something you can do anywhere. You don’t need to sit and make time to do it. Also, reach out to friends and colleagues, the more ears and eyes you have to help you out, usually, the better. Start working on your options. This is the difficult part, because you might work better going in multiple directions at once, or you might do better focusing on one specific option or goal and then completing it and moving on. You’ll have to figure that out as you go. Again, ask for help if you need it. Many friends don’t know that I need help because, I’m always so resourceful and I rarely complain about things. If I don’t ask for help, they’re not going to just offer it—everyone has their own life and their own problems, and things they want to go do and enjoy… so don’t be scared, just ask for help. Worst they can say is: no, I hate you. Which they won’t, not if they’re a real friend (and if they did, you might want to check out Growing Out Of Friends.

Once you start working on options, others will appear. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times, moving and doing creates options. Even if they’re not the ones you originally thought of. There are many versions of this favorite quote of mine out there but: worry is negative imagination. If you’re sitting on your sofa, chewing your nails, and worrying about your situation, nothing is getting done. Get off your butt, and go do something. Even if it isn’t related to the thing you need to accomplish.

I had to move in a month, and I was offered a role in a play that went up two weeks before I had to move. I was panicked because I didn’t know if I should take the show or not—it would take time away from work which would cost me money, it would take away time from apartment hunting which might not give me as many options, it would take time away from packing, meh—I just have to throw my stuff in boxes, I’ll invite friends over and make a party of it and work it out after my show closes. So, I took the show. Maybe it was the right choice or maybe it wasn’t. I didn’t sit home waiting for an apartment to fall into my lap. Things work themselves out. I went out and did things and lived my life (Limoncello in hand). I still made time to browse apartment listings. I picked up boxes and figured out how to get all my things packed. And in going forward and living my life, I met new people who reached out to their friends about apartment possibilities.

I’m sure you’re wondering what happened. Well, this “fairy tale” has a happy ending. I found an apartment (which I’m sure you’re aware of if you read Five Things I’ve Learned From Moving.  I have found the most amazing roommate and clandestinely, I live upstairs from two great friends. The show—wasn’t a mistake; I made amazing connections and made a brilliant piece of art. Was it perfect: no. Did I work it out: absolutely. Next time life hands you lemons, stare those lemons down, take a breath, and start web searching Limoncello and lemon meringue pie recipes.

Clare

5 Things I’ve Learned From Moving (part 4)

This is part 4.  For Parts one, two, and three, scroll down or go to our main page and scroll down.

4) Its OK to have stuff. I know this goes against the first thing… but this is also another one I grit my teeth on… part of the reason I don’t want to have friends help, is because I don’t want to burden them with the over abundance of things I own. But here is the thing, I am a grown woman in my 30s. I have sheets that I LOVE that are expensive and amazing. I have dishes that are beautiful and match. I have my grandfather’s rocking chair that I was given when he passed away. I have a set of silver from my great grandmother. I have a breadmaker and a seltzer maker. I have art, lots of it. All of these things I use in my daily life. If you use it or appreciate it regularly, there is no need to apologize for having it. Most people my age are in marriages and have multiple times the amounts I have. These things I have because I’ve cultivated my life. They’re not here just to be here, they are here because I want them here. I am allowed to have things, and not just be living in a Spartan existence just because I am in a profession that requires gypsyism. Keep the useful, keep the utilitarian, keep the pretty—if its used and it makes you happy, keep it.

Tune in tomorrow for the grand finale!

Clare

5 Things I’ve Learned From Moving

I’m an actress, so my chosen profession makes me a gypsy. I’m also a child of divorce who had parents in different states while growing up. That being said, I have never been good at moving. Through a chain of choices that may or may not have been the best, I’ve moved 4 times in 400 days. As a grown woman. With stuff. I’ve learned what is important and what is not, and mostly, I’ve learned what I’m made of and who my friends are.  I have learned several lessons through relocating myself, both about moving in general and about life.  Here they are:

 

 

1) You really don’t need to keep things. Really. I love my coffee mugs and my wine glasses. I collect them and they’re one of the things that make me happy. However, over the years people have given me glasses and cups—some I like and some I kept because they were a gift, and some got cracked along the way and I’ve kept them anyway. Because I thought I should. Well, there is no should in moving. It really is a do or don’t do. I got rid of half of my coffee mugs, because, well, there is really only me, and I drink out of the same mug for months at a time, and then move on to another one. I’ve kept ones that are special, and that I really like, but I’ve dialed my mug count from the 20s to 8. Because even on my worst week, I will remember to wash at least one mug. Same with wine glasses. I’m in New York City—the land of people meeting OUT. Why, because our apartments are tiny and no one wants to travel more than two trains or 10 stops if they can help it. So I’ve kept my favorite ones, and one of my mom’s favorites, because we drink a lot of wine when she visits. I’ve got a stack of “things to give away” that is about half the size of the boxes I’m actually moving to my new place. I will buy new things when I want them, and the things I’m giving away I was keeping because I was too lazy to deal with the emotion or the guilt about getting rid of something. Its only stuff. Possessions are chains and all that… I only believe that quote when its time to move. Possessions give me an ease of life. As a poor kid and an even more poor adult, I want to remain as comfortable as I can… but does that really involve 20 coffee mugs, 10 tank tops that I never wear anymore that I’ve had for more than 4 years and haven’t worn them in that long, 10 sets of Christmas lights when I haven’t put up a tree in two years, and a pair of fabulous heels that I got two years ago, but I have never worn because they hurt my feet? Nope. Control Alt Delete. Gone. The funny thing is I tossed them two days ago, and haven’t thought about them until writing this. I probably won’t think of any of it again after this moment.

This is part one of a five day post.  Come back tomorrow for part 2!

–Clare