I spent 2017 learning (and unlearning) things.
I started Fairytale Reform for two main reasons: one, to share the bits and pieces of research, spiritual tools and personal insights I had gained throughout my dating blunders to help people experience more peace in their own. And two, it helped me cope with the aftermath of a painful, embarrassing breakup. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew what not to do—and that was fall apart, appear weak or let myself or anyone else know that what transpired had shaken me on every level imaginable. As a former self-help junkie, I thought if I could compile what I had learned into some sort of how-to guide, I could troubleshoot the nuances of human relationships like a software program and perhaps, it would all make sense. I thought I had learned all I needed to know about this thing called love. Today, I realize my learning is just beginning. There are a few beliefs I learned along the way, that I’m now having to unlearn.
First, I thought healing from heart break was a step-by-step process.
In the early months, I searched for certainty and clarity where there was none and created it for myself. I put my process of healing from a breakup into four marketable steps and talked about how mindfulness could help us feel less chaotic throughout the ups and downs of romantic love. Even though these prescriptions helped me immensely, they didn’t heal my heart. When the new of the business had worn off, I was faced with the same demons I hoped this new venture would help me circumnavigate. In lieu of hiding behind another project, I decided to show up, face the discomfort and accept that perhaps healing would not be a linear process. Months later (ten to be exact) a mental switch flipped—and by flipped, I mean very, very gradually made its way to the opposite position. I was no longer angry or hurt— we had both done the best we could, we were never meant to last forever and for the first time, that didn’t feel so terrible.
What surprised me most about this new stage of the healing process was that I had zero idea how I got there. How was I supposed to how-to a process I didn’t fully understand? Clients would ask, “How do I move on? How do I accept things that don’t make sense? Will this pain ever stop?” I’d search my repertoire of how-tos. When nothing seemed appropriate, I’d share my story. I’d tell them about wondering if the tears would ever stop, adopting a kitten to avoid rebounding into destruction, praying to whomever was listening, looking for the lessons and finally, a moment in the car when I realized I was okay. Many of my clients didn’t need a step-by-step guide, just hearing someone else had made it to the other side of the breakup black hole was enough.
Secondly, a confession: practicing mindfulness and dating with integrity are a hell of a lot easier when you aren’t dating.
After I had mostly healed from my breakup, it was time to practice what I had been preaching and give dating another shot. I subconsciously thought of these tools as a checklist. If I could complete them a time or two, I’d be a master at romantic relationships, forever. Nope— this stuff takes work. I quickly learned that staying off the “dating crazy train”, overcoming patterns of codependence and not putting undue expectations on people aren’t one time prescriptions, rather disciplines that must be practiced.
Clients would ask how to recover from being ghosted, sending texts they wish they could unsend, and trying too hard. Again, I’d search my how-to repertoire—nothing. “Girl, to be honest, I have no idea, but I’ve been there too…” I’d tell them about the necklace I left behind to insure further communication (and how it epically failed), the time I broke girl code for some guy I thought needed saving, the time(s) I pushed away men with their shit together to chase guys with no interest in being caught, and many other tales of the mistakes I, Katie Hoffman, life-coach and relationship expert (LOL) have made in dating. I would then share the only truth I knew, which was how I handled each situation: apologizing when necessary, accepting things I couldn’t change and showing myself some compassion for being so incredibly imperfect. Despite good intentions, I was not an expert. I had more awareness and insight than ever before, but was (and am) still learning to consistently apply what I’ve learned.
Third, I thought that to have a successful, committed relationship, I needed to perfect everything I had been teaching.
Far from where I wanted to be, I paused dating once more. The time away was invaluable; it allowed me to get much clearer on what I want in a relationship without going on 50 million more dates (a process I highly recommend). After several months in this existential playground, I began to consider that maybe fully understanding relationships, before you are in one, is not something that could be achieved- the heavy lifting had to happen on the field. My season of dedicated singleness came to a close when another unlearning clicked: I was still imperfect, I still made mistakes, I had no answers—even so, I was worthy of love and commitment. I felt ready to open my heart and risk being truly seen, imperfections, shortcomings and all. The same lesson is true for each of us– we are all imperfect, and very worthy of love and connection.
All this to say, I’ve accepted I am not the expert, nor do I want to be…
Way too much pressure. At the same time, I have plenty of experiences and stories about life and love that I want to share with my corner of the world. This year, Fairytale Reform is moving in a new direction focused more on sharing, connecting and relating vs. coaching, selling and marketing.
Last year was my year of giving what I knew about redefining yourself when things fall apart. 2018 will be my year of absorbing, listening and reflecting all the helpful love advice that comes my way.
Much like love, I’m not exactly sure what this new phase will look like but I do know how it will feel: authentic, vulnerable, right yet at times terrifying, connected and always evolving. Thank you for being part of Fairytale Reform phase one. Please join me as we enter phase two.