Thank You

yellow roseDear Madame Olivia:

I just have to stop and say Thank You for a lovely birthday wish; you’ve not only given me some good advice but you have also changed my perspective on life. I used to have a negative outlook but your readings and your letters have helped me to think positively. I am very grateful.

Sincerely,

An Appreciative Subscriber

Dear Appreciative:

Madame Olivia loves your letter and it means a lot to her. The fact that you took the time to say thanks speaks to a richness of personality and a kindness too. You clearly understand community and connectedness and this will help you stay contented as well as help you make your way forward in the world.

Madame Olivia sends her thanks to you and her very best wishes!

~Madame Olivia

Starting A New Business

steve tour eiffelHello Madame Olivia

I have a great job right now that pays well and is fulfilling. At the same time, I have an itch to start my own business. I have started 2 businesses previously, and both have ended poorly. However, I have had much success over the past 6 years in my current field. I would like to start something that allows me to continue with my career, but have something going on the side. What do you think?

Itchy

Dear Itchy:

What an interesting letter. Plenty of people would probably tell you not to rock your own boat, but Madame Olivia hears that you have a creative streak that yearns to build your own thing, plus a healthy desire to be your own boss. How wonderful it would be to honor these parts of yourself! Madame Olivia’s thinks you could well pull this off. Here are some suggestions:

1) Make sure you have a backlog of money to live off for at least a year in case everything goes south. This is the darkest, most paranoid caveat, but trust Madame Olivia on this, will you? You might also get an umbrella insurance policy if you don’t already have one.

2) Sit down and take a sober look at the previous two ventures and see where you went wrong. Partnered with wrong people? Overextended? Insufficient market research? The idea is to learn from your previous experience in an explicit way.

3) Get help where you need it and can afford it.

4) You want to preserve what you have, ie your current great job. You have only a finite amount of time and energy so something will have to go, right? Be prepared to give up some hobbies and free time. It would be great to get family members and friends on board so they understand when you’re less available.

Madame Olivia salutes you and wishes you bon voyage on your venture!

~Madame Olivia

Trampled Heart

Mighty BlueDear Madame Olivia:

I am a professional woman of 50 and people tell me I am cute and look way younger than my age. A month or so ago I met a very attractive guy who is I think under 40, maybe 35 or 36. I am an excellent judge of character and have no weakness for bad boys or anything. He’s from another country which adds a layer of mystery which is both attractive and maybe makes his psyche harder to understand but I got to know him a little and at the same time decided to just be myself, which felt very good but vulnerable. He was a real person, present and kind, and the more I saw the more I liked him. Then one day we had a deliriously good time together (I’m talking about physical intimacy). Then the next time we were to get together he texted and cancelled right before we were supposed to meet and just now he texted and cancelled our thing for tonight. Both times he said it was work. I know he has a very unpredictable job that requires driving around in his truck all day, but really? Really?? It is such agony trying to figure out what is going on, how to answer, and what to do with my head. To say nothing of my miserable, trampled, broken heart. I am really having chest pains over this. I am not a game-player but now I’m thinking I should have played hard-to-get. As you can see, my thoughts and feelings are all over the place. I beg you to help me.

Trampled Heart

Dear Trampled:

Madame Olivia’s heart aches for you. Yours is an old, old story and yet it’s new every time.

Where to begin. This is going to be a long answer, as Madame Olivia thinks your question is of wide interest.

Step one: ASSUME NOTHING. We have no idea what is going on for him. Maybe it really is his work and you’re going to hear from him when things calm down. Though Madame Olivia does not doubt your perceptions of him, and she is especially touched by “a real person, present and kind,” multiple barriers block your complete understanding of him. First of all, you are guessing the thoughts of another person who is a universe unto himself just as you are unto yourself. In addition, numerous cultural differences loom, as attractions but just as potently, barriers: gender, age, work, and nationality. You are female, he male; you 50, he 30-something, a not inconsiderable difference; you have different spheres of work, yours more intellectual (unless Madame Olivia is wildly overinterpreting “professional” and “truck”); and you are from one country, he from another. (Different nationalities: are you kidding? Rules and expectations vary wildly and we might not even know what they are, nor might he!) These are all gigantic and you have no idea how any of these might shape him singly or in combination, to say nothing of his individual wiring. Whatever is at work, Madame Olivia would bet that when he is at work you are in a whole other part of his brain, while your relationship with him colors much more of your life, both when things are going well and when they aren’t. It’s terribly hard not to draw conclusions but honestly, just don’t, not yet.

Step two: SAY THE BARE MINIMUM. If you haven’t yet texted back, text something neutral that leaves the door open but doesn’t beg and for sure doesn’t convey anger. (This is true for anybody you are texting, btw.) Madame Olivia hates to put words in your mouth or characters on your phone but you might say something utterly matter-of fact like “OK. Text me when you want to reschedule.” No boo-hoo sad face icons. (And for God’s sake, no sobbing phone messages!) There’s even a real question as to whether it’s better to leave it at OK. Madame Olivia hates groveling yet leaving the door open is not a bad idea; as Madame Olivia has advised people in partnerships, “Make it easy for the other guy to approach you after a fight.” This is also true for a disjuncture like this. Actually Madame Olivia is wondering what a happy face icon would do. Her icon app has a range of smiley faces including a mildly happy one. She seriously doesn’t know if this is a good idea but it just might be, not to put a happy face on your misery but to suggest the welcome mat that is your essential attitude toward him, just in case for some unfathomable reason he has misread you.

Step three: GET INTO THE MISERY BUT THEN TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Madame Olivia is serious about this. You can’t disperse your feelings with a shpritz of citrus air freshener. Let yourself feel utterly miserable but put a time limit on it and then take care of yourself. Madame Olivia is borrowing here from her brilliant hair guy. She asked him once what he did when his partner drove him crazy and he said “The partner is not going to change so what I do is take care of myself.” You have no control whatsoever over what he does or says or thinks so take care of yourself. But in a health-promoting way, not with too much Cherry Amaretto Coconut Bliss or Makers Mark or something else that sets you back. Of course you know that Madame Olivia is going to suggest exercise, serious exercise, even low-tech but high-aerobic walks, lots of them. Several people of Madame Olivia’s acquaintance burrow into work or other productivity. Distraction is good, too. One thing that might provide distraction and perspective is to write an answer to your own question. This is a form of mindfulness and sometimes helps.

In the larger scheme of things, Madame Olivia is struck by a thought: given your numerous differences, the wonder is not that you two are experiencing difficulties, but that you ever hooked up at all. But this is logic, and you are in emotional brain and probably can’t hear it. Madame Olivia is now struck by an another thought: your “deliriously good time” caused you to bond with him but perhaps did not do that for him, not because of your failings (no!) but because of his wiring. (More on this in Madame Olivia’s upcoming Tiny Compendium of Enormously Important Advice.)

If you feel like it, Trampled, could you write after a while in the comments section below? If you hear from him again, fantastic, but be warned you are in for a new set of issues. If you don’t hear from him, this means that it was not in the cards and you are better off. Madame Olivia is certain of this. It will take time, but in any case, you are going to be fine.

Wishing you all the very best. May your trampled heart revive and thrive, soon.

~Madame Olivia

Marriage?

cosmos bee

Dear Madame Olivia:

All things are pointed in the right direction when it comes to the romance that I share with my boyfriend. I love him, he loves me. He cares for my son, and gives him support and advice. It’s great to see them interact, and relate to one another. I enjoy listening to them talk, and I too gain insight into my 14 yr old, as well as share in their bonding. It is fun.

I have noticed a shift in my bf’s emotions. A good shift. He has been making gestures towards children. Earlier in the relationship he said that he loves kids, but feels that he would do a great disservice to the child if he were to have one now, because of his age… but I think he may be having other thoughts lately. Is it possible that I might be getting an invitation to the alter for marriage and start a family? I am not going to ask him, and I certainly do not want to push him. I want to wait and see, but is there something that Madame sees in my future that may give me a hint? I am 44 and my bf is 51. It is the first time in over 10 years that I have been with someone that is older than me… and I love it. We are good together, so if he were to ask, I would accept.

Cheers,

Wondering

Dear Wondering:

Madame Olivia loves your letter and the language you use to describe your situation, especially “the romance that I share with my boyfriend” and “he cares for my son”! You use the phrase “start a family” but it seems you already have one, and a terrific one at that, everybody included and getting along so well. Fantastic. Madame Olivia can see that you know what you have and her first inclination is to suggest simply that you sit with it and enjoy it fully.

A second option is a bit different, a kind of putting-it-out-to-the-universe model, where you continue to be mindful of what’s going on with him and kids, but consciously mindful. Things can happen with this kind of heightened mindfulness, for example, you might find yourself smiling at him when you both see a cute baby. This indirect approach can be powerful, as it creates a field that makes it easier for him to speak and be open.

That said, it would be nice if you could talk about future possibilities. Things seem to be working so well that Madame Olivia doesn’t want to rock the boat, and as you say, you don’t want to ask him and don’t want to push him, and as you know him your sensibilities are the guide here, but a very gentle invitation to talk could be wonderful. Such an invitation might occur in a contented and peaceful moment and might even sound like “I notice you paying a lot of attention to babies and little kids lately.” Make it a truly exploratory and agenda-free invitation. You of course will express your feelings and desires when the moment comes, and knowing you, Madame Olivia suspects it will be gently done. Wouldn’t it be funny if he’d been wanting it and thought you didn’t! Making sure everybody’s on the same page (or not) is one argument in favor of saying something, and another is to get the ball rolling, as it is better to begin working on the project now, while it is still so eminently doable.

Madame Olivia loves the way you think: people who know what they have are rare. (And by the way, your bf is a lucky man and it’s no accident you are together.) You deserve continued happiness and Madame Olivia is sending her most potent karmic encouragement. All the best to you, dear Wondering.

~Madame Olivia

Appliance Discipline

fridge pee

Dear Madame Olivia:

My three-year-old refrigerator still randomly pees on the floor. I feel like a failure as a refrigerator owner. Am I doing something wrong?

In Need of Understanding and Encouragement

Dear U and E:

You say you feel like a failure. Madame Olivia begs you to shift the blame to where it correctly belongs, namely, to the refrigerator. Random peeing is unacceptable and responsibility must be shouldered by the correct party.

This may sound harsh, but at the first sign of malfunction call a no-nonsense technician. This will put the fear of God into the appliance, as nobody likes strangers sticking their hands and pointy instruments into one’s water lines or monkeying with one’s compressor. Usually this does the trick and peeing ceases.

There is another side to this, of course. The refrigerator may be in need of help and doesn’t know how to ask for it. In fact, the more Madame Olivia thinks about this, the more inclined she is to this interpretation. Ironically the same action is called for, namely summoning a skilled technician. Such a one may be able to offer just the relief that is needed. A faulty discharge valve, for one example, can be painful and may actually be causing the peeing, and repair or replacement may restore your appliance to its jaunty, high-functioning self. There is nothing like pride of functioning for appliance contentment.

Wishing you and all the members of your household the very best in the coming year.

Madame Olivia