Once upon a time, I thought time had run out on my chance to get love right.
While all my friends were marrying, settling down, and starting families, I was once again staring at the smoldering remains of yet another failed relationship with yet another Mr. Wrong.
The perpetual bachelorette in my social circle, I had a job my friends envied, owned my own condo, took amazing vacations, and always had fabulous plans on the weekends. I was even saving money for retirement like a smart, savvy woman should.
On paper, my life looked amazing. In reality, I felt like a complete and total failure.
Convinced my single status was a life sentence I was forced to endure without the hope of parole, I worried about growing old alone. My fears were magnified by my circumstances. Having gone through my Big Breakup at work, a family friendly environment where engagement parties and baby showers were a weekly occasion, I felt like a dark cloud hung over my cubicle. A cloud that said “Relationship Train Wreck” with an arrow pointing down at me.
Thanks to my office romance and subsequent office breakup, I still had to see my ex every day. Convinced he was The One, I believed I’d lost my opportunity to have my own personal happily ever after ending.
My Big Breakup wasn’t the only thing making me feel like a failure. Living in Los Angeles, I walked around with a painful secret. I was convinced that being a size fourteen in a size zero city meant that my chances of finding a man who could love me for me were slim to none.
Pouring over my options, I considered three choices. I could:
1. Go on a diet, lose fifty pounds, and miraculously become worthy of love in La La land.
2. Get liposuction and other cosmetic surgery to make me a more desirable candidate in the City of Angels.
3. Move to a less image-conscious city to find love. Austin, Texas seemed like an ideal location, even though I’d never visited, and only knew one person (a friend of a friend) who lived there.
In the end, I didn’t do any of the above. OK, I did lose fifteen pounds. And quit my job. And rented out my condo. And took a mental health sabbatical to the Montana wilderness for six weeks to clear my head.
When I returned to Los Angeles, homeless and jobless, I made a very conscious decision. I would never again let my age, my size, or my single status make me feel unworthy of living a life I loved. With that one simple decision, I started implementing my Backup Plan. Sure, I was living off savings. And okay, I was sleeping on my best friend’s living room floor. But you know what else? I hadn’t felt this happy in years.
Free from the trappings of a life that no longer worked (a mortgage payment, the 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. grind, and being emotionally handcuffed to my ex), I embraced my ability to rebuild my life from the ground up. While there were days I seriously questioned my sanity, I trusted that this new direction was leading me somewhere. Somewhere good, I hoped.
My instincts were spot-on.
As I continued implementing my Backup Plan, I became a man magnet. Everywhere I went—from Starbucks to the sushi bar—men were flocking to me. And not just any men. The kind of men I’d always wished I could attract, but who had once upon a time seemed repelled by me. Men who wrote for satirical political TV shows, men who volunteered to help clean up Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, men who appreciated that I was living and loving my Backup Plan.
And it wasn’t just men who were magnetized to me. I also became an opportunity magnet. When I wasn’t meeting and going on the most fabulously fun dates, I was fielding incredible career opportunities that seemingly fell into my lap. I started making a living as a freelance relationship journalist. I got my first book deal chronicling my Big Breakup and the life that was unfolding before me.
While this new direction had initially seemed like nothing more than a half-baked Backup Plan when my original life plans had crashed and burned, suddenly my choices seemed like a well constructed and well orchestrated reinvention.
And then I met H-I-M.
The H-I-M in question is now my husband. Back then, he was just some well-dressed, well-spoken, emotionally available man who happened to be sitting at the table next to me one night at a bar. We initially bonded over a shared appreciation for David Sedaris and Pink Martini. Once we started talking, we didn’t stop.
Five years later, we’re still talking. And laughing. And loving.
As for my Backup Plan? It’s turned into one hell of a well-baked dish. Since first implementing the plan, I’ve married the love of my life, published three books, and I now coach single women who are ready to recreate themselves and their lives when their original plans go out the window and reinvention is essential to their very survival. I see the similarities between my client’s stories and my own. Like me, they believe time has run out on their chance to get love right. Like me, they fear their ex was The One, and that they ruined their happily ever after story by not being able to make it work. And like me, they blame themselves. They believe they’re too old, too fat, or not pretty enough to find love. While the age range of my clients varies from thirty to fifty-seven, the fears and stories are the same. And these fears and stories keep some of the most successful, smart, beautiful women paralyzed.
The paralysis is only temporary if these women decide to take action. When a woman makes the decision to break free from her self-sabotaging story, and implement her Backup Plan, she falls back in love with herself and her life. She also awakens to the extraordinary truth that it’s never too late to meet the love of your life. Not only was she NEVER too old or too fat or too ugly to attract a man, she’s actually so stunning, young at heart, and sexy that men begin taking notice wherever she goes. And if she’s smart, she embraces this new life, celebrating her Backup Plan as the well baked dish it’s turning into.
In this re-awakening, I’ve seen some incredible reinventions.
After a bitter divorce, one client of mine quit her job, launched a passion project, and skyrocketed to success, meeting the love of her life along the way.
Another client made the difficult decision to walk away once and for all from a man she’s been involved with off and on for eighteen years. At fifty-five, she’s choosing HER as-yet-unknown happily ever after story over going back to her predictably unhappily ever after story with her ex. And after her Big Breakup, yet another client of mine rediscovered her love of salsa dancing, started teaching a few dance classes, and is now in high demand for workshops and parties, all because she implemented her Backup Plan. It’s no surprise she’s become a man magnet, having her choice of fun and fabulous dates on her nights off.
I’m constantly inspired by the reinventions my clients go through when they implement their Backup Plans. And speaking of Backup Plans, I recently attended a screening of the new Jennifer Lopez movie The Backup Plan. In the film Jennifer plays Zoe, a thirty-nine-year-old single woman who decides, with no potential Mr. Right in sight, to get artificially inseminated. Of course, on her road to single motherhood, Zoe meets and falls in love with her Mr. Right.
I came away from the movie feeling like art was doing an incredibly realistic imitation of life. And while I used to think the only thing Jennifer Lopez and I had in common was an ample derriere, I felt like Jennifer’s character Zoe was a lot like me and my clients. Like me and my clients, Zoe has given up on love. And like me and my clients, Zoe is choosing to reinvent herself and her life rather than hunker down and wallow. And like me and my clients, Zoe finds love when she least expects it. Tired of playing by other people’s rules, Zoe has left Corporate America to launch her own passion project, running a high-end pet boutique. And tired of waiting for Prince Charming to magically show up on her door step (And let’s face it. If he did, she’d think he was a stalker, call 9-1-1, and have him arrested!), Zoe decides she doesn’t need to have the traditional happily ever after journey. Taking matters into her own hands, Zoe gets pregnant after being artificially inseminated.
Enter Prince Charming.
While their happily ever after journey encounters a few speed bumps along the way (and who’s doesn’t?), Zoe and Mr. Right discover what I discovered when I met my husband and what my clients regularly discover …
When you create a life you love, you make room for the love of your life. What comes next is truly spectacular: Love, opportunities, happiness—and not necessarily in that order.
It’s been said before that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. In my experience, life AND love is what happens when you implement your Backup Plan.