The Early Years
I was raised in a very dysfunctional family – an alcoholic father who physically abused my mother and verbally abused everyone – the usual blah, blah, blah. My father was very strict. He left it to my mother to discipline my brother and me, and if we didn’t behave according to his expectations, he took it out on her. He was the “do as I say, not as I do!” and “when I say jump, you say how high” type. If I came home with 90%, he wanted to know why it couldn’t have been 100%. When all the other kids were getting presents at the end of the school year, for passing, we got nothing – “it’s not what you get if you pass, it’s what you’ll get if you don’t pass!”. I’m sure many of you can relate. I think that those external expectations led to my internal quest and pressure to be perfect in all things.
I was always tucked away in my room, doing homework and studying, terrified of failure. I was trying to be the perfect child – my mom had enough to deal with, with my dad, and I didn’t want to add to her problems by misbehaving or having poor grades. Consequently, I was a high achiever in school, always feeling under pressure to do better.
All through my life, no matter what I attempted, I always wanted to do it perfectly. Of course, I was always disappointed in myself. I once attempted suicide in my early teens, by swallowing a bunch of pills, and was so disgusted with myself when I woke up in the morning – that I couldn’t even do that right! I never told a soul about that, until I was in my fifties.
When I was thirteen, I met my soul mate, Paul. We became best friends – we had a lot in common and for the first time, I was able to share my real story and my real feelings. We “went steady” when we were 16, then broke up after a year, to date other people. Three years later, we met, quite by chance, at a local burger joint, and began dating again. I had taken my going steady ring off while we were apart, and I put it back on again. We were married in 1970 and have been happily married ever since. To this day, I still wear my going steady ring.
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