Solo Me::♥

by Cris Gladly on April 22, 2012

image source: A Colorful Mind.tumblr

For the last two months,
I have been on a quest to figure something out.

So earnest have my efforts been in this pursuit that
I, quite by accident, morphed my little inquiry into a self-led,
very unscientifically conducted,
yet, as it turns out, wildly fascinating, full-blown research project.

(I’ve been calling it Solo Me::♥/em>)

“What is your research about?”
people ask me.

“I’m not really sure,”
I usually reply.

This seems to frustrate the hell out of most people.
But it’s the honest answer.

The impetus for the project came about a couple of months ago,
when I found myself in a very, very dark place,
genuinely and worriedly wondering…

“Jeez! Are there any good men out there?”

Because from my vantage point at that time,
the answer was a resounding “no”.

And for a woman with a heart full of love to give,
that answer broke my heart.

photo by Sandy Manase

To make a long story short, let me sum up and share that
I arrived at this despairing a good man is hard to find lament
on the heels of some seriously bad dude juju manifesting in my world:

To begin, an emotional betrayal on the part of one of my trusted male friends
started a domino effect of me preemptively retracting and/or extracting my Self
from a number of other suspect male friendships in my life.

Simultaneously, the U.S. seemed to be losing its damn mind,
as conservatives launched a witch-hunt like nation-wide attack
on female reproductive rights, or more accurately, on female sexuality itself.
To my shock and deepest disappointment, a startling majority
of so-called “progressive” men did NOT utter even a peep to speak out against it.

Then, e/S half-talked me into trying online dating
{cue eyes rolling}.
I resisted mightily, then acquiesced in the spirit of trying new things,
only to delete my profile 10 days later before even completing it.
(Note: only completed enough to let the matching algorithm do its job
but posted no personal photos. Hell no.)

The first four batches of “highly compatible” male profiles sent to me,
yielded not one guy I would even remotely find “compatible”.
I fully concede that these men might be absolute treasures for someone else.
They just, you know … really, really, reeeeally were not for me.
(I could not delete that account fast enough.)

By the end of this two month period, I was wrenched by all of this.
And a resulting fear and distrust of men
and dwindling faith in ever finding someone to love was rapidly settling in.
Mindsets I normally abhor and that are 100% counter to who I am as a woman.

Feeling that hopelessness was devastating for me.
My heart does not hold such things well.

Photo by Dallas Nagata

But then, I saw a picture.
A photograph that changed everything.
A snapshot of a friend and her fiancé (now husband)
and in that image, I saw the essence of everything I want.

And hope immediately blossomed back to life again.

Sorry, I can’t show you that photo
(it is my friend’s semi-private image).

But what I realized in the moment that I saw it
(after first getting chills all over my body and tears in my eyes)
is that: (a) what I want in love and from a man does exist
and (b) that if I don’t have positive examples of that possibility
in my every day life, then I need to endeavor to find examples
and flood my very world with them.

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” 
Yes! + Yes! + I couldn’t agree more.

So, I messaged my friend in the photo and basically said (although not verbatim):


Right?!! …  I am such a total lunatic!

Luckily, Nomad is a lovely soul, as is her new husband,
and they were both flattered and have cheered me and my pursuit on
with amazing support and genuine we so wish a world of love for you regard.

Turns out, people who have finally, finally found true love themselves …
they remember what it felt like before they had it.
And this makes them infinitely generous. And merciful. And empathetic.

image source: We Heart

And so it was that my SoloMe::♥ project took form.

At first, I didn’t realize there was a deeper underlying reason
for wanting to do this project.
That was not revealed to me until after the project started,
when the very first man I interviewed gently called me out on it.

I’ll tell you about that striking moment in a second,
but at the start of things,
I just thought this project seemed like a way better idea then

If you want to draw something to you,
create the essence of it in your life, yes?
If I want a great love, I need to understand the nuances of great love.
If my heart aspires to love and be loved by a great man,
then I want to understand the discerning nuances
that make a man, by my definition, great.

So, I scrolled through my mind to identify men I actually know
who I feel like (a) treat the woman in their life with deep care and total reverence
and (b) possess at least some of the qualities I would be seeking in a man myself.

And then I thought: okay, I’ll just invite these dudes for coffee and talk to them,
ask them some questions and see if I can figure out what’s different
about the way they choose to relate to the woman in their lives other men do.
Awesome! Perfect! I started setting those conversations up.

I then decided I also wanted to talk to some women.
So, I sent up a flare to my global tribe of female friends
and within 72 hours, I had over 20 commitments for interviews
with women in several countries around the world who aligned with my focus criteria.

In the case of the women, I am interviewing only those who self-identify
as feeling uniquely seen, cherished and deeply cared for
by the man they are in relationship with AND
that they themselves feel “completely in love” with their partner in return.

I am now a month into conducting this research.
And, I must say …
it has been nothing short of heart transforming!

photo by miixxxx

My research is conducted in 90-minute interviews,
either by phone, in person or via Skype.
The content is confidential. The vibe is casual. I simply ask questions.
The interviewee just responds honestly with whatever comes to mind.

That’s it. They talk.
And with all of my heart, I listen.

To what they do say. To what they don’t say.
To what their voice, expressions, and body language convey.
No judgment. No expected outcomes.
I just listen … and notice.

I cannot tell you yet about the actual insights gleaned
(and there have been so many) nor can I share the specific questions I ask.
I won’t reveal any of that until all of the interviews are conducted,
and that may take awhile (as more have been added since I first began).

I will say, that to my delight, thus far, the men are kicking the ladies’ asses.
All of the respondents are giving great heartfelt answers
but wow, when it comes to deep emotional courage,
the men are showing up big.

= My faith in the existence of great men is fast restoring.

image source: Shadow Photography

And it seems that shift in mindset is “working” for me
because on the rare occasions that I have ventured out in the world since research started,
I have been on the receiving end of all kinds of male attention.
From smiles and head turns, to flirtatious attempts to chat me up and get my digits,
to the most delightful “I so enjoy your company, Cris” lingering conversations.

(So suck on that!!!) haha.

But actually, what’s odd about the attention is …
I am totally averse to dating right now.
I have zero interest.

Which brings me back to the deeper purpose of this research project,
which I didn’t see at the beginning, until the first man I interviewed
called me out on it at the end of our conversation.

At the start of our interview session, he asked me for a bit of my background
to better understand where I was coming from around the subject of love.
(A fair request since I was, after all, asking him, a total stranger, to spill his guts.)

After the official questions were all gone through,
he told me that he admired my project
and could tell that I bring a very genuine heart
to my efforts to truly understand men and love.

But then he said, “but Cris, you are also hiding.”
And then he gave me a sympathetic smile
and said something else that broke my heart right open.

He said that he does not think I am trying to avoid the “bad men” at all,
finding some asshole guy is not really a concern,
I am far enough along now to know how to avoid the likes of them.

He said, “what you are really afraid of is finding another LAkh.”

And when I heard this, I just closed my eyes for a second and thought:
‘F*ck! Do not cry in front of this man! Do not cry in front of this man!’
because I knew as soon as he said it, he was right.

image source: findyourself.tumblr

None of us are really afraid of finding an “asshole” .
In fact, this is why we are drawn to them, the male and female variety,
because the hurt they bring is safe.
We know what it looks like already.
We therefore can see the fall coming.

The far greater risk (and therefore bigger fear)
is finding a person you truly want to open your heart up to,
the one who makes your soul light up
and floods your heart with joy for awhile
because with them, we let our guard down.

With an asshole we can always say ‘whatever, no real loss.

But when it’s someone you let yourself really care for
and someone you believed truly cared for you,
and the gift of that love is taken away while you still hold it dear …
that is the hurt that breaks us into pieces.

And yes, I am afraid
of standing in that space of vulnerability again.
It’s not from regret. I am truly so happy I had that experience with LAkh.
It’s been nearly a year since then, and he is still a memory I cherish.

But, the experience did, indeed, leave me afraid.
Because I didn’t see the fall coming.
And that left me feeling like a giant, open-hearted fool!
I didn’t even realize how much until this kind man had the courage to
call me out for hiding and said to my face: “Cris, you’re afraid.”

Wow. I really am afraid. Very much so.

I looked back at this stranger who was sharing so generously with me
and I just quietly nodded.

He said, “You have to get back in the game.
Finish your project, but then get out there and try again.
No more hiding.

True, if you don’t play, you’ll never lose.
But, if you don’t play, you’ll also never win.”

And he’s is right … And I know it.

image source:

If I want great love,
I have to be willing to dare greatly.
Like I did before.
I wasn’t a fool for trying to give love earnestly.
That was bravery.

And so, I am stepping back toward love again
tentatively at first, but with increasing courage.
The heart of this open-hearted girl begins to reopen.

And so, my research continues …

How about you?
Are you hiding out from love?
I send you epic tons of open-hearted bravery!

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Dawn April 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm

Once again, Cris Gladly, your post leaves me in awe… and with so much to ponder. Your tribe is cheering for you brave girl!


Cris: Gladly April 22, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Thanks, Dawn! I’m gaining so many amazing insights in this process (one of the biggest being: I know way more then I thought I did). The project has been a huge gift, as has everything that I’ve experienced since launching Gladly Beyond. I may not have had my physical travel adventure yet, but my life is full of adventures of a different kind. Thank you for the blog love and the real world love. {hugs!!}


Marcia April 23, 2012 at 2:42 am

I can’t even begin to tell you how much this post has meant to me. I know exactly how you feel. Thank you so much for putting into words, what I can’t even sort out in my own thoughts.


Cris: Gladly April 24, 2012 at 2:47 am

Wow! Marcia, thank you so much for this comment. It means so much to me that this resonated for you. This project has definitely been profoundly transformative for me. I so look forward to sharing more about it in the weeks and months ahead. I hope you’ll continue to share the journey with me. :) -c:g


Lazarus April 24, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I join you in daring greatly. I’m lucky to have found such an extraordinary friend and look forward to our adventures together. Love will find a way.


Laurie Rosenfeld July 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Cris, I just saw this one. Bravo! I wondered what had happened with this project. I think this was an uber-creative idea! And love hearing about your insights and process. xoxo


Cris: Gladly July 4, 2012 at 3:06 am

xo!!! Thanks, Laurie! Ohmygosh, this project has been so exciting. It has been the most tortuous frustration not to have the full space of time I’d love to have to dedicate to it (both in continued interview research and in actually writing about the project) but now that the move is through (just a few more things to put away), I plan to focus far more attention on it. So stay tuned!! (p.s. I hope all is well with you and your projects, too!! xo)


Karen Christensen September 30, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Cris!!! How am I only just now seeing this magical, powerful, post??? What a heart you are. Like a giant walking hug. So many of us can relate to your words, to your search. The Hot Dreadman and I have had our own adventure, creatively mapping out our professional and personal worlds. It’s been a wildly fulfilling journey which we wouldn’t trade for anything. Cheers to you and all you’re bound to reveal. xo


Cris Gladly January 24, 2014 at 6:02 am

Hi Karen!! How did I NOT SEE THIS message from YOU? … it’s from months ago. So sorry. Thank you for the lovely message. So glad to have you hear on the blog. I’ve been quiet here for a bit, but things are warming up again now that I’m back from my first international trip. And congrats to you and Dreadman on your happy love (and beautiful wedding). I’m so very happy for you both! xoxo


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