resonance vs. dissonanace

The human mind makes countless judgements in the blink of an eye, the high-tech matter between the ears filtering what’s important and what’s not. We notice, determine and discern, consciously and unconsciously processing information for relevance, significance or congruence.

As it relates to dating, we notice little things about the folks we meet and add them to evidence for or against our potential or compatibility. We’re searching for clues, for resonance or dissonance. I wrote of that cosmic call-and-answer phenomenon I experienced when I met more-like-it. This is a great example of resonance, cues that I’m getting closer to attracting the kind of man I’d like in my life. I use this information to get even more specific.

For example, my list doesn’t specify what type of car my future mate should drive, yet I find I notice and interpret. I like a nice ride, and I suspect my guy also has an appreciation for foreign engineering. I’m not going to add this sort of thing to my list, but it resonates with me. (Let’s not discuss that my foreign-make luxury sedan is rusting and 15-years-old.)

Also, based on the kinds of conversations and emotional maturity level of the various guys I’ve met, I think I share a greater resonance with divorced men who have children. They seem a little more introspective and…well…humble. I’m not going to rule out a man who’s never been married nor had children; right now I just find it easier to relate to guys who’ve gone through something similar to what I’ve been through. Perhaps I won’t feel the same way in a few months or years.

If you look at the stats (50% of first marriages end in divorce; 70% of second marriages end in divorce), then I should probably reconsider. Marrying a guy who’s never been married could at least improve my odds by 10%, right? Bring it right on down to 60% chance of divorce. Now that’s winning!

I was once telling a friend about the lobbyist. I scoffed at the idea of even flirting with him, until my friend pointed out, “How do you know who can love you best?” It’s a good question. Maybe the man who will love me best is an actuary or a litigator…but it’s certainly easier to envision having a relationship with someone who shares a certain intellectual or career resonance, as well. (And by resonance, I’m leaning toward compatibility, understanding, rather than sameness.)

So…is all this an exercise in intellectual laziness? Am I looking in the mirror and trying to find someone just like me? Or are these clues to finding a match and a sense of belonging real?

Ideally, I’d like to think there’s someone out there with whom I share plenty in common, but who can also stretch my mind, imagination and sense of what’s possible, just as I hope to do for him.

dating with children

Let me begin by describing my children:  they are healthy — free of allergies, asthma and chronic conditions. (Knock on wood…we should all be so blessed.) They are energetic and love to run and play. Each has a mellow and sweet disposition and both are well-liked. Also, they are beautiful. Sure, I have parenting challenges like anyone else, but I am blessed beyond measure to have these bright, loving and cooperative children to nurture.

I try to be a halfway decent mother (despite, at one time, having had the inclination to write a series of parenting manuals called “The Bad Parents’ Guide to…” Shoulda.). Therefore, it was pretty important to me to try to take the high road (as much as I could) during the dismantling of my marriage.

Part of this, in my mind, meant limiting my children’s exposure to my interpersonal relationships with other men. I didn’t want them to see me going from one relationship right into another. However, from the moment my ex moved out, this proved a difficult task:  Male friends seemed to come out of the woodwork in my first days, weeks and months of becoming single, stopping by to see if I needed something done around the house. One fixed the radiator on my car and another thanked me for a project I’d voluntarily done for him (well over a decade ago) with an envelope of cash. Others took us on outings to amusement parks or to the movies.

Children are keen to pick up energy, and mine sensed no hanky-panky as these were strictly platonic relationships. No harm was done — and, unfortunately, this volunteerism quickly tapered off.

As I’ve begun to date, however, I must be more vigilant about what I say and do around my children. They are my nearly constant companions and, at times, my confidantes. I try to maintain appropriate parent/adult-child boundaries yet, I have to confess, this can be difficult. My children are exposed to some prime time television, so they are not oblivious to the notion of crushes or liking others of the opposite sex or adults wanting to kiss. So they have witnessed a small handful of my (telephone) interactions with Chi-guy, for example. They were in the car when I called to wish him a happy birthday, and also when I asked him to take me on a date. They probably catch glimpses of my online dating site, but I doubt they understand what it is.

I feel blessed to be able to have open conversations with my children about having a boy for a friend but also having a crush on him. We speak in terms they can understand, and they have an opportunity to voice the requisite, “I wish you still liked Daddy.” Me too. That would have been much easier on all of us.

So what do my children know of my dating life? They know I have a friend in Chicago who I have a crush on. They know I want to meet men and find a life partner. They know I want to be married and live as a family together with a man other than their father, and that might mean with other children, too. And they ask questions about these things: “What will he be like?” He’ll be kind and loving. “Do you think Daddy might have a friend you’d like?” Um, I don’t think that would be a very good idea. “Will he like children?” He’s going to have to. And then I remind them about staying with Max and his family and how his step children snuggle right up to him.

The day I met more-like-it, my children got off the bus and my son asked how my day was. I told my children that it had been a great day — in fact, I’d met a really cool guy that morning for coffee. (I did not mention that it was a date.) My son asked, “Mommy, do you think you might have made a new friend?” I hope so, I told him.

I think I’ve managed all this pretty well so far. I have yet to date anyone seriously, so no love interests have been brought into my children’s lives. And I intend to err on the side of caution, dating on the weekends that the children are with their father. I plan to wait until a relationship is heading toward commitment before introducing any man into their lives. These are bridges I’ll cross when the time comes.

Meanwhile, my biggest fumble so far is leaving my sanitized vibrator on the counter top to dry and realizing it was still sitting there when my daughter dumped her water bottle in the sink after school. Oops! Not sure we’re ready for that conversation yet…

kissing frogs

When I try to explain to some men that I don’t plan to date one person exclusively for awhile, they nod with understanding and wish me well “playing the field.” Meanwhile, they explain, they’re looking for someone special… as if these are two different things.

How many times have we heard, “you’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs” by the time we’re adult women?

I am looking for someone special. But to find him, I recognize that I’m likely going to have to meet and interact with a lot of men. I don’t plan to fling myself into exclusivity any time soon. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t veer that way if it felt completely natural and right. After all, I am a monogamist at heart.

It should be said that as many of the men I’ve met online interpret the same messages to mean that I’m ready to get serious and, because they’re not, they opt out.

Am I sending mixed messages? I’m using the same words. But, if I’m honest, the energy behind them is more than a little inconsistent.

the divorce playlist, part 5

phase five:  reclaiming my femininity

What music makes you feel like a sensual, womanly and feminine…like taking a bath, putting on your best lingerie and buying flowers — all just for yourself?

See phase one, phase two, phase three and phase four

where have all my friends gone?

The upheaval in my life in the past year and a half is not limited to divorce, single parenting, quitting a job and starting a new one. It’s social, as well. In fact, I can hear The Jayhawks singing right now…

If you asked me today who my best friends are, I’d list the usual suspects. Most are my single girlfriends (you know who you are), and I’ve been able to reconnect with and lean on these girls much more than when I was trying to manage a family life, especially a deteriorating family life. So there has been a lot of shifting in my friendships, and not all of it as positive as I’d like.

As you might imagine, with small children, much of my family’s socialization was right here in the neighborhood, with other couples who had children of similar ages. Some, I was surprised to find, seem a bit suspicious of me following the split…as though perhaps my ex went on a bit of a public relations campaign before moving several neighborhoods away.

In fact, this PR campaign was confirmed by a local wife over a bottle of wine one night. It wasn’t as though she came out and told me he had done this; rather, she hung around until after the other women had left and literally grilled me. In the process she happened to mention that my ex had been over and told his side of the story. And I doubt he stopped there.

Most adults recognize that there are two sides to every story. I was hoping not to have to air my grievances about certain of my ex’s betrayals, simply because I preferred to take the high road. It was over; the damage was done. Dissing him was not productive. In fact, one neighborhood wife had the grace to say, “We saw in your ex the man you fell in love with.” While I knew it was a lie, I appreciated her generosity and refusal to talk bad about him.

I mentioned other broken relationships in the neighborhood — one of those to whom I was closest moved away and, after having spent several years as an at-home mother, now manages half of the parenting, a long-distance relationship and a full-time job. It’s simply become harder to stay in touch. Another close friend moved to the coast. My neighborhood is a lonelier place than it was before.

There is no question that the disruption inherent in divorce extends beyond the family circle and daily life into broader social circles, often making friends feel as though they have to choose, take sides or spare you the knowledge of the party they held last weekend to which your ex (but not you) was invited. And then there’s the couples vs. singles dynamic, where you’re no longer invited to be part of the group because you’re an odd number or a single or you just aren’t thought of by the well-meaning folks thinking of which couples to invite. Divorce forces those around us into an awkward situation.

Recently, I experienced probably the worst possible incarnation that this dynamic might take — its impact on my children.

One of my daughter’s friends invited her to a backyard bonfire and barbecue. As they sat talking about it, my daughter assumed that her brother and I would also be welcome to attend as a list of neighborhood attendees were rattled off. Whispering ensued. I could hear the girlfriend complaining that they didn’t want so many people. This friend has been known to be manipulative and generally prefers to exclude my son, if at all possible. But it seemed there was more…

Later, when we were alone, I expressed to my daughter that sometimes it was a challenge for me to know how to respond to her friend. She agreed. We talked and, as I uncovered more about this dynamic, I had an intuition and asked:

“Did you friend tell you that her parents don’t like me?”

“Yes,” she confessed.

“When?” I asked.

“Awhile ago.”

“Is that why you haven’t been making plans with her for the past several months?”

“Yes,” she answered.

“Does that make you feel uncomfortable around her parents?”

“Yes.”

My stomach dropped. I was, of course, hurt. I have been kind, generous and respectful of this couple. Certainly, we have had moments of difference as it relates to our parenting styles, but I would never exclude them or treat them differently for it. By far, though, pure rage outweighed my sadness. Regardless of what this couple thinks of me (and they’ve made plain their sympathy for my ex), one would think they’d have the discretion to limit what they might say in front of children. And, while I doubt this couple actually said the above verbatim, they need to know how grossly inappropriate and un-friend-like it was for their daughter to say something like this to mine. How dare their words be used to so callously injure my daughter’s self-esteem!

Add another difficult conversation and more social awkwardness to my to-do list…

Update:  It should be noted that these friends later told me I’d done the right thing (in getting rid of my ex).

which is worse, hormones or tmi?

I’ve mentioned before that the 40-year-old divorcée’s libido is beyond compare. I had a few months of fun as a singleton and then decided I was over the empty, hollow physical affairs. In other words, I’ve given up casual sex in search of meaning.

But I can’t deny that lately I revisit this stance at least monthly, if not weekly. (Okay, fine, perhaps daily or hourly is more accurate.) Depending on where I am hormonally.

Again, this topic is inspired by someone I met online — or, rather, the kind of information to be found online. I liked his mind, yet I don’t anticipate seeing him again — at least not in a romantically inclined manner. Still, having had some rather openly expressive conversations and flirtatious emails, I found him sexually intriguing. He seems more experimental than most of my past lovers have been. He obliquely mentioned porn twice in approximately three conversations, as well as confessing that he’s a big fan of toys. I can’t deny having browsed through all the sex-related questions he answered as part of his profile on our dating site. It seems he has answered an abundance, compulsively…and the things he’s willing to do with his tongue are…well, let’s just say the thought excites me.

In other words, I probably know too much for my own good. I can’t help but think it would be fun — really fun — to take that knowledge and convert it into experience.

Thus, in spite of my desire to have a tender, loving, intimate relationship with genuine companionship and long-term potential, my hormones and intrigue are conspiring against me. I am actually tempted to proposition this man. Even though I know better. Even though there are many other guys who have shown far more interest in getting physical with me, rather than merely titillating banter. But, Jeez, while I’m searching for the needle in the haystack, is it really necessary to deny myself some healthy sport?

The problem is, of course, that while I’ve proven to myself that I am capable of sex free from emotional encumbrance, I think the likelihood that I could manage such an arrangement with this particular fellow is small. Who was it who observed that men can’t think clearly until they get sex, while women are capable of thinking clearly only until they have sex? At any rate, I definitely think there’s some truth in it. I’m inclined to believe I might develop feelings. So I shall try to resist the encouragement of the devil on my shoulder.

I’m not really sure whether it’s hormones, this blessed, cursed 40-year-old libido or too much graphic knowledge that’s causing me to have these thoughts. But I’d be lying if I tried to deny thinking them.

above all, a good roof

Both my home and my psyche are in fixer-upper condition.

I may have mentioned this before, but my ex was not particularly handy around the home. While he stayed home with our young children, familiarity with his surroundings seemed to engender blindness. Case in point:  when the roof over his head began to leak, I had to point it out to him. And even though he knew roofers, he never managed to make the appropriate arrangements (which explains all the banging going on up there each day and the $10,000 gap in my finances).

If there was something I wanted done, no matter how simple, I started calling contractors or handymen for bids. When the tree guy came to look at the white ash, his quote was deemed “ridiculous” and my ex began trimming. So I managed to accomplish small improvements in this way. Any cost or investment, no matter how low, was “ridiculous” to my wasband, whose grasp on fiscal and other realities seemed to have eroded over his time at home.

Our kitchen remodel made it to 85% complete…and, six years later, there’s still a list of to-do’s including new back doors, trim, a back splash and a few other details. And the bathroom needs a major remodel and … well, you get the idea.

My psyche is much the same way just now:  there are some areas that need anything from a little redecorating or brightening up with fresh flowers to major renovation.

Inside my house, there are improvements on my wish list that I notice every day. Yet I’m repairing the roof first. I can’t see it, except from outside. It won’t affect my daily comfort (aside from during a hard rain). Yet, it’s as my roofer said, “Above all, a good roof.” The roof is the necessary shelter, the fundamental protection that will allow me to take the next necessary steps:  a new ceiling, doors and trim. Eventually a bathroom.

Addressing the internal wounds is somewhat different, but it begins the same way. The first order of business is to secure shelter, a protected space or environment in which to process the emotions. Or, as Dr. Phil has explained (on one or more of the small handful of shows I’ve seen), “a safe place to land.” Divorce (and its associated betrayals), regardless of who or how or why it’s initiated, has a way of decimating the self-esteem, self-worth, ability to trust and more. One needs time and space to restore them.

And then there are matters of forgiveness. As if forgiving the ex were not practically unthinkable in and of itself, one must move beyond this to the even more monumental effort of forgiving one’s self:  for failing to make it work, for actual harm caused, for giving up to soon or for staying too long and, especially, for the poor relationship example demonstrated to the children. And so much more.

While all that work is being addressed, there are the realizations and discoveries of habits, beliefs and paradigms adopted and lived out in the course of a failing relationship that must be examined and, likely, let go for something new and more wonderful to bloom. Certain triggers cause responses that are entirely too reactionary. As an example, say the words “stay at home father” and watch as I break out in a rash… Though my ex was much better equipped to be a full-time caregiver than I was when our children were babies, the experience ultimately took a turn for the resentful. I have to take a few deep breaths and remind myself that said domestic arrangement can and does actually work for a growing number of other families.

I’d say the roof is half-way finished. It would be impossible to say where my psyche is at along the path or how far I’ve come in healing. While I’d like to think that I am facing my challenges and healing consciously, there is no real way to determine whether or when there will be an end to the work. I can’t simply look at the construction schedule (and then add another few months). The past three months of down time to mull and process has been a true gift, and I’d like to believe I’ve made significant progress in healing my heart.

Yet I have a feeling the true test will be, as it is now, the patience, love and understanding I demonstrate to my children, my presence and openness, and the woman I am in relation to others.

v words

I’ve been called a lot of things, but I especially like the v words I’ve been called:  vixen, vibrant, vivacious, verbose…very! (There may be some less appealing, but I can’t remember them.)

As a writer, I love finding patterns and rhythms and playing with words and sounds. The v words are interesting to me, because I associate each of the above with a certain memory, experience and individual (one of whom I called “varlet”). And because I love the v sound.

seeing more clearly

Today, as I dropped off my children with my ex, I pulled him aside for a brief conversation and, in those few moments, I saw in him a glimpse of the man I once so deeply loved. And I saw him for who he is.

There is no possibility for reconciliation, but it’s nice to be able to see his warmth again.

musings about Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is this weekend. The children will be with their father (until I choose to pick them up); my mother and aunt will be crowded in to my grandmother’s assisted living space, so I am imagining how I might like to spend this special Sunday morning by myself.

Ideally, I would receive flowers. Tulips, perhaps, something seasonable and bright, not too fussy. And I’d grab a latte to go and walk around one of the urban lakes with a friend. Of course, all my friends are likely to be either with their own children or with their mothers, so I’m not entirely convinced this plan will work. (When they’re older, I shall anticipate spa services.)

Might be nice if that friend who gave me flowers and took me for a walk were a gentleman…

Just sayin’.