dating in the time of trump

You haven’t heard from me in a while, and for good reason(s). Work has been insane, I’ve been on a 30-day cleanse (no fun!) and, candidly, I’ve just seen too much mean come out of the woodwork lately… which brings me to today’s topic:  How can one date in the time of Trump?

When someone who has made incendiary remarks against blacks, women, Muslims, Mexicans and others is in the highest office in the land, some people suddenly think it’s okay to forget what their mammas told them. Remember “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”? A lot of people seem to have forgotten that.

The news is full of hate crimes and half-truths. People are more polarized than I can recall and, given that dating sites can be somewhat akin to social media, I just don’t feel the need to put myself out there for insults or debate based on different ideologies. I guess I’m feeling a little sensitive. I’m not interested in encountering any more negativity than is already out there, so taking a break is a move to protect my energy.

In fact, I went on several dates with a guy who said he’s normally conservative, but wouldn’t be voting for Trump. Then, post-election, he said he did vote for Trump. About two weeks after the inauguration, he was telling me how amazing he thought I was…and all I could do was honestly tell him that he was disqualified. You see, if he thought our now president was doing a good job, I’m pretty sure we didn’t share enough common values to have a serious relationship. If, on the other hand, he was having regrets about his vote, I wondered how he was so idiotic he didn’t see it coming. There was no winning at that point.

On the flip side, it seems like it could be a great time to easily sort out those who share my feminist, pro-choice, inclusive values (read non Trump supporters). Maybe this would be the best time of all to give meeting new men a go. In fact, I recently saw an article discussing the most successful group of daters on OKCupid:  proudly liberal women. If I’m not mistaken, the data referenced was for a younger group than I’m in, so I’m not certain whether the same is true for my demographic.

But let’s take this a step further — we have to talk about sex. Sex is inherently political. How so? Let’s play out a scenario:  Let’s say one is on a hot and sexy date, and both parties are eager to engage in a romp. What about protection? Who is responsible? What happens if, despite precautions, one becomes pregnant? You see, certain conversations need to take place before getting jiggy. For example, I can’t conceive of sleeping with someone who was anti-choice. (Pun intended.) And I firmly believe, at my age and station, that a man who has already had a family should take the step of getting a vasectomy — it’s simply the chivalrous thing to do.

Meanwhile with work, children, life and a new hobby — demonstrating / protesting (while proudly wearing my fuchsia pussy hat) — taking all my time, who has time to date? So, for now, the resistance is my boyfriend.

i felt like me today

The new year — despite all the political crazy that comes with it — has definitely brought a shift in energy for me, and I so needed it! I’ve been slowly getting better… a lot of “two steps forward, one step back” kind of progress. Still some total meltdowns. And today, I felt unexpectedly confident, buoyant, … normal… like the me I was a year ago, before I got caught in grief’s powerful undertow. And I noticed and acknowledged this amazing feeling.

Since the new year, I’ve been reading a much-needed resource on meditation and practicing sometimes twice a day. Getting back into this self-care routine has helped. Then, a recent bout of despair led me to an entirely new insight about a story I tell myself… You see, I’m one of those children who was “an accident.” (My children, by the way, are both blessings who arrived on their own schedule — language is powerful — and I’ve always wanted two children.) So, even though my parents were and are loving and are still very much a part of my life, I must have translated this knowledge to something along the lines of feeling unwanted. That’s a painful and lonely realization — but, having had the realization, I can finally begin to do the work to let go of that baggage.

I’d already been working on releasing loneliness, aloneness and other adjacent sort of feelings that seemed relevant to the shit storm of triggers during Dec. 2015 through Feb. 2016. Probably some shame and abandonment, too, and hella anger. After hitting on the unwanted emotion and doing some meditation and tapping to release it, something shifted and I had an entirely new perspective.

Today’s positive mental health is definitely cause for celebration, but I have more work to do… Here’s something I’ve learned over the past year:

There’s no way around grief. You have to feel it, sit with it, wade through it. Even so, there comes a point where thinking about it triggers an automatic response in the body, which the body becomes addicted to, and then the chemicals in the body generate the thought and it becomes a vicious cycle. Lee’s departure was a big trigger for this pattern in me. Despite the months that have passed, it felt like a fresh wound and an ancient scar at once. My body has become addicted to feeling the heartache — and to break the addiction, I’ll have to use my brain as well as cleanse my body of these chemicals. I’m also going to check into a trauma acupuncturist who was recommended by a friend, because that’s what I’ve felt around my heart — a deep, unhealed trauma. I like the thought of asking for help in this way.

Now, I’m off for my nightly meditation.

And get ready… after being a sad sack for the better part of a year, Momma’s getting her mojo back!

sayonara 2016

2016 will go down in infamy as the year that kicked my ass. I can honestly say I’ve hit emotional rock bottom — I’ve broken into tears probably more days than not, including ugly crying in bars with girlfriends; I’ve struggled to truly experience the upper register of my emotions, including joy, happiness and gratitude; my body has not supported me in wellness; and where I once felt sweet and feminine, I’ve more often felt brittle and bitter. My efforts to pick myself up, dust myself off and “get back out there” have been short lived and uncomfortable, as I’ve ridden wave after wave of grief.

I think about love and hope and, almost immediately, I feel the pain of loss and heartache in my chest. Of course I want to find my partner — I want my happily ever after, however unrealistic that may be. And contemplating how long it took to find something so good, that it could be another five years of searching… I just don’t know that I have it in me. Especially knowing there’s a chance I could hurt as much as I’ve hurt last year. I would like to never feel such heartache again. I would like no one ever to experience that deep heartache ever again.

I’ve also endured entirely too much well-intentioned advice and relationship maxims — among them:

It’s a numbers game; you’ve just got to keep at it.

Uh, hello? If you’ve been following, you know I’ve been single again for nearly seven years now. That’s a lot of dates. I haven’t counted. I work up my courage and psych myself up to get out there and meet new people. But I’m really over it. I want the next man I kiss to the be my last first kiss. And I want it to be wonderful.

When love comes around, it won’t look anything like you expect it to.

Lee didn’t look anything like I expected him to. He didn’t act anything like I expected. Our relationship did not transpire like I expected — it was better. And it was partly because he was so different and we, together, were so unexpectedly good that I believed I may have found what I’m searching for.

Love won’t show up on your timeline.

I took a year to work on myself and heal after my ex and I split nearly seven years ago now. I had been looking for nearly five years by the time I met Lee. One could have said the timing was bad, given my ex’s recent death. That it was so unlikely was, perhaps, just another reason it felt so real.

Forget chemistry; make decisions based on how you feel.

While I would tell you now that Lee and I had great chemistry, it wasn’t instant. Our chemistry grew as we got to know each other and developed feelings for one another. We seemed to enjoy many of the same things and share a great deal in common. I could envision him by my side in nearly any situation.

In other words, I knew I was on the right track a year ago… Now I’ve got to muster my courage to try again. But first I’m going to take some time, reset my energy / vibe, work on getting my body healthy enough to support the mental work I need to do.

2017 will be better. It has to be.

 

let’s call the whole thing off

Since … when? the election maybe?… I’ve been going through more anger, sadness, disillusionment. I understand what it is — yet another wave of grief — though I don’t quite ever get used to it and I am somewhat surprised that I’m still feeling it so deeply.

My body isn’t helping me. I’ve been fighting off a sinus infection, cold and other maladies for a couple of months, too, and I feel constantly exhausted.

There was one fabulous day when suddenly I felt well and energetic and I re-hung the curtains, bought a nice area rug and re-organized my bedroom, where the closet had been expanded and the room repainted, and I thought:  “This is my lovely retreat and I want it all to myself!”

The feeling was short-lived and I succumbed to round two of a head cold. Meanwhile, I was dating a fellow or two casually and so I kept things going, though without much enthusiasm.

On Thanksgiving, I thought about first meeting Lee a year ago that night in a mountain town. The first week in December, my neighbors hosted a party — the party I’d left early last year to go on my first official date with Lee. The second week in December was the anniversary of my ex’s death. A year ago today, I was on a flight to paradise with Lee… and so on. The memories keep flooding back and, as much as I try to keep things in perspective, I am saddened.

The holidays are a lonely time for a single parent, when all the focus is on ensuring the children feel loved and have something special under the tree. There is no one “special” in my life to shop for and plan with, and no one shopping for something special for me.

Instead, I got new brakes.

Last year at this time was sad, too, but I had a trip to the sunshine to look forward to — and, even if I didn’t know it at the time, life was about to get truly, spectacularly beautiful…for a period of approximately two months.

I desperately want to feel that hopeful again. I want to feel loving and loved, sweet and feminine, like the partnership part of my future is not so bleak as the present… because all in all, I have a rich and wonderful life.

So today I sent a text ending things with the fellow who really seemed to hope our few dates would turn into a relationship. He replied, “I really liked you.” And I wish I were capable of feeling something back. I just don’t feel sweetness or desire or… or anything for  him or anyone else I’ve met.

Amidst all of this malaise, I am aware that it is but a moment and that I will feel less bleak again soon. I know the best way out of it is to focus on myself and my family. I will hope again. But, in the meantime, I need to remember how to love my life, just as it is, again.

how I fell

It’s laughable, really, how quickly we can fall and for what reasons. I could give you a nearly endless list of the things I loved about my last boyfriend. But when a friend asked me a different question recently — how did you fall in love? — I thought back to those milestones in our courtship that brought me closer to him…things I’m sure he’d laugh at if he only knew:

  • One of his children is gay. It was one of the things I learned the first night we met, and I knew when he told me, the way he told me, that we shared certain values and perspectives on parenting.
  • I asked him what the worst job he’d ever had was. “Castrating hogs,” he said, and something inside me melted. Knowing he’d grown up in a rural community performing hard, gory work gave him a boy-next-door quality and made me feel familiar and comfortable around him. Despite his middle aged physical manifestation, I could clearly see him young and tan and shirtless, in work boots and jeans, a blade of grass dangling from his lopsided smile.
  • Once, very early in our relationship, I mentioned something about the college funds I’m saving for my children. He said, “You mean you don’t need me?” Swoon! “I didn’t say that,” I replied, “We just may want to postpone the nuptials until after the FAFSA forms are sent in.” And we laughed together.
  • I told him about the research facility at which a relative works and, before I could get into the details, he said, “Did you know they’re aiming a laser at the bottom of a mine looking for neutrinos?” Actually I did, but how many guys are smart nerdy enough to contribute that random fact into a conversation?!
  • Sledding.

Of course there was so much more, but I guess you can boil it down to my being a sucker for a liberal, compassionate, hard working, breadwinning, nerdy sort of guy who still likes to go sledding.

 

slogging through the grief

Grief weighs on me. When I finally lie down at the end of the day, my body feels leaden as it sinks deep into my mattress.

Sometimes it feels like a battering ram to the chest. I spend entire days struggling to catch my breath, yawning, wondering if my inability to breathe is physical or psychological.

I’d like to maintain that I’ve always had a healthy emotional range, experiencing the rich ups and downs of a life fully embraced. But the intensity of my emotions lately is such that I wonder if I’ve ever felt anything before. Unfortunately, these emotions have been predominantly negative, difficult and hard — a real slog. The rage, sadness and deep hurt have been overwhelming at times. I’ve spent entire days at my desk on the verge of sobbing convulsively, only to go home, get on the lake and wonder why on earth I’d been so emotional earlier.

Meanwhile, I think I’m managing the work reasonably well, but it’s difficult to ask for recognition when your emotional bandwidth and, possibly, self awareness has been reduced to a minimum.

I recognize all of this as grief, all part of the process. And I am feeling my way, wading through it, as I know there are no other options. Do I wish it were easier, shorter, over? Hell yeah! Do I hope processing through it heals me deeply, permanently? Yes.

A good friend is full of aphorisms about grief:

Grief doesn’t give credit for time served.

There is no way around grief; only through it.

Grief is cumulative.

My ex’s death, the end of my relationship with Lee, the more recent passing of my last living grandparent, a tough school year, a doubled workload…add it up. It’s been a lot. Overwhelming, even. Somedays I wonder how it is that I’ve kept going, kept on getting out of bed, running, showering, feeding myself and my children, going to work… I won’t claim to have been doing any of it well. Every so often, I have a good, strong moment… a period during which I clear some clutter or plan ahead instead of just getting through.

I’m a throw-everything-at-it kind of person:  I’m going to acupuncture, seeing my chiropractor, spending time with friends, confiding in colleagues, eating healthy, taking supplements, exercising, meditating, getting lots of rest…

It has, for the past week or so, gotten easier. My perspective is shifting. I hope that’s a lasting trend.

And, after all of this, I’m actually looking forward to the grief counseling that starts in a couple of weeks.

holding tension

My ex died of alcohol-related causes. Maybe it was his hemoglobin, maybe his heart stopped, could have been too much blood lost from internal bleeding. Doesn’t really matter; it’s not a mystery how he got there.

So now comes the work of contextualizing this for my children, ensuring they know they’re not alone in this experience, giving them a narrative and providing the resources they need to move forward. And the context part of it may be hardest of all to do…

For my children’s sake, I assert that their father died of a disease. Indeed, he was very sick. And yet, it is difficult not to also see that he was on a path, a path that appeared deliberate and premeditated. While on this path, he was given many opportunities to accept help, to leverage the multitude of resources available to him. He chose not to. When alcoholism  / addiction takes hold, what appear to be choices are not real choices. Addiction lies — and it took his life.

Thus, I must ensure my children do not go through what I went through:  believing that I somehow wasn’t enough, that their father continued to choose a bottle over me.

reeling

Just over a week ago, one of the former step kids called. I’d just shared our spring break itinerary via email, so I figured the call was about plans. Boy, was I wrong! My ex’s dead body had been found in his apartment.

Let me backtrack a bit… I’d known this moment was coming since around a year ago, when I’d had a bizarre exchange with my ex that left me questioning his sanity. I remember wondering if he had early-onset dementia. Since then, his health has declined steadily; my daughter once had to call 911 after a fall and the last time the children had spent a weekend with him, he was emaciated, weak and visibly unwell. He suffered ulcers, internal bleeding and dangerously low hemoglobin.

For as long as this moment was anticipated and for as long as we’d been apart, I was completely shattered. I had to gather, tell and comfort my children, and then start telling others. I think I thought the worst would be supporting my children through their grief. Wave after wave of staggering grief washed over me. I reached out to friends, allies and colleagues, and lashed out at Brad, who responded (like everyone else) with grace, compassion and concern.

Those first days of taking the children to school late, checking them in at the office, talking to the counselor, answering the door for flower and food deliveries, telling colleagues I was unavailable… are a blur. Breathing was a struggle. For mothers who’ve just given birth, it’s like those first days of feeling completely upside down — my body felt as though it had been hit by a train, I was extraordinarily exhausted but couldn’t get enough sleep, time stretched out and compressed like an accordion, and could be measured only in “before” and “after.” For surfers, it’s like being pearled — underwater, disoriented, finally figuring out which way is up but not being able to reach the surface or catch your breath.

After a day and a half of weeping, I woke up, vomited up the previous night’s dinner and discovered I’d gotten my period. At that point, I knew things could only get better.

I have never been so grateful for the outpouring of support and love from friends, family members, co-workers, colleagues, my boss, neighbors, ex-boyfriends and, yes, even new beaus. Mr. Meltsmyheart checked in every single day. Brad has been kind, too. In the past, when others I know have lost loved ones, I’ve always felt my words, hugs, cards were feeble expressions — they never seemed enough somehow. But now I understand how much those small expressions of sympathy can mean.

I am now really, truly a full-time single parent. Full stop. This is certain to further complicate my future relationship prospects.

What’s next? Well, there are school trips to plan for, shots and doctors appointments with which to carry on, orthodontia, sports… good heavens! When am I going to schedule counseling sessions for these little ones? And how do I ensure the story they tell about their father serves them?

All this and more are yet to come. But for now, I’m still reeling.

a right blessing

Forgive me for the double entendre, but I’ve swiped right on a couple of fellows who have become friends and I’m going to share a bit about one of the more unconventional of these…

We met for lunch one weekday when I was already fairly certain things with Brad were headed toward an actual relationship and, furthermore, I don’t get too excited about these first meetings anyway. We greeted one another, sat down, ordered curry and he immediately let me know he was married.

Which it did not say on his profile.

And quickly followed with how he was merely looking for friendships and had his wife’s permission to use the site, blah, blah, blah… I didn’t think much of it and wasn’t sure I’d see him again after lunch. But he was insistent I bring the children and join his family for a go-karting party one day. So we went and had fun. And then another lunch, followed by brunch with his family, afternoon trail runs, and so on.

He is from what we still refer to as a third-world country, as in there’s still not typically electricity on for 24 hours a day. And, while his family was prominent and lived well, he has made his home in the suburban midwest with a white wife and modest lifestyle. He has said many times that he was “sleepwalking through life” and wanted to meet vibrant people, substantial people, to help him learn how to live a more fulfilling life.

Like many men his age, he is a bonehead — smart and focused in his field, a reasonably good earner, and yet so, so dumb when it comes to happiness and fulfillment. He once texted me with a conundrum:  He had yard work to do, but his wife wanted to take the children to the apple orchard. I told him to listen to his wife, give her what she wanted and offer his presence to his children. The yard work could wait. Another time, over a glass of wine, he invited my family to lunch at their home adding, as an aside, that it was the day after his wedding anniversary. I asked him what he was doing to celebrate. He hadn’t thought about it. So I admonished him to make dinner plans, rent a hotel room downtown and send the children to their aunt’s for the night. It was as though he’d had a revelation! The lightbulb over his head went on and he exclaimed, “I would never think to do something like that! And my wife mentioned she’s always wanted to spend a night together in a hotel.” Then I admonished him again for not listening to his wife, as she’d already given him the road map, and told him I would not accept his lunch invitation for that day.

With nothing to lose in this strange new friendship, we are brutally honest with one another. My boundaries are firm and clear. I am full-on, unfiltered me. And he is wildly smitten in the most innocent of ways. He admires me, values me and wants the best for me. He appreciates when I chastise him and tell him to treat his wife and family as his primary priorities. His wife has even thanked me.

The other night, we Tindered together. That is, I resisted swiping out of boredom for a couple of days so that I could show him what’s out there. And it was fun to see how much more choosy he was for me than I am for myself (I figure it will net out in the conversation, if these fellows endeavor to start one.) He swiped left on anyone who wasn’t fit, good-looking and college educated. He swiped left on anyone from a certain college that wasn’t up to his standards. He swiped left on photos of children (as I do –a dating profile is where you state that you’re a parent, but don’t show pictures of kids). He approves of the software company CEO who “super liked” me, and wants him to have a jet, because I deserve it. In other words, I should probably be swiping right more selectively, as he does.

And, in any case, it’s wonderful to have someone who not only thinks I’m worthy of a great and generous love, but who also translates my relating of relationship needs and wants into ways to serve his wife and family. In this way, swiping right on him has been a tremendously rewarding blessing and it seems appropriate to express that gratitude this Thanksgiving.

May you all feel the joy of gratitude this weekend!

reflections on californication

Probably one of the factors involved in the emotional discord I felt over the holidays was binge-watching one of the most depressing television shows I can imagine:  Californication. I freely admit to being hopelessly behind the cool kids, as I’m not willing to pay for that much cable and am, therefore, relegated to catching up on Netflix. I was intrigued by this show because of my undying love for the X-Files’ Fox Mulder, because revelations about David Duchovny Why-Don’t-You-Love-Me’s personal life made me wonder whether this was life imitating art or vice versa, and because I’d heard it was funny.

Instead, I found it sad.

Certainly there were funny moments. I, too, fell in love with the captivating Karen, although I couldn’t imagine the soft spot in her heart for Hank would not have hardened over in a more resolute manner over more than 20 years of his refusal to behave like a grown man. Sure, he possessed a certain amount of chivalrous charm, but no woman’s gonna cling to that for two decades. It simply failed to suspend my disbelief, the most fundamental tenet of fiction. Perhaps that’s because the affable man-child reminded me so much of my ex and father of my children, whose juvenile behaviors have caused me no end of misery for the past couple of months (never mind the entire decade before that).

I was struck also by the similarities between his character and that of Mary Louise Parker in Weeds. Clearly she played the role with more depth, but they were two narcissists who could not seem to help themselves from making the same self-defeating decisions over and over again. My feelings for Duchovny now veer toward ambivalence, and I may have to revisit the X-Files to recapture the fondness I once felt for him — luckily for me, FOX just announced it has ordered six new episodes!

But my feelings for the entertainment industry and their persistence in creating an endless supply of drivel glorifying men who fail to self actualize (see also Mad Men, The Hangover series, etc.) are of frustration. Yes, I chose to watch this depressing and wretched series through to the end; I freely admit it. I consider it a bit of education in weeding out such types quickly in real life. But surely, there must be something interesting or entertaining about men who are faithful, loving, devoted, nurturing or mature — think of the characters in Parenthood, for example, or Downton Abbey… I’m sure there are more. These are fellows I’d be more likely to give my time — both on Netflix and in real life.