My feelings are my own. I generate my feelings by the thoughts I think. It’s my job to master my mind to spend more time thinking quality thoughts, the ones that generate the sort of feelings I wish to feel.
Anyone who’s embarked on a self-help journey has taken in the above in some form, whether it’s described as being responsible for your feelings, becoming an emotional adult or some variation of “no one can make you feel bad without your permission.”
But there’s a difference between knowing this and living it. And for me, that difference was a lengthy journey, some of which you’ve read about if you’re a reader of this blog. To summarize:
About five and a half years ago, I fell too hard, too fast, amidst traumatic circumstances, for someone who was in no place to relationship. And I wasn’t in the best place either. Our connection felt a certain kind of way that I hadn’t experienced before, and haven’t yet again. It was a relationship that made an imprint.
It took me a long time to get over it and move on. And then, even when I had, it came back from time to time.
Even when I entered another positive long-term committed relationship, I didn’t feel that way. Until I decided: he hadn’t made me feel that way; I felt that way. And even if I didn’t want to feel the exact same way, because different relationship, I could still choose to feel closeness, intimacy, support, warmth, love, etc.
And I did. I loved my man. Somewhere, sometime several months back, I released the emotional charge of that previous relationship’s imprint and let it float away into the ether. In so doing, I gave myself a fuller, deeper permission to commit to the now.
I have no explanation for why this was so difficult for me or why it took so long. But one day, it just shifted. And the pain / grief / hope / loss / wishing / yearning, however faded it had all become, was just another something that happened that I carry with me in my memory and makes me part of whom I am today.
I feel more integrated, more grace, more resolved… maybe it’s the constant self-work binge I’ve been on since last autumn.
I eagerly brought this new fullness, this new readiness to meet my current long-distance love in a place of commitment and openness to future planning. I made energetic offerings to him, hoping he would embrace me in the energetic nuances of my evolution. And it lasted a comically short time before he blew it up.
There’s much more to the story, but I will leave it here for now. I am at peace with this completion.
I dreamt about Lee the other night. After all this time, we were going to get together for a glass of wine. And then something happened and we didn’t. I think I woke up trying to reschedule and then slowly realized it wasn’t real.
Sometimes I think he visits here. And sometimes I’m sure he doesn’t. I was so certain he’d come back into my life, but without any evidence or reason to believe.
For a long time, I checked out bald dudes. I started listening to Country music (you can check out my playlist on Spotify). I dug deep into how to communicate better in relationships. I stopped eating gluten and dairy. I’ve learned to more authentically stand in my truth. I have a rescue dog (that’s supposed to be my daughter’s).
I’m also in a relationship with a kind and loving man. It’s been more than two years now. We moved in after a year. Then he got a job out of state. We thought we’d make it a pretty balanced situation, where he’d be home two or three weeks a month. But it hasn’t worked out that way. And, in those times of distance and (not gonna lie) a bit of resentment, we’ve argued — and thoughts about how happy I’d been in relationship with Lee snuck in.
It’s indefensible, I know. It’s not fair to compare people — and, if it is, my current guy has several different legs up on Lee. But our relationship doesn’t have that same level of ease; we have to work on it. And sometimes I crave the harmony and stronger political alignment I shared with Lee.
I’ve tried to put my finger on what it was about that relationship that seemed so right. After all, I still had my own stuff — I struggled with some anxiety, I was on the verge of descending into consuming grief — but I liked myself and who I was in our relationship. I liked that I wanted to be my best self and was actively taking steps that ultimately resulted in a promotion at work and feeling pretty fit. I liked how natural we felt, as though our souls had known each other before. I felt authentic in how I was navigating the world. My personal momentum was toward the positive.
These days, I regularly feel angry and lethargic. Being positive seems to take extraordinary effort. And rather than casting about, trying to assign blame to a stressful situation at work or a normal, mostly positive relationship, I sometimes find myself wondering what life might be like if I were navigating it with Lee.
Deep down, I know the relationship we had wasn’t real, even as it felt more so than most. Let me clarify: the connection was real, the love was genuine. But our relationship didn’t have time to become real because we never got bored, never watched television together, never learned how to negotiate conflict with one another, were never tested. And this occasional fantasy can’t match a man who wants to create a life with me, even if his vision for our future makes me consider possibilities that are different from what I would have chosen for myself.
And there’s another possibility that plays into this malaise: What if my current mental state is simply a side effect of the outrage fatigue so many women I know are feeling… since right around January, 2017, and more so since the Kavanaugh confirmation fiasco (during which a series of ancient, shriveled white men demonstrated how little they value women, and a female senator from Maine rapturously sang the praises of an abusive drunk as though he was lapping at her labia even while she spoke).
I keep thinking I’ll be happier, calmer, better able to look forward after the next election… provided it’s free and fair, and hatred is defeated.
I keep meaning to write — really, I do… And then I go into a funk because it’s rained for like six days straight and I might lose my ever-loving mind if we don’t get some sunshine and a high pressure system soon.
So here’s what’s going on (as might relate to this blog): not much.
Meaning: my life is busy and full, as usual. I enjoy time with my girlfriends and family, spend a bit of time at sporting or other school events with my children and occasionally do some work around the house. Or pay someone to.
This last weekend, I clicked through a link in my Facebook feed and found myself answering some questions and ultimately realized I was in the process of completing a profile on a dating site. Momentary freakout… because as excited as I can get for the vision of my partnered / mated life, as good as that feels to imagine / remember how amazing love can be, I still can’t seem to get myself excited about the prospect of online dating. It just feels like so much work! Still I hit “submit.” And I was fine. The world didn’t come crashing to a halt… nor did the heavens open and angels sing.
The next day, I happened to be in a place where there was a psychic. Okay, I drove to a place because I heard good things about a certain psychic. So I sat down for a few minutes and found myself becoming quite emotional as I asked about this “other half” I’m eager to meet and share my life with. The psychic looked at me with my teary eyes and said, “You need to focus on your own happiness right now.” And this was my exact in-that-moment thought:
It’s not that I’m unhappy; I’m just really sad.
Because, unlike what we’re taught when we’re growing up, happy and sad are not polar opposites; they are not mutually exclusive. I’m living proof that it is entirely possible to be happy and content with life, and to be sad that there’s one part that feels … well, frankly… cursed.
The psychic said of my experience with Lee: “That experience had a purpose — it was to give you a glimpse of how great love can be.”
To which my response is: “F&$# that! I didn’t need a trial run or a dress rehearsal; I was ready for the real thing…and for it to last.” He also assured me that it was very real — for Lee, as well. And that he got scared. Which was like, DUH.
(All of which should probably make me question whether said psychic is really psychic, because it was approximately as informative and “true” as a daily horoscope. But some days I take comfort where I can find it.)
At any rate, the next day I checked my new dating app, read a few messages, looked at the potential matches within my parameters (scant) and, then, I unceremoniously deleted my profile. Because even though I’m pretty happy most of the time, I wouldn’t say I’m feeling vibrant, in love with life or excited at the prospect of meeting new men.
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.
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.
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.
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?!
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.
I’ve always been a monogamist. Sure, while dating online, I’ve gone out and met a series of guys around the same time…maybe even had a few dates with several different men. But then it always seemed to become clear which one I was going to date, even if only for a bit, even before any of them asked me to be exclusive.
For that reason, it’s always been a little bit difficult to watch those Bachelorette scenes in which she talks about how much she’s looking forward to going out with (let’s say) Randy, getting to know him better, feeling the chemistry, etc. And then, not 20 minutes later (even though it’s probably a whole 24 hours in real life), she’s expressing nearly the exact same thing about Dave. And there are several guys who she thinks are great guys and she can’t wait to get to know them all better. (We, the viewers, can clearly see otherwise, so the trick is to attempt to suspend disbelief.)
At this moment in life, I’m still getting over heartache. And I know the best way to move forward and get over it is to date. So I’m taking The Bachelorette approach. I’m super clear to everyone I meet that I’ve been through some difficult stuff over the past year, that I’m mostly over it, and that I want to take my time and get to know them slowly. And I’m not going to let myself get pulled in any one direction too quickly.
I have met several guys and I am nearly in the same place I was about a year ago (except then I was getting over the ego wound I called Brad, rather than genuine heartache) — I’m going in fairly indifferent, no expectations, working to keep a positive outlook. I find it my best default position. I’ve had some really fun dates — and with some guys I am genuinely excited to meet again: there’s the East Coast Jewish guy, the local Irish Catholic (even with the stereotypical O’lastname), the traveling salesman who’s good for a fun dinner out every few weeks. All are so very different, and yet I’ve found a certain comfort and connection with each. No Lees in the bunch — yes, I still compare them all to him, but I didn’t feel what I felt for Lee until our fifth date — and our fifth date was a five-day trip!
Whether there’s a keeper among them is TBD, but there might be one among them who will finally help me get over that last guy for once and for all!
I’m paraphrasing here, but I heard a sentiment today on a podcast that said something like, “death gives structure to our lives.” I wrote it down on a slip of paper, tore it off the pad and shoved it into my pocket as I left the office earlier.
Here’s why it stuck with me and I was compelled to bring it up: To optimize choice, it’s suggested (based on computer algorithms) that we consider 37 percent of our options and then chose the next best option we come across. You can apply this to searching for a mate, a restaurant for dinner, a house…
But I’m in my mid forties. My life is, ostensibly, half over. And, as I shared with my children the other day, I am driven by fear. Meaning: I am not driven by fear of water, fear of heights, fear of sharks, fear of injury… Nay, I am driven by fear of not experiencing all I want to experience while I am still physically able and alive. But, in truth, it is less fear than lust for life; I have already experienced so much more than many around me: I have water skied, slalomed, knee boarded and tubed behind a boat; I have yet to wakeboard. I have paddle boarded and surfed in the ocean. I have also downhill skied, hiked, biked, learned karate, run, skated, tried and enjoyed many flavors and textures of food and drink… I have traveled, but not everywhere or even to every continent. In short, I am somewhat driven to experience as much as humanly possible.
Why call it fear? Mostly to contrast a “healthier” fear to one of my children’s sometimes limiting fear of heights.
By the same token, I am not afraid of living / spending my life alone. My desire for partnership is stronger than my fear of embarking on another round of online dating. If there is fear in my quest for partnership, it is only the fear of not giving my children what I believe so strongly they deserve: a loving and healthy relationship model.
So these are the thoughts in my head as we embark on vacation number two for the year… I will embrace adventure for myself and for them, I will use my vacation time, and we will all get on an airplane no less than three times a year to explore all the wonderful places to see, meet all the people there are to meet and thrust ourselves into the world with abandon.
And then, when we come back, I will brave yet another round of online dating and see if I might be able to apply this 37 percent algorithm somehow. You’ll be the first to know!