Buying into the idea that life begins all over again at forty...

Buying into the idea that life begins all over again at forty...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In the 4th grade...

You know what is great about the 4th grade?
In the 4th grade, you just look at a person, and see a person.

I arrived to read to my daughter's 4th grade class. As I walked in, I felt the gazes upon me and saw my daughter perk up and smile. I smiled at the class and said hello. That's when I heard:

"Woooow! Natalie looks JUST like her mom." (Then, echoes of agreements around the room.)

I felt instantly flattered, looking at my beautiful daughter who always wears a smile and has one of the most loving and cuddly personalities of anyone I have ever known.

Simultaneously, there was a twinge of wonder...did this bother my daughter? I remember that during my teen years, I didn't like being compared to my mom.

It is inevitable as her tween years are rapidly approaching--my daughter will also want to be her own person and will push away this kind of comment as she fights for her own independence. I am prepared for this time with my girl, but I am not looking forward to it.

I smiled and casually looked over at my sweet girl to see her reaction. And, she was beaming right back at me, apparently just as happy to hear the comment as I was. And my heart swelled a bit with the happy at that, I'll admit it.

I guess, in the 4th grade, you don't notice the extra few pounds your mom wishes weren't there. Or the wrinkles starting to crop up on her face. Or the hair that badly needs a cut and highlight. Or all the other things she often sees when she looks all too critically in the mirror each morning, as she realizes that time and her life is flying by entirely too quickly.

In the 4th grade, you only see the smile lines that you have too.

You see the same grin and same eyes. And, it makes you happy. Because that's your mom. That's your family. And, that's you.

In the 4th grade, you see her, and you see yourself.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hmm squared

Apparently, this is a day when Huey Lewis and Simple Minds make me happy inside. Who knew?

Do you know what does NOT make me happy inside?

The fact that I don’t have a clue what I’m doing when it comes to dating. I mean, seriously! I have no business being single and dating. None! While I personally think I'm all cool and so solidly a great catch--I have this feeling that really I’m a walking nightmare for all those who witness it (or, God forbid, have to interact with me in a romantic way).

Case in point--the newest guy that I was so certain was going to be that great dating experience?
Well, he turned out to have a zip-off head that reveals a douchy jerkface underneath whenever he decided to tug on the zipper pull. Unfortunately for me, he decided to pull a little too often for my patience level, so that potential door closed rather abruptly. Yeah, yeah, yeah...buh-bye to you, waste of a month-and-a-half that I can't get back.

Then, there’s the lurking online guy friend who took to calling me sweetheart, and checked on my every evening—consistently asking if I got to relax, sharing how much he enjoys my sense of humor, and so forth. Apparently, that enjoyment was not enough to extend any sort of social encounter, even on a friend level. What is UP with that, lurky?

Then, up pops a new date option! And through my online dating profile? Well, this IS a surprise!
Someone who has manners and actually ASKS me out. Acts interested in seeing me. Gasp! Sarcastically wonderful and witty texting and emailing ensues! A quick date invite is made! And, we meet and…

yeah…zero attraction for me there. Apparently, I do have some superficial limits to my date qualifications, mostly dealing with proper dental care. But, I get a lot of positive comments from this one, and I am certain he is super interested in me. I confide in a few that I don’t know how to tell him I feel no attraction when he calls for that second date. And… contact is made for a second date at all. Hmm squared.

So, I give up on you, MANkind! I have a lot of good books to read this summer, and a new gym membership to break in. I think I’ll just go ahead and cross the summer off and stop letting this drain my energy. Send available men my way maybe come September. No, make that October. September is apparently my break-up month, whereby I decide that the relationship isn’t close enough to make it through the holidays so I end it then. Yep…I’m 0 for 2 in September.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Off the tracks again....

It's a hard to explain, when your mind continues to whirl around things to the point that you can't stop it. I've come to understand this as an anxiety issue that I have. One that seems to have a thread of genetics behind it, but manifests itself differently among it's victims in my family. My sister realized she had an issue when she realized she impulsively counts things and keeps records in her head. (Medication.) When my son misses his anxiety meds, he does not sleep. And, I do mean, he DOES NOT SLEEP AT ALL. This translates into me not sleeping, which results in Extremely Grumpy Mom Syndrome--a condition for which no one should bare witness. 

And my anxiety manifestation? Well, my mind goes all over the place: 
  • Posting jokes and comments on social media. 
  • Recanting songs in my head. 
  • Looking up song lyrics and meanings online. 
  • Deciding what I am going to make for dinner for the next week. 
  • Wondering if the third date with the seemingly perfect new guy will reveal any warts. 
  • Wondering what this friend up to. 
  • Considering if I should email this other friend. 
  • Thinking I should probably do some work. 
  • Wondering what's on TV.

Each individual thought isn't that odd, really. But, when you cram those into a 5-minute period? Well, after awhile you start realizing that you have a problem.

I am on too much other medication for health issues that trump this one, to take ANY MORE MEDICATION. So, I long ago decided that this is an issue that I must manage. Dropping my blog writing seems to be a bad thing, as rambling on the internet is a convenient vehicle for my anxiety train when it leaps the track. So, I'm back to ramble, lucky readers. Toot! Toot!

Sometimes my anxiety comes in a wave of fixating on some really random and meaningless piece of crap. I try to hide this a lot of the time. You know, so people aren't able to immediately jump to the conclusion that I'm completely nuts? But, there are times when the fixating sort of "leaks" out where others can see it.

Such was the case recently at a conference for my profession. I didn't even realize I'd been doing it again, until a fairly new work acquaintance that I'd hit it off with bluntly told me, "Look if you don't go and get a glass of wine from that bar soon, I'm going to need one myself." I looked at her quizzically, and she informed me that I'd been talking about getting wine almost nonstop for the past hour.

Really? I thought. You mean, that conversation wasn't just in my head? Embarrassed, I laughed and made a typical self-deprecating joke, and immediately bee-lined for the ATM to get cash for the wine bar. I got my wine. And then I had another. 

Sometimes anxiety fixations can come in handy, especially when I have bursts of determination to do something, such as putting my daughter's broken bed frame back together again. After a year in my garage, I had it back together in a few hours and was feeling like the king of the world. And my daughter celebrated with me. Way to go, Mom! What she did not realize is that had we been in the path of a deadly tornado during those few hours? I am not certain I'd have been unable to stop working on the bed frame and take cover. 

I can work the hell out of a puzzle when I'm in these modes. And, that's the darn truth.

I share this for no other reason than to unload some anxiety that apparently was in there, percolating away. You are quite welcome.

Monday, April 22, 2013

This is my place

It's been bubbling up again. The need to write. I've known it for some time. So, I've started reading blogs again, finding that kinship with fellow writers. 

I'd forgotten how reading someone else's words can bring such comfort. It makes one realize that many of us walk a similar path to one another, and the world seems a little less lonely.

I'm finding myself being reminded lately, that life moves and mends itself along the way. Ironically, my life stayed unchanged for so long, when it needed to have change so desperately. After the divorce, life seemed to never stop changing--in both good ways and bad: 
  • Finding my way back to my career and establishing/earning work confidence again. 
  • Learning how to be alone and how to let go of my kids when they are with their father. 
  • Helping others struggling through the pain of divorce and finding great meaning in that for my own growth.
  • Finding confidence in dating and meeting people online and understanding developing patience in that strange process.
  • Taking the time to enjoy things I never did before, like a long stretch when you first wake in the morning, the sound of birds chirping in my backyard as I sip my morning coffee, finding connection with people in new and interesting ways.
Yes, I'm settling out again now--realizing that God has a plan for me that will be revealed in His due time. And, trying to learn from my experiences--to just breathe and take in the place in which I find myself this week.

Watching my children grow and change with every breath and trying to celebrate that, rather than mourn the ever-loving speed at which it seems to happen. 

This is my current state. 

It certainly took some time for me to get back here again.

Mostly, I'm grateful for every single moment and person that has taken me to this place.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Online dating in your 40s? "Uhh....merp!"

One of the great things about coming to the place that I am with my "singleness," almost three years post divorce, is that I've figured out that I am actually content and happy with my life just as it is. Along with this realization, comes a calmness that I have not yet felt before. Honestly, I haven't felt that calm feeling most of my adult life, if I were to think about it.

When you're busy having your children, you're too tired to self-reflect or feel anything other than exhausted and blissful at times, and overwhelmed at others. Watching a 20-year relationship crumble over the course of a few years and owning that failure also makes it impossible to reach calm contentment.

But, at long last, I am here. Life is pretty good. I can spend my weekends completely alone, and not fall into "the lonely funk." With that said, I also often fill my kid-free time with friends and fun, and that's great too.

So, it seemed really the ideal time to jump back into trying to date. My last relationship had ended about six months prior, and I took the time to just "be" for awhile. I truly did not want to date over that time at all. And, now, suddenly, I realized that I was ready to get back out there.

Diving into a free online dating site was necessary, because I was trying to keep focus on the financial strides that I've made in learning how to budget for myself. And, I'd had many friends try one particular site with fairly good luck. So, why not? Right?

What I have learned from this past month is that free online dating sites are a wacky, weird place. Scary at times even. And, you have to be smart, as a woman out there. Online dating "street" smarts develop quickly, fortunately.

My first batch of online messages that came in on the site were peppered with the cheesy lines that I expected. "Hey, sexy thang..." and "Your eyes speak to me" were among the eye roll inducing messages that I got, and to which I never replied. I am sorry, but I am not interested in a quick hookup, and the fastest way to make me delete your messages is with a cheesy line. Right now, my favorite profile summary line that I've seen simply contained the word, "Merp."

Yes, "merp" summarizes online dating and meeting people blindly for me. It's very "merpish." (Go look it up on Urban Dictionary if you aren't up on this term.)

But, what I did not expect from the early messages were the large percentage of ones from very young men--some of which looked not much older than my own 13-year-old son. Some tried to fake being older, with profiles saying they were 38, when clearly they were maybe 22 at best. Others were very direct with their requests,"I'm into older women. Do you like younger guys?" At first, it was funny. After getting a huge amount of these, I actually became somewhat disturbed.

So, there was that eye-opening bit of loveliness. As a mother of a teen son, I am now educated about this world and I can have a very frank discussion with my son about what NOT to do online.

But, also? Having dated someone seven years younger than me right after divorce, I learned some things about about younger men and have some certainty that, for the most part, I am not interested in going that much younger than 40 for a potential date/future partner. Falling for someone who doesn't yet know who they are or where they want to be in life, can be a painful experience, when you are are in a different place in your life.

But, what do the 40s bring to the table in terms of potential dates?

Well, it turns out they bring a whole lot of baggage. Baggage of every shape and size, in every possible pattern and color. Pardon my crassness when I say, holy HELL, is dating in the 40s complicated!

First, there are the flakes.. I have had more great conversations with guys over the dating site, to then have them just disappear randomly. Guys make a great joke or tell you how great you are, then just completely vanish. After speaking with a single guy friend of mine, I know that this phenomenon isn't just a man thing. Women are equally flaky and do the same thing, apparently.

I have to wonder if there is a bit of the "Seinfeld syndrome" going on out there, in single and 40's dating-land. I was huge fan of this show, but now that I am single, I almost think buying the box set and going back and watching each episode would be very eye-opening with my new perspective on life as a single. One thing that I do remember was that the characters on this show were all single, and each seemed to find something wrong with every person they tried to date.

I have to watch my own self with this as well:
"Well, he seems nice, but he keeps misspelling 'too' and 'to.' Can I, as a writer, really date this person?"

"Seriously, he has a bathroom mirror smart phone photo on his profile? I can't work with that."

"Shirtless photo? Um, no." (Same for the Ed Hardy tee, dude.)
I really am not that critical of a person, and I have said these things. But, the problem with online dating is that you are bombarded with a ton of profiles. How else do you single out the ones you are interested in, if you do not become somewhat critical and choosy?"

I have also learned the importance of a phone call before you meet someone. However,  you have to hold off on giving out your number too soon as well, to weed out the "playas." In fact, one of my errands today will be to buy a cheap prepaid phone, to avoid that whole dilemma in the future.

The worst part of it all, is never knowing if you're playing the online dating game with the right set of rules. There are so many different opinions out there. Case in point:
  • Women should play hard to get, as men like a challenge and you will weed out the time wasters if you do. After all, if he really likes you, he will pursue you.
  • You need to be approachable, because men can't tell if you are interested otherwise. Be friendly and interested, always. Remember you are competing with some really desperate/man-chasing types, so you have to give the guy SOME hint that you are interested.
As someone who never dated much during my younger life, all of this can make my brain bubble. I am only certain of one thing--that I have NO FREAKING CLUE what I am doing out there.

I have other stories that I could tell on this online dating experience, and I probably will share more soon. But, for now, I can say that my heart does go out to anyone who finds themselves older, single, and trying to "mingle." Because it is a weird world out there.

I realized that, the best I can hope for, is to rely on my solid gut instinct and hope that God continues to watch over me as I commute on the online dating freeways. There are bound to be some jams and frustrating detours along the way. Some times where I just laugh at the absurdity of it all. Most of all, I have to focus on the thankfulness that I feel to be in a place emotionally where I can now roll with things and see where they take me--without fear of ending up stranded in a ditch and down.

So, bring it, single guys. Let me see that baggage and see if it mixes with my own!

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Just enough to get through...

I awoke with a start from a very solid dead man's kind of sleep. It was the type of waking where you realize you've just heard something significant and it jars you to an upright position right then and there. I swear, I'd distinctly heard my son calling "Mom! Mom!" Thirteen years of being someone's mother and you recognize these things.

There was one problem with this. My son was not at my home. He was at his father's with his sister for their 5-day stint as part of our split-custody arrangement.

I instantly felt the familiar and strong pangs of a mother who misses her children. I really thought that this would get easier by now. 

It has not.

After a quick search for the noise source, I determined it was not the cat, who seemed highly annoyed that I'd awoken him from his peaceful sleep curled up in my closet on some dirty laundry. "Well, excuse me," I thought, as I was even more confused by the noise for which I could clearly find no explanation. 

I wanted to call to their Dad's house, but my son has lost his cell phone and his father believes we shouldn't contact the kids while at each other's homes unless it is urgent. I have respected this to try and keep the peace.

But, I was fully awake then--thinking about how much this transition has both lifted and weighed on me, changing who I am so significantly. 

While I had never regretted or questioned our decision to divorce, the fact of the matter is that I will never get used to not seeing my children every single day. I don't know that I understand mothers who can walk away from their children without batting an eye. Truly. I strive to not be a judgmental person, but that is one action of which I find myself unable to put the shoe on the other foot.

I wonder if my ex-husband feels the difference? Anytime I have confided in him that this is hard and I miss them, he immediately comes back with the "of course, he does too" comments. He has gone from working full-time and seeing the children in the evenings and weekends, to our five-day-on/five-day-off. But, he quickly managed to squeeze in a second marriage and wife less than a year after our divorce was final. So, his attentions immediately found a place on which to fall without any significant time during which to linger. 

While I haven't been dateless, most of my time I have spent alone--meditating, thinking, realizing, growing, sometimes crying, finding contentment, and hopefully learning what must be learned from our failure. Of course, this is all my skewed perspective, I realize. I am sure he misses them too.

I feel bad for saying it, but there are times I selfishly pray that he'll get consumed with his new wife so much that he agrees to change our custody to something different. Because it feels like a part of me has been ripped away. I don't know how to heal this. Clearly, I know my children need both of us, and I know the decision we made was best for them. But, it doesn't mean I have to like it or that it will get easier for me. And, maybe it isn't supposed to, actually.

While getting ready, I missed a call on my phone. Noticing the voice mail notification, I quickly logged on. The number was one I didn't recognize and the message was clearly an accidental dial. What played back was the sound of my ex-husband and his new wife. Her flatly telling the kids to get this and that together for school. Him explaining to her his plans for the day. 

That's when I heard it. 

The giggle. 

I listened as my daughter's unmistakable giggle continued and I heard her talking to her step mother's cat. She loves animals so much. My daughter walks around cuddling the world around her whenever possible, and I feel so lucky to be one of her recipients. I continued to listen to her little voice playing with the cat, then heard my son come and talk to her and laugh with her. 

Honestly, it was felt like medicine for my aching heart, hearing their little voices. That's the only way I can describe it.

Sometimes God brings us little miracles. In all of the mess that was my past few years, I have learned to cling to those small gems as they come along. I recognize that they are few and far between, but they are there to help us get through. I believe that with all of my heart.