Dating Again or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Myself

Now that I’ve introduced the man that changed my views on relationships, and more significantly love, I am so looking forward to telling you more about him and us. HOWEVER, before I get to any of that I first want to get practical in this post. I want to discuss the topic of dating after divorce. For anyone that knows me it was a huge deal, and NOT an easy decision, for me to even consider dating before the divorce was final. But sometimes you can’t pass up the unbelievable opportunities life throws at you. And it was time for me to take a risk.

As I’ve mentioned plenty of times before I went through an intense time of counseling, self evaluating and support group therapy during my separation. I say this again because it was the best thing I could have done for EVERYONE I was currently in relationships with (meaning friends and family) and ANYONE I would someday be in relationship with (potentially a significant other?). It was the time I took to know myself, especially in the areas of what I was doing that was harming to relationships. Relying on the other person to meet my emotional needs, for instance. Making the other person feel suffocated because of my insecurities that he would rather spend his time with anyone other than me, for another instance. Yup! I was that person! And I hated those traits about myself. So I made up my mind not to get involved with anyone else until I’d dealt with my issues.

Please know I realize I have an incredibly LONG list of issues just like any person willing to realistically evaluate them-self realizes. I did not by any means expect to be issue-free before getting into another relationship. I did however expect that I would have the particular issues mentioned above (with a few more added) at least figured out and replace with realistic expectations and appropriate responses. In hindsight, the hole in this plan was that once I thought I had them figured out I’d have to test them in a relationship since that was were they reared their ugly head to begin with. But that was neither here nor there in my thinking while I was dealing with them. I was  not interested in casually dating, nor was I ready to open myself up to the fears I had about dating again.

Fears like:

  • I haven’t flirted with a new man in 13+ years! What if I don’t know what to say? Or how to act? What if I’m a total dork now?!
  • Most of the men available are either too young, wouldn’t want to date a mother of three, are my age and have never been married which of course means they have commitment issues (I know that is not entirely true, but I thought it anyway), OR have themselves been divorced and could very well, most probably, have their own set of issues they haven’t yet dealt with.
  • What if I date someone for the wrong reason? Like security (a.k.a. he has money)? Or shared Faith (been there done that)? Or looks (but lacking personality)?
  • What if I can’t find someone that will be a good match for me? Surely someone as cool as I’d like him to be would not want to be with me! (There is that ugly insecurity monster again).
  • What if I think he’s great until we’re married and living together and I find out he’s wrong for me (like my first go around)?

Is it any wonder then that I focused instead on being happy as a single person? In a way you could say I dated myself. It removed the pressure of needing to find a perfect replacement for the relationship I’d lost. It gave me the time I needed to grieve all the dreams I had for my marriage that would never come to fruition. It allowed me to learn how to meet my own emotional needs. It gave me the chance to develop stronger friendships with people in my life. I got to a place where I knew I could be single for as long as it took and I would be okay. Let me tell you it is an incredibly liberating place to be. No longer was I dependent on another to make me happy, or to make me feel valued. I knew I was valuable no matter what anyone else thought.

That’s why when Tall Blonde finally walked up to my table at the coffee shop, I was able to have one of the best 15 min conversations I’d had with a man in maybe my life time. There was no pressure. Sure there was some anxiety because he was super cute with that smile and those dimples. And he was intellectually smart and engaging. And he made me laugh with an ease that is hard to come by in a first meeting. But there was no fear of what he thought about me. I had the attitude that if he didn’t like me that was fine. If he did then cool, we can be friends. It was exciting. It felt more like an adventure than a mission to be accomplished. And that alone was enough for me.

Mondays

Many times this week I’ve sat down to write and for one reason or another I haven’t been able. Whether it be the distracting siren call of Facebook (or more embarrassingly to admit the Bingo game on Facebook that I got sucked into), or the brain numbness that comes from being a mom of three with two jobs, or… countless other things, I have not gotten more than a few words written. Tonight however, I plan on changing that. (See? I’ve already got more than a few words written. Yay me!)

In my last post I wrote about a chance encounter that would later change my life. I promised I’d tell you more so naturally…

A few months after that day, I started spending Monday mornings in the same local coffee shop. My very progressive thinking and awesome boss allowed me to work from there since he wasn’t scheduled to go into the office until noon. So I used the uninterrupted time to look at the week ahead and plan. Not long into my Monday routine I started making acquaintances with a group of locals who gathered every morning to drink their coffee and shoot the breeze. I love the small town vibe you get from frequenting a place often and getting to know it’s regular patrons. Especially an establishment owned by a private business owner who is also a local. Needless to say I loved this place and Mondays were quickly becoming one of my favorite days of the week.

During my Monday visits to the coffee shop I again noticed the tall blonde and his friend “Red”. They would come in fairly regularly. They would get their coffee, chat with the Barista (they seemed to know them all) and leave.  I had a curiosity about them, but that was nothing unusual for me as I have a curiosity about most everyone. This went on for months. It was during these months that I was going through the final separation with my husband. I knew this was the end and I had already begun the healing process I’ve discussed in earlier posts. It’s amazing how in retrospect things look a lot shorter in time than they actually were.

It had probably been a year and a half from my first encounter with the coffee shop duo when one day they walked in and Tall Blonde had cut his hair! It had been past his shoulders and now it was just below his ears. This is significant in that it looked REALLY good and I wanted to tell him so, but I hadn’t developed any rapport with him and therefore kept my mouth shut…again! Also significant was the shift that occurred in my brain. No longer was I just causally noticing them as a pair but now I was checking one of them out and the intensity of my curious nature was heightened.

There have been many instances in my life when if I thought of something enough it  happened. I imagined several times that he would come over and talk to me one Monday. Or at least wave to me in acknowledgement since I know he saw me sitting at my laptop every week. But he didn’t do either. So when I saw him out of context one night at Walmart (of all places), I was caught off guard and waved to him. He was on the phone in the produce section and I was at the express check out. He waved back at me. Then I left…quickly.

I was sure he would talk to me the following Monday. I anticipated it all morning, but when the time came for me to head to the office there had still been no sign of Tall Blonde or Red. The same thing happened the next Monday. By the third Monday I was surprised when I actually saw them standing outside so Red could finish his cigarette. As they walked in I quickly looked down at my computer as if I hadn’t noticed them at all. I didn’t want to look desperate. In fact I was not interested in dating AT ALL. I was just curious and I wanted to appease that curiosity. Regardless, when he left without so much as a nod in my direction I felt let down, deflated, disappointed. I talked my self out of the momentary slump and went back to work.

Fifteen minutes later, right after I answered my phone for a work call, he walked back in with a copy of Independent Weekly under his arm as if he intended to sit and read a while. He didn’t stop at any of the open tables though. Instead he walked straight over to mine. I was of course still on the phone (awkward moment) but I motioned for him to sit and as politely as I could I ended the call I was on. I looked at him.

He asked, “Didn’t I see you in Walmart a couple of weeks ago?”

I replied, “Yes, that was me.”

And that is how the rest of the story begins.

Tall, Pale and Coffee

Every time I sit down to write there is a story I want to tell. I keep putting it off though. I think my hesitancy is mostly due to my administrative tendencies which dictate the necessity for a chronological order of events. BUT this whole blog is about breaking out of my box, so….tonight I will write about HIM. (Yay! Woo Hoo! Hip Hip Horay! Woot Woot!) However, in the telling of this story I will be as chronological as possible. (Isn’t it great that the second part of that word is LOGICAL. I just love that <3). Which means I will start with the first time I noticed him.

I had just gotten a new job (which was an amazing fit for me) and thanks to my new schedule I had off on Fridays. That statement alone should tell you how awesome this job was. It was the summer of 2009. I was “happily” married at the time as it was during the period my husband and I were the closest. So naturally I decided to go to the local coffee shop and journal for a while since I had an entire day to myself (I mean, what else was a girl to do? Shop? Oh don’t worry, I made sure that was in the plans for later that day. Clean? Really? I don’t think so.) That’s what I was doing when HE walked in the coffee shop with his friend. I noticed him for two reasons. The first was his appearance. He was tall and thin. He also had REALLY long blond hair. His friend on the other hand was not as tall, was stockier and had short red hair. The contrast alone was enough for them to stand out to me. The second occurred after he and his friend ordered their drinks and sat down at a table close to mine.

I was intently paying attention to my writing when I overheard a part of their conversation. They were discussing a video they were working on. I didn’t know if it was for work or a personal project but it got my attention because I was learning quite a bit about the processes of video making for the use of  promotion at my new job. It was all so new to me and I was so eager to learn that I barely stopped myself from turning around and asking them all about their project. Something held me back though. Mostly my fear of what other’s thought of me I’m sure. Instead I just eavesdropped until they left.

That was it. That was the first time I saw the man that would later change my life in a way I never expected. If my life was a book that moment would have definitely been foreshadowing. But its not and it happened that way regardless. I love how life works.

Of course there’s more to the story of him and me, but for now he was just the guy at the coffee shop. Want to know more? Good, cause I plan on telling you. Just not tonight. (Wink)

When I Grow Up

We’ve all either been asked or have asked the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Its adorable to hear a 3 year old say a firefighter. Its ambitious when a 6 year old says a professional skateboarder and encouraging when a 12 year old says an architect. It’s highly acceptable when an 18 year old says a doctor. But what about when a 38 year old says “I don’t know”?

I would of course be talking about myself, and I’m sure countless others. As far back as I can remember there hasn’t just been one thing I wanted to be when I grew up. I definitely went through stages starting with a ballerina at about 5 years of age to an astronaut, an author, an anthropologist, a dolphin trainer/oceanographer and finally a psychologist which is what I was on when I graduated high school. So naturally I went to school for Psychology. Hey, it was better than being undeclared. I was SURE that I wanted to be a guidance counselor. That was of course until I graduated and lost the motivation to continue accruing debt by furthering my education. So I did the next best thing: I became a social worker.

I now know that this was not the wisest career choice for me. To be completely honest, the word career never stirred anything in me the way I see it does for others. I couldn’t see myself climbing a ladder to the top of whatever industry I landed on. The drive just wasn’t there. The drive was instead directed at starting a family, which of course begins with finding Mr. Right. (WHY O WHY?!!)

So began my career of stay-at-home mom. It is an amazing career to have and an extremely difficult one. I spent every minute of  every day trying  NOT to ruin my children for the rest of their lives while still trying to be a good wife. It may have been the most exhausting job I’ve had to date. And the one with the least appreciation shown for the work I did. (I think that had more to do with the Mr. Right that wasn’t right for me than anything else, but…) Somehow in the mix of it all I lost my sense of self. The only things I knew about myself were I loved read (perhaps mostly as an escape) and go Latin dancing (a side effect of marrying a Dominican). I was pretty good at both. Add to that an increase to the amount of journaling (which is apparently not a word) I did as a release.

Thanks to those journals I’m able to look back at the horrible state I was in. I truly loved that I was able to be home with my boys, raising them the way I thought was best, but I wasn’t taking care of myself in the process. I was too worried with what other people thought about me than what I thought about myself. Forget what I thought (as in there was no thought) about who I was as an individual in the midst of the life that was happening around me. Wife and mother of 3 who likes to read and dance does not describe ones identity now does it? It’s more of a description found in a personal ad. (Do they even have personal ads in the paper anymore? Does anyone READ a paper anymore?)

What does any of this have to do with what you want to be when you grow up?

I’m glad you asked (even if the “you” I’m referring to is the voice in my head). I say all this to develop a sense of how someone my age can still not know what they want to do. Sometimes life happens and you get pulled by it rather than steering it in the direction you want to go. And once you miss your turn to “Fulfilling Future-land” it can get discouraging retracing your steps to find the correct turn-off again. BUT it’s worth the trip back to get to where you were intended to be in the first place. I can say this with confidence because I am on my way back and getting closer to my destination. And this time I’m steering. It’s as if everything that has happened to me in the last several years has been my about-face. I’ve learned some critical things about myself that are key in determining what I want to be. I know that I love to serve others and that I’m good at it. I know I don’t have to be at the top of the ladder to be fulfilled, and I don’t have to feel bad about that. My best job so far has been as an Administrative Assistant. I woke up actually looking forward to going to work and feeling like I did my best and that my best was appreciated everyday when I left.

So does that mean I want to be an AA when I grow up? Perhaps. If it’s for the right individual/company. There is one other avenue to consider however. What I didn’t mention about my time in college is that I was just shy of having enough credits for a minor in English. Take that, my passion for the written word, the fact that I wanted to be an author as a young person, and my many years of journaling and there may be another path to be taken. It’s at least worth some thought. I wonder if it can all work together somehow. No matter what I’m excited to find out what I’ll finally be when I grow up!

Hey Girlfriend(s)!

Throughout my life there have been many obstacles and situations I’m convinced I wouldn’t have gotten through without the help of my friends. When I was in High School and my parents were going through their divorce, I spent a LOT of time with my two BFF’s. I’m sure their parents alternately thought they had acquired another daughter somewhere along the way. I even went on family vacations with their families! We did everything together. (Especially of the things-I-wouldn’t-want-my-kids-doing variety.) And it was usually the three of us with an occasional fourth mixed in. It was the perfect escape for the emotional roller coaster that was my family life at the time. I am still connected to them and have a deep sense of acceptance when I am with them. Like they’ve known me most of my life, through some of the worst versions of myself, and they still love me for who I am.

In college I had an entirely new experience. An ALL GIRL dorm!! It was at first extremely intimidating. I had never been part of a large group of girl-friends. I didn’t know how to function in such a situation. I still think it was by accident that my college friends accepted me as one of their own. There were about 8 of us on our wing that became extremely close and stayed so for the entire 4 years we were there (even though we all moved out of the dorm after the 2nd year). It was a time of growth for me in developing female friendships. And it was the first time I realized that some friendships take a lot of work. There was a bonding that happened as we became women that was sincere and respectful in a different way than with my High School friends.

It wasn’t until I was even older, however, that I really understood the value of the women in my life. (Probably because I was always so focused on finding the love of my life…UGH, so much wasted time). In fact, the female bond was something I didn’t yet fully understand, and because of that I fear I hadn’t always been a great friend. Especially if being a great friend requires being good at keeping in touch. In that case – I SUCKED (and still do…grr)!! AND I hope any of my friends reading this understands that I realize this about myself and I am truly sorry.

It was during many of my married years that I came to realize the importance of female friendship and it was the time I had the least of it in my life. It was something I actually yearned for. By this time my High School friends were living a life I didn’t fit into and my College Friends were doing the same thing I was…starting a marriage/career/family. And none of us lived near each other. Not surprisingly I was the first of all my friends (outside of my church) to get married. And maybe because of it, there was a huge void in my life that only female companionship could fill. It was another time of growth for me as I had to learn to be a better friend to others. There are times we have to give what we want to receive before we are ready for it to be given to us. I joined groups and spent time with other women I met at church, but I didn’t feel completely satisfied. Instead I felt I couldn’t be myself with them, that I had to be what they thought I should be. I now understand that this had more to do with my own insecurities than anyone I was friends with. I was my own blockade. Regardless (and thankfully) I did gain some awesome friends during this season of my life.

I now have an amazing network of girlfriends. Some of them I’ve know for forever and some for only a few years. They are all so special to me. Each in their individual ways. I know I can be myself without fear that they’ll judge me…and they forgive me if/when I am not the best person to be around. They are there for me when I need to vent and I’m pretty sure they all know that goes both ways. They endured my crying over the unfairness of it all during my separations, and celebrated with me when it was all over. (Yes! We celebrated my divorce and I would do it again.) They alternately let me stay with them or stayed with me when my children were at their dad’s because I hated to be alone at night. They were readily available for shopping therapy and fashion advice as I re-designed myself. They have been my support, and many times my strength, through some of my most difficult moments.

I have yet to find a substitute to the healing power a female friendship can offer.