Dating and Deception-That’s What She Said

j0402640 Yesterday’s post dealt with truth in dating. While much of what I described happens to both men and women in dating, yesterday’s post was decidedly from the female perspective and slanted pretty heavily toward men and the deceptions they tend to employ, if they employ them, when dating. However, I’ll be the first to admit, that men face their share of unhappy experiences and boatloads of deceptive practices when dating too. I know this because they tell me so or they have, when I dated them. Seems that when it comes to dating and deception, it’s an equal opportunity venture.

Women are just as guilty as men of deception. They just deceive differently. For example, there’s the very common practice of fudging on the number of years we’ve actually roamed the earth. Early on in my Post-40 World dating experience I corresponded with an individual who told me that he actually met a woman who said her age was somewhere in the 40’s but when they met, it was evident to him that she hadn’t seen 40 anything for a few decades.  He ended the date instantaneously and (the best part) she seemed stunned.  And this is only one of many, many experiences I’ve heard that men encounter when dating online.

Personally, the day I feel tempted to lie about my age is the day I hang it all up for good.  I just can’t do that.  It is unfair and dishonest.

Do women who do this honestly think that the men they meet are going to be totally impressed when they finally see that they’ve been lied to all along? Further, what kind of foundation does this build for any kind of meaningful authentic relationship?  My guess is, and please, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess is it erodes relationship before it even begins.

j0422266I’ve been told that women lie about their weight, but personally, I don’t get that because I know weight doesn’t tell you much of anything and can give you a really bad impression.  Most guys would die if they knew that that cute hottie they are pursuing online actually sports a 145 on the scale instead of a 119, but fits nicely into a size 8.   But if she cropped her pic so it just revealed her face and then touted the number 145, what the heck do you think the response would be? Yeah, on the other hand, the fact that a woman even looks like a size 8 online is probably guarantee enough that no guy is asking that woman what she weighs.  It becomes an insult to ask what a woman weighs.  After all that’s not on the dating questionnaires.

While women are less inclined to lie about their marital status (I think, I don’t know this for sure), this doesn’t mean women are exempt from misrepresenting themselves.  On one hand it is understandable.  We all want to present ourselves in the best light possible.  After all, isn’t that what make up, hair products, deodorant and designer jeans are all about? But when we step over the line of presenting ourselves in the best possible light to recreating a fictional imaginary self, then this is, in my mind, crossing a line.

Personally, I’m all about full disclosure.

j0422190 In fact, I recently, even as I was writing this was called upon to disclose some very awkward and deeply humiliating aspects of my own personal past. It is a past that I am  ashamed of and will never be able to erase.  It is a past I regret and will spend the rest of my days trying to help people avoid in their own lives.  While full disclosure was not comfortable for me (I totally would have loved to have not had a conscience and been able to justify minimizing or reinventing my past), I told the truth and all of it.  It totally sucked.  I might never hear from this person again and this is a person I completely respect and admire.  But I am committed to being different than I was and I am committed to being vulnerable, transparent, with nothing to hide.  It might cost me any number of friendships or romantic interests to come and my past, quite frankly might eliminate me from the experience of any real lasting, meaningful, connected relationship with the opposite sex, but at least I can go to sleep at night knowing that the other person made a decision about me based on fact and not on supposition and not on an inadequate amount of data.  

And that, quite frankly, is how I prefer to do life, because in the end, I’m never going to enjoy quality relationship where the foundation is based on misrepresentation and inadequate data.  If the entire point in dating is to get to know people in hopes of someday developing a relationship based on intimacy then full disclosure (at the right time and in the right manner to the right people) becomes important.

I want the real deal.  I want authentic, meaningful, connected relationship when trust is the foundation and transparency and vulnerability the cornerstones.  If that can’t be had then give me the single life.  It is much more convenient anyway.

Toward A New Year of Healthy Living

New Year’s Day, 2010

photo by nkzs Yesterday’s post spoke about thinking more thematically about New Year’s Resolutions.  To follow up on that, I feel I must give some more concrete examples of really what I mean. To that end, I have only one New Year’s Resolution. More aptly put, I believe this is a New Year’s theme that I hope characterize my year and the years to come. That theme is Healthy Living or Health. 

You see, I could do what I did last year and talk about all the things I want to do, as though life were some sort of checklist to be completed before the end of it. As a product of the American baby boomer culture, I’ve seen life this way more often than not.  I’d make my list, work frantically to accomplish it, come very close (or maybe not at all) and feel miserably unsuccessful or ineffective if I didn’t complete the list. I was what I could accomplish. 

List Fail

The problem with this thinking, at least for me, is that the list can never be completed because something is always being added to it.  You check off one item only to put another objective in its place.  What’s the sense of accomplishment in that?  How does this manner of operating lead to peace and contentment?  Even if you do accomplish something, the effect or result is only temporary, unless the item stays on the list and then, if you think according to the list, even if you’ve made progress, the danger of perceiving that you haven’t completed anything or not as much as you would have hoped exists. Lists are about completion not progress.  I want to focus on progress, process and becoming.

Really, what I am talking about here with this whole New Year’s Theme thing is not giving myself more stuff to do (and more reasons to be disappointed if I fail) but instead I’m dealing with effecting lasting change in my life.  There are areas I am not content with and I need to change.

Time for Change

Perhaps an example from my own life might serve to provide greater understanding of what I’m really driving at here.  Several years ago, nearly a year, maybe almost two before my divorce even started beginning, things (as things in a failing marriage will tend to be) became very chaotic and conflicted.  I was unhappy, he was unhappy, the kids were caught in the middle of that and dealing with the magnitude of kids that we had (11 in our blended situation), tensions were running at an all time high.  We’d been separated and back together more times than I care to consider, and I was at the point where I knew that something had to change.  I was afraid of what that might mean, but I knew I could not continue in the present situation any longer.  My health was failing rapidly and it was only a matter of time before  I experienced a serious and major collapse.

j0386273 I really had to take some time and think about what it was I wanted.  Now, I didn’t take the attitude of it’s all about me.  I took the perspective that I needed to take care of me so that I could take care of those who depend and rely on me.  In that case, my children, my support network, my community in a larger context, but admittedly I wasn’t thinking on that grand a scale back then.  I was simply in survival mode thinking about what was going to be best for my children and I in the short run, but also in the long run.  If you’ve ever been in this place you know what a difficult task that can be.  How do you think about making monumental decisions that will be right for the immediate future and still be the right ones, down the road a piece?  There are ways of doing this, I’ve since learned, but at that time I was floundering around in a state of hopelessness, fear and anxiety. 

Respect and Survival

As I sat there in a school presentation where the speaker was talking about dealing with children respectfully and building a climate of respect in schools and in homes, everything crystallized for me. It all came together for me, not as a list of things I needed to do in a sequential order, but rather as a frame of mind I needed to adopt; as a way of being I needed to pursue.  It became clear to me, in seconds, that what was lacking on so many levels and in so many areas in my life was, quit simply, respect.  I wasn’t being treated respectfully, nor was I extending it to others in most areas of my life. Not only that, material possession, symbolic of someone’s effort, time, life and money were being treated disrespectfully, the world around us was not being treated with any measure of respect either by any of us. This is not how I wanted to live, nor was it the environment I wanted my children to grow up in learning that this manner of living was an accepted option. 

With the theme being respect, I was then able to clearly see that in the current situation I was going to be crippled if not completely detained in my pursuit of a respectful home atmosphere and lifestyle.  I was then able to make the hard and frightening decisions with confidence and assurance that I needed to make at that time to ensure for me and my children a life that involved treating each other with greater respect and infusing our home with respect.  Three years after that day, I can look back and say it was the right way to look at things and, though we haven’t perfectly arrived, because we continue to learn more each day about areas where we can demonstrate greater respect to each other and because, quite frankly old ways of being die hard sometimes, we are in a much better place than we’ve ever been. We would not be here now if I hadn’t taken the necessary steps to start the process.  I couldn’t have taken the necessary steps if I had focused on what I should or shouldn’t do.  Focusing on what I wanted my children and I to be and experience made it possible for me to figure out the rest.

Healthy Living

 j0442586 It seems I’ve come to another place where a theme is stepping up to the forefront and demanding attention.  In the last three years, several themes have developed. First, was the theme of Respect.  The next theme that characterized the first year after the divorce till now was Survival.  The next theme which I believe to be developing in my life is that of Healthy Living or maybe just Health.  It is a theme that encompasses not just the idea of physical fitness and healthy eating, but also the areas of spiritual health, intellectual health (sustenance and growth) and relational health.

These “themes” I am talking of, if that is even an appropriate terminology, are not something I adopt, carry around with me for a while and then discard because they no longer suit the situation.  If you could think of building an onion from the inside out a layer at a time, you might come closer to how this all works for me.  As each theme develops in my life, it becomes part of me with following themes overlaying themselves on pre-existing themes.

So, since the title of this post is about a healthy new year and since I did mention it earlier on in this now rather lengthy post, I suppose I should discuss it just a bit.  Healthier Living, as a theme in my life, for this year, or for whatever amount of time it decides to be the forerunning focus, will help me make decisions daily regarding my time, my activities, my decisions, my focus.  Instead of creating a list that I may or may not accomplish, depending upon my motivation level or my feelings, I will instead operate from the place of asking myself, “Is this the healthiest thing for me right now?”  Or I might consider, “Is this particular choice going to move me closer to the healthy, whole life I see for my children and myself?”  The particular questions help me sort the myriad choices I face each day in order to more closely align my life with the healthful vision I see of myself and for myself and my family (because I don’t just simply think of myself, ever, in isolation; what I choose impacts and affects many others whether I recognize it or not).  So, in brief then, the theme works to direct my efforts, focus my energy and determine my choices.  I am no longer burdened by a list that can never be accomplished. I am simply, moment by moment becoming healthier and these moments will, undoubtedly stack up and create a year that is much healthier than years previous.

j0433106 Enthusiasm, Hope, Confidence, Optimism

Approaching life this way has, over the last three years, been very effective for me in implementing significant and incredibly positive change in my life over a relatively short period of time.  This approach might not work for everyone, but I’ve found it to be incredibly effective for me in determining where to focus my energy, how to prioritize all the conflicting demands that bombard me daily as a single mom, and in helping me keep at it even when things become discouraging and disappointing as they likely will. It is an approach which instead of frustrating and defeating me, fills me with optimism, confidence, enthusiasm and hope. Since I’ve heard those are some of the key ingredients for someone in good mental health, I guess that’s not a bad place to start.

Edgar Just Didn’t Get Me There

There’s a little known place in my area, not far from where I live, that is a boon to any avid reader or book lover in the area.  It’s a place where I can get books for free!  Nice books in good condition too!  It’s the local book exchange and it is a wonderful thing for me. Since there’s no established flame in my life at the moment taking up my waking moments, since I’m not exactly one who can stand watching TV all the time, since I’ve definitely decided to stay away from the online dating thing and since my daily life (other than trips to the grocery store) don’t provide much opportunity to meet qualified candidates for a suitable significant other, I’m going to be doing a bunch of reading over the holiday break.  The existence of a book exchange only minutes away from my home while wonderful can be a downer in some respects, especially if you live in a very small home. Generally, I like to keep my books, but lately I’ve picked up and read a few, I don’t think I’ll be hanging on to.

83dac060ada0ba3d7cafa110_L The first of these is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski.  It is beautifully written, very moving and I found myself in tears throughout much of it.  It is a story of a boy, his dog and a relationship.  It is a beautifully crafted and moving story. If descriptive and figurative language is the key to an excellent book, this author definitely has his game on.  It is an excellent book and it even made Oprah’s Book Club in 2008.  (Yes, I know, I’m late to that game too!)

So, if the book is so great, why am I not keeping it on my shelves?  First off, have you seen the size of the book?  The hardbound edition, which is the one I have, takes up nearly three inches of space on my very limited shelf space.  When I was dating the Beau, he told me I needed to get rid of some books. His perfectly minimalist home inspired much of the cleaning out, painting and re-decorating projects I conducted throughout  this year.  Even so, these words come from a man who, I think, has a sum total of 8 books in his house. (That’s not a bad thing, it’s just not me.)  Words which were said to a woman, who if she could, would have an entire room filled floor to ceiling with bookshelves and good books, except for the part of the walls where the windows and the fireplace existed.  The Beau was partly right though.  I don’t need to keep EVERY book I read, just for the sake of keeping it.  To this end, Edgar Sawtelle must move on.  Instead, it will become a gift for my oldest daughter, who turned me onto it in the first place.  She’s not read it yet, so she should enjoy it.

The other reason, Edgar Sawtelle, doesn’t get to stay around, is because as beautifully written and crafted as it is, it is a downer for me. He just didn’t get me to my happy place.  (If you haven’t read the book and you want to, you won’t want to read much further because it might be a spoiler for you.)   I just kept reading, hoping things in the story would get better and it just didn’t.  It was truly a modern day tragedy.  Given that my life of late has been filled with enough of its own tragedy, I prefer to read things that help me focus on hopeful outcomes rather than dire and distressing ones.  I got done reading this late one evening in front of the fire, tears streaming down my face (thank God the kids weren’t home) and I wondered, “What if things don’t ever get better? What if they keep getting worse?”   No.  Definitely not a good place for me to go…and the tears?  No, definitely not a good look.

the-time-travelers-wife Another book that won’t be taking up permanent residence here at The Wild Mind household is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. You can read a review that I pretty much agree with here if you want a fully blown synopsis. (And by the way, check 10Thirty’s blog…she can cook…makes me sick…but she’s a fun read!)  I agree with 10Thirty’s conclusions about the book, though I could never have articulated them quite as well.  I simply don’t care to spend the time!  Like Edgar Sawtelle, while I was intrigued and kept reading on to find out what would happen next, I simply couldn’t stand the ending.  It left me wanting.  Never a good thing to do to The Wild Mind, as Ex #2 can attest!  He looks like this now, because he made that fatal error:

San Francisco 2009 039

Like, Edgar, The Time Traveler’s Wife left me feeling down and dismal.  I think I’m just at the place right now, where over the last three years, and especially this year, I’ve had enough of my own unhappy endings that I really don’t care to read about any more unhappy and tragic endings.  Part of the reason I read is to escape some of my present reality.  These books somehow didn’t quite reach the Calgon level of taking me away from all that, so they don’t stay on my shelves.

And, now I’m wondering…

Are you a reader and a book lover? 

If so, what do you read and what are your purposes for reading?

If not, what do you do when you need a momentary escape from the less than happy realities you might be facing?

Heads Up! Seven Up!

lrg-32-valentine_082I remember it well.  The childhood game where seven children in the class are chosen to go to the front of the room.  On the directive, “Heads down thumbs up”, the seven students travel around the room, one by one touching the thumb of one of their classmates and returning to the front of the room. When all seven are back in their places the invitation, “Heads up, seven up” is issued and those seven students whose thumbs where chosen get to stand and try to guess who picked them.  If guessed accurately, they replace their classmate at the front of the room and then enjoy the privilege of getting to “touch a thumb” during the next round.  If not, the chosen student remains in their seat for another round. In this game, as in many such childhood games, there are the choosers, the chosen and those on the sidelines. 

As a teacher, I am amazed at how much kids still really enjoy this game.  As an adult, I am intrigued with the parallels which exist between this childhood game and life, particularly the life of those who find themselves, for whatever reason, single after 40. 

In Heads Up, Seven Up there are the choosers, the chosen and those who get sidelined.  The choosers in life, as in this childhood game, have the most fun or so it seems.  They are up front, making choices, determining by their decisions who gets to play and who does not.  The chosen, are given an opportunity to get in the game, but if they don’t make an effective choice, a perceptive determination, they remain as chosen or worse, they can be sidelined during the next round of play.  The sideliners are those un-chosen ones deemed by their peers as those who will not participate during a round of play. 

During the dating process, we all play each of these parts.  We can be the chooser, determining who we will select or who we won’t.  We invite some to play and sideline others.  We are confident.  We are in control.  We are choosing and shaping our destinies.  Most of us like this place.

Bikes and babes 3There are times in our lives, however, when the choices of others sideline us.  The partner who goes back on a commitment, the infidelity of a spouse, the unreliability or abandonment of the person you planned to spend the rest of your life with but who ended up choosing someone or something else instead of you.  Being served divorce papers, the death of a spouse, the pain of that precious connection going silent without explanation or, worse, just fizzling.  At these times, we find ourselves sidelined, inactive, unable to play, maybe by our own choice…for a time.  Often because of the choices of others or another who simply did not choose us.

Love and Relationship is one game everyone wants to play.  It is the one game that we all want to be involved in either as the chooser or the chosen.  We all dread the sidelines in the game of Love and Relationship.  We want someone to touch our emotional thumb and say, “I pick you!”  WeImage_0023 want someone to tell us they noticed us.  They noticed those things about us that make us special.  They appreciated those unique qualities in us enough to want to be around us and interact with us more often than not.  We want the opportunity to choose and be chosen.  When the words “Heads up, seven up” are called in the game of love we all hope we get to stand at least during one round of play. We hope our guess is right and that we can aptly match the feel of the touch to the owner of the hand.

None of us like the sideline position where we simply watch others play the game that we so deeply desire to be part of ourselves.  This sideline position can be a healthy respite for a time, as we heal from an especially disappointing round of play, but as a permanent state of existence it is simply not ideal.  For some it is even painful. 

Just as in the game Heads Up! Seven Up!  everyone eventually gets to play at least once, so it seems is the case for most people in The Game Of Love.  How long each of us play or how often varies, but it seems that at one time or another we all get the chance to stand on cue and take a whack at making a choice. 

Where are you these days? 

  • Are you in the place of choosing? 
  • Are you there with your head down and your thumb up, hoping you will be tapped for the next romantic encounter?
  • Have you by your choice or the choices of others been sidelined? 
  • Where are you?  How do you feel about it?
  • If you don’t like your current place in the game, what, if anything, will you do to place yourself so that you are happier with your level of participation?

Procrastinatory Paring and Sharing

So, today, in my usual procrastinatory (is that even a word) I decided to go through each of  the links on my blog roll in an attempt to clarify two things.  First, I wanted to see if the bloggers were even still active.  I mean, no good sending you to someone really cool who hasn’t written anything really cool since last year…or the year before.  I hate that when that happens!  I find a blogger I love reading then realize I’m reading something that happened years ago and this person, for all digital intents and purposes, no longer exists. I usually figure this out after I’ve posted a comment only to realize that the last person that commented commented over a year earlier.  Yeah, doltish, really.  I’d like to spare the handful of readers who do troll silently through my musings here the angst of that experience. 

The other thing I’m trying to do is pare down the blog roll.  When I first started this blog (has it been a year and a half already?), I put people on that were interesting to me then.  I had goals, kinda sorta, in mind for what I wanted this place to be and those people made my blogroll because they seemed to fit the criteria for the kind of resource I wanted to provide my readers.  Yeah, well…things change over time.  Bloggers change, their blogs change, goals change, life changes, we change and I have definitely changed over the last year and a half…I think. Yeah, I have.  I’m still sorting a lot of stuff out and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up and where I want to be doing it, with whom I want to be doing it, why I want to be doing it are still all up for grabs (well, mostly) but some things have been sorted.  The upshot of the sorting is that I’ve decided that I only want certain folks on my blog roll.  I have reasons for this.

No! No!  It isn’t because I have these elitest, exclusivist or exclusionary tendencies (like some of those really big name blog-for-a-living types that I’m really jealous of because I haven’t made their blogroll yet let alone produced a blog like theirs, but okay!).  It is because I think  it simply reveals WAY TOO MUCH of my ADD tendencies when I have stuff from all over the universe listed that has nothing to do with anything I’m doing here.  Not that I’m doing anything here that is even remotely relevant to the real meaning of life, but it’s sorta fun for me…most of the time.   Even so, I think it is time for this little bloggy to grow up a bit and look a little more…um….what’s the word I’m looking for…respectable?  Ordered?  Thought out?  Put together?  I don’t know…something like that. 

I have a really easy way of determining if I want someone to stay on my blog roll.  If I know them in real life and they are a family member or close friend, they’re automatically in.  Well, unless they request not to be.  That’d tell me something now wouldn’t it?  If  they are just someone out there in the blogosphere then they have to meet two criteria:

  • they have to be posting regularly and recently.
  • I have to get the “I want to be like that when I grow up!” reaction when I read them.

Oh, wait, there’s a third…

  • they have to be on a topic that I perceive my readers (whoever they are because they don’t often identify themselves but I know they are there because my stats say so unless the stats lie!)  would be interested in.  I’m still trying to sort all that out.

Anyway, there you have it.  The reason why some of you might find your names missing on the blog roll and why others will find they’ve been added.  Mostly those who have been deleted so far are folks who aren’t writing anyway and probably don’t care.  If I deleted you and you do care, post a comment.  Everything’s fixable, well, mostly everything.  If you wander in and like what you read, let me know.  If you have a blog and you’d like to be added let me know that too.  I’d be glad to visit your place and take a look around.

Off I go to peruse postings and look at links while avoiding adult responsibilities like laundry, dishes and dealing with other diverse forms of dirt.  I’ve come across a few great bloggers who still rate and need a shout out.  Well, they don’t need it, they are mostly doing fine without my recognition.  I need it, because what they said, how they said it, what they experienced, resonated with me in a way that I feel is worth voicing.  Look for me to share these folks with you in the days to come.  I hope you’ll visit them and find them interesting too!

Consulting: Famine or Feast?

It’s feast or famine isn’t it?  Nothing is more true for anyone than the self-employed freelancer or consultant.  I knew this from others’ reports.  This week, I’m finding it out first hand for myself. 

No, I haven’t quit my day job. I can’t do that quite yet.  But some good stuff is happening to The Wild Mind in this arena this month. 

I just picked up three additional speaking engagements this last week.  All three of them strategically significant for me and two of them paying gigs.  The nice little caveat is that throughout the course of the week, I also found out that I’m being requested for 15 additional engagements during this school year.  Those 15 come with additional opportunities to train additional staff to work with me.  It also is compensated at a rate much nicer than my current day job pays.  And…I don’t have to quit my day job to do any of this either.

As most know who have tried to make the self-employed  consultant switch at some time or another, there can be a time when you have to work two careers until the income from the one is steady and substantial enough to supplant the other.  This can be exceptionally demanding and strenuous depending upon the nature of the work involved and the duration of the transition.   Well, unless you are able to take out loads of money in small business loans, which I can’t do or unless you have loads of extra resources to put to the venture, which I do not  have.  Nope, I simply have to buck up and do it the hard way.  The gradual transition way.  The take-every-speaking-gig-I-can way.  The learn-as-you-go way.  The these-are-the-days-I’ll-look-back-on-fondly way. 

It’s been a tough couple of weeks and I’ve gotten a real taste of what this could be like.  Moving in spurts instead of the steady day in and day out thing.  The income will also move in spurts and that takes a bit of getting used to, I’m told.  Then there are the times, like this evening, when I should be curled up on the couch watching a movie with my littlest munchkin but instead, here I am.  Putting the finishing touches on a reworked presentation, making sure my notes are in order, my presentations, documents and screenprints are aligned, and that my outfit is clean, ironed and perfectly coordinated. 

Instead, I’m going to take a break right now after posting this and chill in the hot tub with The Peanut Munchkin.  Then I’ll cuddle up with her, let her fall asleep to a movie of her choice on the couch in front of the fire with her kittens curled up next to her, get up and return to my fine tuning of tomorrow morning’s presentation.  Tomorrow afternoon and evening are all hers!  And that’s how I suppose it will likely be.  That’s what I’ve been told. That’s how it seems to be shaking down. 

Spurts, seasons, ebbs, flow, famine and feast…life!

My Own Personal Nirvana

kicking up heelsI have a secret time of the week that is all my own.  No one can touch it.  No one can invade it.  It is impossible to ruin. It is the very best part of the weeked for me.  It is my own personal holiday in a busy life. This is the time right after I’ve dropped my bags by the door, kicked off the work shoes, hugged and kissed the little one and said “Good-bye, have fun and be safe!” to her for the every other weekend that she goes to be with her dad.  It is the time right before I head out for evening festivities to blow off steam from a stressful week with other adults who’ve also had a stressful week and need some adult time as well.  I might not even go out.  I might stay in and simply revel in the silence (except for the stereo, always the stereo!) and enjoy the blissful solitude of not having to answer to anyone, of not having to be completely cheery,animated and confident when I really feel exhausted,  frazzled, uncertain and unprepared.  I don’t have to try to carry a conversation, diagnose a learning problem or strategize or organize anything. I don’t have the constant buzz of young voices in the background. I don’t have to be “on”.  I don’t have to be anything.  It is that time of the week that I do not have to do anything I do not want to do.  I don’t have to show up…or I can.  It is my choice. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of choice lately.  We all want it. In the U.S., it is an inalienable right. Some enjoy it more than others.  We have it and yet we don’t.  We make choices and those choices completely remove certain other choices from our plate of options.  Sometimes we make choices and the results of those choices take us down roads where we end up completely without any options whatsoever.  Being without options is not necessarily a bad thing either, but mostly, being without options in many cases and for many people translates as “trapped”, “caught”, “stuck”.  It can happen when choosing living arrangements, universities or vocational schools, relational partners, careers or geographical areas to settle in.  The tough thing about choice is that you can’t always tell whether the choice you make today will end you up in your own personal prison years down the road.

femalesillouetteOne thing I’ve noticed about myself  lately, and by lately I mean over the last couple of years, not just the last few weeks, is that more and more I want to create my own hoops to jump through.  I’m less inclined to want to jump through someone else’s hoops.  For example, when considering whether or not to return to grad school for that prized doctorate, I decided that I really just don’t want to go back to school (at least right now) in order to jump through someone else’s hoops to get a piece of paper that says I can now put a few additional letters behind my name. The degree wouldn’t necessarily give me many more options than I have now and it might even be one of those choices that lands me in the place where I feel very “trapped”, “caught”, “stuck”.  I decided to wait on the PhD. 

On the other hand, I enjoy jumping through certain hoops. My job for example is one area where I will jump through hoops.  I do this because I like the reward of the paycheck every month for doing so and I also like this because right now the idea of jumping through my own hoops in a self-employed sort of way presents far too much choice for me and far too much instability.  Choice, in that way, is not desirable to me.

Being trapped or caught or stuck by our choices can be an incredibly rewarding experience as in the context of relationship, for example.  Consider that rare relationship where you and your partner fit so amazingly well together in more ways than just the physical.  There is the right amount of closeness, intimacy and connection perfectly balanced with the exact amount of respect for each others’ differences and individual preferences and need for solitude or separateness. You can see doing life with this person and it is an exciting vision not an  uncertain venture.  In this case, the choice made leads to being limited in ways that are fulfilling and rewarding. The reality is, you are in a place that you are, to some degree, very limited in the range of certain kinds of choices you can make while certain other options have been completely eliminated.  Being without options in this scenario is not necessarily a bad thing.

Choice.  How to spend our money.  How to spend our time.  How to spend our lives.  Choice. 

Freedom.  Freedom from having to make choices.  Freedom to make choices.  Freedom to freefall.  Those are Friday afternoons for me.

Friday afternoon: those moments after the breakneck speed of a whirlwind week and right before the weekend is officially underway.  The entire weekend stretches before me filled with free choice and choosing my own hobluerayops to jump through in the order in which I choose to jump them.  No schedules to keep except those I implement.  No obligations to fulfill except ones I’ve chosen.  On Friday afternoon the weekend looms large and I don’t have to commit to any of it just yet. 

Choice and freedom.

To do…or not…as I choose.

This is my own personal Nirvana.

Single Parenting and No Regrets?

“Never regret.  If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.”  ~Victoria Holt

regretsNever regret.  Those words on the surface sound like a great way to live.  Live life so that you have no regrets.  The idea is great, the reality non-existent, I suspect.  I don’t think it is possible to live a life completely without regret.  I don’t think one needs to wallow in and torture oneself with regret either.  We can learn from our mistakes and our past, and move on but still be saddened by the way our past plays out in our present.  I for one, never wanted to be in my forties parenting four children alone.  Here I am and doing well, but it is not what I would have chosen.  I would have chosen a loving marriage that worked over single parenting any day. 

 A Nice Idea

When it comes to love, marriage, divorce and single parenting there’s an entire galaxy of regret to be realized. Regrets of time and emotion wasted, of poor choices, of insufficient self knowledge, of the realities that now face the person tasked with parenting a child or children alone without the help of a loving, supportive, participatory partner in a marriage that worked. Regrets of diminished financial resources and not being able to now provide the childhood experiences that you once hoped you could, not to mention the increased demands on the dwindling time and energyof the single parent.  Granted, this isn’t everyone’s single parent reality.  It is the reality for many, however.  Specifically, on many levels, it has been mine.  I don’t think I’m alone here.  When it comes to life after divorce, especially if that life now involves single parenting, the idea of living with no regrets is simply that: a nice idea.

Mixed Feelings About Single Parenting

I’ve recently come across a fellow blogger who seems to be a kindred spirit.  She’s walked the single parent road for much longer than I.  Her tour of duty in Single Parent World is just two years from being over, while I have a decade of duty left.  Her recent article titled, “Single Parenthood: How Do You Really Feel?” resonated with me.  I, too, am proud of what I’ve accomplished in the last few years, the stability and safety I’ve fought for and aquired for my children and I, and the slow, arduous climb back from financial disaster.  These are accomplishments I celebrate, but with every celebration there is that cloud of regret that hovers over the silver lining.  It’s a mixed bag.  On one hand I’d never go back to the nightmare I was living before.  At the same time, I prefer that I’d made better choices, known myself better, behaved better myself so that I could have avoided being in this place now.singleparenting

The regret is that while I am content in my life as a single parent it would have been far better for us all to be part of an intact family with a marriage that worked for us all than not.  Single parenting, while far superior to my previous reality, is not what I ever wanted for myself or my children and it isn’t the existence I’d choose even now had I any other choice, most particularly, that of sharing with a partner who fit us, who was loving and supportive and personally competent. 

Things Are Forever Different Now

 Things are different for the single parent.  For most of us, financial resources are much more limited, especially early on.  This reality hit me hard when I realized that I was not going to be able to put my children in piano lessons, soccer, volleyball, gymnastics or any other of the many activities they previously enjoyed. Not only was I not going to be able to put them in all the activities they previously enjoyed, I couldn’t put any of them in even one of the activities.  Do the math.  Even in my small community where things are less expensive than they would be in a larger city, the cost of dance lessons runs about $40 a month.  That alone is almost my garbage  bill. Multiply that amount by four. Add to that the increased time and fuel expenses involved in driving the children to their activities and the reality of making this happen on my own, without the financial assistance from the ex or transportation help from the same makes this an impossibilty for those of us saddled with the financial responsibilities of home ownership, debt repayment and without the assistance of large incomes or public assistance.  When I’m rationing milk to make it to the next payday, paying for piano lessons is not going to happen.  Things are forever different now.
 
 Traveling The Path
 
I’ve been a single parent for two years now and I have about 10 years before my youngest is launched, five years before I’m down to just one child.  I’m a good parent, not prone to allowing my home to deteriorate to disaster with food,dishes, dirty laundry and trash strewn everywhere.  My kids do chores, have their friends over on occasion, spend the night elsewhere on occasion and are involved in scMoving onhool activities and sports. I have a career that pays the bills and allows me time off with my kids most of the time that they are not in school.  Because of my parenting arrangements with my ex’s (yep, that was plural), I have regular time to myself with no kids.  For me, life in Single Parent World is far better than for most.  I can’t complain, and most of the time I don’t because I know, as with anything, it could be so much worse.
I deal with the same issues of fatigue, inability to have any kind of time to put together a decent meal that isn’t microwaved in some part, trying to spread limited finances, time, and energy among four (now three, one is at college, I remember now) other people and still have something left for myself.   My life, my children’s lives, are moving on.  Most of the time it is simply a matter of doing what I know I must and can do today.  The future is too overwhelming to contemplate, the past still too painful at points.  I often don’t feel as though I’m doing anything right and sometimes, for a few brief moments, I feel as though things couldn’t  be better.  Most of the time it is trial and error, guess and check as I find my way in this strange new world.  It is a way that while bumpy and steep, at first, seems to be smoothing out somewhat.  The path has leveled off, the terrain more appealing, the walk not so cumbersome, the weather far more mild most of the time.  Even so, it is not a path I travel without passing by brief moments of profound regret for what I would have preferred over this. 

Have You Ever Noticed?

Okay, so I’m kind of going through a list making phase as prompts for my creative thinking ventures.  The list of the day for me is…

Have You Ever Noticed….

…how if a guy is really into something say football or biking or quads or Nascar and a girl is really into that guy she’ll try to get into whatever he’s into but it doesn’t usually work the other way around?

…how it used to be looked down on to be a stay-at-home mom and now if a woman makes that choice it is more accepted?

…how when you’re in a funk you have to spend some time dealing with it and many times after the funk is over you regret the time you wasted?

…how life can turn on a dime?  Things are rolling right along quite nicely, then the smallest thing happens and it feels like you’ve been thrown into a brick wall at a 100 miles an hour with no protective gear.

…how socks go into the laundry with a perfect match but come out as a single.  Moral of this story?  Lovers should never do laundry together.

…how you can show a kid how to do something a million times and they never get it right…till they move out on their own and get their own place, then suddenly they understand how to do it perfectly.

…how the garbage man has a great job?  He gets to drive around in the big cushy truck all day, never touching the garbage, he gets paid good money and he doesn’t have to take work home with him.

…how most single working moms wish they had a wife who would cook dinner for them and help with the bedtime and bath routine and taxi jobs at the end of the day?

…how when you go to a new medical care provider filling out the form once is not enough, they then have to get a copy of the form, and then you have to go to the inner office where they punch all the same stuff into the computer again. And forget about if you are referred to another provider!

…how kids think they can convince you they aren’t lying by vehemently defending their untruth even though you saw with your own eyes otherwise.  “I didn’t hit her!”  “Uh, excuse me?  I just saw your fist windup and let ‘er fly and land right in her arm!” 

…how you never really crave a particular food (like bread or  pasta) till you decide to cut back on it, then you can’t get enough of it and this is before you’ve even actually started cutting back?!

…how lists like this can be really fun or really tedious or both.  Guess that must mean it is time to end this one…unless, of course…you have something to add?

The What If Game

My life these days is incredibly drama free and peaceful.  Well, for the most part it is.  There’s the occasional tense moment that occurs when living with other people in an arrangement designated by most as family, but compared to the past two decades, my life is exceptionally drama free.  In fact, compared to most people, my life is exceptionally drama free. 

This doesn’t mean my life is boring.  Nor is it lackluster. 

Life with me is always very animated, that’s for sure. 

Life with me has a certain bit of comedy and theatrics to it, I’ll warrant, but drama?  Hmmm, not so much. 

 Here’s a typical day in my life these days:

After awakening and the deplorable hour of 9:00 a.m., I head back into the house after picking up the morning paper from the walk and turning on the sprinkler. I flop down on my large overstuffed and very comfy couch to browse through the meaningless empty print that constitutes the local paper. Later, I will spend an hour playing around on Facebook, looking up old tunes and listening to them on Youtube and doing whatever it is I want or nothing at all. It is an amazingly charmed life I live these days. On these days in particular, the ones where the kids are all gone at the other parents’ home and I have no deadlines or obligations except to take care of just me, it is not unlike being retired.  I do what I want when I want.  After running around crazy all school year long and being at the beck and call of four children with active academic and social lives and none of them driving, it is nice to just be able to do nothing at all. It is a luxury most single mothers don’t get.  I am very aware of this and incredibly grateful.  While most single parents (except for the exceptionally wealthy ones) have to get up every day, even during the summer, and rush off to a job only to come home and do the second shift then later fall exhausted into bed only to start the entire exercise wheel process over again, I do not have to do this for nearly 3 months of every year. It’s true I pay for it during the school year when I have no life, but it is worth it because on days like today, life is anything but pressured, harried, exhausting or stressed. 

 Of course, I could and have been caught up in that desire for the crazy lifestyle that rewards one with a penthouse view and status and money in the bank.  I was there many years ago, working in the San Francisco Bay area and commuting into my entry level management position with lots of promotional potential and making big money to cover the relatively low overhead I had at the time. Had I continued down that track, I am certain I would be enjoying a very different life than I am now.  I’d be living in a very different setting, doing very different things with very different people.  Part of me, at times wonders, how might my life have been different?

 Do you ever do this? Wondering how your life might be different if…if?  I call it “The What If Game”.  I suspect everyone spends time on this game show at one time or another. 

If I’d kept that job in the Bay Area instead of staying married and returning to Oregon.

 If I’d gone into journalism instead of teaching. 

 If I’d studied law instead of going to work.

 If I’d stayed single longer.

 If I’d married that boy instead of breaking it off.

If I’d…if I’d…if I’d….

The choice made, a job offer accepted or refused, an apartment rented instead of a home purchased, a family delayed or started unexpectedly or not at all, a relationship passed on, another fully explored and furthered. A vice casually stumbled upon which grips you insidiously till you realize one day it has you beyond your control.  A thought, a glance, a brief and casual encounter….the cumulative effect of the smallest insignificant encounters, like grains of sand on the beach, become strong enough and monumental enough to create a lifetime.  One little tweak in the design and the picture can be drastically altered.

 Choices.  Decisions.  Cause and effect.  Outcomes.  Paths not taken or taken that we can never retrace in order to change directions.  Nope.  Unlike getting lost on a road and simply turning the car around and going back in the direction from whence we came, life doesn’t allow u-turns.  Even if it did, the passage of time, our own maturing and that of others, the births and deaths of those we love, all these events change the path and the scenery along the way.

This is as it should be.  Even if it is not as it should be it is how it is.

When I go down the mental “I wonder” path, I never do this with regret.  I can’t regret.  I’ve learned too much and grown too much down the road I did travel to worry about it. I do it with curious interest and speculation. Yes, my life, had I made different choices at each juncture, would be very, very different.  But would it be better?  Worse?  Who knows?  I don’t care.  What I find important at this point is that I take less and less for granted these days. I’m glad for the paths I’ve traveled, the lessons I’ve learned, the ones I’m trying to master even now and the person I’ve become as the result.  I am so very content in many ways.

While I don’t sit around and dwell over the consequences of every little action, decision or behavior, I do enjoy contemplating the idea that you never know what path you might be heading down next.  Even when you think you know the path, even when you think you are choosing a particular direction to head, what the journey looks like and where you end up can be very, very different than you imagined.  It’s fun to just enjoy the journey rather than stressing out about when, where and how I’m going to get to the blasted destination. Of course, I don’t always feel this peaceful and un-rushed about it all. There are deadlines that loom and more tasks to accomplish than time to accomplish them most of the time, of course.  I know this.  

On summer days like these, though, it just really easy to appreciate the fact that life really is a series of journeys instead of a destination you head for.  With the stress of the daily routine temporarily at bay, it is fun to sit back and speculate about the road behind, the current road and the path(s) ahead.  I do this with just a mild amount of interest and anticipation.  It will be fun to look back a year from now and see how different things look from how they currently appear. 

 Until then, The What If Game holds no interest to me, because I’m too busy playing The What Next Game.  Where are you today?  Are you playing the What If Game and wishing you’d made different choices or are you grateful for the journey you’ve been on and are you looking forward to what’s around the corner?