False starts

In my push to normalize life, I’ve jumped into more than a few situations that I shouldn’t have. I’ve offered to take on more than I was truly ready to handle emotionally or mentally, pushing myself to expand my horizons, jumping in to help save the world in any way I could.

Basically trying to bury myself in a protective layer of denial to convince myself that I was fine.

I would gladly volunteer to take on a new responsibility, with the idea that I needed to “keep busy” and feel productive, to prove that I added value somewhere other than to my kids and inside of my home. I would remember those times that my usual self could handle multi-tasking and juggling different groups and activities, and keep our home and family running and intact, so I should still be able to do that now.

But I wasn’t my usual self.

I threw myself into the idea of taking a 40 hour training course to volunteer at a women’s shelter for domestic abuse victims. My heart was truly in the right place, I felt a deep desire to help, to make a difference in something bigger than my world. I wanted to find my purpose. I know, I already have a purpose, to be the best mother possible to my sons and to raise them to be wonderful functioning adults. But I needed a purpose that was just about me, for me, to make it all seem like part of a bigger plan.

I needed to feel that there was another meaning to my life just waiting to be unearthed, and of course I felt that it should include being strong, possibly even changing the world in someway. In my own backyard or on a bigger scale, but making a change somewhere that would make a real difference. I wanted to be that strong woman that kept pushing forward.

But I wasn’t that strong right now.

Along with this idea, I was consistently told that I should get “back into the game” and start dating. It would give me something different to focus on, be the start of a new chapter! It would take my mind off of the crap year (or two, to be honest) that life had thrown at me. I needed to get excited, to feel giddy and desirable. This would help me take care of myself emotionally, to know that I could – and would – find and be in love again. (because isn’t that the answer to everything?)

But I didn’t feel lovable, or want to be responsible for someone else’s feelings or expectations any longer.

False starts.

I’ve had more than my fair share over the past year. In so many areas of my life that it’s hard to keep track of all of them now. Volunteering, family commitments, friends, school, kids, dieting, exercising, just about every area I can think of at this point.

The arc of action was the same almost ever time.

I would determine that this (whatever it was) would be the answer to pull me out of the emotional desert that I was living in, it would redirect my energy for the better and life would be sunny and filled with rainbows and unicorns. It would be my “thing” and I would own it. I would embrace it excitedly each time, too.

Filling out the paperwork, researching the options, taking the courses. Shopping for the right foods, marking my calendar to keep myself accountable and fully engaged, telling my friends and family that I had found my path to better days.

For real this time.

Then I would crash. Or maybe it was more of a melting. My resolve and excitement slowly being replaced by uncertainty, leading to talking myself out of following through, or even believing that I could. Feeling overwhelmed and undeserving I would withdraw.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

It took me the better half of that first year, maybe longer, to realize that I was expecting too much from myself. I was trying to run, when some days I could barely walk. Every time I would realize the truth in my failure, and convince myself to just wait until I was truly ready, I would knee jerk react to a question/favor asked and say “yes, I’d love to take that on!”

I was pressuring myself to “get better”, to be strong and move on. Push through.

Quit crying, stop feeling sorry for yourself, pull it together. It’s time to smile, and even if you have to pretend that you are okay, go about your life as if nothing has changed so everyone else will feel good around you again. Instead of wallowing, you should focus your energy on something positive for something or someone outside of yourself, to distract your mind from the noise that is constantly whirling around in your head.

Choose a point on the wall and focus, just stop thinking about it.

Those are deeply rooted habits of self-perseverance, well practiced by now. Most times I could successfully do this, push through and focus on the bigger picture. I could make myself small and less important for the greater good, be a team player or a leader depending on what was necessary at the time.

But this time I ran out of the energy to push it aside and keep it hidden. Or maybe I just couldn’t find the energy in the first place? It was as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room and I was the only one gasping for air, while the rest of the world went on breathing and living like they normally did. It was just me that had the problem.

So I gave myself permission to fail. I allowed myself to quit trying so hard, or trying at all.

It was time to sit on the sidelines for awhile and watch those that can, do it. It wasn’t helping me to keep throwing myself into things as a distraction, to take on new hobbies or responsibilities or causes, trying to prove that I was okay and ‘normal’ once again. In the end, it really only led to me being miserable and disgusted with myself.

With every email or phone call that I had to make to retract my offers of assistance or to back out of a commitment, with every promise that I had to break because it was still too much, I felt small and ridiculously stupid. My attempts at redefining who I am were only making it glaringly obvious that I didn’t really know who I was to begin with, and that I could fail in more ways than I had ever imagined.

I could disappoint more people, some very good people, more than I ever had before.

It was time to take a step back and take a deep breath. Take a break and slow down. What was the hurry? Why was it so important for me to be “normal” as quickly as possible? Part of it was for my kids, for my family and close friends. I didn’t want to be that person that sucks the life out of the room, who dwells on things that can’t really be changed, and yet doesn’t look for any other solutions or options.

I didn’t want to be that guy.

The other part, if I’m honest with myself, was the idea in my head that my ex was happily living his new life without any real setbacks or challenges, as if it was all just a small bump in the road. Disturbing for the inconvenience, but nothing earth shattering that truly altered his way of life. If anything, his life had just gotten a bit easier and more relaxing, he was living the life he had always wanted. It was all so easy for him.

Why was it so hard for me to find that same path? What was the life that I had always wanted?

Maybe that’s the problem, this was the life that I had always wanted. I wanted a solid family, two parents committed to each other, a couple built to stand the trials and tribulations of life for a lifetime. I wanted to have that TV family that I so desperately wished for as a kid, the one that stays in love and stays together forever. I thought that we had that, too. But we didn’t. So now what was I hoping to find? What is a happy life supposed to look like now?

I have no idea.

But I keep trying to figure it out, one step at a time. One false start after another. Eventually one of these starts will be the real deal, I just have to keep trying.

 

 

 

 

 

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He’s not the guy

I’ve dabbled in the dating world this year, and realized all too soon that I just wasn’t ready.

It happens, I know. Some people can jump right into it after a breakup or divorce, they need to find someone to ease the discomfort, or they crave affection and attention, human touch. Sometimes you just need to know if you’re still ‘marketable’, attractive enough, to attract someone new…that isn’t a freak or total creep, preferably.

But that’s not me, obviously. I need time to figure out where I belong, how I fit in, and what I truly want for the next phase of my life. I need to know that my kids are secure and ready for another possible change to everyday life. I need to feel that the time is right for all of us, it’s not just about me.

It was so much easier when I was in high school (sigh)

So, I’ve made it clear to anyone who will listen, that I am not looking for anyone. To date or otherwise. I am focusing inward instead of outward, marketable or not.

I had this conversation with a new friend recently, who is also a hired consultant that has helped me forge this new path in my life. She has been really enlightening and supportive, and I don’t know how I would have survived all of this upheaval in my world, intact with my sanity, without her guidance and expertise.

A short while after my divorce was final, we were meeting about whatever, she asked how I was doing and how the dating world was treating me. I explained that I was no longer in the market. It was too overwhelming and disappointing. I was getting out of the game before I was too battered and bruised to want to play anymore. I just wasn’t ready. She understood, she was encouraging and supportive of my attitude, and agreed with me that sometimes it just takes longer than you think.

But…I should let her know when I was “ready” because she has the “perfect” guy for me.

All I could think was, ‘and so it begins’. The sitcom set-up that I’ve watched play out a million times on TV. Blind dates and stiff introductions set-up by well-meaning friends and family, grinning at you both like idiots because you are ‘so perfect for each other’ and they knew it! They know a guy from the office, from the gym, from their cousin’s friend. They truly just want to see you happy, smiling and excited with pep in your step, and with something positive and uplifting to talk about.

They want to see you whole again.

I politely explained that I was really not ready, and probably wouldn’t be for quite some time. My focus had changed, and it wasn’t all about me feeling good about myself, through someone else’s eyes, finally. She nodded and said that she understood, but just to let her know when I was ready because she didn’t want to ruin this perfect match with poor timing.

That was a couple of months ago.

We recently met again about other details of my new life, she sent an email that morning explaining that she was bringing her partner along to meet me and to help answer my questions. It was unexpected, but I didn’t think anything of it.

The morning that they came to my door, I was in jeans and a hoody from the Hot Chocolate race and simple makeup, my basic everyday attire. Her colleague was pleasant and friendly, a clean cut middle aged guy, nothing out of the ordinary. It actually made me a bit nervous to have a man join us for some reason, usually the two of us worked on my stuff while we talked like girlfriends. I liked it that way, swapping stories of our lives while planning my future, it didn’t feel so “necessary” then. Now there was a guy with a crisp white shirt and tie standing at my door, his leather satchel slung over a shoulder, smiling but in a business like manner.

This was serious. There wouldn’t be any girl talk this time.

I was a bit bummed, but shook it off. Every meeting shouldn’t be a coffee klatch I told myself. I didn’t hire her to be my friend…did I?

As the morning went on, and we talked about my accounts, he easily took over the conversation as the expert on the subject, and not only answered my questions but asked them of me too. He was teaching me how to look at it all, more than directing me, which I liked.

He was complimentary about my grasp of everything. I felt more confident.

Sprinkled into the conversation were personal details about himself, tossed in from my friend. He was divorced, from a narcissist, and he agreed with the adage of “if I knew then what I know now” with a chuckle. He’s a beekeeper as a hobby, and loves it, stings and all. He said beekeeping was therapeutic and relaxing, he also cans his own honey.

Being the thoughtful hostess that I am, I offered something to drink along with the cookies that I had baked the day before. I also offered the Italian lemon cookies that I pick up from the farmers market each week, joking that I “knew a guy”. That lead us to the talk of farmers markets in the area, which markets we visit and love, and the idea that I often buy local honey, usually with nuts mixed in. We must have talked about this for fifteen minutes. He asked to see my jar of honey, and was so interested in the idea of it, that he took a picture of it to use as a reference later.

As the conversation moved on, he mentioned his talent for betting on horses as a way to compare financial risk taking – then went on to say his good luck with betting on them comes from the fact that he owns horses, and has always loved them. He was a new age kind of guy, in my opinion, white collar work with a farmer’s love of nature.

An urban gardener type, unlike most of the men that I had recently met, and I liked that.

Suddenly I realized that I found him much more attractive than I had when I first opened the door, only an hour before. I now noticed that he was cute, easy to talk to, had a personable way about him. We had things in common that I never would have guessed.

That’s when the thought occurred to me, was this the guy that she wanted to set me up with?

My mind began whirling, trying to piece it all together. This was a sneaky way to make the introductions, not what I was expecting at all, but I wasn’t that upset about it. I started thinking about the idea of going out with him, or someone like him, and it didn’t scare me. It felt right and fitting. He was funny, honest, personable, interesting and smart. He was the best of both worlds, white collar job with a love and appreciation of nature. It was like finding a unicorn sitting in my kitchen!

I began to smile a bit more, with a slight flirt in my voice, and it felt good. Natural.

Once they left, after our two hour meeting, I shook my head and smiled some more. She was sneaky, I had to admit, but she knew me better than I had ever imagined. I didn’t expect anything that morning, so I wasn’t nervous or overthinking, and I was dressed like I always am – not trying to impress. A great way to meet someone, definitely more organic and less pressure. Her instincts about this match seemed pretty dead on, too – how did she figure me out so quickly?

I was impressed. And a little excited, I will admit.

I waited to hear from her, maybe giving me a little hint about what I had already figured out, patting herself on the back for being so sly, and yet so right. But I didn’t hear from her.

I figured that she must be busy, the weekend was coming, etc. Or maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t nearly as impressed with me, as she had promised him he would be? Maybe he didn’t think we had as much in common as I did, or I just wasn’t his type? And why would she share someone else’s disappointment with someone who didn’t even know there was a motive to meeting them to begin with?

Better to leave it unsaid, making it easier to go on with a professional relationship.

As the day went on, I couldn’t stand not knowing if this was the setup, and if it was did it go as well on his end as mine. Did he even ask about me? So I texted her and asked, “just out of curiosity, is he the guy that you wanted to introduce to me?” I didn’t want to seem too excited or give her too much credit…yet. I was playing it cool.

She responded almost immediately, “No, it was Jeff :)”

I stared at the message for a minute, sitting with the small disappointment in my gut for a moment. He wasn’t the guy. This guy that sat at my kitchen table today, seeming to possess all of the qualities that I would be interested in, surprising me with my level of interest and tiny hope that he felt it too, that guy.

He wasn’t the guy?

He wasn’t the guy.

‘Jeff’ had better be pretty amazing when the time is right, since he’s ‘the guy’. The bar has been set high now, maybe too high. And I didn’t even know I was picking up the bar.