Happy Singles Awareness Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day to my lovely readers!  Before I start poking fun at a holiday that is fraught with horrible memories for me, I’ll tell you that today is a day to celebrate romantic love. The day is named after St. Valentine who is actually more than one saint. You can read more about the history here. My favorite story is that the Roman military found out that single soldiers made better soldiers than married ones and outlawed marriage. St. Valentine secretly performed marriages for those interested – thus ensuing that love would reign.

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Remember, though – that in any of the stories St. Valentine was eventually put to death for his actions. It wasn’t a happy ending … but, then again, how many love stories end happily anyway? I’ll keep a long story short by saying that when I was married, Valentine’s Day was less than special. I’m not sure if it was the men I married, the relationships or just the holiday in general, but it was more of a forced march through the motions for both of us. The day just reminded me of what I wished I had and longed for from a mate. Needless to say, I’ve never been much of a fan of Valentine’s Day.

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Over half of the world is single. You’d never know it by our cultural expectations. I don’t know how many singles are involved in romantic relationships at a given time, but I can tell you there are lots of us out here who barely remember Valentine’s Day is coming. The only time it bothers me is when I’m at work on Valentine’s Day, and the receptionist’s desk is littered with flowers and red hearts addressed to others – but not me. But, I’ve heard those women talk about their husbands. It ain’t a bed a roses in most cases. I’ll take the sting of one day over the sting of everyday anytime.

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I do know a few happy couples who enjoy Valentine’s Day in all its glory, and I hope to have that one day. But I know better than to put all my eggs in one basket. I try to count on the love I have – whether it’s platonic love, girlfriend love, parental love, godly love or the love of life itself. All of these seem so much more abundant and rich to me than romantic love has ever been. They are truly worth celebrating. I think there should be a day for people who have lots of love in their life but no main squeeze. We could call it Freaking Rock Star Amazing Person Full of Love No Need for Labels Day. There would be no need for gifts because love is the best gift of all.

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Whatever your relationship status, enjoy today. I’m going to go visit my parents. It’s going to be 72 degrees… not a real strong reminder that it’s February. And, if you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with a romantic partner, make it a day where you commit to every day being an expression of your love to them. That would truly be a celebration of love. If you are single, count your blessings. It just means that the next year is full of opportunity for romantic love. Write down what you want and start to manifest it!

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The Unpopular Path: Being Child-Free

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As a senior in high school, I was dreaming of traveling the world not having children.

There is a blog site associated with my WordPress blogging platform that is called The Daily Post. They send out writing prompts to help writers come up with topics on days when the pump seems to be stuck on “nothing to write”. I’d like to use some of these prompts for the next little bit to shift my writing perspective. I’ll still write about what I want to write about, but I’d like to stretch a little, and I think this will be a good way to do it. Today’s prompt asked me to write about a time when I had two options, and I chose the unpopular one.

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Me and my nurturing sister, Susan

When I was a child, I was quite the tomboy. Daddy really wanted a boy, but I unexpectedly entered the world with a different perspective (and genitals). That didn’t stop him from training me from the get-go to swing a golf club, cast a fishing reel or learn to play baseball. When my brothers came along, he had real boys to nurture, and the focus shifted somewhat away from me. It wasn’t long until I had as strong of an interest in boys as he did but for another reason. But, the mold was set … I was as comfortable doing “boy” things as girl things.

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Me and my dog Arf in my early thirties.

I’m not sure why I bring this up except that my sister was into more “girly” things. She loved playing with dolls. In fact, I can remember trying to squeeze myself into about a six-inch space in our bed because she had dolls and stuffed animals lined up across the bed like a sleeping display in a toy store. I had a Dancerina doll and some Barbies, but I was never really much into baby dolls. While my sister cooed and rocked her babies, I’d prefer to be outside playing baseball with my brothers or reading about adventures across the world.

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My girlfriends in Michigan. The three of us in the back are still child-free.

I remember watching a talk show when I was in my early twenties about some disabled people who were trying desperately to have children. They were jumping through incredible hoops to get pregnant and to be able to raise kids despite their physical challenges. It was very moving. It was also very confusing to me. I called Momma and told her that I thought something was wrong with me. Why do most people practically kill themselves to have children, and I don’t have a desire at all? Was this something that I needed to force myself to do and the desire would come? Or was I defective?

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Lorna was a dog Mom and doted on her nephew. 

She assured me that nothing was wrong with me. Her OB/GYN who had delivered all of us kids asked her how we were doing on her last visit. She told him that she thought I would never have kids, and he laughed and said, “Who’s to say that’s not the smarter way to go?”

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The more I moved around and met new women, the more women I met that chose not to have children. We’d gravitate toward each other because we had different lifestyles than our friends with children. The one thing we had in common was that we always knew that we didn’t really want kids. Many had nieces and nephews that they nurtured and loved. Some had animals. Others had causes and hobbies that occupied their time. Our lives were full but marched to a pace that did not include school schedules,  soccer practice or saving for college.

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My child-free sisters in Memphis. They were amazing and wonderfully loving. 

I always wondered if I would regret not having kids as I got older. Some days I regret not having built a family network that gathers around the holidays or needs me to help them with their very busy lives. I wonder what kind of woman a curly-haired girl with my genes might grow into as a result of my mothering. There is a hole there, but since the hole has never been filled I suppose I don’t miss what would be in its place. I wouldn’t know what it would be like to have that. It’s the same open space that I’ve always had. It somehow just feels normal.

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Laura is a dog Mommy, too … and very nurturing and warm!

 

In a reflective conversation one day, I wondered aloud what my life would look like at 50 or 60 without kids and grandkids. “It will probably be exactly the same as it is now,” said some friend whom I can’t exactly place. They were right. My life feels very much today as it always has. I have different hobbies and different people in my life, but the rhythm of the days are the same. I spend loads of time by myself. I go to work. I work out. I do whatever it is that I like. I don’t have a lot of responsibility to other people. I’m still awkwardly uncomfortable around kids because I haven’t had the experience of living with any. But, I don’t regret it.

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My friend Gretchen is a mega-dog Mom, single and child-free, too.

I am a nurturing person. It’s not that mothering is unnatural to me. I just nurture other people’s dreams. I support women that want to make transitions. If I’d had children, I don’t think I would have developed the perspective that I have in helping adults move into new phases of their lives. Because I’ve learned to navigate life alone as a single woman and have been happy, I’m able to help women find some peace with being single. It’s not an easy path in this world where it seems that being coupled is the norm, and it helps to have someone that will walk along with you. I appreciated role models when I first became single, and now I share my experience with others trying to adapt to a single lifestyle.

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I supposed my unpopular choice to be child-free was a game-changer for my life. I’m sure it would have looked very different if I had chosen to have children. A friend told me once that I was selfish to not have children. “Who is going to take care of you when you are old?” she asked. Having a child so that they can take care of me when I’m old seemed like the more selfish option, but who am I to judge? The choice was right for me – selfish or not. It has its pros and cons, I suppose. I accept it all.

My Wish for You, My Single Friend…

I have a friend who is newly single. I watched as she navigated her break-up with her significant other. I supported her as she went through the initial stages of grief .. anger .. bargaining .. denial … depression … acceptance. I let her talk … and cry .. and vent … and held her […]

https://midlifemoments.me/2014/06/03/my-wish-for-you-my-single-friend/

Why the Hell Not, Girlfriend?

Two of my girlfriends just moved cross country to start new life adventures, and one is about to move across the world to start a new adventure in 12 days. We are all over 50 and rocking it. I love the energy they are tapping to make big, wholesale changes and start over. My friend Nancy who is starting a new adventure in North Carolina complete with getting her bachelor’s degree posted this in our little private chat room this morning:

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Damn straight, Nancy girl! Why the hell not? One of my other friends just moved to Charleston to start a writing career. She posted this placard yesterday on Facebook.

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I watch my parents as they have a ball out in Red River NM every year. They are making friends all over the country, and their life continues to be full of adventure and fun even into their 70s. What if they had said they were too old to go try something new 10 years ago when they started going out there and had sat their butts at home in their rockers in Pierre Part? They would have missed so much. They took a chance that it would be great, and it has been. The verdict is still out on my friends who just moved to Nashville and Charleston, but my guess is that they will be the better for it. You can’t help but grow from something as big and exciting as relocating to a beautiful place.

I was searching for something this morning, and I found this article on the ten best cities for single women to live. It just so happens that Charleston and Nashville are on the list. Hmmmmm … wow … that sounds interesting. What if I chose to relocate to a city that is a great place for single women? I never thought about that being a motivator. Why the hell not? Well, my mind of course starts going to last year’s move. Ugh … the expense of it … the hassle of relocating .. the physical aches and pains of packing.. moving .. and setting up a new house. Yeah, maybe it doesn’t sound all that good after all. Plus, there’s the very real issue of finding a job in a new locale. Unless it’s in the cards, it may be pretty darn difficult to do. I was chatting with my friend Lisa who is the new Nashville resident, and she said her move about killed her. What if … I asked her .. we started a moving company for single women over 50?

Hmmm … let me see. If I had my dream moving company for women over 50 – me, to be exact – it would be one that took care of everything.  I think I could call it – Why the hell not, Girlfriend? We could capitalize on the woman newly divorced or tired of the local dating scene or the ones that are just ready for the next step career-wise. They could call 1-800-HELLNot, and one of our perky, happy single women over 50 would answer with ‘Thank you for calling Why the Hell Not, Girlfriend? Are you ready for your next big adventure?’ We could help them with everything from finding a new job in their field to setting up their new profile on Match.com in the new area. Once we secure their high-paying job working with the nicest people in the world, me and my girlfriends who have just moved can send them tip sheets on how to afford moving on a budget OR offer them our services for our high-end ‘Moving as a Vacation Package’. This package includes hot movers who come in and lovingly pack your stuff while they go on and on about how hot you are. They will cook your dinner in between packing boxes and even bring you flowers and Godiva chocolates. They’ll make sure that your moving experience is one of a kind and your every need is met including an extensive stress relief service that includes massages and chilled wine or BlueBell ice cream. Whatever you do on your own time is your business. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!

I actually wish this service existed right now. One of my friends confessed that when she moved last time she moved with a man precisely because it was a ticket out of where she was. There were warning signs all over the place that this was not a long-term relationship, but the adventure took her out of a job she hated and provided a new, presumably exciting future. She described it as “I was waiting at a bus stop, and CRAZY JERK was the bus that came along.” Well, why couldn’t my company provide the bus? There would be no heartbreak afterwards or some crazy male that needs extricating from your abode. The more I think about this, the more sense it makes. I’d love to be a CEO of my own company, and I can look at that list of ten cities and pick one for my next adventure myself. And, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll have my own company that can move me to the next adventure – stress-free!!

I don’t have the phone number up and running yet, so please don’t start calling right away. If you are ready for your next 50-something adventure, you might want to check out this article on re-inventing yourself after 50. I’m sorry, boys, I can’t help you on this one. This is a gender-exclusive service. You’ll have to create your own adventure yourself. I’ve always heard that it’s a man’s world. You’ve had your turn. It’s our turn now. Why the hell not, girlfriend?

 

My Wish for You, My Single Friend…

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I have a friend who is newly single. I watched as she navigated her break-up with her significant other. I supported her as she went through the initial stages of grief .. anger .. bargaining .. denial … depression … acceptance. I let her talk … and cry .. and vent … and held her in my heart as the fear … that fathomless fear …. of being alone crashed into her world. She is through the worst of the initial stuff and is settling into her single life. I, as a single woman and a writer, seem to her like a guide that can help her to step into being single and have a full life regardless of whether or not that space in her bed is ever filled again. My friend, I may seem like a guide that does it with grace, but know that everything you feel, I feel. Being single … like being married … is not an easy path. But I’ve come to know that it’s not the path of singleness that is so hard, it’s the path of life. And, navigating it single is just one way to do it. I woke up this morning wanting for you, my dear fledgling single, some things that I also want for myself. The want woke me from sleep and begged me to write to you  now … this minute. So, I am up. This one’s for you, Baby Bird.

I wish for you, my single woman friend, COURAGE. Courage only comes from walking through fear. It is not a quality that is born in you. It is a quality that is developed over time. It is an act of feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You had the courage to end what wasn’t working for you, and in countless conversations with divorced friends, I have discovered that ‘leaving’ even a bad relationship is one of the hardest things we humans ever do. You already have the courage to walk through that and come out on the other side. The muscle-building has begun. Keep developing that muscle by trying something new today… and everyday. Walk a new way to work. Call someone who interests you and ask them for coffee. Go on a trip by yourself and discover the beautiful joy of seeing a new place with only the filter of your own eyes. Tackle a personal issue with the help of an advisor and feel the joy of overcoming your own problems on your own without the distractions of another person’s reaction. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is feeling the fear and walking through it anyway.

I wish for you FINANCIAL SECURITY. It is so easy for me to feel that because there is one income, I can be shortchanged in that department. It is also easy to fall into the trap of thinking that couples have the softer way with money. But, over the years, I’ve learned that another person can wreak havoc with money and drain you of any hope of ever having financial security. I know people who, after their spouse dies, are left with mountains of debt instead of the comfort of being supported in their grief. Being married is no guarantee of financial security. In fact, with two people who may have serious medical conditions as we age, the risk may be even more that some catastrophe may strike that will wipe you out financially. So, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that money would be more plentiful if there were more of it coming in. That’s not necessarily the case. I wish that you will feel the joy and the freedom of being the breadwinner of your home. You may not have as much money coming in as you’d like, but you are the sole decision-maker on how to spend it. You can budget without fighting about it, and you can spend lavishly on yourself without complaint. I wish you the blessing of feeling financially secure in the fact that God provides for us, and, if something happens that is financially devastating, know that you have friends who will support you in the struggle.

I wish you STRENGTH. The one thing I miss is strength. I miss the heft of a partner who can open jars, help me load my kayak and carry kitty litter. As women, we are not as strong physically as the opposite sex. I hope that you find alternatives. I hope you find a male friend who giggles with you when you bring your jars to him to open. I hope that you find a great gay boyfriend who will help you move. I hope you learn much more by the act of asking for help than you do from struggling on your own. Go to the gym and do strength-training. Practice Power Yoga. As you look into the future and fear the weakness of aging, I hope you realize that muscle atrophy is a choice. It’s not inevitable. And you already know how strong you are inside. In the area of inner strength, I will argue to my death that men are the weaker sex. It is the surfing of emotions that builds the inner strength to navigate the trials in life. And, you, my dear, have endured childbirth. The strength required for that task should be envied by muscleman everywhere.

I wish you PASSION. Yes, the only lover you have may be yourself at times. I wish that you will discover that passion is not reserved for those with partners. Count your blessings that you don’t have to endure the torture of making love to someone who no longer desires you. Many walk that path day after day. The meaningless embrace of ‘going through the motions’ is way too prevalent, and you no longer have to feel the sting of rejection during the very act that should be connecting you to your lover’s soul. You can create the atmosphere you want .. feminine and sexy. You know what feels good. Your mind can take you places you’ve never been with no regrets. The heat of another person may be missing, but I hope that you can even find that in a way that works for you. Remember that passion doesn’t only happen in the bedroom. Passion is that feeling that overcomes you when you take in a breath-taking sunset after a beautiful dinner that you provided for yourself and took the time to prepare to your own delight. Passion is discovering something new about yourself. Passion is embracing the life you have and accepting no limitations. Fall into your sensuality, find ways to increase your energy and let yourself feel ….. EVERYTHING. Become the best lover you ever had.

Most of all, I wish you LOVE. So often we think of love as romantic love. I’ve written about love before, and many people think I’m always talking about romantic love. I forget to qualify it because I finally see romantic love as only one kind of love, and I also see it as the most difficult one to have. It’s so easy to lose when the day to day act of living gets in the way. There are so many types of love out there, and there is so much of it. We live in a sea of love, but we don’t tap into it because we are so desperately focused on romance and partnership. There is love in family – even family of choice. Build one if you don’t have it already. It is more important for single people to build a family of choice because we have to rely on them more. There is no ‘default’ help. We have to ask for it. We have to walk out the door, get on the phone and, heaven forbid, ask for help. Invest in building that community. Spend a large portion of time creating new friendships, hanging out in the places you feel supported and deepening your current relationships. It is an investment that pays off exponentially. Even married women need these communities. The absence of one can be the biggest barrier to leaving an unhealthy relationship. Give that gift to yourself. Tap into the unending love of God. Do what works for you spiritually. You have the gift of finding your own spiritual path without having to negotiate that with a partner. You choose the direction. Follow it. The love is right there waiting for you. If you want romantic love, I hope you get it one day. But, I hope that you focus on love. I hope that you learn that all of the love you need is provided by you and God and your community. Knowing that, you won’t settle for counterfeit that turns into endless pain.

My friend, being single is not an easy walk, but I also know that being married can even be more difficult. It’s definitely more complex. BE SINGLE. Don’t BE Divorced. Don’t BE ‘in between relationships’. Learn what it is like to BE single in an authentic way. Be comforted in the fact that you are much more in control of your happiness than if you were coupled. When you wake up in the middle of the night with that hammer of loneliness beating on your chest, please realize that it is only a feeling. You are not alone. Your bed may be empty, but your heart is full. That is so much better than having a man lying in your bed on the other side of a cavern so big that your heart aches at the sheer size of it. Embrace your life. The spaces beside you will be filled. They may be filled for moments instead of years, but it’s not the duration of the connection that matters – it’s the depth. Invest in yourself, and, if, by some chance you want to step into a partnership again, you will be the kind of woman that manifests endless love not endless want. I want that for you, my friend. You are so deeply loved … and you are not alone. Know that behind those eyes of many married women who you think pity you is a different feeling altogether. Many are thinking … OMG, I wish I had your freedom… your COURAGE … your PASSION … your STRENGTH … your FINANCIAL SECURITY … and, yes … your LOVE.

The Art of Being Single: Cultivating Gratitude for What Is

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Every walk of life has it’s pros and cons. It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t have this human predilection that the grass is always greener on the other side. That “grass is greener” longing bites me by keeping me focused on the cons of my life and the pros of others. The truth is that I’m here in this walk of life of being single for a reason. The dirty little secret is that I actually love being single. It doesn’t mean that I can’t lose my focus when I start longing for what I don’t have. The other night at a running club I was talking with a woman about running and moving to Baton Rouge. She came back home after a long period, too, and she doesn’t like it here. For one, she’s terrified of the crime. I grappled with fear of crime when I moved to Memphis, and I learned to find a happy balance of letting go of fear and living my life and knowing when not to be stupid. I shared the way I thought about it, and that I had just made a decision not to limit my life out of fear. She said, “Do you have kids?” After I answered no, she said, “I can tell.” I have no idea what she meant because it threw me off guard, but I think she was saying that I had more freedom to feel free and be a risk-taker than I would if I had kids. Maybe so… probably so … I’m not sure. I know big risk-takers who have kids AND spouses. I don’t think it’s a “single / no kids” trait.

I have been told many times by other people that I am the person I am because I’m single with no kids. They are probably right. That’s true with anybody, right? We are who we are because of our life experiences. But, there’s always an insinuation that I somehow took the easier, softer route by not having children. Maybe I did… but that’s not why I did it. I never said to myself that I didn’t want to do all of that hard work, so I’m not having kids. My interests – and my spouse’s interests – were more focused on work and other things. I have been quite blatantly told I was selfish for not having kids. I actually have lots of friends who don’t have kids – some by choice, some by lack of opportunity or ability. Sometimes we whisper to each other about how grateful we are that we never had kids. We say it with a giggle because we know it’s considered unthinkable by most of society. There is an idea that the world is full of married with children people, and that’s the “path” that we are supposed to live. Any other choice we make is because we are defective, selfish or alternative. Honestly, this is the most difficult part of being single…. this stigma that I am in a holding pattern …. waiting to get married.

I’ve been shopping for a cruise. Cruises are set up for double occupancy. So, if I choose to go on my own, I have to pay lots more money to go alone. I am financially penalized for going alone. Churches have “singles ministries” as if we need a ministry. I met some friends here who had started a Meetup group for single Moms. I asked why they had decided to start a Meetup group. One of the women from California said that she was finding it really difficult to find other single Moms. She said people get married here so fast. “They don’t know how to do single,” she said. Baton Rouge has plenty of singles, but I do feel the pressure to be looking … or to be wed … much more intensely. I don’t get invited to events precisely because I’m not coupled. It’s a couples thing. There are plenty of singles here. I’ll add that there are plenty of happy singles, too. But, as one friend said, “We’re here ..you just have to find us. We’re hiding under mushrooms and rocks.”

The great thing about being single is that I am able to have a large community. While married folks with children are busy with their relationships within their families, they just don’t have the free time that single people without kids have. My relationships can take on a different flavor, too. Yes, we are more self-centered. I don’t mean that in an unhealthy way. The center of my life is me. I would also argue that the center of eveyone else’s life – married, with kids or without – is themselves. Your choices in life may provide you less time for yourself, but those were still your choices. You … the head of your life … made them. Single people … me … get to have relationships of choice for the most part. So, they take on a different flavor. I spend more energy reaching out and cultivating community. It may appear that single people are doing things all the time on Facebook, but we’re no different than families. They do things together all the time, too. There is effort involved in every interaction that single people have with others. No one else is living in our house. We can’t just walk in the next room and say hi. We have to get our bohunkus on the phone and reach out. It allows us to have a broader community out of necessity.

I love to travel by myself. For one, I don’t have to worry if another person is enjoying the trip, and I can do the things I most enjoy. I truly get to vacation doing the things that relax me and energize me most. I was married for 17 years of my life, so I shared plenty of vacations. They were fun, but they were usually a mixture of what each one of us enjoyed. But, the really fun part of traveling by myself is that I get to talk to everybody. I meet new people. I talk to the rangers in the state parks and national forests. On one trip, a woman invited me to join her family at a local bluegrass concert. I said yes and tagged along. I can change my mind on a whim. If I meet somebody that tells me about something interesting to do, I can change my plans and do it. I get to meet and enjoy lots of different people.

I think being single rocks. If I want to have some dates, I can sign on to a dating site and meet some people for that possibility. If I want to do nothing on a weekend, I can close the doors and shut the world out. If I want to make new friends, I just pick a place to go and hop to it. It has its downsides to be sure but they only get me down if I focus on what I don’t have. Yes, I have plenty of love. It just comes in different packages than romantic love. And, honestly, when I was married, I didn’t have that much romantic love anyway. Being married isn’t a guarantee of romance. So, in answer to the woman at the running club, if you “can tell” I don’t have kids, I hope you mean that my life is full, and I am open to all kinds of relationships and experiences. This morning, that’s the way I see it.

The Art of Being Single: Christmas Trees

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My first Christmas as a new wife, I put up a small Christmas tree. I remember being so excited to have our own little Christmas tree even though it was about 3 feet tall. I went to the local discount store and bought some ornaments that I could crossstitch. I was in Pennsylvania, and we wouldn’t be traveling home that Christmas. I so wanted to have a white Christmas, and we did. I was 23 and married 3 months. All I knew to do was to follow Momma’s example. I did the same things she did. I sent out Christmas cards, put up a small tree and cooked gumbo for Christmas Eve. It was my first attempt at creating Christmas cheer.

As time went on, I got more comfortable with my own style. My trees got bigger, and gradually I purchased ornaments that I liked to fill the tree. I always loved the sparkly ones, and I never went for a themed tree. I liked a real tree even though it required more effort. I purchased a lovely quilted tree skirt from Lands’ End and bought a cast iron tree stand that I still have. Neither one of my spouses really liked Christmas, so I always did all of the decorating and cooking. Sporadically, we’d go to Louisiana for Christmas, and, for those years, we often didn’t put up a tree. It was just too depressing to take it down before we left and too much work and worry to leave it and take it down after we returned. Gift-giving was always small as we only had to buy for each other.

The first year John and I had a house, I caught the Southern Living bug. They had an idea to take greenery in the yard and spray paint it gold. I trimmed branches and berries from our holly trees and the magnolia tree which grew on the front of our house. I spray-painted some of them fully gold and others just a touch. I placed them on tables, on the mantle of our fireplace and anywhere I could lay them. I added candles and hung some mistletoe. We put up a real tree, and our new house looked like a beautiful natural Christmas scene from the pages of a magazine.

I’m not a very good gift-wrapper, and I’ve tried different things to spice up my unnatural talent. One year I saved all of the color comics from the paper and wrapped presents in them. Snoopy and Blondie added a special smiled to every gift. Another year, I wrapped everything in brown paper and then added glitter and construction paper cutouts. I had fun with that one even though I’m not usually very crafty. Other years, I’ve had everything professionally done. When gift bags came in vogue, I was very, very happy!

My second husband did not like Christmas. The year we dated he was all over it. We went to a tree farm in Michigan and cut our own tree. We decorated it together, and he bought me a beautiful pair of diamond stud earrings which he couldn’t wait to give me until Christmas. I got them 4 days ahead of time. But, after we were married, he didn’t want to exchange gifts, and he definitely did not want to fool with a tree. I started to get disillusioned with the whole thing at that point. I never really felt very skilled at creating Christmas, and with a spouse that wasn’t into it anyway, I just stopped wanting to do it.

The first year after my second divorce, I told my friend Michael I wasn’t going to get a tree. It would be too depressing, and I’d have to fool with it by myself. “Oh, yes you are going to get a tree,” he forcefully told me. He took me out to the tree market where the girls scouts sold trees in Memphis. I picked one out, and he helped me get it into my car and drag it up my stairs into my one bedroom second-story flat. I put up the tree and decorated it myself, crying after pulling out almost every ornament I had packed away. I had pictures of my stepkids who were technically no longer my stepkids. A picture ornament of my dog Arf who had died was tucked away in the box.  I hung the First Christmas ornaments that Rick and I had purchased the year we were dating when he was so into Christmas. My grandmother’s handmade ornaments were still usable, and I thought of her and her big beautiful Christmas tree that seemed to take up half the room. She was gone, too. The decorating was a trip down memory lane, and I cried more than I smiled. But, with each ornament I put up on the tree, I let myself feel how loved I had been and how many people had been part of my life. I put every ornament I had on that tree no matter what memories they brought up. It was a tree that was going to celebrate ALL of my life.

When I got done decorating the tree, I looked at it, and it was so very beautiful. I put the Christmas tree skirt underneath it, and swept up the extra pine needles off the wooden floor of my 1912 flat. I turned on the Christmas lights and and a Christmas music mix of Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley and Kenny G. The lights twinkled and sparkled amid the ornaments that I’d collected over the years. I turned out the lights in my living room, and I made a pallet on the floor. I laid there with my two kitties, Nala and Simba, and I gazed at the tree. I was so happy that I put that tree up. It was symbolic of the progression of my life and my hope that my life would go on. That year, I was practicing yoga a lot, and I’d get up in the mornings and practice yoga by the light of the tree. If I ever had a favorite tree, it was this one…. the one that was mine alone.

Since that Christmas, I’ve only put up a tree a few times. I travel more at Christmas since I’ve been single. It’s just not worth it to mess with a tree, and I want a real tree. This year, I just don’t have the space for it, although if I really wanted it, I’m sure I would have created space. My Christmas ornaments are packed away in a big blue plastic box that was stored in my house in Memphis. I enjoy other trees …. in restaurants … at my parents’ house …. at my friend’s homes. They are impersonal but beautiful. I love the sparkle and shine of Christmas tree lights and glittery ornaments of red, silver and gold. I’m not particularly fond of themed trees. I like the old-fashioned ones with ornaments collected year after year, on vacations and special occasions. I like to ask people about this ornament and that one so I get a picture of the special times in their lives.

If I’m honest, I missed having a tree this year. It seems like I’m saying that I’m not important enough to have a tree because I don’t have a family to gather around it, and I know I don’t believe that. I know that, if I had a significant other, I would want to do it. So, I have to ask why is it too much trouble for just me? Maybe because someone else could share in the work of it. Maybe it would be more fun to decorate it with someone else and add their special touch to it. Maybe they’d have an ornament or two to add to symbolize their presence in my world. I think one would look pretty over in that front corner of my house by the window. I could move that blue chair out of the way to make room. I could take out my box of ornaments and see the evidence of a life well lived again …. one ornament at a time. I’d like to turn the lights out and watch the tree glitter and shine while I have some eggnog and maybe play some Elvis Presley or Kenny G Christmas music. I could practice yoga again by the Christmas lights. I think I deserve that. Michael, will you remind me of this blog next Christmas? Will you tell me again, “Yes, you are going to put a tree up.” Sometimes I forget that it’s not just a tree.

Art of Being Single: The Desires of My Heart

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The other day I was talking to a friend who is longing for a romantic relationship. She’s also a very faithful Christian. She’s been praying about this for years, and, after a divorce that was extremely difficult, she has yet to find the man of her dreams. I told her that I had decided a long time ago to live my life the way I wanted to because it may not be in the cards for me to have a committed partnership. “But,” she said, “God promises to give us the desires of our heart.” “I know,” I replied, “but it doesn’t always look like what we think it will.”

I learned a long time ago that God provides us the things we need. That’s how I translate the desires of my heart. Just because my head thinks I need a certain job, a certain amount of money, a certain type of lifestyle doesn’t mean that’s what I need. My heart is a much more complicated piece of equipment than one would first think. When I think of my heart, I think of my soul. My soul seeks growth and fulfillment. It is here upon this earth to learn some life lessons and to serve others. Unfortunately, in getting everything I want, I don’t grow. That’s just way too easy of a way to live, and my soul doesn’t seek easy. It seeks depth and richness and meaningful living so that my life path can be fulfilled.

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I get angry sometimes with God for putting desires in my heart that will probably never be fulfilled. Why don’t you just take away the desire if I can’t have it? is my cry. It just seems so cruel on the surface. What I’m usually hungering for is a particular delivery method for what I want. It’s not the ultimate gift. For instance, my friend says she just wants someone to unconditionally love her. What if the person that is supposed to unconditionally love her is herself? What if the unconditional love she is supposed to get is from girlfriends who stay with her through thick and thin? How often do we look to others to provide the very thing we won’t or can’t give ourselves. It’s so much easier to ask for it from someone else. It’s really within our capacity to love ourselves unconditionally. And, God does love us unconditionally. It seems like it would mean more to come from outside of us, but, if it comes from inside of us, it changes everything. When I am the love of my life, I can let everybody else be whoever and whatever they want to be. I have no more requirements or expectations to strain our relationship.

As for me, I always longed for someone to really know me. That was all I ever wanted from my long-term relationships. I just wanted to be fully known and accepted. I felt so isolated in my relationships, and I felt that nobody really cared enough to truly get to know me. It was a paralyzing loneliness. The irony was that I didn’t even know myself. I didn’t take the time to get to know me. I didn’t spend time in solitude exploring who I was. I never took the time to find out the activities that I really loved to do. I never let myself touch the wounds inside me and learn how to comfort and heal myself. I was the one who really needed to get to know me. And, once I did, it became less of an emergency to find someone else who would. The gift in that is that the work that I had to do to get to know myself provided the community who finally did get to know me. And, not only do I have one person that really knows me, I have several. My cup overflows. I got the desires of my heart. It just didn’t come in a manly package.

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I’m struggling today with injuries from running. It’s killing me because I got so much out of running in the last 10 years. It provided a social network, goals and a strategy for me to stay healthy. In the last two years, I’ve started getting injured. I don’t think I have to stop running, but I think I may have to stop the longer distance running for awhile. I think 10 years of it has started to produce some overuse issues, and I need more variety and balance. It is a huge loss, and a part of me feels like I failed. The desire of my heart was to continue running long into my senior years. But, again… that’s a delivery vehicle for the desire of my soul. What I really want is to be healthy and active and having fun. I’ve worked out my entire life. It’s a big part of who I am. It’s an important ingredient to help me deal with stress and to keep my depression at bay. A part of me is screaming at God … why are you taking this away? I have to focus on what I want from running and find another way to get it. I know that I’ve let go of some of the other activities that I’ve enjoyed because of the running. I’d like to kayak more, practice yoga and get involved in the yoga community here. Honestly, it’s more difficult to run here. The roads are not built for it. Many of the parks and trails won’t allow my dog. Exercising her is so important to me. It’s becoming more of a struggle than a joy, and I think it’s time to move on. I hate moving on. It’s emotionally intense.

Today, I also feel lonely. It’s the holidays, and I just moved to a place where I’m not embedded in the community yet. It’s not permanent. Next year will look different. Right now, I just have to focus on being here for myself. I know what that entails, but, darn, it would be so nice if there were someone else to be here for me. Acceptance is a bear. I have to sit in the tension between feeling lonely and the fear that it will never change. I know tomorrow the feeling may be gone. That’s the way feelings are. They move through like the wind and leave nothing but a memory in their wake. I know that I am blessed, and I know I am ultimately connected to a very large community that cares for me. I just have to take care of myself and reach out. And, if I don’t care enough to take care of me, why would anyone else do it? I’m the most qualified, too. I know exactly what I need.

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One of the gifts of being single is I can’t default to expecting someone else to take care of me and my needs. It gets tiring, but I feel so much more empowered when I am taking care of myself. I’m a better person because I am single. Marriage has it’s own path of growth which occurs because of the tension in relationship. You don’t have to have two failed tries like I did to know that marriage is challenging. It’s not an easy path either. I could have had the desires of my heart granted that way, but I didn’t. I got the chance to be single and to figure it out on my own. I didn’t learn how to love myself within the confines of being married. I learned how to love myself when there was no one else to do it. For this hard-headed gal, it worked like a charm. Now, I’m going to call one of my friends. Night, y’all.

The Art of Being Single: I’m Listening

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This morning one of my good friends told me that I was a “very strong woman.” What I heard was I was never going to find a man. Isn’t that interesting? What he meant as a very loving compliment actually means to me that I will remain single because no man will be attracted to me. And, I know … several of you will insist that there will be men that will be attracted to a strong woman, but I can tell you that many of my male friends have confided in me that strong women intimidate them. One even said that he just wasn’t attracted to a woman that had a lot going for her because he didn’t feel like he could help her. I have been told that I am intimidating. The irony is that most of my good friends – male and female – think I’m quite sweet, vulnerable and loving. And, yes, they also think I’m strong.

I feel like God has been talking to me lately. When something comes up 3 times in a short period of time, I start to think that maybe God is trying to tell me something. A week or so ago I met a man online who was a really nice guy. I was really interested in him. He had some things going on in his life that were a bit unorthodox, but I’m okay with that. I’m a little unorthodox myself. But, when I thought more about it, I got scared about whether or not I could trust that he was who he said he was. I’ve met men who were married. I’ve met guys who were just players. I’ve heard about guys who take advantage of women for money, sex and may even put them in danger. With this particular guy, there would be no way to meet his friends, his family, his co-workers or even see a home to discern if he was on the up and up. I decided I was too scared to continue getting to know him. Maybe I was wrong, but I realized how scared I was of getting in a really scary relationship again. Hmmmmm… maybe I’m the one who’s afraid. And, I decided to accept that.

“Single” means you are brave enough to face the glorious unknown of the unaccompanied journey.”
Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

I decided to quit online dating. Maybe it is just too much work and too risky for my comfort zone. I just don’t have the stomach for it right now. This weekend I experienced a trigger that reminded me that I had never been in a relationship where a man had my back.  I am a big proponent of being gentle and understanding with myself, and I actually can understand why I would feel like I need to be so strong and self-sufficient. I’ve always had to be. So, yes, my friend, I am a strong woman. AND …. I really don’t trust that I can not be strong because I’ve never had that experience. So, God is starting to talk to me. I’m starting to accept that I’m okay the way I am.

This morning – and this is number three – I saw this article online about being Single at Heart. I answered yes to most of their assertions, and, yes, I just may be Single at Heart. My first husband traveled all the time, so, I basically operated as a single. I didn’t date other men, of course, but I did everything on my own. In my second marriage, I tried to be a good little wife and work as a couple, but it was a very unhealthy relationship, and it didn’t work. I’ve always done better as a single. I’m happier. I am less lonely. I have less emotional and mental distress. I have more friends. I am able to be me. I might be better off single. You could argue that I haven’t found the right man, but what if I’m the one not capable of being in a long-term relationship. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with me. I just might be made to be single.

Now, if you’re feeling sorry for me or worried that I may be giving up on the ideal – marriage or a committed relationship, you may be discriminating or have a bias against singles. Why are we called singles? Are married people called doubles? No… because married is considered the norm. Statistics show that less than half of the population is married. Why is that the norm? Why is that the ideal? And, according to some sources, even same-sex couples that have the right to get married now are choosing to say no. This article lists reasons not to get married. I agree with quite a few of them. The article makes a point that marriage has not proven that it is the most viable option of living. So many marriages end in divorce. For me, it’s proven to be devastating financially, emotionally and mentally. That’s one reason I’m so careful of relationships now. I don’t want to spend another 7 or so years investing in something that turns out horribly. I want to enjoy my life. I’m tired of all the work I’ve had to do during marriages.

So, I’m left with the knowledge that I may not be the most attractive type of woman for marriage, I am afraid of marriage, and I’m really happy single. So, God, I’m finally getting it. If I think about why I’ve been looking for love online and dating, it’s not really because I want a relationship. When I have met someone, I’m so busy I can’t find the time to get to know them, and I’m the type of person that makes time for things I really want to do. My gut tells me that I’ve been searching for love online for the past two years because I didn’t want to be considered bitter because of my past failures. And, if I’m not looking for a partner, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME. I actually feel pretty damn good about myself for the first time in my life. I’m not bitter about marriage. I’m not bitter about men. I’m really happy for those that make it work. I have lots of good male friends that I really love. Marriage just doesn’t look attractive to me. I don’t want to work that hard anymore.

I’m a realist. I may be single at heart. I may not be capable of sustaining a long term relationship. I may not be the type of woman that most men are seeking. I may not be making time for developing a relationship. I may enjoy my female friendships so much that I’d rather sacrifice a romantic relationship for them. Let’s face it, I’d end up sacrificing those for a romantic partnership. Don’t tell me I wouldn’t. I can’t tell you how many friends dump their long-term relationships with me when they get married or become part of a couple. Then, when they break up, I’m their best friend again. And the number of people I know that are staying married because they are afraid to be alone is astounding. It took me so long to leave because I was afraid to be alone. Is that a relationship? Staying out of fear? It sounds more like a prison sentence. If you are one of those people, let me tell you that being single rocks. You have to learn to love it, but aren’t you trying to love something you don’t love anyway?

The one thing that really bothers me is the stigma about being single. I’m a second class citizen. Well, if I don’t get picked, I’ll be happy single. I’ve been lucky enough to have it both ways, and I’d rather be single. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to date or have sex or be with men. It does mean that I will only get married again if a lot of things change inside of me. But, if I stay as I am, I’m happy. I know it makes some people uncomfortable. I don’t get invited to my couple friends’ houses. For some reason, couples can’t get to know a single person. It’s like I’m the Velveteen Rabbit. I’m only real when and if I become part of a couple. It doesn’t matter if the couple really can’t stand to be around each other, as long as they are part of a couple, they are invited everywhere. If you are single, you are relegated to singles’ functions only. I mean… I’m probably just trying to hit on your husband anyway, right? You know… because I’m so desperate for a man. I’ll be real honest, it’s usually your man hitting on us. We are usually saying no. Whatever .…. No wonder people have a fear of being single when they are married. It looks so bleak from their point of view. It’s just like marriage. It’s only bad if you can’t adapt.

So, I think for now I’m going to accept being single. I’m going to have my full life and not put any pressure on myself to get out and meet somebody. Yes, I will get out and have fun. If I meet somebody I like, then maybe I’ll get to know them better. But, if I don’t, I don’t. One of my friends reminded me yesterday of what a great life I have. We just caught up with each other after many years, and she went through my FB posts to see what had been happening in my life during the time we had been out of touch. She told me it was pretty amazing. She asked if I realized how many people had posted on comments I had made… how many had told me how much I inspired them … touched them …. helped them … made them laugh? When I was married, I wasn’t able to do that because I was focused on one relationship. It’s a choice. I like having all of that variety. I’ll take the risk of dying alone and being eaten by my cat. It’ll make a great blog anyway. 🙂

The Art of Being Single: I Gave at the Office

My second wedding in Sedona

My second wedding in Sedona

A friend of mine told me the other day that he was concerned about me. When I asked why, he said he thought he saw me write that I was considering being a lesbian. “Oh, I think I did,” I said. “I was really just joking around, but, honestly, sometimes it’s attractive.” He was concerned that I would be depriving – that’s the word he used, depriving – some man the opportunity to be with a fabulous, beautiful woman. Hmmmmm… well, I think I gave at the office.

Now, to be honest, I know he was being nice and offering me a compliment. I really do think some guy would be lucky to have me for a partner. I’m smart. I’m successful. I keep myself up on fashion, health, and current culture. I love life. I think that I would be fun to be with over time. But, I’ve married two men and was engaged to one that didn’t seem to feel so lucky to have me. Or at least they didn’t show it by caring for my needs. And, the second was so distraught over the loss of me that he had an affair a month after I left with a young yoga instructor who dumped him like a hot potato when our divorce was final. That was real devastation over losing his prize wife.

I took marriage seriously. I was faithful to my husbands. In fact, I’m lucky that I’m a one-man woman. I’ve just never even been tempted by another man when I was married. I could tell you that I did it on purpose, but I didn’t. It’s just the way I’m wired. I say I’m lucky because I never even have to work on it. If I’m with a man that I care about, nobody else can even catch my eye. I cooked every night. I always felt it was a priority for me to have dinner on the table at night. Neither one of my husbands cooked, and I made it a point to feed them. I took care of social obligations. I made sure we hit birthdays, family functions, etc. I did it less in my second marriage because he didn’t seem to want assistance with that. I helped pay my second husband’s child support. I felt it was part of the package. I even helped pay it when he socked away the profit on his ex’s home for himself in a private account that he didn’t share with me. I felt marriage was a joint proposition, and I did what I could to share burdens. As far as sex goes, I won’t go into any more detail than I know how to take care of a man. I was a good wife. I often say that I wish I had me as a wife.

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My Grandmother and me at my first wedding.

Now, I wasn’t perfect. I expect a lot of out of life. I don’t expect material things. That’s never been a big thing with me. But, I do expect love and attention. I expect respect. I expect to do things that engage my intellect and my emotions. I expect maturity and engagement in solving problems from a husband. So, I’m sure I may be a lot for some men who are just looking for a traditional wife. I do expect a relationship of equals.

For all that I did for those marriages and all that I was, I wasn’t appreciated. My first husband called me 6 months after we divorced and told me he absolutely had no clue how much I did. He was astounded at the amount of work I put in at the house. I merely answered, “I know.” I’d been trying to tell him for years.  So, my friend, don’t tell me I’d be depriving some man of all these wonderful things that I offer. I’ve freely given them not once, but twice. I gave at the office.

The other part of that equation is that he’s presuming that there are men out there that want me. And, I’m not looking for affirmation that I’m a great catch. I know what I have to offer, and I know my faults. I’m very grounded in reality. But if they want me, and they are not with me, we’re assuming they can’t find me. I’m out there in the world. I have a blog. I’m on Facebook. I am EASY to reach. If you are a single guy, and you want what I have to offer, you know how to find me. I write enough about myself and am transparent enough that you can find out how to turn my head. There’s just not been anybody that sees the value in what I have to offer to come after it. And, that’s okay by me. If a man doesn’t see how special I am and feel I’m worth the effort, then it’s not going to change after we’re in a relationship. I don’t want to go there again. I gave at the office.

I have to say to my friend that I’m not depriving any man of any opportunity if I decide to pull myself off the market. I don’t intend to do that, though. I’d like to have a relationship, but I have to have one that allows me my freedom, too. This time around I’m going to be myself. If I want to cook, I will. If I have needs that are beyond his capacity to fulfill – and I expect there will be lots of those needs – I’m going to take care of them. I will be faithful just because that’s the way I’m wired, but I expect that my needs in the bedroom will be just as important as his. And, at this age, I’ve decided that sex is as important as respect in a relationship, and I will not settle. In that area, too, I gave at the office.

I’ve been in a process of coming to terms with being single over the last couple of years as I’ve spent time meeting men and dating. I like my single life. I like men. If I looked at marriage like I’ve looked at other things in my life, the reality has never measured up to the fantasy. That tells me that it may not be for me. I’ve been much happier in the single periods of my life than I ever was married. When I wrote my blog about the “deal” and coming to terms with not having it, one of my other middle-aged single male friends contacted me about his lack of desire for the “deal” at this point in his life. The “deal” is a lot of work and sacrifice. And, for those of us who gave at the office and the “deal” didn’t pan out, I understand how it might be hard to give so unflinchingly the time and energy it takes to make the “deal” work out. I get it…… so I don’t blame the guys who aren’t contacting me for the opportunity to have me on their arm. I feel the same way. I gave at the office, baby.

And, if you want more info on the myths about being single, read the below article from Match.com. Even though they’d like for me to find somebody on their site, they realize that singleness has it’s own advantages.

8 Myths About Being Single