Monday, September 30, 2013

Why does everyone else have a boyfriend except me?

Did I tell you about grocery store man (let's call him GSM, shall we) here?

Allow me to recap.

I was at the local Trader Joe's, and a man approached me, made chit chat about the coffee or some such nonsense.  He was of "the right demographic" in that he was about my age, not wearing a wedding ring.  He was attractive, but not my type: I described him later to a friend as a "handsome meathead."  (This type of labeling does not reflect well on my character.  Oops.  Sorry.  But you have a picture in your head now, don't you?)  His physique was good, but not my had a hint of "maybe I do steroids" in it.

But he followed me around the grocery store, making banter over tortillas and shampoo.  I literally laughed each time he talked to me, because it was all such a stereotype (and because I'm prone to inappropriate laughter, perhaps), but it was all in good fun.

When we walked out to the parking lot - surprisingly, we left at the same time, though I had a cart full and he had a basket with just a handful of items, and we'd started at the same time - he asked me for my number.  I was so amused that I said yes.

We exchanged text messages (the subject of another post, perhaps: text messages are entirely practical but equally awful) for half a day after that.  I asked questions, he asked questions, and there was banter.  I thought "hmmm maybe a fun date will come of this". 

But it unraveled quickly.  He struck me as a player (no surprise, given his pick-up tactics), and his writing style was very "u r hot" and that turned my stomach.  Worse than "u r hot" he used "your" and "you're" interchangeably.  (Yes, sometimes I'm a snot.  At least I own that.)  His very-different-than-mine religious views came up.  His party-boy ways came up.  He was my age, but sounded like a 21 year old.

After not too much of this, I sent him a text back saying "I have really enjoyed our conversation, but I don't think that we are a match.  I wish you all the best, and if we see each other around town I hope you'll say hello.  Thanks for reaching out to me!"

He wrote back a very long scathing retort, in which he told me that he was a great guy, that I was weird, that it was no wonder I was single if that's how I treated men, etc. etc.  He said, "I can't believe you're breaking up with me!" and he demanded that I give him a chance.

No thank you.  (And break up with you?!  We never went out!  How could I break up with you?!)

I found the whole thing amusing, put it in my repertoire of singles-scene stories to share with girlfriends, and mostly forgot about it.


This weekend, I was out with some girlfriends, and one friend brought a woman along whom I'd never met.  This new friend is smart, attractive, sassy, funny, playful, successful.  She's got a twinkle in her eye that is positively infectious, and I enjoyed her company instantly.  Like me, she is a single, divorced mom, and she and I were telling each other about our lives and just making chit chat.  Over cocktails, the subject of sex came up (amidst laughter and winks), and she told me about her various affairs as she scanned the room looking for single gents.

I revealed my lack of affairs, and she scolded me, and told me how to put myself out there more, and encouraged me to have fun and let go.  I listened: it's not the first time I've heard this, and I know it's worth considering, because I DO love sex, and I DO miss it, and I don't have some moral hang up about it.

She seemed somehow so much brighter and more playful than myself, I started to wonder if I was really cutting myself short, and that perhaps I should just give up my celibate ways and find someone to play with, even if it wasn't someone who really fit what I'm looking for.


The subject of GSM came up.

She had dated him.

He picked her up in a grocery store, just like he had me.  (That's a good routine, apparently!)  She decided to have a little fun with him, and they had some (apparently) good sex. 

So far, so good.  Maybe I missed out?

But the story went downhill from there.  This smart, sassy, sexually liberated woman whom I thought was so much more comfortable with sex than I was, fell for this guy.  They were boyfriend-girlfriend.  They had hot sex.

Hmm.  Sounds like I missed out.


She also found him a totally unsuitable, boorish, 21-year-old-in-a-45-year-old's-body, hard partier, steroid-using, temper-tantrum-throwing, ungentlemanly, pick-up-artist....and she found herself begging for him.  She informed me that he was a full-blown alcoholic with a host of other issues. 

She cringed when she talked about it.  Their relationship hurt her, and she wasn't happy about it.  She wasn't heartbroken, but somehow it broke her heart. 


I have heard variations of this story from many women.

The more I hear this type of story, the less I have any desire to go play that game. 

Some days, it does seem like everyone but me is getting good sex.  It seems like everyone but me has a date for the cocktail party, everyone but me is being wined and dined, everyone but me has no trouble finding a boyfriend.  I am fortunate in that online dating has yielded more offers than I could possibly ever accept, and I don't lack for attention, but there are days when I think "Everyone else has a good guy except me!" or "What is wrong with me that I can't find my match when everyone else has match after match?!" and most of all, "Maybe I'm just too picky."

But I don't think that's it at all.

I know what I want, and as I've said, I want it all.

I also know what I don't want, and I don't want to find myself emotionally attached to some nit-wit man who I know isn't good for me.

I also know that the sex is SO MUCH BETTER when my emotions are in it, and when I really respect the man I'm sleeping with.

I also believe that if I'm spending time with a man that I already know is NOT "The One," then I'm not looking for "The One."  If I'm sleeping with a guy I don't want to end up with, then I'm not going to meet someone I do want to end up with.

I can't separate sex and affection leading to love.  Maybe I "should," but I can't.  If I slept with GSM, I would have, like my new friend, tried to make it into something more, and like her, I would later have cringed when I thought of it, because there was NO way that I could get what I wanted from him, good sex or not.

GSM was like a PopTart.  A guilty pleasure, sometimes it does sound like a good idea, and since they sell millions of PopTarts I can't be alone in that belief.

But the thing is, if I eat a PopTart I feel sick afterwards.  It leaves a weird film in my mouth, and it upsets my stomach, and I never walk away from that meal thinking "that was delicious and I'm so glad I ate that."

I don't want PopTarts, even though if one was placed in front of me I'd be tempted.

For breakfast, I want fresh, seasonal, organic fruit; French pastries made from scratch that morning; and farm fresh eggs; with strong, dark coffee.  I don't want PopTarts.

For men, I want intelligence, compassion, humor, playfulness, responsibility, and hot sex.  I don't want the likes of GSM.

Some days, I'm sure it's true: everyone is getting some except me.  Some days, I wonder why I don't just go out there and burn off some steam, have some good sex, and take care of my basic human needs.  Some days I wonder why everyone else can find five relationships when I can't seem to find one I want to have.


For those women who can enjoy good sex with a man they don't see a future with, I say, "More power to you."  But it doesn't work for me. 

And I'm okay with that.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Just. Do. It.

Struggling over here.

So much to do that I can barely write down my to-do lists, because that in itself is a gargantuan task.

I've come down with a nasty headcold that includes fever and chills.  Delightful, hmmm?

It's no wonder - it's my body's reaction to stress.

Wish me well, because today, I need to get some serious work done.  It's time to just do it, no more philosophizing or cheerleading, just nose to the grindstone.

It's terrifying for some reason.

But here I go.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I want it all, and I'm putting it out there!

Over at Perils of Divorced Pauline, there's a hot boy toy flirtation going on.

It has me thinking.

I could have such a flirtation if I wanted one - and make no mistake, part of me wants one.  Fun, playful, full of witty banter and hot sex....yes!  Someone to make out with, snuggle with on the sofa, and then make out again?  Mmm.  Yes.

But I can't.

I am not hung up on the morality of it - I say as long as it's safe and healthy (physically, emotionally, etc.) and doesn't hurt anyone else, then do what you want.  It's none of my business, and I know that what works for me doesn't work for everyone, so I don't feel like I could possibly know what is good for someone else.

But I do know what is good for me, and, fortunately or not, I want it all.

Hear that, Universe?  I want it all.  Please.

I have been online dating - no actual dates in a few weeks, because I've turned them all down - and feeling very popular.  Messages continue to come in with regularity, and mixed in with the lame "Hey, gorgeous!" and the somewhat sleazy "Hey sexy, how'd you sleep last night?" ones are some that actually are interesting.

I don't want that.  And I don't want "interesting" I want AMAZING.

This is me putting it out there.  Here's my prayer:


Dear Universe/God/gods/Angels:

Help me, please!  I know that what I want is a tall order, but I believe it's out there.  I could use a hand - can you help?  Please send me the one I'm dreaming of...  I feel him getting closer.  I want the one I'll grow old with.  I want the one who will roll in the sheets with me, hold my hand under the table, skip rocks on the beach with me, hike the mountain with me, giggle at the bad gallery art with me, visit my parents with me, travel with me.  I want the one who will help me make dinner and do the dishes, who will be just as glad to see me on a Tuesday night with stir fry and kids as he will to get on a plane and go somewhere incredible with me.  I want to feel soul touching love, and I want to model to my daughter what that looks like.  I want to give and receive respect; I want to cherish and be cherished.  I want a man worthy of my trust and affection, who brings out the best in me and allows me to bring out the best in him.  Shared values, shared interests, and a shared life.  Off the charts physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual chemistry.  When I look at him, I want my heart to leap with desire and joy, and I want him to feel the same about me.

I have faith that this is coming, and I believe.  Thank you for your help.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I've been alive long enough to know that even when I'm headed in the right direction, some floundering is inevitable.  It looks like this:

- I'm Wonder Woman!  I can do whatever I set my sights on, and I'm going to change the world, live my best life, and take charge.  I've got this!

- Wow, this is really hard, but I'm going to do it!  Watch me go!

- See?  Early success!  Told ya so!

- Hmm.  The early success didn't get me all the way there.  This might be really hard.

- Oh crap.  I don't know what I'm doing.  Everyone thinks I'm doing fantastically, but clearly, I'm a mess.  I don't know if I can do this.

- I think I'll just go back to bed.  I'm shutting down.  It's all I can do to shower and brush my teeth, let alone change the whole world.

- Whimper.

- My house is a mess and the stack of mail is about to topple over and I haven't eaten a fresh veggie in two days, and now I'm sick, and when I look at my to-do list I want to throw up.

I have had a busy week since I last checked in, and some great things have happened, but I have also lost momentum.  After throwing myself a birthday party (30 people!) last Monday, I chaperoned my daughter's class field trip to a National Park for a few days, came home, attended a professional conference, and then hosted two of my best friends from out of town for two nights at my house.  On Sunday I did my longest run yet (eight miles in an hour and nine minutes - very proud of myself), sent my girlfriends home to their equally busy lives, and then....crashed.  My mental house came tumbling down, and all my optimism disappeared with the full knowledge that I am unemployed and single and that no way could I make my dreams come true.

I used to believe that my crashes were proof positive that I would fail, that I was a fraud, that I couldn't hack it.  The little gremlin whispers in my ear just like everyone else: it says I'm not good enough, that my dreams are foolish, that I'm a lazy stupid girl who will never get what she desires.

But I don't believe that any more, even in my crashes.

The amount of work I need to do is stunning.  Job seeking in one's forties is no joke: I have a short timeline before I will have to eat rice and beans and worry about paying the mortgage, and I can't just go couch surf, because I've got a daughter and a dog and a cat and a mortgage and I need health insurance.  And real life doesn't stop just because I have this important task, and there are as many demands on my time as ever, and I haven't juggled them well.  (A week off of job hunting makes me hyperventilate.)


I've survived worse.  Much worse.  And I've gotten on my (professional) feet before, and I can do it again.

Today, I'm recognizing that I'm floundering.  I'm acknowledging that the last week has thrown me off course, and that my unfailing optimism is actually failing, and that the gremlin in my ear isn't even bothering to whisper any more, choosing instead to hurl insults at me in a voice so loud that I wonder if the neighbors can hear it.

But I have a trick to get through it.

I'm going to persevere.  I don't care what that stupid voice in my head says.  Today I'm buckling down, making my to-do list of thank you cards for networking meetings, reading lists for my new field, phone calls, scheduling, organization.  I am going to make this happen, and failure is not an option, and it's time to move forward.  The gremlin can yell at me that I'm a fool and that there's nothing special about me and I should just accept some awful job at a low wage and deal with it like so many others have had to do...

But I won't do it.  I'm going to tough it out, keep going.  Because I know that stopping now is guaranteed failure.

I know how to climb the trail to the top of the mountain.  I know how to show up to chemo....over and over.  I know how to survive divorce.  I am going to do this, no matter how hard it is, not just because I must (though that's real, too!) but because I refuse to give up on myself, and where belief and optimism fail, I'm going to rely on pure stubbornness.  I simply refuse to quit, despite the odds, despite anything else.

Let's get this thing done.


If you're reading this because you're stuck, and you're thinking, "Okay, how the hell do I get from "Help me, I'm drowning!" to "I've got this, let's go!" I might actually have some practical advice for you.  I've floundered a billion times, and I'm still here, and some of my flounders have been huge, so I might even be an expert on this.  It helps to have a technique, and here's mine.

Step One: Flounder.  You're doing that now?  Great!  Check it off on the list!  Everyone flounders.  Congratulate yourself for identifying that you're floundering, because that's actually huge.

Step Two:  Wallowing.  Spend an hour or a day wallowing.  Yup, tea and bubble baths and trashy magazines and television and whatever you do when you're wallowing.  Nothing self destructive - I don't recommend drunken anything because it always makes me feel worse in the end, tempting though it may be.  But as you spend this day wallowing, know that this is a limited timeframe.  You're allowed to wallow, because you're human, and damnit, you're going through a hard time.  But wallowing has an expiration date.  You are not going to stay wallowing, and you  know this even when you are in it.  Once you decide to wallow, set an end date.  Yesterday I woke up with a horrible head cold, and it was my wallow day.  I wallowed the entire time my daughter was at school....and then perked up enough to mother her.

Step Three: Get physical.  I don't care if you're five hundred pounds and consider exercise a trip to the basement, or if you're an Ironman(woman), get moving.  Do whatever suits your body, but push it a bit.  For me, this would involve doing two things: a yoga session for a half hour to an hour, or a run outside.  Maybe for you it's that, or a class at the gym, or a walk around your neighborhood, or a bike ride, or "chair aerobics" with one of those programs for seniors that are on television.  I don't care what it is, but move.  When we're stuck and floundering, it seems like our systems shut down, and getting moving will get your blood flowing again.  Plus, it sends a message to our brains, "Hey, we're taking care of ourselves.  Doesn't that feel good?"  Also, even though it won't realign the planets or solve your problems, it allows you to feel awesome about doing something that you know is good for you.  It helps reset everything somehow.  Don't skip this step, whether you "care" about your health or you ignore it.  It's not to be skinny or fit, it's just to reset the wallowing, to stop floundering.  It's important.  It will make you feel good, and it's worth it.

Step Four: Journal.  (Today, this is mine.)  Pour out your hopes, your dreams, your fears.  Let the gremlin's voice go down on paper, and maybe argue with it.  I don't think that there is a right way or a wrong way to journal, but I do believe that journaling has magical properties.  Seeing your problems in black and white sometimes makes them look like what they are - it shrinks them to their correct dimensions.  No bigger, no smaller.  And sometimes, identifying the problems are half of the way to getting to the solution.  And sometimes, journaling tells you just what to do.  You knew it all along, you'd only forgotten, and the journal reveals your truth and helps you get unstuck.

Step Five: Clean your house.  With your journaling top of mind, go grab a couple of projects that have been nagging at you.  Scrub the ring in the bathtub, get caught up on laundry, organize the junk drawer, or whatever it is that needs doing.  Clean for a couple of hours.  Really.  "WAIT!" you tell me.  "My house is not the problem!  I don't have a JOB!  I need a JOB and I don't want to be a maid!  This is not the time to clean my house!"  I know, I know.  But here's the thing: it also has magical properties.  Take a project that has been nagging at you, and accomplish it.  Send your mind the signal that you can get it done.  Also?  Enjoy the results.  Look!  There was a big pile of mail, and now there is a clean desk.  Walk into the kitchen, and see a sparkling sink and clean counters, and think "ahhhhh!" instead of "uuuugghhhhh."  Tell yourself, "Man that looks so much better!  I'm so glad I did that, because I love how great it looks now!"  Step back and smile, enjoy the fruits of your labors.  Reflect on how long that mess had been bugging you, and how great it feels to have it dealt with.  Remind yourself that it's a metaphor for other things that you can accomplish.  (Note: set a time limit on cleaning, just like you did on wallowing.  This is not the time to transfer all of your energy into painting every room in your house, because you really do need to work on your bigger issues in life - finding a job, making it through your divorce, etc.  You want to make a difference in your home, not completely re-do it right now.)

Step Five:  Okay, now we're getting down to it.  Make lists.  I like to make mine in categories: Job search, Consulting, House, Mothering.  I use a Gmail calendar, but at first, I put it down on paper in a chart style, with huge lists of everything that needs to happen.  Then, I prioritize.  I rank each item, and then start to assign things dates, and then try to assign times.  When I realize that I've put 72 hours worth into a day, I back up and spread it out.  When I realize that I've overbooked my social calendar, I start canceling things.  Write down what you need to do.  Put it in black and white, and then put stars or numbers beside the most important things.  If you're like me, your list would be impossible to accomplish in less than a decade, even though you thought it was just for the week.  Notice that, and cross things off, or bump them to a "someday" list.  Try to be optimistic but realistic about what you can get done, but do not let the length of the list stop you from attacking it.  Choose the top items, and focus on those.

Step Six: Keep looking at step five.  Keep those lists going.  Find something to be proud of each day.  I find that having a couple job accomplishments (setting up a new meeting, reaching out to my network, changing my resume, etc.) each day gives me momentum to keep going, and gives me energy.  If you're really stuck, start a bit slow - don't overwhelm yourself and send yourself back to wallowing.  Be realistic about what you can do, and commit to getting a portion of the list done every day, and manage the rest of the list.  (It wasn't done today, so I'm making it tomorrow's number one priority...)

Step Seven:  Keep cycling through all of this.  Every day, try to exercise a bit.  Every day, manage your house a bit - not just loading the dishwasher after dinner, but catching up on what needs doing.  Every day, do some self care (a home pedicure, a cup of tea on the porch swing, time out for reading, etc.).  Allot space in your calendar for these things, and use them as rewards.  You can NOT spend every minute of every day solving the problem that sent you floundering in the first place.  Once you've hit the top goals on your to-do list each day, make time for the rest of life: parenting, self care, exercise, etc. are all important, and when you're doing them, don't feel guilty about it.  Feel proud that you managed your top items, and know that you'll tackle your next items tomorrow.

Step Eight:  Schedule your day.  Have a plan for each day that incorporates all your steps.  Mine looks like this:
- Early morning, before my daughter wakes up: Exericise.  (I find that it sets the tone for the day.  Amazes me every time how I can wake up unmotivated and sluggish and feeling like the sky is falling, go for a run, and come back thinking, "I've got this!"  Endorphins are powerful.)
- Get my girl ready for school, pack lunches (mine included: if I make myself a salad when I'm packing her lunch, then I remember to be healthy mid-day when I'm feeling lazy and snack-ish).
- Take a moment to sit and reflect.  Today, that's here with this blog, but often it's just sitting quietly, sometimes with Mark Nepo's "Book of Awakening", or journaling with pen and a book.  Just ten minutes usually.
- Knock off a couple items on the household to-do list.  I've got the dishwasher running, laundry going, etc.  Today's household task is to tackle the mail pile (ugh) - I will feel so much better when that's done.  Today I have one hour to do this.
- Revisit the to-do list.  Make sure that you're taking the right steps for your goals, that you know what you need to accomplish to move forward.
- Buckle down.  Do the thing that is making your flounder, the scary thing.  For me, that means this job search stuff.  Do it in time blocks: today I'm going to start with two hours.  It might not be enough, but it's a heck of a lot better than sitting there thinking "It's too big!  I can't do it!" and two hours sounds like all I can handle today.  I must do it....but I'm relieved that after two hours I'm off the hook, and that gives me strength to keep going.  When I'm not floundering I can do eight hours, but when I'm floundering (like today) I've learned to shorten it.  Something is better than nothing!

Each day, repeat the steps.

If it was easy, everyone would have the picture perfect lives seen in Real Simple.  (If I see one more article about how to organize one's laundry room to color-coordinated perfection, I'll lose it.  I do not know one single person with a beautifully decorated laundry room, and I'm tired of seeing messages that say I am disorganized if my laundry room isn't beautiful.)  You aren't required to be perfect - you are only required to do your best, to make progress, and to keep going even when you want to quit.

I'll let you know how I do with all this.  I'm still floundering.  It helps me to remember that I know what I need to do, but if you'd like to send good wishes and prayers that I can make this happen, I really appreciate them.  It's all uphill right now, and though I know I've climbed some big hills before, it's still a lot of work, and it's still scary, and my muscles still burn and protest.

And to follow my own advice.  Reluctantly.  Deep breath.....

Monday, September 16, 2013

I don't know 'bout you, but I'm feelin' 22...

I am officially twice the age of Taylor Swift's lyric.  Happy 44th birthday to me!

But I've gotta tell you, I did not think that 44 would feel like this.  Not at all.


In many ways, I do feel 22.  I'm at the cusp of so many things, and that feeling of possibility that I felt at 22 is back again, only this time it's tempered by a lot of experience and a little bit of wisdom.

At 22 I did not think I was worthy of love, but I hoped I would find it anyway.
At 44 I know that I am worthy of supernova love, and I know I'll find it.

At 22, I felt so much pressure to get it right, and I felt like the world was watching me and judging me.
At 44, though my pressures have increased (a mortgage not least of it), I know that the world is too self-obsessed to worry about whether I am getting it right, and that those who might judge me aren't worth my time.

At 22, I was lovely and fit, and I could have spent hours telling you about what was wrong with my body.
At 44, covered in scars and with an imperfect body, I am so grateful for my body and all it does for me that I could weep in gratitude.  I am alive and it matters.

At 22, I often went with the crowd because I wanted them to like me.
At 44, I choose what I wish to do, see if anyone feels like joining me, and then do it solo or with a group, and have an equally good time.  I've noticed that those people who weren't that into me simply weren't my people: my people love me and love joining me, and we don't care who thinks we're weird or not cool or not doing interesting things.  Ironically, this has made me a lot more interesting, and once I started doing my own thing instead of doing what other people wanted me to do, more people wanted to join me.

At 22, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.
At 44, I know that I want to be in the non-profit field, starting in development and moving towards Executive Director, and on the side I want to write.  This is a beautiful sentence, filled with clarity and peace.

At 22, I hoped that one day if I was lucky, I'd get to be a mom.  I secretly hoped I'd have a daughter.
At 44, I have the best daughter in the world.  Which is to say - the best for me.  She is a lot like me, but so much better, and she has made my life so much better than I dreamed possible.

At 22, I didn't yet have my tribe.  I had a couple true blue friends who remain with me to this day, but those friendships were still relatively new.
At 44, I have tried and true friendships, and my tribe has lifted me through the darkest of days.

At 22, I ran.
At 44, I run.

At 22, I hiked and backpacked.
At 44, I hike and backpack.

At 22, I went on my first overseas trip.
At 44, I hope to go overseas with my daughter.

At 22, I loved museums and plays.
At 44, I love museums, and now I can afford the annual passes if I budget around them.  (So I do.)

At 22, I was a reader and a writer.
At 44, I am a reader and a writer.

At 22, I had no idea how strong and resilient I was.
At 44, I know that I am one of the strongest and most resilient.

44 will be my best year yet.  All of my running, hiking and such has made me closer in fitness to my 22 year old self, and I'm getting close to beating my best running times ever, and to surpassing my farthest distances....and that makes me feel 22 all over again.  I'm not feeling old, I'm feeling like I'm just starting out.  I feel like life, love, career - so much still lies ahead.  I feel confused like everyone else, only now I know that I'm not the only one feeling that way, and it doesn't hurt like it used to.

I was too tired after backpacking to do a big run this morning, so I did yoga.  My stretches are deeper, my mind happier.

I don't know 'bout you - but I'm feelin' 22.  Only better!  Tonight I'm throwing myself a cake party (cake, wine, and friends) and perhaps 20 people will come, and I can't wait.  No partner to throw me a party?  No problem - I'll throw my own....and enjoy the friends that come.  :-)  Happy birthday to me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


Many people are familiar with the Pacific Crest Trail because of Cheryl Strayed's book, "Wild".

For those who haven't read it, it's the story of a 20-something woman whose life is falling apart - nay, has fallen apart - and who decides to put it back together by hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  The PCT goes from Mexico to British Columbia, and it's about 2600 miles.

Well, this weekend, Katherine and I did our first backpacking trip together, and we hit a section of the PCT.

When I was in my 20s, I backpacked.  I went with girlfriends, and I learned how to filter my water in a stream, how to cook on a tiny one burner stove, how to load my pack....and how to carry that heavy pack for miles and miles over boulders and logs and up the sides of mountains on narrow trails.

I loved it.  It made me feel alive, and badass.  It made me feel simultaneously peaceful - nature, quiet - and energized, alive from pushing my body to new limits.

When Bryan and I were dating, we bought his and hers backpacks from REI.  We talked about all of the hiking we would do together.

We went once.  For one night.  In our entire long relationship.

But now Bryan's not my partner, and bit by bit I'm reclaiming the pieces of myself that I let go away during my marriage.  (Note: he didn't take them.  He couldn't.  I think I gave them away.  How foolish of me.  Whatever he did or did not do, I'm most upset with myself for allowing myself to let the best parts of me vanish.  But I digress.)

This weekend was magical.

I hauled my old external frame backpack, which has sat dormant for a decade, out of the attic.  I dusted off my old Whisperlite stove and tried it in my back yard - and it lit with the first match.  I pulled up websites about how to pack a pack.  I pulled up packing lists.  I consulted my wilderness cookbooks.

Katherine and I had already dropped some cash at REI for a backpack suited to her frame.

And....we were off.  It was an eleven mile round trip hike to a gorgeous lake.  Our packs - filled with outdated equipment of the cheap variety, for the most part - were very, very heavy....mine checked in at 38 pounds fully loaded with food and water, and Katherine's checked in at 22.

But we did it.  We feasted on pasta with salami, sundried tomatoes, thyme, garlic, and pine nuts for dinner, and our chocolate bar dessert was nirvana.  We snacked on wild blueberries.  We saw a sunset with the moon reflected in the lake.  We saw many pikas.  We talked.  Katherine talked.  Katherine opened up and told me about this and that and nothing at all, and my heart burst with joy.  She asked questions about backpacking, she asked questions about my life.  We were also quiet together, just us (and our dog).

I saw my daughter look at me with new eyes: this is a part of me she didn't know.

I let her lead the way, because when I was out front, I was way too fast for her.  Her eyebrows went up.  Mom is that fast?  But no problem, I can wait....

We met a grandmother camping with her grandson.  (The grandma STARTED backpacking when she was 63.  How inspiring is that?!)  I said to Katherine, "When I'm a grandma, I want to take your child backpacking!  Would that be okay?"  Katherine thought for a bit, and said, "Well, couldn't I come, too?"

Yes.  Yesyesyesyesyes.  My daughter wants to do this again.  My daughter wants to be a backpacker.  My daughter wants to backpack with me even when I'm an old lady.  YES!

And we met three different thru-hikers (a large percentage of those we met, actually, as the trail was relatively empty).  They all stopped and talked to us, and I grilled them.  How many miles per day?  How do you manage food?  How fast do you go?  When did you start?  Do you recommend it?

Katherine listened, eyes wide.  We looked at each other, and our eyes said it: We want to do this.

I do not know if I will ever hike the 2600 miles of the PCT.  What I know, though, is this:

I'm just getting started.  I'm reclaiming my life, my interests, my fire.  I am a backpacker.  I was born to be out there.  I feel "me" in the woods, and the deeper in the woods, the better.  My legs burn a bit even as I lie in bed typing this, but it's such a good burn.

(How I'm going to run 8 miles tomorrow morning, I don't yet know.  I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  My half marathon approaches...)

I don't want a little, I want a lot.  I want to be like those thru-hikers: passionate, lean, proud.  Their eyes danced.  They're near the end of the trail, and they have accomplished something that few people do.  They've got fire, they've got spunk.

My eleven miles may not compare to their 2600, but maybe it felt just as good.  Sharing it with Katherine was....sublime.  Reconnecting with myself was divine.

Happy birthday to me.  This weekend ushers in a new year for me, and I couldn't be happier with it.  The good times keep coming, and I am choosing wisely.  Lots of work, not an easy path....but so much beauty, so much joy, and such bliss to share it with my daughter.

It's going to be a great year.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Yesterday I wallowed.

It's too much.  It's too hard.  I can never do it.  I'm a fool.  I'm a fake.  I'll never succeed.

You know the drill, right?  Because everybody gets that voice in their head sometimes.

This morning I woke up feeling equally sorry for myself.  I grumbled when the alarm went off at 4:30am, and laid there, awake but not getting up for an entire hour.  I could have slept in, or I could have been having a leisurely (as in "I have time to do this without running late") work out, but instead I lay there wallowing.

At 5:30 I begrudgingly got out of bed to go for a run in the dark.


A third of a mile in, life smacked me upside the head.  That is, there was a lift in the sidewalk from a tree root, and I didn't see it in the dark, so as my foot smashed into it I crashed into the sidewalk.  I bloodied both hands and a knee, somehow also managing to smash one shoulder and elbow (logistically, I'm not sure how this is possible).

Actually, I'm glad that it wasn't my head that was literally, only metaphorically, smacked.

I walked home, slightly dazed.  I washed off some of the blood, examined the hole in my favorite running pants, took ibuprofen, and started icing the shoulder and the worst hand.  I sulked.  I felt sorry for myself.  I moaned a little and wallowed a lot.

But I'm a mom, so then I woke up my girl and went through the motions of getting her ready for school.  I showed off my wounds, satisfied with her wincing sympathy.

And then I snapped to.

This is not who I wanted to be.  Wallowing?  From some SCRAPES that I will have forgotten in a few weeks?  For God's sakes, I've had poison injected into my veins!  I've had third degree radiation burns!  I've got a body covered in surgical scars!  And I'm going to WALLOW because I tripped and fell?


I dropped off my beloved daughter at the bus, and told her "Thank you for your sympathy this morning, it helped.  I will go for another run, in the light this time, and get back in the saddle!"

I ran.  Tentatively at first - I really do feel battered - and then better.  My first mile was a little slow.  My second mile was slightly faster, and I started to feel better.  On my third mile, I thought "Hey, this isn't as bad as I thought" even as the sweat really kicked in and started stinging on the wounds, which haven't scabbed over yet.  I started to feel like a badass.  I kept going.  On my fourth mile, I ran a great (for me) pace, my fastest yet.

Apparently, I needed that fall.  Bummer.  I'd really like to learn life's lessons without the painful bit, but this is not to be.

It's time to stop wallowing at every level.

Yes, I'm unemployed at the moment, and that is terrifying.  But I'm also a woman with a mission, a woman on fire with her desire to change the world, to run her life, and to make the most out of all of it.  I've got a great education, great work experience, great references, and a great network.  I've been working that network like mad, and everyone is incredibly encouraging.  I was contacted by a great organization who heard about me - even though I haven't showed a soul my new resume, because I'm not happy with it yet! - and I've got lots of leads, and I've barely gotten started.

Sometimes we stumble, and sometimes we fall.  Sometimes, in the dark, the sidewalk rises, and blood flows, and bruises form.  It sucks.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that I'm strong and fit and capable.  I may not have jumped out of bed at 4:30 in the morning as I "should" have, but I was out there running at 5:30am, and let's just say there weren't a lot of people out at that hour with me.  I may have had to limp home, but I am also perfectly capable of getting my daughter out the door and trying again.  And when I tried again, I met beautiful success: a strong run, improved pacing, a clearer head.

Apparently, I needed the attack of the sidewalk.  Apparently, I needed to take yet another test to prove what I am and am not capable of.  Apparently, I needed a few reminders about how things are done, how to live, how to move forward.

Today I'm done with wallowing.  I still hurt, and I've got some battle wounds that are wince-worthy.

But I'm a badass, because I'm still going, and I am not going to quit until I get what I want.

Thank you, broken sidewalk.  I believe I just passed your test.  I'm on fire to prove that I've got what it takes again, thanks to you, so I'll take my wounds.

(Now, if anyone knows of a way to learn these lessons without pain, or blood, I'd appreciate your tips.  Otherwise...I'll just keep stumbling along, occasionally falling.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I'm feeling a bit frozen.

It's not like me, and I don't like it.

Ummm, I don't have a job.

So maybe I should go online and shop at the man mall?!

No.  Nononono.

But I have to say, today it has all caught up with me, and I'm feeling more than slightly overwhelmed.  I'm trying to break into a brand new career in my mid-forties and AM I CRAZY?  I left an easy job that paid my bills and gave me a ton of vacation time, and now....what?  No guarantees, and what am I going to do?  I am freaking out over here!

Today I had another networking meeting.  I got some more resources, was given a couple more names.

Yesterday I got a call from a friend telling me about a job I might be interested in, and I was also contacted by a friend of a friend who is an executive director at an organization that I'm interested in, and they have a job offering that she wants me to look at.  I have another meeting later this week with an interesting nonprofit.  I'm attending a conference in the field later this month.  And best of all?  I'm doing some consulting, and I've found an amazing mentor, and I'm getting great work done there, both on my learning curve, earning a little money, and getting a resume line in the field I want to work in.

So, I should be floating high.  I've been telling everyone I'm floating high, because I have felt great about everything.

But today, I feel absolutely paralyzed.  I came home from my networking meeting and froze, and got nothing at all done this afternoon.  Katherine is home now, and I'm ignoring her.  What I want to do - on this beautiful sunny day - is climb into my bed and pull the covers over my head and pretend nothing exists.

Uh oh.

This is normal, I suspect.  I don't like the uncertainty.  There is much to gain, and much to lose.  It's the losing part that terrifies me.  What if I can't get a job that pays what I need?  What if I'm a total failure?  What if I never reach another one of my dreams ever again?   ARGHHHH!  (Crazy talk.  I know.  It's one of the crazy days.)

I might just freak out for a while longer.  Wish me luck and send me "get 'er done" vibes, because I can not afford to be in this state for too long.  And if you have suggestions for getting through this, I'm all ears, because my to-do list is longer than I dreamed possible and I don't even want to look at it, because it's so overwhelming.

Deep breaths.

Monday, September 9, 2013

People are crazy.

On Friday night I had a date.

We had dinner - I broke my rule! - and went for a walk along the waterfront.  It was pleasant.  I felt no expectations, and therefore no pressure.  He was articulate and intelligent, and so that made the conversation easy.

At one point on our walk, we found ourselves on a pier over the water, enjoying the moonlit view.  I had a moment of panic - oh dear God, I'd put myself in perfect kissing position.  Now, we all know that I'm not a prude and that a giant make-out session on a deserted pier with a beautiful view and the sound of the waves lapping under us could be very, very interesting with the right person...but clearly this was not the right person, because I had a momentary panic until I pertly said, "I think we should get back, don't you?  Let's turn around now," and didn't give him a chance to agree or disagree, merely turning and walking back.

Still, despite the clear lack of chemistry, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I'd go out with him one more time.  Maybe chemistry takes a while?  Maybe since I am the world's pickiest dater and don't appear to like ANYONE, I should give him a chance?

He helped me to make up my mind.  In the morning, there was a text message waiting for me.  We had discussed our mutual enjoyment of backpacking, and the text invited Katherine and I to go backpacking with him and his two children the next weekend.  A weekend in the mountains with our kids.

Are you kidding me?!  We had a three hour date (in hindsight, two hours too long) and now you want to introduce our kids and spend an entire weekend together in the woods?!

I should learn to listen to my instincts.  If I don't like him, I don't like him, and it doesn't matter how smart he is, or how attractive, or how anything.  And this guy is clearly ready to grab the first thing that comes his way - I can't believe he'd want to include our children, I can't believe he'd want to commit to that much time together, I can't believe he'd want to level jump so quickly.  I mean, I'm spectacular and all that (ha!) but he doesn't even know me!  Talk about a big red flag - a whole series of them, actually.

I was able to send him a short and hopefully very nice note that said, "Sorry, but I just don't think the chemistry is there.  I wish you all the best..." etc.

I really do wonder if I should just drop this internet dating thing.  How many first dates can one woman have?!  But I keep going back, because you just never know.  I think I might have accepted another coffee date for later this week....yes, I did.  What was I thinking?!

Now, back to work.  My to-do list is as long as my arm...still.  And no sign of shrinking.  Happy Monday, everyone!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First Dates

It turns out that I'm becoming quite good at first dates. 

An interesting skill, but hey, I'll take what I can get.

I've learned how to set aside all expectations on a first date - I know that it is really a meet and greet, and that the intention is to see if there is anything there, not to plan our lives together.  I have come to learn that people stretch the truth in online profiles (though this never ceases to amaze me: don't you think I will NOTICE that your hairline is two inches back, that your waistline is bigger, and that you're not as tall as you said you were?!).  I've also learned that online chemistry and real-life chemistry have absolutely no correlation: I've had long chats with gentlemen where I thought "wow this is fantastic!" and then in person it has been absolutely flat.

So, no expectations going in - and this removes the pressure, and I can relax and enjoy myself.  I meet people, hear a bit about their lives, learn about something new to me, and usually have interesting conversation.

I've also learned that coffee is the best first date ever, because it's not a date at all, it's an interview.  (The Huffington Post just did a little article on that subject, and I agree: ).  Drinks aren't good because they're very date-like, and because it changes the venue from somewhere light and bright (coffee shop) to somewhere either noisy (bar) or potentially intimate (nice restaurant)....but coffee is short and sweet, feels safe (no dark alleys!), and gives us a chance to get to know each other a bit in a low pressure situation.  No dressing to the nines or sexy evening

So, for better or for worse, I've had my share of first dates, and I'm losing track of how many.

I think it's really important to acknowledge the truth about a first date, and that includes "nice guy, no chemistry."  I have turned down men recently that I would have continued dating "just to see" if I was my younger self.  My older self values her time a great deal, and I'm a lot more honest with myself.  Last week there was a nice guy who was just far too laid back for me - I knew I'd end up running circles around him and feeling annoyed, even though he was a good conversationalist and an interesting person.  The flattery of his attention was not enough any more, as I'm holding out for a great fit, not just for a nice guy.

I've learned some surprising things about myself in the dating process.

1.  I am much, much shallower about physical appearance than I once believed.  My ex was so overweight that I didn't find him attractive at all in the end, despite his sparkling blue eyes and cleft chin.  Now, I find that I really only want tall (I'm tall, and I wear heels a lot, and all the men in my family are over six feet tall...), fit men who have good hair (bald can be attractive, and I don't rule it out, but they have to know how to rock the bald head!) and who have a sense of laid-back style.  Yes, laid-back style.  I do not want a metrosexual who is always more fashionable than I am, but I want a guy who knows how to dress.  (The man who showed up in his bike gear at a nice bar made my jaw drop a bit.)  A suit at the ballet, nice jeans and shirt for gear only when going on a biking date.  Looks matter.  It is what it is.  I am not a supermodel, but I present myself attractively, and I want someone who does the same.

2.  Fitness matters.  A lot.  I have worked hard on my physical self for a long time: first, as I tried to regain health after cancer, and then as I tried to be fit in general.  Our bodies matter.  I have found that they matter not just when out on a hike and it's nice to enjoy the scenery instead of huffing and puffing and feeling miserable, but they're nice for everyday activities: when I am fit, EVERYTHING is easier, including quickly cleaning up the dinner dishes, or dashing off on an errand, because my energy levels are higher and I just feel better.  What's more, I absolutely love being with a fit person who enjoys eating healthy food with me (which makes the chocolatey dessert we share taste even better!), and who suggests an after dinner walk for miles along the waterfront, because I find that a lot more attractive than plunking down in front of a TV.  Yes, I want the "oooohhhhhh!" physical chemistry that fitness provides, but I also want the lifestyle that goes with it.

3.  This one hurts to admit, but I'm going to admit it.  I want him to offer to pay for the first date.  I *always* bring out my wallet to pay, but there is something courtly about a gentleman paying for that date.  One bad date (a poor fit in many ways) ordered two glasses of Malbec to my one glass of happy hour house red (see?  I shouldn't have done happy hour, I should have stuck to coffee!), and then suggested we split the bill.  Really?  I did so - the extra ten dollars didn't kill me - but I also declined his request to see me again.  Offering to pay for the first meeting sets it up as a date.  It also says, "You're worth something to me."  It says "I'm taking you out of the friend zone, and into the date zone."  At some strange level, it says, "I'd like to invest in this relationship."  Now, the feminist in me is strong, alive, and well....and she's slightly appalled at me for feeling this way, but I've given up berating myself for these feelings.  If a gentleman doesn't offer sincerely to pay for the first date, I'm less likely to accept a second date.  (Note: Luke not only paid for the first date, but when I offered to split the bill he said, "Please let me do this, as the pleasure in meeting you is all mine."  Is it any wonder that I ended up sleeping with him?!  Also note - I continued to offer to pay for dates when we went out, and more than once I insisted on picking up the whole bill.)  I'm not out to use men for financial gain or free meals or what have you, but I want him to pay for that first date.  If he doesn't, I assume he's just not that interested.

4.  I like my life.  Oh, that is bliss.  Wow.  I like my life.  I like my life!  I LIKE MY LIFE!  No, I love it.  Now, as a woman who has been to hell and back, a statement like this one makes me want to get up and dance around the living room in my bare feet.  Meeting interesting strangers, hearing about their lives, and telling them about mine, is a reminder of how much I have to be grateful for.  Realizing that I do not NEED their companionship to be happy is a gift.  Recognizing that my life is so rich and full that I'd need a pretty amazing, special man to add to it - not just any man, but someone extraordinary - is wonderful, because it makes me appreciate what I have so much more.

5.  I believe that I'll find what I'm looking for.  Nothing is less attractive to me than a man who kvetches about how he can't find what he's looking for and women are too picky and all the good ones are taken etc. (I guess I feel the same way about women who say the same things about men.)  Such conversations, even when spoken lightly and with humor to disguise them, are a total turn off.  Here's the deal:  I believe that there is an amazing, incredible man out there for me, and that I will find him.  I believe that the world is full of fascinating people with a great deal to offer.  I believe that there are many people out there who want the same things that I do.  I believe that we're all struggling, and that for those of us in our forties who are trying to start over after divorce the world is fresh and bright and new, and the best still lies ahead.  I also believe that if it takes a long time to find it, that's okay, because it's worth the wait.  I mean, I've waited over forty years already...I can handle a few more!

While I've been typing this message, I've been asked out by two men.  I woke up this morning to an invitation to a second date from yesterday's date.  I'm being very selective (I said no to the two, and I'm not sure yet about what to say to the second date invite....which is at least better than wanting to yell "NO thank you!"), but I feel confident.  It'll happen when it happens.

And until then?  Wow I'm busy.  Back to work for me.  :-)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

OkCupid vs. POF

I can not seem to resist the allure of online dating.

I call it Shopping at the Man Mall.  At 9pm as my daughter turns out the lights in her room, I pull my laptop onto my lap as I sit in bed, and I go man shopping.  "Hmmm, this one seems too short, this one too big, this one not _____ enough, but oh! maybe this one will fit?"

Shopping at the man mall is a bit like going swimsuit shopping.  I'm dreaming of the beautiful vacation on white sand beaches with palm trees overhead, sun on my skin, and maybe a cabana boy delivering me a something tropical...but first, I have to go into a small room with three way mirrors that reflect the depth of my cellulite to frightening degrees.  I enter the man mall full of hope, thinking, "There are hundreds of men here in my area!  Surely there is one who will interest me?" but as I try them on I think "oh this isn't good at all!" and it's all I can do not to tuck my tail and run.

But the idea of that white sand beach keeps calling me back, so I keep trying for the perfect swimsuit; so the allure of the perfect mate, and so I go back to online dating.

I've tried it on and off for about a year now, and I think I've learned a few things about online dating.

First, the websites:
I'm cheap.  (Okay, let's say frugal, shall we?)  I chose the free sites, because, well, why not?  Plus, I read an article in The New Yorker about OkCupid and how it was the hot website and just as good as the other websites that charge a substantial amount, so I thought if it was good enough for The New Yorker, it was good enough for me.  Then my cousin met someone on OkCupid, and married him, bought a house together, and had a baby, so I thought, "Hey, this works!"  He was her first date.  I thought "Well, that sounds convenient!"

Let's just say I didn't have quite her luck on the first, second, or fifth dates.  Luke was from OkCupid, and that was a mostly good experience, but finding him was a needle in a haystack (to use the cliché) and he wasn't even the right good, just the good-right-now guy.


Pros include that you can look up just about ANYTHING you'd want to know about someone, including the minutia about their political views, dating style, etc. because OkCupid asks zillions of questions that you can look up on all kinds of subjects, so I found that I could look for their views on gay rights (as someone with gay friends who have kids, if someone is anti-gay-marriage I could never be with that person), on how soon they expect to have sex (I learned that almost all guys say before the third date, so that question didn't yield any true info), on whether they have kids, on whether they like dogs.  The website has an algorithm that creates a match percentage, and while I found that it didn't always select the right people for me, it did rule the right people out. (Any match under 90% was probably a very poor fit for me, but I also had some 99% matches who were poor fits.  Go figure.)

OkCupid seems to attract a relatively educated crowd, and if you're an education junkie like I am, that might be interesting.  There was a high percentage of white collar workers.

Cons of the website include that it is possible to know too much about someone before meeting them.  There were a lot of questions about sex - a LOT of questions - and so you could know exactly - and I mean exactly - what someone's sexual preferences were.  First, that seems like a bit much to put out there on the internet; second, that means that things that are (in my opinion) best revealed over time and with some seduction are instead just in black and white, and that seems about as unromantic as it comes.

When I would log on in the evening, OkCupid would have maybe 150,000 users online, at the peak of usage.  But after hanging out there for a few weeks, it seemed like the same people were there all the time.  My chosen demographic is pretty narrow - age 40-49, educated, non-smoker - but it seemed like it didn't take much time to look at everyone in that demographic and rule a ton of people out.

Plenty of Fish:

I noticed that Luke kept popping up on OkCupid, where we first met, and it made me feel weird after we stopped dating, and I didn't want to see him there or have him see me there, so I decided to go elsewhere.  When I first signed up for online dating, Plenty of Fish had a reputation as being a serious pick up joint for casual encounters (not my thing), but a few months ago they actually made changes in policy that made it difficult for people to use the site for casual encounters (including the interesting choice that a man can not email a woman pictures, because men who email women unsolicited pictures tend to go all Anthony Weiner).  I figured I had nothing to lose, so I signed up.

Holy smokes.

Pros:  There are a zillion active users on POF.  Within the first week I had received more emails than I got in a month on OkCupid, some from interesting people.  I put a note in the system that only people with photos could contact me, and the system attaches profile pictures to every email sent to me.  (I have my pictures up, so it's only fair if the gentlemen do, too!)  When I log in in the evening, there are usually 500,000 users online.  I have set my preferences that only users within 75 miles (their smallest distance parameter) can contact me, and I continue getting messages daily from new users I've never seen before.

I've had three dates in less than three weeks, with my same "particular" standards that I had on OkCupid, but it has been much easier to find users who are interesting to me.  Still difficult, but more interesting.  :-)  None of those dates yielded someone who I was interested in seeing again, but they were all three decent human beings, just not "my" guy(s).

Cons: The education level is much lower on POF.  There is very little discussion of books, much more of TV, in the profiles I read.  Maybe that won't be a con for some, but it certainly is for me.  I also wish that I could tighten the distance parameters, because 75 miles away might as well be on the moon when it comes to dating - I am a busy woman, and it's hard to find a three hour chunk of time in my schedule, and at that distance I'd spend the whole time driving.  (It won't happen.  Not even for someone who looked "perfect" because I'd never have the chance to get to know them.)

Overall, I prefer Plenty of Fish.  It has been really fun to get this level of attention, and my phone buzzes with messages MUCH MUCH more often than it ever did on OkCupid.  (It's a little crazy, actually.  I haven't felt this popular ever before.)  In the end, it seems like a numbers game: some might get lucky, as my cousin did, and meet her dream man on her first online date, but for the rest of us, it's about the learning curve, and about meeting lots of people in order to find the one we're seeking.  I feel more likely to find that person in a big crowd than I do in a small one.

This weekend I have two more dates; a coffee date that will probably be "nice" but not yield a love match, and a slightly more interesting sounding dinner date.  (I'm breaking my own rule for the dinner date - I usually keep it really short on purpose, choosing coffee or happy hour.  I hope I don't regret this!)  And then maybe I'll back off for a while, because life is busy.  But you know what?  It's nice to have a choice, it's nice to be sought out, and it's nice to have an option like online dating.

Because shopping at the online Man Mall is about the only place this busy single mom goes where she could meet men. :-)