Sunday, July 6, 2014

Alternate plans and epiphanies

I had a gorgeous weekend.

First, a whole pile of chores front-loaded onto the three day weekend, so that I got them out of the way.  Then, fireworks and BBQ with dear, dear friends.  Then, off to the woods to go backpacking, just Katherine and I (oh, and our big dog).  We hiked through snow -okay, I can handle this! we're prepared! - to a river too high to cross.

So, we begrudgingly turned around and went back.  I felt heartsick - I really wanted that time in nature, under the stars, and I was longing for it.  But as if to prove a point, the weather turned, and it started raining (no rain was in the forecast, but the mountains are funny that way), so down we went.  We tried to find a car campsite somewhere at lower elevation, even in the rain, but to no avail: on the holiday weekend nothing was available except what we did not want.

We drowned our sorrows in good cheeseburgers and Katherine got a milkshake (a treat) and sulked home.  I felt like our weekend had been lost....

Until I remembered that I'd just hiked for three hours with my daughter in the wilderness.  Until I thought about how many wildflowers we'd seen.  Until I though about how fun it was to play with snow in July.  Until I remembered that we still had a day to do as we wished, even if it wasn't camped out.  We didn't do the whole distance, but we DID backpack.  I felt strong and able and confident, out alone with those packs on our back, and that WAS success.

Why on earth did I think I had figured out the only way to have fun, and that all else was somehow wrong because I didn't get what I wanted on my original plan?

A good night's sleep, and the day started anew.

Today, it was a ten mile bike ride along the sparkling sea, breakfast outdoors at a coffee shop, and climbing on the rocks to look for sea stars.  It was running into urban goats (what?!) on the way home and feeding them.  And then, bikinis and sunscreen and hats and sarong wraps, and friends picked us up and we went back to the beach.  Swimming, sunning, catching up with our friends, picnicking.

I dove into the icy Sound, laughing.  I kept my eyes open underwater, seeing the pebbles below me and the bits of seaweed floating by, and I felt like I was grinning from ear to ear.  I think was the only 44 year old to attempt such insanity, as even the children usually only go wading as it's so cold...but it was 80 degrees and perfect weather, easy to warm up afterwards.

I sat on a chair with my friend, laughing and having girl talk in between mothering.

My fallback plan was perfection.  Not at all the day I'd envisioned, but no less because of it.


I have relaxed into my idea of not dating, of perhaps being solo forever.  There is liberation in not giving a damn, and it's sweet.  It makes me feel giddy, even: I can do what I want whenever I want.

And yet?

Something isn't sitting quite right  It's not "me" even if I am independent, sassy, strong, capable  I don't "need" anyone, but don't I want someone?  Isn't life more beautiful with a loving partner?

By relaxing into my feelings, I think I had a new epiphany.

Since my divorce, I've sought a partner to share the good stuff: my strength, courage, zest for living have all been offered up.  My ability to rock a pair of high heels or waterproof hiking boots, my drive to run long distances, my can-do attitude.  I've sought my partner for all those things, and I've wondered why the men I've met have come up so short.

I think I'm starting to figure it out.

I have been completely closed to The Big Stuff.  The way that sometimes cars break down, or things go wrong, or bodies are imperfect.  I've been willing to share my good stuff - hey, I'm proud of who am! - but not my insecurities.

I am one of the bravest people I know, and I don't say that lightly.  I am damned proud of the way I stared cancer in the eye and made incredibly difficult decisions about treatment and faced those decisions every day for years.  I am proud of the way I cared for my daughter in the midst of that, putting her needs beyond my own even on the worst days.  I am proud of my career change, because it takes some serious nerve to do that at my age.  I am proud of getting divorced when I had no idea how to feed myself.  I have shown great strength and courage, and I'm proud of that bravery.

And yet?

I am slowly realizing that I am not at all brave about relationships with men. I don't put myself out there at all, and I've got walls that make Sleeping Beauty's thorn forest look like nothing.

All this dating, and I think it's only stopping the dating that made me see it clearly for the first time.

My father, and my ex-husband, both had the ability to look me in the eye and tell me what I wanted to hear and then go do the exact opposite of what they'd told me.  They both had the ability to then say it was my fault that things worked out that way, or that I needed to be more accommodating, or that 'what's the big deal?'  My family of origin - not perfect.  My marriage - really messed up.

I managed those issues by not needing anyone.  Witty repartee?  Oh yes.  A running partner?  Sure - I could outrun most people.  Talk about books, or politics?  Absolutely.  Put on the pretty dress and bring on appreciative looks and more?  Of course.

But let someone in?  I think I'm afraid of that.  Me!  Afraid!  I thought I was afraid of almost nothing!

But I think I've got a lot of fear about letting someone else treat me the way my dad treated me, or the way Bryan treated me.  I don't ever want to be treated like that ever again.....and I don't think I could handle it.  For all my strength, courage, bravery....I think it would do me in.

And so the giant walls go up around me, and nobody gets in, and I don't get hurt.

Wellll.......shit.  There is no other word for it.

I'm going to have to mull this over, and figure it out, because I believe in Living with a capital L, and letting fear get in the way of the good stuff is NOT my way of being.

I don't know how to face it entirely, but I'm going to figure this out.  I believe that life is better with a companion, that sex is marvelous, that someone to hold me when I'm crying is pure magic.  I won't let that idea go without a fight.

I'm going to work on this without someone else.  I'm not about to start dating again.  But I'm going to learn how to face the fear, face this idea head on....

Because when that icy water hits hot skin, and I'm in the green sea with the sun above is magical.  Let those on land say "oh I couldn't!" and "are you crazy?" and "wow you're brave."  As for me, I like to get out there and live, deeply and richly, feeling every bit of it, and I know that breaking through the cold water and hitting the warm air is one of the best sensations in the world, and well worth the feeling of the frigid water making me gasp when it first hits my thighs.  (Come to think of it, it's a bit like sex....all tingling and gasping and surprises and shivers....but I digress!)

I will face my fear.  I will learn to let someone in.  I have no idea how, but knowing that it's me - well, that's huge, and I'm happy with it.

But I have fear.  I'm scared.  Someone could hurt me.  If I love someone, they WILL hurt me - it comes with the territory even in the best of loves.

But I intend to learn how to let the right someone in.


  1. I came across your blog, (which is fantastic) after googling how to get over being played. That experience was a serious bummer. I didn't even see him coming and I'm 41!

    Keep writing. You are a fantastic, honest and fun to read blogger! You will figure yourself out and comfort others in the process.

    I am in the same boat as you for the exact same reason. Very bad marriage which I had the courage to leave many years ago. I have dated since and been in love once, with a man much too young for me. It didn't work out, and was so painful. I am very accomplished and happy in every way in my life except when it comes to love. I have been single for two years now and have gone on LOTS of first dates. My married girlfriends love my stories but I don't like living them. I have gone through all the stages of being single, feeling sorry for myself, being angry at happy couples I see on the street, trying to deny that I need a partner. I have tried the cougar thing and the casual sex thing, which aren't fun at all. Ultimately I crave what every person does on the planet, to connect with a person who loves and understands me. I haven't found it yet, and after this last experience I fear that ship sailed. There are just statistically so many fewer men available the older you get.

    Your blog gives me hope that there are other people who feel the same way, for the same reason. I don't know how to fix it. Wish I did. I will watch for you to find it!

  2. Anonymous, thank you for your kind words. We are NOT alone in all of this, and it feels so good to find a like minded person. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

    Isn't it funny about our married friends? I know that they are SO excited when I go on a date, because they're going to hear all kinds of funny stories afterwards. ;-)

    As for the "so many fewer men" thing, I just refuse to believe it. Every marriage that ends creates two single people, and about half of them are men. There ARE good guys out there, and they area hoping to find us just as much as we're hoping to find them. It's not easy, but I do believe it's possible. :-)

    It sounds like you need some time to let your heart heal, but I think you'll be okay. Knowing what you DON'T want and refusing to settle for it must be at least half the battle, don't you think?

    I'm nowhere near answers, myself. But the sun is shining and I've got tons of fun plans on the calendar, and for now, that's enough. I'm going to muddle through my own thoughts about letting someone in, and my fear around that, and how to change it....but just identifying my fear feels strangely liberating, and like just seeing it changed things. I'll let you know if I figure it out for real. :-)

    Thank you for your kind words about my blog - you have no idea how much that means to me, but it's a compliment that made me grin ear to ear. Thank you.

    Wishing you every happiness!

    PS Player? Yes, I got played too, about a year ago exactly. It stung, no question. But it was a reflection of him, not me. ;-)

  3. So beautifully put, all of this. I just found your blog through a search I did on "cohabitating after divorce" because I just filed for divorce from my husband who is cheating on me. We both can't afford really to split up, so the idea of cohabitating is on the table. We have two young kids, I'm 41 and currently unemployed. I plan to read your entire blog, and this one too because you seem like such a positive person despite all that's happened and I need to hear things like that from someone who has been through it rather than judgemental comments and well meaning advice from all my family who just doesn't get it. (Wow, run on sentence.) Thanks for writing your blog. You have a lovely style. How do I subscribe to it?

  4. Annie, thank you so much for writing here - I really appreciate hearing from you.

    I shared a house with my ex husband for a year after our decision to divorce, and it was difficult, but it was also worth it. That year got me on my career path and put me in a position to be able to afford the divorce! It also gave me a chance to demonstrate to our daughter that we would NOT have a stereotypical divorce, and that we would keep her best interests at heart, and I think it helped her a great deal. I was so glad when he finally moved out, but I wouldn't change the way we did it.

    If it worked for me, it can work for you!

    Others will tell you you're crazy for staying, crazy for leaving, crazy for co-habituating, crazy for getting along with him, or crazy for not getting along with him. You just go ahead and do what you know is the right thing to do - listen to your gut! - and all will be well.

    I haven't got it all figured out (certainly not financially or romantically), but I am happier than I've ever been, and wish the same for you. :-)

    I have no idea how to subscribe...I'm sorry. :-) I write this for myself more than anything and haven't done self promotion! lol But I hope you'll come back and comment again, and maybe keep your own blog so that I can follow you, too. Best of luck to you!

    (Also, check out "This Cuckoo's Next" by Cuckoo Mama. Great "birdnesting" blog - she's got a "good" divorce and she's terribly funny.)