Plenty of Fish in the Sea

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The thing about dating is eventually you’re either going to break up or get married, and the truth is, I don’t want to do either– so you can see my dilemma.  But about a year ago, I felt like it was time to make my social circle a little wider if I ever hoped to be in a relationship again. When you work from home and like to spend your off hours in bed with a book, your options become pretty limited. (Plus I had already dated my boss and the UPS man. Hi guys!) I was either going to have to quit, move, or join an online dating site– and since I love my job and my home… Enter Match.com

I approached Match the way I do any new project: competitively and with enthusiasm. I was going to have the best dating profile out there! And honestly, after creating it,  I wanted to date myself so hard. I had the best pictures (Look how cute I am!) The most appealing descriptions and write up of myself (I’m NOT COMPLICATED AT ALL!) The most fun sounding life (Likes to watch sports and grab a beer and hardly spends any time reading and writing alone and crying herself to sleep!)

I did not understand at the time what a huge mistake this was.  HUGE. All you really need when you decide to “get out there” is a pulse.  Instead, I sold myself as the Taj Mahal of girlfriends and within minutes, it was game on.

Day 1: Wow! This is so flattering! Woah! I’ve still got it! Hey, look at all these winks and likes and emails! This is so fun! Why didn’t I do this sooner?  How did online dating get a bad rap?? I’ll have a date in no time!

Day 1, hours later: WOW. Okay. WOW. This is a LOT. How will I ever sort through all of this? I think I might need to use an alternative email address. And I don’t think a lot of these people look like a “match”, if you know what I’m saying. But hey. Think positive! There are a lot of people out there looking for love. Plenty of fish in the sea and all that jazz!

End of Day 1: Responds to almost every inquiry with kind and thoughtful comments such as, “Since you live in Ohio, that’s slightly out of my geographical range” or “I’m not sure we’re a match, but I hope you find what you’re looking for” and “No thank you.”

Day 2: How could I possibly have 73 emails already today? These people are a little bit aggressive. Don’t they sleep? Were they on here during the night? What about work? This is like a part-time job. And why does HOT4U374 look like the same exact guy as URman109? Is that the same person?

Day 2, hours later: LET ME LIVE. I DON’T LIKE ANY OF YOU. NO ONE WINKS THIS MUCH IN REAL LIFE- AND IF YOU DID, we would NEVER date. EVER. STOP it. And it’s “you’re” not “your”.

End of Day 2: I cannot even check my email. I cannot jump on Match to “see what’s out there” because you trolls might notice I’m online and try to chat me. I’m going to read in my bed. ALONE. And all of you should, too.

Day 3: Turns profile off.  Orders Chinese food and binge watches Sex and the City.

It’s fun being me!

Stay tuned to hear about my first dates… also known as “It’s Not a Match”

New Year. Same Me. Just a Little Better.

 

I’ve never been a big fan of the whole “New Year. New Me” annual bandwagon. Not that I don’t admire the optimism; I do. I’m all for self-improvement and renewed dedication to being the best version of ourselves. But if we’re truly being honest, do any of us actually want or need a whole “New Me”? That’s an awful big project. What a massive undertaking. And what sort of plan would you be following for an entire new you, anyway? I feel exhausted just thinking about it.

But the main reason I don’t like to proclaim “New Year, New Me”, is that I really like myself. I don’t want a whole new me. I want to keep being the same me, but maybe just a little bit better.

The same me, but with more self-awareness, so that I completely consciously make the smartest decisions for myself and my family instead of acting out of old patterns or habits.

The same me,  but more fully present. Less on my phone or in front of a screen. More fully engaged with the people right in front of me.

The same me, but using more emotional intelligence to navigate all of my relationships, so that every person I encounter is getting the truest, most authentic version of myself.

The same me, but more willing to disappoint others so that I always remain true to myself.

The same me, but with a heart that opens up just a little bit wider, making a little more space for every dimension of love in my life.

The same me, but with my heart a little softer. More compassion and more empathy. More aware of the strugglers in my life and the little ways I can make them feel less alone.

The same me, but always learning new ways. For everything. The way I think. The way I process. The way I do things. The way I interact with people. The way I handle things.

The same me, but less inclined to think I have all the answers and more inclined to adopt a new point of view or a more open, educated mind. How I see it is not how it is; it’s just how I see it. There are, indeed, new ways to think that I have not yet learned.

The same me, but with a renewed commitment to holding everything with an open hand  so that I flow more easily with life. This applies to people, relationships, circumstances, problems…When I hold it all loosely, it’s easier for God and The Universe to work it all out for my good.

The same me, but rededicated to the daily practices that nurture my heart, mind and soul: Meditation, journaling, gratitude, prayer… It makes a difference in every part of my life. When I get lazy about it, everything else suffers.

The same me, but making a concerted effort to live more awake to social justice issues, more awake to my white privilege and how it impacts the world around me. More  committed to getting involved and making a difference, and involving my kids, too. We’ll keep learning to be better citizens of this world and better members of humanity. Together.

The same me, but with a higher prioritization of self-respect. Allowing fewer people to waste my time, waste my goodness, waste my energy–and letting go of them sooner when they do.

The same me, but with a heart that forgives more quickly. There’s no use wasting time and emotional energy on old stories I can’t change. Moving forward with a clean slate is the only way to live in peace. (And an old story is the only kind of story. If it happened 5 minutes ago, it’s an old story.)

The same me, but with renewed commitment and enthusiasm for taking care of my body in every way: Eating better. Drinking less-ish. Moving more. (Drinking less-ish is a thing and I’m pretty sure a lot you reading this appreciate my realistic suggestion. You’re welcome.)

The same me, but saying yes more often to adventure. To opportunities. To celebrations. To more fun and laughter. (Because couldn’t we all use more of these things??)

So that’s it. That’s my plan for 2017. Nothing all that grand, nothing all that new. I really just want to be the same me, but a little bit better. I’m not going to “resolve” to do any of this. But I’m definitely going to try. And I am going to believe this coming year will be just a little bit better than the last. 

 

Well That Escalated Quickly

Literally just DAYS after I posted my last blog, {How Does a Widowed and Divorced Single Mom Teach Her Kids About Love}   the relationship I was in fell apart. Like. Nuclear.

And one of the first things I thought was:

“EFF! Why did I just write that stupid Pollyanna post about love and believing in love and love being a good thing?? Why was I feeling all shiny and Valentine-y and loving and like I needed to write about it??”

Because that’s what I do. Because that’s Real Life. Truthfully.

Which is why I’m writing this.

I wrote it because I was trying. Trying to love smart. Trying to be optimistic. Trying to believe it was true.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t.

And also Real Life, Truthfully?  My knee-jerk reaction was predictable.

I hate love. I hate relationships. Men suck. Men are all the same. This is why I like being single. Single is easy. And fun. And free. This is…Shambolic. Calamity. Nonsense. 

But the next day as I was regrouping from disappointment and anger, I started flipping through one of my favorite new books, Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed. Every single page has a powerful punch of a quote– and I came across these:

The first one got me totally fired up.

Yes, Cheryl Strayed! Yes!

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But then there was this one, which had me like…Ugh.

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And finally, there was this. The worst one of all:

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“To love and be loved. That is the meaning of life.”

Sigh. Eye roll. So precious.

Except it’s true.

There is TONS of love in my life. Romantic love is only one stream in a vast and deep and breathtaking ocean of love. Love rains down on my life from so many different directions, in a hundred different ways from the loyal people in my tribe.  And all of this love… it is, indeed, what gives my life such beautiful meaning.

So.

Love still doesn’t suck. Love is a good thing. Sometimes people suck. Sometimes things don’t work out quite the way we pictured. (Um. Make that most of the time.)

But love is still the meaning of life.

And I still believe.

 

How Does a Widowed and Divorced Single Mom Teach Her Kids About Love?

I always wondered how my kids would feel about their own love lives as they got older. Without a happy, healthy marriage model to watch and learn from, what would  be their takeaway? Will they want to get married some day? Are they jaded about love and relationships? Will they recognize and value real love when they see it and feel it?

And Valentine’s Day has always been a little bit like a litmus test in my own love life. After being widowed and divorced, I haven’t always loved love. And for a while, I kind of hated love. And then after I hated it, I felt cynical about it. I felt snarky and sarcastic. I felt just OVER the whole love thing. Been there. Done that. No thank you.

And then I felt nothing.

But this past year, I did it.

I opened the door.

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I let myself feel something.

And it turns out, feeling something was so much better than feeling  nothing.

And so this what my kids and I are learning, side by side:

Love is a good thing.

Love is good. Real love is good. It’s sweet and tender and kind and fun. It’s taken me a long time to feel this way again. To really believe it. To look at love, to think of love, to hear about love– and feel loving towards it. To want it. To accept it. To embrace it. To smile about it. To stop being afraid of it and pushing it away. Real, true love is a good thing. Love doesn’t stink. Love doesn’t suck. I had to consciously stop playing that record in my head. Relationships that feel like that are not love– they’re something– but they’re not love. Real love is a good thing.

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You know what love is by the way it feels.

Love feels good. When my kids see that I’m peaceful. That I’m happy. That I laugh and smile a lot in my own love relationship, they understand: Love feels good.

And that’s  important.

But they also learn what real love feels like through my relationship with them.

When we have deep conversations about important life stuff and they feel heard and understood, they’re learning what love feels like. When they’re having a rough day and I take time to comfort them and be “in it” with them, they’re learning what love feels like. When I’m   one of us is crabby and short and tired, and we backtrack to apologize and make things right between us, this is what love feels like.

When their feelings are validated and there’s space for them to be who they are and feel what they feel. When we share goofy stories and inside jokes and text funny things to each other. When they get “just because” gifts. When we have dinner together and everyone shares the “Happy and Crappy” from their day.  When they catch my eye during a school concert or sporting event and know I am cheering them on. When we sit in my bed together and quietly read, side by side. When everything goes right or wrong or both, and we are with each other through it all, they’re learning what love feels like.

This is what love feels like. All of it.

I’m no longer going to underestimate my ability to teach my kids about love. I’m no longer going to feel shame that somehow a widowed, divorced single mom can’t successfully teach her kids to fully know and recognize healthy love. I’m not going to feel insecure about it. I don’t buy it. I don’t believe it.

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But I do believe in love.

I do.

And if a widowed and divorced single mom can believe in love, her kids can too.

 

 

 

 

 

What Kind of Story Would You Have Written?

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All-American girl grows up in a happy, traditional household with a postcard-perfect childhood.  She graduates from high school. Goes to college. Falls in love. Marries the man of her dreams. Has three babies, the career she always dreamed of and lives happily ever after.

I’ve been working on a writing project. And I keep thinking how much easier it would be to write this story if everything had just gone according to plan. Not that I had a Formal Life Plan, but I think all of us imagine how we’d like things to go.

But if things had gone according to plan, I’m not so sure I’d have anything to write about.

“Once upon a time there was girl who lived the exact life she imagined. The end.”

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And really, who wants to read about that? Who wants to read about someone’s life going exactly as they thought it would? It’s sort of anti-climatic, isn’t it? Where’s the meaning?   The struggle? The bravery? The victory?

Because instead, it went something like this:

All-American girl grows up in a spiritually split household, which leaned heavily on strict Word of Faith and Evangelical beliefs. Lots of struggle ensues. Girl graduates from high school. Goes to college. Gets pregnant. Has a baby. Gets married. Has another baby. Is widowed. Gets remarried. Has another baby. Gets divorced. (Does NOT have another baby). Dates. Struggles to figure out faith and love and relationships. Breaks a few bones.  And hearts, along the way– including her own. And THEN…

Then what? What happens next? 

You have to admit, the second version makes for a much more interesting story. I want to know what happens! (Ohhhhh I seriously want to know what happens!) I want to know details! I want to know the ins and outs and in-betweens! The first version actually sounds a little BO-RING.

Which on some days would be sweet relief, wouldn’t it?


Overcoming obstacles gives life meaning.

Searching for love. More than once.

Or twice.

Battling fear.

Pushing past insecurities.

Finding and losing… and finding… Faith and God.

Discovering and living out your true identity over and over again.

Wrestling with beliefs and traditions and mindsets that have just always been.

Building family and community and an authentic tribe of people you love and who love you back. And who like you, too

These are things that make life, well… alive. These are the things that create a great story. One worth reading about. (And writing about) And as it turns out, they’re also the things that make a great life. Living through the ups and downs of life has a way of reminding us that life is fragile. And special. And magical. And worthwhile.

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If we could write our own stories, most of us would leave out the most difficult parts. I know I would. And I think about this for my kids, too. l want life to be easy for them. But it’s not. It won’t be. It isn’t for any of us. But it can still be beautiful. It is still beautiful. I know this now. Easy would not make a better story- or a better life.

An easy life would be absent of the deepest, most beautiful parts.

What has your life been like? Did it go as planned? Was there one HUGE, completely unexpected plot twist in your life? Or a hundred little ones? Tell me, please. I’d love to hear about it.

Winning {and Losing} A Fish from the Fair

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Before we even got to the fair, she was prepping me. The sun was high overhead and it was a picture-perfect day to roam around the fair eating and laughing in wonderment at everything there was to see.

“You know what game I want to play first, right Mom? You know I want to try and win another fish, right?” she asked smiling, a knowing glimmer in her deep chocolate pudding eyes.

Yes. I knew. And she was prepping me because she knew I would not share her enthusiasm for another fish.

She had won a fish at the fair last year, and for reasons still unclear to me, we went out the next day and bought a ten gallon aquarium, complete with light, filter, and every other accessory fish apparently need to survive. Were the moon and stars aligned just so? Was it the pet store guy convincing me each fish needs a minimum of three gallons of water just for themselves? In any case, we got the whole shebang, with two additional fish in tow.

A few months later, they were all dead.

Correction: A few days later, the Fair Fish was dead. And then at some point, the other two kicked the bucket as well. All unbeknownst to her, because like a crazy good mother, I ran out and replaced them before she ever knew.  At some point, I put an end to the charade (because really) and then shortly after, our dog died. So as you might imagine, I did not share her eagerness.


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And besides. Fair fish have what you might call a reputation.

A big scarlet letter.

And not for longevity.

Quite the opposite. They probably ARRIVE at the fair already weak, swimming in that toxic rainbow water with one fin in the grave. And yet why is the goldfish game the easiest to win? Rationally speaking, it should be the hardest! You’re taking shots at winning a LIVE pet, for God’s sake– not just a 3-foot stuffed purple gorilla. Who makes these rules up?

But there was something about the optimism beaming from her tan golden face that was charming and a little bit contagious. She knew the odds. She knew she would be going home with a fish. And she also knew it might not live that long. Her cheerfulness in the face of terrible odds was inspiring.

I took note. I watched how happy it made her to just try. To go after the challenge. I saw how fearless and nonchalant she was approaching the whole thing. How much she was enjoying it.

If she lands that ping pong ball, we're doomed.

If she lands that ping pong ball, we’re doomed.

Look, I get it. We’re only talking about a stupid fair fish. We’re not talking about, say, LIFE. Or LOVE. Or you know, whatever. But it’s all relative. Risk is relative. It depends on what you’ve already won or lost and what it cost you. The price you paid.


And as luck and skill would have it, she won a fish. 

And she was elated.

And then we lost Gilbert a mere 72 hours later.

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But somehow I didn’t feel the panic or worriment this time around to run out and find a body double for him. (And shout out to those who’ve tried. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do.) It seems a year later we’ve all grown enough to face loss head on- the big ones AND the little ones.

And she was fine. She really was. Actually, she was more than fine. She asked if we could go to the store to buy more fish and start the aquarium all over again. Oh, the optimism, I thought. I have to admire it. And perhaps work on finding mine again.

So you know what?

We’re going to.

We’re going to buy more fish and start the aquarium all over again, even if the odds are against us.


Tell me about your Fair Fish. Everyone has a story and I want to hear yours.

Life Requires Time and Space

Green Lake

I get choked up every time. Every. Single. Time. There is something about a morning walk or run through the tiny little park not far from my house. The sunrise reflecting off the water. The stillness of this tiny little corner of the world. The way the trees and branches hang out over the jagged little shoreline. And the dock. The lone, long dock looking like a pathway to somewhere else. Anywhere but here.

How many, many times I have sat on that dock wishing I were anywhere but here.

But not this morning.

This morning, I still got choked up. But this morning it was in gratitude. Gratefulness. I sat on that dock thankful that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in life. Not because everything is perfect. I have finally learned perfection is not the goal nor is it possible.

But everything is okay. 

Better than okay. But in the very least, okay.

And what I’m learning now is life requires time and space. Kind of like the old adage, ‘Time heals all wounds’, but different. I’m not sure I believe time heals all wounds. But what I do believe is time and space help things change shape. Time and space give life a chance to sort things out. Time and space allow things to breathe a little and work themselves out.

A thousand times I’ve walked through this same little park.

I walked through it as a pregnant teenager, not sure how I would ever manage a baby at such a young age. Then I watched that same baby grow up and play baseball on those  diamonds. And now he’s 23.

I walked through that park as a young widow. I cried my heart and soul out on that dock. I could’ve filled Green Lake with those tears. I had no idea what life would look like or how I would go on. But I did.

Time and space.

I walked through that park and sat on that dock worried about my girl. How she would navigate some of the challenges thrown her way. In the next few months she’ll go to prom, get her license, graduate from high school and head to college.

Time and space.

I sat on that dock after my sister experienced several absolutely devastating miscarriages, begging God to please fix this somehow and give her healthy babies. Now they’re 2 and 4.

Time and space.

I ran through that park and collapsed on that dock during the toughest battles of my marriage, grieving everything I thought my life would be and wasn’t.

Time and space.

I sat there for 5 minutes this morning. Just to say thank you. Just to remind myself of all the times I didn’t know how things would ever be okay. And now they are. I know they won’t stay okay forever. I know there will be a lifetime of running through that park and sitting on that dock, wondering how things will turn out. But now I will take a deep breath. I will remind myself that time and space help life change shape.

And somehow, even if it takes a year, or two, or ten, everything’s going to be okay.