Facing Your Lions

door-knocker

Last week, I was a chaperone at the UW Engineering Expo with a bunch of kids, including my eldest girl.  It was bedlam and pandemonium, but she really liked looking at the exhibits, and I really wanted to go.  As we all got on the buses to trek over to the engineering campus, I ended up sitting near her teacher who told me that all kids in her grade in the school district were going.  So she might end up seeing some friends from her old school.  When Rowan found out about that she was excited about possibly seeing some of her old friends, including her old crush.

As it happened, we didn’t bump into her old friends, but we did meet Boy #1, from her old school.  She  got nervous and didn’t know what to say.  She kept going back to try to talk to him, getting flustered, and leaving.  Good thing he was completely oblivious.  He was hanging out with his guy friends and didn’t pay much attention.  She told me privately that she had always liked him, but that she also liked Boy  #2 from her new school and was nervous about bumping into him too.  Later on, we did come across Boy #2, who left his friends to specifically come up and say hi to her.

When we got home, she wanted to know my opinion about her chances with either of them.  I told her that Boy #1 seemed like he barely remembered who she was, didn’t make much effort to speak to her, and stayed with his friends.  He didn’t seem interested  But Boy #2 saw her before she saw him, and specifically came up just to say hi, alone.  He did seem interested.  But of course, who really knows?

I let it drop and we didn’t talk about it until a few days later.  I was putting the girls to bed.  After I turned off the lights, I laid by her for awhile and we talked in the dark.  There’s something about lying parallel in the dim light, not looking at each other directly, that leads itself to dropped boundaries and naked thoughts.  She asked me again about the two boys and if I thought they liked her.  How can you tell?  I told her the truth–there’s no foolproof way to tell.  The only way to *know* is to put your cards down first and ask.

“But how do I do that?” she asked.

I said, “Just say, ‘Hey, I like you.  Do you like me too?  Do you want to hang out sometime?’ That’s all it takes.”

“But what if he doesn’t like me?” she said.

“Then you know for sure, and you can move on.”

“But what if I get really embarrassed and start to cry and I’m outside and everyone can see?”

“Well,” I said, “That would suck and it would be embarrassing.  But it’s one period in a day and it will pass.  You would get over it and you would be okay.”

She just looked at me, skeptically.

“You don’t have to *do* anything.  If you don’t want to tell him you like him, you don’t have to.  Things can remain the way they are.”

“But I like him! I want to know.”

“Then, you’re probably going to have to take the risk.  What’s the worst that could happen?  If he likes you back, great!  If he doesn’t, you’ll be sad but you will get over it.  But I will tell you this–lessons like this, on courage, come back. This situation will occur again in middle school, and show up in high school, and show up again in college.  You don’t have to deal with it now–but eventually, someday, you will have to deal with it.”

And then I told her the story of The Red Lion.  It’s an old book from my childhood that I have, great Persian art.  It’s about a Prince whose father dies, but to ascend to the tjhrone he must pass the test of fighting the Red Lion.  The Prince is too scared and runs away, but wherever he goes, there is always a different lion challenge waiting for him.  He realizes that until he goes home to his kingdom to fight his own lion, he will never be free.  He returns and faces the Red Lion in front of all of his family, friends, and subjects–only to find that the lion is tame.  Only fear makes it savage.  The moral of the story is, “Never run away from your lion.”

So you can imagine how proud I was that the very next day I got home and she was there, all excited.

“Mom!  I told him!  Well, I didn’t tell him, because I was too nervous, but I wrote him a note, and–HE LIKES ME TOO!”

So, so proud!  We hugged and danced around a little.  This is the part of parenting that I like.

It’s not that I’m the smartest or the wisest, but if I can circumvent the learning process, if she can learn from my mistakes, and the mistakes of others that have lived before her, that’s wonderful.  Because it took me a long time to work on being brave and courageous.  I’m still learning.

How many battles do humans fight over and over again in different generations?  How many wars are still fought, physical, spiritual, group, and individual?  You can relearn the same mistakes from the past–often it sticks more if you do–but for every challenge that is overcome, there is a new future to be written.  If we got over ourselves, got over being worried about being rejected, worried about baring our souls and our naked vulnerability, knowing that no matter how cruel people were, we could handle it–how much more could we accomplish?  This is what I want the next generation to face.

We think we know how to live a life.  Get good grades, go to college, marry and have kids–it a script for the American dream.  The real dream isn’t about being a certain way, having certain things.  The human race has accomplished many things, solved problems that now seem easy, and we arrive into an uncertain future.  We leveled up.

So the boss battles are that much harder, and require a different approach.  I don’t want my daughter to fight the same kind of battles that I did.  I don’t mind that the challenges will be unknown–that is the nature of the game.  Part of the risk is not knowing what you’re stepping into.

But I look at my life–my middle class, comfortable life–and I feel blessed.  This existence of mine, in this location and in this timestream, is a gift.  It is the manifestation of the dreams of people who came before me. It is a life partly of my own making and partly the making of my ancestors who dared to dream this dream.  I want Rowan and her classmates and the next generations to skip the old tests of courage and go into new ones.  That’s how you open new worlds, and start to manifest new dreams.

You Only Need One, Part II [Or, You Can’t Handle Too Many Jams]

jams

Options – they’re fun to have, but don’t let them paralyze you, or distract you from what you really want.

There’s a classic study on choice that shows that though humans tend to think more choices are better, there is a tipping point where too many choices can be paralyzing (Sheena Iyengar, Columbia University, 1995).  Here’s an except from an article on it in 2010:

In a California gourmet market, Professor Iyengar and her research assistants set up a booth of samples of Wilkin & Sons jams. Every few hours, they switched from offering a selection of 24 jams to a group of six jams. On average, customers tasted two jams, regardless of the size of the assortment, and each one received a coupon good for $1 off one Wilkin & Sons jam.

Here’s the interesting part. Sixty percent of customers were drawn to the large assortment, while only 40 percent stopped by the small one. But 30 percent of the people who had sampled from the small assortment decided to buy jam, while only 3 percent of those confronted with the two dozen jams purchased a jar.

If you do the math, 1.8% of customers bought from the 24 jam selection; 12% bought from the 6 jam selection.  That’s a 666% difference.  The sin of envy in a diabolical number.

This is the problem of online dating in a nutshell.  If you’re not careful, it feels like there’s always someone a little bit better waiting around the corner.  Don’t settle!  Look where the grass is greener, it could be yours!  Forgetting, of course, that it’s not just about what you want, or who you want – who wants you?  What do they want? Do these desires and preferences overlap?  Because if they don’t, you are in for a world of disappointment.

Date Here

It’s funny when I read manosphere blogs.  They’re just as bad as ultra-feminist blogs. “Fat chicks, they’re ugly, they should lose some weight to attract men.”  “The Patriarchy, putting us down, I refuse to shave my armpits in protest because a real man will adore my feminine sweat!”  As though there is a right or wrong way to be.  There are only effective and ineffective ways to be, depending on what you want.  Are you a good match for what you desire? That is the thing to focus on.  Or are you a mismatch?

I have certain options–less than some, more than others.  I am 40 – is this a bad thing or a good thing?  Depends on the audience.  For a 25 year old guy, this a liability.  For a 50 year old, this is a nice “younger” age.  I’m not looking for a 25 year old, so being rejected by a 25 year old doesn’t even come into my consciousness.  It’s completely irrelevant.

I have kids – some guys would consider this also a liability.  So what?  I’m not looking for guys that hate kids or want their own biological kids.  Again, a mismatch that I don’t care about.  And personally, all other things being equal, I would prefer a man divorced with kids, if only because he would understand the trials and tribulations that come along with that.

Dating is not about a single ranking number, it’s more a list of attributes that fit with a potential partner’s priorities and interests.  If I was filling out a character sheet for my dating prospects, it might look like this:

Nokomis – Ranger Class

Height/weight proportionate and works out:  +10 in physical attractiveness

New England [Yankee] honesty:   -4 in Midwest social graces

Wear glasses: -2 in facial attractiveness

Bellydance proficiency:  +5 in gracefulness. +3 in sexual attractiveness (based on male fantasies)

Intelligence: +5 in conversation; subclass: interesting topics

Humor: Highly variable.  +10 for deviant freaks like me who are not easily offended.  -10 for those who only like good clean fun.

So, for the right guy, I’m a perfect match.  For the wrong guy, I am not what he wants.  That’s okay.  I am looking for someone specific, someone extraordinary.  I want to adventure on a life quest, and my character should complement theirs. I don’t care that what I’m looking for is a small pool of people.  I’m looking for a real match–I don’t even need 6 jams.  I only need one.

You Only Need One, Part I

cards

Dating is so interesting, you learn so much about yourself as well as other people.

It’s been a few years since the marriage ended and I’ve been on my own.  Though I’ve dated here and there, I finally feel like I’m ready to go back into a long term relationship if I find the right person.  Of course, I’ve felt this way before, jumped in, then realized – nope, not ready.  Thought I was, but I’m not.

I like reading things about relationships.  When I was in my marriage and things were bad, I read the Talk About Marriage forums.  You see people in all stages – new and excited, new and disappointed, old and loving, old and burnt out.  I also like dating advice sites like Evan Marc Katz, who is the perfect advice columnist for me – practical and from a man’s view, but understanding what a woman wants.  I will sometimes read The Rules Revisited for brutal honesty or The Spiritual Rules of Engagement for kind truthfulness.  (Great book, highly recommended, btw).  Apparently, it’s a thing for divorced women to be bitter, which I don’t get.

See, I don’t fear getting hurt.  It’s like, bitch, I ended a 15 year marriage after years of soul-searching and desperately avoiding my sadness.  You think a 3 month relationship that ends will destroy me? Oh, boo hoo.  It might hurt a little, but compared to the emotional Holocaust of divorce that I survived, it’s nothing.  Bring it.  I’m not afraid.  What I am afraid of is hurting someone else – I’m learning to accept that in my search I might hurt someone else without trying to.

When I was a teenager and feeling in despair, I started reading books on relationships.  I figured that if I ever managed to get married, I was going to be worth be married to.  I was going to make my man happy.  I was going to be the awesomest wife.  I read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and learned people want to be accepted, listened to, and loved as they are.  In a marriage be kind – and be up for sex because it means more than you think.  Never criticize or humiliate a man in public.  Be respectful, easy going, and generally happy, don’t dump on a guy when he first gets in the door.  It may have been written years ago, but I don’t think men or relationships have changed that much.  And I was a pretty decent wife.

But it still ended.  Good people, both of which deserve to be loved, can still make a mess of things.  Sometimes people end up going on different paths, growing in different directions.  I forgive him.  I forgive myself. What I didn’t dare to think of though for a long time is what I want.  What do I want in man?  I knew intelligence, kindness, emotional strength, humor were all musts, but I avoided thinking about physical attributes.  It seemed so crude. I didn’t really know what the hell I wanted.  I wanted to be desired, I knew that.  Our marriage lasted for a long time because he never stopped desiring me.  I was always sexy to him.  But we fought about sex all the time!  Years of fighting about sex, god, that sucked.  And it became a pivotal pain point because I never wanted him as much as he wanted me, and I couldn’t admit that even to myself, though he knew the truth in his bones.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want sex – there seemed no reason.  I thought he was handsome, smart, funny–but I just didn’t want it. So I felt terribly guilty all the time and he, terribly frustrated.  Both of us continually compromising and both of us unhappy.  Both of us feeling like we were shitty people, just by being ourselves.

This is one thing I admire about men.  If they can’t see themselves having sex with you, they won’t approach you for a date.  It is completely pointless.  But it’s only one attribute.  It’s akin to the first step in screening resumes – typos?  Not even worth the time to look further.  Not sexy to me?  Well, that’s it then, we’re done.  And usually it only takes a few seconds for a man to decide whether physically he could see it working or not.  Of course, women can still wreck it.  You can be hot, but be stupid or mean or shallow or entitled or psycho and that’s it for a man that wants a meaningful relationship.  Being hot is not an automatic in to a man’s heart.  Just like being a hot man is not an automatic in to a woman’s heart.

We get caught up in our options and stop focusing on the goal.  Isn’t the goal to have a shared partnership in life?  One where you share your body, your time, your dreams, your soul, your fears and your joys?  All of it?  You only need one good match to get there.

The problem is the options.  We have a problem with accepting truth and working with what you’ve got.  And we have a problem with the approach of observing how we feel around a potential partner instead of trying to check off certain boxes, as though that will ensure happiness.  There’s an old joke that women want the three 6’s – 6 feet, 6 figures, 6 inches.  But checkboxes don’t encompass a good match!

So what if he’s 6 feet?  The best sex I’ve had was with men shorter than that.  (I have a hypothesis that people who feel like they’ve been marginalized tend to be better lovers – once they get a person to bed, they make damn sure s/he has a good time.  [Not a theory since I have too few data points, but look for my scientific paper: “Bald, Short, and Hairy: Your Best Next Lover” 😉 ])

Six figures?  Great, but what if he has no generosity?  Six inches?  Okay, I’m not going to lie, that’s nice.  But really the point is can you feel your man inside of you?  It’s pretty much a yes or no question and if it’s yes, there’s no problem.  And that’s a two-to-tango attribute in any case.

These are the things that really matter: In the early stages, do you want the same kind of people that want you?  What do you have to offer a potential partner?  How does a potential partner make you feel?  How do like to be loved?  How does a potential partner want to be loved? (Check out The 5 Love Languages on how you prefer love to be presented. I used to prefer the poetry, flowers, and songs.  Now I want the guy who will take my car and get the oil changed. 🙂  Ooh, ooh and dinner is good too.  My stomach has always led to my heart, ha!)  And the killer question that I’ve been wrestling with as a straight woman – what kind of man would I still want to have sex with 10, 20, 40 years down the road?

This is still on my bucket list

eye2

I’ve seen an article on this before, but the New York Times printed an article on how you can fall in love with anyone.  I have to admit, I’m intrigued.  For maximum effect, you should ask each other questions first, and that makes sense.  It’s all about priming yourself to bring down your boundaries.  I can’t recall ever doing the staring-into-each-other’s-eyes for four minutes with any man.  Four minutes is a long time.  But, I actually have done this with Rowan.

For a long, long time–since I’ve been a child–I’ve been obsessed by eyes (okay, and skulls too).  Growing up painfully introverted, eyes were a sign of judgement, disapproval, or ridicule–and I feared them.  Now, as an adult, I like to paint and draw them, and I like science macro pictures of them in all their filament glory.  But looking directly into someone’s eyes for a prolonged amount of time is a vulnerability.  It can be hard to go that deep if you’re afraid to be seen.  I may find it hard to do with adults, but I don’t worry about it with my girls.

A while back, Rowan had a school concert.  One of those things where I ended up losing half a day, because it was 2.5 hours longs and they had a dental appointment afterward.  As soon as she entered the auditorium, she looked for me.  I’m always near the front, and difficult to miss, so she found me.  That whole concert, she had her eyes locked on mine and I could not stop from tearing up.

It wasn’t about the songs, it wasn’t about the audience–it was about us.  For me, having kids breaks all those walls apart.  There is a vulnerability and a raw power to a child’s love.  I know that Rowan sees me, sees me as I truly am, and yet still loves me.  That may change as she grows older, and I accept that.  But still, to sit in semi-darkness, with her full gaze boring into me, I realize that I have forgotten that this is what is real.  I don’t know quite how to describe it.  I don’t believe that she belongs to me–she belongs to herself.  I am her steward.  But she is my daughter and we are bound together in this life.  It is beautiful to be bound so.

If there is one responsibility I have to her, it is to teach her to love.  I consider these years as setting the blueprint.  To feel what it is to be loved, so that in the future if there is a “love” that robs her of her dignity, of her respect and of herself, she will be able to tell that it is a fake love.  Love requires work and effort, but it should not require that she diminish herself.  I always tell her the truth, even all the complicated bits–and I assume she can handle it.  She will need to someday.  I love loving her, and it’s great that it is so easy to do so.  It may not always be that way, but right now, I enjoy this part of my life.

What’s interesting is that I can fully jump into this for her, but it can be harder to do it for me.  I remember talking to my doctor when I was so unhappy and considering divorce.  She pointed out that kids observe everything–that my staying in something where I was miserable was teaching them that this was normal.  Would I want them to be going through this?  And having made the choice to end it, I made sure that when the divorce was happening that the kids could see how adults would handle something so painful with integrity.

But now that chapter is done.  I am blessed with great friends and family who truly love me.  If my world was crashing down at 3:00 am and I needed help, there is more than one person I could call.  The love I have in those areas is stable and wonderful.  The great thing about love is that when you have it in one area of your life, when you feel that stability and acceptance, then it is easier to take risks with your heart.  Because like most anyone, I would very much like to be in a romantic love relationship.  I would like to experience love again, I would like to be seen again, I would like to connect to someone in that deep way.  And for that to happen, that means being open to possibility.  Knowing that you can’t always direct the flow of things, but you can be vulnerable, without walls–knowing that nothing in the future is set, but that every moment can still be enjoyed.

We’re not all like that

stone

I was reading an interesting article on Thought Catalog entitled, “This is How We Date Now.”  It was about frivolous connections, frivolous dates, and that such aggressive romantic screening can screen out real possibilities.  I think the beginning part might be true for some, but not much for me.  Perhaps because I am older, perhaps because I am geek, perhaps because I used to be a gamer–but that appears to be an article about the woes of beautiful people and how impatient some can be.  However, I do agree that we adopt a public persona that sanitizes the sad parts and bad parts that we don’t want to talk about.  And I agree that we all want true connection.  Connection is a very powerful word for me.

I like Facebook for notice of births, weddings, and death.  I don’t expect it to give details.  I don’t expect to have deep friendships on there – but it can provide an introduction, which can grow offline.  I like too much of the senses.  I like the sight of a person not filtered by a screen.  I like to hug and cuddle people.  I like to hear a true voice and I like to smell the whiff of someone’s cologne, or shampoo.  That requires an investment of time. . . my favorite memories are often of people visiting me at my home, or me visiting them at theirs.

Time is one of the most precious resources we have.  It’s why with romantic relationships, I never do long distance because I need the physicality of presence.  And it’s why with platonic relationships, the ones who I am closest to are often close to me in location.  We just never know how much time we have.

Last year, when I used to take Rowan to her old school, we would have some time in the car together in the mornings.  One morning I was driving behind a semi-trailer from a safe distance, and as it approached a curve ahead of me, it suddenly put on the brakes and drove off to the side.  A cloud of dust came up from the gravel on the encroachment.  I slowed down, and prepared to stop.  I was thinking maybe a tire had burst, so I let the car creep up slowly.  But as we got closer, we could see a couple of smashed up cars beyond the semi.  At that point we turned around and took another way to get Rowan to school.

After dropping her off, I went home a different way.  It passed within sight of the highway, and I could see it was already cordoned off.  When I got to work, I was curious about the accident.  I found out that heading east, a man was trying to turn left into a residential driveway on the cusp of the curve.  A woman came up behind him, but she wasn’t expecting a stopped car, and the eastern sun was up and came into full view right around the curve.  Momentarily blinded, she hit the car in front of her.

He was already partially turned, so when she hit him, it catapulted him into the opposing lane–where the semi saw him too late and crashed into him.  He died on the scene.  He was a 40-something from Mt. Horeb, had a family, two boys.  Liked to coach their sports.  Just like that, on a day like any other, he died.  It was an accident all around that turned into a tragedy for that family.

And that’s the way it goes, doesn’t it?  No money can bring that life back.  His kids had him for a little while, not long enough.  All of us, like him, can remember the past, but we don’t know our future.  We never know when it will end.  And maybe like me, you wonder about your purpose.  It’s an ironic thing for me that I spent so much of my younger years thinking about hastening my death.  Now I expect I will live to be a ripe old age, barring accidents.  But of course, the price for living a long time is getting to witness the death, and sometimes sufferings, of our friends and family.  I expect I will outlive my brother–I don’t smoke and he does.  I certainly hope to die after my parents and not before–both for their sakes and sake of my children.  It just seems more natural that the earlier you were born, the closer to now you will die.

I guess that owning up to your mortality can really cause a person to go into two extreme directions.  One is screening your life for perfection, but then nothing is good enough.  Nothing gets through.  Or the other, being so open to potentiality–and fantasy–that nothing really good comes through.

It’s a balance.  What is it that you really want?  And is what you really want attainable?  Or worth what you would have to give in order to get it?

Then sometimes, what you really want just sort of happens.  In August, I went to a Conscious Life Workshop hosted by Steve Pavlina.  I’ve followed his blog for years.  The purpose of the workshop was to get clear about the kind of life you want to lead, and then you can screen what you accept into your life based on that.  For example, an 80 hour week corporate job is not a good fit for me–I have too many other interests to devote that much to one thing.  But my current 40 hour week corporate job, with a boss who never gives me grief about child care or sick days, is an excellent fit for me.

In the workshop, we also talked a bit about relationships.  What is it that you really want?  What is a dealbreaker?  A divorced man is not a dealbreaker for me, but a man who would want me to have his “own” kids would be.  In fact, I would probably prefer someone like me, divorced, who would get where I’m coming from and understand that journey.

Steve also talked about how he broadcasts his desires and is very open that he is polyamorous and a cuddleslut.  So the first day, I emailed and sent a cuddle invitation.  I can honestly say I’d never done that before – and was a bit afraid I would get rejected.  After all, this is a guy I’ve only ever known through his blog, not the real deal, not the real presence, and he might be different in real life.  Or, though I hate to admit it, I was bit afraid I might not be good enough.  Not intelligent enough to match wits, not pretty enough to pique his interest, or not evolved enough to be a good match.  I know I still have hangups sometimes.

But we exchanged phone numbers and planned to get together the last night.  And the workshop was great, so inspiring, so full of great people at all stages of their lives.  One day at lunch, going out with some new friends, one of the guys looked back and me and another woman I was chatting with and smiled.  “What are you smiling about?” I teased.  He replied back in all seriousness, “It’s just wonderful to be out walking with two beautiful women,” still with a smile on his face.  I knew he was sincere.

Being open like that, to compliments, to connection, to understand that sure there may be a sexual undercurrent, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends, took time for me to develop.  I no longer believe like Harry that “women and men can’t be friends because the sex always gets in the way.”  Sex only happens if there is consent on both sides, but personally I like the friendships that have that extra flirty layer.  Why deny it? People are attractive.  I’m never going to sleep with all the people I find attractive–that’s not the point.  The point is accepting what is–what is now.  Maybe it will be something else in the future, but it doesn’t mean that today can’t be enjoyed just as it is.

And as for that last Sunday night, I had a great time.  I had dinner with Steve and bunch of people, and then we went walking down to my hotel.  We would bump into other workshop attendees who would ask, “Oh hey, what are you guys doing?” and I would answer, “Oh, we’re just going back to my hotel room to cuddle.”  I had the most insane grin because it was truthful and just not what one would normally say.

So we headed back and spent a few hours cuddling and talking.  That’s it, no sex, no weirdness–though I felt a bit astonished that it was just that easy.  It was two people, enjoying a physical intimacy and an emotional one.  It was, to be true, a fantasy of mine, to have a little bit of Steve time all to myself.  And then he left and it hasn’t been anything more.  Doesn’t need to be anything more.  For me, it was all about being honest about what I wanted, and also being open to the idea that someone who could be my equal could feel an attraction on multiple levels to me.

Dating after being married for a long time feels a little like being in a time capsule.  Who I was then is not who I am now, but there are still some fears.  Am I still that awkward dorky person who says all the wrong things?  If I want someone, does that automatically mean they won’t want me?  And the people who want me, I won’t want back?  Am I still really dumb about men?   How come people think I’m attractive now?  I was never an attractive teenager.  Of course the great thing about men is that if they didn’t want to at least have sex with you, they wouldn’t even try to date you.  Horribly crass, but refreshing in that you always know where you stand.  I am at least attractive enough to screw.   Good, good, at least I have that going for me.

I am feeling better these days about the balance of how I spend my time.  I love my kids, and damn, they know they are loved.  I love my friends, and I hope they know they are loved.  I love my job, though some days, yes, I just throw my hands into the air.  But hey, I have been given the opportunity to work on something I truly care about, so I’ll take the frustrations with the satisfaction of doing my best.  I am working on accepting myself more and more–I have made a lot of progress, certainly.  Though certain people can still undo me sometimes.  Is it mature to admit that?

Being open to what you want, admitting what you want, can also bring more of what you ask for.  The night of my cuddle date, I had three other invitations for cuddling.  Alas, just not enough of me to go around. 😉

Love what you can be, Be what you can give

holidaywrap

Christmas is coming and with it, two weeks of staycation.  So excited to stay home with my eldest and not do anything!  I have been feeling burnt out just trying to get traction and order instilled with my multiple projects at work.  I’m still working on being more effective.  But because I have been excited and anxious about work, my life has been grievously out of balance, so it’s time to retune that with the new year.

Back in August, when I went to that workshop on living a conscious lifestyle, it brought up an interesting point concerning relationships.  That people often screen others on the wrong kind of things.  Everybody wants honesty and kindness, intelligence and humor – and most people consider themselves to have all those things.  So that’s not enough.  We know that not all matches have a good prognosis for success, so we screen for markers that means we think we have a good chance of success, whichever way we define it.  We look at political views, religious views, food views, vice views, etc.  Physical markers like height, weight, hair, physique.  Status like money, possessions, job title.

One of my friends was asking me if I was back on OKCupid.  He’s been married for awhile so he likes to hear horror dating stories.  Alas, I currently have no horror stories to amuse him with.  He has some other single female friends that are dating and he said he’s always amazed about they put their hopes up way too fast and try to see if this could be something “serious.”  He asked me, “Why do women do that?”  I told him that some women are lonely or want to be married, or want to have kids, and they’re screening for that compatibility.  But personally, I look for a lifestyle match.

I may not know everything about my future life, but I know what I’m shooting for.  I’m going to live my life no matter what, and the time will pass whether I’m single or not.  I told him, “You know what it’s like, you’ve been married over a decade.  When the infatuation of the beginning dissipates, your life ends up pretty much the same whether you have a partner or not.  If you were fairly happy, you will probably still be happy.  If you weren’t, you won’t.  The things you would do to pass the time, your hobbies, your passions – there are all still there.  So it really comes down to whether having someone in your life improves, has a net neutral effect, or makes your life worse.”

I agree that it’s very easy for women especially to fantasy about a future that doesn’t yet exist.  Probably some of that has to do with our culture and an ideal fostered on women to get married and have kids, as though somehow that makes you a success or a better person.  But when I was growing up, I fantasied about my funeral, not my wedding, so my take on it is a bit different.  (Artisan cocktails and my favorite foods will be a must to toast my passage from this world.  Enjoy what I enjoyed, folks!  Scatter my ashes and get drunk!)

I can know what I want for my future, and of course, it would be great if there was a partner in there.  There are still many things I want to accomplish and many experiences I would like to have–some of which would be better with a partner.  There’s a balance, isn’t there, in being self-sufficient yet being open to love?  Wanting to take responsibility of your future, yet knowing there are always things outside of one person’s control, whether in love or in life?  And trusting that no matter what happens, you will be okay.

One of the best lessons in love I’ve ever had was when I was making friends in college.  In high school and before, I bemoaned how unpopular and alone I was.  In college, I just decided to be me – and I made friends that I still have today.  The people who wouldn’t have liked me anyway, didn’t.  And the people who I could share a deep connection with found me.  But often, it was not the people I would have expected from the beginning.  The ones that have lasted over time were not the ones I would have predicted in my freshman year – but by being open, by flowing with what time unfolded, I found and grew with some beautiful people.

I am setting out my intentions on what I want to find in someone, and I am also putting out there what I have to offer someone.  My deal with the universe, if you will.  I know that someday, as some undefined point, I will find the loving relationship I seek.  Why?  Not because I deserve it, but because I am good at giving it.  If you could feel my heart, you could feel it too.  I love to love people.  I love to feel my heart blaze up like a thousand blazing suns.  And I know, somewhere, there is a great man that needs that light to fulfill his potential.  (Probably more than one, statistically.  I don’t believe in soul mates, but I believe there are many that could complement any one of us.)