Rock bottom is a foundation not an anchor

I must admit, I can be a jealous girl. Not jealous of someone looking at or flirting with my man (which at present, I don’t have), but jealous of where others are as compared to my current life location. I guess I imagined, when I was younger, that I would be further along in my life, career, financial state, etc. than I am right now. Marriage and divorce have a funny way of upending your plan.

Marriage, with the right person, can be such a blessing in so many aspects of your life. I wasn’t so fortunate. Before marriage, I had a great credit score, I was responsible with my money (I was the only one touching it so I knew where every dollar went), paid my bills on time, kept my utilities on. I wasn’t perfect, but, as a single mom I had to be close. I accepted help from the state when it came to daycare, but everything else was me. Without daycare assistance, I never would have been able to work and my oldest son and I would have been just another welfare statistic.

Fast forward a couple decades and I found myself suffocating under a mountain of debt. Credit cards that went years without payment, one utility or another getting turned off every other month, mortgage payment always late, sometimes by months, worries over whether or not we would have money to feed our kids and those kids wearing duct-taped shoes to school. I was so unhappy and, even though I was a stay at home mom, I was working myself to death, baking 60-80 hours a week to make a little money at farmers market and working additional hours to create custom painted items that I sold at markets, craft shows and online. We made more than enough money to pay our mortgage, bills and other expenses, yet there we were. Nothing was getting paid and we were falling further and further behind and there were threats that the bank was going to take our house.

The thing that finally made me realize I was done was a receipt for a paperback book. A paperback book. I found the receipt in my car because he failed to dispose of it.  He was choosing his wants over the family’s needs. The receipt was just the tip of the iceberg and that was my wake up call. I made my plan to leave and bided my time. I was done.

That was my rock bottom. I walked away from my failing marriage. I had no job, no money, no place of my own to stay. Nothing, but my kids, my clothes and my art supplies. My grandpa, who was in rehab healing from a broken hip, let me live in his house rent free while I looked for a job. My parents and sister and brother-in-law helped me with food and gas money until I could get my first paycheck from my new job.

When I left, what I did have was a mountain of debt acquired during the marriage, school loans to the tune of $20,000 that were in arrears, no self worth, fear of the unknown and feeling like a complete and total failure.

Nothing like facebook to add to the broken mess. I watched as my friends bragged about their amazing relationships and marriages. They posted pictures of smiling faces in far off places on sandy beaches. There were grandchildren born and graduations and job promotions and the purchases of brand new homes and expensive cars. People were going back to school, starting businesses and lives were pretty damn good.

And there I sat on a cold hard rock, alone and feeling absolutely worthless. What I didn’t understand then, is that sometimes we have to hit bottom and that is place where we have to make the decision to lay there on the cold rock and let it kill who we are or we can begin to build from the surrounding rubble of our experiences. I paused while I was there for just a moment and then I made a decision. What I couldn’t seem to do for myself, I would do for my children until I could do it for myself. Kids are wonderful motivators. They need you to be there for them and do for them and that is why a lot of us choose survival when the alternative is so much easier to embrace sometimes.

My kids. They were the first stone I placed when I started over.  They were the cornerstone in the rebuilding of my life. Every day, every week I added stones. Some were big and some were small, but they all fit nicely together and made for strong walls and a sturdy life. I got raises and a promotion at work. I started paying off debt that had been long neglected. I became more comfortable in my own skin and gained confidence I hadn’t seen in a long time. I moved from my grandpa’s house into my own apartment, which, at the time, was a little piece of heaven for me. Recently, I moved into a small house in another town, one that has a yard and a garden and a room for all my art supplies. I paid off (or settled) almost $10,000 of debt. I have been paying on my school loans that were almost in default. We are on the right track and doing better than I imagined considering where I started.

But, all of the gains were not without hiccups along the way. We definitely did some back and forth with the positive and negative. We had car repairs, unexpected financial hits and I even got served three times for things that were either exclusively the ex’s responsibility or mutual. Earning much less and paying  more in expenses than him, I paid off the majority of our personal tax debt (just before the tax commission levied my checking account), all the business taxes from a business we both benefited from after promises of help (this time not before they levied my checking account and emptied it leaving me with $0.01) and finally settling what started at a nearly $10,000 debt after paying it on my own for 2 years. I can honestly say I am proud of myself for how far I have come.

I still struggle, watching everyone else. I feel like I should be there too. Buying a house or accepting an awesome job offer or driving a car that isn’t 14 years old and in dire need of repairs. I still get twinges of jealousy because I want the things that they have. I want to go on  vacation or drive a nice car or live in a house that is mine and not someone else’s. I want to be able to take my kids to the movie or out to eat without first consulting the checkbook to figure out if we will have enough money to make it to the next paycheck without running out of gas or food. All of these things are frustrating. My limitations are frustrating.

Forty-five is a strange time to try and start over. My friends, by the age of 45, have comfortable existences. They are married or started over at a much earlier age.  I assume, maybe incorrectly, that their lives are much more fulfilling or less stressful or further along than mine. I feel like I did when I got out of the army as a 22-year-old single mother. Completely left behind and very often alone in my struggle. It is hard to put into words how out of place I sometimes feel.

I have no doubt that things will continue to get better. Not without setbacks for sure, but they will get better. I don’t know in what capacity or any sort of timeline, but good things are coming my way. I just hope they come before I am too old to enjoy them. I mean, I am 47 after all. Not exactly a spring chicken with her whole life ahead of her. There are so many people to meet, beautiful things to see, places to experience and music to listen to. I would like to do all those things while I can still walk, still see and still hear. My life still has a lot of possibility and potential. I just need to go out and pursue it. Hunt it down and own it. Until I find it, I must remain diligent and patient. And patience is definitely not one of my strengths.

Being single doesn’t suck so bad after all…

Shortly after I started this blog, I met someone. We talked online for about a month and met in person on February 3rd. Three weeks ago, he ended it. If I know one thing about myself, it is that I am a bit much for men to handle. I am a pain in the ass. I know it. The funny thing is, after analyzing the relationship a bit, I am pretty sure I would have ended it within a few weeks anyway. I was seeing in him a lot of the things that made me leave my husband. His reasons for ending it were different than mine but…whatever. We were in different places and I had a much larger emotional investment in the relationship than he did. Regardless, here we are. Unicorns don’t exist.

As much as  loved being in a relationship that, to my blind eyes, was near perfect, I am now unattached and surprisingly quite happy and content. Maybe it just hasn’t hit me yet (I seriously doubt that) and maybe I just know it wasn’t meant to be. Whatever the reason, There are things about being single again to love and appreciate.

  1. The whole bed is mine again. Let’s face it, all that snuggling and (ahem…) grown up time was awesome. That will definitely be missed. A Lot.  The switch from contact overload to no physical contact will be difficult, but for the first time in a while my bedding will remain in place and the bed will be kept presentable. Maybe. I am not great about making the bed, but at least the sheets will stay where they belong and I won’t have to fight them every night. I don’t know what he did when he was asleep, but the fitted sheet was always ripped up on his side. Now, I can sleep stretched out across the bed again without anyone hindering my splayed position. Oh, But the snuggling….
  2. No chewing tobacco. He was always nice enough to not do it around me, or at least he wasn’t obvious about it,  but the habit itself is disgusting. As much as I hate cigarettes and cigarette smoke, I hate chewing tobacco more. Nasty shit in your mouth and spitting. Gross. And then there is the cancer issue. No thanks. Why can’t I find someone who neither smokes nor chews. It seems that those are the only men I seem to meet. Or those with drug histories or legal issues. Maybe those should be deciding factors for choosing someone in the future.  That will eliminate a LOT of men. Not that I am anxious to date again. I am not. I can’t seem to get it right.
  3. No more walking on eggshells anymore. OMG. Walking on eggshells with regard to everything you say is exhausting. Don’t offend. Don’t post the wrong thing on facebook. I am kinda like a bull in a China shop sometimes. I can be awkward and clumsy and sometimes the things that I let spill out of my mouth or from my fingers (online) are less than graceful or elegant. Now I am free to dance about the world minus the fragile eggshells that kept me in line. I guess I am lucky that he saw the flawed mess that I am before I got any more serious about him than I already was.
  4. No mockery of my condition. I have a pretty decent sense of humor, but even mine has limits. I can laugh about the unfortunate symptoms of my celiac disease and I do it fairly often. But every single day, joking about what I go through. It gets old after a while. After it gets old it starts to sting a bit. I find my symptoms embarrassing and extremely uncomfortable. They really aren’t a joke, but I let it go on. Sometimes his response to a complaint or concern was an obnoxious whining, mocking crying noise and sometimes I was afraid it was real and not a joke. I probably should’ve said something, but see number 3. I didn’t force him to walk on the eggshells he provided for me.
  5. Minimal farting. My world is noisy and stinky enough with a teenager and a pre-teen in it, but add a grown adult man who thinks farting all the frickin’ time is funny and you get a testosterone playground filled with the unpleasantness of body odor, smelly feet and rotten eggs. Not to mention the sounds of the farts themselves, and the gut-busting laughs that were sure to follow.
  6. No complaining about gluten free food. I know that gluten free foods are not exactly the tastiest creations with the most pleasing texture. I live with it everyday. I don’t have a choice. I have to make the best of a less than ideal situation so I accept what is and find foods that I can eat as acceptable, albeit imperfect, replacements. Complaining about it and showing your disdain for my diet really doesn’t help and kind of makes me feel like shit. Making a face and turning up your nose at my fare while denying what I have to offer adds to the nice little shit pile. No worries. I don’t have to deal with it anymore. Except maybe from my boys, but I expect that from kids. And they really don’t do that anyway.
  7. I can start going to the gym again. This is my fault. In part. The last couple of months has been a whirlwind of change and activity. In March I bought a gym membership, went about 8 times and then stopped. I had to look for a new place to live, then I was moving (which takes forever) and cleaning the old place. Then there was the relationship. He came over most nights and I felt guilty about leaving him alone in my place (he NEVER made me feel guilty about it so that is on me) and I craved being around him so I let what I wanted take precedence over what I needed. Now I can go without guilt.
  8. No more wondering. If you have ever been in an uneven relationship, you know what it is like to wonder. Do they care about me as much as I care about them? Are they as emotionally invested in this as I am? Will they be there for me the same way I will be for them whenever needed? If you aren’t sure, chances are that answer is no. I knew he liked me and liked the physical part of our relationship, but as far as truly caring about me, I just wasn’t sure. I never heard him say as much. I would tell him I was happy to see him, happy he was here, that he meant a lot to me, etc., and the sentiments were never reciprocated. I think the most I got was “I miss you” and “I can’t wait to see you”.
  9. No competing with an electronic device. We are all somewhat addicted to our smart phones, but to varying degrees. I love mine. I admit it. But as for it completely running my life, I can safely put it down with going batshit crazy. The thing does not have to be in my hand being viewed by me every waking moment. Not so true in the ex’s case. We would be snuggling on the couch watching a movie, one arm around me and the phone in his other hand scrolling facebook, amazon, some geek site, etc. I tried so hard to be understanding. He has ADHD and is always doing 3 or 4 things at a time, but when I wave my hand in front of his phone to break the trance, several times in one night, I’d say he is full on addicted. While watching TV, at the table eating dinner in a restaurant, in the movie theater, etc. It was always the most important thing in the room.

There are some things that, at the age of 47, are much better handled than at 27. At 27, I think I would have done anything to make the relationship work no matter how ill-matched the pairing was. I would have forgiven just about anything and worked and tried and ultimately failed, having wasted an ungodly amount of time on someone that was never worth 5 minutes. At 47, I still try to be understanding and I try to make things work, but it is so much easier to walk away because now I understand just how valuable my time is and just how quickly it passes. I don’t want the time that passes so quickly to have been wasted on some butthole. I would rather my time, energy, affection and love be invested in someone who truly deserves it. I have yet to find him. I am not certain he exists. I know that amazing men exist because I have plenty of friends that are married to or dating them, but as for whether or not there is one out there for me, I am just not sure. In the meantime, I am not sitting around waiting for him to show up. I am living my life, doing what I enjoy and spending time with my kids. If I run into him, it won’t be because he can’t look up from his phone. It will be because I have tripped over my own two feet or a crack in the sidewalk. Hopefully, he will be paying enough attention that he will be able to keep me from doing a header on the pavement and busting my face.

Facebook, Twitter and other social diseases

It’s interesting–facebook used to be entertaining. And fun. It started out as someplace where people could virtually meet or reconnect with people from their past. Everyone had all kinds of things to say and share. I loved the family updates and the realness that I could identify with. I enjoyed the reading the various points of view and engaging in spirited debates with people who resided at the opposite end of the belief spectrum. Lately I have noticed that it has become either boring or vitriolic, and, for the most part, people are becoming one-dimensional. It seems that people have found their niche and rarely step away from that. It has become a social stranglehold, choking the life out of anyone it touches, limiting social expression to one or more of the following:

  1. The “selfie slut”–OMG. The selfie slut. I get that kids like to take pics of themselves, but grown-ass adults? Oh. My. Gawd. One from this angle. One from that angle. One making this face and one making that face. Not sure what it says about someone when they are over the age of 21 and take more selfies than an insecure 14-year-old girl, but totally cringeworthy. You look good. You know it, we know it. Please just stop. Or maybe just slow down a little bit.
  2. The “happy couple”–You’re in a relationship. We get it. And it’s perfect. We can tell because you are always telling the world just how perfect it is. You repeatedly say how blessed you are and you use terms like Bae, Baby, My love, etc. It drips of liquid sugar and we get a cavity every time you post. Keep it real sometimes. We are happy you are happy, but no one is that euphoric all the time.
  3. The “religious nut”–I am a Christian. I have a lot of Christian friends, some new to the party, some have been there for a long time. Some are super judgmental and can be downright nasty. All the time. Some can only talk about their testimony/conversion/faith in every single post. It’s like everything in their lives just disappeared and they are only capable of praise and worship in each post. I am all for testimony and worship, but I think sometimes that obsessiveness pushes people away rather than draws them in. Real life is messy, imperfect, bumpy and unpleasant, even for Christians. We are human too, after all and subject to the same pitfalls, feelings and screw ups as everyone else. Share those too. I like to know that I am not alone. I am sure most people do.
  4. The “political junkie”–These are the people that like to post nasty, one-sided, not even remotely objective articles about the candidate(s) they hate. They use those articles to point out just how stupid the other party is without even bothering to listen to why they vote and think the way they do. Both sides are guilty of this. Both sides have good points and not so great ones, but they spend so much time yelling over each other (technically impossible online, but you know what I mean) and doing the playground “neener neener” thing, that there is no meaningful discussion. They purposely act nasty to start fights. They lose friends this way. Not just on social media, but in real life because they have zero self control and zero tact and zero ability to even try to see from someone else’s point of view. And they are always super shocked and offended when you fire back something equally condescending and rude because you have had it up to here.
  5. The “peddler”–makeup, pink drink, ketones, wraps, essential oils, candles, etc. They could make a hundred posts per day and 99 will be bragging about the product they are hocking. Hashtag this and hashtag that, all referencing their goods. Most of these people had cool lives before the cult of multi level marketing took hold. But now, I have a newsfeed full of “ads” promoting products I could never afford. I am glad you are happy with your stuff, but no, it doesn’t work for everyone.  What else are you doing? Really. I want to know.
  6. The “drama queen”–If there is drama, they post it. No matter how personal it is, it goes on social media. Every. Stinkin’. Detail. Sometimes it is way more information than anyone deserves or wants to know. We get a play by play of the whole dramatic scene(s) or process. We now live in a bizarre world  where there is nothing that is off limits or taboo. We hear it all, from Boo’s incarceration to who everyone is having sex with to what family member has been disowned and why.  I have had my momentary lapses in judgment when I rant or bitch a bit, but I try to keep certain details out. I don’t post names and I keep certain details private. Vague bitching. Does that make any sense?
  7. The “Hater”–They spew hate on everything. They are angry and vindictive and more than happy to share their misery. With everyone. They like to belittle and throw insults and painful barbs every chance they get. They have little to no regard for who they hurt, insult or offend. And they get personal. No one is immune and it is a wonder they have any friends. I don’t know. Maybe people keep them around for when they want to fight or maybe they just find their misery amusing.
  8. The “perfect parent/perfect child”–Similar to the “happy couple” but in this case it’s all about the kiddos. Their kids are perfect. They do no wrong. They have a 5.0 GPA from all that extra school work they ask to do. They are always the most valuable player on the team. They get along with their siblings. Their children are selfless, generous and never do anything even remotely naughty. Meanwhile, my kids are beating the crap out of each other because they are brothers and they are close in age.  One is semi-homeless and making choices that sometimes make me cringe, but he is resourceful and he is incredibly talented musically and is currently working on several short stories and a book. One has to take everything apart and leaves parts of everything all over the house and he struggles to make C’s in his classes because his mind works differently than most. One is a perfectionist that is incredibly hard on himself, artistic, like his mother and a very soft heart. He also has a very thin skin and takes everything way too seriously and way too personally. They are beautifully imperfect and I couldn’t ask for 3 better humans to call my sons.

Social media can be like a street pharmacy and each of those niches is a different drug. What is your drug of choice?

A little grace please. And maybe some patience.

I am a lot of things. Perfect is definitely not one of them.

When you have been through some of what I have been through, I’d like to say you develop a thicker skin, great discernment skills and incredible strength, but that is not always the case. I guess in some ways I have, but I think that most of what I have developed is a plethora of coping skills, some of which are not healthy for me or anyone else. Not healthy and not fair. And then there is the baggage associated with them. Oh, the baggage.

I have encountered narcissists, assholes, selfish men, jerks, deviants, users, liars, abusers and men that make promise after promise, only to blow me off time after time. They have made me question my worth and my place. The last of these  issues was only part of the problem in my longest relationship, but it gave me the bulk of an attitude I have developed that can best be described as “Fuck the world, I will do it my damn self.”  While most men I have encountered, save my dad and my grandpa, have contributed to this attitude, not all of them have. Unfortunately, it is my immediate, knee-jerk response when something happens, whether it is a missed call or text or unforeseen circumstances that screw up my plans with someone. Fuck the world. I will do it my damn self.

This attitude is hurtful and not at all fair and, from something I read recently, seen by others, especially men, as a weakness. Regardless, my fear of the same bullshit happening again, elicits the same response. Fuck the world. I will do it my damn self. Even though someone has proven time and time again that they are not like that,  That they are to be trusted and treated with kindness, an honest mistake will, again, result in that response. Fuck the world. I will do it my damn self. I have been let down so many times that that is the expectation when people make promises or say they will do something. I am always anticipating it. This is just a portion of the baggage I carry with me. It is something, one of the somethings that I would like to get rid of. This response can be off-putting and it pushes some people away. What would be nice is for someone to stay long enough to get past the bullshit response and help me unpack my baggage, leaving room to fill it with new memories, good memories, fun memories.

While I can be  serious pain in the ass at times, insecure, afraid, angry and hurt over dumb, sometimes irrational things, there are good things about me too. I have an awesome sense of humor, dark and twisted sometimes, and maybe even a little dirty, but well worth seeing come out. I am easy to amuse. I can find fun in just about any situation with just about any person on the planet. I am passionate about life. I want to go and do and be and meet. Life is beautiful and I want to experience it. I am kind to others, or at least I try to be, even when they are horrible to me. I forgive easily and I try to see the best in people. If I do get angry, wait 5 minutes and it will pass. When I love someone, and that love is reciprocated, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them. They are my world and I don’t see anyone else. I am faithful. There are a lot of good things about me that I think are worth others’ time.

I just hope all the good trumps the bad.

Too Much, Not enough, Who cares?

For as long as I can remember, people–friends, family, strangers–have been trying to stuff me into a tiny little box with predetermined dimensions and ideas of who and what I should be. I tried to live the way they said I should. I tried to be who they said I should be.  What happened is that I was miserable and they were much more comfortable.

The problem with that little box is that it does not allow for any individuality and color at all. Anyone who knows me, knows that confinement and conformity do not suit me at all. It took a long time to realize that God made me unique and I should embrace the crazy, chaotic, colorful nature that is me. Hiding it and stifling it creates misery.

Over the years, others have decided that pieces of me are too much to handle and just not enough to be valued. According to their standards, I am both too much and not enough. I think that is why my recent attempts at relationships have failed. There is this assigned group of behaviors and standards given to women my age and any divergence from said behaviors and standards is unfamiliar and unbecoming and therefore, unacceptable.

I am too much:

  1. I am too boisterous–If I am having a good time, you will know. Even in a room full of noisy people, you will hear me laughing above everyone else. While I don’t like being paraded in front of others (I even hated being the center of attention at my own wedding), I don’t have a problem with being the center of the giggle storm.
  2. I am too talkative–I can’t help it if I have a lot to say, whether or not others share that sentiment or appreciate my loquaciousness.  There are many things on this beautiful planet worth talking about. I refuse to apologize for enjoying them and the many beautiful and flawed people with whom I share this planet and my space.
  3. I am too animated–If I am excited about something, enjoying myself or telling a story, I use sound effects, exaggerated body language and crazy facial expressions. I have tried toning it down, but I just can’t.
  4. I laugh too much–I have survived horrible bouts of depression, serving in a combat zone in the military, exposure to sarin, electrocution, rape, 2 sexual assaults, a life-threatening pregnancy and delivery, robbery at gunpoint, job loss, bullying, abandonment, abuse, rejection and being used. If I am able to find joy after that–well, I have earned every single belly laugh, chuckle, giggle, guffaw and snort. I will take laughing over crying any day of the week.
  5. I am too weird–At the age of 47, I still like to color my hair in crazy hues (my favorites are pink and candy apple red). I love crazy non-matching socks. I am mad for shoes, and the crazier they are, the better–I own four pairs of Hello Kitty Vans, rainbow zebra striped sneakers, slip-ons that resemble disco balls and tennies that sparkle in gold and silver. I am obsessed with all things that write, color and brush. Frogs are my favorite animal and I have a growing collection of froggie things. On occasion I will sing in public, rather badly, and sometimes even dance.
  6. I am too naive–As much as I would like to be able to protect myself from the big, bad world and the unsavory, ill-intentioned people that occupy it, I find myself looking for the good in everyone and seeing their potential, even when they have given me more than enough proof that they are not safe or healthy to be around. Some days I would love to be cynical and jaded and angry, for the sake of self-preservation.  I have had moments where I have been those things, but then Pollyanna takes over and the world is beautiful and kind again. I can definitely be gullible and believe exactly what people tell me about who they are. Thankfully, I am getting better at recognizing when I need to walk away, because their “truth” is anything but.
  7. I am too silly–I love nerf gun battles, rolling down hills and having burping contests with my boys. I appreciate kid jokes and making up songs about random stuff going on around me. These things are not likely to change anytime soon.
  8. I am too nerdy–Apparently, I should aspire to be a dumb blonde (sorry blondies, just a term. I know you aren’t dumb). I never understood that. I like being smart. I like words. I will never understand why a man, or anyone else for that matter, would want me to be any other way.
  9. I am too scatterbrained–I don’t think it is age. I think it has more to do with a creative personality than anything else. Most creative types that I know are a bit on the scatterbrained side. In my humble opinion, being scatterbrained is nothing more than the free flow of ideas. There are just so many things running around in my head, that if everything was completely structured and ordered, there would be no room for another batch of creative ideas to run in and join the party.
  10. I procrastinate too much–This is probably one of my greatest flaws and one of my greatest blessings. It is a flaw because it drives most people, including me, batshit crazy. There is always a mad rush and a panic to finish any assignment or project or online order. While it appears that it is detrimental to the process, for some reason, I always do my best work when I am under the gun. That gun, pushes me to fight for the right words, the perfect image or clarity of thought. I get tunnel vision. Some of my best 10-page papers in college were started 24 hours before they were due and finished just minutes before the start of class.

I am not enough:

  1. I am not thin enough–I have never been a size 2. I used to be a size 5. I am a far cry from either now. A lifetime of crazy eating habits, not enough sleep, working too much, clinical depression, pregnancy and autoimmune disease as well as a genetic predisposition for weight issues have complicated things. I have probably lost and gained and lost and gained and lost and gained about 200 pounds or more in the last decade. I take it off, I gain it back. And studies (countless studies) have shown that weight loss is a crap ton harder in your forties. I have finally accepted that the best I  can do is take care of myself the best that I can, eat as healthy as I can (but I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination)  and stay active. Size be damned.
  2. I am not feminine enough–I am a tomboy. I have been my whole life. I prefer jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers to a dress and heels. I like makeup, but I am limited in my application skills so it is usually pretty minimal. I would love to have beautiful hair, but  despise having to put forth the effort to do it. My nails have been polished, but I have found that with the work I do and my art, attempting to keep them girlie is a pointless endeavor. As a child, I would go frog hunting (no killing involved, I promise), bring bugs into the house and play with cars and mud. I am uniquely suited to being a mother of boys. I am not squeamish about bugs and dirt and worms and snakes. I find fart humor both disturbing and funny, but don’t tell my boys that. I like rough housing and getting dirty. No offense to the girls out there or the mothers of daughters, but I think boy stuff is the coolest and being wild and dirty beats restrained and pristine any day of the week.
  3. I am not pretty enough–I have plenty of flaws. My nose is too wide and grows wider by the day. My eyelashes are almost non-existent. I have a round face and hair that always seems to be in need of styling. My eyebrows have random hairs that appear to migrate north leaving me with an odd brow line. I don’t look anything like what most men see as conventional beauty.  That used to bother me. I wanted to be tall and thin and blond with blue eyes and a sparkling personality. I was born as a altitude-challenged, hazel-eyed brunette. I was given brains instead of beauty.  I also got kind heart, an abundance of compassion  and the ability to love the broken and wounded. Beauty, while a nice thing to have, is fleeting and has a limited shelf life. I will keep the “beauty” I was graced with. And the other gifts–they have served me well.
  4.  I am not sexy enough–I guess that I was sexy enough when I was much younger, in my army days. I don’t know that it was so much sexy as appealing for my very youthful looks. For some reason men  really appreciate and have an addiction to women that look really young. I have been blessed in that regard. I am 47 and people still guess my age to be in my thirties. But sexy? Not really. Some people say that sexy is in the attitude and self-confidence. If that is the case, then I am in trouble. I am just weird and seriously lack the self confidence and attitude that would make me sexy. That’s okay. Some day, someone will love me for the awkward mess that I am.
  5. I am not graceful enough–I am like a bull in a china shop. I trip over my own feet,  roll my ankles,  fall upstairs, run into walls and door jambs, drop stuff and bump my head all the time. I am not sure from whom I get this lovely gift, but I would love to give it back. I usually have a variety of bruises in various stages of color at any given time and it really isn’t attractive. Getting them isn’t any fun either.
  6.  I am not “easy” enough–I have been told, quite recently, by men that I have met online that I am not putting out quickly enough (read: just not doing it). A lot of them just want easy, quick sex with no attachments or their ability to love and/or appreciate you hinges on your sexual availability. They don’t really want to get to know me as a human being or a woman. They want to get to know me as a sperm receptacle and little else. One went so far as to tell me that if I didn’t “get hip with the now”, I would find myself “old and in the way.” Nice.

I am me. I don’t really know how to be anyone else. When I try, I fail horribly  and I end up miserable. The closer I am to who God designed me to be, the happier I am. Am I perfect? Not even close. I am flawed and broken and messed up and I fail at something every single day. I don’t get it right. I don’t do things the same way everyone else does them. My drummer has a unique beat that I follow and revel in. I have learned, and it took me until my forties to realize this, that my path and purpose are unique to me, as are the path and purpose of each individual inhabiting this planet. Embrace yours. Grab it and run with it. You never know who might be blessed by your mess. Your beautiful, broken and flawed mess. The world deserves to know the real you. And you deserve to be it.

The Cesspool of Romance, part 1

2016 regrettably found me back in the dating pool. I went back and forth on whether or not I was really ready to date post-divorce, but at the coaxing of a friend (read: pushing) I went ahead and put up a profile on Plenty of Fish. I am still not sure what made me think that online dating would be a good idea since online was where I met my ex. And Plenty of Fish? Well, much to my chagrin, it’s mostly a bunch of horny douchebags and douchebaggetts looking for nothing more than easy, semi-anonymous sex, friends with benefits (which generally means benefits with a little friendly conversation) or easy non-challenging relationships where one party gets what they want, when they want, how they want it and immediately loses their shit when the other party actually has a mind and opinion of their own.

Please don’t get me wrong. I DO NOT think that all parties on said dating site are bad people looking for the above-mentioned things. I have met some really nice men online and some of them, while no romantic connection was made,  are now friends, at least on facebook where we occasionally chat or make plans that never really come to fruition.

But–if you have ever attempted the online dating thing, you know what it is like and how disappointing, and sometimes even frightening, it can be. And not all bad dating/relationship experiences are confined to online dating either. I have had some of those in the real world where we have been friends or acquaintances for a very long time (high school, or, in my case in the army immediately after high school as well).

So, here are just a few things that might be helpful to know or watch out for when considering stepping back into the cesspool that is the dating world.

  1. Benching “happens when someone repeatedly leaves you on a bench to wait around hoping they may choose to play you again. (Similar to what happens in sports games.) They might want you, but they aren’t quite sure if you are good enough, and there may be someone who they think is better right now. Or they are afraid of love, and they get emotionally scared, so they leave you in a position where they can pick you back up and use you when their interest spikes—or more plausibly in the dating world: when their ego needs a boost” (Elephantjournal.com). Who knew that, in your forties,  this is still a thing and even has a name? By your forties, you should be mature enough to know what the hell you are doing and enough to not do something so disingenuous and hurtful to someone else. This happened to me with someone I knew in the army. We have known each other for over 25 years and, while he lives in another state,  we decided to engage in a long distance relationship and,after a  month or so, began discussing him moving to be closer me to actually have a real relationship. A little over two months in, he flips out and suddenly can’t be away from his family and whatever the hell is in his state of residence. So, on the bench I go. Fool me once, shame on you. Almost 2 years later, the discussion comes up again. Thinking he may have matured in that time, maybe knows a bit more about what he wants (me?), I fall for the bullshit again. Very quickly in, he gets very icy and distant and conversation from him becomes very calculated and careful. Fool me twice, shame on me. Benched twice and I have learned my lesson. It will not happen again with him. Ever. My advice is if you get benched once, don’t let it happen again. The big, bad love/relationship thing will more than likely scare them again and you will have wasted your time, energy, effort and affection that might otherwise be applied toward someone who actually deserves those things from you.
  2. Ghosting. “The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just “get the hint” and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject’s maturity and communication skills. Many attempt to justify ghosting as a way to cease dating the ghostee without hurting their feelings, but it in fact proves the subject is thinking more of themselves, as ghosting often creates more confusion for the ghostee than if the subject kindly stated how he/she feels” (urbandictionary.com). This hasn’t really happened to me in the real world, but occasionally happens online when you have been conversing with someone for an extended period of time and they either meet someone they clique with or you say something they don’t like. In the real world, based on what a couple of friends have shared with me, it usually happens when a. they have sex once or a few times, or b. when they meet someone else who gives them what the first party hasn’t yet or isn’t willing to give them (and I don’t necessarily mean sex). I think that you really need to pay attention to dialogue, attitude and language. If they are  obsessed with the topic of sex, and I mean beyond normal guy obsession (is that even possible?), evasive or vague, you might have a potential “ghoster” on your hands and you might want to reconsider giving them the time of day.
  3. Self centered men. These men are looking for someone to be their on-call playmate and expect you to mold your life around their schedule and do the things they want to do, when they want to do them. They have little regard for your schedule, family obligations, job, needs etc. If you don’t mold yourself around their needs, you will be seen as a problem and will be left at the curb rather quickly, but let’s face it, that curb in all it’s mundane “blah-ness” is a damn sight better than being with someone who is incapable of giving you even a tiny percent of what you deserve. Case in point: I had been messaging a guy for a couple weeks (what can I say, I am wary and need to talk to someone and get to know them before I hand out my personal info like email or phone number). We had been trying to make a meet date but for some reason our schedules were always conflicting. We finally had a date to meet for coffee on a Friday. Turns out his son had a football game that day and he said we would either have to reschedule or we could attend the game together. Now, I have this policy (or rather my ex and I do) that until something is serious, the kids don’t meet a significant other and definitely not casual dates. I won’t do it to my kids and I won’t do it to someone else’s. It creates confusion and it is unfair to parade a bunch of men in and out of their lives. So we rescheduled for breakfast the next day. I get a text that his brother came into town unexpectedly and we would need to reschedule again. My friends said “Red flag! Don’t do it!”, but because my family is a priority, I assume his is as well and I give him another pass. Reschedule for Monday. Coffee in my town at 5pm? No, he had kid stuff going on starting at 5. We decide to meet for pizza right after I get off work. Meet. Talk. Spiral. Seemed nice, but not immediately comfortable. True nature comes out about 30 minutes in. My kids are my priority so I don’t care who you are, if you don’t get that, it’s not going to work. If you have kids at home and they aren’t your priority, again, it’s not going to work. So, because of the number of days I have my kids with me, my dating availability is limited.This gem told me that because I couldn’t make him my priority, having just met, I was using my kids as an excuse. I was a little dumbfounded. An excuse? They are my offspring. I brought them into this world and I am responsible for them. Things rapidly deteriorated from there, and the date ended abruptly when I got up and walked out on him. My kids are an excuse, but him rescheduling twice and then my schedule having to accommodate his was okay. I have zero respect for a guy (not even a man) who would treat my kids as if they were disposable or an inconvenient option.  When I make them a priority, it is an excuse.

You’ve heard that the tip of the iceberg is just that–the tip. What lies beneath, is so much larger and more expansive than what is immediately visible to the eye. That is kind of the nature of this subject. There is so much more to discuss than just these specific types or problems. I thought I knew what dating was going to be like and what kinds of pitfalls I would run into, but being naive has always been my problem. A little foolishly optimistic too. I kind of expected that the good in people would outweigh the not so nice or honorable. What I am finding is that there are a lot of creeps out there, but I still have faith that there is a gem worth waiting for. Somewhere out there, is a diamond, I just have to sort through a lot of stone and dirt. Someone please pass me a pick and a shovel. And possibly some dynamite.

Change sucks

Change, at any age, is not easy, but when you have long-established patterns that you keep into your forties, change can be exceedingly difficult, especially when that change is something like your diet. I am not talking about watching your calories or cutting your carbs. I am talking about complete and total overhaul and having to rethink and redo EVERYTHING about your diet. Such is the case with me.

In the year before my ex-husband and I split up, I had become sick. I was having a lot of digestive problems, gaining a ton of weight, having a lot of pain (which I thought was solely the weight gain) and generally feeling like a giant pile of canine excrement.  Eight months in, I finally decided to see the doctor because whatever I was going through was not getting any better.

Long story short, I was diagnosed with 2 autoimmune diseases. The first one, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, I was pretty sure was going to come up positive. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism several years before but was only prescribed medication and told to lessen my carb intake. So, I took my meds and went on with life. That went on for several years until I started doing research. I found that 9 out of every 10 cases of hypothyroidism are actually autoimmune disease. The early symptoms I showed were fatigue, sensitivity to cold (I would be in a hoodie covered by a blanket in 80 degree temps), weight gain, crazy menstrual cycles (I honestly thought I was hemorrhaging), constipation and hair loss.  The last one, hair loss, was what finally made me go see the doctor.  A few more fun facts I found out in my research is that some of the additional symptoms of Hashimoto’s are brittle nails, muscle and joint pain and stiffness, depression, memory lapses and pale, dry skin (my skin was so dry and itchy, I would scratch until I bled). One of the dietary recommendations for Hashi’s is a lot of whole grains (whole wheat, rye, barley, etc), which leads me to diagnosis number two and the sucky change that followed.

Autoimmune disease number 2–celiac disease. I need to step back for a moment. While the doctor was positive that what I had was Celiac disease, I had to wait for the blood tests to come back from the lab. In the meantime, she told me that I needed to cut gluten from my diet. That meant no wheat, no rye and no barley–no pasta, no bread, no cake, no cookies, no crackers, nothing breaded, nothing batter dipped, no beer.  While I was relieved to know that what was going on with me was not in my head and not a case of frayed nerves and stress, I had no idea just how difficult that diagnosis and “treatment” were going to be. I cut the gluten cold turkey. My first trip to the grocery store resulted in tears and frustration and a trip home with no groceries. Part of it was that almost everything has wheat in it. The other part that my doctor forgot to tell me about, was that removing gluten from my diet was like detoxing from a drug. Normally,  I am a pretty happy go lucky, non angry person. Removal of gluten turned me into a monster. I was angry. Inexplicably raging over everything and nothing. I wanted to punch walls and rip heads off. My anger frightened me. Thankfully that only lasted maybe 5 days. Those were 5 days I would like to erase from my memory.

After recovering some semblance of my sanity, I returned to the grocery store and found that, while difficult, the changes necessary were not impossible. The easiest solution is no processed foods, only lean meats, vegetables, fruits, yogurt, etc. That is not always possible or feasible. Sometimes you need something quick and easy like a frozen meal or a prepackaged sauce. It became necessary for me to read every single label because wheat is often used as a cheap filler or a binder. There was no eating out because there are not a lot of places that do gluten free. Not only that but there is always the risk of cross contamination. That means there is always the possibility that someone won’t clean the prep surface properly or wash their hands in between a regular menu item and a gluten free item. One crumb or a slice of bread–it doesn’t matter. A crumb of bread will set off the autoimmune reaction. Family dinners became a nightmare. At first, I think my family thought the diagnosis was bunk.They kind of poo-poo’d my new issue. They are also set in their routines and they don’t have the restrictions that I have so it was even harder for them. But, they have really come around and make every effort to make sure they have gluten free, carefully prepared things for me to eat. They have taken the time to do what needs to be done to keep me from getting sick.

Two years post-diagnosis, life is much better. I lost about 50 pounds. I discovered that Coke and Funyuns were on my edible list and have gained some of that back. What can I say? I am a work in progress and always will be.I do eat better. I feel better. Muscle and joint pain and stiffness are a nearly constant companion on this journey, but thankfully, movement helps alleviate some of that so staying busy and running all over the store where I work is a blessing. Gluten free food is getting easier to come by and I keep a mental list of what convenience foods I can eat. I found a pasta that is comparable to regular pasta (Barilla–you helped me keep my sanity). That might sound insignificant, but when so much has been taken away, the little things like that are a Godsend. Restaurants are starting to get it. They are making efforts to have gluten free options on their menus which means I can go out to dinner with my kids and my family. My boys are amazing. While they tease me about my restrictions and give me a hard time (Thank God I still have a sense of humor or I wouldn’t survive), they are diligent label readers and will sometimes catch a possible screw up that I don’t even think about. Self control is no longer an “option”. It is essential that I pass on the doughnuts and French bread. If I slip up, I know what my body does and how it feels and I want to avoid that if at all possible. Avoiding the digestive cancers and permanent intestinal damage are kind of important too.

As crazy as it sounds, and as much as change sucks, sometimes it is a blessing. Such is the case with me.