We’re seen our neighbors naked–and the naked truth is ugly.

supreme-court

I was in college and wondering what to write about for my editorial column, when my adviser came in. “I want you to write about the O.J. Simpson trial,” he said. My heart sank.

Nationally, the O.J. Simpson trial had been divisive and lingering, and I didn’t want to take sides. Everyone had made up their mind on what the outcome should be; and at my conservative white college, they all had the same opinion. He was clearly guilty, was the thinking. It shouldn’t even be something we’re talking about. Justice demands he pay an appropriate price. Now get off of the T.V.

It seemed like I wouldn’t have much to offer by repeating that stance, nor would I probably convince the student body by making an argument for the opposite. Instead I focused on the part that I found the most interesting—the divisiveness. The divisiveness fell along racial lines and it roughly went like this: if you were white, it seemed a pretty cut and dried case. Look at how he tried to escape! He had clearly committed the murders and he should go to prison. If you were black, here was yet another example of the police mishandling evidence against a black man just to get a conviction at any cost. The fact that police were trying to sway the case probably meant he wasn’t guilty.

The assumption about the justice system was at the heart of both worldviews—is the justice system mostly fair? Or is it systematically unfair? Which assumption you believed had a lot to do with your own personal experience, and good luck trying to change anyone’s mind.

Now here we are, on the eve of an election, and though the issue is different, the divisiveness is very much the same. Except now is it a divide that falls along urban, suburban, and rural lines.  We view the same events and come to completely different conclusions.  In this case, there is only one assumption—our country is systematically unfair, and we should do something about it. The question is, who has the worst unfairness of them all?

But a pissing match arguing which of the bad things is the most bad doesn’t solve anything.  Seeing the ugliness in other people tempts us to be ugly too.  A witty argument, though personally satisfying, won’t change the mind of someone who doesn’t want to be changed.  People don’t change their minds or themselves easily.  And no matter how irrational any one person may be, each of us has our reasons for believing what we do.  Which is why I found this article inspiring, and I’ll add my two cents.

Voting is a great thing to do, but change takes time and our most powerful impact, as always, is within our own sphere.  Be kind to your family, friends, and be kind to strangers too.  Seek to understand before being understood.  Contribute in time or money what you can to find solutions to the things that make you the most angry.

Regardless of the outcome, we have found out more about what our friends and acquaintances believe than we ever did before–and some people will simply disagree.  For our future, we are going to have to find a way to disagree peacefully, because we are beyond the era of simple problems that have simple fixes.  The problems we face are complex and can no longer be solved by lone individuals.  We need everyone, even and especially the ones that are not just like us.  But we can’t work together unless we let go and listen.

 

Death And The Narratives We Tell, Part II

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It’s funny how you can write something with one intent and it can be interpreted different ways, depending on the viewer’s filter.  My last post was not meant to be depressing or dark.  Despite how it may have appeared, I don’t actually spend too much time reliving sad memories–but reflecting on my past does shape how I carry myself in the present.

And the thing is, I do still think a lot about death, but in a totally different way.  I think about it as the end bracket to my story, and what to I want to put in there before it shows up?  Because the tomorrows do run out, and that’s not a bad thing or a good thing–it just is.  That’s what I think about.

When my grandmother died, it was a really good death.  A good death, because there was nothing left unsaid, nothing I regret about our relationship.  I got the memories of her house and sitting out on the back porch as the sun was setting, watching the bats fly around the giant tree in her backyard to the barn next door.  Memories so ingrained that they still show up in my dreams.  My ten-year-old self talking to her grandma-self, and it didn’t matter that there were 70 years between us.  The wheel of time shifts, and it is hard to say goodbye.  It’s hard accepting that nothing ever stays the same.  But here is my now, where I’m watching Shark Tank with Rowan on Friday nights, my 40-year self talking to her 10-year-old self, joking and discussing the businesses we would invest in.  This connection is just as wonderful, the love just as deep, even if the circumstances and characters change.

Our whole existence is tenuous.  Not just even that there are accidents and cancer and you know, always the minute chance that a giant asteroid will crash into earth.  It’s that the only thing that makes you you is the continuity of your perceived experiences, and even memories are less like a video recording and more like a play.  When you’re five, there aren’t many memories to even fall back upon, but as you acquire more data points of your life, you can’t possibly keep all of the relevant ones in your head at any one time.  I wonder if that’s why time seems to go faster the older you get, because you have to sift through more information and can only pay attention to so much.  And then add on that memories, like a play, change a bit in every reactment, so choosing which ones to even revisit changes you.  Then add on how each one supports your story – because it is not your brain or your body or even your atoms that make you the human you are, it is the wandering thread in the unknown tapestry that ties those experiences into you, into me.

And that’s why I am conscious of death, and it doesn’t fill me with fear or avoidance or make me unhappy.  I figure that when the time comes, it will be an experience you simply surrender to, like birth, because you have no control.  In the meantime, I have some big goals and small goals.  Really living each day like there’s no tomorrow, living only on whims is not sustainable–but big future plans have to be in balance with the here and now.

So for my thread, I want more of this.  More of having people over for dinner, talking late into the night.  More of enjoying early mornings, making tea, reading with a purring cat.  More of wrestling with my kids and doing food experiments.  More of lovemaking.  😉 More of keeping connections to old friends and always being open to the new.  More of new places, new friends, new tastes. More of enjoying lazy weekends with friends I’ve had for years.  More of making small steps to big dreams.  More of love and light, wherever I am.

Death And The Narratives We Tell

jar

I think a lot about death.  It’s one of my favorite topics, though one I don’t necessarily share frequently as it weirds people out.  I think it’s just because once you exist, it’s difficult to imagine not existing.  The idea does not scare me – though I have to admit, if someone stuck a gun in my face, I’m sure I would be terrified.  Something about the immediacy would be frightening.  But as far as the philosophical idea of non-existence goes, I think I have made my peace with it.  After all, I’ve been thinking about it since I was 11.

When I was a kid, I was very unhappy.  Sometime people underestimate the emotions a child could have, underestimate the pain someone who is not an adult could feel. From a young age, I always felt like a skinned knee, raw and vulnerable, the meat of my flesh exposed.  Always on the edge of tears, always trying to keep my feelings under control and not being able to.  I felt out of place, because just existing seemed so effortless for other kids.

Because make no mistake, I was weird.  Some days I just didn’t wash and didn’t bother to brush my hair, it all seemed so useless.  If people talked to me, I would often start crying uncontrollably, because I couldn’t tell if they were taking a piss at me, or even worse, actually cared.  My worldview had no place for people who cared about me.  All I knew is that there was something deeply flawed, deeply wrong with me.  But I didn’t know what it was.

My life sucked, and so, I made up a story for why it sucked.  It had to do with me, and something horrible about me. Perhaps I was ugly.  Truly and dreadfully.  And once I decided upon that as my hypothesis, my confirmation bias neatly fell into place.  I remembered every cruel remark:

“Are you a witch?  Because you have a really big nose.”

“Why do you follow us?  Don’t you know that nobody wants you around, nobody likes you?”

“Are you a bitch or a dude?  Hey, I’m talking to you.  ARE YOU a bitch or a dude?  Because no one can tell.”

Or my favorite – “Do you see a psychiatrist?  Because however often you go, it’s not often enough.”

I remember being so thankful that I got home before anyone else, so that I could go to my room and cry and clean up before anyone could see.

And that’s how I got to considering suicide at age 11.  I’m told that’s fairly early.  Actually, to me, if the age of reason is 7, it seems fairly late.  Eleven is old enough to see the bullshit in the world.  To think and to feel that it will never get better.  To go through enough isolation and bullying to not want to go through anything more.  The thing I remember most about 5th grade, besides math, was thinking about how I would hang myself outside the school.  There was a bunch of young trees outside, young enough to climb.  It would be easy.

But obviously, I never did, because I am here, writing this blog 30 years later.  It took me a good decade to really get out of the throes of depression.  It took me a long time to learn how to be a friend and to accept friendship.  It was probably one of the most healing lessons I have ever learned.  That I–gawky, big-footed, big-nosed, and with glasses to boot–could actually be someone other people cared about.  In all my imperfections, in all my hangups, the more I reveal my open soul, the more people let me into theirs.

That was the second lesson.  Everyone has suffered, no one gets a monopoly on that.  Some people definitely have a different level of grit – I must admit that I am a little embarrassed that I had no outside trauma to deal with.  My worst obstacle has always been myself. I have heard many stories.  Rape, being molested as a child, cutting, having rocks thrown at them, suicide – I have been a listening witness to many cruelties that were not my personal experience.  And I am grateful to be so trusted.  People know they can tell me anything.

After all, though, you finally get to a point where you let it go.  All of it.  If you’re going to end your life, or if you’re not, you make your peace with that decision.  Then you move on, because the limbo state isn’t sustainable.  Somewhere around 16, I decided that I probably wasn’t going to end it.  I still had fantasies of course; the note, the way I would end it — but it was a daydream of not having to suffer anymore.  It took me another 5-6 years to finally get rid of that fantasy for good and really embrace the fact that I was going to live.

What is funny is that as the years have gone by and I decided to have children, I worry about it more.  Not because I fear death, but because I know my kids love me.  If I died now, they would be fucked up.  Though I have warned them that if I’m 98 and have incurable cancer, I’m probably going to jump out of a plane and “forget” to pull the parachute.  Just so they know.

So the strange thing is–the thing I can’t let go of–is being insignificant or unimportant.  I don’t expect to win a Nobel Prize or anything, but I would very much like to have some good impact in the world.  I don’t know what, however–and I’m in my official 40s now, so the pressure is on.  I remember someone telling me that in the Hindu worldview, you have kids and then as they grow older, you can devote yourself to spiritual pursuits.  Everything in its own good time.  I feel a bit like that.  I enjoy having kids – it’s great fun and awe to experience the world through young eyes – and yet, it’s not everything I want to experience.  I love my kids, but I can’t say that they complete me.  Just like a lover or a friend, I don’t know the trajectory of their lives.  Will it be in parallel to mine?  Will it only intersect and then diverge?  Sometimes the people who have the most influence on us are not the people we’re destined to have Sunday dinners with.

That is, of course, the strangeness of [our] Time.  We remember the past, but know nothing of the future.  But if it doesn’t matter anyway (and I mean that in both the positive and negative sense), then the meaning is in the traveling, the experience of life.  If Death is the equalizer of us all, then enjoying our personal journey, and helping others to enjoy theirs, is all that really matters.  Maybe our stories will last for a generation or two, our DNA longer, but eventually it all fades and disappears into the noise of a billion lives.  Somehow this makes me feel better and not worse–but then again, I always was an iconoclast.

Dumpling Skins and the Rigor Mortis Game

Or, a day in the life.

I love how my life is just so random and unexpected.  I genuinely enjoy weirdness.  The other night I was making potstickers because I hadn’t made them in awhile.  If there’s one thing I can thank my parents for, it’s how to make dumpling sauce.  Soy sauce and rice vinegar, maybe some sesame oil and a leetle bit of sugar.  Rowan loves them–but only the skins.  Doesn’t want any fillings, just dumpling skins dipped in dumpling sauce.  And now Nova is doing it too, probably because she copies what her sister does.  So they methodically went through all the dumplings, squeezed out the fillings, and ate the skins until no more were left.  Crazy kids.

Afterwards, Rowan and I were play wrestling, like we often do.  I was hugging her and she was hitting me and struggling to get away.

“You’re dead,” she told me.

“Yep.”

“So you have to let go of me now.”

“No,” I giggled, “I’m in rigor mortis now.  You can’t undo my hug, because I’m dead. Even in death, I hug you.”

“What?” she asked, “What’s rigor mortis?”

So I told her.  Half an hour later, I’m walking to the bathroom and walk by the bedroom, where Rowan is hugging Nova solidly without moving.  Nova was trying to get away, and I hear Rowan say, “Nova!  It’s the rigor mortis game.  You can’t get out of my hug. I’m dead.”

I wonder sometimes when the school is going to call me.

Later on, after we read stories and turned off the light, I cuddled them in the dark for awhile.  Rowan and I will have great conversations.  We were talking about humans and attractiveness.  How is something we distinguish among ourselves, and if an alien species came to earth, we’d all look kind of the same to them.  I told her that I’m not sure if I’ve ever met anyone I would really consider ugly.  We’re all sort of humanish.  Granted, there are markers for reproductive health, such as symmetry of the face and hip to waist ratio.  But usually what we consider “ugly” is just deviation from what we expect, and what we consider as “beauty” is an average.  There are disfigurements, such as burns or scars – but that mostly makes me sad because it is physical evidence of suffering.  It’s not ugliness.

“In any case,” I told her, “I have a hypothesis that the average human today is more attractive than an average human of 500 years ago.”

“What’s a hypothesis?” Rowan asked. “Is that like a theory?”

“A bit,” I said.  “It’s a baby theory.  I don’t have any data to support my conclusions.  If I did, then it would be a theory.”

“So why do you think humans are more beautiful now?” she asked.

“Because first, we eat better food and have better nutrition.  We eat better than medieval kings and queens did.  Second, we have better skin and have medicine for things like acne.  There aren’t a lot of people with things like smallpox scarring anymore.  And we have better teeth.  We brush our teeth and know more about dental hygiene.   So, we’re getting better looking, generally, as we get healthier.”

She finally got to sleep and I was thinking about Charlemagne.  He was supposed to be extremely tall, at 6 feet. I remember as a kid being really confused about that, because my dad was practically six feet, and he didn’t seem abnormally tall or anything.  What a difference 1,200 years makes.  If I went back in time, I would be giantess.

And then, despite all that, I dreamed about work.

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

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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.)