Thursday, May 27, 2010

So now that I'm single. . .

A couple of months after C. and I separated, on the morning following one of many painful, draining, talking-in-circles encounters that he and I would have in the year to follow, I woke up with the urge to date. Crazy some might say, especially seeing as how I was not quite three months out of a six year relationship and I was very emotionally raw to put it lightly. But I'm a go-with-your-gut kind of girl and so without giving it a second thought, I promptly went online and joined a dating site. Within hours I'd been contacted by several guys and was instant messaging with one who asked me out the very next day. I knew nothing about protocol or safety for that matter, so I accepted. The next day I had what I could only describe as pretty close to a panic attack from nerves and the delayed reality of what I'd signed myself up for and that first date never happened.

But other dates did. I was still craving the sense of vitality that comes from new attraction and needing to know that I was desirable and could get back in the proverbial saddle, so I dated. Very quickly I met D. who I suppose in hindsight was my rebound guy. We spent a lot of time together for a couple of months, mostly at his house where I felt completely at home because I'd managed to situate myself into a relationship with enough superficial similarities to my marriage that I barely noticed the difference. The chemistry with D. was insanely good and that helped too of course. And we were together when my dad got diagnosed with terminal cancer, so he was someone to talk to and cuddle with when I needed it, offering me a different kind of solace than I got from my friends and family. Then reality set in and our incompatibility became obvious so we parted ways peacefully. It was quite beautiful in its own right.

From there I've gone on to date various guys with various levels of interest. Some bring a purely physical, animal attraction and that is an experience that I think every woman should have. You don't have to label yourself or feel bad about sharing that kind of energy alone with someone. Others have been entirely sweet and attentive and yet could not spark my interest as anything more than a friend. Still others have been so lackluster that I wonder if they had help with their online dating profile because the words on the page and the conversations in real life seem to have come from entirely different people. I've had guys want to make me their girlfriend after an hour together, others that call and text incessantly before we even get to the first date and others that revealed aspects of themselves early on that, thankfully, made me want to run in the other direction. All of this within about a year! And moreover, there were large chunks of the year when I was dating no one, sorting through my feelings over the loss of my marriage, then the loss of my father, then the attempts to save my marriage and back again. It's been a roller coaster!

So where has all of this gotten me? It's brought me to Happily Now. Single and dating was not where I thought I'd be in my late twenties, but it is where I am. And dating thus far has taught me some incredibly valuable lessons. First of all, I'm a catch. And I bet you are too. It is amazing to me how many strong, successful, independent, kind, energetic, beautiful, loving women are out there trying to find "the one". Know your worth ladies. And absolutely, resolutely, steadfastly refuse to settle for anything or anyone that does not add to your worth. You have a right and a responsibility to share time and energy with people that are going to fill you up, whether physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually or a combination of them all. Your time is valuable and there is no sense in using it up on people who can't take you higher on some level. Second lesson. . . sometimes that means being by yourself. And that is perfectly okay. Get to know you and be alright with spending some time without anyone else there. It doesn't mean you're alone. But it does mean that you know how to choose good company and sometimes all you need is a little Me, Myself and I-time. Third lesson. . . learn what you can while you can from every encounter. All the getting-to-know-yous, all the first dates that may or may not lead to more, all the guys you never want to see again and the ones who become your friends, ultimately these are there to teach you about yourself. Explore what makes you tick, what turns you on, what you need to be content in a relationship, what your strengths and weaknesses as a partner are so that when you finally cross paths with "the one" you'll be ready. Oh, and most importantly, have faith! It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when :-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A bit of a rant, forgive me

The other day I was chatting with one of my nearest and dearest when a statement came pouring out of my mouth that really struck me: It is so much more complex and expensive to get a divorce than it is to get married. Consider the facts, in my case anyway:

*Cost of a marriage license:$93.50
*Waiting period: 3 days
*Required documentation: valid identification
(the option exists to take a premarital course, reducing the fee to $61 and eliminating the waiting period)

*Cost of a simplified dissolution of marriage: $409 plus form and notary costs
*Waiting period: up to 120 days
*Required documentation: extensive financial disclosures, confirmation of identity and SSN, settlement agreement, all of
which must be notarized

Am I the only one who thinks this is more than a little backwards?!? It isn't that I think getting a divorce should be easy. I think getting married should be harder! That I filed for what is really and truly called a "Simplified Dissolution of Marriage" made me laugh and cry simultaneously because it was just so preposterous. Simple? Ending what for many, and for me, was the most defining relationship of my life was so far from simple I can barely begin to tell you. So where does this name and this notion come from? And why don't the powers-that-be make it a little harder to enter into this sacred union to begin with?

Imagine, if you will, being required to disclose your full financial standing in order to get a marriage license. Sure, there are pre-nups for those who choose to have them, but I'm talking about just your average Jack and Jill, heading to the courthouse and being told that they must declare all their assets and liabilities for the other person to see, full disclosure. Would you think me wrong if I suggested that more than a few marriages might not have ended in dissolutions, whether simplified or straight-up complex and nasty, had that information been shared up front? How about compatibility profiles like the ones that you have to complete for online dating sites? Wouldn't it be just wonderful to know if your communication styles, sexual proclivities, ideas on family, etc. are in alignment with your intended's and to have the good ole' government verify all of this just to be sure?

Obviously most people don't marry perfect strangers and many of the examples I've given are things that we tend to know about our partner before entering into the contract of marriage, or at least we believe we know them. And as I and every other person who has been through a breakup or a divorce will tell you, knowing these things is not always a predictor of your likelihood to succeed. Life happens. Love changes. Relationships end. I just can't help but think it is entirely ironic and wrong that our society condones such an easy entrance into the most delicate and complex of relationships and then forces you to endure such a complicated and painful process in order to get out of it. Don't you think we've experienced enough pain if we're at the point where we are seeking a divorce? I know I sure have and this icing on the proverbial cake is the most bitter of all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Desiree and other assorted angels

After six years as half of what I perceived to be a whole, finding myself suddenly single a month before my 28th birthday was a terrifying unknown. I'd never lived alone, having gone from my parents' home to college and immediately beyond where there was always a roommate (or several) close at hand, sharing in everything from the rent to the dinner plans to whether or not those shoes looked right with that top. Even C. would try his hand at the latter when pressed and he was my "someone" in every other regard as well. I had hopes that this would be the year we started a family, maybe got a bigger house, continuing to build the dream we shared of happily ever after. Sure, we'd had ups and downs, but I never truly considered that there could come a time when I would be married one day and single the next.

Getting accustomed to being my own whole, my own someone, was a massive, complicated, heart-wrenching experience to say the very least, one I never even realized I needed to go through. I believed myself to be independent, strong and self sufficient. I loved being married and taking care of my husband, and I thought that I managed to do that well while still maintaining my Jess-ness. I thought I was whole unto myself even though I was half of something even bigger. I thought a lot of things and not all of them turned out to be true.

Enter my angels. When I was overcome with sadness and self doubt, crying until I stopped from sheer exhaustion and feeling utterly lost and alone, someone always extended a hand to lift me back up off my knees once again. My family, small and riddled with their own life's dramas, were unfailingly there for me any way they could be. My boss, who has become so much more than that, flew across the country to be with me at a huge meeting two weeks after my separation because I told her what was going on and she knew I needed the support even though I stubbornly refused to take a break from work while my world fell apart. And my friends, oh my friends. Some old, some new. Some close, some far. They lent emotional support and literal shoulders to cry on. They brought bottles of wine and laughter. They got on the yoga mat with me. They distracted me with girls' nights, lunches, parties and stories swapped about our trials and tribulations with relationships and dating. Each and every one of them is an angel. They helped me pick out furniture for my new home and christened it with love. They let me vent, rage, cry, laugh, reminisce, dream, worry, hope. . . whatever I needed. They never judged me as I spent more than a year going back and forth through the maze of my emotions, missing C. and wanting to save my marriage then being furious at him and wishing it was just done with already. They provided comfort and reminded me of my core beliefs, my faith, my spirituality, that ultimately are what have sustained me throughout all of this and really constitute my Jess-ness. They are angels, tried and true.

The newest angel I met was Desiree. Big and brash at first take, I didn't expect much from her other than that she had a job to do and no doubt she would do it well. Desiree was the clerk at the courthouse who took my divorce papers and filed them. She was the one who looked into my eyes as the tears spilled over against my will, handed me a tissue and said something like "Mama, are you sure about this? If you're not, it isn't too late" to which I replied "It has to happen." She sized me up I suppose, saw the fragility, the fear, the hurt that still live beneath the surface no matter how far I've come or how put together my outfit is and organized my papers are. And she must have seen that I needed a lifeline thrown out to me at that very moment because I was dangerously close to sinking, so she said "Don't give up on love. You know you gave all you could to this and if it didn't work out, then that's okay. You did your best. You have to believe there is someone else out there for you, but you need to be careful not to shut love out. Don't be afraid. Don't give the next one a hard time because of the things this one did. Believe in love."

If you open your eyes, heart and mind, you will find what you need is right there in front of you more often than not. If you're really lucky, what you need will happen to be what you want as well, making it easy to take advantage of. But that is not always the case. We are prone to missing the signs, often mistaking our angels for just another face in the crowd and being so closed off to the wisdom and truth that abound in the most mundane of places. That book that a friend recommended months ago or that piece of advice that your therapist gave you and you never took. . . they'll surface when you're ready to be open to them. It was within me to be honest with myself and learn to walk through this life as my own whole, my own someone, but I needed my angels to help me along the way. They showed me the signs, sometimes shining the light on them over and over again until I saw what was always there, until I internalized the wisdom and the truth and made it my own. For this and all that they have given me, I am so grateful for my angels. Many of them know who they are. Some have no idea how they have touched me. And the best way I can honor and thank them all is to try and be an angel myself to someone who needs it and keep this cycle going so that none of us ever has to feel alone.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Does once upon a time always lead to happily ever after?

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a boy and a girl fell in love. The time was roughly seven years ago, the land was Valparaiso, Chile and I was that girl. It was a fairy tale, set oceanside and washed in vibrant color. We were exotic to one another, being from different countries and cultures. We met, I the English teacher, he the student. He helped me through a little drama I was experiencing in my adopted homeland, thus becoming my knight-in-shining armor. Both of us could still tell you in great detail about when and where we first kissed, what song was playing, how intoxicating and different from any other kiss it felt. We were inseparable from that moment forward, wildly, blindly, fully enamored of each other in every possible way.

Are you or have you ever been in young love? If the answer is yes then you will relate to the way C. and I felt then. There was nothing in the universe accept for the little niche we'd carved out of it to simply breathe in the other person's essence. There was no need greater than to be completely submerged in the ocean of the other's love. There was no doubt in our minds that we were meant to spend forever together so after five months of knowing each other, and at ages 24 and 22 respectively, C. and I decided marriage was most certainly the way to go.

I loved C. with everything I had and he felt the same way. With the passing of the years and the changing of the land, our love and our relationship have changed drastically. We will love each other forever. I know this is a statement of fact even though today I filed our divorce papers. I cried at the little window of the Clerk of the Court while I did it, but the important thing is that I did it because it had to be done. At the urging of many a friend who has bore witness to the journey that I have been on for the past few years, I am ready to chronicle where I have been and where I am going because I know that there are others walking with me who could probably benefit from knowing they have a little company.

Some may prefer to walk in companionable silence. Me, I'm a talker. I'm very verbal, very expressive, very emotional and very unafraid to share because that is how I deal and heal and grow. So walk with me if you will. Listen if you are intrigued. Share as well if you wish. And for both of our sakes, please remember: Once upon a time does not always lead to happily ever after, but that does not mean that you cannot be happy. Trust me.