Dating…with Children PART 2: The Childless Other Person

So, you’re smitten with a parent…but half of those kids’ chromosomes are not from you. Yikes.

Wait…

Not yikes! Shame on you! We’re awesome!

OK, no shame, really. It’s totally acceptable. In my opinion, any aversion to dating a single parent is just as superficial as being primarily attracted to a certain skin color or body type. And the stigma of single parenthood is just as archaic as Jim Crow laws. Unfortunately, the philosophies still prevail today; they simply lurk under different headings  <ahem bathroom & gender ahem> [don’t get me started]  or are introduced with false acceptance such as, I’m fine with it, BUT...

Save your big but.

Abstaining from single parents is simply your preference. It’s also something you can get over – if you want to. But the cool thing about dating is that you get to date who you want. So if you’re likely to avoid dating a parent, that’s OK. This article is not for you. You can also jump onto chats like these and connect with your fellow brethren.

Ok ok ok, maybe I’m a little bitter. But still. I’ve been burned. I’ll venture to average about 90% of men I’ve dated since my divorce that either went ghost or ended things because I’m a mom have come back, regretting their judgmental rush to rule me out. Well, as I’ve said before: 1. I’m awesome (along with many other single parents) and 2. I will not be back-burnered while you look for something better. Because when you come back feeling silly and want another try, this is what I’ll say: Nope.

And I might sing this song.

And I might make this face.

comeback

On the other hand, if you are brave enough to think about entering into a relationship with a single parent or if you are already in a relationship with a single parent, here are some things to consider:

  1. It’s OK to say you’re not ready. So, yes, you are head over heels for a single parent. Praise Baby J. But you’re terrified to meet the kids. What if they don’t like you? What if you don’t like them? What if they’re naughtier than you expected? What if xn?

Remember, you have a voice. If things are moving too fast for you, just speak up. Slow does not mean no. No means no. Asking to slow down isn’t rude or rejecting; it’s valid and healthy – especially for the kids. The same way kids deserve two happy and healthy parents, they deserve the happiest and healthiest version of YOU as the significant other. If you’re really with your Best Match, they’ll understand and respect your pace.

Asking to slow down isn’t rude or rejecting; it’s valid and healthy – especially for the kids.

  1. Acknowledge what you’re in for. I’m reading this incredible book right now called Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortnberg. A section in the very beginning stood out to me and will stay with me forever:

A friend of mine was ordering breakfast during a recent trip in the South. He saw grits on the menu, and being a Dutchman who spent most of his life in Michigan, he had never been very clear on the nature of this item. So he asked the waitress, “What exactly is a grit?”

Her response was a classic. “Honey,” she said (in the South, waitresses are required by law to address all customers as “honey”), “Honey, they don’t come by themselves.”

Grits don’t exist in isolation. No grit is an island, entire unto itself. Every grit is a part of the mainland, a piece of the whole. You can’t order a single grit. They’re a package deal.

“Call it a clan, call it a tribe, call it a network, call it a family,” says Jane Howard. “Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” It is not good for man to be alone. Dallas Willard says, “The natural condition of life for human beings is reciprocal rootedness in others.” Honey, you don’t come by yourself.

 

None of us come by ourselves. Even if you’re an anti-single-parent dater, you still have to deal with your lover’s mother(s), father(s), sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, cousins, best friends, work friends, kinda-friends, dogs, cats, lizards, fish…germs. Everyone comes with an arsenal of people and connections and microorganisms that you’re going to have to navigate anyway. So kids aren’t going to be that much more added to the circus for which you’ve already bought non-refundable tickets.

Kids are a lot of work. They’re needy. They’re loud. They’re rude. They’re dirty. They’re messy. But they’re also hilarious. Compassionate. Honest. Adorable. Gentle. Affectionate. And they’ll teach you more about life than any fancy professor with a ton of letters after their name. You’ll feel drained, overwhelmed, terrified, uncertain, and you’ll probably doubt your decision at least three times a day.

But children are, unfortunately (or fortunately?), temporary; just like any season, phase, and quite frankly, all of life. So enjoy the ride. Savor the moments. Take pictures. Smell the rain. Remember how tiny their hands are in yours. Remember how soft their fingertips are as they touch your face. Remember that joyful giggle.

As I mentioned in PART 1, the kids will grow up, move out, chase their own dreams and start their own families. At the end of the day, you’ve just completed one of the grandest adventures with your Best Match and Life Partner. Isn’t it amazing what you two can accomplish together? It will be worth it.

Remember how tiny their hands are in yours. Remember how soft their fingertips are as they touch your face. Remember that joyful giggle.

  1. Remember what we’re NOT. Single parents are not charity cases. We don’t want your pity. We don’t want favors. We are strong, resilient and dedicated. We are fierce and driven. We’re survivors. We don’t need you to be our hero because we’ve already become our own heroes –for ourselves and for our children. Please don’t date us thinking we need you or that karma is going to come rain goodies on you because you’ve taken in what others have kicked out. Remember that we’re just souls hoping for passionate unconditional human love like any other single person. If you think you’re doing some noble deed by dating a single parent, please leave us alone.

Remember that we’re just souls hoping for passionate unconditional human love like any other single person.

  1. Know your role and know your value. You are engaging in a partnership with someone that could be – or is – your Best Match. Your role in their life and family is their Best Match. You are not a substitute parent (and PLEASE don’t even entertain the temptation to compete with or one-up the other parent). You are not a babysitter. You are not a disciplinarian. If you feel a lot of pressure to fill roles outside of significant other, speak up. Of course, joining in a lasting partnership involves sharing some responsibilities, but take a step back and consider how your presence lands in the kids’ world. It’s better to slow down and limit your time with the kids than to impose and confuse them. Remember that your presence might make them feel guilty; like they’re cheating on their other parent by enjoying your company. More on the kids point of view in Part 3…

Your role to the children varies, depending on their age and developmental stage when you enter the scene, but you are always meaningful. As your relationship with the kids grows, you can be a huge asset – especially to older children. For teens in particular, you might be their preferred adult confidant and listening ear; they might open up to you more than they would their biological parent, trusting that you will guide them without shaming them. You can be a very powerful positive influence for them when they need a consistent and reliable presence the most; something really meaningful, filling a unique space between friend and parent.

Joining in a lasting partnership involves sharing some responsibilities, but take a step back and consider how your presence lands in the kids’ world.

  1. Communicate – comfort level and expectations. I personally hold to the One Year Rule. When you have kids and you’re dissolving a marriage in the state of Illinois, you’re required to take an online course and pass an exam on successful co-parenting. It was actually very practical! (High Five, State of IL!) When it comes to significant others, the course recommends the One Year Rule; that you and your significant other have been consistently and officially dating for at least one year before making introductions to the kids. This is to protect the children – from confusion, from having too many inconsistent people coming in and out of their home, from getting attached and then getting heartbroken when you break up, from setting their relationship norm to a standard of “shallow” and “temporary,” and so forth.

If one year is too long – or not long enough – speak up. As I mentioned in another article on starting a relationship off right, holding back your fears or reservations only plants seeds of resentment. Communication is the foundation to any relationship, no matter how intimate or minuscule. So speak up. Discuss. If you’re not comfortable sleeping over, say so. If you don’t want to watch the kids, don’t. If you’re not ready to be alone with the children, let it be known! Your successful and loving relationship with your significant other’s kids revolves around you being comfortable enough to be your Best Self. Those adorable kids deserve to receive the best version of you when you’re together.

At the end of the day, you’ve just completed one of the grandest adventures with your Best Match and Life Partner. Isn’t it amazing what you two can accomplish together?

So talk about the big things with your partner and check in to make sure you’re still on the same page. Coordinate schedules, make sure you have date nights, make sure your interactions with the kiddies are balanced – neither imposing nor scant – and if the other parent is in the picture, you’d better figure out how to cooperate with them, too! Grits, man. Amirite?

 

Check back soon for PART 3: The Kids.

~OR

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Dating …With Children PART 1: The Single Parent

Well, we made it. I made it. Another Father’s Day in the books. It’s true. Father’s Day is tough for me. It’s my annual trip down Agony Lane. But as I think about fathers and mothers and parenting and parenting solo, I think it’s time I dissect this whole single-parent-dating thing.

Can I be blunt? Great. Dating is hard work. It’s exhausting. It’s depleting. It’s frustrating. It’s confusing. It’s dangerous. But, assuming folks are open about our goals, desires, and expectations, it can be fun, exciting, and empowering.

But that’s just the dating adults. What happens when you’re a single parent and you have to juggle parenting as well as being open to finding your own Best Match? There are many critical players involved; for example, Parent No 1, Parent No 2, child/children, Significant Other No 1, Significant Other No 2, just to name a few. If there are multiple children with multiple parents, we’ll need an entire cast list to keep on-hand just for clarity.

How each person acts and reacts and how that lands in each person’s world is one of the most delicate and crucial dances we can play as single-and-dating-parents. I have learned that it’s easier dating other single parents. We get each other. We get scheduling, we get priorities, we get boundaries. We’re on the same page…for the most part. Dating non-parents is not impossible. It is, however, complicated because those above issues are completely foreign. They usually don’t understand schedule conflicts, the never-ending exhaustion, the waking up at 3:24am just because someone wanted a snuggle; the perpetual barrage of stuff that can’t just stay put-away, the parenting priorities, etc. Even though some might be mature enough to empathize and offer patience and space as your relationship develops, non-parents will never understand until they join the club.

[Tangent: I’m also curious about why women are more open to dating a single father than men are to dating a single mother… single fathers are seen as tender, selfless saints whereas single mothers are usually…not seen this way…something about sperm ego, I’m sure… ((eye roll)) men and their territories ((smh)) [tangent over]

So over the next few days, I’m going to deliver a three-part break-down of Dating with Children; one from The Single Parent’s point of view, one from The Childless Other Person’s point of view, and one from The Kid’s point of view.

Let’s start from The Single Parent, my present role and the role I know best.

PART 1: The Single Parent

  1. Do Take Your Time. Translation: don’t rush into something led by infatuation and begin introductions (especially to children!) prematurely. I had to lead with that one. It is the most raw for me mostly because I lose a lot of dates this way; when non-parents get freaked out about meeting the kids or trying to picture themselves as a step parent before I’m even ready to acknowledge a second date. Stop it. Slow your roll. Pump the brakes. Calm your nipples.

Unfortunately, a lot of relationships start out hot and heavy; two people that have been desperately aching for something – anything – meaningful find each other and before you know it you’ve crammed three years of dating into three weeks, your relationship escalates to super nova status and implodes before you know each other’s middle names.

Take your time to make sure you are ready to give your Best Self to your Best Match.

You rushed it. They rushed it. Now you’re back to being lonely and looking, a little depressed, and probably picking up tiny pieces of your dignity somewhere. So take your time. I personally want to fall in love with a best friend. Someone I know can cheer me on at my best and still manage to cherish me at my worst. And that kind of closeness doesn’t blossom over a few texts. That kind of closeness is fundamental to a healthy and lasting relationship; the kind you will probably want to start thinking about introducing to your children. I’ll touch on the dangers of premature introductions in PART 3: The Kids. Stay tuned there.

You also want to give yourself the time and space to not only grieve your previous relationship, but to also be introspective; look at your own contributions to its demise. Are you bringing some negative habits or misplaced bitterness into your next relationship? Take your time to make sure you are ready to give your Best Self to your Best Match.

  1. Don’t Parent Shop. For the love of all things holy, DON’T. PARENT. SHOP. As a parent, you should NOT be looking for a substitute or replacement parent. I cringe when I hear people say they’re looking for a father or a mother for their kids. No. You had the kids, not them. Your babes are your responsibility; not theirs…yet. Your kids already have a father or a mother or they wouldn’t be here. That original parent, whether divorced, deceased or just a delinquent, is still the child’s parent. Plus, they have you and you’re awesome.

Because one day you’ll be old and wrinkly and have little left to offer each other besides unconditional love and never-ending companionship.

When looking for your Best Match, it is imperative that you resist profiling them for step-parenthood.

Why? Because one day you’ll be old and wrinkly and have little left to offer each other besides unconditional love and never-ending companionship. Look at how many marriages fail after the kids move out. During college, I knew at least 10 friends that were confused, crushed and betrayed as their family homes were sold and their parents remedied empty nest syndrome with two separate apartments in two separate states. Where do they go for Christmas? For spring break? Is anything really “home” anymore? AARP says:

While the overall divorce rate in the United States has decreased since 1990, it has doubled for those over age 50.

So while, yes, you must screen your potential suitor for suitability with some parental duties, don’t look for a step parent. Look for your life partner. The kids will grow up. They kids will leave home. The kids will follow their own dreams, start their own careers, find their own Best Match, and begin a family of their own. When the kids move out and move on, what will be left of your relationship? Your bond must be rooted in something deeper and stronger than the kids.

  1. Don’t Use the Kids as an Excuse. Don’t use them as an excuse to date and don’t use them as an excuse not to Your children deserve to have a healthy example of a relationship. If the model you show them isn’t going to set a positive image of a life partnership, then don’t show it to them. Don’t date to find a replacement parent (See above; No. 2), and don’t abstain from dating saying that your kids come first. Date because you want to and you’re ready.

Ok, backtrack. The kids do come first. But so does your happiness. You will offer your children your best parenting when you yourself are fulfilled. Insisting on isolating yourself from trying to find a relationship – if you want one – isn’t fair to the kids. They’ll internalize your loneliness as being their fault.

If you don’t want to date, that is perfectly fine. Just don’t do it.

If you don’t want to date, that is perfectly fine. Just don’t do it. But if your kids ask about why you chose to be single, don’t say it’s because of them.

If you’re longing for companionship, it isn’t noble to martyr your own happiness and say it’s for the kids. Because it’s not about the kids. It’s about your own pain, shame, fear, whatever, that is preventing you from getting out there. If this is the case, it’s time to start that inward reflection on why you want to be in a relationship but are too terrified to take the first step. If you want to date, date for yourself and your own relationship goals.

  1. Do Consider Your Kids. Ok, with all this self-reflective thinking, don’t forget about your babies! They absolutely do count and do matter in your quest for love. Be mindful of red flags, especially with other parents. Non-parents are clean slates and can adapt to being around the children. They can assimilate into your “normal” and learn about how their role can blend into your existing family situation. They will most likely struggle with issues like sharing space, time, prioritizing, delegating, a huge increase in acquiring stuff and how to respectfully discipline or correct your children. But if you choose wisely and everyone is ready to try, a non-parent could beautifully blend into your family as you being to make it your own, together.

On the other hand, red flags from another dating parent can be really frightening. How does the person talk about their own kids? Do they enjoy doing similar activities with their kiddies as you do with yours? Have you seen this person angry? Frustrated? Tired? How do you think your children will receive him or her? How do you think your children will receive their children? While your partner is your partner, your primary job as a parent is to protect and provide for your children. If this person interferes with your rhythm or your parental spidey sense tingles, listen to your inner voice. Don’t risk it.

  1. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t limit yourself with a timeline or a profile. If you do, you’ll just get in your own way. You’ll miss subtle cues, impulsively rule out a winner, flock to the lowest hanging fruit, start something before you’re ready, start something before they’re ready, or doom yourself to complete solitude for the rest of your natural mortal life because you’re looking for someone that doesn’t exist. Remember, no one is perfect (read more about starting a new relationship here).

So if you’re ready to start dating as a single parent, be open and be receptive. Your Best Match might not seem like your Best Match at first. But to truly connect with someone on the most intimate of levels requires some measure of vulnerability and allowing someone to see you and love you.

 

Check back soon for Dating with Children PART 2: The Childless Other Person

 

~OR

What Are Negging & Gaslighting? Abuse, That’s What.

Earlier this week, I shared an article about Training Your Partner/How to Start a Relationship off Right and I fittingly, had the opportunity to put Step 5 into practice this week, too (see my final word below).

I had been on a few dates with someone and there were red flags that I noticed but chose to ignore in the name of being mature and responsible and giving this person the benefit of the doubt. Once I followed my own advice, Steps 1-4, it was most definitely time for Step 5. Why? Because he was exhibiting abusive behavior. It was subtle, sneaky. I didn’t really see it happening. He was a fun and pleasant person, and I genuinely enjoyed his company. But in the midst of our good time, he would insult me and challenge me so regularly, I started to feel inadequate. And then I realized why: I was allowing myself to endure abuse.

Finally, there are names for these patterns. If you haven’t heard of them, it’s time to learn, look and listen. Equip yourself and be aware: This. Is. Abuse.


NEGGING

Negging is that tricky subtle negative garbage that is intended to knock down your confidence just enough so that you’ll be more <air quotes> approachable. The Neg-slinger hopes to pique your interest for being seemingly so disinterested with you that they treat you as if you’re nothing special. AKA passive aggressive insults. AKA bullying.

In this article, where negging is introduced as a pick-up method complete with tips and tricks for using the best neg at the best time to get the girl you want, the author also warns against using the negging <air quotes>“technique” inappropriately, where is comes out as an actual insult. Well guess what, it is an actual insult. Negging is bullying. Negs are passive aggressive self-esteem-crushing blows no matter how you want to define and refine it. Negging is bullying. Bullying is abuse. Do not put up with it.

Some that I heard recently:

“Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

“Omigod, I can’t believe you’re not wearing tights. That dress is so short. Aren’t you cold?”

“Three kids, huh? What’d the third one do walk outta there?”

“Wow, cute top! I love last season knock-offs.”

Please imagine my face in response. There were no words. <Negger, please.>

img_2124


GASLIGHTING

Have you ever been made to feel like you don’t remember things correctly, or your judgement is off, or that you’re just plain going crazy? Yes, that’s a thing. That’s an abuse thing. It’s called gaslighting. Gaslighting is when your abuser makes you question your own sanity.

“Gaslighting or gas-lighting is a form of mental abuse in which a victim is manipulated into doubting their own memory, perception, and sanity. Instances may range from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.

The term owes its origin to the 1938 play Gas Light and its film adaptations. The term has been used in clinical and research literature.” (Wikipedia)

“Wow, you totally made that up.”

Unfortunately, gaslighting and negging can go hand in hand. Because in the context where you might actually stand up for yourself against a neg, a gaslighter might say:

“Wow, you totally made that up.”
“You’re just too sensitive.”
“I’ll talk to you when you’re not PMSing.”

No, a-hole you need to stop being a jerk. It’s not me. It’s you. I’m not internalizing things incorrectly; you are saying hurtful things and you need to stop.

Gaslighting is a high-stakes mind-game for control of your emotional and psychological dependence. Be aware. Your experience, perception, and opinions are all valid, especially when you feel hurt.
Emotional abuse is brutal. It peels back your skin and digs its nails into your most vulnerable places. It’s an infection that seeps into your soul, telling you there’s something wrong with you; you’re not good enough; you’re a disappointment; no one wants you. Emotional abuse speaks life into whatever your self-defeating thoughts are. It crumbles you from the inside out, ultimately making you fully dependent upon the abuser as you fight for their approval. But it will never come. You will bend over to satisfy them, but they are insatiable. You’ll fear the same rejection by a stranger so you want to stay where its comfortable. At least you have someone right?

Wrong.

Be strong, be confident. Even if you have to do it alone. You deserve to be happy, comfortable and fully accepted by yourself as well as in your relationships. If someone isn’t making you feel seen, loved and valued, then you deserve better.

So, here’s what I sent to my once-gentleman caller after I had certainly endured quite enough of both his negging and gaslighting:

I just listened to your message. Let me be clear that I am not now and was not Friday riled up, angry, or upset; nor have I overreacted. I am very calm and matter-of-fact. I know what kind of man I want to share my time with and energy on and you have simply shown that you are not that man. Plain and simple.
We are not married. I am not obligated to keep company with someone who has imposed negative critique on both my physical figure and my home in addition to continually taking a teacher/preacher tone with me as if I need to learn lessons in patience, wisdom, confidence and my family relationships. I have the right not to entertain a relationship where I do not feel fully accepted and cared-for as-is. I do not need to be coached/changed/fixed/improved/educated and if I do I will take the initiative myself, not because you told me to.
I appreciate your effort after the fact, but I cannot trust words, only the actions you have shown me and what you have shown me is that you want to be with someone tidier, more physically fit, and willing to be lectured. I am not that person. I am quite comfortable in my skin and in my apartment and I am mature enough to handle my own relationships and decisions without you imposing unsolicited advice.
In your next relationship I do hope you do not imply her body or home need improvement. Most women will not respond well to that or as mildly as I have. Also, thank you but no thank you for dinner. If you’ve already got one foot in DC, I really don’t see the point even if you managed to stop casually insulting me on a regular basis. I’m certain there is someone that is a better fit for you as I am sure there is for me as well. Good luck.

AND SCENE. Do not settle. Be strong. Advocate for yourself. It is much better to be alone and healthy and happy, than in a relationship that is defeating and miserable.

~OR

date a man who knows you are magical…

You are magical.

Hopefully you know this already. Date a man who knows it too.

A man who smiles when you speak of wings, dragons and is not afraid of the wild tangle of your imagination.

A man who willingly submits to the spell of your lips on his.

A man who joins you when you chant—who does not run away when your gaze turns inward.

Such a man remembers the sacred power of women that made him, shaped him and taught him to love. He has not forgotten to respect the Earth and her denizens. He has not forgotten to respect you.

Date a man who knows you are magical, yet does not fear nor hate that mystery in you—for this man is your equal. He will challenge your pride with his own, will check your obstinacy with his, will honor your intelligence by matching it.

When you momentarily forget the brilliance of the light you carry, the silvered glass of his knowing will reflect it for you.

When doubt eclipses the glow that sustains you, his faith will ease it.

This man, of course, is magical too. Truly, what is more powerful than being able to recognize magic in others? If you encounter him, you will not fall, but rather grow, in love—the simplest magic of all.

He will leave you room to expand, while never going too far when you wish to tell him a story. He will learn your secrets and teach you his.

When he lays upon the ground, he listens to the pulse of the world and when he lays his head upon your chest, he does the same. He knows the incantation of your footsteps by heart—carries the charm of your gaze in his pocket.

Date a man who knows you are magical and make sure he knows he is magical too. No potion nor powder could conjure an apparition half as powerful.

Meet him at the witching hour and watch the magic fly.

~

Author: Toby Israel

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

[repost from http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/02/date-a-man-who-knows-you-are-magical/]

~OR

happy new year from R2R. here’s a book…

I really threw myself for a loop last week when I reflected on how much had changed since last Christmas. My life doesn’t really know how to do “slow” so looking back on last New Year’s Eve was equally jarring. Let’s do it:


NYE 2013: I had been talking frequently to the same guy that took me to see DJ Cajmere on Christmas, which I wrote about last time here. Let’s call him…The Hobbit…which has nothing to do with his height, accent, life view, nor the amount of hair on his feet. He does indeed wear shoes – as a matter of fact, his taste in shoes is quite refined and his collection of them rivals any woman’s, including an impressive selection of watches—and he does not live in a hole (ok, great, now I’m reciting Tolkein’s description of a hobbit hole in my head. Cue theme song from the Rankin-Bass animated movie from the 70s, while we’re at it THE GREEATEST ADVENTUUUUUURE IS WHAAAAT LIES AHEEEEEEAD).

But I ramble. Let’s bring it home…

Yes, last NYE I was convinced The Hobbit wanted to celebrate with me. He told me several times he wasn’t sure what he was doing, but he would let me know and we would have a great time. Well, he vanished, as the fickle ones seem to do, just in time for me to panic about what the heck I was going to do for NYE. And I had to do something. HAD. TO. I love NYE. I was raised to party on this holiday. Not that it had to be big and drunken, but it had to be big and loud. Growing up, pretty much every holiday was go big or go home—then again, home had it going on too. It was a time to break out the spinney tin noisemakers, the paper toot-toot things, the bobbley headband antennae, the top hats, the oversized sparkly year-number sunglasses, and of course the champagne (or sparkling grape juice) in stemware (even if it were the plastic disposable kind) and a New Year’s kiss, even if it was for your mother on her cheek. It all had to be done. Go. Big.

For the duration of my marriage, I tried to recreate this tradition in our family. I tried to be somewhere or at least turn the party up at home. But the celebration usually ended up being a party of one. Or just in my head. And I ended up sighing heavily at midnight wondering when the magic was ever going to kick in.

Well in 2013-14, I sure as heck wasn’t going to be caught dead under the same roof as my almost-ex-husband, doing the same lame game that had become our routine. I was going out dammit. And I wanted to have a good time.

But The Hobbit stood me up. I wasn’t hurt. I was annoyed. Mostly with myself. I had forgotten what it was like to date and forgotten that when people aren’t married or in an “official” relationship, there is no obligation to be together on a holiday. I’m not one that is easily defeated (heh, AMIRIGHT), so I says to meself,

even if I go to some bar completely alone, I’m goin out. HEAR ME, WORLD? I’M! GOING! OUT!

Luckily, I wasn’t quite THAT desperate. I still knew people that weren’t connected to my ex. I mean, it might have only been like…two… but I knew people! I got a text earlier that day from an actor friend of mine that was hosting the NYE show at a comedy club. By the time I was certain I’d never hear from The Hobbit for several days, if ever, I responded.

Hey, still have tickets for tonight? I’m coming!

You bet – how many?

Just one.

Who goes to NYE parties alone? This girl. The same girl that will go see Pan’s Labyrinth alone in a deserted $1 cinema – ok, that decision, might have been a mistake because I had nightmares of the thing with the eyes in its hands for WEEKS and barely made it through the whole movie without running away from the empty theater—but this NYE was not a mistake. In fact, in hindsight, it was all part of the plan. You know, that Divine Plan. So I threw up my deuces, took a bathroom selfie, and hit the street.

nye2013
I was DONE with 2013.
#andshewillflourish

So off I go to ring in the New Year. It was a great show. I laughed. I laughed hard. I laughed fake sometimes and snuffed some tears. And sometimes I just smiled to keep the baddies at bay. And through my obnoxious grin, I was really saying

<<God, help me. How did this become my life – that I have no cash, no credit, no savings, no nearby relatives, no nearby close friends, no relevant work history, no completed graduate degrees, no job, no friends outside The Good Pastor’s network, no one but my own children that care whether I’m in my bed (and by in my bed, I actually meant on my couch) in the morning or have completely fallen off the face of the earth, no one to kiss at midnight, barely anything to call my own – SWEET JESUS, YOU BETTER BE ABOUT TO GIVE MY HEART’S DESIRES BECAUSE THIS HAND YOU’VE GIVEN ME CURRENTLY BLOWS BIG FAT CHUNKS.

That’s the most upset I’ve ever felt towards God, btw. And it wasn’t even anger. I rarely get angry. It was more like confusion. Like, really? This is what you have planned for me? Aight. I’ll just roll with it and know you will provide.

And provide God did. After the show, and after I toasted myself to 2014, I met my friend out front and awkwardly lingered as I told him I’m getting a divorce and moving out as soon as I can find a job to support me and the boys. He was like,

Oh. Well, hey, cheers to 2014 and cheers to divorce!

I laughed. And I meant it. Cheers to that, indeed. It was only upward from there, anyway, right? (I’m still telling myself this, don’t burst my bubble).

The incapable-of-standing-still-when-there’s-music-playing dancer that I am, I started grooving. There were only two other moving bodies near me, so I worked it over to them. Luckily, the two ladies were also guests of my comedian friend.

We introduced ourselves while dancing. One of the ladies’ birthdays is Jan 1, so we toasted to that, too. I was honestly enjoying myself. This going out alone on a whim thing, was actually turning out pretty daggone fantastic. Towards the end of the evening, we talked about dancing and how much I love it and miss it and never have enough of it in my life.

The birthday girl told me about her dance company – a dance fitness club that actually has a choreography-based component, for dancers like ourselves that have no outlet as adults outside of (not) going professional or translating our skills over to something like ballroom. I was sold. There was an open house coming up, but I was already in. I needed it. I was there. I was already committed. Thanks, God, I said. This is why I’m here. This is why The Hobbit ditched me. This is why I have a comedian friend that texted me earlier. This is why I knew I couldn’t stay back in the burbs that night. I needed to meet this woman to reintroduce me to dance.


NYE2014: I’m on the arm of a fantastic man. The kind of man that pretty much has it all goin on: great job, several letters after his name, solid values, positive disposition, a gorgeous face…and (tattooed) body <<insert my anime googley heart eyes face>>…and beautiful hair… let’s call him The Professor. The Professor and I met several months ago while I was traveling for work. It was one of those I-can’t-believe-this-is-how-we-met stories, but it was a good one.

…It was a Thursday night. The draft was on. I overhear him say “I love Dix” and I’m all, “I love dicks too” (I know. I know. WHAT. WHAT. WHAT ON GODS GOOD EARTH was I thinking?! I often have the sense of humor of a twelve year old boy and sometimes, I embarrass myself before I know what’s happening.) but the rest is history. We hit it off. We were all about it. All about each other. All about our future. We tried to date long distance but eventually that fizzled after about two months. I mean, honestly, we’re several states and a day’s drive apart, so we amicably simmered down to penpals and left it at that.

Well, The Professor surprised me with a spontaneous decision to get on a plane and come ring in the New Year with me. I was ecstatic. Although I knew our time together was temporary, I was flattered and thrilled that somehow, I meant enough to this amazing man to be worth it.

So, here we are, a year later; I’ve danced continuously with my new company, in various venues and festivals around Chicago, and made new and enriching friendships. I’ve found so many pieces of my soul on the stage, and danced myself in to wholeness – or at least closer to it – with every rehearsal and performance.

I finally had one of those NYE experiences that people rave about – the party, the company, the swank and glam of it all. And even though at 32 and 37-years old, The Professor and I sometimes felt more like prom chaperones than party guests at The Drake that night, and we came back home and ate Giordano’s deep dish leftovers and crashed to The Walking Dead marathon, the night – and the year-long journey to it – was more magical than I could have imagined.

…and talk about magic; I didn’t even tell you what the NYE psychic said to me yet! Oh lawd!!

To be continued…

Happy New Year

#andshewillflourish

~OR

So, this is Christmas.

So this is Christmas. And what have you done? Another year over. And one just begun…
> John Lennon

Last year I cried as I wrapped gifts on Christmas Eve. I knew it would be my last Christmas with all five of us under one roof. I knew it would be my last Christmas in the only home I’d had in Illinois. I knew in a year things would be drastically different. And they are.


Christmas 2013:

The Good Pastor was at church while the boys and I unboxed gifts, fighting with theft-(and parent- and child-)proof packaging and wrestling with neverending twist-ties. I spent a solid 45 minutes building the TMNT secret sewer lair and shoved tears down into the pit of my stomach. If you don’t know me, I hate crying. I’m not a crier. I’m seldom negative-emotional. But at the time, it was hard to keep those feelings at bay.  The Good Pastor came back, changed clothes and said,”Ready boys?”

“Yeah!” They cheered. “Mommy?” All three pairs of eyes of varying shades of brown, green and blue gaped at me.

Mommy wasn’t going to Christmas dinner. I told them with a smile I was too tired from building toys. They didn’t need to know I would never be joining them again at their grandparent’s house.

The tree was beautiful. The gift-mess that hid the floor from sight was glorious. But without my children, my house was horrendously silent.

My phone chirped. I had a new text from someone I met online. It had been three weeks since my husband made it clear trying to save our marriage was pointless and we officially labeled ourselves as separated. He gave his blessing to me jumping in the dating pool. I waded in. With waterwings. And a life preserver. I didn’t know how to date but I sure as hell needed the distraction. Anything to keep me from dwelling on being forced to drop out of the graduate program I spent four years getting into. Anyone to take my gaze from my reflection, which disgusted me. Anyone to say anything kind to me.

The text said how’d the kids like their gifts?

Loved them. 

Still playing?

No they’re gone. At Christmas dinner to which I’m no longer invited. I’m sitting here watching my tree. Drinking wine. 

Well we should drink together! I have an idea. I’ll call you around 9.

Cool, I thought, with no particular enthusiasm. I’m a mom of three and I’m going to go out on a date on Christmas with someone who is not my husband. Whoopdiefreakindoo.

But. Anything.
Anything was better than sitting at home alone examining my worth as a human.

And I couldn’t wait til 9. It was too far away. I’d drink myself to sleep. I texted my friend. The only friend I knew that would also be alone on Christmas and might be as depressed as I was.

Come over, she said. I’ll buy you some Knob Creek.

Somehow this was more exciting than the date proposal.

I met her at her boyfriend’s house and we drank and laughed and whined. And then I broke it to her. That my divorce was inevitable and really happening. Her eyes looked down as her eyebrows rose and she gave me that he dun messed up expression. I laughed.

My phone chirped. Date time. My friend wished me luck, told me to have fun, and also said that if I text her PINEAPPLE she will find me and be ready to shank a N*. Noted. Thank you.

I hadn’t been to a club in…at least five years. I hadn’t been out and not worried about how much it was going to cost in…probably fifteen years. I hadn’t done either on the arm of a man…ever. And there we were. In a dark warehouse basement place with green lasers and beats thumping so vigorously, it could realign stalled cardiac impulses. Cajmere was there — you know, the It’s time for the percolator guy. Santa hats were abundant. I couldn’t wait to dance my heartache away.

And dance I did. I hadn’t danced like that in perhaps a decade. People stood back and watched. Whether it was because I was a mass of carefree limbs flailing in sync with the bass or because I was the best damn dancer they had ever seen, I did not know. And I didn’t care. I’d catch a stare. Someone mouthed beautiful. What?! Not me. If he only knew I’d birthed three children, he wouldn’t say that. I’d been told just a few months beforehand by someone very close to me that I’m damaged goods. All those kids — no one will want you. Accept it. I did.

I felt a hand on my back. I looked up without missing a beat. Some stranger. Wow he said. I think he said that. I couldn’t hear. Maybe I imagined it. I didn’t care. He left when he realized he couldn’t keep up if he tried. I was having the deepest therapy session of my life right there on the dance floor.

My date interrupted with a drink. “You look like you needed that,” he yelled into my ear.

“The drink?”

“The dance.”

I laughed. I did need that.

We started moving to the music together. I forgot what it felt like. I forgot what to do. I put my arms around his neck and our bodies flowed. He leaned into my ear and said, “I want to kiss you so bad right now.”

Yes, it was a good thing Cajmere could restart a myocardial infarction. Because my heart indeed stopped. I was terrified. I held onto his shoulders and ignored his comment. But he went for it. He kissed me.

I hadn’t been kissed like that in ages. I couldn’t even remember the last time The Good Pastor and I kissed, let alone like that. It felt amazing and sickening all at once. For the first time in years – YEARS – I was desired. I was sexy. I was wanted. But I was also torn. Conflicted. Why was this ok? Why was I dancing at a club and letting a man I’d known for three weeks kiss me on Christmas? Why didn’t my husband care that another man wanted me more than he did?

And then I kissed him back.

Maybe I liked it. Maybe I wanted it. Maybe I was just hurting. It was just a kiss, I reasoned. I certainly wasn’t going to do anything else with him. Besides, I knew I had to go back home to the suburbs. Back home to my children. Back home to the couch that had become my bed, in the basement that had become my apartment. Back to the one empty Christmas stocking in a row of five; the other four overflowing with toys and treats. Back home to the daily inquisition of how many jobs I’d applied to and how long until I moved out. Back to feeling homeless. Back to feeling rejected. I angry kissed that man to the tune of DJ Cajmere on Christmas. And somehow I felt victorious.

And I never had to say PINEAPPLE.


Christmas 2014:

I’m not quite where I thought I’d be, but I am glad I’m not in a club this time. I did get a job, although I’ve already left that one and started another. I did get an apartment — a beautiful one that I can barely afford anymore since changing jobs. I still have very sad days, knowing I’d be more than 3/4 of the way done with my MMS in medical research. The same couch is still my bed this  year, since mommy dearest financed Christmas — her generosity has many strings, including my bedroom, but I’m grateful. And even though my stocking is empty again, my heart is full. I hate to say it, because I avoid being excessively sappy, but the best gift I could ever receive is being with my children.

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And I have it. I’m with my children. I’m with my mini-me’s. I’m with the most precious little souls I could ever have imagined. It quite literally sucks the air out of me when I think too long about how I do not see them all the time. But I see them half the time, and feverishly try to make those moments last forever. And they are here now. We are here together. And we are full.

They don’t understand everything that has happened since last Christmas — and frankly, neither do I. I’m still piecing together my own emotions, thoughts, sanity…life. But today, we are basking in the spoils of Christmas. We made Puppy Chow (AKA Muddy Buddies) and we smashed that delicious pile of sugary-peanut-buttery-chocolatey-coated corn cereal in record time. We sang Christmas songs and we laughed til we cried. This kind of crying I long for. We tuned a guitar and learned a new chord. We danced. We cha-cha-cha-ed through the kitchen. We started a band. We played Super Mario and were in awe with In-the-middle’s skills as Luigi (until we realized Luigi plays automatically and our In-the-middle isn’t actually a video game savant like The Wizard — and then laughed some more until we crumbled to the floor). And it was so incredibly grand.

I thought I’d be fully relovered by now — one year seems like a lot of time — but that type of recovery, I’m learning, could be a neverending road. I’m learning to enjoy the journey. Be patient. I’m taking the scenic route, rediscovering myself and redefining my priorities. I’m learning to appreciate the landscape and never mind the potholes.

The present is the home of my being…today I will release the past and its burden of wounded dreams

> Deepak Chopra

Merry Christmas. I hope you all find the joy that is already surrounding you.

~OR