Sunday, March 19, 2017

On Being Alone: It’s All About Percentages


It’s official. I’ve had an epiphany.

After one marriage, one wedding (not a marriage – long story), a few couple-of-month relationships, a multitude of first dates and some good, old-fashioned therapy, I’ve come to a life-altering conclusion, in the form of percentages. Which is weird, because, well, MATH. But anyway, here goes.

I have discovered that, on average, 75 percent of me is pretty darn content being single.

This is a huge deal. Seriously. Not pining for a significant other is a new thing. Realizing I’m OK is a really, really new thing.

See, other than cohabitating and being married for a total of 11-ish years, I’ve never lived with anyone – and it occurred to me that I’ve never really WISHED to live with anyone. I mean, I thought I wanted to be married when I was in love, but somehow there seemed to be a difference between “sharing my life with someone” and “living with them”, if that makes any sense at all, and it probably doesn’t.

I don't mind not coming home to, "Hi, Honey, how was your day?" I really don't. I don't mind sleeping alone because I still stick to one side of the bed (even before my dog and cat occupied the other.) I even don't mind not having that given "date night" on the weekends. I mean, sure, sometimes I get lonely – usually holidays when I know a lot of couples are out, or when there’s something going on that I think would be fun to do with a significant other – but hey, I’m sure there are plenty of married people who sometimes wish they were in my shoes, so does it really matter whose grass is greener?

OK, so, back to the percentages. So, 75 percent of me is good with this alone thing. So that leaves … let’s see … carry the one … 25 percent of me that wishes I had that “special someone”.

But here’s the problem. While percentages are a logical way to figure something out on paper, they don’t always work out in real life – just like a partnership is never going to be 50/50 all the time. Sometimes it’s 60/40. Sometimes it’s 90/10. You gotta roll with that.

So, say I find someone, and I think, “Hey! I like this guy! I want to be around him and do stuff with him and go on dates and have adventures, blah, blah..." Oh, and obviously he needs to think so, too. So we hang out on the weekends and maybe once or twice during the week and more times than not, I start feeling unsettled because in my mind, he's starting to get all up in my 75 percent.

That’s when I put on the brakes. That’s when I run like a spooked horse. When someone tries to creep too much into my “alone” time, I get nervous – say like when you’re on a plane, and the seat next to you is empty, and a lady with a screaming baby starts walking toward you, and you pray to GOD that she doesn’t sit down next to you, and when she does, you want to just jump out the emergency exit.

That’s me – when I get over 25 percent. And I just now realized this. And I understand that this is MY THING. I own this little neurosis, I really do. But is it such a bad thing?

Maybe I just haven’t found the right guy with whom I either want to share some of my 75 percent, or who only wants 25 percent of me. Maybe it’s because I need more therapy to get my percentages in better balance. Maybe it’s because I’m selfish and self-absorbed. Maybe it’s sour grapes due to a long string of first and sometimes second dates that either turn out with no callback or so many callbacks that I want to turn off my phone. Or maybe - just maybe - I prefer to be alone. The percentages seem to reflect that.

I recently visited a good friend and we had some great talks – you know, those deep and meaningful ones where you can get all insightful with each other and not feel stupid. He said something that was so profound to me it has literally changed how I view any relationship I may have. It was, “You teach others how to treat you.”

*Drop the mic*.

That’s brilliant – and what I had been doing completely wrong for so long. Before my percentages discovery, I was searching for this elusive person to complete me, and in that quest invariably and inadvertently let him set the tone and just accepted it. If he didn’t text during the day, he was probably busy. If he didn’t offer to pick me up, he was probably just trying to be sensitive to my nervousness (which in one case extended to the ninth – and last – date.) If he seemed distracted, he had something obviously more important on his mind. If he liked sexting and I wasn’t down for it, it was because I’m too much of a prude. If he drank too much when we went out, he was just trying to have a good time. When I was away from my phone for an hour and saw seven missed calls, it was just because he missed me. When he didn’t understand why I couldn’t go out on a night I had my kid, I was obviously just too hung up on my own mom guilt. Whether a guy liked me or not, I found an excuse, telling myself that it was me – that I was the problem. I needed to not be so sensitive. I needed to be more open-minded. I should like him more. I should like him less. It was exhausting, and perhaps is one of the catalysts for this whole 75 percent thing.

When I think about, “You teach others how to treat you”, I realize, I rarely did that in any of my past dating escapades, nor in my last long-term relationship. It was always me who felt like I had the problem because I couldn’t adapt to the other person’s vision of the relationship, or lack thereof. And aside from the fact that I completely own my end of relationship mistakes and issues, I think the big thing was that I was trying to even out my percentages - which isn't possible in most relationships, let alone any I'd have.

Since this revelation I’ve cut off ties with two guys to whom I’d been casually talking – one for quite a while, actually. He’d text me every day, or every other day, and hint that “we should go out” but never actually asked me out. We had great conversations and I just figured, “He’s taking it slow” or “He’s been hurt before.” I know. I’m an idiot. But once I implemented this whole “teach him how to treat me” philosophy, i.e. letting him know I was tired of the texting thing and was he ever planning on asking me out because this was kind of weird and I couldn’t believe I’d gone along with this for so long, he avoided the question. It was then I realized he wasn’t taking it slow – he was a douche and I was playing a game I didn't even WANT to play. So I told him that wasn’t how I wanted to be treated and to go f*ck himself.

OK, that was probably harsh, but it felt really, really good, because he really was being a douche, and I really hated being treated like that. I was being strung along – and letting myself be strung along. I thought that because someone was showing interest in me, I should be thankful, and figured, “Hey, beggars can’t be choosers.”

Wrong. I’m a chooser, and for now, I choose me.

Again, this may come off kind of like my sh*t doesn’t stink, but you have to understand where I was compared to where I am now. I was searching for this person because society says you need someone in your life in order to be happy, and being alone is something about which people feel sorry for you. How many times have I heard, "So are you seeing anyone?" Ugh. Really? I know - people are just making small talk and trying to be nice, but sometimes I just want to say back, "No. So how's your marriage?"

Here's the deal. I understand these percentages may change with time, and as long as that change is authentic and of my own volition, I’m OK with it. Sure, maybe someday I’ll come upon that person who I don’t mind creeping into my 25 percent and causes me to gladly revise my numbers. But for now, teaching MYSELF how I want to be treated and feeling really, truly OK with being alone has made me realize that my cup is three quarters of the way full – and that makes me happy.

I saw this video quite a while ago, and while I related to it in SO many ways, I felt so wistful to get to where this woman was in her life. Take a look – this is a great example of the realization that "alone" isn't always a negative word; sometimes it's a choice that once made - even at just 75 percent - can bring you great peace. As she says, and I truly believe, "... if you're happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay."



Sunday, March 5, 2017

To Mr. Trump, with Sincere Thanks


Dear Mr. Trump,

I have never been one to be well-versed when it comes to politics. I'll be the first to admit that up until the past year, I would've been like one of those people in those "man on the street" interviews who gives a deer-in-headlights look to questions like, "Who's our Secretary of State?" or "What is the electoral college?" or "Who is Vladimir Putin?"

I knew about issues on a high level from headlines I read on Facebook or Yahoo or perhaps MSNBC if it was on at the gym - at least enough to acknowledge if asked. But I would be the last one you'd want to have an intelligent conversation with at a party about any of them. It's not that I'm an idiot or that I didn't care; I just didn't pay attention, and all of it seemed so far removed from me that I figured  it was "someone else's" problem.

That's all changed. And I have you, Mr. Trump, to thank.

Before you, I really didn't know the difference between the popular vote and the electoral college. Well, now I do - not only because of the fact that Hillary won the popular vote handily yet the electoral college was in your favor, but that you've BEAT IT INTO OUR HEADS AD NAUSEUM since then.

Before you, I didn't know much if anything about the President's Cabinet. I didn't realize that you could hand pick them like celebrities for The Apprentice - based less on skill and experience and more on their bank account and star power. I never knew who the Attorney General was. Now I know exactly who he is, and what he is - and isn't - supposed to do, like lie under oath about conversations he had with Russia during the Presidential campaign. I didn't even know what the big deal was with Russia until the campaign and the allegations, and now I'm learning all kinds of stuff about sanctions and (former) National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and why Putin is always shown with his shirt off riding a horse. And of course I knew that being a bigot wouldn't be a big check in the plus box to getting a seat on the Cabinet, but apparently it's not a deal breaker.

I didn't know who the Secretary of Energy was, or that best case scenario he isn't supposed to forget that in 2011 he proposed to abolish the department he now leads - or that he can't just say he's down with the existence of global warming just to get the pick.

I didn't know who the Secretary of Education was, or that it's evidently a luxury to have someone in that position who either worked at, attended, or sent her children to public schools. Or that she's basically a scam without a plan, a voucher plan to divert money spent on public education  - which is guaranteed for all students - to private schools.

I never really paid attention to what the vice president did, or believed. Now I do, since the current VP thinks that homosexuality can be reversed with conversion therapy, that abstinence-only education should be taught in schools, that agencies like Planned Parenthood should be defunded for providing abortion services. and who doesn't believe there is wage discrimination against women and blacks.

I certainly never knew about immigration and deportation. I didn't know it was possible to ban citizens from Muslim countries and refugees from entering the United States, or to threaten to separate women and children, let alone build a freaking wall 2000 miles long and up to 55 feet high. I mean, at least Mexico's going to pay for it, right?

What I did know, but never really appreciated until now, is that the President was someone for whom you had respect, whether you agreed with all of his policies or not. Now I'm sure there are people who didn't respect past Presidents, but overall, the Office of the President is something we should respect. Because America. Kind of like standing for the National Anthem. But I digress.

I respect Barack Obama. I voted for him, not only because I wanted to see the first African-American president, but because overall, I agreed with his views I read about (insert my own political knowledge disclaimer from above here.) And honestly, he seemed like a good guy. In fact, I was OK with Obama being a role model for kids, back when that "ANYONE can be president" moniker was so popular. Now that's changed. "ANYONE can be president" means, literally, ANYONE, even a narcissistic, slimy businessman with no government experience who probably didn't even really want to BE president; he just liked the game. I feel so sorry for parents who have to try to explain you to their children. "OK, kids, America made a big  mistake and we just have to hold on for at the most four years then you'll be able to have pride in our President again," or, "Kids, Mr. Trump and the First Lady - that's not really how a husband and wife or mommy and daddy should be with each other, but let's see what the Obamas are doing right now."

You know, Michelle Obama seemed like a very poised yet approachable woman - and she turned out to overachieve in that respect and so many others. I mean, who wouldn't want their little girl looking up to her? She could hold her own with world leaders then turn around and get her groove on with James Corden. She was the people's First Lady, in my opinion. Now Melania? Gosh, every time I see her I just feel so damn sorry for her. She's that trophy wife who probably married you because you promised her the moon and made her life comfortable but she never EVER thought she'd be doing this whole First Lady thing. It's obvious by looking at her that she'd rather be holed up in her (ivory) Trump Towers apartment taking care of her son (who I feel sorry for as well). So fess up. Once you figured out you were really going to win this thing, did you sit Melania down, point a finger at her and say, "DON'T SCREW THIS UP FOR ME, MEL, OR I WILL RUIN YOU"?

(Melania, if you're reading this, RUN - don't walk - right out of that White House and take your son with you. You made a mistake - we all do. It's OK. And you won't be alone - there are millions of us out here who are strong enough to have your back and teach you what it's like to stand on your own two feet. We'll help you out, Sista.)

Oh and speaking of women, I never knew that in this day and age it was possible to have a president who would set us back about 100 years when it comes to women's rights. I mean, it's pretty obvious you think women are second class citizens. Now granted, when you were talking to Billy Bush about grabbing pussy 15 years ago, I'm sure it never in a GAZILLION YEARS occurred to you that you'd be President someday. BELIEVE ME, it didn't occur to any of us either. But the fact that you were elected President IN SPITE OF all of all your comments about and view on women makes me absolutely want to "rise up" like those millions of women did in the Women's Marches all over the world just after your inauguration. And that movement continues, which is really, really cool. So watch out - because if according to you it takes 10 women to do the work of one man, well, we already have you beat - handily.

I never knew that we could come so far as a country that we FINALLY elect an African-American president, only to COMPLETELY do a 180 and SOMEHOW invite a racist, womanizing, narcissistic shell of a man like you to run our country. To put it in language you can understand, it's kind of like Obama was the really nice boy we all dated, but we dumped him for you, that kind of dirty, rough around the edges guy, only to find out that you beat the shit out of us while our nice ex is kitesailing in the British Virgin Islands with Richard Branson.

I never knew that, although a lot of America is trying REALLY, REALLY HARD to give you a chance, you'd blow it even after you were given a speech that was all but gift-wrapped and tied up with a bow. Now, I have to be honest. You didn't fool me. As a writer, I've penned my share of articles, speeches and quotes for other people - stuff they never wrote. They just signed off on them and BOOM - the words were attributed to them and they sounded like rock stars.

You didn't write that speech. I mean, I know every President has a speechwriter, but I doubt you even had any involvement in that speech, which is why you were shown practicing it in the car on he way to address Congress. It didn't even SOUND like you - or the you we currently know. Someone with a great thesaurus had your back and threw you a bone that you, in turn, threw at all of us. We bit, but not 24 hours later, we were left with only a bad taste in our mouths.

I didn't vote for you, Mr. Trump, and sadly, I don't respect you. But I have to thank you. Because of you, I'm paying attention now. Because of you, I truly care about what happens to the people of this country, and the people who want to call this country home. And I want to tell you - I'm watching you. And so is America. Because here's the deal. We the People are the ones who will prevail. You'll run this country amuck like some three-year-old toddler on a sugar high, and we'll come in right behind you and clean everything up so when guests arrive we can say, "Oh, this place? It always looks like this!"

Thank you, Mr. Trump, for making me care, and for making me realize that you are temporary. We the People are permanent, and we will prevail.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Roll with the Changes: Rockin' a New Decade


It's nearing the end of 2016, and since I didn't write my yearly birthday blog back in November, I thought it would be fitting to reflect on the past year as I begin my fifth decade on this earth.

Yes, I turned the big 5-0 this year; quietly, with little fanfare. In fact, with no fanfare. When you don't post your birthday on your Facebook profile, you miss out on that barrage of birthday wishes sent to you only because your friends got a notification it was your birthday. Which is fine by me. A few good friends sent their well wishes, and my dad took me out for an obligatory birthday dinner. But that was pretty much it. And as much as I did NOT want any fanfare, it was kind of depressing, in a way - because I wanted to want fanfare, if that makes sense. But I didn't.

I didn't mind turning 50 at all. Age doesn't really matter to me. I don't "feel" 50, whatever that's supposed to feel like. I didn't mind 40, because my 30s kind of sucked. I don't mind 50, because my 40s kind of sucked. At this point, I'm really stoked for 60.

Not that I had any plans to be in a certain place at 50, but I guess it never occurred to me I'd be here - in good and not-so-good respects. I'm still single, and have spent so much time BEING single that I'm not even sure what I'd do with a "regular" relationship, let alone marriage. Being married again just isn't on my radar at all. And I don't think I'm the poster child for how to have a good relationship, an issue that I'm going to have to work through as I get older and the pool of eligible and decent men gets smaller. Finding a significant other becomes virtually impossible when one is not very social, and if I am lucky enough to meet someone, I seem to sabotage it early on for reasons I'm still trying to completely figure out. At times I wonder if I'm going to be OK with that years from now as I grow old, but for now, I think it's best I remain solo - and refrain from getting any more cats.

I have an awesome job. I have the job I've always wanted to have - doing what I love for a great company. I'm almost two years into it and I STILL love going to work every day - for the most part. I'm hoping I continue to love it and don't screw it up. I'm lucky to have gotten this opportunity and I'm lucky to be where I am career-wise. I'm writing EVERY SINGLE DAY, for God's sake. Every day is different - every day is a new challenge. I hold on to this one great thing in my life for dear life.

The single parenting thing has been a challenge over the past decade, but I wouldn't trade it. My kids are teens now, and I've realized that I am in more of a supervisory role than a motherly role. I've had to come to terms with the fact that they no longer want to go on hikes, to swimming pools, or even on weekend trips with me. I've had to figure out what to do when at the last minute they go off with friends on a Friday night and I'm home alone thinking, "Well, what do I do now?" I've come to enjoy their company - just around the time they don't so much enjoy mine. It's a cruel, cruel place sometimes, this parenting world. However, I'm constantly amazed at our changing relationship - how we talk when we DO talk - and how they continue to dumbfound me with their insights, knowledge and humor.

Ten years ago, I never thought I'd go through some of the things I did and continue to go through - much like anyone else on the planet. It didn't occur to me that I'd lose my mom, and it didn't occur to me that I would feel such a huge void in my life, to the point where nearly two years later, it still chokes me up. I never thought I would feel such remorse for not appreciating her when she was here and telling her what a great job she did with all of us - now knowing as a parent what she must have gone through herself. She was an amazing woman and I miss her so incredibly much.

Ten years ago, it never occurred to me that I'd be a part of the world of addiction, and that I'd learn more than I ever wanted to know about this disease - which I always thought was just a horrible weakness played out by some selfish derelicts with no willpower. It's so not. I still struggle with calling it a disease - it is in some respects but in others it's more than that. This article explains a bit where I fall as far as my thoughts on addiction, if  you're interested.

Regardless, I never thought it would consume my life the way it has, and I never thought I'd have to change so much in order to cope with it. I can say that in some ways it's made me a better person, and certainly a different person. I'm far less judgmental. I'm more thoughtful in what I say and do, and how my actions and words have consequences. I've learned to measure whether I'm saying those words and performing those actions for the benefit of others or just to make myself feel better. And I'm still learning to let go yet still stay close.

I've also isolated myself - from friends, from family - by choice, sort of. It's hard to talk about this issue with people who I know don't understand - who can't possible unless they've been in it. Though I know good friends will listen, it is such a large part of my life and it's hard to find other subjects in which we share a commonality. And honestly, sometimes it's very difficult to hear about the progress and life path of a teen the same age as mine - because I wish a path like that so badly for my own.

As a result of the stress of it all, I've made the conscious decision to remove myself from people in my life who contribute to that stress - ironically not the addicted, but the ones who I just have no room for because of the space the addiction fills. It's a complicated issue - where I am versus where I should be - but I am here, and I am doing my very best, and I've never tried so hard or struggled so much with anything in my life. But what I do know is that I will never, ever give up on the one I'm fighting for. However, I may have to quit. Two very different things, I'm learning.

Reading this back, it all sounds so morose - but it's really not. I've learned so, so incredibly much about myself in the past 10 years, and in some ways, I'm content. My biggest challenge has been to stop living my life as to what I SHOULD be doing versus what I WANT to do and AM doing. Obviously there are many "shoulds" in your life that you kind of have to do, but there are many I felt I should do based on what others were doing or what others thought I should be doing, if that makes any sense. I've gotten better at that; and as a result, have come to be a little more accepting of who I am - faults and all. I'm sure that's a product of age - sometimes I fear I'm just a few years away from some of those entitling behaviors old people seem to have - like going on and on about every ache and pain in my body or yelling at the Jimmy Johns guy because he wasn't fast enough.

I don't know how much longer I have on this earth, and while I haven't stopped dreaming about the things I still want to do, I'm no longer lamenting that I haven't done them yet. They will happen if they happen. If I've learned nothing in my 50 years, it's that you plan, and God laughs. My faith in Him has only grown stronger, for a couple of reasons. Mainly because of what the past ten years has brought into my life and how He has been there for me, but also because of the increasing number of people who have challenged my faith. While at first they caused me question it - if only a little, it's now that much stronger as a result. I believe in God, I believe there's a heaven, and I believe He is working His plan for me - and that will never change.

While I'm not necessarily optimistic of the future - because that isn't my nature - I'm not wholly pessimistic, either. I'm learning to take each day as it comes, because if the past 10 years has taught me anything, it's that I'll be able to rock this life the more I learn to roll with its changes. And I'm ready to rock - and roll.