Saturday, February 28, 2015

Love: the first time...after divorce...after death...and, just maybe, after 50 - I've been there, done that and got the T-shirt.

I have never been much for the dating scene.  Even as a teenager it gave me anxiety...the whole process - meeting someone (or trying to meet someone), realizing you have a huge crush, waiting for the call, the lead up to the first date and then the first date.  UGH!  And it didn't stop there.  There were weeks, maybe months of wondering if you really liked each other and if the relationship was going anywhere - like to the prom or through the end of the semester or the summer.  Just thinking about it makes me cringe, yet back in the day it was far easier than it is now...not just because I was in school and surrounded by the opposite sex, and not because I was younger, more attractive and less exhausted either.  I think the longer I live and the more heart-ache I have endured, the more wary I become of the whole process and of men in general.  Will I meet someone?  Will he be attracted to me?  Will I be attracted to him?  Will he be smart or a sports fanatic?  And if he is smart (which is what I prefer), will he be arrogant and insufferable?  What's his REAL personality like?  Is he really this chill or is he a secret control freak?  Is he a good dad?  Will he respect me?  My children?  Will he be freak about what I eat and how much I weigh?  Will he be lazy?  Will he have any energy if he's 60?  Is this person really who he seems to be?  And, sometimes, it all boils down to whether or not he wears a baseball cap and sneakers all the time?  It kills me how that combo is the go-to uniform, if you will, of more and more grown men these days.  WHY?  Are they ashamed they are losing their hair?  Do their feet hurt too much to wear loafers?  Why can't they just work a little bit to look nice when they are going out to meet you?  I admit my two husbands spoiled me with their excellent taste and ability to know how to dress for any occasion.  One was a peacock, but the other just a decent guy who felt like you should clean up a bit when you go out with a gal.

I met my first husband Avery when I was a junior in high school.  Our best friends set us up.  That was the easiest start to a relationship I have ever experienced.  It was not my first foray into dating, but it was a long time ago...34 years ago next month.  That's a long time to go without having an easy, anxiety free start to a relationship! Everything flowed almost effortlessly from that first meeting onward...from one stage to the next, we just clicked.  It was like breathing...until it wasn't.

I met my second husband in Target.  This is a true story.  One of my closest friends had known him longer than she had known me.  She saw him across the store and waved him over, but not with the intention that we would meet, fall in love and get married.  It was more like, "Oh there's Adam.  You should meet him.  It will pick your spirits up."  (Disclosure: I was feeling kind of down and unseen.) "I can't believe you have lived in the same town, even attended the same church, and have never run into him."  We met.  It was immediately intense.  Very.  And terribly awkward.

I knew Daniel for several years before we got together.  To this day I have trouble understanding how I let myself get into that relationship, but I do know grief is a strange thing.  It grabs a hold of your mind slowly, wrapping its long cold fingers around your memories and unfulfilled dreams.  It can suffocate you with the pretense of consoling you amidst your sorrow.  Sometimes the only way we can breath again is to run away, and INTO something or someone else.  I chose the later.  He made me smile and laugh, and I felt beautiful...all things that had ceased to be part of my existence for several years.  To be honest, I liked the way it numbed the pain, similar to hours of drinking without the nasty hangover.  On some level I think I was addicted to him.  Still, it was awkward to say the least.  For me, my children and our friends.  Not for Daniel though.  He didn't really have many friends and he never sees the world the way others do any way.  In spite of the odds and the fact we both knew there was absolutely no future, we fell in love.  And in its mercy of providing me a safe haven from my loss, it was also one of the saddest, most isolated times of my life.

That's three real love affairs, and each was isolating in its own way and they all turned out to be very sad and difficult endings.

I've been alone for almost three years now.  The first year I spent in solitude.  I focused entirely on myself when my children were away at school.  I slept more, took up yoga, cooked more healthily than I had in three or four years, started running again, reading more, slowly got back to being social, and worked hard to find out if there was any part of who I had been left inside.  I thought a lot about what I wanted in my life and IF I wanted someone to share it with me.  I know myself well enough to know when I fall in love, I don't ever do it half way.  I don't hold back.  How much I love and give of myself is not something I dole out, piece by piece, depending on the potential shelf life of the relationship.

I have only been in love three times.  Each time was different, but each time I gave it my all.  I didn't hold back, not even with Daniel.  I loved him as fully as I had my two husbands and I am proud of that.  I did not give him less of myself simply because I knew we would not spend our lives together. When I realized I was falling in love with him, I thought not about pulling back and keeping a part of myself from him, but rather about stopping altogether.  I pondered ending the relationship before it became serious because I was afraid of the end and the pain that ending would bring to us.  I knew instinctively our relationship would not end because of betrayal.  Neither of us are made that way.  I knew the day would come when one or both of us would see it was no longer working.  We started at very different places in our lives, but one day I knew we would find ourselves even farther apart. And as it turned out, I was right.  Neither of us fell out of love with the other.  Neither of us really wanted to leave.  Eventually I could not allow either of us to risk another day without the possibility of finding what would make our own lives complete.  And, to be fair, it was his life that needed to be opened up more than mine.  I had been given the gift of love and marriage twice, and the greatest gift I had, which he still lacked, was children.  The longer we stayed together, the longer it would be before he could have that for himself.  And I wanted that for him.  I had tried many times over the years we were together to end our relationship, but he always drew me back.  "Why leave when we love each other so?  The good outweighs the bad."  But this time I was firm, and this time he did not necessarily disagree.

It has been a little over a year since I decided to dip my toe back into the dating pool.  So far I am still not a fan.  Now I am trying on-line's the worst!  First world problems to be sure, but it's rough out there.  I struggle with the idea that someone must be desperate or pathetic to do the on-line approach and then realization hits that I, by association, am in the same boat!

I try not to be too hard when someone reaches out to me.  I have "met" men on line who were just not right for me...too forward, too arrogant, too short, too eager - is that possible? - too hard to get, or just a vague inability to connect in any way that would pull me towards him any further.  I want to believe, in spite of heart-ache and disappointment, that mates of the soul truly do exist.  So far I have not found him, but I am still optimistic.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Happy birthday to me... 52 years and counting!

Today as my 52nd birthday dawned and I thought about meeting my team for our early Saturday morning practice, I gingerly rolled out of bed and evaluated how I felt.  Some days I wake up stiff and feel 100 years old, my lower back wracked with a dull ache that grows sharper as I make my way downstairs to start my coffee.  My hips sometimes hurt as well.  Other days I almost spring out of bed and, as I quickly steal a glance in my bathroom mirror, I am struck by how young I appear.  Perhaps "feeling young" influences how I see my reflection.  Or is it how bloated I feel/look upon waking or how rested I look/feel?  Needless-to-say, a lot goes into how a regular run-of-the-mill woman my age thinks about herself on any given day.  As with most things in life, some days are better than other.

I start each and every day, save for Sundays, with exercise.  Correction...I start each day with coffee THEN exercise.  I rise at 4:50AM Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to get to practice, which starts at 5:30AM, at least five minutes early.  It takes roughly 15 minutes to get to the marina. Because I am not a morning person, and have trouble sticking to an early-to-bed routine so I can get enough sleep, I get up at the last possible second.  4:50AM allows me just enough time to brush my teeth, get dressed, and grab my back-pack, a cup of coffee and a bite to eat as I head out the door.  On Saturdays practice starts at 6:30AM and the tanks, which is where we go on Saturdays during the winter months, are 20 minutes away, so my alarm goes off at 5:45AM.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are much easier.  I roll out of bed around 6AM and go straight downstairs to make coffee.  As it brews, I fold down to touch my toes - or knees depending on the day - while the delicious fumes fill my nasal cavities and clear the fog from my brain.  This helps to further wake me from my sleep coma.  I only have to head back upstairs and get on my treadmill to log my usual three to four mile jog.  No matter the week day, I head out for work by 8AM.  My work mornings are somewhat stressful due to my morning exercise routine and my nasty commute. The unpredictable aches and pains sometime throw a real wrench into the works, but I refuse to miss my exercise and I CANNOT be late for work so, for now, the stress remains.

If the morning brings the dreaded back and hip issues, I take time to quickly stretch out while the coffee brews.  If I could stand waking earlier I would do stretches regularly each morning, but for now sleep and coffee are more important to me than properly stretching...although doing so would probably alleviate much of the pain.

Today I feel ok.  I don't know what 52 is SUPPOSE to feel or look like, but my aches and pains were minimal when I woke up and when I stole a quick glance in the mirror, I did not think I looked all that bad.  I look and feel older than I did at 45, for sure, but the bags under my eyes are not too terrible and the wrinkles around my mouth and eyes didn't stop me in my tracks. Plus I had a pretty good workout with my team and that usually sets me up for a good day.

I don't know if this is true, but I read recently Kim Kardashian tries not to smile too broadly too often because it causes wrinkles. UGH!  In spite of  the trials and tribulations of my adult life, I have laughed and smiled a great deal.  Life is both fun and funny, and to not have enjoyed it to the fullest extent would have been the greatest shame.  I think of my children's laughter and how much I would have missed it all these years if I had not found a way to be happy and make a happy, fun home for them.  My grandmother has been quoted as saying the wrinkles around her eyes were evidence of her happiness, as they were laugh and smile lines.  

I take each day as it comes and pray to God that on the days when I don't look and/or feel so hot I don't let it effect my mood too much.  It's not always easy, but this much I know for sure...aging, like parenthood, is not for sissies!

So, here's to my 52nd birthday and to many more happy ones to follow.


Friday, February 20, 2015

This is where it starts...

Dear Reader - 

Tomorrow is my 52nd birthday.  I have decided to mark this auspicious occasion by starting a blog to chronicle my adventures in life - from past to present, and those yet to come. 

My second husband, Adam (yup, I've already been married twice), always thought of me as a writer. He told me I had a unique voice and a story that begged to be shared.  I don't know if that was really true or just his love and admiration for me speaking (more on him at a later date.)  Whenever I start thinking about writing, I do so with him in mind.  He would be very happy, even if this doesn't go anywhere.  He just wanted me to be true to myself.

My father also saw me as a writer.  He started me early in life thinking in a creative way, by reading to me the Roman and Greek mythes and the unabridged version of the Brothers Grimm at bedtime. My father was the world's greatest story teller, whether he was reading or telling the story.  

When I was not yet five years old, he began encouraging me to think creatively and to express that creativity, even though I could barely write my name!  I would sit in my bed on the old sleeping porch of our home, listening to the night sounds and soon I started trying to make up little poems - "every night the crickets snore, right beside my bedroom door.  i can hear them when they go...crick, crick, crick".  That is the earliest example of my creative expression.  I was five.  

When I was in eighth grade I decided to write a novel, with the encouragement of my English teacher. Alas, a novel was far too grand a dream for my 14 year-old, totally disorganized and undisciplined self.  Thinking back I cannot even recall what the heck it was about, but as the years continued to march past I kept writing short stories, essays, and poetry for various academic classes, as well as myself, all with the idea firmly hidden in the back recesses of my brain that perhaps, just maybe, one day I would actually become a writer.

I do not mean to suggest I am now all-of-a-sudden "a writer". Certainly not.  But seeing as this blog is meant to share my adventures in life, I thought I would start with a little background into my development, such as it was, as a writer.  I have lived many lives...a girl from a prominent and loving family growing up in a very small southern town; the only child of my parent's marriage, but still the youngest of five; a boarding school student at the dawn of "the preppy handbook"; a conservatory student filled with dreams of the stage; an eager young wife who left behind her own dreams and aspirations to take on those of her one true love; an ever idealistic, supportive and hopeful young wife and mother, struggling to raise her children with warmth, fun and stability as the family unit slowly starts to implode; a disillusioned 36 year old who realizes shortly after her father's death that there is little hope her marriage can be saved; a terrified single mother of three young girls forced to stay in a town she barely knows; a 40 year old falling in love again; a widow walking into the church for her husband's funeral on her 46th birthday, less than five years after the wedding; an always resilient woman shocked to find herself unable to face her children's pain, much less her own, and surprised to find refuge in a much younger man who has "wrong guy" written all over him...and the list goes on.

Welcome to my blog. I don't think this will be just about my life. I will share, bit by bit, my story/adventures, but also my thoughts on life and the world as I see it.  I hope you will come back, again and again.

Wishing you all the best...

Elinor May