September 30, 2008

Forms, waiting, and going nowhere.

I've been discouraged about my lack of dating prospects lately so I took my profile down from the dating sites I was on. OK, that doesn't make sense, but it seems logical to me. Really, I was not getting any hits from those guys and even guys whose email I had answered didn't go further than that. So I take down my profile and one of the guys who hadn't responded to my response wrote "What? You took down your picture? I want to talk to you! Call me...."

From his profile, he seemed like an active and enthusiastic guy with some views similar to mine about life and politics so, optimist that I am, I did call him and left a message and he called right back and then we had a conversation, or actually he talked and I listened. Not a happy start to a relationship obviously, so I thought I'd share what we each learned about each other.

I learned:
1) That he doesn't like to fill out forms. (He talked for three minutes about forms and doctors' offices.)
2) That he doesn't like to be kept waiting in doctors' offices. (Another three minute story with word for word description of his conversation with his dermatologist.)
3) That he runs a business selling parts to people who don't always understand what parts they need. (Yes, another three minute description of a conversation with a customer.)
4) That he has a sick daughter. (And a three minute discussion about her illness and how much his customers enjoy that she works for him.)
5) That he has heard a certain religious leader speak three times. (And yes, now I know that person's spiritual views and a joke he told.)
6) That he knows about the "butterfly effect." (This is the idea that if a butterfly flaps its wings in the south pole, it can be felt in the north pole.) Can butterflies live in both places? Oh, I digress.
7) That he thinks my job is "right-minded" and that lawyers' jobs aren't. (And that he fired his divorce attorney for fighting too vigorously for him, the details of which he didn't spare.) Apparently, my job helps people but attorneys help someone which causes someone else to suffer. That's what he said.

I think I probably learned even more about him, but my mind is so bleary from all that listening that I may have forgotten someething important. Here's what he learned about me:

1) That I work for doctors who keep patients waiting.
2) That I have a daughter.
3) That I have a soft voice.

I read somewhere today that the thing we most want from our mates is for them to "know" us, to really know and understand who we are. This guy would likely never know me, if this conversation was any indication. And don't go telling me he was just nervous because he really seemed calm and relaxed. It just seemed he wanted to hear himself talk, that he really had no interest whatsoever in learning anything about me except that which would allow him to babble on about something else. He was actually rather intelligent and well read, which would be good in a mate, but I can't be with someone who just wants to hear his own voice. So what's next? I'm back to my Stephanie Plum mysteries which never disappoint.

September 28, 2008

Bicycles, email, and world peace.

I'm not dating. I'd like to date, yes I would. I'd also like universal health care, a six-figure income, and world peace. Pretty sure none of those are going to happen anytime soon.

But optimist that I am, and yes I love getting email, I put another personal ad on Craigslist. I tried my best to describe myself and the person I'm looking for, but it's always quite a crapshoot and I don't have great expectations for some fabulous guy to write me. But yet, it could happen! I know he's out there.

Just so you know who's out there looking for a girlfriend, I present this as an example from the first guy who answered my ad, a guy who calls himself hotbicyclist and sends a picture of a scowling guy in tight bike shorts with a potbelly standing next to a bike. Here is his response to my ad. I didn't make this up. I didn't change a thing. He wrote this in his quest for a girlfriend:

Hmmmm.....How would I fit into your laundry list? I'm afraid not very well. I am an independent person who has a realistic outlook on life. I've learned to accept compromises. It comes with maturity. I admire some of the traits you expound on. Independence, sensuality, smarts all that's nice. Non-smoking,healthy attitudes, all that's a no-brainer. Bio? Democrat? In or near the Valley? You're starting to ask too much. It seems you don't want to leave anything to discover. That's bad. Refusing to accept compromises in some areas is definitely a bad move. It says "immaturity."

Here's what I'm willing to tell you about me right now.
I'm 54, 5 feet 10 inches, white, athletic, about 200lbs., brown hair, blue eyes, drug/disease/drama free. I like politics, art, music, current affairs, science, technology, bicycling, fixing things, and creative writing. In a partner I like; independence, self confidence, sensuous, tactile, radiant, energetic, and good conversation. In a partner I don't like; smoking, drinking, narcissism, materialism, and immaturity.

BTW, your post lacks paragraph structure. To me it says "sloppy thinking." Work on it.

If you're ready to get real, drop me an email. But I think I know your type pretty good by now. I'm not expecting anything. Your turn.

I actually was kind of offended at first by this guy who called me immature for being specific about my prospective mate's politics and location. And I'm a "sloppy thinker?" I just have no words for this. Telling me to "work on it?" Geez.

I would like to have some amazing guy write to me and have him turn out to be just like what he wrote. And I do appreciate when a guy shows me right away that he's kinda creepy, like this guy. But still, I think it can happen, a nice guy coming my way. I've decided to take that cruise in November, even though I don't have a friend going with me. My Wowettes have told me that they've done such trips by themselves and had a great time and I think it will be good for me to do something kinda scary like travelling alone. Maybe my great guy will be on that ship. Or maybe my next email will be him. And maybe we'll get out of the war soon and maybe Sarah Palin will decide to take care of her new baby and maybe I'll wake up looking like Christie Brinkley. OK, so maybe I'm dreaming, but meanwhile I'm enjoying life. Just as it is.

September 26, 2008

Loss, hearts, and friends.

Another Wow meeting, another magical evening for all. We gather each month, maybe twelve to eighteen of us, women in our 50s and more, for potluck and speaker, but mostly for encouragement and friendship. And we are never disappointed. I love to watch as the ladies come into my home, one by one or in twos, carrying their delicious part of the meal, kissing and hugging me and each other, and introducing themselves to the newcomers. I watch and listen as my home changes, filled with the voices and spirits of these lovely women, joining together for an evening of laughter and growth, and I am always touched and moved by what happens.

This month was no exception. We had the pleasure of meeting Eileen Joyce, a Certified Coach and Grief Recovery Specialist whose card carries her phone number of 310-235-1086, her website address, and the message "Speaking Through Your Heart." Her message was profound, yet simple, that all of us face loss in our lives, but that we often avoid experiencing the feelings that come with it, causing us to feel depleted and depressed. Other symptoms of not feeling our grief are having no energy to do the things we want to do, no motivation to make changes, being easily overwhelmed, and the inability to communicate with loved ones.

Think about how often we hear "time will heal all wounds" or "get over it," as if healing might come without any effort at all. Eileen says that grief is often a difficult topic to discuss, both to speak about personally or to listen to another's pain, so we often just pick up and march on, never feeling what needs to be felt so that we can move on to joy and passion again. We are told things like "don't feel bad" and we grieve alone, often replacing the loss with food, alcohol, or other relationships.

Eileen says that we have to talk about the pain, but we really have to recognize it first. She had us do an exercise where we talked to someone sitting near us, one person listening and the other telling of a grief they've experienced, and then switching roles. She asked us to listen and speak from our hearts, not our heads, and we each found ourselves experiencing feelings we might have otherwise avoided. The ladies around me spoke about how a close friend had recently avoided them and the pain it caused. I spoke about the death of my mother and then realized what I had most avoided grieving was that I no longer see my father who lives down the block, having made a decision to not put myself in the path of his life-long abuse one more time. And how it created ambivalent feelings, how I knew I was taking care of myself with this action but that I missed him and our times together.

It's just another magical night in my long list of speakers who I find randomly and who address my specific need at that time in my life. Hearing Eileen speak helped me to understand and feel the pain of the break-in and then connect with the feelings about my dad I had so long avoided. And, just to keep you up-to-date in my continuing saga of not-so-voluntarily getting rid of things from my past since the break-in, I did recover from the demise and replacement of the cable box, thanks to my wonderful son-in-law, but then realized that all the shows I had taped and treasured were now lost. But while I was being so happy that I didn't have to invite a stranger, like the cable guy, into my home while I am still a bit paranoid about my personal space, I went to fill a water glass for one of the ladies from that place on the door of my refrigerator and the thingy the glass pushes in to release the water broke! NOW, I have to let a strange refrigerator repair guy into my home and can just hear him saying "I have NEVER seen this happen before!" So thanks to the lovely and generous Eileen for her time and for sharing her wisdom with us, thanks to the ladies for their delicious food and charming company, and a hesitant thanks to the Universe for trying to teach me something. Can't quite figure out what it is, but I'm still moving forward, now learning to "feel and speak through my heart!"

September 23, 2008

Poison, tears, and muffins.

OK, I'm a mess. If you didn't know me and looked at me, I'd look normal to you. But I'm just a mess. It's been the strangest year. I've survived the pest guys almost killing my poodle and an investigation by a really stupid government worker who the vet said didn't know anything about poison. I've survived three short love affairs, one with a Buddhist who loves porn, one with a 50-year-old guy who can't find himself yet in the world, and another with a controlling guy who tried to manipulate me with guilt. I've survived a change in my work schedule and grandchildren starting kindergarten. I've survived a break-in at my home and sobbing in front of police officers and then crying in front of the checker at Von's. I've survived the loss of almost all my jewelry and cameras, and now not being able to find where I've hidden what's left of my valuables. I've survived being two miles from a train crash that killed twenty-five people and listening to the emergency vehicles overhead and on the streets all night and then booking surgeries for the victims at work. I've survived a shoulder injury and daily pain for the past three months. There's a continuing war, threat of nuclear weapons, countless natural disasters, and Sarah Palin. And what finally did me in? Yes, my cable TV.

I've really been amazed at my fortitude, how I just keep going, no matter what happens. Just try to eat right and exercise and see some friends and do my job and have time with my kids and grandkids and then the cable TV goes crazy and I lose it.
I have no volume on channels 2,4, and 7. The Simpsons on channel 11 are in Spanish and Law and Order on A&E is giving me a continuous description of what's happening, like I'm blind. And I called the cable company and just lost it. I called from work and the lady said she would reboot it from the office and then I got home and nothing had changed and then I called again but couldn't understand what the operator was saying with her accent and she wouldn't put me through to another operator so I hung up. Then I called again and the operator said she couldn't fix it and I said should I just cancel service and she said fine, she could do that for me and then I just lost it and hung up. I called again and asked for a supervisor and she was really nice and said that she really valued me as a customer and could she make an appointment for a service call and I just went blank. I couldn't think of a two hour window of time in my life in the next five days to let in a cable guy and so I hung up. And so I went to bed to try to calm down and read a book and fell asleep at 8:30pm and now I'm up at 3am and can't sleep.

I have no wisdom about this at all. I think my nerves are probably just shot. I think I'll take my cable box to the company and exchange it and maybe that will work. I've got a doctor's appointment in a few hours about my shoulder and I don't want to go nuts there, so maybe I'll pick up some muffins to take with me to the staff in case I get weird in the waiting room. I know none of this is life and death but I guess life sometimes just gets to us and that's just the way it is. I'll keep you posted.

September 13, 2008

Trains, change, and gratitude.

As you all know, my house was broken into and burglarized one month ago. The young men who live behind my neighbor's house heard the glass breaking and called the police who called me at work. It allowed me to come home during the day and take care of getting the mess cleaned up and the glass replaced. Imagine if the police had not been called and I had come home after work, in the dark, to see the breakage and mess? I did visit the guys and thanked them for the bravery, calling the police and running around the block to see the criminals leaving in their car. I told them I was worried that they would have been harmed and these young men said "we used good judgement." I thought their parents would be proud.

It's one month later, I'm feeling like it was all in the past, so I had the twins stay over last night, at the end of their second week of kindergarten. We woke up at our usual 6am and took Buddy the poodle and Onyx the visiting Lab for a walk. The children have been raised to be very respectful of life, in the form of bugs or animals or people, and have been seen lying in the dirt to watch a snail so slowly sliding along and commenting on the event with joy.

I went to bed last night hearing the helicopters and emergency vehicles for hours and hours, evacuating the scene of what may be the worst train accident ever in Los Angeles, about 2 miles from my house. I thought about the loss of life, the horror of families whose loved ones never returned from work, the excrutiating recovery from crush injuries, and how my very overworked physician employers would be operating on those with head and spine injuries all weekend. Yet, I woke up to the voices of these little people and went in to greet them with Buddy and Onyx following close behind, all of us getting good morning wet kisses. And I thought how life can be tragic and beautiful, that we are blessed with even the tiniest moments of this kind of joy, and how lucky I am to have these moments in my life.

So, the walk. We went around a few blocks with the children taking turns walking each dog and the dogs delighting in this early morning trek. I like to walk this early, as if I am watching the world awaken, the birds starting to sing, and the sky changing from dark to gray to blue. It's rare that I see other people walking and always enjoy the solitude, using this time every morning as a meditation on my blessings, such as "I'm glad I can walk, I'm glad I can see, I'm glad I have a job" etc. etc. until I can go forward in my day happily.

This morning, we were walking by the house where the guys who called the police live and, just as we were passing, a woman walked out, looking ready for a walk or a run. I was about to say hi and thank her for what her sons had done when she said that she knew that I was the one with the burglary and asked how I was. I did express my appreciation for the action of her sons and she told me how beautiful my grandchildren are, so sincerely that her face just lit up looking at them. As we were walking and talking, she said that she ran and walked up and around a nearby park. When I told her how good and fit she looked, she said that she and her husband had visited my office for a consultation with my boss and that I had talked to her about being fit and that's what motivated her to "change my life." That she had been sluggish and unhealthy and, after hearing whatever it was I had said, she started eating right and walking and running and talked about how "centered" she became after her morning exercise. I was totally amazed, as I had no memory of meeting her or talking to her in my office. She said "you really change lives."

How wonderful is that moment! What a circle, that I said something to help another and that person's children made a tragedy in my life much more bearable. That, after a night of listening to the sounds of a terrible nearby train crash, I would meet this woman on my walk and hear how I affected her in such a positive way. I feel happy and amazed. And grateful for one more joyful moment in my life.

September 9, 2008

Kids, labs, and life.

I know it's fuzzy, and I'm sorry but this is a new camera and I clearly don't know quite how to use it. But I just couldn't not put it up for you to see. Those are my new-to-kindergarten grandchildren playing with Onyx, the black lab of my friend Kathy who is on another adventure up north with her mom. Isn't that the nicest thing, that Kathy can go anywhere she wants with anyone and she very often takes her aging mom, actually her step-mom, on really wonderful trips to beautiful places. They're in Oregon, visitng family, on their way to a cruise through Alaska. And she let me keep Onyx while she was gone!

I picked up the chldren from school yesterday and it was such a treat for me. They didn't go to a daily pre-school as my beautiful curly-haired daughter was able to be a stay-at-home mommy and kept them quite busy with a hiking group, visiting every possible children's museum, enjoying a variety of nearby parks and beaches, and participating in a co-op pre-school with another twin mommy. So we all had a little apprehension when they started school, wondering if they would adjust and enjoy themselves and be sociable and make friends. I think we all believed that they would do just fine, as they are friendly and happy and well-adjusted children, and they did even better than we thought. They've made friends, come home happy, and wake up wanting to go again.

And me? Doing OK, thank you, and feeling strong, off and on. My shoulder hurts and I wonder if I'll have to undergo surgery again, and I'm not dating at all and not really wanting to. I'm walking more, now that Onyx is visiting, and I didn't catch the really nasty cold that plagued my daughter and her family a few weeks ago. Just really wanted to share that kinda fuzzy picture of the kids and the dog, how happy they all seem with each other. Isn't that cute? I think they are all smiling!

September 5, 2008

Quilts, power, and contentment.

It's a Friday night and I'm home. My twin grandchildren are asleep in their rooms and I'm sewing them a patchwork quilt. So some guy from one of the dating sites IM's me (from Colorado!) and tells me he's bored. He asked me if I'm bored and I said no, that I am enjoying being single and really am content.

Now that's a really good place to be, content. I hear from so many people that they were just this content when they finally found their match and maybe that's the secret, to be happy with oneself and the life one creates and then a mate will be a nice addition, not a necessity. The IM guy asked why I'm not dating and why some LA guys haven't snapped me up and I have no idea how to answer that. Maybe I'm not making enough effort. Maybe it's not my time. I had one friend years ago who thought we might have a "quota" of men in our life and then, when we reached that number, there would be no more. I don't think it works that way, but who knows.

So I write to just let you know all is well. I'm feeling very energized lately, like the break-in has robbed me of some possessions but also stripped me of some inhibitions, like I'm no longer holding myself back in life. I'm feeling really powerful at work and, for the first time, don't take things my bosses complain about personally. I've returned to sewing, a hobby that I've always loved, and am still getting all my errands and chores done and have time left over. Even in this time of transition, where my work hours are changing and I don't have my grandchildren during the week since they've started school, I'm feeling quite relaxed and strong.

How can it be that a break-in has caused this new-found power, this new enthusiasm for life, this new confidence in myself? I don't know the answer to that, nor do I really care to figure it out. I just feel relaxed but still feel like making things happen. I have new ideas about recreating the free singles parties I put on last year and I feel like travelling to see some friends in other states. I would like to date, but it just doesn't seem like I'm missing anything by not dating. I have one dear friend who just met a guy who seems like a really good match, and I'm more than thrilled for her, but it's not happening for me now and I have no problem with that.

So the message in all this? That's it's good to clear away the past. That's it's good to be content. That it's wonderful to feel powerful and confident. And that really, life is just one day at a time, mostly filled with routine, doing the same thing day after day, and that is just fine with me. And boredom? If I'm happy with my own company or curling up with a good book, boredom just isn't in my vocabulary. The future might bring great adventures but for today, just doing the regular stuff is pretty terrific.

September 1, 2008

Expectations, friends, and balance.

Expectations can cause problems. We expect people to act a certain way, we expect friends to do certain things, and we expect romantic partners to do even more. Some think that expectations are the downfall of relationships, that we should just enjoy whatever we get and not want more. I'm a believer in balance, giving and getting and over time it balances out.

I got an email from a friend who wrote that she is disappointed in me, that she wishes I'd do more of this or that, and that I missed the mark a few times she expected something of me. All that makes me sad, for sure. For me, friendships are give and take, that I give what I can or want to give and take what is given, and expect nothing else. I have one friend who has invited me on trips so I do my best to make the trip easier for her, like driving and cleaning the house where we stay and keeping her out of the kitchen. Balance, she does something and I do something else. I have a new friend who invited me to a movie this weekend, our first time out together, and I picked up the movie ticket since she is unemployed and drove her car to my end of the valley. She gave and I gave and each was different but it seemed to balance.

When thinking about this, I realized that I have very limited expectations for friends, that I accept what is given, but that I have much greater expectations for romantic partners. I have a whole list of how I want them to behave, what I want them to give, and how they should act, and I really expect them to live up to those expectations. So just then, I received an email from another friend who is like a sister to me but she is very, very busy and lets me know when she has a few hours free to meet me for a bite and I honor that. I invite her to family events and accept whatever time she gives me gratefully, never expecting more. She is married to a guy I adore but could never live with, but it works well for her. A few months ago, he told her he didn't want to invite any friends into the house for a few months, that he wanted privacy and the ability to watch his favorite sporting events without interruption and she honored that. I heard that they were hosting a few couples this weekend and thought he had lifted his no-company dictum, but it turned out he had invited some couples out to dinner at a nice restaurant, paid the bill, and apparently had a really nice time. The couples had invited them to their house for dinner and now he invited them out to a restaurant, so they did different things to honor their friendship but it balanced out. Nicely.

So, again, we give what we want to give or can give and it might not be exactly what the other person gives but there is a balance. Sometimes I feel moments of disappointment when friends don't support some of my events, but then I realize that they don't have to do that, that they honor me in other ways and I should really just appreciate their efforts in giving in their own way. I like the idea of having no expectations, of each of us giving to each other in different ways, and wonder if romantic relationships would benefit from this policy. It might actually make life more interesting, not expecting others to do exactly what our script dictates, but giving us something of their own making, something unique to them that shows us that they care. Sounds good to me.

Break-ins, love, and friends.

It's important to love ourselves. We hear that from therapists, in books, and from friends, but sometimes it's hard to really know what it means. I was raised by parents who were troubled and didn't really know how to love and likely did not love themselves. They didn't hug us or boast about us or let us know in any way that we were loved. So as an adult, I had a lot to learn about the subject.

It's one thing to hear that we should love ourselves, but a very different thing to be able to do it. We have to clear away the things that prevent self-love, like self-hate or self-loathing or insecurity, which sounds pretty strong but it's true. I've sought love all my life from others and feared those who acted or seemed like my parents, and I've tried very hard to break out of that cage.

So what's really done it for me? The break-in. I don't know how it happened, but since the break-in, I suddenly feel self-love. I just do. I feel valuable and significant and worthy, all coming from a tragedy where strangers damaged my home and stole my material valuables. The jewelry they stole was old, and my very smart and beautiful daughter told me that maybe it was a sign to clean out the old stuff in other areas of my life. I can't really explain or feel the need to fully understand it, but I know I have been changed from this experience and I am a different person.

I've been talking about the break-in to everyone, sharing my feelings and pain, and have been so blessed by the kindness shown to me. My hope in talking about it was to make everyone a little safer and more cautious, but there has been much more gained. Many people have told me that they didn't realize how disturbing a break-in could be and will be more sympathatic in the future. Others told me things about themselves that they might not have shared if I had not been so open. Others pointed out my strengths that I didn't realize I had. An amazingly uplifting time, this recovery from tragedy.

I want to share some emails from three ladies involved in my life since the break-in so you can get a sense of the upbeat and really joyful spirit now in my home and my life:

From my hypnotherapist who has walked me with through many of my awakenings in the past few years, a lovely and calm and generous woman:
Just loved the blog. Not only are you strong, you use your strength and even your vulnerabilities to help others in such a powerful way. It is so impressive. I think what you are doing now with your life and with your WOW group is so important. Gathering thoughtful women together to learn and wonder. Its just amazing. I’m so glad that you are feeling not only ok, but better than ever. You have taken this break in and made a great thing out of it.

From Laurie Hacking, the speaker at the Wow meeting last week who unknowingly spoke to my needs at that very moment and helped me to see more of the blessings in the tragedy:
Thank you for this lovely message, and for your powerful blog entry! It was such a pleasure to be in your home and to talk to, and with, the women you gathered together. It's so good that you have a therapist who's there for you with all you've been experiencing these past couple of weeks. If I can supplement that in any way, know that I'm here...because the energy of that experience is still in, and around, you. I think the more subdued tone that night was in honor of you (totally at an unconscious level from people), but almost a solemn respect to your current struggle. Actually, it's quite lovely that there's such caring, admiration and respect for you! What I also see about you is that you are very resourceful, and you are open to feeling it all and workin' it. You will come out of the 'pit of fire' even stronger. That I'm pretty damn sure of. So, many blessings to you. Thanks so much, again, for having me.

And from one of the lovely Wowettes, a woman who has had way more than her share of difficulties in the past few years:
Thank you for another wonderful evening. Your heart necklace is gorgeous! Wear it in good health. Have a real good weekend. Take care, you are very special. Love,

The necklace is one that I had purchased that very afternoon, a very inexpensive and sparkly necklace that I felt would remind me of my newly felt self love. Life is short and sometimes difficult, but recognizing our blessings, even in the midst of tragedy, makes it all worthwhile. Thanks to all of you for walking on this journey with me.