vendredi, décembre 09, 2011

To jump...or not.

I used to avoid the idea of dating a never-married man -- if one would contact me, I'd nicely inform him that we suffered from a bad case of incompatible lifestyles.

It's one thing to be not-married at thirty.

It's quite another to have never jumped the broom at fifty.

But what "quite another' is it?

There could be all sorts of reasons why someone hasn't gotten married.

They fell in love a number of times, but never felt certain enough to dedicate themselves to one person.

They had responsibilities to parents or others that meant they didn't feel right about taking on a new partner.

They weren't mature enough at the time.

They were committed to a career, and are now waking up to the notion that life is short.

And let's face it -- not all of us should have gotten married. My ex and I have made lemonade out of lemons, but it hasn't always been simple, or easy.

If kids are the best product of a union that went south, was that union a good choice? That's one of those questions I can't answer. I would say yes, but I wouldn't say "yes" for you.

I respect men or women who know they can't handle a relationship, or know they need time to heal from a bad one, and stay out of one. Why inflict more pain?

To some mid-life women and men, the lack of a romantic relationship is a problem they must solve -- instead of a chance to get to know themselves better and figure out what went wrong.

So they run the risk of ending up, when the narcotic wears off, of ending up in a feedback loop of broken romances.

To others, like me, it's scarier to enter into another one, and possibly make mistakes that could also inflict distress on me and someone else.

I am less and less inclined to be defined by someone else's insecurities or traumas.

Overly cautious? Indeed. I run the risk of not experiencing love.

I'm not sure what that looks like as I move on. Does it mean a less committed, possibly more superficial relationship?

I don't know. For someone with a degree in deep, that's a scary prospect.

Darn, middle-age is tough. We trail our history and doubts and dreams with us, experienced as the most jaded rake, and naive as teenagers.

I can't speak for the married -- as I know from having been in one, marriage is also defined by the individuals in it.

But for me, I know that I'm trying to stay limber -- I don't have to be his "little woman" to be engaged by a man I respect.

Even when I hobble, I hobble with determination.

mardi, décembre 06, 2011

Hot bod, agile mind, kind heart: what's not to like?

One thing - he is an expatriate from the North living in the land of the Tarheels -- and I am here.

Somehow he stumbled on to my profile. I don't know how. Because of my household responsibilities, I am rigid about not looking beyond a certain circumference.

He gave my dating c.v. the virtual dating good housekeeping seal of approval.

When I read his profile, a few things stood out. He's a darned good writer (like me, he's a "creative"). He's whimsical and doesn't mind going off on tangents. He's literate and smart.

And oh -- did I mention -- he is better looking than someone with those other natural gifts has any right to be.

I have a thing for tallish slender guys with glasses and laugh lines around their eyes. They make me a little crazy.

I decided to shoot him an email. Almost immediately, we were deep into (virtual) conversation about pretty much anything that comes to mind.

And we really haven't stopped.

Both of us lead very busy lives. He's got kids, a demanding professional world, and an active social calendar.

And if you are reading my blog regularly, you know about my world.

He likes to make me blush. I like to tease him back.

A few weeks ago, after asking me whether I wanted to receive it, he sent me a photo.

Let's say that it left a lot to the imagination. And neither of us are slackers in that regard (imagination-wise).

He looks amazing -- someone who works hard to keep his body in shape. Boy, does it show.

I didn't respond in kind. Like I really needed to say that?

Yet both of us are camera hogs, and there are probably pictures of us in some FBI file in D.C.

I just hope they have the flattering ones.

We both enjoy our conversations. It's darned tough to be witty online, particularly when you have a pro on either end of the dialogue.

But he makes me laugh. I seem to have the same effect on him.

I'm not his usual demographic, he told me. A bit younger, he tends to attract women like bees to flowers. Now and then we share stories.

We're both complicated people, with ghosts and shadows. We dance around those, but also acknowledge them.

And while sometimes we give in, we avoid, as he said to me yesterday, the predictable and degrading course this kind of friendship could take.

Honestly, I think we like each other too much to fall easily.

Will we ever meet? I don't know. We are far away from each other. He's seeking true love closer to home. Neither of us is wealthy enough to fund frequent flights.

As for me, I'm not sure what I'm seeking, but in that we may be more alike that I am willing to admit right now.

I'd like to meet up. I think about it -- as I said, both of us have a surfeit of imagination.

Right now, I'm willing to wait and see what happens.

And be thankful that I sent that email.

There's blood in Marian, Madame Librarian yet. And he sometimes gets it leaping.

dimanche, décembre 04, 2011

I'm Elizabeth, and I'm an addict. You may be one, too.

It was a bright, lovely fall day on Saturday -- but you probably noticed that.

The recipient of a few hours of leisure time while my son filmed himself re-enacting the battles of Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor, I went for a long walk around Springton Manor Farm.

Now owned by the county, the farm was once, so I've heard, owned by two single ladies who left its many acres of hills and streams to people like us to enjoy. I often wander down there, and while hiking around, say a brief prayer of thanks to those long-gone women for their generosity to me and the rest of the hoi polloi.

We're so fortunate to live where we do. If I'd been been less tense yesterday, I would have been more able to take in the pure gift of the water and the breeze and the light.

Instead, I was like one of the warriors in "Braveheart" or in the Civil War battle that my son was filming -- on guard, distracted, worried about a threat that I would not see coming, and searching for it anyway.

But there was no threat in that cloud-studded sky.

I am a stress addict.

Argue whether or not it's my fault -- coping with six months of medical crises, the challenges of parenting a daughter in full-scale adolescent rebellion and a clever mind she doesn't choose to use, living in a house where I have no authority, and the day to day problems of looking for work would be stressful for anyone.

And then there is the fact that when it comes to relationships, I am both overly cautious and perhaps not careful enough. Who knows? Why should I think myself exempt from the human condition? Everyone acts foolish now and again.

Sometimes two people do it together.

Meet Elizabeth, who let her heart rule her head and got hurt. Lesson learned.

The fact is, though, that life is improving. The house will be done within a month or so. The kid's dad is getting better (though he's also less willing to take on the parenting fray). Whether my daughter chooses to do her or work or not is up to her -- all I can control is my reaction. Growing into a young woman of striking loveliness, she has been given much raw material with which to sculpt a life.

Perhaps maturity will enable her to grasp the nettle with both hands.

And my son continues to be a source of almost unalloyed joy, not solely because he reminds me so often of the mother and great-grandmother I adored.

So why am I constantly on guard, increasingly plagued by the migraines that used to visit once a year?

Because, right now, that's what I know. Because where once I used to self-medicate with food, I find that doesn't satisfy me. Because I'm not much of a drinker. Because I never took up smoking.

Because I haven't had either the discipline, or the drive (until now) to be otherwise.

And because, probably, I was born wired. Anxiety is a family trait.

Recently, I've been reading Mary Karr's autobiographical "Lit." It's the story of her often tragic family life, and her struggle to medicate away the pain with booze and a crushing lack of esteem for herself and those around her.

Her recovery is based (as I read it), in part, on accepting that her mind, her questions, her snotty over-intellectual attitude get in the way of self-acceptance, of forgiveness, and of God-acceptance.

There's an urgency and discipline in the last part of the book the reverbrates in me, like the tinkling of a Buddhist prayer bell.

It is time.

Time to reach for health.

Time to embrace pleasure, whether I fall across it, or someone offers it. Unless, of course, they live in the South (smile).

Time to accept that right now, I am in this place -- and that it gives me a lot to work with.

Time to trust the good in myself -- and in others.

I don't know if any of what I have written finds an echo in your heart -- but if it does, carpe diem.

For now, as Jon Kabat-Zinn reminded me virtually this morning -- now is all the time we have been given to work with.

Make the most of each moment.