Love in a Pandemic

caution-symbol-safety-sign-500x500A friend asked me the other day what they should do now that everything was locked down, there was no gathering places, no places to meet in public, no ‘date’ night specials. How were they going to proceed to meet new potential mates and get to know their options.

With caution?

Yes, that was my first response. Yes, it was a teensy, tiny bit snarky. Honestly, though, I didn’t understand the issue. We have a pandemic going on in the world and it is here, right here in these United States and you are worried about whether or not you can keep your social life going? Is this a bit shallow?

Then I thought about it from my friend’s perspective. She, like me, feels the weight of years though not quite as many years, she feels them just as I feel them. She like me has been divorced for more than five years and like me, she has formed a few what felt like to her committed relationships, they did not go the distance or as planned. She like me is looking down what feels like a short road and wondering if she is going to be alone for the rest of the journey.

Pandemic be damned then full speed ahead, her prince may be out there and he might frogprincebe just as lonely in his isolation as she is.

We are similar in so many ways yet different in one very important personality quirk, one key that will allow us to weather this storm with our sanity intact. She and I are polar opposites in our need for regular human interaction. Don’t mistake me, I enjoy my friends and family simply in smaller and more controlled doses. I also enjoy a dinner out now and then, I just simply don’t need it. My friend, on the other hand, she still loves nightspots, dancing, concerts and anything else that gets her out and about. Me? I love the theater and willingly take myself on dates, I have zero need for company. My friend? She would not be caught dead anywhere alone and feels downgraded if I invite her to come with me.

Needless to say, we are very different creatures.

I spend days, sometimes even weeks without ever talking to a single soul unless it is work-related. My friend can’t go more than a few hours without social interaction, she feels unloved, unappreciated and unfulfilled. She needs human touch, human validation, human voices to know she exists in the world. She is an extrovert, I love her dearly but she makes me a bit crazy at times. I realized during this conversation, her extroversion goes beyond her comfort in crowds and her extreme touchy-feely-huggy with everyone she meets. Her extroversion is her spirit and soul, it is how she feeds her joyfulness every single day and she is joyful. This compulsory isolation is removing from her a necessary part of her life, her ability to reach out and touch, emotionally and physically other human beings.

She wasn’t just asking about how to continue her dating life, how to continue her search for her prince charming. She was asking how to live.

So I had to get serious with my friend, I don’t want to lose her to depression. I also don’t want to lose her because she does something stupid, desperation can cause any of us to make stupid choices. There are no simple choices right now, yes our prince may well be out there but if we haven’t found them yet there is no simple answer to dating during a pandemic, social distancing is the only answer we have and maybe it is a blessing we weren’t looking for but a blessing nonetheless. Time to get back to some good old fashioned courtship routines; talking, no touching, sitting far apart, walks in the park. I know, it all sounds so sterile and it is, but why risk dying if you don’t have to.

Old LettersTalk on the phone, after you have established some level of feel-good and trust. Write long emails to each other, learn to use your words. There was a time when letter writing was a valued transaction between courting pairs when letters were saved as proof of intentions. My grandmother had letters from my grandfather from before and during their marriage, how she was able to read them is beyond me but she was and she married him. Use Chat and Video Chat, again learn to use your words. The point is get to know your potential date mate as a human being before your very first date, figure out if this is a person you actually want to spend time with, find out if you can have a conversation.

Love in a pandemic, where fear rules us and isolation is the decree of the day will be hard. When you are not naturally inclined toward seclusion this will be even more difficult. My friend is already feeling the pressure of being alone, without the validation of social interaction to lift her spirit she is afraid. I understand her anxiety. I have a different level of distress, even though my natural tendency to isolate and this allows me to get through days without interaction I am afraid too and I will talk about that at some other time.

How will we get through this?

I can only think this isn’t forever and we will come out the other side differently. We will learn different skills and different ways to build relationships and interact with each other. Our expectations will be different and perhaps we will set a new standard for those prince’s who wish to join us on our journey. Women of a certain age want to partner, we don’t want to live our lives alone. In this, my friend and I are very much alike. Now we look down this tunnel of how do we find that elusive man who will see us for all we are, all we have to offer and begin to build a very different portrait, one that is more honest more true to life, of them and ourselves. Possibly that portrait will be more true to life.

At least that is my hope.

Home Alone

Linda1What do you do at the age I am when faced with big choices, huge life altering decisions? There are forks in the road at any age, but I think as we get older either we get less brave or they get more daunting, perhaps it is a bit of both. You would think it would be easier, these choices as there are less people and things to consider yet oddly it is not.

Let me give you some background. The strangeness of it all and my thinking on the subject of big decisions at this stage of life.

After a terrible run, I ended up in a job that suits me in many ways doing work that fits my skills and background. Like any position there is always good and bad. With this one the scale is fairly equally balanced. Odd to say that, but when I really look at it with clear eyes it is quite true. The issue? I don’t know that it is stable, not my position so much as the organization itself. This frightens me to death. At my age finding work is hard, I found that out after looking for six months, running through my entire savings and nearly losing everything. It was terrifying.

Dating at 62 is petrifying, looking for work is even more so.

Every now and then something comes along though, something that causes you to stop and think, stop and question. One of those questions is always, “what if?”

What if I take this risk? What will it cost me vs. what do I have to gain.

A few weeks ago a headhunter presented me with one of those conundrums, at least on paper. Usually I read these with a jaundiced eye. This one though, for some reason it caught me. This one seemed at least on paper to have been written for me. So, with a bit Opportunity-Signof ‘what the hell’ I responded to the request for me resume, my current status and my standard hourly rate. The next day I got a call back, would I be willing to negotiate my rate by $5, it was after all a long-term contract and it came with great benefits for the right candidate. Well, sure that did make a difference.

Then nothing. For a couple of weeks. I didn’t think much of the nothing, that is how things go. Then, well they really want a local candidate so that is what they are interviewing, well that really does make sense given the type of contract. Then, would you be willing to move for the contract duration, they won’t pay travel, but they might negotiate some of the cost of the move.

Hmmmm, that is a big ask for a contract. Give me a day to think about it. With one exception I have never been asked to physically move for job and that was under very different circumstances. My answer? Let’s get through the first round of interviews, see if we even like each other and if there really is a fit then we can talk about the rest.

Businesswoman and business planWell, we did that. Now we are trying to set a schedule for the next round and I am at that proverbial crossroad, though I see it as more of a branch. What is my answer? How much risk am I willing to take? I am 62 years old, I should be thinking about retirement not galivanting off on my next damned adventure. Instead here I am considering:

Do I shut my house down, rent it or sell it.

Do I have another great purge, move some or all of my things. I could always put what I love in storage. Hell some of my stuff is still in boxes from my move to this house three years ago.

Then there are really some personal questions that have to be answered, maybe asked and answered is a better way to think about these:

For four years I have been in and out of a relationship that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Recently it truly doesn’t and it has caused a great deal of hurt. I am using this as an opportunity to escape?

Will a move to a completely new city, new state cause me to act any differently than I do today? Will I suddenly become more extroverted, get out more?

Will going to an office everyday rather than working from home force me to form more human bonds?

Finally there are the financial questions, both short term and long term that loom at my age that have to be considered carefully. We all face these at any age, but I think as we get older they become more obvious and perhaps in some cases are more perilous.

My six months of unemployment wiped out my savings and damaged my debt. I have summer-job-hunting-0812worked on debt but have not rebuilt savings. This opportunity would allow me to finish wiping out debt and rebuild a great deal of what I lost in savings, if I sold my current house and banked the equity for the two years of the contract. Yes, I have run the numbers. Debt free, I would have far more choices than I have today about many things, including:

Where I live

The types of jobs I can accept

The salary I need to live

Two years out of my life doesn’t seem huge in the face of the choice it would give me for risk2a different future. A future with less struggle and less drama. A future less tied to the past. Perhaps the choice should be easy, I wish it were so. Yet, as with every big choice there remains that looming risk of ‘what if?’

Contracts go south every single day. Projects get put on hold or contractors get let go with no warning and no cushion to bounce on. There I would be 62, strange city, strange state, no family or friends and no home to go home to. Thus my challenge. How will I answer if the position is offered? What will I do? There are so many reasons to say yes, is fear the only reason to say no?

leaping2

Abnormal

feminity1I have been accused of being abnormal, of not being feminine in my responses, of not being sufficiently emotional. This is not the first time someone has said this to me, likely it will not be the last. My only answer to these accusations is I keep my emotions under control and am not given to public displays, even if you are an audience of one. If you are acting out to gain a response from me you will be sorely disappointed and I will not apologize for this.

I don’t believe I am abnormal, only that I have examined many human emotions closely and found they don’t suit me; I have discarded them. I am at peace with myself, with my imperfections. This does not mean I am happy to traipse alone through the last part of my life journey. It simply means I am unlikely to make significant adjustments to my core being to accommodate the expectations of others regarding who I ‘should’ be as a woman.

notnormal

For most of my life I took care of everyone around me, everyone came before me their needs before mine. This is part of my nature and can be draining. My tendency was to hold everything very close until I had enough, then I would blow up with sometimes catastrophic outcomes. Because I didn’t ask for what I needed, didn’t tell what was wrong, didn’t talk to partners, friends, parents or anyone in my orbit if there was a problem no one knew until it was too late to prevent that blow up. While those blow ups often hurt others, they all to often hurt me far more.

I don’t do this anymore. I am still quiet. I still listen more than I talk. I still have a tendency to take care of the people I love more than ask for care when I need it. This is still my core nature. What I don’t do is allow it to go without speaking up if I believe a relationship is not reciprocal. What I don’t do is not care for myself. The odd thing though, I am accused of not being sufficiently womanly e.g. emotional in my response to things.

It is true, I frequently withdraw.

It is true, I do not weep and gnash my teeth.

It is true, I do not fling myself to the floor and beg for attention.

It is true, I do not scream, yell, call names or other such nonsensical behaviors one sometimes sees on TV these days. If this is the expectation there will always be disappointment, always.

The emotional blackmail I do not respond to and have not responded to for years? The attempts to force me to react, I think they are childish and demonstrate a lack of confidence in the other person, these sometimes seem to be tests in whether I care or not. If I fail these tests, we are likely not good partner material. Some of the ‘tests’ I have failed recently, the emotions I have failed to adequately demonstrate:

Jealousy, it simply isn’t part of my DNA. It once was, I admit I use to feel horrifyingly jealous and it would tear me apart inside. Now though I no longer respond or react. I don’t know when I stopped feeling the monster of jealousy rise in my heart, I think it was jealous-700x450when I realized I could not make someone love me, could not force someone to stay and could not change another person’s heart no matter what I felt. There was no point to this emotion, it hurt no one but me. I didn’t do anything to change myself, it was simply I stopped feeling jealous. I still felt angry at a betrayal, at a lie but I no longer felt jealous.

Envy was another of those strange emotions that simply disappeared, it seemed in a day though I am sure it didn’t just poof away. I remember being younger and envying other women their perfect bodies, their clothes, their husbands, their jobs and the list goes on. I remember seeing others and wanting what they had, even just wanting to be them. I would sit sometimes and simply daydream of not being me, being anyone but me. My envy would envelope me in a fog, then suddenly it was gone. Suddenly I cannot imagine being anyone but me, despite everything I cannot dream of any life but my own. There are days I see a beautiful woman in the store and admire her, but my admiration is not envy.

Fury, I held on to my fury for days, sometimes weeks or longer. That fire would burn me flameWomanand others in a destructive path. While it might have been justified it was not healthy in its expression and it never ended well. Now, I know how to express anger when it occurs rather than let it burn me out. Now I know how to speak up and speak out. Now I know that to hang on to anger, allow it to become fury, give it free rein and rent in my soul is one of the most self-destructive things I can do.

Hate, I let this one go a very long time ago but I have to frequently check up and check in. I have said for a couple of decades you have to feed hate to keep it alive and I believe it. There are people and things I don’t like, I don’t allow in my life; but even those who have done me great and terrible harm, I do not hate. Some of them I had to teach myself not to hate. Some of them I had to let go of, I had to find them in my head and kick them out. Some of them I had to write about, here and elsewhere until they were purged. Some of them I had to learn to understand so I could justify not hating them. Slowly though I let go of hate, slowly I learned peace through letting my monsters go.

I still hate green peas.

So some men find me uncomfortable. They do not understand my ‘lack’ of emotional response. They find me to pragmatic, to logical in my responses to some of their actions and behaviors. They find my quiet disarming. Some men find my ‘lack’ of normal female emotions uncomfortable.

Relationships and dating at this age is difficult if you don’t follow the rules. Unfortunately, apparently I don’t follow the rules.

I am an introvert. I am perfectly capable of taking care of all my needs. I do not need anyone though I want someone in my life who will partner me evenly and is capable of a balanced relationship.

I am quiet. I know myself. I have clear expectations. I do not play games and it is unlikely I will respond the way you expect if you attempt to play games with me. These statements about my abnormality just got me thinking, I am perhaps more of an anomaly than I thought and should maybe be prepared for what I once considered an intolerable future. It is not that I don’t have hope, but these statements of my abnormality certainly leave me wondering.

womanonpath

62 and Single

introvert-life-tips-e1486148449878 (1)

I never thought I would be single at this age; this isn’t what I believed my life would look like. Truthfully, I assumed my life would be much different than it is today. Some days I wake up and wonder who is living my life, who is inhabiting the life plan I had. Well if I am honest, I wake up and think to myself, just what the fuck.

Excuse my expletive. There might be a few more so if you are offended easily you might not want to read this simple exploration of life at sixty-two, where nothing is quite as planned.

If someone had told me when I was twenty-five the trajectory my life was going to take, I would have laughed uproariously. I wouldn’t have believed them, sixty-two was old as the hills and I didn’t expect to live that long in all honesty. In the back of my mind though, I had expectations;

  • To marry, once
  • To have children, two
  • To have a careerlifethegame
  • To have grandchildren
  • To build a future and a home

To live the same life, follow the same path my father followed and embrace the same familiar patterns I had grown up with once my rebellion was finished. I was nearly done at twenty-five, almost completed my teenage angst and young adult anguish. I had started down the path of adulthood and was building that future though perhaps not quite in a regular fashion I had expected early on in life.

Yet here we are, thirty-seven years later and I am sixty-two years old and I am alone. I have had two husbands and a few wannabe husbands. One who I left and the other who left me. I have helped raise two children, both who remain close, but who are not mine except through bounds of love. I live alone in a house that is mine but still feels not quite home. I have lived a life that by all accounts was not normal but certainly built character, still I have to ask why am I alone when this is the last thing I intended to be.

Oddly, I am not unhappy or lonely most of the time. I enjoy my time within the self-imposed Personal_spacebubble, the time I can spend in my own company is strangely comforting. There are simply times I would like to know there is another person who is uniquely part of my world and chooses to share in my future. Someone who is a dependable source of both solace and pleasure. That single person who I can turn to as companion, partner, friend and yes, lover. Does this seem to be two distinctly different, even polar opposite spaces to occupy?

It may be. I cannot determine if it is or not. This sometime overwhelming longing to have a person in my life, a man who sees me, looks on me with compassion and desire does not take away from my pleasure in finally having peace and quiet. It does not reduce the enjoyment I take in my self-determination, of being able to finally do what I choose without thinking of anyone but myself. There is a strange dichotomy in finding yourself at sixty-two finally on your own, alone and independent of all responsibility but to yourself.

I remember thinking, there will come a time my sons will be grown they will marry, have children and be independent adults. There were times during my marriages I sometimes thought, my husband(s) will grow the hell up and become responsible grown-assed men, they will be full time contributors rather than emotional and financial dependents. I will be free to do what I wish, to work differently, to travel more or whatever else I wish to do. Then of course, divorce struck and financial setbacks took away my freedoms.

I recovered; I was most fortunate. Now I think, I cannot afford to just do anything to squander my recovery and my future. I must think like an adult, huh.

AmbivertScale

Can you guess where I sit on this spectrum?

So, adulthood hits at sixty-two and what it looks like doesn’t thrill me. Who in their right mind wants to do this, alone? This isn’t what I thought it would look like. Dating isn’t something I can do easily; I am not good with new people or small talk. Years ago, I tried on-line dating for a brief minute, that didn’t work for me so I won’t try it again. I am far too picky, a man would have to be extraordinary to catch and hold my attention, he would have to be part superhero, part bad boy and part old school gentleman (like my father). He would have to have the smile of an angel, clean fingernails, the patience of a saint and be able to laugh at himself.

Does this even exist anymore?

ShhhI have been so fortunate in my life. I have been loved and I have loved. I know what both look like. I have also been terribly disappointed, yes, I have also disappointed. None of us are without flaws, none of us have gone through life without mistakes. The thing is, I am better for mine, I hope. I don’t want to spend my last years alone, I want to share this last part of my life with someone who will love me knowing all my flaws, all my skeletons, all my baggage. Who will see me fully and without judgement hold me closely through the end.

I just keep wondering, how did I get here, sixty-two, single, alone and is this it?

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