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.

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

Out of the Box

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast week was full of firsts, in some cases firsts I forced myself into and in others simply firsts because it is a new era and it is time for me to grab life for myself. For anyone who knows me well it is common knowledge I do not like crowds, truthfully I don’t like any situation I don’t feel as if I am in control of. So this past week was not only full of firsts, it was also me pushing my own boundaries and maybe societies boundaries a little tiny bit as well.

I found I am still not comfortable with crowds.

I also found I could push through my discomfort but it took some real nail biting.

Finally I found social expectations can be met with humor and ‘don’t give a damn’ on my part.

There was one other thing I found out about myself this week; I can be judgmental regarding politics and political candidates. Oh, fine I really didn’t find this out this week; I knew this but I found myself truly judging candidates critically and finding many of them ‘wanting’. I am not just going to pull the lever for you because you have a ‘D’ by your name, need to do better than that.

Lastly, because I spent most of the month of January thinking I was going to die I didn’t spend a great deal of time working towards goals or trying to find my next job. Despite I have an ‘excuse’ this has left me feeling, well feeling a little of a failure. Though I believe my goals are achievable, they have been beyond my reach and it has been frustrating.

The job / work front has also been frustrating and although I know I made the right decision in leaving the organization I was working for, it is scary right now to not have income and have bills looming. I truly want to change the trajectory of my career; want off the road and out of consulting but perhaps this isn’t the time to try to make this change. I am leaving the door open for what makes sense on both a personal and work-life basis, but those “no thank-you’s”, well they are de-moralizing.

Are you wondering what I did last week that taught me lessons, in humility, humor and even a bit of perseverance?

I dated myself. Yes, you read that correctly, I took myself on dates and found I am excellent company.

Date 1, 22-January: House of Blues, Dinner and Concert, Hot Tuna and Leon Russell. Let me first say, dinner in a room full of couples a bit awkward if you are eating alone. I have traveled alone for years and haven’t felt so out of sync with those around me in the past. No matter, dinner was fabulous and the concert was grand. Let me tell you something the audience was funny, I felt as if a crowd of aging hippies surrounded me; well, I suspect that was the truth. Both acts did a great job and despite my discomfort, it was a great evening.

Date 2, 25-January: Local Democratic Club, Judicial Bench Openings Dallas County, all candidates stump. Let me just say there are some interesting candidates running for the current benches in Dallas County and in some cases, we have two (2) to five (5) Democrats running for the same seat. I am primarily interested in the criminal courts but it was interesting listening to candidates running for family and probate judge-fines-himselfcourts, fascinating in the case of the probate court. In one case I wanted to stand up in the middle of a very long-winded stump speech and ask the candidate, “what in the hell does what you are talking about have to do with the bench you are running for?” Actually, that happened twice. I ended up sitting next to one of candidates for a Criminal Court who I had met before and we talked afterward, she is an interesting woman with interesting ideas about juvenile justice and getting young people out of the adult system. I like her. I liked a couple of the candidates their ideas about expanding the system to rehabilitation and support versus simply throwing away the key.

Date 3, 26-January: Harlem Dance Theater, Bass Performance Hall. I think this was my favorite date of the entire week; it is likely in part because ballet was my first love. The Dance Theater of Harlem includes classic ballet, modern dance and even street dance in their repertoire. They also include music and worldwide themes presented in ways anyone can relate to, they are phenomenal. I had a wonderful seat, close enough to hear as toe shoes hit the boards in Battu, close enough to see the sweat glisten and muscles contract as the dancers stretched, close enough to count the number of turns in a pirouette. Do I sound like a fangirl? I must admit, I am and have been since the first time I saw ballet as a tiny girl of four-years old, now fifty-two years later I am still a fan of ballet and very much a fan of the Dance Theater of Harlem.

So, those were my three ‘date-myself’ dates of the week. I haven’t truly accomplished very much this month and the month is nearly over. I am a bit depressed at my lack of success in achieving goals; however, I am happy with my solitary dates. I am happy I overcame my fear of crowds to get out of the house and do something, not just anything but things that are happy and uplifting for me.

Happy Monday and back to the grindstone of finding relevant work and of course a few rants of what is going on in our nation. Enjoy the playlist for this writing.

Hot Tuna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtdc6q8uTFs

Hot Tuna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCsCW4WPcyY

Leon Russell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXs29SpLGpU

Leon Russell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37dw2r45Xzg

Black Swan Excerpt: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOf_00uh-1o

Forty Years of Firsts: http://vimeo.com/35636630

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