Saturday, 23 November 2013

God is Writing My Love Story

Three months post-hiatus

Wow, it's been a while since I've logged in, and it looks as though this blog is getting quite a lot of traffic.  I'm glad for that, but it also makes me slightly sad, since I'm not actively posting anymore.  I know people have asked me to come back and continue posting, but since I'm not on my yearlong hiatus anymore, it almost seems as though it's logical to leave it and not come back to write more about what happens in day-to-day life when I'm no longer single.

Oh, you caught that?  Yes, as Facebook would say, I am "in a relationship" (in fact, my Facebook page does say that, and it was fun to see how excited people got when I changed that).  As I mentioned in my post Plans, Patience and Answered Prayers, I knew before the end of my dating hiatus that there is a man that I believe I will end up with.  As of August, when I wound up my year, The Man and I were getting closer, but still not in a romantic relationship.  Now, three months and lots of conversations later, I can definitely say that we are together, and our future looks bright.

Of course, the fact that he and I are so similar in many ways and share a faith and outlook on dating and marriage - well, in most things, actually - has helped us to draw closer over the past few months, but I know that taking that year off from men in general was such a good thing for me and for our relationship.  I know I messed up here and there - The Michelin Man being an example, as well as that silly little crush on my roommate - but for the most part, my focus during that year off was total and complete.  I wanted to stop going after the wrong men; I wanted to learn how to say no when I recognized someone wasn`t the one for me; and I wanted to prepare myself to be better in a relationship.  Rather than looking for the right person, I realized that I wanted to make sure that I could be the right person for him once I found him.  Now that I have found him, I can see how invaluable the time really was for me, and how much better it has made our relationship.

If those of you who have read the blog faithfully haven`t already figured it out, The Man is Stu.  He and I "courted" briefly a couple of years ago, but things ended when he told me that he wasn't ready for a relationship.  Back then, I saw in him all the things that I desired in a man, and I was so anxious to be with him.  I remember seeking out our pastor's wife and talking with her about how very badly I wanted things to work out between us, how happy he made me, and how good I thought it would be.  She listened and empathized, but I think she knew that I wasn't ready.  I was all about what I wanted, and not about what Stu might need, or what God wanted for either of us. 

When things ended, I had already started to pull away from him in my mind, because I could see that his heart wasn't in it, and I was so terrified of allowing myself to be hurt.  The fact that we were close friends and that we did not have a physical relationship made it much easier to allow my hopes to dissolve into a solid and comfortable friendship, although I did still have a vague idea in the back of my head that it would be nice if someday Stu would be ready for a relationship and would seek me out (see Stu is a Force to be Reckoned With for more of my feelings at the time...and a bit of foreshadowing that I didn't even recognize when I wrote it!).  As my dating hiatus wound to a close and suddenly Stu was back in my life in a new and totally different way, I began to remember the fierce and firm idea that I had once upon a time of Stu being the man that God has for me (In Plans, Patience and Answered Prayers, I talk more about these feelings and the absolute certainty it gave me that Stu will once day be my husband.)  Suddenly it became even more important to me that I learn to be the right woman.  Back to my pastor's wife I went.

Things were different this time.  I talked with her about my feelings for Stu and how they had developed.  I talked about the moment in the car when I felt the strong conviction from God that he is the one for me.  I talked about how terrified I was that I was going to mess it up; how great my worry was that I was just allowing my deep longings and hopes to create some sort of false assurance for myself; how much I wanted to be there for him and how much I prayed for him and our growing relationship every day.  I could see in her face that she knew this was different - that I was different from the eager little girl from two years before.  She held my hand in hers and reassured me that if this is what God wants for Stu and for me, there is nothing I can do to ruin that...just like if it isn't His will for us, there is nothing I can do to force it to happen.  That took such a huge weight off me.  Although the onus is on me to be the best person I can be, and to contribute positively to my relationship, it isn't my responsibility to make it work or not work.  I admitted in Plans & Patience that it terrified me to actually put fingers to keyboard and type those words: "I have faith that this is the man I am supposed to end up with."  It's scary.  The whole idea of believing I've found the man I will be with for the rest of our lives is terrifying, because now that means I could lose it...but my pastor's wife reminded me that if it's meant for us, then it will be, and there's nothing that I - silly, impetuous hopeless romantic of a girl - can do to mess it up.  I can relax into the relationship and just be myself, and love him as best I can.  The rest - including the work that needs to be done in Stu's heart - is up to God.  Not me.
And as I said before, I still need to have patience, but I look at how much things have changed in the past couple of years (in my heart alone) and I see that if it takes another two years, or five years, or ten, for us to get to my "fairytale ending", it will be worth it, because it's another two or five or ten years' worth of growing and learning, and getting closer to being the person that will best fit him.  Maybe he needs the time more than I do.  But I will be patient.

Stu and I spend a lot of time together and it is growing steadily.  I am so grateful for his presence in my life, and happy that I can share every part of myself and who I am with him - he accepts it and cares for me, everything included: my goofiness; my intelligence; my fears; my history (which can sometimes be scary to share with him, especially the bits I'm ashamed of, but he always, always surprises me with how well he listens and how much he cares, as well as his insights); and my admittedly sometimes overwhelming love for him.  He isn't as much for PDA as I am, but he grins and responds to my exuberant affections readily.  I believe we will get there, to that place of happily-ever-after, and in the meantime I'm enjoying every single moment I have with him.  He truly is a gift from God to me and I intend to spend every moment I can being the best gift to him that I can possibly be.

Thanks for following my journey.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The First Ten Days

Day 11 Post-Hiatus

The first ten days after completing my dating hiatus have been very busy, as most of my days are.  It's almost time for school to start again (both for the kids - well, my boys, as my daughter graduated this year! - and for me) and that realization has me in a sudden flurry of worry and activity.  There are school supplies to buy, courses to plan, schedules to arrange...lots of things that I have blissfully been ignoring during this summer will soon be back full-force.  So I've been trying to get my life back on track and realizing that there is not a lot of summer left to enjoy.  Why do they always go by so quickly?  I want more travel and sun and fun in the water.  Ah well...soon it will be Christmas again, I suppose.  That's something to look forward to, right?

They say that the second year of nursing school is the hardest one, and judging from what I've heard of the Biology course - Pathophysiology, otherwise known as Everything That Can Go Wrong With Every Single Body System - that will be the course that has me in tears this year.  It's very memorization-heavy, but I don't memorize things well without having a solid understanding of them, so I want to really get a grasp of all that I'm learning in order to apply it properly.  That is, I suppose, a desirable quality in a nurse.  I had planned to find out which text we will be studying from and use it to get a good idea of what we'll be learning this semester and next, but it didn't happen, and the summer has gotten away from me, so I'm going in fairly blind.  Just thinking about how I am going to manage all the schedules (my school; the kids' school; my work; our meals; housecleaning; studying...aggghhhh) is enough to make me want to just run away back to California.  Or even Mexico.  Life is simpler there.  But forge ahead I will.

Some of you have asked what's been happening with the Michelin Man.  Of course you know that I told him a while back that I was no longer interested in further communication, but he hasn't been listening too well.  The more I get to know him, the more I realize that he either a) never pays attention to anything but what he is thinking or feeling; b) is really kind of ignorant; or c) just thinks he can completely overturn my decisions and emotions simply by words.  Occasionally he will send me a text message designed to make me melt and open up a whole new line of conversation with him.  Sometimes I get photographs (and when he feels brave, they are not exactly appropriate photographs).  I have told him and told him that he has to stop and that I am not interested, but he doesn't seem to get it.  For a time it was entertaining, but it has become irritating and frustrating.  I can tell him with the clearest of statements that I do not want to be with him and that he has to stop texting, and he ignores it.  It's probably time to do something a bit more definite.  I'm still working on figuring that out.

The good thing about this silly infatuation with Mitch is that I can go back and read everything I wrote and see exactly how I was doing all the things I used to do.  I told myself in the beginning of my hiatus that I had to learn to recognize Red Flags and Dealbreakers, and when I "met" Mitch I even spelled out some of the Red Flags I saw in him, but immediately I began to do the same things that I've always done when it comes to men: I began to make excuses for him and to try to push through to do exactly what I wanted to do anyway, just because I wanted to do it.  It doesn't matter how much the romantic in me hopes for these things to pan out; I need to pay attention to those things.

I actually don't believe this across the board, but unfortunately it does have some truth to it.

My friends were concerned and tried to warn me, but I pushed ahead regardless.  And look how it turned out.  I haven't even told you all - because I was so busy trying to gloss over my concerns about Mitch in the first place - but Mitch is married.  He told me when we first started talking that he was separated, but as time went on I began to realize that there was something off.  I questioned him; he either ignored, deflected, or half-answered my questions.  After I told Mitch that I knew he couldn't give me what I needed and wanted - and deserved - in a relationship, he kept trying to pursue me and, although he said he didn't know what he would do if he ever lost me (which he already had), he still refused to give me straight answers.  Finally, in frustration, I talked to a good friend of his about the situation, discovered that Mitch had kept my presence in his life a complete secret from anyone at home, that he has apparently send inappropriate photographs to other women, and that as far as this friend knows, Mitch is still quite happily married.  That was when I told him I didn't even want to be friends anymore.  I feel as though I completely dodged a bullet there...and to think that if I had paid attention to the Red Flags that I spotted right at the beginning - instead of being Miss Overly Romantic as per usual - I could have saved myself a whole lot of emotion and frustration.  Lesson learned.  Hard way?  Sort of.  But learned.  FINALLY.  That`s worth celebrating.

Reflecting on those things, and thinking about how I plan to face life now that my Hiatus is complete, I realize that there are still things I need to work on before I'm ready to be in a relationship with anyone (and yes, I am still enjoying the company of the man I believe I will eventually end up with - henceforth known as The Man - but there's no rush and we're nowhere near a romantic relationship yet).  The Man deserves me at my best, and I want to get to the point where I have worked through more things than those I've attacked during the year off.  So, although my year off from dating has ended, there's no end to the reflection that I need to do every single day.  

I keep reminding myself that, although I thought I was ready for The Man when we were first seeing each other, the years between now and then - and especially this past year - have been invaluable in bringing me to a place where I now believe I could be a good partner and wife to someone.  If I could do that much work on myself - if God could do that much work within me - in a few short years, then I should welcome the chance to do even more.  Any time that is well spent on bringing me to a place where I am more ready for a relationship is well worth it.  And The Man can probably use that time, as well.

I've learned there is value in taking time away from my regular, everyday routines and thought patterns.  At this time last year, I found myself overly stressed and completely unprepared to face a completely new situation in starting Nursing School.  This year, I've felt myself drawing closer to that point of exhaustion and being overwhelmed, so I'm taking some time for myself before school begins.  The week before school starts on September 3rd, and for the first week of school, I am taking off from work in order to get rested, ready, and re-vamped before life completely changes again.  Part of that time will involve getting supplies ready; back-to-school shopping; and more of my lists-upon-lists for financial things, menus and schedules, and part of that time will be set aside to make one more list: the things I need to do before I am ready for another relationship.

It`s no longer about finding the right man for me.  It`s about being the best person that I can be, and taking whatever time I need in order to do that.  Another Step One is about to happen.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

That's a Wrap

And that's it.  No more numbers at the top of my post.  No more counting days.  No more days ahead.  My dating hiatus is officially behind me.

And it feels...totally normal.

Right now I don't feel all riled up and ready to go out looking for a man.  It isn't time to start "(rude verb)-ing my way across Canada", as one friend referred to the impending end of my sabbatical.  I don't want to start emailing random guys to see if they want to go for coffee, or suddenly re-open my Plenty of Fish profile for speculative viewing of potential mates.  I'm not even interested in seeing whether my text message inbox "starts to explode", as suggested by another friend.  As trite as it may sound, and as much of an anticlimax it may be, I just am grateful for the lessons that I've learned in this year.  The whole idea behind the dating hiatus was that I had spent too many years looking to be completed in the wrong way: I was searching for that "missing piece" in my life by trying to find a man who would fulfill the emptiness that was left and would make me feel right and whole.  I needed to learn to be happy with myself and to be able to realize that if I didn't end up with someone special, I would still be completely happy and whole on my own.  I think I've accomplished that task.

Of course, I still have a longing deep down for a partner in life.  There are times when I listen to my clients talk about their deceased husbands with such fondness and gratitude for all the years they spent together, and I still feel that same pang of envy that they were able to have that and I won't.  I mean, even if I got married tomorrow, it's unlikely that I will live long enough to be married for fifty or sixty years (well, maybe fifty - but would he survive being with me for that long?? Ha!).  The difference is that before, I would listen to them talk about their marriages and feel self-pity, or loneliness, or desperation...or even jealousy.  Now, instead of thinking "This lucky woman had someone love her for all those years, and I never will", I find myself thinking how very blessed they were to have had each other, and instead of regretting the fact that I don't now have it, I`m looking forward with hope to the time that I will.  I believe that God does have someone in mind for me, and for the first time in my life, I am actually falling back on that in faith, and believing that it will happen when it is supposed to happen.  However many years we do end up having together, I am sure we will make them happy ones.  In the meantime, I will wait.


It's so incredible to me when I look back at all of the things I have talked about during the course of this blog.  I've reflected on past relationships and told stories of these men who helped shape my romantic history, as well as taken the time to really think through why those relationships didn't work out, and hopefully used those experiences as lessons on how to learn to choose better the next time.  I've talked about priorities; goals; mistakes; the benefits of being single; the difficulties of sticking to decisions; and the importance of loving yourself just the way you are.  I've explored the characteristics of Women Who Love Too Much and recognized many of those tendencies in myself.  I've faced the holidays - one birthday, one Christmas, and one Valentine's Day - alone, but with a very different viewpoint from the ones I've endured in the past.  I've found ways to celebrate the joys of friendship and tried a few different ways to lift up people in my life who are important to me.  I've fallen down; I've kicked myself; but I have gotten back up wiser...and the bruises faded quickly.  And quite aside from what I've written about is what I've accomplished - I started the nursing program after years of working toward it.  I have traveled on my own.  I kicked the habit of an old flame, and I learned to recognize rather quickly (hey, it`s all relative) when someone who was interested in me was absolutely not right for me.  And it would appear that I've been able to let go of worry, stress, and panic, and trust my life - and even my relationships - to my God.

So.  The big question now, from many of you and from my close family and friends, is: What now?
So many directions, so many possibilities...

Am I going to stop writing?  No.  The blog will obviously have to change, as I'm no longer focusing on a break from dating, but I am sure its effects will continue on as I move into a different stage in my life.  I may not write all the time, but I have come to really enjoy keeping a blog.  And I know you will want to know when developments happen!

Am I dating this man I mentioned in my past post?  No, we are not dating at this point.  He is a consistent presence in my life and I love the time we spend together, but we're not at that stage.  However, I know that I am now patient enough to wait and see what happens between us.  I thought I was ready when we first were seeing each other, but looking back, I'm glad I've had that time to grow.  If it takes another two, or five, or ten years (and I'm not above saying Please God, don't let it be ten years!!!), I know that time will be well spent and I will be even better prepared for a life together.  I'm excited to see where the road takes us.  In the meantime, our friendship is comfortable, full of both laughs and serious discussions, and is forming a great basis for wherever our relationship eventually goes.

Will I accept a date if someone asks me?  That's actually a tricky one.  On the one hand, I feel like I shouldn't because I do believe that I have already met the right man for me.  On the other hand, we are not together, so would a date or two be so bad?  I guess it wouldn't, but really, what would be the point?  The realization that I am having now, as I write this, is that I just am not interested in accepting a date with anyone else.  My focus isn't on "dating" as a concept, because "dating" implies searching around for the person who you will end up with in life.  Dating seems pointless when you've already met that person.  I have other things to spend my time on.  My life is filled with good friends, school, children, work, and plans for future travel and mission work.  I know now that I want to learn Spanish - I know I had mentioned it before as one of the things I want to do, but now that I've been to Mexico again and have had the opportunity to be in relationship with native Spanish speakers, I feel a real need to be able to communicate properly with them the next time I go down.  So really, even if I wanted to date, I wouldn't have time!  The only real difference between being on my dating hiatus and having completed it is that now, when this man is ready for me, I'll be able to say yes without hesitation.

And so concludes this year of abstinence and reflection.  Despite the setbacks and the moments of panic, I do believe I have indeed accomplished my goals, including ones that I didn't even realize that I had.  Life now moves on, and I follow my path with anticipation and confidence.  Thanks for having come on this journey with me; it has been great to have your support and encouragement along the way.  I look forward to sharing with you the changes that will happen in the future.

Cut; scene; print it...That's a wrap.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Second to Last

Day 364

What can I say now that a day that I thought would never get here is now on the brink of arriving, and a year that I thought would be incredibly hard on me has almost reached its end? I can't believe that tomorrow it will be one year since that day I discovered that the man I had a coffee date with had been convicted of murder, convincing me that it was finally time to throw my hands up and give up on dating completely for a little while.  I will admit that at first it was all about the novelty of it, although I definitely did recognize the potential and the value of undertaking such a year.  I wasn't even sure I was going to go through with it, to be honest.  Deep down, I hoped that I would actually stick to it and get something out of it, but I also knew that I do tend to get bored with things if I don't see immediate results.  Plus the Drama Queen in me just liked the idea of being "out there" doing something that was - for me - quite radical.  However, really deciding that I would spend the time "alone" (and I put alone in quotes, because I know I was not completely successful at keeping my mind off men - darn that masculine gender for just being so appealing to me!); doing a lot of reflection and insight into why I reached the point I reached one year ago; and having this blog (and knowing how many of you are rooting for me) have all kept me focused and working toward tomorrow.  Now it's here, and it's time to stop looking backward and begin to look forward.

Part of the reason that it's hard to believe that I'm actually - finally - here at the end of this year off from dating is that the past three weeks have been a blur of preparation and busy-ness; I had the opportunity to go with a group from my church to a small town in Mexico in order to build a house for a family in need.  We were gone from the 24th of July until the 4th of August, which pretty much ate up a lot of the final weeks of my hiatus.  It was an amazing experience; I have a hard time putting it into words.  Suffice it to say that it had a huge impact on me. I know that one of the results of this year off - which in itself actually made it a lot easier for me to go on this trip - is that I now know that I love to travel, and I want to do mission work.  I know that when I am an RN, I will want to use those skills to help people who don't have access to the same kind of medical care that we do.

I don't have a lot to say right now; I'm still rather overwhelmed, both emotionally and physically, with unpacking and organizing and financial matters that have been left for the past few weeks, so I'm going to make this a short one.  Here, however, is a little movie I made: my video diary compilation from Mission Mexico.  I put it together to share my thoughts on the trip and some of the fun moments we had.  I hope you enjoy it.

(There is a short section where there is no sound; YouTube didn`t like that I used a DC Talk song so they deleted the audio for that part of the video.  Sorry `bout that.)

Mission Mexico: My Experience

And tomorrow is the last day, so I will have to find some special way to celebrate it.  Let me know if you can think of anything and send your ideas my way.


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Plans, Patience, and Answered Prayers

Day 341
24 Days Remaining

So you know how I was saying in my last blog post that I wished that I could just relax and have the same faith in God when it comes to my relationships as I do when it comes to financial and other matters?  That's something I've been praying for over the past few months, especially as I've been able to view my dating history through the lens of this hiatus and blog.  The thing is, I think for a while I was able to do that...I just forgot.  I also think that God answered my prayers long ago when I was asking him who He has for me...and again: I just quite simply forgot.

I also mentioned a while ago that I'm asking God for patience.  This is the hardest thing for me.  I also keep forgetting that just because something didn't work out when I originally had it in my head that it was going to, that doesn't mean that's the end of it forever.  What's that saying: "Sometimes God's answer isn't Yes or No...sometimes His answer is Wait."  Well, I waited, but I guess at some point I decided that I'd had enough waiting.  Or perhaps I thought that enough time had passed that the answer was actually No, when instead, it was still that: Wait.

So does waiting mean sit at home and don't date anyone?  Does it mean focus on someone who may or may not be the one for me and then just wait for him to figure out whether he wants me or not?  Or does it mean to pray, and to trust that it will be made known to me when the right man is in my life, and then to wait until the relationship grows?

A while back, I was seeing someone.  He was important to me.  I loved spending time with him.  I was finally in the headspace where I was ready to ask God to show me the right man for me, and as I left this man's house after an evening of hanging out together, I sat in my car and I earnestly, openly prayed: "God, is this the man that you have for me?"

The weirdest thing happened, and it's not something that has ever happened before or since: It was as though I had been struck in the heart.  The certainty that I felt at that moment gave me such clarity and resolve as I felt a definite and distinct answer reverberate through me: It was a loud, clear, and emphatic YES. 

I was so surprised at the physical shock to my heart and at having an answer that I started laughing.  Then the thought of having a relationship with this man made me laugh harder, with delight and happiness.  The excitement of our tentative relationship suddenly becoming something so obviously right had me laughing so hard that I started crying.  I drove down the darkened street, tears flying from my eyes as I simultaneously bawled and shouted with the joy and certainty that I felt.  Struck by lightning is the closest way I can describe that feeling, and the exultation that came afterward as I babbled aloud: "God, is this really you telling me this?  I am so scared that I just want it so badly that I'm making things up in my mind...Please let it be true...Please give me the patience...Please let us share this."  I didn't know if it was as real as it felt, and I was frightened that I was putting the thoughts into my head on my own.  Maybe I was.  But it felt so real and deep, this sudden complete knowledge that this man was the one that I will eventually marry.  The experience was such a hard-hitting one that I was certain it would stick with me and continue to assure me and give me further patience.
I resolved to be patient and wait for him to be ready, and for the relationship to develop.  I knew he was "the one"; therefore I would wait.  As time went by, I kept waiting, but nothing happened.  In fact, things started to head the other way, and as he distanced himself from me little by little, I allowed myself to be distracted.  As I got sidetracked by life and this man showed no more signs that he was interested in continuing a relationship, I started to let myself believe that the magical moment in the car had just been my imagination running wild.  I was disappointed, but I decided to just keep moving on.  I stopped trusting in God`s plan for my relationship and started searching on my own.  And - as strange as it might sound in regard to a moment that was so soul-stopping and defining for me - I completely forgot about that day in the car when I asked God if this was the man for me.  The relationship - such as it was - ended, and I lost faith in a future of love and started living life on my own terms again, latching on to the wrong people in the hope that somewhere I would find a man who would be happy with me and make me happy.  I forgot that I had put my trust in God and that He had assured me that I would end up with this man.

In the past few weeks, as I`ve been praying for God to bring me back to this place of trusting in Him, He suddenly brought back to me a distinct memory of the feeling I had that day in the car, and how I felt so certain that He had answered my prayer.  I`ve been struggling to understand why I felt it so strongly if it wasn`t what was meant to be, as well as having such a hard time with how I could possibly have buried the memory that now comes back so strongly and intensely.

And at the same time that this memory came back into my mind, this man came back into my life.

Little by little he has been inching in, surprising me with his interest and the apparent change in his ability to move toward any kind of commitment, and little by little I have come to realize that maybe - just maybe - the answer that day in the car really was from God...but I had ignored the little addendum that I had to waitYes, this is the man for you...but it will take time, and you will have to learn patience.  I believe that in this past year, as I have learned so much more about myself, and began to actively ask for patience and for the man who is meant to be mine to be revealed to me, my prayers are beginning to be answered.  The man whom I thought I no longer had a chance with is suddenly in my life, very definitively, and showing me in so many ways that he has changed as well, and we might just be back on the track that I thought I had to let go of.  Neither of us were ready back then.  Our relationship ended, and I thought that was it: my last chance with him was gone.  But really, it was just that I needed to take more time and have more patience as I waited.  Life had a lot more distractions to throw at each of us.  All the things I`ve been pondering for the last few months, all the possibilities and all the things I had to work through - it feels as though they were just things getting in the way, but in other ways they have helped me to be more ready for this moment when he has come back to me.  Perhaps there are a lot more obstacles that we will have to go through before we end up together, but I have faith that this is the man I am supposed to end up with.  I have so much faith in this that I am writing it here for everyone to read (and don't think that's not a scary thing to do - it is)!

I am hopeful; I am excited; and I am looking forward to the end of this dating hiatus so that I can see where we both are at and what will happen between us when I have fulfilled this yearlong commitment.  Maybe it will take a lot more time - I really, really hope that I don't forget again, and that I take whatever time I need to take to wait for God's timing.  In the meantime, I am praying for this man and for his heart, because I know that if there is still hesitation on his part, he needs to find peace before we can make this happen.  I look back on the prayer I wrote years ago when I first wrote my MoG (Man of God) List, a prayer for my future husband, and it fits so well for what both he and I need right now.  I pray again now, for him and for myself:  Give him joy in place of fear, give him strength in place of worry...I ask for patience as I wait, and praise You for the joy I believe You will bring me, in Your time.  


Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Final Countdown

Day 336
29 Days Remaining

Wow.  Here I am, with less than a month to go until I am officially finished this year of reflection and challenges.  It's almost impossible to believe that it is almost over.
This year hasn't exactly gone the way I had expected it to.  I haven't exactly lived up to all my rules, regulations, and expectations of myself.  I still kissed someone.  I still had to deal with attractions and crushes and relationship tests.  I definitely flirted.  But although I flogged myself quite a bit, I have come to realize that all of those things that I might consider "mistakes" in the context of a year without dating simply stem from inherent parts of who I am.  I am a flirt.  I love people and fall head over heels, get my hopes up, trust - all a little too easily.  The fact that I make these mistakes is an okay thing.  The main point of this year was to get to know myself better, to strengthen my relationship with God, and to be able to recognize red flags as well as men that just aren't suitable.  I suppose if I had stayed away from men as completely as I wanted to, I may not have been tested enough with learning to recognize those red flags and dealbreakers.  My friends have continuously helped me to remember what my goals are, as well as telling me not to be so harsh with myself when I make yet another mistake.  Life is full of mistakes.  I'm going to make them.  I'm just lucky and blessed enough to have a circle of wonderful friends who will be there for me both while I'm making them and during the aftermath.
Did I get to know myself better?  I would say so.  I think I had a fairly good idea of who I was by the time I started this hiatus, but watching myself make the same mistakes yet again, reflecting on the mistakes of my past, and having a record of it that I could go back and read and analyze, has given me a more accurate picture of myself than I had when I started off this year.  I look back on the way I wrote about HB and shudder.  It is so clear from the writing that I was still infatuated with him, and that it was incredibly important to me to ensure that my readers did not see his negative qualities.  Even in my blog, I was classically co-dependent: making excuses for my partner/lover/crush's bad behavior.  HB's story probably didn't deserve to be treated as carefully as I treated it.  But I thought I was in love.  I'm so glad to look back and see the moment when I really recognized that this was not love, and that I was getting nothing from it but pain and stress.  And that three-year-plus (sigh...why did I let it happen for that long???) waste of time and energy has finally become the lesson that it probably should have been right after he dumped me at six months in because I couldn't have his children.  I can't smack myself upside the head for taking this long to finally "get it"...the main thing is, I FINALLY GOT IT.  So all that time, energy, and emotion had a point after all.  And now I know myself well enough to know that I will never allow that to happen again (case in point: I finally decided that The Michelin Man - dear Bibendum - was not giving me what I need, and would not be able to for a long time, if ever - and I managed to end it).  I may have spend too many months hoping and believing it would somehow work out, but it took me a lot less time than it did with HB.  And here's believing that my dealbreaker radar will just become exponentially sharper with time - and drown out the Hopeless Romantic who still wants a Happily Ever After when it becomes clear that Happily Ever After will not be with this particular man.  (I'm not giving up my romantic side, however.  More on that later.  And yes, that's a hint for those of you who want to read into it.) GETTING TO KNOW MYSELF BETTER: Check!
Did I strengthen my relationship with God?  Well, again, I'd have to say yes.  My strength has been tested in many ways, as I talked about in my last post, but through it all I have managed to really learn to trust in and rely on God in ways that I never have before.  Again, with a skim-through of all my blog posts, it's evident that God is present in my life in a way that He wasn't when I began the blog.  For one thing, I hardly ever mention God or my belief system or Christianity in the early posts, and now I don't think I go a single post without mentioning it in some form or another.  It may turn some people off, but that's also okay.  To me, that really illustrates that I have a deeper relationship with the God that I longed to know as I child.  The faith, trust, belief and inherent happiness that I have from that relationship is what's important in my growth and learning.  GETTING TO KNOW GOD BETTER: Check!

As for recognizing red flags, I think I've gotten much better at it.  I also have learned that I can't "fix" anyone or expect them to change.  The problem I've still got to work on is cutting things off as soon as I recognize the red flags or dealbreakers.  HB took me over three years.  The Michelin Man took me five months.  Like I mentioned earlier: let's hope each time is exponentially shorter.  Or let's just hope I have the right man in my life the next time.  RECOGNIZING RED FLAGS: Check!  BOOTING OUT THE DEALBREAKERS: Getting there.

The "Don't"s I managed to Not Do:  No online dating. No sex. No getting together with an ex.  No physical dating.  DON'T accept dates.  DON'T give out your phone number.   

All right!  I did have some successes.  No more self-flagellation - I actually stuck to it pretty well.  The physical stuff was mostly easy...but then again, I know that for me it's always the emotional stuff.

The "Do"s I managed to Actually Do:  DO try new places, with friends or on your own.  DO find a new hobby.  DO delete numbers of guys that you no longer see.  DO tell guys who try to slip back into your life that you're not interested.  DO surround yourself with good friends - and rid your life of enablers.

I took ballroom dancing lessons.  I took a trip to California on my own.  I managed to get rid of the last emotional pull of HB.  I went out with friends more often and turned to them when the going got tough.

You know what?  Even if I've been fairly hard on myself from time to time for the things that I didn't manage to stick to while on this hiatus, I actually see that I've done a pretty good job.  I do believe I have accomplished what I intended and hoped to, even if the trail was a bit bumpy, and I'm starting to feel as though I am ready to start going out on dates again (actually I'm really really looking forward to a date or it bad that I've already started editing my old PoF profile so that I can put it back online on August 10th??).  The difference is that now I just want to date to get to know a few people and have some fun.  I'm not going to rush into anything.  But...(and here's another hint:) the latest twist in my life is a resurrection from the past; a certain person has popped up and I am finding that I would like to get to know him all over who knows: maybe I won't be having too many of those dates after all.  But that is a story for another day...and there are 29 more of those to go.

Counting down!


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Tomorrow Will Worry About Itself

Day 326
39 Days Remaining

You may recall my desperate post from October of last year, when everything was falling apart and I felt completely overwhelmed.  My tenants all gave their notice and it looked as though I would be homeless by the following month.  My daughter was having repeat surgery on her feet.  Custody issues were going to court and I was having to face my children`s father in what was rapidly becoming an overly emotional state - which had not served me well the last time we met in court.  And to top it all off, I had an accident that ended up giving me second-degree burns and required an ambulance, a trip to the emergency room, burn dressings, and a week off school, during which I missed my midterm exams.  It felt as though everything was falling completely apart right beneath me.
Okay, maybe not this dramatic...but it can feel like it sometimes.
That dreary and panicky October was a turning point for me.  It was in that time of darkness and uncertainty that I really recognized that there was nothing much left for me to do but simply trust and let God carry me.  I did pray, both for help and for direction, but I was terrified. I had to learn to let go completely of the worry, do whatever practical things I could do to help my situation, and simply believe that I would be taken care of.  The Bible verse that I consistently return to in times of trouble reassured me: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)   To me this verse is a reminder that there is a greater purpose to my life than just to suffer through whatever is handed to me.  It's a reminder that I will get through and that I will be better for it, and that something more wonderful will be waiting when it's all over.  Even though at the time I found it difficult to believe that things were going to turn out and that I would come out the other side of that difficult month unscathed, I had to hold on to it or I would have fallen apart completely.  I cried along to a particular song by Mandisa on the radio every time it came on, trying desperately to believe her words: When the waves are taking you under / Hold on just a little bit longer / He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger / The pain ain't gonna last forever / And things can only get better / Believe me / This is gonna make you stronger (oh, how I bawled...and it wasn't even that Katy Perry time of month!).  I tried so hard to believe that I would come through it as a stronger person, but at the time it was so difficult to imagine that there would ever be a time without pain and difficulty.  

Every time the panic would hit, I would take a deep breath and remind myself that God had my back and that He wasn't going to let me fall.  I would sing a little bit of "Stronger" to myself or I would quote myself that favorite Bible verse.  I would get on the Internet and search for new places to live, or new roommates, or applications for subsidized housing, or reassuring quotes - anything that would help me to feel as though I was doing what I could to move forward.  And I learned to trust, and I slowly gained a sense of peace.

And wouldn`t you know it: things worked out just fine.  My daughter sailed through her surgery.  The custody hearing went very well (I managed to keep a cool head and we both ended up happy with how it had gone).  I decided to put an ad online for a new roommate for one weekend only, to see if it would get any bites, and found a great roommate within an hour of posting the ad (well, that was Fig, so maybe it wasn't the greatest situation...but it was a good temporary solution and served us well until the house sold last month and I moved into my new home).  My landlord lowered the rent.  My burn healed well, and I managed to get all my midterms caught up on.  Everything had fallen into place.

Since that time, I have found that there is a significant change in my thinking.  I no longer spend entire nights tossing and turning when financial worries or worries about my children and family kick in.  Along with the innate sense of joy (in life; in God; in people) that I feel deep inside has come an innate peacefulness.  It's so nice; I can't even explain how nice it is to just have complete and utter faith that everything will work out the way it is supposed to.  I can trust that I will be looked after because every single time I have needed help with a difficult situation, something miraculous has happened that has saved my butt.  Of course I always do whatever I can to work toward a better end, but I don't waste time worrying about it.  (And if you will indulge me one more Bible verse - I know this blog post may be coming across a bit preachy, but trust me: I have a further point and I am getting to it! - I always like to quote Luke 12:25:  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?) Worrying gets me nowhere but mired in further anxiety.  Worrying wastes the time that I could be using to try to solve my problems.  Most importantly: worrying is not going to change the outcome.  What will happen is going to happen, so why should I spend the time leading up to that outcome in panic?

So here is the point that I finally realized the other day: If I can so completely and totally trust that God will bring into my life what I need, and will take care of my home and family and finances, then why in the world can I not entrust the development of my relationships to him?  Why have I wasted so much time feeling like I will always be alone?  Why have I tried too hard in relationships that are obviously going nowhere?  Why do I try to pick apart all the red flags that so quickly become obvious when I attempt to get to know the wrong man?  I wish that I could just sit back, trust that I will meet the right one, and do the work I need to do in order to be the right woman.  The year off; this blog and all the reflecting I am doing - as well as the mistakes I'm making and the restitution I have attempted - they are all part of that work.  Yet, in some way, it represents a whole lot of worry about a future that is inevitable.  I don't want to spend so much time analyzing everything.  I just want to enjoy my life, and the people that are in it, as it is now, and look forward to whatever will end up happening in it.
I want to trust that God has my future relationship in His hands and that He will bring it to me when I am ready.  I want that peacefulness in my heart so that I can just sit back and say, "Someday I will find the man who will be right for me, and I will recognize him."  In the meantime, I have to be able to recognize the ones who are not the right man, and - more difficult - I have to let them go.

So, on that note, here we go: finally, I can admit to myself - and to all of you: In all likelihood, the Michelin Man will not be the man for me.  I know this is most likely true, and I have known it for quite a long time.  He probably will not be the man I marry.  Slowly but surely, I am letting the hope I had for that possibility die.  And it's all right.  While I believe his intentions are good, there are too many things in his life that mean I believe I would end up short-changed if we were to attempt a relationship.  It's been nearly five months now, and we have yet to meet, and the reasons (excuses? I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn't really matter) are all on his end.  We are still in touch with each other, but I have pulled back, and truthfully, he's been too busy to really notice much of my disconnect, and that has really sealed it for me.  I still want it - yes, I still see him as an important figure in my life, and I long for us to push things further once I am done my hiatus - but perhaps it`s just not the right time, for either of us.  Any other red flags I may have mentioned in the past aside, if a man is too busy to notice whether I'm there or not, then he's not the man I'm going to share my life with.  A relationship, especially in its beginning stages, requires a lot of effort.  A long-distance relationship requires even more effort.  He - whether for legitimate reasons or simply because he cares more about other things than about working on the possibility of an "us" - is not showing me (perhaps is not able to show me) a level of effort that convinces me that we would be happy if we ever actually managed to get together.  Well, he might be happy, but I know I wouldn't.  And I'm the only one I really have to worry about in this scenario, aren't I?

Boiled down: I want to trust and relax into the knowledge that I will find the man I am supposed to be with, and continue to work on myself.  I want to become content with the possibility that I may never marry again, and find joy and peace in the future that I am building for myself and my children.  I think the recognition of my longing for that peacefulness is Step 1 toward finding it.

And life will unfold, exactly as it is meant to.


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

In My Rearview Mirror (or: Hello Again, HB)

Day 306
59 Days Remaining

Every so often an opportunity comes your way and you wonder if it would be wise to take it.  Sometimes it would be best to let it go by the wayside.  Other times, it makes sense to just take a deep breath, steel yourself, and jump in to see what happens.

Such an opportunity came up a couple of weeks ago for me.  Chica, a good friend of mine, was packing up to move back to her old home on the mainland, and asked if I could help her out by driving her car across on the ferry while she drove the loaded moving van.  A free trip to Vancouver (normally $50+ each way just for the vehicle, and paying $16 for each passenger on top of that) sounded good to me!  I agreed, as long as it was all right for my young son, Number 3, to come along.  She was happy to have him join us, especially since her two cats would be in crates in the backseat and she knew my sweet kiddo would be a calming influence for them during the trauma of a long drive and unfamiliar setting.

Vancouver skyline
I realized that this free trip to Vancouver could also offer me the opportunity - if I desired - to see HB.  And when I realized that, I took a step outside of myself to examine how I felt about that possibility.  HB and I stopped talking after we last saw each other at the end of December, but over the last couple of months since my trip to California we have occasionally sent a text message (I sent him a photo from Reality Rally of me with Phillip Sheppard - the Specialist himself - from Survivor; HB loved him on that show and was awed that I got to meet him).  We have reached a point where I felt there was no harm in tepid contact here and there.  Of course, I always double-check how I'm feeling about it, but I have even gotten to the point where there is just nothing left there; perhaps I still feel some remnants of affection, but even that feels as though it is being seen through a screen or felt through a filter.  He is someone I used to care about a lot, but I was fairly sure that I would be okay if I saw him.  I sent him a quick text asking if he wanted to do dinner with Number 3 and myself when I was in town.

It's funny to really recognize how much I have gotten over him.  I remember the days when I would send a text and wait anxiously for one in return.  I would have moments of panic if he didn't respond immediately, or if he didn't respond the way I had hoped or expected that he would. If my text ringtone would sound, my heart would start beating faster, hoping it was a message from him.  This time, after I sent the message, I went about my business and promptly forgot that I had sent anything at all.

I didn't tell anyone that I had contacted HB, and I know that it was because I was worried about the backlash and the worry flurry that I am used to from my friends when it comes to him and my tender feelings.  Chica and I initially met through HB, as he was good friends with both her and her husband, so she had been there and watched the whole story evolve...and erupt.  She had been there for me through our first breakup, and our second, and our third...and she staunchly supported me as I worked through getting past him.  I always like to say that at least one good thing came of my relationship with HB, and that is my friendship with Chica.  Stoney, of course, has also seen and heard it all as I let HB have my heart time and time again.   I knew that she would understand if I told her I might see HB – both of them would – but I also knew that they would likely both worry about my vulnerability to him and his charms.  I was fairly sure I could handle this on my own, but I knew that if I felt conflicted about it at any time, I could ask either one of them for advice and would get solid, constructive help if I needed it.  I didn't feel I needed it quite yet.  So I kept my silence for the time being and continued to reflect on whether seeing him would be a good idea, or a foolhardy one.

When HB wrote back in enthusiastic agreement to getting together for dinner, expressing how much he looked forward to seeing me and Number 3 and imagining how big my little boy must be by now, I read his text and then checked my heart rate (no, not literally).  There appeared to be no physiological reaction whatsoever to either his text or the thought of seeing him – no racing pulse; no thumping heart; no gasps for breath.  No immediate need to throw up, either, so I came to the conclusion that I would be all right if I saw him again.  The realization that I didn't really care whether I saw him or not gave me some curiosity, as though I was looking at a specimen under a microscope and observing no visible reaction.  Hm, I thought; Interesting.  If it worked out to meet for dinner, I decided, we would do so.

The day before we planned to leave, I casually mentioned the possibility of dinner with HB to my son.  He lit up, and that was the absolute deciding factor for me.  HB and my younger son (who met him when he was only 7, and had him as a presence in his life for three years) had a special relationship.  HB looked at my son as the perfect model for his own future children; indeed, he told me that the main reason he wanted to have children of his own was because he was so in love with my little guy.  Number 3 looked at HB as a good pal and a role model, someone he could respect and look up to.  The two of them had always had a special bond, and when the three of us would hang out together I was often left in the dust as they played their silly little games with the energy only little boys (and grown-up little boys) have.  So, for me, seeing Number 3 so excited at the thought of seeing his old pal – and having also noted HB's pleasure at the prospect – meant that I would do everything I could to make it happen if it was at all possible.  I texted HB back, and we arranged to meet at his work on Saturday afternoon when he wrapped up his twelve-hour shift.  He would take us out for dinner, and then drive us back to the ferry to head back home as walk-on passengers.

For me, the most telling moments were not my own reactions to thoughts of or texts from HB.  The moments of highest impact were the ones when I finally told my friends that I planned to see HB.  There were no wary headshakes, no warnings to guard my heart, no admonishments against placing myself directly in the line of fire.  I told Chica as we loaded up the moving van that I was going to head to meet HB for dinner directly after we unloaded at her new home, and she accepted the news with a nod, telling me simply that she'd make sure I got on the right SkyTrain to get to the police station where he now works.  She didn't even ask if I thought I would be okay or if this really was a good idea.  The same thing happened when I texted Stoney from the ferry terminal as we sat in the lineup – no reaction of surprise, worry or caution.  When I asked her about it, she said that she no longer worried about me when it came to HB; she knew that I had grown enough to deal with any emotions that might come up, and she also felt that I had worked through those old emotions enough to be strong enough to see him.  She did suggest that he might try to lure me back in, but also reiterated that she believed that I could handle that.  My friends' faith in my strength and in the knowledge that HB is truly now in my past made me feel really good about the decision to see him, and even more certain that I would be able to handle whatever may happen.

Number 3 and I met HB outside his work and climbed into his shiny new car.  HB looked just the same, but it didn`t rock my heart; it was simply pleasant to see his smile at seeing us and how happy Number 3 was to be strapped into the back of HB`s "cool" Mercedes.  It was just like old times between the two of them, and I'm sure HB also felt it was like old times between us - two great friends hanging out, enjoying each other's company, and sharing a tasty meal and some comfortable casual conversation.  But for me, something had definitely been released that January day when I wrote my goodbye letter to HB - the letter I never sent, but wrote in a furious rant in my desperation to purge him from my system, and shared with my blog readers.  I felt much more relaxed and free than I ever did during the three years I fought to figure out where I stood with HB, because now, finally, I know exactly where I stand, and that it's not up to him.  It was up to me all along, and when I finally made that decision for myself, I let go of every expectation I ever had of him.  I`m glad that I took the chance to spend some time with him so that I could know for sure that The Story of HB is now fully and completely wrapped up.

When HB dropped us off at the ferry terminal, he gave me a long, familiar hug and kissed my cheek and my neck like he used to do, but it didn`t feel as though he was trying to get anything out of me, or to pull me back in.  It just felt as though he was expressing affection in the best way that he knew how.  I gave him a little extra squeeze, and took Number 3`s hand, and we walked into the terminal as Number 3 and HB sent each other frantic and delighted waves of farewell.

And then I went back to my life, leaving HB in my figurative rearview mirror...exactly where he now belongs.


Sunday, 9 June 2013

I'm Not Who I Was

Day 304
61 Days Remaining

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I had a different life than I have now.  I was married.  I had three young children and was an exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed stay-at-home mother.  I had a completely different set of friends and did completely different things and enjoyed completely different things.  I certainly would never have imagined that I, the girl who was terrified of hospitals and couldn't handle driving past graveyards, would end up working with the elderly and dying, and washing deceased bodies to prepare them for their families to view.  Nor would it have occurred to me, as a completely right-brained artistic and dramatic person, that I would ever end up getting a 95% in Math (when I finally managed to finish it, as an adult learner) or attempting to earn a Bachelor's degree in Science.

Yes, my life was filled with many things that are completely different from what I now fill my days with.  One of those things was my best friend, Lori.

Lori and I were the closest of best friends.  I felt as though I knew her inside and out.  We loved to talk and laugh and play with the kids; she didn`t yet have any of her own and adored mine, even babysitting for them on occasion so that my husband and I could enjoy some time alone.  We both loved to act and talked about our dreams to one day star in a film that would change modern cinema and have huge impact on its viewers.  Occasionally, we had the chance to do background work for a movie when a film crew would come into town, and it felt as though our dreams would eventually be realized.  She was a true friend to me, supporting me through all the difficult days as a young mother, and listening whenever marital problems reared their ugly heads.  Her Christianity was an inspiration to me; although I considered myself to be a Christian, Lori had been raised in the church, with a large and happy family, and whose parents were still together.  I longed for the stability and love that Lori had in her life, especially as my marriage was getting to feel as though it was on rockier and rockier ground.  I could see that Lori had a real relationship with God, and although I had followed my husband and accepted his faith and brought it into my own life, I couldn't make that connection with Him in the personal way that Lori so obviously had.  Her trust and faith and genuineness shone out from her.  I loved her with all that was in me.  At least, I thought I did.

For as I asked myself many, many times over the next several years, how could I love someone so very much, and still betray her?

It's so hard to look back on that time, so many years ago, and be able to accurately describe what happened and what led up to that point.  I feel as though I can't outright say what happened between us, for more than one reason: for one, it doesn`t do anyone any good to rehash it; for another, it feels so far removed from me that I literally have a difficult time believing that I was capable of causing anyone - especially someone whom I loved so deeply - such pain.  However, the past cannot be changed, and the fact remains: I did hurt Lori.  I hurt her in a way that wounded her so deeply, I thought she could never forgive me.  And our friendship was instantly, irretrievably, cut off.  Through the selfishness and thoughtless actions that were almost par for the course to me in those days, I lost one of the people who meant the most to me in the entire world.

After Lori discovered my betrayal of our friendship, she immediately stopped speaking to me.  As much pain as that caused me, I knew that she was in a tremendous amount of pain herself, and I longed to reach out to her.  For the first while, I stopped myself, knowing that I needed to give her space, but as the days turned into weeks and then the weeks into months, I found myself creating several fantasies of how we would find each other again.  She would forgive me, I knew it.  She would understand that there was something crazy going on in my head (for although I was still several years away from my Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, I had felt for a long time as though I was in the control of something other than just myself) and she would open her arms and welcome me back into her life.  She missed me just as much as I missed her.  There was nothing that could not be forgiven.  On and on I went in my mind, certain that somehow, I could make this better.  At times, completely illogically, I found that I was feeling angry with her for not being able to understand how much pain I, myself, was in...and the reasons why I had it in me to do what I had done.  She was my best friend - shouldn`t she understand?  Shouldn't she "get" me, and forgive me as a matter of course?

But what I knew most of all was that even if I never got forgiveness from Lori, I needed to forgive myself, and I needed forgiveness from God for what I had done and how I had placed myself above everyone who was dear to me.  I prayed and I stretched my spirit out, longing to feel that connection, longing to believe that God was there and that He would absolve me of all my sins.  I read my Bible and tried to understand what it was within in me that had brought me to this place of misery, and how I could possibly turn my life around and never be that kind of person again.  I finally put pen to paper and wrote Lori a letter of apology, praying as I wrote it that God would keep my heart sincere and that I was not just writing it in order to make things right between myself and Lori and bring them back to where they had been.  I did not want to manipulate her into accepting me back into her life; I wanted to be open, honest and completely straightforward in what I said to her.  I honestly wanted to recognize my responsibility for hurting her so badly, and to tell her how sorry I was for the devastation it had caused her.  I poured out my heart, confessed my sins and apologized as well as I could for her pain, and  asked her for her forgiveness.  I told her that I was trying so hard to see God in my life and that I had asked Him to forgive me, and that I knew that despite everything in me that was still wrong, I knew that I was forgiven.  I wrote, I prayed, I mailed it, and I tried to move on, and began the long, slow, difficult process of making changes in myself and in my life.

A few weeks later, a letter arrived in the mail.  My hands shook as I recognized the handwriting and realized that it was from Lori.  I opened the letter with my heart slamming against my sternum; the anticipation and panic almost caused me to throw the letter in a pile to open later.  But I forced myself to see what she had written, and it was with a grateful heart that I saw that Lori, even in her pain, had done her best to understand where I was coming from and to tell me that yes, she believed that I was being sincere and not just trying to have the last word.  The tears in my eyes became heaving sobs as I read that she had forgiven me, wholly and completely...but she would prefer not to hear from me again.

I had grown enough that I recognized that this was a gift, and that it was enough.  Lori's forgiveness was all I really needed; of course my heart longed for her friendship, as well, but I knew that it could never be the same again.  My heart was lighter after receiving Lori's letter, and I was able to move on.  As time went by and I dealt with other things - namely, the breakup of my marriage and all the other difficulties that brought with it - I had to allow myself to let go of Lori and what could have been.  I knew that the loss was my own fault, and I kept Lori and her family in my prayers. I still think of her fairly often.

There is a song on the Christian radio station that has been played on occasion over the past few years, and every time I hear it, it makes me think of Lori and our lost friendship.

I wish you could see me now; I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I'm not who I was

I was thinkin' maybe I
Should let you know
That I am not the same
That I never did forget your name

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was... 
I know how very much I have changed.  The past seven years have brought so much growth and pain that I cannot even imagine being the person that I was all those years ago.  Sometimes I wish that I could run into Lori so that she could see, she could know, that I am not who I was.  That I am no longer that person who had the capability to hurt her so deeply.  That no matter what, there is no way that I would ever allow anyone to ever cause her pain the way that I caused her pain.  And that I am so, so very sorry.

A couple of months ago, somehow, I ran across a video of Lori that had been made very recently.  In the video, Lori, her husband, and their three young children were playing and laughing together.  After the initial shock of seeing her after all this time came the longing to talk to her and to hug her.  Then came the pain at seeing her beautiful children and knowing that I had deprived myself of ever getting to meet and know them.  The tears came down as I watched my beautiful former friend...and I could see that she is happy.  As much as I long to know her again, as much as I wish that she could see who I am now, more than that is the joy in knowing that she has a beautiful life and that she has moved on into a today that is better than any of the yesterdays that I was a part of.  My tears of loss for myself melted into tears of joy for her joy.  I knew then that no matter how much I have changed, there is no way that I could ever attempt to make contact with her again.  She gave me forgiveness, and asked for my absence from her life.  It would be completely selfish of me to infiltrate that happiness with all the reminders of what once was.

And almost as though it had been pre-ordained, a few days later I was flipping through a book I hadn't lifted off my shelf in a long time, and a folded letter fell from it.  Again the tears pricked my eyes and my heart jumped as I realized this was Lori's letter to me from shortly after I wrote her.  The handwritten words wavered as I re-read it through a shocked waterfall of tears, but it felt almost as though everything had finally come full circle.  I didn't know at the time, and maybe Lori hadn't known either, but her words to me were prophetic.  As I stood in my comfortable home, a happy woman learning more about myself every day and moving toward an amazing future with a great career, feeling so much closer to God than I ever have and longing to find ways to serve Him and get to know Him better, I read what Lori had written to me so long before:

"What you were was a sinful, wicked woman.  What you are now is fully forgiven.  What you will become is yet to be determined."

I can look at who I was then and know that I am no longer that woman who could betray her best friend.  What I have become is so much more than I was back then.  There is still so much room for me to become much more of a whole person, but I know I'm on my way.  I am so grateful for everything that has happened in my life that has brought me to where I am now, and somehow I know that Lori would be pleased if she knew how hard I've tried, and how hard I continue trying.  And that's enough for me.

 I'm Not Who I Was (C) Brandon Heath, 2007 Provident Music Group LLC

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

30 x 10 = 82%

DAY 300
65 Days Remaining

I've got lots of thoughts to share with you all (often I'll find myself composing paragraphs in my head and hoping that I'll remember them when it comes to blog posting time), but I've been back to being busy as all get out.  Tomorrow, especially, is a very long day: I've got practicum from 6:45 until 1pm, then a training session for work from 1:30 until 3:30, and then actual work from 4:30 to 9:30.  Never let it be said that I am lazy!
Actually, today, knowing what kind of day awaits me tomorrow, "lazy" is exactly what I attempted to be.  After practicum I went and had a nice relaxed visit with Stoney, then spent some time just sitting around the house, telling myself I needed to save up all my energy for tomorrow.  But I had stripped the bed this morning (as soon as my alarm rang I sat up and began stripping pillowcases from right under my head, and pulled the fitted sheet off the corners of the bed until I was smack dab in the middle of a small mountain of linen and had to get up and throw them in the wash), so it needed new sheets.  And I need to eat tomorrow, so an hour or so in the kitchen preparing all the meals and snacks I'll need (so I can throw them into the cooler to enjoy all day) was essential.  And the bicycle repair shop called to say my bike is now roadworthy after languishing in the basement for the past two years, so I had to go get it and ride it home.  And of course the sheets from this morning were washed, along with two other loads of laundry, so I had to fold it.  And now, of course, the blog needs to be updated.  So while I was trying to be lazy, I actually got a lot accomplished, and it felt a lot better than sitting on my bottom all day.  It also had the added benefit of getting me really tired, ready to wind down the day and get to bed fairly soon.

So why, on top of all the other things that I had to do today (oh yes; I also stopped by the high school to bring my tired hard-working oldest child a coffee so that she could make it through her very long day), am I feeling the need to update the blog?  Well, check out the counter at the top of the page:  I am at Day 300 of my year away from dating.

copyright Sara Parets photography
Day 300!!!  I can`t believe it!  I`m 82.2% of the way through this year.  It`s impossible to really articulate all the things that I have learned this year.  Although I can see myself falling back into some old habits, the most important part about that statement is the part where I said "I can see myself".  I am now recognizing these tendencies more than I might have three hundred days ago.  Deciding what to do about them, well; that might be another story.  I'm definitely nowhere near infallible after 300 days of blogging, self-reflection, and dealing with my emotions, but I'm closer to being able to more quickly get myself out of situations that might not be best for me.  I'm hoping I'm healthier.  I'm definitely happier, and that will be addressed in my next blog post.  In the meantime, I wanted to take a few minutes before bed (my self-imposed deadline is 10:00 and that is in one minute) to celebrate another milestone, and to share it with all of you.  As soon as I can relax a little bit, I'll be heading straight back to my keyboard to talk about contentment, faith, and relaxing into my future.  At least, that's the plan.  I'll probably think of seventeen million other topics I want to address before I actually get the chance to write them.  But there are still sixty-five days left for me to talk about all the other things on my mind.

Ready for bed...and a minute past my deadline...


Sunday, 26 May 2013

Rum & Coke Musings (or: Friends Don't Let Friends Blog Drunk)

Day 290
75 Days Remaining

It's not usual, these days, for me to sit down and work on blogging two days in a row.  It is also not usual for me to begin a blog post when I have no real idea what I want to say, or a basic sense of the format in which I want to say it.  But the weekend is over, the kids are at their dad's (I have an early start for my practicum tomorrow morning), and I've downed a rum & Coke rather too quickly, so here I am...with some rum & Coke musings for you.  Be warned: I have no idea what I'm going to say, so this may shape up to be either the most boring post of the lot, or the most interesting one of all.  Perhaps I should pour myself another one (I'm seriously a lightweight when it comes to the stuff) and we'll see what kind of nutso garbage comes out of my fast-typing fingers when I'm a little north of tipsy!

Okay.  I have returned from the kitchen and here are the top three things on my mind:

One: Rum & Cokes made with the amazing Bermuda black rum that my landlord left in the cupboard (hey, he lives in Bermuda; I'm sure he can get more over there) are really quite delicious.

Two: Why did my son's freakin' dog have to puke twice and poop once on the carpet the first day he actually spent some time in the new house, and why does the carpet stain remover seem to be actually changing the color of the carpet and making it look worse than the puke and poop did?

Three: Somebody needs to take that garbage out.  It reeked when I walked down the stairs (well, at least it did until the automatic air freshener poofspat some lovely vanilla scent into the air).  Why don't I have someone to do that for me?  

How long has it been since I've had a man in my life who actually took the garbage out for me?  I mean, I don't necessarily subscribe to the idea that it's a man's job (if I did, my house would sure smell a whole lot worse than it does right now) but it sure would be nice to have that.  It's not the garbage, of course; it's everything.  I miss being in a partnership.  Actually, I don't think I've ever had a real partnership.  Not the kind I long for, anyway.

I'm thinking back on my posts throughout this blog and I'm glad to say there haven't been too many when I've lamented the lack of a man in my life.  My most-read post is Love in the Petting Zoo (at last count, 837 pageviews, which I couldn't for the life of me understand until a friend pointed out that people think it's a pornographic post.  Yay me - not).  In that post, I got a little more sappy than I usually do in this blog, and I really think out of the entire 73 posts that I've made thus far, it's probably the only one (with the possible exception of But Don't You Miss SEX?!?) where I really talked about how much I miss being one half of a whole. whole with someone else.  Or something like that.  This rum is yum.

But why not be honest about that???? Yes, I'm happy that I've taken the time to be on my own.  Yes, I'm thrilled with some of the things I've learned about myself and about God and about men and what I want/need/don't want/definitely must stay away from...but my bed is still empty.  And it's been empty for a long, long time.  I'm lonely for that special someone who will always be there for me.  I miss the days of fighting over bed covers and arguing over who would get up with the kids in the morning.  I miss having flowers delivered to my place of work and grinning at my co-workers in delight because I belong to someone (okay, that only happened once, but still).  I love being part of a partnership.  I've waited a long time and I've spent too much energy and emotion on people who just weren't the right ones for me.  (Does it still count as "waiting" when you're focusing too much on the wrong person and pretending that the quasi-semi-pseudo relationship he's allowing you to have with him is a real one, when you know deep down inside that it definitely isn't?  Probably I've wasted, not just waited, a long time.)  And I know that I'm likely to wait a whole lot longer and that SUCKS.  Sometimes, at least.  It really does.

In church this morning they asked, as they always do, for prayer requests.  I put up my hand and asked that my fellow believers would pray for me in the area of patience - specifically, when it comes to relationships.  I'm such a romantic that I still believe that my knight in shining armor (dented armor, sure, but it shines real good when you polish it) is hanging out just around the corner, and every guy who expresses interest in me has the potential to be that guy.  That's not to say that I don't have more discernment than I used to; I certainly have an easier time sorting the wheat from the chaff.  The muck from the melons.  What does that even mean?  I think I just made up a new expression but I kind of like it - except that it does not pertain to me, since I can't stand melons.  I also like the new word I came up with in the fifth paragraph from the top: "poofspat".  Yeahhhaahh, that has a nice ring to it.  Well, that is what those air freshener thingies do, isn't it?  They "poofspit"?  Anyway, I feel as though I've spent so much time being on the lookout for someone who would fulfill my Prince Charming wishlist.

So I asked for patience.  Part of me is scared that I will actually receive patience, and then it will take that much longer for my future husband to come to me, simply due to the fact that I'm not parked around the corner stalking him and cooking him really enticing meals in order to lure him in!  Yet, in my situation now, and in general - because it has always been something I struggle with - most of me really does want patience.  And of course, it has to do with being on a dating hiatus (and, let's face it, just trying to date in general in this town!), but more than that, it has to do with my Michelin Man.  I'm falling for him more every day and it's...really nice.  But he's so far away and I don't know when I'll get to see him.  Plus, even if I got to see him tomorrow, we're still thousands of miles and three years of classes away from being able to find a real way to be together, if that's what we decide to do.  So patience - whether I'm still waiting for my dented prince (am I mixing metaphors? who cares; I'm slightly inebriated), or if Mitch Michelin is that prince and I've already found him - is an absolute necessity.  And I don't want to wait much longer to fight over the covers with someone!  And I definitely don't want to wait much longer for him to take out the disgusting kitchen garbage.  Come on, baby; get over here and take my garbage out.

Incidental Aside: Hey, I learned something new after my post two posts back: The Michelin Man actually has a name: it's Bibendum.  Apparently that is common knowledge in the UK, but I had no idea what it meant when a friend of mine - in a private message commenting on said post - referred to Mitch as Bibendum.  I had to Google it to find out what he was talking about!  I would change the name and start calling Mitch "Bibendum" if I didn't think it would confuse people too much...but I might just start calling him Bibendum on occasion, just for the fun of it.  It's a fun word: say it a few times.  Bibendum.  Bibendum.  (If it doesn't seem very fun, go drink two rum & Cokes - or, if you're not a lightweight like I am, it may take a few more extra strength ones - and then try again.  I promise it will be more entertaining.  Send me a video of yourself saying Bibendum over and over while drunk.  Hee hee.)

Dog puke.  Garbage.  Stretching my leg over onto the cold empty side of the bed when I should be meeting the warm fuzzy leg of the man who loves me (Bibendum Bibendum Bibendum...maybe).  Loving words through Facebook or text message or email that tell me that I mean something to someone...but the emptiness of the air when I shut my eyes and wish for a kiss.  These things make patience very, very difficult to come by.  But still, I ask for it, and I know that someday I will be rewarded for it.

This blog post brought to you by Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum...and a happy heart that still aches to be a little less lonely, and needs to express it every once in a while.