I believe, and many spiritual books have said the same thing, that we are exactly where we’re supposed to be at any given time. Sometimes this is a great thought; other times, not so much. I’ve been analyzing where I am right now and the phases I've been through because lately, it’s been a little strange being in this skin. (warning: long post)
Last March 2006, shortly after my husband and I split, I remember this feeling of utter helplessness and vulnerability. I was filled with fear. I had my moments of clarity and I knew I would survive. Still, when I think back, I remember worrying about the house being broken into, being raped, having one of my kids go missing, kidnapped or molested. It was the most awful feeling. I had many dreams of snakes and sharks and running from something. I was so full of mistrust and anxiety.
I started to feel a little better by summer and tried to date a little only to find that I felt guilty about it. I remember a guy trying to kiss me in the front seat of my car and all I could see in my peripheral were car seats in the back. Ugh, it was awful and I was convinced that all men were dogs.
By the fall, I realized that I was starting to fall very deeply for a really good friend of mine. This feeling wasn’t new – I’d had very emotional feelings about this person for many years. I looked at him as safe. He has been my friend for nearly 20 years and cares about me, knows me better than most people, knows my kids, comes from a great family, has a great job, we share similar interests, etc. It looked perfect to me. The problem was, he was already in a steady relationship. Still, he would hint around and we would have very intimate conversations about it, etc. I started to find that I would obsess about being with this person. The more I obsessed, the more uncomfortable I was around him and his girlfriend. It was very tough for me to deal with.
Shortly after Christmas last year, I started dating another very good 20+ year friend of mine. I say dating, when in fact, we had already been spending a lot of time together. My kids adore him and he lives close to me. Let’s just say that after Christmas, some benefits were added to the friendship. We enjoyed a few months together, all the while maintaining our strong friendship. It began to get complicated when I started realizing that my anxiety was still there. I was still concerned about my safety and the safety of my children. I also saw that our "relationship" was going nowhere. This was mostly because I had laid down the gauntlet at the beginning that I wasn’t interested in getting serious. And then when I felt that maybe I was interested, he wasn’t sure what he wanted. There was some strain on our friendship, some misunderstandings, some imaginings on my part, some arguments, some horrible things said, and then a period of silence. Sometime in March, we were able to talk again and (thank God) we cleared up all the confusion and remain great friends (sans benefits) to this day.
All through this past spring and into summer, I went back to obsessing about my other friend – wondering why we couldn’t be together. It seemed so perfect and it was driving me crazy that it wasn’t falling into place the way it should have.
My dad was diagnosed with cancer in April and I found that suddenly, I had something in common with my friend’s girlfriend. Her dad was very ill with the same cancer and so I began to see her as more, um, human. (You know what jealousy does to us – I’ll admit it. I’m not perfect ya know.) Also in mid-summer, I went out with a friend who knows the guy I was obsessing over. She really helped me to see him differently. I also started realizing that he didn’t want the same things in life that I did. In fact, one of the things he loved about his girlfriend was the fact that her children were already grown and had left home. What the hell was I thinking?
So, there I was in mid-summer 2007 and I realized that yes, I felt like dating. I was done obsessing and ready to move on. I went out with some single girls and hated the bar scene. It just felt like I was hanging from a meat hook being inspected by complete strangers who always felt ballsy enough to grope here and there. Er… yuck!
I put a profile out on a few dating sites, per recommendation of some single girlfriends. The problem came when I would actually meet these guys, who looked great in their photos and sounded great in their profiles, only to find that in person, they looked nothing like their (I now realize) 10 year old photos. Sure, I met some really sweet guys but I just didn’t feel any physical connection.
The problem is that I rely on a physical connection. I guess it is unfortunate that any man I have dated and/or been with I felt immediately attracted to. Isn’t that they way it’s supposed to work?
I was also noticing that these guys were not only courting me, but my children as well. I can remember meeting one guy who spent the entire conversation telling me what a good father figure he would be. Ugh. First off, it will be a while, buddy, before you meet my kids. Show me some boyfriend skills before you show me some father skills.
It was also very difficult to date any of these guys because the only time I could really go out was over lunch. I also found that none of them were worth sharing my one weekend night off with.
By August, I was done.
I took down my profiles and decided that I needed to just stop worrying about dating and focus on myself, my kids, my house and my friendships. If it was supposed to happen, it would. It was such a nice free feeling. I felt calm and like a big weight had been lifted off of me. My family and friends kept obsessing about it: “Are you and your ex going to get back together?” “Do you think you’ll ever get married again?” “Do you want to have more kids?”
All I knew was that my husband and I were done, I couldn’t see myself getting married again and I was pretty sure that would mean no more kids. I was planning a simple life with lots of love for just me and my two girls.
Then I went to my high school reunion.
I dressed like a single girl and acted like a single girl and had an absolute blast. This old friend’s name kept being thrown around… people asking about him, where is he now, what is he doing? A mutual friend told us that this person couldn’t make it to the reunion due to a scheduling conflict with a triathlon he was doing in Hawaii.
It was another two weeks before something bugged me enough to find out his contact information and email him.
Within the hour of sending my initial email, I’d already heard back from my soldier. Our email exchange was well, giddy with anticipation. That’s the only way I can think to describe it.
I had no plans of falling for someone and definitely not after hearing that he was deploying to Iraq. But in that moment that I opened my front door and we hugged for what seemed like hours, I knew something here was bigger than all that I was planning.
Which brings us to the present day. My soldier was concerned that he is the first man I have really trusted since separating from my husband. He worries that I haven’t really "put myself out there" to enjoy a single girl’s life. I told him that first of all, it is difficult to do with two small children and second of all, I have never really been a "single girl". But now he’s gone and I have to live my life and continue to go through whatever phases entail "growing up" or "recovering" or "finding out who I am".
So I guess this is what I’m doing. I’m being all single and stuff and having a great time. I’m finding that I’m comfortable enough with men now that I can be myself and not be worried or anxious about what will happen. I’m not concerned about dating but I think it would be fun to go out and have a good time with someone. I could use a little lovin’ too. I enjoy it while its happening.
But I feel so much in my heart for my soldier that when I’m alone and think about that single girl, I’m not sure that it is really me. Or maybe it’s just part of shedding some old skin. Maybe that’s why it feels so odd to me. Its new skin.
It is interesting to look at it all on paper (on screen?) and notice that I had to go through each of those phases and experiences to get to the next one. I do have to wonder what I'm preparing myself for now. What's next?
I have to remember to ride the tides and not try to force anything. Its not like I can anyway. This is just part of my journey. Another adventure on the quest for T.