As U2’s “With or without you” is playing in the background, I am thinking about a conversation I had with a friend earlier. It takes incredible courage (in my opinion) to open up your heart to love. As with anything, there are absolutely no guarantees, and I have learned the hard way that there is no security in a relationship, in a marriage. I remember when that “trust”, that “innocence” was broken with me. 10+ years into a marriage for him to end it with a woman 16 years his junior. Today I could not care less, he did me a huge favor, but at the time I dramatically felt like my life was over…. far from it.
Sometimes when I am lonely I think about what it would be like to meet someone, to fall in love, after all, single life has it’s ups and downs. I remember a line out of “When Harry Met Sally”…..forgive me if I don’t get this correctly, I’m rusty… Sally and her (old) boyfriend don’t want children or commitment because they could have sex wherever they wanted… in the kitchen…etc., and then one point in the movie she said “But the thing is, we never DID have sex in the kitchen, or any of the places we said we could!” Ultimately learning that he didn’t want to marry her and her probably not being fully honest with herself. At any rate, single life, I can do whatever I want, when I want. I can paint until the wee hours of the morning, I can leave messes and clean them up later, on and on and on. While these things are true, and I enjoy the freedom of such, it doesn’t make up for someone holding your hand, sharing time together.
One seminar I taught this year I asked a group of approximately 20-25 women how many were single and lived alone, and was shocked to find 3/4’s of the room raise their hands. I guess there is nothing special about my singlehood!
In a conversation with a friend recently I shared about loneliness. I shared how I have to keep myself busy, or my mind heads to dark places, places in which I shouldn’t nor can allow myself to go. Just like years, decades ago when I thought my life was over when my marriage ended, today I shake my head and laugh at that. Of course it didn’t help that he was threatening to sell the house on me…believe it or not, I was a sliver of the person I am today, experience gave me that. But then I would sit in my spot, like a good wife, waiting for him to decide if he was coming home or not. My girlfriend, Janice said to me one day “How long are you going to do this, Donna?” My answer? “As long as I need to do this”. It was only a couple months after that when I stood up for myself, realized he couldn’t sell the house out from under me because my name was on it! Fuck you! I started to fight back, to fight for my life, I didn’t know which direction I was or wanted to go, but I had valuable knowledge. I knew where I DIDN’T want to go! I was done being a door mat. I remember very well the day I went to my ex-husband’s employment where both he and his girlfriend worked. I asked to speak to him. He came out, looked at me with anger, an attitude of “how dare I come to his place of employment?” The only words I had to say to him were…. “I want a divorce!” Man did that feel good! Well, after that for several weeks he started finding excuses to stop by the house, etc., but it was too late. Go with your little girl, go away, leave me be. I started to be proactive with my life, I quit my job with reasonably good pay, went to a job at minimum wage which was $6 an hour. I didn’t care. I was starting over and I wanted to entertain, to try my hand at living a creative existence, believing in the talents that time allowed me only to do a few hours a week, or month. After all, married life is different from singles life. Now I eat when I want, then that wasn’t “allowed”. Yes, when I think about how controlled I was, allowed myself to be I can no longer identify with that person. As I started to break outside of his “safe circle” the marriage started to disintegrate. I started to design in needlecraft for Leisure Arts & McCall’s and because I was working full time, too, and the majority of our marriage carried the insurance, I was tired of being told that I didn’t need television, although when he wanted to watch a football game I can remember how he went out of his way to fix the antenna so it came through for him. My first royalty check was $2,400. I took it upon myself to go and order, buy, a large satellite dish. (Remember them?) Eight years living without cable surely wasn’t the end of the world, but it was something I wanted….. so I got it! This, however, was the beginning to the end.
When I think back on that time I cringe. Poor Jim, the next and last serious relationship I had, paid the piper for the “sins” of his predecessor. No one, particularly a man, was going to tell me what I could or couldn’t do! He caught on quickly though and now as I look back on that, with a smile on my face, I realize he used reverse psychology on me. Too funny.
I used to worry about what would become of me? Where would I end up as I age? I am already feeling physical limitations on what I once was able to do in taking care of my house. I never planned to be single in my 50s, but hey, there are much worse things that could happen. I think about the Golden Girls, when they first started the series I believe they were in their 50’s. My best friend and I have a pact that we will live together, perhaps her sister, and whomever else. The plan is to get a house big enough where each of us have our own bedroom, sitting room, bathroom, and we would share kitchen quarters. Hey, futures have a way of falling down in midflight, perhaps that will never happen but I do know, wherever I end up, I will be okay. I have “started over” a couple times in my life, I can take care of myself. That doesn’t mean I am anti men. Truly not, but I believe in myself today in ways I never thought I could or would ever. I pursued a career in teaching decorative painting. While I cannot and will never be able to say I am the most paid, or the most popular, that is okay. I have accomplished what I had set out to do and that was to be a national teacher. I knew I could do it, and I did it. I am not only a strong woman, a survivor, but I am a determined one! I will be okay!
One positive about having some crappy painful things happen is that you learn what is and isn’t important in life. I no longer live in the fear that I once did. I no longer worry about what tomorrow will bring, as I know I will do my best, and what will be, will be….. Okay, sing with me “The futures not ours to see….” I will be okay.
So, the point of this share today I guess is to start believing in ourselves. Drop the fear, the nervousness about the unknown, pick one thing you want to do for yourself and do it. I have chosen my next journey which I will begin in January with a girlfriend and frankly, I’m excited about it.
Hey, I may have a small home, drive an older jeep, but I love my jeep! And I love my home! I also love (for the most part) what I do for work, when I am able to work. I’m a pretty fortunate woman. God has been good to me, but it didn’t come easily, nor without hard work. This year I started to look at my accomplishments and realized… Wow! I did what I wanted to do! When exactly did that happen? It just happens with perseverance, baby steps. Jeff Olson speaks of consistency, this man has made companies trillions and trillions of dollars with that one principal. Keep showing up!
I shall now retire to the warmth of my bed, fight with my animals for a comfortable spot to sleep. I hope I get a good nights sleep, but if I don’t, I will survive. Tomorrow I will get up and do the best I can of what is in front of me, that is all anyone can ask of me, that is all I can ask of myself. It will be more than good enough because I will give it my all one more day. Gratitude, that I can, mentally, physically, gratitude that I am where I am and unlike many New Englander’s tonight, I have power, heat. Many are without due to an ice storm. Gratitude, gratitude, it truly is an attitude!