Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hope on the Horizon

I haven't written in a while. Mostly because I find myself in an odd situation. I've been dating for a little while now and men I've dated or are dating had requested to be Facebook friends. I don't want to inadvertently write something that hurts another's feelings, but at the same time, I don't want to censor myself either. Here's a first foray into unknown waters.

I gave the prospect of dating a great amount of thought. Am I ready? What do I want to gain from this? What kind of person am I looking for? How do you meet someone in today's world? Beyond that, I realize that I have several strikes against me from the other person's point of view. Dating at 40 plus is very different than dating at 20. By this age, we all are carrying around some sort of emotional damage, plus health issues have begun to surface for many. On the upside, we hopefully have established careers, children are in their teens and soon out of the house and we know what we are looking for in a mate. For me, at the top of the list was intelligence, followed by sense of humor. Looks have never really been a factor in choosing a mate for myself. Income level is not a big factor either. I can support myself. I want someone that can bring joy into my life.

The internet has proven to be both a positive and a negative in the dating arena. For a wall flower like me, online dating seemed to be the best option to meet new people. I heard horror stories from others about nut jobs or jerks that they met online. Friends were worried for my safety, but if you have realistic expectations, it's not as bad as they say. I believe it all comes down to being honest. Honest about yourself and about what you are looking for. It's the best way to weed out those not suited for you.

I saw my hematologist today. He had been unaware of Tom's death. After telling him what happened, he was concerned whether I had cut myself off from the world and said maybe I should start thinking about dating and was pleased when I said I was seeing someone. He asked how we met and the response of online dating brought a story about his wife. Right before they met, she had gone on a date where the other person, within minutes, started explaining how they were bipolar and on Lithium. Maybe not the best way to start out a date. Unfortunately I have a similar issue. I live with a chronic illness that requires lifelong plasma infusion treatments. At what point do you bring that up? To make matters more complicated, I've been very open about my illness and a Google search for me quickly leads to the discovery of it…the negative side of our lives on the internet. If I haven't mentioned it beforehand, the date feels deceived, but I don't want to be pre-judged or defined by my illness either. For someone without medical knowledge, it sounds pretty scary and not something they want to have to deal with. This is strike one against me.

Strike two is my widowed status which seems to fall under scary though I don't entirely understand this. Usually this is broached on the first date when I'm eventually asked if I've ever been married or how long have I been divorced. The initial reaction is akin to pity. In subsequent dates this is followed by a feeling that they are somehow being compared to a mythical figure they can never measure up against. Though I avoid bringing him up, they start asking questions, which I answer honestly. I feel that being able to say I had successfully navigated the potentially stormy waters of marriage successfully rather than been sunk in divorce was a bonus. I guess not. Also, as you well know, I blogged extensively about Tom's death and my emotions which helped me tremendously, but it's out there for any date to read. In some respects, I view it as another way to weed out the ones that can't handle it. None of the men I've dated have been widowed. Some were divorced and some never married. I hate stereotyping, but one thing seems to hold true. By the time you are in your forties, if you've never married, there is likely some reason why. Emotional immaturity seems to be at the top of the list. One the flip side though, those divorced are gun shy and approach a relationship like they are walking on glass. Always trying to avoid getting cut. One pattern holds true for both categories…the pullback. I mentioned this to a male work friend who burst out laughing and admitted the truth in it. It goes like this. Everything seems to be going fine and suddenly the e-mails/texts/phone calls stop. They get evasive, cancel dates and provide lame explanations. There is nothing to be done at this point. They either reestablish contact and admit they were suddenly unsure of what they wanted or are gone for good. To think men claim that women are the wishy-washy emotional ones.

As for my personal strike three, it's readily apparent as soon as you pull into my driveway. Five large barking dogs greet you, then you notice various cats dash by and then realize that through all that you also hear the sound of squawking from 3 parrots. Tom and I each had pets when we met and took in several more abandoned and/or abused creatures along the way. For the first time in my life I found myself having to be the bad guy saying, "no we just can't take in another one." They all function as one large pack or flock regardless of species with me as alpha (Turbo dog would disagree with my alpha status). The apparent chaos is certainly something to get used to and many people are barely tolerant of 2 pets let alone 16 total. A match for me has to be an animal lover. That is non-negotiable. After a few dates, one person said the he couldn't help feeling like he was another lost stray I had taken in. That he didn't have as much to offer as I had to give. I was oddly offended by this even though on the surface he was putting himself down not me. Then I gave it some serious thought. He had a point. In my past there was certainly a pattern of connecting to other damaged people, but in regards to my animals, you'd never know their past by their actions now. I've always been able to build trust with them, see past their pain and love them dearly and they return the love in kind. Is it any different with a person? As long as I'm not damaging myself in the process, I don't think it is.

My life so far has not gone according to any kind of normal plan. Thankfully, I never really had a long term plan in mind. Mostly, my planning is based on prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. The key is when the worst does come along, to hang onto the hope.

Sand Dune Crow"
-Oregon Coast
Acrylic on Board
10.5" x 8"
note: dimensions are unframed size
comes framed