Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflections on Being Single…and the Importance of a Clean Plate

Minges Pumpkin Festival with Pete

I am all about full disclosure and so I will say again, what I have said before, in my first book, in my life…to anyone who will listen. I suffer from the painful affliction of being human.  Imperfect, sometimes a hot mess, sometimes a train wreck…and every once in a while, a great big side of awesome!

I find life lessons to be the best way to learn and since we are all in this together, I like to share what I learn (or sometimes fail to notice and learn later).  I am writing my blog and thinking about my life, reflecting on changes over time and what it feels like to be single now as opposed to a much younger self.

You might think that writing about being single is synonymous with dating.  It’s not and this is in no way intended to be advice.  I’m not dating, nor would I consider myself an expert or role model to follow in any aspect of dating…my first instinct has been to avoid, avoid, avoid…well, with little exception, that’s been my first instinct for the first year living single after having lived as part of a married couple for about a decade and a half.

And I’m only half joking in my assessment…because I am a glass half full kind of gal, and I tend to lean towards Mary Poppins (when I’m not stuck on the tracks with another train coming).   But hey, it’s only the first year.  

This isn’t the level of sharing I imagined in my blog, but we’ve moved from 2015 to 2016 since I first talked about my "Civilized, 21st Century Divorce."

And I did promise to share a “to be continued.”  It’s just that my “to be continued” has not moved along as quickly as expected, and life has smacked me down a time or two, and well…to be honest, aside from extracting a spouse from the mix, I’m living pretty much the same way I did before…except…well except for everything.  

It’s an odd thing to try to explain. I feel completely different and yet completely the same.  Pre-divorce, I had the same aspirations and dreams as I have now.  And if I didn’t look closely, I could leave it at that.  But those aspirations and dreams were different through the lens of my previous life.  I’ve spent the past several months trying to pinpoint what feels so different.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a new level of anxiety…a little fear of the unknown.  But not for the reasons you might think.  Because regardless of my marital status, I have always been able to take care of myself and land on my feet in any situation.

No, this level of anxiety has more to do with a parting of the clouds and a clear blue sky I’m seeing overhead.  I’m overwhelmed by the unlimited opportunities and choices I now have in re-determining how I go after my dreams and goals. 

My past has left me with the impression of a rainy day.  Those kind of days when we are met by a sunless sky, covered in grey, and we feel like taking a nap, feeling a slight chill of agitation…or just a general sense or intuition that we are somehow off center. 

And now, back on my own, the sky still clouds over on bad days.  Increasingly, though, I am seeing sunny skies peeking through, with more good days than bad.  I know now that the future is what I decide and what I choose to make of it.  

I’ve lived this reflection of being single more than once in my lifetime.  And like I said before, I suffer from the same affliction we all share…the state of being human.  For me, being human is giving myself a little slack now and then, looking back and checking the distance traveled…instead of fretting about how much more ground I need to cover.

When I look back on my first reflection…as a twenty-something single mom, I remember a different level of fear and anxiety…for different reasons.  I was afraid of being alone.  I didn’t feel whole by myself.  I found myself in a constant struggle to forge a new life, while waiting for my life to feel complete.  And in looking at my reflection now, once again a single mom, there is way more than my age that stares back differently in my reflection in comparison to my younger self.

I try to learn and consider what changes in life and what is a constant…and how to avoid remaining stagnate and unchanging, without completely losing myself in the process.  I think I’m on the right path now.  Because the younger me was surrounded by friends, marking time until the right person came along.  The more seasoned version of me sees things completely in reverse.  Remember, I said I am not a dating expert.  So don’t take what I say as a formula for success.  But the way I see it now, in contrast to my former marriage, in my life today…there is more right than wrong.  I have learned that living your life the way it is in the here and now is way better than living it like you’re waiting for something better…and that you are the best person to keep company with.  You are the only person, who knows what makes you happy. 

I used to think that life required a little dash of romance to be interesting and exciting…to be worth living.  My former reflection has taught me this is a false truth.  Over time, I learned that everything in life can be interesting and exciting.  I believe you have to live life big and wide open, and without apology.

If happiness were a recipe we could all follow and get the same results every single time, that excitement and uncertainty would quickly become yet another routine household chore.  I have learned that every time you go in the kitchen and choose to get closer to the flame, the recipe never turns out the same.  It depends on what you put into it, how long you give it to simmer, and whether or not you want to add an extra placemat on your table in life. 

Said differently, I believe that you begin with a full plate…all things that make you uniquely you and the people and places, which make up your life.  And even at its fullest, the time to introduce that extra seasoning or spice largely depends on your appetite for living.  Are you ready to go back for second helpings?  Do you need to moves things around on your plate to make room for more?  Do you want to make room at all?  All great and valid questions…and all questions we all answer individually.

But my biggest learning of all is that regardless of where you find yourself seated at the table of life, you needn’t add a plus 1 to feel complete.  And when you are ready to add some company, chew slowly between meals, let your food settle, and clean your plate before you start cooking anything else.

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