Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finding Love in Midlife

It's been a while since this post, when I was hit less by a thunderbolt than by finding home.  The man with the warmest voice I've ever heard has wound up becoming the love of my life, and we're building one together.  A serendipitous meeting at a sushi place in San Francisco (I live in Fort Worth, Texas) ended up being the best decision I've ever made--traveling on one's own, done well, means shedding a skin and being exposed and ready for a new experience. 

I've avoided writing not out of happiness, as some of my friends have suggested, but out of respect for a deeply precious thing I've unearthed with another person.  After the years of wondering, asking the universe for a sign, and then the tentative steps toward the real thing, rather than some provisional relationship, I didn't want to endanger what we were making. 

Now we are, and have been for a long time, on solid ground. There have been many plane flights back and forth to the wonderful city by the Bay, and jets have traveled too to DFW.  We've made some interesting adventures out of work trips together, and are looking forward to one to Asia together soon.  It's calm, supportive, and passionate at the same time. Who knew those could coexist?

I'd started forget the loneliness I felt earlier in life that I read about in my earlier posts, even when T has to leave me, or I him.  But looking at these, it's clear I avoided the Real Thing, which is why I didn't find it, even when I thought I was ready. The best thing about those feelings is that, painful as they were, they drove me out of my comfortable little rut and out into the wilderness.

So if you are at a certain age and have determined that solo life is not for you, see my thoughts below.

1) Eat lunch all by yourself.   This is especially good if you are in a city that is not your home.  Even if you don't drink alcohol, sit at the bar, order a sparkling water, and see who else is sitting there.  Strike up a conversation, or at least look open to one.  This doesn't mean hitting on someone, but it can open doors about where to meet people.  A couple I met the day I also met T recommended Chaya for dinner on my own. I went, and in walked my destiny. 

2) Get out of your neighborhood.  You already know all the single people in your town.  That might mean your actual town, or your eight-block radius around your apartment where you get your coffee and go to brunch.  The key part is that you'll not just see different people--you'll be different, with your guard down and free from the preconceived ideas of your regular crowd.  When I met T, I was coming back from a work trip in China.  My insecurities were not in evidence: I thought I was all that and a bag of chips.  T picked up on that, and agreed.  So put yourself in places where you can shirk off your usual suit of armor and see what happens. Scary, but pretty exciting.  And when nobody knows who you are, it's hard to worry about what they think.

3) Ask for it. Okay, if you are not a religious person, this can be tough.  But it can be as easy as writing down a wish on a piece of paper and putting it in a drawer, or as challenging as climbing a mountain and asking your own personal version of a spiritual guide to send someone your way. Or just tell a couple of trusted friends that you are ready, and what you think it will look like. It's about intention and opening yourself up to possibility, which means you can walk around with your eyes fully open no matter where you are.

4) Banish convention.  We're fortunate to live in an age where we can make our lives look however we want.  If you're a deeply traditional person, it's easier when young to find someone who looks at the progression of a relationship as dating, marriage, house, kids, promotion, retirement, and death.  Once the world has knocked all the corners off you, you can make it up as you go along, are smart enough to know a good thing regardless of the package it comes in, and can enjoy the hell out of it while knowing life has big bumps.  Respect, kindness, humor and fun are what matters.  The last two are up to your definition, but the first two are absolutely essential.  Settle for nothing less and enjoy your life.  It's short, and you no longer need to give a crap about what people think.  

5) Give yourself permission.  I really couldn't understand why I was on my own. I had friends, was active, curious and engaged in the world. Time to myself was sweet, and still is, which is why a long-distance thing has been great for me and T. My enjoyment of my own company--better than being desperate for a partner, to be sure--didn't explain it completely. Right before I went to China, a couple of frank discussions with a professional helped me understand why I cried all the way to work every Monday when I had to take my kids for the switch-over to their other home. My children were my emotional life.  Anybody else in real proximity would mean I had betrayed them.  After all, I had broken up their home and owed them all my energy to fix that.  Well, turns out when I allowed myself to be open to someone else and stopped putting my guilt in my way, there it was. And my kids?  We took it slow, but they love T, and they are visibly relieved not to be responsible for my happiness. 

Once you find love--and this hardened cynic has learned you can--remember the road is not always easy.  That's another post, but in the meantime, check out Julie Orlov's Pathway to Love website.  Sage advice as we navigate strange waters.


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