Saturday, July 17, 2010

You must surrender what you perceive you are, to become what you are to be.....

Twenty-three years ago today, I took my first shaky, baby step into a new life.  Those that knew me then, would have confidently placed bets I wouldn’t survive the year.  My body was fragile and malnourished; my mind was paranoid and irrational, and my spirit had been kidnapped by the insidious evil of addiction. I had tried everything to control it, and virtually exhausted the help available to me. Or, so it appeared. An unwitting statement (by me) tossed out to the universe, on July 17, 1987, evoked a response from the only real help available. God sighed, and said, “Thanks for asking.”  My words went something like this..... “If there is anything out there that can help me, you are going to have to, because I can’t do it on my own.” Surrender, in its simplest form.  A firm, yet tender unforeseen force, took me, spun me around in a new direction, and led me out of bondage, into the sunlight.  When I was in Rome a few years ago, soaking up the splendor of the Sistine Chapel, my eye automatically tuned into Michelangelo’s, “The Creation of Adam”.  I was fascinated by the message contained in this small area of one of the greatest works of Art.  God's muscular arm is stretching and reaching towards  Adam’s limp  hand, extending one of His powerful fingers.  All Adam needs to do, is, ever so slightly, raise his finger to connect with the essence of the Source of all life.  On that day, twenty-three years ago, I raised my half dead hand.  
Life since has been a series of surrenders.  The dictionary defines surrender dually, “to give up” OR “give back”.  I’ve done both.  On July 17, 1987, I gave up. In humility.  The paradox is, there's power in this admission of powerlessness.  This kind of submission acknowledges we are not  random beings bouncing off of life.  This surrender unconsciously tunes into a divine energy and a sense that “something else” may know more about what is necessary and meaningful for our lives.  A sort of awakening as a thin stream of light infiltrates our amnesia of the powerful Source we came from. 
Conversely, in my 23 year journey, I have occasionally given it back;  surrendered the relationship I established with my Higher Power to quiet the voice of reason, when I didn’t like what I heard. I have surrendered my serenity and returned to thinking I was in charge again, and could control people, their journeys or situations.  And, I have surrendered my joy when I have stepped out of the only place I can live, the present. I try to begin my day now, in the same recognition of powerlessness I found myself at many years ago.  Humbly admitting I need guidance navigating the day.  Surrendering to the fact I am not the architect of my life and need some help in reading my blueprint.  Acknowledging  my role as the builder, doing the “grunt work”.  This “giving up” form of surrender astonishingly grants me my heart’s desires. The gifts of surrender have become far to precious in my daily life and I am finding it not only irreverent to give them back, but reluctant to sacrifice them to my ego again. 
To say I am grateful isn't nearly adequate.  I am in awe. The picture God sketched out for me at birth has become a beautiful masterpiece, full of color, texture and depth.  And it is simply a result of lifting the hand which held my paintbrush, and letting Him guide my strokes.  On this day of my rebirth, my heart is full of thanks.  

Sunday, July 11, 2010

How many of you have ever started dating because you were too lazy to commit suicide?” - Judy Tenuta- Stand Up Comedienne

Navigating the advice of well-meaning friends after my husband’s death, was just an additional stressor for me. I re-entered the world of socialization, as a widowed woman, as enthusiastically as most folks go to the dentist.  I’m not sure why, but, when you’re a widow, people want to be involved in helping you build a new future more so, than when you get divorced. I’ve experienced both scenarios in my lifetime, and no one really cared much about my social or romantic life when I was “the divorcee.”  Not so after my husband died. Friends would often comment, “You are far too young to be alone the rest of your life. You need to find a companion.”  “Alone?  What about the other 6 billion people that share this planet with me,” I quipped.  They would respond, “Well, you know what we mean.”  I did and it petrified me.  The day of my husband’s funeral, one woman threw her arms around me and whispered into my ear, “You know, you are a very attractive lady and men will want to “hook up” with you, so beware.” She actually used more shocking terms, than “hook-up”, but those aren’t fit for print.  What? I hadn’t even buried my love, and “hook-up’s” were already predicted for my future?  I couldn’t even fathom walking on a tread mill next a member of the opposite sex then! I knew this lady was a bit crazy, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of foreboding whenever I thought about another man. Our psyches have this mystical capacity to protect, until we’re ready to deal with certain information. Mine went into red alert and defended me accordingly. I had been sleeping in my husband’s Polo dress shirt almost every night.  It brought me solace, and early on, if I buried my nose in the collar, I could smell him.  Soon, I was not only wearing his shirt for comfort, it fit me and I hung onto to it like a blankie!  A 30 pound weight gain kept those “hook-up’s” away!  I know folks who saw me during that period likely said, “My God, who swallowed her?”  About three years after he died, my dress shirt cocoon was becoming confining and tattered.  The cushy fat cells that protected me and provided a comfy place to snuggle into for a period, were getting to be too much of an additional burden, literally.  My girlie-girl nature begged to metamorphosize into a slinky, black, lacy butterfly after a long season’s sleep.  Hitting the gym was a positive step as well as removing my husband’s wedding ring, worn on a chain around my neck, like garlic, designed to keep the “hook up” vampires away.  My friends smiled big when they noticed the missing ornamentation and anxiously anticipated my coming out party!  
Now, I live in a very small community.  Our most eligible bachelor wears a bright orange jumpsuit, a bike helmet and pulls a little red wagon which contains all of his worldly possessions.  I think he is relatively fit. He should be, he walks everywhere.  Although I never saw it in his wagon, rumor had it, his uncle left him a priceless Stradivarius.  A man of means too!  I could envision him pulling up to my house.... Madame, your carriage awaits!  And, off we’d go, stargazing; he and I reclining in his “Radio Flyer” trying to find the Big Dipper. Seriously, he was a sweet child of God, but we really had little in common, except for our mutual love of walking.  What’s a middle-aged girl who lives in such a limited testosterone pool to do? 
As if by divine direction, I saw an ad that promoted finding love, using (of all things) an online dating site.  I wasn’t highly interested in finding love, but meeting some new friends was intriguing. So, I logged on, and, wow....Ms. Popularity from the git-go!  It rained men!  All ages, shapes, talents and wallet sizes. Or, so their impressive profiles read. Oh, Dr. Seuss, you were right!  The places I would go!  Now, I possess a number of character defects, but dishonesty is not one of them.  I must have learned early on that lies don’t serve me well.  They grow.... like fungus. And, besides, I’m an open book.  I can’t pull it off.  Even over the information highway.  My pictures were current, my profile honestly reflected my wants, likes and dislikes. Okay, I did stretch the truth some when I claimed to golf.  I should have put “I hack”.  Venturing into the world of internet dating provided an opportunity to meet a spectrum of “available men” (I use that term loosely) some of which made Radio-Flyer man a heck of a prize. I quickly discovered as honest as I was in my profile, many were equally dishonest. Nonetheless, there were benefits.  When dating online, I saved hundreds of dollars on groceries!  I got to know the waiters at one of my favorite restaurants and they soon became my judges, giving a thumbs up or down behind the back of the man of the hour.  I also became quite popular at my local bank. Once a week, on payday, the tellers would gather round to hear the latest escapades, vicariously living through the widow lady chronicles. And, I must admit, I only shared the fairytales, comedy, and horror stories, enjoying the attention and the drama. In actuality, when you meet hundreds of men online, the majority are insignificant encounters, like making someone’s acquaintance standing in line to give blood.  I am not really a newbie to dating per se. There was a ten year gap between marriages and those “hook-up’s” took place the old fashioned way. You know, bars, stores, work, friends of friends. Or, in the case of my second husband, the parking lot of the laundromat. Seriously.  But, that’s a story for another day.  Meet and greets of the internet variety was a new social venue for me and boundaries were not clearly defined.  It was a fly by the seat of your pants endeavor. Sometimes, those pants of mine caught fire, and I ran off screaming for a bucket of cold water to cool my burns. 
Nonetheless, after a few years on again, off again, I consider myself a profile connoisseur and offer up some suggestions for all the Prince Charming’s out there looking for us Cinderella’s.  
  1. If you are over 50, I don’t care how great a shape you think you are in, older bodies shift and droop. Keep your shirt on in your pics.  Your personal mirror, mirror, on the wall may reflect Taylor Lautner, the werewolf with the hot body from the Twilight series.  The reality is, man boobs and love handles.  This is not putting your best chest forward.  
  2. We assume you do know how to use all the latest technology, including (but not limited to) a cell phone.  No need to post profile pictures with the phone to your ear. It leads us to believe, at dinner, you will be using your I-phone rather than paying attention to us and you are probably far to busy to date anyway. 
  3. Post a picture.  C’mon, we know if you don’t, you’re really married.  Internet dating in 2010 has no social or professional stigma’s attached.  If the Pope could date, it would be perfectly acceptable to see his smile on Oh.... my mind spins with the writing of that profile!  Virtuous Man of God seeking Semi-Pius Woman.  Mary Magdalenes feel free to apply.  Absolution guaranteed!  And, by the way, if you’re married, did you know they have special dating sites just for you!  They cater to those seeking affairs. This takes the dishonesty and guilt out of the formula!  I find the concept to be rather straightforward with a sort of integrity attached to it.  Piranhas swimming together, in schools. No guppies harmed!  
  4. If you list that you are in the $150,000 and up income bracket and then don’t offer to pay for our Starbucks... well, we got your number Howard Hughes. 
  5. We do not consider the body and build of a Sumo wrestler to fall into the category of “athletic and toned”. This is only acceptable if you are Japanese and actually wrestle for a living. 
  6. If your picture has been on the same site, non-stop, for the past five years, we are going to assume that you are clearly a man with a few issues.  Commitment may be one, but more likely narcissism dictates your drive for better and more. Don’t waste another cent on these dating sites.  Spend it on a therapist.  I know a great Sex Addiction clinic in Mississippi..... And, ladies... run!!
  7. If you are 50+ and list that you are seeking women from 25-35, you are sure to lose out on some sexy, middle-aged 50+ divas.  First, we get what you are really looking for; arm candy, a nod of approval from your peers, and sex. This makes you appear a shallow, insecure, cad.  Second, most of us question the intellect in a dude who realistically  thinks a 25 year old would have no ulterior motive in selecting a 50 year old (man boobs come to mind here) when she could choose rock hard abs, a full head of hair and stamina!  Unless of course, your profile picture is taken with you lying in a bed of green (dollars not grass).  In that case, stick the viagra in your daily pill counter and happy shopping! 
  8. Finally, if you are going to online date, do it with the same integrity and respect that you would demand if your mom, sister, or daughter was the pursued. If that doesn’t change your perspective, see #6.  
  9. Let the games begin!
I’ve accumulated many great memories and stories in my tenure with online love (or lust) and I am sure they will pop up in some form in my writings in the future. I discovered the majority of folks online, are there to mend a broken heart, searching for another human being to fix what feels lonely, or stroking a deflated ego. This is not meant as judgement or admonishment.  I only say this, because I discovered, that’s clearly why I was there. Feeling low? Log on.  Just got your heart broken? Log on. Need someone to reinforce your awesomeness?  Log on.  They say we are brought into each other’s lives to heal the broken parts of us, but it grew tiresome comparing notes and hearing my own dysfunction repeated in a baritone voice. The intimacy created in brokeness doesn’t bode well for long-term success, or even flourishing fun. Perhaps, when one has a healthier, less needy mindset, the energy we send out will draw likeminded  people into our world in a more free-flowing manner.  As we go on about the business of our daily routines, enjoying what we love, we just may encounter others doing the same, and the real mystery of attraction begins.  Scrolling through profiles on a computer screen can be an obsessive waste of time and energy which could be spent living the adventure rather than constantly seeking a fix. Statistics show that one in five internet connections culminate in marriage. That 20% equates to an awful lot of screen time and a burgeoning butt as one sits for hours and scrolls through thousands of pictures, many taken years ago. For now at least, the online scene is not for me. I’m investing in the healthier, universal energy, go on about living, law of attraction scenario!
I recognize, the dating process is a necessary part of entering the world of intimacy and new love. For me, it’s like taking castor oil, straight up, day in and day out.  Once you get past the gag reflex and initial taste, you keep it up, because you know its design is to rid you of the anemia of alienation. Human connections and affection are as mandatory to life, as food and water.  And, so much more satisfying than a tattered Polo shirt.