Steering Clear of the Unavailable Man

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I walked past this sign in my neighborhood the other day and couldn’t help but to think, “Wouldn’t it be great if some of our romantic relationships came with a warning sign this imposing?”

I mean, how convenient would it be to know from blocks away that any forward movement would be a giant waste of time and energy? A simple straightforward sign like this could help us to mentally and emotionally throw ourselves in reverse before we got too close, turned that no-turning-back-now corner, and inevitably got stuck at the end of a road where the only way out was some kind of crazy six-point turn.

Though I suppose many of us would walk right on by, wouldn’t we? (Sigh.) The huge sign (or signs!) are there in front of us and yet we choose to ignore them. Some of us might convince ourselves that we don’t see them, but in our heart of hearts, we know that we do (you can’t really miss something that big!).

So why do we do it?

We choose to ignore not because we enjoy making one wrong turn after another, but because lonely hearts don’t seek convenience – at least not in that way. Lonely hearts choose to believe that even though someone else decided that the road leads to nowhere, there’s still a chance that they’ll be able to transform that dead end into something with a sprig of life. Lonely hearts don’t see what is, they see the potential for what could be. And they will spend an obscene amount of time and energy trying to create the outcome they believe is possible.  I know, because I’ve done it.

Instead of looking at the sign and driving away, I drove right on by and sat at the end of the road trying to forge a way forward on more than one occasion. Embarrassingly, (especially when everyone else could see the huge sign behind me) I sat there for months thinking there was some way through the wall in front of me. That if I just said the right thing, or did the right thing, or learned to be patient, and waited long enough, that the bricks would start to crumble, the path would appear and my efforts would magically turn out to be completely worthwhile.

Of course, eventually (and every time), I had to swallow my pride, shift into reverse and get the hell out of there before any more of my life ticked on by – but at least I (eventually) learned a hard lesson from the time spent staring at the wall:

I finally realized that the best way to not end up staring at the wall ever again was to look at the map well in advance (when my head was clear and my heart was preoccupied) and avoid any part of town where dead end streets existed. I learned that although this would mean a self-imposed ban on some of the most attractive parts of town, potentially limiting the scope of my forage for love, it also meant that my lonely heart would not be tempted to put the blinders on again and sit in front of that damned wall.

When we’re younger, there truly are fewer ‘dead end’ relationships out there – and in my opinion, more reason to be naively optimistic that things will just work out. But as we get older, the signs get bigger, the patterns more apparent, and that means we can use the information we’ve gleaned from past experiences to strategically chart our course (we can and we must!).

what you allow

From 1997 -2011, I was single and on the dating scene – joining the online dating pool around 2004. After online dating on and off for more than six years, on three sites, in two cities and at some point, expanding my search to include the entire country, here is the line that I finally added to my profile that kept the dead ends off the map:

“If you’re married, separated, divorced less than six months (I would update this to a year) or interested in dating girls under the age of 25, this isn’t the right time for us”.

Yes, it might sound kind of ridiculous, and it might not be the solution for everyone, but this one simple sentence saved me from having to engage in conversation with an entire demographic of men who I knew were not looking for what I was looking for: marriage and babies. As fun as these guys can often be to hang out with, because they’re new to the dating scene, eager to please and express a vulnerability that ‘available’ men often keep tucked away, they are dangerous for the lonely heart. The danger, often unintended, comes in the fact that they have no idea what they want. Yes, they’re lonely, too, but not in the way that we are. They will happily let us play, as I like to call it, “Patron Saint of Unavailable Men” – building their confidence, stroking their egos and gently holding their hands as we guide them through the ropes of the dating jungle, but at the end of the day, they don’t want what we want and they will leave our lonely hearts even lonelier than they found them.

They need time and lots of it. Time to sort through their emotional baggage, understand what went wrong with their past relationships, have all the fun they think they’ve missed out on, and learn to trust again – and we don’t have time! I don’t care how old or young you are, none of us have precious moments of our lives to waste on more hurt.

Don't say yes

I learned the hard way that the best thing a single woman can do for herself is to shout a resounding “No!” to what she knows is not good for her (and believe me, she knows). As tempting as it might be for a lonely heart to take something over nothing, if someone keeps driving themselves willingly down dead end roads, they can’t blame anyone else for the wall they keep running into. Single women need to be absolutely clear about what they want and extremely disciplined about refusing to waste time considering anyone they know is looking for something different (hint: if you’re looking for marriage and babies, this includes all men who are unhappily married, separated, divorced less than a year or interested in dating girls under the age of 25. If you’re over 35, it includes the above and all men under 30). Yes, these might be generalizations, but why take a chance this big on something with a miniscule success rate? It might sound counter-intuitive, but sometimes the best solution is eliminating your options – especially the ones that are distracting you from focusing on finding what you want: someone who wants what you want.

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And just to be crystal clear, this isn’t about lowering standards and trying to make a relationship work with someone you’re not really into because you think maybe you’re being too picky. I applaud too picky. Too picky is fantastic. It’s about raising expectations in terms of how you expect to feel in a relationship and having zero tolerance for wasting your time on anyone who doesn’t show a helluva lot of potential from the get-go. If you’re anything like me, it might also be about admitting that you’re attracted (addicted?) to the challenge and charm of the unavailable man – and now would be as good a time as any to stop torturing yourself. Being single is hard enough as it is – that kind of drama will deplete you.

Ultimately, this is all about being more focused on finding the person who wants what you want and wants it with you.

He’s out there – believe me. But you’re not going to find him if you’re spending your time staring at another brick wall.

8 Days & Counting!!

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There’s nothing like having a baby due in eight days to light a fire under your rear end. As a first time expectant mother, I had naturally and wishful-thinkingly told myself that the baby would be at least two weeks early, so every day that I’m still pregnant is feeling like borrowed time. Time to be savored. Time to check those final cling-ons off my to-do list. Time to do every last thing that every other parent keeps insisting I’ll never have time to do once baby arrives.

The most wonderful thing about trying to ramp up productivity at this particular moment in time is that there’s no time for perfectionism (hallelujah!).  And really, it’s the ideal time to set very ambitious goals for myself – considering that I have every excuse in the book if I don’t get them done. All those hours of breastfeeding and sleep deprivation ahead of me means I won’t even have to feel guilty – bonus!

I started this blog last spring with several lofty ambitions, but the one that’s closest to my heart is finding a way to take what I’ve learned over the years through journaling and find a way to share it with others. Over the past several months of pregnancy, other ‘nesting’ duties like preparing a nursery, learning to decipher endless lists of baby gear terminology and decluttering every nook and cranny of the house have come and gone from my list with more urgency, but now that those tasks are complete, I realize that with motherhood around the corner, sharing life lessons is more important than ever.

So two days ago, when “10 days and counting” became my reality, I sprung into action. Well, I guess it was more of a roll off the couch to action, but you get the idea. I decided that the best way to set myself up for success going forward was to be organized before baby arrives. So with the clock ticking, for once in my life, I didn’t overthink what I was doing, I just got started.

Like any multifaceted project, it helped to start with a simple process broken into bite-sized steps – so as not to get overwhelmed and give myself multiple opportunities to feel a sense of accomplishment along the way. Productivity inspires productivity, so what works for me is to make it as easy and fun as possible to feel like I’m getting something done.

In a few hours, here’s what I accomplished:

STEP 1

Take all journals out of the cupboard and place a pile in the middle of the room. Smile as you examine the heap and remember all the places those books have traveled. Inhale and sigh remembering the countless memories they hold. The joys and sorrows, smiles and tears, successes and failures. Inhale again and exhale deeply – feeling a great sense of pride for the lessons learned. Grin from ear to ear looking at the book you just started writing in and thinking about the incredible new memories it will hold. Feed your creative spirit by taking fun photos of the pile.

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STEP 2

Examine each book individually. Begin the process of arranging books chronologically by noting the dates of each book’s first and last entry. Write this on a sticky note and place on each book. This will help streamline the effort of transferring content to blog posts. Take fun portraits of each book that can be used to organize content online.

STEP 3

Arrange books on shelf in chronological order. Check for gaps in dates to make sure none have been misplaced. Take a total count and number each book with a sticky note placed inside it. In my case, I’ve got 25 completed books beginning in April 1999 and ending November 2014. That realization alone is enough to inspire a sense of productivity and the motivation to figure out the next steps in this process. 


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STEP 4

Look forward to what tomorrow brings if the clock is still ticking!

Getting Back At It

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I’ve been procrastinating about getting these blog posts started again, but this quote I found yesterday on Instagram, along with an inspiring post from Live Your Legend founder, Scott Dinsmore, have catapulted me back to where I’m supposed to be.

This quote is a reminder of everything I’ve let go of in the past that has led me to where I am today – a place of happiness, calm and balance.  A place where I feel more like myself than at any other time in my life. A place where I am grateful every single day for the time I spent working through the challenges of the past, taking risks, and following the voice inside me that told me to keep searching for something that I would only know I’d found when I found it.

I dare say I’m here now – in this place that I feel like I’ve spent my life looking for – but only because I learned (after many failed attempts) that we can only move forward when have the courage to walk away from what’s holding us back. Commonly, what holds us back is what we cling to because we think we need it to feel secure, but more often than not, it’s a false sense of security. We convince ourselves that we couldn’t live without that person, place or job– those people, possessions or routines. The fear of losing one or more of those things and what we can only imagine to be the pain of living with that loss prevents us from seeing that our dependency on them is likely what’s stopping us from getting to a place where we truly don’t need them. We don’t need them because that security is within us – and we can finally stop looking outside ourselves. Often, it’s as simple as abandoning one attitude and embracing another.  In 2011, my life shifted to a place where I could feel that sense of security inside me and it invited a world of opportunity I never knew could exist.

So here I am again, still in the midst of my personal reinvention, looking to create an identity for myself that meshes with my new life. A life that in many ways is unrecognizable when compared to the identity I developed in the last chapter of my life. The parts I still recognize are the ones I want to keep. The rest is what I’m committing to let go of, once and for all, right here, right now. Thinking that I need some new version of my last chapter is what’s been holding me back from creating something brand new. And brand new is where I am now.

And as I commit to letting go, I’m also recommitting to this blogging process. And since I don’t think I could say it better myself, from Scott’s article linked above, here’s why:

A blog is simply the easiest way available for publishing ideas for others to see. It encourages you to get ideas out of your head and into the world, which then allows you to further develop them and give you a chance to showcase those thoughts as well as your passions and talents to others. And when you do that, interesting things start to happen.

Developing your writing also happens to be one of the best ways for learning how to communicate, process thoughts and ideas, stay accountable to big plans and life changes, build an audience, develop your persuasion skills and to simply become a more interesting citizen of the world.

Taking a break from the blog writing was good, getting back at it is better.

The Time Has Come

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On the bookcase next to my bed is a shelf stuffed full of personal journals. Pages and pages of once-blank books now teeming with words, photos, ticket stubs, receipts, and other random memorabilia of days gone by. They are a gift from me to me. A treasure trove of thoughts and memories and dreams. Words that bring smiles. Words that bring tears. But mostly words that remind me to laugh at myself and remember that I’m much stronger than I think I am.

But personal journaling is writing without risk. It’s what people who like to tell stories do when they’re too afraid to put it all out there. For the past 15 years, that’s been me. But I’m ready now. My back-of-my-mind, “one day”, “someday” time has come.

So, here we are.

While journaling has proved to be an invaluable tool for my own personal growth – a kind of ‘pen-to-paper’ therapy – I see blogging as something very different. Blogging is my opportunity to go back through those books, combine past thoughts and insights with my current reality and piece them into something new. Exactly what? Well, I’m not quite sure yet. I love surprises and will look forward to finding out as we go along.

But here’s what I do know:

At a micro level, I’d like this blog to be a platform for transitioning my personal journaling skills into writing that inspires introspection and helps us all to feel more connected to ourselves, one another and the world around us. Having spent years of my life traveling and living abroad, connecting with people of all ages and cultures, I have witnessed, firsthand, that as human beings, what we have in common far surpasses any differences between us. I intend to prove that.

And because I’m a photoholic, it’s likely that I will also throw in a few photos here and there – for good measure.

In the big picture, it is my hope that through this introspection and connection, we can cultivate more empathy, resilience and optimism in the world. Through understanding and connecting with ourselves, we’ll be better equipped to connect with others and our surroundings, to empathize, and grow stronger and more resilient as human beings. We’ll have the ability to not only learn from our own experiences, but the experiences of others. We’ll see and believe in more happy endings.

Now, let’s do this!