20 August 2008

Readiness

Thank you for all of your supportive comments about the fact that I stuck one millimeter of my big toe into the dating pool.

My mind has been focused to near-exclusivity in the past twenty-four hours on why I put that profile up. Why now, when quite recently I stated right here on this very blog that I was not ready to date yet? I've been wicked bored at work before and it has never crossed my mind to put up a profile. What's going on?

Answer: a lot.

When I was at therapy yesterday, I ended up talking quite a bit about being in the Peace Corps. "What was the hardest thing about that experience?" my therapist asked. There was no hesitation before I replied, "The loneliness." I was so terribly lonely when I was in Gabon. I had good friends at post, but I'd never been forced to spend so much time with myself, and it was difficult and scary. All of my postmates were coupled (they actually all ended up married to their PC sweethearts), and although they went out of their way to make me feel included, I felt like a fifth wheel. I made lots of terrible dating (and other) decisions from that lonely, lonely place. At the time, I did not recognize what I was feeling as loneliness; I blamed myself for not being tough enough or not trying hard enough or what have you. Rather than acknowledge my feelings, I found a way to make the negativity in my life my own fault, something I could fix, something I wasn't doing well. It was not until I got home to the States that I realized that I had just been desperately lonely and isolated, and just how hard that had been.

As I talked about all that, I realized that I'm having some of those feelings again. Most of my friends are happily married or partnered; in fact, none of my friends are divorced and I can only think of one or two who are still single. The married couples are happy, and fun to be around. Since I have not found myself seething with jealousy in the presence of happily coupled friends, I figured that I must be at peace with my alone-ness for now and not ready to think about being in a couple again.

The truth is, though, that my lack of jealous rage doesn't mean I'm not wistful and sad about not having a partner. I had been attributing all of my wistful sadness to missing John, and certainly that's a big part of it. But part of it is that I want something in my life that I don't have.

I talk a lot at therapy about my frustrations with parenting two kids on my own, and on more than one occasion, my therapist's commiserations have included the statement, "The majority of families have two parents for a reason." I could not agree more. I know I would be a better parent to Maddie and Riley if I had someone to share the ups and downs of parenthood with. Not only would there be someone else to help with the endless logistics, but there would also be someone there to keep me in check when I freak out about something that's really nothing, to talk me down when I go to the Dark Side. I want that. I need that. More and more lately, I feel like I just can't do this alone, even with all of the help I get from my family and friends.

Badger, a fellow young cancer widow, astutely mentioned in comments the feeling of guilt associated with the idea of dating after the loss of a spouse. I feel guilt on many, many levels. I feel guilty that I can't handle my life on my own, that I want to share that burden with someone. I feel guilty that I could love someone besides John. Oh, I know without a doubt that all John wants is for me to be happy. I know that. He worried about me incessantly. He would want me to be loved and cared for and adored. But even knowing that, it's incredibly painful to think about someone besides John doing that for me. I feel guilty that having a social life could eat into my Maddie and Riley time. I feel completely overwhelmed by the idea that if things were to get serious with someone, I would have to figure out how to integrate another parent into Maddie and Riley's lives.

Of course, talk about putting the cart before the horse! All I've done is post a profile to which no one can functionally respond. But, somewhat shockingly to me, despite the fact that my profile lacks a photo and states front and center that I have two-year-old twins, I've had six people express interest. I never would have imagined that. 

Which leads me to another point: I don't feel particularly lovable right now. I don't feel attractive, physically or emotionally. I hate my hair. My wardrobe is . . . utilitarian. I have not been eating well or exercising much.* I'm a bundle of unpleasant emotions: sad, angry, scared, brusque. I'm busy and often overwhelmed. My brain is 92% occupied by two year olds and the responsibilities associated with same, 6% occupied by work, and 2% devoted to me (or so it feels). It's surprising to me that given all that, someone might want to take me on a date. It's not that I don't think I have good qualities, it's just that I think that those good qualities are awfully hard to find these days.

So the question remains: will I pony up the cash to find out who these crazy guys are who think that I might be worth some time? Or will I content myself with knowing that there's the hint of interest, because just that is an ego-boost for me right now. For now, I have a different answer every time I ask myself the question. And so I will sit with it and see what impulsivity next arises when I'm bored at work.

*Although I have been eating better in the past few weeks and "exercising" on my Wii Fit. Coincidence?

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

you deserve to do this even if it results in nothing but crazy stories. these experiences will make you learn more about yourself and what it is that you need and want in life. you become an even stronger woman and mother than you already are.

Christina Shaver said...

Dating is different now that you've experienced marriage once before and now that you have two kids. It's a different scene. But that doesn't mean you can't find companionship, love.

It must be hard to reconcile your feelings for John and the potential of new beginnings. But if there's one thing I've learned from life, things don't get any easier when you stand in judgment of yourself.

yatima said...

Yaknow? I am a girl, and married with kids of my own, and all that, but those things ASIDE, I would totally want to date you. You come across as funny and interesting, and I will put up with any amount of brusque for some funny and interesting. So take that as a data point, from another random stranger on the internets.

Clover said...

I think the guilt feelings sound totally normal, even if you know rationally that you have nothing to feel guilty about.
And FWIW, I'm not looking to date anyone right now (given that I'm married), but everything you said in the paragraph "Which leads me to another point..." rings so very true for me as well.
If it won't break your budget to pay for the profiles, I'd say go for it. Just looking doesn't mean you have to act. And even if you do act, what can it hurt to have an email conversation with one of these guys? You can always stop at any point if it just feels wrong or not the right time.

G Love said...

I second the "crazy stories" comment. All of my friends who online dated ended up having some really fun platonic times, some really awful times that have become HUGELY funny stories, and some really fun romantic times.

You'll figure out what you're going to do. I hope it leads you to joy.

moo said...

everything you do from here on out is going to be one step forward, two steps back. But eventualy, you'll get there. Wherever it is you want to be.

There is no shame in admitting that you need help, companionship, adult stimulation. Dating is OK. Marriage is OK too ... but take it one step at a time. Can you handle checking out other profiles? Yes? Do that then. Don't think about setting up a date. Or a lifetime. Baby steps.

Watercolor said...

So, pay for a month. Put a picture up. Talk to a few via their email system. Maybe meet one or two for lunch. Hey, you are a new chick in the pond right now, you'll get lots of interest. :)

See if it totally creeps you out or if you feel more ready.

LauraC said...

To add another dimension to this, sharing the workload of caring for two children also includes sharing the specialness of your children. No one really cares about my stupid stories about my boys the way my husband does. Yes, he shares the work and makes thing easier for me, but at the end of the day, it makes it that much sweeter to be able to share it with someone who really gets it.

I'd vote for trying it out, but I'm also someone who convinced one of my friends to go to Vegas with a guy she met through myspace.

Mary Ellen said...

Go for it.

P. Gardiner said...

I have a friend who met their spouse through e-Harmony, and my MIL is married to a great man she met through an AOL chat room. She'll be married 11 years next month. Both my MIL & my friend might be considered 'hard to fit' cases due to health problems or history, but it works. I say be picky, but go for it.

Becky said...

1. You are definitely lovable.
2. I totally understand why thinking about this concept is scary and leads to putting the cart before the horse. So, don't beat yourself up about that!
3. As anonymous said, going on a bad date or two could lead to some interesting blog postings.... Do it for your loyal readers!

Claudia said...

Go ahead and see what's out there. You can stop at any time. No one's gonna force you to go out on a date. I think it's a great way to test the waters.

Not that I'm biased or anything, but I did meet my husband online.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Any person that would have the opportunity to go out with you would be very lucky!

NanarocksWeen said...

I did my share of dating guys who had profiles on dating sites... of course, this was BEFORE the sites started charging money! I met a lot of nice men and enjoyed a lot of nice dinners and conversations. Actually, my 37-year-old daughter met her husband on one of those sites. They had attended the same high school years earlier, but had never met (big school). They now have an amazing (almost) THREE-year-old son. So, when the time feels right, I'd give it a try. But only YOU will know when it's time.

Lala said...

If nothing else you could look at the dating profile as an exercise in getting in touch with yourself after all you've been through. When I tried to date after Pasul and I intially split I couldn't help but compare everybody to him. I don't know how long it would take to get over that for anyone.....regardless of circumstances.

mames said...

i just wanted to say that you are such an incredibly honest woman and so open about the how and the why and the needs you are discovering. i hope this step will allow you to give yourself a little more time and a little more care, whether you start to walk towards meeting these people or not. you would be might be truly surprised, my brother married the woman he met on a service, they spent time writing before meeting and then it just worked.

Rachel said...

First of all, it sounds like you are making good progress in therapy. I think it's important to remember that no one else will ever replace John, and wanting companionship in no way diminishes your love for John, or your loss. When you meet someone again, he will have a different place in your life/ heart. I hope that you will find a companion who will make you happy again and lighten your load a little bit. From what you have written about John, I'm pretty sure he would want that too.

Anonymous said...

when you are ready, you will patner with someone. much faster than a lot of people who fancy themselves exceptionally fit and attractive. (nothing against those people. it is just true.) when your needs are being met, you will feel better. that feeling will feed on itself to where you return to certain self-care habits.

you will be happy. maddie and riley will be loved and will have another model of partnership, although it will never be closer to their Being than the beautiful model of partnership they already have.

and -- he will be one lucky man!

Baggage said...

I agree with everyone who said that they can see why someone would want to date you!!

Maybe paying for the profile would lead to other things. Like it would give you the motivation to get a haircut, a new outfit. Those things can really help with your mood, I've found. And maybe you'll meet someone, and maybe you won't. But if you can drop a little bit a money and see how it goes, I'd do it. Just to see how I felt.

Giovanna said...

Just go at your own pace and make sure whatever you do, you're comfortable with your decision.
And I'm so thinking we should have a girls day out one weekend. Go get all girliciously pampered. Sound like fun?

Lori said...

Like you said- he'd want you to be loved and adored. You are doing him no favor by remaining alone. You deep and abiding love for your husband is obvious. You don't have to give that up, it's yours forever. But you don't have to give up shared moments with someone special either. Pay the money, stick your toe in the water. We all want to see you happy. If nothing else, try it just to see. And please get rid of that guilt. I know easier said than done, but ya know-- YOU DESERVE TO BE LOVED AGAIN IN THIS LIFETIME.

Tiffi33 said...

I say do it.
Meet some people, have some 'me' time w/ another adult..who knows where it will go..maybe no where..but I am sure it will be entertaining!

and absolutely go and get some girly pampering..get a pedicure, a manicure and a new style!!!
You deserve it

OTRgirl said...

I'm glad you were able to explore the root of the impulse during therapy. Somehow, there's less to stew about when you identify the motivation.

It's not the same, but a friend who walked with me post-Mom lost her Mom to cancer two years before I did. Her father married within eight months and her family never really got to grieve. Grief takes time.

Your impulse makes SO much sense and is nothing to feel guilty about; I think it's good you're just waiting before taking the next step. It's a lot to think about. As usual, take your time and go easy on yourself.

Anonymous said...

Someone told me once: "You need to find the person that will love you while you love someone else." That guy does exist and you'll know him when you spend time with him and he is just what you need and patient that your love will turn toward him in your time. Lela

Lori said...

I know this is not the same but...

I struggled with the desire to have more children after my daughter passed away. At first I too thought that overwhelming feeling was missing her. And it was. But I was also missing being a mom. Despite the guilty feelings, we decided to start the adoption process. Our son was born a little over 9 months after our daughter died. While I still miss her with every beat of my heart, I'm so thankful to have the joy that my son brings. He has not replaced her. He is her little brother.

Do what feels right to you. And by all means, bump that 2% up a notch. Even for a day. You deserve it!

BrooklynGirl said...

The road to happiness is paved with impulsivity.

Karen O said...

Wow - there's a lot of wisdom in these comments. I especially agreed with Rachel and second her thoughts.

But - as if you didn't already have enough to think about, here's something else: are you the type of person who needs a push? I'm usually a procrastinator and will dip my toe in the water way too long, but every so often, someone gives me a push and I just dive in. Thinking back, I can't remember a time when I've regretted the push.

Most of the commenters seem to support jumping in - sometimes it's better not to think about it too much, just take a deep breath and go for it. You can always get out of the pool and dry off if the water's not to your liking.

k&p said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sabrina said...

Snick...i understand about the not feeling lovable completely. But others see things in you that you can't possibly see right now. Ever actually. I feel that way too. My sitch is different - after being divorced - I don't know if I can ever be loved again or if anyone will forever want to choose me again and that scares the hell out of me. I try not to think about. But I know one thing from reading your blog. YOU. ARE. VERY. LOVABLE.

Anonymous said...

All the feelings you are feeling right now are exactly what most women feel who are raising children and trying to work - even if we have a spouse to share it with. I think when the kids are so young that they take all of your attention & there really isn't time or energy to worry about yourself right now. I'm sure it is even harder since you are a single parent & you have 2 kids, but I think a lot of your feelings are very normal.

Cynthia said...

I'm curious - and I understand if you do not want to answer this - if you ever talked about this with John. I recently had a death in my family and it has sparked all kinds of deep conversations in our household. My husband keeps bringing up (directly and indirectly) that he would expect for me to "go on" and "meet someone" etc, etc. The whole concept makes me uncomfortable to discuss but at the same time, I guess if I was in the situation having his "approval" may mean something. I don't know....Just curious if that would make a difference in "readiness"

tropicalg77 said...

The one thing that I learned when I stepped out in to the dating world after my divorce was this...

Even though I was angry, sad, broken, and thought no one could love me and my kids that there are people out there that stop take the time to know you, even if you are broken.

IT isn't easy stepping out on the ledge, and it sure as hell isnt easy letting someone else in to your life, when your used to the way your life used to be.

Give yourself a chance to be loved, and healed and bandaged up. There is someone out there that is the right match for you, and although they will never take the place of John, and they don't need to, you deserve to be loved, and to let yourself be loved.

As adults we have a lot of things in life to learn...and one is acceptance...which I, myself battle with.

buddha_girl said...

I'm a gambling woman by nature and truly believe that the cash will be thrown in the direction of the internet service if only because it's a safer and easier method of "practicing" with the whole dating possibility.

Therapy. *sigh*
I love therapy. I liken that weekly hour to a hit on a crack pipe for a junkie. For real.

Julie said...

I think paying the $$ would be a nice way for you to try "dating" out as slowly as you would like to go. You don't even have to MEET anyone.....you can get your kicks from email for a long time until you are ready for a face-to-face.

That being said, I don't want to be a wet blanket, but please also be careful. There are many men out there trolling dating sites for single moms with young children. Make sure you get LOTS of references. Check and double-check. If you're going to pay $$ to meet someone, put some $$ aside for a thorough background check. There are lots of great guys on dating sites.....but in this world sadly, there are no guarantees.....on sites or in real life.

Silver said...

Good luck with whatever you decided. If it gives you a smile then it will be worth it.

Take care

winecat said...

Have you considered something like table for 6, or Just lunch. It's not actual dating the company organizes the affair and you, yourself an you show up to meet 5 other people (3 men/3women) a young widow friend of mine tried it and got some good results.

Watercolor said...

Another thought, and one you do have to be ready for...

As ego lifting as it is to get attention to your profile from men and have a few first dates, and it really is, dating is very hard. You have to put yourself out there and be ready to be rejected for no good reason over and over and over. And be ready to be disappointed when the guy who looked great on paper and was fantastic on the phone was suddenly silent and flat and slightly creepy in person. It can get disheartening.

When you first put your profile up, you are, to put it bluntly, fresh meat. After a while, you aren't, and the interest wanes and it can be really disappointing if you have found the interest somehow good for your ego.

I still say go for it. As long as you are ready for the hard parts of dating. That's why I recommended just paying for a month. It is long enough to get a taste and see where you are mentally with dating but not so long that you begin to hit the weeks and weeks of zero hits to your profile.

hugs. Dating is rough as an adult. I want someone to just fix me up with a shot gun wedding some days... lol.

Amy said...

Go with the ego boost :) Baby step it as you feel fit. Be good to yourself, do nice things for YOU. You deserve it.

I am sure the guilt you feel is natural in your situation. But as you said I am sure John would want you to be loved and cherished once more.

You will know when you are ready.

Anonymous said...

The weird thing about love is that you never really feel like you deserve it. Doesn't matter if you're divorced or widowed, cover-girl beautiful or not, young or old, parent or childless. You never feel like you deserve it when someone really, really loves you. You never really know exactly what that other person sees. Since you can't feel exactly what they might feel and since you can't see what they might see, give yourself a lot of credit. You might not feel all that lovable, but you are.

Lisa said...

I met my husband on a Christian online dating service. I say go for it. As I tell people, "they are not all axe murderers online!"

Emily said...

Snick,
I remember reading some research about how people who loved being married get re-married quickly (on average) - more quickly than others who were not as into being married - after the death of a spouse. I KNOW you are talking about dating here, and not marriage, but I remember really liking that research, thinking that if I died, I'd look down and see my husband re-married because he really loves being married ... and that would be so OK with me. It makes sense ... you like partnership, and that's a wonderful thing. Anyway, just been thinking about that since your post about your internet profile.

suz said...

I met my husband though an online dating site, so I am a proponent. I think it's great that you took even a baby step! I will offer some assvice here, I can't even pretend to understand the tough times you've gone through but it sounds like you are in need of a little boost to your confidence and self-esteem. Since you like to exercise, maybe some sort of event like a road race or triathlon? Every city has training groups and they're also a great way to meet men.

Ginevra said...

PLEASE PLEASE can we go out for girliness together? Shopping, new hairstyle, etc. You know I love that stuff. Maybe you should try my fab hair salon. It is expensive but my hair has never looked better, and no one deserves fabulous hair more than you. IMO, spend the money on the hair and get the clothes at TJ Maxx. I will be your Tim Gunn (or hey, your Heidi Klum, ha ha). You are totally date- and lovable just as you are, but the pick-me-up of new clothes and hair is not to be underestimated.

And just a reminder, I met T. thru Match.com. It can work! Let's get together soon and I will give you my online dating advice while we shop or whatever.

xo,
J

k said...

This is going to sound weird, I know, but a year or two ago, I watched an episode of Shalom in the Home (with Rabbi Schmuley).

A 36-year-old woman had lost her husband in a car accident, leaving her and her two children alone.

I wish I could somehow link to the episode because the advice that he gave to this woman during his stay with her ... the way he helped her ... was simply amazing.

He talks about the episode (and dating, actually) right here:
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/190/story_19009_1.html

It is actually a very apropos article for what you're talking about today.

But the thing that was so amazing that he told her was that when she said she couldn't date again -- that her husband was the only man she'd ever love and the only man for her -- the Rabbi told her, "There isn't just one person for each of us out there. Your husband was a great man. A great father. And had wonderful traits. You loved him and he loved you. But there is not just one person out there for you. There can be other people, with other great qualities, who can love you and who you can love."

And oh man, has that ever stuck with me.

It's so romantic to talk about "soul mates" and "the only man I could ever love."

But in real life, in real practice, is that true?

The article linked to above really is great, too, talking about loneliness and choosing life.

That's all, I guess.

I don't even know you and I'm just so proud of you. You're an amazing person all around.

Pixxiee said...

Ahhh Snick. I met my husband on line (in a chat room). At the time I was helping care for an ex boyfriend who was dying of cancer. It was the worst of times. It was the best of times. Ten years later I am grateful. Grateful that I had that special time with Chris before he died. And grateful, incredibly grateful, that the man in my life now is there because I took a risk and agreed to meet him.

And that he took a risk and agreed to meet me! It's scary for them too you know. There are a lot of lonely folk in this world. Through all kinds of circumstances. You may not find the next love of your life. But you may find a friend who makes you laugh.

I read you every day. But I don't comment much. I love hearing about Maddie and Riley. I think you are way too hard on yourself and that you are doing a great job in a difficult situation. I am sure John would be proud of you. And would understand your need for someone in your life again. It will happen, but you've got to take it slowly. Baby steps.

Oh. One hint. I would set up a hotmail address just for dating - so if you do get cold feet, you just never check it again!

Anonymous said...

You look great. Seriously. Look at the pics of you with the kids. Don't be so hard on yourself. You are doing an awesome job in a very difficult situation. Having kids is tough with 2 parents and you are doing it without a partner. I didn't know John but from what you have written about him, I think that he would 1) think that you were doing an AWESOME job and 2) want you to be happy and find a sweetie if you are ready for that. So no guilt for you honey, since he would want you to be happy.

Keen said...

There's so much in this post that it's hard to even respond. I'm just nodding at everything you said.You are so amazingly self-aware.

And boy, do I know that Peace Corps loneliness well. It's amazing what it does to you, and how much you learn about yourself.