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When my kids began to date, I might have given more consideration to the topic than the average well-rounded, successful, happily married person. I was many things, but I was not that. My emphasis on dating was the expectations of each person, to maintain their integrity and to remain true to one’s self. My dating philosophy sounds easy enough. But so does resisting that last piece of fried chicken. We all know that a simple concept doesn’t necessarily translate to an easy execution. But if we can approach dating, or at least, our reaction to dating, with a few basic practices, I think we can better manage our grief now, and save ourselves from more grief later.

Coming from a divorced woman who has dated very little in the last eleven years, I understand why someone might disregard my opinion. Most people who read this are probably married or have dated much more than I. But what I possess that you may not, are a couple of things. One, I have learned a lot from my mistakes. And two, because of my divorce, I had the opportunity to discover myself, in a space of aloneness. Can I use that word? Is it a word? Dr. Seuss would use it, so I’m leaving it.

Time to reflect on my mistakes and emerge from a place of struggle and autonomy has equipped me for many things.  It’s the source of lots of opinions, based on personal experience. Additionally, I have had three dates since January, one of which lasted for three months. See? I am qualified.

At the beginning of my online dating experience, when it was fun and novel, I thought it would be relatively easy to share my experience. That was until I met someone I liked. Someone worth exploring. I wondered if he would be “the one.” I know, “the one” sounds ambitious. But I am hoping to find a guy who wants to share the rest of his life with me. Real-time documentation suddenly didn’t feel right. Reality TV is not in my future.

Writing about one’s dating life is super intimate. With good friends, transparency is my middle name. However, my middle name changes when we’re talking about going public. Being able to reflect and work through this has been a great luxury, and now I have some things I can share, that won’t read like you’ve broken the lock on my personal diary.

HERE GOES. A whole book could be written on this topic, so understand this is a snapshot of my dating philosophy.

I value the dating process. . .

I went into this relationship with the same mentality I had developed several years back when my kids began to date. If respected, the dating process is an awesome opportunity of discovery, before we make a permanent decision. I say, “if respected,” because often people don’t treat dating like a temporary experience. Instead, subconsciously they commit to the relationship in a permanent sense before there’s a mutual agreement of where the relationship is headed.

Unless both parties have agreed to marriage, I believe either party can call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. I understand that there is more to this when a couple has been dating for a long time. This point could have its own chapter. But let’s assume we’re talking about six months or less (but I’m inclined to have the same philosophy for longer periods of time as well). Regardless if one person feels the relationship going in a good direction, it is either person’s right to call it off, FOR WHATEVER REASON. This frees both people to continue in their search.

Breaking up (reverting to my junior high vernacular) is especially hard when you’re focused on marriage, you’re old(er), or it appears that a target has come into view. I had to remind myself of my own dating philosophy. That as much as I liked what I was experiencing, it would not serve either of us well to manipulate or maneuver it. Understanding that dating is a time of exploration, we both have the right to end the discovery.

The best and least we can give one another is kindness. We can’t and shouldn’t attempt to force virtues on another person. We have no right to demand any more than what they want to give us. If they have asked to end the relationship, I believe we should honor their request with very little contest.

Does that mean we were just handed a crappy day, that seeps into a few weeks? Probably. But that doesn’t change that explanations are not owed to either party. The breakup experience is still part of your story, individually and within your relationship. It’s the whole process that refines both of you. It is beautiful, valuable, and sometimes, difficult and painful.

Frequently couples “stick it out”, because the thought of hurting another person is so troublesome. Breaking up seems unkind. As hard as it is to be the breakee (new word), for me, it is more difficult to be the breaker (another new word), unless you don’t mind kicking dogs. OK, I’m joking, but for many people, the anticipation of hurting another person is something to avoid at all cost.  At times truth, authenticity, and sincerity may be uncomfortable and hurt. But almost always, it is the right thing.

If we grant each other this liberty, we can avoid the darts that get thrown and save us wasted time attempting to force relationships that result in bad outcomes.

Remember, we are D A T I N G.

Why it hurts so bad when it ends. . .

After just three months, with Stay at Home orders, and a long-distance relationship, it was still really sad to break up with Bill (Not his real name. Poor guy; he dated someone who blogs!). I think there are two main reasons breakups hurt. One is because we give someone our heart. The other is because we begin to establish a culture that becomes comfortable and familiar, which is where I love to sit. But for this post, I’m going to focus mostly on our hearts.

We hand another person the most tender, powerful part of us. The part that stores our emotions, desires, aspirations, hopes, dreams, feels pain, loss, and grief. We do this, because we care about something. Most likely, it is this other person. Although it’s not always just that, but this snapshot prevents me from elaborating.

This is no different than many things we put our heart into. On a team, you play to win. When you’re not on the field, you think about the game. You prepare off the field and execute on the field. You don’t hesitate. You move forward with ambition, desire, and determination. You dodge bullets, endure discomfort, and subject yourself to pain. On fourth downs you deliberate and make strategic decisions. Your heart is all in.

I think dating well looks the same. Of course, there are stages and circumstances vary. Some relationships require more effort and experience more challenges. They’re all different. Our hearts attach to the unique personality of the relationship. You keep at it because along the way you’ve decided this person is worth the efforts, sacrifice, or emotions you’re handing over. You’re in it to win it.

This is the beauty of life. You expose your talents, skills, personality, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. A lot is going right. Then you mess up a little, but so what? We all do it. It’s a fumble! You get back up and recover. You keep at it. But then the game clock ends, and you’re left standing there, wondering why you’re stuck in the middle of a play that can’t be finished. Nobody asked you, and the game is over. You didn’t win, and it hurts.

But here’s the thing: unless you cheated, lied, or stole, you played a fair game. If you gave it all you could, you played well. That’s all we can do when we’re looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. My objective is to find a person who wants to play with me for the rest of my life. After a few sucky weeks, things begin to turn around. We recognize how much we’ve gained, and we’re ready to play again.

When in doubt, stand still. . .

This is an old saying, even before my time! If we aren’t sure about something, then we’re unsure, which means we’re in doubt. Right after a break-up, we are pretty unsure about a lot of things. The relationship, the sincerity of it, the person, our judgment, the list goes on.

I think the hardest thing to do at this time, is to stand still. We desperately want comfort and instinctually want to grab at the most convenient thing. Most often, we think we’ll find comfort in answers. We’re tempted to demand them in an effort to finish the play. What? I wasn’t done! You said this, and what about that? When we don’t get answers, we consider another relationship. We want to be assured that we’re okay. We are, aren’t we?  We’re desperate to compensate for the new loneliness and the abrupt change in culture that has us looking around like Marty McFly in 1955. If we’re not careful, we could find ourselves twirling, into the arms of a tragic country song.

In that moment, our vision is so blurred and our motives so self-serving, that really, the best thing we can do is to be still, be sad, cry, and pray. Even when it doesn’t make sense, we need to accept that we lost this one. There are a million ways we can interfere with God’s plan. I think we have the advantage of seeing his plan, if when in doubt, we stand still.

Trust God (when you’ve asked Him to guide you). . .

After the breakup, I kept coming back to this. We both prayed, together and separately, that God would bless us individually and as a couple. My prayers are a sincere conversation with God. When Bill broke it off with me, I wanted explanations as we all do. But thankfully, Bill was spared the tears when I chose to trust God and honor the dating process that I so much respect.

I mostly stood still.

I don’t think I can write this post without addressing two things. Yes, the hundred miles between us was a challenge. The Stay at Home orders were executed a few weeks into our relationship. That was an even bigger challenge. But I don’t consider either of those obstacles an explanation of why things didn’t work out for us. Because, if both of us wanted our relationship we would have overcome the obstacles that stood in our way.

When we date well, it will hurt when we lose (meaning the relationship ends). When we date well and lose, we will recover and continue. When we date well, and lose, and recover, and continue,  one day we’ll find our team, and win the game.

Whew… this was a long one. Happy D A T I N G . . . whatever that looks like during a pandemic!

This last weekend was exceptional, except for when it wasn’t. Saturday was a day I wouldn’t trade for anything, but most of Sunday I would give back. I’d worked hard on Saturday so I could budget time for reading and writing on Sunday afternoon, but my refrigerator decided to demand my attention instead.

On Saturday, I got to spend the evening with my daughter and her boyfriend having dinner in downtown Portland. Coincidentally it was the famous Starlight parade night. As a Portlander, I should have known that, but I hadn’t paid attention to the schedule. We ate outside on this perfect summer night where there wasn’t a hint of humidity or breeze. Roads were closed and police directed people and traffic. After dinner we walked among the throngs of parade fans sitting roadside, content and patient, waiting for the next segment to reach within their viewing space. This perfect evening finished when I came home to my son and a couple of friends using the fire pit in the backyard. That would seem fairly ordinary to most families, but my son doesn’t live with me. The simple sight of seeing his car in the driveway as I approach my home gives me more pleasure and satisfaction beyond what I can articulate. A “yes!” like I just hit the 8 ball in the designated corner pocket sometimes escapes my lips.

Sunday started out perfect, in that I went to church, knowing that afterward I would be making my son lunch; another “yes!” This was planned, but nevertheless, I don’t take it for granted. As I was frying up some bacon I noticed another large leak of water on the floor near the refrigerator. I’d cleaned one up the previous night as well. I really hate things like this. In fact, one could say I’m a baby about things like this. The night before I put a towel down, and when the water was all absorbed, I put the towel away and hoped that meant there was no longer a leak. I didn’t (wouldn’t) look at the floor early Sunday morning before I left for church. My plans for the day didn’t include a refrigerator leak. I know what a leak on the floor means. It means I am probably not going to get to read and write like I’d so carefully planned for the afternoon and evening. Finding time to read and write is like digging for treasure. Not that I’ve ever dug for treasure, but I imagine you have to carefully map out a plan. Then there’s a lot of digging and tossing out things that are not the treasure. I do that in trying to mine some time for this luxury. I plan and organize with TO DO lists. I tackle them, also addressing the surprises that emerge. Those things that are legitimate, yet threatening my prize: uninterrupted time to read and write. I knew exactly what a leak on the floor meant, and I was as annoyed as heck.

After a measure of denial, and in an effort to not call my very good friend’s husband who has become my reluctant “go to”, I called one of my sweet neighbors and he came over. The bottom line is that both men ended up working on the refrigerator. I hated asking, yet I also hate contacting a random refrigerator repairman, not having a reference of any kind. I’d felt like I had held these two kind men up at gunpoint. I know it’s not easy to say no to someone who needs help. I knew I’d had a treasure planned for my afternoon and I hated knowing that I’d interrupted whatever treasure they might have planned for themselves or their family. I was crossing my fingers that their afternoon plan was something along the lines of preparing an earthquake kit. See; I am a baby. I’m not happy with my attitude either, so that’s another reason for giving Sunday back.

After that small rant, I’d like to share two fun things. One, in my recent book review I completely forgot to include a very favorite book that I recently listened to (the number of books I listen to is an indicator of the amount of yard work that I do). It’s by Anne Lamott called: Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. If I could be a fraction of the writer Anne Lamott is, I might be able to make just enough extra money to supplement my day job income and meet my monthly expenses. The second fun thing I want to share is the month long bike challenge finish.

Small Victories is a collection of personal experiences Anne shares from her own life about friends and family, many of which include misunderstandings and interpretations she’s had along the way, exposing truths about herself and others. She is vulnerable, bold and courageous, revealing flaws and selfish ambitions, relatable to many of us. But we nod our heads in agreement in the privacy of our own home. Anne narrates her failings like she’s giving directions, unflappable and matter of fact, in a most modest posture of normalcy, for all to read. Her faith in God is firm, yet she approaches him in a stance of curiosity and frustration that He often doesn’t do things the way we would like Him to. While we read about her foibles, I’m reminded that humility (outside of love) is the most God like characteristic we can possess. Above all, Anne is funny.

New Bike Commuter

The May Bike More Challenge is complete. And, our school staff did it! “It” being that our cycling staff (which now includes moi) beat one of our local schools that is known for being an athletic power house. Jesuit High School is a private school in our athletic conference. All of us public schools love to beat (and we mostly like to play them) this school. The school where I work is a small option school in our district that doesn’t have athletic teams. So, for our staff to have beat this particular school was a fun twist for me, having attended many a game between Jesuit and the school my kids attended. To read more about how my new biking hobby evolved, click here.

Thank you once again for reading!

 

It’s been May 9th since my last post. The one before that was February 22nd. One might assume that I have more to share than a post about my eyebrows. And one would be correct. In fact, I have so much I could share I could write a novel and then a mini series. The events in the last four months or so are involved, personal, mystifying, confusing, and fifty other adjectives. So not only have I not posted because life feels too intimate to share publicly (should I be blessed with a reader or two), but I can’t find the time. I can’t find the time to write, or to design my blog the way I imagine it to be. But a quick post about my missing eyebrows is manageable.

I’m frustrated with my eyebrows. I’m sad, too. It feels good to say I’m sad about something, without concern that that the sadness is going to define me. For that reason, thin or not, I love my eyebrows, because they are a safe topic about which I can openly express my grief. They’ve been disappearing for awhile now. At age 55 (as of April 16th), they’re virtually non-existent. I feel much too young to wear painted on eyebrows, drawn on in a perfect arch. Heaven forbid they would have an orange tint. However, I do use a pencil by Revlon called Brow Fantasy, Dark Blond (no pic). I used to use one by Mary Kay that I loved. It is called Classic Blonde. It was awesome because it was the perfect color for every eyebrow color. Literally, it complimented blonds as well as it did brunettes. It was a good price, but the Revlon is a little less money, and I cut corners where I can. I’m renovating the living room and have some other hopes of home projects that take priority over my eyebrow care.

The brow thing is interesting. They really accentuate the eyes, and I love framing my eyes with my brows, but just when I discovered the affect they have on our beauty, I started losing them! Like most things, we appreciate things more when we don’t have them. Every day, I’m appreciating them more. Each single hair that composes my brows is precious to me. I don’t take one for granted.

We have to laugh at these things. Thinning brows is something about which I can share. I can express myself without concern for anyone else. I suppose that will be the real test of a writer. When I can write hard truths with redemption and without exposing another person’s faults or deficits. My lost brows and the feelings about them is TMI, but that issue is irrelevant in the big scheme of things. I’m almost grateful for this discovery. For 30 seconds each morning I am distracted from things that are more serious. Maybe I can discover more insignificant relatable topics and share them. I need frivolous subject matter so I can improve my writing skills. While that’s not the vision of my blog, until I’m able to refine my site in a way that allows me to write openly, but safely, my substance will likely suffer. Hopefully during this time, I can emote some laughter. I don’t know if I’ll think my eyebrows are funny when they’re completely gone. Until then, I’m getting a good chuckle and I got to write a bit, and there’s value in that.

Happy Summer, this 21st day of June, 2015.

Joni

It’s the night before I begin my first day of work, but my emotions take me back to the first day of school.  At one point in my life I would get my room in order and plan out my clothes for the next week. Once school was in full force, that type of preparation slipped and I was like most everyone else, where I scrambled in the morning to get dressed. But I remember the anticipation well, and fondly.

I’m not quite at that point tonight. In fact, my house is a mess. I’ve deChristmastized my home (a new word…Dr. Seuss would be proud).  Since my house wasn’t quite in order when I started decorating for Christmas, deChristmastizing has returned it to its pre-holiday state. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

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I moved some furniture around in my bedroom today because my dresser was covering up a vent. My room is a mess.  I’m not yet done with Christmas cards.

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Yes, I said that out loud. Not only will those receiving my card know how late I am, but now you all do. I tried so hard to let Christmas cards go this year, but it’s a familiar story for me. It’s like putting on my seat belt. I’ve done it so long, late or not, I’m doing it.

So, those are my two objectives tonight. Get the counter cleared and the cards ready for mail, and my room in decent order, and get to bed…I’m shooting for 9pm. I’m wondering what I’ll wear. Insurance school starts at 8am. What do people wear to insurance school??  I’ll play it safe and be fairly conservative, and hope the five pounds I’ve gained in the last couple of weeks doesn’t reduce my clothing options in my closet too much.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited for something. And to think, I’ll be making money tomorrow, within a full time permanent job. No wondering where I’ll go or what I’ll do. It’s predictable bliss and oh so satisfying. I understand if you’re not where I am. But like most things, we appreciate them more when we have lost them. If you haven’t lost your home, your job, or your way, but you find yourself unable to find any type of excitement in your work, this perspective is worth serious consideration.

My guess is that your first Monday of 2015 won’t be like your first day back to school, full of hope and anticipation.  But if you consider that work is a privilege, and recognize the gift that it is, your job can become more than a job, but an opportunity.  We are blessed when we are able bodied and in a position to give and receive. We are blessed when we have the opportunity to execute our skills and be rewarded with the ability to pay our bills that give us food and shelter. That is God’s design. In Matthew 20 I read that the work day in Jesus’ day was 12 hours. That makes an 8 hour day worth celebrating!

May the first Monday of 2015 bring you joy in your ability to give to your employer and receive from your employer.  I plan on doing just that!

Talk soon!

Joni

P.S… I didn’t make my 9pm bed time. Rats!