Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Best Birthday Ever

I celebrated my 51st birthday on Sunday.


It seems like just yesterday I turned 25. I was mortified. Despite this - or maybe because of it - my then-husband chose to announce the event to the world.

It seems incredible to me now, but that was the most panicked I have ever been about a birthday milestone. Even the big five-oh didn't hit me as hard. Now, of course, there are days I would give anything to turn the clock back to 1984. When I was 25, the future seemed bright. I was a newlywed, living in a cute little house in a comfortable neighborhood in Peoria, Illinois, keeping the home fires burning and teaching piano lessons while Jeffrey went to graduate school and worked part-time. I looked forward to having children and living the American dream.

Life hasn't turned out quite the way I imagined it would. My work is satisfying and I thank God every day for my three healthy, bright, creative, funny sons. But sometimes I find myself apologizing that I don't have more to show for all these years. I have felt ashamed of my simple home, my modest income, my aging face and body, embarrassed that I can't play the "Minute Waltz" on the piano in less than a minute, a failure because I am single.

There is a Rascal Flatts song with the lyrics, "There comes a time in everyone's life when all you can see are the years passing by, and I have made up my mind that those days are gone." This is my new motto. From this moment forward, I feel pride in my past accomplishments while feeding my dreams for the future. I may not post a sign on the garage, but I will never again apologize for my age. I don't feel 51, whatever that means; I will take care of what I have, and if someone finds me unacceptable because I am not successful or attractive - or simply young - enough, then it is his loss.

I can hardly believe it myself, but I am happy to be 51. As a wise man once said, "I'm not dead yet!"

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Expecting the Best

My blog post 100 Things generated a lot of response - comments posted directly to the blog and on Facebook and a handful of emails. One very sweet fellow even went through the list and explained, point by point, how well he satisfies my criteria.

Unfortunately, he also lives about seven hundred miles away. But it was cause for hope. Maybe all the good guys really AREN'T already taken.

And a couple of themes emerged.

Most everybody agreed that even though the "ideal man" doesn't exist, it is good that I have given some thought to what he might look like. However, while some felt that my list was right on the mark; others believe I am aiming too high.

I concur with Tami's conclusion: "You have to dream big in order to get big things out of life." I have settled for too little for too long. Those days are gone. It's about time I get what I deserve.

A few people felt compelled to point out to me that men likewise have desires and expectations, and that I will play an important role in the success or failure of future relationships. A male friend expressed it this way: "Relationships are not 50/50; they are 90/10... In other words, if your partner can only give you at best an equal relationship it will never work. Period. They have to know you, understand you, magically be able to tell that you need more of them than just 'enough.' And you must do the same in return."

I'm not sure that I agree with his statistics, although I think I see his point. But my experience has been that I am the person giving the 90 percent to the relationship about 90 percent of the time. It is possible to feel more alone WITH someone than single. Again, I am determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Finally, there were those who thought I was being too darn picky. Okay, I admit it: every item on the list is not a "deal breaker." And some are a little ambiguous. So allow me to clarify a few points.

12. "Appreciates good music."
He is passionate about the music he is into and is open to learning new music, as opposed to being stuck in the 80's. (But, hey, I like 80's music, too!)

32. "Is tall."
I prefer that my partner be taller than I am - which is 5'2". But for various reasons I am particularly attracted to men who are much taller. For the most part, though, I do not have an ideal "body type" in mind. I have loved men of many shapes and sizes.

38. "Knows how to do basic household chores."
And DOES them on a regular basis.

40. "Doesn't keep me awake snoring."
I recognize that certain medical conditions cause snoring. Recently, it was brought to my attention that *I* snore sometimes. Average snoring does not keep me awake. That's all I can say without risking a lawsuit.

46. "Does not think it's okay to hit someone else - ever."
Obviously, exception must be made for self-defense.

48. "Has developed a personal philosophy."
He has a spiritual path, possibly his own unique one, with a lifelong commitment to personal growth.

58. "Brings me flowers and candy for no reason."
I also expect him to acknowledge my birthday and our anniversary. He doesn't have to remember; I will remind him! But I love spontaneous gifts, too - giving as well as receiving.

78. "Knows more about cars than I do."
79. "Can fix things."
80. "Enjoys yard work.
This sounds sexist, doesn't it? But a traditional division of labor works for me. I am skilled in the domestic arts; I am even capable of housecleaning, although it isn't my favorite thing to do. However, I know little about home repair, less about cars, and I despise gardening. That said, I am not opposed to paying others to work on our cars, do home repairs, and mow our lawn - provided we can also pay others to cook, clean and sew for us. Or some combination of the above.

* * *

I fall in love easily - usually with a man's potential as opposed to who is actually is. As a result, I have spent years stuck in unsatisfactory relationships, wishing for someday that never came. So I must continually remind myself that the only moment I am guaranteed is right here, right now, and if a situation isn't working for me, I need to cut my losses and move on.

I have a wonderful life; I am already complete. But I am a sucker for a happy ending. Maybe I will meet someone brand new, look into his eyes, and it will be as if we have known each other forever. Or maybe I will run into someone I was acquainted with many years ago, and we will reconnect, and wonder how we have managed all these years without each other. Or maybe I will be dating someone - keeping it light, with no strings attached - and we will wake up one morning and realize we never want to spend another night apart.

In the meantime, I am finding joy in the journey.