Let the Games Begin…Later

It’s already been six months since my big breakup. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not—have you noticed?

It’s time to get back on that horse. (tee hee hee! Save a horse; ride a cowboy? Nevermind. I will spare you the stream-of-consciousness “riding” jokes. Sorry.)

Let me tell you, as much as I would love to start dating again, I’m having a little trouble.

A) I don’t know how to meet men in real life. Remember the mattress guy?
B) That leaves online dating, and OH MY GOD, I’M SO SICK OF ONLINE DATING.

Here’s what happened.

A few months ago, I re-activated my profile on OKCupid, which is a free online dating site. I hadn’t been on there in a couple years, of course, because I’d been dating someone. I was surprised to find that all the familiar faces were still up there.

I’m not speaking archetypally here. It wasn’t just any old foot fetish guys or twenty-something cougar hunters: the actual same people were still there on the site.

Buncha losers, right? Still on the same dating site after TWO YEARS? I was feeling mighty superior until I realized that if any of them logged on and recognized me, they’d assume that I’d been on there for two years, too. I was tempted to post a disclaimer: HEY, DON’T JUDGE ME. I HAD A REAL LIVE BOYFRIEND FOR 18 MONTHS!

I skipped the disclaimer. No point in drawing attention to my failure. Instead, I updated my photos (my favorite!) and refreshed my catchy, definitely-not-desperate, sexy-yet-respectable profile.

This is so ridiculous it makes me cringe. And yet, I'm not above it.

Oh god, the shame. Either way. This is why internet dating blows.

Let the games begin.

Within a couple days, I had begun corresponding with a man who seemed intelligent and pleasant. He was reasonably attractive (a ginger, but I’m open-minded, you know) and had a job that was absolutely fascinating to me: a dealer in rare antiquities. Yes, my BS radar went off, and I wondered if he really was just an unemployed guy who believed he’d found the Holy Grail in his great-aunt’s basement. Nevertheless, he did seem smart and interesting. If he actually was a legitimate antique dealer, then that’s about the coolest, most Meg-perfect occupation I can think of.

The Ginger was quite romantic, and had big ideas about a romantic first date: walks on the beach, picnics and the like. I asked him, “Have you ever done this before?”

Nothing says “I’ve never been on an internet date” like premature romantic hopes. Let me tell you, a couple internet dates will kill those early romantic impulses dead. The first meeting is not a date; it’s an awkward, fact-checking, mutual evaluation exercise that is best accompanied by strong drinks in a public location with at least two exits.

So I convinced him to settle for ordinary drinks in an ordinary bar and scheduled a meeting for the following Friday, just a few days out. He gave me his number and encouraged me to call him.

I didn’t. I grew a big knot in my stomach instead.

Thursday night I found myself sitting on the couch, eating ice cream out of the container, bawling in front of the TV for some unidentified reason.

ABORT MISSION. REPEAT. ABORT MISSION.

I sent the romantic, unsuspecting Ginger an apologetic email cancelling our date and took my profile down before he could reply. I’d never called him, so he had no way to reach me and tell me what a flake I am.

Newsflash: if you’re still bingeing and bawling on the couch, you’re probably not ready to date yet.

Fast forward a couple more months. I was starting to get lonely, among other things. Time to try again. Couldn’t go back on OKCupid because the Ginger would probably be on there still, along with every other guy I’d interacted with over the last two years. So, I tried Plenty of Fish.

Plenty of Fish is known as a hookup site. It’s free and there are a zillion users so it’s like a giant man catalog. Incidentally, it’s where I met my ex. (There’s more where he came from, right? That’s why they named it Plenty of Fish.)

New profile. New pics. New inane conversations with men that have absolutely nothing in common with me, except that they like vaginas and I have one.

After a few days, I had begun conversations with two men who seemed intelligent and interesting: a tall, quirky I.T. guy, and a short, well-dressed Art Director. Both seemed like decent guys—courteous, articulate, and genuine. Both gave me their phone numbers and made tentative plans to meet me.

And I did it again. No bingeing and crying this time, just a big panic in my gut that said NO FREAKING WAY. I CAN’T DO IT AGAIN. I sent more apologetic emails and deleted my profile, again. Left two perfectly decent guys in the lurch.

I can’t even tell you why.

This is not a self-esteem thing. I wasn’t feeling unworthy or what-have-you.

This is not about my ex. That’s water under the bridge and I’m not harboring any hopes or could-have-beens about him.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on. I just know that there was no way in hell I was going to call either one of them, or pick out an outfit and try to look pretty and show up in a bar and make dumb small talk or any of that first-date nonsense.

Just can’t do it. Not yet. Maybe never. Maybe this time I’ll have to drag myself out into the real world and not hide behind a computer. Or maybe I will go back to the internet dating sites when I’m ready.

I always say that online dating is like shopping at T.J. Maxx—you have to dig through a lot of crap, but if you’re patient you can find some good stuff there. Maybe I just have to build up my stamina a little bit before I’m ready to hit the racks again.

Yoga Realizations: Abundance & Scarcity

Yoga. I never bothered to try it, because I assumed that a large, inflexible, uncoordinated woman with poor balance would not be able to do yoga.

About a month ago, I finally gave it a shot. All my girlfriends were doing it, and I just wanted to be cool. Peer pressure caused me to experiment with yoga.

I was correct. I can’t do it. And I love it so much, I wish I had tried it years ago.

I didn’t realize that yoga is magic. When you require your body to attempt what it really cannot do for a good solid hour, until you’re sweaty and exhausted, your brain apparently winds up in some kind of crazy super-freedom state that allows you to think beautiful new thoughts.

(Aside: I suppose this must be what certain drugs do for you, too….except if you do a whole bunch of drugs you wind up looking like shit, but if you do a whole bunch of yoga, you wind up looking awesome.)

I can tell you that I must look ridiculous in my yoga practice, which is okay because I can’t see myself. I’m sure I never look like a warrior or a tree or a crow, but at the end of class, I’ll be damned if I don’t think like a yogi.

This is good news, because my thoughts are kind of shaky these days. I’m still off-kilter from my recent breakup, and I spend a lot of time either sad, angry, or in a state of rigid avoidance. But for some reason, when I’m physically exhausted and instructed to clear my mind and focus on my breath, amazing thoughts radiate through my consciousness.

I know I sound dramatic, but here’s what happened in my brain at the end of a recent yoga class.

We’re sitting cross-legged (sukhasana! I’m learning!) and the instructor quietly suggests, “Extend your spine, take a deep breath and thank your body for all the hard work you put in today.”

Thanks, body. You did great!

“On your next exhale, round down over your feet and extend your fingers towards the front of your mat. It’s important to recognize how hard your body works and to appreciate all that it’s capable of. Hold that pose for five breaths.”

Hey, feet. Thanks for the hard work.

My feet are okay. They’re not weird-looking or anything and they never give me any trouble. I love my feet.

You know, I actually love my whole body. Hear that? I love you, Body. I have an abundance of love!

….I have an abundance of love.

….I’m not afraid of being alone because I have an abundance of love.

I really thought those things, all in a row, like popcorn popping in my brain. I was probably a little oxygen-deprived in that moment, because sitting cross-legged and bending forward like that causes the bulk of my belly to be crushed up into my lung-space, but whatever. It was worth it for that brilliant realization: I HAVE AN ABUNDANCE OF LOVE.

The class progressed into the meditative portion, where you’re supposed to lie flat, clear your mind, and concentrate on your breath. So of course, that’s when my brain goes nuts.

This “abundance of love” notion rolled right into a burst of clarity regarding my recently-ended relationship. While our relationship was good in many ways, it was always marred by possessiveness and jealousy. I’ve never had that particular problem before, and I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why those problems kept surfacing, when I didn’t feel like I was doing anything to trigger them. I didn’t understand why we were constantly fighting over nothing.

And right there in yoga class, it came to me. Abundance versus Scarcity.

I have learned about abundance before, but I have always heard it applied to material things. An abundance mentality says that there is plenty for everyone. We can afford to be generous because there is enough to go around.

Scarcity is the opposite of abundance. People who live in scarcity feel that there is never enough, and so they are constantly fighting for their share.

I never applied the notion of Scarcity and Abundance to human relationships before, but BAM!—yoga clarity!—I suddenly saw how it works.

I come from a big, loving family. I was raised with the certainty that I am loved. I have a great circle of friends. I have kids who love me. I recognize that I am extraordinarily fortunate to feel an abundance of love.

I’ve never been one to feel jealous or suspicious; I’m very trusting. I’ve also never cheated on anyone; I don’t see the point—just love who you’re going to love. I have this crazy theory that almost all hurt feelings between friends are the result of misunderstandings, because I truly believe that people who love me would not intentionally hurt me. That’s what my life experience has taught me.

Not everyone has had that life experience. I suppose if you were raised in an environment that was abusive or unstable, or if you suffered through abandonment or infidelity, you might feel emotional scarcity. You might feel like you need to fight for affection, guard it and keep it to yourself. Once you have someone’s affection, you might feel like you could lose it at any moment, and easily become suspicious or jealous.

Suddenly all those fights, all that jealousy and possessiveness made sense. Why I felt so smothered, and why I felt like I could never do, or be, enough. We’re talking about opposite worldviews here. No wonder we couldn’t get along.

That just took me 900 words to explain, but during yoga, it flashed into my brain on one big exhale, like I breathed all the clarity in and all the confusion out.

Peace in… fear out.

Abundance in…scarcity out.

I’m telling you– you gotta try yoga.

Goodbye, Swoony McLovestruck

Seventeen months ago I posted about the absurdities of internet dating. Ironically, that very same night, I went on an internet date with a guy who knocked my socks off, triggered a series of lovestruck posts, and started me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could step off the dating merry-go-round for good.

Alas, dear readers; that is not how the story ends. Oh, it ended. Just not like that.

My big romance is well and truly over. So, I’ve taken the usual steps: crying, ranting to my girlfriends, buying shoes, drinking, eating, buying more shoes…and all of that helped.   I’ve taken healthier steps, too, like painting and taking long walks. I even tried yoga for the first time. (Wow, yoga! More on that later.)

Mostly, I’ve done a lot of thinking. It was hard for me to let this relationship end, because I wanted so badly for it to work. This is the first time in my adult life that I really threw my whole heart into a romantic relationship, because this is the first time that I felt like I’d found someone who was worth that kind of risk. I fell hard, and I think in the process, I forgot something very important.

I went through a lot of crappy internet dates to learn this important lesson, and one sweet romance almost blew it right out of my head.  A year later, when things were starting to unwind with my beloved, the lesson came back to me.

Here’s the short version: I can’t control what another person wants, and I can’t become what another person wants. Instead, I need to decide what I want. I need to be who I want to be, and find someone I want to be with.

When I was younger, and I first started dating, I worried all the time about whether guys would like me. Was I pretty enough? Thin enough? Sexy enough? Wholesome enough? Should I be more open? Or more mysterious? I’d be out on a date, gripped with insecurity, always worried about whether I was what my date wanted.

Then I got a little older. The beauty of getting older is beginning to accept yourself.  I’m not perfect, but I’m perfectly acceptable. I started to see what a waste of time it was to try to be what someone else wanted. When I look at myself now, there are things I want to improve and things I struggle to accept, but the bottom line is this: it is what it is, and really, it’s just fine.

Instead of trying to be what someone else wants, I need to decide what I want for myself.

That outlook greatly improved my dating life. I began to go out more, because I stopped ruling myself out.  In my early days of dating online, I’d look at someone and think, “I’m not his type”—even, sometimes, when he approached me first! I started enjoying my dates more, because instead of trying to prove myself, I focused on each person I met. I’m sure that made me a lot more fun to be around, too.

Eventually, this strategy led me to my boyfriend ex-boyfriend. (Ouch.)  For the first year, it seemed pretty close to perfect. When problems cropped up, I thought, well, all relationships have problems; this is worth working for.

So I tried hard to not cause the problems. I tried to be more tactful; I tried to be more communicative; I tried to be more available; I tried to be more feminine; I tried to be less independent; I tried to be less stubborn; I tried to be more open; I tried to guard my words; I tried not to upset him. I found myself apologizing for things I never knew were wrong. I found myself trying to change things about myself that I’d always been proud of.  I tried and tried and then I remembered:

I can’t become what another person wants. I can’t change what he wants.  I can only decide what I want.

The fights continued, but instead of trying to prove that I was a good girlfriend, I began to try to evaluate our relationship. Am I being reasonable? Is he being reasonable? Are we really compatible? Are we really loving each other?

Is this what I want?

It sounds selfish; I know. “Meg, really? It’s all about what YOU want?”

Well, yes. Because I can’t control what he wants. And I can’t be what I’m not.

Sure, I can work to improve myself, and I can work at being better in a relationship. “What I Want” includes standards for me, too: I want to be reasonable, gracious, forgiving, open and kind. I know that I fall short of those attributes sometimes, and I know when I’m not at my best. But I trust my own judgment. I know when I’m trying my hardest to be the person that I should be. I want to be in a relationship that allows me to be that person.

And I wasn’t.

So it’s over.

It hurts; I wish I could breeze through this on the confidence that I’m doing the right thing, but it’s not that easy. The right thing hurts too, sometimes.

And the question now is… what do I want next?

The Blogger’s Guide To Breakups

Recall the Marvelous Moods of Meg? Sometimes they are chemical. Sometimes they are triggered by breaking up with a nice guy who loves you but does not inspire in you the passion you would really, really like to experience again in your lifetime (although it seems increasingly less likely as you approach your 40th birthday).

Say you wake up with a terrific backache on the day you intend to execute this break-up and your beau, fresh from the chiropractor himself, lovingly applies the tens unit he just purchased to your lower back, because that’s just what kind of guy he is.

Say you still do the deed, because you’re feeling increasingly guilty about playing along with the girlfriend routine when you can’t possibly imagine a future with this guy.

Say he takes it like a gentleman, but reminds you before he leaves that although you may find someone you love more than him, you could never find anyone who loves you back as much as he does.

Say you believe him, but you take the gamble anyway.

Most likely, you are left with a backache and one hell of a bleak mood. Here is what I recommend.

  1. Cry for a while.
  2. Take a lot of Advil.
  3. Numbly browse the For Sale ads on Craigslist.
  4. Try to imagine what you would have done with this day had it not been hijacked by your stupid love life.
  5. Oh yeah, painting.
  6. Return to Craigslist and find cheap canvasses, an easel and a long-handled brush set, just the kind you’ve been wanting, posted by a seller who lives a mere 10 minutes from your apartment. (This step could be tricky, but you’re due for some decent Karma by now, aren’t you?)
  7. Meet the artist-girl seller in the Santa Ana Artist Village for the deal. Wait for her in the warm afternoon and be inspired by the ornate façade of the Santora Building. Reflect on the fact that this same face has overlooked this sunny plaza since 1926.
  8. Be inspired by the artist-girl herself, with her Amelie haircut and bright-orange vintage bicycle. Ponder the possibility that your life might actually be some kind of movie and not real, kind of like The Truman Show.
  9. Be inspired by the fact that your art needs have all been met within a half hour for less than $60 via Craigslist. (Now you can forgive Craigslist for introducing you to your [ex] boyfriend.)
  10. Stop on the way home for tequila. Painting alone might not be quite enough to handle this mood.
  11. Mix a margarita and set up the easel on your tiny, neglected patio.
  12. Choose yellow, red and white paint: guaranteed to make a happy outcome.
  13. Don’t think. Just paint.
  14. Be inspired by the orange and pink swirls.
  15. Be soothed by the dog sleeping in the sunshine.
  16. Mix another margarita.
  17. Blog.