Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Two Weeks Notice

I gave my notice at my job yesterday.

I honestly felt sick to my stomach - like I was going to puke sick to my stomach. I don't know if it was just nervousness to tell my boss I was leaving him high and dry in two weeks or the fact that I wasn't 100% sure I was doing the right thing, even though I'm pretty sure on paper that I'm doing the right thing.

I suck at change. And it takes me quite awhile to get comfortable in new surroundings. My current job is comfortable. I know what I'm doing. I feel confident in my abilities and and I truly enjoy what I do. Most of all, I enjoy the people with whom I work. They're genuine, fun-loving, sometimes crass (in a good way), real people who I have come to know and respect. It's because of them that I really like coming to work every day.

My mom always told me that when you have to make a tough decision, write up a list of pros and cons. I made that list, and the pros of taking this new job were way more numerous than the cons. The problem is, you have to assign a weight to those pros and cons. The opportunity to work for a company that was listed in the Best Places to Work in its industry is a pro. The job description sounding like something that's in my wheelhouse yet will allow me to grow is a pro. The compensation and benefits is a pro, as well as proximity to my home.

Where else can you have a "Will It Waffle?" day?
But, it's a con to be leaving these great relationships I've forged with some of these people, especially the core team with whom I work. It's a con that I'll be leaving (at least temporarily) the confidence to speak up in a meeting or take on a new writing challenge because I've been here long enough to know the ropes. It's a con (or maybe a pro, depending on who you ask) that with my son coming home I may not have the flexibility to be there for him in the way he needs. Funny how tangible the pros are, and how intangible the cons. That's why it's hard to give them the same weight.

My fear of change gets in my way a lot. I've gotten a lot better about it over the years, mostly since change seems to enjoy screwing with me. Just when I think I have my life where I want it, some monkey wrench gets thrown into the mix and BOOM. The relationship is ending. I'm moving. Someone's dying. A child is leaving. A job is changing. DAMMIT!

Ugh. WhatEVER.
I know, I know. Life is all about change. "If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." "Your life doesn't get better by chance, it gets better by change." I know all the stupid quotes. I don't have to LIKE them.

I guess I've always just wanted to live a nice, ordinary life. One where I raise my kids in the same house for all of their young lives, work for a great company for years on end, am married to the love of my life for umpteen years and take a vacation to the family summer home every July. Spoiler alert: None of these has occurred. Yet.

Hopefully this change is good. Hopefully I can overcome my fear and embrace this new venture as my new future, a gift from God, a fresh start ... whatever spin I can put on it to get me through the first few months of not knowing what the hell I'm doing while maintaining the confidence that soon I will.

I do have a favorite quote about change - and it doesn't even have the word "change" in it. It's by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in the theory of mindfulness, which, if you haven't even looked into it, is pretty amazing and surprisingly effective. Anyway, Kabat-Zinn said, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."

Wish me luck - I'm about to Hang Ten.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Most everyone has heard this obvious yet profound quote from the great Wayne Gretzky. I’ve used it before, as recently as yesterday. I was talking to a (younger) family member about some life-changing decisions and plans she was making that she seemed to be having ... not doubts, necessarily, but maybe some trepidation. Before I even had a chance to think, this is what I wrote:

“I love that you're taking this leap and I can say honestly and truthfully - from a 48 year old woman who has never done SHIT with her life because she was too worried about doing EXACTLY what was EXPECTED of her and MISERABLE at it all, you will never regret it, whether it works out or not.”

OK, so reading back on this, it may be a little dramatic. I’ve done some shit with my life, sure, and I haven’t been miserable about it ALL. I don’t know that I’ve necessarily accomplished anything earth-shattering to put my mark on the world, nor have my deeds been any greater than anyone else out there. But I have always suffered from living very much inside the box, based on what I believed were others’ expectations of my life - others being parents, community, and, well, society (and yeah, I know, the latter two probably really could not have cared less.)

I guess my regrets are that in some cases, I didn’t take any shots. In some cases, it didn’t even occur to me to do so because “I’m just not that person” or “I’m just not at that place in my life.” In other cases, it was fear of the unknown, fear of the unstable, or fear of failure. So in some ways, though I don’t have any regrets of things I have DONE in my life (except a few), I do have regrets about the things I have NOT done. 

So I continued to write to her,
I want to reiterate that. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT. You know that saying by Wayne Gretzky (go SPORTS!) "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." I have missed 100% of the shots. I went to college because I was supposed to, I got married because I was supposed to, I had kids because I was supposed to, I moved with my husband because I was supposed to. The first thing I ever did that I wasn't supposed to do was get divorced, and once I got through the GUILT of RUINING LIVES I was finally at peace with doing something that I WANTED and NEEDED to do. And I don't regret it. It sucked, but it was the best thing for me and the best thing for my kids (I think.) 

And just in case my kids read this, I don’t regret you. Not for a split nanosecond. My boys are, by far, my greatest accomplishment in life, and nothing could ever trump that. (And come to think of it, probably my most awesome adventures ever.) I don’t regret going to college or getting married. Again, this isn’t about regrets from past decisions. It’s regrets about decisions I never even considered.

And even as I think on it now, I don’t know what I would or could have done differently. It’s not like I was going to move to the mountains and write my novel while my kids were in grade school. I mean, I guess I COULD have. Yes, I COULD have. But I thought that living anything but a calm, stable, ordinary life like I had growing up would be selfish. I mean, I had a GREAT upbringing, and it was VERY ordinary. I WANTED that for my kids, or at least I did at the time. Funny how life works, though. Things happened to us over the course of their upbringing that were NOT ordinary, and I fought tooth and nail to right them back. Now that I think of it, at this writing, we are certainly NOT ordinary, but that is through situations that I suppose I could call adventures, though they weren't necessarily of my choosing.

Adventures. That’s such a great word. I guess I need to stop thinking of them as these elusive, life-altering grand plans and more of situations where you just move out of your comfort zone. 

I once knew a man who considered every unknown situation in his life as an “adventure.” He’d even tell his kids, “Today we’re going to have an adventure.” He’d have no plans, and they’d just go and do. And there was always some story to be told at the end of it. One night he was caught in a horrible snowstorm, and had to walk miles to get help. But he never recalled it as a horrible experience, but as a "great adventure."

I never forgot that, and I think about it often when I’m going into a situation of which I’m unsure, or if I’m faced with an opportunity that scares me. So I ended my “lecture” to my family member like this: 

“This is an amazing opportunity, and if nothing else, you will have an adventure, and you will have it with someone you love. THAT IS LIFE RIGHT THERE, MY DARLING.” 

I hope to have adventures - things that I choose to try that scare me but excite me at the same time. Maybe it is writing that book, or moving to a new location, or taking that trip I've made umpteen excuses why I can't take. Maybe it's as small as climbing that big rock or learning some new skill I thought I was too old to master.

Life in itself is an adventure, I suppose, because you never really know what’s around the next corner. But instead of checking to see if you’re wide open and are sure of the shot, sometimes you just have to take it. Otherwise, you’ll miss … every single time.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Say "yes" to the ... date?

Dating sucks.

Well, not the actual date part, per se. Though I've had a few of those that did, in fact, make me cringe and wish I had made a pact with a friend to call me with some pretend emergency if I text her the right code word. The feeling may have been mutual.

I'm not even sure how the whole process works anymore. I've kind of given up on looking for someone with whom to spend the rest of my life. In fact, when people ask me, "Do you think you'll ever get married again?" I answer it as if they just asked me, "Do you think you'll ever buy a fancy dress?"

I like fancy dresses. I can certainly live WITHOUT a fancy dress. I'm not spending an inordinate amount of time searching for a fancy dress. But if I happen to walk past a rack of fancy dresses and one jumps out at me and it fits perfectly and hugs me in all the right places and the color complements my skin tone and I feel just AMAZING in it, then sure, I might in fact buy that fancy dress. And sometimes, I browse through the racks of fancy dresses even if I don't plan on buying one. You know, just for fun.

In the meantime, though, I'm kind of just keeping my eyes open for something that fits me OK and that doesn't require a lot of special care and maintenance. Kind of like a wash-and-wear, no-iron boyfriend.

Here's the thing. Over the years, I've come to put "pre-dating" in the same category as shopping for a bathing suit. I seem to learn the hard way what styles are NOT me and what cuts DON'T fit, leaving me exhausted and just wanting to put my sweats back on, lay on the couch and eat a carton of ice cream.

For those of you who don't date, you can't relate to this. For those of you who could give a shit about dating or finding someone, you can't relate to this either. But for those poor suckers like me who are still at it, here's a few thoughts and maybe a couple of pointers for the opposite sex:

1) If you're "my age," you'll probably meet someone via unconventional means. I've only been picked up once in a bar - and I was married to him for nine years. I had a four-ish year relationship with a man I met online. I had one date with a guy I met while walking my dog. The latest was a gentleman who approached me in a grocery store. We went out a few times before he bailed because he thought our futures were too different.*

*Don't think I just fell off the turnip truck. Years ago, after a particularly bad breakup, I read a book that might sound stupid but it's been my mantra ever since. "It's Called a Breakup Because It's Broken: The Smart Girl's Break-Up Buddy" was essentially a manual for getting over being dumped. And it was pretty simple. If a guy wants to be with you, he'll be with you. If he doesn't call, it's not because he's sleeping/lost your number/is visiting his sick grandma. It's because HE'S NOT THAT INTO YOU. So delete his number, block him on Facebook, do whatever you have to do so you don't turn into that whiny chick who wants to know what she's done wrong and why he isn't contacting you. I repeat. He's just not that into you. End of story. Don't be bitter. Just move on. (My trick is that I never put a guy's name in my phone. It's always just his number that pops up, so I just delete the texts and voila - he's gone.)

2) There is a certain group of men out there who have never been married and don't have kids. Initially I avoided these types because 1) I figured there was no way in hell we would have much in common and  2) There HAD to be a reason they hadn't ever gotten married, right?

What I've found is that everyone has their reasons, and the fact that they didn't get married or have kids isn't a reason NOT to date them, but it's definitely going to be more of a challenge. Topics about kids are only relateable if they have that cute niece or nephew whom they just adore. They've spent their lives doing things you were for the most part completely unable to do due to your commitments to your spouse and kids. And if you're still caring for kids, you're not going to be as available as he might be, which can be - not saying always - but sometimes a bone of contention. But, if it's the right guy, it can work, though it never has for me.

3)  The whole "going on a date" idea has become ambiguous. If you meet online, there's the idle chit chat back and forth. Then texts and maybe a phone call. Then possibly coffee or a drink. If there's a mutual "connection," there may be another night or afternoon out. Meeting anyone any other way is kind of the same thing. I can't remember the last time a guy actually said, "Would you like to go out on a date?" I know it's old fashioned. But what's so wrong about it? Why do we do all this "pre-dating" and when does it actually BECOME dating?

The new phrase now is "hanging out." "You want to hang out sometime?" I always want to say, "Sure - I'll meet you at the gas station - get a six pack and we'll sit out back and smoke some cigs." And I get it - you don't want to say "date" because that could be implied as "commitment" and "hang out" is nice and safe. Because what if you just want to be friends? Do guys really LOOK for that kind of thing? The friend thing? I have guy friends, but they're usually husbands of girlfriends of mine. I mean, I'm not saying it doesn't and can't happen, but I think it's more the exception rather than the norm. Let's face it - "let's be friends" is the kiss of death in any dating scenario.

Come on. If you're interested, just take the plunge and ask for a date. "Hang out" is a selfish way to say "I want to text you when it's convenient for me and I'm not sure how I feel about you anyway." That's fine, I guess, if both parties are on the same page with that, but it's rarely the case. If a date doesn't go well, all you have to do, really, is send a text that says, "Thanks but I don't think we're compatible." I promise if I receive that I will not stalk you or cry or be devastated. It's much better than having three "hangouts" and wondering what the hell is going on. (And I'm pretty savvy on figuring out if "hangout" is the equivalent of "let's have sex," and yes, I've learned the hard way that usually doesn't lead to dating or a long-term relationship. Yep, it's true.)

4) Games are stupid, I don't do them and I'm so over it if you do. I'm too old and too tired to play them. If you text me, I will text you back when I see it. I won't wait three hours in order to appear chill or busy. So if you want to call me after a date, don't wait three days so you don't seem too needy. Just call, for God's sake. I could die tomorrow - then how would you feel? Like you missed an opportunity to have one more date with me before I died, that's how you'd feel.

5) Just because you're "dating" doesn't mean you're on the road to marriage. Some may want this but not everyone sees it that way. Dating can mean going out to dinner on the weekends, seeing a concert, hanging out on the couch on a weekday night eating pizza and watching a movie, or even mundane things like shopping or working in the yard. Dating is enjoying another person's company. I guess the problem is that dating can lead to love, which is another topic all together. While dating is enjoying another person's company, love is more of wanting to be with that person even when you're not. And if one person is in dating mode and the other is in love mode, it can get tricky. I don't have any advice for that because it's been awhile since things have gotten that far. 

Look, single people in your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. I know you may be jaded - everyone is to some extent. We've been around too long not to have some past mistakes and experiences cloud any new situation that comes our way. But at our age, everyone's going to have baggage - some good and some bad. If you can't handle it, exit respectfully. But if you think you want to stick with it, then I say just go for it. Life's too short to spend it alone (unless you really want to) and it's sure nice to have a Plus One every once in awhile.

With that said, I'll just continue to browse the racks and maybe someday I'll find that one "must have" that catches my eye and fits me in all the right places. Then maybe I'll buy it and wear it when someone finally asks me out on a date. Now wouldn't that be ironic?