Birth (of a book)

Becoming an author is a lot like becoming a parent. Conception might look a little different, but there are still parallels. You have the idea of a book, much like you have the idea of a child. If it’s your first, there are many unknowns for which your imagination fills in the blanks. Maybe you read up on the subject or talk to others who have had the experience. You start to associate with people who are in similar circumstances. Some of them have already done this once, or multiple times. They confidently offer advice that largely falls on deaf ears, because you cannot really imagine what it’s like.

The actual writing of the story is like pregnancy, only, in most cases, it takes a lot longer. It’s an emotional journey and this takes you by surprise. There is anticipation, excitement, fear, doubt and mood swings. There is even back pain and swollen ankles, if only for spending too many hours hunched over the laptop.

Finally, the manuscript is done. Or, you’ve reached the 40 week mark. Either way, the work is finished and you become impatient, wanting it to be over. But, in reality, it has only just begun. They don’t call it labor for nothing! All of that editing and rewriting! It’s so painful! Even if you have a good coach, they start to make you irritable, toward the end. There comes a moment when you give up and just want to say, “never mind.”

But there’s no turning back. The last minute details have been completed and everything is ready. You’ve chosen the perfect name and it’s finally going to happen! A few last pushes and there it is. At long last, you are holding your book in your hands, gazing down at it with a sense of wonder and joy. You are overwhelmed by your sense of accomplishment.

Friends and family call and gather to admire your work. They congratulate you. There might be flowers or champagne. Your heart swells with a pride you’ve never known and you are walking on air.

Before long, people start to ask you when they can expect “the next one….”

Boom Boom Boomerang

Someone I was dating once told me that I was like a boomerang because I kept pulling him back. I was deeply hurt and understood him to mean that he wanted to be free of me, but was constantly being lured back, like a moth to a flame. After I thought about it, I realized he was right. Our pattern was that we’d spend a day and/or evening together and then he would leave. We lived an hour apart and he shared a house with less than desirable roommates, so he always came to my place. A few times, I invited him to return and spend the remainder of a weekend or holiday. He almost always came, even if it was very late at night. There were times when I wouldn’t see him for a week or more. But he always came back. I assumed he was there because he wanted to be (silly me!) But he apparently felt like he was being pulled back, apparently against his will or his better judgement.

It occurred to me that he was the one leaving and coming back, so it was actually he who was the boomerang. The only thing of which I was guilty was enjoying his company and wanting to spend time with him. (I can be a real bitch like that..) But, if he didn’t want to come, then I didn’t really want him there. The daily texts and occasional phone calls continued. But he never said, “I want to see you” or “When can I see you?”

How quickly we can fall into roles and routines that feel comfortable, even when they are not healthy. Personally, I’ve been close to a lot of people who never shared their emotions or took responsibility for their behavior. Perhaps this was true of my boomerang relationship. Despite the distance between us and some major differences in our lifestyles, I know he liked me. Maybe he tried to love me, but just couldn’t get there. At times, I felt like I was an unwanted distraction. Every time he tried to walk away, he felt drawn back to me. Was he disappointed in himself each time it happened? I’ll never know. Rather than talk to me about it, he eventually walked away without an explanation.

Sound complicated? You don’t have to be a social worker or a psychologist to date in your sixties, but it helps. Recognizing unhealthy patterns is a big part of recovering from failed attempts at love. But it was also a loss. He is a good guy with a lot of wonderful attributes – not like the usual suspects for me. He was gentle and easy going and giving of himself. He had an amazing way of opening me up so that I was comfortable telling him things I had not told anyone else. When we talked about our childhoods and our families growing up, there were uncanny parallels that helped us understand one another on a deeper level.

It takes a lot of courage to enter into a relationship at any point in your life. But I think it’s more so later, after you’ve already endured some significant defeats. Every attempt that fails is another small layer of loss on your heart. Some people give up completely, hoping to avoid additional pain. Some walk away when the emotional connection becomes too close and they’re uncomfortable. Others persevere, recovering best they can before diving in again. Spending time alone, doing things that bring me joy, helps. I believe that you have to truly love yourself before you can expect someone else to love you. I’ve discovered that I really like my own company and I’ve found an amazing peacefulness there. I’m interesting, ambitious, creative and funny. And if I think so, it’s only a matter of time before someone else does, too.

Things I’ve learned from dating in my 60s

-The things a guy says at the end of a date is not necessarily indicative of how he actually feels. “I hope I see you again” doesn’t mean that he will.

-The more he protests that he hates playing games, the more likely he is to play games. The more he insists that he is honest, the more likely he is to be anything but. If he offers that he is not controlling, someone who came before you told him that he is.

-The best sex in the world is not worth the emotional wreckage of experiencing the ruin of a valuable friendship.

-A kiss is just a kiss. It’s not a promise.

-There is loneliness out there so thick, you can cut it with a knife. He is most likely not purposefully being difficult – He’s just trying to cut thru the layers of his loneliness.

-You can have good sex without a relationship, but you cannot have a good relationship without sex.

-You can have a friendship with a heterosexual male, but you have to agree and make a mutual decision not to complicate it by having sex. Eventually, one of you will weaken and it’s the responsibility of the other to maintain his or her resolve.

-Sex in your sixties is different than sex in your twenties. Not everyone realizes this. If one of you is still playing by the old rules, it won’t be successful. It’s not so much that our bodies have changed, but our minds. (For the better.)

-Playing ‘hard to get’ is still a thing. And it’s effective.

-It’s okay to tell someone what you want, in a straightforward manner. Mind reading should not be part of any relationship.

-Not saying how you really feel to spare someone’s feelings is not okay. They’ll find out eventually and wish they’d known sooner. Once it’s lost, you cannot rebuild that trust.

-Everyone is terrified of the L word. If he says he loves you, he means it. Be gentle in your response.

-Most will show you what you don’t want in a man. When you find someone who shows you something amazing, pay attention. If it doesn’t work out, look for that same trait in someone else.

-If he wants to buy you dinner, by all means, let him. Put away your independent, modern woman bullshit for a moment. It’s a nice gesture. He needs to show you that he cares and that he knows how to treat you. There is a direct correlation between his doing so now and how he will treat you in the long run.

On the lighter side…..

Helpful Dating Translations

More things I’ve learned from dating in my 60s:

  • I’d love to stay, but I need to feed my cat = I forgot my drugs
  • I need to think about it = Not bloody likely
  • I hope I’ll see you again = But I probably won’t
  • I’ll call you = Don’t hold your breath
  • I can’t show affection because of the way I was raised = You’re hideous
  • I have an early day tomorrow = I’m just not that into you
  • I can’t miss the meat raffle = (See above)
  • Please respect my privacy = I’ve blocked you

What are the Chances?

The Universe sends you what you need, when you need it. I’ve said it before and will say it again – whenever I need to hear it. Or, more likely, whenever I am reminded.

Recently, I began thinking about a harpist that I had befriended online years ago, pre Facebook, back in the day of My Space. Her music was so hypnotic and relaxing. I decided to look for the CD I had purchased from her, but couldn’t find it. Maybe I’d replace it, I thought. Maybe I’d look her up again. Life went on and I did neither. But the music stayed in the back of my mind, like a nagging little voice that wasn’t going away.

Last month, I became involved in a Celtic service at my church that is the result of our minister returning from sabbatical in Scotland with a vision. I posted about it on Facebook. A fabulous, local musician with whom I am friends commented on the service. Turns out she knows another of our church musicians and expressed an interest in the service. I was thrilled, since the woman is a phenomenal musician. She plays fiddle and…. harp. But she is extremely busy and spending time in Ireland. I hoped she might join us at a service when she returns.

This morning, I was at church for something unrelated when the minister approached me. Her husband is a realtor and selling a house for someone with a harp that they no longer want. ”I figured it has strings, so you could play it,” she told me (with a straight face). Without explaining that’s not quite how it works, I told her to please get the harp. “If I can’t play it, I know someone who can.”

That job interview you were gung-ho about that fell thru. The relationship that ended unexpectedly. The random stranger you met who happens to know/have what you need. To coin a phrase, There are no coincidences. Something better is out there for you, be it a job or other adventure.

What does it all mean? I’m not exactly sure. But I’m willing to bet that it will be revealed, when the time is right.

Mistakes (I’ve made a few)

Mistake. It’s a simple enough word. But one that is fraught with negative emotion. We live in constant fear of making them. Yet, mistakes are as inevitable as the sunrise.

What if we change the way we see them – Not only accept them – But expect them? Take the power away from those two little syllables that influence our decisions and rob us of opportunities. How might you have lived your life differently if you had not been afraid of making a mistake? What might have you tried? Sometimes, you’d fail, but what of the times that you would have succeeded?

What if we saw every mistake as a gift? After all, it is a chance to gain personal insight and change the way we interact with the world. Our broken places often heal stronger than ever before. Maybe, we should wear those scars with honor instead of shame.

When we were young, our first response was, “It’s not my fault.” Hopefully, we have moved beyond that reaction and learned to love ourselves enough to accept our mistakes. Loving yourself means the whole package – the bad as well as the good. It is exactly what distinguishes us from our ten-year-old selves. There is something freeing about owning our actions. By taking responsibility, we rob a mistake of the power it has over us – it’s ability to put fear in our hearts, regret in our minds and – worst of all – self doubt in our decisions

The next step is to forgive yourself. Remember that forgiveness is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. It does not negate or erase the mistake. Instead, it says that we are human and therefore imperfect. It allows us to move forward and not be dragged down by a single choice or decision.

Mistakes are not failures: Holding on to a mistake is. It stunts our emotional growth. Every mistake holds a lesson. Ask yourself, “What might I have done differently?” Or “How can I avoid this outcome again/next time?” Observe and learn. These are the blessings mistakes bring. Then, put it behind you and move on.

The next time you are faced with a tricky decision, weigh the consequences of making a mistake. Hopefully, it will no longer be that scary monster-under-the-bed. Maybe the perceived benefit outweighs the risk. More options will open up before you because there is no fear of being wrong. I’m not recommending that we be reckless. But, if being wrong is the only thing that’s stopping you, it might be time to dig deep and put in a brave face! Think of the possibilities!

If we are able to expect and forgive mistakes in ourselves, we will be better able to do so for those around us. And that will make the world a much better place for everyone.

I am Woman

The sexual revolution of the sixties is still raging in my head.

Being a woman of a certain age in the twenty-first century can be challenging. As hard as we try to adjust our sails to modern culture, there are certain things that just do not come easily.

We were given amazing bodies, capable of miracles and inhuman feats of strength. We shoulder the responsibility for the future of mankind, for which we endure excruciating pain. These are not only the facts -They were the expectations that molded our young minds, decades ago. But it wasn’t the whole story! The best part was left unsaid: Our bodies are also capable of giving and receiving intense pleasure.

But, from the moment the doctor announced, “It’s a girl!” we were conditioned against ever pursuing or reaching our full sexual potential. Enjoying it was completely out of the question. Our mothers had it even worse as they were coming of age. So it stands to reason that they did not have the wherewithal to encourage us to explore our sexuality. In many cases, it wasn’t even acknowledged. We were not allowed to become sexual beings at all.

Sex education was nonexistent, leaving most of us to learn through experimentation with equally ignorant partners. Information about important things like birth control and STDs were left to whispered conversations during sleepovers with our often misinformed girlfriends. There were no books written to educate young women, no sex on television and certainly no Internet.

Taboos were the norm. Girls who became pregnant were forced to leave school and give up their babies, while the rest of us silently prayed with relief that it wasn’t us. Shame was our parents’ best weapon against their own fear that their daughter might be next. Frank discussions about the discrepancies between what we were feeling and what society demanded were nonexistent. Our hormones cursed through our veins and we had no tools or knowledge to help us deal – only threats of disgrace and scandal.

Most of us fumbled our way through getting our periods, dating, losing our virginity, marriage and childbirth. The information highway opened up only when we had a husband and another human life growing inside us. This was in all accordance with society’s efforts to squash any possibility of an independent, young woman brazenly in control of her own body.

Fast forward, some forty-five years. Those of us with marriages that did not last have had to re-enter the world of dating. Fortunately for our younger counterparts, the rules have changed – or at least relaxed – but the double standard is alive and well. Sex education, information and professional advice are prevalent nowadays. Sex outside of marriage is not only accepted, but expected. Women have been given legal rights over their own bodies. The veil of shame associated with enjoying our sensuous nature has started to evaporate.

Why, then, is it so difficult for us to go out there and have a little fun? Thanks to menopause, we no longer have to fear becoming pregnant. We’ve let go of the unrealistic notion that our bodies are anything less than perfect. We’ve created life, birthed a new generation, nursed our babies. We wear our stretched skin and Caesarean scars with honor. Finally, we are comfortable. We are free.

But, are we? I don’t know a single woman my age who can truly enjoy casual sex. Or, as it is known, NSA (no strings attached). That guy who stands a little too close and touches your arm when he makes a point might look good. He may smell even better. Those familiar, tingly feelings surprise us. It’s thrilling to find out you’ve still got it, right? Another merlot takes the edge off and helps silent that little voice – the one from 1972. The one who makes you feel guilty. Irresponsible. Dangerous. Dirty.

Okay, so maybe the dangerous part can be sort of exciting. It masks the emotional tug-of-war that goes on inside your head. You want this. You need this. It feels good. But you were raised with The Waltons only to wake up and find yourself in the middle of Sex in the City. And Mary Ellen is kicking Carrie’s ass.

You psych yourself out so that the chances of enjoying yourself are diminished, even if you decide to go for it. In a cruel twist of fate, it turns out that the only one who won’t respect you in the morning is…. You!

What’s a girl to do? If you’re patient (and extremely lucky), someone will come along who is willing and able to form the kind of emotional connection you need to allow the physical closeness that follows. I suspect the formula for that chemistry is different for each of us. But, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually find it. Meanwhile, our options are limited. Stock up on batteries. Invest in a rechargeable boyfriend. Join a convent.

Celibacy is highly overrated. At our age, it’s more like use-it-or-lose-it. And, while it remains admirable for our male friends to get laid, I fear that it will never be that way for us.

I hope that our daughters and granddaughters do not face this dichotomy. I pray that they are better equipped to make choices for themselves that do not chip away at their self worth. Perhaps, their brainwashing was more like a light rinse. I want to tell them, “It’s YOUR body. Not society’s. Not your parents’. Not your lover’s. It’s your body and it is amazing. Learn how it works. Test it’s capabilities. Make your own rules and set your own limits. Or don’t. Either way, enjoy it and, most of all, be happy.”

It’s a good message and I think I’ll start reminding myself, telling my single girlfriends. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not too late for the rest of us. (Shut up, Mary Ellen…)

Signs

Last April, I was driving and feeling overwhelmed by the consequences of some recent decisions. I never doubted that they were the best decisions for me, but the weight of them was sometimes unbearable. It caused me to second guess myself and made me feel inadequate and unsure of myself.

In an a effort to shake off the feelings, I stopped for coffee at a busy rest area off the interstate. An elderly woman of small stature was behind me in line. She reminded me of my mother, who had passed away two years earlier. The sudden yearning to talk to her and for her to know what I was going thru was sharp.

As I started to walk away with my coffee, the woman approached me. “I just have to tell you that you are my daughter.” I must have looked taken aback. She smiled and said, “I mean, you are the spitting image of my daughter. And she is a wonderful woman.”

Thanks, Mom.

I arrived at my destination, which was a visit to a friend’s new apartment in Connecticut, where he had moved the week before. A few weeks earlier, he had been at my house as I was packing and preparing to move. I had given him a few things from my house because I was downsizing. While he was visiting, he had needed to sew a button, so I offered him my mother’s sewing basket. Overwhelmed by the need to purge, it was one of the things I had been avoiding getting rid of because it reminded me so much of her. He loved the sewing basket and was pleased, despite it’s broken hinges. Before I gave it to him, though, I removed my mother’s thimble, measuring tape and a bobbin. I wanted them as keepsakes. But he needed the thimble to sew the button, so I returned it to the basket without a word.

When I walked into his apartment, the first thing I saw, among the chaos of unpacked boxes and out of place furniture, was my mother’s sewing basket. It had a prominent position on the table in his otherwise disorderly living room. When I commented that I was happy to see it, he opened it and took out the thimble. “I want you to have this back,” he said, handing it to me. “I bought myself a new one,”

Thanks, again, Mom.