What I Learned from My Last Relationship

I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit beating myself up over my last relationship. It lasted 4 months, a new record of shortness. Here’s what happened and what I learned:

The first date

I cancelled it.

Someone informed me that this person had a girlfriend with whom he went back to his hometown with right after he and I made plans to go to dinner. We made them three weeks in advance because of our schedules, and I’m a single mom. I need LOTS of notice in order to go anywhere without my child. Maybe it would be different if I still lived in a small town and could pop over to a restaurant for an hour. Now, I live in the city, so it takes time to get to the destination, have a date, and get back home.

I told this person that I didn’t feel like it was the right time for me to date. I was already considering the big, geographical move that is on the table now. I didn’t want to get involved with someone and then leave. As a single mom, I don’t have a lot of time to text, talk on the phone, go on dates. It all takes time and attention away from my son. Yes, I believe in having time for myself, but an hour or an evening here and there works well for me.

I told him, sorry, not going to happen. Have a good life. No hard feelings. I did not mention the info about his supposed girlfriend because that was part of the deal when I received it.

He left me alone for a little while, a week or two.

Then he started texting, and I thought, ‘Be open. He’s a nice guy who isn’t going to stalk you. You won’t know until you try, and maybe if things go well, he’d follow you wherever you move.’

Ha.

I wish I had told him to bugger off. I do not know why some people pester and pester thinking that things will go their way if they pester.

To my regret, I replied to the texts. A friendly conversation ensued.

The actual first date

I don’t know if I’d call it a date, but it was all I was okay with. I had an evening to myself, and I invited him over for a very simple dinner and a movie. He was respectful. He did not try anything funny. He told me that part of the reason he wanted a relationship was because he didn’t want to die alone.

I don’t NEED a relationship. Some people do. He was one of them.

I knew that night that he wasn’t right for me. I didn’t stand up for myself or obey my instinct to not see him again. It got late, we stopped the movie and made plans to finish it the next weekend. I felt obliged to carry this out.

I’m human, make mistakes and learn from them. Right?

I am never obliged to do anything!

The second date

He had me over for a delicious dinner. (Man could cook well!) Upon my arrival, he kissed me, like tongue-kissed but in a tonsil-sweeping way. Uh, WTF? No! It took me completely by surprise. Boundaries: I did not set this one well. Setting boundaries about meeting my child: ironclad. But this? Dammit! I was so grossed out, and yet, it kept happening. Every time, I wondered, ‘Did his ex-wife like to be kissed like this?’

Again, human, mistakes, learning, kick some ass in this department next time. Right?

One thing I did right: I expressed a preference as to how I like to be kissed. It didn’t get through or he forgot or something. Cue theme of the relationship.

We finished our movie after dinner, and he asked me if I’d like to go upstairs, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I declined. Some people can sleep with whoever they’re dating right away. I am not one of those people. It does not work for me. I explained that to him.

Had I thought this night through a bit sooner, I would have realized that by asking me to sleep with him that night, he did not respect me. I should have said, “See ya, don’t call me again, I’m seriously not into this,” right then and there. He was so, so nice, in general, and positive, a dad, tidy, had experienced loss, no alcohol issues, and washed his hands after blowing his nose, which is a huge, huge deal with me. I kept seeing him.

We set our next date for about three of four weeks later. Hi. Yeah, single mom thing. That’s the time I have and am willing to give. Unfortunately, I gave him almost all of the time I had for myself, leaving me short.

Setting Boundaries

For example, three months into dating, my son went away for a weekend to a camp. I expressed a need for time to myself. He thought an hour should suffice, where I preferred four. I got an hour and reviewed my boundaries again.

He also kept pestering me to let him meet my son, and I had to say thank you for being so inclusive, and no, it’s too early. Six months to a year has not passed in this relationship, and you will not meet him or get to know him until that has happened. See? Ironclad. I had to say this every week. Remember the theme? I didn’t get through or he forgot or something. Every week. And it applied to other things too. He’d ask me the same questions multiple times and never remember the answers.

The Wind-Down

I didn’t see him again after that weekend that my son had gone to camp. I didn’t feel well. I slept a lot. Conversation was too much for me, and I felt guilty for that, yet not. I resented him and myself for not prioritizing my needs that last weekend we had spent time together. Our relationship dwindled to near nothing, and I started enjoying my lunch hours again, rather than using them to text.

The Breakup

Christmas neared, followed by his birthday, and I knew I would feel worse to go through those holidays with this person than without. On the way back from a grocery store trip, I called him to break up with him. I know. Over the phone sucks. I didn’t care at this point. Also, single mom, no time.

The Rewards

Life got better after this. I had my time back. I had time with my son without distraction. I didn’t feel guilty for rarely having time or energy to talk on the phone.

To stop beating myself up over this relationship, I’ve been practicing a meditation by Thubton Chodron on forgiving ourselves. In it, I practice compassion for myself. Some notes I have taken include: “Who I am now is not who I was then. I operated from a point-of-view that didn’t see clearly, and my wisdom was not functioning properly. I am not my actions. I can learn from my actions. I can have understanding that others are like me and make mistakes. I can move forward.”

Lessons learned

Set boundaries and stick to them. Listen to your instinct. I am never obliged to do anything. I can make mistakes and learn from them.

What have you learned? Have you had a similar experience? How did you improve your ways of setting and expressing your boundaries? How did you recover from your mistakes?

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Inner Dialogue on Dating, & My Parents’ Influence

This week I heard my inner dialogue about dating again go like this:

‘My mom gave up years ago. So can I!’

What. The. Fudge?!?!

‘Now that I think about it, my dad gave up long before my mom did, so I have two strong examples to support this.’

You all know that my mom is my hero, or you know now. I love her as much as I love my child. When people ask me where home is, I answer, “Wherever my mom is.”

My mom thinks in a way that provokes deeper conversation, prods one into looking for more meaning. She has led me on a spiritual journey with her adventures in Buddhism and a few other isms. She doesn’t lack a partner. She is a force on her own!

Both of my parents have strong, political convictions which they passed onto me. And they have both lived unpartnered for many years, with different perspectives on it.

When my dad and I reconnected last September, I remember him encouraging me to remarry. He said he regretted not remarrying when he endured cancer and its treatment a couple years ago.

‘Oh Dad,’ I thought. ‘You do not know me AT ALL.’ I understand his perspective. I took his words and filed them for later reference. As we’ve talked over the last six months, I think he’s gotten a better idea of my life.

I’m exhausted. All the time. Working full-time takes up most of my time, and parenting on my own takes up most of my energy, plus I’m up before the crack of dawn working out every day, and reading or playing during my spare moments. I’m considering a geographical change and with that comes the constant job search, school-reviewing, neighborhood-researching, clutter-clearing, etc.

Dating at this time of my life is not a priority. I dated someone for a few months this past fall, it did not work out, and I don’t miss the time and energy it took to maintain the relationship. I like my space!!! I cherish the very small windows of alone time that I get, and I cherish the time I have with my son while he’s still young and wants to spend time with me.

Am I thinking too black-and-white by saying that my parents gave up on dating and that I can too? Maybe. We’ll see what the future holds. I’m not eager to jump back in that pool, nor do I feel like I lack a partner. Like my mom, I’m a force on my own and don’t need a relationship to feel okay in life.

I find that pretty empowering.

The words I said to myself while training and running half marathons apply to everything in life: I am enough. I am strong. I can do this.

Don’t worry; I’m not trying to do everything on my own. It takes a village to raise a child. I have help. I lean on my mom and a couple of other helpful people in my life. What I have going on works for me, for my family, and that’s what matters.

 

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My First Half Marathon as a Single Mom

About a year ago, I decided to challenge myself. Running as my therapy (it helps me burn off energy & have more patience), I could easily run 5 miles any time, any day. I started rolling around the idea of running Denver’s Colfax half marathon, which took place in May.

By the end of February, I had registered for the half marathon, committed. I would run 13.1 miles mid-May.

Holy crap.

I had to get serious. Me. At the beginning of January, I was a woman who thought she’d never run more than 5 miles at a time, who never had run more than 5 miles at a time. I bumped up my run to 6 miles on the last Sunday of the month.

I had a plan. I used the Half Marathon Training Plan from Women’s Running.

I could run 7 and 8 miles by the end of February, 9 and 10 miles in March. Whoa!

Every week, I ran longer distances until April when I had to run 12 miles as part of the training regimen! (Enter: a twinge in my left foot at my third and fourth toe.) The training plans, expert books and magazines all advise to bump up your distance by a tenth each week. It seemed to happen naturally for me. My body wouldn’t carry me much past that threshold.

I worked with two women who had run half marathons as well. They both told me that they had never run more than 10 miles during half marathon training. I knew 12 wasn’t as much as I wanted, and I accepted that it was good enough.

While training, I learned about “hitting the wall.” My body would stop. It would happen at mile 8. I learned about staving off the wall by using energy gels to keep my blood sugar up.

Every time I thought I couldn’t keep going, my former running partner’s words would play through my head: “You think you can’t, but you can!” It’s true. Most of half marathon training is mental.

The first time I ran ten miles, I felt so proud, so accomplished, so tired! I took many naps during half marathon training, drank a lot of chocolate milk post-run, and ate a lot of plain oatmeal pre-run.

Race day arrived. A seasoned half-marathoner picked me and my son up. She took care of my son during the race, and they went to different spots on the course to cheer me on. My biggest cheerleader in my life, my mom, had made travel plans for that weekend. I made sure to sign her phone up for text alerts during the race, knowing the first one would start at 5 a.m. where she was. Sorry, not sorry.

The race went well. I wish I had worn running pants that dreary, Sunday morning in May. I wore a tank top, a tee, a long-sleeved running hoodie and shorts. Brr!

I finished. I did it! During the race, I kept thinking about firefighters at Mile 11. Shirtless firefighters at Mile 11. Yeah, well, think what you want, it worked. I kept running. I ran the whole way, except when drinking water at the water stations.

At the end, my friend and smiling boy met me. I finished in just over 2.5 hours. I’m not fast, just consistent. My favorite part of running the Colfax Half Marathon is the good food at the end. They have Michelob Ultra, too, but drinking isn’t really my thing. A barbecue pork sandwich sure is though!

To all of you who think “I could never do that,” yes, yes, you can!

This is what I learned.

You can do anything you put your mind to. Believe!

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Considering Change

I read I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan over the weekend. The premise of the book appealed to me.

“In I Almost Forgot About You, Dr. Georgia Young’s wonderful life – great friends, family, and successful career- aren’t enough to keep her from feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes in her life, including quitting her job as an optometrist and moving house, she finds herself on a wild journey that may or may not include a second chance at love. Georgia’s bravery reminds us that it’s never too late to become the person you want to be, and that taking chances, with your life and your heart, are always worthwhile.”

I am always considering a job change. I am seriously toying with the idea of making a geographical change. And deep in my mind, I still haven’t let go of the fantasy at a second chance at love. See my post on The First One.

Two quotes Terry McMillan’s book stood out to me:

“There are three things I’ve decided might have helped if I had known then what I know now:

  1. When you think you’ve found the Right One and you free-fall so hard you levitate and picture yourself spending the rest of your life with this person, give the relationship everything you’ve got, milk it, and enjoy it while it lasts, because you don’t know when you might feel this way again.
  2. No one is perfect. Not even you. But know how much you can tolerate and don’t toil like a slave to make your relationship or marriage work. When you find yourself miserable more than you are happy, know this is not where you need to be. Figure out a way to get out.
  3. When it’s over, it’s over. Don’t look back. You never know who’s behind Door Number One or who might walk in to you life when you’re not looking.”

Number three hit hard. I have struggled with letting go of the First One for almost twenty years. I have heard to never go back and learned that lesson on my own, for good measure.

I have also read Real Simple every year for the past few years, and they always feature true stories in the February issue about long-lost love reuniting. Forgive me for holding on to one tiny thread of hope that this might happen to me, too. If it did, I would feel the same as the quote below:

“I don’t care what it is we don’t like about each other. We’ll get to like it. I came here to sweep you off your feet and love you for the rest of your life the way you’ve always dreamed of being loved.”

Yeah, the First One would be worth it. He was worth it then. I’m sure he’s worth it now, and to me, always will be.

I had lost the belief that I was worth it. I was worth that astounding love then, still am, and will always be. I believe in myself again.

This is powerful.

Yes, I doubt myself daily. Yes, I make mistakes. I’m human. (See point number two above.)

Whether the First One and I reunite in the future is up to one of us making that happen. I’m not in the right place in my life to attempt a relationship with anyone right now. I have to be okay with my past and that I ended something precious and believe that I will find something really, really similar one day, when I’m ready and open to the possibilities for my own reasons and not anyone else’s. For now, I’m enough. I don’t feel lacking. I have a lifetime-long list of things I want to do and learn when I have a bit more time to do them.

These days, I pat myself on the back for taking care of my son, earning a living so that I can feed us healthy, delicious, home-cooked meals, and making sure we both have what we need.

Seriously, single parents, we are amazing! Pat yourself on the back right now, if you’re a single parent.

And believe in yourself. We’re worth it.

 

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Badass Moment Reclamation

My dad and I haven’t spoken in nearly 10 years. It’s just so normal that when people have asked me recently if I have any family where I’m from, I say, “no.” Even though my dad still lives there, it didn’t feel right to claim him and have to add that he doesn’t talk to me. It was easier to say I didn’t have any family there and talk about my mom instead.

Last week, I got an email from one of my dad’s good friends asking me a question on behalf of my dad. My dad is moving and wanted to know if I wanted a few of my things that he had stored for me, without me asking him to, mind you.

My first thought? If he has a question to ask me, then HE should ask me, rather than pawning off the task to someone else. My number hasn’t changed since 2003, nor has my email. I didn’t reply to the email. I did get up out of bed that night and write out a letter to my dad because I couldn’t sleep. The letter, which I didn’t intend to send, began by asking “What is wrong with you?” (I wouldn’t send that.) and went on to encourage him communicate with me directly or to get help and stop living this way.

A few days went by until I decided to call yesterday. I went for a run in the morning and spent the entire last mile talking myself into calling my dad before going inside to stretch. Yes, YES! I had decided on the time.

I got back home and dialed his number.

Disconnected.

What?

I dialed again. And again. With the same message from the telephone company.

‘He changed his phone number and didn’t even bother to tell me? What an ass!’ I thought. It didn’t surprise me. We haven’t spoken regularly in twenty-plus years, so we already have that precedent set of not communicating.

I went inside feeling hungry and exhausted, mentally and physically, and upset that I had worked up the guts to call my dad only to find out that I didn’t have his number and I had to work up the nerve all over again to call him. Grr! After eating and showering, I went to sleep for over an hour, just shut down my brain for a while.

I woke up crabby, disappointed, and hungry again. My badass moment had fallen flat like hairsprayed 80s bangs in the rain. I wanted to be a badass so badly yesterday!

I didn’t want the day to get away from me. I didn’t know if my dad still went to work or not, but I knew that I had yesterday off, and no other time off to confront him. I contacted another family member and got my dad’s new phone number.

With my son’s nose to the homework grindstone, I went to my room to call my dad, give him a piece of my mind, and not put up with anything he dished out that I didn’t like. He hasn’t exactly been nice to me on the phone since I was about 12.

I called. It rang. He picked up and I garbled out, “Hi-it’s-me-full-name-Hi-your-daughter.”

“Excuse me?” he said.

“Dad, it’s your daughter,” I said.

He didn’t hang up. He didn’t say anything wretched.

“Oh my word,” he said. “It’s so good to hear from you. Did you get the email from my friend?”

His friendliness derailed my entire spiel that I had prepared, which included asking him if he wanted to be my dad or not.

And then he asked me the question that he had asked his friend to email to me. And we talked for 40 minutes. He said all sorts of really nice things like he just wants me to be happy and that I have to take my own path, just like he had to take his own path. He wants the best for me, as all parents want for their children. I said I want the same for him.

He said he wants to keep in contact. I said I would really, really, really, really like to hear from him. He has to call me. I will not go back to doing all the work in this relationship again. I don’t think that he has ever called me. Ever. I hope he meant what he said. I hope he calls. I’m willing to call him a few times at first, if I have to. We are two very different people, and I don’t know what we’ll talk about other than books and my child. If he has changed enough to be nice to me on the phone, I know he can be his own badass and call me. My son and I would love to have him in our lives!

I called my dad last night and reclaimed my badass moment.

 

 

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Restless Part 2

I finished reading Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie the other morning on my commute. I don’t want to give away any part of the book (that I could barely put down!) I will say that the main character’s first love remains unforgotten in her mind. This may have contributed to my feelings of longing and restlessness with those feelings for my First Love.

The book made me wonder if all of us who experienced a wonderful first relationship always have some sort of yearning for that person that lingers through our lives. I remember my mom talking about her boyfriend from college, not the one she married, and how much she loved him. I don’t remember specifics, other than his Japanese last name.

Why do we hold on to these memories, long for them, for years? Why do I feel bad for every time I mistreated my First Love? I don’t think it happened very many times, but I wish it hadn’t happened at all. He didn’t deserve anything but the kindness he showed me. Have I mentioned that I was really young and did not realize what a stuck up you-know-what I was? I had so much to learn. Still do. I wish I had known that the world can always use more kindness. Maybe I did, and I had temporary lapses with my still forming brain.

Letting go, letting go now, letting it all go now.

After we broke up, I know I slipped into a destructive mindset where I didn’t believe that I deserved anyone as good as First Love. I’m on the path to a full recovery from that.

 

 

 

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Restless

I feel restless and unsettled. I have felt this way all day. It started when I went to work, where most of my yucky feelings begin. Today has sat in my stomach like a knotted ball of yarn, tan and scratchy.

A customer greeted me this afternoon with, “Hello, dear.”

I replied with “Hello. Do I get to call you, “dear,” too?”

He stumbled a bit with sounds in his mouth before saying, “Yeah. Sure.”

“Okay, great!” I said. Awkward silence followed before normal conversation resumed.

I like this customer. I don’t mind him at all. Before I even thought it out, my question shot out of my mouth.

I have no regret over my words. It surprised me that I said it. I think the surprise that I spoke up unsettled me. I’m trying to get used to this feeling. I would like to feel more comfortable speaking my mind.

***

Today, I remembered speaking with my former boss before I transferred, way back, a long time ago, about pursuing an MBA. I asked if the company would help pay for any of the tuition and if earning this degree would advance my career. The answers: No and No.

Eff. This.

Why do I still work for this company doing the same thing I have done for 8 years????

***

I have reached a dangerous point in my workplace where I daydream about up and leaving, maybe without warning, and using my time to find a new job. My practical self argues and says, “no.” My other practical self says that a freer schedule would make interviewing a lot easier to put on the calendar.

I’d like to work for a dynamic and intelligent female who won’t stifle me with male-dominated, corporate BS.

Oh, I know someone. Me! I’d like to work for me. The commute would improve! My practical self says that I have to have a “real job” while I transition into working for myself.

***

I realized this weekend how much I seek out qualities that my first love had. If I thought it a good idea, I would ask him if he would ever consider seeing what we could make of a relationship now. I’m pretty sure he’s in a relationship right now, so I’m not asking. Instead, I have a small crush on someone similar to him who grew up in Switzerland and makes art, speaks foreign languages, has eyes I wouldn’t tire of…and has a wife. Damn!

I’m focusing on letting go. It’s been 19 years since First Love and I broke up, and I’m letting. Go. Now.

He popped up in my dreams last week, so loving, and I will keep that feeling with me and let him go back to the past. I feel forever grateful for experiencing that loving and fulfilling relationship.

Yes, I deserve something as wonderful as what I had with First Love, and I will find it again, as soon as I make time for dating again somewhere between tomorrow and 7 years from now when my child goes to college.

Letting go.

***

I have more physical stuff to unload in my home, some of it Ex’s stuff, but not all. It has taken seven years to get to a point where I can talk about him dying without tearing up, look at photos, the few things left that were his/ours/mine. I’ve stood in my own way with clearing clutter. I want to fill up some boxes, load them into my car, drop them off at the thrift store, and feel that looming weight lift out of my consciousness.

***

I didn’t have time this morning for more than a quick yoga workout because I slept until 5:25! Yay Sleep! Not getting a more strenuous workout in compounded my restlessness today.

I feel more at ease now after writing all of this. I’m so grateful that my job allowed me to move to the city, to experience something different, to provide stability. I’m open to the future, tomorrow, the next moment. I’m breathing deep breaths, the deepest breaths I’ve breathed since yoga practice this morning. Some peacefulness has settled in.

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