You made it through. Whatever 2016 held for you, whatever transition, heartache, or opportunity presented itself, you made it through. We all did. And that’s a big deal.
This year, we withstood challenges we may not see the fruits of for a while, if ever. And we inspired people in ways we may never know.
We grieved. Privately, with few or no people to witness. Or publicly and found support from unlikely places.
We cried. Sad tears and happy tears. Maybe even both in the same week.
We belly laughed until our sides and our cheeks hurt. (We may or may not have peed a little.)
We saw beauty.
We lost weight and we lost hair.
We gained weight. And we gained insight,
And miraculously, we gained faith,
And love… love beyond what we could ask or imagine.
We medicated, doctor prescribed or otherwise.
We courageously faced truth,
our deepest fears.
We fell down.
And we got back up again.
We are overcoming.
Now, I think we’re ready.
I think many of my single women friends can agree with me that being a middle aged single woman isn’t easy. Certainly, it isn’t the worst thing life can hand you, by far — many people live lives much more challenging than a single woman living in the suburbs. But I think we can agree that this a couple’s world. At least my world is. And moving through life without a partner is hard at times. Satisfying in many ways, but often lonely.
I’m thinking of those times that present challenges that aren’t unscalable, but would be so much better if there was someone else there, if for no other reason than moral support. Fighting with the IRS. Fighting with a teenager. Fighting with the frickin water heater when the pilot light goes out. (So much fighting!) It’s not that I can’t manage those things on my own. I can and I do because I have to. It’s that I’m just tired and I’d really love a person there to say, “It’s ok. You can do this. You aren’t alone.” And maybe also to light the damn pilot light.
So, like many of my friends, I have hoped and dreamed and prayed for that person with whom I can navigate the hard times and celebrate the magical ones. And having found the above methods fruitless, I have turned to the delightful world of online dating.
Know that I tiptoed into that world because of the stories I’ve heard that so-and-so met their spouse on that app and really it’s a numbers game and hang in there and your guy is just around the corner. (I’d like to say on record that many – not all – “coupled” people have this strange vested interest in finding single persons a mate. I’m certain it is with the best intentions, but putting the primary focus on one’s relationship status is by default ignoring all the other awesome things about that person. I can’t tell you how many times the first thing out of someone’s mouth after not seeing me for some time is a variation of, “Are you dating anyone?” “Have you found your Prince Charming?” or “Why are you still single?” There are so many other questions one could ask in that situation. “How are your kids?” “How’s work?” “How’s your backgammon game coming along?” If we put our minds to it, there are lots of options. AmIright?)
Why am I still single? I’ll tell you why. Please let me regale you with a sampling of recent dates I’ve had:
- The scientist who could not look me in the eye and did not ask one question.
- The gay Korean pastor (If history has taught me anything… Trust me on this one).
- The promising VP of a Fortune 100 company who turned out to be a major d-bag. ‘Nuff said.
- The ecstasy-dropping atheistic pansexual rabbi (I learned these fun facts and many others in one two-hour lunch.) (PS: I had to google “pansexual.”)
Hand to God, these are men I have gotten excited about and then quickly learned… well, you see.
Facebook is no help in building your confidence in this area (shocker). There is this weird phenomenon that comes over me as I scroll through my feed of smiling couples and intact families. I somehow come to the conclusion (delusion?) that I too am promised a fairy tale ending. Now, we all know that what we see on FB isn’t the whole picture, that what people post is a sliver of their real lives and they most likely have struggles like the rest of the people on this planet. But that doesn’t stop me from hating them a little bit.
I am FB friends with a particular woman who is a knock-out. Dazzling smile, gorgeous figure and a perfectly lovely person. I also know that she has had her share of tragedy. Truly, she has suffered hardship I cannot fathom. She was recently divorced and then very quickly found a hunky, tall, successful man whom she married. Bitch.
I KNOW. I AM A TERRIBLE PERSON AND I AM GOING TO HELL. LEAVE ME ALONE.
I was jealous. All I saw was that she found a guy and was incredibly, outrageously happy. I was so stupidly jealous. I may or may not have unfollowed her.
A few lame dates later, I was having lunch with a dear friend I’ve known for decades. After I shared with him my tales of dating woe, I said, “You know, I think I’m due. I think I’m owed some sort of back credits, right?”
This is what he said: “Why the hell do you think that?”
“Sure, your life didn’t turn out the way you thought, but really?” he continued. “Laura, there is no guarantee you’ll find a partner to spend your life with. And so what are you going to do with that? Be sad and bitter the rest of your life?”
I sat there dumbfounded.
No one had ever said that to me before. Seriously, people all around me say, “You’re going to find someone any minute now.” Or, “The right guy is just waiting for you.” Or something equally as patronizing.
Until now, no one has ever said, “What if he isn’t? What will you do with that?”
In that moment, I realized, consciously or not, I had been pinning my future onto some unforeseen person that may not exist. Holy crap. Now that is delusional. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about that possibility. That my future may not involve a soul mate with whom I share my life. I am thankful that I am capable of building a good life for myself and my kids, but the idea of doing it alone takes a minute to get used to.
So. What to do.
Here’s what I know:
I have an incredibly satisfying life.
I have two daughters I am proud of beyond expression.
I have a deep bench of faithful friends, without whom I wouldn’t be standing.
I am loved.
I will never be alone.
And though self-pity sometimes rears its ugly head, if I can remember the truth, if I can take a breath and remember what I already have, I will be okay.
I will be more than okay.
I will be FABULOUSLY okay. And that is something, for sure.
YOU GUYS. THEY PICKED UP ONE OF MY BLOG POSTS. You may have heard me go on about how fantastic Darling Magazine is, how it celebrates women in all their beauty…beauty not defined by a dress size or the thickness of one’s eyelashes or a number on the scale. This magazine values the intelligence, wit, style, creativity and wonder of all women. I just love it. And THEY’VE PUT ONE OF MY POSTS ON THEIR WEBSITE! Words cannot describe how excited and honored I am. I have to go now and do a happy dance!
The little house my grandpa built in 1949 nestled into the Hollywood hills when the sign read HOLLYWOODLAND. It was made into a home by a lady most people towered over, even with her ubiquitous heels that clickety-clacked on the linoleum floor of the tiny kitchen.
Moving from a small town in Washington to attend college in big, bright Los Angeles, I am like a lost little girl. As I navigate the angst and confusion of cultural adjustment, my retreat and my refuge is this house. It is safe and quiet and familiar.
The scent of star jasmine welcomes me as I step out of my car in front of their home. I lug my overflowing laundry bag to the back door that opens into the kitchen, and walk into the warmth from the oven. Grandma rushes in from the living room, arms wide open.
“Little Laura is home!” she laughs, and reaches up to hug me. I’m enveloped in a cloud of old Chloe perfume too long on her vanity. I walk through the house to find Grandpa sitting in his olive green recliner, feet up, a crossword puzzle in hand, lips pursed in concentration.
“HI GRANDPA.” I kiss his forehead and he startles. He adjusts his hearing aid and pats my hand.
“Hi sweet girl. I didn’t hear you come in.”
Grandma walks through the room like the Energizer Bunny. “I’ll get your warsh going and you go take a nap.” (Wash, with an r.) It’s 11:00 in the morning. I postpone the nap and help her with the bag that is nearly as tall as her and weighs twice as much.
The smell of oatmeal cookies and her signature German chocolate cake lingers in the air. There’s a pot roast in the old white oven and spiced peaches simmering in sugar, cloves and cinnamon sticks on the stove. After the laundry, Grandma makes me a cup of tea and we settle into easy conversation across the formica kitchen table. Strains of violin waft through the open window as her neighbor teaches a music lesson. I tell Grandma about classes and boys and she tells me about my cousins and her friends and every story she tells involves what they ate.
The day moves along slowly, quietly, like a passing shadow. She makes tuna sandwiches with butter and pickles for lunch. We hang my laundry to dry on the patio (“Who needs a dryer when we’ve got one outside for free?”) as the smell of fabric softener mingles with her rose bushes. Her arthritic but perfectly manicured hands heft wet jeans and sweatshirts onto the line and pin them securely with clothespins from the hanging bag.
We take a walk up steep hills around her home—she is still in heels—and she greets every dog and neighbor along the way, introducing me proudly.
Before dinner, Grandpa rises from his favorite chair and creates the nightly martinis, to which my young taste buds haven’t grown accustomed. When we sit down to dinner in the heavy wood chairs my dad sat in as a child, I ask Grandpa to tell me a story about his days in radio. He is not impressed with celebrity, but tells about a joke of his that Bing Crosby laughed at, or the time Jonathan Winters was late, or when Bob Hope needed his help with a microphone. He tells these stories I’ve heard before like they were just another day at the office.
We clear the table and wash the dishes by hand (“Who needs a dishwasher when you have two good hands?”) and adjourn to the TV room to watch Lawrence Welk. Grandma sits in her miniature version of Grandpa’s recliner. She props her stockinged feet on Grandpa’s lap so he can tickle them as he’s done every night for 75 years and she twists her hair expertly into Dippety-Do’d pincurls. We take turns commenting on the performers: Grandma loves Bobby’s tap dancing, I envy Anacani’s mahogany curls cascading over her shoulders. Grandpa’s hearing aids are turned down (or he’s tuning us out) as he continues his crossword puzzle.
Time has stopped for me. I am only a few miles, but light years away from my college campus. I feel like I am inside parentheses amid the pressure of school, loud dorm, and fraternity parties. This day, this space, is a reminder that I am seen and known and loved.
mr. petty was right
The waiting really is the hardest part.
You’ve waited for something, haven’t you? For a table, for a text, a tax refund, for a baby, or a diagnosis.
In this moment, I am waiting for something considerably superficial in light of some of the examples above. I’m waiting for the UPS man. I have been waiting ALL DAY. I missed the delivery yesterday and if I miss it again, they will ship the package back to the sender, which simply cannot happen. So I wait. I try to busy myself with work and laundry and writing, but my ear piques every time a truck rumbles by. My hope is by the time this piece is finished, I will have my little package of electronic deliciousness in hand.
For a couple weeks recently, I waited on an email. I was asked to submit an essay to a respected publication and with high hopes, I did. For the next week, I obsessively refreshed my email in search of a reply.
I double checked the email address to make sure I sent it to the right place. Yep, I had it right.
I triple checked the email address.
Maybe my email got lost in their stack of submissions.
Oh well, I guess they didn’t like it.
I suck. Why on earth did I think I had a shot at that?
Freakin’ give up, Laura! They aren’t interested!
Refresh. One last time.
Pep talk: Okay, so that’s just one publication. That’s okay. Didn’t JK Rowling submit her work like 14,000 times before someone saw the genius? Patience, grasshopper.
Who are we kidding? I suck.
Welcome to the crazy that is my inner monologue.
This somewhat inconsequential example reminded me of things we wait for that have far greater weight. We wait for college acceptance letters or job offers. We wait for treatment results or reconciliation of broken friendships. We wait for justice or adoptions or emotional healing. We wait for love, recognition or freedom from our demons.
The waiting fills us with doubt. Will they like me? Do I have what it takes? I’m trying so hard to beat this, but is it working? Am I enough?
I’d like to go on the record to say I HATE these kinds of questions. I hear them in my head and I get sucked into their conniving, mean, STUPID ways of tearing down.
Here’s what I say right now to the voices of doubt and fear: Oh please. That’s all you’ve got? Rude. I’m so over that. You cannot touch me and my resolve. You CANNOT steal the passion and life that fuels my desires and my will to thrive. Phfffft. Lame.
So to you who wait. It is hard. I know. I have waited. I am waiting—for things more important than a package or an email. But I also know there is a plan and a purpose bigger than the tension and longing we feel. I have faith in a God who is good and involved and working. We may not get everything we want in this moment, but the waiting and the work and the longing do not go unnoticed.
Just because there is no sign of life right now doesn’t mean there won’t be. Just because there is no answer doesn’t mean the answer is no. Hold fast and strong to the things you know for sure…the things in the deepest part of you that must happen for you to fulfill your purpose. Do NOT give up on the desires of your heart. Do NOT lose hope. I wait with you and hold space for the things coming we cannot see right now.
PS: Ten minutes ago, the UPS man came, thankyouverymuch.
PPS: Two weeks after my initial email, I did get an response from the publication I submitted to. They want to publish my work. More on that later…
the view from here
Recently, I sat across my friend at an outdoor cafe in a trendy LA neighborhood. Beneath the twinkle lights in the trees, we plowed through fancy burgers and shared an unspeakably delicious slice of praline chocolate cake. As the food settled and the sun set, we continued an ongoing conversation of relationships, friendships, and career paths, laced with gut-busting laughter and random people-watching comments.
My friend is fantastic. She’s whip smart (don’t play her in Scrabble. You will lose handily). She and her extensive vocabulary are hysterical. She is strong, as those who have raised boys alone need to be. She is compassionate and generous and sees profound goodness in everyone she knows. And she’s a beauty, on the outside, for sure, but also on the inside where it’s most important.
I’m not exaggerating when I give you this list of her best qualities. But what’s most unbelievable about her is that she doesn’t know these things about herself. She doesn’t recognize who she is. She struggles to see how the people in her life see her and how God sees her.
That evening she tells me the story of a challenging situation she is in with someone she cares about. This person isn’t treating her with the respect and dignity she deserves—any human deserves. It’s not an isolated incident and it’s full of judgement and condescension. But as she explains it, she recognizes her own brokenness and wonders aloud if maybe she should give this person more grace and patience and hang in there.
I nod and listen, but inside I want to punch the person she is talking about. I want to yell across the table, “KICK ‘EM TO THE CURB!” But instead, in my most evolved, zen-filled state, I remind her of who she is and what she’s worth. I remind her to honor herself enough to set boundaries with the person and own the belief that she deserves better than this in a friend. She really does.
The conversation moves and shifts and I share with her some of my desires and dreams and plans for my career. I share with her the inspired vision I have for the future and then without skipping a beat, I go on to suggest why those things probably won’t happen and why I’m not sure I have an audience for my work or have anything worth saying.
My sweet friend says to me, “Laura, you don’t even know. The sky’s the limit with you! There is nothing you can’t do and you are going places!” She goes on to say some really great things about me, which feel weird to write here, but the point is, she cheers me on, reminds me how others see me and reminds me of who I am.
That dinner conversation got me thinking: why is it that we see so much beauty and strength and loveliness in our friends, but we cannot—dare not see it in ourselves? Why is it we feel compelled to camp on the parts we perceive are lacking and fail to see the magnitude of who we really are?
Of course, we know ourselves. We know the yuck of the unsavory parts of our personalities or histories. We’ve got dirt on ourselves. We think, “If she really knew me, she wouldn’t think those nice things about me.” But what if we put a pin in that and then looked objectively at the parts of ourselves that are worthy of honor?
I’m not suggesting we walk around touting our most fabulous qualities and expect trumpets to announce our entry into a room. I don’t believe we should move through the world as if everyone else are extras in our own epic movie. There is a difference between self-centered delusion and self-confidence. And it’s more than the cheesy (but awesome) Daily Affirmations of Stuart Smalley. I believe we must walk in humility, but with the quiet confidence of being perfectly and wonderfully made. And because of that, it’s okay to want more for our lives—for our relationships, friendships, and careers. It’s more than okay. It’s necessary.
The encouraging words I say to my friend are like a mirror I hold up to show her who she is. She does the same for me. But why can’t we do that for ourselves? Why doesn’t the self-talk in our own minds sound like the important reminders we share with those closest to us? We’re really good at layering Insta-filters over other people’s lives (Sierra? Walden?) to blur out the rough edges, but we see our own lives as raw footage laid bare without flattering lighting.
I think this is part of the reason we are hardwired for community. We need others to reveal our beauty to us because for some reason, we just cannot see it. And we must do the same for those around us.
I recently looked at pictures of myself from 10 and 15 years ago and I marveled. Ohh, I looked cute then! But then it dawned on me that when the photos were taken, I thought I was overweight. I thought I looked old. I look back now and say to that young woman, You are amazing and you have no idea.
Will you do something daring with me? Will you take a moment to recognize how kind and generous and smart and clever and funny and sexy you are?
Today, in this moment, what are the beautiful things you know about yourself? Write those things down. You don’t have to tweet them or post them for the world to see, but I want YOU to see those things in you. Look at the list when you feel beat up or less than. Because you MUST remember that you are made for a purpose and you have everything you need to fulfill that purpose.
YOU are worth celebrating.