Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Endings and Beginnings

Once upon a time it was considered an embarrassment to admit that one was seeking or receiving counseling/treatment/therapy/analysis for any kind of mental or emotional health need. A “normal” person doesn’t need help, only an “abnormal” or “twisted” or “ill” or you-fill-in-the-blank for some pejorative description of a weak, damaged person, right?

Well, like many other behaviors, needs, and activities, I am coming out of the closet about being in therapy as I am now ending 5 years of it. I am not seeking to tell all, but as with admitting other uncomfortable things out loud, it seems only fitting to admit this one out loud if it might help lift shame off of others.

And yes, I am ending it. And yes, unbelievably to me, it has been 5 years. I am impressed by and forever grateful for the process and for my wonderful therapist, and as I leave this relationship, I am stronger, more knowing, and better able to face life in the present tense rather than dragging a barge-load of ancient garbage with me into many situations. Crisis prompted the beginning of therapy; the ability to make and recognize my own choices consciously signals that it is time to end.

It is hard to be the someone who everyone leans on and admit you need help. It is hard to face those inner demons which tempt and deceive, strangle and hurt. It is hard to face the mirror and accept life as it is rather than as you wish it looked. It has been a hard five years of work, because in order to change things, that’s what one has to do. I am bringing tea and flowers to my final session to celebrate and thank, acknowledge and mourn all at the same time.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Midlife Dating 3.0

Finding out recently that I was listed in some guide as a top-10 online source about midlife dating certainly took me aback. Me? An expert? I smiled at the irony, as I never felt expert, felt more like a guinea pig, and now I am no longer doing that. Dating, that is.

The truth is I am now building a relationship with what shall I call him? A boyfriend, a man-friend, a man-in-my-life, oh come on, just say it, a man I am absolutely crazy about and spend an awful lot of time with. In just over four months, my social life has changed from being out looking and wondering if dating was futile, to being amazed on a daily basis at what midlife love can look and be like. But I digress.

Because I met this wonderful man online, I am now getting lots of comments ranging from "oh really?" to "tell me the secret" to "can you help me with my profile?" And what I do know is a few things, and they all matter. I have dated a lot over the past couple of years, and many of the experiences were like a learning laboratory for me, a place for me to better understand who and how I am in a relationship, and what I did and did not want. Fresh out of a long marriage a few years ago, I thought I wanted nothing more than a new long-term relationship, and (wo)man, was I not ready for that! But I did a lot of soul searching, and I pursued meeting men and dating like a 2nd full-time job, gaining lots of experience, knowledge, headaches, heartaches, bruises and scars.

By the time I read this man's profile online, I had enough self-knowledge and experience to suspect that if in person he was as advertised, we might really enjoy each other. And it turned out to be the case. I was ready to meet someone because I was finally ready to like me, to show up as me, and to be me for myself, whether alone or with someone else.

The other night we looked up our (since deactivated) dating profiles on the site where we met. That experience, going back online for only a few moments and not because I was looking for a date, was like a punch in the stomach, a reminder of my life not very long ago, a reminder of the yearning to meet and connect with someone. I didn't like it, and quite frankly am happy to be out of the dating world. Whether I find myself back in it again is something I neither know nor agonize about, but I guess I do, in fact, know quite a bit about. Surprise!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Ever since reading about the appearance of tiny paper sculptures appearing magically in libraries throughout Edinburgh this fall, I have been thinking about the thrill of the unexpected, about how much it delights me to come across something which someone else thought – a lot! – about, and did, not for credit or recognition, but in order to delight someone else, to focus attention, to slightly alter the world. In this gift giving season, the unexpected gift seems to be on its way toward extinction, replaced with the asked-for, the gift card, the predictable.

Unexpected gifts come in all forms. This past weekend, I came across Santacon, the gathering of Santas of every type congregating throughout San Francisco. Even if one was already sick of hearing piped-in Christmas carols being relentlessly played (as I am), the sight of these Santas and elves, some of them traditional, some of them very risqué, brought huge smiles.

Far more subtle is sidewalk graffiti, with messages I sometimes understand and often do not, but which always change my walk from hurried and thoughtless to suddenly aware of being present.

And then there is the unexpected greeting. Sigh. Standard operating procedure for me upon arrival anywhere is a taxi pickup or, if I’m really lucky, a curbside pickup by a friend. Imagine being greeted, instead, with an unexpected in-person welcome, complete with hug, kiss, and a bag of peanut M&M’s (my secret vice). Talk about a priceless gift.

With our ability to search all or look up anything, I find serendipity and spontaneity to be less and less frequent occurrences, making these unexpected gifts/happenings/sightings all the more precious, and is completely affecting my gift-giving thoughts this holiday season. So if you have given me your gift list, that’s fine. But don’t necessarily expect me to have given you one. I’d much rather be surprised and delighted!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Plus One

As a professional woman, and an executive who raised children while my career was growing, I have been to many a company gathering where spouses and significant others were invited and I never got to know any of the wives, the "plus ones". I usually assumed I couldn't possibly have anything in common with them, and that they probably resented my position as a working mom when most of them were stay-at-home moms, supporting their husbands, my peers. Shame on me. How silly, ignorant, and close-minded.

Why am I writing this? Because I was a "plus one" the other night, attending a company holiday party with the man in my life, and I got to experience something new. I got to experience what it's like to be the woman at the table who most assume is not worth talking to, is not going to have an interesting conversation or point of view. I got to see what it was like for no one to want to talk to me based on my position or accomplishments, and it was a powerful lesson.

I had nothing to prove; I was there to be with someone important to me, to see a part of his world and meet some of the characters in it. I knew that some people at the party, but not all, knew of my existence in his life, and that this party was about him and his company, not about me and mine. And yet, it was sobering to be ignored and trivialized at the dinner. Why did it happen? I think I was likely ignored because I was a woman, the girlfriend, the arm candy. We both silently enjoyed the moment when someone at the dinner table finally asked me a question about my work, and based on my response, the conversation all shifted in my direction. But that's not the point. The point is that until that moment, I was no one, persona non importa. And that I have treated others in the same way.

One woman sought me out during the cocktail hour, and I was so grateful to her. Her warmth and inclusion meant so much. I know this is going to change the way I approach my next gathering, one in which my peers and their plus ones will be making merry. And I just hope that others, especially other professional women, think about the same thing at their next gatherings this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Some Woman

I pulled a dress out of the back of a closet recently, a dress which I had purchased and worn - a lot! - 26 years ago. I know the age of the dress because it coincides with the birth of my son, and I've never been able to part with it, even though its oversize shape and very long length became dated, (think Diane Keaton in "Baby Boom") thus relegating the dress to the back of the closet. And now, due to the changing winds of fashion and time, the dress seemed possible again and I welcomed it back to the fold.

Since the designer of this dress, Joan Vass, had been so influential to my thinking about how designers should approach dressing busy working women, I decided to Google her, only to learn that Ms. Vass had died earlier this year at the age of 85. From the Times' obituary comes a statement of her fresh approach to design, one which would become commonplace a few decades later, but was so radical in the 70's. " When everyone was wearing Pucci’s psychedelic prints, she wore black. In her collections, she favored classic shapes, and repeated them frequently. “If you like them, why shouldn’t you be able to go back to a store to replace them, so we make everything forever,” she said in 1979 in The Washington Post."

From what I read, I think I would have like her, though her tongue sounds wicked. From what I am wearing today, I know I certainly like her aesthetic and approach. To be committed to a unique vision outside the norm of fashion is a hard road for a designer, and yet so many women have no interest in trend, just in looking and feeling fabulous. Thanks, Joan Vass, for paving the way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Skinny Jeans

Most women have them in our closets: our "fat" clothes and our "skinny" clothes. You know, clothes which have been purchased before and after a diet, before and after weight loss or gain. If you are like me, you have a fondness for the skinny clothes, and a reluctant acknowledgment of the others.

As a generally slender woman, it has been a while since I have had to reach to the back of the closet and pull out those looser clothes. Since becoming single, I have adopted a more rigorous exercise schedule, and often have been too stressed to eat, consequently staying on my thinner side. But this year the exercise program has gone to hell, and I am eating more. Consequently, whammo!, an extra 7 pounds is lying squarely, or rather roundly, around my midsection, making my skinny jeans uncomfortable and my body-image confidence a bit shaky.

This comes at a time when my business is growing its offering of clothing which I think of as fashion for women who may have lost their waistlines but not their sense of style. It comes at a time when I am in the final year of my 50's, and my metabolism continues to slow. And it comes at a time when I am more keenly aware than ever of how skewed the fashion world is to young women, vastly ignoring the needs of my contemporaries for whom skinny jeans and towering heels are not an option.

Last weekend I was part of a group of 7 women, all in our 50's, who carravaned to the outlet store of a brand catering to us. In a short period of time, thousands of dollars were spent because we found great-looking clothes which celebrated us, who we really are, lumps, bumps, height differences, weight differences, and accomplishments.

My skinny jeans are going to the back of the closet for now. Maybe they will have to stay there forever; that is to be seen. What is forever, though, is the consciousness that neither weight gain nor aging should have to mean the demise of style.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Are You Ready For A Thing Called Love?

Since I have sometimes mused within these posts about dating in my 50's, it is interesting ( at least to me and perhaps to you) to talk now about love. Why? Because as much as I hoped I might fall in love again someday, hoped I might meet someone who tickled my fancy, moved me to my bones, and with whom I wanted to share this time in my life, I thought that if it happened, it would be a long time from now. And it is not a long time from now. It is now. I have fallen in love.

I have dated a lot, learning a lot in the process while I have grown used to being single, considering meeting men a job I have needed to undertake in order to understand who and what I was looking for, understand how I am with men and what kind of men bring out the best in me, what kind of men I am attracted to and not. I have had wonderful times and wretched times, met men who sound like I have made them up (the sex-obsessed Zen priest? Really?) and men I wished liked me more.

And now I have met and fallen in love with a wonderful man, a man with whom I am at the beginning stages of knowing. Falling in love in my 50's is so different from falling in love in my 20's. We both know so much more, have histories which are longer and more complicated, know ourselves better than either of us could have all those years ago. One of the things I know, and which he and I have acknowledged, is that this wonderful experience is now, that it might last and it might not. That the potential for pain is not reason to avoid succumbing to the joy. That we have rich lives independent of one another and that building a relationship is complicated, scary, time-consuming, distracting, delicious, and oh so worth it.

I wasn't ready a year or two or ten ago. But I am ready for this thing called love now. Sing it, Bonnie.