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!