Sunday, May 21, 2006

Dining (or Dating ) Outside the Box

A reader recently encouraged me to think outside the box when it comes to dating. Doing so, the anonymous poster suggested, might help me find Mr. Right. (Those of you who know me well are, in this moment, cringing and perhaps saying out loud, "Oh no... here we go.")

Often, I write about longing for love or my desire to settle down with Mr. RIGHT-FOR-ME and the quandaries that fill my head which are related to these subjects. But rest assured, my friends, while I may not have stumbled upon my forever love and settled into happily ever after, it is not for lack of searching outside my comfort zone.

Dating is a lot like dining. When you come across a restaurant that you like, you visit frequently and, if you are like me, you try to order something different from the menu every time you go. Once you have had a fair sampling of the menu, you normally settle into an ordering routine. You spend the rest of your visits dining on your favorites. The dishes that please your palate and that do not wreak havoc on your digestional tract become your staple in that dining experience.

Much like dining out, in the dating world, you find a place that you like. Perhaps that place is MEN... as in my case. You sample the menu available, as I have. Tall, short... Older, younger... Black, white, etc... Rich, poor, unemployed, professional, athlete, musician, numbers guy... And then you turn 30. And by 30, if you are still single, you have experienced a rich sampling of the MAN MENU. That sampling has developed into your list of likes or wants or wishes for the man you'd like to spend the rest of your life with. Your favorites.

In any person, man, woman or child, I have learned to see potential. Potential for what? That varies from person to person. But my experience has taught me that I love people. And, quite frankly, I love men. I love plumbers and ballplayers and bartenders and CEOs. I love 'em short and tall and fat and thin. I love them driving a BMW and waiting for the bus. (That one I may need therapy for...)

The point is that your 30s are not for sampling the menu. Your 30s are for being open to every possibility, which I am. Your 30s are not for chasing down every Tom, Dick & Harry. Again, this time in your life has been designated for being open to WHAT COULD BE while keeping in mind your sampling experience and being honest with yourself about your findings.

If there are any single men reading who are waiting for the right girl to come to them, let me make a suggestion to you. There is one assumption you are allowed to make when it comes to women. ASSUME that by 30, we have done a sampling and we are sure of what our favorites are. Women of this age are confident in what we can handle and what we can't and I, for one, am open to almost anything. So, if you think you are Mr. Right-for-her, you need to do something about it because one of the things she has almost certainly discovered in her taste testing journey is this... SHE WANTS TO BE PURSUED. That's the ultimate favorite.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

To love or not to love...

To love or not to love… that is REALLY the question. There are those who have said that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. There are others who say that you don’t miss what you never had.

Growing up in a loving and secure environment fostered within me a desire to someday have my own family. Family has been a source of comfort at best and constancy at worst for me. Family has been like guaranteed love. It’s not without disappointment or pain. But with family, my experience has been that even in the rough times, there is a way back to loving times if you hang in there.

My experience with other relationships has not been the same. Friendship love has often been conditional. And love, or my attempts at love, with a significant other (in my case, the opposite sex) have certainly been conditional, disappointing and painful. Somewhere among the bad, there were good moments, glimmers of hope, joyful times. Those moments encouraged me to stay hopeful that one day it would all come together and I would find a life partner.

But, do you ever stop hoping? Is there a time in life when you move beyond the hope of finding your true love? I’m just wondering. I have never reached that point before but I have entered a territory that is starting to feel like that time.

A few months ago, I turned 35. Spending the remainder of my life alone is not something I would have chosen myself. However, could it be that I have been chosen for this life? Perhaps it is the love of family that is supposed to carry me. The love of my Godchildren and my nephew… The love of my parents who I talk to daily… The love of my sister, my cousins, my aunts and uncles… That’s a lot of love for which I should be and I am eternally grateful.

Some days, I want more. And I find myself struggling to understand if I am just being greedy and selfish or if I really am deficient. Have I reached my love quota? I don’t feel empty… But I don’t feel like I’ve reached capacity either. At the same time, the fear of losing again nearly convinces me to consider just being happy with what I have.

I have reached a crossroads. There are a lot of questions here. But there is one that is top of mind: to love or not to love?

Walking in the Sun

Every day, I have a bit of a walk from my car to the building in which I work. Along the route, I face a choice nearly every morning: a walk under the covered walkway or a trip through the parking lot in the sun. Most days, I opt for a little sunshine. As I step off the curb and onto the asphalt, the sun touches my face and, even on the coldest days, warms me to the core. Literally and figuratively, it brightens my day.

Daily, we make decisions that seem bigger and more important than whether or not we will walk in the sun. But this simple exercise has been a life-changing lesson for me. In every situation, every crisis, every trying moment, I have a choice to make. In the face of every fear, in conflict and in worry, I have a choice to make. On the days when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed, I have a choice to make.

And most days, I choose to keep walking in the sun.