Monday, May 29, 2017

If I Had A Bucket List, It Would Be Shorter Now

Spooky's Fairly Useless Advice for Single People

Since discovering that I have to work at being single, just like being married, I've been making an effort to experience life outside my own head.  We tend to think our circumstances are so much more difficult than those of anyone else.   I'm no exception to that.  I think I have it tough because I live in a small town with apparently zero prospects for intellectually stimulating conversation.  And all the men I meet are in trouble with the law.  

That is an oversimplification of course, but still it feels real.  And it leaves me with a choice.  I can either accept that as true and park myself in front of Netflix with ice cream and a side of pizza or I can get out of my house and my head and engage with the real world.  

Obviously the second choice is the right one, but damn, y'all.  It's a lot of work.  

When I first was getting used to the idea of my change of status, I asked some friends for help.  (Advice I should heed more often:  Ask for help.  It doesn't mean you're weak.  It means you are smart.)   "Don't let me become a hermit," I told them. "You know that's my default mode."  And thus began the Tour of Commiseration, 2015.  For three or four months I traveled from friend to friend, spending at least one weekend a month with people I like. It helped.

Unfortunately, none of those friends live nearby.

Digital life is a fabulous thing, especially for introverts like me, but I knew I needed to work harder at building some local friendships.  I need people I can hang out with in a coffee shop on an otherwise average Thursday.  I started with Mindy - renewing a contact we'd allowed to become casual.  I stumbled - almost literally - into Lynette, which proved fortuitous for us both.  And I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and decided I wasn't going to lose contact with Jay when she moved on to another church.  A friend from college posted on Facebook about reaching out, lamenting missed opportunities and lapsed friendships.  We reconnected through the book club she was starting for geek girls.

My social calendar is burgeoning, indeed.  But only because I'm working on it.  It's not perfect. I miss having snarky co-workers just outside my office door. (Have I mentioned lately how much I miss Sushi?  I miss her a lot.)  I'd love to live next door to someone hilarious.  Who wouldn't?  But what I have now is tremendously better than it was before.

My church has played a big part in helping me branch out.  Who would have thought? Church has permeated my life since birth, but more in a 'watching them make the sausage' sort of a way rather than an 'I love me some Jeezus' sort of a way.  I am not a churchy person as a general rule.

Joining the Episcopal church has paid huge dividends for me. (Without the dreaded Singles Group, I might add.) It's helping me step over a few self-imposed barriers to being who I really am.  (That makes it sound like I'm about to come out of the closet, doesn't it?  Nope, not gay.)  I live in a place where it's easier to keep my progressive opinions under wraps than to be honest about what I believe.  I'm still not shouting my beliefs from the rooftops, but I'm stating them more forcefully here and there.  And poking a few people with pointed sticks now and then.

Being part of a group that accepts those opinions, even if the majority disagrees, is a new experience. This church amazes me.  And they have extended some crazy hospitality to me in the last year or two.
The very first sermon I ever heard in the Episcopal church was on the topic of hospitality, actually.

After my first encounter with the Episcopal Church, I again rode my bike west the next Sunday morning.  The characters I'd met the week before assured me repeatedly that I needed to meet their priest.  The word gregarious was kicked around a lot when they described her.

Once again, I got to the church and circled the building.  Three cars this time.  I stopped my bike and texted my friend Cyn, who was following my progress from South Texas.  I gave her the car count, noting that a white Prius had been added to the parking lot this week.

"At least the priest is there," she said.

"What makes you so sure?" I asked.

"What else would a female Episcopal priest drive?"

I conceded that point, parked my bike and went inside.

I don't remember anything else about that morning, other than the sermon.  Which is odd because I never remember sermons.  Ever.

The Syrian refugee crisis was beginning to make the news and Jay was incensed by the reaction, or lack thereof, of America and our allies.  She started with the big picture and brought it down to a local, personal level.  Hospitality is our calling, our duty, as Christians, she said.  And finally, her incredulity evident, she uttered the line that has stuck with me for much longer than it should:

"Hospitality is not that hard, people.  Just give them a fuhhhhhh------fricking glass of water!"

Yep.  She came thisclose to saying fuck in her sermon.  At which exact point I realized I was in exactly the right place.

This past week, I was the recipient of more hospitality when I went on a motorcycle trip to Arizona to ride one of the most dangerous highways in the United States with a group of Jay's current parishioners - all of them strangers.  I still cannot believe I did that, to be honest.  When I bemoaned the insanity of it to Jay, she pointed out that they may be strangers, but they were Episcopalian strangers and those are the best kind.

She was right.  Even though they were pretty much all old enough to be my parents, I had bucket loads of fun.

At church this morning, the four people who made up our congregation asked all about my trip.  I had fun regaling them of the details.  The really raunchy part of the ride is only 68 miles, but has more than 1000 curves and, since we did it downhill, drops from 9,000 to 3,000 feet.  You have to ride so slowly to make the curves that it took us about four hours to do those 68 miles.

When we finished the ride and made it to our motel, I was exhausted, but just about bursting with pride.  I not only did it, I nailed it.  I'd never have attempted that ride on my own.  I wouldn't have believed I could do it without the blind faith - honestly, what were they thinking?! - of a group of people I'd never met before.

The moral of this story is add to your tribe.  When you're single, especially single and childless, you are gonna need a tribe.  Hell, join several tribes.  They all have things to teach you.  And they probably need you just as much as you need them.

A couple of months ago, Mindy and I have started monthly(ish) meetups in the park.  We throw out an invitation on Facebook - no agendas, no topics, no potlucks.  Adults in our society need more friendships and more opportunities to sit and talk with those friends without pressure or programs.  Friends, not PTA members or soccer parents or youth group sponsors, but people we like outside of the sphere of the collective progeny.

We don't do anything special on those evenings in the park.  We simply ask folks to show up.  And they do.

That's the big the secret.  Show up.

And maybe give people a fuckin' glass of water. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

100 Things Divorce Has Taught Me: The Last Bit

62. - 100.  It really isn't that bad.

I was visiting a friend a few months back and we were discussing this list.  She remarked that I ought to just write "It's not all that bad." and be done with it.  She was right.  

Earlier this week I had dinner with someone who is also going through a divorce they didn't want.  Without being preachy, I tried to encourage them that being on your own is not a bad thing.  Sometimes it's a frustrating thing.  Sometimes you'd like to set fire to someone or run them down with your car. And of course sometimes it can be a lonely thing. That's just life. That doesn't mean you aren't capable of a fantastically meaningful existence on your own. You are stronger for the experience and you can do whatever you need to do.  Or you can hire someone to do it for you.  Or you can discover that it doesn't matter much whether it gets done or not.

You have to work at being single, just like you do being married.  At first I was perplexed about why being single in my mid-forties seems more difficult than it did in my mid-twenties, age differences not withstanding.  That feeling was somewhat undermining my independence.  Not a lot, but enough that I noticed.  Then one day I realized the obvious difference.

In my mid-twenties, most of my friends were also single and childless.  Now I am pretty much the only single, childless person I know. My friends are either in a relationship, parents, or grandparents or some combination of the three.

We don't attend the same types of events.  We don't have the same sort of schedules or the same demands on our time.  Our interests are often very divergent.  

And that's ok.

This is where you have to work at being single.  I've tried to step out of my comfort zone.  They have only been little steps, but at least my feet are moving.  I've made a few new friends.  I'm having some new adventures.  I talk to people at stoplights.

It really isn't that bad.

So, that being said, I'm on to newer and better ventures, including, but not limited to:

Spooky's Fairly Useless Advice for Single People

Today's bit of wisdom:  When you need to buy groceries, ride your motorcycle to the supermarket.  This will prevent you from buying bulky junk food items.  For the most part. (Maybe those three bottles of Lime and Cucumber Gatorade were not a great idea.  You could've used that space for cantaloupes or something.)

Full size frozen pizzas are not going to fit in your saddlebags, so maybe this is your chance to branch out, culinarily speaking.  Or maybe you just buy a smaller size pizza.  Either way. 

Buy as many of the individual cans of Fancy Feast cat food as you want.  Those little suckers will fit into all sort of nooks and saddlebag crannies.  Just be aware that a single woman purchasing more cat food cans that ordinary comestibles conveys a certain sort for which you may not want to become known.  (Two cats is pretty normal right?  That's not too many.  And one cat just wouldn't be enough.  I mean, I used to have three but one died and now there are just two and that's not weird.)

Also, don't bungee cord the English muffins to the luggage rack.  Just saying.  It's better than securing the loaf of bread with a big rubber band, but not a lot better.