A Baptism for Liam, an Epiphany for Me

I’ve been to Baptisms before, but today’s was special because it showed me something important about myself as well as celebrating the new faith of my friends’ first child.

It showed me that I do want a family life and I do want a Catholic marriage.

My friends Jenni and Ryan celebrated their first child, Liam. He was born on Ash Wednesday into an Irish Catholic family! They have been close friends of mine since high school, when all three of us went to youth group together. They’ve never missed a birthday of mine! They are both responsible but are silly enough to keep each other laughing, too.

Being there with our other mutual friends– also from youth group– was wonderful. They all have families now, and their kids were playing together in the back yard. I’ve seen them all be pregnant. I’ve been to their weddings and showers. I just felt so grounded and comfortable today with all of them.

A statue of the Blessed Mother was in the left corner of the yard and I found her presence very comforting. I found out it was passed down from someone in their family. My own Godmother has a similar one in her front yard. I’ve always hoped that one day when I hopefully own a home I will have one as well.

I spent the afternoon just catching up with our friends, getting to know both their families better, taking pictures and eating great food! It was wonderful to see them together as parents as well, knowing they prayed and planned for this blessing in their lives. They both have this wonderful, relaxed glow about them. And a big reason for that is their marriage is grounded in a strong friendship and shared Catholic faith.

If I’ve had doubts about whether religion is truly a deal-breaker for me in a relationship, today they were dissolved. Jenni has always been my voice of reason, reminding me that it’s not an unreasonable expectation and showing me that it’s possible in her own marriage. I’ve dated enough Atheists and people who profess no faith. They were all good men but there was definitely something elemental missing. I am unabashedly a woman of faith.

And the highlight of the day? Of course, it was holding Liam. He was so calm and cuddly. He felt comfortable with me and I got to take a few pictures with him. And for me, holding a baby is so natural and it just makes my day. To know this little being trusts you enough to relax and let you hold them is such a good feeling.

I will know when I’m in the right relationship and I’m genuinely happy single for the time being.

I’ve almost renounced my faith in the past because I wanted so much to be compatible with a man who was not religious. I am more confident now and will not compromise my religion again for the sake of being in a relationship. Now I recognize my faith is not only fundamental to my my identity, but my happiness.

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Unrelenting Blogging, Running and Courage: Six Year Anniversary!

Word Press informed me today it’s my six year anniversary as a blogger.

Hard to believe this chronicle of my life still stands– I attempted to erase it once. Exes had commented, past friends were keeping tabs on me, fellow bloggers encouraged me. Thank you to those who have subscribed, followed, commented and encouraged this unrelenting literary journey! Some have left, but most have stayed.  It’s edifying.

I went through a period of wanting my life without documentation.

My emerging narrative had no focus, I felt it was a waste  of time. But as events unfolded, I found this humble blog to be a refuge.

I would write what I want, without censor or error by editors. Without deadlines.

This journey began as a public vow of accountability during Lent, to uphold my Catholicism and Lenten promises. To challenge me.

Six years ago, I was searching for meaning in a relationship with a man. I thought that was the dream I should chase. I thought my treasure would be in another’s heart– in the reflection of what he loved in me.

Now I have accepted loss in relationships that haven’t lasted. I wrote about some dates, and the struggles to combat loneliness and failed compatibility. But I kept the details away, not wanting to jinx something still evolving, nor preserve details of suitors who did not work out.

Now I have accepted uncertainty and blog when I feel compelled.

I am still restless, but have re-directed my energy. Now the relationship I feed is that with myself– and running is the mechanism driving me forth.

Now I have races and goals for which to train! The joy I find is in surpassing my doubts.

I seek my own approval, reward myself with courage.

I’m making plans without fear.

I’m still Catholic, but now I forgive myself easier. I don’t depend on Lent to hold me accountable to my own promises.

I allow myself to be human, faults and mishaps included. I enjoy Mass but it’s not the center of my life as it once was.

I’ve chosen to build my life around developing a routine of running. I’m struggling with rising early and getting to sleep early enough to maintain that schedule. But already, it’s bringing me peace.

I’ve signed up for training classes for an upcoming race, my first 10k with lots of hills. I’ve joined the local run club in my community. I’ve attended group runs. I’ve enlisted a running buddy to start soon. I’ve purchased running gear necessary. I’m learning to layer properly in differing weather so I can persevere.

I’ve also failed twice this week on something I consider major: I missed my training class Thursday, and slept through a group run this morning.

I’m worried because my next race has a time limit for me to qualify as a finisher– I usually need 1 hour and 30 minutes to run five miles. This race requires 1 hour and fifteen. I felt intimidated— but signed up anyway. Now that fee has been paid! I want that finisher’s medal.

Today as I ran, I pushed myself. I knew I had to wean my mileage and maintain it below a 15 minute mile. And I did, except for two short bouts of walking. I noticed my knees hurting by the end, 3.16 miles. But I don’t normally feel that when I’m running regularly.

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting someone from our running group early. I’ll go faster.

I’ll be the runner I know is within me.

I think I’ve found something special with running.

And it’s in every road, every time I put on my shoes.

I Get It : Finally!

I’m really good at keeping busy.

I like helping out and doing things for others. But this year I’ve really noticed that without even realizing it, I was still putting myself last.

I’ve been “single” for years. But most of that time, I was actively dating or looking for ways to meet someone. Wishing. Praying.

I was fine doing things alone– going to dinner, the movies, staying home and enjoying it.

And I kept so busy.

I was singing in the choir at my parish. I was attending political fundraisers and meetings, phone-banking, canvassing. My Sunday mornings were for Mass.

I was always there for my friends.

But the best friend I’ll have is myself. Why am I so quick to change my plans for others?

Slowly this year, I’ve been clearing my schedule of those obligations. Even Mass. I’ll go when I feel like it, but am not allowing myself to feel guilty if I don’t.

Instead, I’m going to run as much as I’m able. That’s my priority.

I’ll meet God outside, and worship him in motion.

Like any adult, I know how to push myself. Through fear, confusion, sickness, exhaustion.

But have I ever truly set an ambitious goal and believed?

No.

All I saw were obstacles. I won’t say they were excuses– I was terrified to fail. So I would just not even attempt it. And sometimes depression crept in, manifested in over-sleeping.

But running is a natural anti-depressant. Endorphins are real!

My initial reaction is one of caution. I get that from my Dad. He’s wonderful, but he’s not the best at encouraging me when I want to try something new. And it’s understandable. He’s suffered a lot of loss. I’ve battled health problems all my life.

But I’m changing. I’m realizing that’s just the way he’s built emotionally- and it makes sense for him. And that I don’t need his approval to motivate me.

I was in this mind-frame of asking for permission.

But now I’m giving that permission to myself!

I don’t need to even tell him. I can just do it.

I can do what makes sense for me, even if he doesn’t get it.

My dreams are bigger than his: and that’s okay.

A friend at work approached me about a race yesterday. He knows I run… sporadically. This friend is a consistent runner– even in the winter! He has a training regimen.

Months ago, I had approached a different friend about running this race with me. She wasn’t game– I just gave up on it.

I’m going to sign up for it: the Solider Field 10 Mile in Chicago on May 27.

So what if I don’t finish it?

I can still do my best. And I’ve finished every race I’ve run thus far.

Instead of sleeping in on weekends, I want to go bed earlier.

I want to rise and run.

I usually like to sleep in on weekends. But if I had a date or some fun plans, I’d get up.

What if my fun plans were running?!

And now I get it! The true FREEDOM of being single: constructing my life 100% around ME.

Without obligation or guilt. I will never have that kind of freedom again later in life.

Just what I want to do. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary.

I deserve this!

Even with casual dating, you have to block out time for this person. You talk to them after work, they may text you to check in during the day. You plan dates– you invest hours and days and weekends getting to know each other.

In taking this time for myself without dating on the table, I’m putting ME first. I’m saying that the biggest priority is what *I* want to accomplish.

I won’t let myself feel guilty about saying “no” to social invitations. Or going home early.

I can still make sleep the priority– by regulating a bedtime and schedule.

I’ll build socializing into running. I’ve got three months to train.

I have no idea how, but that’s the adventure.

And I’ve got running friends to support me.

During Superbowl 51 : Self-acceptance, Gaga and mother/daughter bonding

I had some great moments with my family this Superbowl Sunday, as we gathered at my parents’ home.

Waiting for the game to start, we were chatting in the kitchen. My aunt, who I adore, was talking with my step-mother, Diane.  My aunt is a generous, hilarious, devoted woman– but also quite conservative.

Her reaction to a story Diane was telling about a woman she knows  was to interject, “Without a HUSBAND?”

“You don’t need a husband to be happy,” Diane said in her calm way.

A bit later, my aunt referenced a man I had been texting as I was celebrating Christmas Day at her home. I updated her, announcing that I ended it and have moved on. And that currently, I’m not seeing anyone.

And I’m happy.

She laughed and said “You are a woman chauvinist!” and that I date a lot.

I won’t deny it, I did. Currently I’m off dating, and feeling relieved. I’m no chauvinist.

In stark contrast, anyone who knows me would correctly name me a strong Feminist.

I then sang a few bars: “Oohhhh, here she comes. Watch out boys, she’ll chew you up! She’s a MMMAAAAAAAAAAAN-eater!”

They laughed, I laughed. Finally, I had the perfect clap back! The conversation moved on.

Mission accomplished.

After dating that last guy, I realized I’d rather just focus on my own life– truly. There was a part of me who felt I *should be dating someone, just because I’m 36. And that’s bollocks. I even took the plunge and deleted the dating profile I was using. I don’t need the comfort of having “a line in the water.” The moment it was gone, I felt free.

I only watched the game for Gaga’s half-time show– with was magnificent, for “A Million Reasons.” She was courageous, flawless, mesmerizing.

Gaga is single and she’s having the time of her life! Her career is sky-rocketing.

On Friday, my friend Heather and I dressed up as Wayne and Garth for a 25th Anniversary showing of “Wayne’s World,” at a local theatre. I’m a brunette, she’s a blonde, we put on some ripped jeans and I bought a hat from Amazon for authenticity. She ratted up her hair and donned a flannel. We met Tia Carrere (Cassandra,) who was impressed with our female cosplay and said upon meeting us, “I love your work!” We took selfies and had more fun together than I think we’ve ever had.

I’m becoming more interested in my friends, my family. I’ve been really connecting with my girlfriends in a new way since then– and it’s energizing!

I’m asking more questions of them, listening better to the details. I’m not feeling wistful for a man in my life. I’m grounded in the present- not ruminating on my past exes, not dreaming of a future man.

Rather, I resolved to pursue my friendships and make plans with them the way I used to pursue dating. And you know what? I feel a whole lot better. I’m in more frequent contact with these ladies. I’m less stressed.

At 36, people consider it either tragic or a joke if you’re single.  You can’t just be a woman living her life– you must be either desperate, bitter, or a resigned spinster. I used to feel offended by these inquisitions.

I’m just Amee.

Tonight, I could laugh it off and change the subject with aplomb! What a milestone for my self-esteem.

As we watched the game, I was sitting on the couch on the right of my step-mom, Diane. She then scooted next to me and put her arm around me– which she’s never done before. She’s a wonderful woman but not very touchy-feely or physically affectionate.

I relaxed and leaned back against her arm, into her shoulder. She was sticking up for me. She and her sister are best friends, but she certainly understands being criticized by her. And Diane didn’t marry my Dad (her only marriage) until she was 53. We had a great little conversation. Eventually we sat up and moved apart a little and returned to watching the game, but it was something I’ll cherish forever.

That moment happened because I’m single and she’s proud of me.

She obviously remembers what this feels like, to be judged on a no-relationship status.

And she ended up with my Dad, who is both perfect for her and perfectly devoted to her.

I’m finally at a point where I am at peace.

My thirties continue to become better and better.

Pretty in(tegrity) : Andie’s Choice

Since “Pretty in Pink,” is showing at my local mall, I took myself for Valentine’s Day. It’s the 30th anniversary– I went to the first of two showings.

If I’m single, I might as well be around a love story. It’s been years since I’ve watched this movie, though I played the soundtrack until the CD broke in my trunk one day. Neglected to put it back in the case.

I’m more impressed with Andie’s character than I’ve ever been. Girl’s got class.

Her life was rough, if you consider the big picture. Not only does she live in the bad side of town, but her depressed, creepy father only works part-time and mostly wears a short bathrobe around the house. Her mother deserted them both three years ago and Andie has clearly become her father’s care-taker. Their relationship is co-dependent and haunting.

In the first scene she is making him breakfast, waking him up, and encouraging him to just get out of bed for the day. Then she drives herself to school for a full day. Not only does he refuse to function as an adult, but his entire appearance seems resigned. Lots of wrinkles on his face, dark stubble. He always seems exhausted.

There’s something stony and untouchable in Andie. Edgy, even. She may dress in an openly romantic fashion, full of florals, skirts, and of course– pink. But she does not mask her hostility when it’s earned. She works after school. She has her own funky pink ride.

At school she encounters three men: Steff, Duckie, Blane. Steff is the hot, fashionable guy who is incapable of talking to her without a sneer and is hitting on her in a passive-aggressive way. Duckie is straight-up obsessed with her, to the point of fawning. He is her only male friend, and she appears to be his only friend, period. He’s cute, but annoying.

And then Blane enters the picture. He visits her at work and buys a record to talk to her. He’s clearly interested but ambivalent. Steff notices the flirtation with Andie and does his best to quash it. Steff puts her down and gives Blane the ultimatum of dating her or losing his friendship. Under peer pressure, Blane retreats– though he does sincerely like her.

I commend the film for a level of sophistication I missed previously. Andie and Blane have no time to casually date and enjoy what may be a burgeoning connection. This may be a high school film, but it’s a very real predicament that continues to translate 30 years later.

When beginning any new relationship, you are forced to choose sides. It may be your peer group or your family that has misgivings. At times we have a strong attraction to someone but no idea if it has a real future. The timing may be off, or you may seem too different.

Clearly, Andie chooses to be single. Both Steff and Duckie like her, even if they are awkward about it. She spotlights Blane’s cowardice.

Best of all, I like the scene where Blane ignores Andie’s phone calls over the weekend. Rather than trying to be the detached, laid-back girl, she waits by his locker and confronts him. Not only that, but first thing, before classes! And although she didn’t need to yell and did seem a bit crazy– she doesn’t hide her disappointment or humiliation. She lets him know that she cared about him.

“What about Prom, Blane?”

He can’t even look at her. He makes up an excuse– he asked another girl and forgot about it. Incensed, she walks away. She accepts the rejection.

The sad thing is, this type of awkwardness doesn’t end in high school. In adulthood, this kind of skittishness still persists. You either tango with it, or you recognize it and stride forward. You know that’s a sign that someone is insecure or not available, and that you demand more from the beginning of a relationship.

And goes to Prom anyway. Alone. She makes her own damn dress!

“I just want them to know they didn’t break me,” she tells her Dad. And by the end of the film, he does right by her. He gives her a dress. He knows it’s ugly but tells her he knows that she can make it something beautiful with her imagination and sewing skills

And of course, Duckie and Blane are attending solo as well.

But she didn’t require their support. She went to prove to herself that she could.

Andie has more guts than all three of her would-be suitors put together.

Like most others, I’m not particularly fond of the ending– she forgives Blane.

But at least he does step up and own his mistake, which takes character.

This year I’m single, and that’s okay. I found a beautiful red poet’s blouse with ruffles, even if it’s not my design. I bought it and wore it today. Red is a color I rarely wear, but I should!

It’s energizing.

It takes guts to stand single. To march forward into the unknown, not knowing when you’ll find a relationship but believing it will happen again.

And that it will surpass anything in your history.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

A Lesson in Self-respect

Recently, I had the chance to get to know a single man. Attractive.

We went out for dinner, but it wasn’t a “date,” according to him.

I rolled with it. I laughed.

Talking with him was so easy!

We told each other things– asked questions, silly and deep.

Discovered common interests and made up inside jokes.

And the best of all– the phone calls.

He actually liked talking on the phone.

Without my asking, he called me. Regularly.

He sent me a friend request, but I didn’t add him. I wanted to see where it went first.

See if we were actually compatible.

There was one conversation where we could barely hang up, we were so giddy.

But from that “non-date” dinner, he was also honest.

He is recovering from a pretty intense break-up. They still talk.

I make clean breaks with my exes.

And I was able to stop myself.

My heart said, “What are you doing? This can’t go anywhere.”

And I knew it was right.

But I learned something wonderful.

I don’t want to be friends with him

I want a date to be called a date, from the beginning.

And I deserve it.

And so I made the decision, rather than passively waiting it out.

I told him that I’m looking for a relationship, and he’s clearly not available for that.

I wished him luck, told him goodbye.

He accepted my decision.

And I felt immediately peaceful.

And it’s not like a closed a door. Instead, I accepted that the door was *not open* at all.

I decided not to wait by a closed door, hoping it will change.

And now I am walking forward.

Available for the time when a door will open to me.

Fully open, only for me.

When Being Single is Your Default Setting

A lot of people call me independent and strong.

And I’ve become those things out of necessity– like all people in these categories.

But the tough part is when someone wants me to let them in. I’ve been single so long, my first instinct is always to slam the door. Then I feel relief in my solitude.

And that’s because in my past I have loved, and been loved, deeply. I have high expectations for a relationship now because I refuse to settle for less than I enjoyed in the past. Once someone treats you really well, you can’t accept less.

I’ve dated the past few years– but nothing has gotten serious and exclusive. There’s always a part of myself that I hold back.

I’m great at protecting myself. No one is better at being single than I am!

But truly I want what everyone wants– to let down the gate. To relax. To be cherished. To have someone I can rely on, check in with, and be accountable to as well, every day.

Being in a relationship means letting go– giving someone the power to hurt you, but trusting them not to do it. Or maybe it means accepting that the very nature of love entails disappointment, because everyone is human. But deep down, you know it would be more of a disappointment to forfeit knowing THIS person. You accept the risk.

I trust my ability to judge compatibility and character.

The magical thing about love is that it keeps drawing you deeper. The curiosity about each other doesn’t end. The more you learn, the harder you fall. They surprise you when you don’t expect it, and when you need it most but were afraid to admit it. The more they open up about insecurities and their past, the more you understand and respect them for the journey they’ve taken on. The more you feel absolutely giddy to be CHOSEN by them.

Most of all, being in a relationship means trusting YOURSELF. Trusting that you chose the right partner, that you are both available and willing to invest in a future together. And it means accepting that you have power to hurt someone else, should issues come up that aren’t able to be resolved and you break-up. It means respecting your partner’s choice to take that risk of being hurt by you, even if you’re afraid. It means accepting that you can’t control the outcome or how long it might last– but that you both want to sign up for the adventure together, nonetheless.

And I’d rather be single than with the wrong man.

I no longer believe in “timing.”

Love is a conscious, repeated choice you make together. It has nothing to do with timing, and everything to do with devotion and compromise. A person who truly loves you will accept your faults and recognize that your positive qualities more than balance them out. They will see the light in you and want to help you shine brighter. They give you a sense of security, because you know you can rely on their feelings for you, despite whatever imperfections they may carry.

Recently I briefly dated someone, but we were exclusive from the first time we talked. He messaged me via online dating and had listed himself as “strictly monogamous,” which was a huge attraction for me after dealing with other ambivalent men prior. It felt great to not have to worry about him pursuing others, so I could just get to know him without any pressure or insecurity.

But dating him taught me that commitment doesn’t equal intimacy. You can be exclusive with someone you respect, without any major conflicts: but that closeness is either there or it’s not. I need a good banter. I need someone who makes me feel like a woman, but also treats me with dignity.

There was nothing “wrong” with him, or me. It just wasn’t there.

I felt comfortable with him, sure. We held hands and both liked PDA, which was great. It felt really good to have a man so proud to be seen with me, who liked to take pictures together and who said cute little things. But the more we got to know each other, the less we had to talk about. Our phone conversations were getting more strained.

Emotional, verbal intimacy is the most important thing for me. Without that, nothing else matters or will stand the test of time. A person’s body, job and circumstances will change. But their imagination, they way they think, the way they see and GET you– those things never change.

I felt we had both genuinely tried our best.

And after almost a month, I realized that we didn’t have enough between us to sustain a relationship– especially with radically different schedules and living circa 50 miles apart. Some people would say I’m really jumping the gun to make a decision to move on so fast. But truly, it’s about mutual respect. I wasn’t going to lead him on, so I set us both free. I’ve never been one to date someone just because I’m lonely, or because they want to take me out and I want a free dinner. If I choose to commit, or want to commit to someone, it’s only because I’m attracted by HIM. It’s not because I want something from him, but because I want to give something to him: my time, my affection, my promise of fidelity. I’m attracted by energy– something about that man draws me in and makes me want to spend time with him and be in his life. Usually I find myself very attracted by his words and the way he expresses himself. When I really like a man, I want to write down what he says often– I find him infinitely “quotable.” Everything I learn about him fascinates me, even the mundane. I want to note small details in my journal about what I learn about him, and write about our dates. I save things he gives me. I write poems. I’m a total sap.

More than anything, I develop a deep admiration for him and feel he inspires me to be my best self and to continually grow.

And though I felt sad to end it, I knew it was the only choice. We had a very civil break-up. We talked about what we would miss, what we could have done better and what we enjoyed about each other. And we haven’t talked since– both of us are looking for a serious relationship and respect each other’s need to move on. I haven’t cried since or felt bad about it, and I feel ACTUAL closure for the first time. But it was interesting that I got to know more about him and how he felt about me in that break-up conversation than I had the entire time we dated. What is it about having the pressure of a relationship relieved that frees us to be more honest about our feelings?

But ultimately, I feel good about it. I got to know someone, and we ended it peacefully and without a power struggle. That was a milestone for me– there was no egos clashing. He respected my feelings and agreed that it wasn’t happening for us. We don’t feel the need to hang on and be friends. It was nice to not feel insecure about my decision– to be supported in it.

I realized that although I do want a relationship, I’m not in a rush about it.

And who knows what’s next? But I feel good about my journey.

I’m going somewhere good.