When I see pictures of onetime widowed looking radiant in a wedding gown or resplendent in a tuxedo, grinning broadly for the camera while reveling in newfound love; when I see people who have endured the machinations of divorce eventually rediscover love and follow their new path with an amazing new someone... it is such a wonderful feeling. It is watching people actually come full circle. It is seeing the bright prospect of futures that were once dark and filled with doubt and that are now again filled with promise for those who have been through so much devastation and challenge. I am delighted when anyone touched by widowhood or divorce find their way through their particular life storms into the sunshine again.
Yet, the prevailing attitude of many mid-lifers toward dating, companionship and/or love after loss or divorce is one of apathy -- or worse, giving up on those ideas altogether. Even more distressing are the statements that many are guilty of uttering (if not out loud, then to themselves):
**"I just want to be on my own"
**"I'm too old"
**"I'm past my 'sell-by' date"
Whenever I suggest that finding love after loss or divorce is absolutely possible (ask me how I know), I oftentimes hear one of three things from my baby boomer peers; the first being, "Well, I just want to be on my own". Please understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to be on your own -- I know of many people who make that choice and live very happy and fulfilled lives. However, the key word here is "choice". There is a huge difference between choosing to be on one's own and settling for being on one's own. Remember that you do not have to settle for where you are, if where you are is not where you choose to be. You must be willing to engage in a little truthful self-examination, get brutally honest for a moment and ask yourself, "Am I really choosing to be on my own or am I settling for being on my own?" If your honest and truthful answer is "yes", I am pleased for you, for your choice and for knowing exactly who you are and what you want.
(...but keep reading anyway).
The second thing that I often hear is, "I'm too old", which is also cleverly disguised as one of my new favorite excuses, "I'm past my 'sell-by' date". First off, exactly what age is "too old" for going out, having fun, seeking companionship, dating and perhaps even falling in love? What number is that? What is the magic number that dictates we no longer need or want or desire or deserve any one or all of these things in our lives? No one -- not one person -- has ever been able to answer these questions for me... and I also did not receive the memo that outlined the apparent statute of limitations on companionship and love.
As to a "sell-by" date... are we honestly thinking of ourselves as loaves of day-old bread that sit on a rack at the back of the grocery store and are being sold at a cut-rate price? This is not an attitude that I would have expected from the same generation who boasts some of the greatest achievements seen in the modern era. A "sell by" date? Folks, we can do better than that because we are better than that.
You know that worn-out cliché, "Age is just a number"? As it turns out... it's pretty much the truth.
Here is a simple and undeniable fact: We gravitate toward what we focus on. If you believe that you are "too old" or "past it" or anything else of a negative connotation that keeps you from going out and enjoying yourself, resuming dating, seeking companionship, embracing the possibilities of loving again or anything else that involves a life that you truly wish to design for yourself, guess what? You are absolutely right. You are too old. You have further fulfilled your own pessimistic prophecy. You have just decided your destiny and the destiny that you have chosen is not a positive destiny. It is a destiny for which you are settling.
However, if you believe that relationships actually can get better as we age and continue to grow into our expanding potential; if you believe that there is someone out there looking for you just as hard as you are looking for them... your possibilities are truly without limits.
This will now be about the time that I hear from members of the widowed community with another very common question. I cannot count the number of times that I have either seen or have been directly asked:
"How do I find the love of my life when the love of my life is gone?"
As an aside, I hear this question from the divorced community as well -- after all no one is standing up at an altar in the big white dress or in the penguin suit thinking, "This isn't the love of my life and there is going to come a day when all of this is going to end with a bunch of paperwork and some pretty hard feelings". Furthermore, 50% of the divorced community is comprised of those who were left behind -- the person who did the leaving may very well still be the love of an ex-spouse's life.
I'll be honest with you -- after Mike passed away, the only thing that the thought of dating again left me with was a slightly nauseated feeling, followed by a desire to assume the fetal position, eat French fries, guzzle Coke and watch reruns of The Golden Girls. After all, Mike was the love of my life. I knew Mike for almost 15 years before I even married him. He was my buddy, my partner in crime, my confidante -- and yes, the love of my life for almost half of my life...
...and then he was gone.
But let me ask this: If the love of your life is no longer here (which means that the life you lived with them is also no longer here), does that mean that you never get to love again? Ever? Does it mean that you are not entitled to love and be loved in return? Does it mean that you cannot or will not open your heart to even the possibility that love can and will exist for you once again?
It is absolutely true that Mike was the love of my life -- and a fantastic life it was indeed. However, the sad reality is that our fantastic life ended on December 19, 2000; at the very moment that Mike left us. With Mike's passing, the life that I shared with him as one-half of a couple and that we shared together as a family also ended. It was sad, it was undeniably tragic -- but it was also a fact.
Though I didn't realize it at the time and whether I liked it or not, at that very moment, my daughter and I entered a new life.
Let me say that again:
A new life
I will be forever grateful for not only Mike's wish that I move forward into a new life and find love again, but that I also listened and eventually honored that wish. I need only look into the pair of twinkling, cornflower blue eyes that I now wake up to each day to feel that gratitude. I fully recognize (and will teach until I drop) that allowing new love into your life in no way disrespects your beloved's memory, the life that you built and shared together or the love that you will always have for them.
The reality is that when it comes to dating, companionship, love (or anything else for that matter), you are not "too old" unless you have decided otherwise. You are not "past" anything unless you have decided otherwise. You do not have to live with an "I've caught my limit" attitude unless you have decided otherwise.
Whether you are widowed or divorced, you can find love again. You can enjoy the companionship of another once again; even if you choose to remain unmarried. You can love again. You can do away with the excuses and the negativity; whether it is coming from those who surround you or from within yourself. Rather than simply accept the circumstances that have been handed to you -- whatever those circumstances may be -- you actually can control, design and live the life you choose to live.
Because you have earned it.
Carole's latest book, "Happily Even After..." has won the prestigious Books for a Better Life Award. For more information about Carole Brody Fleet and Widows Wear Stilettos, please visit www.widowswearstilettos.com
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