Last summer, my position as program director for a nonprofit was dissolved. The domino-effect of diminishing grant money and private contributions came home. I chose to see this as an opportunity, utilizing the time regained to explore my deepest yearnings.
I had focused on meaningful work and raising my amazing daughter and like that old cartoon says, "Oh, no, I left my baby on the bus," I forgot to get re-married. After taking a slight break from marital union (what's 40 years in the scheme of things?), I found myself at 68 desiring remarriage.
Having met my dearest man friend 16 years ago through a local print version of this generation's online dating, I was encouraged. I've developed myself personally, professionally and creatively. I am young in spirit and, from the feedback I receive, still attractive.
I am quirky. In my online profile, I attempted to show who I am through stories rather than describe myself. I'm beginning to think I may have gone too far. Maybe I should have left out the part about the bird that landed on my shoulder just as I was contemplating whether my newly created life-sized puppet embodied the essence of a tree.
As it were, a parade of potential mates found me. There was one who expected immediate "lip action," as he named it. Another gave a five-minute monologue on the beauty of silence while all I wanted was a moment of the same to recover from his excessive talking. I will never forget the no-show, as I waited anxiously on the Golden Gate Bridge with my perfectly-coifed hair whipping in the wind.
Disappointment led me to the communal kitchen of women-talk, where I heard similar stories. One woman told a story about her misunderstood humor. Stepping over a urine-stained mattress on a Mission Street sidewalk to enter her date's car, she joked that if he got lucky, they could use it later. He thought she was serious. I particularly enjoyed the inquiry of whether we thought it a sign when a Canada goose regurgitates a hot dog in front of you and your date.
For all the laughter and the lamenting and the blaming of others, each of us felt somewhere deep inside: What's wrong with me, why can't I ever attract someone normal? What am I doing wrong?
After several years of online coursework with the brilliant Katherine Woodward Thomas and Claire Zammit, I know enough about my assumptions, life filters and patterns to hold myself accountable. Our interior mythology helps attract that which will give evidence of what we believe about ourselves and others. Yet, wise woman that I am, here was in the kitchen dishing, girlfriend style.
I returned for a refresher course in feminine power, the power of relatedness, with my mentors. In exploring my assumptions about self and others, my perfectionism was uncovered. My instant judgment was a strange protective armor, even for the quirky. Focusing on imperfections as a way to self-abandon or reject others is a harsh reflection. Yet, in noticing this tendency, change can occur. Compassion, for self and others, can deepen. Could I really walk safely through the world without the armor of judgment, extending myself?
I decided to practice in the real world before I returned to the virtual one. I started small, initiating conversations with strangers on buses, in stores, while waiting in line. I began to sense a softening in the space between myself and others. Encouraged, I took greater risks. My daughter's wedding provided an opportunity to further my practice of non-judgment and openness with people I had yet to know.
Mother of the bride, I thought, Perhaps a sign that I am next. While signs are highly overrated, hope is needed to stay the course. The palpable bliss felt at the wedding was inspiring. With an internal cheer of "that's for me," I vowed to try a new online dating site when I returned home.
The day after her London wedding, I heard a cooing outside the window of where I was staying. I like birds. I cooed back. Call and response continued at an easy pace until the pigeon added dance to his song.
Peeking through the slats of the closed blinds, I observed his puffed out feathers , his snappy circular movement on a very narrow edge. His dance became urgent, his cooing louder. I realized he was wooing me or at least the imagined female of his same species thought to be on the other side of the glass.
He stopped suddenly, turned quickly, peeking back at me. We held each other's gaze for a shared moment. He took flight, leaving me wondering. Had he felt disappointment when he discovered his potential mate was human? I called after him, "Don't give up!"