Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Plans, Patience, and Answered Prayers

Day 341
24 Days Remaining

So you know how I was saying in my last blog post that I wished that I could just relax and have the same faith in God when it comes to my relationships as I do when it comes to financial and other matters?  That's something I've been praying for over the past few months, especially as I've been able to view my dating history through the lens of this hiatus and blog.  The thing is, I think for a while I was able to do that...I just forgot.  I also think that God answered my prayers long ago when I was asking him who He has for me...and again: I just quite simply forgot.

I also mentioned a while ago that I'm asking God for patience.  This is the hardest thing for me.  I also keep forgetting that just because something didn't work out when I originally had it in my head that it was going to, that doesn't mean that's the end of it forever.  What's that saying: "Sometimes God's answer isn't Yes or No...sometimes His answer is Wait."  Well, I waited, but I guess at some point I decided that I'd had enough waiting.  Or perhaps I thought that enough time had passed that the answer was actually No, when instead, it was still that: Wait.

So does waiting mean sit at home and don't date anyone?  Does it mean focus on someone who may or may not be the one for me and then just wait for him to figure out whether he wants me or not?  Or does it mean to pray, and to trust that it will be made known to me when the right man is in my life, and then to wait until the relationship grows?

A while back, I was seeing someone.  He was important to me.  I loved spending time with him.  I was finally in the headspace where I was ready to ask God to show me the right man for me, and as I left this man's house after an evening of hanging out together, I sat in my car and I earnestly, openly prayed: "God, is this the man that you have for me?"

The weirdest thing happened, and it's not something that has ever happened before or since: It was as though I had been struck in the heart.  The certainty that I felt at that moment gave me such clarity and resolve as I felt a definite and distinct answer reverberate through me: It was a loud, clear, and emphatic YES. 

I was so surprised at the physical shock to my heart and at having an answer that I started laughing.  Then the thought of having a relationship with this man made me laugh harder, with delight and happiness.  The excitement of our tentative relationship suddenly becoming something so obviously right had me laughing so hard that I started crying.  I drove down the darkened street, tears flying from my eyes as I simultaneously bawled and shouted with the joy and certainty that I felt.  Struck by lightning is the closest way I can describe that feeling, and the exultation that came afterward as I babbled aloud: "God, is this really you telling me this?  I am so scared that I just want it so badly that I'm making things up in my mind...Please let it be true...Please give me the patience...Please let us share this."  I didn't know if it was as real as it felt, and I was frightened that I was putting the thoughts into my head on my own.  Maybe I was.  But it felt so real and deep, this sudden complete knowledge that this man was the one that I will eventually marry.  The experience was such a hard-hitting one that I was certain it would stick with me and continue to assure me and give me further patience.
I resolved to be patient and wait for him to be ready, and for the relationship to develop.  I knew he was "the one"; therefore I would wait.  As time went by, I kept waiting, but nothing happened.  In fact, things started to head the other way, and as he distanced himself from me little by little, I allowed myself to be distracted.  As I got sidetracked by life and this man showed no more signs that he was interested in continuing a relationship, I started to let myself believe that the magical moment in the car had just been my imagination running wild.  I was disappointed, but I decided to just keep moving on.  I stopped trusting in God`s plan for my relationship and started searching on my own.  And - as strange as it might sound in regard to a moment that was so soul-stopping and defining for me - I completely forgot about that day in the car when I asked God if this was the man for me.  The relationship - such as it was - ended, and I lost faith in a future of love and started living life on my own terms again, latching on to the wrong people in the hope that somewhere I would find a man who would be happy with me and make me happy.  I forgot that I had put my trust in God and that He had assured me that I would end up with this man.

In the past few weeks, as I`ve been praying for God to bring me back to this place of trusting in Him, He suddenly brought back to me a distinct memory of the feeling I had that day in the car, and how I felt so certain that He had answered my prayer.  I`ve been struggling to understand why I felt it so strongly if it wasn`t what was meant to be, as well as having such a hard time with how I could possibly have buried the memory that now comes back so strongly and intensely.

And at the same time that this memory came back into my mind, this man came back into my life.

Little by little he has been inching in, surprising me with his interest and the apparent change in his ability to move toward any kind of commitment, and little by little I have come to realize that maybe - just maybe - the answer that day in the car really was from God...but I had ignored the little addendum that I had to waitYes, this is the man for you...but it will take time, and you will have to learn patience.  I believe that in this past year, as I have learned so much more about myself, and began to actively ask for patience and for the man who is meant to be mine to be revealed to me, my prayers are beginning to be answered.  The man whom I thought I no longer had a chance with is suddenly in my life, very definitively, and showing me in so many ways that he has changed as well, and we might just be back on the track that I thought I had to let go of.  Neither of us were ready back then.  Our relationship ended, and I thought that was it: my last chance with him was gone.  But really, it was just that I needed to take more time and have more patience as I waited.  Life had a lot more distractions to throw at each of us.  All the things I`ve been pondering for the last few months, all the possibilities and all the things I had to work through - it feels as though they were just things getting in the way, but in other ways they have helped me to be more ready for this moment when he has come back to me.  Perhaps there are a lot more obstacles that we will have to go through before we end up together, but I have faith that this is the man I am supposed to end up with.  I have so much faith in this that I am writing it here for everyone to read (and don't think that's not a scary thing to do - it is)!

I am hopeful; I am excited; and I am looking forward to the end of this dating hiatus so that I can see where we both are at and what will happen between us when I have fulfilled this yearlong commitment.  Maybe it will take a lot more time - I really, really hope that I don't forget again, and that I take whatever time I need to take to wait for God's timing.  In the meantime, I am praying for this man and for his heart, because I know that if there is still hesitation on his part, he needs to find peace before we can make this happen.  I look back on the prayer I wrote years ago when I first wrote my MoG (Man of God) List, a prayer for my future husband, and it fits so well for what both he and I need right now.  I pray again now, for him and for myself:  Give him joy in place of fear, give him strength in place of worry...I ask for patience as I wait, and praise You for the joy I believe You will bring me, in Your time.  


Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Final Countdown

Day 336
29 Days Remaining

Wow.  Here I am, with less than a month to go until I am officially finished this year of reflection and challenges.  It's almost impossible to believe that it is almost over.
This year hasn't exactly gone the way I had expected it to.  I haven't exactly lived up to all my rules, regulations, and expectations of myself.  I still kissed someone.  I still had to deal with attractions and crushes and relationship tests.  I definitely flirted.  But although I flogged myself quite a bit, I have come to realize that all of those things that I might consider "mistakes" in the context of a year without dating simply stem from inherent parts of who I am.  I am a flirt.  I love people and fall head over heels, get my hopes up, trust - all a little too easily.  The fact that I make these mistakes is an okay thing.  The main point of this year was to get to know myself better, to strengthen my relationship with God, and to be able to recognize red flags as well as men that just aren't suitable.  I suppose if I had stayed away from men as completely as I wanted to, I may not have been tested enough with learning to recognize those red flags and dealbreakers.  My friends have continuously helped me to remember what my goals are, as well as telling me not to be so harsh with myself when I make yet another mistake.  Life is full of mistakes.  I'm going to make them.  I'm just lucky and blessed enough to have a circle of wonderful friends who will be there for me both while I'm making them and during the aftermath.
Did I get to know myself better?  I would say so.  I think I had a fairly good idea of who I was by the time I started this hiatus, but watching myself make the same mistakes yet again, reflecting on the mistakes of my past, and having a record of it that I could go back and read and analyze, has given me a more accurate picture of myself than I had when I started off this year.  I look back on the way I wrote about HB and shudder.  It is so clear from the writing that I was still infatuated with him, and that it was incredibly important to me to ensure that my readers did not see his negative qualities.  Even in my blog, I was classically co-dependent: making excuses for my partner/lover/crush's bad behavior.  HB's story probably didn't deserve to be treated as carefully as I treated it.  But I thought I was in love.  I'm so glad to look back and see the moment when I really recognized that this was not love, and that I was getting nothing from it but pain and stress.  And that three-year-plus (sigh...why did I let it happen for that long???) waste of time and energy has finally become the lesson that it probably should have been right after he dumped me at six months in because I couldn't have his children.  I can't smack myself upside the head for taking this long to finally "get it"...the main thing is, I FINALLY GOT IT.  So all that time, energy, and emotion had a point after all.  And now I know myself well enough to know that I will never allow that to happen again (case in point: I finally decided that The Michelin Man - dear Bibendum - was not giving me what I need, and would not be able to for a long time, if ever - and I managed to end it).  I may have spend too many months hoping and believing it would somehow work out, but it took me a lot less time than it did with HB.  And here's believing that my dealbreaker radar will just become exponentially sharper with time - and drown out the Hopeless Romantic who still wants a Happily Ever After when it becomes clear that Happily Ever After will not be with this particular man.  (I'm not giving up my romantic side, however.  More on that later.  And yes, that's a hint for those of you who want to read into it.) GETTING TO KNOW MYSELF BETTER: Check!
Did I strengthen my relationship with God?  Well, again, I'd have to say yes.  My strength has been tested in many ways, as I talked about in my last post, but through it all I have managed to really learn to trust in and rely on God in ways that I never have before.  Again, with a skim-through of all my blog posts, it's evident that God is present in my life in a way that He wasn't when I began the blog.  For one thing, I hardly ever mention God or my belief system or Christianity in the early posts, and now I don't think I go a single post without mentioning it in some form or another.  It may turn some people off, but that's also okay.  To me, that really illustrates that I have a deeper relationship with the God that I longed to know as I child.  The faith, trust, belief and inherent happiness that I have from that relationship is what's important in my growth and learning.  GETTING TO KNOW GOD BETTER: Check!

As for recognizing red flags, I think I've gotten much better at it.  I also have learned that I can't "fix" anyone or expect them to change.  The problem I've still got to work on is cutting things off as soon as I recognize the red flags or dealbreakers.  HB took me over three years.  The Michelin Man took me five months.  Like I mentioned earlier: let's hope each time is exponentially shorter.  Or let's just hope I have the right man in my life the next time.  RECOGNIZING RED FLAGS: Check!  BOOTING OUT THE DEALBREAKERS: Getting there.

The "Don't"s I managed to Not Do:  No online dating. No sex. No getting together with an ex.  No physical dating.  DON'T accept dates.  DON'T give out your phone number.   

All right!  I did have some successes.  No more self-flagellation - I actually stuck to it pretty well.  The physical stuff was mostly easy...but then again, I know that for me it's always the emotional stuff.

The "Do"s I managed to Actually Do:  DO try new places, with friends or on your own.  DO find a new hobby.  DO delete numbers of guys that you no longer see.  DO tell guys who try to slip back into your life that you're not interested.  DO surround yourself with good friends - and rid your life of enablers.

I took ballroom dancing lessons.  I took a trip to California on my own.  I managed to get rid of the last emotional pull of HB.  I went out with friends more often and turned to them when the going got tough.

You know what?  Even if I've been fairly hard on myself from time to time for the things that I didn't manage to stick to while on this hiatus, I actually see that I've done a pretty good job.  I do believe I have accomplished what I intended and hoped to, even if the trail was a bit bumpy, and I'm starting to feel as though I am ready to start going out on dates again (actually I'm really really looking forward to a date or two...is it bad that I've already started editing my old PoF profile so that I can put it back online on August 10th??).  The difference is that now I just want to date to get to know a few people and have some fun.  I'm not going to rush into anything.  But...(and here's another hint:) the latest twist in my life is a resurrection from the past; a certain person has popped up and I am finding that I would like to get to know him all over again...so who knows: maybe I won't be having too many of those dates after all.  But that is a story for another day...and there are 29 more of those to go.

Counting down!


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Tomorrow Will Worry About Itself

Day 326
39 Days Remaining

You may recall my desperate post from October of last year, when everything was falling apart and I felt completely overwhelmed.  My tenants all gave their notice and it looked as though I would be homeless by the following month.  My daughter was having repeat surgery on her feet.  Custody issues were going to court and I was having to face my children`s father in what was rapidly becoming an overly emotional state - which had not served me well the last time we met in court.  And to top it all off, I had an accident that ended up giving me second-degree burns and required an ambulance, a trip to the emergency room, burn dressings, and a week off school, during which I missed my midterm exams.  It felt as though everything was falling completely apart right beneath me.
Okay, maybe not this dramatic...but it can feel like it sometimes.
That dreary and panicky October was a turning point for me.  It was in that time of darkness and uncertainty that I really recognized that there was nothing much left for me to do but simply trust and let God carry me.  I did pray, both for help and for direction, but I was terrified. I had to learn to let go completely of the worry, do whatever practical things I could do to help my situation, and simply believe that I would be taken care of.  The Bible verse that I consistently return to in times of trouble reassured me: "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)   To me this verse is a reminder that there is a greater purpose to my life than just to suffer through whatever is handed to me.  It's a reminder that I will get through and that I will be better for it, and that something more wonderful will be waiting when it's all over.  Even though at the time I found it difficult to believe that things were going to turn out and that I would come out the other side of that difficult month unscathed, I had to hold on to it or I would have fallen apart completely.  I cried along to a particular song by Mandisa on the radio every time it came on, trying desperately to believe her words: When the waves are taking you under / Hold on just a little bit longer / He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger / The pain ain't gonna last forever / And things can only get better / Believe me / This is gonna make you stronger (oh, how I bawled...and it wasn't even that Katy Perry time of month!).  I tried so hard to believe that I would come through it as a stronger person, but at the time it was so difficult to imagine that there would ever be a time without pain and difficulty.  

Every time the panic would hit, I would take a deep breath and remind myself that God had my back and that He wasn't going to let me fall.  I would sing a little bit of "Stronger" to myself or I would quote myself that favorite Bible verse.  I would get on the Internet and search for new places to live, or new roommates, or applications for subsidized housing, or reassuring quotes - anything that would help me to feel as though I was doing what I could to move forward.  And I learned to trust, and I slowly gained a sense of peace.

And wouldn`t you know it: things worked out just fine.  My daughter sailed through her surgery.  The custody hearing went very well (I managed to keep a cool head and we both ended up happy with how it had gone).  I decided to put an ad online for a new roommate for one weekend only, to see if it would get any bites, and found a great roommate within an hour of posting the ad (well, that was Fig, so maybe it wasn't the greatest situation...but it was a good temporary solution and served us well until the house sold last month and I moved into my new home).  My landlord lowered the rent.  My burn healed well, and I managed to get all my midterms caught up on.  Everything had fallen into place.

Since that time, I have found that there is a significant change in my thinking.  I no longer spend entire nights tossing and turning when financial worries or worries about my children and family kick in.  Along with the innate sense of joy (in life; in God; in people) that I feel deep inside has come an innate peacefulness.  It's so nice; I can't even explain how nice it is to just have complete and utter faith that everything will work out the way it is supposed to.  I can trust that I will be looked after because every single time I have needed help with a difficult situation, something miraculous has happened that has saved my butt.  Of course I always do whatever I can to work toward a better end, but I don't waste time worrying about it.  (And if you will indulge me one more Bible verse - I know this blog post may be coming across a bit preachy, but trust me: I have a further point and I am getting to it! - I always like to quote Luke 12:25:  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?) Worrying gets me nowhere but mired in further anxiety.  Worrying wastes the time that I could be using to try to solve my problems.  Most importantly: worrying is not going to change the outcome.  What will happen is going to happen, so why should I spend the time leading up to that outcome in panic?

So here is the point that I finally realized the other day: If I can so completely and totally trust that God will bring into my life what I need, and will take care of my home and family and finances, then why in the world can I not entrust the development of my relationships to him?  Why have I wasted so much time feeling like I will always be alone?  Why have I tried too hard in relationships that are obviously going nowhere?  Why do I try to pick apart all the red flags that so quickly become obvious when I attempt to get to know the wrong man?  I wish that I could just sit back, trust that I will meet the right one, and do the work I need to do in order to be the right woman.  The year off; this blog and all the reflecting I am doing - as well as the mistakes I'm making and the restitution I have attempted - they are all part of that work.  Yet, in some way, it represents a whole lot of worry about a future that is inevitable.  I don't want to spend so much time analyzing everything.  I just want to enjoy my life, and the people that are in it, as it is now, and look forward to whatever will end up happening in it.
I want to trust that God has my future relationship in His hands and that He will bring it to me when I am ready.  I want that peacefulness in my heart so that I can just sit back and say, "Someday I will find the man who will be right for me, and I will recognize him."  In the meantime, I have to be able to recognize the ones who are not the right man, and - more difficult - I have to let them go.

So, on that note, here we go: finally, I can admit to myself - and to all of you: In all likelihood, the Michelin Man will not be the man for me.  I know this is most likely true, and I have known it for quite a long time.  He probably will not be the man I marry.  Slowly but surely, I am letting the hope I had for that possibility die.  And it's all right.  While I believe his intentions are good, there are too many things in his life that mean I believe I would end up short-changed if we were to attempt a relationship.  It's been nearly five months now, and we have yet to meet, and the reasons (excuses? I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, but it doesn't really matter) are all on his end.  We are still in touch with each other, but I have pulled back, and truthfully, he's been too busy to really notice much of my disconnect, and that has really sealed it for me.  I still want it - yes, I still see him as an important figure in my life, and I long for us to push things further once I am done my hiatus - but perhaps it`s just not the right time, for either of us.  Any other red flags I may have mentioned in the past aside, if a man is too busy to notice whether I'm there or not, then he's not the man I'm going to share my life with.  A relationship, especially in its beginning stages, requires a lot of effort.  A long-distance relationship requires even more effort.  He - whether for legitimate reasons or simply because he cares more about other things than about working on the possibility of an "us" - is not showing me (perhaps is not able to show me) a level of effort that convinces me that we would be happy if we ever actually managed to get together.  Well, he might be happy, but I know I wouldn't.  And I'm the only one I really have to worry about in this scenario, aren't I?

Boiled down: I want to trust and relax into the knowledge that I will find the man I am supposed to be with, and continue to work on myself.  I want to become content with the possibility that I may never marry again, and find joy and peace in the future that I am building for myself and my children.  I think the recognition of my longing for that peacefulness is Step 1 toward finding it.

And life will unfold, exactly as it is meant to.