I Almost Fell Into the COVID Break-up Timeline Because of My New Guy’s Kid

And Now I Need To Take a Break

I read an article recently predicting that a lot of relationships that started when COVID hit will now come to their natural conclusion. The novelty has worn off and real life comes crashing in as things open up. You’re trying to figure out your new normal, which is frustrating, scary, depressing and dull on a lot of days. And you’re also trying to figure out if you really work as a couple in this new weird world. Do you get along with their families? Do your new schedules mesh? Do you enjoy real-world things together as much as hunkering down and exploring a new relationship during the exciting and terrifying time of quarantine, which produces a bit of an “end of the world” feeling?

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

For me, the most difficult thing to process while moving into this next phase has been accepting that at some point our little relationship bubble will need to include “the daughter”. This thought sends me into pure panic. After our disastrous camping trip I realized that the only way I could continue dating my dude, was to compartmentalize and almost pretend that she didn’t exist. At least for a little while while we solidified our bond. I just couldn’t see how it would all ever successfully merge. I couldn’t envision a time in which she would not be a third wheel in our relationship, and vice versa for me in their family.

But I was open to slowly re-introducing ourselves when it made sense, which ended up being for my dude’s birthday. And man did things go south. We had an extremely bad evening and it was really shocking for all of us. She was in a terrible mood and lost her cool. I lost my patience. My dude had no idea how to handle it all.

I read a bunch of articles the next day on how to deal with a moody teenager, and I had basically done everything wrong. Not entirely my fault, as I am of course not a parent of a teenager so can’t really be expected to know these things. But nonetheless. I made these mistakes:

  • I took her mood personally.
    • I guess their hormones are raging and they have no idea how to make sense of things and aren’t really behaving in a way that they want to.
  • I asked her direct questions related to her mood (and related to life in general which apparently is a bad idea when they are in a bad state).
    • Drawing attention to their less than ideal state only adds fuel to the fire. And questions can feel like an attack.
  • And I got frustrated with her.
    • She was terrible. But I’m the adult. I’m meant to have some space and reason to just let it go (please tell me when I will catch up mentally and emotionally to where I’m meant to be as an adult!)

All classic mistakes.

My dude and I had to take a weekend apart to sort through what had happened. There was no communication and I was mess. We both thought the other was over the relationship. Apparently he spent the weekend preparing for the end, while I spent the weekend crying and grieving over its probable end. Missing him, feeling like a tool for ruining things yet again, and feeling quite hopeless. You see, I truly feel (no pressure lol) that this relationship represents my last opportunity to meet a guy that I might actually have a child of my own with. If and when it ends, time will have run out. I will either need to decide to go it alone or accept that it will likely not happen for me. This was a much bigger grief. While we ultimately decided it was just a bump in the road, it’s left me with a lot of anxiety and I’ve gone into meltdown mode.

At the start of this pandemic, I was totally in support of those memes that talked about how we’re not meant to have accomplished all of our life goals during this trying period, and that we need to give ourselves a bit of a break. But I hadn’t really listened and I’ve been trying to do too much. And it’s lead me to shut down.

So I’ve decided I need to take a tiny pause on a bunch of things to get my head and my life sorted. To figure out how I’m feeling about everything and what my next steps are. For the next little bit I’ll only post if it’s being used to sort things out in my brain. Writing is good for that. Hopefully I’ll be back refreshed and ready to tackle all the things.

Hope you are all giving yourselves the self care and the permission to take a rest as well. This is not an easy time!

How do you Date Someone With a Teenager…Without Losing Your Mind?

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Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

I’m trying to get all of the summer stuff in before we have to go back inside for the season. Which is why I’ve been so bad at posting, and contemplating big life decisions, and all of that. There will be time, I suspect, that I need to fill indoors. So hopefully I will catch up.

Anyone else feel the impending doom of fall? Normally I’m one of those folks who love the crisp air, pumpkin festivals, hot cider, and not having to showcase my not-so-toned arms in tank tops, or melt all day in the sun. I don’t even hate winter, which in Canada is a real force. Hibernating inside with friends amidst glowy lighting and a warm meal in the lead up to my favourite season, twinkly light season, is the best. I get very “Hygge” about it and want to be all cozy.

But this year is of course much different. Fall will mark the end of the ability to easily distance visit with people that are not in your pandemic bubble. Which in my case in a pretty serious deal. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had to make the hard choice between continuing to pursue this new relationship, at the cost of being able to spend up close and personal time with my family. You see I have a baby niece and my sister and her husband land on the conservative side of COVID safety. This means that I can’t see my parents closely either, as they are in that bubble. Which has been hard as I’m someone who still likes to go and stay with the ‘rents for a few days every month at least. As my new beau has a child, who has a mother, who has a boyfriend, who has kids of his own, my bubble is big not by my own choice. But so many people are in this situation. Families are not small and uncomplicated anymore. And that doesn’t work well for a pandemic.

Don’t Count Those Eggs Before they Hatch

I was feeling good about the whole boyfriend sitch and feeling less icky and weird about the fact that he had a kid. As I mentioned in the last post, I totally killed it at the daughter interview. But then…we went camping.

If I can offer one piece of advice to anyone just starting to date a man with a teenage daughter, the very last thing you should be doing on a second meeting, I mean the very last, is go camping. Just saying that out loud, it seems ludicrous in retrospect that we thought this was a good idea. But when we were first talking about the whole situation, it seemed pretty safe. It was a family and friend’s trip and there were over 20 people going. I imagined us all arranged around a central location and there being lots of milling about as people went about their daily activities. Instead, because of the newfound popularity of camping due to the pandemic, all of the camp sites for the group were spread out across the campground, and it was just the three of us playing an awkward instant family. No one wants to go three days without a shower, in a rainy campground, not at their best, with new people. It’s just, plain, uncomfortable.

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Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

The whole thing felt like a bad dream. I wanted to jump ship. His daughter was…a teenage girl. Moody. Complaining constantly. Asking to go home every 5 minutes it seemed. Wishing she were with her friends. Constantly asking to use the WIFI in the car. Pouting all day long. I was losing my mind. I thought “I don’t want this” “I didn’t sign up for this”. Upon later discussion, she was feeling the same way. It was too soon, and she was overwhelmed (which in my case doesn’t totally make up for her behavior, but I’m not the parent of a teenager so I guess I don’t really have the experience to say that).

It all sort of reminded me of a boyfriend I once had who jokingly said “the complaints department is closed for the day” every time I got a little whiny. But this girl made “I’m just heading to the bathroom” sound like a whine. It was a pervasive tone that actually made me feel so anxious that I felt nauseous and then depressed. Is this something I really want to take on? Again, as I’ve said before, if it’s your kid, its a phase. You love them anyhow. But when I have nothing vested in this person, all I see is this side. And that’s hard to want to be around.

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So that whole trip left me with all of the wrong feelings. The insecurity. The “what am I doing” and “what have I gotten myself into”. I’ve managed to convince myself to take a breather. To understand that maybe we all jumped the gun a bit and need to take it a step back and re-evaluate later. But it really threw me for a loop.

This stress, and the wanting to enjoy every last minute of nice weather, has once again forced me into procrastination mode on the whole motherhood decision (and on just about everything else). The lack of motivation is strong. Adulting is quite hard sometimes.

Anyhow, me and the boy are going away just the two of us which I really need to remind me of the good stuff. To grab back that magic from before my head came in and snuffed out all of the joy. As one of my favourite writers Marianne Power mentioned in one of her recent blogs, I’m going to focus less on “how I’m doing” and more on “what’s good”. See ya in a week or two. Get outside!

So You Aced the Interview With Your Boyfriend’s Kid. Now What?

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Image by Jennifer Regnier from Pixabay

Well the moment of truth arrived the other day. I met the daughter, and it’s probably the most nervous I’ve been in a long time. Sort of a combination of an interview and a date, with a little “I don’t know what the frig I’m doing or what I want!” thrown into the mix. It felt so surreal to meet the offspring of the person I’d been spending all of this time with.

We met for dinner. I was already quite buzzed off of a half bottle of wine. Nerves shot. She was ethereally beautiful and so quiet and shy. So I went on the offensive with charm and questions and did my best to be both interesting and interested. We ate, I drank some more. It was all very sweet and proper. At the end of the meal she left to meet her friends and I heaved one big sigh of relief. The feeling of release was intense and I felt like I’d just been through something really big and monumental.

I looked over at my boyfriend and he said reassuringly “that couldn’t have gone any better,” and gave me a big hug. He pulled back and I could see tears in his eyes. “Sorry, I’m just a bit emotional,” he replied. “That was a really big deal for me.” And we hugged again and got all goopy and it felt warm and squishy and special.

I got home later that night and was on a huge high. I’d passed. Approved! I am a perennial people pleaser and I felt like I’d aced the interview. Made the grade. And it felt amazing. Forget what I thought of anyone else, they liked me. I was accepted and therefore a-ok. It’s an addiction, this people-pleasing high.

When the “Approval High” Fades

I woke up the next day with a similar feeling of warmth, but I could feel a trace of that good old anxiety bubbling up from the depths. I wanted to hold on to the good vibes, but my head came in and filled up every warm spot with questions and worries and what-ifs. What if I don’t even want to help raise someone else’s kid? If I decide I don’t want a kid, do I want to be with someone who has one? Or do I want to flit about with someone who is equally fancy-free? 

And on and on. My worries ranged from practical to totally ridiculous projections of a future I have no way of predicting. And it took away all of the joy. My roller coaster of emotion was back. High highs and feelings of connection and “this could be it” to low lows of “what the heck am I doing? I’m messing everything up as usual.”

Be Kind to Your Patterns

I know all of this sounds like I have some pretty deep-rooted insecurities. But I think (and my therapist agrees ;)) that it’s all a pretty normal response. As is usual in life, it’s what you do with those initial responses that determine your maturity and ability to handle what life throws at you.

My anxiety response is just my familiar pattern emerging. Big positive event happens, thoughts come in and drench all the good feelings. Someone shows me they’re committed (hello Facebook relationship status change), and I think of all the people I’m missing out on committing to. What if? How come? Is it okay?

Our patterns come up for a reason. They were developed to protect us during moments in our past when we were hurt. It all goes back to that fight or flight response to threatening situations. The patterns are sort of your boxing gloves or your plane ticket. The best thing to do is to try to be aware of when these patterns come up, acknowledge them, and then just let the feelings/thoughts/patterns pass.

Breathe Through the Discomfort

A friend gave me some good advice the other day, which was to just breathe through it. Breathe through all of the crazy thoughts that come up and try not to sabotage the relationship by letting them take over.

There’s a part of me that wonders why I’m going through all of this. The single life in some ways seems so much easier. It’s familiar. But there’s also a part of me that knows I want the connection. That loves having someone that cares for me and vice versa.

But the steps towards getting to true intimacy are incredibly scary to me. What if I get hurt? What if it all goes south? What if it’s not what I really want in the end and I’m wasting time? There’s no way to know any of this for sure. So I just need to trust that whatever happens, I’ll be okay. Here are some other tips and tricks for working through this kind of anxiety:

  • Stop looking for reassurance from others that it’s all going to be okay. It’s only how you feel that matters in this instance.
  • Be okay with not knowing, and trusting that you’ll be okay regardless of what happens.
  • Move forward despite your fears when there are more good things going for a situation than bad. The only way to see what’s on the other side (radical intimacy, family, support, love) is to get through the tough bits that challenge the life you know (you know, that single life you always say you want to move away from).
  • As mentioned above, stop pushing against your natural tendencies and patterns. When you do that, you’re actually cementing the pattern, instead of just seeing it for what it is and letting it pass until new patterns are developed.
  • Be compassionate with yourself. Let it be okay to have all the anxiety.  Another good acronym to get through all the anxious feelings is RAIN.

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Maybe this relationship is going to be the one that makes me a couple. That gives me my extended family. Or maybe it’s just going to be a stop on the way to figuring out what I really want. There’s no way to know…today. So I’m just going to try and enjoy the moment! And wade through the thickets of anxiety, head held high.

Any tips and tricks you can share for dealing with relationship anxiety?

Is Motherhood Actually “For Me”?

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Photo by Bethany Beck on Unsplash

I was sitting in my therapist’s office over a year ago, talking about the same old thing,  How the heck am I going to make the decision to have a baby on my own?

Instead of giving me tools or help in making the decision, she provided me with the following gem of advice:

“You know, I see a lot of patients who regret having children. They don’t talk about it too often outside of the safety of therapy, but the number of people is surprisingly high.”

She then went on to talk about the resentment that many feel towards their children for the time taken, money wasted, lives monopolized. Or frustration that the children didn’t behave in a way congruent with their reasons for having a family (e.g. they move far away and never visit). I know this isn’t a popular thing to talk about, but apparently it’s a real struggle for a lot of folks. People often fall into parenthood as the path of least resistance and can come to regret the lack of thought put into the decision.

This is why I truly believe that if you have any seeds of doubt, you take the time to sort it out, instead of just romantically leaping forward with your “one true love” into what seems like the logical next step.

Sometimes a Non-Decision Becomes a Decision

For me, Original Baby Decision Day is approaching quickly.  And even though I gave myself a reprieve on making a decision right now, given the circumstances of the world we’re currently living in. I can’t help but feel the panic rise up. I don’t feel any closer to making a decision. And there’s a part of me that fears I never will, and that that non-decision will become my ultimate choice.

So I decided to look into some of the resources a good friend sent that she used to determine her motherhood desires. There are surprisingly few resources (though growing) for a topic that is such a big deal in so many people’s lives. For a long period of time, the decision was just a matter of “what’s next” in life, and many people sort of fell into motherhood as the next step in their journey into adulthood. I mean societal expectations support it, religion supports it, pretty much everything points to this as being the natural next step for a woman. And while things are changing and it’s becoming more acceptable to decide to not have kids, it’s still bucking the trend a bit, and requires answering the questions “Do you have kids? Are you going to have kids? When are you having kids?” on a pretty annoyingly consistent basis.

Motherhood – Is it for Me?

The course recommended is delivered by a parenthood indecision therapist, Ann Davidman, who also has a book entitled: “Motherhood — Is It for Me? Your Step-By-Step Guide to Clarity”  A bit of a testimonial for the process can be found in this article: Washington Post article on parenthood indecision therapists

I’d already read the book, Choosing Single Motherhood, and it was a good collection of things to consider, but in the end made me more stressed out about the whole thing. It piled up a list of things that I needed to figure out or to consider, without getting to the root of what I actually desired.

Ann Davidman’s course and book was recommended as it really focuses in on what you, at your core, truly want. The course itself is offered a number of times a year, but the cost was a bit prohibitive for me. So I decided to purchase the book and do the course on my own.

I’ve just started and so far I’m sold. The book suggests that you take twelve weeks to complete the course, to give yourself the time needed to actually process the exercises and visualizations that you complete. I love this idea as I tend to rush through self-help books and am no farther ahead in the end, as I haven’t really “felt” the recommendations.

The book also advises that you don’t discuss what’s coming up for you with anyone while you’re completing it. Which takes out the ever-present consideration of the noise of other people’s desires and expectations. I’m definitely impacted by my friend’s comments about their motherhood experiences, good and bad.  But this course is really about you and your desires. It’s suggested that things might get a bit uncomfortable, and that clarity might not come immediately, but to follow it through to the end regardless.

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So this is my next step. I figure the timing is good. I can continue to follow the path of getting closer with my dude over the next three months, while I give myself the proper time to really sit with my feelings about becoming a mother. In some ways, this is a gift. When I was younger I was so sure that I wanted to be a mother, and the fact that there’s some doubt there now (granted it’s mainly doubt related to the frightening thought of doing it alone) means that there’s something there to explore. Had I just gone ahead and had a kid without this focused attention I might have some regret.

I won’t talk about the process until the end of the twelve weeks,  but I look forward to sharing my insights at that point.

Anyone else try any courses or read any good books that helped them get to their motherhood decision?

Peak Pandemic Panic Mode: How to Deal

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I had another meltdown. And this one didn’t fade away as quickly. It was triggered by my boyfriend making a major financial commitment that I somehow felt was out of line with this idea I had in my head of where we “should” be at a certain point in our relationship future. It was definitely out of line with having a baby in the next 1.5 years (which is the max I can really wait given my age). So my crazy “to baby or not to baby” brain completely took over. What did it all mean? I immediately came to the conclusion that he’s just not considering this as a long-term, serious thing.

Now remember, we’ve only been dating for four months now (four quarantine months so things have moved faster in some areas, but more slowly in others), so I get that logically, even if he sees this going long term, he’s (once again) a dude and is probably not sitting around mulling over the mechanics of it all. Though he says he understands that, knowing my age and that I want a baby, realistically this is not a 5-year future proposition. But I really don’t think any of this lands with guys until the sperm hits the egg so to speak. They are blissfully detached from having to dedicate a whole lot of headspace to the topic.

So I made another panicked phone call and I could tell in my guy’s voice that I might be getting close to the line. He was a lot less patient and seemed to react with a lot more defensiveness at the whole topic being brought up again. And I get this. In my brain. But my heart and my anxiety and my biological clock just won’t let it go.

We were also on a date the other night (so basically hanging out in his living room on a Saturday night. Thanks COVID), and after I came back from the bathroom I saw that he was intently focussed on his phone. It turns out that he was playing a game with his daughter. On a Saturday night at 11 PM. On OUR date night. And that silly “I don’t understand what it’s like to be a parent, so this other girl taking up all of his attention is making me quite unreasonably jealous” schtick came out again.

How to Manage That Pesky Panic

This all required a trip back to my therapist to try and figure out what to do next. Basically (again without going into all of the details from my psychological past) everything I seem to be doing in relationships, what many of us do, is to protect myself from being left, criticized, or hurt. I cause issues where there aren’t any. I interpret silence as dislike. I make mountains out of molehills and catastrophize everything.  I lash out before I’m lashed out at. I mentally collect a list of faults with my partners, so that when they ultimately discover my faults, I’ll already have one foot out the door. All because I don’t want to be too vulnerable. I bet some of you can relate!

Here’s some advice she gave me that really stuck, and I can see it being helpful when applied to most states of anxiety:

  • Stop avoiding the thing that’s leading you to panic. Take small steps and don’t even worry about the eventual outcome. In my case that can mean meeting the daughter before I determine that she’s some bratty teenager I want nothing to do with. Avoidance can become debilitating.
  • Use this relationship as a safe space to correct past behaviours. Try out not taking everyting so seriously for once and not reacting to everything. Breathe. As always.
  • Consider the “AND.” I keep panicking that I might have to give up on all of my life goals because things will not, can’t possibly, work out the way I want them to. But she suggested that there is always an “and” scenario. Maybe you can have a relationship AND live alone. Maybe you can move to the suburbs AND be in the city when you need to. You can have a kid on your own AND have a meaningful relationship. Unconventional but possible.
  • Remind yourself that things have a way of working themselves out. One thing I freak out about is that houses are expensive and I feel we’ll never be able to afford a place to live (certainly not with his kid and ours). But money circumstances change. Housing markets change. What you need changes. There are so many variables that it would do your head in to think about them all. Just let them unfold.
  • Practise grounding. I’ve mentioned this before. But when you’re panicking, try to focus on grounding yourself in the moment by noticing something that you can see, feel, hear, and smell. This will take you out of that worried headspace at least for a moment.

The panic also reminded me that I really do need to continue to explore the two paths that I feel are the most likely for me at this stage: having a kid on my own or having a kid with this guy. I’m scared that focussing too much on the former will block me from being open to really falling for this guy, or giving the relationship my all, but I need to protect myself to some extent.

In any case, a pregnant (and single) friend of mine is about to give birth and she suggested reading “The Unexpected Joy of Being Single” to “get okay” with the idea of maybe not finding that perfect relationship prior to baby. I also have on my list a motherhood book and I’ll talk more about those in my next post. Until then I’m off for a 5-day silent retreat, woohoo! So happy they opened things up to allow for a modified retreat during the pandemic.

If you have any other panic management tips, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! I’ll see you on the flip side.

No Major Life Decisions During a Pandemic! Say Like, Having a Baby on Your Own…

We got word at my office today that we might not be back, physically, in the office until next year. NEXT YEAR! Over 6 months from now. And that’s really sent me into a tailspin. If my productivity wasn’t low before, now whatever productive moments I had are being replaced with anxiety over how to manage the stir craziness I’m feeling with my life just standing still, and existing in two small rooms. I’m also so ready to take my COVID relationship into the real world (whatever that now looks like) to see if it has the strength to hold up to the harsh light of busier schedules and increased social circles. We’ve been living in this little bubble that has protected us from a lot of things. I just want to move forward.

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Stay the Course

I met with my naturopath the other day to ask for some tips on how to lose weight while still drinking five bottles of wine a week (FYI apparently it’s not possible). We talked about my other health concerns: my hair is falling out seemingly a lot; I can’t sleep properly; the Corona-coaster of emotions is continuing to wreak havoc with any attempts at normalizing things. And of course, my anxiety and uncertainty around whether or not this current relationship is one that would exist outside pandemic boundaries, or if I should just cut ties and proceed on the path to single motherhood, or otherhood.

She shared that a lot of her clients are feeling the same way (including surprisingly the hair loss. Apparently it takes three months for stress to impact hair loss, so we are all right on schedule). She also instructed me to essentially not trust my emotions during this period as they are most certainly impacted by everything that is going on in the world. This included no making any major life decisions at this time. It’s like we’re all drunk and full of hormones and tired at the same time. This both took the pressure off (if I’m not allowed to make decisions then so be it, just enjoy the moment. Sit in the love man). But at the same time, I know that when this thing is over, when I feel normal again, I’ll still need to make a decision, and unless I do some work now to figure out which way I’m leaning, I’ll regret the time wasted.

Traveling two paths at once

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But if I’m not supposed to trust my feelings right now, how can I really sit with them to see what they’re telling me. My hope, as usual, is that I’ll do the research, read the things, and then when the time comes to make a decision all of these things will converge to bring me to the right decision for me.

So I need to live as if I’m traveling two paths.

First path: date this guy like he is the one. And lean into that. See how it feels. Do the things that you do when you’re moving forward in a relationship.

Second path: imagine a life going solo with motherhood. Research and save headspace for a life where I have a kid on my own and that’s okay.

I’m not sure how to mentally live these two realities without somehow compartmentalizing the different decisions in my brain. I mean how can you truly fall into a relationship while at the same time you’re working through all of the details and trying to get okay with doing it alone (or deciding that isn’t the path for you)?

I’m struggling to say the least. No matter how hard I try, the little voice of the other path is whispering in my ear when I’m with my dude. I almost feel like I’m emotionally cheating when I think of my single motherhood path. Because of course, I’m trying to romanticize some parts of it (wouldn’t it be great to not have to check in with someone on big decisions on kid rearing), and that conflicts with giving this relationship a proper chance to grow.

Is Solo Motherhood for Me?

In any case, I continue. The other day I mentioned to my dude that I was still thinking of single motherhood and I could tell it hurt him a little bit. So now I feel guilty on top of everything else. I guess I need to keep my second path a secret. I wish it could all be in the open and at a minimum, this wonderful man could be a friend and support if he decides he’s not ready, but still wants to be in my life.

I finished one of the books on my list exploring single motherhood the other day “An Excellent Choice” by Emma Brockes, and it was a good read. It definitely supports the decision to go it alone. The author decides to have a kid on her own. She also has a partner, who has done it alone herself, and they decide to have their children separately, but co-parent in a sense (from different apartments). In some ways, this fulfills a fantasy of mine to both have real support, but also maintain my independence. I’d always thought co-parenting might be a great option for me until one of my best gay friends mentioned he might take me up on my (drunken) offer. It didn’t quite sit as well with me when presented as an actual possibility.  I need to do a bit more research into this. In any case, the book was a good read and will definitely give you some warm feelings around doing it alone.

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The author also speaks a tad negatively about women in their mid to late thirties who decide to freeze their eggs, saying that they should just get on with it. Based on my egg-freezing opinions and experience I wholeheartedly disagree with this. If you want to freeze your eggs because you’re not yet ready, and you’re financially able to do so, that’s the best decision for you full-stop. I don’t think we need to shame anyone for not being in the same headspace to make such a major life decision.  It also really bugs me when we judge the decisions of other women. We all know how hard all of this is, without having to be judged by the only group of people that can truly understand how hard it all is!

I can’t say this book tipped me over into the solo parent camp, but it definitely made the whole thing seem like a positive adventure. Gotta look a bit more into that co-parenting schtuff.

Any tips on how to travel two paths at the same time without losing my mind?

So Have You Figured it All Out Yet? The Quarantine Productivity Trap

Back in pre-covid times, I used to dream about a time when I’d have more…time. When my social/dating calendar wasn’t overwhelmed with a million different things, and I would have space to “figure out this love and single mother thing.” I imagined reading loads of books and writing a bunch of blogs that I generally use as a form of therapy to solidify my thinking around a given topic.

The start of this quarantine period felt like it could be a good opportunity for this peaceful period of reflection. I thought that without all of the social commitments and running from place to place, I was sort of on a retreat from regular life. I had great aspirations to do a bunch of productive things and figure a bunch of crap out. As for this whole “Dating on a Deadline” situation, I thought I would read all of the books piling up on the topic of remaining single, figuring out the world of dating and men, or proceeding with single motherhood (or deciding to just not be a mom after all).

But information and options for filling your time became almost overwhelming. Free courses and workouts and vision board sessions and painting lessons. OH MY! I was beyond excited and started signing up for EVERYTHING. My to-do list, which was already overflowing, became just ridiculous.

Then work got busy and my hours outside of work were marked with an almost scary lack of motivation. I got depressed. Something felt cruel about the fact that I had a new niece that I could no longer see (I had thought spending time with her might quell or heighten my desires to have a child on my own), and fertility clinics being closed. So even if I finally made this long-awaited decision and wanted to try…I was out of luck and then likely behind a long line of other ladies whose dreams had been put on hold.

Weeks seemingly passed in a flash, and then the news started to talk about the economy opening up. And this oddly sent me into a bit of a panic. Not only do I not feel like I’ve used this “retreat” to improve myself, but I fear tubs of ice cream and the lack of vitamin D, combined with an overall sense of “what’s the point” have made everything feel worse. I’ve still managed to squeeze in a lot of things, but some days I’m just happy to have made it through without falling into a pit. Like everyone else, I’m just making it through each day as best I can, and now I feel anxious and guilty at the time I’ve “wasted.”

Self-Compassion in a Time of Collective Trauma

The early days of motivation for this time was really exciting, and then it burnt us all out. Some “public figure” dude posted something like, if you’re not coming out of this pandemic with a new skill, then you’ve wasted your time. Talk about pressure. My mom sent me an article talking about the dangers of this type of thinking, and this small exert made me feel a bit better:

“As a trauma psychologist, I am utterly utterly horrified, enraged, and bewildered about how people can believe and spread this phrase in good conscience.

We are going through a collective trauma, that is bringing up profound grief, loss, panic over livelihoods, panic over loss of lives of loved ones. People’s nervous systems are barely coping with the sense of threat and vigilance for safety or alternating with feeling numb and frozen and shutting down in response to it all.

People are trying to survive poverty, fear, re-triggering of trauma, re-triggering of other mental health difficulties. Yet, someone has the nerve to accuse someone of lack of discipline for not learning a new skill, and by a yoga teacher!

This cultural obsession with [capitalistic] ‘productivity’ and always spending time in a ‘productive,’ ‘fruitful’ way is absolutely maddening.

What we need is more self-compassion, more gentle acceptance of all the difficult emotions coming up for us now, more focus on gentle ways to soothe ourselves and our pain and the pain of loved ones around us, not a whipping by some random fucker making us feel worse about ourselves in the name of ‘motivation.'”

Full article here: https://www.upworthy.com/coronavirus-productivity-motivation-myths-dangers

Quarantine To-Do Phase 2

Now that my work schedule has sort of leveled out, I’m struggling to put boundaries around the chunks of time in my day. Every activity bleeds into the next and I’m consistently thinking of the next thing while I’m on the current thing. What should I focus on? Should I be making sourdough bread? Writing blogs? Talking to a counselor about the bigger decisions? Taking training courses and which ones?

The list seems endless. And I think the answer is to let go. Practice self-compassion and let the frig go. It’s a recurring theme in life. Let go of what you think you should do, but when you really think about it have no desire to do. I’m trying to prioritize the things that make sense to me. And now I need to just establish some focus.

 

I was really naive to think that this decision I’ve been struggling with for so long would magically become obvious during this period. Just because I’m not running from distraction to distraction, doesn’t mean I can’t get distracted by other things. Doesn’t mean that I will all of a sudden have an Aha moment.

But I do need to start giving a bit more attention to this topic. I have to continue to date my nice guy, but understand that he might not be at the same place I’m at with all of this. We might hit November (a date where I’ve thought I’ll have to make a decision by, biologically) and he could say, I’m sorry but I’m just not ready to do that with you. So in the end I still might do this alone and I need to operate from that mindset.

The plan for the next little bit:

  • Try to enjoy this relationship without putting too much stress on the “baby and figuring out the life plan” stuff. Just enjoy this person and tune into how I’m feeling about him. Part of me feels irresponsible in this. I don’t just want to float along and then be surprised when we land at a place with different views on the timing of key things. But I have made it clear that I want one and at this stage, I think that needs to be enough.
  • Be still, and know. I recently read Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and she talked a lot about “being still and knowing.” Finding moments where you can actually be still and tune into what you are feeling on a given topic. And when it’s uncomfortable, sit still for a bit longer. And wait. The knowing will come. The knowing is always there, it’s just buried under a bunch of crap.
  • Continue to blog and read the books I’ve selected (next up: An Excellent Choice, all about one woman’s path to single motherhood)

But also, I’m going to try to give myself a break for not being as productive as I wanted to be. We all need to. At the end of the day, if we can all say that we’ve gotten out of this in one piece, with our kids (if we have them) in one piece, or even in a few pieces that we can put back together when we’re able, that is way more than enough. Keep as calm as possible and carry on.

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I Guess Men are Not the Enemy (Not All of Them Anyhow)

In my last post I talked about a drunken call that could have ended it all with my new beau. Stressing about timing and babies and financial considerations, while drunk, with a guy you’ve been dating for two months, is not the best way to proceed in a relationship.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Despite knowing that it was way too early for this discussion, I still got really frustrated in the days afterward that I had to have these stresses, and that my dude didn’t. This is a common frustration for me. That women have an end date on their fertility, and guys will just never be able to really understand what that’s like. It’s undoubtedly unfair, but it is, of course, biology. Can I really blame a guy for not getting this or having the amount of empathy I would appreciate? Holding onto this constant anger at guys having basically won the biological lottery doesn’t put me in a positive mindset for building a relationship with one. That burning resentment that’s sitting just below the surface, just waiting for the right amount of alcohol to release into another drunken call or a passive-aggressive attitude, is hurting me and my chances of seeing the good in any man I’m dating.

I needed to get some different perspectives. More productive perspectives. So I read another book by Evan Marc Katz, the only dating “guru” that I regularly revisit. It wasn’t cheap, but he talks to me like all things are possible and I have control over the whole situation and that sort of makes it worth it.

Optimism Has a Time and Place

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Evan goes through a series of steps you need to take to be in a place where you are ready for love. And each step has a series of very helpful activities to support them.

Step 1: Let Go of Your Past.

The guy who disappeared. The guy who treated you like shit. Guess what? He’s not your husband. Move on! Tough love man. Sometimes you need it. If a guy isn’t showing you behaviors that indicate he wants to be your boyfriend (gives you breadcrumbs, does everything on his schedule, etc.) let him go! So you can let the right guy in.

He also lays out some harsh facts around the time you should spend dating if you truly think having a relationship is an important end game for you. I love what he says at the end of the chapter: Instead of spending year after year, hoping to meet a man who fulfills a magical wish list that you think will make you happy, reverse the order: Go out with a bunch of guys. See who makes you happy. When you find a guy who does, you can forget your list, once and for all.

Step 2: Set Realistic Expectations:

My favorite and totally helpful quote from the book is that, in dating, you need to employ the mindset of being a “short term pessimist and a long term optimist.” I’ve been putting so much pressure on every individual date and would go home in tears when I realized there wasn’t going to be a second date. Or more so that I didn’t even want one. I would either feel rejected or hopeless about ever finding love.

But this idea of maintaining hope that love will happen, while not putting the pressure on any one date to be that great love, puts you in the right mindset to relax and enjoy and really figure out if you like the guy before you start weighing everything against your list. And wondering if that annoying way he eats on the first date is something you’re going to have to put up with for the next 30 years. Chill out! It’s just a date!

Step 3: Overcome Negativity:

This section talks about the pretty standard activities to overcome negativity in life (and he breaks it down for dating): gratitude, cultivating optimism, avoiding overthinking and social comparison, practicing acts of kindness, nurturing social relationships, developing strategies for coping, learning to forgive, increasing flow (experiences where one is absorbed in activity), savoring life’s joys, committing to your goals, practicing religion and taking care of your body through physical activity.

This was also the chapter where he had a section called “You Hate Men? That’s HOT!” and it was actually really helpful for someone to remind me that not all men are awful.

Step 4: Defeat Your Fear of Failure,

Fear lies at the root of most problems in life. This section talks a lot about how you will have failures and rejections and that’s perfectly okay. Everyone who’s really successful at anything in life has had their fair share of failure and it’s not the end of the world. In fact it may be the thing that brings you closer to ultimate success.

Step 5: Reframe your False Beliefs

This section is great for re-framing some core beliefs you have about love and dating. He talks about common beliefs and debunks them and has a pretty cool exercise on confirmation bias (i.e. thinking all men are awful and looking for examples of that result).

Step 6: Carry Yourself with Confidence

Confidence is key. This section has a “10 reasons you’re great” exercise.

Step 7: Take Action Now

Some tips on how to break out of your comfort zone and date more.

We’re all in this together

This book was positive and empowering and made me feel even a little bit excited about dating. I will say I started this book when I was moving towards my July timeline of deciding whether or not I was going to be a single mom (since abandoned timeline as a result of COVID), and was giving myself 6 more months to sort of date intensely and see where it went. So it was really important that I not drag baggage from the past, or negative views, into this whole process. I needed to enter that period with a feeling and energy of hope.

I was in line waiting for a concert while reading this book, and I saw a group of young guys. One of them had clearly brought his new girlfriend to meet his friends. She was young and stunning, with a sexy accent, and I felt so much anger at first. Anger that my time to be the young fertile woman had passed. Angry that these men would not have to worry about these things, possibly ever, and that they probably saw me as an old hag. I could feel a sneer form on my face and my body shift to an aggressive stance.

But then I remembered the book, and how men were not the enemy, and I just plastered a smile on my face and decided to approach everyone that night with a calm and happy demeanor. Guess what? People smiled back. I felt connected. I was in no way an old hag. I was just a girl seeing an amazing band at par with anyone else in this collective experience. The shift in my confidence and feeling of belonging was immediate and intense.

So we really do attract the energy we put out. Which extends to how we think about other people. If I can relax a little and see men as potential partners and not the enemy, well then maybe I have a chance. And maybe this nice guy I’m dating has a chance as well.

Drunken Phone Calls During Quarantine are Never a Good Idea

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Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Well it’s week seven of my hermit life, and every day/week is starting to feel the same. New patterns are starting to develop and the thought of a time before seems either like a distant memory or a dream. They always say it takes about 21 days to cement a new habit, but what about an entirely new life? It seems to have a similar trajectory as I find my new routines familiar, despite everything still feeling a bit off (which is also starting to become a bit of a consistent feeling). It’s like we’ve all entered into autopilot in this collective grief period, and I can tell it’s going to take some time to re-adjust to life as we knew it.

Last week the government in my province started talking about opening things up, and it sent my anxiety skyrocketing to the point where I felt I might have developed some agoraphobic inclinations. My mind went immediately to a familiar pattern of panic. You see, over the last few weeks I’ve been giving myself a bit of a break from thinking bout all of the really hard stuff. I’d relaxed on my goal of deciding whether or not to be a single mom by July because it felt unfair to myself to continue with this arbitrary timeline (like I need the pressure of any additional timelines beyond what biology has gifted us ladies with). I was meditating, and trying to just settle in and enjoy time spent with my “quarantine boyfriend” without thinking of all the faults, the what-ifs, the future. Self-compassion was the name of the game and getting out of all of this in one piece.

Time to face the music?

But that self-imposed Zen break came to a crashing halt the minute they talked about the opening the province up. Immediately my mind went back to all of the things I would have been spending my time figuring out over the last month and a half.  Because the fact is, that while the world has felt like it’s paused a bit, we’re going to emerge at the end of this (if there is an end in sight) and time will have passed. For lots of people, they can make it up. The time, the money eventually, the defined waistline. But for someone running up against a biological clock, that time is gone, forever. The government in my province will still only pay for IVF up to a certain point, and I will have to make a decision with even less time remaining (and less time to actively put plans in place).

For the Love of God, Don’t Dial Drunk

These panicked thoughts all came to a head one drunken night last week. It’s probably not the best time to be drinking, but it also feels like the only way to get through a Zoom call sometimes. I had just gotten off a call with three friends, who are about my age, and the conversation had turned to talk of fertility, as it usually does. One of my friends is fully pregnant, another has been trying unsuccessfully for years, and the other is married to someone who wants kids, but they haven’t done anything about it. So it’s a huge elephant in their condo. And I spent the call wishing that I was at least on one of those tracks (there goes that pesky comparison). My breath became shallow, nausea crept up and my head started to throb from lack of oxygen. Standard anxiety. I could feel the panic of not moving forward on anything. I mean I just want to make a decision and be done with it. But even if I did right now, fertility clinics are closed and it’s dangerous to date a bunch of people to find the right one, so once again stuck.

My thoughts crashed in on me and turned to my current quarantine boyfriend. And I started to overanalyze, psychoanalyze, think of everything that’s wrong or could go wrong with him or us, obsess over all of the what-ifs, catastrophize. And I of course (being a little drunk) thought that it would be a good time to call him.

Does anyone ever recover from a serious case of drunk texts or calls? Let me remind you that I’ve been dating this guy for a very short period of time, and I called him questioning his finances, and when he’d be ready to have a kid, and putting the weight of all of my drunken thoughts on his decidedly sober state.

And I must say that he took it like a champ. He was really quite calm about it all and that infuriated me to the point where I had to end the call…by hanging up. Not very mature behavior but nonetheless. Being the nice guy that he is, he did all the right things. Asked if I was okay the next day, offered to come over, but still couldn’t offer me the answers to my (totally ridiculous) questions. We had a big talk about it and I had understandably shaken him up. Honestly, if he were a lesser guy or even just less invested in us, he would have probably ghosted. But we ended up having a good heart to heart and seem to be on somewhat stable ground again.

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Breathe, Chill, and Carry on.

But my panic is still there. And I’m constantly having to remind myself to just take things moment by moment. To breathe and calm my nervous system, and start thinking of those alternate thoughts such as “it doesn’t have to be one or the other” (the dating this guy or having a kid). There are still lots of options that my logical brain can consider when I get out of panic or drunken thinking.

Until then I need to remind myself constantly that I am not alone. That we are all in this together.

And we will all get through it…together.

 

 

Confetti Cake: the Unintentional Olive Branch (Dating Men with Kids)

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A piece of box-mix funfetti cake, made by her, not intended for me, is currently on my plate. I bite into it, with its smooth, white and sinfully sugary icing; its celebratory dots of colour; fluffy and comforting consistency; and a feeling of warmth passes through me. And I realize that maybe, just maybe, she isn’t as bad as I thought.

I’ve always said that I had no issues with dating someone who had a kid of their own. As long as they were willing to have another.  I mean logically it’s something you need to accept when dating in your late thirties, early forties. Otherwise the playing field gets very small.

I’ve dated a few guys with young kids. I’d start to get a little bit annoyed when they’d talk about the little tots all date long. I mean at that stage, they were just littles strangers I’d had yet to meet, that I really had no feelings for one way or another. It was all a bit uninteresting really, until of course they became little humans that I might actually consider meeting (i.e. I liked the guy enough), and as of yet, that hasn’t happened.

But now I’m dating Mr. Nice Guy, and he has a daughter. But not a little tot. Oh no, she’s a beautiful 15-year-old, and it’s causing me stress. Because there are some issues with dating a guy with an older kid:

  • How does anyone bond with a teenage girl (especially when you act like a teenager most of the time yourself)? Teenagers are not at an impressionable age where my presence might actually be accepted as being some kind of parental figure. They’re almost ready to fly the coop. So I wont experience any of the bonding that might give me the satisfaction of being like a mother figure. Yet I’ll still have to share in the difficult bits (dealing with his ex, paying for someone that doesn’t think of me as family, sharing them with their dad). I guess if I fall in love with the guy, it will all be easier to grasp. But as of today, I don’t know her and I’m feeling like I never will at the age and stage of life she’s in.
  • Will he want to go back to the beginning? Whenever I see a guy on a dating site with older kids, or more than one, I ask him whether or not he’s open to another. I just feel like a guy with one younger child might be interested in providing a sibling. But with older kids, they might feel like they are finally getting out of certain stages and the thought of going back to day one with a new child might be a scary proposition. 
  • How do I see her as something other than “The Other Woman”?  I know. This sounds insane. But sometimes when he doesn’t answer the phone because he’s watching a movie, or making dinner or whatever with “her” it sort of feels like he’s spending time with another woman, and I get jealous. I crave that feeling when it’s just the two of you, and if a kid comes later, you’ve bonded over your relationship first. I shared these concerns with him and he had the best response: eventually if things moved forward, you two would meet and you would be within this little family instead of outside. 

I was feeling really negative about it all last week, and then he dropped off a piece of this confetti cake made my his daughter. And I know she didn’t make it for me, or probably even know I was eating it. But it somehow made me feel happy and even a little connected to her. Who would have thought that a piece of cake could be a bit of an olive branch?

Now the ex is a story/issue for another day.

I think my plan moving forward is to not freak out and to try and sit with these feelings a bit. To take my time and focus on the man and not everything that comes with him. Once I’m sure about him, I can work out how I feel about the rest? My favourite phrase during this pandemic, when I feel my brain getting ahead of itself is, “That’s a problem for a different day!”

How do you deal with someone else’s kids? How do I get used to this? Any tips or tricks, send them my way!