Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

May 31, 2013

'Plan A' All The Way

Oh my god. I just realized that I'm home on a Friday night, with my dog and cat, eating takeout, drinking wine and voluntarily watching "It's Complicated" on the Oxygen channel.

Let's break that last sentence down, shall we? There are more layers of pathetic there than you think.

I just realized 
This means that I didn't plan my evening to be a prototypical "lonely, single spinster on a Friday night" thing, as if creating it "ironically" would make it any less true. No, it just happened organically. And it was this sudden, horrific realization that snapped me out of it.

I'm home a Friday night with my dog and cat 
This means two things. 1) That I had no one to do anything with on a Friday night, and 2) Even if I did, I'd still rather hang out with my pets. They're the only living things I feel totally relaxed around.

eating takeout
This also means a few things. 1) That I unnecessarily spent some of the money I'm supposed to be saving on a shitload of Chinese food that one person could never possibly finish, even with leftovers. 2) That my vow to "eat healthy" only applies Monday through Thursday. 3) That even when I have nothing to do and no one to do it with, it still never occurs to me to spend the evening cooking something healthy and amazing. (This thought will never come to my head. I've accepted it.)

drinking wine 
I drink craft beer. I love it. I talk about it. I shop for it. I attend beer Meetups at breweries all by myself simply because I want to go on the tour and taste the beer. So what possessed me to drive out of my way to a Trader Joe's in order to pluck a mid-priced bottle of white wine off the shelf?!

While the next items didn't make it in to the sentence --  because I simply haven't gotten to them yet tonight -- I also marched to the dessert aisle for a half-pint of Peanut Butter Tracks ice cream and a bag of dark chocolate covered pretzels (because the dark chocolate is better for you than the milk chocolate, of course), which  I will crush and sprinkle over the ice cream for that crunchy, salty texture (clearly I've done this before).  I'm sorry, am I auditioning for a Cathy cartoon?!

and voluntarily watching "It's Complicated" on the Oxygen channel. 
This means exactly what you think it means. When I noticed this Meryl Streep/Alec Baldwin romantic comedy on the cable program guide -- on the freakin' OXYGEN CHANNEL --  I brightened, thinking, "What a perfect thing to watch on a Friday night!" If you've ever seen the movie, then you know that it is not just a "chick flick." It's a chick flick for middle-aged and senior women - and it's not shy about it. Just watch the dinner scene between Streep and her girlfriends, seated around the table, sipping wine and swapping hilarious stories about this thing called online dating and vaginas "closing back up" after years of neglect. Isn't that just a laugh riot?! Hardly. It did, however, trigger enough of a gag reflex to snap me out of it.

Also, the latter part of the sentence means I was watching cable television, something I haven't done, or had access to, in years. I still do not have access to a DVR, which means I was choosing to watch "It's Complicated" with all of the commercial breaks. Holy fuck.

But here's why I'm admitting this at all. 
After what I've pulled off this year, I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

I decided last December, the month I turned 40, that I was not going to spend the second half of my life in search of what I thought I needed to make me matter -- -- a husband and child. Actually, I was willing to pass on the husband. A kid, I felt, was what I needed to finally justify my existence. (Yes, during my darkest, most self-loathing hours, months, years, this was something I believed. Until December, that is.)

Allow me to be revert back to stereotype for a moment by quoting Dr. Phil. "And how'd that work out for me?!" 

So I sat down and thought about exactly what I wanted, set some big goals that had me aiming for the top instead of shooting for the middle, and made several serious commitments to myself, all of which I diligently followed through on. (I can't say the same for the men I've chosen to be with over the years.)

That alone is enough to hold my head up high, but what makes this such a jubilant self-lovefest is that I accomplished each of these goals on the first try. I'm Plan A all the way and, no matter how much I try to minimize my own part in pulling this off (and believe me, I've caught myself trying), I can't possibly avoid giving myself the credit. Not just for setting and accomplishing my goals (though that is certainly part of it), but for the hard work I did over the last 25 years -- no matter how haphazardly I did it -- that made me the kind of person who could do it at all.

I can't believe it took me 40 years to figure out how to be awesome with intention. I can't dwell on it too long or I'll start ruminating on where I would be if I'd figured this out a decade earlier. (Shit. I just realized that this means my mom was right all along.)

So what have I done since December 2012 that makes me so damn proud of myself? Here you go:

  1. Shut off the "looking for a husband" valve entirely.
  2. Decided that I'd rather not have a child than be a single mother scraping by on my own. I could skip the hubby, but only if I didn't have to worry about money (not in that situation - yet). If I've learned anything, it's that money is my stress trigger. I wouldn't want to put a kid through that.
  3. Came to terms with the fact that life could go on if I never had a baby. And that adoption, if or when I'm ready, is something I would consider.
  4. Decided to relocate to San Francisco and give myself two years to do it.
  5. Stopped being cheap and hired a resume expert to interview me until I coughed up all of the professional accomplishments it would've taken me another decade to admit to on my own.
  6. Decided to apply only for jobs that would require me to say "I'm a writer" when asked the inevitable question, "What do you do?" 
  7. Networked without (much) fear.
  8. Limited my first round of applications to "dream jobs."
  9. Landed my first choice dream job at the world's first choice dream company in just two months.
  10. Doubled my previous salary and negotiated for a full relocation package.
  11. Said my fond farewells, packed up my pets and moved my future to San Francisco.

So, yeah. I'm home on a Friday night watching sappy cable, getting tipsy and talking to my pets. But that's because I arrived just two weeks ago and am still in temporary corporate housing, far from the happening city (hence the cable I would never order myself).

I haven't even started the second half of my life yet.


February 14, 2013

Finally, I love Valentine's Day.

The older I get and the longer I'm single, the more I adore Valentine's Day.

I'm one of those people who could never get over the forced nature of this Hallmark holiday.  Even when I was someone's better half, I resented the day, and all the days of marketing foreplay leading up to it. They guys I paired up with wholeheartedly agreed  (really, are there guys that wouldn't be relieved when their girlfriend says, "Please, let's not do anything for Valentine's Day"?).

Nowadays it seems most coupled-up folk my age take a low-key approach. As Wine Guy said on our very recent V-day bashing phone call, "Valentine's Day is for people 25 and younger." Not just because they're probably less jaded at such a fresh, young age, but because they have so few obligations that trump grandiose gestures of romantic love. 

At 40, people have busy jobs, kids, night school...whatever it is that they care more about at the moment than a second-rate box of chocolates or a bunch of overpriced roses. Wouldn't that money be better spent on a babysitter for a date night when the restaurants aren't overcrowded with high schoolers and 20-somethings dressed in their uncomfortable best, eating rich food, and wondering if they're going to get laid?

But even though my anti-V-day philosophy is sound and secure, and has been for years, the coupled-up me was never able to entirely eradicate that one little nagging voice that said, "But shouldn't I at least get him a card?" Or, "What if he gets me something and I don't get him anything?" Or even just the knowledge that when someone with hearts in their eyes comes up to me and asks, "What are you and your honey doing for Valentine's Day?" my response of "Nothing. We think it's a bullshit holiday" probably won't be met with warm, fuzzy agreement. There I'll be, branded bitter. 

During my 20s, being single on Valentine's Day wasn't as dreadful as the stereotypes floating around might suggest. I never felt pathetic or sorry for myself for being alone, but I wasn't all that happy about it either. It was just a day where I felt a little left out. 
But last February 14, I felt a huge shift. It was my first solo V-day in some four years and I was pleasantly surprised to feel nothing but total and utter relief as the day dawned. My coupled-up peers were either overwhelmed with helping their kids finish their Valentine's cards for school or coming up with something to make sure their partner knew they were cared about, without having to expend too much of their dwindling energy to do it.

Me? I had a day entirely free of obligations and, worse, expectations. I was totally and completely off the hook.

This year I embraced the feeling even more. I woke up almost elated and had a smile on my face all day long. I wore my normal muted grays and blues, but threw on a pair of red knee-high socks beneath my boots and pants, which I would then expose with a playful smile to my coworkers saying, "See? I haven't given up!" 

When I stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home, I couldn't help but give a good-natured laugh at the people dutifully approaching the bins of rose bouquets and marching over to the register, looking relieved and tired after a long day at work.  

Now I'm off to grab a few craft beers at my favorite dive bar -- the one with plastic chairs on the patio and a view of a parking lot. My greatest companion, my dog, resting at my feet. Now that's my idea of romance.

Happy Valentine's Day! Dismissed.