To Be Or Not To Be (Happy That Is)

Saturday was Valentine’s Day which always brings out a range of emotions in people from absolute joy to feigned indifference to downright loathing (usually depending on what your Facebook relationship status currently shows). I wasn’t going to do a blog post about this holiday because it just seemed like something that everyone would expect from a blog written by and for single adults, but then a lot has been going on in my life since I last blogged, mainly the fact that I got super busy for about 2 weeks straight with fundraisers, cat sitting, dinner parties, church activities and a new part time job at a very popular Omaha Coffee House and Wine Bar just in time for Valentine’s weekend! Then just as I thought things were going to slow down, my dad got sick, ending up in hospital and a co-worker suddenly passed away and my emotions went on high alert and once again I sat down to think about the motions of life, love and happiness and what it all means to me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had an extraordinary life spending much of it in places that were not home. Before I knew it I was 40 and still single, and, I will admit, there was a time in my life when I thought that was awful and that I must be really unattractive and unloveable. But as I began to really evaluate my life and how much good there was in and around me, I began to realize that almost everything I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, was already there, (I say ALMOST everything because it would be at least another year before Oliver would be born and then 6 more months before I would find him) and that is the message I try to portray to other singles, regardless of their age or past relationships.

It was easy when I was on tour to not think about this because we were constantly on the move, our lives completely mapped out for us including when and what we ate, where we slept and who we hung out with. But when I unpacked my suitcases for the final time, I looked around, and for the first time in my life I felt alone, even though I had family and friends who loved me to the moon and back. It was during this time that I knew that I was going to have to make the effort to be truly happy. It wasn’t going to just happen. It never does. You can spend your life waiting for the “one” to come along, and sweep you off your feet so that you can live happily ever after, or you can let life sweep you off your feet by plugging into family and friends and church and community service and by loving yourself enough to not settle simply because you don’t want to spend the rest of your life “alone”. Every week my calendar fills with social activities as well as coveted alone time at a museum, hiking trail, antique store or my big comfy sofa with Oliver and a book. I’ve learned to garden and preserve and bake.  I’m learning Tai Chi and Yoga and gearing up to train for a Breast Cancer Ride in Austin, TX with my best friend this fall (and hopefully Melanie and Laurie as well- hint, hint if you are reading this). I’ve tried new restaurants with Christine and Jenni and Kathy, hiked around Boulder and Colorado Springs with Terri, sobbed and laughed through movies and musicals with Karen and spent countless hours swimming and playing games with Gene, Lora, Matt, Penny, Jenni and Mandi.  (Don’t even get me started on my Minne Lusa and Trinity Lutheran families.) I’ve transported rescue dogs, organized fundraisers and almost perfected my Gateau au chocolat: Le Diabolo. I’ve joined a book club and have grown passionate about literature from all around the world.  I’m falling in love with the poetry of Rumi and Auden, the architecture of France, and Dutch and Spanish painters. I’m not saying this to sound haughty or make myself better than anyone.  I’m saying this because there was a time when I thought that life began and ended with a diamond on my left hand and a husband to come home to; and that is a lie that I allowed myself to buy into for too long. I don’t know what my life would look like if I had married and had children.  Maybe I would have had time to develop the same passions I have now, but more likely I would have developed other passions (between shuttling kids to activities and doing piles of laundry) and that is okay…but… I can’t imagine never having experienced my life as it is right now. Life and love and happiness are what I (and you) choose to make of them and until you willingly choose to be happy, no physical relationship will provide what you are looking for.

Friday and Saturday night I worked at Stories helping out with their Valentine’s Dinner and all around me were couples lost in each others eyes, holding hands, stealing kisses, oblivious to the fact that I just spilled a pitcher of ice water all over their table (okay…not really), but you get my point. Not once did I stop and think, “Wow…I wish I was the one sitting at the table, staring into the eyes of my true love while my steak and asparagus gets cold.” Instead, I truly enjoyed watching couples of all ages swoon and fall in love all over again around me and when my single friend Melissa posted a picture with her new guy on Facebook under the caption “Love is…like a cat. It jumps onto your lap when you least expect it,” I was truly happy for her and couldn’t help thinking, “Yes, Melissa, it is”. But then again, sometimes it is just like an old faithful dog who has been there all along.

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The Art of Relaxing

I am sitting at my kitchen counter, a piping hot cup of Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend Herbal Tea in front of me, 1940’s music playing on my iPod, watching the snow fall outside the living room window. When I woke this morning it was cold and rainy and I really wanted to stay inside, but needed to take care of a few errands, including conducting an interview with a woman and her daughter who, along with the rest of their family, raise chickens in North Omaha. Thankfully, I had done my grocery shopping earlier in the week, so the barbecued chicken was in the crock pot and the chickpeas were already soaking in water to be converted to falafel later in the day. After a few hours I was back home and back in my pajamas for the rest of the day and maybe even the rest of the weekend depending on what this winter storm decides to do overnight. I’ve already made plans with my church cleaning partner in the event that I am unable to get there tomorrow and I am set to stay put until Monday morning if need be! This doesn’t happen very often, but I so enjoy it when it does!

I used to fight against days like this. I felt like I needed to fill my days with activity, running here and there, shopping or meeting friends for dinner, a movie or some other activity. Even when the weather was bad, I’d clean off the car and be on my way the minute someone would call to do something or I got a craving for something that wasn’t in my fridge. A few changes have occurred in my life since then, mainly that as I have gotten older, I find I dislike the cold and wind more and more, and I hate having to don boots, a heavy coat, gloves, hat and scarf just to go outside.

Sadly, it seems like much of our society frowns on relaxing (unless it is while on a high priced vacation to a Caribbean island where even then we fill our days with a variety of activities, our smart phones close by to snap endless selfies, check Facebook and respond to emails both work and personal. Even our children are taught at a young age to constantly be busy. No sooner does school let out for the day then they are whisked off to Scouts or dance, or sports, or music lessons, often 5 nights a week and Saturday mornings find a vast army of mini-vans crisscrossing the city on the way to games, recitals or birthday parties at pizza parlors or indoor trampoline parks. Don’t get me wrong, these activities are all wonderful and allow kids (and adults) to get out and have fun while often learning valuable life skills, but is it any wonder that so many of us exist day to day on highly caffeinated energy drinks and use more sick days then the generation before us (okay…I honestly don’t know if that is true or not, but it sure seems like a lot of people are sick a lot of the time now- more than I remember before we became permanently available to everyone and everything).

I think it is time we bring back the art of relaxing, whether it is curled up on the sofa with a good book and a glass of wine or cup of hot tea, taking a leisurely walk with your four legged friend, allowing him to sniff every blade of grass, leaf or broken stick lying in the street, soaking in a hot bubble bath with soft music in the background and only candles for lights or enjoying a cup of coffee or cocoa in front of a fireplace with a friend.  Shut off the phone, turn of the television, hide the car keys and let the world around you and all of it’s stress, bad news and demands fade away- even if only for an hour.

That is my challenge to you in the coming week!  I’d love to hear about it from you and how you felt afterwards!