20 First Dates questions I have been asked, and answers I have given.

(Originally posted on July 6, 2017 on rbrw.org)

How long did it take you to go on 20 first dates? Did you have to do it in one month? Confession: I didn’t actually go on 20 first dates. At least, not if you only count the dates since the challenge started. I got pretty close, and it remains to be seen if I get there. Remember, this is about the process of self-discovery – not about the dates or the people themselves. There is no time limit to self-discovery.

What defines a date? The definition of a date was very loose. The dates could have been a coffee, a drink, a lunch, a dinner, or a play…

How did you meet that many people?  They were fairly evenly divided between real life, meeting people at events or via friendly introductions; Facebook friends and/or Facebook setups by friends; and the only app I’ve tried, Bumble (I have no idea if it is better, worse or indifferent compared to other apps – I just know that it was what my single girlfriends were primarily using).

What number was I? If you were one, you may know because I have already told you. If you want to know, just ask and I will tell you (and yes, I have been asked, and have told).

I had planned to write this next post in the series on “Learning to be Alone.” However, after the recent holiday weekend, I must take a detour on this journey, and talk about family, closure and acceptance.

Divorce doesn’t break the bonds of family.

Growing up, my parents gave me a great example of how divorced parents can show each other grace. My father would still participate in family gatherings on my mother’s side, and my paternal grandparents always treated my mother as their daughter – they even served as my mother’s witnesses when she remarried. Was there sometimes tension? Yes. However, they created a peace around the situation and we never had reason to feel anything but loved.  

If you knew me a year and a half ago, you may have been privy to my marriage falling apart. Without getting into details that are not important at this stage, let’s just say that my ex and I have both worked on finding peace within ourselves and with each other, and creating a parenting partnership not unlike what I experienced growing up. I feel very fortunate that I have in-laws who told me I would always be their daughter, and to have already visited them with my daughter and felt that nothing had changed.  For our child’s sake, we have set aside our differences. Over Christmas, I flew to Telluride, Colorado for a long weekend to spend the holiday with my daughter and my ex. I won’t lie, I cried quite a bit during my brief non mini-me stints in my hotel room. I mourned what was, and perhaps what could have been. I finally felt the closure I had been missing, over Fourth of July weekend.

Finding Closure and Acceptance

Mini spends a great deal of the summer with the ex in California, and we decided we would spend the July 4th holiday as a family. This may be a good time to mention how difficult divorce can be for friends as well as family. Our friends in California remained, for the most part, both of our friends. When you each have a best friend who is married to the other’s best friend, there is no easy “dividing of the friends.” Life doesn’t have to be stark choices made in black or white- they can be gray or any other number of shades. It has to be the best choice for you and your relationships. Helpful friend hint – the best friends agree not to discuss things with each other, relating to the ex-couple.

The thing about July 4th was that it was going to be a bit, well, different for me. We were spending it in Lake Arrowhead. See, when I was pregnant with mini, I owned a house up there – in the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains just two hours from our beach house. We had just vowed to spend more time in the mountains, when a fire raged out of control and burned down the entire neighborhood, including my house. In the ensuing months, we decided to look for a new weekend getaway. The weekend before giving birth, we went up to Lake Arrowhead once again, and found the house he would eventually buy – that would be our family retreat.

This house was the scene of many friend and family gatherings over the years. It was the scene of many precious moments with mini and the ex. It was also the scene of some of our biggest arguments. It was also the scene of the first time we almost split up, when mini was one and a half years old. It was also the first time I would visit in two years, knowing that he was still holding onto some of my precious art collection, books I loved, and other “treasures.”

I didn’t stay at the house. I stayed at a rustic inn closer to the Lake Arrowhead Village, and had a rental car. Mini stayed each night with me, after we would hang out at the house all day.

The weekend was relaxing, and as I walked around the house looking at the stuff that made it a home, I realized that it was okay – I was okay. I didn’t need the stuff. There was no longer resentment that I didn’t have any of it, or that I wasn’t staying there. What mattered was the experience of being there, enjoying time with friends and family.

The last day, friends and family said their goodbyes and left after a final lunch. This may seem odd, but we were quickly and quietly back in a familiar routine. Mini was playing a game with dinosaurs, I was writing on my laptop while waiting to load more laundry, and ex was napping on the couch. We were all in the same room. I looked over, and experienced peace. We were no longer married nor wanted to be married to each other, we were both dating, and we could still be a family.

The truth is, after spending almost half my life with the ex, we still know what makes each other tick, each other’s favorite foods, and other habits. All of these things create a great foundation to build a friendship of a sort, after realizing that we are happier and better apart from each other, and that we will always be family.

Later that day, we went to the village and mini insisted on getting a family bracelet. So even though we will be apart for the next several weeks, whenever we send a photo to each other, she and I will know we are thinking of each other.

I felt peace, grace, comfort, closure, and acceptance. And the happiness, positivity and contentment that came from it were the best I could have ever wished to feel.

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