Category Archives: happiness

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am alone.

I don’t like being alone. I like sleeping next to someone, loving someone each morning, finding new things to love each day. I crave this connection a little too much and I know that’s a bad thing. I think I’m too susceptible right now to my own addiction. I think I might be addicted to women. In a slightly unhealthy way, that has led me to trouble in the past. So let’s slow things down a bit and look at how “the waiting” can be the best part.

At the moment I am in a perfect relationship. I wake up , go to sleep, nap, walk, play tennis, write… all that, I do all those things without considering another soul. I am in love with myself. Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but I’m learning to like my own company again. For awhile there, after my last breakup I was not sure I would survive to see another relationship. Today, I know I will, I’m just not sure how or when. It’s that unknowing that I’m also beginning to understand. I can’t say I enjoy it yet, but I get it. I’m not ready.

While there are not a whole lot of things going tremendously right in my life right now, I am comfortable in my rebuilding. As I went on a “hello date” yesterday I was happy with the me I presented. While there was zero chemistry and thus zero follow-up, it was an opportunity to tell my story again. To hear how it sounds to talk about my divorce and my kids, and what I’m doing with my life. Of course, I leave out some of that life stuff, but I was honest in all that I chose to share.

What I learned yesterday, at some point during our 45 minute conversation, is I am confident and comfortable with who and where I am. I talked about the i-ching for a minute in reference to both of our current situations. (See, when you’re going on a first date it’s likely the other person is alone and waiting for what’s next as well.) That she had never heard of the i-ching was surprising, but hey… Here’s a paraphrase of what I said.

Back when I was into the tao and zen, I used to throw the i-ching for guidance. It’s really just a reflecting pool that you can bounce your current situation off of, a philosophy. What was interesting was out of the 64 hexagrams of the i-ching, three times I threw the exact same one.

5. WAITING

Actively Waiting.

And what I learned was the great general does not rest during the down times of war. He is actively rebuilding, strategizing, readying his plans. In our case, we are in a down time, but rather than be lazy or discouraged, we must take advantage of this time and explore, learn, study, plan, everything we can think of, so that when the waiting is over we are well-prepared for the journey ahead.

Am I ready for a new relationship right now? Nope. How do I know? I’m too into it. I’m too ambitious. I’m too eager. There is very little peace in my approach right now. I’m learning and slowing that down over the past few weeks, but I still feel the lingering energy that would swoop in at the first opportunity for a relationship and create an unrealistic fantasy about the woman just so I could have a relationship.

In the waiting I’m working on a few things.

  • Continuing my exercise and good eating habits. (Helps me stay fit.)
  • Reading and writing. (Helps me plan and imagine the future.)
  • Exploring online dating. (Gives me glimpses of possibility. None that I have connected with, but it’s sort of like training school.)
  • Working a shift-job while I continue to seek my next big job. (Keeps me engaged. Gives my kids some child support.)
  • Honoring and visiting with my mom. (She’s 85 and has plenty of worldly-wise and unwise experience to share with me.)
  • Requesting opportunities to be with my kids and build our relationship. (Teenagers are usually too busy for mom or dad, I get it.)
  • Listening and respecting the pace of life. (Mindfulness is an ongoing practice.)

I am confident that each of the activities gives me more strength and passion for what’s next. That could be a new job. A new relationship. Or it could be more of the actively waiting. As long as I am not wasting this time, I am building a better me. I believe that.

When I think about myself at this moment I would say, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: meditation, creative commons usage

Hello Women Readers (Feedback Request)

According to Facebook and Google Analytics my readership is somewhere between 91%  women (facebook)

and 75% women (GA)

And this data presents me with some interesting questions as I am moving forward with my plans to grow and continue writing about dating, single parenting, and divorce. What I’m hoping to discover is a bit more about you, women, who are reading. I have some ideas about why I think you’re following my journey. And I have some numbers that indicate what your favorite topics are, but I don’t have any primary research, or reader feedback to assist me with my strategy and writing plans moving forward.

Here are a few things I know. In the last year the top three trending posts are about single dads and dating preferences.

So from this information I completed my first book recently, please feel free to check it out on Amazon, or even buy it. (grin)

single dad seeks - john oakley mcelhenney

And I’ve tried to replicate the success of that first post, but it’s never worked out. I’m happy that my What a Single Dad Wants in His *Next* Relationship post has continue to be shared and read far and wide, even when I’m not actively promoting or writing on the blog. This is awesome and flattering. Thank you.

But this post, and this book, do not make up the whole of what I’ve been writing about or working on in my life here on The Whole Parent. And while I will continue to date and write about dating, it’s also important to me that I continue to evolve and grow as a writer, dad, single parent.

The first book I wrote, and have not yet found a publisher for is called The Positive Divorce. How do you take the worst situation and turn it around for good? The agents asked, “Why would we want advice from this guy? He’s just a blogger. He has no credentials.” Hmm. This concerned me, but I moved on and wrote the dating book as my first topic. Strike where the audience was hottest.

I’ve also been writing a lot about the depression that comes along with divorce and the loss of your kids. I imagine this is a hardship that visits both moms and dads equally. And while I’m not qualified in any way as a therapist, I do think there is value in sharing my story, my recovery, and recovery attempts, as hopeful mile markers for any other readers who suffer from depression. And this book is also in the works. So those seem to be the three main topics on this blog.

Dating
Single Parenting/Divorce Recovery
Depression

I’m wondering, if I asked my audience what they were most interested in learning or hearing about from me, would I get a response? Should I do a survey? Would my readers comment on the blog and let me know what they were thinking, liking, disliking about my writing?

That’s the point of this post. Dear readers, mostly women, what else can I tell you? What conversation should we have next? Would you be interested in joining a private community where we could all chat? Is there some topic I haven’t covered?

All I can do is ask and make it easy for you to answer if you’re so inclined. That’s the idea.

Please respond in the comments or take this 3 question survey to give me feedback on The Whole Parent and the future direction of my work. Thank you.

Survey Link: http://bit.ly/wholeparent

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

There’s Something Missing

Moods are a swirl of chemicals in the brain set awash by events and triggers in our lives. The fall is beginning to poke up cooler mornings here in my city and earlier in the week I was energized and excited to be walking around the nearby lake. It was as if the fall signaled to my brain, happy times, burning leaves, football games, and warm blankets. But yesterday, with the same cool weather, my walk around the lake was a struggle. I don’t know exactly what happened, but my chemicals were a bit on the sad/tired side rather than the up/excited side I’ve been grooving on for several months.

I’m not depressed. I am a bit less enthusiastic. I’m wondering why.

It was as if yesterday morning I woke up with less hope. I have to say that projecting confidence and joy in the period of my life, must be tiring. I experience it as joy, but I know somewhere, underneath, in the chemical machine of my body, I am working to maintain my happy attitude in spite of all the downers in my current situation. I know this period is challenging all of my preconceived ideas of who I would be at 54, where I would be at 54, who I would be with at 54, and what I would be doing at 54. And October is the beginning of the fall and that will put me at 55, in November. I’m more than halfway through my lifespan and things haven’t gone so great for me.

I don’t look back with any regrets. (Well, that’s not true, there are several.) Let me try again. I don’t look back with much regret about how I’ve lived my life post-divorce. I have struggled with depression, yes. I have struggled with my work, yes. And I have struggled as a single dad, yes. But I have kept my attitude aimed at higher states even when I was in the lowest states. I have never given up hope of returning to my victorious self, the self I celebrate and praise. I’m not there yet, but I’m still putting up a good fight.

So, yesterday my chemistry was off. Nothing else changed. I got plenty of sleep, exercise, and good food. I’ve been getting some 2nd round interviews. My writing has been going well. So, what’s off? I’d like to think it’s the WOMAN that is missing, but that’s not it either. I do write a lot about dating and wanting a relationship, but I’m pretty clear that it’s too soon for me. I’m okay with being alone until I get a bit more of my equation figured out. What would I tell a date, “I’m living with my mom and working at a grocery store.” How’s that going to work out? Or I could lie. That’s no better. So, I’m alone. That’s not it.

I have to think it’s a combination of all of these things. Of course, it’s tiring to be unhappy with your current environment and employment status. There is no doubt that I’m struggling with my lifeway and the path is not yet clear to me. But it’s also clear to me that my current living situation is not painful. If I don’t thrash against the situation, I can see how my life is very easy right now. I get plenty of sleep. I take naps. I work part-time. I have time to play tennis, bike, and walk around the lake. I mean, my life does not suck.

Still, the moods roll in and out as if on tides. There is no controlling the bio-rhythm of our energy overall, it’s really just how we respond to the varying levels of energy. And over the past several months a low-energy day was just passing through. Yesterday, the low-energy had the feeling of maybe sticking around for a bit. That got me a bit worried.

I’m not worried today. While I’m not 100%, I’m also on the incline headed back up. Yesterday, however, even after my walk, continued to be challenging. And perhaps in response to the low-energy mode I had a hard time staying positive in the face of all that is happening or not happening in my life.

I had a job interview in the afternoon that could not have gone worse. It’s not that I did poorly. It was more that became terrified during the interview that I might actually get this job that the woman was describing and it was awful. Just the kind of work I’m hoping to not return to. And I was going along with the interview as if… “Yes, I am good at that…” But I wanted to say, “But I don’t ever want to do it again.” The interview lasted about 30 minutes. When it was done I was exhausted. I was not feeling positive. In fact, I was feeling scared. I had the sinking feeling, while interviewing, that I get when I’m headed for a fall. I was powerless in that interview, in my mind, and I was heading towards a cliff.

The rest of my day didn’t go all that great. I self-regulated by taking a nap and that helped. But I never did quite shake the feeling of fear that creeped in while I was talking to this young woman on the phone. I learned something: I will not take the kind of job that is going to eat me alive. It’s not worth it, and today, I don’t have to take it. I went to bed after reading for a bit, and woke up today in a more-normal, not-down, state.

Something is missing.

I am ready to have a good job that appreciates me and doesn’t drive me into the ground. I’m ready to afford my own place again, even if that doesn’t mean buying a house. And I’m ready to be constructing a relationship again, I think. It’s this last one that’s unclear for me. I have been super happy in my natural state over the last few months, alone. I’m okay with having nothing to do on a Friday night. I’m learning again to enjoy my own company. What complications would a new relationship bring into the picture? Tons.

What I’m coming to is this: we are where we are for a reason. I am in this place to heal. I am alone to learn to be alone again. I am unemployed because I need to learn to value my work in a way that doesn’t compromise or destroy my personal life. I’m going to do all of these things better as I move forward from this place. But this place, this quiet time, is also a blessed time. A time for reconfiguring. A time for being sensitive to my moods and learning new ways to moderate or understand them.

This month leading up to my 55th birthday is a time of great power for me. I will spend this time alone and seeking my own company and counsel. When the next job, woman, or house come by I will be able to consciously make the better decision. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with being still, right where I am, in this uncomfortable ego-less state. I am rebuilding, brighter and better. And until then, I actively wait, pray, and write.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: joy, creative commons usage

(Singing) Find Me Somebody to Love

Did you hear the Queen song in your mind? Here, let me help.

There. That sets the tone of my teenage mindset, from when this song came out in the early 70’s. Today, in my mid-50’s I’m still a bit like that young boy, wide-eyed, eager, and most of all lonely. It’s not that I’m not enjoying my time alone, I am. But… As an empath I really feel the aloneness in a deep way. And I know this ache still needs some time to heal before I’m really ready to quest on towards a new relationship.

I’m a bit like a hungry ghost at the moment, and that’s not where I want to start from. I can feel it, however, in my approach to daily life. I’m looking a bit too longingly into other women’s eyes. I have a bit too much “hi, how are you” swagger at work. And I am imagining lustful scenes rather than holistic, real, achievable moments. It’s like my mind wanting to recreate a porn scene while my heart is looking for a real relationship. The two lines are blurred in my mind for now, and that’s confusing.

I don’t see myself as a horndog, but I think at the moment I’ve got all the characteristics of one. I’m not acting out, of course, but I’m actively conjuring up the energy and images in my mind. I see it as revving the motor. Harmless. And yet, the phrase, hungry ghost didn’t come out of thin air. I am a bit too obsessive. I have a drive that I’m not all that proud of at the moment, that demands a partner, a companion, a place to call home with someone else to come home to. It’s fine to want all that, when the time is right. The time is not right for me, at the moment and I know it. And yet the fire burns on.

I am walking around life at the moment with a hyper sense of awareness. I’m trying to identity what features I really “fall in love” with in a woman. And I’m not really getting the formula. I fall for 5 – 6 women a day. Of course this is in a harmless and self-aware way. I see my longing, I acknowledge the beauty of the woman I’m seeing, and I move along. I am not in pursuit.

And at the same time, I can feel the lack of that connection in everything I do. I don’t want to sleep alone tonight. I don’t want to plan all my own meals, and shop alone, and entertain myself. I crave the opportunity to do all those mundane things with someone. Of course, that’s where relationships can get off course, in the mundane. So, this time, I’m thinking I will make things different.

In fact, mundane is a fundamental process in any relationship. And getting to love the simple daily tasks with your mate is part of the journey. We get all jazzed and heated up about sex and sexual chemistry, which are very important, but sex probably makes up about 1% of our lives together. It is the rest of the time you have to figure out if you can enjoy together. I’m eager to try again, but with some new realizations.

  • Partners must have equal power and voice in the decisions of the relationship.
  • Both partners must continue their creative journeys alone.
  • Keeping an outside life enriches the relationship.
  • Adaptability is critical, but some things about your partner will never change.
  • The relationship is always considered first when making outside plans, always. A simple, “Hi honey, I’m thinking about going out with friends on Friday, is that okay with you?”
  • Disconnections must be expressed, even in the face of fear.

And there, I didn’t mention sex at all. Oh, but sex should be connective and pleasurable for both partners. If your attraction and relationship is founded on sex there is going to be a lot more of living that you need to figure out together.

Summing up, what I know about myself is I’m still a bit ghostly inside with too much sexual energy wrapped up in my daily walkabout. I am actively slowing my roll and not looking for a relationship. I can still have those lusty feelings, recognize them for what they are, appreciate the woman who triggered them, and the move on with my life as I am rebuilding it. It’s a perfect time. All the relationships I have are in my head and they are amazing.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: lover’s kiss, creative commons usage

The Head and the Heart: Getting In-Sync In Love

Is the heart the center of our love force? I think it might be a combo between the head and the heart. The heart (soul) desires and drives towards fulfillment while the head analyses and aims the actions of the person. If either one of them are out of sync, the relationship doesn’t work. The love doesn’t happen. The connection is missed.

The Heart and Desire

I desire to be in love with every fiber of my being. My heart longs for the feeling of security that comes from being in a solid and loving relationship. And my heart is actively looking to replace that in my life right now. When love is missing the heart is in pain. Our souls ache to be connected with another person. We crave that bond, at least I do, that comes from extended periods of touch and loving communication. We want the person in our lives who can take us in their arms and say, “It’s going to be okay,” and we really feel and believe it. That’s the love I crave.

The Heart and Fulfillment

Something about my life felt incomplete before I had kids. I was too self-centered, I was too driven by my own agenda. And that the first thing that happens when you have kids, your agenda is forever subservient to the active loving required by being a parent. Nothing you strived for before having kids has the same importance in your life. If I wanted to be a famous writer at some point, by having kids I learned that a job, a house, and insurance were more critically important in my life than finishing my first novel. Sure, I still strive to be a famous writer, but I’m more focused on the realities of providing a living. The writing will continue. The fame is less important to me now.

What we learn when we have kids is what unconditional love looks and feels like. We grow as lovers and as human beings. Our kids teach us what selfless love looks like. Beyond the relationship with our other parent, our kids teach us about devotion, and unreserved, fearless love.

My heart is now longing for that love to be created with another person. I have my kids. I have my goals and aims set in the right place, and now I want someone to share it with again. And I have a little bit better idea of what unconditional love looks like, from having kids, and this is what I’m hoping to recreate, re-find, in my next relationship. There is a fulfillment of my heart’s desire that is wrapped up in being “in relationship” with someone. I’m good at relationship. I thrive on it. I crave it when it is lacking. And I am currently back in the hunt for a reignited relationship. I’m back to looking for THE ONE.

The Head Analyses

I think, and over think, about love all the time. In my day job, when I’m watching the stream of people passing by, I notice my micro-love impulses towards certain women. The part of my heart that says, “Hey, who’s this,” and then my head that asks, “What is it about this person, what qualities am I being excited by?” This analysis, I think, will give me a better understanding of my own wants and desires.

And actually, this meta-examination I’m having with myself, about who, what, why I’m attracted to a woman passing by, might be my own form of over thinking. Or, as I hope, it might be my conscious mind trying to unravel the unconscious desire that has driven me so far. As far as my “type” of woman, the question always asked is, “How has that worked out for you so far?”

What I have been learning from this examination of my desire and reflection on my “type” or “types” of women is that it’s not one thing. I’m not a breast man, for example, I like all types and sizes. And I’m not a blonde vs brown person, although I would say my “type” has been dark-haired in the past. And so I’m learning that it’s not anything obvious or specific that I’m attracted to. But it IS something. Out of the 100+ women that I meet on a daily basis, there are 5 that get a rise out of my antennae. What about them does it for me? I’m trying to pin that down and explore the whimsical nature of my own desire. There is no one thing, no one type, no one characteristic of a woman who is my trigger, or my thing.

The Head Aims

But there IS something. There are the smaller subset of “attractive to me” women and then the majority of others. And what I think I am doing by analysing this information is bettering my aim. Without a goal in mind, I am certain I will never reach what I’m looking for. I need to create a target woman, an ideal, that I can aim my mind towards. Today, that is more of an archetype, rather than a set of WANTS and MUST HAVES. But, I think it is that fundamental. I do need to create the ideal map for finding my next relationship. And today those things would have much more to do with their intellect and personality than their waist size. Today, I think my “list” would be (note to self: write your list) more holistic in scope. I know I’m looking for someone who can meet me at my level of energy, creativity, and commitment. But beyond that, I’m still exploring the variables.

When It Is a Match

It’s rare when we get the head and the heart to come into sync about another person. Sometimes it’s one thing, a serious physical attraction for example, that sets us off, but the other person fails in one of our additional criteria. One thing I’m certain of, I cannot distinguish attraction from an online dating profile. A photo rarely gives a glimpse into the other person’s energy or intention. But I think in-person, you can feel it. You can sense when someone is happy with themselves by the way they carry themselves and the way they say hello to a stranger, like me, who is about to help them. So, online dating may be a dead-end for me. Or maybe when I get my aim figured out more clearly I will be able to assess the dating profiles more clearly and pick out one or two that I really make an effort to attract. Again, online dating is weird. It’s unnatural. But if it’s a numbers game, the web might be the only way to up the odds.

What’s your experience with being IN or OUT of sync with your head and your heart? What was it like when BOTH happened at the same time. Love, is the idea that comes to my mind. Without both mind and body being into the relationship there’s little point in continuing, and how can you possibly determine that from an online dating profile? So that means you have to go on dates, you have to meet. How tedious and time-consuming. And when it’s OFF how boring. It feels like a waste of time. Maybe it’s important to make it more of a game, to take it less seriously. And for me, perhaps it’s important to take it more casually, to not get in any hurry (though less frustrated) trying to “close” the deal.

I desire to be in love with every fiber of my being. I’m in no hurry to make another bad relationship decision.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: hand and heart, creative commons usage

My Failure with Online Dating Sites

What’s the deal? Online dating is supposed to offer up so many possibilities for us to find each other. To find our mate. But it’s not that easy. Here’s my recent experience (say 30 days) of seeking a relationship on Match.com and OK Cupid.

Yes, my profile is still active, but I rarely go to either site and here’s why.

  • Women rarely respond to “hello” messages.
  • The “new” profiles are far and few. So I’ve seen everyone.
  • Once you’ve said “hello” to all the interesting women, you wait. You say “hello” again. And you wait.
  • It’s a woman’s world out there, and they have the power to engage or ignore.
  • The only women who have reached out to me first we either scammers (trying to lure me off to their other page on another, paid, site.) or women whose profile pictures were actually scary to me. As in, WTF and I doing here.

I wonder, if I’m that guy to the women I’m reaching out to? I’m trying to seek within my own age range, plus or minus 5 years. And I’ll admit I’m more drawn to the younger end of the spectrum, to a point. And in that respect, I wonder if I’m the “ug” guy that keeps pestering these cute women?

I don’t think so. I think my profile shows me in a good light. I think I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. And I think I’m being realistic with who I am contacting. So what gives?

From my conversations with some of the women I’ve gone on first dates with, I understand that the online dating world for women is very different. Attractive women get from 20 – 30 offers, or emails, per day. (Even if that number is per week, it’s an amazingly high number. I get 1 a week on a good week.) So the women are literally filtering through hundreds of offers and picking the guys they want to respond to. Turns out I’m not that guy. Or maybe I’m not that “first impression” then buried in a full and filling inbox. Either way, I rarely get even a “Hey” back from my “Hi, I’d love to start a conversation,” emails. I get nada.

So this lack of feedback is disappointing. And the lack of new profiles is disappointing. And my three four dates have had disappointing outcomes. So what’s the point? Perhaps, I am deciding, I am still pushing the river too hard. Perhaps I’m seeking a relationship in an aggressive style that really doesn’t match who I am. Perhaps I need new profile images that show my newly clean-shaven face?

Or, and I think this is the real answer, I need to give it a rest and just be with myself. Write. Explore. Do my thing. And to be honest, I am enjoying this in-between-time quite a bit. So today, I’m taking another new approach. Fk online dating. I’m not really one to make snap decisions about a woman’s attractiveness based on a few photos. And that’s not how I go about starting a relationship either. Of course, I’m not going bar hopping either.

Slow it all down. As I say in my profile, I’m not in a hurry to be in a relationship. I’m looking for friends.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

The Positive Single Dad: Year Four in Review

It was Sept. 2013 when I got the idea to write a blog about single parenting with the focus being 100% positive. How can I be a better single dad? I’ve had many ups and downs during these last four years, but for the most part, this blog has helped me keep things on the upside. If I can frame a perspective in a positive light even about things that aren’t so positive, I can feel better about them myself. And that was part of my mission: change the way I was thinking about my divorce and my life as a single dad.

This year I had a very tough time struggling with some relationship issues and a serious bout of depression. And I remember looking at the blog several times and seeing this post. It wasn’t so positive, but I simply could not figure out anything to write about to displace this sad post from the front page.

I was wounded. And things were not going well in my own relationship at the moment. And for a long period I was mute. Waiting. Searching for the strength to write again and the courage to write about what was happening, that wasn’t so positive.

Then it broke.

And I found myself back in the dating and seeking game.

And as I felt stronger in my own purpose I began to uncover more of what had gone wrong in my seemingly perfect relationship.

I started looking at some of the deeper issues of dating again. And what I wanted in my *next* relationship.

And I kept returning to my single parent role as something that defines me and defines my future desires.

After four years I am more positive and more prepared for what comes next. I am working to be closer to my teenaged kids. And I am preparing for the next great relationship of my life. I have my eyes a bit more open and my heart a bit more clear on what I’m looking for.

Most of all, I’m happy. Really, core-happy. Alone, yes, but happy and optimistic about the future.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Relationship Timing and the Fragility of a True Connection

Two different women in the last few weeks have lit up my chemistry match. Both of them mentioned their boyfriend.

I might get bummed out, but I wasn’t. I was actually happy for both of them. Not so happy for me, but hey, I can wait. I’m in no hurry.

I said this to the last woman over breakfast tacos, “Relationships are fragile. If you’ve got one and it works out, congratulations. They are hard. I am really happy for you. If it doesn’t work out, then I’m still here. Either way I’m happy for you.”

And while I have that tongue in cheek desire to ask, “So how’s Brad?” I don’t. That would be shitty and passive aggressive. What I can do is let them go. Stay connected via chit-chat, but not make any suggestive comments. The relationship will either take care of itself or it won’t. And as far as I’m concerned, my relationship is coming.

What I’m building during this alone time is a new familiarity with my goals and desires, outside of any relationship. If I stay single forever, THESE are the things I want.

  • A stronger more committed relationship with both of my teenaged children. (This is 100% up to me.)
  • The creative drive and time to stay with my process.
  • Time to workout and time to rest.
  • Healthy meals.
  • Some inner source of self-love (must be in place before starting a new relationship)

Alone I am able to focus on these thing without distraction. I have no other pulls on my time and energy. Alone my general state is happy. But I long for a lover and companion. What I learned last time, however, was that even if you have all that you think you want, you may be missing some unknown ingredient. I think for me, that ingredient was the ability to love and forgive myself for my mistakes and ongoing flaws. I’m constantly working on them, but there they are.

We’ve all got our issues to discover and work on. The better I understand my own issues the better I can be in relationship to someone else and theirs. So as long as these other women are in relationships that are working for them, I am happy to continue down my own path of discovery. I wouldn’t want to be a backup or a rebound relationship anyway. They allowed me to catch a glimpse of what is possible for me, next time.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  coffee date, creative commons usage

Constant Craving

I understand the feeling of longing. That ache at having something or someone in your life that is missing. A gap in the joy of your life that is just out of reach or lifetimes away, depending on the strength of your longing. I think I’ve lived a good portion of my life in longing. It is a familiar state.

Today, single again, I really have access to my craving for physical affection. I notice it in how appreciative I am of the women passing through my field of vision. It’s not that I’m lusting after them, I am simply noticing their beauty, and the lack of similar comfort in my current situation. I can feel in my bones what it’s like to be alone and wanting. It’s almost an energetic feeling, like I am motivated to be a better, more attractive, me. But there is sadness in the craving as well.

What I wonder is how to keep that craving alive when I do have what I want in terms of a relationship with a woman. How can this sharpness and presence be with me even in a long-term relationship? Do I need the longing to be motivated to pursue? Does my romantic side appreciate the ache and longing more than the contentment of having a loving relationship?

In the several times in my relationships that I’ve been truly happy and fulfilled, the expansive joy is there, but the moment seems to pass. The mundane creeps back in and chores become resentments and love taps become responsibilities rather than joys. What is it about the craving, the hunger, that makes me a better lover, a better man?

I want a fulfilling love relationship. And I want that healthy craving, ambition, to continue in my life as well. It’s a fine balance. One you get what you think you want does your heart and mind start searching for what you want next? For me, I don’t think that was the case. I was never looking for another relationship, but I certainly turned my focus away from attracting my mate towards more personal, self-focused pursuits. How do we stay romantically engaged for the long haul? What about the craving is necessary to keep the love line warm and active?

If I can see that the craving is a longing for something inside of me, rather than an external goal or relationship that I want, perhaps I will begin to unlock the answer. There are always projects left unfinished, and dreams still gathering dust inside me. When I’m not in a relationship I can devote whatever time I want to these projects. I don’t have to consider anyone else’s timeframes, needs, or schedules.

When I’m in relationship, even as good as it gets, parts of my creative self get compromised. And perhaps this is the craving I experience when I’m in relationship. It’s more about total freedom. However, I know that total freedom is also a trap that stalls me out in my creative pursuits as well. If I have too much time, a whole afternoon for example, I might not get started until after a walk, a nap, lunch, and by the time I get going it’s 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon and I’ve got to start thinking about getting ready for the week ahead.

Certainly this craving is something in me that drives me forward. If I am craving a women, for a relationship, for example, I am more likely to eat well, to keep my exercise routine constant. I am more likely to be working to make myself the best mate I could be. When I’m in relationship, sometimes, those things get put on the back burner. See, I’ve GOT the relationship, so why do I need to constantly work on myself or my physical health? I’ve won the prize of this beautiful woman and companion, now I can really settle down and get my creative dreams in gear.

It doesn’t work that way. Even in relationship I have a craving. Sure, it’s for something different. I no longer observe and appreciate all the women passing me on the street, no I’m more reflective on the time and energy I need to move my creative dreams forward. And, I guess, it seems like the thing that I most want, a relationship, is in some ways a challenge to that “time at craft” I crave. So when I have what I want I crave something different. When I don’t have a relationship, I put a lot of time into craving and pursuing women. I think the catch-22 is for me to work out with myself.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  kiss, creative commons usage

Breaking Up: Loss as a Journey

I thought I was going to die. This last breakup was more expected and yet more devastating than any I’d gone through before. I think it was because I had such a strong relationship that had come to pieces. I think it was also because my entire identity was wrapped up in being a couple with this person, being codependent. It’s easy to do for those of us prone to over commitment. So, even though the actions toward suicide were never put in place, my mind often yielded to the fantasy of dropping myself off a high bridge, except I was afraid of heights. Suffice it to say, it was bad. I was in bad shape as I moved back into my mom’s house to recover.

Grief

Feeling the hurt after a breakup is one of the keys to healing and recovery. You have to go through the pain of loss, you cannot shortcut your recovery. As a typical male this process was hard for me to get started. I knew I needed to cry. I felt the sadness deep in my bones, but I couldn’t access the tears. I wrote letters to my ex. I took inventories of what was good in the relationship. I accepted my faults and wrote about where I had failed to live up to my end of the deal, where I had gotten scared and recoiled from my partner rather than turn towards them.

One of the things I did immediately was start going to Al Anon meetings. 1. I needed to be with people and not isolated in my single bedroom at my mom’s. 2. I needed to hear from others who had been through hard times and used the program and their “higher power” to gain strength to recover. 3. I needed a network of friends I could call when things got tough. And the local Al Anon meetings provided all this support immediately. I was not alone. I was not the only one hurting. I was encouraged to call others and talk about what was going on.

So, I accessed some of the pain through journaling. And I watched some sad romantic movies that got a few tears going. But mainly, I just sat with my sadness. I wasn’t inspired to read, though I did buy most of the Al Anon literature as a starting point. I couldn’t just make myself cry, though that’s what I felt I needed. So I sat. And as I ruminated about the past and was bombarded with images and feelings of my ex I tried to say a prayer of appreciation, “Thank you, Samantha, for these wonderful times. I bless you and give you up to God.” And I said it over and over.

I learned to pray again in the simplest terms. “Help me to hope again, God.” “Help me to heal.” “Help me to see a future.”

And I continued my exercise program by walking or playing tennis every single day, without fail. No excuses. This was one thing I could easily control, and if I put my mind to it, I could succeed. And some success was important to me at that time.

Alone time. Prayer. Journaling. Meetings. Phone calls.

That was my strategy. And in a matter of weeks I was having momentary flashes of hope. I would notice walking around the lake that I was actually having positive thoughts about the future. It was subtle. And the ups came with reciprocal downs, but the roller coaster started leveling out and I was having days with little or no obsession about my ex. I was grateful. I built on that momentum and went to more meetings and called more friends. And as the grief began to lift I felt myself imagining and hoping for a new relationship, again.

Turning Point

As things were starting to get better for me, I remember a distinct moment when I decided to get back on the online dating sites again. There was something hopeful about imagining hundreds of women who were looking for a relationship. I wanted to dip my toe in the water and see what they looked like.

I wrote in my profile that I was first looking for friends. And that’s what my intention was. I wanted to meet some women to do things with, but not necessarily to date them. I was pretty certain that my relationship boundaries were not up to snuff, but I could certainly go for coffee or a walk with some women and see what happened. And I think it was this action, this hopeful seeking that really turned the corner for me emotionally. Even the tiniest glimpse of desire in me was a welcome indication that something had changed. That hope was still inside me. And while I was in no position to date right away, I was optimistic about the possibility of having another “date” at some point in the future.

Results

As of this writing, I’m about three weeks in on the dating thing. And I’ve had some interesting experiences. I have one woman who I play tennis with. That’s all we do. We haven’t talked about “dating” the entire time we’ve been playing. I’ve had a few promising first dates that went nowhere. And I’ve got a few first “hello” dates planned for the next few weeks. And while I’m not planning on making any of these women my girlfriend, the idea of having a few women friends that I can hang out with, is quite exciting. Where things go beyond friendship, well, there’s no telling. My heart thinks I’m ready, I know I’m not. So, we’ll see how things progress from here.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  elvis, creative commons usage