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Head Trash. Baggage. Beat up. Rode Hard. Put away wet.

Life After Love Tanks
Life after Love Tanks

No matter what you call it, there seems to be a lot of stuff going on in my head post divorce. Some of the thoughts rolling around in the ol’ noggin have to do with the unbelievable array of choices out there today for this 40-something single mom of two active little boys. I have total baggage. I have a head full of trash, which my wingman pointed out this week. I personally like to call it matching luggage. Just like I am not divorced… I’m recycled.

Yeah well, even with the new labels going on, dates after a long term marriage or relationship is a challenge. For me, my head gets in the way. And for many of us, I think, which is why I am writing this today. Here’s what goes on in my mind when I first get to know someone.

Is he a pedophile, serial killer, rapist or felon? Does he do drugs? Is he bad in bed? As I smile and chat in a completely false but friendly way, my mind ticks over looking for leaks in his story.  Has he been married? Is he married? Why did it end? Is he a cheater? Does he pay his taxes? Does he use Tide? What does he think about the War? Does he like cheese? When he finds I’m on a Military radio show, is he going to be creeped out, proud, excited or bored to tears? Why is he still single? Why am I still single?

Then I slide into the self-punishing thought process. As he is chattering away about his likes, dislikes and what he is looking for I go to the area of:  You just want to get laid. I just want to get laid. Oh, that’s not good. What are you interested in me for? I am mortgaged up to my eyeballs. I’m in hock for braces, summer camp, soccer balls and new tires. I’m over 40. 4-Tee. How’s that grabbin’ ya?

At this point, I’m so engrossed in my own internal chatter that I have completely missed everything he has said over coffee, which is my favorite place to go on a first meetup. I don’t call them dates. That freaks me out – too much pressure in that one little word. And coffee implies I don’t need to stay if I don’t feel the love. The guy is still talking away, smiling at me and I am relieved that he can’t hear the internal nut job spinning its tale. Apparently I’m good at masking my feelings, my fears and the jibber-jabber going on in my head.

He wants to meet for dinner and a movie? At least that’s what I think he said. Oh God, I haven’t heard a thing this guy was talking about. What was his name? I have missed the entire sales pitch he threw at me for the past 15 minutes. I smile and say that would be nice, hoping he never calls me.

What was wrong with him, you ask? Nothing – absolutely nothing! I didn’t hear a word he said, much less was able to make a cognizant, coherent and compelling decision either way. He could have said he eats goat brains, likes to punch old people, and thinks Sydney Crosby is overrated and I would have smiled and nodded. I didn’t hear a damn thing.

The problem was me. I wasn’t ready. He never called me and for that I was glad. I had jumped into the pool way too soon and it showed. I believe in life after love tanks, but at a pace that feels comfortable to each person in their own time frame.

See my ex-husband, when he walked out on me and the kids, had already set up his life with his girlfriend. They would live in her house, give her husband the boot, get settlement money from their spouses and ride into the sunset. It was nice and tidy and it unfolded just like that. For me, I was left holding the bag: the mortgage, the car payments, the insurance payments and the kids.

Those are hardly aphrodisiacs.  You don’t hear anyone say ever, “Hey baby, you’re so hot because you pay the gas bill,” or “It turns me on when you crawl under the water heater, scrape out the spider-webs and relight the pilot.”

One meetup guy asked me why my neck and cheek were so red and I said I was warm from the sun. In reality, it was because last night in the freezing windstorm and a pipe broke to my house and I went out to shut off the main valve at the street and scraped myself reaching into the ground. When men do that, it’s manly. When I do it, it’s just kind of a klutz-fest that results in flesh wounds.

But this is what life is like when you are a single mom in the sticks with no one around to help you. It’s hard to be sexy when you are the man and then you get good at the man-things and you wonder what you need to meet someone for anyway. It doesn’t make any sense. It just is. And honestly, most times I’m just too darn tired from keeping all the balls in the air to get ready for a meetup.

When I went out into the dating world for the first time, all of those responsibilities hung over my head and made it impossible for me to relax and enjoy meeting someone. In reality, I didn’t want to meet someone, form a partnership or a relationship. At that time I just wanted to not feel alone, scared and adrift with overwhelming choices, decisions and responsibility. Dating wasn’t the solution. Getting myself in order was.

When you get back in the saddle, don’t be so hard on yourself. My first meetups were total disasters. I walked out in the middle of a date because my head was spinning. I just left. Excused myself. Went to the loo- kept on walking right out the door. I had no idea what I was doing because I was doing what I thought I should be doing – not what I  needed to be doing… which was just chill. I was the dating train wreck careening forward on one rail.

If you do this, or you meet someone who does this, just let them go. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that most people out there don’t know what they want, what they need, or what they are looking for. Even me. Every day I keep changing, growing and learning about myself. I know there is going to come a time when I have to let people in. I’m doing so now but at a ridiculously slow pace compared to others, but to me it’s all I can do. I am the queen of conversational deflection. Let’s talk about me? Sure! So, how are YOU doing?

When you Bounce with Style, you don’t ricochet like a lunatic all over the place. Well you can, but it’s not fun. You hit bottom and you rise at your own pace.

Bouncing with Style is about knowing what’s best for you, with whatever you can do in your own time frame, and the hell with what you think you should be doing.

I’m here today to give you permission to take it slowly. Find yourself. Create the life you want and when life throws a snowball at your head – Bounce with Style.

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Empowerment is the through-line in of all Sandra Beck’s work. Whether she is coaching a company owner to a million dollar commission goal, training a stay-at-home mom to perform SEO on web sites, or speaking to a group of women who are in recovery, Sandra's message is about what is possible and how to create the circumstances of your choosing.

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