The Hope Dare

My sister and I hit the beach yesterday. We swam in the clear river, ate a tasty lunch from our tote, and spent three hours absorbing sunshine while breaking down every nuance of our lives. We love being together. We love to laugh at life and ourselves. We are thinkers.

My sister silently dared me to swim, she being a far better swimmer than I. I plunged quickly, avoiding my usual rationale to remain on the shore. We are sensitive, passionate women. Our feelings are real, but we prefer to entertain them less than our intellect and mutual dark humor. We come from a long line of thinkers who think that thinking is a very nice compensation for emotional distress.

Still, on this late summer Friday paradise, we considered Hope and its evil twin Fear. I told her that my fears of America under political tyranny were staggering, despite my lifelong determination to keep my political head in the lovely cool sand. Also, I shared that my fears of this election were so profound, that I preferred 4 more years of the current pandemic over any political tyranny of our country.

This implies that I was terrified and willing to negotiate with the gods.

Bargaining is a common part of grief. I was already deep deep into the third stage of the future grief I fully intended to experience, one day soon.

Additionally, the fear within my heart began to grow as we spoke. It was as if my words brought more energy to this wretched fear, and then multiplied like The Blob as I attempted to be understood, possibly even further united with my wise listener.

My beloved and level-headed sister was understandably intolerant of my defeatist tone. She stopped me right there and assured me that my greatest fears were unlikely to be realized.

She prompted me to view recent speeches and their power, and she encouraged me to rise to the power of dignity.

I sat up a bit in my beach chair.

I stared out at the choppy and wide waters of the St Croix river.

Then I felt a wave of hope.

I pictured myself on the morning after the election, with a smile so broad and so authentic, you’d have thought I had just beat terminal cancer. Or gave birth to a healthy child. Or finally found the love I had always wanted. Or really just simply got my way for once.

In my imagination, the tides had shifted and the sun was bright and warm; I’m pretty sure there were bluebirds tweeting as they helped to gather big white sheets from the line!

It was only for a moment really.

But it felt really good, this thing. This hope.

I mean, it actually felt really good. Much better than what I had been feeling just moments earlier. I could see that I was afraid to have hope, since I had hoped before. And it didn’t turn out so well. Thus, I was afraid that if I dared to hope again, and it didn’t go my way, I might not have the resilience to stand up again. It just might crush me in a way that could never be restored. Consequently, I chose fear under the daily guise of cynicism, sarcasm, and a vigilant preparation for the worst. Not even outwardly. But in the quiet thoughts of my inner world, where all good things go to die.

The irony of causing my own current discomfort, even sometimes paralysis, was a surrender to ideas that would certainly bury me alive.

But if I dared to hope for another flash moment, that strange comforting light returned straight away! Then I was once again relieved of the wicked trolls of Doubt, Cowardice, and Passive Aggression.

Hope is a direct sign of courage. Hope is the hallmark of a warrior. I began to remember that I have never ever hoped to be some infantile worrier subject to the beastly authority of any human. If I wish to remain the daring goddess-infused woman that I must choose to be, then I certainly must not choose this putrid, acidic, alarmed state.

I will rise, and I will fight for a vision of glory. I will absolutely dare to hope.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Three – The Combat Zone

The dating site survey was completed along with a rather compelling profile. I mean, I’m a writer after all. And I set the privacy mode to “All members may view.” Game on!

There were lots of hits at first. Men seemed intrigued and sometimes quite forward about their desire to date me! Ego scores!

It was no shock a few hookup whores were lurking. Some wanted a younger woman to bear their children and had not even bothered to read beyond my photos. A few just stopped communication as if they were refugees in a state of war. Ego down.

This is the part where a film montage of dating absurdities rolls with a punk rock 80’s song.

I had no experience setting these boundaries, or how sometimes I had to get messy and mean. Dating was not for the weak. Dating requires a warrior, a champion, a goddamn barracuda in a lovely shade of pink!

Dating had its own culture, its own code, and I was catching on to the rules of engagement:

Rule 1: Never allow a stranger to come to your home. Especially when they say nice things but have pointy ears and sharp teeth.

Going to another person’s home, because you have mutual community ties, is fine. Unless you find out that he is Obsessive-Compulsive and stops to take another shower in the middle of the date.

Rule 2: Police Officers date. The one I dated was a fantastic human. In the end, he just did not have enough time for dating and lived too far away.

Rule 3: Never meet anyone you have not spoken to on the phone at least once. Two or three times is even better. It is amazing what you can learn from phone calls. Texting was not nearly as telling. Let me be clear: I am a strong player in the texting world. I love the flirtation of texts and the witticisms and the naughtiness of texting when you should be acting like a normal human being. But hands down, wordsmiths are outrageous masters of illusion and phone calls are several degrees closer to real.

I figured out one guy was a total stoner after 2 phone calls; he was the most adorable man but smoked weed nonstop. Nope.

Another guy held a job my teenager could have secured, but seemed to do nothing else. I asked him what he did with his time when he was not at work. He paused, then said, “Laundry.” That was it. He was incredibly good looking too, so it was painful to step away from Mr. No Life. He said he was hoping a woman would change all that. Phone calls are a precious opportunity to avoid a future divorce.

Rule 3: The way a man discusses what happened with his ex, or a past love, or how he “got here”, suggests volumes. Is this man a graceful diplomat, a childish tyrant, or a tortured civilian? If he talks too long about her, he isn’t over it. If he doesn’t talk at all, he might take himself too seriously. Does he think his loss is greater than the loss of others? Is he under the impression his pain is the totality of importance? Did he martyr himself for 20 years? I pay attention to what their experience might have been.

Rule 4: Dressing up and going to high end establishments was a mistake because within 5 minutes, I already knew if this was a no. Going fancy meant long hours of what to wear, and the time needed to doll up! Going fancy meant being hostage to a lot of waitstaff conversation and the time it takes to be elegant in public, typically a couple hours. This is all good if you have no friends and you just want company. But I was on a mission and had plenty of other things to do. Fancy was for a second or third date.

Rule 5: Men with a PhD and expansive careers, the type that travels the world and uses words I have to research are out there. They exist and they are glorious examples of how a girl can find her prince later in life. But my limited experience told me these men can also be rather repressed and shine only in certain arenas, not necessarily in my arena. For example, if an honest, rich, handsome man cannot make me laugh, I would prefer to live as simply and humbly as I do, alone. I would rather laugh with a homeless man under the bridge than live with a socialite genius who would be a far better match for another sort of woman. If you think it wasn’t painful to reject the potential of financial security with a man who would likely treat me very very well, you are mistaken. But I know who I am. And I absolutely MUST be laughing, dancing and being a total goof while I live a life of comforts.

By January, I had moved into jeans and a nice shirt for coffee dates only. 40 minutes tops. After 3 months, I had dated a chef, a farmer, a cop, a doctor, an author, a corporate attorney, and a photographer. There were zero second dates.

My spirit had not yet waned but I was beginning to wish women were an option. I had expected the Minnesota winters might be chilly. I had met some passionate, smart, talented men. I had been true to myself thus far. I was practicing the skill of saying no. I was learning that a really good person was not necessarily the right person for me. But a majorly dysfunctional person was a lesson I had mastered long ago. Perhaps I taught them a thing or two, but I doubt it. The cool part was that my intuition was en pointe. I was listening to my gut for the first time in my life. That was an awakening I had not imagined.

I had no idea what was coming next. And not knowing what was up ahead was ironically the impetus for hope.