Emotional Settlers

I know what you’re thinking.

That I’m talking about pioneer families traversing the rough and tumble Cumberland Trail in Conestoga wagons who are crying about the difficult nature of their journey.

No.

You might be thinking that I’m referring to members of the struggling Donner Party lamenting about eating their frozen dinner from the night before.

Again, you’d be wrong.

I’m talking about women who intelligently relinquish hopes of ever applying a death grip on that completely non-existent solid brass ring.

These smart, emotionally enterprising women are the ones who’ve lived enough life to understand that very often, a nice, brass plated ring works just as well.

Siggy is a blogging colleague who authors the blog, Sigmund, Carl and Alfred. He recently wrote a post based on Lori Gottlieb’s article from The Atlantic. “La Gottlieb” wrote about turning 40 and her search for love and marriage that have eluded her for 39 of her 40 years on this planet. Siggy’s piece, “Settling For Mr. Good Enough”, is interesting. He counters some of Gottlieb’s precepts about love and offers a few suggestions of his own.

Now, if you believe what he has to say, you’ll love this post. If you have any doubts at all about the current state of your life–in other words, if you are miserable in your relationship or if you’re miserable without one, spare yourself–this post won’t hit home; it will simply just “hit”. After all, Siggy is a man.

What would he know about settling?

I’m sure Siggy knows a thing or two about it. We all do. Sadly.

Settling.

I really loathe the term. It implies reluctant acceptance of second best or not good enough and frankly, I don’t think that’s the case at all. Well, it isn’t all the time. There are many exceptions.

To me, it’s merely representative of change. It marks an important paradigm shift in your thinking with regard to your relationships and yes, it applies to both genders.

I will be 49 next month. I have never married…never been engaged and have never had a child. There was never a burning, yearning in me to conceive. I am convinced that some women aren’t cut out for motherhood. In my case, my ability to conceive was compromised significantly after a very serious car accident in 1991. In many ways, that made my decision easier.

And more difficult.

I always wanted the option to have a baby or not. To be told that I might not have a choice wasn’t easy to hear. But I had to make emotional adjustments.

Remember that sentence.

OK, that covers motherhood, but why did I never marry?

Well, in all honesty, I made horrific choices in relationships. I was the product of a very difficult divorce and was unwittingly brought in as the third corner to my parents extremely bitter divorce triangle. It had an unbelievable effect on me and in many ways, it still does—almost 30-years later.

But I can’t blame my parent’s divorce on everything. It’s easy and convenient to do so, but I can’t. I made horrible choices because I had a horrible sense of myself.

If I were to dissect every relationship I’ve ever had, they would be perfectly reflective of who and what I was at the time. If I didn’t like myself, I had this ridiculous, destructive pattern–I partnered with horrible men who were self-centered losers.

And what’s really interesting, is that during periods in which I really liked myself, I remained single.

I just went through a period like that. After my last relationship ended, the one which I swear was a match made by Satan himself, I went underground. I spent four years trying to figure out what the hell I had been doing and why. I was in my mid-40’s and like Lori Gottlieb, love—real love—had been elusive. But for the most part, I was the reason why. I had to come to terms with my complicity in my own unhappiness. I failed at every relationship because I had failed me.

After years of of painful introspection, I was able to reconcile this. I forgave myself and made it my life’s ambition to rectify all my mistakes and quell my anger.

The result? Incredible acuity.

I was not only able to see my mistakes, but the mistakes that many of my friends, my family and colleagues had made.

So many friends would call me, literally crying and they’d ask me–of all people–where was their perfect Mr. Man? I would tell them that right man for them is out there. He’s in the library…shopping for cucumbers at Kroger’s….he’s driving down the Interstate….sitting as his computer reading Drudge or Huffington (depending on her politics–I’m delightfully “cadgy” that way) and I’d finish strong by telling them that maybe, just maybe, he was wondering where she was.

And then they’d spoil the moment for both us by asking if I thought Mr. Wonderful “would be cute”.

This infuriated me. I’d get flustered and shake my head, then rub my face with my hands in that patented Brian Kieth move as TV’s Uncle Bill from “Family Affair”.

Help me, Lord.

Looks are grossly overrated.

I repeat—

LOOKS ARE GROSSLY OVERRATED.

The perception of “cute” is also idiosyncratic. One woman’s George Clooney is another woman’s Steve Buscemi. Besides, looks fade.

Perhaps it is as Siggy wrote: all due to Hollywood’s celluloid interpretation of what love is….and isn’t…. that women have this idea of marrying handsome hunky men and men will fall in love with gorgeous, physical specimens of femalia.

On certain occasions, yeah–sure that happens, but most of the time it doesn’t.

We love who we love.

I knew a guy in college who was by definition, gorgeous. He went for gorgeous women. I had no doubt that this man with Hollywood good looks would eventually marry a model…or two…and life would be pretty for them both. We both graduated and he went his way and I went mine and I didn’t hear from him for five years. He called me one evening to tell me that he was finally getting married. He sent me her photo. She was, compared to the women I’d always seen him with in college, quite plain, but he told me that she was the love of his life and the most beautiful women he’d ever known.

I cried when he told me that.

See? He didn’t settle. He celebrated the paradigm shift in his life by marrying the woman who filled as many emotional quadrant requirements as possible. Sure, she might not have been Helen of Troy in the looks department, but she was nice and giving and sweet and loved him to death and learned to love his hobby of fly fishing and made it a point to be kind to strangers and they shared core values and all of that…all of these things made her beautiful to him. And he could never have fallen in love so fully, so authentically without making necessary emotional adjustments in his life.

So, Lori Gottlieb…listen up: quit fretting. Relax. Enjoy the fourth decade of your life. Quit coordinating certain life benchmarks with specific life deadlines. You won’t turn into a yenta just because you’re 40 and not married. And don’t settle; just learn to “love right” for the woman you are; the woman you’ve become. You’re not who you were ten years ago, you aren’t who you’ll become ten years from now. Don’t change what you want in a man, just change the way you view what you want. Just change your perspective. Separate society’s preconceived notions of love and allow your heart to speak for itself. Do this and I assure you, THEE relationship will appear, almost out of thin air and it’ll come when you least expect it and when you really need it.

Make the necessary emotional adjustments.

It’s like this: Look at the pretty Lamborghini and admire it’s sleek lines. Ogle it’s power, imagine it’s performance, but fall in love with the solid, dependability of the Honda Civic. It’s pretty, too–just in a different, more practical way and it takes less to maintain and it always gets you where you need to go. It is a wonderfully comfortable ride.

And if you take care of a car like this, it will take care of you. All it takes is a little effort.

Learn to replace spark plugs yourself. Change the oil, buy a new air filter from time to time and fine tune the engine every six thousand miles to always “keep it humming”; learn to listen to the motor; it’ll let you know when there’s a problem and when there’s a problem, fix it. Plain and simple. But you can eliminate so many future problems with simple maintenance; maintenance that’s routine ONLY if you allow it to be.

And finally…never, ever settle. Get the car you want and the one you really need. Wait for the best deal, if you have to. Waiting is OK. Patience can be a virtue in love and car buying.

Accept anything less, and you can end up with a car you’ll never drive.

And a love you’ll never know.


20 comments

  1. “Make the necessary emotional adjustments.”

    Amen, sister! I became so much happier in my wacky marriage when I realized that there were no absolutes; that there was room for the occasional adjustment, a shifting of the paradigm every now and again. While I’m not real keen on all the aspects of getting older (the sagging, the hair growth in previously unhairy places, etc.) I am glad that things aren’t quite as black and white for me as they once were.

  2. I’ve listened to you for years. Everyday, you, S&P and Boner were part of my daily routine. It’s hard not to feel as though I know you after years of hearing you in my head.

    Because of that, I wanted to tell you that what you wrote was heartfelt. I’m in a strange place right now and I need to know that you can rise above the rigors of being Laurie Kendrick. If you can overcome such shit, so can I

    Our lives have paralleled a bit, LK. When you were with the pilot, I was with my live in girlfriend. Things seemed to be blowing and going for us both at the same time. You sounded happy on the air and I knew I was. Then when things turned to shit for you, they also did for me. Like you, I said fuck it to all relationships and as you put it, went underground. I just decided to get back into the human race to see if I could maybe get it right this time. I was waiting for something to come to me and that meant I was waiting a long damn time. I realize how wrong I’ve been and reading this post today, you are so right. It’s about changing the paradigm and living and loving for the man I’ve become. I’ve got some adjustments to make and I feel good about that. Thanks LK. Over the years, you have entertained me on the radio and these days, you educate me in your blog.

  3. Thanks for the, great, well written, moving prose, but, here’s the thing–after years of poking around and tinkering, and marriage, you have made it clear to me that the girl I dumped in the 11th grade was as good as it was ever going to get? Thanks for that moment of acuity, Laurie.

  4. LAURIE,
    Life isn’t like a bowl of cheeries or peaches. It’s more like
    a jar of jalapenos. What you do today might burn your
    ASS tomorrow.

  5. Not the usual Laurie Kendrick comedy we’re all used to, but this was some pretty good writing.
    I believe your right about making emotional adjustments. I did that when I met my wife, though I’m sure I wasn’t aware that was what I was doing. I was a lover of beautiful women. Tall, thin lookers. These were women I could never see aging. Or myself growing old with. But still I dated these women. One night at a party, I met the woman who’d eventually become my wife. She was short, a little squatty in the body department and she was forgetable for the most part. And I forgot about her. But we met a second time and started getting to know her. She ended up being smart and funny and held my interest. Suddenly, this woman who I would’ve never looked twice at was this hot little number. Then all the other women who were drop dead gorgeous no longer appealed to me. Carol and I started dating and well, long story short, we’ll celebrate ten years of marriage in May. You know LK, it’s about what’s real, not what’s imagined or fantasy.

  6. I thought this was very good and well done. Considering all that’s happening in my life lately, it hit home. But wanna know my favorite part? The part that resonated with me? When you told Gottlieb this:

    “Quit coordinating certain life benchmarks with specific life deadlines”

    How brilliant is that??? I’ve done this all my life and it only left me miserable when 30 came and I wasn’t married or when I turned 40 and still hadn’t met “him”. By doing that, I set myself up to fail. My life has different deadlines than the ones I have for my life. Its take me a what seems like a lifetime to figure that out.

    Very good stuff, Laurie Kendrick. May I please expect more?

  7. It’s like this: Look at the pretty Lamborghini and admire it’s sleek lines. Ogle it’s power, imagine it’s performance, but fall in love with the solid, dependability of the Honda Civic.

    OK ladies, listen up. For Sale (cheap): One used vintage Buick. Needs TLC, but will always start, heater still works (will always keep you warm). Doesn’t go as fast as it used to, bald (not the tires though), extremely dependable. Does not use much gas (though the exhaust works just fine).

    Huge trunk, but your baggage will not fit…leave it at home. Lots of mileage left. Small passengers OK.

    Contact Laurie…she knows how to reach the seller if you’re interested. Interesting trades considered…

  8. I would definitely kick Nigel’s tires if I wasn’t already committed to my worn in Chevy Pick Up.

    He sounds like a solid deal. Plus he can write.

  9. I should amend that…. let’s trade kick tires for take him for a long spin.

    Sorry about the kicking part Nigel!

  10. I sure wish more men would look into woman’s heart , than looks. I think they would be much more happier. Great story! I’m still looking?

  11. Everyone is looking for the perfect person, the prefect “gift”. But what if that gift comes wrapped differently than you had anticipated. Would you be wise enough to open it?

    Loved your post. Reminds me of the article I wrote: The Resume and the Puzzle, why it’s so hard to find the right one.

  12. Aww…thanks for the compliment, Laurie…

    As far as having my tires kicked…been getting my tires kicked for years. But my tires are in good shape, so kick away!

    But seriously, Laurie said something I take wholeheartedly:

    Just change your perspective. Separate society’s preconceived notions of love and allow your heart to speak for itself. Do this and I assure you, THEE relationship will appear, almost out of thin air and it’ll come when you least expect it and when you really need it….

    I agree with this completely. God has my back, so to speak. I don’t have a relationship right now…and because I have that time to commit to other things, He has blessed me beyond belief. When God wants me to have a wife, He’ll provide…

  13. Men and cars. Great analogy.

    I can’t speak for my wife, but I can say with certainty that I’m not the man she married (and even then I wasn’t a pretty sight).

    Finally, this may sound overly advice-giving, but don’t give up on making a difference in a child’s life. You may not give birth, you may not adopt an infant, but I know a number of 49-year-olds who are great foster parents of older kids and/or big brothers/big sisters.

  14. 31 years old & mother of my first child, a 5 month old…

    I find myself realizing that I need to make the shift from being a stay at home mom to a single working mother. Like you, I have been marked beyond words by the nasty divorce of my parents. I have always feared most having a child and them going through some of the same things…yet low and behold, here I am. My heart is broken and I feel like a ghost – yet, I know that if I stay, I too will be settling for an abusive pseudo love that I have tried so hard to buy into. I wanted it to work – to be real so my son would not have to go through the same things I did.

    Now, and after reading your piece, I know in my soul that I need to leave. That I will never have happiness or be content if I make the choice to stay. My heart is heavy but it is with thanks that I offer to you for reminding me what deep inside I’ve known for months. I deserve more. But in order to receive that I need to give it to myself. And oh Girlie, I stopped doing that the moment this man came into my life.

    Please send good energy my way, as I’ve never felt more weak or incapable in my life. I am worthy though and am deserving…and I will teach my son how love and happiness are choices you make on a daily basis and that they are not found in others but instead in yourself.

  15. Gosh Sarah…you just broke my heart. I don’t have “good energy”, will you settle for prayer?

    (and try it yourself…it works)

  16. Sarah,

    If you’ve learned this at 31 years of age, then you have earned a lifetime of happiness ahead of you. Sometimes, this sort of life experience may take thirty more years in which to find the answers. I’m proud of you. You’re a strong, young woman who’s most deserving.

    As Laurie, Karol and I had decided years ago, we needed to break the vicious cycle. I believe that we have tried and accomplished most of it and yes, we’re still works in progress. So are you and I pray that you continue to get stronger and cane become happy in all your decisions.

    Choices—-it’s ALL about choices.

    Remember: we are “woman “and we are strong. That’s the way God made us.

    Amen.

  17. Laurie, Nigel, and Kathy – Thank you for your responses. N & K, if I had your emails, I’d definitely respond and give my thanks to you that way.

    I need to express to each of you my absolute heartfelt thanks and gratitude for your wishes expressed. I will admit that I come back to this posting and read it (and the responses – mine & yours) every single day.

    I am doing my best to be that strong person but the fear is so great. It’s nice to be able to reread my words and then yours following. I hope you don’t mind Laurie.

    There has not been a day yet where I do so and by the end am not in a steady flow of tears. Thanks for helping me not sink back into denial although I think I do battle it each day.

    Spirit Bless You Three.
    My heart and spirit are ever thankful to each of you.

  18. Sarah, you’re stronger than you even realize.

    Sometimes, God,,Fate..the Universe, the Cosmos–call it what you will–put people and things in our path. For a reason..for a season.

    Perhaps, this is one of those occasions for you. Don’t squander the gift. Make good use of it.

    You have backing whether you realize it or not…and you’re stronger than you think. Tears are by no means a measure of weakness.

    They’re a measure of your humanity..

    And that you have an emotional tug of war in your heart and conscious only means you’re healthy. The decision before you is a frightening one because no matter whatever decision you make will represent pain and pain means change.

    And change is almost ALWAYS frightening.

    Lastly, Kathy is my sister. I’ll ask if it’s OK with her and if so, I’ll forward you her e-mail.

    Onward Sarah…
    LK

And now, you may opine your ass off...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s