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I need a new nickname, Dear Readers. One for a guy who is irish, smart, bookish, and a psychologist. It’s not lending itself to anything really obvious for me so for now I’ll go with Psych. So: coffee date with Psych today at a local cafe. Went very well; he’s personable, friendly, very smart, we talked for a couple of hours about tons of things and enjoyed it greatly, and who should walk in just as we were thinking about heading out but two of my coworkers, who then took up a table on the opposite side of the cafe and smirked at us (nicely). And then we all struck up a conversation, so score one for Psych who was also able to chat with my very nice colleagues. There will be a date #2 later this week, before PP comes back. Tomorrow I’m meeting up withe FriendBoy and looking forward to it greatly. Plans with GameBoy fell through (he needed to take the kids this weekend). Tomorrow evening I’m meeting up with a local hiking group for the first time, and really looking forward to that too–local hiking friends! I need that badly.

This mini social update brought you to you by PPlessness. I miss her like stink already. Today I will cook, sew, write, read, run, and pretend to be productive instead of lonely and miserable.

~~~~~

So as I began thinking of this post, I dropped my near-full can of Diet Coke and spilled it all over the floor–appropriate, I think, for writing about a non-goal-oriented, serendipitous, grace-under-fire approach to success.

For all of the progress women have made over the last several decades, certain attitudes remain distressingly common and difficult to eradicate: to be successful as a female, one must be youthful, attractive, desirable to men, and in long-lasting and heterosexual relationship. It doesn’t matter what else you have, do or are in the rest of your life. If you can’t master these four, expect to be pitied. A man who ages well, remains single, and has other accomplishments is admired and envied; a woman is pitied, as if nothing else matters if she can’t get a man and keep him happy.

If this doesn’t describe why women continue to buy and devour relationship self-help books, I don’t know what does. Arguably, women need men far less than men need women. So how else to make sure that women chase men around trying to service and satisfy them, other than to convince them that they are pathetic failures, desperate, sad and lonely caricatures of women?

Women’s magazines–chick flicks–chicklit–and those god-damned relationship self-help books–the happy endings are all a kiss with the handsome prince, however defined. Men are not sold this bill of goods, though as anyone who has ever lived with a man could tell you, men are really the ones who need the presence of the opposite sex in order to function on a daily basis. But I keep coming back to a few things, including one (just ONE) of the relationship self-help books, which pertinently noted that in order for girls to grow into women seeing singledom as a positive option, women who are single need to see it so themselves, and act like they’re not just in a holding pattern waiting for a man to show up and complete them. The rest of the book I can no longer recall (though clearly I should go back and reread it).

And I keep thinking–you know, I want to be in a relationship. Very much. I want my happily ever after, too, and for real this time, not a pretty mask on an empty horror. I would like to live with someone I love and who loves me and PP and makes our lives better. But that’s the key–it has to make our lives better. I have to believe going in that this isn’t an even trade, but an improvement. I’ve been in a bad marriage before. Being single, even being single when you really don’t want to be single, is a hell of a lot better than being in a bad marriage.

Still, I get caught up in the feelings of inadequacy, as if there is something wrong with me and I have failed because I’m not in a relationship. Or because it’s been four years since the separation and The One has yet to appear. So it’s headshake time.

Here they are: Maeve’s Reasons Why Single Moms are Already Successful:

1. Biological: Your genes don’t care if you’re married or common-law or a prostitute. They just want to get passed on. Single moms, by definition, have done this already. My genes give me an A+.

2. Autonomy: Single moms don’t have to get anyone’s permission to paint the living room, put flowered curtains in the bathroom, sleep on whatever side of the bed they damned well please, make what they like for dinner, or spend an extra $50 on a frill. The downside of running the house by yourself is a total downer, meaning exhaustion and over-extension and too many bills, but the upside is truly beautiful. No televised sports games. No arguments over discipline or schoolwork. No cable bill. No snoring. No pile of stinky underwear beside the bed. No lidless toothpaste tube leaking toothpaste all over the sink. No in-laws. No doing 50% more housework, no pressure to take a paycut and work part-time since we don’t “need” my income. No choice between nagging someone to do a little bit of housework vs. just giving up and doing it all yourself.

3. Financial: We bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and give exactly zero thought to whether or not it wounds some fragile male ego to say so.

4. Variety: You know what cures the middle-aged female labido? Singledom. Boredom is death to desire, Dear Readers. No fears there, so long as I’m not committed to anyone. When I was with the Ex, thanks to boredom and the Ick factor of sex with someone who was trying to have sex with the entire female half of the western hemisphere, we did not have a whole lot of (ahem) intimate time (and when we did, I was a bundle of resentment, which also is no fun for either party). That hasn’t been an issue for a while now.

5. Career: The Married Me was trapped in a boring, stultifying, dead-end (yet comfortable and secure) job largely because it met my ex-husband’s needs. Thanks to autonomy (see #2), I now have a job I like in a career I love and live somewhere I’m crazy about. I write in my spare time. I read oodles of books, and complete my craft projects.

6. Authenticity: I am building a life that matches who I am and who I want to be.

7. Happiness: I practically ooze all of that gratitude-happiness-meaning stuff the Positive Psychology gurus go on and on about.

No wonder I am being picky and demanding in relationships. Marriage has not been good to me, and as I write this I realize that I feel I’d be giving up an awful lot for something of dubious value. I still want that partnership, but it has to be a good partnership, one in which I’d gain more than I’d lose–meaning that the above needs to remain intanct. I need to know I can still live my environmental and social values, still do work that is meaningful, not sacrifice my personal life to meeting the needs of the household and my partner, not cede my equality. I’m still going to date, not just because I do want a relationship that can lead to a real partnership someday and I won’t find it at home in my pajamas, more’s the shame, but also because celibacy isn’t a lifestyle I can appreciate for more than a few weeks.

In the meantime, thankyouverymuch, Western Culture, but women haven’t needed men to be successful for a very long time now. Feel free to catch up with reality whenever you’d like.

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Earlier this week I read a dystopian sci-fi story about a corporate world in which managers are schooled in counseling employees, primarily to more effectively fire them when it’s profitable to do so.

Or no, wait. I read that last week. Sense of all time is all screwy lately.

I found myself thinking of that story bemusedly yesterday and today, because I felt mostly like a therapist: talk to the biologist about a problem he’s having with his pay, talk to the owner about this and then discuss the owner’s feelings about the biologist wanting more pay, talk to the biologist about the owner’s feelings about the biologist wanting more pay and warn him that a discussion is forthcoming. Talk to biologist after the discussion about how he feels about that. Talk to the mapping person about more map revisions and her (our) ongoing frustrations about those revisions. Talk to the co-op student about his girlfriend’s mom’s cancer diagnosis and his need to be not travelling all over the place doing field work for a bit.

It’s like two decades of training as a child abuse survivor came together and I was able to just be an emotional airbag, effortlessly absorbing negative emotions from all over the office in order to mitigate issues that could develop into project delays. It’s not much like the dystopian sci fi story, but really, who knew?

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Do you know what that sound is, Dear Readers? It is the sound of me not rushing around, actually sitting at my desk and having ten minutes in a row to collect my thoughts and plan things more than two hours in advance. It’s a nice sound. I like it. (New PM Is on board and has taken over the projects. I’m still involved but much reduced.)

Aaaaaaah.

So my plan is to take this week, and plan. Also, breathe. I like breathing. I missed it.

Update:

1) PP’s missing a vaccine so I get to leave work early this afternoon to take her to a walk-in clinic to get it, because even though we finally got that pediatrician referral, this pediatrician doesn’t do routine care and won’t give shots. He will however investigate her growth issue a little more, which is fine and overdue, but gah.

(Thursday’s update to Wednesday’s draft update: Called the walk-in clinic to confirm their hours and that they had the vaccine in stock. Took time off work, took PP to the clinic, sat there for an hour and a half, and was told that they had just used the last dose on the patient before us. Told the doctor and the receptionist how unacceptable this was. No apologies or acceptance of any responsibility. No solutions forthcoming. So blisteringly angry I started swearing on my way out the door. Kicked the car and slammed the car door and burst into tears behind the wheel because, seriously, HOW CAN IT BE THIS HARD TO GET A CHILD A NEEDED VACCINE? How is it that so many people have made so many errors and not a single freaking one of them are taking any responsibility or proposing any answers so that my daughter doesn’t get suspended from school? We’ve taken her in for every well-child visit and were always told she had received all the vaccines she needed, so how is it that this one is not recorded anywhere? She’s been registered at this school board for almost a year and we were told all the files were transferred over from the last one, so how is it that her new school board didn’t have her vaccination info? How is it that they took until May to tell us this, and then gave us less than two weeks to fix it? How is it that not one single person I’ve spoken to at the health unit has been able to communicate the complete information I need to me when I call them–how is it that a doctor’s office can so badly screw up a simple referral that they end up sending a child to a pediatrician who doesn’t do routine care–how on earth does a doctor’s visit RUN OUT of one of the most common vaccines, and not be able to run their office well enough to communicate this to people who specifically call for that information? Sometimes it seems like this bucolic little world I’ve found myself in is set up expressly to punish single working parents, because everything is ten times as hard as it needs to be and the attitude of everyone I come across seems to be that this is no big deal because of course there’s another parent and income at home and I can afford to take endless time off to deal with their screw-ups.  I hate them all.)

So PP had a blood test yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon after the appointment and took it like a trooper. It’s not easy getting blood out of those little arms, you know–and all she said was “Ow.” (She is now very stressed out about the vaccination and potentially being suspended from school. Of course.)

2) Spring is finally here and it is gorgeous. There is a yard with trilliums growing in it that I pass every morning on my way to work, and I stop, and smile. The park and yards are full of flowering trees. I got out a bunch last weekend, squeezing every last bit of sunlight from the days, on a couple of hikes with Hike; did a bunch of reading and sewing, and in general making myself feel relaxed (lots I need to do, but none of it can be done on a weekend anyway. I still need that weekday off; maybe this Friday or next). (Like: trying to transfer my old retirement savings account to a new institution after the move. I can’t believe it’s taken a year already and there’s still missing information. Of course, this is all because I am stubborn and insist on ethical funds so I can’t go through a regular bank, which means an extra hassle every time I move or change anything. Hopefully once I get it all set up this time I’ll be with an institution that has a bit more scope and moving won’t be such a hassle.)

3) Hike. Seriously nice guy. From a recent email, a rodent rescue gadget he put together to fish chipmunks out of his mom’s swimming pool:

“You are correct.  The chipmunks don’t really swim around splashing, squealing and smiling like in the cartoons.  In fact, I am not sure if a chipmunk can actually smile.  I have rescued several that were near death.  So I got out the hot water bottle and wrapped them in a towel and then wrapped another towel around the chipmunk and the water bottle.  It seemed to work well enough that the one did not really want to leave.  Can you blame him or her?  How often does a chipmunk get a spa treatment.  I thought it was going to ask for a facial!”

Tell me that’s not cute.

We haven’t had the Relationship Talk yet but he’s making noises about inviting me to a family birthday shindig in a few weeks. I’ll see him tonight after my haircut.

~~~~~

I keep telling myself that sometime in the next week or two, things will calm down, I’ll be able to collect my breathe and catch up on my personal life and make some plans and it just never seems to get here. This has been one of those weeks where I am so sick of being a single mom–and one without any kind of family help or local support network–I just want to throw in the towel, admit defeat and give up. My car is two months overdue for an oil change. I’ve needed a haircut for three and a half weeks. There’s the whole vaccine debacle with PP. I haven’t had spare time to deal with the retirement savings thing or the mortgage and I have a new insulin pump that I haven’t had any time to learn how to use properly. I get these little tiny windows of two minutes here and there that aren’t enough to do anything but dash off a line, here or elsewhere–this has taken the whole week to write.

I seriously want to just lie down and give up. But I know if I do that more stuff will pile up and I’ll just end up with a bigger hole to climb out of; if I don’t just keep going it’ll get worse, not better, because there is no help coming. It’s a really shitty motivator but it’s going to have to do.

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bitching

Get referral for pediatrician for PP Feb 18. No callback from doctor within 2 weeks. Call back. They need her health insurance info. Provide it. No callback from doctor within 2 weeks. Call back. They need her health insurance info. I say I provided it two weeks ago. They say they lost it. I provide it again. Two days later they call back–needing her birth date. I provide it. Next day they call me with a referral–to an opthalmologist, who I told them I no longer needed them to provide as I’d given up on this referral and gotten myself an optometrist. Oh! they say. Wait two weeks. No callback from doctor on ped referral. Call office. Huh, they say. No idea what happened. Will send the referral now. Wait two weeks. No callback from doctor’s office. Get form from health unit saying that PP’s immunization info needs to be updated or they will consider suspending her from school. Call doctor’s office, leave message. No reply. Two weeks pass. Send in what info I have for immunization stuff. Get letter from health unit saying PP will be suspended on May 27. Freak out. Call doctor’s office; it has by this point been three months since I went in for the referral. Tell them I am disgusted by their performance, that PP is going to be suspended because she doesn’t have a doctor, that if I have to miss work time because of that I will consider my legal options, all on voicemail.

Next morning they call with an appointment for next week. We didn’t like your nasty message, they say. You could have just called us to ask.

Realize that since I now have the appointment, I no longer need to care or ever speak to them again. I write down the info, say goodbye and hang up. I will soon know if I can keep PP in school.

***

Work: several projects sold to new client. New client changes project definition and specs. We proceed with new specs. New client defaults on payments to old client at deadline, several months later. Projects revert to old client with old definition and specs, requiring us to re-do substantial amounts of work in an impossibly short turn-around time in order not to miss critical timelines. Then subconsultant completely fucks up their part of the process for every single project, also requiring much scrambling to patch holes and stop ships from sinking on impossibly short timelines, which will probably mean replacing the sub with someone new and getting all the new work done in oh, about ten days, for ten projects. Picture Maeve whimpering at her desk, and colleagues stopping by sympathetically with sad faces and chocolate bars.

Can’t go into too much detail, but honestly, WHO GOES OUT TO A WORKING FARM AND STANDS ON A LANEWAY AND DECIDES THAT THE FARMER SHOULD PLOUGH IT SO THEY CAN SEE THE DIRT PROPERLY? Would you? I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet you have no expertise in this particular field–I know I don’t–and I’ll bet you wouldn’t go out and stand on a dirt laneway on a farm and say, gee, I just can’t see the dirt here until they plough up this road!

Morons.

***

So between the two I’ve been doing a lot of hyperventilating. What I really need is a day off sometime very soon because there are personal life things I’m not dealing with–like getting a mortgage pre-approved–because I haven’t got a spare minute. But there’s no point because whatever I don’t do today will only have to be done by me tomorrow, which means I’ll only fall farther behind and end up more stressed out.

This is the downside of having a job I care about. I can’t just say “screw it” and leave and go home and not think about it, because I WANT these projects to go up for so many reasons.
The new PM is on staff now and I am slowly training her up, but it’ll take a few weeks before it amounts to a day off for me. Maybe next week.

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Having a first date the day you’re ovulating is a very interesting experience.

In my younger, pre-PP days I never would have known if I were ovulating or not. Now that I’m all mothered up, I do know. And in case you were wondering, it makes a difference.

Item the first: Went and got my hair coloured today. “I’d like something a little brighter, closer to what my hair looks like after I’ve gotten a lot of sun in the summer. Like the ends of my hair”–which are dark blond, year-round, though the roots are a light-medium brown. She nodded. “It’ll be subtle,” she said. “It won’t be any lighter than this,” she said, showing me some dark blond samples. “I just don’t want you to be disappointed. It’s not going to be a bright blond,” she said. “Perfect!” I replied.

Dear Readers, it is a bright blond. Nearly strawberry. Actually a very pretty colour but much lighter than I had in mind. When I saw it afterwards I quipped, “It’s a good thing we went for subtle. If we’d gone for dramatic, I think I would have had a heart-attack!” I’m still not able to look at a mirror without a double-take. It is so blonde.

But as by that time it had been two hours already and I didn’t want to spend all of the first sunny spring day this year in a hairdresser’s chair and it is, as I said, a perfectly nice blonde even if much lighter than I’d wanted, I decided to pay and go and think about it. I’ll give it a week or two; if I’m still shocked at my own appearance in the mirror, I’ll schedule an early return for the touch-up and ask for something a titch darker this time.

It’s hair, right? Worst case scenario, it grows.

Item the second: Photographer appointment cancelled. She needed to reschedule and I haven’t been able to return her calls when she’s at home. No update there. Not sure if that isn’t a blessing; I should, I think, wait until I know what I think of the blonde. So maybe I’ll reschedule for a couple of weeks from now.

Item the third: So, the eH guy from Beyond Bob, the one who didn’t ask me any questions ever, sent a message to say that a good friend of his had recently passed away so he was sorry for being out of touch but still wanted to get to know me. I kind of squinted at the computer screen and replied that this was surprising, since he didn’t seem that curious about me. He replied that on the contrary he was VERY CURIOUS, and very interested, and thought all kinds of good things about me and really hoped we could meet. I considered. I reread his profile and all of his previous messages. I considered the chances that he had gamed the compatibility quiz (not non-existent, but low). I considered his reading preferences (literary award-winners–a promising sign, I think). I considered that a good friend of his had just died (I am a suck). I considered that we seemed to have a lot in common and that, until the odd email dynamics, I was looking forward to meeting him. I considered that he’s 45 and single, which is likely a bad sign, but that anyone I date is going to be around that age and also single, so what the fuck was I talking about?

I considered many things and 24 hours later decided I wasn’t going to know until I met him, so I might as well just go ahead and do it.

So we met up for a long hike at a park near here, one I hadn’t been to before. There was still snow hiding in a lot of places so my feet got soaking cold and wet, but that’s ok–the weather was beautiful, it was sunny, it was a forest, and for just about three hours, we just talked. It was a very easy conversation. For me, being such an inveterate introvert, an easy conversation with someone I’ve just met is an occurence on par with seeing the Virgin Mary in a slice of burnt toast: it happens, but not very often. And he seemed really nice and, in person, asked me tons of questions and was very interested in what I had to say.

Pros: Very nice. Lots in common–similar outdoorsy interests, similar environmental values, similar reading habits, similar hatred of shopping as recreation. Lots of adorable stories of hanging out with nieces and nephews (he has no kids of his own). Stable job that he’s had for a long time. University educated, seems bright, is at least well-spoken. Had very nice things to say about my hair misadventure, which I’m not entirely sure I believe. Still has all his hair. Owns his own house. Nice voice. Got his own feet soaking wet on occasion to help me down a snow-covered slope or what have you. Tall. Not fat. Hard to tell what shape someone’s in when they’re bundled up for a walk in the woods on a cold spring day.

Cons: About 10 years older than me. It’s not a problem really but it’s on the outside edge of my age range, and I’m conscious of it. Looks ten years older than me–same as above. Otherwise, not a whole lot, really. Am planning on keeping my trusty, hard-won list of red flags handy.

He really likes me and wants to see me again. I like him too. It went really well. Worst-case scenario, at least I find out about a lot more local trails and get to spend a lot of time on them while we’re seeing each other.

Mantras: I don’t really know him yet. eH is just a computer program and doesn’t know either of us as people. I don’t know anything about his relationship history or patterns. (He’s close to his family, though. That’s a good sign.) I need to go slow and keep my wits about me and not repeat my own mistakes. Trust the little voice and if it tells me I should run, then I run.

Still–a good introduction.

Item the fourth: PP is having her first lice adventure. Hurray. The Ex is blaming it on me and my slovenly housekeeping skills, of course, the fuckhead, even though so far as I can tell she got them at his place.

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– Date on Sunday. 99% sure. Not one of the guys I discussed before, someone else. Local. Seems nice enough. Single dad, works in a helping profession. He smokes. I am iffy on that but I don’t know how much, so figured we may as well meet. He seems like a good guy though. And at the very least, it’ll keep me out of the house for a few hours on Sunday afternoon!

– Amazing that after being a mom without a break for three weeks, all I can think of is how much I’m going to miss PP until she gets back on Sunday. I had all kinds of plans set for tomorrow but they’ve all fallen through at the last minute. Sigh.

– Going to get my mortgage stuff, household chores & errands all straightened out instead. Not as much fun, but it’s got to be done. Maybe I’ll also check out some fabric stores, see if I can plan out a new creative project.

– The Trader sent me an e-card yesterday. He truly does not understand the meaning of “no contact for a period of several months.” Or he does, but wants to keep pushing those boundaries to see if I really mean it.

– Update on the other guys: 1-no worries, I had no intention to see him. 2-I’ve decided to pass. Would have liked to just sit there and look at him for a few hours, but I don’t think it’s right. 3-Haven’t responded to his last message and he’s made no further efforts to get in touch. 4-We’ve emailed a bunch but he’s never mentioned wanting to get together. He’s either pathologically shy/cautious or he enjoys emailing but doesn’t want to meet. Whatever.

That’s ok! The thing about the internet is that there is always someone else. There’s the guy I’m meeting on Sunday, and a couple of others I’m corresponding with.

– I read this thing on internet dating. (Because you can always learn how to do anything from a book. Right?) He said you should be aiming to be writing to 10, talking to 5, and dating 2. Until you’re only dating 1, on purpose, in which case it’s just the one. On the one hand, I appreciate the logic. On the other hand, yikes!

– I need new pictures. The ones the Trader took are fine and all for the “extras” but they’re not good profile shots, and the only one I have is 2 years old, when my hair was much shorter.

– I am thinking of lightening my hair a bit. I want a low-maintenance change, something I can let go for a week or two without getting a skunk stripe, and not highlights. I’ve never liked highlights. Just something a bit closer to what happens to my hair by the end of the summer, when I’ve been spending all my time outside. Sort of a medium-dark golden blonde. I can’t find a single picture of what I’m thinking of online, though. Maybe something like this.

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