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again, on finding my new normal

Personal news first: on January 6, I had ankle surgery. When Jack's health insurance became my insurance, one of the first things I did was go to my podiatrist. I knew something was just not right with my ankle. The cortisone shot summer before last had helped the ankle, but caused my blood sugar to go up, so no good. And the thing that was sticking out near my ankle was still there after the cortisone shot, so no good. Sure enough, an x-ray showed I had a gigantic bone spur. I got an MRI also, and had surgery before spring semester started.

Turns out that 30+ years ago when I was 12 in seventh grade, I fell in a hole, landed on my ankle, turning it completely under. Back then, in 1980s Louisiana, there were only x-rays, no MRIs. I remember I had a cast for about a month, then had it cut off, and returned back to normal. What I didn't know then, and I'm not sure doctors really knew then, was that when an ankle is turned and sprained badly, tendons tend to tear, and tendons do not heal on their own due to poor blood supply. So for 30 years, I never felt the torn tendon. I wasn't terribly active or athletic, so nothing I did really exacerbated the tear...

... until the Camino in 2015. Every day, pounding my feet, ankles and legs, not wearing really good boots/hiking shoes, and occasionally turning my ankle slightly on Spain's rocky, stony, uneven ground, apparently caused the giant bone spur to grow. Overall, it was good to get the tendon taken care of because the doctor assured me that now I really could hike, without a bone spur to contend with, and without a torn tendon. I had a two-hour surgery, had the bone spur removed, and the doctor put some stem-cell/umbilical cord-like material into the tendon to make it grow back together, and he put the tendon back where it was supposed to be. And he reassured me, non-crutch-proficient that I was, that there was no way I could re-tear the tendon unless I fell in another hole. It all turned out well.

And it went fine -- surgery, recovering, limping about slowly but getting better and faster every day! That very day of surgery, I was walking on my left foot, mainly because I'm not crutch-proficient. For about a week or so I used a knee scooter, but it left me incredibly sore from being off balance. I used crutches and went slow, and then one Friday afternoon I just ditched the crutches, and determined that I'd take it slow and easy, make sure every step was on even, solid ground, and make every effort to keep my ankle in line and not turn or twist it again.

Fortunately, my podiatrist said I had healed the fastest he had ever seen, which was amazing given my age and that I'm diabetic. I credit a more plant-based diet. Every single day that I woke up, I could feel my ankle and foot getting better. But for the past couple of weekends, I've just sat at "home" here in my new apartment and wondered what to do with myself.

And now, more internal musings: Sue comes over at least once a week, as does Ana, and that's wonderful. I want and need that. Sue and Ana and I text a couple of times a week, and it's wonderful and reassuring. I text my sister, my trainer, and a few other people, too. And obviously I go to work and get plenty, if not more than enough, of people at work. But weekends are hard. And I need to figure out what it is I actually want. I need to figure out what I really want and like to do on weekends, and how I want to pass my time. Lately with the ankle, I've been going hard Monday through Friday, and really resting on weekends, not doing much of anything. Clearly this is something my body needs, even if I've been chafing at not being as active as I'd like to be.

But it's more than letting the ankle heal. I can tell that for a couple of weekends, I've really ruminated. Partly I ruminated, quite understandably, on Friday January 20, the night of the election gone horribly wrong. I felt like I had to hold it together and be professional for my students, but that night, I just sat at my computer, and ruminated throughout the night. That night, I understand. That night was necessary. And the next morning, Saturday, I was heartened to see all the many protests. That left me in a good mood to deal with Sunday. I actually got out of the house, slowly and still healing, but went to get groceries and do a bit of shopping. A win all around.

February 6 will be six months since Jack died. I know for a fact it's far too soon to think about "dating", whatever that even means anymore, whatever that means here in Los Angeles. Ugh. I've read the LA Times; they have a section on people's misadventures in dating, and there is just so much wrong there. It's a case where you have to laugh, or else you'll just cry in utter despair. Drug dealers, lying married people, complete and total flakes. I cannot even contemplate.

And one of the main reasons I can't even contempltate "dating" is having been married to my soulmate, who was so kind and so understanding, and with whom I clicked so well. And yet, even me, as an introvert, I'd kind of like to have someone to go do things with. Maybe. I'm just not sure. Honestly what I'd really like is another introvert who likes to hike. I'd love to get started hiking, and realize that it's a good thing to have a partner in case something goes wrong (at least in the beginning when I'm still learning) or there's an accident. I just don't want to talk. I want to be off in my own head, in my own thoughts, with pleasant silent companionship. That would just be so ideal on so many counts. I'd dearly love to be out in nature, walking, getting my steps in, with someone who is safe, who is also out to enjoy nature and who likes walking, and who doesn't need to talk. So, so ideal.

And probably right now, ideally I'd like that silent companionable hiker to be female. I may have lost over 100 pounds, but I don't flatter myself at 48, as a chubby, RATHER plain, RATHER average woman, that ANY male attention would ever be paid me here in Los Angeles, but it's NOT something I want to deal with. And already, even from chat, I'm just so tired of it. A female hiking partner would fit the bill. Just the very thought of having to negotiate any male "interest" just makes me want to run away screaming. I simply could not deal.

What I'm tired of is the stupidity, the lack of nuance, that "not in a relationship" means "single" means "available" means "wanting to be in a relationship". NO NO NO NO NO! A thousand times NO! There is such nuance here, and unless someone GETS IT, and I mean really gets it, I have absolutely no use for them. Being a widow is fundamentally different from being simply broken up, or divorced. In those two situations, yes, obviously there is grief over not having a wanted relationship, but the person you (generic "you") broke up with is still alive. They exist. Widowhood means ultimate separation, a separation that is never chosen. My significant other, my soulmate, my husband simply does not exist in human form anymore. There is zero possibility of talking to him, seeing him ever again, holding him again. And that takes time, significant time, to deal with, to recover from, to find one's way again. And that's what I'm doing.

But men -- UGH. Just UGH! My sister and I talked about it, and I've talked about it with some other women too -- some always single, some divorced, a few widows and widowers too. Other people aren't unkind, it's just that unless or until they are widows, they just don't get how transformational widowhood really is. To them, oh ok, you're no longer with someone, so don't you want to meet someone, date again, fall in love again? And it is just NOT ever that simple, that glib. My sister said, quite rightly, that most "males" (not men, just "males") think oh ok, she's a widow, so there's no man in her life, so I might as well try. This kind of non-nuanced caveman approach simply disgusts me. The lack of nuance, lack of sophistication, lack of emotional intelligence is simply horrific. I cannot abide stupidity. I cannot abide emotional stupidity, emotional bluntness, emotional not-with-it-ness.

That said, I have to wonder, am I at all attractive? I have no clue. Twenty-plus years of learning married behavior -- no eye contact, no smiling, being unapproachable -- isn't easy to unlearn. In fact, I rather LIKE being unapproachable in real life, because it affords me a high degree of freedom to go out and about in the world, do what I like, and never be bothered, annoyed, or interrupted. I've said before here that I've gotten quite used to not being interrupted or bothered. I've gotten quite used to the complete freedom to simply BE out in the world, doing my thing. I cannot imagine what it's like to be truly gorgeous, to be talked to, or talked AT, by men in public, because that simply never happens to me. No one approaches me. I am quite certain I send off rather unmistakeable vibes of "don't even think of trying to bother or annoy me or there will be harsh consequences and bodily harm".

And there has been so much psychological tectonic shifts inside me, too. Menopause has transformed me. Without hormones raging, I'm as calm and collected and totally, completely "me" as I was at eight years old, just now with infinitely more experience and wisdom and perspective. When hormones hit at nine, I can only now begin to see how my world was just turned completely upside down, and I had next to zero guidance about how to handle the raging storms within, how to handle the changes in my body, how to handle all those FEELINGS. Mostly I had next to no guidance about how to relate to men, and there were so many sex-negative, body-negative messages out there. How I despised the emotional roller coaster of menstruation! I hated having my moods and thought patterns altered by hormones! I could go on and on, but that's another post for another time. Suffice to say, I've had body dysmorphic disorder for a long, long time. I've only in the last few years begun to like my body, and it's felt like climbing a mountain.

Now, post-menopausal me isn't bothered by the storms of lust anymore, and it is SUCH a relief to be free of hormonal manipulation. But it also means that I don't desire men. Oh sure, I look -- everyone looks! -- and I appreciate nice looking men, but the moment a nice looking man is out of sight (let's say I'm driving), he's also out of mind. As an introvert and a spiritual person, I already feel a connection to all people. As a former student of ACIM, I know there is no separation. But as someone who is in a body, a body that has gone through and past hormones, I have no lust, no aching desire, no passion for men. Appreciation? Sure, but no desire to reach out, make contact with a total stranger. And now, to be honest, after two marriages, half a lifetime of being married, I have no confidence in my ability to meet someone. I'm no flirt, and these days, I'm just so not about games. I'm direct, straightforward, to the point. I'm also nearly 50, overweight, and average looking. In Los Angeles.

Partly right now it's that I am still too raw, and the loss of Jack is too much still with me. Partly I utterly and completely doubt my ability to meet a man. This is LA, land of beautiful people, and I am NOT one of "them". I'm one of the vast others, the plain and average. I'm okay; I'm not a dog. I'm not horrible looking, or ugly. I'm average. And I admit also, that I don't work with what I have. I'm an extremely basic dresser, for comfort first and foremost. I've never gotten in the habit of wearing makeup. I've also never had a sense of style. Being able to put together outfits has never been a gift of mine. I've fantasized of going on a major shopping expedition in Europe after I lose about 100 more pounds. It's a pleasant thought. But then I thought, would I actually wear new, stylish clothing like skirts, if I don't wear them now? No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't mind a couple of really good pairs of Italian shoes, but that's about it.

I can tell that I'm just not able or ready to negotiate emotional intimacy. I don't want anyone to want anything much from me emotionally right now or for the forseeable future. I'm extremely happy right now to be the best daughter, sister, and friend that I can be. Family, friends, and community, like my petanque community -- this delights me. Teaching delights me; I like being there for my students, helping them, every day seeing them smile, learn, grow, stretch, and accept challenges as they learn to read, write, comprehend, speak, and listen better. Physically, I want to start getting back into the swing of working out. I want to demand more of my body. I love the idea of shedding this last 110 pounds and letting go of the symptoms of diabetes and high blood pressure. In fact, with all my heart, the desire of my heart is good health more than anything.

Right now, I continue to hold space for myself as I find my new normal. Teaching is, I'm glad to say, going well. I have to be observed in February, but at THIS school, unlike my other school, I feel like I'll get a good score. They don't play "gotcha" here, and they are here to help, not play shitty narcissistic mind games, and make it so uncomfortable for older, expensive teachers like me that we want to leave or are displaced if they can't discomfit us into leaving. You bet I am still bitter about that. It was just a shitty, unprofessional way to be treated, but looking back, I survived, and was made stronger because of it.

So yes, a part of me wonders, am I attractive? Would any man want to date me? Is it even possible to find a man worth dating in LA? That last, I truly do wonder about. Do I even want to date again?I wonder what it is I really want to do on weekends. Is it worth my limited introvert energy to go to a Meetup, such as an exercise group, where I can be active and be around people, but not be pressured to make small talk, and might actually meet someone worth knowing? That's a definite maybe. We shall see.

I do think that if I ever do have another relationship, which is possible, although I'm not sure how probable, it just cannot be in the usual way. I really like the concept of "apartners" or LAT, living apart together. I like the idea of being with someone and being monogamous, but having one's own life. I love the idea of centering myself *and* having a partner, in that order. The usual thing is to find someone, then center that person. Men, I've noticed, expect to be centered, and suddenly, they just start taking up a vast amount of space, literally, emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually. And I simply cannot and will not do that anymore. I want to re-read the book on being a "quirkyalone"; one of those tectonic psychological plate-shifts was that I am now truly one in myself, and happy and at ease being single/alone/widowed/uncoupled for this last half of my life. And that's significant, since I knew from the age of six that I wanted to be married, and never wanted kids. I just realized that with Jack's death, my strong, true, felt vocation for marriage had come to an end.

I am still very much me as an individual. I'm a teacher, a traveler, writer, photographer, former journalist, animal lover, and so much more. I am a former wife, now a widow. Going forward, I see it's all about now figuring out what I want from life, what I have to offer. And I can't help thinking that I've simply moved beyond the usual conventional idea of romance. I've been there, done that, and with Jack, it was right, good, and very satisfying. Now, though, I'm the heroine of my own story, and that story is one that is writing itself. It's a story that needs to be told, and I'm figuring it out as I go along.

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