"I don't mean to always sound like I want to set you up but..."
No? Then stop always trying to set me up! I've been widowed for 12 years. One of my hopes when I moved to a new city where I literally know no one is that people would stop trying to pair me up into a couple. In my former town, I assumed that people did this because of the community--a family centered mountain town. Also, most of those people there had known my former husband so I felt that perhaps their need to pair me up with someone new stemmed from the desire to see me "with someone" again. But now I don't think that was it at all. I believe couples feel more comfortable with friends who are also in a couple.
Me? They don't know what to make of me. I'm a mystery.
Not everyone is a fan of a mystery.
*narrowed eyes of suspicion* What's she up to in that house all alone? Is she crazy? Is she drunk? Is she making meth? Is she conducting human experiments? Is she crying into her pillow? How many cats do you think she has?
I'm not really that interesting, although as a novelist my internet search history could raise a few eyebrows. My reality is that I embrace my freedom--whether that means dancing around in shredded leggings and singing to my dogs, writing straight through the night, attending classes that spark my curiosity, reading whenever I choose, or sitting in the backyard stargazing at 3AM. You wouldn't believe how this lifestyle of mine freaks people out.
I don't fit into a box, you see. I work many hours a week, but I do so from my loft with my dogs snoring at my feet. I am comfortable traveling alone, eating alone, going to movies alone. I am not on any dating sites nor do I care to be. People in general are uncomfortable with those of us who stray outside the lines of conformity.
As a romance author, I am a strong supporter of love. When I see elderly couples holding hands in the park or laughing together in a restaurant, I smile. When I create my to-die-for heroes in my novels, I smile. When I hear of someone getting married, I smile. I am definitely pro-love.
But here's the problem with us widows...the man we want to be with no longer walks the earth. Memories of a lost love like that--a love that was taken away before its time, a love that was cut off abruptly without warning--set the bar high for any other man who may want to step into my life. Is that fair? Probably not but it is what it is. However, I've surmised as someone who has been a widow for 12 years now, that no matter how successful I am, how independent my kids are, or the fact that I have relocated to a new city and state, people tell me to "move on" all of the time...and what that is code for is, "we're not going to think you're okay until you are with a man again."
Nothing pisses me off more than hearing a person tell me to "move on" after all I've accomplished since my husband's death. Picture the gnashing of teeth and a steely gaze, if you can, because that's my response 100% of the time. Move on?! Are you serious? Oh, let me guess...you also happen to know a guy...a coincidence? I think not.
I'm in a weird phase of my life. I'm in a new city in a new house. I don't know anyone really. Check that--I am not close with anyone. I've met a lot of people but I don't feel the need to allow just any random person into my life anymore. I'm fussy. Maybe it's my age, or my life experience, or both, but I am very particular about who gets close to me. I treat every new person I meet as if I am on date for friendship--does this person annoy me, do they get me, are they bullshitting me, are they trying to compete with me, are they going to try to change me, are they going to keep trying to talk me into dating someone simply so they feel more comfortable?
I'm confident enough to choose my tribe carefully and slowly. I don't tolerate frauds and have also paid my dues long ago so am not going to dumb it down. I'm okay with walking away from anyone who makes me feel less-than. You have no idea how long it took for me to get to a place where I could not only say that, but live it.
Do you know how much of my life was spent living small for the sake of someone else's comfort? Do you know how many goals I set aside to prioritize my family or someone else's agenda? Do you know how much of my life was spent with people who truly didn't value my friendship? Do you know how much of my life was spent being walked over and dismissed? Do you know how often I apologized when I wasn't sorry or--worse--apologized when I did nothing wrong?
Too much. Too often. Never again.
Like I said...weird phase. A weird phase of intense independence, determination, and confidence. I am in the phase of becoming who I was always meant to be.
The kids are leading their own lives in Denver, going to school, working hard, having fun. That's how it should be. I raised them well. We talk multiple times a day, and--get ready for this--I even decline their calls here and there because I'm busy building a new life.
That's what I mean by a "weird phase." I feel like this is a transition period for me. I am transitioning from full-time mama bear to full-time Amber bear. I am transitioning from a place where I had lived for 25 years to a place I am merely trying on for size. If I don't like it here, I'm ready to move, to check out another place that intrigues me.
I've been sick for a few years and it caused my career to stagnate, but now I'm back into it with both feet. That's fun, too! I'm baaaaaaack...or at least soon to be back. (stay tuned for new releases this summer!)
This weird phase has me figuring my own shit out. I'm facing demons that once lurked in the shadows. Now I go searching for them and they cannot hide from me. I'm determined to slay them once and for all so I can live the rest of my life free. That's not an easy thing to do. I sometimes sob continuously for a day--here in my little house that is 100% mine, all alone in a city where no one knows me. Gut-wrenching, soul expanding sobs. But then something miraculous happens--I rise up stronger than I have ever felt before because I decided to go into that dark place and fight the tormentors. I'm on a journey inward and the path is rocky but the view is fucking amazing.
Set me up? Thanks but no. Not yet.
I am in transition. I am learning to be by myself again after being a wife and mom for most of my life. I am healing from all those wounds I pretended were okay years ago while they festered beneath the surface. I am learning to love myself after so much time doing the opposite.
I'm okay with being a mystery. If the coupled friends are too uncomfortable with my confidence in being alone, then they can go their own way. If the new people I meet try to diminish me or disrespect me, I will walk away.
I am romancing myself by respecting myself first--maybe even relishing in the mystery of me. If that means I am alone, that's good by me. I will be fine. I always am. In fact, I am more than fine. I'm really happy.
There will come a day when I'm ready to invite a man into my world. I'm sure of it. I'm pro-love, remember? Until then, I'm happy eating cold pizza in bed while reading my kindle or drinking an entire bottle of wine while singing along to Joss Stone with all the candles lit in my house. Freedom like I have now is rare in life. I'm going to enjoy this while it lasts.
Stay weird, my friends! It's never too late to forge your own path in your own way in your own time. Never let anyone rush you. This is your life--all the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Whether you are walking alone or with a life partner, celebrate every weird, wild, precarious, blissful step forward.
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. In addition, Easton also writes under two pen names--Dakota Skye (erotic paranormal romance thrillers) and Cassidy Springfield (new adult). She also works as a professional editor and creativity coach, takes road trips with her dogs whenever the mood strikes, and advocates for suicide awareness. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.