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As always, if you are viewing this on Facebook, it looks much better in its original form.

Grace

1. elegance and beauty of movement or expression; “a beautiful figure which she used in subtle movements of unparalleled grace”

2. seemliness: a sense of propriety and consideration for others

It has taken me most of my life to learn this thing called “grace.”  It never even occurred to me that I had it until someone told me that I handled a situation with more grace than he could ever hope to have.  I certainly was not born with it; grace had to be learned the hard way (as have most lessons truly worth learning).  A lifetime of overreactions, road rage, tantrums, throwing things across the room,  and stomping my feet (yes stomping my feet) when things didn’t go my way had finally segued to thinking before acting, calmness, and this thing I like to call “sleeping on it.”  I’m not going to say that I always do the right thing, but it has made me much more aware of people who act on their emotions and thus burn some very important bridges that could have taken them somewhere really special.

The easiest example that comes to mind is rejection.  Rejection sucks.  We all know it.  We’ve all experienced it in all sorts of forms – interviews, school applications, love, friendship…hell even a pet can reject you.  So when you’re rejected you have the choice between grace and bridge-burning.  Let’s play it out:

“Hey Tim, I really like you.  Would you like to go out sometime?”

“Well, I’m actually seeing someone right now.  I think you’re really nice but I just can’t.”

Bridge-burn: “What the hell?  You’ve been flirting with me for months!!  It’s because I’m fat, isn’t it?”  Then you completely avoid Tim, severing any kind of friendship you had.  Tim feels like a jerk and is completely uncomfortable around you.

Grace: “Oh jeez!  That’s great!  I’m so embarrassed…well best of luck…”  Then when some time has passed, you and Tim are back to being friends.  He introduces you to some of his cute friends, he remembers how mature you were and recommends you highly.  OR – things don’t work out with the other chick and he can’t wait to see how things will turn out with you since you were so cool when he had to turn you down.

The same thing is true with most things in life – you get turned down for one job, but maybe a month from now the interviewer has a friend at another company that needs someone with your exact set of skills.  Your wife comes home from work in a terrible mood and is rude to you – you can react and be rude right back, or you can give her some time to calm down and ask her if she wants to talk later, maybe even confront her about how rude she was.

Luckily I have had some good influences over the last few years that showed me what it’s like to be graceful in a tough situation.  Unfortunately, I’ve been at the receiving end of some not-so-graceful behavior as well.  After my experiences of the last year and the experiences of my friends,  I’ve decided the worst part of dating is having to tell someone that it’s not going to work out.  You just never know how they are going to react.  For me, hearing those words is a blessing, a relief of sorts.  Being honest is a good thing.  I’d much rather have someone tell me that he isn’t into me than to just stop calling, or worse – keep up the facade until I come to the same conclusion (that’s also known as dishonesty by the way).  Sure, it sucks and it’s disappointing, but isn’t the alternative much worse?  For some, that kind of honestly is SO disappointing that they become hurtful and mean.  These people burn bridges without thinking, and lose the respect of their peers in short order.

Food for thought: In a game of chess, you have to think 2, 3, or even 4 moves ahead.  If you do the same with your relationships and the choices you make every day, chances are people will notice.  Practice grace in all that you do.

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I love being single.

History:

Age 18-19: first “real” relationship

Age 19-21: relationship with future husband

Age 21-24: married

Age 25-26: horrible controlling 2 year relationship with an abusive alcoholic

Age 26-28: relationship (a good one this time)

Age 28-29: relationship

Does anyone else see a problem here?  I have only had a few months of single-dom over the last twelve years.  There were a few short-terms mixed in, lots of first and second dates, and I did have a good six months free in 2007.  I really don’t have any regrets about the relationships themselves (ok, I should not have gotten married, and I should not have stayed with the alcoholic for so long), but I sure do regret not having much time to myself.  Luckily, I’ve had quite a bit of time this year and I’m almost back to center.

As I re-enter the world of dating (slowly), I find myself thinking about these past relationships a lot.  First of all, I feel that it’s necessary to just say up front that I am divorced.  How awkward would it be to come across my marriage license, or to see one of the bridal portraits a few family members insist on keeping on display, having no idea that I had been married.  Also, when you scan my driver’s license (like at a bar), my married name comes up and I’ve had to explain the situation to the doorman in front of a date.  Awkward does not begin to describe.  I always freeze with fear in anticipation of telling a guy that I’ve been married.  There have actually been a few negative reactions.  It’s never been a dealbreaker, but I usually have to redeem myself with an explanation, dredging up some rather painful memories.  It’s really not fun to get that personal on a first or second date.  Also, I usually explain that I spent a long time in an abusive relationship.  I developed some self-preservation behavior during that time that has been hard to shake.  I may as well wait to explain this one if it becomes an issue though, instead of overwhelming a poor guy.

So “they” say that you should make a list of your “must haves” and “can’t live withs.”  I think all of this experience I’ve had has made my list very long.  But why shouldn’t I keep raising my standards?  I’ve been overly forgiving in the past, and I’ve consequently more unhappy within a relationship than on my own.  So I’m wondering: How picky is too picky?

On one hand, being picky seems smart because I almost always choose men that are obviously wrong for me; ignoring red flags, friend’s advice, forget the signs I know what I’m doing, right?  Wrong!  I am incredibly sick of relationship failure.  It makes me sick to my stomach just to think about it.  It’s stressful, it’s painful, it hurts.  No matter what side you’re on, if you’ve got anything invested in this relationship (even if it’s just time), it’s going to take you a few months to recover.  Sometimes just the fact that yet another one didn’t work out makes me terribly sad.

But, being picky usually gets you labeled as a bitch.  I’m not kidding.  Because I feel that the guy should take charge and plan and pay for the first date, I’m apparently greedy and looking for a sugar daddy.  Why can’t I just want a man to be in charge and for there to not be awkwardness when the check comes?  If you get another date, it’s likely that I will pay or at least split it, unless you insist.  This particular “must have” comes from experience: on our first date, my husband walked up to the ticket booth at the movie theater and ordered one ticket.  It was a good thing I had cash, but I spent the rest of the evening miffed – if he didn’t have the money, why did he ask me on a date?  Was it really a date?  In hindsight it seems like such a douchebag thing to do and I’m so mad at myself for not paying more attention to my own feelings way back then.  Since then, I have actually paid more attention to this and it seems to be a good indicator of things to come.  So in general I “must have” a take-charge kinda guy who likes to show me a good time.  You could also lump this in with wanting a guy who is generous.  Hey, I don’t want your money, I don’t need to be showered with gifts (although it is nice), I just want to know that you want to share because I will definitely be sharing with you.

I also like to see how a guy acts towards my friends.  I’m not very close to my family, so my friends’ opinions are very important to me.  If you’re not at all interested in the most important people in my life, it’s a key indicator that you don’t care about me, period.  The best guys have been very interested in my friends, and take the time to get to know them.  They don’t sit and text their friends the whole night.  So I’ve been criticized for that one as well – I shouldn’t let those closest to me make my decisions.  Um, they’re not making my decision, they’re sizing you up and you’d better impress them.

Just plain not being interested makes me a bitch sometimes as well.  I’ve lost countless male friends when they decided they wanted something more from our relationship.  Am I not entitled to like whomever I want?  Is my friendship completely worthless because we’ll never have sex?  How is getting angry with me for not sharing your feelings going to make the situation any better?  Sure, I’ve been disappointed before, but I wouldn’t want to burn a bridge.  I may not feel that way about you right now, but perhaps if you don’t get angry with me I might consider you in the future.  Way to go, now you don’t have a girlfriend OR a friend.

My list of must haves is pretty lengthy; I’ll just mention a few more: intelligence, sense of humor, good friends/family relationships, hobbies, good manners, opens doors, calls instead of constantly texting, acknowledges my birthday, politically conservative, wants kids, enjoys live music, friendly, gregarious, ambitious etc. etc. etc.

I can’t live with: infidelity, lying, drugs, bad drinker, rude to waitresses, negativity, unwilling to do stuff with me, drama, laziness, pushiness… I suppose those are pretty basic.

I would like to have a family with the “right” guy some day in the next…oh…five (?) years.  So why do I feel guilty about having a list??