The calendar is so…arbitrary.
December 31, Diwali, Rosh Hashanah, Chinese, and Islamic New Years are portals to new possibilities. There’s always hope for a do-over: new body, new love, new career. We’re infused with optimism tempered by experience as we consider previous attempts that ended badly. Nobody gets this far in life without regrets.
Well, to hell with all that.
Here’s what I’ve learned. It is possible to live a long life in a short time. Even in a very short time. I’ve met children dying of cancer at St. Jude Children’s hospital who were more filled with life-affirming joy, reflection and wisdom than many adults. They may not have had time on their side, but they made the most of the time they had, and often “parented” their parents through their grief.
The calendar for them was arbitrary, too.
Resolutions: Permission to Make a Change
Women who age boldly (and those who aspire to) know that we get second chances every day of the year, and every minute of every day. We don’t wait for a holiday to give us permission to make a change. About a year after my soulmate, the father of my only child, died of an aggressive brain tumor, I decided I’d be on my own for the rest of my life, and I was fine with that. I’d been single until my early 30s and I loved living alone. After 20 years of marriage, widowhood brought a few small compensations for all the grief: I cooked only what and when I wanted to eat, listened to my favorite Latin music without earphones, and best of all, didn’t have to shave my legs! He would have laughed at all that.
I kind of missed the intellectual exercise of respectful disagreement.
At the same time, I was ready for a buddy to go to the movies with. I had been married once before, and thirty years living with men gave me an appreciation for their different (albeit sometimes weird) notions about life, morality, politics. I kind of missed the intellectual exercise of respectful disagreement, but I didn’t want more than a conversation, dinner and a movie. My husband’s death had been preceded by many months of grieving after his diagnosis: the long, sweet goodbye prepared me well for a fresh start, whatever that might entail.
A dating app at this stage of life seemed harmless. I figured most men my age were either plagued by erectile dysfunction or terrified of it, so they wouldn’t be so interested in sex. And I was done with that part of the program myself. For the last few years of our marriage my libido was low and slow, and turning off that spigot all the way was liberating.
I swiped through a lot of short profiles on Tinder and let’s face it, focused as much on their photos, particularly their eyes and smile, as their storytelling. I stopped on a man named Dave, close to my age, who looked like he just stepped off a yacht: Thurston Howell, III. I liked the fact that he was interested in meeting women my age, a rarity in the eternal youth culture of LA.
Then Comes Dave
On the phone he sounded intelligent and friendly and we laughed—a lot—so we met for brunch the following Sunday. My first Tinder date. Four years later he still likes to relive the moment he saw me get out of my car and walk towards him. He was thinking he didn’t have a chance. I was thinking, “Yep, that’s a guy with a yacht alright. That sweater tied around his neck just screams country club.”
For the next three weeks we were like teenagers, making out in parking lots, in the movies, in the back of his car.
He didn’t have a yacht, but he did have a history with boats, and a family of origin much like mine. He grew up in Illinois not far from where my dad spent part of his childhood. His Midwestern accent was familiar and comforting. We would come to discover that although our politics are different, our core values are aligned. Plus, he was hot, and I couldn’t believe that the old libido engine was turning over again. Where was this coming from? I had firmly declared myself single for life and asexual. I couldn’t believe he was able to burst that protective bubble.
I told Dave my plan. No sex. Ok, at least not for the first 90 days. If I was going to enter into another relationship, I had to get back in shape, and shave my legs.
He was not down for the 90-day plan. “Three weeks, at most,” he said. For the next three weeks we were like teenagers, making out in parking lots, in the movies, in the back of his car. What was happening to us? His agenda was different, sure. He was looking for a steady relationship with the full benefits package. I would have to adjust, and I discovered that adjusting was…too easy.
The Three-Week Agreement
What started with a fiery lust that shocked (and thrilled) both of us, grew into another soulmate experience. We both knew in the first ten minutes that this was providential, and the years since have deepened our love and commitment to each other. (We married in a quickly planned ceremony three weeks ago.) How could I get so lucky in one lifetime?
There are people who are meant to enter your life at different times.
Eyerolls all around. I know, I know. I’ve known plenty of women who’ve had terrible experiences and given up on dating apps, or dating, period. But after working with tech startups for the last decade I’ve come to believe that the digital world is a metaphysical superhighway for making connections with people you’d never meet otherwise. And there are people who are meant to enter your life at different times, teach you different things, and love you in different ways.
Much of what happens in our lives in 2022 will be out of our control. After two years of global grieving and uncertainty, we crave normalcy, stability, intimacy. Circumstance, the biological clock, the calendar can’t stop us from heading in a new direction. External forces can’t overpower your willingness to change, if you’re ready to start over in life.
Happy New Year.
Jeannie Edmunds is the author of Start Me Up: Tips, Tales and Truths About Starting Up and Starting Over and Chief Operating Officer of NextTribe.