Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Your Girl

For some reason this year's observance of Memorial Day hit me harder than usual.  Probably because over the past couple of years I’ve experienced fresh losses.  While these losses are nothing like the friend I’ve lost many years ago as they fought and served this great country, they’re still losses – often the death of a dream, the crushing of a hope.  Though no one died in these recent instances, it still feels just as painful.

In feeling that familiar pain of loss, the memory of the one who lost their life in service has laid heavy on my heart these past few days.   I’ve come to realize something that I hadn’t realized before… I understand why I’m so passionate about superheroes and men who serve, or have served in the armed forces, particularly the Army. Because I once had a hero who wore that uniform and paid the ultimate price. I’ve never openly grieved for him because I didn’t feel I had the right… I wasn’t married to him, and he wasn’t even officially my boyfriend (I’ll tell that story in a moment), but he had my heart and I don’t think I ever really got it back.

 I suppose I should start at the beginning.  I first met James when I was 16 in 1987.  My family had recently moved to a new school from a new state and I was young, pretty and quite popular.  Of course at 16 I was also quite stupid, especially when it came to choosing whom to give my heart.    I was also dealing with a lot of really horrible things at home, and many of the choices I made were not very good ones.  At that particular time I found myself crazy over a bad boy named Herbie (I’m leaving out last names to protect the guilty).  I thought he was beautiful… and dangerous.  I was very angry and so bogged down with responsibilities that no 16 should ever have to carry, that I think there was a part of me that just wanted to touch fire… in hopes that it would consume me and destroy me.

During this season, there was a very sweet boy named James who would wait for me every morning when I drove into the parking lot in my MGB and carry my things, help me with the homework I couldn’t do the night before in the cafeteria before the first bell rang.  My friend, Vicki, had a big crush on him, but he didn’t seem to be interested in anyone, at least that’s what I thought.  He was quiet, shy (except when he was around me) and very tall. I loved him being around, because he always made me feel safe, especially after my father was arrested and my family hounded by the news crews and part of my family’s shame became public fodder. Kids can be cruel, especially when  you’re in high school.  But, James was there, even though that whole time period is a bit fuzzy for me because so many big things happened.

One of those big things that happened was the fact I caught Herbie cheating on me and he broke my heart.  James was a senior at the time and about to turn 18.  He come from a poor family, but he was smart and had dreams of going to college.  That’s how we bonded… declaring how we would rise from the hovel of our unfortunate circumstances and take over the world and become brave, strong, and good people.  He’s the one that instilled the value in me that I was more than what I was born into… that I didn’t have to accept my family’s legacy, racism, prejudice, and values - but rise above it and be anything I wanted.  My family thought me a snob for believing those things … but James didn’t.

I’d like to tell you I was a smart girl and recognize the GREAT guy that James was and we fell in love, but that’s not what happened.  My world turned upside down.  My father was in jail, and my family lost our home, our possessions, our livelihood.  My mother had MS and needed constant care.  My brothers were young and needed a mother.  I just wanted to be a kid, but wasn’t given the option.  I became even more angry – and quite cruel.  When Herbie cheated on me, instead of licking my wounds, learning from my mistakes, I decided revenge was the better solution… so I started dating his brother, Hoyt.

In the meantime, James graduated and joined the Army.  He stopped by my house on his way to boot camp, stood outside my window in the middle of the night, and proclaimed his love for me.  He wanted me to be ‘his girl’ before he shipped off. I was sad I was losing my friend, but I didn’t see him the way he wanted me to see him.  I told him I was with someone else and couldn’t do that to him, but to look me up when he come home and we’d talk about it then.   He told me he had loved me since the first moment he saw me my first day at school, and that he would love me until the day he died.  I thought the sentiment sweet, but sent him off to the Army with no promises.

Needless to say, time went by, my life became even more chaotic and the next time I saw James I was pregnant with my second child, putting myself through college, and living with my finance, Mitchell, at the time.  I was working at the Wal-Mart in Cedartown.  He’d found me through a mutual friend, because I had moved away from Lindale (the town where he’d last seen me).  He showed up at the Wal-Mart dressed in his military uniform and I thought he was one of the most handsome men I’d ever seen.

James and I had lunch together, laughed, and talked about what had been going on in our lives since we last saw each other.  I remember his green eyes just glowing with excitement. He told me he loved being in the Army and about all the places he’d been and the classes he’d been able to take while he was enlisted… as well as his plans to make the Army his career. He talked about being able to help his sister go to college by sending money home to his family.  I was so proud of him and so jealous at the same time.  At one time I thought of going into the Military to escape my family and get an education, but then I got pregnant and I couldn’t do it. He asked me if I was happy in my relationship, and before he allowed me to answer, blurted out that he doesn’t mind I have kids… that he would raise and love them as his own because he loves me and they were part of me, and that he just wanted to protect me, take care of me, and make me happy.  I had to break his heart  - again - and send him on his way refusing his offer to be ‘his girl’. I was in love… with my fiancé, who later turned out to be in love with several other women and even with another guy.

The next time I saw James it was 1992, I was a single mom and within a few days about to board a commercial fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico to make the money I needed to relocate me and my kids closer to Atlanta.  I had finally got my degree, but I was broke and stuck in a town I couldn’t get out. I was also angry at the world… angry at my father, angry at the men that hurt me in my life.  I was 22, tired, exhausted from working several jobs and trying (very poorly) to take care of my kids, and dealing with all my family’s drama.  I had a huge chip on my shoulder (I still have that particular chip) that I didn’t trust the people that promised to take care of me. I’d vowed to NEVER depend on anyone …ever.  I still have this problem today not letting people take care of me. It drives my friends crazy.

I was eating dinner alone at this seafood restaurant just a half mile from the dumpy little trailer I lived in across from the beach.  I was celebrating the adventure I was about to embark… and finally saying goodbye to Panacea.  I’m sitting there having dinner, reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and I feel a shadow standing in front of me.  I look up and meet a pair of bright green eyes and a huge smile shining down on me.  I was in shock.  He was the last person I expected to ever see. I had lost his parents phone and address, though his sister refused to ever tell me where he was or what he was doing every time I had contacted her.  I moved around so much, James could never keep up with me.  So, I was shocked.  He had found me, again. I jumped up from that table and wrapped my arms around him so tight.  Just feeling his arms around me righted my world.  I felt safe.  I felt loved.

This time I truly saw him and he was beautiful.  He took me out to the beach and we walked for miles along the shore and talked about everything.  We made love under the moonlight and slept beneath the stars among the warm sand and the sound of crashing waves. Sometimes just hearing the sound of waves, I think of that night. I think that’s why I hate the beach and Florida, because I don’t want to remember that night and do everything I can to forget it.  But, getting back to the story… the next morning my insanity kicked in… and this time when he asked me to be his girl… I had the dumbass, lame excuse of not going to make promises I might not be able to keep… or trusting that he’d keep his promise.  So, I told him instead that I was going on my boat trip, which was for 8 months to get the money I needed to move, and he had a tour he was leaving for in two days’ time to Africa for 9 months, and that when he comes home to find me in Atlanta… and then we’d discuss me being ‘his girl’.  He was over the moon.  When I left him at the bus station the next day, he kissed me so hard and promised that he’d be back real soon and that no matter what I was going to be ‘his girl’.  

There was just something sweet about knowing somewhere out there in the world was a brave hero who loved me and would one day fly back to me.  I faced some really, really big hurdles throughout the following  10 months, but in spite of them all, I made my way to West Georgia, just outside of Atlanta.  I had no way to contact James or his family, just a promise that’d I be in the area for him to find me.  He was really good at finding me.

I’d like to tell you that I waited for him and then he showed up and we lived happily ever after.  But, he never showed up, it was right at almost a year when his sister showed up instead.  I was working as a waitress and just struggling to make ends, taking care of my babies, trying to look for a good job.  I didn’t recognize her at first, sitting at one of my tables.  I took her order, feeling she seemed familiar but couldn’t place her.  She was angry at me. I thought maybe her boyfriend or husband might have flirted with me before and she was taking her aggression out on me.  But I realized who she was when I went to take her check to cash her out… and she placed a set of dog tags on the ticket.  I don’t remember much after that… just the words she shouted at me, “You were never good enough for him, yet he always loved you, always looked for you, always waited for you, but you were a horrible, selfish person who never saw what a great guy he was. I hate you and I hate that he loved you, but even more so I hate that he died never having gotten married or had children of his own because he was too busy loving and waiting on a tramp like you.”  She didn’t even tell me how he died, because she said I didn’t deserve to know.  I later found out he had died in Somalia in 1993.

A part of me died that day. I felt it. I turned something off inside me, something that would carry me through the next twenty years.  I ignored Memorial and Veteran’s Days and really anything and anyone that had anything to do with the military for all that time.  I didn’t even mention his name to anyone.  I didn’t even remember him.  It took me those two decades to learn to love myself.

I wish I could say that James was the love of my life, but I can’t.  I only had those two wonderful days with him.  I’m pretty sure I was the love of his life, but I’d only just begun to love him when I lost him.  I had always loved him, but not as he wanted.  There’s no telling how things would have turned out had he lived and found me, and there’s no sense fantasying or speculating about what might have been.  Life happened and moved on without him.  I married the next year and lived for the next 20 years rarely thinking of him.  I couldn’t. It’s only been this year that I’ve finally been able to grieve him and say ‘good-bye’.  It’s no surprise that over these past few years that my best friends turn out to be former or current Army.  I’ve always felt safe, always felt loved in the arms and affections of a Soldier.  I didn’t know that about myself until this year.

So, after a very long delay, with my deepest gratitude and admiration I can finally say, “Thank you, James, for your love, your service, and your sacrifice.  I love you and I miss you.” ~Your Girl

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The New Bachelorette: Dating After 40 - The Rules

What are the new dating rules for the 21st century? I’m pretty sure I’ve broken them all already. I’ve kissed on the first date. I’ve immediately messaged after a date. I send texts when I want. I say exactly what I think, what I like, and what I don’t like. I talk about my past (that’s how I learned from my mistakes) and I talk about my future (what I ultimately want down the road – so neither of us wastes our time chasing different dreams). I talk about money, politics, and religion – enough to say that neither is important to me. I’ve had money, and I’ve been broke, I’ve been faithful and I’ve been disenchanted. I’ve tried to save the world, but now I just focus on saving me – and being in either state didn’t make me happy or fulfilled. I talk about my failures and successes. I discuss my dreams and my plans for the future. I lay it all out on the line. Either ask me to dance or move out of my way.

I never was one to follow the rules. Everything I’ve ever gotten in my life has been because I grabbed it – not worried about whether I was doing it right or not. Don’t get me wrong. I hurt just as much as anyone else when I lose something or someone because I fucked up and did something impetuous, or what the dating police would call ‘breaking the rules’.

The rules all come down to this:

1. 1 know what I want. I know what I like. I know what I don’t like and I know what I’d tolerate and what I won’t tolerate. This is because I love me and I’ve learned to put me first. I won’t give something to someone else that isn’t worth giving. I want to give my best – the thing I love most – the thing I cherish and respect most… and that would be me.

2. There’s someone else involved who has their own wants and desires. I’d expect nothing less out of him. I don’t want his leftovers or mangled pieces. I want his best. I deserve his best… just as he deserves mine.

However, getting to that part isn’t so easy. There’s this whole dance that must be performed and quite frankly I don’t have a fucking clue how the steps go. I find myself walking out onto the dance floor and getting lost in the moment, getting caught up in the music, letting my body move to the tempo, and expressing myself as authentically as I can. My dance may not be elegant, it may not be well-trained, and it may not move as my partner would expect… but it’s our dance. If anything - it’ll be honest, it’ll be heart-felt, and it’ll be sexy as hell.

I’m not a Barbie doll, but I’m beautiful. Barbie has no life, no brain, no independent thoughts. She’s just a piece of cold plastic. I have flaws. I have weaknesses. I’ve got wiggly parts and gray hairs and a few wrinkles. But, I’m one of the most passionate, spontaneous, adventurous people I know. Hot blood pumps through my heart. I feel everything – pleasure and pain. Dancing with me will never be boring. I may get really good at it – but even then I will dance as myself. Love me or leave me.

I’m not naïve. I’m not a little girl with little girl dreams. I’m a mature woman who has an idea what she wants in life and the balls to get out there and dance. I live exactly how I express in these blog posts. Those who know me in person, knows this to be true. I don’t hide who I am. I take risks. I leap. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I royally fuck up. But, I hurt just as much as anyone else. I’m afraid just as much as anyone else. I over-think everything. I’m passion personified.

If you’re lucky enough to find yourself on the dance floor with me – dance. Don’t worry about the rules. Yes, the world is watching, but if I’m dancing with you – you’re all that exists in that moment. When the dance is over – either you have enjoyed it and will dance with me again, or you’ll find another partner. I am not afraid to walk away, even if it hurts. But I refuse to dance with an unwilling, boring, or pretentious partner. I deserve to receive just as much passion and I give. So, if you’re not passionate – find another dance partner.

Those are my rules.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Gettin' Real

For those of you who know me and follow this blog regularly, the bluntness and openness in which I’m going to express this morning will come not come as a shock to you. But those who don’t normally follow my posts – well, you’re in for a treat today. I’m gettin’ real.

To start with, I want to celebrate a success. I’ve recently started a new workout routine called “4 for the Core” (*see post below) recommended by Army Drill Sergeant T. Emilio Solano. Today, I was able to reach my goal of holding the four core positions for the full minute required. I did it! It hurt like hell, my body was shaking, but I did it. In the middle of the last position, feeling so proud of myself for my accomplishment, I started balling my eyes out. Not because I reached another goal, but because I reached another goal.

I’ve come so far in the last two years, but not just on a physical plane. Actually, the physical is only a reflection of all the inner changes I’ve went through. The biggest of these changes have been my self-esteem. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’ve never had low self-esteem – as far as believing I was less than anyone else. I’ve actually held quite a lot of pride and belief in myself. However, there was a very long period in my life where I became numb and just didn’t love myself. I didn’t know how to love myself and I sure as hell didn’t know how to let anyone else love me either. While I believed I was capable of doing anything in this world, no matter how intellectually or physically challenging it posed, I wasn’t afraid to face those challenges. But, to put myself out there and let someone love me – scared the hell out of me. It scared me so much I hid from the world… behind a fat body. I noticed the heavier I became the less the world saw me. The less the world saw me, the less I could disappoint it. I didn’t do this consciously, but I can look back over the past 20 years and see how I disappeared, step by step by miserable step until I lost Me completely.

That’s not an exaggeration. Those who know me now, would have never recognized me just a few short years ago. Those who knew me a few years ago often don’t recognize me when I’m standing next to them. This happened the other day in the grocery store. I stood behind a woman I went to church with for nearly 15 years. She glanced at me, but had no recognition in her eyes. I smiled and was glad she didn’t know me. In truth, she’s never known me.

For nearly 20 years, I asked God and everyone around me – “Who am I and what am I supposed to do?” I could never answer those questions and they tormented me. I have over 40 journals FILLED with tear-stained pleas begging the answer to those two simple questions… to only be met with silence. I answered the silence with becoming what everyone else wanted me to be - what my husband wanted, what my church wanted, what my friends wanted, what my children wanted, what my boss wanted. I convinced myself being the best at these things defined my worth. It worked… to a point. Everyone valued me for what I was or could be for them. Opposition only happened when I began to make the decisions for myself and they proved to be contrary to the beliefs others had for me. In becoming myself I lost everything. I wasn’t loved for me – I wasn’t loved at all.

I have learned to love me – to love the woman I truly am. As I grow in that love, I’m transforming – literally. My body is changing. The woman I’ve seen in my dreams, I’ve caught her a few times looking back at me in the mirror. She wasn’t there before – always hidden behind a mask of professionalism, the cloak of religion, and the façade of middle-class piety. Guess what? She’s fucking beautiful, and sexy, and smart. I see her – all of her… all her scars, all her fears, all her love, all her hopes… and she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. She’s taught me to see the beautiful people in others.

I’m not perfect. None of us are. Entering the dating world has brought up other questions – What do I like, what do I want, what do I find attractive, what turns me off? What about me do men find attractive? What can I improve? I’m learning the answer to all these questions. Reading online profiles has me shaking my head and sometimes laughing out loud, because it’s made me realize I’m in a really good position because most people don’t know the answers to their questions. They don’t really have a clue what they want and what they like and hide behind their masks. When you don’t wear a mask anymore, you can tell when others do or don’t. Most often their expectations are unrealistic. (*see my upcoming post about The New Bachelorette - Dating over 40 Update), or they’ve convinced themselves of the good-sounding lie instead of the hard naked truth.

So, I celebrate my accomplishment. It’s one of several I’ve made this past week, this past month, this past year, and this past season of my life. I’ve still got a long way to go, baby… but I’m doing it. I’m living, loving, and learning. I can’t tolerate imitation any more. Only the real deal is good enough for me, because I’m bein’ real, getting’ real, and livin’ real.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Monday, May 19, 2014

4 For The Core

With reaching the 90lb loss benchmark of my 17-month get healthy journey, it’s again time to change my routine.  I believe that’s been one of the biggest keys to my continued success.  I like routine, but routine can become uninspiring and boring, causing me to lose interest.  Being healthy and active should never become boring - much like a relationship and requires constant work.  But it’s not going to change by itself.  It will take just as much dedication and determination from you in the middle of the journey as it did at the start.  There is no end, so don’t set one.  This isn’t a temporary fix - it’s a lifestyle, something that will carry you through until the day you no longer care about your health.  This is a battle of the mind.  You have to decide that you’re going to fight it to the end, never giving up, never surrendering.  If not, you’re wasting your time.

Routine also causes your body to hit plateaus, because it gets used to the effort you’re putting into changing it.  It doesn’t want to work.  It doesn’t want to change. It doesn’t like to be pushed, denied, stretched, exhausted, or exercised, and will fight you. It would rather be pampered and lazy. However, it can come to love the benefits and rewards of a good workout.  It will walk straighter with pride and confidence as it gets healthier, stronger, and sexier.  It will reward you with a rush of endorphins and pleasure.  Greater activities become possible and making love becomes so much more fun because you’ll have more stamina, strength and sexiness.

Speaking of sexy, and totally getting back on my initial topic of changing up my routine, I asked my good friend, Sergeant T. Emilio Solano – Army Drill Sergeant at Fort Benning to recommend a good workout to target my middle and lower body specifically.  He recommended 4 for the Core + a 1-minute plank. 

Wow! Ouch! Umph! … Whew! These may seem like simple moves, but they’re not!!!!  Within 15-20 seconds of the first routine, my muscles began to shake from strain.  I wasn’t able to hold each position for the full minute as required, but I’ll keep it up until I can.  I made it on average about 15-30 seconds for each one.  I repeated the process twice, but I’d like to be able to hold the positions correctly for the full minute each. I broke more of a sweat with these five moves than I do when I run a mile. I now have a new goal.

Thank you, Sergeant Solano! 

I’ve included a video below for those of you brave enough to try this on your own.  Take control of your body. Take control of your health.  Take control of your life.  When it gets hard, tell yourself you deserve to be happy, healthy and sexy as hell.

Army Physical Readiness Training: 4 For The Core

The abdomen, lower spine, and pelvis comprise the trunk (core) of the body. This area must be stable so the limbs have a fixed base from which to create powerful movements. The abdominal and back muscles form a supportive ring around the spine. Soldiers are only as strong as their weakest link; so all these muscles must be trained in a manner that mimics their function. In reconditioning, 4C and HSD are performed daily before engaging in other PRT activities. During the toughening phase, 4C is performed after preparation and prior to strength and mobility activities. Four for the core may also be performed outside regular PRT sessions as supplemental training. Do not exceed 60 seconds for each 4C exercise. The following commands are used for 4C exercises.

Exercises 1 and 3 (bent leg raise and back bridge):
  • Starting Position, MOVE.
  • Ready, EXERCISE.
  • Starting Position, MOVE.
  • Position of Attention, MOVE.

Exercises 2 and 4 (side bridge and quadraplex) are both performed on the right and left sides. The commands for execution for this exercise and changing sides are as follows:
  • Starting Position, MOVE.
  • Ready, EXERCISE.
  • Starting Position, MOVE.
  • Change Position, Ready EXERCISE.
  • Starting Position, MOVE.
  • Position of Attention, MOVE.

The goal is to hold each exercise position for 60 seconds. If the Soldier is unable to do this, he will follow the instructions for each exercise to momentarily change position and return to the prescribed exercise position. Detailed descriptions of each 4C exercise follows.

From: FM 7-22 October 2012 
  (Page last modified Feb 1, 2013)

Related links
Don’t give up.  You can do this.
Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Triumphant Change

Woo-hoo!!! 90 lbs, BABY!!!!! I've hit the 90 lb loss mark since January 2013!!!!!!

No pills, no pre-packaged meals, no counting, no shakes or gym membership, no personal trainer or chef.

But before you think it was an easy, quick fix, let me reassure you - it was ANYTHING but easy.

The FIRST step: Changed my mindset. I quit telling myself I NEEDED all those things listed above in order to get healthy, because those are just excuses. Yes, I had physical problems, mostly due to my poor health and obesity. But to change it for good - to change the outside - I had to change my mindset that it wasn't just something I needed to do, but what I had to do, what I deserved. I deserved to be happy. I deserved to be healthy. I deserved to be sexy and beautiful.

The NEXT step: Changed my lifestyle. I quit sitting around all day. I started walking, scheduling outdoor activities, parking at the end of the parking lot - not the closest spot, started walking up stairs instead of elevators, started hiking, participating in 5k runs, and started exercising. YES it hurt... ALL of it hurt, but I didn't try to master it all at once, I just simply made it a necessary part of my lifestyle. I also didn't depend or count on anyone else to do it with me... because this journey wasn't their journey - this was mine.

The LAST step: Changed my eating habits. I learned to moderate the portions and types of foods I consumed. I didn’t follow a strict diet plan, just a principal... eat in moderation and as natural as possible. I can have ANYTHING (other than to what I am allergic) I want - as long I balance it out, eat an appropriate portion, and don’t feed my emotions. I learned to enjoy my food. I learned to cook gourmet food, to love plating, and to appreciate natural fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. I smile now when I go to eat, instead of looking at food as my enemy. It wasn't the food, but how I consumed it.

I'm sure I'll lose more weight, but my journey isn't just about the weight... it's about the freedom that comes from living a healthier lifestyle. I wish I could snap my fingers and be able to share this same type of success with everyone who struggles with their weight, but I can't. This is something that you have to want and do for yourself. The goal isn’t to lose weight, but gain a life of healthy happiness because you love yourself and believe you deserve to be healthy and happy.

I also want to add... I didn't do this alone. I have a couple of friends who loved me, encouraged me, and were there with me every step of my journey. They didn't run beside me, but they were there through all the tears and triumphs. They loved me - and that love pushed me forward. They know who they are (because both of them HATE any kind of attention), so I don't have to mention them here - but I love them more than I can ever express.

Till next time,
~The 90lb lighter T.L. Gray

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The New Bachelorette: Dating after 40

Dating in the 21st century is so different than it was way back in the 20th century, which was the last time I entered that field, if what you could even classify what I did as dating.  And dating over 40 is even more ...well, I've not yet been able to truly designated it yet. There was no internet back then, no online dating, no meetups, and social media. 

I've been married for 20 years, so that's been two decades of having a status where I held a specific mindset - unavailable, taken, spoken for, off limits, half of a whole, not an individual, committed, married, married, married.  Throw being a mother, a leader in the church, and a career woman on top of that... and any semblance of that sexy, single woman... disappeared, as it should. 

My marriage dissolved.  Now what?

I've watched the reality shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette for a few seasons now and I'll have to admit that I couldn't quite wrap my head around the idea of one person dating several people at one time.  It just seemed preposterous to me, full of confusion, conflicting emotions, and surely a lot of controversial issues such as honesty and faithfulness.  Because that's all I knew - honest faithfulness.  I couldn't understand how a person could be with one person one night and feel this deep 'connection' - and that be an honest connection, and then the next night feel a 'connection' with a different person.  It was an odd sentiment my brain couldn't wrap around - because I was of a commitment monogamous mindset.  I only knew how to focus on one person at a time, and that did not include me. 

My motherhood changed.  Now what?

Through the help of someone I love dearly pushing me out of my cave (the place I put myself to lick my wounds, heal, and begin my journey of self-discovery) and into the dating world of the 21st century, I've entered into my own new Bachelorette experience.  I'm now past the point of writing down, dreaming, and thinking about what I want in my future partner -my prince charming, to getting out there and discovering if he actually exists. It's scary, yet it's exciting at the same time. 

 My single status has begun.  Now what?

What do I know about dating?  NOTHING.  I know how to be married.  I know how to give up my life for someone else.  I know how to deny myself and do what's expected to fulfill an obligation.  Being single, the first thing I've learned is that I had to start thinking about me, what I want, what I don't want ...not what I think I want... but truly search my heart and soul and decide what kind of life I want the next phase of my life to consist.  I can't know what I want until I figure out who I am... who I really am ...and what really makes me  happy.  That's what I've been doing for the last couple of years. I have a list of those discoveries I'll detail in another post.

While the proverbial limos are pulling up and my potential Prince Charming steps out and introduces himself, I find myself standing in my present circumstances, looking better than I have in years, nervous anticipation filling my mind, and fear of all the unknowns pushing and pulling me. I'm taking a deep breath and telling myself to 'breathe'. 

Stay tuned for future posts on some of the things I learn while my adventures as The New Bachelorette: Dating After 40 begins.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Restless Never Stop

“The restless never stop …they just change boots.” ~ Jeep commercial

I have been bitten by the restless bug.  There’s a huge world out there I want, no I need to explore, and I can’t move fast enough to get it done. 

This isn’t a recent dream, but one I’ve had for as long as I remember.  Somehow along the way as I moved through my life, that dream got pushed down, buried, and forgotten and unfulfilled.  But, in the last couple of years I have been doing something out that and changing my status. 

I’ve exchanged a good leather loafer for hiking boots and running shoes.  I’ve exchanged flat sandals for wedged heels.  I’ve exchanged a comfortable low heel for a good dancing shoe.

Your shoes really do say a lot about you, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.  I used to hate buying new shoes, but I couldn’t understand why.  I think I understand now.  I wasn’t going anywhere.  I was in a prison of my own making.  I was safe in routine.

I’ve got several new shoes now.  While they’re very uncomfortable to break in by rubbing blisters, but where they take me makes it all worth it.  When I look at new pair of shoes now, that’s what I look for – the adventure that waits for me. When I ask, “What boots should I wear today?” what I’m really asking is, “What adventure waits for me?”  I don’t think about the discomfort.  I’m restless and filled with wanderlust, and I’ll never, never, never stop … I’ll just keep change my boots. 

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Good Morning, World - 05/04/2014 - Investment

“I will not invest or give my time, energy, love, gifts, affection, friendship, devotion, support, body, mind or soul to that which does not first invest or give these things to me.”

I wrote this quote to myself about three years ago after having an existential crisis of faith. Everything I had believed and thought to be the truth of the universe came crashing down around me. It left me in a state of confusion, yet set me on path that turned my life upside down.

I believed in the concept of sowing and reaping, service and reward, giving and receiving, of doing good deeds unto others in order to receive a good life in return. Yet I looked around and couldn’t find me. In a life filled with fulfilling requirements and expectations everyone else had for me, what society had for me, what my family and faith had for me, I became lost. I never really had the opportunity to be me. Simple questions confounded me – what do I like, what do I want, and what do I believe. All my answers, all of them, reverted back to fulfilling the needs, demands and expectations of someone else.

So for all my attempts at liberation, at facing all the fears of being alone, destroying every aspect of my security by walking away from everything and everyone I knew, I once again find myself facing the alteration of my life, my wants, my desires in order to fulfill someone else’s expectations and needs.

I understand I have this natural propensity to nurture, love and submit to others in order to make them happy – but I have to have that same dedication to myself first. I have to take control of my life, my choices, and love myself enough to protect me – even if it means separation. As much progress as I’ve made in the physical realm, returning and discovering activities that I love and make me happy, I need to remind myself of the promise I made to me.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray

Friday, May 02, 2014

Good Morning, Good Night

I’m one of those annoying people who always say “good morning” and “good night” even to strangers.  It is part of my Southern hospitality right along with saying, “hi, how are ya?”, “bless you”, “please” and “thank you”.  However, that’s not how I was raised.  We never said these things in my family, nor did we say “I’m sorry” or “I love you.”

But this particular form of ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ I’m talking about in this blog post is something of a different caliber. It’s not a typical greeting or salutation, but has a special meaning – for me. 

I have issues. Mostly insecurities when it comes to trusting people and believing they’ll be there for me. I’ve watched so many people walk right out of my life, people who promised to love me forever. I just don’t trust they’ll be there even in the next moment. I’ve had a good friend go off to war and promise me they’d come home, but never did. I’ve had a young love promise to be with me forever, but forever didn’t last very long. 
I’ve had a teenage daughter run away from home.  For a very long time I didn’t know whether she was dead or alive, hurt or scared. I would have given anything during those dark years to hear ‘good morning’ or ‘good night’, but I was helpless and powerless to say or hear anything.   

The last couple of years I’ve gone through some major changes.  I’m the one that’s walked away this time – away from a 20 year marriage, away from all the friends I’ve known for the last 17 years, away from the only real family I’ve ever had. I can’t even begin to express the heartache when none of them (other than my children) followed me or cared enough to love and accept me for the woman I’ve become.

I’m proud of me. I’m proud of standing up for myself and chasing my dreams and striking out on my own. But, I’m a broken woman and couldn’t have made it through these last couple of years without my best friends. There were so many days I was so scared I couldn’t literally breathe, but they were there for me.  I started telling them ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ for the simple reason it gave me reassurance.  I could go to sleep in peace because I knew no matter how bad my nightmares scared me I wasn’t alone.  I could go through the day with courage when I received their good morning, because I knew if I needed them they would be there.    

To some it may be a stupid or simple greeting, but to me it means everything. To me it means I need you, I love you, I care about you, or you’re important to me. Perhaps one day I won’t need those words, because I’ll be whole. But that day isn’t today. I’m so much stronger today than I was yesterday, and I’ll be even stronger tomorrow. Until then … ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’.

Till next time,

~T.L. Gray

Good Morning, World - 05/02/2014 - Heroes

To all those who serve - Thank You. 

Good Morning, World - 05/01/2014 - Buried Treasure

I realize how much I’m valued by how I’m treated. I’m so tired of being told how precious and beautiful I am, but only in the shadows, in a place with no light. I’m even more tired of useless words. I want to stuff cotton in my ears and drown out the noise of empty platitudes. Show me, don’t tell me. If I’m part of your life, then share me in the open, because I refuse to be buried beneath the dirt.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray