It wasn't supposed to happen this way. I never meant to be a poster child for an independent single woman—but 20 years after my divorce– I'm still single at 62.
Even after two failed marriages, I've never been a male-basher. Oh, I admit I did fantasize a few scenes taken out of a Godfather movie where I had both my ex-husbands against a wall and was ready, willing and able to do bodily damage. But other than that, I've pretty much forgiven both of them for being jerks.
I still have this fairy-tale hope that someday I will meet a man who is kind, spiritual, supportive, financially solid, and romantic as well as a good friend. You know–the usual list. Perhaps tomorrow my prince will come. Meantime, I had to survive on my own. It hasn't always been easy—but I've learned a lot—because I had to.
Soon after my divorce, I had to overcome some basic maintenance challenges. Not being talented with a hammer or a screwdriver, I was proud when I learned how to put up a picture, unplug a toilet, paint a room and change the batteries in my smoke alarms.
But for the more major life events like buying a car, dealing with surgery and all those decisions and issues associated with raising three daughters, I often wished I had had a partner's shoulder to lean on. Yes, yes, I know that having a partner doesn't guarantee that you will have the kind of support you want. I also realize there are many men who aren't skilled at fixing things around the house or (worse yet) don't want to. So until I find that special someone–refer back to my requirements–I remain alone.
During these post-marriage years, I've had achievements I'm particularly proud of–like being promoted to Vice President of Human Resources, getting my master's degree at 50, buying a house by myself and being able to pay the tuition for my daughters' college.
Who could have imagined the challenges and achievements that still awaited me?
After working for a large pharmaceutical company for 11 years, I got laid off. I could feel my blood boil when my supervisor reviewed my severance package and retirement benefits. Retirement? I cringed. I wasn't ready to retire–even if I was over 60.
When I got over the shock of losing my job, I realized what a gift this was. I had been unhappy for several years but I allowed the lure of my regular paycheck hold me back from pursuing my dream–to become a life coach.
It's amazing how quickly you can get things done—when you've been kicked in the pants by the Universe. Even before I left the company, I had enrolled in an intensive nine month coaching program. Although I didn't know how to start my own business, I was ready to learn.
Releasing the need to have a regular paycheck was harder. I decided I would get one more Human Resources position while I was building my coaching practice. But God had a different plan.
My–one last HR job–never materialized. Should I stay where I was–if not–then where? My friends wanted me to move back to where I lived for many years. Other friends wanted me to stay where I was. Should I live closer to one of my daughters?
Another dream started to surface–to move south. I was a person who had lived her life focused on pleasing – parents – husband – kids – employers. Why would I move to a warmer climate where I didn't know anyone? "Because I want to." How scary those words were—suppose I made a mistake?
Once I allowed myself to explore the possibility, I came up with a plan. I found books that compared locations. And of course–the Internet. I narrowed my list to the Carolinas and mapped out my exploration tour.
When I saw the Smoky Mountains, I knew I was home. I made an appointment with a realtor and the first house I walked in was the perfect house. I bought it. There was only one problem: I hadn't sold my old home.
Several leaps of faith later–my Pennsylvania home sold and 12 months almost to the day of leaving my last employer—I started my new life in Asheville, NC. Now I help other single women in mid-life who want to reinvent themselves in their dream location.
What obstacles do you have to overcome? What dreams have you put off? What are you waiting for?
Two questions I always ask myself when I need to make a risky decision, and don't all decisions with–meat on them–require some guts?
What's the worst that can happen?
Going outside your comfort zone is when the fun begins. Suppose you want to change careers. What if it doesn't work out? Would you be able to find another job somewhere? Sure you could play it safe, but having confidence in yourself to support yourself somehow can give you the courage to go for it.
Will I regret not going for it in twenty years?
Some opportunities are just not that important. But when something stays with you—do you want to spend the rest of your life, wondering what would have happened?
My mother was smart and capable. As a child, I heard stories about how she helped my cousins survive during the depression. She helped others, but couldn't help herself. She refused to move on her own even though she was in a very unhappy marriage. When people ask me how my mother died, I tell them she just didn't want to live any longer. I was 29 and she was gone.
When I need to muster courage, I remember the lost opportunities of my mother's life and I think–what a waste.
Be brave enough to go after your deepest dreams. YOUR life is too precious to waste.