Stories from middle America

(A girl on her front porch, super proud of the plants she hasn’t killed.)

After reading and loving Amanda’s post on always identifying with being single, I wanted to take a cue from her writings to share how my journey has been 200% opposite of that.

A blind date in a small dark Omaha bar with champagne on tap, we met. Eight years ago I settled very nicely into the best love I’ve ever known but somehow, in some way, it fell apart. The silent war began. We couldn’t pull through. And the thing about being single, and not-as-young-as-I-once-was single, made the life I was facing a pretty big pill to swallow. Not to mention the gaping hole in my chest.

I always thought I related to single life. But, I realize now that I’m not sure I ever did. I had a boyfriend all through high school, after that I swiftly moved into a relationship during college that led to my son (who is now thirteen, I mean, WHOA!) and then came the man from the dark bar in Omaha. (Well, technically there have been two other men of significance along the way, but I’m going to follow Rob Gordon in High Fidelity and only discuss the ones who REALLY got to me – making my list of the top three, not the top five.)

I spent too much time after the man in the dark bar being inexplicably sad, desperately holding onto the fact that my life might not include a significant other. A brother or sister for my son; a two car garage; a fenced in yard with a dog or two; added to the list of things I thought I was losing by being single. I thought one thing – expected one thing – and toted around certain truths to get through the day. But I was missing all of it. Every single ounce of it.

After hiring a great sounding board (my therapist) I realized the benefits of taking the time to see who I actually was and not the expectation of who I thought I should be. **Off topic for a second: I think everyone should have a therapist. Not because anything is wrong with you, but because we should all have someone non bias to chat with in life. One who is actually educated in the process; one who can help you through; one who can explain any kinks. MENTAL HEALTH IS SO IMPORTANT. 

Over the past few years I’ve started to wear it differently. I’m more comfortable with the idea of being single, and more at ease with the notion that this is my tale. The rest has been my history, with the future open to whatever it brings.

I have made a load of good girlfriends. I have found things I’m passionate about accomplishing (other than being a good mother, duh!). I’ve downloaded Tinder and then quickly un-downloaded it because it’s literally the WORST if you actually want to date someone of substance. I stay up late a lot, but I have not mastered the pleasure of a good whiskey drink. Maybe with time, huh?

I’ve figured out that I can have the things I felt like I was missing being single. My son and I welcomed a dog to our pack. I have a one car garage and a landlord to call when I need something fixed around the house.

I look forward to more. In 5 years, when my son is headed out of my home, I may actually be in a position to travel. Traveling alone could really be a life changing experience and I can get excited about that…

“You’re not going to get all weird on me, are you?” Josh* asked. It was early on a weekend night, I had snuck home to meet him at my place.

Moving to Omaha had been an embarrassing cocktail of recovering from an unnecessary broken heart mixed with a few other painful interactions. I was finally on my way to “no strings attached.” This guy was immature, emotionally unavailable, and attractive. Perfection.

I’ve always identified with being single. Proms as the 11th wheel, sorority functions full of drunkenly exchanged numbers that I immediately lost, Facebook stalking, 12 bridesmaid dresses – these were the telltale signs of my life.

I concentrated on solidifying friendships with a rad girl squad. Pursuing romantic relationships seemed to make people an unattractive version of themselves (which includes especially, regrettably, myself).  

Besides – I always had a good story to tell.

Josh and I continued to hang out for months. Midnight texts and playing it cool, we both made it known that we were not interested in more. I relished in how attractive he found me and rarely sent the first text: a millennial’s guide to winning the game.

During a vacation with some girlfriends, forcing them to tag me on Facebook photos so Josh would know I was have a great time without him, a friend called me out.

“You’re wasting time on him because he can’t ultimately hurt you, you don’t matter to him and he doesn’t matter on you,” she said, tagging a photo of me hiking in the desert. I shrugged it off – who cared? Maybe I just didn’t want to hurt for a while. Maybe, I wanted to be The Cool Girl for once.

As the New Year approached, I loudly declared that the next year was the “year for me”: men would be an accessory to my enchanting single life. But, at a New Year’s Day hungover lunch party, an actual human walked into my life. Someone I found endlessly fascinating, handsome, driven and creative. He was pretty forward in the fact he was interested in me. Outwardly, I balked. Inwardly, I swooned.

The Cool Girl stayed out on school nights and drank whiskey with her best friends. The Cool Girl tried to download Tinder just for the stories. The Cool Girl always had her legs shaved and her apartment clean. The Cool Girl didn’t have serious relationships with emotionally mature adults.

But there he was, threatening my Cool Girl status. I lacked the energy to keep up with shaving my legs, let alone keep my apartment spotless. We stayed up so late talking the first weekend, I fell asleep a few nights later while a friend and I were out for wine, practically mid-sip. I fielded complaints from my friends that I wasn’t around anymore.

I tried desperately to hold onto my Cool Girlness, but it didn’t last long. I didn’t lose myself, either. All those years I spent terrified I’d leave part of myself behind if I shared my life, were wrong.

I recently attended a wedding where I wasn’t a bridesmaid, just an attendee. I watched, almost jealously, as the bridesmaids flocked around the bride and shared inside jokes and danced. It was the first wedding I had ever brought a date to, and instead of keeping the bride out of awkward in-law conversations, I sat in the back with my boyfriend and kissed his cheek.

I’m finding that I can still keep a little of my Cool Girl manifesto, and even imbibe in a little mid-week whiskey. My dreams and ambitions are not diminished when I decide to share my life with someone else, I get support and encouragement from my partner. I often find myself watching this beautiful person standing next to me, and I’m glad it took me this long to find him and have him prove me wrong.

*name changed cause duh.

I like to play this game where I bribe myself to run with the treat of cruising through some of Omaha’s loveliest neighborhoods. That way I can snap a photo of some gorgeous house while pretending I live there and feeling all fancy and stuff. Inevitably, I’ll get busted by the homeowner taking a pic, often as my dog decides it’s a great time to poop in the creeped-out homeowner’s yard. After awkwardly leaving their sidewalk, I’ll scoot away with a little gem to share. Victory!

These are just some of the houses that had me charmed enough to post to Instagram in the last year.

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Dundee FTW.

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Gold Coast with the landlocked Nebraska’s take on a widow’s walk.

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Dundee and that ivy.

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Bemis Park’s historic Victorian dream.

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Country Club’s modern “House of Tomorrow” from 1936. Shoutout to East of 72nd for the info.

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Country Club with a house that looks amazing in every season.

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Joslyn Castle. OK, I kind of cheated.

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Country Club and complete lamp post goals. Those alliums are pretty adorable too.

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This fairy tale house in Country Club.

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A handsome Country Club Tudor.

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Country Club Area (not sure exact neighborhood) with the best whitewashed brick.

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Country Club with a red tile roof.

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This is actually in the Westside neighborhood of KC. But it’s too good not to share.

It’s not my goal to invade anyone’s privacy, so I never like to share street addresses. But I simply can’t stop myself from this game. There are too many cool, stately, interesting, and proud homes in the Midwest.

About a year ago I had the overwhelming feeling of needing space. Life had been a series of extremes for me – from ventures that didn’t quite work out as planned, to meeting my partner in life. It left me taking on emotions at such a speed that I wasn’t really processing, or for that matter, enjoying or learning from any of them.

I doubt I’m alone with this, but when I’m in a distracted headspace it’s hard for me to be creative. And since creativity is a main component of what I do for a living, something had to give to allow some unfettered room in my noggin. Unfortunately, the open little brain bubble came at the expense of this site.

But I’ve missed it.

I like having an outlet to share the ramblings of my brain. And I realized that writing a blog post is actually really good for organizing my thoughts, which motivates me in other aspects of my life.

Then there are the contributor essays.

I once read an article where some famous actress loved Ina Garten (duh, she’s a badass) and wanted to be on The Barefoot Contessa. Ina politely declined because she preferred doing the show with her friends. That’s kind of how I feel about these ladies. I like them. I like hanging out with them in real life because I think they have interesting things to share. So it’s fun to see which things they choose to write about and put out into the world.

Yadda yadda yadda – you get the point. I’m back on this train.

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