Dating … Again
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ONLINE DATINGI’m dating again. This isn’t a place I expected to find myself after my marriage to Michael 1.0 in 1994, but it comes with the territory following a divorce. I get that. I’ve had my share of mid-life dating adventures and mishaps over the past eight years. Actually, more than my share. But after I met Nate in 2014, I thought I was closing that chapter of my life.

Turns out I was wrong.

After breaking up and then fumbling around, struggling to define the terms of our new situation, Nate and I have finally reached a tenuous accord. I’m sure more discussions will follow, but for now, we are friends and dating other people.

At least I am.

Which means I am once again subject to the whims and foibles of the fifty-something male.

Already two men have dumped me after the first date, and another potential suitor couldn’t manage an email exchange. Yet three men have emerged who seem different. Perhaps I’m different this time around. For the first time in a long time, I am no longer apologizing for me and my autistic daughter. If a man can’t handle us, that’s his issue, not mine.

checklist-1295319It’s liberating, this new stance. Everything seems more relaxed, more fun. I’m being authentic as well as brutally honest, with them and myself.

My unplanned life is messy and imperfect. So am I. It’s time to stop pretending I’ve got everything figured out.

My mother, on the other hand, likes things neat and tidy. Mom will once again advocate for a pretty relationship. Something that checks off all the boxes. A round, symmetrical love.

Unfortunately that’s not the shape of my heart. My heart is big and bold. It’s been broken and patched back together. It has scars and staples and smears. There’s a mismatched piece that is my adopted daughter, and another grafted chunk that is her birth family. There’s dark, shattered parts dedicated to Michael and the Murdoch clan, plus softer, lighter bits that Michael 2.0 and Nate added.

My heart is beautiful, crazy, mixed-media art. It tells the story of strength, resilience, and hope. It speaks of sorrow and second chances, and more importantly, love. I’m not sure Mom gets this. She wants everything to look good, but the older I get, the less I care how something or someone looks. What’s important is how they make me feel. Do I feel accepted and valued or judged and criticized? Do they lift me up when I fall or kick me when I’m down? Can I tell them anything—even the things I’m afraid to tell myself? That to me is real love.

In my definition of love, the colors are vibrant and spill outside the lines. Kind of like autism, now that I think about it. I’m totally okay with that, and the man I date must be too.

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What are you doing differently in 2017?

Until next time,
Cynthia

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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