30 + 10 = Winning, Part Two

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This is the second installment of a three part series I wrote for women in their 30's. Well, women of all ages, really. I'm quite shy in person. Ok, maybe not shy. But I have been told that I am quiet? I can be bossy and annoying when I care about what I am saying - which is often. 

But sometimes, I'm right.
Your religion will fail you.
This is a hard one for me to say because even though I know it's true, I have found it's near impossible to explain it in such a way that dear friends are not insulted. So, forgive me while I say that this is my blog. It's that simple. My blog, my thoughts.

I used to wear this ring I bought from James Avery Craftsman. It was to remind me that there is a season for everything. I had been working on my Christianity for two decades when it all came to a screeching halt in my head and I threw that ring in the trash of my Nashville apartment. I specifically remember telling God to fuck off and that if he had something to say to me he better show up and say it. No more "mysterious ways" bullshit. No more prayer to a silent God. I felt entirely alone. 

Do you know what I have discovered in the years since that?

I am alone. I am responsible for my own actions. If I need out of a bad situation, I have to create the "out" myself or hang on until I get to the other side. It's terrifying to come to terms with the fact that no amount of Bible/Torah study or prayer with friends or sermons noted can change what IS. I believe there is power in positive thinking. I believe that support from friends helps ease pain and multiply joy. But I don't believe religion of any kind enhances the life of someone like myself who is interested in facts. 

I have met people who have gone through very hard times and they credit God for getting them through it. I'm happy for those people. Happy that they believe in something greater than themselves, that they have Hope and etc. However... it is my experience that what gets people through real devastation is the kindness of other people and the desire to continue living. You can say that God gives us friends, that he watches over us and protects us. And I can present to you the reality of life that completely contradicts that and no one can prove otherwise. Hurricane Katrina, anyone? Tornados in Alabama? Pedophilia? The fact is, even for the most devoted, religion fails. Either God is in the details or he's not. 

I can't say that nothing happened after I told God to take a hike. There is still some element of the unexplained in my life. But when I stopped looking toward myths to answer my questions and soothe my pain, I was able to let go of some unrealistic expectations of myself and those around me. Ironically enough, the core of my religion was said to be forgiveness, but I find more forgiveness when I leave religion out of my life. 

You may now commence with your God Is Not Religion commentary so I can encourage each and every one of you to stop going to church. Or maybe we'll save that for another blog entry.

Your career is a direct result of your decisions.  I have heard that women my age earn less than their male counterparts. I can't be sure this generalization ever applied to me because I have never been shy about asking for raises and benefits from my employers. I do know that men are better suited for certain types of jobs that I would never want and I'm OK with that.  But women need to wise up to the true nature of the jobs in which they are applying and learn the rules, change the rules or switch careers. You do know you have the power to change the rules, right? 

You will be called catty, bitchy, hormonally emotional. Sometimes those labels will be true but most of the time they won't. It's unfair. But it shouldn't stop you. Everyone knows that perseverance is required for success. Don't become a cliche by letting your gender stand in your way. 

On that note, one of the worst things that women do in the workplace is use their gender to get attention. It can be argued that men are more likely to be looking for action at every turn, yes. But if you don't want to be treated like eye candy, stop dangling your sweet ass in the store window. This is something I always knew, but seldom cared enough about my career to abide by. Until, of course it hit me that I had not been honing other strategic skills in the workplace, like say, writing polite and effective emails. Let's just say I was never known for my tact at Deutsche Bank.

No amount of time, sex, or guilt can make a man love you enough to marry you and cherish you. By the time I moved to California in 2004, I had been in enough relationships to know that love and marriage are not interchangeable. But that didn't stop me from continuing a damaging romance with a man who didn't love me. We've all been there. To be fair, this man said he loved me and for him, that was quite an accomplishment. But I needed the security of future plans and this is something he could not provide. 

In my 20's I was the person who couldn't commit. I understand that. I wrote endless poems and songs about it in my milk memos and my readers embraced me for it because it's perfectly natural to feel that way in your 20's. But moving into true adulthood gave me a longing for deeper intimacy. That's the way it is for most people. But the thing is, you either are at that point in your life, or you aren't. Meeting the right person doesn't make you suddenly mature. So if your man is still acting like he's 25 years old, you need to grow a pair and move on.  There will be enough compromising when you do find someone who wants to marry and cherish you; don't start early with some guy who's not even your husband. 

Women in their 30's are usually married or have chosen their mate and I have harped about marriage before, so I won't go into that now. But just be advised that if you come to me about your relationship woes, I am likely to beg you to exhaust ALL avenues of reconciliation, even the unconventional ones, before I can agree that your marriage is over. Not that you asked my permission to move on. Not that I give it. However...

If you do find yourself in a divorce, get a lawyer immediately. I hesitated whether to include this ugly stone of wisdom. But if I know a lot about marriage, I must admit it's because I know something about divorce too. Here's the thing: People get bat shit crazy when they find out they have failed in marriage. They get desperate and desperation breeds stupidity. At the risk, again, of insulting people I care for, including the ever witty "Exes", I must say that when you don't take careful legal steps in a divorce, you set yourself up for financial ruin. It's the equivalent of a high risk bet in Vegas. You are not likely to be the exception to the rule; in fact, you've already proven yourself unlucky. It's just like the stupid things you said about parenting before you had kids. "I will never..." Blah, blah, blah. 

I've heard many women say that they don't want it to get "ugly" and they don't want anything from the soon to be ex-husband. I have been that woman. And while that sounds nice, it is simply an impossibility to avoid the ugliness at some point during the process. You should consider the fact that you might be the one to bring ugliness into it. Divorce is a rug being pulled out from under you. You don't know what you will feel. You know what you WANT to feel and do. But it's not that simple. Even the kindest, most well intended spouse will make mistakes. YOU will make mistakes. Bring in a professional so that you don't make it worse.

Motherhood doesn't make you a Saint; But you'll still need the patience of one to get through those first 18 years.  My current job as a stay at home mom in the US is one that is so far down on the respect-o-meter in comparison to other civilized nations that  I feel the need to remind anyone who may enter into this field that they better do some research first. First of all, it IS a job. It requires all your negotiating skills, your understanding of psychology, physical education and much much more. Don't let anyone lead you down the path that being a mom is so grand to begin with that you shouldn't need a team to pull it off. YOU will need help. You will need good sitters, a hairstylist, an understanding pre-school director and a cleaning crew. No, the cleaning crew is not optional. You may not be able to afford a house cleaner every week or month, but a few times a year if they show up and sanitize your bathroom, you will be doing everyone a heathy favor. 

The majority of adults I know all agree that full time motherhood is the hardest job there is. But so little is being done to give mothers the respect and help they need. I appreciate Mother's Day as much as anyone and I love that even the most burly friends will not stand for verbal disrespect of their mothers. But a real demonstration of appreciation and understanding would be if it were "unheard of" for a mom to go a full week without a day off. Leaving a woman alone for the first three months of her child's life would be near criminal. That's not the way it used to be and it's not right.  Sometimes I feel like feminism back-fired on us. We have a chance to do whatever we want in the office. But our most important job was reduced in importance. There's a reason why psychologists ask about your childhood. It's that crucial. You want to lower the prison count? You want to give American kids an advantage? Give mothers the tools they need to do their jobs right.

Move forward, but remember where you came from.   In my 30's I have become more MYSELF. I think that's true of a lot of women. OK Cupid tells me that women in their 40's are unhappy. I'm not going to argue that our 40's will be glorious. But maybe they could be. Maybe if we look to women in their 50's and 60's  who are happy and willing to dispense some wisdom we can avoid a bit of the confusion and myth about getting older. 

Sometimes I feel guilty that I may have contributed to the careless tradition of doing everything "MY WAY". I lived as if no one else could possibly have traveled the same roads. As if no one before me had anything relevant to say. I no longer think that. I long for coffee conversations with my own mother who is too far away. I scour the internet for mentoring and advice to navigate through the daily moments that become my life.  I miss my grandmothers. 

In that respect, perhaps the best advice I can offer women in their 30's is to build relationships with women of all ages and soak up the nuggets of information and the heartbreakingly humorous stories. Don't try to go it alone and don't make the younger generation go it alone either.  Western societies don't make this easy. "Girls Night Out is quite the joke. You will have to work on these relationships. You will have to be honest and vulnerable and stop trying "one - up" each other. Your social network statuses cannot be the glossed version of you. We see right through each other anyway, don't we? Such a waste of energy, all that pretty prosperity...

It doesn't get easier, you know. But it can get better.  I get terrified sometimes when I start to post an entry on my blog that shows my imperfection clearly. But I take the chance that beyond that, it will show my sincerity, my desire to bridge the gaps, by revealing them first.  In the words of the strangely beloved Charlie Sheen, "I think I have a duty as a recovering guy to help, to make my knowledge of what I went through accessible."

40, you are a new path for me. But I pack smart, I am optimistic and I am not afraid to scream for help when I need it. You might say I am better prepared for growing older with each year that passes. You might say OK Cupid is just a narrow collection of data from single, divorced and bored individuals who are likely looking for a partner because they believe that is the cure for their unhappiness. You might say that an internet survey is for entertainment and shouldn't dictate our opinions of... anything.

Meanwhile, I have a birthday celebration to plan.

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