Category: Just…Life

No “Spark”? Please Give It a Chance

No “Spark”? Please Give It a Chance

I went on a first date the other night with someone I met on a dating site. I thought the date was pretty great. Conversation was easy and flowing, we seemed to genuinely like each other, we smiled a lot and laughed several times, and we found that we had a lot in common. I had even decided that I would give him my cell phone number if he asked, which is a huge leap of trust for me. I thought we had made a connection worth pursuing. I wanted to see him again, and was expecting him to say the same. But at the end of the evening, as we prepared to part ways, he said, “I really like you and I’ve really enjoyed talking to you, but I don’t feel a spark so I don’t want to pursue this any further.” I was quite taken aback and stopped listening, but I think he said something about how I have so much to offer and I’ll find the right person and he wishes me well and yada, yada, yada. And then he hugged me and walked away.

I appreciated his honesty and directness, but ultimately I was left quite bewildered.

I don’t know how this seemingly all-important “spark” has reached mythical status in the online dating world, but I know I’ve heard about it from numerous men I’ve dated (although never quite so directly). I told my sister about the strange ending to my date and she said, “Sparks can come later once you get to know each other better.” Yes, exactly! That’s what I’ve always thought too. But I have dated several men who seem to think if there’s not this immediate lightning bolt of attraction the moment you meet, then that means there’s nothing worth pursuing.

Honestly, I’ve met only a handful of people in my life that I’ve had those immediate fireworks with, so that sets the bar pretty damn high. What I have observed and experienced is that the typical human will be immediately and powerfully attracted to about three out of one hundred people, which leaves ninety-seven others—many of whom I’m sure are really lovely people—out in the cold. You enjoy the same things, have similar values, laugh at each other’s jokes, your personalities mesh, and you’re on the same wavelength. But, dammit, that “spark” seems to be missing, so you disregard all the other positive signs, bid that person adieu, and move on. That seems like a colossal mistake to me.

Sure, that intense attraction is lovely when you encounter it. That hit of pure hormonal chemistry, or whatever it is, can be intoxicating. But this kind of chemistry is not a predictor of love, a precursor of love, an indication of relationship longevity, or even really all that important. In my observation, the relationships that last are based on qualities other than chemistry. As my sister said, sparks can come later. What’s really important is much more nuanced than that.

Shouldn’t the yardstick be more about shared values, genuine caring, compatibility, great conversations, similar senses of humor, etc.? Is this the person you want at your side when you lose your job, your dog dies, or you’re so sick you can’t get out of bed? Sparks mean nothing when it comes to real life. When life sucks, what matters is whether or not you have a real partnership, whether or not you have real love.

I believe that sparks can come later, as you explore your deepening connection—your similarities, your differences, your beliefs, your life experiences. There is something quite lovely about discovering each other, slowly and deliciously, and realizing one day that like has turned to love and the “spark” has materialized all on its own —not because of animal magnetism, but because of real feelings.

Yes, sparks can come right away, but they can also fade with time. Sparks are also, ahem, superficial. They tell you there’s attraction, but they don’t tell you anything about the other person’s heart. Can you love—really love—the other person, warts and all, and can he or she love you? Sparks haven’t the slightest idea. They just know there’s chemistry. True love is a discovery process, while sparks are immediate, shallow, often ephemeral, and ultimately meaningless.

Let me tell you a story. Years ago I worked with a particular person. Our jobs required us to spend a lot of time together, and soon this person and I realized that we really liked each other and we became friends outside of work. As we spent more time together, I became aware that there was a powerful, almost palpable, sexual attraction between us. It was very clear that my friend felt it too. We were both coupled so we did nothing about it, but every time we got together, this attraction was almost a living thing between us. It was alternately exciting and uncomfortable. Eventually, my friend got a different job and we did not continue the friendship. I saw this person a few years later at a conference and we stopped to catch up. I was shocked to realize that the chemistry between us was…gone. We were both the same people, but the chemistry had vaporized. Where had it gone? I had no idea—I just knew it had disappeared. Although It was a very bizarre experience, my point is that chemistry can be evanescent. It comes and it goes. But true love endures. Sometimes a spark can lead to love, but love can also grow without that initial spark if you nurture it and give it time. And a spark does not mean that love will naturally follow. So to reject someone out of hand for this reason alone seems very shortsighted to me.

Yes, I get it. We are all busy and we rely on that initial spark to tell us who we want to spend our precious time with. But what if we’re leaving something really amazing on the table when we reject someone solely because we weren’t struck by lightning the moment we set eyes on them?

I think the guy I went on the date with did just that—left something amazing on the table because of something he believed was missing and could never be found. I guess it’s just as well, because I don’t want to be with someone with so little imagination and depth.

Decide what is truly important to you. Is that immediate spark what really matters for the long haul? Is that the foundation you want for a meaningful, loving, and lasting relationship? Or will the stronger foundation be built on a genuine connection that will grow and blossom over time into real love and a true spark? I know which one is important to me.

Image courtesy of Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

Embrace Your Magic

Embrace Your Magic

I recently watched the Grey’s Anatomy season finale. Grey’s Anatomy is one of my all-time favorite shows. I’ve been watching it since the very first episode back in 2005, and I haven’t missed an episode since. I won’t rehash the whole season finale storyline, as there are plenty of places to read about that. What I want to talk about is the moment between Levi (Jake Borelli) and Nico (Alex Landi), when Levi finally laid it on the line. This followed an admission by Nico that he missed Levi. Levi’s response was pretty awesome: “I know I can be annoying. I spent the day with a woman who imagines the worst. And she was annoying—right up until the part where she was a hero. I get that my feelings can be big. And my fears can be big. And I can be annoying. But I am also a pretty great guy. I care about the world. I sing with people who are scared. And I help deliver blood to dying children. And I care. And if you love me, I deserve better than what you’ve been giving me.”

I thought about that scene for days afterward.

Why do so many of us tend to focus on someone’s annoying habits or personality traits while ignoring their magic? That’s what Levi was basically doing—pointing out his own magic.

We all have our own magic. But why is it so hard for others to see? Why do people focus on the negative? And why are we so shy about flaunting our magic? I get that it puts us in a vulnerable place to be silly or sentimental or authentic. Many of us don’t do vulnerable very well. But vulnerability and honesty about who we are is what binds us together. When we share our special qualities with others, we embrace our own specialness and our vulnerability. We become connected in our humanness.

I don’t do vulnerability very well either. But I’m trying to be better. I’m going through a painful breakup and I tend to be stoic when my friends ask how I’m doing. “I’m fine. Everything’s fine,” I say. But the other day I decided to be honest with a friend and I admitted that I feel like shit most days. In turn she empathized and validated my feelings, which made me feel…better. I felt seen. I felt soothed. I took a step toward her, as my therapist would say, and she took a step toward me, and it ended up being a lovely moment. I liked it. I’m going to do more of that, I decided.

And so I have embraced both my vulnerability and my magic. My ex never saw my magic. I was always “too”: too emotional, too quiet, too silly (I can’t tell you how important it is to share a sense of humor with your partner!). My ex got so mired in what was “wrong” with me that my magic was forgotten. I deserved better than what my ex was giving me. And I got so mired in what was wrong with my ex. That’s not a great foundation for a relationship. I will do better next time, because I have learned a lot in this break up, and I now know that no one should have to hide their magic, and you should do everything in your power to see and appreciate your partner’s magic.

So embrace your magic. Be vulnerable. Show someone who you really are and what is in your heart. Reach out. Be authentic. Because I believe this is the only way we will make true connections with other human beings.

Photo courtesy of © Tomasz Szadkowski |

Have You Found Your Calling Yet?

Have You Found Your Calling Yet?

When I was in college and wrestling with what I wanted to major in and thus, what I wanted to do with my life, I had well-meaning people tell me I needed to find “my calling.” If I found my calling, they said, everything would just fall into place. I took such comments to heart and earnestly set on a quest to find that mysterious “calling.”

It was clear from the comments I heard that a calling was a job—or more accurately, a career—and if I found my true calling I would know in my heart that what I was doing was “right.” I would wake up thrilled and excited to go to work every day. The added bonus was that I would also be making a positive impact on the world.

And so I searched, stayed open to the signs, and continued my quest. In college I explored psychology, law, teaching, sociology, business, and political science. Nothing felt right. Nothing felt like a “calling.” I finally gave up and settled on majoring in my life-long love—English.

Of course once I declared my major, I got countless comments along the lines of, “What are you going to do with an English degree? Teach?” Um…no. English is what I love. Isn’t a calling about doing what you love? But those comments planted a seed of uncertainty in me. Still, I persevered and graduated in just over four years.

Post-college, I landed a job at a nonprofit organization doing a little of everything. My writing skills were in high demand and soon I was writing grants and marketing materials. Graphic design quickly followed because I was highly creative and seemed to have a knack for it. I got a promotion. I used my creative skills daily. But I could not let go of the idea that what I was doing was not a “calling.” I just had an ordinary job, I told myself—health insurance, retirement, a regular schedule. This couldn’t possibly be a calling, could it? I convinced myself that some perfect career was out there waiting for me and I had somehow completely missed the boat. I needed to find my calling before I got too old to enjoy it.

And so I set out on another quest. I read career books. I talked to family and friends. I went to career fairs and information sessions on lots of different careers. I discussed my “inferior” job in therapy and agonized over how I would ever find my true calling. I felt such urgency because I just knew that once I found it, everything would be perfect. In the middle of all that, I wrote a successful two hundred thousand dollar grant, but I wasn’t even able to celebrate because I couldn’t shake the feeling that what I was doing was wrong.

I was so unsettled that I began looking for a different job. If I couldn’t find my calling, maybe my calling would find me. Before too long I got a new job at the same pay and much less stellar benefits. But the job was more focused—marketing and communications—and that made me feel that I was closer to a calling. But still something felt wrong.

Despite that, that job led to fifteen years of promotions, new jobs, and an even more focused specialty. Eventually, I landed a job I absolutely adored – the one I now believe I was working toward my entire adult life. I am creative and engaged all day, every day. I am never bored. My work is respected and admired. I have a great deal of freedom. And I work with some amazing people.

And now, six years into this job, I have let go of the idea of a calling. I no longer believe in a true career “calling”—at least not for myself. Once I released that notion, everything began to fall into place. I felt much more satisfied with life. Now, as I look back on my adult life, I realize that every step I took along the way has led me to the place I am now—the place I belong. I now know and have seen that everything happens for a reason and I am exactly where I need to be at this moment.

Sure, some people have callings. They know from a very young age that they want to be doctors or artists or scientists or teachers and they never waver from that.

But for many of us a calling is much broader than that, and not necessarily about a job. In truth I now believe that we all have many, many callings of all different kinds.

My calling was to quit my minimum wage job and go to college, even though no one else in my family had. My calling was to have a child and be a mother. My calling was to write and publish a novel. My calling is to walk in the woods as often as I can. My calling is to go to Hawaii every few years. My calling is to write this blog. My calling is to volunteer. My calling is to create. My calling is to heal from my painful childhood. My calling is to always try my best to be kind and compassionate (I don’t always succeed). I have gotten “calls” to do all these things. So in actuality, my calling has found me.

You see what I mean? Jobs are to make money so you can live. If everyone waited around as they searched for their career calling, our society would fall apart. We need bank tellers, sanitation workers, grocery checkers, mail carriers and so many others for the world to operate efficiently. While they may not have been called to that job, perhaps they’re fulfilling their calling in another way. We need all of us, doing what we do, to create the beautiful and varied tapestry of the human race.

If you’re one of the lucky ones who gets a “call” to do a specific job or career and then you get to do it, that’s amazing. But I think there are many, many ways to fulfill your various callings. Listen to your heart and move toward those activities, interests and people that call to your soul.

And so I am finally at peace with who I am. I know I’ve found my calling—to be me and to do what I do as only I can do it. To be true to myself and to use my strengths and talents—that has been my calling.

I wish someone had told me this many years ago, but at least I know now.

Why Are You So Quiet?

Why Are You So Quiet?

“Why are you so quiet?”

I’ve been asked that question more times than I could possibly count. It’s a disconcerting question to be asked. You might as well ask me why the sky is blue, why some mammals live in the ocean, or why Pluto is no longer a planet. Those questions have answers, I’m sure, but they’re not questions I can answer on the fly—just like I can’t answer the question, “Why are you so quiet” when someone insists on asking me this.

And what would be the acceptable answer to this question, anyway? Perhaps, “I don’t like people very much.” Or maybe, “I have a really small vocabulary.” Or, “I’m not very bright so I can’t think of anything to say.”

While those would be funny responses, they aren’t true and they’d likely be met with an open-mouthed stare or the person running the other way. The short answer is: “Because I’m an introvert.”

While there are hundreds of articles out there about introversion, it remains one of the most misunderstood personality traits, even though introverts make up about thirty to fifty percent of the population, according to some studies. No, introverts are not anti-social. No, we don’t hate people. No, we’re not necessarily shy. No, we are not shrinking violets that you can walk all over. But yes, we are quiet by nature.

Why? The reason is really very simple. Introverts get their energy from focusing inside by being quiet, low-key, and yes, sometimes alone. Extraverts* get their energy from outside by interacting with other people. It’s a very basic difference, and not something intended to discomfort, confuse or anger people. But it seems to do any (or sometimes all) of these.

I listen. I process. I ponder. In short, I don’t speak unless I have something to contribute. If I have nothing to add, I am quiet. If I am overwhelmed, I am quiet. If I am wrestling with a problem, I am quiet. I don’t process by talking about something. I process by going inward. Thinking, writing, reading. This is just the way I am. This is the way I’ve always been.

And so I am misunderstood. Over the last fifty-some years I have realized that silence makes people uncomfortable. I have had people ask me if I am silently judging them. I have had people accuse me of thinking I’m better than they are and that’s why I don’t deign to speak to them. I have had people assume that I am arrogant. I have had people poke or prod me to try and get a response. I have been teased and bullied. All because I am quiet. And none of this has changed my introversion. Changing your basic personality is…well, pretty much impossible.

My question is – do I need to be loud to be acceptable? Do I need to voice my every thought? Why can’t we just appreciate and accept people as they are? Must we all be the same for everyone to be comfortable? That sounds very boring and homogeneous.

I have come to realize that people’s discomfort with my quiet nature is more about them and much less about me. What their underlying issues are I have no idea, but what I do know is that their discomfort is not my burden to carry. It’s theirs.

And so I have come to embrace and appreciate my own nature. Introverts have gifts to offer the world. Do you want someone who will listen—really listen—to you? Do you want a great problem-solver? Do you want someone who will consider all the angles and then offer some creative solutions? Do you want someone who will bring a sense of calm to any gathering? Do you want a keen observer? Find yourself an introvert, because these are the gifts of an introvert.

And the next time you feel compelled to ask someone “Why are you so quiet,” please…don’t.

*Try as I might, as the holder of a BA degree in English, a grammar and spelling geek, and a life-long writer, I cannot misspell “extravert.” The correct, original spelling is extravert, from the Latin “Extra,” meaning outside. “Intro” means inside. Thus, IntrOvert=inside, ExtrAvert=outside, which speaks to the natures of these two personality types. Why people started spelling it extrovert I will never understand. Then again, there are a lot of things about the world that I don’t understand.

Life Is Mysterious

The name of my blog is Life is Mysterious and that name appealed to me because life is mysterious.

When I was younger I thought I knew what my life would be. Graduation from high school, marriage six or seven years later, four kids within the ten years after that. But that’s not what happened at all. What has happened has been…well, mysterious. My life has followed its own path, and much of what has happened has been a mystery to me.

My own mysterious life has led me to ask the questions—Why do things happen the way they do? Are our actions predetermined? Why don’t we know what’s coming? How would we behave if we did know what’s coming?

Those are the questions I hope to tackle in this blog, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride. My topics will run the gamut. Anything going on in my life at any given moment, or anything that has captured my imagination, will be fair game. Some things will be silly, while most will be very serious, and things I have thought about…a lot.

Because ultimately, I am a thinker—a ponderer, if you will. Blame that on the preponderance of air signs in my chart: Sun in Libra and Mercury, Moon in Gemini. Air signs are thinkers, and we love nothing more than sharing our thoughts with others and then discussing. So stay tuned.