Swiping Right

Swiping Right

Online dating comes with inherent risks – I knew that when I waded in five years ago or so now. Anytime you’re meeting someone you don’t know, your expectations for reasonable human behavior can be upended. And anytime you have an intentional space for people to meet prospective romantic partners, you will have people who seek to use that space for their own purposes.

I knew there were risks, and I decided they were worth the potential benefits. I wanted to meet men who were interested in dating, and that wasn’t happening in my everyday life (and hadn’t been for quite a few years).

I approached online dating the way I approached most things in life, with reasonable precautions. It was a big step outside my comfort zone relationally, since I had been raised to completely avoid even a date with someone I didn’t already know to be basically marriage material for me (evangelical Christian with conservative beliefs, never married, committed to sexual purity, etc.). But in other ways, it wasn’t such a stretch. I’d been building friendships online for my entire adult life. I’m a part of online communities and friendships that are ten or twenty years old. I’d met several of those folks in person when we happened to be in the same city, and even transitioned a couple of friendships to regular in person connection.

So I knew to be careful with personal information – name, address, workplace, etc. I always meet new people in a public place, and let a friend know my plans and who I’m meeting. And I take the “trust but verify” stance – take someone at face value and verify what they tell you about themselves with Google.

It’s not easy to hide your life these days, and a person’s “online footprint” can confirm a lot. I’ve learned to check all the avenues where I protect myself to confirm that a man is who he says he is and that the circumstances of his life are what he has portrayed them to be.

And in five years, I’ve never been surprised by what I found. Until now.

After meeting a man for a lunch date, that went extremely well, we made plans for a second date. He’d told me enough about what he does for a living that I could look him up online even without his last name. I found him and quickly discovered that he has a wife and children and a bit of history that is less than savory.

He never outright lied to me – I never asked him directly if he is married or has a family. He gave a very intentionally crafted impression that he is single, and has to be because of a job that requires constant travel. He has carefully cultivated a way to talk about his life that creates a lie out of the truth (the circumstances of the job) and omission (the family he very much has). It’s not that hard for him to live a double life, it appears.

Needless to say, I back peddled out of the second date, but I didn’t call him out. Part of me very much wanted to, but it would almost certainly antagonize someone I don’t know. And the only likely change in his behavior would be to sharpen his hiding skills. The risk is not worth the possible benefits.

It’s a common cautionary tale, and I’ve heard even worse online dating horror stories from other women. I’m very grateful that I haven’t gotten lazy about those online checks.

But here is what I want to remember: this is the first time in five years it’s happened. I’ve easily met fifty men or more, and nearly all of them have been genuine gentlemen. Most men are decent human being who are trying to make life work as best they can.

Dating is not easy, and there are risks far beyond the one I had lunch with. But there are far more benefits out there, and I’ll never have a chance to meet them if I don’t start with swiping right.

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The Art of Riding the Wave

The Art of Riding the Wave

I have a secret ambition to be a beach bum – a Sea Doo rental shack with a hammock in back. Living with the rhythm of the waves and the sun and the seasons.

It’s completely unrealistic. I love the beach, but that would never be enough for me. I’d get restless and antsy for something new all too quickly, for something that mattered.

But there’s still something there that draws me. It’s the reason I have a collection of surfing movies – mostly documentaries. The waves and the sun and the laid back thing are all part of the appeal, but it’s more than that.

There’s something that connects with me about the predictable unpredictability of life.

We plan. We read the tides, the rhythms of the waves, the seasons, and our own capabilities. But in the end, we have to dive in and just ride the wave we catch, and this – now – is the only moment we have to catch it.

We’ll never control the wave, but we can learn the art of dancing with it. Learn to feel the water and how to meet it. Sometimes we will wipe out, overwhelmed by something impossible to plan for.

But sometimes…sometimes we get it just right, and the curl of the wave comes at just the right place, and it propels us to greatness, to something beyond what we could ever do on our own.

There are tides to learn, and seasons, and reefs just below the surface to beware of. But the ocean will always be the ocean, and it will always surprise us.

I’ve never actually been surfing. I’ve never had the chance, and odds are I’d be terrible at it. But there’s a reason I love those documentaries, that dream.

Planning is important – you’re not going to get far if you show up without a board or with a sprained ankle. You need to know the beach and what’s below the surface and how the waves brake. And never surf alone, without someone to know if something goes wrong.

But at some point you’ve got to stop planning and just ride the wave.

Life, as consistent and unpredictable as the ocean, will never fail to surprise. And all the planning in the world won’t teach you how to improvise with the waves.

I planned for a long time. I planned for waves that never came and for wipeouts I couldn’t control. And I learned something from all that planning and observing.

But that’s nothing compared to what I’ve learned since I dove in and started trying to catch some waves.

Risking the Bet

Risking the Bet

I made a big change today. It’s become a bit of a thing for me in the past couple of years — making changes.

If I want my life to be different, but I’m not willing to change anything, nothing’s very like to change.

But the thing is, change means risk. The bigger the change the bigger the risk.

Today, I left my job of seven years and a lot of people I love.

When you let something go in order to pick up something different, that something different may end up being a bust. It could blow up in your face. And even if it’s good change, there’s loss to grieve.

Opening yourself up to something new is a risky bet. Whether it’s a new job, a new home, a new relationship, or new territory in a friendship , there’s a lot to lose.

And we develop defenses around these things. My emotional brain spends a good amount of time telling me things like, “We’re doing WHAT?!?!? What the heck are you thinking??? Don’t you know what could happen here?”

That’s really the kicker — what could happen. The way life has gone before and the way that has taught me, consciously and not, that it will always or at least usually go.

My emotional self doesn’t trust me. Sometimes so much that it tries to take the wheel, even fights me for it.

But my rational and spiritual self has learned (is still learning) that every day really is new. That I can make different choices and impact the way things go. That would could happen isn’t what has to happen.

And so much is on the line. Joy is on the line. And life. Beauty and growth and possibility. Love is on the line.

We will never be more open to love and joy and life than we are open to pain and loss. You can’t guard against loss without also guarding against all the good things.

New life is there for us, but we always have to open our hands and let go of something we know to receive it.

In two weeks I start a new job. I don’t know where it might take me, how it might challenge and change me. But I’m excited for the possibilities, for the room to grow further into who I’m made to be. For good things I haven’t imagined.

The more I let go to reach out for something new, the more my emotional self learns there are more possibilities. She’s learning to relax, at least a little. To trust me and trust the good things. She’s learning that on the other side of loss, there’s always the possibility of new life. That while the unknown is still scary, it’s also full of beautiful surprises.

She’s learning to risk the bet.