Friday, November 18, 2011

Conversation Skills Required

My experience with eHarmony did nothing if not help me whittle down my lists of "Must Haves" and "Can't Stands", as they call them.

Kevin was my first eHarmony date. We met at a local coffee shop, one of my favorite places to hang out on the weekends. I got there about 15 minutes early, wearing jeans, a nice tank top and a cardigan. I ordered my coffee and sat at a table for two with my Writer's Digest magazine.

We'd emailed back and forth a few times, so I knew his basics. He was a self-employed web software developer who liked to sail and loved water sports. I don't know why I was so surprised when he walked through the door looking more tanned than a Miss America contestant.

He was wearing jeans and a white, short-sleeved linen button-down shirt that only amplified his golden skin. As he approached, I stood and smiled, reaching out my hand to shake his as he leaned in to hug me. This was my first sign that we weren't on the same page.

"Nice to finally meet you in person," I said, trying to avoid any awkwardness.

"You, too," he said. "I'm just going to grab some coffee. Do you want anything?"

"Oh, I already got mine," I said, holding up my cup. The look on his face told me I should have waited so he could treat me. Since I couldn't take it back I tried to smooth things over by offering a warm smile and a quick suggestion. "The Charm City blend is my favorite."

By the time he'd ordered and returned to the table I'd put away my magazine and was fidgeting with the corner of my cup sleeve. He started the conversation by telling me he'd driven past the shop, which was why he'd been a few minutes late. I asked him about his plans for the day. "I'm heading to my parents' in Delaware. I'm going to spend the week up there," he said.

There was a pause while I waited for a reciprocal question. When it didn't come, I said, "So tell me more about your work. What exactly do you do?"

And this is how it went. I spent the entire time it took to drink my coffee asking him questions. He spent the whole time answering them. Despite several pauses in the conversation, not once did he ask me anything.

When my coffee was gone, I said I needed to get going. I gathered my stuff and told him I was parked around the corner. He'd also parked around the corner, so we made small talk as he walked with me.

"I'll give you a call when I get back from Delaware next week," he said, and gave me a hug.

It seemed he thought it went well, but I couldn't get past the fact that he walked away that day not knowing one single additional thing about me. I didn't hear from him again. I wasn't particularly surprised--or disappointed.

Must Have: Someone who can participate in an intelligent conversation. (Note: Conversations include reciprocity. Spending an entire date talking about yourself does not constitute a conversation.)

Kevin clearly didn't fit the bill.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On Coasting

I'd like to believe that the moment I decided not to pursue medicine, I decided to take my life into my own hands. That's not the complete truth, though. I have this habit of stepping out, taking a chance, and then coasting.

For a long time, I let things happen to me. I wasn't very good at taking charge of my life. I went with the flow, as they say, rather than considering what I really wanted out of life. That's how I ended up finishing a pre-med program with no desire to go to medical school.

It is, at least in part, how I ended up in Baltimore. It was a friend's suggestions and coaxing that started the process, and once the ball got rolling I couldn't imagine doing anything else. I didn't wonder if it was the right choice, I just let momentum take over. I applied for jobs, I interviewed, and in the end, I found myself in Charm City.

It was my decision to go back to school and get my degree in writing, and it was my choice to change careers and move in a new direction. Then I took the first writing job that came my way and have been coasting along there for six years.

I took a chance and chose to pursue a man, and then I floated for years through a relationship that was going no where. It was comfortable and so I stayed.

It seemed there was no adventure in my bones, no fearlessness or spunk.  It was there, though, lying dormant. I just failed to recognize it, to nurture it. Now and then I would feed it with small risks and tiny tastes of audacity, but it wanted more.

And eventually it got what it wanted. Over the last 18 months I have been exploring adventure. I've been making more conscious choices, and I practice choosing every day what direction I want my life to move in. I decided to become a yoga teacher and I made it happen. Once I finished my training, I carefully chose the classes I wanted to teach. And when a new teaching opportunity comes up, I weigh my options and make the choice I think is best at the time.

I've tried new things, like ending a stagnant relationship, exploring online dating, flying an airplane, auditioning for a teaching position, and submitting essays to Big Name publications. I've learned from my mistakes and I've made some new ones. But I've done most of it consciously.

There will always be times when it's easier to let life sweep us through the motions and there's nothing wrong with coasting on occasion. I just hope that I've learned enough to recognize when it's happening so that I can either choose to be swept away or make the effort to slow the current and take a different path.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Falling Into New Goals

While most people look at fall as the beginning of the end of a year, I usually see it as an opportunity to set new goals and start new projects. Sure, it's the start of a really busy season, with holidays and travel filling up a lot of my time, but it's also the perfect time to check in with the goals I set earlier in the year. I let go of anything that no longer suits my desires and plans. Then I make adjustments to the goals that are still important to me and set new goals to take me through the end of the current year and into the beginning of the next.

2011 has been an excellent year so far. While much of what I'd planned to do this year has fallen to the wayside, new and exciting things have cropped up in my life. I've learned to be flexible in my goals and to recognize patterns of behavior that might be hindering me from getting where I want to go.

Where there were once a lot of professional writing and freelance business goals, there are now yoga teaching goals, creative writing goals, and personal life goals climbing toward the top of the list. As I've evaluated what I've been spending my time on, I've come to discover more of what is important to me.

I like to spend time with friends and family, so I've needed to make more time for being social. I've found a real passion in teaching yoga, which means I've taken on more classes than I'd originally planned to teach in my first year. I'm also in the midst of a relatively new romantic relationship, one that I never expected but am so wonderfully blessed by. And with that new long-distance relationship, I've had to learn how to navigate the waters of time zone differences and Skype dates, among other things. With a lot of changes on the horizon these days, it seems like I'm always checking in with my goals and plans to make sure I'm headed in the right direction.

It turns out that there's never a bad time to re-evaluate your goals. You don't have to make resolutions on January 1st or set a goal at the beginning of a month. You can start any time. Don't let habit or tradition stop you from setting goals right now. We're only one week into the month. Why not set a goal today to make your November positive and fulfilling? Need some ideas? Here are a few:

* Practice some form of yoga every day.
* Meditate for 10 minutes every morning.
* Take three mindful breaths before you start each meal.
* Spend time every week learning or practicing a skill.

Whatever goal you choose, set the intention to work toward it every day and don't get down on yourself if you "slip" or get off track. The point here is to keep moving forward. No beating yourself up or dwelling over perceived failures. Focus on the achievements and let everything else serve as a learning opportunity.

Clicky Web Analytics