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WWEDHey y’all, it’s me again, former Bachlorette Emily! Just a single mom looking for love! This image of me right hurr is courtesy of thedailytay, so thanks a lot, I mean it y’all”

Five years or so ago, I was single and living in the city. I had a good job a great social life. My calendar was always full of dinners out with friends, concerts, live lit and travel. I knew that I wanted to eventually meet someone and form a family together, but I also knew that these things can’t be forced. That the key to being in a happy and healthy relationship is truly being happy and healthy alone first. And I was. (Trust me, getting there wasn’t easy, but that’s another story.)

I dated a lot. I had a good attitude about it, I think. I saw each date as a “nothing to lose” situation. Either we liked each other and went out again, or there was just no chemistry and we shared some decent convo and hopefully some appetizers Or, arguably my favorite scenario, maybe the guy was really weird and I ended up with a good story (and a future blog post). Whatever the situation, I had a lot of fun and took dating in stride.

Three and a half years ago, I left Chicago and everything I had to take a chance on love with someone that I had known for awhile. We were together for a very difficult two years, to put it lightly, and it did not end well.

It did, however and ironically, result in a very good thing. My daughter, Kiddo, will be two and a half years old in December and she is hands down the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Actually, it resulted in two very good things, as I also got an honorary step-daughter out of it as well. Kiddo’s teenaged sister has become a big part of my life and family. She calls me her Half Mom and I call her my Half Daughter, but I truly love her like my own.

Flash forward. I had been home for awhile and things had normalized. I had begun to consider dating again. That alone was hard.

Where I previously had a laid back attitude about dating, I now was a mess. I instantly felt my guard go up when I imagined letting another man into my life again. Whereas before I had nothing to lose, now I had much to lose.

I clearly had trust issues. My judgement had failed me so enormously before, with such huge consequences, how could I trust myself again? How could I trust someone else again?

On top of that, how could I possibly explain my life to someone? How could they possibly understand what I had been through and what was now my situation?

“Hi, I’m Jill, I’m 34 and a single mom of of an amazing toddler and also her teenage half sister that I consider my own, we live with my parents in the suburbs and I have this restraining order against my abusive ex and I have no money and am pretty much starting my entire life over again, so were you thinking Olive Garden or did you just want to keep it at drinks first? Don’t call you, you’ll call me? Got it.”

Admittedly, it was a lot for a guy to take in. I mean hell, I wouldn’t date me. I wouldn’t advise any of my friends to date anyone with that profile. Relationships are often hard enough without piling on a bunch of complicated baggage.

I felt myself feeling ways I didn’t want to feel. And maybe becoming something I didn’t want to become. I didn’t want to be be bitter or afraid. I didn’t want to feel closed up, tight as a fist, ready to pounce and attack, viewing everyone as someone who might hurt me, or worse, hurt my kids. I had to work through this. This wasn’t about finding a boyfriend. It was about finding my way back to being open again. Finding myself again, how I used to be before It happened. I wanted to be light and hopeful, to see the good in people. I wanted to believe that love was possible again.

I had to try.

So I anxiously joined a dating site. I was very uncomfortable and very tightly wound, and let’s just say my potential suitors were less than stellar (says the single mom with PTSD who lives with her parents; yes the irony is not lost on me, but hey, even Shane MacGowan has the right to say “Mmm, I don’t know if she’s my type.”).

I kept most of my story to myself (I mean, I’m not that stupid) but was upfront about being a single mother who wasn’t looking for anything too serious. In the past, that would mean LET’S JUST BANG SOON. Now, it meant “Here’s the plan Cowboy. We’re gonna email for nearly a month before I find time between working 40 hours a week and taking care of my not-yet-potty-trained child to meet you for an hour of casual conversation at the TGI Friday’s over a Jack Daniel’s Sampler and then we’re gonna walk back to the parking lot and awkwardly high-five each other before going our separate ways, possibly until I have time again in three weeks, but probably forever.”

I went out with a couple people, all nice enough, but nothing really felt right. It just… didn’t feel right.

The holidays were coming and I logged out of my account, too busy and too uninspired to undertake this endeavor for awhile. I needed a break. Maybe I’d pick it back up in the new year.

Weeks passed and I remembered my account. I logged in mainly to clean out my inbox (not because I’m such a catch, but simply because as a female it would quickly fill up with “Sups?” and “Hit me ups” and “U partys?”

I don’t know what made me pause, but I did. I opened the email of an attractive man who looked relatively normal. He was also in the suburbs, also a single parent.

His name was Norm.

Well, that’s not his real name, but he was so refreshingly normal that that’s what we’ll call him.

And that’s where we’ll end for now. With a glimmer of hope again.