Monthly Archives: January 2012

was it worth it? (pt. 3)

Every once in a while, the universe delivers a message so powerful, so unambiguous, so affirming that it sends me spinning.  I got one of those loud-and-clear messages yesterday.

One of my first posts on this blog contemplated the question of whether my divorce was worth it.  Worth all the pain, all the disappointment, all the breaking down and rebuilding of the lives of the people I cared most about in the world.  Would I someday look back and know that I’d done what was truly best for all of us?

Last evening, I stopped at my ex-husband’s house on my way home from work to pick up some Girl Scout cookies I needed to deliver.  After hugs and kisses from my girls, I was just about to leave, when Sabrina told me that Bryce and his girlfriend, Debbie, had broken up after more than two years together.  I’m a caretaker, I can’t help it, so I headed to the kitchen, where I found Bryce opening the mail.  I asked him if he was okay and told him I was so sorry to hear about he and Debbie.  He offered the same condolences over my break-up with James, and the next thing I knew, we were engaged in a conversation that could only be described as surreal.

There we stood, in the kitchen I had designed and he had paid for when Sabrina was only a toddler, discussing the ends of our first loves after divorcing each other.  The children played in the living room as we traded, in broad brush strokes, the details of our break-ups.

I hesitated at first.  So used to his criticism, I braced myself for the possibility that he would insinuate that I was somehow to blame for James’ limitations.  But he didn’t.  He nodded sympathetically and agreed that I needed decent boundaries, and that I was teaching our girls the right thing by demonstrating those.  I told him how surprised I was at his relationship’s end; I had really thought that he and Debbie had staying power. He paused and then looked me in the eye and said, “You might be the only person that can actually appreciate this… but it was like dating me, the me before our divorce.  She was just like I used to be.  I could see it.  I could understand it.  But I couldn’t live with it.  I pulled the plug after two years.  I don’t know how you lasted 12.”

I didn’t know what to say.  I had liked Debbie, for sure, but I also know very well that it is impossible to know what people are like in a relationship until you are there with them, every single day.  And I also found myself feeling oddly loyal and protective of Bryce.  He is, after all, my daughters’ father.  I had his back, unequivocally, for more than a dozen years.  Funny how those old habits resurface.

More than anything, I was astounded at the ease and matter-of-fact delivery of his admission.  Where was the man who had almost never admitted he was wrong about anything?  Where was the man who had made me feel broken and crazy for even suggesting that he was flawed in any meaningful way?  Who was this self-effacing, authentic person in front of me, being vulnerable to his ex-wife??

In that moment, I was so proud of him.  I have known him long enough and well enough to know how much emotional work it must have taken him to get to such a place with me.  I know that he must have applied himself to his personal growth with the same intense focus he applies to his legal practice.  He is not perfect, but he is trying harder than I’ve ever seen him, and I can’t help but respect that.

I thanked him for sharing with me.  I told him I was proud of him for the strides in self-awareness he’d made since we divorced.  Then we laughed at our mutual inability to model even one really good, really healthy intimate relationship for our daughters.  But we agreed to keep trying.  I told him I was counting on him, and he laughed and warned me not to hold my breath.

Then I gathered my cookies, kissed my daughters, and departed my former home, knowing, again, that it was indeed worth it.

Absolutely worth it.

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Filed under divorce, friendships, healing, marriage, personal growth, relationships, single mom

keeping your sparkle alive

In my early 20’s, I had the pleasure of sharing a train car from Manchester to London, England with an elderly woman who taught me, in that short ride, quite a bit about being a woman and aging gracefully.  Lately, I have found myself thinking of her often and smiling.  She is surely not alive any longer, but lives on in many, many hearts, I suspect.

Her name was Hazel, and she was magnificent.  Beautiful, rosy skin and a full head of vibrant white hair.   A lilting accent that might have been Irish or could have been Scottish (I hadn’t been in Britain long enough to have developed the ear).  She was perfectly groomed and impeccably dressed (albeit our styles were decidedly different; it was the Grunge era and I can only imagine what she made of my tatty bell-bottoms and oversized hoodie…).  She clearly was a woman of taste and style and quite an advanced age.  I would estimate she could have been no younger than 80.

Our conversation started innocently enough — she was interested in what a young American girl was doing on her own in Manchester, and she shared with me her stories of touring the States as a young woman with her family and friends. As Hazel spoke, she was animated and bright and witty, and I wondered to myself what she must have been like as a younger woman… and I decided that “dazzling” probably best captured it.  Even at her age, she had a lightness and brightness to her that I’m sure would make her the center of any gathering.  But she was not, in any way that I could perceive, a show-off.  She wasn’t brash or loud; oh no, she was lady through and through.

At Birmingham station, our fellow passengers emptied our car, leaving us alone, our dialogue shifted as the dusk fell and we pulled out for London. Hazel eyed me for a moment and then asked me, “What do you think of the fact that someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll be as old as me?”

I was struck dumb.  This was England and people didn’t ask such direct, personal questions; this much I had learned.  I squirmed in my seat.  I had no idea what the appropriate response to such a question was and I felt quite certain that I would never, in fact, be as old as her.  Twenty-five seemed a lifetime away; 80+ was simply preposterous!

She smiled at me as I opened and closed my mouth a few times, searching for the proper answer.  Then she said, gently,

“You will, my dear.  Someday, if you’re lucky, you’ll grow old.  Your skin will wrinkle and your hair will grey and your body will fail you in ways you cannot possibly imagine right now.  The question that interests me is this:  You will still be alive, but will you be living?”

In my youthful overconfidence, I replied strongly in the affirmative, and she chuckled kindly at me.

Then she leaned over, took my perfectly unlined hand in her crinkly one, and told me this:

“At some point, most women go grey.  No, no, I’m not talking about their hair color.  I’m talking about them.  Their soul.  I’ve observed it my entire life and it makes me sad.  So many start out young and vibrant — like you! — and they let it go… just let it go, later on.  It’s a terrible shame because nothing is as amazing as a splendid woman.”

I thought for a moment and then told her I honestly wasn’t entirely sure what she meant about going grey.

“Oh, you’ve seen it, too, I’m sure!”  she exclaimed. “They stop caring about themselves.  They stop exercising their bodies and minds.  They lose touch with the things that make them sparkle and shine.  They settle into routines and ruts and start saying things like ‘I couldn’t possibly do that, I’m too old!’ long before such a thing is actually true.  And trust me,” she whispered with a grin, “I know what too old really is.  No, they give up and surrender to mediocrity and boredom.  They lose their natural curiosity about the world and the people in it.

And it affects how they look, even.  Haven’t you ever noticed, my dear, those middle-aged women who are grey?  They have got so lost in mothering and wife-ing and working, that they have forgotten that first they are women.  Amazing, wonderful women.  With bodies still capable of so much movement and minds still capable of so much wit and brilliance!  But they have given up.  Surrendered their sparkle to the mundane chores of daily life.  And it is a shame.  A real shame.”

Her words were sad and a little depressing to me, which she must have noticed because next she said:

“But it doesn’t have to be that way, my dear.  It really, really doesn’t.  As you age, never forget your brilliance.  Hold onto your sparkle.  Love your life and the people in it.  Remember that it’s not over until the last breath is drawn.  Until then, the game’s still on.  Embrace your femininity, remember to be a lady, and don’t ever sell yourself short.  There will be people who will try to tell you that you don’t sparkle anymore, but don’t believe them.  Just because they can’t see your brilliance, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Trust me on that.”

She sat back, smiling at me.  “So that’s it, then,” I said.  “That’s the secret to keeping your sparkle?”

Her eyes twinkled and she laughed before saying,

“Yes.  That, and lots of really terrific sex.  With orgasms.  That part is vital.”

I’m sure my jaw dropped at this point. Until that moment, I’d been pretty certain that women her age didn’t think about sex or know what an orgasm was.  She laughed again at my discomfort.

“That’s right, my dear.  I said it and I meant it.  Every word I’ve told you is true and you can take it to the bank.  And you know what?  You will always remember this conversation.  What you do with it will be up to you.”

With that the train pulled into London and we scurried to disembark.  I helped Hazel to a waiting black cab and turned toward my destination.  When I looked back, she and the cab were gone.

I knew even then that Hazel was right.  About all of it.

As I’ve moved into my 40’s, I’ve witnessed some “greying” in the people around me, and felt the same disappointment Hazel expressed.  Certainly, as we advance in age, and particularly with the advent of menopause, bodies change.  The lovely estrogen-infused glow fades, hair texture changes, and gravity attacks.  But Hazel’s magnificence wasn’t about a tight body or hormone replacement therapy.  It was about the lightness in her soul, the curiosity in her mind, and the gentleness in her manner.  Those things have no expiration date. Brilliance comes from within; the rest is a just a beautiful frame for the perfect picture.

How many of us have allowed our brilliance to become tarnished by the “mundane chores of life,” as Hazel called them?  How many of us have begun to surrender our lightness and brightness under the weight of people who can’t or won’t see it?  How often are we truly aware of our own magnificence?

She was right.  I’ve never forgotten that conversation.  And what I do with it will be up to me.

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Filed under general musings, personal growth, relationships, single mom

first date jitters

Well.

Here I sit.  Scrubbed, exfoliated, shaved, polished, curled, perfumed, clothed and accessorized a full 40 minutes ahead of when I need to be ready for my date with Mr. Airplane.  Me, who cannot be on time for her own party, is ready early.

I remember now why I don’t like being ready early.

Jitters.

I have done all the first date prerequisites, including primping of lots of areas that he will absolutely not see this afternoon.  But I can’t help it.  I always do this before a first date.  Remember, I grew up with a single mom.  Watching her paint her long, red nails moments before her date arrived, fanning her hands through the air frantically to dry the polish as he knocked at door… this is what I know of dating.  So I primp.  Always.

(The exception to this rule is when someone catches me off-guard with a spontaneous date request.  James did this — “Wanna go get a burger?” — when I was in running shorts and an old t-shirt.  So, no primping then.  I’m not so much of a primper that I’d turn down a good date just because I hadn’t applied my favorite lipstick yet.)

How much time I put into the primping process is directly correlated to how many butterflies the man in question has prompted prior to the date.  I had another first date last week, with Mr. Marathon.  He received moderate primping levels, and will likely not generate more primping action for our second date this week.  Mr. Airplane, on the other hand, is getting much higher levels of attention because he definitely has arrested my interest, at least so far.

And so I sit here, all feminined-out, with the first date nerves mounting.

The ridiculous thing about first date jitters for me is that I am typically not particularly invested in the outcome.  I think I approach first dates like a guy, because I can be really psyched for them, and when they don’t pan out, I’m totally okay with that, too.  I know for a fact that if I return home this evening after meeting Mr. Airplane, with absolutely certain knowledge that there will not be another date, I’ll simply crawl into my jammies, grab a glass of wine, and laugh along with Carrie and the Sex and the City girls.  No biggie.

So why the jitters???

Because…. you just never know, do you?  You just never know if this guy, on this day, will be the next guy to change your life.   We he be your next great love?  Will you look back someday on this afternoon as the one that changed everything?

Some first dates are just doomed to failure.  The first date I went on after Mike had stomped on my heart was one such casualty.  It had all the makings of a great story — he was a fireman who approached me in the bagged salad section of the local Safeway and asked me out.  He looked awful hunky in his fireman gear and he was ever so polite.  I said yes, did my primping, and off we went.  We spent four very nice hours together, talking about all sorts of things.  He told me I was amazing, he told me he’d never met anyone he felt so comfortable talking with, he told me how glad he was that he’d worked up the nerve to approach me in the produce aisle.  Me?  I went home from that date and cried — no, sobbed — for hours.  All it did was make me miss Mike terribly.  My head knew better, but my heart ruled the show that night and that was the end of Mr. Fireman.

Other first dates start with low expectations and shatter your previous ceiling of greatness.  My first date with Parker was like that.  We met very late in the evening because I’d had to work, and I’d had a really difficult night at work (I was a cocktail waitress and the businessmen had a hard time keeping their hands to themselves….).  We went to a club to hear a band that turned out to be tone deaf and possessed sadistically loud amps for their guitars.  And then we couldn’t get a cab home and had to walk in the freezing rain for miles.  That date should have sucked, but instead we laughed the entire way through it, playing in the rain, and falling completely in love.  So, you never know.

Who knows that will happen with Mr. Airplane.  Will it be butterflies and love songs tonight when I return home?  Or jammies and TV?

Stay tuned….

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Filed under dating, internet dating, love, relationships, single mom

for Lisa….

This morning I was introduced to a woman whose eyes took me back three years in time.  This post is dedicated to her and all the other “Lisas”….

“Lisa” and I met awkwardly and unexpectedly, in a waiting room, through a mutual friend.  Our friend wanted me to meet Lisa because she is struggling through the end of her marriage, and our friend thought my blog might help her.  I reached out my hand in hello and Lisa took it, but when she turned her eyes to me, my heart broke.

The tears were about to spill over, when she asked me, in a soft voice, “It does get better, right?”

Oh boy.

I remember those days.  I remember the fear and the helplessness.  The near desperation and the loneliness.  I knew no one my own age who was divorcing or had been divorced.  I felt like I was alone in a sea of people making different choices from me.  I didn’t have anyone to point to and say “THERE!  That’s what I want to have!  That’s what I’m aiming for, too!”  I remember saying to Annie, before she had left her marriage, “I need to see a divorced woman who has made it to the other side.  I need to see someone who is happy and content and past all of this.  I need to see it and I need to see it NOW because I am afraid that it doesn’t actually exist.”

When your marriage is falling apart — whether because you are leaving or he is — you’re awash in doubts and regrets and uncertainties.  It seems that every time you find something you feel certain about, another wave of doubt washes over you and you’re floating in ambivalence again.  The pain of the broken dreams and smashed hopes is palpable; it’s true:  depression hurts.  And the whole time, you’re grasping for a lifesaver that you can ride to the other side.

What has amazed me (and my friends who came through it after me) is how similar the process is for most of us.  No matter the reasons for the marriage’s failure, or the proportion of guilt assigned, the process of moving through those feelings and struggles is very, very similar.  True, some people stall at one point or another, and some are more extreme in the expression of their feelings at particular places along the way, but, overall, the journey is very similar.

And thank God for that.

Because, Lisa, there are lots and lots of us who have been where you are.  Who have had the same fears and sadness you are facing.  Who have had to pick up the pieces of lives blown apart and start anew.  Small steps…. little victories… until we begin to create a life that is whole and good and hopeful again.

In fact, hope might be the defining feature of these new lives.  Not the feigned or desperate or false hopes you’ve experienced time and again as your marriage has unraveled, but the true, buoyant hope of possibilities grounded in the certainty of your own strength and knowledge of your own needs and desires.  I have had my heart broken twice since my divorce, but it was an entirely different kind of pain.  It’s not the pain of being stuck or of being hopeless.  It’s the pain of being alive.  And that distinction is real and true and makes all the difference.

Moving through a divorce is not easy, and anyone who claims it was for them is either lying or delusional.  Building a new life is never easy, and when you’re weighed down by the guilt and fear and doubts that you carry out of a broken marriage, it’s doubly hard.  But nothing truly worth having has ever come easily.  Nothing.  And when you reach the other side and realize that, somewhere along the way, you have put the guilt aside, overcome the fear, and cast off the doubts, you’ll find yourself standing in the middle of a life you hardly recognize but can claim as your own.

I remember reading the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” to my daughters when they were small.  It’s the whimsical, lyrical tale of a family that sets off on an imaginary bear hunt (only to, quite comically, encounter a real bear).  The part of the book that I loved, and stressed to my girls, was the refrain the family chanted every time they hit an obstacle  — “Can’t go over it.  Can’t go under it.  Guess we’ll have to go through it!”  And so the family does.

Divorce is like a bear hunt.  There is no easy way around it or over it or under it.  You’ve just got to square your shoulders, straighten your back, set your focus, and go through it.   That’s the only way to the other side.  Sitting in your misery and expecting it will change of its own accord won’t do it.  Neither will hoping that someday you’ll have the strength.  There’s never a “good time” to get a divorce.  It’s never going to hurt less.  It will suck.

But then, one day, it won’t.

One of the first men I dated after my separation told me about his divorce recovery from his first wife.  He spoke about how he had simply put one foot in front of another for what seemed an eternity but was probably about 6 months.  He told me how he’d begun to wonder if he’d ever be happy again….  And then, one day, he was running errands on an ordinary Saturday, and he went into the bank to make a deposit.  He came out and the sun was shining. He stopped for a moment and let its warmth touch his face, and as he did, it hit him.  He was okay again.  In fact, he was kind of happy again.  He said he stood in the bank parking lot and cried silent tears of gratitude.  He had made it.  He had made it to the other side.  Life was beginning again.

I think most of us have similar moments we could relate.  They are precious and they are sacred, and, if I could, I would box them up and deliver them to you, Lisa, to carry you through the days ahead.  But since I can’t, you’ll just have to have faith that yours are awaiting you.

One small step after another.  It’s the only way any of us got here.  It’s how you’ll get here, too.

And someday, you’ll feel the sun on your face and the hope in your heart.  Again.

P.S. — There is an email button on this website.  Feel free to use it.  🙂

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Filed under divorce, healing, marriage, relationships, sadness, single mom

real love, behind the curtain

When I was 21-years-old, I thought I’d been in love a couple of times.

Then I met Parker, and everything I thought I knew about love and intimacy and my own heart was re-written.   Ours was a sweet and tender love story, deserving of a post all its own.  We fell in love — at first sight — and fell fast and hard and deep.  Our relationship had elements of a little girl’s fairytale and a Shakespearean tragedy.  But what I remember most — what I cherish most — was how that relationship fundamentally changed me forever.

Parker showed me what love can be and how it can change your life.  How it can inspire us to be the best version of ourselves, whether in the same room or separated by oceans.  How it can give us the strength and support to dare to do and be things we’d never imagined before.  How it can open our whole world and allow us to connect with everyone around us on a different level.  All because, in our heart, there is a security and serenity and tenderness with one person’s name on it.   He taught me what it’s like to feel fully and completely known and accepted and valued.  He showed me how to give that to someone else.  We explored every kind of intimacy with each other with complete honesty and vulnerability.  Looking back, I have no idea how we, so young and so different from each other, managed it.  But somehow, we did.  We really did.

It took me four years to get over Parker.  During those four years, I dated quite a bit and enjoyed myself, but it was only him in my dreams at night.  He was far from perfect, but he was the ideal yardstick by which other men were measured.  I fantasized that someday, somehow, we would find our way back to each other.   That was not meant to be (at least not in this lifetime), but the impressions we made on each other forever raised the bar for those coming after.

Our concepts of love are necessarily based on what we have known.  It is impossible to know someone else’s heart, so when we look at people who are blissfully in love, and imagine what they are feeling, we reference our own, best love.   But I have come to realize that our experiences are so varied that our definitions of and experiences of “true love” are often not similar. For example, when I speak of a deep and abiding intimacy, you may have no true idea of what I mean, if you haven’t ever had that in your life before.  And what I have shared with men may pale in comparison to the depths of intimacy you’ve plumbed with your partners.

My friend Seamus and I had a conversation not too long ago about how some people come into your life and alter it irrevocably and there is no going back.   They change us.  They change our expectations and our desires.  They set a new benchmark for us of what love or intimacy or connectedness feels like.  Seamus likened this experience to “getting a peek behind the curtain”…

Unless you grew up in a cult or a third world country, you’re surely familiar with the scene in the classic film “The Wizard of Oz,” in which Dorothy discovers that The Great and Powerful Oz is simply a bumbling wizard operating an elaborate illusion from behind a curtain.  Once Dorothy sees this, her entire perception of Oz, and of her experience there, shifts permanently.  She could never, ever go back to believing in the illusion, because she has witnessed the real thing.

I think that when you experience a deeply intimate, life-changing love, it is like you have glimpsed the truth behind the curtain, only instead of it being disappointing, it is like witnessing a miracle firsthand.  You are forever altered.  What was once enough is not any longer.  You suddenly realize what the poets have been celebrating for eons.  You have stumbled upon the kind of love that inspires sonnets and plays and love songs.  And everything else pales in comparison.

When I met Parker, I was so young.  We had an inkling that what we were sharing was special, but we didn’t have the life experience to appreciate how rare it was.  In fact, it would be another 20 years before I felt that way again with someone.

In between, there were loves of one variety or another, some deeper than others.  As the years passed, the realization dawned that I’d been incredibly fortunate to ever have experienced a love of that kind.  I looked around me and understood — finally — that some people go their entire lifetime without ever finding it.  And I had.  On a dark, cold, rainy night in England, I had.

But alongside that appreciation for the experience was a lingering sadness…  Having once had that, how could I be happy with less?  I tried to convince myself that what was good enough for others was enough for me, too.  But it didn’t work.  No, it definitely didn’t work.

Because once you’ve seen the real thing behind the curtain, the illusion doesn’t work anymore.

There have been dark days of tears and loneliness when I have, momentarily, wished I had never known Parker… when I have wished that something that simply felt good would be enough… that I didn’t need that deep connection in my heart to the man who shares my bed.  But I cannot pretend, and I cannot go back.

And so instead I move forward.  I know what is behind the curtain and I hope, someday, to glimpse it again.  Perhaps I will not be so lucky.  Perhaps, as I age, I will learn to be satisfied with the illusion again.  Or perhaps, one day, I will again find myself sinking into the divine experience of real and true love, behind the curtain.

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why I won’t hate blog James…

… but I could.  Boy howdy, could I ever.

But I won’t.  Not really.

It isn’t for lack of material, that’s for sure. He has provided ample fodder of late.  I mean, I could write scathing posts about how he was asking someone else out while we were still supposedly exclusive.  Or really let him have it for trading texts on Christmas Day with a girl who was stripper.  (Classy, no?)  Yes, indeed, I have some draft posts that would scald your eyes to read them.  But they will never be published.

Nope.

This is all the cyber world will hear of his transgressions and failures.  These tidbits of vitriol, in this short post, is all that I’ll publicly hurl at his well-deserving reputation.

Don’t worry, I’ve let him have all of it.  Okay, not all of it, but close.  I told him that he’s made me regret loving him, regret being so good and kind to him, regret having ever met him.  I told him to stay away from me and my children.  And I meant every word.  My blinders are off and the truth is like a hot white light in my eyes.

In my quiet moments, I have silently raged at him for not living up to the potential I saw in him.  I have hated myself for my silliness in believing that we’d shared anything remotely special.  I have chastised myself for the loving words and delighted posts dedicated to him on this blog.

But here’s the good news:  I am almost worn out of it.  I can feel the shock and anger and disappointment and disgust spinning off and away, as if down some metaphorical drain to join the sludge of relationships drowned in deceptions and lies and mistrust.  I can feel it all sliding off of me and leaving me tired and calm and clean again.  Ahhhh….

I have taken every step I can to insure that he is nowhere near my life, this man whom I loved such a short time ago, and yet didn’t really know at all.  I have determinedly turned my back on him and our past and have begun quietly re-ordering my life so as to fill the spaces left by his departure.

There will be ample time for reflection, and — knowing me — I will likely do more than is necessary.  But for right now, I am simply being.  I am working and mothering and resting and dreaming of the days when my heart will be more consistently light again.

My decision to end the James portion of my blog and my life here and now has nothing to do with him.  I am not protecting his reputation or privacy.  I am definitely not trying to curry favor with him or give him any hope that I might still respect him.  No, this is entirely about me.  Foolish as it was, I loved him, and I did so for as long and as well as I could, purely and completely and without guile or an agenda.  I accepted his flaws that I knew about and defended him to those who attacked him.  I worked really hard at the relationship and treated it with honor and integrity.

And I’m not going to ruin that now.

I refuse to demean myself by casting all the stones my broken heart would so sorely like to hurtle.  I refuse to abandon the good breeding my parents instilled in me.  I refuse to diminish what I thought we had just because he was too stupid and undeserving to value it.

So, with that I will end my James story.  Surely his name will surface from time to time, but I am reclaiming the part of my life that he owned.  I will not allow him to take anything more from me.

I’m done.

Goodbye, James.

Hello, Rest of My Life.

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airplanes, marathons, and the albino crocodile

Here’s a news flash for you:  Life with a broken heart is no fun.

It’s like walking around with a dead weight in my chest.  I swear to God, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that my poor heart had congealed into a solid mass of brittle glass.

But nonetheless, somehow life is beginning to return to normal.  I have started going out again with friends, joking around with co-workers, and my patience with my children has returned to pre-break-up levels.  These are all very good signs.

Next step:  dating.

(I actually held my breath typing that last word.  Geesh.)

I know that I am not a fit partner for anyone right now.  I’m not so daft as to believe that, a few weeks on, I’m all good and it’s all past.  Nope.  I’m definitely not good and it’s definitely not past.  But I’m trying.  Honestly.

Here’s another newsflash:  I’m a picky dater.  A really, really picky dater.  I’m the queen of the “Thanks, but I’m not interested” button on match.com (although I’ve gotten better at using it since this fiasco).  I signed up and was perfectly content to just window shop for weeks before I even started a dialogue with anybody.

But again, life laughs at me.

So, instead, it has delivered two men who interest me quite a bit, even in my crippled emotional state.  Indeed, they interest me enough that I have even agreed to meet with each of them.

It’s crazy, I know.  But it’s also incredibly rare for someone to capture my attention beyond an email or two.

I considered telling them both no, that I was simply not ready to date (ahem, never mind that match.com subscription), and quietly sitting out my grieving period in the metaphorical shadows. But then this little voice in my head said:

“Have you completely lost your mind?  Maybe other people have neat little lives where they meet people when it’s tidy and convenient, but you don’t.  You’re the girl who fell in love with a man literally two days before he moved to the other side of the Earth for two years.  Get over yourself.  Go.  Have a nice time.  See what happens.”

And so I will.

Should something develop with either of these men, I will certainly be honest with them about my emotional situation.  I simply can’t be anyone other than exactly who I am right now or where I am right now, nor would I want to pretend otherwise.  And it should be their choice whether to wade into a relationship with me, when I’m still bruised from my last lap around the pool.  But that’s supposing that either of them still interests me after one date, which is, if we’re being frank, pretty unusual.

On the other hand, I’ve noticed that this might actually be great time to meet me.  I’m all softness and sweetness and sincerity right now.  I don’t have any energy for walls or barriers or games or overanalyzing anything.  I’m too numb to be needy and too hurt to be overeager.  I might well be perfect first date material right about now.  And now might be the perfect time for some great guy to swoop in and win me over with some small, gentle kindness, because, honestly, I’m on the lookout for small, gentle kindnesses these days.

As I’ve said before, one of the things that I actually like about online dating (I know, I know, it’s so unfashionable to admit to liking it!) is that I meet people completely outside my galaxy of experience.  One of the men who asked me out flies his own planes.  The other is a professional running coach (Googling him was a wee bit intimidating).  These are not men that I would ever have bumped into in my circles in town.  But now, at the very least, I’ll get to share a glass of wine with each of them and learn something I probably didn’t know before.  And what’s not cool about that, right?

Match.com also has its share (or more) of oddballs and creeps and garden-variety players.  My profile is currently being stalked by a man I went on one date with about two years ago.  He’s a former pro hockey player who spent the entire date talking about his “glory days” (his phrase, not mine) in the NHL and the minor leagues and how awesome the groupies were (just what every potential girlfriend wants to hear, no?).  Thirty minutes into the date, while I was planning my early exit, he put his hand up my skirt.  No kidding.  He emailed me tonight and told me he has a “fondness for me” and would like to make me dinner.  Something tells me that I’ll be expected to bring dessert in my panties…. Umm, no, thank  you.

Then there is the Eternal Graduate Student.  I went out with him once, and Annie actually did, too, a year later.  Sadly for him, we shared a single opinion (although, I think sweet Annie was even harder on him than I was!).  No subject is nearly as compelling to him as his own life and accomplishments.  And, to be honest, we live in a town of over-achievers.  He’s not all that special, and he’s definitely all that pompous.  But yes, he keeps winking at me.  Clue to Mr. PhD:  if you wink once and I don’t respond, I’m not interested.  Winking another time (or 3) isn’t going to change my mind.

But my favorite this week has to be the Wyoming rancher who has tried every means possible to communicate with me.  He’s a recent widower, and not a bad-looking guy at all.  But in his profile picture he is holding an albino crocodile.  I showed the picture to a friend, and she shot Diet Pepsi out her nose.  “I thought you were kidding!” she coughed.  Nope.  Not kidding.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.

But even the oddballs, creeps, and garden-variety players are still entertaining, when viewed from a safe distance.   And right now, I need all the entertainment I can muster.

So here I go.  Wish me luck.

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Filed under dating, healing, internet dating, relationships, single mom

enter Coach, stage left…

Last night, as I lay on my sofa watching a movie, I got a match.com email that said simply: “Still gorgeous…”

His profile was hidden, and a couple of dreadful possibilities were playing with my brain, so I replied, “Who are you?”

The immediate response, “The one guy who keeps waiting for you to get back in touch…”

Hmmmm…..

In the mini-drama that is my life, there are many recurring characters.  “Coach” is one of them.

I call him Coach because that’s his job — he’s a professional coach at a local university.  I met him on match.com two years ago.  We dated briefly.  He thought I wasn’t particularly interested in him, and I thought he wasn’t particularly interested in me.  We stopped dating after about a month.  But he has never fully disappeared.

In fact, he has always had an amazing sense of timing — usually reappearing in my life unsummoned within days of a break-up, despite the fact that we have no mutual friends and he lives 35 miles away.  He’s never been exactly a “rebound guy,” because we’re better friends than that… he’s more like a soft place to land when I’m bruised and tentative.  He arrives, pampers me, and validates me in every way possible.

My relationship with Coach is complicated.   He’s a good man, tall, broad-shouldered, funny, smart, and successful.  He adores me —  he calls me “the total package.”  He’s told me on multiple occasions that I’m his ideal woman and the yardstick by which he measures other women.  We have great chemistry and can talk plainly about anything.  Coach never had kids, but always wished he had.  Me and my girls are like a perfectly packaged family in his mind.  He likes everything about me.

But (and this is a BIG but), he has serious limitations.  He was badly hurt many years ago and closed himself off emotionally after that.  Since then, he’s been incapable of truly embracing an intimate relationship.  He goes only so far, then he panics and runs. As a result, he spends most of his time in half-way, shallow relationships that don’t truly make him happy or feed his soul.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I know.

But here’s the difference:  Coach owns it. He sees it, knows it, and owns it.  He doesn’t get defensive.  He doesn’t blame me for his issues.  He is able to look me in the eye and acknowledge that I deserve everything I want in a relationship, and if he were capable, he’d want to do that with me, but he just doesn’t think he’s capable.  We can talk about it.  Honestly.  And because of that, I admire and respect him and allow him in my life.  I know that maybe someday Coach will figure out how to work through his issues and have the kind of relationship he really wants, and if he does, I’m sure he’ll show up on my doorstep.  But probably not.   And that’s okay.  His honesty enables us to have fun together and laugh, without me risking a shattered heart, and I was able to invest myself  fully in my relationship with James, without ever wondering what might have been with Coach.  I can enjoy our time together for only and exactly what it is, and — oddly enough — I feel completely safe and secure with Coach.  That’s what his authenticity does for me.

So now Coach has reappeared, once again.  To spoil me with words and affection and attention.  To treat me tenderly. To appreciate me.

Exactly what I need.

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Filed under dating, healing, internet dating, relationships, single mom

does this make my butt look fat?

Guys, you’ve all been there.  The woman in your life returns from shopping, disappears into the bedroom, and emerges in a new pair of jeans.  She plants herself in front you, turning slowly, and asks “Do these look okay?”

Pop quiz:  What do you say?

In all likelihood, you start to fidget or squirm.  Maybe you avert your eyes or pretend like you didn’t hear her.  Perhaps you mumble a response and hope that it will satisfy.  You’ve probably, at one point or other in your life, gotten this moment very wrong and paid dearly for it, possibly without ever understanding what you did wrong.

Let me enlighten you.

When a woman preens for you — this includes showing off new clothes or a new haircut, getting dressed up to spend time with you, stripping down to reveal lingerie that is likely uncomfortable and more expensive than she can afford — you need to reward her for the effort, even if the result isn’t entirely perfect.  Failing to do so sends her a very firm and very memorable message that preening for you is not advisable, unless she wants to feel terrible as a result.  We women are a pretty wise bunch that way.  It’s a lesson we learn quickly and file away securely.

The day before James and I broke up, I spent the afternoon shopping with my eldest daughter, Sabrina.  When my mother visited over Christmas, she pawed through my closet and pronounced it woefully inadequate in the category of “going out” clothes.  Before she left, she wrote me a big check and firmly directed me to get some nice, sexy “going out” clothes.  I was strictly forbidden from purchasing anything that would be appropriate for the workplace.  I wasn’t about to argue.  She was patently correct.  My meager budget affords no room for frivolous clothes, and I was aware of the deficit before she pointed it out.  So, Sabrina and I set out to find mommy some “hot mamma” clothes.

We had a wonderful afternoon together.  Amazingly, given her apparent tone-deafness toward her own style, Sabrina seemed to have a good sense of what worked on me.  I felt feminine and pretty in the clothes we selected, and it was fun to shop without any guilt about my checking account. That evening, I took my treasures to James’ house and presented him with a fashion show.

What. A. Big. Mistake.

To say that he wasn’t enthusiastic would be a gross understatement.  Outfit after outfit, I would say, “What do you think?” and he would say, simply, “No.”  I have no idea if it was the clothes or how I looked in them.  As the ordeal dragged on, I came to feel like I felt like an ugly duckling dressed in swan feathers.  I swear, he looked like he was enduring a root canal. Of the roughly 15 items I adorned, he picked two that were “okay” on me.  When it was over, I hastily threw all the new clothes, unfolded, into their bags and tossed them in my trunk, feeling every bit humiliated and inadequate.

Men:  when we display ourselves for you in something we want to be pretty in, and you respond with complete disinterest (or worse), it is the equivalent of you slipping out of your boxer briefs and us wrinkling our nose, pointing at your package, and saying “Really?  That’s it?”

Yes, that’s what it feels like, and yes, it’s really that bad.

If you’ve ever seen a girl’s face crumble when you’ve told her that those jeans actually DO kinda make her look fat, you’ve glimpsed some of that pain.  Most likely, she covered for it, appeared to blow it off, but — trust me on this — she didn’t.  It hurt.

It’s not that we want you to lie to us.  Sincerely, that’s not the point.  It’s just that we want to think that you think that we’re hot.  All the time.  No matter what we’re wearing.  Obviously, some things look better than others, and providing useful commentary is desired.  It’s the execution that usually needs work.  Tact and truth are not mutually exclusive.  Some of you know this, but plenty of you don’t seem to.

Consider this situation:

Woman buys new bathing suit and models it for boyfriend/husband.  It’s probably not the best look for her, so boyfriend/husband is stuck.

Boyfriend/husband says, “No way, sweetheart.  Sorry, but that just doesn’t look very good.”

WRONG ANSWER.

Boyfriend/husband says, “Sweetheart, you’re hot, but that bikini doesn’t do you justice.   Find something that shows off what you’ve got.”

RIGHT ANSWER.

See the difference?  The first answer makes her feel like she’s just ugly.  The second answer makes her feel like she’s hot; it’s the suit that’s ugly.  Honest, AND a compliment.

I’m making a big assumption leap here — that the woman doing this for you is someone for whom you care.  That her feelings matter to you and you honestly do think she’s hot.  If so, please, don’t make her think different.  Don’t crush her feelings just because you don’t like the clothes covering her hotness, or worse, because you’re too lazy to treat her tenderly.

This morning I was dressing for lunch with a friend.  We were meeting at a fancy restaurant downtown that required a little more than the standard jeans and sweater.  I stood in my closet and stared at the new clothes, hanging there with the tags still on.  I pulled out a blouse and a blazer and contemplated them, feeling a flush spread over my face as I remembered that evening at James’.  I took a deep breath, and pulled them on anyway.

Seconds later, I heard the front door open, and my children rushed in, shouting their hellos; they’d stopped by unexpectedly to pick up some things they’d forgotten.  As I emerged from the bedroom, my girls’ eyes popped open. “Wow, Mom.  You look awesome!”  “Mommy, you look really pretty!  I love that blouse!”  I felt myself exhale.  I know they’re only children, but they normally don’t hesitate to tell me how uncool I am.  Their buoyant appreciation was like a salve to my wounded ego.

Hopefully someday, I’ll feel comfortable wearing those clothes I had so much fun selecting.  I showed them to Annie, too, and she chose just a few to return, which I have.  But the rest continue to hang in my closet, casualties of James’ brutal assault on my feminine ego.

So, guys, please remember:  Our female egos are just as fragile as your male egos.  Be a little gentle with us and we’ll love you for it.

Now say it with me:  “You’re hot, but that doesn’t do you justice.”

Trust me.  Just say it.

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Filed under dating, marriage, relationships, single mom

happy birthday to me

I love birthdays.  Everyone’s, not just my own.  My grandma used to tell me that someone’s birthday is the day when you should take a moment to appreciate what they bring to your life and what would be missing from it if they’d never been born.  She pointed out that even a distant acquaintance (say, maybe the girl at Starbucks who serves you coffee every morning with a smile) probably changes your life in some small way. I think she’s right.

My whole life, I’ve loved birthdays.  I’m the one who sends you a snail mail card even though we haven’t seen each other in years.  When I forget someone’s birthday, I feel really terrible about it.  They might not have even noticed, but I feel awful.  It’s like saying that their presence in my life meant nothing.  Ugh.  How HORRIBLE.

But, to be honest, I had been quietly dreading this day.  Work was destined to be crazy, and I had a late meeting that would eat up my evening, and I couldn’t escape the sense that only two weeks ago, I still had reservations for James and I to go away to the mountains this weekend to celebrate our birthdays.  Yes, I was not looking forward to this day at all.

But, as often happens, life surprised me.

Last night, my girls took me out to dinner.  My mother had sent Sabrina some money and some suggestions and so off we went.  I can’t tell you how perfect it was.  It was a cold and snowy Wednesday night, and the restaurant was nearly empty.  We had a lovely waitress who sang me an Elvis-inspired version of “Happy Birthday” and had my girls giggling with delight.  We stuffed ourselves on delicious pasta and desserts while they chattered at me about their days at school, their friends, and the latest books they were reading.  It was an evening made in Mom Heaven.

This morning, a ring at the doorbell, and it was the flower delivery man!  I assumed they were from my cousin, who likes to send me flowers on my birthday, but they weren’t.  They were from James.  I was momentarily floored.  What did this mean?  Why did he do this?  But then the cold wash of sanity came over me.  They are beautiful flowers.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I have already wasted too much time trying to figure out his motivations and feelings.  If he wants to share them, he obviously knows where I live.  For now, I will just enjoy the beauty of my flowers.  Nothing more, nothing less.

I got plenty of hugs and kisses from my sweet girls, and I opened a beautiful present from my mother — an Irish claddagh necklace that is just Celtic enough that I love it and just funky enough that I’ll wear it.  Then it was off to breakfast with Annie, and a heavy dose of girlfriend bonding over yummy eggs benedict, and a thoughtful gift of some delicious “pamper me” items to indulge in this weekend.

I got into work and was slammed, as expected.  Work right now is so stressful that my boss and I have literally cried to each other in the last week.  But today, the slew of texts and phone calls coming in, each sweet voice on the other end of the line sending warmth and love my way, made all the craziness and deadlines more than bearable.  Some were familiar, cherished voices, but others were completely unexpected, like my former mother-in-law, who called to tell me she was thinking of me and how special I am.  There really aren’t words for my astonishment….  Or how about the hand-delivered card from a local business-owner in the town where I work?  I still have no idea how she discovered it was my birthday or why she went to the trouble of a card, but I was genuinely touched.

My colleagues and I took a break over noon and all shared cake in honor of the January birthdays in our office, so I was able to justify chocolate cake for lunch.  I mean, I didn’t want to be rude, right??  😉  I’ve decided I should eat chocolate cake for lunch every day.  It’s pretty hard to be cranky with chocolate cake for lunch…

My afternoon was punctuated by an IM that caught me completely off-guard.  As I was furiously completing a memo up against a tight deadline, I heard the blip signifying that a Yahoo chat window had been opened and a message received.  My curiosity got the better of me and I clicked over, only to discover a name that took me more than moment to place.   It belongs to a man I went on exactly two dates with more than two years ago.  And this is what he wrote:

Hey there.  I heard “Hey Soul Sister” in my car just now and thought of you.  I always think of you when I hear that song.

I just want you to know that meeting you changed my life, in really good ways, and even though it didn’t work out between us, I think of you sometimes and always hope that you’re happy.

Take care.

And then he logged off.

He had no idea it was my birthday; you don’t exactly cover that on two dates.  And yet, he picked today of all days to reach out and connect with me.  His gesture flooded me with warmth.  Is there anything better than a moment of being unforgettable?

My day marched on.  I was so crazy busy all day, I didn’t even have a chance to check my Facebook wall to view my birthday wishes, but when I did, I practically fell off my chair… more than 70 people took a moment out of their day to wish me well, to — as my grandma would have put it — acknowledge my place in their life.  I read each message with such enormous gratitude.  What a blessing social media is, when it can offer us that kind of small but meaningful connection.

After work it was off to my meeting that I’d expected to eat up my evening and leave me exhausted.  But alas! the meeting ended up being short and relaxed and humorous.  Another pleasant surprise! And I was able to race home in time to put the girls to bed myself (instead of the nanny doing it) and to discover that my nanny had left me a card and a small present.  Seriously?  She watches my battling daughters every day, tutors them on math homework that leaves me stammering,  shuttles them to every known activity in town, and she’s buying me a present???  I swear she has a halo.

After the girls were ready for bed and we were tidying up the kitchen, I found the mail on the counter.  A package from my friend Marcus in L.A.!  Marcus and I were best friends in law school, which is kind of like saying that we survived basic training together in the military.  At various times, he’s been my best friend, my therapist, my chaperone, my bartender, my brother, my designated driver, my lawyer, and my conscience.

I opened the package and a delicate silver ring fell to the counter.  I picked it up, but even before I really saw it, I knew what it was.  And it took my breath away….

Twelve years ago, Marcus had bought me this ring, as a friendship ring.  It is silver (I don’t wear gold) and has interwoven Celtic symbols circling the ring.  The inscription is “And she was fayr as is the rose in May.”  My then-husband, Bryce, took one look at it and ordered that I return it.  I was heartbroken, but I did.  Marcus accepted it back with grace, assuring me that he understood and wasn’t surprised that Bryce didn’t feel comfortable with our friendship.  A lot of people weren’t comfortable with our friendship.

All these years Marcus saved it for me.

Now would probably be a good time to clarify that Marcus is not in love with me; he’s happily married with three small children.  In fact, I’ve never seen him as content.  No, this is about the fact that Marcus has always understood me.  He gets me.  He gets my fears and my dreams and my crazy romanticism that he doesn’t share.  And he — like so many of my guy friends — is fiercely loyal and protective of me and the good stuff he sees in me.  I am so grateful for him.

Last weekend, Marcus sent me a text that said, “Don’t ever believe that you’re not special.  Some guys see it right away, some guys take a little longer, and some guys never will.  Whether they do or not isn’t your problem.  It’s theirs.”

This birthday, I absolutely felt special.  And very ashamed of myself for the pity party I’ve been hosting these past two weeks.  I am humbled and blessed by how many people that I love, respect, admire, or cherish made a point, however small or large, to remind me that I’m special.

Happy Birthday to Me.

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Filed under friendships, healing, love, personal growth, relationships