Taking Off the Blinders: When It’s Too Good To Be True

src: seattlestagedtosell.com

If there is one grand lesson I’ve learned about life and love, when it feels too good to be true, it usually is. If you stow that little nugget of truth in the back of your head, it will force you to keep at least a little part of yourself safely back—even when it’s tempting to just dive into the glorious beauty of what feels like the most delicious love affair with drunk blindness.

Though I didn’t really see signs, I felt them in my gut. I tried to explain why to a friend of mine. If we meshed so well intellectually, emotionally, and physically, had wonderful times together, and he seemed so into me, where did my hesitation come from? I rattled off a few concerns—that I wasn’t going to live up to his larger than life impression of me, that he was probably moving back to his native country in a year or so and that I had some worries that I would wind up wanting more from him emotionally time-wise than he had in his schedule to give.

It’s interesting because he chose that word—a gut feeling—to describe how he has felt that things might be a little off between us the last two weekends, like we were on different trajectories. This was after having two amazing weekends filled with dancing nights, lazy mornings twisted in each others arms, and hours of intimate conversations that he agreed made us feel like we’d known each other much longer than the period that we have.

This was after I’d spent the last 4 nights and 4 days in his home, two days longer than I’d intended because he’d said, “I don’t want to think about it,” when I asked him when he thought I should head home. That same day he bought a ridiculous amount of groceries, asking me what I wanted and needed as if I was going to be staying for another week, if not visiting again for a long visit soon.

Then, the next night, after we’d had a particularly bonding conversation, he went to do his nightly meditation. After we snuggled into bed, he brought up that if it were okay, he would like a couple of days to himself to quiet his thoughts and reconnect with himself. I said that was totally fine, reassuring him I wasn’t upset by his request because I needed to get back and take care of things at home.

The next day, he was in constant contact as I got ready to go, then took a taxi to take a train to take a bus back home. After a few days, however, I realized that while we were still keeping in touch, I was doing most of the initiating. I started to get a little suspicious. As the weekend was on the brink, and we hadn’t yet made our normal confirmation of our plans, I asked him if he wanted to get together. He said something about still needing some time to himself. I told him that I thought he might need that.

His reply:

 Thanks for understanding. You are very mindful and wise and I want to let you know that I value and respect that a lot!

After all the effusive, romantic and affectionate words he’s used with me in the past, these words struck a wrong chord with me. Something wasn’t right. But later that night, he sent me a message from the bar with his friend asking, “How is my honey doing?” To some joking request I’d made on his Facebook page where he’d posted a photo of the night, he’d say, “For you, SoloAt30, always… J”

Yesterday I heard nothing from him all day, so I finally decided to confront him. Was this needing time for himself actually code for wanting to see other people? Call it women’s intuition—or just a reality check. Though he was supposed to be working, he took time to make the phone call.

Blinders On by Angie Warren

I sat stunned, listening to the spew of bullshit, couched in words in attempt not to “cause suffering or hurt feelings.” He told me he did in fact have a drink with a girl this past week, but his friends said it would be okay since we weren’t exclusive, like boyfriend/girlfriend or anything.

Seeing each other exclusively for several weeks now, driving three, sometimes six hours a week to see me; being intimate with each other exclusively; calling me his girlfriend to me, to his roommate, his friends, family; telling his father in another country about me and introducing us informally via phone; making every effort to get close to my family, including calling himself “Uncle” around my nephew…I’m not sure what else I was supposed to think. Hey, maybe they run things differently in that central European country of his, but if he had to hide things and talk code to me about it, I am thinking not.

The worst thing about it is that he wasn’t going to talk to me about any of this—didn’t think he had to—if I hadn’t asked him. Said he hadn’t really put these thoughts and feelings into words yet, and struggled to even do so now, which was apparent because he couldn’t even give reasons for this off feeling in his gut.

Well, that off feeling in his gut I think is really that he met some other girl who intrigued him enough to want to go on a date with her, but he wanted time to see how that and maybe other dates with other women go before he possibly made any decisions with me. I told him that, and he got all huffy that I was accusing him of this American term of the “fade out.” But really, we both know that’s what this is, even if he is saying he’d like to meet me again sometime. Really?

Come on, seriously, grow a pair of balls. Just be real. Some of you guys wonder why we flip out. It’s not that you make a decision to move on. It’s that you toy with us and then lie about it to our faces before you cut us loose. It’s that you are secretly moving on before you finally tell us about it. That’s what pisses me off.

If you’re genuinely confused about how you feel, just be honest about that. This is supposed to be the king of communication, the one who kept urging me to talk and tell him how I was feeling about this and that. Why didn’t he feel like he should reciprocate?

Believe me—when I say I can handle it, I can. And by handling it, I mean hitting flush and moving on.

Finding Your Voice Again

- soundunwound.com

As a songwriter and musician, I truly have an appreciation for all different kinds of music. While I admit country music doesn’t make up a majority of my music collection, anyone who has listened to the radio over the last two decades has heard of the country crossover superstar Shania Twain. With mega hits like “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”, “From This Moment On” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” Twain had major commercial appeal, largely with the help of rock producer and co-writer Robert “Mutt” Lange.

Fifteen years into her marriage to “Mutt” (if that nickname isn’t a heads up…), Twain’s husband asked for a divorce. While the country singer attempts to take some of the blame off her husband, attributing contributing factors of a breakdown in communication and the very demanding lifestyles each led as “workaholics,” the day after Lange asked for a divorce, Twain found out the main cause for the ultimate split in their marriage: he was having an affair with one of her closest friends.

I’d vaguely heard of the couple’s break-up, but until reading about it over the weekend, I hadn’t known that Twain, in turn, had gone on to marry this former friend’s now ex-husband…Wait, run that by me again. What??

Oh My Twisted Heart -reeh0

Doubting that this was simply a story of sweet revenge, I was sucked into watching the first episodes of the new documentary on Oprah’s new television network, OWN, of Twain’s journey back into performing after having left the spotlight in 2004.  I felt this overwhelming desire to find out why a woman would marry the ex-husband of the bitch who stole her own husband.

In one of the first episodes of Why Not? With Shania Twain, the singer herself says of the new relationship, “It’s twisted, but so beautifully twisted.” Yet hearing the story, it kinda sorta makes sense.

This woman had been Twain’s confidante, who understood her concerns in the marriage. She seemed genuine and sincere, offering words of sympathy like, “I don’t know where you find strength.”

Now, Twain says, “She’s a great actress. She deserves an Academy Award.”

Fred, who had become good friends with Lange, was the one who discovered the affair between his wife and Mutt in a concrete way. Fred told them Twain should be told about the affair, but when they wouldn’t, he did.

“I never really saw that coming,” Twain said. She had to grieve the death of love, a friendship and “anything innocent.”

Fred and Twain helped each other get through the aftermath. He was going through the exact same thing that she was, but they also found that, through spending more time together,  they had much in common and were building a beautiful friendship.

Twain didn’t want to fall in love again, not trusting it. But she allowed Fred into her heart, and the couple became engaged in 2010. They married this past January.

Waiting In Black and White by overcoming_silence

Yet Twain’s recovery did not come as simply and completely as new love. By not allowing herself to fully grieve these most recent losses, the loss of both her parents in a car crash when she was 19, or the scars of domestic violence and extreme poverty in her family growing up, Twain found she was losing something even more sacred to her identity.

Losing a sense of trust, honesty and compassion, Twain said, “I lost my ability to express myself.” And with that, she lost her voice for singing.

In one episode, she consults with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon Livingston, whose book on losing both of his sons really resonated with the singer. Livingston tells Twain that by not grieving, by being “more brave than you need to be,” she has literally affected her voice.

Continually berating herself even in small, casual rehearsals with trusted childhood friends and fellow musicians, Twain seems determined to talk herself out of heading down the journey back to performing again, back to full recovery. Her anxiety weighs down on her every time she opens her mouth to sing, causing her to feel like she’s choking.

“What if I can never sing again?” Twain asks. “I’ll have lost my best friend.”

Twain’s sister and co-singer knowingly says, “If she lets her emotions out, she will find her voice.”

The show, this story is not just about Twain. Part of her recovery is seeing how others who have gone through similar losses live another day. Her natural empathy has her reaching out to a family of children who have lost both of their parents.

She admires the strength and bravery of a woman who has not only also had her husband cheat on her with a best friend, but also had two of her four children die at very young ages. Together, Twain and this woman, who has since remarried, bond over an anxiety-producing skydiving trip.

Going back to their childhood homes, Twain and her sister relive the painful memories of hearing abuse in one. Twain finally sheds tears when her sister recalls having to tell a brother that their parents have been killed when he wakes up after the car accident.

By the end of the second episode, Twain has written a new song full of hope and a little joy that she comfortably sings and jams to with her bandmates in their intimate rehearsal space. And it is this about the show that has most pulled at my heartstrings—that familiar struggle of burying emotions, swallowing the negatives of grief, anger and sadness to try to appear strong, like you have it all together.

Not only are you lying to yourself, you are cheating others out of your authentic self and you out of being your authentic self And in the end, you are handing someone else the power over your own voice. Isn’t it about time that you belt one out, straight from your own heart so that everyone can hear?

Every Good Girl Needs Her Toys

Ladies, I have three magic words for you: California Exotic Novelties. Now, you may not be familiar with them. I was complete clueless until a week and a half ago, so let me school you on what I’ve very pleasurably learned.

But first, a little back story. It all started with dinner at a Japanese restaurant. No, there was no sushi consumed. I had some chicken teriyaki dish (sub-par–nothing will ever compare to my near weekly haunt to my favorite Japanese restaurant in Menlo Park), and my dinner guest had the safe chicken stir fry. His meal looked absolutely incredible, it tasted delightful, but I won’t begrudge him…even though it has literally taken me almost four years to get him to go somewhere beyond the familiar and try Japanese food when I knew he’d find something on the menu he’d like. But I digress.

We got to the car after a long day, a really long work week for me–somehow I’ve turned into a workaholic who never sleeps, who is always writing, editing, plotting, perusing for ideas, or whatever the hell else I am doing at 4 a.m. His week has been just as busy, though he found time to sleep, at least.

Anyway, I assume we’re heading back for a quiet night of Saturday Night Live, when all of a sudden, he says, “Let’s go get some toys.” Now ladies and gentlemen, I am not so naive that I didn’t know exactly what he meant when he suggested getting toys. I started wearing the high heels, the fishnet stockings, the leather bra for him. It’s funny, we never really played dress up beyond panties and skirts. The week prior he got this weird look on his face and said, “Let’s put something up you!” Little did I know he meant something other than his finger, tongue or cock.

When he mentioned a cucumber, I was in utter disbelief. Never, ever would I have thought of such things. Especially not coming from him. We had a tame sex life in general…other than the anal. So I listened as he microwaved the cucumber–so I wouldn’t have a chilled vagina, right?

Are you really going to try to shove that huge vegetable inside me??

First, he spread me open with his fingers, and before I knew it, I had a cucumber in my pussy. Not only did I have a cucumber there, I actually kind of liked it. And while one hole was filled, another hole was free for him to fill me, and it felt pretty damn amazing.

So no, going to the L.U.V., right next door to the “gentleman’s club” didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Yet I was still a giggly sex toy virgin. They literally had everything from dildos to vibrators to penis extenders to pocket pussies to blow up dolls, gag gifts, magazines and videos for every fetish under the sun, and the strippers from next door to model skimpy clothing. It was like a Toy Store Warehouse for adults.

He kept asking me what I wanted, picking up things he thought were neat. A glass dildo that had groovy swirls and nobs that you could cool and heat, various vibrating toys, straight out ridiculous Ron Jeremy-sized dildos and a whole bunch of other things I was completely overwhelmed by. We wound up with a purple vibrating dildo and an amazingly small (waterproof, the female staff, kept highlighting) with at least a half dozen speeds, intensities and types of vibrations. The shape of a clam it could easily fit way up inside of you.

I will not go into any further detail about how said items were used, except to say that the clam vibrator is something both a man and woman can enjoy in synchronicity for a truly amazing and new sexual experience. It’s amazing how one little thing, or rather, two little things can change things. When the shape of a relationship changes, have gone stale or when you’ve reached that stage where it’s make it or break it point, living outside the box can really help bring that spark back. I can enjoy every minute of it, no matter where it takes me, sexually or purely emotionally.

And I think, personally, every good girl needs a little playtime away from her insane work-centered existence.

Please Forgive Me, I Know Not What I Do

Forgiveness is a mysterious temptress. Sometimes she flows so freely from your every pore, like air from your lungs.  Before anyone even has to open their mouth to beg for forgiveness, she has been freely, fully given, with no conditions or catches. Once you have been forgiven of your transgressions, the matter is truly over, left in the past where it should be buried in a shallow grave, given its proper regards. Life moves on.

Sometimes forgiveness digs her heels in. She must be earned. There are some things that can’t and shouldn’t be so easily forgiven. Infidelity. Big lies that can’t be simply explained as  I just didn’t want to hurt you by telling you the brunt reality.  Or, “I forgot to tell you that I’m actually living here illegally, and I have another family in Mexico.”  You must bow down to your ego and realize that you aren’t as clever or as wise as you thought you were. You have seriously hurt someone, probably someone you care about very much. And because of this, they’ve lost some degree of faith in you. They feel like they can’t trust you.

You can’t just win them back with a joke or a bouquet of flowers. You will have to spend some serious time working to regain their trust. You will have to be transparent. You will have to realize that you can’t keep everything to yourself anymore. You will have to be held accountable. You will have to treat the injured party like a king or queen, respectively. You will have to say you’re sorry, feeling it and meaning it from the bottom of your heart. You will have to say it so that he/she knows it in their core that you mean it. You will have to pay for this transgression until you’ve earned entry through that door that leads you back into your partner’s inner circle. Her walls have been let down and she can trust you with her love again. She can once again feel your respect and admiration for her.

Forgiveness often remains just at the edge of our fingertips, waiting to be learned. Some peoples’ walls have been built up so high from all their past bad experiences with other people at other times, they genuinely don’t know how to let other people back in again. It’s a process, often brutal and never simple. Sometimes their partner has the patience to stand by their side, give them space, while still letting them know they are loved and admired. Sure there has been pain both ways. Sure they both need to let go off hurtful things said, past wrongs, poor choices, and yes, that damn variable of bad timing. Sometimes people fear that learning how to forgive is a sign of showing weakness. In fact, I think forgiveness is one of the strongest things we can do, not only to others, but for ourselves.

When we carry around our pain, disappointment and hurt over all the ways people have wronged us in the past, we block ourselves from moving forward. We create a toxic cloud around ourselves that prevents us from truly seeing what is in front of our eyes in the present. We don’t allow ourselves to live in and enjoy the now.

We can’t forgive and we definitely can’t forget, so we get mired in the past. We relive it like a broken record that never stops replaying. We grow so used to it, we think it must be what we need, where we should invest our time and emotion. Instead we’re just paralyzing ourselves, keeping ourselves from living the best life we are meant to live.

So how do we learn to listen to forgiveness when her whisper is so quiet, yet admittedly so sweet? We must come to her like a child. We don’t know it all, and we can’t pretend to. We must be willing to get still and listen to the true drumming and thrumming of our heart beats. What are they secretly telling us? Do we want to stay mad at this person we love possibly more than anyone else we’ve loved before? Have they really committed a transgression so great that it cannot be overcome through time, personal and spiritual growth, and love? These answers aren’t easy and you may have one answer today and a different answer next week. But the point is to listen and to keep an ear out for consistency. Which answer do you keep finding yourself turning back to?

Learn to know yourself so well that when your heart gives you truth, you can recognize it clearly and soundly. This often means stepping back and taking a lot of personal time, meditation and for some, prayer. Don’t be afraid of your solitude. Or the silence. Don’t be afraid of the mood swings that are sure to follow. Forgive yourself if you sometimes fall back into bad habits during this process. The point is to get through this process. Journal your journey. Talk to people you feel you can trust. I pray about it. Sometimes, this process takes a month, sometimes it takes a year. But when your eyes finally open wide, you know when you are capable of forgiveness or not.

You know whether you can and should take that big leap again. You know when a surprise 3-hour Skype call can start you dreaming again, when the flood of memories aren’t so bittersweet anymore–they’re just sweet. You know when you both have matured and transformed enough as individuals that you feel the potential that maybe one day there might come a time when you both truly can forgive each other again. When you know there is just too much good that outweighs that bad. You sit at the computer at 3:30 in the morning, and you realize, “That sneaky forgiveness may have slid her way back into my heart once again.”

Pinch Me, I’m Living a Dream

I’m still pinching myself over the phone call I received on Friday. On Tuesday, I had the very promising in-person interview with the woman who would be my direct boss. On Wednesday, I had a phone interview with a woman who has the job I was applying for and a phone interview with someone in HR who told me I had to basically completely revamp my resume. Surprisingly, having this blog and my other blog on health and integrative medicine were considered very big pluses, and I was encouraged to promote those on my resume. However, I felt a bit discouraged by her inability to recognize my very relevant-to-the-job, direct experience. I just let go of control, polished my resume as best as possible, and waited as they presented my application to the board on Thursday morning.

I was encouraged when the woman at HR called me again late Wednesday to discuss where exactly I wanted to work–my hometown or Mr. E’s. She had talked to the regional  editor I’d interviewed with, and  sounded much more encouraging. “In [Mr. E's town] there are two other candidates,” she told me. “In yours, there are less than that.” Which meant, I was competing against one person or no one. Let’s see: being an expert on the town I grew up in and now live again? That’s a no-brainer.

Thursday morning I was being presented to the board. But I still had work to do. A writing test if you will–a sample story that I might write on a complicated arson case. I spent a lot of time on it and really enjoyed it. Maybe, I thought, as I read over my final draft, I can actually do this.

Mid-afternoon on Friday, I got the call from HR. “We want to give you a couple updates,” she said to me in her neutral voice. “We’d like to offer you the position of…”

After I hung up the phone, I yelled to my mother in the next room and began my happy, funky dance. I proceeded to get my foot caught in the nearby hamper and fall chin-first into my cat’s water bowl. Totally classic, wish someone had filmed it. Why? Because it captured the spontaneous joy of an opportunity I haven’t been able to taste for over nine years since I left California.

The first person I called to share the news was, perhaps not surprisingly, not Mr. E. I called the V-Man, who was so enthusiastically happy for me. He sounded proud. He wanted to know all the details. He immediately jumped into how we wanted to work on the welcome video I need to produce to launch the site. I had asked him previously how much he got for freelancing as a videographer, but he kept sweeping it aside, as if he was happy to do these kinds of things for me for free.

After a conversation almost an hour long, I called Mr. E. Immediately he was Debbie Downer. “This is what I was afraid of. You talked about the level of commitment you reach when you are living with someone, engaged, etc. Now, with this job, there’s not even a chance we can reach that level of commitment in, at minimum, a year.” He did say he was proud of me. He did want to clarify my title so he could brag about it to his friends. But talking to him almost zapped the pleasure of sharing my great news with him out of me.

The weekend came, and I needed to get organized and focused. He ignored my pleas to let me just rest alone with my family on Friday night and showed up at the house. He made me feel guilty for needing to get errands run, organize my work space, and start finishing up my fiction writing assignments on Saturday, leaving no time for him.

When I finally saw him on Sunday, after a girls’ day, I was extremely wary. We’d been fighting all week about his jealousy over everything and everyone. Yet somehow we managed to come together and enjoy our hours together late into the night, despite today being a work day for him. I got a better understand of his apprehensions. I shared my own fears about how I will handle the job.

Yet today, as I sit down to work more on my fiction and as my brain is already churning out more ideas about news stories on my town, I am wondering just how we’ll manage to survive when life gets extremely busy for me. I know from experience that he only gets more needy, frantic, and frightened the more of a life I have going on that doesn’t have room to constantly coddle and reassure him. Yet I know this path is one I desperately need and want to take. Something will have to give. I just don’t know the shape and direction it will take.

Letting Down the Walls

This past weekend, Mr. E, the kids and I took a trip up to Beverly, Mass. where Mr. E’s best friend D and his family live. Their 3-story house should probably be deemed a mansion, but it was built in the late 1800s, paint on ceilings and walls were peeling in several rooms, and only one of the bathrooms was really accessible for showers and baths. Yet the home is a 15-minute walk from the ocean and has a magical charm to it.

We brought with us the 6-person tent Mr. E bought right before the kids came that we’ve “camped” out in several nights before, which gives us a cozy family feel. Mr. E can sleep with all his loved ones in touching distance, and when the kids fall asleep, we can cozy up and talk late into the night. One particular night, after we watched D’s daughter in a play recital, I was feeling especially close and lovey-dovey with Mr. E. Part of it might have been because Mr. E had the video camera to record her and I had my super-zoom camera to capture moments, and afterward Mr. E said something about imagining what it might be like seeing our own child in a play or special event like this. It weirded me out a little just because I had been thinking the same thing.

Anyway, that night after we’d enjoyed some intimate moments, I had my guard down for the first time in a really long time. “Something has changed,” Mr. E said. “You haven’t been able to keep your hands off me all day, and every time you look at me, you’re smiling. You just want to be by my side. You really love me, don’t you?”

“Hmm…maybe,” I teased.

“What has changed?” he wondered, hugging me tightly. I told him that I was finally letting my walls down. For so long, I’d been thinking I didn’t deserve to have this kind of happiness with commitment. All the men I’d been in relationships with over the last several years didn’t offer me stability with passion. It was always one or the other. Or if the men offered me both, I just didn’t feel the same connection back. That’s why it scared and hurt me so much when I felt it deep in my bones so early on that I had finally found it with Mr. E, but he eventually had to return to FDG to see if there was more to their story or not. I became scared I was wrong. I wondered if V-Man was the right one for me after all. He’d been patiently waiting all this time, hadn’t he?

Yet somehow Mr. E and I wound up back together. Both hurt and wary, but willing to give this another try. Each passing struggle made us stronger. When the kids came the last day of July, something powerful and beautiful began to flicker and now, two and half weeks later, we’re at full flame. I told him my fears of ever becoming a mother after I became so sick. V-Man was wary of having kids any time “soon”, and I began to wonder if having kids was that crucial to me any.

Yet with Mr. E’s kids, I found myself in this pseudo-stepmother role. I fell in love, and they took to me immediately. Whether we were monkeying around on the playground or riding all the rides together as a group at the indoor water park the second weekend they were here, being with them has always felt natural. I read them bedtime stories in a British accent and love how they lose themselves in the story and watch me transfixed. His almost 11-year-old son told me I was the only woman who wasn’t a member of his family that he loves. Melt. The 9-year-old daughter loves to snuggle, to touch my hair, to compliment me and want to use my hair products, to have toenails the same color as mine, etc.

I find myself stepping into discipline them when they get out of hand, in a manner that Mr. E can appreciate. “You are a wonderful mama,” he likes to say.

Now what do you think about becoming a mother?” he asked me that night in the tent.

“I know it’s what I still want,” I admitted. “And I can do it.”

“You don’t have to give up any of the things you want anymore,” he told me, stroking my hair. “You don’t have to run anymore and sabotage your happiness. You don’t have to be scared. You can have all the things you want and have ever dreamed for your life. Sure, dreams change their shape over time–when things happen and with whom they will happen change. But you don’t have to sacrifice the things that mean the most to your happiness.”

The thing is, I actually am starting to believe him. Believe in us. Someone does love me that much. Who when I try to run, writes me love songs and brings flowers. Who when I try to hide when I am sick, brings food, a movie, the kids and himself to keep me company. He can clearly see and dearly wants a future with me, and the kids are already seeing summer after summer with me here too. It scares us both a little, but in that excited “could-this-really-be-it?” way. Time will tell, of course. But I like the direction it’s taking now.

The rest of the weekend was magical. Every spare moment alone we could find together, we took full advantage of. We held hands wading in the water. I took photos of the glittering moonlight dancing on the water. We laughed and told stories with his old friends. We fondly watched all the children playing together and running around with dirt caked on their feet. The weekend ended, but we all are already looking forward to this one when we get to head up there again.

Taking A Leap of Faith

Somehow Mr. Etiquette has slipped back into my life after multiple false starts, arguments and tears. The crazy bitch FDG married her poor fiance this past Friday. Mr. E had put her in her proper place in the past. He finally said the sorry I was waiting for all this time–he’d already countless apologized for being so blind as to give me up to give her another chance, but finally, he gave me the sorry for not telling me there was a FDG in the first place those first blissful three weeks of dating. He cried, full of shame, and I resented having to bully him to get him to admit he went about our relationship the wrong way.

My mother is a paragon of forgiveness. She had much to forgive my father of in their past. I never could understand how she allowed him back into her heart. I never thought I had that kind of strength and grace in me. Maybe I underestimated myself.

Mr. Etiquette started therapy. We worked together to help write him an ad to find him a band. On my own, I came to the conclusion that, despite the V-Man being a better man than I gave him credit for, he still is not the right one for me (I think) for the long haul of life. This is harder for me to admit than I’d wish. I don’t know how much this will change the shape of our friendship.

Mr Etiquette began wooing me again. He wrote me a heartbreaking, touching poem that he read to me over Skype before it came to me in the mail, with a card. After an argument and a proclamation of my need for space, Mr. Etiquette stubbornly came to the house, Lloyd Dobler-style, knocked on the front door in the morning to no answer. He left a beautiful bouquet of flowers, another card and lyrics to songs that touched upon very pertinent issues we had been facing over the last two and half months.

The next day, under the protection of my family, I invited him over, just to see what it would feel like. Those first three weeks of knowing how right we were together had been muddled and tainted by confusion and hurt, it was so hard to know my ass from my elbow anymore. He claimed FDG was in the past. He insisted with confidence that he loved me. Those words made me shake my head, no.

The last man who had clearly told me “I love you” was an overly aggressive man who intimidated me. The last man who had sounded so sure about our future, who had declared with certainty that he wanted me to be his wife and the mother of his children, was arguably bipolar and had taken me on  the emotional roller-coaster of my life. Mr. E. had been so confused not so long ago, how could I believe his leap back to me?

When he came over, he was cautious, downright terrified of me. I watched him interact with my brother and his wife, their children. Eventually, he tentatively reached out for my arm several times. I looked up at him and couldn’t help smiling back at him. This man had more courage than anyone I’d ever come across before.

He stayed through dinner. He watched me wash the dishes. He, my mom, and I were settling down to watch the new “Alice in Wonderland” when I started having one of my really bad seizure-like episodes. I could see the fear and genuine concern on Mr. E’s face. He tried to follow my mom’s lead to comfort me. Then we all had a serious discussion about the recent appointment I had with the specialist in Boston and what were my potential paths ahead. Mr. E asked a lot of questions and said he was on board to help me however he can.

The next day, Mr. E. called, telling me he had done lots of research on my disease and shared what he had discovered. He told me to stop being stubborn and stay on top of things so I never get this bad again. It touched me how he said he was there to support me, whatever course the disease takes over time.

Later that night, he told me he loved me again. I smiled this time. He asked why I was so afraid of that word. He told me his one word definition of love: acceptance. “When I say I love you, I am saying I accept all of you, your intelligence, your strength, your courage, your beautiful heart, your sense of humor, even your stubbornness and toughness.”

Mr. Etiquette told me that from now on, he was going to tell me, “I accept you completely.” One day soon, he said, you are going to want to say it back to me. I must say I like his definition. It has a certain poetic truth to it.

His kids are coming in from Germany on Saturday for five weeks. I am eager to see him as a father because that is a role he cherishes and feels most confident in. We all have our different sides. I hope we each can show each other more of our beautiful sides again, more of that side we showed each other in those first three magical weeks together. Time will tell if that’s a possibility.

Trusting My Instincts

When I first brought home my cat, a beautiful, silver bengal I named Alexei, he was six months old.  Like most cats, when he wasn’t sleeping or bathing, he loved to sit in windows and watch the world. Because we also had a porch at the back of the house whose stairs had been removed, I thought he would jump at the chance to be able to get outside while I would not have to worry about him getting loose.

So not too long after he began his visits out to the porch, he came to the sliding glass doors asking to be let inside. That’s when I noticed he had something in his mouth. As he attempted to cross the threshold, I realized he was holding a black bird in between his teeth. He was hoping to bring the bird in to show him off to his mom so I could tell him what a good boy he was. I quickly praised him while redirecting him back onto the porch, but not before a few black feathers fell to the kitchen floor. Poor bird.

To be quite honest, I was astonished that my little, inexperienced kitten had managed to capture a live bird while he was just playing around on the porch. I tried to envision the scenario: maybe the bird had broken a wing and somehow landed on the railing of the porch and Alexei quickly leaped up and grabbed him. Or maybe the bird was severely dim-witted and was just sitting somewhere on the porch with his back to the house, not realizing that a hunting cat was sneaking up right behind him.  At any case, I concluded it was sheer luck that my cat was able to catch him.

As Alexei grew into a full-size cat, he proved his skills as a mouser in the basement and garage. I learned when he had a certain shifty look in his eyes, I’d better examine his mouth for “gifts” he was looking to bring to his master (er, mistress?) However, when I did finally trust him to take him outside for walks, he proved to be incredibly hopeless as an outdoor hunter.

This was great with me because it meant less carnage of innocent animals. Yet I must admit a part of me felt embarrassed for him as he noisily galloped through leaves trying to “sneak” up on some birds in the woods behind our house. If, for some reason he got out and had to fend for himself in the wild, how would he possibly be able to survive out there? What good were those razor claws and lethal canines if he only practiced using them while “play fighting” with me?

Yesterday, I let him outside for a nice, leisurely walk around the yard.  He was on his best behavior, chewing on grass, staying right by my side, and not trying to go over to the neighbor’s house and claim their front porch. When we got to the side of the house with the driveway and the border of dense trees, suddenly he crouched down on his haunches and bounced on his hind legs before quickly slinking ahead. Prepared for a leaf or something equally embarrassing, imagine my surprise when Alexei came out from behind a large rock with an adult chipmunk in his mouth. He had managed to capture one of the fastest animals in our yard. As my ex, now just friend, The V-Man put it, “He is now a man.”

This blog is about dating, so you may wonder, why am I writing about the hunting skills of my cat? As I was thinking about Alexei’s amazing instincts and how he’s built up his skills in less dramatic fashion, I started thinking about my own progression into the world of a real, adult relationship.

Work with me here. In my first real relationship, my boyfriend and I talked endlessly about everything. He knew about my family dramas, my fears about going to college on the other side of the country, he’d heard every song I’d written, and I’d entrusted him with every story and poem I’d written when I went off to college. I trusted him that completely, I didn’t even give it a second thought. I didn’t know better not to put up walls to protect myself. He would never hurt me.

However, temptations for a different life led me down a different path into different relationships. My next boyfriend of four years, with whom I lived and talked about marriage, and I were close. Yet I was shy about my things. He wanted all of me, all of my time, all of my energy, and I felt hampered from having a social life outside of him, I felt hampered creatively, and he even began invading my personal space by reading journal entries or emails I’d send. I started to close myself off to him. I loved him, but I didn’t trust him completely with all of me.

My relationships went downhill from there. The ability to communicate deteriorated. I, the writer, the communication major, could not express myself verbally in relationships. I feared conflict. I feared hurting someone. I feared rejection. I feared being alone. What’s worse than not being able to fully trust others, I stopped trusting myself. I let things bubble up until I couldn’t take them anymore. I broke up with flabbergasted, unsuspecting guys via letters and emails. I hid behind my written words.

I didn’t trust my own abilities to be able to carry a sustained, loving relationship. I ran after the wrong men, unavailable men–emotionally or physically. I started wondering if I could even recognize a good one if it was standing right in front of me, waiting to be pounced on.

Then, Mr. Etiquette came along. Immediately, words poured out of my mouth. I shared fears, faults, insecurities. I shared strengths, hopes, dreams, my zest for life, my humor, my soul. I didn’t stop to think–wait, should I share this? I didn’t email him or text him when I worried about his own fear moving forward. I talked to him face-to-face with complete honesty, but also acceptance. He said he was amazed by my maturity and insight. He was as open, honest, and receptive communicating with me as I was with him. I feel like I’ve finally met someone who speaks my language again.

It’s not as if I’ve been reading books on how to communicate. I already knew how. It’s not as if I’ve been mentored on how to open up to others; my therapist had been trying unsuccessfully for over a year and half to get me to be as honest and open with the men in my life about how I felt and what I wanted and needed as I was with her and all of my family and friends. I knew how to do it, I just felt like they wouldn’t accept what I was sharing.

Over the years of my life, I’ve accrued so much experience about what works and doesn’t work in relationships, not only by looking at my own relationships, but learning from the struggles of my parents’ early marriage, at my friends’ marriages and relationships, and yes, even analyzing the romances in movies and fiction books. Even when I struggled to implement what I knew into my own ill-fated relationships, or when it took me too long to just pull the cord, deep inside I knew I couldn’t be as hopeless and helpless as I appeared.

Finally, instinct gave me the awareness to stop and realize a worthy partner has suddenly stepped into my line of sight. It is almost as if everything I do, every word I say, every move I make is the right one. Nothing  is pre-calculated, overanalyzed and thus tainted. I go with my gut, with my heart, and I trust myself that what I am giving and receiving is what I deserve. He confirms I deserve all those things I dream of having, but even more importantly, I once again believe it for myself.

Alexei finally learned to trust his instincts and came up with a prize. He was so proud and ecstatic, he didn’t protest at all when I washed him down afterward. Today, he snuggled with me all afternoon despite the humidity that makes him want to wander restlessly. He is content in a way I haven’t seen in a long time.

Maybe there is more to be learned from this odd, little cat of mine. I know I deserve the prize of contentment too.