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.

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When It Finally Feels Right

Mr. Etiquette was chasing his 10-year-old son around the playground, and I was helping his 9-year-old daughter learn how to swing across the monkey bars. She watched me swing from bar to bar, and then she gradually figured out how to maneuver her peanut body to do it herself. I looked up and saw Mr Etiquette watching us with this smile full of pride. I didn’t want to name this feeling that had come over me ever since the moment the kids walked into the house to find me there with welcoming balloons and a big smile.

It was a Sunday. Together we had climbed the steep stairs to get to the top of Castle Craig, which gave us a lovely view of the misty green surrounding area. Afterward, we made our way down to the playground, and each child wanted to do something with me. Later, the girl needed help pulling herself up the small “rock-climbing” rock. When she got to the top, she asked me to come join her. It’s been years since I’ve done indoor rock-climbing, but my body remembered how to get up there in a hot second. Before I knew it, the boy was climbing up to join us. Mr. Etiquette was watching us, and the kids yelled for him to come up too. Soon we were all at the top of this rock, and I had this strange sense that this felt just right.

After a cook-out with the neighbors from across the street, I couldn’t help thinking how many years it had been since I’d had this feeling of togetherness with a partner. The Bulldog and I would have friends over frequently but it was always pretty casual and usually involved lots of alcohol, pot, and loud music. This night, there were children running around playing together. Mr. E was manning the grill, and I was getting the other supplies ready, doing dishes, and also trying to play hostess.  Mr. E would try to sneak in a tight hug and kiss, and sometimes the kids would catch us and grin.

I spoke with the woman neighbor about her son, who has cerebral palsy. I told her most of the kids I worked with had cerebral palsy, autism, or both. I commented that her son was doing amazingly well at the age of five, running around and interacting with Mr. E’s kids, though I kept in my mind that I noticed how his outbursts and repetitious vocalization made me suspect he also had mild form of autism. I was reminded how I really didn’t want to give up my dream of working with kids with disabilities using expressive arts therapy.

Later, when everything was cleaned up and the neighbors went home, it was time to bring me home. The girl really wanted me to stay overnight again and watch them on Monday. I promised I could do that on the other Mondays if that was okay with everyone else (which it was), but their babysitter was already planning on being there this Monday. It was time to go; the kids looked forward to meeting my dog-like cat, and Mr. Etiquette was eager for my parents to meet the kids. On the drive over, we blasted music, danced like fools, and sang to the cars that drove by us. It was a blast.

My parents were beyond impressed by the kids, who were so sweet and polite. Even though it was late, my folks wanted to spend more time with the kids. The children thought the cat was amusing. They too didn’t want to leave. The boy, who’d been keeping his cool that day (we’d bonded more the previous day, when I’d encouraged him in my best cowboy voice, to unpack before playing, or face the nerf rifle ejecting at his backside) , suddenly was putting on the brakes leaving the house. When he realized that grabbing something to drink meant they wouldn’t have to leave quite yet, he asked for soda and drank it very slowly as did the girl. Then he and Mr. E. found the mini Rubick’s cube. I told him he could take it home and show me he had it figured out when I saw him next, but he insisted on trying to figure out then and there.

When Mr. E finally shooed them to the front door, I thanked the kids for letting me hang out with them this weekend. The boy smiled at me and said, “Thank you for being there the first second we got home. And the second second. And the third second…” he continued as he walked out the door.

“They are beautiful children,” my mom said, clearly won over. “Such nice kids.”

This morning Dad asked if I had talked to my stepchildren yet. I rolled my eyes but grinned, saying, “Not yet. We’ll Skype tonight.”

“You can tell a lot about the parents from the way children behave,” my dad said. He made some remarks about how easy I would have it to just have two older kids and a family right away, how he and mom would be be able to be step-grandparents to older children as well as my brother’s toddler and baby.  He’s been rooting for Mr. Etiquette ever since the first time he came to the house to beg me not to give up on him.

This time I didn’t protest too much. I didn’t tell him how Mr. E and I had talked earlier in the day and talked about how nice and easy it felt to all be together like that, how we felt like a family all together right away. We both said how that was scary, but really nice. He told me how the kids shared even more how much they liked me, which they’d been doing all weekend, and how they wanted me there every weekend for the rest of their visit. He said I had the kid-seal of the approval, the neighbor-seal of approval, all on top of his own feelings. Two and half months of our tumultuous beginning felt like two and half years building something from which to blossom.  “You really accept me, don’t you?” he teased.

I teased back, “That might be so.” And yes, dear readers, I made it official by declaring on Facebook that I was “in a relationship.”

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.

When The Tables Are Turned

In a perfect twist to my soap opera saga with Mr. Etiquette, this morning, he just found out he’s been the “other man” to his Miss Wonderful over the last 15 months. She broke things off again with him this past Sunday–in truth, there wasn’t really anything to break off besides words. In the last two weeks, she’d seen him one day for three hours and canceled every other “date” that they’d planned after that. Still, Mr. E. was crushed. He, of course, came to me for comfort, advice, etc. I was blunt with him, basically encouraging not to shed too many tears over a woman who has continually kicked him in the teeth for over the year. He seemed like he was trying to listen, even showing signs that he wanted to move on, be happy and at peace again.

Until this morning, when he decided to give things another try with Miss Wonderful, hunt down her father since he’d deleted all her numbers from his phone the day before, and put the father in the middle. He asked if he could bring some things to her father, explaining to him who Mr. Etiquette was. Dad was very confused and broke the news that Miss Wonderful was getting married…¿Cómo say what?

Obviously Mr. Etiquette is crushed, but he can’t say he couldn’t see this coming. Several times, he mentioned the gut feeling that his Former Dream Girl was seeing someone else. We talked about this on Friday night when we went to see a band, and I observed, “It is interesting that she never wants to get together on Fridays and Saturdays, and she’s totally fine with you hanging out with me on Friday nights.” She had time for everyone else throughout the weekend, but Mr. Etiquette was only deemed worthy of a couple hours late Sunday afternoons.

When FDG wouldn’t show, she would get hostile and defensive if Mr. E showed disappointment. Several of us in the know have been telling him her “anxiety” wouldn’t suddenly change her personality from sweet to bitch the way that it had over the course of the year if she really, truly loved him and wanted to be with him. Even with her anxiety she could handle the responsibilities of her job, being the maid of honor in a wedding with all the duties that entails, doing things for her family, spending time with all of her friends, so why was it only with him that she “couldn’t deal”?

My question remains why would he keep going back to this woman when he claims all he wants is to be loved by someone willing and capable of being loved, someone who respects, admires, desires him, and wants to build a life with him? Before I knew about FDG, I was capable of becoming that girl, and he knew it. He risked all that just to make sure FDG wouldn’t return to the love he thought she once was for not even 6 months over a year ago (when she got back together with her ex-boyfriend/now fiancé).

He kept saying he didn’t want to lose me as a friend, because he guessed things wouldn’t work out with FDG, and look–he was right. He got extremely jealous as I moved forward in dating, urging me not to move too quickly. He was going to come for me if things didn’t work out with FDG. Yet why would I want him? I would always know I was second-best. I know I deserve more than that.

Even more now, after she told him on Sunday after her last no-show, “please move on, please find love and get married, don’t call, text, email, or try to visit me again, I don’t love you,” he still tried to give it another chance today. He is more desperate than i thought. He is the one who needs extensive counseling, maybe just as much if not more than FDG. She is just a mean-spirited, cowardly bitch.  Mr. Etiquette is off his rocker. I feel sorry for him, but I don’t want to, to quote good ol’ Dr. Phil, “be his soft place to fall,” if it only drags me down to hell on earth as well.

Steamin’ It Up, Old-School Style

“How do you always get mascara all over your face?” my mom asked coming out of her bedroom when I came in tonight from my third date with The Brit. “Maybe you should stop wearing any mascara at all.”

“It’s raining out,” I said. She gave me a look that told me she wasn’t buying it. “And I’m always rubbing my face,” I added, which is true. It might also be because I just spent the last half hour making out in The Brit’s car in our driveway, I thought, but I knew to keep that one to myself.

“This is a bit dodgy, isn’t it?” The Brit commented, as we paused for breath, in the close quarters of his VW Bug. “D’ya think your parents are going to get upset that we’re basically parking in their driveway?” It was a good question. But his car wasn’t too big, it was dark and raining, and we were safely tucked under the cover of some lush tree branches in the side driveway. “Your dad’s not the type to come out here with a bat or anythin’, is he?”

I responded by leaning in for another kiss. (No, Jaysey818, it turns out we didn’t need a lesson at all this time.) And no, Dad wasn’t home. Otherwise, he’d have the binoculars and flashlight out the window, recon-style.

After a lovely dinner at an Indian restaurant that The Brit likes–my stomach was totally fine, thank you very much, you guys–we didn’t want the date to end quite yet, but we didn’t know where to go. it was raining, otherwise we could go for a walk. Neither of us felt like doing any drinking. The Brit thought of taking me to his place, and I could meet his cat, but he said it was embarrassingly messy right now. Most of the stores would be closing soon, but we decided we’d pop into the nearby Marshall’s just for something to do.

The Brit looked at a few shirts, asked my opinion, and then the store announced it was closing. Not wanting to be pressured by time into a sale, The Brit left without any new clothes. We shrugged, restless but lacking too much imagination, so he ended up taking me home. I did notice he parked the car in the side driveway instead of just pulling up idle behind my unused car, so I smiled as he came in to kiss me. I wasn’t prepared for how much we were going to steam up the windows.

“Perhaps we should have gone to the park for a proper parking after all,” he mused later.

This of course reminds me of Bridget Jones’ Diary, where Bridget tells Mark Darcy: “Wait a minute…nice boys don’t kiss like that.” His reply, “Oh, yes, they fucking do.”

The only unfortunate incident of the night is that I started talking about blogging. I wasn’t even drinking, I tell you. I was talking about my health blog, which covers a range of health topics, from unusual disorders to alternative medicine to nutrition transformations in schools to traveling while disabled. This was all well and good until I started babbling about my other blog; yes, this very one.

“Am I in it?” he asks. Then throughout the rest of dinner, he tries to throw in, so you talk about x in this blog, which is called y? Fishing for the name, which I refused to give. I told him there is nothing negative to report about The Brit. However, it’s too soon for him to see this side of me, or to hear way too many details about my messy dating life. If he ever earns that right, or if I ever get up the cajones to share this blog with anyone in my personal circle…that’s because I will have reached the stability in my romantic life where I feel free to be completely open about my past because it is…in my past.

I did say that I may copy my personal guide to having great sex and email it to him, however. Though I do personally (through pseudonyms) mention previous lovers, which is not a good thing. But that can be easily edited.

Speaking of previous lovers, Harlequin Hero of course informed last night that he’s coming back up here at the end of the month. Don’t know how long he’s staying but he said of course he wants to see me. And it should surprise no one that Mr. Etiquette called me while I was on my date. I ignored the numerous buzzes I received from various people during the date, but I just knew one of them was from him. He surprisingly didn’t leave a message, which only leads me to conclude he knew I was on a date. T must have told him I was “out.” Screw him and his jealousy. He only calls when things are bleak with Sara, which of course is frequent lately, especially now that we’re talking again. Might need to cut off this “friendship” deal completely.

The Brit brought up a wedding in Michigan he was invited to go to this summer. He is friends with the groom, met the bride once, but knows no one else at the wedding. He feels terrible if he says no to it, though. I was wondering if he wanted my opinion, or if he was putting out feelers if I might want to go so he’d know someone else at the wedding. Seems a bit early for him to ask, since he’s a laid-back, average-paced guy. He brought up getting there via a road trip, asked my opinion on whether I thought it’d be a decent ride, etc.  Probably was just asking since I know this part of the U.S. better than he does. The groom’s not a best friend, so I honestly think it could be fun if we were still seeing each other, but whatever. I won’t ponder it further unless he specifically asks me.

Remember to Play Nice in the Game of Dating

Well, I feel terrible, but with my long vacation where I very much bonded with a new guy, plus the emotional turmoil of last week’s wakes (yes, that’s plural, I’ll tell you about that one tomorrow) and funeral, plus the strange night with HH, I’ve been neglecting anyone I’d previously been in contact with on PlentyOfFish or on Match. Every day, I think about all the emails I owe, even if it’s to say, “Sorry I’ve been incognito, lot of shit’s been going on, but I’ll get back to you when I can,” but I just see them pile up, and I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I should just write a big ol’ apology to everyone in my profile saying, “sorry I thought I was ready for this, but it turns out I so don’t need any more help in this area right now.”

Remember the Nice Guy with Potential for Friendship? We shared many common interests, but he admitted he may not be ready to move into anything romantic after a relatively recent breakup. Well, he hasn’t forgotten me. I just saw an email from him in my inbox that made me say I definitely need to at least reply to him.

Hey, kind of surprised I haven’t heard from you. Did you meet somebody? If you did, congratulatations, that’s awesome. But, if not, I wanted to tell you that I was probably too hasty in saying I wasn’t ready for any romantic expectation. I mean, you never know what’s going to happen. I just didn’t want to get in a situation where we wouldn’t ever talk talk again or be friends if we went out and didn’t click on the dating-level instantly.

So, yeah, I’m still interested in getting to know you. However, there’s a chance I may have to return home to PA. I got laid off last week, and unemployment is not going to cover my bills. I’m substitute-teaching in the meantime while there’s still school, but that won’t exactly get it done either. I had an interview on Monday, so I’m hoping that’s going to come through….

J

He is cute. He is sweet. We do have a lot in common. I feel like we at least owe it to each other to meet once sooner rather than later, especially if he might have to move back home. I will always welcome a new friend who brings something good to the table.

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Profile of the Day: Give Me Some Space

Last night, I received an email from an interesting guy. He runs a non-profit Support Employment Program that assists individuals with psychiatric disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment. Nice, I’m attracted to the altruistic. He also owns and operates and martial arts/fitness center. Great, he’s also ambitious and physically fit, while helping others to be healthy both inside and out as well. Considering my career path is working toward this goal as well, I truly appreciated seeing this in a potential suitor.

On top of all this, he “enjoys music, dancing, philosophy, intellectually stimulating conversation, and new experiences.” I don’t do much dancing right now, but I do adore my music, in all flavors. And I’m tired of doing all the listening to men who only enjoy listening to the sound of their own voices; that’s not a conversation, that’s a monologue. The bane of several past dating experiences as of late has been the lack of enough intellectually stimulation conversations–yes, I do miss that part of college.

However, then I really looked at his profile. This one sentence stood out at me and curdled the almond milk (which yes, I know doesn’t actually curdle) in my stomach a little bit:

I endeavor to approach life with a sense of spaciousness,

and non-attachment to subjective perceptions.

Everything else he said on his profile sounded reasonable, like something any normal person would say. But this one sentence sounded like it was lifted straight from a recent self-help book he’d read. I recognize a positive affirmation when I read one. In fact, it sounds exactly like a statement the airy, harp-accompanied voice that breathes to me from the guided imagery CD my parents lent me a few years back, Hypnotherapy for Inner Calm. I’m sure when he shares these affirmations with his clients, they appreciate hearing them, just as I tolerate them during my guided imagery listens. But it sounded a bit out of place for a plentyoffish profile.

Now that a little of the air had been let out of bright yellow balloon of hope for this guy, I pondered his profile further. Positives: Right age, great height, athletic, doesn’t drink. Downsides: Looks a bit like a thug, bald, massive, body-crushing muscles with tattoos, most of the photos are at an angle looking up his nose, with a bandana, cap slanted to the side, or wearing shades.

Still, the aim is to look outside of the choices that haven’t worked for me in the past, isn’t it? I’m not holding my breath for anything promising on this particular front, but I decided to email him back anyway. When someone takes the time to email you, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to wait to see if they’ll get back to you, even if it’s to say, Thanks, but no thanks.

A different guy, who I had absolutely no interest in at all, emailed me three times in the last 24 hours to prove this point before I finally emailed him back. Sometimes it pays to be nice.

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