Be My Valentine Every Day of The Week

The very first Valentine’s in a new relationship always feels a bit like you’re carefully walking a wobbly tightrope. You want to convey sweet, even teasing, affection and give a taste of the romantic. Yet you don’t want to make too grand a gesture that will frighten your intended, nor say too much that might be potentially misinterpreted or that might make someone uneasy to continue to move forward with you.

This year I found myself looking through Valentine’s cards that were too distant and unemotional in tone or were too effusive about love and devotion. True, my valentine and I already shared great affection, growing friendship and meaningful experiences. We have been drunk on each other in the way of two souls who feel like they’ve already known each other for a very long time but need a period to reacquaint as so much time has passed since they last met. Yet the relationship is still so fresh and new. While our words are filled with hopes and dreams for times in the future, there is the uncertainty of budding romance.

In the greeting card aisle, I found a card that was playful, with very few words but a sentiment that truly fit us. I later filled in the blank space with some personal words that were a bit more romantic (even a bit sappy, but hey I was trying to rhyme). I made a mixed CD because he loves discovering new music, and as he originally comes from another country, there is still so much I have to share with him from my eclectic collection. I dressed up a little bit, and waited as he sent me texts counting down the minutes of his hour and half drive to come to me.

When he arrived, looking like a dream, he immediately lifted me off my feet into his arms—while somehow managing to keep the bouquet of roses in his hand from being crushed. The man is good—managing to charm my mom, get down on his knees to play with my nephew, do push-ups with my dad, and squeeze in as many hugs and sweet words to me as possible before whisking me away to dinner.

Truthfully, every day I spend with him is filled with moments of romance. Every single time, he opens the car door for me and helps me in and out of my coat. He guards me protectively from being jostled in a crowd or on the dance floor. He insists on sitting right by my side in restaurants whenever possible, just to have an excuse to snuggle close. He holds my hand in the car, walking in the street and sitting side by side on the couch. He gives constant hugs, kisses on the cheek and neck, and holds my hand, whether we’re alone or in public. And he never hesitates to tell me, “You are so beautiful.”

Valentine’s Day was no different. And because of this, the day truly carried the enchantment of fairy tale. When I am with this man, I feel truly seen and acknowledged from my smile to the core of my soul. I feel heard, respected, admired, supported and appreciated—not because some day propelled him to be reminded to do so, but because this is part of his being each and every day. He shows enthusiasm in my interests and passions, loves sharing his dreams and the various aspects his own life, and he’s snuck his way into my family so smoothly and quickly, I still grin and watch with amazement.

This is the stuff of this girl’s dreams, not fancy bouquets, boxes of chocolates, diamond rings or being whisked away to exotic locales…though don’t get me wrong, you won’t see me complain if he pronounces he wants to take me on a trip with him some day in the future.

‘Twas A Bittersweet—More Sweet than Bitter, Bitter Than Sweet—Year

For me, 2011 was the year of truly living SingleInMy30s. At age 33, it was in fact the first time in my 30s I was not involved in some exclusive—usually long-term—relationship for the vast majority of the year. The V-Man and I finally ended our second attempt at being together a couple months into the year…and from then on, I was free.

I can’t say that it was an easy year. My body slowly stopped allowing me to beat it into submission, to work it day and night with little to no rest. Soon my dream job became a nightmare job for my immune system, and I was left facing four months of chemotherapy.

I was forced to go on medical leave from my job, and when I wasn’t back on my feet fast enough, I had to leave it outright. To be honest, I think that hurt more than saying goodbye to V-Man, though those losses are somehow linked. Still, saying goodbye to that old dream, that exciting chapter of my life has led to an awesome new career path and wonderful opportunities I would never have expected.

Most importantly, it re-taught me something I thought I already had down cold—how to listen to my body. Now I truly do understand it’s not worth Hurtling Against the Brick Wall—again. My mantra for 2011? Find your balance.

From the dating perspective, I enjoyed dating a variety of men, broadening my horizons a bit more than ever before. There was the Ballroom Dancer, the Christian Rocker, the Cop, the Karaoke Crooner, to name but a few Up Next On the Stage… I didn’t regret every single one, though there were a couple of opportunities for a bruised ego–most famously, the experience captured in The Appeal of the Exotic Woman. Yet I didn’t allow myself to get too involved in the hunt. Timing was certainly off in 2011.

With all the time I had for myself this last year, there was plenty of time for self-reflection. I dealt with the love I’d left behind in 2010 and finally learned how to say goodbye, with A Letter to a Love Lost & A Lesson Learned and several other entries. I gave the bird to societal expectations of where I should be as a woman of a certain age, Tossing Out the Ticking Time Clock, and embracing my own unique path.

I also focused on my self, recognizing my own faults and weaknesses, and embracing my new strengths, while acknowledging the me-ness that I sometimes allow to get buried behind bitterness/reticence/resignation or tucked under the plastered on happy face for show. With a little help from surprise, surprise Shania Twain, I was reminded about Finding Your Voice Again.

And then finally, sweet romance did sneak up on me when and where I least expected it. We fell hard and fast. Since it is my love life, it couldn’t stay smooth sailing for too long. So I wound up the year with the realization that I wasn’t actually in a relationship. It looked like one, smelled like one and tasted like one, but apparently it wasn’t one. And after that was established, it acted even more like one…conveniently for the holiday vacation anyway.

So I’m not sure where that leaves me in 2012, except that I’m not looking to bring drama from 2011 into this year. I am a survivor of last year. I more than survived, I thrived and feel more alive than I have in a really long time, and I plan to only go up from here. Nothing and no one is allowed to take me down.

Between You, Me and Your Mom

src: theashleysrealityroundup.com

I’m not exactly sure how I get myself into these situations—okay, that’s partially a lie—but once again I found myself playing the mediator between a mother and son this past week. Now, this is not something I recommend the uninitiated just attempt with only her big heart and big mouth to back her. The bond between a mother and son is often an especially tricky one, with multiple layers of fierce devotion, unquestioned loyalty mixed with confusing resentment and guilt in all flavors. In my experiences, this is even more so when the son is an only child, a child of single mother or whose parents divorced at a young age.

The attempted mother-son mediation often puts a strain on a relationship, even when a loving wife, girlfriend or even platonic best friend has the best of intentions. I have heard plenty of horror stories about well-meaning women barreling in on a mother-in-law or boyfriend’s mother, on behalf of her man only to find it blowing up in her face. And if this woman who is not yet your mother in law finds herself hating and resenting you now, don’t assume it’s going to get better once she realizes you’re a permanent member of the family.

When I was a naïve 17-year-old, I was dating a wonderful guy with the biggest heart – who also happened to be a true mama’s boy. The odd thing was, his particular mother somehow raised an intelligent, compassionate, open-minded man who saw the content of a person’s mind, heart and soul before he noticed the color of their skin. This tall, pale Polish-Italian guy fell head over heels for a honey-skinned girl with the melting pot of ethnic backgrounds. His Italian mother was, let’s just say, not pleased (ironically both her parents wound up treating me more like a member of the family than she ever did).

After multiple digging and degrading comments to her son, though I was nothing but loving to her son and nice and respectful to her, I decided to take matters into my own hands. While I was across the country at college, mama bear was trying to whisper poison into her son’s ears, and it only made him resent her more not pull away from me. So I decided to write her a long, heartfelt letter.

I told her how much I cared about her son and how I had no intention of hurting him. I knew she was taking out on me an old grudge she had against a former friend of my boyfriend’s older sister, who turned out to be a hurtful bitch and just so happened to have brown skin too. I told her the kind of person I was, describing my character, my background and basically attempting to defend myself, without explicitly saying how I was not that girl who hurt her daughter.

Most of all, however, I touched upon how it hurt her son to constantly have to he these nasty things about me. I told her I knew how much he loved his mother and how her words impacted him. In more diplomatic terms, I explained how continuing to disparage me would only put a wedge between her and her son. It took approximately five handwritten pages. Then…silence.

The result? Eventually, she reached out and made amends to her son. Frankly, some of what she said was crap about thinking about how people might treat future grandchildren (right!), but the gesture was appreciated. She never apologized to me, but she stopped giving me the evil eye when she thought I wasn’t looking. She started trying to be a little more pleasant when I was around.

Were we ever friends? No, but that wasn’t the aim—backing off her son was, and on that, we succeeded.

My next attempts at mother-son mediation did not have me as the center of the contention. It was mother versus son,  too similar personalities rubbing up against each other. I often had to play referee and yell for a time-out.

The Bulldog had what you can only describe as a mercurial personality. One moment, he was sweet, affectionate and more of an observer. The next, he was punching a hole in the wall with his fist, telling off strangers at a bar to where they wanted to punch him, or he was shouting blistering rants at clients on the other end of the phone.

src: pbskids.org/itsmylife/

His mother, unfortunately, could also fly off the handle once she was triggered. And nothing could set Bulldog or his mother off more than each other. I remember being paralyzed with horror in the middle of a restaurant in Las Vegas when Bulldog and his mom began swearing and shouting horrible things at each other.

Something like “You’re ridiculous. I’m f***ing leaving,” was said, followed by, “Fine, get the hell out of here!” And before I knew it, I was left at a table with his parents while my boyfriend sprinted angrily out of the restaurant.

I glanced at his father who gave me an apologetic look. I glanced at his mother, whose face was red with fury but whose eyes were filled with tears. I shook my head, reaching out my hand, saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” and then I ran to catch up with my ride. To say I was absolutely furious with him was putting it mildly. He knew his mom. He knew not to goad her. He knew to just let it go.

But I wasn’t so upset for just this one time. It was also for the time we were staying at their house, and there was an argument where he was too stubborn to back down that we left, not having a place to stay. So I had to get on the phone and find us a ridiculously overpriced hotel room for a night until I could convince him in the morning to stop being enough of an asshole to apologize.

And finally there was the time his parents were staying at our house, and I watched his mother’s face collapse right in front of me. Bulldog had just left me alone with her while she was crying, saying to me, “I don’t know why he says such things. I raised him better than that!”

I finally looked her in the eye and decided we needed to have a heart to heart. She needed to know that she wasn’t the only target of his wrath. I explained to her how his best friend literally had written Bulldog out of his life for the last time several months earlier because he couldn’t take his volcanic temper and insults anymore – apologies weren’t enough. I explained to her just how much pressure he was under with running his own franchise, how he’d taken on far more than he realized he was doing, how he didn’t know how to ask for help, how he wasn’t getting enough sleep, and how there’d be months where business was so slow we were struggling to pay the bills.

You could fairly ask me, where did I get off? Obviously, his family had been dysfunctional in their communicating just fine without me for many years, thank you very much. But I was somehow part of this family now, for better or for worse. They were putting me right in the thick of things.

And she was his mother, and she deserved to know what wasn’t personal and what buttons were especially tender for her son right now. He sure wasn’t going to tell her by himself. The Bulldog and his dad had a closer relationship, but there were still some layers of pride he hadn’t fully let down. Letting Bulldog’s mom see what was really going on opened up her eyes in a way that allowed her to really see Bulldog better, not just his snarling reactions. By no means is their relationship perfect even now, but I do know that we all started communicating with a bit more sensitivity from that point on.

For full disclosure, my very first communiqué with the Gentle Giant’s mother sprang from some insecurity issues on my part, envious of how close she was to his female best friend/ex-girlfriend. Honestly though, before our first date GG and his mom had discussed me fairly in-depth, he’d showed her my Facebook page, and I knew his mom and I had several things in common, and he had invited me to reach out to her even then regarding my career but I felt weird about it at the time.

Anyway, I did eventually send her an email after a couple weeks. Then, we did meet face-to-face during a move, which was a little weird. I worried she didn’t like me at all. Then I was completely shocked when she invited us both to dinner, and that seemed to go swimmingly. So well that I got a really sweet email from her, so I sent one back, and so it went.

This past week, GG and the mom had a discussion where he attempted to share frustration about an issue that unfortunately his mom took personally. He knew as soon as he hung up the phone that she was upset, and he told me how badly he felt about it. So imagine my surprise when a couple hours later I also get an email from his mom venting about the conversation, sharing her hurt feelings.

Now, I had talked with GG about this before stepping in, but I told him I thought it was just a matter of how things were communicated. He was trying to express A (frustration at this matter) and she heard B (he doesn’t appreciate me). The tough thing was I completely understood GG’s frustration, and I also understood his mom’s side of things – how easy it is to take words personally and internalize them – yet I wasn’t sure I knew a better way to phrase it so that GG’s mom wouldn’t take offense at what I said either.

So I thought about it. I wrote. I ran it by one of my friends who is really good at saying what she means from the best place in her heart. Then I crossed my fingers and hit send.

An email from GG’s mom was in my in-box.

Thanks so much for taking the time to really address my hurt feelings. What you wrote does make a lot of sense, and was very eloquently said.

She went on to tell me how much her son means to her and how much she loves him. It made me audibly “aww.” That’s what’s it all supposed to be about.

Phew. Then she really made me feel good by saying she saw why I chose the career I did: “You have a real talent for putting things in perspective.” We exchanged virtual hugs and encouragement.

Don’t worry—I’m not getting cocky. I just luckily chose the right situation to step into this time. I swear I am not making a habit out of doing this – except when I’m getting paid to do so.

What I Feel For You Is Best Left Unsaid…For Now

Src: prippyhandbook.blogspot.com

Those three, little words. They used to rise up from my little, full lips as easily as bread rises from yeast—naturally, organically—the way it is meant to, in its own sweet time. “I don’t know how to say this,” I told my first love—after growing increasingly fond of all the wonderful, quirky, sweet things he was and ways he treated me and others—“but I think I’m falling in love you.”

“It’s funny, I’ve been thinking the very same thing,” he said. “I wanted to tell you, but didn’t know how to say it first.”

My third love surprised me by being the first to bear his soul. I remember he was sitting on the counter of the kitchen in the house we shared with several others that first summer. He told me he could just see us living together for months and years to come, growing together into an old age, sitting side by side on rocking chairs and holding hands.

Sometimes sending the words out into the water sink like a dead weight at the bottom of the ocean. Spoken far too soon, in the heat of the moment, they are met with silence, confusion and quickly brushed away by our own embarrassment. “I just mean, from what I know of you so far, I love what I have been getting to know,” comes the failed rebound.

As you age, the stakes get larger. The falls get deeper and potentially more heart-shattering. Requited love turns south. Passionate love that seems knit from the stars bombs like a meteor crash. It becomes harder to hope. Harder to believe. Harder to put those words, your self, out there.

I never told him I loved him. Never boldly out loud in the two years we were together. I’d get the courage as he was falling asleep, or as we were saying our goodnight calls. With the former, he’d pretend not to hear, or mumble something unintelligible back. With the latter, he’d say I was talking nonsense again and needed to go to sleep.

Ironically, he was the one who finally gave me a Valentine’s Day card that said, “I love you for all the ways…you’re willing to put up with me.” Yeah.

Finally, he got in this ridiculous habit after multiple arguments and break ups of saying, “You hate me.” I’d say, “No, of course, I don’t hate you.”

Then, finally, one day in the car, on the way back from running errands, I instead said, “No, I love you.” He seemed pleasantly surprised, though at first played it off as usual. “No, you hate me.”

“You know I love you,” I emphatically stated.

It only took us four years, including years apart. Too little too late, perhaps. Sometimes I wonder if I didn’t say it because I was afraid I wouldn’t hear it back. Or I didn’t because I wasn’t sure how positive I was about those feelings the majority of the time. Or if I didn’t say them simply because I was afraid—I knew I really didn’t have him, even when he was right there.

I grew wary of the ease with which Mr. Etiquette used the L word. I fell for him so quickly and completely, only to get singed with my naïveté—nay, ignorance . One month he was heartbroken over love lost with FDG. The next month, he was deeply in love with me, talking about a future that potentially spanned a lifetime.

Gun-shy, I began to bristle whenever he told me he loved me in and out of that long, dark tunnel of tumultuous ups and downs. So instead, Mr. E began to say, “I accept you completely.” One day soon, he had said with confidence, you are going to want to say it back to me. Of course, he was right.

It’s been more than a year since I last said those words romantically. I say them to my family daily. My girl friends and I have started telling each other we love each other, especially after some rough months (and years) with health struggles and life challenges, in general. It feels good to share how much we care about one another so openly, and I think brings us that much closer.

I’ve missed feeling that way about a special someone in my life with a gnawing longing I barely realized until the possibility of it starting nipping at my heels once more.

Src: angiegoboom.com

I love saying those words in my head. They just want to dance off my tongue again. I want to sing them and wrap them around the object of my affection.

Is it that I’m loving life so much right now? Is it that I love the way you make me laugh so hard? Is it the way you make me feel so free and able to truly be myself, the badass to the baby?

I love how brilliant you are. I love how I can’t keep my hands off you. I love how you turn into a puddle of goo around your pets. I love the manly way you handle your car. I love the ways you want to help me take care of my health. I love the way you so wholeheartedly love the people you love. I love how much of a friend you’ve become to me, how great a companion and lover.

Words threaten to spill out more and more these days. But I will hold them in until I better know what these…feelings mean. They’re better left unsaid at this point. All you need to know right now is this big grin on my face, just for you, is absolutely, completely genuine.

Summer Breeze Makes Me Feel…Saucy

From Francois Truffaut’s "Stolen Kisses"

There was something about the salty ocean breezes of that summer holiday. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other even if we had tried—and no, we didn’t ever want to. A squeeze of the cheeks here, a glance down the front of the dress there, stolen kisses down the long hallway…

Every look had a double meaning—a sweet, safe-for-company smile with a head cocked just so, that one could bend up to look at the other, eyes twinkling with mischief. That ever-present video camera, damned one minute, blessed for capturing what the mind so quickly forgets, was witness of our daring flirtations.

It was as if we were teenagers again. The very real possibility of getting caught with, quite literally, our pants down, added fuel to the fire. As soon as we could steal a few moments away—the kids were playing noisily in the backyard, the other adults were busy working—we’d glance at each other knowingly.

Not a single word sneaking past our lips, I’d run to the door at the bottom of the narrow staircase. I sensed more than heard him closing in behind me, feeling his eyes branding his name across my ass as we ran up the stairs like horses rushing to the finished line. He pushed me into one bedroom, across the quaintly made bed.

“Her mother’s friend sometimes sleeps here,” he said. “I’d feel guilty.”

“He sometimes is here?” I asked. “I’m sure he doesn’t sleep on the covers.” I know. I’d see things differently if the tables were changed, but I didn’t care. I wanted my man. I wanted him now. I didn’t care where. I just cared how.

The other bedroom was off-limits because that’s where the children might sleep…though of course, they haven’t. Each night, they’ve been sharing a tent with us. Still, from that room, with the windows open, we could hear them as if they were standing beside us. Surely they could hear my voice rising with the crescendo as he plucked my strings of desire.

We moved to the next room, where we could easily slip to the bathroom if we heard someone come up the stairs. I helped him slip out of his shorts, I shimmied out of my panties. Have I ever expressed my love for dresses before?

With my legs astride him, his eyes were on fire. And then we heard a sound. “Was that the door?” The one at the bottom of the stairs.

“I don’t think so,” I said. We held our breath, held our positions. No clambering up the stairs. I slipped down to my knees to distract him in other ways. It worked.

Finally, he stood up and pushed me into the small bathroom. Leaning me up against the cool porcelain sink, he dove into me, like I was a cool pool of water on this hot summer day. With each refreshing dip, I grabbed onto the sides of the sink and tried to mute my pleasured moans.

Then we heard the door creak open for real. It was one of the kids. His shorts were pulled up and zipped in half a second. With barely a kiss, he was gone, leaving me in the bathroom to wash up.

Almost caught. But not quite. My heart was beating quickly. Too close.

I wasn’t too surprised that each of us was ready for round two, or was it three, not to much longer after that.

It wouldn’t be our last bathroom rendezvous.

That was a sensuous summer. A night where we waited for slowed breaths of sleeping babes, so we could unzip our side-by-side sleeping bags and join our two cocoons. I could slide my hand across his slender body, remembering where the dips below his hips were, the moles on his skin, the hair on his chest. The ways my hands could find his growing pleasure.

And eventually our pleasures would commingle and explode like the firecrackers we watched on the 4th of July when we first felt this feeling of oneness, just barely touching but leaning into each other, at the center of a park,  in the middle of a crowd.

He was all mine, and I was all his during that magical period of time. It was lust, yes. But not just. Lust intermingled with falling in love. Lust of the very best kind.

Check out the rest of the IC’s thoughts on lust.

Please check out what everyone else in the Insomnia Club thinks about lust…

Simone Grant: Lust in My Heart

Met Another Frog: Lust, The Jazz Singer, and Me

Train Wreck Love: Lust, love, greed and consciousness

Women Are From Mars: I have a healthy relationship…with Lust

My Pixie Blog: Sometimes You’re Nothing But Meat

Confronting Love: Dance with Me.

The Urban Dater: The Night Lust Made Me Its Bitch

Single Much?: Lust…When You Just Can’t Get Enough

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What Truly Lies Buried in the Past

Once again, it’s you and I

In the convertible at the drive-in

I’ve got the transistor radio

Balanced on one shoulder

Precariously dialed into the station

Because to no one’s surprise

The one in the car isn’t working

Years after we finally buried us

It has me still pondering,

Was it you and I who didn’t work

Or YouAndI that could never last

 

 

It’s truly the end of the era

As we watch those final scenes of a series

Whose magic of storytelling

And beauty of friendship

You introduced me to some seven years ago

You have a similar, uncanny ability

To weave with your words

Flights of fancy or daggers that kill

And to rouse troops to battle

When most eventually disappeared

In the hardest fight for my life

You stepped in when I needed

Those shoulders of support the most

With food to nourish the body

Or words to feed the soul

 

 

We traded places from the days

When you looked to me for strength

For comfort and a virtual shoulder to cry on

During those final days of your sister’s life


The house that was once mine is not the same

As I walk through the door—and why should it be

You built a family here; your daughter’s clothes

And toys stake their claim in every room

Whenever you speak of her, there is a fierce pride

A miraculous new side of you that I don’t recognize

My leopard cat runs when he hears me call his name

It stings but I don’t blame him for changing loyalties

Would I have been so easy to forgive if someone

I loved with all my being left me so permanently behind

With you, it took years, more grief

Other losses and heartbreaks before

You would allow me to even hear your voice again

How easily we fall into old routines

Like actors jumping back into a well worn play

Yet bringing to the roles a maturity

New techniques we each have learned

On unfamiliar stages from foreign mentors


Later—limbs intertwined

Our breaths and Dave Matthews rising

From the old-school jukebox

Bringing back memories of those

Smoke-filled dens and the clack of cue balls

And your friends lining it up

For a sniff in the back room


It’s funny how time and distance

Takes the steam out of all that now

There is nor desire to relive those days

Nor do I regret the years that followed

But resentments lie buried in the past

What remains are the happy memories

And the new ones we create now

In the most precarious of friendships

Gravedigger, when you dig our grave,

Could you make it shallow

So that we can feel the rain?

Chasing the Shadows of the Past

This county isn’t big enough for all of us. Let’s face it—this state isn’t big enough to hold all of us. Me and my memories of me and you. And me and you. And of me and you.

I didn’t think you would follow me here tonight. A grown-up party at the science center, Liquid Luau, getting lei-ed, drinks, a DJ, a really good cover band, a man on stilts making ridiculous balloon sculptures with a really fun guy who isn’t afraid to let his dreads hang down and dance to the music by my side.

Watching the drunk-crazy couples boogying in front of us with absolutely no inhibitions reminded me of you, never afraid to make a fool of yourself dancing in front of me when we were at home.

What I called your puppet dance always had me in stitches because you moved like a marionette with your stiff hips, attempting to swing your flat ass like a stripper. Always with such a serious look on your face, “This is how the girls on X Avenue taught me,” you would say of the crazy girls of the streets of Hartford that you’d run into on the job.

How was I to know that walking into the rainbow circus of people would cough up memories of that? The KidSpace on the right was where you—Mr. Etiquette—your kids and I spent an obscene amount of time playing with Legos and trails of water, air tubes and plastic balls just 10 months ago. Seems like yesterday and a lifetime ago, all at the same time.

I miss them at the strangest times, those kids. We only had six weeks all together, yet it seemed so much longer with all the cherish-worthy experiences we packed in while they were here. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s going to feel weird when their time to visit here comes around and know that I won’t see them then, and that I probably will never see them again. Or you.

How was I to know that the best option for dinner after the Liquid Lounge tonight was going to be our place, V-Man? One of the few places still open outside of the city was the restaurant where you and I had our first date and numerous anniversary and non-anniversary dinners over the years. We sat in a different section of the restaurant than you and I usually sat in. I ordered my usual though. I found myself asking for no sour cream, since you hated it and always assumed I must too.

After tonight’s he and I got scammed out of $40 at a completely empty club wooing us with the empty promises of reggae rhythms (seriously, it was as if we had walked into a really bad ‘80s wedding reception before anyone from the wedding had arrived), we drove through the city. I passed the familiar fork in the road that I took so many times during those two years I taught out there. Crazy times. Have been thinking about them a lot these days, especially after watching that documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’.”

And then I saw your old building. I remembered that day when the cell phone rang and you told me to look out the window, and there was your grinning face, waving at me from the work SUV as we passed each other by. I remember the times we’d park in that garage when we’d come to hang out on the weekends. Can’t forget that time you had to stop in the station, when it was completely dark, and I tripped in my heels, trying to keep up with you zooming through, and I fell flat on my face.

Then, tonight we hit the highway. That familiar music filled the car. I know I left us in California and Pennsylvania. Or in Las Vegas and, a few towns over from mine now, in that house that felt like our home for such a long time, until the last time I visited in March, when even “our” cats felt like strangers.

Everywhere I go, there you are. I can’t even go to a grocery store without thinking about the foods you especially liked. I was always grabbing a dessert or Coronas or something as a surprise treat for you. And when we went shopping together, so many, many times, the trips were nothing special. But it was just all those shared moments with you, forever seared in my mind. I almost felt tears spring to my eyes in the middle of Stop & Shop last weekend while shopping with my mom. How dare you still cause me any emotion at all?

How can I build new memories when all of your shadows are haunting me at every turn? I try to write you out of my heart and mind. To sing that painful melody so many times, I get sick of it and the lyrics start to mean something else entirely.

If I really am stuck in this geographical place with no end date in sight, then I am going to need a heart transplant, a brainwash.

"metamorphosis--the dryad" by aselclub

I need to hit that reset button. Someone new deserves to make his own unique memories with me without anyone else overshadowing or overlapping.

It is time to be reborn. My parents named me appropriately. The story of my life is about the power of being reborn—again and again and again.

I deserve to no longer live in the pain, confusion or regret of the past. I want and need to feel all that joy and surprise of the newness of today and tomorrow in all its magical fullness. Ii is time to taste that juicy, sweetness of a fresh start.

Transformation Takes My Place

Metamorphosis by Eaglecaste

My life has been full of transformation over the last couple weeks. My boss put in her notice that she was quitting her position as regional editor next month, leaving her position open as well as, potentially, the intermediary position between hers and mine. Despite the ridiculousness of it, I threw my hat in for both, thinking ahead for my career future, not of the present where I am still on medical leave for at least another 6 weeks.

I am pretty sure I won’t get the promotion, which is fine since I really do love the job I have and the close interaction I have with my readership. However, I am nervous about who will take over as my boss. There have been so many changes at work with the role of my position this year already.

Of course, there was also the blowout with the V-Man. That emotional day also led to a blowout with my father, which had me wondering how on earth I was going to be able to move out of the house when I am currently unable to drive, can only partially take care of myself and I really need my family to help me get through everything right now. After several emotional hours, filled with PMS tears, my dad and I made up. And I stopped thinking about the V-Man.

I also enrolled in a yearlong program in integrative nutrition. I’ve been looking at this school and their program for more than a year now, and I finally decided the time was now to make my transition into my future journey in integrative medicine. It is really exciting, but I am a bit nervous how I’ll balance everything, despite it being designed for people who work full-time. I’m sure they didn’t have my job’s idea of full-time in mind. The good thing is I am starting now, ahead of the official start date, so I can get ahead before I start back at work.

Pumped by all the positive changes I have been taking in my life recently, I wondered what it would be like if I put that focused kind of energy into finding my next relationship. Obviously, I have been going about dating the wrong way for many years, being incredibly loyal to relationships that aren’t worthy of all that time and energy I devote to them. If something’s not working, it’s time to change the game plan.

I’ve been reading How to Be The One by Roy Sheppard. He has some great points about the vast amount of choices in dating we single people have right now, driven largely by the online dating market. While the chances of getting a first date are great, with so many other people out there, we can afford to be pickier than ever and never get to a second date.

If we find something wrong with someone on the first date, we move on to the next person. Sheppard says the competition for a partner is higher than ever. Thus having the qualities you seek in your potential mate is more important than ever. It’s an interesting way to look at the world of dating; to ask first, would I want to date me?

Sheppard calls a date an “Audition for Intimacy.” People who just roll in, like my date Tuesday morning who threw on some gym clothes and a bandana for our first meeting, are not putting in the effort for successful dating. The winners, says Sheppard, are “focused, passionate, dedicated, committed, talented and they are always ready.”

After reading this, I couldn’t help but think about how I am approaching dating. Yes, I am diving into the pool looking for a long-term partner. Yet, are my actions following my intention? Am I presenting my best self? More importantly, whether I am on a date or not, am I being my best self?

Would I fail a test asking me if I possessed the same qualities I claimed I desired in my potential partner? Would you?

It reminds me of the Tegan and Sara song “You Wouldn’t Like Me” with the pointed lyrics:

I feel like I wouldn’t like me if I met me
I feel like you wouldn’t like me if you met me
And don’t you worry there’s still time

Being aware of how critical I am of myself, I do think I possess many of the qualities I seek in others. I believe I am compassionate, encouraging, open-minded, passionate about life, a good listener and thoughtful. Yet, his Relationship Fitness Assessment also reminded me of the things I did need to work on:

  • Being openly honest with myself and others
  • Being more reliable and trustworthy—following through on my commitments
  • Showing more respect for my self—not allowing myself to get in positions where I am giving too much with little return, not allowing myself to heal by reliving past’s mistakes, not always pointing at myself as the stem of the bad things that happen in life….
  • And the ever-so-sexy working on my organization (my living quarters, and thus my mind, is full of clutter)

While it’s not as much fun to think of finding my potential life mate as a project, I know that working on myself is a huge step toward finding happiness and peace in every facet of my life. But that hasn’t stopped me from continuing to date…read more this weekend, after my third date of the week, on how I’m also approaching dating in a refreshingly different way.

When Honesty is The Hardest Thing

When it comes to human relations and communication, from friendships to romantic relationships, it is said that honesty is the best policy. And while I theoretically believe this to be true in most cases, in practice it has been much harder for me to live by.

With my passive-aggressive and people-pleasing tendencies, I have often found myself responding to situations where I fear there will be negative reactions in anything but the most honest ways.

You don’t mind if we once again do something I most want to do over what you most want to do, do you? Nah, it’s okay, I enjoy doing that too.

You don’t mind if we do enjoyable stuff only when I’m in the mood? Well, I thought that party sounded like fun, [and you said you’d go three times already this week], but I know how much you wanted to get this room of the house painted [that you’ve repainted twice already].

I’m not hurting your feelings by saying you’d look like a super model if you had breast implants, am I? No, I know what you mean.

You’re not uncomfortable if I take you on a drug run through the shadiest neighborhood in one of the shadiest cities in the state? Silence. [He’s known me for more than three years, he should know the answer to that question by now, but apparently he doesn’t or he just doesn’t care.] Well, I guess you really need to get your stuff tonight, right? [I did break up with him for the last time less than a week later]

I’ll be done with my thing by midnight—you should come over. [I’m already in bed, quietly reading and enjoying my solitude. It’s the middle of the week, we both work the next day, but otherwise we won’t get to see each other until the gasp weekend.] Oh, sure, okay.

Now before you get the idea that I am a complete doormat, I am not completely without opinions or unable to say no much of the time. In certain situations, however, I fear the reprisal. Using a Dear John letter to finally get out of the Bulldog relationship was a tactic of self-preservation after years of feeling snuffed out by his dominating personality.

One of the times I had dared to raise my temper to meet his own short fuse, I threw an empty plastic water bottle (the disposable kind that weigh absolutely nothing) at his feet, and a second later, I found myself being lifted up by my jaw, throat constricted.

“You tried to choke me!” I yelled. “If I wanted to choke you,” he said in matter-of-fact voice, “you’d know it.” Wow, that’s totally reassuring to hear from someone you live with and swears to love you.

I haven’t always had relationships with psychotic men. But I have had relationships with very sensitive men before.

My end-of-high school/beginning-of- college boyfriend missed so much when I went to school 3000 miles away  (a fact he knew when we started dating), that his depression was contagious, and I was unable to enjoy that first trimester of college to the fullest. I found myself withdrawing more and more from my new friends and school as I gradually made the decision that I should probably move back home and attend the local university.

At the time, I had an inkling that I was probably making the decision more for him than for myself, but I felt it was for the health of our relationship, which we saw lasting forever – and I was homesick. Our relationship, by the way, lasted another year and some change.

After a year at home, I moved back out to California and went back to the original school and within a couple months, I met someone full of exuberance and not scared to live life, while also possessing a sweet and kind heart. We were together for four (mostly) great years.

But back to my pattern of passive-aggressiveness…I come from a family that never argued, never raised voices. I once thought this was healthy. We were thought of as a perfect family. Friends constantly spoke enviously about our family and our parents’ great relationship. My parents were still married to each other and seemed to actually like each other. My dad played bass guitar in my brother’s rock band. All the kids were well-rounded and successful. And then…

One day after school when I was maybe 12 or 13, I found a rolled-up wad of papers in our garage door. There are no pretty words to paint this…I found out that my parents did not have the ideal marriage, that they had in fact divorced in the past, that my dad had another family and I had younger siblings after all.

To say this was a shock to the system is putting it very lightly. You would think I would have confronted my dad. Or my mom. Asked, “What the heck is this? What does this mean? Are you guys even married now?” But nope, I kept their dirty, little secret quiet, just as they apparently wanted to until a few years later when my dad just dropped the bomb on me one summer afternoon.

As an adult, I went through therapy, unable to grasp how my mom had put up with my father’s multiple affairs and multiple families and taken him back both times. I wondered why I never heard the screaming. Why there were no plates thrown and broken like a emotion-fueled Hollywood movie. And most of all, I wondered how my mother could have let me think she had been in a perfect marriage and a perfect relationship. I questioned if being mild, sweet, loving and constantly forgiving was the way to get the kind of relationship of which most people dreamed. Because now, they are like two lovebirds, holding hands in their 60s, more in love than ever before.

I wondered if I was evil or ungrateful to want to question the guys I was dating. I wondered if it was bad for me to stick up for myself, to raise my voice, to tell a guy off when he treated me poorly or said something demeaning or just plain stupid. Was I too picky? Was I just finding fault with everyone? Was I picking the wrong guys or wrong relationships or was I the common denominator for all these long-term relationships going south?

So this leads us to the more recent times. After the emotionally unhealthy relationship with the Bulldog, I dated V-Man, the Peter Pan, who for whatever reasons, was too afraid to grow up in many respects of adult relationships. He was afraid to talk about our feelings, so when I brought them up, turned things into a joke or made me feel silly for having questions or wanting to know where this was headed. I started writing letters. He hated to read and asked why I couldn’t just talk to him. Round and around we went.

Every time we’d break up, he chalked it up to my just needing a “cool down,” give it a few weeks, then try to reach out again as if nothing’s wrong, and I was just going through PMS before. Most recently, he attributed my claiming my needs to, ha ha, being high maintenance. Um, no, I am just expressing my wants and needs being in an adult romantic relationship, what most women would want and need in a healthy, loving, adult romantic relationship at our ages. He is only starting to realize that this PMS is for some reason not going away.

Mr. Etiquette psychoanalyzed everything I said and did, imagining layers upon layers of things that were truly innocent or simply did not exist, so my honesty fell on deaf ears. Having to defend yourself for things you haven’t done, for things other people have done before me, wasn’t fair to either of us. I finally had the courage to walk away. Happily, he has found a young woman who makes him very happy who he says he totally trusts. I sincerely wish them the best.

My most recent troubles with dating honesty started off innocently enough. I went on two dates with a nice enough guy who by the second hour of date two reminded me too much of other relationships I had ended for legitimate reasons. So as he kept talking about relationships (prematurely) through and after date two, I honestly brought up my concerns, realizing he wasn’t going to change certain lifestyle choices, and I wasn’t going to change my mind about not wanting them in my partner…again.

Figuring I was as clear as Poland Spring, despite his understandable defensiveness (it wasn’t like he hadn’t heard any of this before), I thought okay, it’s over…next. But he called several times the next day and texted several times.

Then I had to do the brush off. Again, multiple calls and texts. “Are you okay? If this event I am covering is cancelled, I’d still like to see you.” Honesty clearly didn’t work with this guy. Brush off didn’t. Fade away hasn’t. And I’m not changing my damn number for this guy. Being bipolar doesn’t make you stupid, and I’d recognized the desperate-to-find-someone-anyone-to-spend-time-with with many others before him.

So I’m trying not to feel guilty as I ignore his second or third phone call of the day. I just can’t do it anymore. I have no tolerance anymore for people who drain me, romantically or otherwise, especially not now when I have physical illness and medication doing plenty of that to me already. Enough is enough. Even when honesty hurts me, imagining what other people might be feeling, knowing how others are feeling, I have to look out for my own spirit and make sure that strong, beautiful me has room and space to bounce back in full glory once again.

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.”