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House Of The Rising Sun

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“I don’t want to drop you off, I’m just going to keep you, that’s cool, right?”

“Awww, you want me to go drive around with you all night? Hey, that would be a blast, we’d have the best time, everyone would be so jealous!”.

“Of course we would! Who wouldn’t? You’re like sunshine, Angel.”

The handsome but slight young man beside her remained silent, simply grinning, content. Dark eyes twinkling, his caramel skin almost shining with excitement. On the rare occasions he spoke, we both struggled to decipher his accent, she indicating as much with measuredly flirtatious utterances meant to distance and pacify.

She was strikingly beautiful but that wasn’t what struck me. It was the fact that in spite of being so jaded at such a young age, in spite of being incredibly beautiful and making no bones about the fact that she knew it, she was gracious and loving and very sweet. She had clearly suffered a great deal but she chose to walk in the sun. At great cost, but she was committed to that choice and seemed intent on spreading a little happiness wherever she went.

She definitely brightened my night, and was appreciative to a degree that passengers rarely are.

As we pulled up to her house, I wanted so desperately to possess some kind of magic that could steer her from what I suspected lay ahead for her, in the distant, and not so distant future. The beauty of innocence in a broken world is so breathtaking, I think that compulsion to protect it must be almost universal.

So often, so very many nights, I regret my lack of magic.

Love is the only weapon I’m left with, and I’m not afraid to use it.

You’ve Got To Get Up And Try

About a week after my marriage ended, a new singles group sprouted in our community. The timing was in many ways a lifesaver for me, I was barely among the living, and I’ve met so many truly amazing people and had so many wonderful experiences. Some I almost wish I could skip, and yet, I needed them to remember what living even is. What can I say, every cherry has a pit. You just need to pay attention to the reality, not avoid the experience entirely.

Being a romantic at heart/incurable empath, I love watching new couples happen. It fills my heart to see love blossoming, and gives me hope that good things are still real, still possible.

But it’s not an uncomplicated road, not even during the best of circumstances. I remember meeting some friends at a happy hour, being my typically oblivious self, and I happened to notice two friends, who share a passion that completely informs their very clear vision for their future. I noticed him squaring up to her, his arm protectively around the back of her chair, and the unmistakeable look of admiration on his face, and I thought, wow, how often do two people who want so many of the same things in life even meet? Clearly he’s interested.

So I in my one-drink (Denver strong) addled state tried in my never subtle way to throw them together. And she, being badass and perceptive and as blunt as I am ripped me a new one the next morning. I told her what my thinking was. Unbeknownst to me, she had already expressed an interest in him, but she had every reason in the world not to trust love. We talked a bit and a few weeks later I learned they were a couple. My heart soared. Falling in love with someone who is that kind of kindred spirit doesn’t happen every day. Few people get to experience it.

Sometimes I worry that the realities of life and the world around them with destroy something so incredibly precious and beautiful. I hope not. Because love is nothing but growth opportunities interspersed with reality and occasional moments of unspeakable bliss.

This weekend I’ve been helping a new friend of mine navigate the heartache of missed opportunities with an old friend of mine. This new friend knows mistakes were made, and they are sincerely regretted. But sometimes you’ve gone too far and you can’t rebuild what’s lost.

So today I’ve been sobbing my way through one hell of an emotional hangover, because he fills a need for her that ordinary never will, and she inspires him to new heights. But we live in a world where if it doesn’t work we throw it away and move on. And I’m surrounded now by so many people who want love, but chase everything else.

My heart is breaking.

Sometimes I just want to grab people by the shoulders and make them face  what they keep choosing to turn away from.

How A Young Heart Really Feels

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We used to hang out at lunch, a whole huge group of us. I was introduced by my best friend.

It took him a while to talk to me, but pretty soon we spent most of every lunch sitting together.

It never occurred to me he might be interested. My best friend had kind of a thing for him, and she was everything I wasn’t, beautiful, smart, a good student, Catholic. They went to the same church, they had known each other for years. In my mind, they were perfect for each other and he in no way deserved the mess that was me.

Whether he deserved it or not, he wanted me to be his.

I said no. For months. Partly some girl code kind of thing. Partly feeling unworthy. Partly fear.

I finally told him he had to let her know he wasn’t interested, and then yes, I’d go out with him.

He wrote me letters literally every day. The three of us went to dances, we all went to summer school and spent a lot of time together. When he didn’t have to work he’d walk me home, hang out after, until he had to leave (or bolted out the back door the times my Stepdad came home early).

One night someone crashed their car into my house. He walked over after a long day at work to comfort me. I often couldn’t sleep because of the whole crazy Night Stalker thing going on at the time. He wrote more notes, lent me tapes of our favorite music to listen to while I fell asleep.

I never, ever, deserved anyone who treated me as well as he did. I’ve joked a time or two that he dodged a bullet, and he snarks back that he was a naive idiot. And yet in some ways he’s the model of what I hope to find someday. That’s really the only thing that would make a relationship worth it again for me. I give too much. I don’t hold back. I don’t know how. And I have a full life that I love, so compromising isn’t remotely interesting. On some level, I’m not sure I believe in love like that anymore. Or maybe I just don’t believe I can have it again.

Who The Eff Is This?

I’ve been both a “paid” and hobby blogger before. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve written, and much longer than that since I’ve written on a regular basis. Other than being a lousy grammarian, which tends to make me feel like a bit of a fraud as a writer, writers block has always been the bane of my existence. I think the thing that holds me back is I struggle with a massive case of “who cares what you have to say?”.

I guess I think it takes a level of hubris for me (not anyone else, everyone else is amazing, me, I’m just ordinary, says my negative Nelly brain) to write a blog. I mean I tell myself this is therapeutic, and that’s true. I have passengers that have haunted me, friends who I find to be so remarkable they need lauding, and life experiences/dots unconnected that I sure wish someone would have explored in a more approachable way before. The therapeutic aspect is why my gut wouldn’t shut up, I could not get some stories out of my head until I wrote them down (pro-tip, some are still there, but at least they’re a bit less noisy).

But if all you want is catharsis, there are millions of blank journals just waiting to have their pages filled in every store that sells books.

You only start a blog if you want people to read what you have to say, and that’s where I start to squirm.

I have many loved ones who have supported me in my years of what can only be called folksy storytelling. Some people seem to relate to what I write, some people seem to appreciate the way I string words together. And all of that is nice, I can’t lie. But the only way I can justify writing this is my life is at some interesting junctures, all at the same time. I’m writing from a perspective that is realistically more than half of my life expectancy. And I guess I’m hoping to Hansel and Gretel a trail of crumbs for others to follow. That’s what my favorite storytellers tend to do, they lure me in with entertainment and then one-two gut punch me with lessons.

So I hope you’ll indulge my hubris and maybe find something meaningful here. I’ve always understood struggles to be opportunities to serve others. Nothing would please me more than for my blunders and foibles to light the way for someone a little less clumsy.

Until We Meet Again

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I will never forget the first night I met him. I fell in love, and his younger brother proposed. It was quite the night.

It was Halloween; we had moved there only two months before. I went trick or treating with a new friend. He was a long time friend of hers, and I was instantly smitten. I was sure he was way out of my league (he was) but we spent a long time talking that night.

A couple of weeks later I was at my friend’s house again and there he was. I was a giggly, flirty mess, like countless 16 year olds before me. I didn’t have the courage to say anything to him, but I was annoyingly persistent in talking to my friend about *him*. She finally said “So, do you want me to tell him?”. I practically yelled “NO!”. It took me probably 20 minutes to say “yes”.

She said “good, I just wrote him a note.”.

Shit.

A couple of minutes later he comes in holding the note, stammers a bit, and holds it up.

“Is this…?”

“I don’t know, what did she say?”

He handed me the note. I read it and nodded.

He promptly face planted and remained there for several minutes. My friend and I laughed, but my heart sunk further as each agonizing second ticked by. Eventually he got up, left the room for a few minutes, and came back and we all just talked for a bit. Later he called me, which became something of a regular occurrence. He asked me to a dance. We spent time together before and after class. He asked for a picture of me from when I was younger, and later returned it to me with a drawing from art class.

As first loves go, it was all rather ordinary. He was not.

He was extraordinary.

All Is Fair In Love

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As they approached the car, I saw the closed off body language. Both wore guarded and wounded expressions. My heart clenched for a moment. They were both polite as they got in; silence settled over the car like a heavy veil almost immediately. They were a beautiful couple, both dressed to the nines, clearly successful, see and be seen types in an up and coming neighborhood. The wife was fierce and proud and seemed like someone who had no problem speaking her mind, the kind of woman I most admire. And her husband was handsome, and polished, they were just beautiful.

“How could you behave like that?”

Nothing but stony silence.

Me, being the mother hen that I am, waited a few minutes for them both to calm from the rush of adrenaline; started chattering about the kind of nonsense I normally eschew but which is a useful refuge when emotions are running high. The husband did all the talking. Ok, I’ve got him off the ledge, time for a more direct approach.

“Young lady, I have to tell you how beautiful you look this evening. You’re absolutely stunning; and that dress is on point.”

I hear a soft gasp, a squeaked “thank you” and gentle sobbing.

Not what I was aiming for, but I think she needed to hear it. And it was the only thing I could come up with on what was only a very short trip.

A minute or two later I hear a shrill, “Don’t touch me!”.

I feel you, dear one; I feel you. It’s hard to feel love or compassion or accept an olive branch when the person you’ve given your heart to has humiliated you in front of a perfect stranger. But I could tell he truly meant it. I think he knew he could have handled himself better.

The trouble with relationships is we humans fear pain and abandonment, so anything that looks like either of those sends our heads spinning.

How cruel is life, that the things that first attract us to someone often become the things we find most triggering. The bonds that once drew us close often wedge us apart.

I’m sure the fact that she is fierce is why he loves her, why he won her heart. No other man had that strength, that courage. And I’m sure the fact that he is an impeccable gentleman made her feel safe, like she could let down her guard for once. But now, her independence looks to him like disrespect, and his nurturing feels oppressive.

I did something I never do, something I probably shouldn’t have done. I logged out of Uber, parked the car and got out. I asked her first, because she was on my side of the car.

“Is it ok if I give you a hug?”

She nods, and I hold her and she cries again. I never wanted to let go. In some way, it’s like holding my past self. But I remember this pain. I remember being young and in love and thinking that’s all it took.

This couple had so much going for them, and I truly felt they were well matched. The reality of this moment was painful to watch, and I know all too well how much worse it was to experience. I walked around and said “you too” and gave him a quick hug. I looked at them both and said, “You’re going to be ok, you’ll find a way through the hard times”.

I have no idea if it is true, I just want it to be, and I want to leave them with some hope to cling to.

What I really wanted to do is log out for the rest of the night and play therapist, to reframe these wounds for them, to help them remember what it was like when they first fell in love, why they loved each other, why they each won the other’s heart, and why nobody else ever came close. I wanted to help them see that the  thing that hurt the most was the very thing that could help them have a marriage others dream of.

Instead I did the only thing we rideshare drivers can do and watched them walk away.

I think of them often. I pray more for them than I do for nearly anyone. If there is a God, if there is justice, someone will help them see the truth of life, and love. Before it’s too late.

Love like that is rare, and we don’t get second chances at it.

My Christmas Dreaming

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Christmas has always been a treasured holiday for me. It hasn’t always been a happy one. My parent’s split on Christmas, my Mom and I almost never celebrated it, but I love it all the same.

I was a choir girl; and for choir kids, Christmas starts in the fall, in preparation for winter concerts. So I love the music, but also the baking, the lights, the magic, the pageantry. It fills that part of my heart that longs for dreams, romance and beauty.

As an adult, I’ve often hopped in the car to drive while listening to music. Singing at the top of my lungs as the dark road stretches ahead does me a world of good. It’s therapeutic. Cathartic. There is little that cheers me more than a travel mug full of something steamy, a container full of homemade Christmas cookies, and a collection of my favorite holiday music. It’s something that became a family tradition (one that sadly waned when we lived on our farm).

So when my first son was due on Christmas eve, I couldn’t be more excited. I felt like he was the most precious gift I’d ever receive (turns out he was one of three of the most precious gifts ever).

I spent many weeks before his birth driving around while listening to music and looking at lights, dreaming of the day I’d finally hold him in my arms, feeling a certain kindred spirit with Mary. I battled fear and confusion and insecurity my whole pregnancy, knowing that learning to be a good parent would be an uphill battle for me. Those drives brought me peace, and gave me a measure of courage to face what lay ahead.

And they provided enough inspiration to help me dive into the whole parenting experience.

Whenever I go on these holiday drives now, there’s always a part of me that remembers the joy, the intense love, the overwhelming protectiveness…I look back fondly, and  smile with immense pride at the young man that wee babe has become.

He exceeded my wildest dreams so effortlessly.

Too Many Times I’ve Held On

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I know the mood has been a little… saccharine up in here. One of my biggest fears in starting this blog was knowing my Pollyanna tendencies, and my reticence to explore the darker sides of the world we live in. It’s not that I’m ignorant of it or intend to deceive but that dark side is something I struggle with. I can acknowledge that we all have one; but as an empath, as someone who has suffered a great deal; as someone who has spent her whole life reaching out to others, wanting to help healing, wanting to see the good in people, wanting to breathe life into that… talking about the ugliness around me is hard. I don’t really know what to say. That’s just not my wheelhouse.

I knew from the get-go there’s no authenticity here if I avoid it entirely. But avoid it is exactly what I’ve done.

But the one theme I keep bumping up against, is why do so many people immerse themselves in gossip, small mindedness, and judgmental attitudes, and then complain when those very same things come back to bite them in the ass?

I have a saying: if someone will be ugly with you, eventually they will be ugly to you.

I’ve recognized that for years, it’s as simple as “cheaters gonna cheat, liars gonna lie”, etc. So why do people live like this isn’t a thing?

I get that sometimes people need to be alerted to the fact that a wolf is lingering in their midst (although most actively reject this knowledge, which I’ll save for another post). That’s not gossip though, it’s not being ugly. But unsubstantiated musings? Unfounded hypothesis? Talking about someone else’s dirty laundry without getting their side of the story or attempting to verify actual facts? Or worse, laughing and taking pleasure in someone else’s misery?

I don’t get it. I don’t experience any pleasure at someone else’s misfortune. It pains me greatly. I don’t like to see anyone suffer.

I’m not sure if it’s fear of loneliness, or insecurity? I’m not sure if people feel so bad about themselves that diminishing others is the only way they can feel ok for a moment? Or if they think their unwillingness to participate will leave them marginalized?

I don’t know, but I’m always a little relieved when those people walk out of my life. I don’t really know constructive ways to handle the conflict and on some level there’s a part of me that feels like I’m being judgy. But there are some real world costs for the whole mean girls bit. I’m not okay with that, at all. Ever. So when those people walk out of my life, I’m not in any way diminished.

I’m grateful.

 

 

I Will Try To Fix You

There are moments when I look at all the incredible women in our group and I feel so confused. I’m not sure why they are single. If I were a man, there really isn’t a one I wouldn’t find remarkable and want to get to know better, so why? Why are there so many men who just sit on the sidelines?

In those more jaded moments I’ve joked that I should create an app called trophy wife rehab. Maybe all we need is a man with the means and a high novelty seeking quotient to get us back on track. We’re badass, cute as hell, maybe a little nip/tuck, a personal trainer and a chef to come in a couple of times a week to shop and prep healthy meals, and we’d be set. And if the guy moves onto the next woman, who cares! We’re already right where we want to be.

Yes, it’s ridiculous and a little sexist and highly offensive. But I’d probably jump at it (or better yet, a marriage proposal from a nice Canadian gentleman, because appropriate health care is really all I’m after). Every woman I’ve mentioned it to laughs and says “sign me up!”.

It lifts my spirits in the moment. It’s always good for a laugh.

But there’s an undercurrent there that I’m very uncomfortable with, and terribly confused by.

I wonder, in a world where all anyone wants is to be loved just for who they are, why do we chase such superficial relationships?

Why do we demand for ourselves what we refuse to offer to others?

Am I the only person flummoxed by this dichotomy?

Controversy

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I typically shy away from the political. Partly because I have too many causes that are too dear to me, and fighting for them, (and the welfare of those I love), already takes more hours than I have in a day. Partly because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and take the responsibility to be accurate seriously. Partly I’m sure due to a journalism class I took years ago taught by a very old school journalist who focused a great deal on the ethics of journalism.

The whole #MeToo thing and the ultimate fallout has been weighing on me. From Corey Feldman (You’re destroying an industry! Wait, what? Who cares about kids, don’t destroy an industry!) to the flood of posts in my social media feeds that made it clear that the estimates of sexual assault survivors were insanely low, to the response from Louis CK (and the backlash from Lena Headey), I can’t stay silent.

I have to say, that when I reread Louis CK’s statement through the lens of Ms. Headey’s retort, there’s probably something to her accusations of narcissism. Although, narcissism is high among performers already. Is that really surprising? What I take more to heart is, that amid a sea of denials, threats, evasions, and other atrocious behavior among the accused, his statement does stand out for its unflinching admission of his behavior and strongly worded admonitions about how far his behavior deviated from the standard he wishes he had held himself too. I don’t wish he stopped at “I was wrong and I’m sorry.”. And I suspect he’ll even take Ms. Headey’s critique as he backs away from the public eye to take time to listen.

But I’m bothered that we can’t come to grips with the fact that these actions would only be committed by flawed people in the first place, or that the one who truly tried to use their platform for a greater purpose seems to be the target of the most vitriol.

Beyond being confused and confounded by the turns this story takes, I keep grappling with why victims hide and predators don’t. I see this repeated in life again and again. Survivors call themselves weak for daring to love, to trust, to give, only to find they loved, trusted and gave to the wrong person, and predators flaunt themselves in full public view.

I don’t know how to make sense of that topsy-turvy realization.

It’s just horribly distressing.

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