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That’s What People Say

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“Why don’t the beautiful people know they’re beautiful?”

“I don’t know.”

“I want to slap them and tell them to knock that shit off, and then I want to find the people who convinced them they aren’t beautiful and throat punch them.”

“Mmmhmmm”.

One of the hardest things for me to accept in this world is how many of us are so broken; carrying around old words, old scars, old wounds that still somehow bleed a little too much a little too often. Being wounded happens. I get that, but why is it so hard to shake it off? Why does that nonsense linger like old fish?

It’s it a cultural thing? Is it a fear of seeming too narcissistic? Why do we carry the legacy of this pain with us years into the future, in spite of evidence to the contrary?

And why do we not call out the people who do this? Some people do, and those people are the reason I’m not more jaded. There are everyday heroes around every corner. Modern psychology tells us our options are fight, flight or freeze. Most of us  flee or freeze, another lingering remnant of past abuse.

We need to start being kinder to ourselves, we need to be willing to risk it all and just be loving in appropriate ways, and we need to correct the record, wherever it goes astray.

Life is too short to believe all these hurtful, ugly, bullshit lies.

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.

Picture Perfect Memories

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When do you know? How do you know? Is finding the love of your life a one-time thing? Does lightning ever strike twice? Do the beautiful memories fade enough to allow a new love to take root and flourish? Or do you simply learn with time to value new things, and stop missing the old ones?

I was with my husband for 22 years. We still live together. We still co-parent. And because I can’t risk anything but comprehensive insurance coverage, we are still married. Not ideal to be sure, but for us, it works. By virtue of a complete fluke/utter disaster, we are able to be friends again. It’s great. We’re all happier. Our kids are far happier. They have their parents who aren’t constantly fighting, angry, defensive, or in my case, traumatized. The downside of that is I’m remembering what I used to love about the man I used to love, and it makes dating unbearable. Every new opportunity leaves me awash in memories, acutely aware of what’s missing.

There were ways I connected with him that I have never connected with anyone else. Without that, is intimacy even worth all the work? Because after one nightmare (whatever the hell it was, I can’t really call it a relationship) and what has become a bad habit of serial dating, I’m beginning to think friends with benefits is all I’m capable of; and it’s depressing as hell. I want love. I want all the good stuff in my marriage back;  I just don’t want the trauma.

But I have yet to date a man I can imagine spending an afternoon in bed with, my head on his shoulder, drifting towards sleep as we talk the day away. That for me is not negotiable. That’s like the best part of my day/week/what have you. That’s the moment I finally let down my guard and relax.

I miss the way we circled the wagons as a family whenever adversity struck. The way we pulled together as a team and got through it all. You mean that’s over? Forever?

I miss remembering special days, our wedding, the birth of our children, without seeing them through this ugly veil of tarnish. I miss those memories being dear and beautiful and unblemished. Now I can hardly bear to remember them. Someone please tell me this phase passes.

Learning that your entire adult life was a lie, well, I’m pretty sure they haven’t invented a word for that yet.

Fearing that you’ll only love like that once is… Yeah, there’s no word for that either.

Lately I’m Foolish, I Don’t Do This

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That first week was a whirlwind of texts and dates, and spending our first night together.

I’m generally someone who operates at turtle speed, but he had this way of getting under my skin. We talked and texted endlessly, and it was all so easy. The fun, flirty banter, the drives, the long, intense conversations in my car, the kissing… It all felt so natural and right. There were moments, little blips on the radar, but they were almost reassuring in a way. The conflicts, oh so fleeting, were the only signs of normalcy amid the dreamlike clouds of fantasy.

Or so I thought.

They weren’t signs of normalcy, they were warning shots across the bow.

Not that I saw that at the time, they lulled me into a false sense of security. It was only when I was finally ready to look at the situation as a whole, when I finally reread the novella written over the months we spent together that I recognized them for what they were. They were the tests that I passed; before the ones I “failed”.

At the time I was just happy. Not just to be embarking on this journey, but because I knew that healing hearts was what I did well. I thought I had something to offer him, something that would help him find a happiness I knew we couldn’t share. I could never give him all the things I wished for him. But I thought we could share a moment in time and both come out the other side ready to take on the future, healthier, happier, and stronger.

The problem is, what he wanted from me was not what I was ready or willing to give him. If we both had been clear about the realities, we could have saved each other a whole lot of time and trouble. Maybe. Maybe the trouble is exactly what he needed to get what he really wanted. I hate to think that, it’s too nightmarish to contemplate.

It’s a reality with ample precedent.

At the time, I was too lost in the fantasy to see the entirety of the truth. My gut was yelling endlessly. I didn’t ignore it, but I wasn’t willing to walk away from someone so special without some evidence. Evidence was not what he was selling at the time. What he was selling was fairy tales. Potent ones.

Resistance in the face of his relentless onslaught was laughably futile. I could barely catch my breath and he knew it. He planned it. He capitalized on the confusion he created.

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.

You Were Always There For Me When I Needed You Most

I get a ping, and after some roaming around the block and a few false starts, an unspeakably handsome Englishman (who shares a name with my youngest, and I share a name with his daughter, hello Kismet!) gets in. He tells me we are picking up his friends.

Two more shockingly adorable young brits get in the car and we’re off. And I’m about in heaven because they could just chatter the whole way to their hotel and I’d be happy as a lark.

But the delicious accents aren’t all that’s worth telling here. Nor were their very notable looks. They were charming, highly intelligent, and funny, with such impeccable manners that they were simply a joy to have in the car.

Me, being the bigmouth that I am, I was full of questions and they were for the most part very talkative. Particularly the young man in the seat next to me.

Being from LA, and hearing them talk a bit, I had a suspicion they were musicians and had played one of the larger venues that night. They were also much closer to my son’s age than mine, and I mostly listen to passengers’ music if any, so I’m not really conversant in what the kids are listening to these days.

Finally I couldn’t take the curiosity anymore (major violation of native Angeleno standards, but when in Denver… was my rationale), and I asked, “so what band/performer?”. The young man in the front seat says “well, that’s ….. …… back there, innit?”. And I gasp “no”… and they go “so you know his music”? And I say “that song” and they go “that song” and proceed to tease me about my utter lack of knowledge about his music (in a completely charming and friendly way, no malice intended).

Inside I’m kicking myself because I can’t remember the name of that damn song. Because I’ve got it saved on Pandora, I love it, it’s breathtakingly beautiful and for someone who’s spent her entire adult life married to the same man, only to have her entire world crumble to pieces… That song is both too hard for me to listen to, and in those moments when I feel stronger and happier, I listen and I believe again in love. I believe that people really do feel as I feel and that all can really be right with the world, and that the heartache I see too often around me doesn’t have to be the norm.

But I couldn’t remember the title because every time I hear it the tears flow freely from my eyes and I’m too busy experiencing it to worry about things like remembering words.

Which, let me tell you, that’s a rare occurrence for a singer. Usually we’re all about those words, yo.

There aren’t many songs that impact me with quite that level of emotional intensity, and here I felt like I left this young man with the impression that his music was unremarkable, when nothing could be further from the truth. That song destroyed me in the most beautifully epic way the very first time I heard it.

I’ve been kicking myself ever since.

Talent like that truly deserves to be honored, even if it violates my LA “code”.

And young men that remarkable in every possible way deserve to know they are admired, even if it’s by a lady old enough to be their mother.

Maybe especially by a lady old enough to be their mother. It is certainly my fondest wish that I’ve raised my sons as well as these young men were clearly raised.

Hold Me Down Like No One Else

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As my marriage was falling apart, I became friends with a good friend of my high school boyfriend. He was in recovery, rebuilding his life like an utter badass, the likes of which I’d never seen before. He’s smart, charismatic, educated and so very smooth.

He’s also honest and genuine and open and has a heart bigger than the Grand Canyon. He loves his kids with a ferocity I can’t really put into words, and he speaks with such fondness, respect, and grief about his parents. He’s also probably the coolest cat I’ve ever “met” in my life.

I needed his guidance as my world crumbled, his steady hand on my shoulder. I needed his shoulder to cry on, and it was there, whenever I reached out. I needed regular doses of clarity about the nature of addiction, and more than the occasional truth bomb. He provided all that and more; unfailingly.

As my ex and I neared the end, I was so utterly shattered, I barely felt human. I was lost, broken, out of fuel. I didn’t feel real, I didn’t know where to go, what steps to take, and I was sure they were bigger than I could ever manage. Every time I thought I was a lost cause, he breathed life into me again. Sometimes simply by turning to me when he needed a friend, but mostly by giving me hope to cling to when I could find none.

I’ve tried in vain to tell him how grateful I am, how much I admire him, the debt I owe him and can never repay. I try to find words for the immense respect I have him, how much he restores my faith, enriches my life, makes me laugh, cry, think, dream. Words fail. There’s really no encompassing or describing what he’s meant to me.

It’s not hyperbole to say that I’m not sure I could have survived it all without him.

I often feel like I can never measure up as a friend. I’m juggling too much and dropping too many balls, and I lean on the people I’m closest to a little too much. They’ve saved me from certain destruction more times than I can count, and for someone I barely knew, he stepped up in a most remarkable way.

What could I ever offer him to show the magnitude of my gratitude?

Simply offering my friendship in return feels like a feeble effort.

Miss Independent

There’s a woman in our singles group that I can’t quite figure out.

I don’t get why she’s single.

It’s as if a winning Powerball ticket were alive and walking around in the world and nobody stopped to claim it.

It baffles me. It’s confusing as hell. And it’s the surest proof that everything we are told about relationships, desirability, and being loved is bullshit.

I think we’ve all known that woman, right? Unspeakably beautiful, successful, intelligent, fun, caring, truly the total package. And sometimes women will talk about men being intimidated by them and I know a lot of people think that’s just ego talking, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

Are men truly that threatened by a woman who knows her own worth? Who insists on being treated like the Queen she is? And if that’s the case, where have we gone so horribly wrong? Because she’s exactly the perfect embodiment of what every man claims to want. And there she is. Still single, (and not upset about it at all, BTW. Because she is a Queen).

Some part of me wants to shake every man within a certain radius and tell them to wake the hell up, your dreams are waiting; right.over.there! so why aren’t you talking to her? Part of me instinctively knows the futility of this.

I don’t know what else to do so I pray. I hope. I wish. I want to believe. And I wish her to have all the happiness she spreads to others so effortlessly.

But on a fundamental level, this whole phenomenon just challenges my concepts of life and love in some really difficult ways.

I don’t know where to go with that, or how to make peace with it.

It’s So Hard To Find Someone Who Cares About You

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We’ve all seen the memes:

I want someone who looks at me like….

Yeah. That’s EXACTLY what I want. There are a whole lot of items on the “nice to have” side of my list, but the “must have” list is pretty darn short. I’m basically looking for my equal. In terms of successfully managing finances, hygiene, education and intellect, vision for the future. I am always a fan of someone who pushes me and challenges me, but I want someone who has my back the way I have theirs, who will prioritize me the way I do them.

My life is too full for mediocrity.

But everyone claims to want that, and yet when I look around me, few people seem to actually chose it. It’s confusing and a little bit scary. It makes me wonder if dating at middle age, particularly dating at middle age when you have extraordinary burdens, is a fool’s errand.

I’m a fierce advocate for believing that great things happen to good people, but the reality is, that isn’t always true.

Ultimately, I do love my life and I’m working hard to create one I love even more. But I’ve had a whole lot of experience being the person who looks at someone that way, who gives that kind of love, and not a lot of receiving it.

I want to believe that can change.

Why Do You Love Me

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He used to ask me this all the time. Every time he asked, I was pulled up short.

I’ve been a number of relationships in my decades on this giant ball of crazy we call Earth. Never once has anyone asked me that. Perhaps because being the empath that I am, I’m usually bubbling over with effusive praise. Whatever I said clearly never answered the question though, because he’d ask it again and again, much to my surprise (which quickly gave way to annoyance).

The truth is, I didn’t really have a good answer. I told him often that I loved him but I wasn’t in love with him. I was not what I wanted for him, so I held part of myself back. But it’s an undeniable fact that I cared deeply for him. In love or not, I could never explain why, what it was about him that I had come to love.

In retrospect, nearly everything about our relationship and who he represented himself to be was a lie, so maybe that’s why it was such a hard question for me to answer. I’d probably find that easier to swallow if my gut hadn’t been screaming at me the whole time. For all his calling me naive and gullible, I wasn’t fooled. I’m just a firm believer that once you know you’re dealing with a snake, you’re under no obligation to declare that fact. I did miscalculate on a grand scale about the nature and severity of his issues, but I never bought all his BS.

And yet, the whole rationale behind the ridiculous affair was the spark of something special I imagined I saw in him.

Perhaps being unable to describe it adequately should have been the wake up call that might have saved us both a giant headache.

But I ignored the fallout and shrouded myself in the comforting blanket of fantasy.

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