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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.

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.

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?

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.

You’re One Of My Kind

I always joke my type never asks me out.

This is my type (my apologies to his lovely fiancee, and best wishes for their future).

I’m usually asked out by this type.

Which, cool, how someone looks is pretty darn close to the bottom of my list.

But I know there must be the male equivalent of me out there, who’s list of priorities is a lot more about the quality of time we spend together and a lot less about conventional ideals of beauty.

At least in theory.

The thing is, where exactly would one find such a person? Tinder? Right. Pretty much all dating apps are out, and they are a narcissist playground anyway. Speed dating? Probably not, for many of the same reasons. Our singles group has been a great blessing, but Denver has all the image/body consciousness LA gets accused of, and little of the diversity or body positivity. I love watching love blossom all around me, I’m open to finding it for me, and yet it’s highly unlikely in that group.

At least not the kind of relationship I’m holding out for.

I had been caught up in this cycle of dating just to keep honing my “be more social” skills but I just can’t anymore. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think the benefits outweigh the costs.

But it begs the question, in a world where so many of us are average, why is it that most resources are directed toward the already extraordinary? Why do the rest of us feel the need to sideline ourselves as if we don’t belong? As if we don’t have just as much right to pursue happiness?

What nonsense.

Be loud and proud, folks. Whatever your quirks.

Everyone has them.

We’re Gonna Get Married

Paul and Ashley hopped into my car Thanksgiving Eve. I asked how their evening was. There was a tinge of meh in Paul’s response, which I quipped about. He said “well, she’s happy, happy wife, happy life”. Ashley looks at him and says “wife”? And he says “well yeah, someday”.

We chatted a bit, and turns out her brother (his friend) isn’t on board. And they both respect his opinion, so they are waiting for him to come around. But I joked “darn, I thought I was finally going to check that Uber proposal off my list!”. They decided to make my simple rideshare dream come true then and there (okay, not for real, folks). And Paul spontaneously launched into the most charming, beautiful, and utterly endearing proposal I’ll probably ever witness (since, you know, I’m no Ashley).

Fake or not, it was a privilege to witness the moment and swept both the ladies in the car off their feet for a moment.

They are an adorable couple with the world at their feet. I’m crossing my fingers that brother/friend comes around and soon, because these two starting a life together just makes me smile.

Sometimes just seeing all the good in the world is all it takes to renew your faith in humanity.

I Say A Little Prayer For You

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I think one of the reasons some passengers have such an impact on me is because I love differently than some people.

I was never one of those people who knew what career I wanted to pursue. I’m not sure I had any concept of myself as someone who had choices in that realm. But I loved science and became fascinated with heritability when a high school psychology teacher sparked an interest in Psychology Today.

Eventually a family friend who is a physician made the old joke about “What’s the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? About $75/hr!”. I started to research medical school and the more I learned, the more enamored I became.

One fear I had was that admonition about not getting attached. I wasn’t sure that was something I could pull off. Another family friend was a nurse, and she wasn’t someone who embraced the “don’t get attached” advice. Patients often became a part of her non-work life. And as patients sometimes do, they would occasionally exit the mortal world.

I asked her once, how did she get through that? She said she went to the chapel and she cried and prayed and grieved, and then new patients came in needing care. They needed her to care for them just as openly, with just as much concern.

That helped me make peace with the idea of working in a clinical setting and dealing with the losses that every physician faces. While I never got to put the idea to the test, it definitely impacted how I approached being a foster parent. The one thing I was very clear about, is each child deserved to belong, to be fully loved, to have a parent (in the day to day sense). No qualifiers. Their experience should not be impacted by my fear of losing someone I had come to love. So I put my heart on the line with every child, and when they left I prayed for the best, did my best to demonstrate confidence in the plan the state had developed for their future, and sent them off with a wish for a wonderful future. I cried, and I grieved, and then more kids came needing love and someone to embrace them (and at times, their parents).

I think some of that shapes my experience with some passengers. When I sense that someone needs a compassionate ear, I’m not afraid to offer whatever they may need, to open up my heart. I know that separation is nothing to fear, and I hope to model, even for a brief time, a depth of connection not everyone has experienced. I’m not a platitudes and superficial smile kind of person.

Recently I saw a Facebook post from Glennon Doyle about her “love letter“, in a somewhat non traditional sense. I had to laugh because it was exactly how I conceptualized this blog. These were my “love letters” to the passengers I connected with, shared surprisingly intimate moments with, and came to care for in a shockingly small amount of time. I felt those connections deserved to be honored in some way, and my wish for a wonderful future for people I so admired needed to be set free to come to fruition somehow. As always, for me, the way to breathe life into those visions for the future and resolution of the past is through the written word. It’s how I so often process the complexities of life.

If in the process I could inform, entertain, or inspire others… well, even better

Why You Look So Sad?

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My cousin held me tighter as we hugged and whispered “you look so sad”.

She’s right, I do, I thought later. The decades of a dysfunctional marriage had taken a toll, but the three and a half years trying to salvage it were a whole new level of destructive. By the time I saw her during a Denver vacation last summer I barely looked alive. There was no light left in my eyes, I looked as burdened as I felt. It’s a phenomenon that gets endlessly discussed on various support groups I participate in. Before and after pictures are often shared, hope for those still finding their way out, proof of progress for those who have a more distant perspective.

I couldn’t deny the reality of what she said but it still came as somewhat of a shock. I hadn’t seen her in years. I thought I did a better job of hiding it. I was grateful she said something, knowing that I have three pairs of eyes watching all the time, learning both how to be a partner and what to expect from one. If I didn’t find the courage to face the truth and value myself and my contributions, I was running the risk of them meeting the same fate. Knowing I was still building the path that would in some ways shape their future gave me the courage to advocate for myself, to ask for what I needed, and to not compromise my own welfare.

Over the last few months I’ve made it a point to try and look my best, to find the joy in nurturing myself again. I love playing with colors, even if I’m not always comfortable with it. So coloring my hair, indulging in the occasional mani/pedi, and a budding makeup addiction have been a way to invest in myself. Those investments had a measurable impact on my earnings (for the better), and garnered endless comments from my loved ones about how much happier I look.

I spent so many years convincing myself that spending anything on me was frivolous and essentially stealing from my kids. Of course, I was also unaware what the true root of our financial problems were. I believed what I was told, that it was all my fault and if I just sacrificed more and more everything would be fine. It became a way of life, and I have to admit, it’s uncomfortable still to spend money on myself. My first instinct is always to sacrifice what I want and need for the welfare of my family.

It’s another one of those unhealthy patterns I’d like to break. I’m hoping to learn to model better and more consistent self-respect for my boys. I need to remember the risk of feeling the need to ask them why they’re so broken someday is very real.

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.

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.

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