Tag Archives: found love

It Begins to be Over

6 Mar

IMG_6506Go like clockwork, day in, day out, and you erase the ill tendencies. Days and days, or maybe just seven, was all it took to end. Forget what you told yourself was your permanent condition and abide by the logic that you can’t really miss someone who was never there. Yes, a week ago you fell under the spell again, but look what seven days of real grounding can do.

You are getting everything you want. And that is terrifying. But you can’t keep thwarting it, keep breaking your own heart to prevent some unknown retribution for true happiness. You can actually be this person, this good person. You did, after all, do all the work, and if doing so brought this happiness, then you can stop worrying about getting hit by a bus. The good is under your control, and this bad, this imagined end result that will be done to you, that is old damage demanding attention. Only your little kid self was yelled at and shamed for being golden. Now you can let yourself be that, through and through.

 

Self-Contained Heart

9 Feb

Couer_LevitéThere is a walk I know so well, it becomes shorter with each passing. East to west, and back again, the street on which I reside runs one way across four miles to New York Harbor. Then against the current runs back again to my landlocked, hillocked Brooklyn berm and a little bit beyond to East New York, where it terminates.

Ideal walking conditions exist for the duration of a journey in either direction, and conveniently, the best coffee roasters in Brooklyn have a shop about two and a half miles west of my front door. No need to zig-zag, I just go directly there, and it’s a perfect way station to everything else I adore downtown.

I am, actually, ideally situated. Unless I’m going to my new motorcycle writing job in an office two neighborhoods to the north in Williamsburg. Then forget about it. It’s a misery involving public transport.

But anyway. Anyway. I am ideally situated. And I actually regret that the journey grows ever shorter as my mind wears soft the edges of every landmark along the way. Nothing is entirely erased from my attention, but now the scenery is just quiet background material that gives my mind a little too much license to run to extremes.

Tonight my round-trip journey was evidently an experiment in the amplitude of my emotions. On the way to a celebratory evening, I was all playlist-induced positivity and hopefulness. Homeward only a couple of hours later, listening to the same music while I begrudgingly saluted myself for making responsible choices, I scraped the absolute boggy bottom reaches of the pits of despair (that will always make me think of The Princess Bride).

I debated hopping on to a bus to shorten the grueling duration of my thoughts, but the true and earnest part of me knew that walking home (and texting a soul friend as I set my course) was the only cure for a bleak mood. So I did it. And by golly, as my steps neared home, the amplitude soared and sank and then reached the even keel of a solid midline.

You wanna know what did the trick? Walking meditation produced a bounteous truth, friends. I’m talking major stuff from minor obsessing. Swinging my little tote bag full of coffee beans (of course I stopped for those, are you kidding?), I let my mind trace and retrace the contours of an indelible impression made upon me by a certain blue-eyed someone earlier today.

Ohhhh but the mark of this occurrence was like the century-old cowboy graffiti on the canyon walls of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. This was deep stuff. This was good stuff. This afternoon I walked into a perfectly eastern-lit room and watched a set of shoulders and chest rise up and pull back in an opening sequence to a smile that lit eyes and then wandered mouthward for a grin and a startled hello.

I was everything that lit this moment for this man. And I say, I note, that this uncultivated, unsuspecting and unchoreographed. I was tumbling into this space all aflutter because my actual office reeked of some sort of construction fumes, fumes that ol’ blue eyes himself here had caused with his own manly machinations in the space.

I felt my own being spread into a slow smile as I carried myself to where he sat and plunked down, leaving empty plenty of other rows of seating around us. Pointed, I was. And sharp with my “you fumigated my office” accusations. I didn’t say that, but whimperingly implied it and then extolled the virtues of my new motorcycle writing project office, to which he countered, “And I bet that reeks of grease and exhaust.”

Oh no, quite the contrary, it’s modern and beautiful, thank you. (And later I was to realize that I am actually living the dream of having a writing office in a garage full of motorcycles, but that’s another topic entirely!)

But truthfully, I was backpedaling and avoiding eye contact because, goodness. That was a reaction. That was the reaction of someone I have not seen in quite a little while because I’ve been so busy living my dreams, making dreams come true, dreaming big. You know, all that stuff you’re supposed to do when you “do you.”

Et voila! That was it. I nearly stopped in my leaden tracks as snowflakes began to fall in the cooling air tonight. “Scarcity increases demand.”

It’s not just an economic principle. And I’m not talking about “playing hard to get.” But I am referring to what my friend and I have long termed “The Monastic Vibe.” That amazing, impenetrable, unobtainable aura you project when you’re actually only focused on getting work done, for yourself. It’s less about feigning hard to get, and more about actually living as yourself, your whole self, in your life. When you exist that way in the world, you not only feel better, but you project a radiance unique to the unobtaniums of the world. You are not just a simple take-down, readily available, easy to find, crumbling edifice of a human. You are a rare and scarce specimen of human achievement, and by golly, people want you.

So there I was, limping home, murkily revisiting every lost hope of love and tumbling into an abyss of forgettable self. When a few mind’s eye replays of a glowing look startled me back into head-held-high belief in my own scarcity:demand ratio. Then I realized that the reaction Mr. Blue-Eyed Tiger had when I walked into the office was the same brightening of spirit that I can’t help but exhibit whenever he walks into my workspace. It’s a total uplift of shared but scrupulously contained excitement. We hardly know each other, and I’ve been putting this one on the way, way back burner to examine it for veracity of feeling. (New habit, trying it out, thanks, Soul Friend.)

Realization complete, I felt a smile return to my countenance, and then my mind bookended the revelation with the recollection that when the Blue-Eyed Tiger left the office today, after he put on his coat, readied his earphones, and was walking to the door, his look back was for me and me alone. I raised my eyes in an office full of people, found him looking directly at me, and then seeing me look, he waved and bid his farewell.

That is what I thought as I climbed the stoop to my front door: “Those looks were for me alone.” Scarcity increases demand. I’ll keep those looks, thank you, and live in a way that’s true to my heart and keeps me centered on my course. That’s where I’ll find my midline-walking equal, and our eyes will meet in rare understanding. Oo la la!

Let Yourself Be That

30 Dec

IMG_1982

I apparently make it a habit to rarely be at home, and this year was no exception. Some months, I was only in my own bed four nights out of the calendar 30 or 31 for which I pay precious, precious Brooklyn rent. I don’t regret living (actually, just leave it there: I don’t regret living, full stop) in the many different experiments I put myself through this year. I let myself live in the mountains of Utah and on the beach in Southern California, I tried roaming free in Alabama shortly after returning home from Assen. I was in crummy places like Washington, DC and Baltimore, and I took up temporary residence in my childhood hometown of Minneapolis. There was time in Amsterdam and Barcelona (actually, three trips to Barcelona) and France. And there was more, much more. So much more that I’d have to consult my trusty Moleskine calendar to track it.

Oh! What a natural segue. Moleskine calendar, you say? Well, that must be precious, and since its rear pocket carries the folded poems you must carry with you at all times, you never let it out of your sight, of course.

Of course.

Except for the day in October when I actually lived my worst, most persistent recurring nightmare. I’m talking about the dream that I’m sure I’ve written about here, the one where I endlessly pack my bags and never, ever go to the airport. Or if I’m at the airport, I somehow never get to my gate, whilst losing articles that tumble from my over-filled bags.

The dream v. life metaphors are obvious, but the point is, I never make a flight in my dreams. But in real life, I’ve never missed a flight. Until October 8th, 2015. (Dramatic chord!)

I was in Minneapolis, and I was at the peak of my self-loathing for a terrible habit that was only getting worse as I aged. I was becoming one of those people who begin to pack for a trip at the precise time when they should actually be going to the airport. This was not my dream self, mind you. This was the awake version of the girl who had just arisen from her slumber packing session and was at present dawdling through the newspaper, some coffee, room service breakfast, some lying around and moping… you get the drift.

So, I loathed this girl. But I took her rumpled self down the escalator of the fancy modernist hotel where I’d indulged in an extra night because my friends’ daughter had taken ill and I was already at this conference anyway, so Overburdened Charge Card picked it up. Like I said, I loathed this irresponsible, hapless person that had taken over while my restless soul wandered elsewhere, trying to find itself.

Ahem. My hotel was 15 minutes away from the airport, which helped but also hindered me, because I abused that fact. I glanced at the free airport shuttle, filled with hapless tourists lugging those gigantic bags that only tourists carry, and checked the time. No, I had to take my own transportation, direct to my own concourse, with no stops for Sally Six Bags along the way. I summoned an Uber, smug that I was such a fancy traveler girl that I had to get a car while a van was still being loaded with more girth-testing bags and people beside me. And then I opened my Delta app to check the time of my flight.

To my horror, I saw what I’ve never seen before in my life. It said, “Information is no longer available for this flight.” Which prompted me to wonder, why, wait, what time does it leave?

It left five minutes ago.

You thought it left an hour from now, because for the first time in your life, you let your Calendar app store the flight info, and that app pretended we were on East Coast time, and we are, in fact, in the Central time zone.

A very, very quiet little thunderstorm began in my brain as I smiled at the driver who opened a door in front of me. I was living my recurring nightmare. Well, let’s see what it’s meant to teach me, I told myself in an attempt to soothe the very recently Zoloft-deprived brain in my skull.

The details of what lengths the universe went to in order to demonstrate how far I’d fallen are actually, seriously, too painful to relate here. Let’s just say I cried in the airport, in a ridiculously overpriced Uber Black Car that took me away from the airport so I could kill six hours elsewhere, at a random diner that only took cash, at a shitty bar possessing the only ATM for miles and it was out of money, on the sidewalk in front of the bar, in the stunningly proximate office of my friend’s husband, and then in a Tumi luggage store at the airport, where I let a luggage therapist try to piece me back together again in the form of needlessly overpriced bags that are nowhere near the quality of those made by my own brother. (Sigh.)

I finally did arrive home, with lots of that “kindness of strangers” stuff cheering me along the way, but little did I know that somewhere in all of that Tumi shuffling, another very small thunderstorm was erupting, and it would be two months before it was over.

I’d left my Moleskine calendar, filled with more personal details than anyone should ever put on paper, in one of the many overwrought pockets in one of the many overpriced Tumi bags in a store 1500 miles away from my home.

I didn’t realize this until I’d turned my apartment upside-down and inside-out every night for two weeks. (Sheesh, I look back on this now with true horror at how low I was a the time. You should have seen the wreck my living room was then. Unrecognizable!)

Finally, dust settling on piles of unsettled detritus all around me, I told Unrequited about my lost calendar drama one night while we planned our trip to Spain. His clenched cowboy voice rumbled across cellular transmitters from Utah: “Well. Maybe it was something that you had to let go.”

Gulp.

It’s like he knew that one of the poems in that calendar was the Irish blessing I’d read to try to convince him to love me way back in 1972 (translation, 2011). Ughhhhh… okay, yeah, I should let it go. I get it!

But the universe had other ideas. The night before our flight to Barcelona, I received a phone call from Ohio. Someone, some very lovely one, had found my calendar in a bag they’d bought in the Minneapolis airport! And in the most charming phone call I’ve ever experienced, that someone’s husband cheerily told me how yes, he’d found the poems in the back pocket when he was looking for any means of identification in the calendar. This was the one time I hadn’t written my contact information in the front of a Moleskine notebook and promised a reward of fresh-baked cookies to anyone who found it. The ONE time. Fortunately, he’d found a receipt from my tailor (whuh huh huh, I use a tailor).

Anyway. Profound gratitude pulsed my heart and filled my soul. He was going to mail the calendar back to me, and it would be waiting when I came home from Europe. I promised to send him his rightful reward of freshly baked chocolate sea-salt cookies.

“I’m not one to refuse freshly baked anything,” he said.

Except, when I came home from more Unrequited adventures with Unrequited, the calendar wasn’t there. It was not there in my mailbox, nor there on my doorstep, nor in the hands of any of my kind neighbors. It was clearly in the hands of nefarious agents of the internet-posting world where they were surely going to scan the trembly drivel on my calendar pages and share them with readers of “Found” magazine or whatever it was called. I was going to be a laughingstock. A meme. An animated .gif.

More letting go. Letttttting go. Apparently I was never meant to have this calendar again. I get it. I get it!

But do I get it? Do I have any idea why I let this completely implausible fantasy persist? No, because if I did, I would let it be the beautiful idea that it actually is—and that is, if I let go of trying to control every step that anyone makes toward my heart, someone will actually walk right up to it and embrace me (see previously mentioned Lao Tzu mantra).

Here’s what it’s all about. You see, there’s a meditation that I rarely let myself indulge in doing. It’s effect is blissfully powerful, and it leaves me feeling exactly as I did when I was a giddy little girl who still thought she could do anything in the world, because her golden, pure heart loved everyone, so why wouldn’t that love be reflected back toward her?

The meditation is called “Follow a Desire into Fulfillment.” And people, it’s a magic spell. At the end of its very short ten minutes, when you’re so elated you think you might float away, the very lovely Sally Kempton says, in the kindest, most sincere imperative ever: “Let yourself be that.”

Except she says it with all the right pauses between the words. “Let yourself (pause) be (longer pause, just a slight bit of extra emphasis ahead) that.”

If we could all let the controlled steps of the calendar go, let the missteps of lost love go, and be unafraid to follow the true desire of our hearts (ironically, that’s what the Irish Blessing that I carry is all about), we could let ourselves be that. And I reckon we’d be pretty elated.

By the way, the calendar came to me two months after I lost it, and one month after it was returned-to-sender to the kind people in Ohio. I sent them their well-deserved chocolate sea-salt cookies and I hope those confections made their Christmas as lovely as their kindness made mine. 

 

Now I Know

22 Mar

twoheartsSomewhere deep in my sense memory was a perfect point-for-point recollection of what it is to be held in the tractor-beam of another’s affection. When that other actually feels a profound attraction and love for my every blink and shift, my words and gestures, and all the complicated machinery that brings those traits to the surface. Behind my twinkling eyes, a thumping heart. Behind my flinch, a headache. Underneath a furrowed blanket, a sad little soul who needs some coziness.

Someone, my ideal someone, sees all of these facets and assembles them into a shimmering gem. Then I, feeling the very particular sensations associated with being cherished, actually give more than I ever thought possible. I speak the truth of my heart without hesitation, and I do not fear a negative reevaluation of my worth. In fact, I’m worth more with each little ding on the gem, divots that indeed present just a tiny addition of shimmer to the overall picture.

I have remembered this many-layered love in a sudden burst of slow expansion into ease. It was a big and bold revelation, and one I immediately undertook without hesitation. Days passed and means of communication evolved, and between points of connection I felt myself expanding into one who is truly loved.

Now there is one more layer to that sensation. I can compare the embrace of unencumbered love, from thousands of miles away, to a convoluted love very close up and sleeping in the next room. The former is the love I will keep, and the latter is a love I will now very contentedly pack away as the ultimate Unrequited ending.

This is what it is to have a beautiful friend gaze into your eyes with the warmth of affection and endearment, but who does not feel more than a platonic level of attraction toward you. But more importantly, this is what it is to have found the real someone, the one whom you chose in your mind’s eye ages ago, and have them feel the strength of your love and respond in kind with even more emphatic connection.

Sometimes the demonstration of these extremes, both positive in their own way, arrives at precisely the correct moment, and the physical form of someone far away can be felt more supremely than that of a visitor staying in your own apartment. My dear Unrequited will always occupy a place in my heart. But my heart can only hold him there because it is strong with the support of true love from my soulmate.

May the One You Long for Long for You

19 Jan

paperThere are three poems I carry with me, sometimes as a little bundle of folded pages worn at the seams, sometimes just one important piece at a time. I am a girl of many handbags and totes, and so each day I must reassemble which items travel with me, and even when I keep my load light, I pack at least one poem. I can always feel the carefully selected verbal talisman there, leaning against my hip through canvas or jostling around with too many glasses cases in pockets of suede.

It used to be just one poem I always carried, and so I memorized it. It’s a very long poem, too. But I know it. Still the pages are smooth as river stones now, so I carry it like some might wear a tattoo. I know it, but I need it outside myself, too.

Another joined the ranks last summer when I was riding the subway very, very late one night and sharing thoughts with a stranger about a poem displayed in one of those “Poetry in Motion” public service ads. I turned to him as I dangled from a handrail and said before he could take off his beat-laden headphones, “Do you know anything about orchids?” When headphones rested on hoodie and he asked me to repeat myself, he nodded no. But we had a very lovely talk about what could be known about orchids and what we needed to learn. We agreed to seek out more on the subject matter when we got home. “Google it!” he said, as I disembarked. I hope he googled it, too.

In between the ancient relic of a poem that I memorized and the relatively new one that came from beneath the streets is the most important poem ever. It is an Irish Blessing that one of my dearest yoga teachers read aloud in class four years ago. I almost didn’t make it to that class, I was tired and whiny, but like the most intrepid of yogis, I made the effort to drive to the farthest studio that was in my orbit in Utah. It turned out I was the only one who would show up that night, and it was fortunate, because I needed to unburden my heart, give voice to a big truth I’d reduced to a little trembling trifle.

My teacher and I, we were (and are) both the sort who find meaning in incidentals, coincidences, serendipity, happenstance and several other words for magic. We talked while we waited for no one else to eventually arrive, and then when she opened her bookmarked page and began to read the text she’d selected for that evening’s class, she actually began to cry, instantly. I didn’t panic, as it was not abnormal for me to witness. I tend to be in a lot of amazingly emotional exchanges with relative strangers. I’m like the Hallmark card commercial guru. Have thirty seconds to start weeping about your neglectful father? Here, have a Kleenex-brand tissue.

The poem, the Irish Blessing, is by this guy John O’Donohue (legit Irish name, check). I purposely have never looked in to who he is or what era he lives in, but I’m fairly certain he’s probably a contemporary living Irish Blessing writer, because his subject matter is a superior blend of eastern and western philosophy.

“Blessed be the longing that brought you here,” the first line says to the weary yogi who traveled from at least 15 miles north. Alright, so that made me cry, too. And the rest of it was so amazing that I copied down her yoga-abbreviated version of the text by hand on a piece of paper before I left the yoga studio that night. It was evidently so mystical an experience that I didn’t even try to google it then and there… how odd…

Anyway, the next day, I called Unrequited and was kinda like super demanding and said we had to have dinner before I left town on a two-week trip the next day. He agreed to meet me after work, and I folded up my pocket poem and carried it with me to the restaurant. Then, after the appropriate amount of small-talk, I tucked the folded paper under the edge of my plate and declared that I had something to say.

I was afraid to say it, of course, so I read the poem first:

Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

May you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

May the forms of your belonging–in love, creativity, and friendship–
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

May the one you long for long for you.

May your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.

May your heart never be haunted by ghost structures of old damage.

May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.

***

That’s pretty good, right? I finished reading, folded paper, and put it back under the edge of my plate. Then I told Unrequited that I had cleared a huge place in my heart for him, and it was a permanent place. And now that place also included his two sons. “I hold you all in my heart, I always have since I have known you, and I always will. I felt this way since the moment we met, and it’s always been there, and it will always be there, so nothing will change.”

His jaw was actually dropped when I was silent. His eyes were wide and his gaze was upward at nothing. Then he started to smile in slow-motion (just like in a Hallmark movie!), and he said, “That is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you.”

Of course nothing came of it then, otherwise he wouldn’t be called Unrequited, right? But for all you devoted Bunky fans out there, waiting for the best happy-romance-movie-ending ever, Unrequited and I spoke yesterday and he said he’s coming to visit me in New York.

I can hear at least one of you grumbling (WriterHero), but dude, let a girl have some poetry now and then. I’ll see Unrequited in two weeks anyway, when I get my hair done in Utah. But then he’s coming here. For me. FOR ME. And the quaint village of New York City.

Zen My Valentine

15 Feb

sunAges and ages ago, in one of my less-developed lower forms of self, I was sitting on a pure, white sofa, reading a book by candlelight while wind and rain whipped down from the sky onto the streets of Amsterdam far below the penthouse where I was staying. (Did I mention that I was sipping Champagne? At what point do you think I should actually be writing a “whiny blog”?)

Ahem, anyway, I was feeling quite cozy after an exhausting business trip. My host listened to my depressing litany of romantic rejections and epiphanies (not much has changed there) and handed me a book, which I rejected immediately upon sight. It was called Zen and the Art of Falling in Love. I didn’t need that book. I knew everything.

Then my host went to sleep in a depression-induced haze and I was left in the living room to either consume mountains of cheese or exercise a bit of self-improvement. I chose the latter. Cracking open the book, I prepared myself for laughter.

Exposition being what it is, you can probably guess that I was actually quite moved by the contents of said book, and should probably have them tattooed along my forearms lest I forget the important lessons it imparted. Fortunately, there was one very easy take-away that I have clutched close to my heart ever since I read it. It was some lines of ancient zen poetry, one of Eshin’s greatest hits:

When you become you
Zen becomes zen
When you become you
The whole world falls in love

If you know me at all by know, you will know how desperately I crave the love and validation of the entire world, and appear to sincerely ingratiate myself to every creature on the planet all day, every day. This works well, and everyone from my shoe repair person to my best friend can be assured of my true devotion. (Although, yikes, truth be told, I haven’t found my new shoe repair outpost in NYC yet! Might have to go back to my old Brooklyn neighborhood from 2004… #devotion.)

Digressions aside, I want to assert that the weepy girl who sat perched on that sofa, lost in the dark about love for herself and the world, has been replaced by sunny, unsinkable me. Why? Because I became me, clicked into the larger zen scheme of things by being true to myself, and then cast a spell on the whole world. Now I get smiles even on the subway.

Every day since I moved back to New York, at least one person tells me, “That’ll wear off. Wait til you live here a while.” But what I need to say to them, after I kneecap them, is that my very favorite life-long New York friends have always been congenial, open, generous, chivalrous, kind, and self-aware. And guess what? They’re happy.

So, ye doubters, this is my question for you. Are you really sick of this city and all the humanity within it, or would you be sick of humanity anywhere you went? And would the source of that ailment in fact be your own private misery and pain? Anger comes from wounds, and if you can’t look at yourself and see where you were broken and what truly causes your ire, you are not you, zen is not zen, and the whole world ain’t gonna fall in love.

So now I’ve got that down cold. And I found many kindred spirits at the Brooklyn Zen Center last night. I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a bunch of sweet and funny zenners. It was the perfect place for me to witness zen becoming zen. The room was full of people fully inhabiting their true selves. Subsequently, our conversations moved naturally from the start. Arriving previous to the friend who had invited me, I walked up to a man who was opening the locked front door, and declared myself to him as another zen guest. Then, walking into the beautiful loft space, I poured myself a cup of tea and smiled at a group of conversing people and said, “Hello, I’m new, can you tell?”

One very sweet woman smiled back directly and said, “Me too!” We covered all the important topics (Pride and Prejudice, and how the BBC version is the ONLY version, and how neither of us will ever see the Keira Knightly abomination), and by the end of the night, this delightful person circled back around and asked for my phone number. We’re going to have tea.

Right. All that said, every little positive flash card flipped with its tidy definition, I ask you: if the whole world has already fallen in love, then… did I actually miss my match? Because I seem to be convincing every person EXCEPT eligible romantic candidates for the title role of significant other. Maybe I’m too zen, or too in love, or too everything I’m always too, but I think really, if I was being honest with my little quavering heart, I would have to admit that I still have to convince some members of my internal committee that part of “you becoming you” is to actually LIKE you.

So I made a Valentine’s Day resolution. Let’s run away together, me.

One-Way Mirror

27 Jan

mirrorLittle, tiny streets clogged on both sides with cars bundled bumper to bumper as if to keep warm in the blizzard’s remnants, sunlight bouncing off all the white and jumping into each window of the black car. A slide and then a stop at an empty intersection.

“My wife and I, we’re going to Miami next week to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary,” a look left and then right. Gentle persuasion of the gas pedal to nudge us forward another block.

“Miami! Well that’s going to be a perfect escape.”

We’d already covered the important questions of happiness, generosity, compassion, and how to move with kindness through the world. Those are the first topics you address when a driver is late on the day after a blizzard and you’ve allowed yourself four hours to get to your delayed flight departure. You let the guy know that you don’t blame him for the delay, and you certainly aren’t in a hurry. You make a quip about those honking horns around his double-parked car: “They must be important.” And then comes the banter about people trying to make themselves feel bigger, better by berating a stranger.

We were smiling, gliding our way through to my departure lounge. He mentioned his wife as a highlight of his life and conversation early, and I already knew he loved her and their daughters. An upstanding citizen who used to work in real estate and mining development, with African adventures dissolving his finances and leaving him adrift in transportation, he didn’t consider himself down on his luck. Just waiting for the next batch of good things to come.

Then we got to the hard-hitting stuff.

“I hope he doesn’t forget me while I’m gone.”

“He won’t forget you. You’re—” he tilted the rearview mirror rakishly to verify, “yeah—you’re beautiful. Men don’t forget beautiful women.”

Sinking sheepishly deeper into faux leather interior, I looked upward at the crumbling gable of a porch roof and squinted at the snow that pushed it further earthward. “I hope not.”

Hopelessly Hopeful

29 Nov

20131129-130256.jpgMy subconscious has a hangup. It’s caught in a short loop of visions covering all manner of anxiety about packing. Almost every night of my life I dream about two things: love and suitcases. In every episode, I’m packing a suitcase, trying to get ready to leave a hotel, but I get lost in a maze of rooms and can’t find all the things I need to pack. Meanwhile, there’s always some guy, some new love, who compels me to stay and slows me down further. Quite literally, men get in the way of my preparations to go where I long to be. It’s not their fault, oh no. It’s all me and the quicksand in which I plant myself.

Last night I dreamt of packing suitcases all night, woke up to a misguided text message from my stepmother, and then returned to sleep and dreamt of another suitcase and another man. This guy was a tough guy, all muscle and brawn, but sweet sweet. He was actually standing between me and the suitcase, and I was clinging to him desperately in a literal sense, when I was again awoken by a text (this is why I usually put my phone on airplane mode at night).

Two dreams, two guys, unlimited clothes piled in messes in multiple rooms, and an eternal delay in getting to the airport. Never once in any dream have I ever made it to the airport.

Dear reader, I’ll interpret these pop psychology dreams for you. The airport and the flight are my career aspirations, which I obsess over constantly but never take any steps toward. The men are men, but I suppose if I’m being honest, I know why I’m single. I’m terribly afraid that a man will get in the way of what I want to do. Obviously that’s not true, and a little help, love, and support would be marvelous. But I guess I’m just a victim of childhood circumstances (psych 101) and I saw my mother give up her life and career when she got married, and then she told us her victim story her whole life after her divorce.

Guess what? My mother would have given up her life and career regardless of marriage. She was never ambitious or passionate. But she did pack us up and move us every year or so… sometimes more. That’s another topic.

Sigh. Lament, lament. My poor little subconscious can’t seem to get over the hiccup of packing and zipping up a suitcase and going somewhere. Meanwhile, in my waking life, I do that very thing weekly. And I have many admirers of my very efficient packing skills.

Probably, though, I’m never going where I know I should go, which is my desk, to work on my writing, to further my career. Yesterday on my subway ride to family dinner in the West Village, I came to an overwhelming, possibly partially hunger-induced conclusion. I’ve had inklings of this idea before but there alone on that plastic train seat, perched perfectly in my camel hair coat with rabbit fur collar (it’s vintage! I’m sorry animal friends), burying my chin into piles of the lovely cabled scarf I knit way back when I had the Bastard Architect boyfriend, legs clad in cute zigzag-patterned gray wool tights and two-toned leather and suede boots, hands wrapped in black leather and wool fingerless gloves with long wrists tucked into tea-length coat sleeves… I felt a wallop in my chest. I really am alone, and I really clearly seem to be alone because I’m on a track where my creative life/career will be my only satisfaction. As the universe bats one male prospect after another out of my path, the fatalistic part of me knows there will be nothing for me if I don’t do what I intend to do in writing.

Yes. This bleak expense of dissatisfaction is what dreamy, drifting girls gaze upon while riding the train. I highly suggest tapping one such forlorn soul on the shoulder and reassuring her the next time you see an apocalyptic reverie brewing. You can wake her from her dream and go with her on the journey she’s been planning in anticipation of meeting you.

Sun Shower

15 Sep

sunsetAs per the dictates of my romantic existence, I fell thrice for striking male specimens in the past two weeks, and 1.75 times I was defeated. I might be able to develop a new-new math based on these principles. Meet, fascinate, suffocate.

Really, there should be charts. I watch the male human glow with the prospect of having found a stunning, interesting woman who has a good job and actually writes for a living. They like my jokes. They like my observations. We become immediately intertwined in profound conversation (that’s not a euphemism) and then there is that very specific crinkle of tungsten snapping and the light goes off.

One of these guys was definitely a shark, definitely “opportunistic,” as my therapist put it. So I should be fine with the sudden and total disappearance. One was a devoted, kind, sweet soul that I trampled all over in pursuit of the shark. And the third was an acerbic cynic who has perfected the available/aloof ratio so that I’ll never be able to relax into either forgetting him or obsessing over his every syllable.

We’ve gone over this before. I don’t need anyone right now. I don’t. But I am definitely examining the proofs that lead to these invisible numbers. It’s a science to me. I want to know what factors lead to select results.

So I look at the shark, and I picture how he actually moved incredibly swiftly through industry parties at a conference last week, really living by the dictate that should he stop, he’d die. I could see him from far, far away, and he was always looking fiercely ahead, scanning his peripherals in a manner undetectable to the average human but very apparent to me. He knew which conversations he’d have with everyone in the room, and he was choosing which ones he might stumble into and which to avoid. In short, he was exactly like me. And is, probably, still just like me. Probably he isn’t past tense.

What could I possibly do other than see this as a tantalizing challenge? I had to be the one person who was worth his time, worth capturing his gaze. And guess what? I absolutely achieved that, almost immediately, and to the extent that the nice, sweet, good guy who met me one night later actually mistook the shark for a very old friend of mine. Oh no, we just met last night. Then I shoved him aside and left him alone on a moonlit beach to get a drink with the shark.

I ask you, fair reader, who is the real shark in this scenario?

Then the third, the third… oh how he will factor in this story. He is… wait for it… an aloof engineer!!! Oh, oh, me. He’s my favorite kind of conundrum, and conveniently dwells in New York City, so of course I am already planning picnics with him at the symphony in Central Park next summer. He is exactly my favorite kind of equation: Impossibly smart, and quite enamored of me, but a complete master of the touch and go interaction. Sweet, polite emails suggesting we speak soon about a work thing we’re doing together. Then loads of missed calls and his apologies and more sweet emails and silence for days in between. How long have I known this one? A week. And already he’s got me on the ropes for life. Nice work, fella!

When presenting this data according to the mandates of the scientific method, we can draw only one conclusion. The nice guy finishes last.

Stifled by Comfort

18 Aug

validatorI spent a week on the beach, was romantically dismissed via text while aboard a train to Camarillo, and all I got was this lousy revelation. I have a deep-seated fear of comfort. Apparently, somewhere along the way through my 37 years, I became a person who only realizes growth in adversity. Even though I’ve always felt like the most risk-averse person on the entire planet, evidently I thrive on tribulation.

That would make the perfect personal ad.

Let’s take this apart. A few weeks ago, I was preparing to board a flight to Baltimore, and in a rare fit of wild abandon, I procured a copy of a magazine I never read: Time. The cover story was “The Pursuit of Happiness”, and it was a marvelous scientific tribute to why Americans are particularly adept at this activity. But I didn’t read it that day, because I loaned the magazine to my seatmate on the flight, a young Nepalese engineer on his way to DC, and he fell asleep, cradling the magazine against his chest. As much as I liked the guy, I kinda didn’t really want to touch the magazine after he returned it to me.

Weeks went by, and in another airport, this time on my way to Huntington Beach, I picked up another issue of this never-read-by-me magazine. The cover story was “The Childfree Life”. This story I read immediately, seeking solace in the knowledge that other people were choosing a life like mine. Clearly, Time‘s reporters have been following me around and consulting my therapists for editorial topics.

Then, like I said, I spent a week at the beach, swam in the ocean, learned how to surf(!), hiked in Griffith Park, and spent days and days and days talking to my most effective therapists and life coaches, my two best friends from high school. My most recent romantic dismissal was a tiny blip on the radar as we examined the larger questions of why I am still single. The overwhelming conclusion was that I definitely need to move back to New York City. I’ve held myself in suspension in inappropriate climates for far too long. It’s time to return to my people, my career, my brother, my Yankees, my U.S. Open.

So. More time passes and I finally read the happiness article in Time. As it turns out, Americans are genetically predisposed to the “pursuit” aspect of happiness more than anything else. Because our forebears risked everything to leap from the known to the preposterously foreign, our genes instruct us to do the same. But discontent has flourished as we’ve evolved into a tame clock-punching society.

I confess that my initial conclusion after reading this article was that I am clearly an American anomaly, as the writer of the article noted that the genes for anxiety and risk-averse behavior are in the minority in our culture. Well, I got a huge dose of those genes, thanks!

But then, let more time pass and cue epiphany. This morning I was walking along the river behind my apartment in Texas, and my mind synchronized all of the aforementioned data and arrived at this conclusion: I am stifled by comfort. I seek growth in adversity. Why else would I break up with every wonderful man I dated in my 20s, move to Utah with a guy from London I’d only met a few months previous, live there for seven years while dating mostly horribly inappropriate people, and then instead of taking myself back to New York, veered off course and ended up in Fort Worth, Texas to take care of my ailing mother, who is my anti role model?

Yes, people, as much as I claim to crave understanding, I prefer to place myself in adverse scenarios where I can prove that I will once again thrive. And I always do. I make amazing friends, I find all the best art museums and restaurants. I feel happy. BUT, I never find romantic attachment. Instead, I choose impossible dating scenarios that involve tremendous gaps in age, distance, or demographics.

Earlier this year, I attended a workshop where a session leader talked about hidden beliefs. Things we “didn’t know that we didn’t know that we didn’t know”. Guess what I didn’t know that I didn’t know that I didn’t know? My parents had a horrific marriage in which my mother gave up any attempt at a career, settled into what she thought would be a life spent coasting in domestic comfort, realized she married an abusive alcoholic, and then set about moving us to a new town every few years in pursuit of the best educational opportunities for her children (I thank her for that). She never earned more than minimum wage and she never dated anyone again. Now she’s destitute and alone, claiming that her children are her greatest achievement.

As a born over-achiever, what do you think my greatest fear is? That I will settle into a comfortable romantic scenario where I am cared for, coddled, understood… and then just like my wonderful father demonstrated in early childhood, that love will be arbitrarily and completely withdrawn.  There is no sustenance in love, only false comfort that lulls you into a dangerous sleep that will ultimately lead to your failure and bankruptcy. Oh, and for my father’s part, even if you say you don’t want children, they will be forced upon you.

Take a deep breath. These are not truths. These are my hidden, secret, totally unfettered beliefs. Now that I’ve seen them, all I have to do is dispel the myths and move on. And I’m going to do that the old-fashioned American way. I am going to place myself on one more risk-taking adventure. I’m moving back to New York City on November 1.  Maybe if I place myself in a city that to me represents the most discomfiting of comforts, I might be able to seek solace in romantic attachment again. Or at least put myself in a position where I might meet someone who makes sense for me.

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