Friday, March 29, 2013

Starlight to sunlight

I can't believe it's been two weeks or more since I've had time to write. I feel like so much has changed and I've been completely overwhelmed.  Too much so to organize my thoughts enough to sit down and write.  It's been two years since I started this blog and this is my 100th entry.  I was tempted for a moment to go back though some of my entries and remember my past.  It all feels so far away from me now.  Like a bad dream, but maybe that's just wishful thinking.  I can tell you that the house I bought with my ex husband is now up for sale.  We recently went to lunch and joked about buying condos in the same neighborhood so our daughter can easily be at whichever house she wants.  The nightmare is almost over now.  Even having moved out almost two years ago, the thought of my house being out of my name brings tears to my eyes.  My throat tightens.  I don't miss the house. I miss what it stood for--first a home that I belonged in where I could always feel safe. Now it represents my dead marriage and is a tie that holds me from moving on. And I'm so ready to move on.
I'm somebody's girlfriend again. I'm not sure what to do with that.  Have you ever met somebody so good that you couldn't say no to them?  I think I finally understand what that means now.  I think about the one I was with for over a year who was in love with someone else, yet saw me casually and exclusively for so long. I didn't understand it until now.  He told me that he just couldn't pass on me.  That's my boyfriend.  It doesn't matter how unsure I feel about the future or if I know how to be in a relationship again or not, I can't pass on giving someone like him a chance.  Men like him don't come around every day, or even year.  I went through 200 before I met him and he stood out immediately.  He also made me realize something really important about men and relationships that I've been rolling around in my head a lot lately.  Women always say things like "you got one of the few good ones left." I think about how I have generally been regarded as "one of the good ones" that men fight to keep, but didn't I behave badly and refuse to be in a relationship with a real commitment for two years?  I did.  So I guess you could say I was a bit of an asshole myself.  Not that I was unclear or unfair.  I just didn't want anything more than friends with benefits at most.  Honestly, I was afraid to commit to this man because I felt like maybe I was a little bit to dirty for him.  Naturally I acted like a crazy person and asked him if he just wanted a girlfriend and I was conveniently there and he could make due with me. I was surprised when he laughed and told me that he was off using girls and had given up on relationships too prior to meeting me.  Then it occurred to me: it's not that he was some nice guy sitting around waiting for the right girl.  He was the asshole to every other girl and the boyfriend to me.  Just like I was the asshole to every other guy and the girlfriend to him. Holy fuck.
I started thinking about movies like "He's Just not that Into You" where we are reminded that you're not the exception. You're the rule.  And if a man likes you, nothing will stop him from being with you.  I thought about all of the times I just didn't care, I didn't understand how people got together, or why anyone would be worth my effort or me worth theirs.  I wondered why nobody else worked out. I couldn't resolve why one person looks at me after one date and knows I'm someone worth moving slow with and everyone else views me as sex or money or status or whatever the fuck they want.  You know what I came up with? I don't know the answers.  I guess every now and then two people look at each other realize that they want to be part of something together, even if they're not sure what or how to get there. It's been a very interesting few weeks slowing telling all of the men that I've been casually dating that I'm off the market.  The most common response is some form of "Really? But you don't do boyfriends! He must be something really special. I hope it works out, but I'll miss you." and a big hug. I actually broke up with the last one just yesterday with my guy watching.  I was standing across the room with the last 25 year old and we laughed, hugged, and high fived.  I made jokes with his roommate who was sitting with us.  I told them they were welcome to join our table and the boy declined but made jokes about relationships and past memories and all the fun we had.  Thanks for the handful of months, doll. Good luck to you.  When I walked back over to my guy, he said that he'd never seen anything so strange.  How is it that they don't hate me?  I had to think about it.
On average, if you break up with someone, they're sad.  There's a certain biterness attached to it, which is expected.  Nobody likes decisions being made for them.  How is it that I'm so cold with so many boundaries and then so warm and loving at the same time?  Hey you, I don't want a boyfriend, so don't push me.  No touching me in public.  But when we're alone, I'll listen to you talk about work, family, past girlfriend (and even future ones).  I'll laugh at your jokes, kiss you passionately, and completely devote my attention to you.  I always return your calls and texts.  I always make time to see you.  But follow the rules.  I think what happens is that they know that I sincerely care about them.  Even my golf ball chaser, who reminded me nearly monthly for over a year that he didn't want a girlfriend, left my lip print on his mirror.  Today he encourages me not to be afraid of being in a relationship, wants to apologize for not being "enough" for me, and wants me to be happy.  Are we supposed to hate each other?  That's not really my style.  Instead I thank him for still being there for me, remind him that he was enough and did make me happy, and tell him I love him simply because it's true.  Friends, you just can't buy support and loyalty like that.  Fuck, look at the relationship I have with my ex husband.  He still knows me better than any other man, makes me laugh, and does his best to comfort me when I feel lost or desperate.  None of these "evil" exes have any reason to do that.  But the second I hesitate or want to take a step back, I feel 10 sets of hands on my back pushing me forward, reminding me I can be an amazing girlfriend, that they like my new boyfriend, and I still know how to do this.
I like to joke that I have two settings: one night stand or wife.  I don't have any gray area.  I look at every other interaction I've had with a man before this one and it seems clear I was in slut mode.  They were all so grateful to see me every time because they knew that there was no guarantee that there would be a next time.  It wasn't them; it was me. It really was.  So I saw a counselor for two years.  I wrote 100 entries, cried my eyes out, and pushed myself to heal. I spent time with my sister, I flew across the country to hug my best friend, I went to Esalen for naked mineral baths and yoga, then ran to Maui to find my peace. I needed to heal my heart.  I came back ready.  When my house sells, I'm sure you'll hear my laughing and crying from across the country.  I think it's ok to mix pain and relief.  I just need to let go. It's done, it's done.  Am I really almost free?  I think it's time for the next chapter of my life to begin.  Is it going to include another wedding and babies? A new house and family car?  I can't say that for sure, but I can tell you that all of this other pain that I've been weighing my soul down with for so long has dissipated.  My heart is whole and it is mine again and I thank God for that every minute of every day, along with all of my friends and exes who helped hold me together and get me to this place.  I'm scared, paranoid, unsure, emotional, and crazy.  But also optimistic, logical, and excited.  It's time to initiate wife mode. I'm feeling settled, but I have not settled in any way. I will find my balance bewteen alone time, time with my daughter, and new relationship. I don't know how, but I will.  It's a whole new game.  My best friend recently asked me: "What are you going to do now that you have found your way back into the light?" I simply responded: "Dance." 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Faded memories and fresh ink

The only thing I hate worse than bartenders who spend all night, every night flirting with women are the drunk, pathetic women who throw themselves at them.  Especially when they have patchy bleached hair and homemade cutoff shorts.  But I digress.  Hello again from Maui.  I am, in fact, sitting at the bar in a beautiful resort enjoying my drink.  Alone with my thoughts, as my preference usually is.  At least these days I’ve wanted to be alone with my family or just my daughter.  I feel most comfortable that way these days.  Tonight I don’t mind the stares of people watching me as the different emotions from this trip cross my face.  And while I may be making a disgusted face as I watch the drunk girls feed their macaroni and cheese to the bartender, it’s a passing annoyance.  If the two brides and newly engaged couple didn’t phase me, certainly their desperation won’t phase me either.  I’m pretty sure I can smell the STDs on them both.  I’m tempted to say something stupid like I shouldn’t drink and write since I turn into such an asshole when I’m drunk, but tonight I think asshole is ok.  Let’s just be whatever and whoever we want to be. 
I went on a date recently and the man asked me what was wrong with me.  You know this question.  It’s that  cute smitten question men ask when they think you’re perfect.  On of those omgivebeenwaitingforyoumywholelifeandnowyoureMINE questions.  They’re so cute in the beginning, aren’t they?  Precious little snowflakes until they melt into a puddle of disappointment.  And they all melt, don’t they?  Maybe I need to turn the AC up.  The funny thing is that I’m not upset at men.  I’m not even unhappy.  I don’t really even have complaints when it comes to men or dating.  I’ve learned that you find what you’re looking for.  Whether I wanted sex or a relationship, I’ve never been alone when I didn’t want to be.  There’s always a text or an email.  Maybe a facebook message.  Maybe I’ll see you tonight or when I’m in town next.  Maybe you were just thinking of me and wanted to remind me that I was special.  But I’m never alone.  Recently I even managed to meet a man I like.  He seems to be everything I’m looking for, yet I feel some sort of hesitation.  Why?  Unfinished business I suspect.  I love that he’s willing to take things slow and see where it goes.  When was the last time a man told you that he didn’t want to rush the physical stuff except when he was using reverse psychology to get you out of your panties.
I think it’s interesting that I’ve finally been able to make the distinction between settling down and just settling.  It’s funny how many men throw themselves at me and I’m not even tempted anymore.  How did I used to wade through so much of this?  I’m tired of bad news, though.  It seems like it’s too easy for things to fall apart instead of come together.  I got a text that my personal trainer quit his job.  Awesome.  I guess that means I find a way to get my money back and join a gym and do it on my own.  At least I was with him long enough to figure out what I have to do on my own. I guess it’s money saved, but it doesn’t help my abandonment issues.  I think the trick is to not take things personally in life.  You are not a product of how people treat you.  How people treat you is a product of who they are.  We all project our issues onto each other over and over again, struggling to work out who we are and what our problems are.  It can be devastating, can’t it?  Your friends accuse you of not caring about them.  Men leave you when you’re ready to offer them your heart.  What does it say about you? Not a damn thing.  It means they feel guilty about not being a good friend or they were not ready to give you their heart.  You’re fine, I promise.  I’m fine.
I can’t help but want some sort of guide.  An instruction book to all of this.  If I can’t control what other people are doing or thinking, then all I can control is who I am and what I stand for. I make my own decisions on how to react in situations, who to let in my life, and how I treat the world around me.  Do you ever wonder how some people seem to have hit the jackpot in life and you struggle? I want you to think about something: we only post the happy pictures.  It’s so easy to look at a person or a family from the outside and think everything is perfect.  I know how much I struggle.  I’ve made a huge effort not to hide how I’m feeling.  I reveal much of it here.  Sometimes I think I focus too much on the negative here instead of rejoicing in what I have, but it’s because my waking hours are spent celebrating everything I do have in my life.  This is where I cry, in private, for the things I wish I had.  I admit to myself that I want a husband and baby.  I want that house by the beach and family vacations where mom and dad sneak off to jump in the hottub while auntie and uncle watch the babies.  I want someone to help me with the luggage and smile at me across the moonlight in bed.  I wish there was someone across the table from me right now, but there isn’t.  I’m not sad.  The reality of my life is what it is and there isn’t much I can do to make things happen that aren’t ready to happen.  So what do you do?
You listen to your heart.  When one of my girlfriends gets pregnant, I give her the same advice every time: your body got pregnant on its own, it will grow the baby on its own, and it will give birth on its own.  All you have to do is get out of the way and let it.  I think this applies to your life in general.  The world spins on its own.  Things will happen when they will happen regardless of whether you are wringing your hands with worry or excitement or excitement.  Why not enjoy the ride?  Listen to yourself and do what you need to be happy.  Don’t miss the beauty of today because you are regretting yesterday or scared for tomorrow.  Look around at the sun shining, the person you love sitting next to you, and really experience today.  My daughter is growing before my eyes.  I want to take the time to talk to the three year old version I am lucky enough to have with me.  I want to marvel at how her speech has developed and how well she argues with me when she wants another cookie or is avoiding her nap.  I want to feel my muscles hurt after a hard workout. I want to appreciate the clean floor under my feet after I’ve mopped it.  Take in the smell of fresh rain and taste fresh fruit.  Are you laughing because this sounds stupid?  You shouldn’t be.
I tread carefully in my life listening to my heart every step of the way.  You know the feeling of dread when you’re making a wrong decision just as well as you hear your heart sing when you’re making the right one.  It doesn’t matter if you’re scared or broke or alone or even protected on all sides.  You know what feels right and wrong for you.  Do you hate yourself when you lay in his arms?  Does your heart sing when he says your name?  Do you know what “so close” feels like, but still not right? We all do.  How many times did you run to him when you knew it was wrong or hesitate to say you cared when it was so right?  You’re doing yourself a disservice by ignoring the only built in GPS you have.  There’s a map.  You know the instructions.  Why aren’t you following them?  It’s a real question with a very clear answer: we don’t want to believe the truth.
There comes a point when you need to realize that the reality of your life could not have been anything but what it is today.  It all happens for a reason and it shaped you into who you are today.  You need to love who you are and everything that is.  Also realize that you can be anything and anyone you want to be tomorrow.  If you are unhappy in any aspect of your life, change it.  But please don’t waste time being angry about how someone treated you in the past, bitter over your poor upbringing, or hating those you feel are more privileged than you.  It accomplishes nothing.  I’ve had pretty close to every traumatic event that can happen to a woman happen to me and I’m still smiling.  I put myself through school, got a good job, I raise my kid on my own, and I’m sitting in Maui right now.  There isn’t a single excuse on the tip of my tongue for why things haven’t working out for me in any aspect of my life.  But there is a wishlist.  There’s a path infront of me for where I want to go in my life and who I want to be.  I see a whole heart in my future.  I see an amazing adventure raising my daughter.  I see healing.  More than anything, I see love.
I used to think my journey to healing my heart was mine to go on alone.  Now I see that there’s no way I could’ve come this whole way without so many people helping me, from family to old friends and new friends, and even my daughter.  I get support at work and from my counselor and I’ve even had a string of men drag me along and point the way to the next stop that I was destined to stumble upon, find my bearings, then move on again.  Tonight I found myself at the tattoo parlor where my ex-husband and I had gotten our first tattoos 7.5 years ago on our honeymoon.  Getting my daughter’s sign done in the same spot feels like the natural progression of my journey.  The artist hugged me and my heart felt so bright I couldn’t stop smiling.  The true sign of a right decision.   One step closer to me again, one step closer. 
I’m so happy to be back here again.  I spent the morning playing on the beach with my daughter.  Sand, sun, and salty water mixed with pails and bottled water and lots of sunscreen.  I can show you what paradise looks like when I look into her eyes.  Eventually she became tired and asked to go back inside.  We took a shower together then had fresh croissants with strawberry jam and pineapple then took a nap together.  I don’t remember the last time I felt so still. Maybe I don’t know the exact path to healing, but I can tell you the path to happiness.  She has reddish brown curls streaked with blond.  Her eyes are dark with dark lashes and when she gets scared, she clings to me like I can protect her from the world.  My strength comes from her and how she believes in me when I feel like I can’t believe in myself.  If there is one lesson that I’m driven to teach her, it’s that love really is the answer.  If you love and believe in yourself, there isn’t anything you can’t accomplish.  But I guess she’s been teaching me that the whole time, hasn’t she?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Love encapsulated

I wasn't sure what was going to happen when I got here.  Was it going to hurt?  Would I cry or scream, backslide into a defensive skank spree, or maybe feel nothing and never get better?  Welcome to Maui.  Seven and a half years ago I got married here to the father of my daughter.  Today, almost two years after our divorce, I'm still struggling to recover from him leaving me.  I know life moves on.  I rented a condo, moved out, share time with our daughter, and I date other men.  I had a first date a month ago where a man asked me about our wedding here on the island and I nearly cried in the bar over drinks.  It was a sign that something was clearly wrong.  I don't think you can make anyone understand how badly it hurts to be divorced if they've never been through it. I know we're supposed to be sad, but then we heal. We recover.  My counselor suggested I come back here for closure.  Ok. Let's close this chapter. I'm ready.
I'm staying in the same city I did when I got married. I'm taking formal portraits on the beach, this time with my daughter.  I've sat next to newly engaged couples at the bar and seen two brides in their wedding dresses.  I didn't roll my eyes.  I wasn't happy either.  I don't know what I felt.  I was walking the resort last night, rain falling softly and warm wind blowing, thinking this place was filled with a sad, negative energy.  Then it occurred to me that it was coming from me.  We can't soak in our misery until our fingers are wrinkled, but we can't pretend we don't care either.  I don't know what the timeline is for recovering from something like this.  It doesn't help that I see and talk to my ex all the time because of our daughter.  Honestly, not just because of her, I actually like him.  He's smart and funny and we still get together and I feel like he understands me better than most people.  When I'm in trouble, he's still the person I know will be there for me and I can't help but take comfort in that and count him as one of my friends.  But there is something clearly wrong with me.  When we were driving the other day he made an innocent comment about being in Maui two years ago with his girlfriend and my immediate response was WE WERE STILL MARRIED TWO YEARS AGO.  Really?  I think I need to take it down a couple notches.  Today, it doesn't matter and nobody cares.  Nobody but me I guess.
I went back through all of my finances when I was filing my taxes to see what loose ends had to be tied up.  Turns out three accounts had my married name on them almost two years later.  My permanent address was still the house he lives in with his girlfriend.  I called the companies and notified the post office.  I split our cell phones apart and paid off the loan we have together for the windows on his house.  The only thing left that holds us together is the mortgage on our house.  I can only hope that is resolved soon.  It's one thing left on the list, but it's a big one.  I don't think most people understand how important buying and losing that house was to me.  I haven't felt like I had a real home since I was 17 and I went away to college and my mom threw out my bed and changed the lock.  Buying that house was a symbolic promise that I would have a place I belonged, where I was loved and wanted.  I moved out less than two years later.  I was devastated.  Honestly, I still haven't recovered.  The fact that my name is still on it haunts me.  The urge to remove myself from the property title borders on panic sometimes.  Please let me go. You're holding onto me and you need to let me go. Please.  I can't take it much longer and I don't know how to hold the weight of the world on my shoulders much longer with the cracks showing through the plaster.
I know that my heart won't fully recover until I am able to feel like I belong somewhere again and someone wants me. I'm working on the person who loves me best being me this time.  It's a new feeling, but I've been getting better at it as the months go by.  In fact, I look forward to my time alone with myself now.  I'm not sad to spend the day on my own.  I'm not scared to do things alone with my daughter, including travel across the country or go on vacations.  Yes, I'm the single mom here and I'm fine with it.  I don't know if seeing me doing my thing without help scandalizes people or makes them want to cheer.  It just is what it is and I'm not paying attention to what anyone thinks anymore.  But the goal isn't to be alone. I don't hate men and I won't pretend that I don't want to have someone special in my life and have more babies.  I very much do.  But there is a disconnect between that goal and how to get there.  I say that I want a relationship then run from every guy who is serious about me.  If I push people away with sex, then I simply don't have sex with them and alienate them by withholding it.  I can find something wrong with anyone, which just says to me that I haven't really been ready up to this point.  It's been a long two years, hasn't it?  I've discovered a lot about how my heart works, though, and that's not a small thing.  Not at all.
I don't think there's anything more frustrating than not being able to tell yourself who to like.  Have you every met someone who was perfect on paper but you just didn't have it in real life?  You want to know what I've learned?  It doesn't matter who your friends or family likes or what they think.  It doesn't matter if you have every reason not to be with someone, you want who you want.  Think about your last ex, now close your eyes.  If you ran into your ex, who would you want to be with you when they saw you?  That's who your heart wants to be with.  It doesn't matter how old they are, where they live, or if they're even single.  It's the person you would throw your life into chaos for.  The one you know you would be happy with.  Wouldn't you kill to lay in their arms if it were possible?  I've felt that way exactly once since the divorce and it's with someone I'll probably rarely to never admit to, except maybe to him.  There's no point confessing secrets of your heart to no end. I'll tell you something, that was my ex husband once and you bet your ass I threw my life in the garbage for him.  It's no wonder I'm struggling so badly today.
There are days that I wonder if I'll ever really fall in love again.  Maybe it's trust issues, maybe I think everyone just wants anyone and I'm not special, or I just would prefer to be alone after everything I've been through.  It seems like every time I let a man get close to me, he changes his mind and leaves, or I just can't make the connection to him that has to be there to sustain a relationship long term in a healthy way.  Maybe I need to really heal from this mess before the man who takes my breath away will pull me underwater the way I so desperately need to happen again.  I don't know.  All I can tell you is what I feel now and what is happening here.  At first I wanted to cry.  I saw a tiny bottle of his favorite alcohol and wanted to text him that I wished he was here.  I walked by the tattoo shop where we both got our first tattoos done on our honeymoon.  I carefully went over all of my memories of us here.  I turned them over in my brain. I remembered the laughs, the tears, the sex, the hopes for the future.  I didn't bury them. I incinerated them with the anger of my betrayal and cast them into the ocean.  I danced in the sand with my daughter as they washed away.  We splashed in the waves.  We threw shells.  We got sand in our hair and didn't give a damn.
I'm not the same person I was all those years ago.  I was so young back then.  I understand more now than ever how cruel the world can be and what it's like to not have any help.  All those nights I spent alone in the house with my daughter just crying because I was scared have not left my mind.  I also understand how full of love the world can be.  I've made more friends and had more hands hold me up and pull me forward than I ever thought possible.  I can't believe how fortunate I am to have people love both of us the way we do.  One of my best girlfriends calls me her "sister friend", which is no bigger compliment.  Another refers to my daughter as her "little cousin" after my daughter declared she was family.  I have so many more of those stories that I can write out for you here.  Do you want to know what I'm thinking about as the hours pass on this trip?  Those women.  The ones who text me to remind me they are there if I need strength.  The ones who meet the men I date and encourage me to be brave and keep trying.  The ones who worry the time change will be too vast and they'll be asleep if I have a meltdown and they won't be able to be there to catch me if I fall.  I'm not crying because I'm sad right now.  I'm crying because I'm so grateful.
I think the pendulum always swings.  Through so many trials and tears and pain came so much love and understanding and support.  Two years ago I had never felt so letdown and betrayed in my life.  Today I've never felt so loved.  It has nothing to do with legal paperwork, diamond rings, or expensive dates.  It has everything to do with love, understanding, and proof that you can trust someone with the secrets of your heart. I find myself so happy to be back in a place that I love.  I recognize the streets, shops, and restaurants.  I find myself laughing that I let my wedding overrun the fact that I've been coming to Hawaii since I was 20 years old and the person I came here with is the same person who I'm with today: my younger sister.  As we were leaving dinner tonight, she was laughing watching our three kids swarm her husband.  She joked that not so much as changed--it's still just us.  And it is, but so much better now that there's more of us together.  I realized that this place has seen so many phases of my life.  Yes, I got married here, but how many other people have I gone to Hawaii with?  How many other places in the world have I been with other people?  Do I fear or abandon those when the love affairs or friendships fade?  I don't.  Granted, the divorce is a much bigger issues, but it doesn't overrun the largest one being that I come first. Me.  I've brought several men to Hawaii. I'm sure I will bring at least one more.  I don't know when or who, but if I know one thing about me, it's that I just can't leave love alone.
The cautious part of my heart wants to tell you that it's too early to say I'm going to be ok.  This trip has just begun and who knows what rhythms or energies Maui will bring to me.  The optimistic part knows that everything is ok.  I'm ok.  I feel very still and calm.  Today while I was perusing a craft fair, my daughter ran up to a painting and declared it was her. My sister almost immediately lifted a print that looked like me.  When we read the personal message attached to each, I was astonished to find that they couldn't have been more correct.  When I read them aloud, both my sister and I were nearly moved to tears.  Tonight I will leave you with someone else's words instead of my own. It's rare someone can speak for me, but even I can't deny their relevancy.
From the artist Eleykaa: "My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, asks 'What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?' This question speaks to my core and challenges me. Another question then appears, 'Are you willing to face all of your fears?'"
Pray: "In this painting she is slowing her breath down and going within to connect. She prays...and listens."

Gratitude: "This is the sequel to the painting 'Pray'. Feeling very rooted and stable, she opens to extend out her arms. She is ready to send out her prayer. With so much trust, appreciation, and gratitude, she lets go of her prayer, knowing it is heard and answered."