Friday, April 17, 2015

On Vengeance

I've been thinking a lot about vengeance. Not carrying any out, actually. But more why I don't.

I could tell in the days after his revelations - even through our limited electronic interaction - that something had caught up with the married man. He was scared. Maybe that is too strong of a word. It wasn't really fear. Not yet. But he was definitely concerned to find out if I was headed down the road to vengeance. Because he could see where it ends: noplacegood.

But for some reason, I have no interest in walking that path...

Would I be justified if I decided to head down the road to retribution? Sure. Of course. It's practically expected. They make movies about this shit. Romantic comedies with slapstick hijinks and Nair in people's shampoo. And darker more obsessive films with slit tires and murdered pets. The scorned lover is a cultural phenomenon.

I guess I'm just not that cool... I don't have the time or energy - or frankly the creativity - for that kind of negativity.

My ex tortured me until I took credit for the demise of our marriage... Because I was selfish. And a terrible wife. And selfish. And emasculating. And did I mention selfish? And then I put it together that he had a little girlfriend and was just too much of a coward to admit it and leave peacefully.

Even then, the last thing on my mind was vengeance.

I packed up all of his things. I took special care of his guitars and records. I put all of his important documents in a waterproof case. And I had my parents hold on to the few things he had in storage in their garage, instead of smashing it all like my dad wanted to do.

Because who does that serve?

I did have one small fire over Christmas. My sister had made my ex a stocking just like the ones my grandmother made for us when we were born. A tangible symbol of his place in our family. We found it when we took down the tree at our mom's house. And we burned it in the fire pit after toasting marshmallows and drinking tequila. He wasn't a member of our family any more...

You can almost smell the Christmas Cheer.

But that was just cathartic.

I guess that is the point: I always am more worried about moving myself forward. Learning my lessons. Sometimes helping others learn theirs, sure. But never stooping low. I get mad. I get hurt, deeply. I get disappointed. And I feel every inch of it. But I process quickly and move on. Because you cannot find a solution when your rage blinds. And finding a solution is really what I am all about.

Does that mean I turn the other cheek? Sometimes.

Sometimes I put myself right back in the way of that speeding train. Because I often don't realize I am walking the same tracks. This riverbed looks nothing like that rail bridge! Bam! And sometimes - I'll admit - it's because I think that THISTIME! I'll get to be the one that sends everything off the rails.

It rarely works out like that...

Even then, I take my licks. I can't blame the train. I was standing on the tracks! Instead I give thanks to be alive. Figure out why it hurts the same. Again. And look for a better place to stand.

But why? Why do I focus inward when my outer world comes crashing down?

I saw a meme that said give blessings everywhere and thought, yup, that's me! My influencing style is inspiration (no joke, I took a test). My motto. My ethos. My cause is to make every moment my best moment. My goal is to do only the things that only I can do - to improve this world.

But that still isn't quite why.

Is it a backlash against the cynicism that surrounds me? Is it all wrapped up in my striving to be necessary and important to the people in my life? Because who needs a negative vengeful dick hanging around? Is it because I feel my empathy so deeply and I don't want to feel the reflected pain that my vindictiveness would cause?

Maybe. Yes. Nobody. Yes!!

The married guy said, when it was done, that he hoped I would skip past rage and dive straight into reluctant acceptance. But I truly wonder if I will even get to there? To the reluctance, I mean. Enthusiastic acceptance is so much more my style! It makes it easier to give my blessings everywhere. And frankly, it makes it easier to move on without regret.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Jump That Saved Me

He told me that he loved me. And then two hours later he told me that he's married.

That sent me into a whole new world of emotions I cannot yet describe. Like I was at once falling down a dark hole and completely set on fire. My head ached. My stomach turned. But my heart already knew...

We had a deal. We went on our first date knowing that he would leave town within a few weeks, that I would just be someone to see the city with so he could avoid spending all his time in a hotel room. But I know - after months of Tinder dates - that I can never hold up my end of that deal. I dove in anyway. It's what I do.

Can you believe this is a photograph? Thanks, again, to my amazing friend.

We had our first date. It was great! Our second was better, even more fun, because he dared to venture past the two beers + food repetition I've grown accustomed to with these Tinder-boys. He took me to a museum! Date three, he cooked for me. And it was clear he wasn't going to live up to his end of the deal either. That's when he started reminding me - and himself - not to get attached.

The rest of our time was like magic. He listened. He got me. He could anticipate what my fast-racing mind was thinking next. He enjoyed how big and bright my enthusiasm can be. He appreciated my passion for my job. He constantly reminded me of my beauty. He quieted my insecurities before I even knew they were bubbling up to the surface. He loved me.

And I loved him, too. I said it first. Because I could tell he wanted me to admit it. And even though he didn't right away, it was so very clear that he felt the same way. We cursed each other about it. And packaged our messages of love with our also very honest messages of hate. Because he was leaving. Because we broke the deal. Because this wasn't part of our plans. Because no matter what we felt it was going to end.

Your blood probably is boiling right now, and you're not at all interested in me romanticizing him. But that little bit of magic is an important part of this story. And so is the part where I already knew...

I read once that humor is a key indicator of reality. That often people use sarcasm or a joke to process the thing their intuition is screaming but that their conscious brain cannot yet see. And I had jokes for days about his wife and kids.

When he told me he didn't have Facebook... And then when I saw an alert on his phone and he apologized for lying on our first date, but said he just didn't want me to friend him... When I answered "yes" to his question of whether I thought I was ready for a real relationship, and he quickly reiterated that he didn't mean with him... When he was walking me out of his hotel and quipped that if his colleagues saw him he would have "some explaining to do"... And then, finally, when he mentioned sending "pictures of us" to his sister when they re-connected. And in response to my, "of your wife and kids?" he said, "ask me what you want to ask me, but be sure you want to hear the answer."

And so I asked. Starting with the one I could bear.

"Do you have any kids?"

"Yes, one."

"How old?"

"Five months."

Fuck. Young. Too young probably for a clean-breakup-and-new-life scenario to be anywhere near reality.

"Are you married?"



There was nothing I could say. He offered to leave. I said no, that I needed a minute to process, but then I was going to have a lot of questions. To his credit he stayed. And he answered them all.

You probably expected me to rage. But I didn't. I cried. I was sad. That wasn't how it was supposed to end. That wasn't how it was supposed to be, at all. But I wasn't angry. I was hurt for her, because I've been on the other end of this scenario. And I was hurt for me, because I believed a lie even though I knew deep down that it was a lie.

I fell apart a little. I said the fear-filled thing that I still pray isn't true, "maybe I am cursed in love." And again he quieted my insecurities. He expressed his regret that he let it get this far. He frustration with himself that he fell in love with me, too. When he really was just looking to be not-bored and maybe feed his ego a little bit.

And then he told me all of the reasons that he loved me. How if he were single he would "do everything in [his] power" to make me his girlfriend and keep me forever. Because I'm perfect. And then he promised me that there is a man out there who will love me even better, who isn't also a lying asshole.

I thanked him.

Laugh if you have to! But I did. I hated him. But I thanked him. Because this man, who had literally no desire for anything but carefree entertainment, who had every reason in the world to remain detached, who obviously has severe entitlement issues that probably should be worked out with professional help, couldn't prevent himself from falling in love with me. And had to tell me, even though he promised himself he never would, because he "couldn't hold it inside anymore."

Compare that to the typical Tinder-boy? The typical any-kind-of guy? Or the Ex...

A cheating, lying, asshole raised my standard of treatment from men! Maybe I should work that out with professional help...

He left. I cried a little more and went to bed. I woke up the next day a little stunned and regretful but mostly filled with appreciation. Even in the beginning with the Ex, even after six months of dating again, those few weeks were the first time I've felt what it means to be truly loved. And that knowledge is going to be very useful, already has been very useful. He put me out of my misery with the string of men who never loved me. And now, going forward, I don't ever have to wonder. I know by comparison if the man on the other side of the table recognizes my worth.

As fucked-up as it all is, I am counting that as a gift.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Mixtape

I sent a mixtape to a guy I like. A real one. On cassette. With all the excitement and expectation and insecurity of a high school senior circa 1999 (which - incidentally - is the last time I had done such a thing).

It started out as half-a joke. My favorite playground. I love to take an idea too far. To surprise and delight by blasting through everyone's expectations. To make a lasting impression.

What an opportunity!

So I ordered a tape recorder and four-pack of cassettes on Amazon. And spent one long Sunday sifting through my entire music collection. It honestly took forever to find the right set of songs. Music he would like. Messages in that not-often-sung zone of "I think you're pretty great. Let's hang out more. Ok?" I payed special attention to the tones and transitions between songs. I wanted this tape to be a work of art.

I nailed it.

And then, because I am the world's worst at surprises (I get too excited to hold them inside!!!), I sent him a snapchat of the tape. And also asked for his address. I probably could have found it, but I didn't want to be creepy...

The following Tuesday I left work in time to go to the post office and sent it on its way. At that exact moment, the terror set in. While the tape weaved its way through land and air and weather delays, I worried. It was a lot of feelings in one place. And there was no turning back. No ambiguity. No blame it on the alcohol. No hiding from vulnerability.

I emailed the girls and asked for a pep talk. And boy did they deliver!

Side note: if you don't have a pack of fierce beauties who love you more than words and aren't afraid to wreak you with honesty, stop everything you are doing and devote yourself to assembling one!

I carried their words with me as reminders. A mantra: maybe I won't get the response I want - hell, he could hate it - but at least I get to be brave.

And brave is what my musician friend called me when I told her what I'd done. She noticed that I do this kind-of thing all the time: go all in, fling myself off the cliff, dive in head-first without checking the depth. You'd think with a pattern like that I'd get comfortable with discomfort.

Sigh... Nope.

We continued the conversation for a few days. She asked how I recover when I go in big and it doesn't turn out the way I've planned. How do I stay brave enough to do it all again? I had to think about that one for a while. And because I don't really know what I think until I read it back, I tackled the idea in an email:

My dear,

It never goes as planned. Ever. Even when I make a deal with the Universe that this will be the last deal we ever make. Still no. Think of it like a movie. Like every great love story you’ve ever seen. There is always the leap of faith. The first one. The early one when Meg Ryan flies her happy ass all the way to Seattle only to see Tom Hanks get out of the car and hug another woman (not his lover, but she doesn’t know that!!) or Julia Roberts gets cozy in her fancy penthouse suite only to be propositioned by Richard Gere's dick-bag friend who smacks her across the face for refusing. Do you think that was part of their plan?! The stories we tell ourselves never come true in the timelines that we set for them (it’s part of the reason I think SMART goals are bullshit - but that’s another discussion).

So YES! recovery is important. Because recovery is mandatory. When you fling your heart off a cliff like that, you have to have the strength to climb back up. It is the only way to give yourself the opportunity to fling it off again… Because one time when you do, you won’t fall. You will fly.

The hard part is: the only way to truly build the strength for that climb, is in the climbing

Photo Credit: That same amazing photographer. 

But you can build other strengths, things to call upon when you are half-way back up and feel like your arms can’t hold on anymore. There are a few reminders that make it all possible:

1) It isn’t going to kill you.
You might feel like you want to die. But you won’t literally die. A boy can reject you. He can take a long look at your pretty little heart and decide that he doesn’t want to see it ever again. And even if he is an immature asshole and decides to stomp it into the pavement before he goes, it won’t stop beating. Hearts are resilient like that!

2) You’ve been through worse.
We all have. My constant refrain about these men is, “what’s he gonna do to me?” Because unless he marries me, controls me, abuses me, separates me from my friends and family, convinces me I’m unworthy of love, cheats on me, and ultimately decides to leave me because  don’t measure up, then this new guy ain’t got nothin' on what I’ve been through - and that’s part of what I mean when I say the strength comes from the climb.

You’ve climbed out of worse, yourself, my dear. You've marched forward when everything would seem to hold you back. You've flung your heart off that cliff and had to save yourself from the rocks.

3) There is always something better.
I believe in God. I believe I have a fierce and feisty guardian angel. I believe that the Universe has a force and power that is ultimately unknowable and probably is tied up tight with the Holy Spirit. And those wicked three have taken me from nothing to everything. They have protected me from danger. They removed my ex from my life when I was ready and willing to sit in that torture chamber forever. Because they have something better in mind. 

That is part of the movie too. The second leap. The leap that requires you to love yourself and believe that you deserve all of God’s gifts. Think of Meg Ryan sitting at the top of the Empire State Building holding back tears with everything she’s got because she bet on magic and she’s up there all alone. Or Julia Roberts back in that dump apartment she shares with Kit after her whirlwind week. And then, when they least expect it, there they come: Tom Hanks up the elevator. Richard Gere charging into her neighborhood in the limo

The key. The critical key. Is remembering that the jump that doesn’t kill you isn’t going to be the jump that saves you in the end. Movies have to keep things simple. Life is bigger and better than that. Not dying (and climbing back up) isn’t the same as flying. And flying is what we’re after here

And the last most important thing is relying on your friends. And that’s a baby fling and a baby climb in itself. Because you have to be willing to be vulnerable with them, too. To be honest about who you are and what you want and what you’ve done. And all those baby climbs build strength for the bigger ones.

Take my stupid example: I had to be willing to tell you that I was scared. That’s not the same scope and scale as putting my soul into 60 minutes of music and shipping it 1000 miles. But it still requires vulnerability. And what if you had said I was stupid?  That he’s not that into me and I should have just let well enough alone? That reaction was a possibility I had to face to get the benefit of your enthusiastic support. It’s the same thing with the big flings. It’s why they’re so valuable. And worth all the effort of climbing back up after you fall. 


I don't know if I was quieting her fears or my own. I'm not sure that it matters. We both survived the week.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Unlucky in Love

I send men back to their ex-girlfriends, their former love-interests, their old flames.

A palm reader once told me that I am unlucky in love. She said that the men I want never stay and the men I don't want won't go away - but she could help me out with that for another $50. I declined.

So now I send men back to their old flames. I'm not being dramatic. This is statistically significant. I'm a scientist. I have the data. In the last six months there was the CrossFitter, and the Engineer, and the Lobbyist. And those are the ones I know about (some guys disappear without a Facebook-trace...).

I guess I could be offended by this. Take it to mean that I am so horrendous as a potential love-match that these fetching men have no choice but to seek the comfort of someone they had previously discarded, or previously lacked the courage or the space or the time to pursue.

But that's not really my style.

The way I see it, it could just as easily be my too much (rather than my not enough) that sends these men back down old roads. They come into my life looking for fun, looking for pretty, looking for amusement, and probably distraction. I provide all that. But I also have an inquisitive mind, an open heart, and a passion for the world. A vision. A direction. A life.

I am so much more than a one night stand.

And while it doesn't make logical sense that my too much would bring old embers and ashes back to life, I don't begrudge any of them. I might even understand.

I carried a flame for a man who was not my boyfriend for quite a bit of 2014. It was a shrinking flame - no bigger than a tea light or a birthday candle - by the time September rolled around. But it was a flame nonetheless. In September I also had a seemingly good - and different - man vying for my affection. Paying me attention. Taking me on adventures. Writing me poetry.

And I spent one frigid night in Alaska on the back deck of our wilderness lodge, bundled-up and worrying-out-loud to my travel-partner-soul-sister. Because you see, I was at that point: If I moved even one step closer to the Adventure-Poet, I would have to turn and blow the old flame out. No birthday wishes allowed.

Photo credit: the best photographer I know.

Things took a different turn with the Poet. So I didn't have to take that big breath in the end. But if I had, would it have worked? Or would that change in my gaze, that momentary increase in focus, have brought to mind all the reasons that I struck that match in the first place? How much I love birthdays?

Dim as it was, that flame was the only illumination for an imaginary ideal life. Would I have had the courage to snuff it out and make way for a bright but unknown reality? Or would I have rather poured on gasoline?

The harder question came after the Poet went away (long after, actually, but that's not the point): did I have the courage to extinguish that flame for myself? Without a well-read cowboy stoking a campfire somewhere nearby? Was I capable of making that wish and then sitting in the dark for a while?

If I had spent that $50, I might never have found out...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolutions Start on the 2nd

(everybody knows that)

Even my little sister - who refuses to make New Year's Resolutions - understands the importance of giving yourself January 1st to recover.

Last year I spent New Year's with her. I flew down to Florida on Christmas morning and spent 10 days camped out in her guest room. We went on a few walks with her dog. I went for a jog one time. But otherwise we relaxed and read books and shopped. And we agreed that we both needed to start a new workout routine in the New Year.

I had moved a few days before Christmas and didn't have a gym or workout strategy mapped out. My sister had canceled her gym membership for lack of use. So we both decided that we would follow We each downloaded the app, which is amazing. And we prepared to start. On January 2nd.

New Year's Day is just too much pressure.

First, I'm always hung over, or at least tired. I don't stay up past midnight very often. And I definitely don't drink champaign after (a lot) of liquor. Ever. So New Year's Eve is hard on my body. Second, lucky New Year's foods aren't exactly diet-friendly. I don't usually resolve to improve my diet, I'm allergic to enough as it is. But it's the principle of the thing... And also there is football to watch. And other equally-important reasons to stay on the couch, like new Christmas books to read.

So resolutions start on the 2nd. And today is January 2nd.

I've mentioned before that I always share my resolutions and goals for the New Year with DrLindsey. We keep each other accountable through email. And provide support when things go off the rails. It's amazing. We check in with each other every quarter. We reevaluate our previous goals. See what we've already accomplished. Replace any that don't make sense anymore - now that life intervened. And encourage each other to succeed.

This year, tho, we took a different approach.

Instead of our typical goal-setting-type goals (that often turn into one more to-do list) we have set... drumroll...

Goals with Soul 

(Watch the video. PS: I love how much she wanted to overcome her striving - I feel that way too).

I mentioned this approach last Spring, when I first found the Desire Map. I bought all-in to the idea of first deciding how I want to feel. And then - and only then - setting goals for the year that will help me achieve those feelings. I bought a copy for DrLindsey right away. And she agreed to take the leap with me.

It took me a while to discover my Core Desired Feelings. I worked through the process over multiple late-Spring evenings, sitting on my back patio. Often with a glass of wine. Basking in the soothing atmosphere. I didn't work on them after overly stress-filled days, or when I was in a rush, or when I had too much other stuff on my mind. I wanted to breathe. And do them right.

I discovered my Core Desired Feelings on May 9th. I was working through the final steps of the process, reading definitions, saying words out loud and sensing how they made me feel. Eliminating any that didn't sound right or feel right or look right on the page. And then - all at once - six little words ripped my heart out.

Authentic. Brilliant. In Awe. At Peace.

They hit me with a tidal wave of emotions. I still feel it breaking over me now when I see them all together in print. I was exhausted. And exhilarated. And overwhelmed. I had never seen anything so true about myself. In any shape or form. And I cried. Oh did I cry.

I tried them on for a few days, and then a few months. And I started to see the connection between those feelings and every decision in my life. The things I wanted to do. The things I didn't want to do. And the burning feeling inside of me that something was amiss - that action was required - when I wasn't feeling the way I want to feel.

I linked them to my work. I crafted them into a vision for how I want to exist in my basement cubicle. And I wear a reminder bracelet on my wrist. I told you: I am all in.

#truthbomb by Danielle LaPorte. Seemingly made just for me!

So, for the past few weeks I have been working on the next step: setting my intentions for 2015 based on my Core Desired Feelings. And that process has been equally exhilarating. You mean I get to dedicate my energy to feeling good? To feeling the way I want to feel? You mean my metric for success will be happiness?!? I'm in love with the whole thing.

I have four intentions for 2015. Well three and one that underwrites them all:

Build-up a robust and innovative team - this is my intention for work. My justification for pouring all my energy into enabling the people I admire most.

Dig into the depths of me - this one is for me. I spent 2014 rediscovering the girl I lost. And I like her! And I want to know everything there is to know about her!

Write like a motherfucker - this is a quote. And a call to action. Something I need to do. For myself - because I love it. For my work - because that's why they pay me. And for my relationships - because that's the best way I know how to send my love.

Prioritize my health and wellbeing - so that I have the energy to accomplish all the rest.

And they started today! I spent the whole morning working on a surprise for the team. And I know they're going to love it. And I'm writing right now. And I feel amazing. And I'm super blissed-out to have something so true to share with you. And that's the whole point.

I've also exchanged emails with DrLindsey. Because making a public declaration - as fun as it is - doesn't give me the deep, heartfelt support and acknowledgement that only she can provide. Sorry. I'm not sorry. You'll just have to understand...