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.