Right Where I’m Supposed to Be

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Things have been a little rough for my girl lately. She’s 13 and as if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s been having a hard time with someone very important in her life. I’ve watched her struggle for a year or more with how to deal with it. I’ve listened to her express sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, and hope. I’ve seen the result of her efforts backfire, and I’ve witnessed her making hard choices.

Because it’s a situation in which I can’t totally intervene, I’ve tried to give her the tools to deal with it. I’ve suggested ways to approach the problem, encouraged her to set boundaries and ask for what she wants. I tried to offer ways she might handle the potential reaction of the individual.

But neither of us expected the response she got. And then I watched my little girl cry, heartbroken that someone she adores appeared to be turning his back on her.

What an age to learn that lesson. To learn that the people we love are sometimes incapable of loving us back in the way we need. To learn that someone you thought you could count on can’t actually be counted on.  To learn that expectations are a heartbreaking thing to have.

It’s painful to watch your child learn life’s hard lessons, isn’t it? But I gotta say, I am incredibly proud of my girl and how she handled herself. She expressed herself articulately, she asked for what she needed, and she offered a possible solution to the problem. She avoided speaking in absolutes, and she tried to “meet halfway”, asking for a little time to work things out, together.  And I’m sorry to say that the recipient’s response was no where on the scale of empathetic or compassionate, leaving little room for a productive conversation.

My girl has persevered, with lots of talking and encouragement, because I believe this relationship should be saved if at all possible. I don’t want her to look back and regret a rash decision – but she’s been done about 100 times.

I have to admit that one of my fatal flaws is that I give too many chances, I allow for too much, I keep searching for that good I know is there. I keep hoping that thread I’m holding on to will be enough, and that at any minute, the realization will dawn on the object of my hope ~ and they will see! At last, they will realize and the light will get in and we can have a break through and everything will be okay!

And while in this case I am still holding on to hope for her that things can and will get better…well, sometimes you have to let go of people who don’t have the capacity to love. Or, at least they don’t have the capacity to love you. 

This is someone who does, indeed, love her. But I need my girl to know that this says nothing about her worth, or rather a lack of it. This is just a person who is operating at capacity – he is loving her the way he is able to. It’s her choice now to accept that or not. And that’s a brutal lesson for a thirteen year old, isn’t it.

Recently, and directly related to this situation, I made the decision to let go of someone who once mattered very much to me. In fact this woman was very important to me and I loved her a lot.  But the simplest way to say why I let her go is that she didn’t have room for me  in her heart, and that was no longer okay with me. I will always be appreciative for the relationship we once had – or that I thought we had – but our time is done. And that’s okay. When it’s time to let go and you do, it’s an incredible gift to yourself.

Wisdom comes from experience, and when you allow yourself to learn from your past, you get a lot better at walking away from things no longer meant for you. I’ve never been terribly good at this. I sometimes SUCK at it. But the past two years have given me lots of opportunity for practice – and realizing I can actually disengage from toxic people rather than continue to place myself in their path has been freeing. Kind of like this:

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I don’t know how my daughter is so wise without the benefit of experience.  Then again, plenty of people have a lifetime of experience, yet no wisdom. There have been big lessons for our little family of three in all this, and I am learning as much from them as they are from me. What I do know is that I’m not worried about my kids and who they are becoming. I’m proud of them, I respect them, I believe in them and I trust them to trust themselves.

What I also know is that I am right where I am supposed to be.

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Polly + Ben

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He’d fallen asleep in the recliner again.

It had become his custom since he’d moved the ugly brown chair that Polly hated from his den into the bedroom to be closer to her. He hadn’t slept next to her in months. Not since the night she had woken, shrieking and terrified at his presence; the night he’d become a stranger.

He now had to sneak in about an hour after giving her the sleeping medication. He would curl up in the recliner and watch her for a while, reflecting on their decade together, letting the comforting memories wash over him and ease him to sleep. Ten years had not been nearly enough.

Each morning, he would awaken early – well before she – and slip silently from the room. He would make his way to his den to work for a few hours before hearing the sounds of her stirring, but he’d wait for her to call to him. “Curtis, I’m up. Are you there?” she would call.

Ben had no idea who Curtis was, but he had long ago given up trying to figure it out, or trying to convince her he wasn’t Curtis. It had driven him crazy for a while, but no one – not her parents, not her brother, not even her best friend – could recall a Curtis from her past. Most likely Curtis was a character from one of her novels, and Ben had to satisfy himself with that explanation.

Ben would help Polly comb her hair and get dressed. Then he would help her get settled in one of the three spots she liked to spend her day. If she wasn’t tucked into the tiny breakfast nook in their kitchen, you could find her in her favorite chair in the living room, writing furiously in one of her notebooks. And, if the weather was nice, she liked to be on the back porch overlooking the garden. Always, she had notebooks and pens, and always, she wrote and wrote and wrote.

When she spoke, it was of a past that no one else was a part of. She didn’t recall her childhood or her parents. She didn’t talk about memories from when her children were little. She didn’t recall her first marriage, her divorce, or her years as a single mom. And she didn’t speak of meeting Ben. She spoke instead, it seemed, of the lives of her characters; the lives of the women she had created in her books. Their stories had become hers, embroidered into the fabric of her memory. She recalled these memories as fondly as if she were recalling her own.

Ben wanted so much to hear her recall the night they met, to talk about their courtship and how they’d fallen in love – “like long time lovers on short notice”, as she used to say. He wanted to hear her talk about the night she knew she was falling for him. It was the story she had most loved to tell, the one that she would have told until she was an old woman; the story that in its umpteenth retelling would have someday had their kids rolling their eyes.

Polly had delighted in recounting how she had emphatically decided she would NOT go out with Ben. They had dated the previous fall and while it hadn’t ended badly, when he came sniffing around again in spring, she had been resolute – smug, even.

“I really believed there was no way he was getting another chance with me – and then he asked, and he barely had the words out before I was saying yes!” Polly would laugh, shaking her head. “I kept thinking it would fizzle out or that he’d let me down, but he just kept coming around. Then we had the night, where we stayed up talking and laughing til like 3 in the morning. And that was when I knew he had won my heart…”  She always said this mawkishly, turning her head sideways and blinking her big green eyes at Ben. Of course Ben knew she really meant it. To Ben, Polly was the perfect mixture of sexy, sassy, and sappy, and he adored her for it.

Polly and Ben had found refuge in one another, slowly letting go of the ghosts of relationships past as they learned to trust and be trusted, maybe for the first time. Polly had been Ben’s second chance at happiness. He had fallen slowly but completely, and no one had ever loved him as well as this woman had. She’d been his partner in every sense, and their love had been fun, and silly, and crazy in all the right ways. He ached to have her back even for a moment. Just to tell her and have her understand how much he loved her, still.

Sitting across from her now as she sipped her tea, he resisted the urge to reach out and brush her hair out of her eyes. Just then she looked up at him. “Curtis, can you bring me my notebook?”

“Sure, Buttercup,” he replied. And suddenly, she was there. A glimmer of his Polly flashed in her eyes at the sound of his pet name for her. He watched her face relax. She tilted her head towards him, a small smile on her lips. Then, just as quickly, her eyes clouded with confusion and the furrow returned between her brows. She lowered her gaze and fidgeted with her toast. These moments of lucidity never lasted long, but oh, how he craved them.

As Polly picked up her pen and began writing – page after page of nonsensical prose – Ben retreated to the den. He crossed the room to the bookshelf that held the photos and albums Polly had treasured, tiny glimpses of their life together, a chronicle of their journey. He looked at his favorite photo – one from early in their courtship. They sat side by side on the beach, a bonfire blazing in the foreground. Polly, bundled in a puffy jacket and beanie, was leaning towards Ben and smiling radiantly at the camera while Ben’s gaze was focused on her.

As he studied the photo, smiling at the memory of that night, he heard the door. He turned and Polly was there. She was watching him, smiling.
“Whatcha looking at?” she asked.
“Us,” he replied.
“Let me see,” she said as she came to stand beside him.
“Oh, this is one of my favorites,” she said, taking the bonfire picture from the shelf. “Remember that night? We were trying to act like we weren’t sweet on each other. I don’t think we fooled anyone.”

Ben, grasping at the moment said, “No, it’s all over my face how much I loved you, Buttercup. I still do. I always will.”

Polly turned to look at him, her eyes shining. She took his face in her hands and kissed him. “You know, you’ve always felt like home to me. Always. I’m so glad you asked, Ben. And I’m so glad I said yes.”

As she turned to go, Ben held on to her hand and said hopefully, “Polly?”

But the moment was gone. She had already drifted away.

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Hope Is The Thing…

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I’m a romantic. I cry at the slightest sentimental gesture. I cry when I read Nicholas Sparks books. Those sappy, formulaic, manipulative damn stories make me weeeeeep.  And I believe, really believe that there is love like that in this world. Can you blame me? My parents have been married 50 years, and yep, they’re still happy.

To make things worse, I feel like love is mystical. Magical. I look for signs, check my gut for a sense of “knowing” – and often I’m right. Often enough to make me really wrong sometimes, if that makes sense.

I am not a woman who falls easily. Actually, strike that. I am not a woman who easily finds someone for whom I am willing to fall.  In other words, someone has to be pretty special for me to give up what I’ve got going on my own.

But….but…when I find someone I like…

Well. Then I fall. And it should be noted that I have NO GAME. I put all my cards out on the table when I’m excited about someone. I am realizing this is maybe a fatal flaw, but I don’t think I know how else to be. If I like you, you know it. There isn’t any bullshit here. Period.

Recently, I met someone I liked. And he liked me back. We were sorta crazy about each other. And sorta fast. And, as mentioned, I have no game. As I also mentioned,  this doesn’t happen often for me. In the last six years, I can count on ONE HAND the number of men who piqued my interest. But this guy – I got really, really excited about this guy. There seemed to be a level of connection that I haven’t experienced in a while. This kind of connection is rare, indeed.

SPOILER ALERT: It burned up almost as quickly as it began. So, what’s my point in telling you this?

I supposed I am calling myself out a little. The truth is, when I fall, I fall HARD. And I fall FAST. And maybe that’s why I am starting to feel jaded. Maybe even slightly hopeless.

My dear, dear, dear friend, Johnny, pointed out to me that there seems to be this paradox in me. I am genuinely good on my own, happy to stay single until I meet the right fit. Yet, I also really, really want to find that right fit. I tend to “know” instantly if I’m into someone (and know equally instantly when I am not), and because of that, I can take it to be some sort of magical, romantical intervention when I connect on a deeper level with someone. I’m all BEHOLD! AT LAST! HE HAS ARRIVED! You guys, I’m too willing to believe that someone “could be it” just because I like him right away. That’s a problem.

This was hard to admit, but Johnny was right. Of course, officially, I blame Hollywood. And Nicholas Sparks. And my parents. But that doesn’t change the fact that I allowed myself to get a little carried away in this case. Is it possible that I might have run this guy off with my…let’s call it “enthusiasm”, shall we? It takes two to tango and he was right there with me for a bit… but, in the interest of personal growth, I guess I’d better consider that I may have come across a little too eager.

But here’s the thing. How do you reconcile what your heart really wants with the cold, hard truth that you may never get it? I’m asking you, Dear Readers, how do you make peace with not getting something you deeply long for? How do you put the deep desire of your heart on the shelf, and be really okay with maybe never getting it? I always say that I am planning as if it will just be me from here on out, but I don’t really mean it when I say it. I mean, I guess I sort of mean it. I just don’t really believe it will be that way.

To be clear, I don’t feel even a little bit incomplete. I love this life I’ve made for myself and my children. I’m happy. And still, this one thing I deeply desire remains elusive – and there are no guarantees that it will ever come to be. But, I don’t know how to be okay with that. I will always want it, even if I’m 82. (and THAT is when you can call me a cougar. Not before then.)

But, isn’t it true that in life there are many things completely out of our control that we have to just accept?  We learn to deal with shit we aren’t happy about and carry on. That’s just life. Right?

I suppose the task is to find a balance between hope and acceptance. I could argue that this is the task for us all, regardless what your heart’s desire is. We have to deal with so much loss and disappointment in this lifetime. It can be hard not to become jaded or hopeless.

I admit, I felt hopeless for about 13 hours this week. How could I get my hopes up about someone I barely knew? Well, because I’m a romantic, and I think romantic love is mystical and magical and I guess I’ll never really stop hoping for it.

See? I’ll be dammed if that little flame didn’t start to flicker and build itself inside me again. F’ing hope. What are we going to do with her?

What would we do without her?

 

 

 

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That Thing They Call Closure…

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Remember the episode of Friends where Rachel gets drunk and calls Ross to tell him she’s over him and that she has “closure”? The audience knows she doesn’t have anything even close to closure, and that’s what makes it funny.

It’s not so funny in real life, though. There is a lot of talk with regard to relationships about this word, closure. Google it. Why Closure is So Important. How to Get Closure After a Breakup. How to Get Closure From an Ex. 

I’ll tell you what I think about closure: It’s bullshit.

When you open yourself up to any relationship you don’t get a guarantee and closure is not part of the deal. Even if you deserve it, you don’t always get that apology. The hard truth is that you just don’t get to demand that everything be wrapped up for you with a neat little bow.

When something ends, particularly if you didn’t see it coming or it’s done in a painful way, it’s normal to seek answers and to try to figure out what the hell happened. Look you guys,  I know how much it hurts to be the one who is left, or ghosted on, or clueless about why someone “opted out” on you.  But demanding an answer, a reason, or needing to know “why” or “how” are all just ways you give away your power.

Haven’t we all been left baffled and bewildered, hurt and confused by someone at some point in our lives?  And, have we ourselves possibly left someone equally flummoxed somewhere along the line? Even I, someone who is fairly expressive and compassionate can’t promise you that I have always given everyone I’ve opted out on “closure”.  Can you?

I can promise you with certainty that the “why” doesn’t matter. I can promise you that why might not even have anything to do with you. I can promise you that even if you knew why, it might not give you the closure you so desperately think you need.

Ask yourself – and answer honestly – even if that person told you exactly why they left (or disappeared, or opted out), would it make you feel better?  And ask yourself – also answering honestly – is it possible that their leaving (or disappearing, or opting out) could be…prepare yourself….could it be a gift?

Three years ago, I had my heart broken. I got bamboozled. I thought I had found “the one”. He told me he loved me, told me I was his soulmate, even.  Then one day, after I argued that we were at an impasse over a recurring issue, he agreed that we should end things. He went with promises of finding his way back to me after he “fixed” the issues that were causing the problem for us, and I, ever the hopeful one, believed him. But three weeks later, he had moved on with someone else, effectively breaking my heart in pieces.

I was stunned. I was baffled. I searched for answers. I suffered with anxiety and I just wanted to know why why why!!! I wanted closure.  The most painful thing for me was that he had turned on me so completely – overnight he went from making promises about his undying love for me to coldly ignoring me, throwing my things away, and acting as if I was a stranger. Or worse, like someone who had killed his dog.

Then one day, a very dear friend of mine said, “You know what? Fuck him! Why does he get all this power?”

And it was as if a switch flipped. Why was I waiting for him to give me closure? Why was I waiting for him to give me answers? He was GONE.  I had my answer.

My healing was exponential after that. I didn’t need anything from that man, and I never would again. I made my own closure, I moved on without the explanation, without knowing why, and without the apology. I did not need it.

Sometimes, though, if you pay very close attention, when you least expect it – you will get your answer. It may take years, it may take a lifetime.  So often, the universe will provide for you a sort of explanation in the big picture. And actually, I’d like to argue, if you pay very, very close attention, you will see that the universe is always providing you with those answers.  ALWAYS.

Recently, without needing it or expecting it, I was given some very direct insight to this particular situation. I stumbled upon it, and the truths that were revealed to me through this discovery could only be called validating.  And guess what? His “leaving” truly was a gift. And I am still discovering the many ways in which that’s true.

Keep in mind, this kind of validation is not something you can demand. It’s not something you should expect. But when you make your own closure you will find yourself on a path which you otherwise wouldn’t have been on. Which means there will be opportunities you may not otherwise have had. And because of this, there will be people and experiences and friendships and love that will come into your life. And the lesson is that every little thing doesn’t have to make sense to you right now. Trust that it’ll make sense some day.

Because if you pay attention, you will find that the answers are always there, and the path you end up on is right where you were always meant to be. 

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Follow Your Heart. Or drag it…

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When my daughter was learning how to ride a bike, I removed her training wheels and set out with her, determined that she would ride that bike within the hour. But instead, my kid got all whiny and crabby. Her 5 year old self had realized learning a new skill is hard and she wanted it to be easy. So of course: drama.  But I was resolute! I was staying positive and upbeat with lots of “You can do it!” and “Come on! Don’t give up!” while I was running alongside her holding on to the back of the bike, keeping her upright and trying to get her to build some momentum. I was not going to give up!

At least, that is, until I lost my shit.

I threw up my hands and as I walked away I said, “Fine. Give up. But if you want that bike to come with us, you’re going to have to ride it back to me.” And I left her ass there.

I didn’t have any grand plan, I was just pissed. And I knew what I was doing wasn’t working. So I stormed off.

You know where this is going, right? After she realized that yelling after me wasn’t going to get her anywhere, she picked herself up and got on the bike. Next thing I know, I hear some panting behind me, and here she comes, clumsily along, but she’s riding the damn bike. And I start offering a little encouragement, the kind that let her know I was still in Pissed Mommy Mode. But she’s doing it, and she’s sort of laughing and crying and concentrating really hard, but she’s doing it all by herself. 

We went up and down that path a dozen times with me running next her. She started building more speed and getting more confident with each pass so that eventually I couldn’t keep up. I went back to cheering with lots of “Look at you!” and “You’re awesome, man!” and it was a great little scene. I knew she felt a little like a bad ass, maybe for the first time.

Later, as we packed up her bike to head home, she took my hand, looked at me kind of sheepishly and said, “Thank you for using tough love on me, Mommy.”

It’s one of my favorite mom moments ever.

I was thinking about that today, and got to thinking how sometimes we gotta use that kind of Tough Love on ourselves. In the battle between Head and Heart, we are told Follow Your Heart. Yet sometimes, Heart is stupid. So, Head needs to step in. Here’s where the showdown begins.

We can see clearly what we should do and how we need to get there yet we find ourselves kicking and screaming and not wanting to go that direction. Heart wants to stay, but Head knows that it’s not really going to end up with Heart getting what she really wants in the end. Heart might be afraid of letting go because: pain and suffering. But Head is thinking, yeah, only if you don’t let go, there will be pain and suffering I’m pretty sure.

This is me right now. Heart is sort of having a little tantrum. Heart is being a little stubborn. Heart is trying really hard to get her way. Basically, I keep looking back over my shoulder at what Heart wants. And I keep putting myself in the situation of needing to let go – again. My head keeps trying to get my attention. And my heart keeps saying, “Yeah, but…”

heart-brain

So. Time for me to Tough Love myself, right? Truth is, we can’t always follow our heart. Sometimes, we have to drag it with us in the direction of something else. Our heart often wants something that just isn’t meant for us, so we have to firmly tell it, “No, Dear Heart. That’s not for you right now no matter how much you might want it.”

I want to believe in signs and feelings and “meant to be”. But sometimes your heart will keep you stuck in a place that isn’t going anywhere all because you want that thing so badly – so you start allowing for things that you never thought you would. All because of Heart’s Desires.

When you find yourself compromising over things that are important to you, or trying to shush the little voice in your head that’s getting louder every time you let your heart convince you “maybe this time it’s different”, or letting yourself be content with crumbs, then you know it’s time. It’s time to stop looking back. It’s time to look forward, and keep looking forward. I know it’s hard. Heart can be pretty convincing about this stuff. But, People, you know when something isn’t working. You know when you have to just turn around and start walking, and wait for Heart to put her ass on the bike and ride it in the direction of forward, clumsily along until finally: momentum.

Yes. Sometimes, you need to make your heart follow you instead…

 

 

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