Wherever you go, there you are

For the last week, I’ve been travelling through what I hope will be my future home province someday. I arrived with great hope and expectation about what I might discover, and nervousness that I wouldn’t discover anything at all. I was so thrilled to have an epiphany early on about what to do with my career that I started to think I could just relax on this trip, assuming everything was going to go well and life would all start to sort itself out into a state of clarity.

I spent 3 nights in a small town, renting a room in the home of a man the same age as me. We ended up spending a lot of time together as he showed me around town, took me on hikes and we stayed up late into the night sharing life stories. He talked about wanting to take me on his motorcycle someday, wanting to show me so many more things in the future, and about how his mother would be surprised to learn he’s dating again. By the time I was leaving, we were holding hands in the car and kissing goodbye. I didn’t think I was personally investing too much, it just felt nice to be connecting with someone in that way after what has felt like a long time of being single.

Of course now, two nights later, I just feel profound loss. In the light of day, I see how he is too much like every emotionally unavailable, narcissistic guy I’ve been involved with in the past. I see how I let myself get caught up in a ‘relationship’ for no reason other than it felt nice not to be alone. I see that everything he said and did was self-serving and insincere.

I thought I had left these old patterns behind and yet here they are, following me halfway across the country reminding me that wherever I go, there I’ll be. There I’ll be with all my history, all my old wounds that are still healing, all my vulnerability and weakness and fear. Just when I think I’ve left them all behind, there they are.

Man, what a crappy discovery to have on vacation.

Mark

As I pulled into the Starbucks parking lot, I couldn’t have been more surprised to see you. How long has it been – a year? two years? I still feel like I may have imagined it, the impossibility of the timing something I can’t seem to wrap my mind around.

I hadn’t thought of you in ages until earlier today, when Facebook suggested we might want to be friends. I thought fondly back to the brief time that we dated; to that ridiculous first date when I ended up weirdly asking you if you had to lose two limbs, which two limbs would you give up, and how amazed I was that you not only went with the conversation in good fun, but still wanted to go out again after that. Mostly I thought back to the incredible sexual chemistry we had; it had been a long time since I’d felt that charged by another person. In all honesty, it hasn’t happened with anyone since.

I tried to remember why I decided it wouldn’t – couldn’t – work with you. I remembered the way you looked at me sideways through your glasses, your eyes getting almost creepily wide, and how annoying I found that to be. I sighed at how petty that seems, now. But then I remembered how conversation so often needed to revolve around you and I thought, well, that’s not petty. That’s not petty at all.

Still, I’d clicked on your profile picture this morning and scrolled through your feed to see what you’d been up to since we’d last seen each other. (Who’s the creepy one now…?) I saw your nature photography, your running and cycling accomplishments, your kayaking adventure, your easy banter with friends, and I sighed again. You are in so many ways such a terrific guy. You were so close to being someone I could’ve loved.

I decided to go to Starbucks this afternoon to read, but the dog demanded a walk before I left. I amusingly thought to myself, ‘What if these few minutes make the difference between me meeting some great guy at Starbucks, or us just missing each other?’ The thought flitted through my mind before it rushed off, replaced by an army of other thoughts demanding my attention. I brought the dog home and decided as long as I had my shoes on, I may as well walk to get the mail. Another few minutes passed.

And then I finally made it to Starbucks and there you were, passing right outside my window, leaving the cafe just as my car was pulling in. You looked in my direction but past me, while I stared at you in disbelief. A few minutes earlier and we would have crossed paths in the store – you would have had to walk by me waiting in line to order as you made your way out. But now you just passed by, looking preoccupied.

When time unfroze I realized you were with another woman – brunette, like me. You looked uncomfortable, neither of you were smiling. Another first date, I guessed. It didn’t look like there had been much of a connection.

I wonder what you would have done or said if we had bumped into each other inside. I wonder if we would have had coffee, after your coffee date, and what would have come of it. I wonder if we would have decided to extend it beyond coffee. It felt like a fleeting Hollywood moment, full of possibility and ‘almost-was’, even as I remembered all the valid reasons why it didn’t and couldn’t work between us.

I’m not sure why today you unexpectedly came into my mind, and then into my view, but it made me smile, remembering the time we had together and knowing you’re still out there, not that far away as it turns out. You unknowingly brought a little adventure into my day, and inadvertently a little hope that maybe someday I’ll meet someone again who will rekindle that crazy excitement I’d briefly felt with you.

I guess all I’m trying to say is… it was good to see you again, Mark.

2016: Year in Review

To be honest, I feel a bit shell shocked by this year. Nevertheless, growth and progress come in many forms and now this year too has passed so, without further ado, here are my highlights (or perhaps more aptly named, key themes) of 2016:

1) Exploring the West: In the summer I took a 2-week solo trip to the Western US and Canada, starting with a 10k race in Oregon, moving on to rainforest hikes and ocean beach walks in Washington, mountain hiking in British Columbia, and horseback riding in the Alberta Rockies. Mid-trip I took a break in Nelson BC, staying with a friend for a few days, cementing what is becoming a soulful lifelong friendship. On this trip I discovered my strength and visceral need for connection with body and nature. Coming back from this trip, I started biking to work instead of driving and making day trips to Algonquin Park on long weekends for hiking with a view. I was embarking on an important and much-needed lifestyle shift.

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2) Exploring Love: After two years of purposeful singledom, I started dating again in the Spring, learning a little bit more about myself from each brief relationship. From a nice guy with no sexual chemistry, to an annoying guy with abundant sexual chemistry, to a wealthy guy with no self-reflection, to an unconventional guy with little empathy, I am gradually learning more about what I need, and refining and solidifying my dealbreakers. Whether or not I’ll ever meet a guy who will someday become my best friend is anyone’s guess, but I think there’s value and personal growth in the search.

img_20140419_1421443) Exploring Loss: On December 1, a dear friend of mine died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack at age 63. I’ve never lost anyone close to me before, I had no idea how to even begin to process that she’s no longer in this world. I don’t think I’ve quite wrapped my head around it yet. And then on December 25, my childhood idol whose music I’d hung on to through my worst years of loneliness growing up, passed away suddenly at age 53. I’m surprised at how complicated my grief over George Michael’s passing has been. These two sudden losses at vastly different levels and degrees of proximity to my life have left me feeling very melancholic, and focused on the importance of living fully and immediately rather than perfectly.

img_20160810_1131544) Exploring Change: On my Western adventure, I came to realize that I experience myself and the world differently when I’m around mountains. In the mountains I feel like there is room for me in the world, and I feel like I can breathe in a way that eludes me in this flat congested landscape that I currently call home. I realized that I have unconsciously been travelling to mountains every chance I’ve gotten over the last few years since I started travelling alone, and I think I’m starting to understand why. I’ve now begun to lay the groundwork to make a big move in my life within the next couple of years which feels a bit scary but also exciting and very life-living.

So, those are the biggest themes/highlights of 2016. The only thing left to do now is choose the song of the year!

Song of the Year: 2016

It’s hard to choose this year’s song since 2016 has been so emotionally dichotomous for me. At various points I would have thought my selection would be one of my most-played Awolnation songs of the year – either “MF” or “Windows” – but I’ve decided it’s going to be an old Cage the Elephant song from 2013 that I just discovered a few months ago. As much as I love their newer release “Trouble”, this older song “Telescope” really represents my state of mind this year, ending with the important reminder: Time is like a leaf in the wind / Either it’s time worth spent or time I’ve wasted / Don’t waste it.

With that, I thank you for reading and wish you a happy, healthy 2017 full of love, peace and joy.

And suddenly, she was dating…

Healing from abuse is a crazy ride. Just over two years ago, I walked away from an abusive guy, cut off all contact and decided it was time to ‘deal with my shit.’ No more distractions, no dating, just me and my mountain of baggage.

I cried, I drank, I got depressed, I ate Nutella by the truckload, I got confused, I ran, I got angry, I did yoga, I felt like giving up on life, I isolated. I blogged about it, a lot, and will forever be thankful for the online community of caring strangers who caught me every time I was falling, strangers who knew exactly what I was going through because they had been through it too.

Over time I slowly started to find my footing, but still didn’t know if I’d ever be able to take the plunge into dating again. It’s a scary prospect, once you know for sure that there is evil in the world, that there are people out there perpetually hunting for someone to hurt. It feels safer to stay behind the wall.

I told myself as long as I felt any internal drive or pressure to date, it was a sign that I wasn’t ready to be dating. I told myself that for two years and eventually settled comfortably into imagining the rest of my life as a single woman. (With cats, of course.)

I learned to travel alone, and to set goals that were mine and mine alone. I learned to hold my own in a room of married people, I learned how to cheer myself up on bad days and how to stop binging on that damn Nutella.

And now suddenly, unexpectedly, here I am… dating.

As it turns out, all this time I’ve been figuring myself out and making sense of my life, I’ve also somehow figured out where to draw my lines – boundaries, if you will – and how to enforce them.

It turns out I can tell the difference now between good and evil, between caring and controlling, between genuine and manipulative. I know there are evil people out there but now I can recognize them, and that gives me tremendous power and protection.

I can also recognize the good people and appreciate them. I can take it slow, proceeding on my own terms, because good people understand and respect that. Good people treat me with consideration without me having to ask for it, they just do it because that’s who they are. As “he” says: it’s nice to be nice.

To my utter amazement, on my first swim back in the dating pool, I managed to avoid all the sharks in all their different forms, and find a good guy – one who is open and honest and thoughtful and smart and funny and all the things I want and deserve in my life; one who recognizes and appreciates all those things in me, too. One who I can hang out with easily for hours with endless conversation meandering between utter hilariousness and sincere seriousness. One who is as amazed to have found me, as I am to have found him.

Two years ago I couldn’t have imagined this would ever be possible again, but here it is – proof that there is light if you fight your way through the dark, and that there is good in a world that is also evil. Through all the inner wars and doubts and fears I have somehow emerged victorious – stronger, smarter, and surer.

Who knows what will come of this new relationship, it really doesn’t even matter. I am just taking every day as it comes, still marvelling to be suddenly in this new world, in the light again, very unexpectedly but quite happily… dating.

Dating

 

Dating Efficiency

I love the movie “P.S. I Love You.” It can make me cry within 2 minutes – any scene, anytime. There is one aspect of it I used to not be too fond of, though, and that is the way the main character’s older sister Denise (played by Lisa Kudrow) screened out men for dating.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, you can watch the clip here. Basically, when Denise first met a man she would say the exact same things:

  • I like your [tie, chain, whatever].
  • Are you single?
  • Are you gay?
  • Are you working?

If they passed those three questions, the next test was a kiss to see if there was chemistry. If they failed any of the tests, she would literally just turn and walk away without another word.

I’ve always thought this was a callous way to try to determine if someone was dateable. I mean, shouldn’t there be more time to get to know him? Shouldn’t there at least be an attempt to gain context if he says he’s not working or if the kiss didn’t launch fireworks?

I’m not so sure anymore.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m 40, or if it’s because I’ve spent so much time getting to know myself that I no longer feel the need to win other people’s affection, but today I found myself behaving not that differently than Denise.

I was at a party that was also being attended by a guy my friends have been wanting to set me up with for over a year. For the first half of the party, I avoided him – I hate situations with that much pressure on them – until suddenly I found myself unexpectedly standing next to him. I looked over, smiled, and paid him a compliment. Within 4 minutes, I learned that he wants to have children (which I do not), after which I quickly wrapped up the conversation and went back to my friends.

As they all giddily raised their eyebrows and leaned in to find out if this handsome man had sparked my interest, I simply said, “He wants babies.” End of story. Nice guy, but I’m not interested in negotiating.

I suddenly felt like Denise. (Well, to be perfectly honest, I thought ‘Oh my god, I’m just like Phoebe’ because I still struggle to see Lisa Kudrow as any character other than Phoebe Buffay.) But this time I saw Denise from a different perspective. She’s a woman who knows what her dealbreakers are, who doesn’t care what people think of her, and who doesn’t want to waste her time on small talk because she has way more interesting things to do with her life.

I don’t think it needs to be done as directly or coldly as Denise does it, but at the end of the day isn’t this what all single people are trying to do when they’re in the dating pool – figure out who passes those minimum requirements for consideration?

As we get older and feel less of a need for validation and approval for others, I really don’t see too much of a point in extending a conversation far beyond its purpose just to try to be polite, especially when it’s unlikely we’ll ever see that person again. In fact, thinking back to earlier years of dating, I’m sure that politely extending the conversation is what got me into a lot of awkward situations and misunderstandings, which then required more long polite unwanted conversations to straighten out.

I think I’m at the age, or maybe just at the point in my life, where I know what I want and what I don’t want. I’ve learned my dealbreakers. I know how the dating game works, both with the good guys and with the bad guys. The good guys might find this approach a little cold but ultimately I believe they’ll appreciate not feeling misled and not having their time wasted. The bad guys don’t deserve one second longer of my time than they manage to steal, so no harm done by cutting those conversations short.

So, I guess I’m turning into that girl. Maybe that will make me seem a bit bitchy but I say it just makes me a much more efficient dater, and I’ve always been a fan of efficiency. 🙂

yes i'm single