Agape and All That Jazz

Sleeping Beauty“You are free. You are free before the noonday sun. You’re free before the moon and you’re free before the stars, and you are free where there is no moon or sun, where there isn’t a single star in the sky.

But you are a slave, you are a slave to the one you love because you love him, and you are a slave to the one you love because he loves you back.”


 

I don’t know where the quote above comes from, if anyone else does please let me know I suspect it is part of a longer poem, ancient and likely Arabic. I think it is beautiful and the truth. We are all, at best, slaves to our hearts. Each of us, wanting to love and be loved in turn willingly opening ourselves to greater or lesser degrees throughout our lives to achieve acceptance and love.

We want to be loved, for ourselves, for who we are and what we bring without hiding anything. We want to open ourselves, explore and feel safe in those explorations without risking our core. We want love to blanket us and free us, all in one embrace. Love is one of the most frightening emotions of the human experience. Each of us feel it differently, our responses and reactions differ depending on our histories and how much we are willing to risk, to give away.

C.S. Lewis, in his book The Four Loves, explored love based on specific principles within his own life, including his own Christianity. His understanding of love wasn’t much different from many of our own; whatever else we might believe, including these:


CS Lewis

Storge – the basis of affection, the most natural and most emotive. Storge is both Gift and Need Love, the least discriminating and the most diffused, this love that pays the least attention to what is ‘valuable’ or worthy, giving without question and thus is the love that can lead us to be most hurt.

Philia – the bond of friendship, the least biological and the least natural according to Lewis. Based on his observations, even during his time friendship was a lost art and because it was the one bond we did not need for reproduction or protection, Philia is also the one Love that was most fully human of all the other loves.

Eros – romantic / sexual love, in a nutshell the bond of lovers.

Agape – the final and all-encompassing of the four Loves, although Lewis never referred to Agape specifically others later used the term. Agape subordinates the other loves, whether one refers to Agape as the love of God, or a broader love of mankind, charity, kindness or some other virtue. Agape is in my mind what makes us fully human and allows us the compassion and empathy to Love fully and with our entire hearts engaged. Agape can be found within our interpersonal relationships and is often found within Eros relationships. Where this is of a reciprocal nature these relationships work well with both partners being aware of the other, forgiving of foibles, generous in time and praise, patient and understanding of differences.


If we believe the premise of C.S. Lewis, then love is fairly simple, straight forward even. We are working with a set of principles that stay consistent throughout our lives; it is only for us to understand how they apply in any given situation and with any given set of people. The only other important thing to understand, we our history and whether we like it or not, we carry with us from one place to the next, all that came before us. We are formed by how we loved and were loved before, by family, by friends and by lovers.

I believe strongly in Agape, that we must strive to be compassionate, to be loving and forgiving; that our hearts should be generous and we should be patient with those we love, even when we disagree, even when we are hurt. Without Agape, the rest doesn’t work. It is my belief this is true whether applied within the context of relationships with lovers, family, friends or our relationships with the broader world. I may rage at times, I may find the world harsh and hateful even, nevertheless I believe it is within me to search for a way to make it better, even in some small way and this is the gift I can leave behind for those I love.

I do not always react in ways people expect of me. My friends, family and those I love all too often grow impatient, even angered at my reactions. Sometimes my reactions are directly tied to my history, the very real and active pieces of my history that trigger me. Those triggers cause me to retreat, hide behind pragmatism, logic or what seems to be no response at all. This takes us to the Storge / Philia love bonds, where Need Love and Choice Love are most important. We may not always remember another’s triggers or their history, just as they may not remember ours. We may not always react in the perfect manner, just as another may not provide us the perfect comfort when it is needed. The best we can do? Apologize when we have fallen short (Storge), stand together and try do better in the future (Philia) and most important forgive (Agape).

I am not even going to try to tell you I am an expert or have an opinion on Eros, I am not and I don’t. I have far too many failures to ever claim expertise. I can only say with any level of certainty, I believe without the other three; Eros isn’t even in the cards.

imagesLove in all its infinite and delightful permeations is waiting, is out there and is holding its breath if we are willing to open the door and lay our hearts bare, I am certain of this. Love is hard as hell and when you are human with history, it is even harder. Love burns, leaves skid marks across our spirits and our hearts, every single time we open the door, no matter what we do or who we are we can’t help but ‘want what we want’. It is our humanity seeking to be loved for ourselves, supported as we are right now not as we might be with some prodding to improve to be better than we are today. It is our humanness seeking to mold ourselves to be worthy of love, while still holding onto our uniqueness, our core.

Constrained as we are by all that has come before, we dance with our demons. Every single one of us battle demons, some of our own making and some left behind by those who said to us once upon a time, “I love you and I will always love you”. Now, we question motives, reactions and responses. Now we devalue the love of the next person as they fall short of our demands and needs, because the one that came before them lied. Now each trigger carries with it a history, no time for forgiveness only remorse if we fail to hear, “I am sorry”.

I still believe in Love, in all of its great glory. I believe we deserve love, to be loved and to love. I believe we deserve acceptance, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, trust and comfort as part of  love, I believe mostly in Agape. I am forever hopeful, silly and maybe even stupid in my hopefulness; yet still I believe.

This remains the song I want sung into my soul someday, that someday someone will scratch into my heart.

 

Served Grown Up, Part Deux

LindaHead_2Well here we are again, things have moved along and I must say some things have moved in directions I would have never thought possible. I am learning a great deal about myself, what I like and what I want from the world, from life and for myself I am truthfully learning every single day. One thing I have learned is there are no timetables, things happen, when they happen and unless you choose to ignore what makes you happy (which would make you an idiot) you just need to jump in with both feet and let the tide take you where it will. Another thing I have learned is there are no set rules or patterns, you might think you know it all, you might believe you know how things are going to come at you and how you are going to work the program, it simply isn’t so, things happen the way they happen.

I learned one other thing, one thing that truly surprised me about myself; I am entirely and completely susceptible to romantic gestures and a well-executed plan of action.

Where is this all leading? On 13-April, I wrote Served Grown Up Please, it was a soliloquy to what I wanted in the next man I would love. I said then I would return to my list, so as a continuation is Served Grown Up, Please II.

I Want A Grown Assed Man

He makes me laugh uproariously at life, him and me too. His jokes are never mean spirited though at times they do cut through all the political correctness we have grown accustomed too and simply says it likes he sees it.

He isn’t afraid to ask for help when he needs it. He is adult enough to recognize we all need help sometimes.

He is truthful about himself, his strengths and his weakness. He doesn’t pretend to be what he isn’t but he doesn’t hide his power either. He is clear about who he is, where he has been and what he has done in life. Takes real pride in his accomplishments, not that chest beating machismo stuff but the quiet pride of a job well done.

He listens and he remembers the important stuff. He cares enough he can hear the timber of my voice, that there are some things I just might not want to talk about today. He listens not just to my words but also to what lies beneath and can ask questions to draw me out when it is important. He knows I carry the burden of a lifetime of keeping secrets, mine and other peoples. He knows I have been hurt, my heart has been broken and encased in ice. He knows and he is strong enough to share his strength with me so I can finally let go.

He is outrageous and demanding. Yes, I said it. He knows what he wants and isn’t at all shy about stating his needs, wants and desires. There is nothing vanilla or passive in the Grown Assed Man of my dreams. His eye doesn’t wander because he values what is in front of him and he makes clear what he needs, involving his partner in all of his world both the here and now and future fantasies. He is not about “Me” in anything he does, but instead fully about “We”, knowing there are two of us in the room at all times and nothing is ever pleasure if both of us are not fully engaged and fully in the moment. He would never think to do harm or cross boundaries, never think to cause fear or discomfort.

He makes plans and executes them. He doesn’t look to others to do his planning, he doesn’t demand others run his life for him, he doesn’t blame the world when he doesn’t get exactly and specifically what he wants. He identifies what he wants, creates a plan of attack and executes that plan. He is unflinching, fearless and patient. His observations about what it takes to win are keen; he has a great eye for detail.

He has no fear of showing his own emotions, whether it is what he feels about me or about the world around him. He knows his emotions do not make him weak, instead, they prove his humanity and his strength.

He understands the power of conversation, whether it is about dreams of the future, the world around us or simply what is important; he knows how to share information. He doesn’t withhold information or dominate but simply participates in conversation fully.

He knows when to stand in front of me, when it is important to be the protector even when I don’t believe I need protection. He wouldn’t think to leave me standing alone and without a safety net, without protection. He knows there are monsters in the world and knows I have met a few of them; he wants to be a protector, without ever diminishing me as a woman or a human being.

Finally, loves me exactly as I am doesn’t want to subtract anything from me, doesn’t resent anything about me except I am late coming to his life, doesn’t condemn me or ridicule me, doesn’t want to change me. He thinks I am sexy, funny and brilliant just exactly as I am from the inside out. He appreciates my peculiarities and oddities, even those I have developed because of my life history.

Let me Repeat Myself … I Want a Grown Assed Man and This is more of what he looks like

Done with a Blank Page

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt approximately 9:15am yesterday, I was standing in front of a judge in family court in Dallas County, right hand raised and swearing to tell the truth. My attorney asked a series of questions, including was I requesting my name be returned to me to ask my creditors or criminal prosecution, I answer each question correctly apparently, five minutes after it started it was over. The judge smiled and granted my request for a divorce, a chapter closed.

I felt a weight lift from my shoulders as if a piece of me had been returned. I will not say that all the years with the man who had been my husband were bad or wasted that would be a lie. We had many good years together, at least I believe we did. The lie we told to each other and ourselves is we could repair what was broken after the first time he left, we spent two more years lying to each other and ourselves. Maybe out of love, maybe out of duty, maybe out of fear, whatever the reason we spent two years hurting each other and we shouldn’t have. We tore at each other, finding what hurt the worst and tearing each other down to the bone. I know at the end I felt broken by harsh words and the almost two years without physical validation of our connection, of love, of beauty or desirability in the eyes of the man who was supposed to love me.

The pages have been turned the book closed. I walked out of the court and it was done. My copies stamped by the County Clerk and officially, I am me again, single…free…unencumbered by husband or the obligations to same. I am no longer a hyphenated name, but just me.

During the last several months as I walked toward this day I have been finding things about myself, some of them I have talked about in the pages of this blog. Some you have seen as I have begun to open the pages of my journals and add poetry to the mix. Truly, I never thought I would ever let those out for others to see, I am gratified by the reception they have received.

Outside the courthouse 23-May-14

Outside the courthouse 23-May-14

When I started this journey, the day I came home to an empty house I was devastated and betrayed. Not once but twice my ex-husband had walked out, leaving me alone to pick up the pieces. This time I didn’t wait I found a path to take back my life. This time I was done, there was no ‘vacation’ from marriage, I was taking myself back, even through the hurt, I knew I had had enough. Alone, I made it through the death of my mother. Alone I have been working through trying to sort out career issues and not working. Scary stuff really, when you are use to having a partner by your side. Then finally, today came and alone I stood in front of the judge and thanked her for granting my petition for divorce.

What I have found, as I stare at these pages saying I am no longer married is this is simply the finalization of what has been mostly true for two long and hard years. I have certainly been lonely for that long, broken by judgment I didn’t earn or deserve and isolated in my head, my heart frozen over, more fragile than even I was aware. I tried very hard to gloss over what was wrong, even becoming very good at it most of the time in public. I was wrong; I should have walked away when I knew it wasn’t going to get better. I am not going to beat myself to death, it’s my nature to do the right thing, to stand by commitments made and vows taken, it is how I was raised. But, the truth is, I was wrong and I allowed myself to be hurt.

For two long years I have thought, what do I want, from life mostly but for my future and in my future. I continue to discover more about myself every single day. Some things I discover are shocking as they rock my world away from what I thought I knew. Others are more validation of what I have always known, now as I pull myself away from the funk I have been in I can realize them and begin to act on them, as I need to, so I can take my life back.

What do I know so far, some things are simple and others more nebulous, strange and for the future.

  1. I want work that interests me but doesn’t take up all my time, it is a difficult balance.
  2. To truly get my house in order, cleaned and cleared out of all the debris of the past.

Those are my two very short-term goals. Silly,right?

Remember Grown Assed Man, yes him. I talk about him now and then and think about him frequently. He is that man sitting off in the corner of my eye, the one who has never come into focus, stepped in my way or given me that shattering kiss that made my knees weak and captured me, mind, body, heart and soul. I want him in my life; I do not want to spend my life alone. It is neither my nature nor my desire. Do not misunderstand, I will never settle again. I will never again tolerate being abused or mistreated, ignored or abandoned. This doesn’t change the truth of my nature; I am a woman who enjoys the companionship at every single imaginable level of a man. I will wait, because the man I have built in my writing and my imagination, yes that one that grown assed man he is the one I already love a little bit, he is the one worth waiting for. Nevertheless, I want that in my life.

I have turned the page and closed the chapter on this I have a blank page with a new chapter, oddly it starts;

Once upon a time……

(as part of my house cleaning endeavor I have cleaned up my blog removing twenty posts going back two years. This bit of housekeeping felt good, I hated losing comments and discussions, I didn’t hate losing what were in truth lies, since they reflected a marriage with happy and loving partners, clearly not the truth)

Memories in a Box

Sleeping BeautyYesterday I started boxing up memories. This means preserving them, but putting them away so they don’t hurt my heart anymore when I stumbled across them. I have seventeen years of memories; they twine through multiple homes, various milestones, holidays on different continents and of course the lives of my children. It is difficult to box memories, impossible to pretend there aren’t happy, even joyful times preserved in those pictures, impossible to pretend they did not happen. Yes, they happened and I was there, that smile was real and those times were not false, they simply didn’t lead to the ending any of us wanted.

It is difficult to forgive yourself; your failures sit on your heart. Eventually though, they open the door to what isn’t yours, what you don’t own and how you didn’t fail. As I began to sort through hundreds of pictures, some in albums and some loose I realized there were two of us, not just me. Two of us who journeyed, two of us standing before the minister making promises, two of us living under the roof of our various homes and yes two of us fighting the battles. The problem was there was only one of us leaving, twice. Only one of us ultimately unwilling to fight for our marriage. Only one of us so angry they were willing to throw everything away. I realized looking at those pictures, both of us were wrong, both of us did wrong, both of us failed; not just one and finally I forgave myself and refused the entire blame.

Like many of you, I choose love. Always, I choose love when I can, when it is offered and I am not petrified, I admit I am often petrified. I also often choose to love the unattainable, the unlovable, the out-of-reach, those who do not wish love or stand beyond love. I think I know why I do this; it is honestly safer isn’t it? Because as I said, I am petrified, of love of being loved, or maybe of not being enough to keep love and being rejected, shoved aside and turned away from.

I have a friend, someone who has known me for more than thirty years she says on the face of it I am a romantic; I like the idea of being loved and in love. The other thing she says is I choose men who are ultimately not worthy of my love, men who will walk away or who I will walk away from. She says I will always love men who will remain out of reach, either emotionally or literally unattainable and in this way, I keep myself shielded from any real hurt or invasion of my personal space.

Is she right? I truly do not know the answer to this, on the surface it seems she might be. If this is the truth, it would seem I have another thing to forgive myself for.

My divorce, yes I finally said it, draws to a conclusion, the final decree being signed by both of us and presented to a judge sometime in the next week. I look down a future of alone and realize I am building around myself a640px-Aurora_and_the_forest_of_thorns protective tower, like Rapunzel or Sleeping Beauty, no way in or out. No one is doing this but me, for now I think this is the safe choice. I might wish otherwise, maybe a knight willing to brave the wicked witch that is my alter ego or the protective thorn forest that is my history; yet, I have to wonder does that man actually exist? Is this simply my romanticism attempting to convince me to at least leave a light on, a way in.

For now, I think I will keep the lights off, romanticism held closely at bay no matter my instinct to reach out, choose love. Memories to box both tangible and in my head, fortunately I have the practice to be successful at both. The ability to express love, desire, fear and all the other emotions of our humanity will find outlets in other forms; thankfully, I have given myself permission to open new doors both those which I have always followed but kept secret and some new.

So for now, I wait to see what is next. Tomorrow is a new day; I find I am not as afraid as I was last month. Sure, there are still things that make me catch my breath and want to scream, not as often though. Certainly, there are things that make me want to fling myself to the floor and have a tantrum like a two-year-old, not as frequently as last month though.

For now, I will simply try to find small pleasures; perhaps they will grow and untangle and maybe someday I will put the light on.

Future Performance Anxiety

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are days we can be overtaken, we feel paralyzed by a single emotion and can’t move. Usually when this happens the emotion simply rolls over us, doesn’t really matter whether we are prepared, it comes in and takes over, intelligence is locked up, pragmatism sent to sit in a corner with dunce cap on; we are reduced by our feelings to a primal state.

Do you know what I am talking about, those feelings we get every now and then in our lives? They don’t have to be the terrible ones; just the ones that make us stop everything. As a woman, I suspect I give in to these moments of madness more easily or maybe, it is I admit to them more openly. I am not ashamed I have an emotional life; my heart still beats and still bleeds. It is my hope because I can still be hurt I am also able to feel great joy and someday perhaps great love as well. I am grateful (I think) I live alone right now; this way when I am paralyzed no one is here to witness; that is unless I tell them. Usually I tell, admitting to weakness because I need a good, swift kick in my hindquarters.

Even when everything feels done, it isn’t quite over. Does that make sense? It is the absolute truth. On 13 December last year, my husband walked out of our marriage for the second time. Without a note, a backward glance or a goodbye, he had his reasons and whether they were good, bad or true they were his. At that time, on that day I was paralyzed by grief.

For weeks, I was paralyzed by grief. I mourned the loss of the future I had planned with him, a future I though we had both planned. The sad reality was of course, we were truly traveling on very different courses.

Then I started to see the truth. The truth of our marriage and that future, my grief changed and with it, my paralysis lifted. I started to breathe again. I won’t say it was immediate, I still had days of sadness, moments when the grief would settle on my shoulders. Those days though, they became fewer and the weight of the grief became less.

I rejected his assessment of blame. I rejected his harsh judgment of me. I rejected his assessment of our marriage; it was a false vision of all three. It was in fact self-serving, selfish and cruel.

I did all of those things through pragmatic reason, setting aside my emotional response to the blame game he played and I all too easily fell into.

Until last night, when I asked him to sign divorce papers, divorce papers that would sever our marriage both legally and financially. Allowing each of us to retain debt and assets that were individually ours, no division of any property. Asking him to do this without a fight so our marriage could finally end, using only one attorney which I would happily pay for.

The blame game started up again. Despite where I thought I was emotionally, it hurt. I don’t know why it hurt, my heart cracked a little again and with it, the grief came roaring to the surface. Perhaps it was the memories of before, of those early days.

Maybe it was the memory of the dreams, or maybe it was simply this wasn’t where I wanted to be and now I have to learn all over again how to live in this world without the safety net marriage creates. I admit, there are things I miss and maybe this is part of my fury, part of what I grieve for.

I miss arms around me in the night, holding me as I fall asleep.

I miss someone to talk to after a hard day, someone who listens to my rages and laughs at me.

I miss going out to dinner and talking.

I miss someone to share coffee with in the morning.

BlurredLines_10July

I miss cooking for someone who appreciates that I have taken the time.

I miss having a travel partner.

I miss someone to dream big with.

I miss laughing over stupid jokes.

I miss someone to share the hard stuff with, whether it is my physical limitations or simple household stuff.

I miss someone who makes sure I don’t fall out of bed during a seizure, worrying about me when I travel alone.

I miss phone calls just because.

I miss someone telling me I am beautiful even when I am at my worst.

I miss being loved, being made love too and knowing it is real and more than just that minute, just a nut.

The funny thing is, I have been missing all of those things for more than two years. I have been missing every single one of those things not just some of them since the day he walked back in the door from the first time he left the marriage, blaming me for every failure.

I am stubborn and hardheaded; I wanted my marriage to be forever. I wanted to fix what was broken. I did not want this ending. Unfortunately, this is the ending I have written because I am stubborn and hardheaded and I deserve joy, I wasn’t joyful, not for the past two years. There have been brief moments, but not moments of paralyzing joy. That is what has been missing, all along that is what has been missing and until now I couldn’t see it.

So, he has agreed to the divorce. We will proceed and it will be an ending. I was paralyzed this morning. I wept. I suspect those won’t be the last tears. Grief is a strange thing isn’t it. I don’t grieve because our marriage was perfect, I grieve because I dreamed and wanted the dream. Now, I think we can both move forward to different lives, different choices.

285This morning though, I was briefly paralyzed and in pain. Now, it has to be about moving forward again and getting to happy.

Served Grown Up Please

LVal_Web_smallMy friend Red and I talk often, truthfully nearly every day. Through this recent tsunami, that has been my life I found I have no nearby support system. This has been eye opening; it has also made it very difficult.

Red gets a great deal of credit for pulling me through the worst of it, she dug in and kicked me a few times. There have been a couple of others though along the way, the interesting thing about these others?

My Friends in the Tsunami

  • They are women I have known close too if not more than thirty years, they have been close friends and intertwined with my life in meaningful and happy ways for all that time.
  • They are both in the midst of divorces from long-term partners.
  • Like me, they did not expect to be in this position this late in life.

Where am I going you might ask and so you should. I have been thinking about the position I and others are in at this stage of our lives, the odds are not with us according to all reports. I have been reading blogs by women, some younger and some my age who have been through the devastation of divorce after a long marriage and what it means to be single again. I have been thinking specifically about what it means to me, my life and my future and what I want for myself someday, maybe, perhaps and if I am fortunate.

I Want A Grown Assed Man

I have spent my entire life, every single relationship being the caretaker and provider. Begging for what I need and rarely if ever getting even one quarter of it, then calling myself satisfied. Enough, it is self-defeating and leads to misery. I am no longer willing to settle, not ever again. I don’t want to be anyone else’s second choice, booty call, meal ticket or anything else. Done with all of it, maybe I ask for too much, maybe the dream isn’t out there, nonetheless…..

I Want a Grown Assed Man and This is What He Looks Likemystery-man

He isn’t afraid of who I have been or where I have been; in fact, he is interested in my history, all of it. He wouldn’t think of condemning me for bad choices I have made because he has made some of his own.

He doesn’t shrink from the hard stuff, his own or mine. He knows life sucks sometimes and he isn’t afraid of it. He is grown; he has taken a few beatings and cried a few tears. He isn’t ashamed of it and he can bear up under the tears I might shed in the dark of night or the grey of dawn when I think there is no one there to hear me sobbing. He understands pain.

He wouldn’t think to slut shame me for what was done too me. He wouldn’t ever think to blame me for my past or take advantage of me because I have one.

He is a gentleman; he has manners not just the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ type of manners but real manners. He knows how to behave in both public and private and it is innate to his person, rather than showmanship.

He makes plans with me and for me; he is respectful of my time and his own. More than this, he thinks ahead and thinks of more than himself and his own desires. He listens carefully to things I love and seeks opportunities for us to do them together. Even when something isn’t high on his list of ‘shit I most want to do in life’, whether it is the opera, the ballet or going to a Lyle Lovett concert, he makes concessions because he is a grown assed man.

He never fails to flirt, with me! Damn, this is important. A simple touch, a cuddle, a kiss on the back of the neck, a meeting of the eyes across the dinner table anything and all the things that send that message he wants me and finds me desirable. Stop looking at your phone for five minutes, pay attention.

He doesn’t think compromise is a four-letter word. It isn’t. Really, see ten letters C O M P R O M I S E; I counted three times just to be certain. He doesn’t beat his chest and say, ‘Me Man, You Woman’, and stomp out of the room as soon as the word compromise is introduced into any discussion, instead he seeks opportunities to balance our relationship and make it easier for us to move forward.

He traces my battle scars with the tips of his fingers in the night, knowing they are an intimate part of my being he loves them for their presence on my skin and my soul.

He never hides me away in the dark; he is not embarrassed by me or his choice of me. He takes my hand and proudly displays me as his partner no matter what anyone might have to say, he defends me in the face of condemnation.

He is not afraid of debate; he welcomes it when it is necessary and never fights dirty. Whether it is politics, religion or whose turn it is to do the dishes, he will always remember I am his partner and he loves me. He is never petulant or childish in a fight, never uses silence or past hurts to win.

He dances with me! Whether in the living room, the bedroom or at a dinner club; he dances with me. He takes me in his arms and dances me around the room. He knows how to hold me and take my breath away when he moves me. He knows how to make me feel beautiful.

He likes himself, is comfortable in his skin and doesn’t need outside affirmation of his manhood. I am enough for him. He doesn’t have to prove his manhood through Neanderthal means. He doesn’t beat his chest when asked to help with household duties, he would never think to say, ‘that is woman’s work, do it yourself or get a maid.’

He knows making love is more than wagging his appendage and hopping on! Nothing more to say on this one.

He is interested in more than himself, he is interested in the world. He reads, he explores and he is willing to try new things; at least once. His mind is a sponge that happily seeks opportunities to absorb new experiences.

He is engaged and active, whether in a single cause or broadly across many intertwined causes. He is at least putting something ahead of himself.

He has his own money. Yes, I went here I had too. I don’t care whether he has the same amount, more or less only that it is his own. I care that sometimes someone else pays, for the theater, the first class plane ticket, the groceries, the clothes, the phone bill, the luxury items. I care that someone besides me cares the bills get paid not just assumes because they always have they always will.

Finally, he loves me exactly as I am doesn’t want to subtract anything from me, doesn’t resent anything about me except I am late coming to his life, doesn’t condemn me or ridicule me, doesn’t want me changed, thinks I am sexy from the inside out and wants to see me naked from the inside out. Will sit in the waiting room when I am having surgery, not asked to be called when I am ready to go home. Will hang out with me when I am getting my next tattoo, not tell me they will divorce me if I get another.

jpgI Want A Grown Assed Man

I bet my list could be longer, I am certain of it. Red says they are Extinct. I don’t believe her, I think they exist and we simply haven’t allowed ourselves to be loved by the right man. I am holding on to hope. Lately I have been posting snippets on Facebook as I think of them, these were two from the past couple of weeks.

What I want….Breakfast in bed (just coffee would be good), phone calls in the middle of the day (for no reason at all), trips to the garden center, window shopping, spontaneous road trips just to take pictures….oh damn I want someone just like me. Oh well, guess I will have to do.

 

I want to be seen for just me, liked for just me, be wrapped in arms because I deserve it, walked with, taken out for drinks and a movie, danced with in my living room. I want to play cards and billiards, I want to laugh, I want someone to like the skin I am in without wanting to change it. Damn, I just want that.

I was inspired by this: http://www.xojane.com/sex/grown-ass-men

I realize, I want to be loved for me. I will continue to write about the mystery man I hope is out there, not today and not soon because I am not there, I am hurt right now and feel terribly unlovable and unpretty. But someday I want someone to feel me, my sharp edges, my history, my future and love all of it. I want someone to feel this and say this to me some day.

Jumping in Delicately

I have been absent lately, from my own space and yours. It is has been a tough time, I haven’t made a secret of it have I? That being said and the fact that I have shared mostly the harder parts of the past three months versus the small victories, well it hasn’t been all bad and it hasn’t been a complete and utter disaster, every day and without relief.

Yes, I really have gotten out of bed on occasion. Though I must admit, I do love my bed.

Thanks to the wonderful advice and information found at Lessons From the End of a Marriage, I have started to build up some stamina, a toolbox suggestion came from this particular posting and I am working on my own this week. I realized after reading the post and checking in at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory that I was high up there (438), not just in the past year, in the past 90 days. Wow, that was an eye opening; guess it is time too really take steps to align my attitude with my true needs and take care of myself.

No, I haven’t found the RIGHT job yet, however, I am committed too not run scared from my plan to stop consulting, stop traveling and reinvent my career and myself. Don’t believe for an instant I am not scared, I am petrified; still I am going to pursue this change for my own good, for my health spiritually, mentally and physically. For my financial health (and so I don’t panic) I may have to modify, I may need to take on short-term contracts, but that is something I can do easily I think.

All this being said, let’s talk about some wonderful things. Things I did for myself and things that have entered my life.

First, isn’t he handsome?

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Yes, he is the newest addition to my family, born Thursday, 13 March 2014. I was there, at the hospital this time. Unlike when his big brother was born, I was there. I realized how special it was to be able to be part of momentous family events, rather than off somewhere else because of work. What a blessing this was. I am so excited with Chase Lee, he is beautiful and his big brother is happy to have a new brother. Yes, for all you who take exception, Painted (Inked) Grandma’s are the BOMB, and I say this with the very best meaning.

Last month Red from Momma Money Matters came for a visit. As most of you know, Red is one of my nearest and dearest and her visit was lifesaving, truly. We didn’t do much, a few shopping trips, a trip to the ballet, a couple of dinners out. Mostly we sat and talked sipped wine and talked. The biggest and most important thing Red did was demand my presence in life, require me to get out of bed every morning and move. I needed that more than anything else at that point. What most people don’t know is I have spent so much time on the road I don’t have a social network of friends here, where I live.

One other thing I did while Red was visiting was have new professional photographs taken. My original intention was simply to have headshots done to update my profile on job-hunting sites such as LinkedIn and elsewhere. With Red in town I expanded that to include her for our business cards and banners at RedmundPro and anywhere else we might choose to use them. But then, with her encouragement, I expanded one more time and had new ‘fun’ and personal pictures taken of just me, being well not quite me but maybe the me I hope to be sometime in the future.  This is the result:

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The photographer is Christ Hanna of Posture Studios, he does a great job and this is the second time he has made me look beautiful (when I was feeling less than). Personally, I think he does a wonderful job and looking through his portfolio, well it is eye-popping to say the least. I am not his usual subject, so I am in awe just how marvelous he made me look. The first time he photographed me the results made me cry (happy tears), it was a low point and I was stunned into speechlessness.

If you are in the Dallas metroplex and want wonderful photos of yourself or someone else I would highly recommend you consider Christ, he is wonderfully talented. I have already engaged him to take the first formal pictures of my lovely grandson; I am more than certain he will do marvelously. With a wedding coming up (youngest son) I intend to hire him again in the near future.

Finally, on a slightly more personal note I am sure will find hysterically funny. I want to relay I am not dead; I might be slightly socially awkward. For many years, I have had two modes of being, the married Val and the business Val. I do not know how to respond to anyone flirting with me other than to ignore and think they are full of it. Blatant showing interest in me whether simply to get in my bed or otherwise, tends to go right over my head. In fact, I truly do not recognize it, I am oblivious; truthfully, I can’t imagine why anyone would.

So what you should find funny, while Red was on her mission of mercy she yanked my chain; twice no less. Yes, men actually flirted with me, attempted to gain my attention and I was utterly unaware. Handsome men paid attention and I was unconscious. Probably I should not admit any of this, what does it say about me? Well, married Val still exists in my heart and brain; I suppose that is what it really says. Somewhere there is someone else, somewhere there is the other me the one who knows how to flirt back, who knows how to ride a bike, who knows how to be less socially awkward. Somewhere inside of me is that woman, maybe someday in the future she will emerge with some encouragement and enough opportunities and reminders.

Thanks to Red and Christ, at least I know now I still look half way wonderful on a good day (Thank you).

riding a bike

Transitions and Assessments

VictoriousWhen we mourn, it is for our loss; no matter the loss, we mourn a change to our circumstance. The degree of our mourning, the style of our mourning, how we grieve it is deeply personal. No other person can tell us whether our mourning is too great or not great enough, too short or long, appropriate or inappropriate considering the specific loss we have experienced. Whether we are heartless, or instead whether we feel too deeply our loss. Grief is very personal, expressed in both public and private it remains nonetheless a very personal expression.

Oh, I know there have been countless studies and pragmatically I understand the stages of grief, truly, I do. I also understand I have been hit with perhaps too many things all in a very short space of time and I haven’t processed one thing before being punched in the head by another. Rationally, I ‘get’ that I am not working through the stages of grief in the manner people expect, or showing the outward signs of grief for the individual losses in the manner others expect of me. I also know this makes people uncomfortable.

I can’t help their discomfort.

I can’t even particularly gather the energy to care about their discomfort.

In fact, I do not consider their discomfort as relevant to what is needful for me, for my life, for my future. This week I have done some soul searching, I have done some foot stomping, I have done some staring in the mirror and asking myself some hard questions.

  • What do I want?
  • What is important to me?
  • What do I need?
  • What are my core values?
  • How do I want to live the rest of my life?

These were important questions for me to ask and answer. I don’t know that I have fully answered all of them to my satisfaction; I have started though. This morning I woke to a comment on my previous post (Not Strong) filled with malice and written purely with the intent to hurt. I considered simply sending it to Spam rather than answering and perhaps I should have, but I allowed it to stand and I answered with exactly the anger I felt, perhaps the anger I needed for others who have treated me without care, compassion, empathy or respect.  I found though, this comment simply pushed me over the edge and so I let it stand.

I saw this quote today and it struck me;

“Do what you feel in your heart is right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Eleanor Roosevelt

This is the truth, isn’t it? This is part of the answer to all of my questions, the first steps toward moving forward. Not fearfully, not ashamed of my failure but instead proud of my success. I shouldn’t hide who I am, dim my light or attempt to fill the bucket of other people’s expectations, I have been doing this my entire life and it did not make me joyful, it did not create a happy home, nor did it make me want to get out of bed and gladly go to work every morning. What fulfilling everyone else’s expectations did to me was slowly kill my soul. When I allowed people to speak to me as if my humanity was not worthy of respect, without saying “No”, whether from a family member, a loved one, a friend or an employer or even a stranger in cyber space; what it did was diminish me in my own eyes.

Is the sadness over? No, probably not. It has been less than three months. In this short period, I have lost a beloved husband, I am unemployed and I have lost a mother no matter the relationship. These are all very difficult losses and hard to process, especially on top of each other the way they have been. The reality is, I have a right to feel sad, I have a right to be pissed off; I have the right to feel any damned way I want to feel. This is hard, there is no other way to say it but this is hard.

Hopefully, I will have more good days than bad days. I keep looking for silver linings, I truly do. I have had a number of decent prospects and am committed to finding the ‘right’ job not just any job that is one of the answers. Life transitions are difficult, I know that.

As to the rest, I hope those of you who read and hang with me, who offer your support and advice will continue to do so. I know, I haven’t been my normal self. I will get back there.

Not Strong

1343863240_3320_fearIt is all I can do not to stay in bed all day every day. That seems to be the safest and most secure place in the entire world, my bed. I do not want to get up, for anything but a fresh cup of coffee and now and then some instant soup. Once a week I strip the sheets, replacing them with clean linens. I have a king sized bed, covered in pillows. I sleep on one small part, the furthest away from the door. It takes me less than two minutes to make the bed in the morning because I barely move in my sleep, barely wrinkle the bed covers.

It is all I can do not to stay in my bed all day every day.

I am on the brink of throwing my hands in the air and giving in, giving up. Just saying fuck it all, why bother.

It has been seventy-six days since my husband, the one I called Dearly Beloved walked away from our marriage without a backward glance or a good-bye. It may be more but that is how long it has been for me.

It has been fifty-eight days since I have had an income. I will admit this is my choice, but who knew it would be so difficult to find another contract. Who knew, certainly not me or I might have chosen differently. I might have chosen to continue to be miserable, bullied and treated disrespectfully for the privilege of a paycheck.

At my age, perhaps that is the best I can hope for, the market certainly seems to be telling me I have no real value and my experience is not worth a damn.

It is all I can do not to stay in bed all day, every day. Some days, I give in and I do.

I am becoming what I do not want to be, what I fight hard not to be, what I never wanted to be.

Bitter.lonely-old-woman

Angry.

Uninspired.

A recluse.

I am unable to find my way out of this fog. Every ‘no’ feels like a nail pounded into my body sending me deeper into hiding, into my self imposed and designed hermitage. My fear is overwhelming, some days I wander through my home and wonder, when will I lose it? When will I lose everything I have worked for my entire life? While I was busy taking care of everyone else, making certain everyone had what they thought they needed, what they wanted and then throwing it back in my face as not enough; now, when will I lose what is left?

I can’t breathe.

I am so tired of people telling me I am strong. Yes, I get it I am strong enough to have survived all the world has thrown at me. I have picked myself up and slogged through the quagmire. I have done that, often I have done it without help from any damned person who was supposed to be there for me. I did it without getting hardhearted and mean-spirited, for the most part. At least I think this is true. I have to be honest though, the next person who tells me I am strong, I will get through this I am liable to throw them to the ground and kick them till they take it back.

Does anyone understand I am not strong? I am what the world made me, but I am not strong. I am just me, weak, tired, afraid and alone. I could win an Oscar for the front I put up, making certain everyone around me sees what they expect to see and gets what they need. I have only one question…….

When is it my turn? When will someone step up to take care of me?

Okay, that was two. After all these years though, aren’t they fair?

I can’t breathe and I am afraid.

Not Enough

Hurricane Dean NOAA

Hurricane Dean NOAA

The power of ‘No’ can be compared to a Category 5 Hurricane, blows in off warm waters leaving devastation as its calling card. Even when the word is unspoken, it echoes, bouncing through heart, soul and perhaps worse, mind brutalizing with self-doubt and ‘what if’. Self-flagellation is a terrible trap; one I think might be all too easy to fall into especially when combined with ‘No’. This is not an issue of self-pity, not at all an issue of the glass being half empty or even depression creeping in and shaking me harder than normal. Though I suspect all these things are present and accounted for in my current state of mind; no, this is simply an acknowledgment of ‘No’ and ‘What if’ being part of the echo chamber.

Truly, I don’t know why the past week has been so hard. No, that is a lie and if nothing else I shouldn’t lie to myself, I know why.

It is hard because when I look in the mirror I see me, I am not overly impressed and it hurts.

It is hard because I am frightened, it isn’t a feeling I do well.

It is hard because the sound of no, even when silent is battering what small bit of ego I have remaining.

It is hard because the sound of my own voice is the only one I hear most days.

It is hard because despite my best intentions I feel myself slipping between the cracks.

It is hard because it isn’t fair, I feel childish when I say that which simply pisses me off.

It is hard because I am full of regrets, I am afraid that is what it will be forever and ever. Amen.

My husband left me; he says it is my fault. Okay I accept that, the fault lies with me. I was not enough, I did not do enough or I changed too much, or I wanted too much or something simply wasn’t right and I didn’t add up. My pragmatic self, the part of me that wants to move forward quietly says, ‘accept, allow this to flow over and past you. It doesn’t define you.’

The reality?

I am right now, right this minute defined by the pain I am feeling by the loss. I am right now, right this minute defined by the echo chamber of, ‘Not enough’.

I am not working right now. For twenty-two years, I have built a career in a field that was hard on women. I have worked my proverbial ass off. I have fought for every good reference, I have been demeaned all too often, I have been called names, I have been ignored and passed over for promotions I earned, I have earned less than my male counterparts. I have watched my industry be outsourced and in-sourced. I have been bullied more than once, with no consequence to the bully. Now, when I should be reaping the benefits of my hard work, my great references, my long hours; now I am hearing, ‘No’, more than any other word in the dictionary. Now when I want to stop travel, stop consulting, stop fighting for contracts. Now when I can make my life easier with less people to support, now ‘No’ seems to be the biggest word in the English language.

Why?

We don’t think you can make the transition.

You have too much experience.

We don’t think you will be happy taking the cut in pay.

Of course, the code is you are too old. I am only fifty-six years old; I still have many years left to go. I am still a viable human being with an active brain and much to offer. Why can’t someone, anyone just be honest? We don’t want to hire you, you don’t fit the profile of what we want sitting in our offices. You are too fat, too old, whatever it is. Just stop beating around the bush just say it.

Instead, along with ‘Not Enough’, ‘No’ screams in the echo chamber, dances through telling me I am not worthy of recognition or of value on any scale I used to measure myself against. My fear beats against my chest wall, battering me, demanding the answer to the question, ‘what if everything you did was for nothing, what if all the long days, long weeks, long hours; what if it was for nothing?’

Now, today I find myself trying to make reservations to return to Seattle for what is likely the final bedside vigil of my nemesis, my second mother. I do this not because I owe her this final courtesy, I do this because, hell because I have compassion for both her and my baby brother who I love despite his lack of understanding of why this isn’t my place. I do this because no one should pass from this earth alone. I do this because I hope someday someone will do it for me. I do this because I do not want my brother’s heart to break thinking she was alone. Yet in doing it I weep tears of frustration and yes even some fury, because he doesn’t understand why he asks much of me. He will never understand why I say to him, it isn’t my place.

So my heart cracks. My eyes leak. My fury, it seems also to be present and accounted for and the echo chamber that is my mind continues to whisper, ‘Not Enough’ and ‘No’ and even ‘What if’.

 

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