The city sweeps out below us. I am foggy from the sounds of rumbling trucks that blew in through the open balcony door all night. 19 stories up the fragrance of caramelized onions, earthy mushrooms and toasted sesame carbs float from the kitchen to my morning perch. Hints of the care and effort being made to delight me, to show appreciation for my being, fill the sun-dappled grey-blue apartment like whispers.
Cat-like on the dark grey wool couch, my hot pink sweater striking a contrast, I am curled up and content, watchful, observant, but lazy.
I feel a tingle of energy in my toes. The desire to write, to capture this happy moment, wraps around me like the blanket I’m buried under. Outside, my October view begins its annual lesson. The city made of trees reminds me that nothing lasts, so best to enjoy it while you notice it, while it’s here. Best not to get caught up in trying to hang on to what can never be guaranteed to begin with. Just enjoy the sight of yellows, ambers and ochres, the occasional flame of red or orange against the sour greens that remain. Just enjoy the handsome, dark-haired man in the kitchen, humbly making me breakfast because he adores me.
Soon they’ll all be bare and grey and brittle. At present, there are still hints of summer in my heart. I am warm, but falling softly until grounded. One needs unshakable faith that spring will come again, in order to fully let go. I witness the beauty of the fall, nerve-wracking yet graceful at times. Swirling, spinning, rising up by following the flow, until it’s right up by this window, where I clearly see what is.
Oh to freeze this moment, this hazy dreamlike feeling, the deep appreciation of what unfolds before my eyes. And then release it to the universe, trusting that something always sprouts from nothing if we leave life to its regularly scheduled programming. Just watch.
In the bathroom my deodorant, face wipes and ear plugs sit in a drawer and I’m amazed that I’ve resisted taking out a full page in the newspaper to let the world know. Little roots, maybe, but I must also accept that these sprouts might not survive the harsh winter. Best to stay rooted to the now.
I catch his eyes, catch him stealing a glimpse before his brow once again furrows in concentration as he stirs. They match my coffee, deep and bold, breaking the soft-focus and snapping me crisply to attention. I take a breath and shed a few more leaves.
He sits across from me in the river, exhales a sigh of relief as he puts his feet into the cool water. I back up a few rocks so that I may join him in the stream, but far enough that we are not breathing much of the same air. Love in the time of corona…
The water rushes at this spot, the current speeding up over a very small waterfall, turns into rapids over multiple rocks as it heads down to the big lake. Overhead, cyclists and strollers pass, but we forget about them. “You’re doing it again,” he says with a sly grin. “What?” I ask with feigned innocence, but I know. I get scared, I move further away. But the water is so loud that we can’t hear each other when I do this. Maybe 12 feet is unnecessary. It’s hard to know what’s right in these fearful times.
He says, “I see what’s happening here! This cat and mouse game we are playing. I come a foot closer, you move four feet back.” I laugh. I laugh a lot with him, often because we see life similarly and it’s funny, or he calls me on a behaviour I thought would go unnoticed. Sometimes I laugh to break the tension. The energy between us is unlike anything I’ve experienced since… since… I remember and then fear creeps in.
I was once in love with an intensely creative man who didn’t identify as spiritual. I once experienced energy so profound that my mind’s eye saw a wedding and a future in a flash, and in the next moment I was engaged to be married. There’s a movie trying to capture that experience on YouTube. I know it happened because I was there for all of it, including the slow crumbling of the beautiful thing we built. I don’t trust myself anymore. How do I learn to trust my own voice, my gut, my heart after a lifetime of being told that I am too sensitive, too trusting, too giving, too willing to jump in head first to be trusted.
So I ask questions. So many questions, trying to poke holes in his story. He answers them patiently, explaining with tenderness when I’ve hit a wall he’s not willing to let down yet. He senses my fear, looks me deep in the eyes and asks, “So are you gonna follow rules or are you gonna follow energy?” And I am undone. Everything he says is intentional, he means for it to land. “Your time with me is gonna be good for you,” he says, taking a drag off his joint. He is just looking for someone who can be in the present moment with him, he tells me with kindness in his eyes. I believe him and decide he will become part of my practice, Mr. Right Now.
Last night we talked on the phone as I settled into bed. “Can I ask you a question? Twice you’ve mentioned fear holding you back when it comes to me. What is that about?”
“Could you ask a bigger question at 11:45pm,” I tease, the laugh that follows invoking his face when I light him up. I feel warm inside. “That is the whole onion, buddy! You gotta peel it back a layer at a time!”
But I know the answers. I’m scared I’ll fuck it up again. I’ll choose wrong. I’ll get hurt. I will hurt my loved ones in the process. My mother will hate that I’ve chosen a Muslim man who owns no property. All the voices that Dr. X calls “The Saboteur” converge, causing me to doubt my own heart. I share some of this and he understands. He doesn’t pressure.
We’ve been talking for a couple of months now. On our first date he sat on my front walk for an hour on Eid, a holiday on which Muslims celebrate their gratitude for the patience and opportunity to fast for another year. Our last two dates have been in the river where we are often completely alone, save a lone cormorant. He’s taken a job in a homeless shelter for Covid-positive patients, which adds a layer of complication to an already complicated dance. I look up the cormorant sighting after, because I believe animals appearing are spirit guides, my ancestors coming to deliver a message. The website I’ve chosen for the interpretation says, “People who see this bird should be open to playing with fire.”
I am a water sign and he is fire. He is fire when he lights up a joint. He is fire when he holds my gaze for minutes, seeing into my soul. He is singed and raw and exposes it to me. There is nothing I cannot say. Because of the time we are living through, I am not invested in an outcome for once. I have very few expectations. I have been practicing the “no” — being absolutely OK with someone not liking something about me and also me not settling because I think being with someone means I should just be OK with something that doesn’t sit right with me. I am not hiding. My fear, my stresses, my worries, they are all on the table. “I come as three,” I say. He nods, “It’s all a lot, isn’t it?”
He relishes in the stories of the children, admiring the way I parent with an open heart. He has dedicated his life to children and while he has no children of his own, he long ago decided to live open-heartedly, welcoming whatever comes his way. He owns the shame of his past, and that is where his hurt lies, I see it when he talks about it. But he’s done an incredible amount of work, practicing self-compassion and service to heal. He’s aware of the same things I am. I don’t have to teach him anything about how I see the world.
He says he fears nothing, that if there’s a burning building, he is rushing in. I tell him I’m afraid of that energy, but I’ve learned that if we take a breath or two when in fear, it can transform into excitement. And he IS EXCITING, passionate, creative, fully alive. But last night he admits to one fear, and his fears are around me, around making sure that I’m OK. Around tempering his desires around my fears. I don’t know when I’ve ever felt this close to someone I cannot touch.
I don’t know where this will go, but like the river knows how to move towards the big lake, my practice is now to allow it to flow, without adding obstacles, without damming it up. To let it rush loudly and powerfully and trust that it ends in the big love.
Tonight’s post was inspired by Regina Spektor’s “End of Thought,” which I listened to while riding home in the purple-orange glow of late-summer dusk, September’s warning snap to the air, on the way home from yoga and meditation on Friday.
After a summer of being Supermom (with some really fun me-time where I could fit it in), I ended my workday Friday knowing I was about to have 10 days to myself while my kids are at camp. I had irons in the fire: A picnic with my neighbourhood moms, an opportunity to meet a man from my past for a drink… but instead, I chose ME.
I rode home from work in a fervour, making the most of summer hours to grab my mat, get changed and cycle to my studio for a special 5pm class. It’s a Yin yoga class, run by a beautiful soul with a mid-western American accent. You hold poses for a really long time, releasing stuck chi, the practice itself becoming a meditation in staying with oneself through discomfort. And wow, lots of your buried shit comes up in the process.
For example, my mid-back gets locked up frequently. At the chiropractor, she uses acupuncture to release me a bit before she even tries to adjust me there. In doing a move called “Chain of beads” that’s intended to articulate your spine as it was designed – one vertebrae at a time – I noticed I was stuck there. And in working out the spot with repeated and deliberate movement, a long-buried memory appeared.
I was maybe 16 or 17. I was hanging out on my older cousin’s driveway in the suburbs, holding court with family friends who were also teens. My uncle, the controlling patriarch of our family who always demanded respect, got out of his car. I was mid-sentence and didn’t acknowledge him right away. Typically, it would be expected that I stop what I was saying and make a big deal of his arrival, greeting him as I normally would. But on this day, I didn’t feel like it. So I looked in his direction and continued talking.
He walked up to me and said, “Boy!” (In our language, very derogatory.) And he smacked me hard between the shoulder blades. I recoiled and said, “Ow!” And he did not care for that. I went from being his absolute favourite (he was big on favouritism. One of his sons became a dentist, the other a drug dealer.) to him not speaking to me for MONTHS.
He was a father figure to me, as my dad was mostly absent due to his personality and also because he worked two jobs, I spent way more time with my uncle (who was married to my mother’s sister). I’d forgotten this experience completely, but there it was, hiding in my thoracic spine, somewhere between the T6 and T7 if I had to guess.
I got a massive release (though that spot needs more work), and then we followed with Yoga Nidra, which is deep rest meditation. I’ve stopped struggling and actually find it delicious now, how I try to grasp her words as she guides, trying to stay conscious and present until eventually something gives up and I end up in lucid napping state. I felt pretty good. Even saw a new (straight?) guy (no wedding band) in class and that made me optimistic that my spiritual life partner is out there.
I thought about what you said And it’s the end of the thought that really got in my head
I biked home listening to my “Chill Mix” – Apple pre-programs what I might find relaxing based on what I’ve listened to or favourited in the past. And this lovely Regina Spektor song came up. And I couldn’t help but think about the intense summer I had, somehow in relationship with Monsieur Magique without actually seeing him. It proved to me how much of our relationships happen in our minds, through our thoughts which then drive our feelings (which then drive our actions – I have this all memorized now from coaching lol).
I hadn’t heard from him at all in three weeks. I’d mostly made my peace with it. Still, his words were lingering. The way he’d perceived how I’d behaved. Were his words true? Were they true for me? Did they make me better?
Be careful before you decide Be careful before you decide
It has been too easy to get persnickety about what he said. To be all, “Oh please!” But in leaving meditation, I had compassion for him too. The fact that he’s coming from a place of fear. And desire to control outcomes. That he believes the story he tells himself that he needs to work this much, sleeping four hours a night. (I seriously worry he’s going to have a heart attack.)
Even more so, I had a deep compassion for myself. I’d set my intention to “self” – self-acceptance, self-respect, self-worth. The homework that my therapist, Danny, gave me was to reflect on my worthiness and learning what I deserve, so self-reflection goes in there too. I turned the mirror inward, I found the girl who had been wronged by her dad and also by her key alternate father figure. And I knew that while she gets closer with each experience, she’s still got some work to do to trust others and understand when she should accommodate and when she should do herself a favour and cut the damn cord. He couldn’t give me what I needed, and rather than break loose, I worried that since “he can’t love me the way I need” keeps repeating for me, that I was the common denominator in the equation. So I spent all summer digging DEEP.
Risk only what you won’t miss And all the rest you can leave for all the others to take You cannot make a mistake The universe is too big The universe is too big
It was nearly midnight when he texted me.
“Wanted to say hello. I am a bad man for not giving news. I know you are probably mad and do not understand what is going on. I would feel the same way. LMK when you are free this weekend to talk maybe, if you want to. Hope the kids are good and excited for their BIG back to school week. Also sure your big project keeps you very busy in a good way and you are enjoying running it, Miss Incredible!”
It caught me off guard, so even though my usual, most-natural reaction to anyone else would be to respond right away, I decided to go to sleep and decide what to do in the morning.
I don’t know why I let you stay I don’t know why I let you stay I don’t know why I let you stay around In my mind
In my mind, we are done. His behaviour this summer was appalling. How would we ever come back from that? How could I ever trust him not to cast me aside like that again? It’s literally the deepest relationship conflict I have, the quickest way to wound me – being ignored or shelved. And yet every single one of them (Theo, Ali, Mr. SN and now MM) has done this.
So I’ve tried to take responsibility. I’ve done the psych work (still going!) to understand why this is my achilles. I feel like we’ve gotten some insight in the past few posts. I’ve filled my life with so much good cake, that I can barely even see HOW I will make space for a partner, unless he’s willing to let me be free to continue to pursue my passions and friendships, and also willing to blend into this fun, chaotic, rich life I’ve built. I’m not needy, but I’m clingy a bit. And what I’ve learned through therapy is that this comes out when the other person is not in it with his whole ass!
In my mind we are done. Because we are at odds. He can’t get emotionally attached (his words), and I can’t even do a regular casual WITHOUT emotionally attaching. That’s who I am. My cleaner is not that good, for example, but I love her so much that I can’t imagine cutting her loose. I have long-term friendships with other humans where they let me down, or don’t show up for me how I’d like, but I can replace them with other friends (or fill in the gaps with other people). In monogamy, you can’t do this unless you swap out the lacklustre partner altogether!
I thought about what you said And it’s the end of your thought that really made me upset
The end of his thought was, “You stop giving yourself freely because you have been hurt in the past and things seem always calculated to protect yourself.” I weighed it carefully and through consultation with my consiglieri (shout out to the inner circle!), I realized that even if he’s 20% correct, it takes time to build intimacy and trust. And the one thing we never had was time.
I hung out with friends yesterday afternoon, then stopped at a dog park (calming for me) in the sunshine and called him. No answer (and no dogs in the park – sign?). He called back but it was minutes before I was meeting the Patron Saint of No Bullshit for hangs so I didn’t answer. He texted to say he’d tried me and I should try him any time that evening. I replied to set the expectation that I’d connect with him later.
Be careful before you decide The universe is too big The universe is too big You cannot make a mistake You cannot make a mistake
After a super illuminating evening with the Patron St. of No BS, I called. And it was as expected. A very casual conversation catching each other up on what happened over the summer (without bringing up the relationship). I felt calm, cool and like I knew what I wanted and that this wasn’t it. I stand by it.
There was a long silence… Him: “Is there anything you want to say to me?”
“About this summer, about how I treated you…” I got the sense from his “bad man” comment that he wanted to be eviscerated, but I as I’m practicing non-violence, I didn’t see the point. I knew he may perceive it as lack of passion, but I don’t care. I’ve done that kind of fiery passion and it only leads to misery. I chose to stay rooted in my truth.
“What is there to say? If you’re expecting me to be angry, I’m not. I can’t be mad at what is. I was supremely disappointed and hurt in July, but I’ve had weeks to process those feelings and while I’m still disappointed, I’m good. You can’t give me what I need right now, and that’s the circumstance. It is what it is. Is there something you were hoping I’d say?”
“I just miss you. I really miss you. I miss the fun times we have together. But I’ve been working all week until 1 am, so this is the first opportunity I had to tell you.” (*cough* bullshit * cough*) “I’m sorry if I hurt you. I was so overwhelmed. (his voice cracked) Truly overwhelmed. I just couldn’t. I’m sorry. I’m realizing how much a role I have to play in how much I’m working. That I can’t let go. I don’t know how.”
Grown-ass Maria did not swoop in to rescue. Grown-ass Maria held space for his hurt, expressed that she really wanted him to get his shit together because she cares about him and his health and well-being. And then she peaced out. He didn’t seem to want to get off the phone. He mentioned multiple times that he felt we should see each other to talk it out further.
“Can I ask you something,” I proposed. He agreed. “If it’s two years from now and everything in your life was perfect…”
“TWO YEARS?! Oh god no, I’ll be dead. Six months?”
“OK fine, six months. Everything that’s stressing you out goes away… what would be different with us? How would it be different?”
If I got a clear answer, I don’t recall. I don’t care. You’ve shown me who you are. “Wait until September” was a lie, one made as an offer of hope, but full of bullshit, because he doesn’t actually want to change until everything is perfect, which doesn’t exist. We texted today and he offered Thursday as a possible day to meet up and talk. I know what I want to say if that date transpires, and he’s not going to like it, but what I know after all the work I’ve done is this: I am the prize. The prize is sacred. Not just anybody gets to win the prize. It’s not a lottery. You have to earn it.
Spiritual soulmate – I’m coming for you…
I don’t know why I let you stay I don’t know why I let you stay I don’t know why I let you stay around In my mind
I have been going to therapy steadily, with my current therapist, Danny, for 2.5 years. And somehow, it turns out I’d vaguely glossed over my childhood abuse in that time. I think I thought I’d dealt with it, that if I am able to have loving relationships (conditionally, one might argue) with my abusers, that I’d forgiven them.
It wasn’t until I read Byron Katie’s “Loving What Is” that I made the connection. Even if we think we’ve 99% forgiven someone, if we don’t deal with that last 1%, it’s going to keep showing up for us. As a positron, a cheerleader and Hype Girl in Chief, acknowledging that I’m the child of abuse has somehow always felt like engaging with a negative story. I was worried I’d get stuck in the narrative. But in ignoring it, I failed to heal a broken part of my past. I let people mistreat me. I have been unable to ask for what I truly need in life. And what came out in therapy today was that deep down, I don’t believe I’m worthy of better.
If I dig, I can find so many layers to that bruised, rotting onion. You know how sometimes you can peel off the rotting layers, and still chop up the rest of the onion for cooking? And you’re crying, because old onions emit more of the gas that makes you cry, but you’re like, “Meh. I can still make use of this thing.” But sometimes, you start chopping, and while there are so many whole layers looking fine, near-perfect even, the centre of the onion has also started to brown? That. Today I found the brown centre.
For all my cheerleading, I have not been the best leader in my own life. I have settled for less than. I have accepted bad behaviour and tried to make unpleasant things work, I have beaten myself up for wanting more. I have beaten myself up for not being able to ask for what I need. I have finally gotten the courage to ask for it, only to be made to feel like nope, I didn’t deserve it. But what Danny was so good to remind me today was that I have the power to ask, “Wait, does your statement hold true for me? And does it serve me?” And if it doesn’t, if that critique or gaslighting doesn’t lead to a better me, then I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO IT.
Monsieur Magique got catty when I spoke my truth. He called a week after the text exchange about taking a break and I was elated to hear his voice. I was busy with kids and said I’d call him back. When I called back, no answer. “Did I miss you?” I texted, assuming he’d fallen asleep. “I’m around until mid-day if you want to connect/call back.” By midnight that day, I’d still not heard from him. I had no idea what he was doing, if he had his kids, but assumed he did not since it wasn’t a typical weekend for me to have the kids, and we’re on the same schedule. So then why wasn’t he getting back to me, at least with a short text to say, “Hey, busy day, will call you back tomorrow”? The entire thing makes no sense. Who treats someone like that, when only a month earlier they’d taken that same person on a romantic weekend?
So I called him on it. I said, “I’m so disappointed not to have my call or messages acknowledged, at the very least to set the expectation of when I might hear from you.” Then I took some Brene Brown inspiration and wrote, “I don’t know what stories you are telling yourself, but the one I’m telling myself is that I’ve somehow done something to upset you. That perhaps I experienced that beautiful weekend away completely differently than you did.”
That’s when I got the weirdest reply. “You do not add any stress to my chaotic life, to the contrary, and you did not do anything wrong, but I can’t get emotionally attached, and seriously, you are busy too and I am often caught thinking how something serious between us would work, with the kids. I found how you handled the concert thing weird to be honest and it made me realize that that you did not really mean it maybe, or that you had given up on me, which saddened me a bit. All you had to do is remind me and I would have made plans but you chose otherwise. I do not know, there are a lot of little things and while I realize how patient and understanding you have been, I am not sure what you really miss about me when I am not around. I don’t feel insecure or unsure about you Maria, but I don’t see any passion in you either when we are intimate or sticking to plans meant for us… You stop giving yourself freely because you have been hurt in the past and things seem always calculated to protect yourself. Call me whenever, I am more available than you think you know! 😊Especially when I don’t have the girls… Would be nice to talk to you too…”
HUH? So there we have it: the stories he’s been making up about me. How do you build intimacy and passion with someone you barely see and rarely talk to in between short visits? If you added up the time we’ve spent together in the six months this thing was on, we probably spent three weeks total together at most. Sigh. How does someone say, “You’re not giving yourself freely,” when they barely make the time to get to know you better and earn your trust? We talked that night, and I felt a bit better after being given a chance to explain myself, but the message holds: He’s not ready for serious, and I don’t want to feel like his mistress. Stalemate. (Also, he’s kind of a dick, no?)
And yet here I am, weeks later, secretly hoping he’s suddenly gonna message me to apologize for being wrong. Instead he has fully ghosted. Not a word from him in over two weeks. Boy, bye! Making promises that you might have time for me in the future, when your perfectionist fantasy pans out, never putting me first, not sharing your life, not inviting me to social events, not even after we shared so much…? Why did I accept that for as long as I did? Why did I let a man call me his girlfriend and then treat me like that? Why can’t I just accept that he’s not the right guy for me? Because it ruins the fantasy of the perfect meet-cute? Or because of scarcity mindset (BINGO!). I have a long-held belief that there are not enough good enough guys out there, let alone one that will make me feel awesome most of the time. Boom!
What came out of therapy is that I’ve been taught that you’re lucky enough just to CATCH a man. That if you want to KEEP that catch, you’d better push your needs down deep and accept whatever he has to give. That you’d better accommodate him and his family, because you were lucky enough to get him and that is the only goal: get and keep. If you lose him you were either too much of something, or not enough.
So my homework: I need to work on my self-worth, to truly learn and believe that I am worth more than what I am currently offering myself and allowing myself to accept. I can’t control what people offer me, but I can control my response to their offers. I do not need to accept sloppy seconds or leftover scraps. I’m lucky I’m not so hungry that I should feel grateful for your mouldy bread or your stale crackers. I don’t want your excuses or your dangling carrots. I don’t want your “Well I’ve always said my priorities are work and kids” as if those are not my priorities too. I don’t want your drunk tired sexy time after too many hours of YouTube and Rum ‘n’ Cokes. There’s more to this, so SO much more that has happened to unlock pieces of myself. Major compassionate revelations and face-downs with my dad, for example. But I can’t process and regurgitate it all right now, Maria fans, I’m feeling a bit RAW. I’m like a newborn baby whose defences have been removed. Where’s my womb?! Why do I have to learn life all over again?
But I AM learning. I am building myself back up from the darkest places, from never knowing, from being a child who is loved deeply by the broken people who abused her. If you are out there and you are reading this and seeing yourself and recoiling with fear, telling yourself you’re not brave enough to do this, I’m telling you that looking it in the eyes is so much more freeing than carrying it with you for 30+ years. When you let the past continue to hurt you, YOU BECOME YOUR ABUSER. I encourage you to see a social worker or therapist or your doctor or your preacher or a coach or a homeopath – SOMEONE who knows how to help. Message me dreamingofmariacallas AT gmail DOT com if you need to.
As I discussed my discoveries about my childhood self with Dr. X, she asked me to investigate why my father did some of the incredibly hurtful things he did. Eventually I hope to find the time and space to ask him before it’s too late. After writing down a series of questions from a place of curiosity in my journal, I got a message from another single mom I know telling me she’d been reading about Attachment Theory, specifically this article. And boom, there was my father in all his flawed, deeply pained, unrealized self. “A child with an avoidant attachment attempts to meet their own needs, because it is too painful depending on others who consistently fail to respond to them. They develop a sense of shame, thinking, ‘I am not worth paying attention to.’ They then disconnect from their needs in an effort to avoid feeling this shame.”
I know little of my father’s upbringing. Much of it clouded by editorializing from my mom, who despised her mother-in-law and confronted her in-laws in such a disrespectful way that my father was emasculated and didn’t talk to his parents for many years. By my mother’s accounts my father was left alone much of the time, ignored in favour of his younger sister, etc. I often wonder about my father’s appalling social skills, whether he would be diagnosed on some sort of spectrum if he were born now. And if that undiagnosed neurological quirk made him a difficult child, therefore causing small town rural parents with little resources to deal with him via neglect. I will never know. But I know that my father’s distance has to do with his feelings that it’s better if he’s not around, he does not feel worthy of love. We’ve had to work our way up to hugs and kisses and occasional I love yous.
They say there’s nothing more damaging to a child than a parent’s unrealized self. Let that sink in. For those who know my real identity and know how much I do, it largely comes from this place. Life is full of experiences and opportunities for joy. All we have to do is say yes. I’m also learning that my energy stores will dwindle as I age, and that despite my desire to do and try all the things, I have to be selective about where my energy goes. My children provide me that checkpoint: What am I modelling for them? One of my most favourite things Dr. X ever said to me was when I was speaking about my parents, talking about how I don’t want to live like they do. “Aren’t you lucky to have such great teachers in how not to be?” Game changer. Positioning and perspective are everything.
As I learned more about attachment theory, I learned that people who grow up with an avoidant attachment parent are also prone to insecure attachment and that can show up as avoidant or anxious attachment where you may seem needy or jealous. So boom again. Guess what I am?
This article, also by Lisa Firestone, PhD really spoke to me. “An anxiously attached person assumes they want closeness but engages in patterns that actually leave a certain amount of emotional turmoil and distance. Although they may perceive themselves as feeling real love toward their partner, they may actually be experiencing emotional hunger. Their actions, which are often based on desperation or insecurity, exacerbate their own fears of distance or rejection. When their partner does come closer or gives them what they want, they may react in unconscious ways that push their partner away or create distance. They may find that their true tolerance for intimacy is much smaller than they thought because real love and closeness would challenge their core beliefs about themselves and relationships. Therefore, while they may believe they want security, they actually feel compelled to remain in a state of anxiety.”
WHOA! Wait a second. I’m actually attracted to the conditions which make me feel shitty and then I do shitty self-sabotage-y things to keep me in the shitty feeling state that I’m used to because that equals love to me? HOLD MY BEER! Why am I, as Glennon Doyle says, not “speaking my insides on the outside?” Oh, because my brain is used to this weird dance of “Come here, go away! Gah! Boys are so confusing! No one will love me the way I waaaaaaaant!” BOOM!
What I love about this kind of deep work is that once you become conscious of your behaviours and patterns, you have to stay conscious. Because it’s no longer a reflex, now it’s a choice you’re making. I’m not saying this work is easy folks, but much like how my body hurts whether or not I exercise but only one of those choices keeps me healthy, staying in a place of self-harm and self-sabotage hurts worse than doing this kind of excavation. Also, I’m not suggesting you should do this on your own. Much like having a trainer or a yoga teacher, having a therapist, homeopath or life coach can help to make sure you’re figuring this stuff out safely and correctly. (I have all three.)
So now I know what’s going on. Now I have compassion for 12-year-old Maria and I meditate while giving her a hug in my mind. I’ll take care of you, I tell her, we will overcome this together. You don’t need to be scared anymore. You don’t need to crave the affections of a man with the same desperation any longer. We are safe. We are resilient enough to stand on our own no matter what comes. We will figure it out together.
It still took some courage to speak my insides on the outside. I chose the liquid form. While day drunk on sangria this weekend, I decided to send a simple text that amounted to, “Hi! Haven’t heard your voice in three weeks. So are we doing this or taking a break? I can roll with whatever, but I have zero influence over this right now. If we’re doing this, here are my minimum requirements:
I see your face every 2-3 weeks
We talk on the phone once a week
You share with me what’s going on with you. It has to be a 2-way conversation.”
Couldn’t get more basic. That is the bottom of the barrel as a single parent. This is where I need to start. The baseline. We build from here.
Meditation and journalling gave me the insight to see I was suffering and I could end it, simply by asking for what I needed and risking losing someone in the process. Because real love comes from within, not from something or someone outside yourself. You can know it intellectually, but knowing it in your soul takes some work and consistent practice until you form the spiritual equivalent of muscle memory. 12-year-old Maria needs me to take care of her and she needed clarity.
Monsieur Magique responded with a typical for him slew of “I have all this stuff going on right now and I tried to see you last weekend but got shut down.” PETTY SIDEBAR: hilarious because when I’d initially asked him for that date he’d responded with “Bastille Day…” which — what the fuck does that mean? Are you storming something? Can I come? Also why do I have to make myself available when he wants? And why does he feel rejected when I have to say no? That’s for him to uncover, because he doesn’t give me enough time for me to ask. He went on to say that what I proposed made sense, seemed like something we could both handle and sorry. Pfft.
My response to his overwhelm was good and true to me, and came from a place of compassion for us both. I said: “I’m sorry too. You have been going through a ton, and I get it. I hoped that I could be someone you could lean on during this super intense time. I honestly don’t need much, because as you said I’ve got my own things going on. Unfortunately I feel like my minimum threshold for feeling secure in this relationship was below the red line, and it just doesn’t feel good. I just want to be your person, Magique. I don’t want to be put on a shelf like a box of old photos. I want to fight your fights with you and vice versa. But it’s too much right now and I understand.”
I felt free. Hugely free. (Like I even went dancing and smiled a genuine smile the whole time, and I happened to be five minutes from his house). Because I could finally see what I was resisting. The truth. This is not someone who can make me a priority right now. He’s said it countless times, but also enjoyed keeping me shelved to take out like a toy when he was able, and that’s not enough for me, but I was scared to admit it because he’s so amazing in so many ways. He had asked for patience until September, but I couldn’t reduce my expectations any lower without compromising myself. The person he was asking me to be meant I had to fight my brain daily to accept things that made me feel insecure.
This has been a truly positive experience because now I KNOW. He has been a gift, because he lead me to truly see what I deserve, both through positive and negative interactions. I’m not afraid anymore. I know what I want and I will no longer apologize for it. I want my person. As I said to a friend yesterday, “I have four vibrators, a great house, an amazing career, two incredible children, a body I take good care of, a mind that I’m constantly working on and a spirit full of love and energy for anyone who wants to bask in it. I need nothing. I’m basically a cactus. This is a turnkey property. You just move in and enjoy.”
I don’t know if this is the end of Monsieur Magique for good. I use au revoir in the title, because it connotes that you hope to see someone again soon. But what I know is that I still have a few things to get my shit together on, and he has to do his work on his own. I’m not his person. He isn’t ready to make me his person. But you know what? I AM MY PERSON! And while it feels lonely in situations full of couples, or when I notice the foundation of the house crumbling and look around to see who knows how to take care of that (which should not be gendered, I know), it’s also liberating as fuck.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back (and shout out to my friends who are right now thinking, “Girl! I told you so!”) I DO NOT NEED TO SETTLE! I’m so proud of myself for finally figuring it out and speaking my truth. My horoscope on Co-Star yesterday said, “Climb to the top of the mountain, from there you will be able to see everything.” So friends, I’m rising higher. Today’s horoscope said, “Clarity is the same as transcendence.” Breathe that in. Is that not just beautiful enough to get a tattoo of? The air is getting thinner, so the work to keep going is getting harder… but the view, the vantage point, the perspective… it’s worth it.
Well it’s been an INTENSE AF Cancer season, folks! Two eclipses and Mercury in retrograde. It all flips today as Leo season starts. Breathe easy because this is supposed to be some of the best astrology of the year! Mid-July to mid-August is going to bring sweet summer times for all. I for one am feeling FREE!
As a Cancerian, I come alive as soon as summer solstice hits. June 21, the longest day of the year, I feel it. I can’t explain it but the sun tips in my direction ever just so and my typical Energizer Bunny spirit is on Nitro! I fall in love with my city, with nature, with my family and friends all over again. My relationship with myself strengthens each year in this time, through these environmental and relational experiences. It’s also my bday in the middle of it. Three summers ago, when I found myself single for the first time in two decades, I decided I would no longer wait for someone to organize celebrations for me or depend on another human to make my summer dreams come true. So every year I now spend the first week of summer with my small humans (who are rapidly outgrowing that term) and then when I return from our travels, I throw myself the most fun birthday party imaginable, full of the best collection of women I’ve come to know and love, and who love me back in return. For me, it’s the most life-affirming way to ring in the beginning of another trip around the sun.
However the skies or the Universe or somebody needed me to learn some things. So while I’ve had so much joy, I’ve also had more struggle than I would have liked. As such the past month has brought forth an incredible amount of self-discovery.
Monsieur Magique has been far less magical in the past few months as the shine has worn off our initial glow. The pressures of his job (some self-imposed), combined with some unpleasant twists and turns in life has meant he’s not fully engaged in building a relationship and that’s been tough for me to accept. At the end of June, full of overwhelm, he unloaded all his worries and stresses on me to explain why the weekend away that we were planning was being reduced from two nights to one, after I’d expressed disappointment. I’d like to know what it’s like to really spend time with this person, and my dismay was expressed because I was trying to come to terms with whether I accept “almost good enough,” both in terms of what was being offered and also in how what was being offered made me feel about me.
To be fair to him, his life is full of landmines right now, but now that I’ve had some distance from it, I believe this is happening to him because the Universe is trying to break him open. He’s resisting, of course, and because he is not learning the key lessons of acceptance and surrender, each day brings a new bomb. Each set back is piling up and up and it’s hard to see someone you care about go through a period like this.
If I were someone he chose to lean on more regularly, maybe I could have helped. At least I would have felt like I was a part of his life. Instead, after a beautiful Saturday and Sunday away together where we savoured each other’s company and had a lot of fun celebrating my birthday a week early, he completely shut me out. He didn’t wish me happy birthday on the day, and that was one thing. I found I could accept it in that I know that he mentally checked off “celebrate Maria’s birthday” when he generously and lovingly took me away and romanced me. But more so, all our text conversations over the past few weeks have been of me sharing what was going on with me and him sharing nothing of himself, often not responding for three to four days. This behaviour would be one thing if this was brand new, but we’ve been seeing each other for almost seven months. We have shared some very personal things with each other. It’s so strange to feel so close to someone and then to have them disappear into a world of short sentences that say nothing once or twice a week and no phone calls. Connection is work. Connection is what I was lacking towards the end of my marriage. Connection is a big reason I decided to break up with Mr. Saturday Night.
Through this discomfort, I’ve been doing a shit ton of work on myself. Questioning everything, meditating, exercising, listening to podcasts and audiobooks, journalling, talking to friends, working with my business partner Rock ’n’ Roll Coach to get my thinking straight, and seeking the council of Dr. X. All of this was done to make sure that I wasn’t making problems where there were none, confirming that my ego wasn’t driving the bus, trying to accept reality to avoid undue suffering, testing and questioning to keep myself from getting trapped in a story. Byron Katie’s work Loving What Is was exceptionally helpful in this time, as was Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior and the work of the coaching model that RRC teaches.
And wow did I ever have some major breakthroughs! The big questions: How much attention do I need from a man? Do I really love myself and realize the true universal love that is ever-present, so that I’m not mistaking my feelings? What thoughts are leading me to have the uncomfortable feelings I’m having? What thoughts do I need to have to feel better about this relationship with Monsieur Magique? What thoughts do I need to have to push me forward with lovingkindness?
So the big breakthrough was a way, way back one. I grew up in a house full of violence. It’s not something I talk about much, because I have a mostly healthy relationship with my parents now, working towards accepting them for who they are. My big scary father has softened with age and I have found a way to feel love and compassion for him, but there’s still work to be done there in forgiving him. In my childhood home, if my father was quiet for three days, it meant he was holding in something he was angry about, and on the fourth day all hell would break loose. He would flip a dresser, or throw all my clothes out the front door, or throw a bottle at my head or smash my sister’s face into a plate of eggs.
I realized that for some people, letting go of past memories is a simple choice. My sister accepts my father as he is because she knows that by getting angry at his bizarre behaviour instead of laughing at it, hurts her more than it does him. He’s already in pain, a product of his own fucked up childhood, and at nearly 80 years old we are not going to change his behaviour anytime soon. While he’s not violent anymore, he cannot spend time with his family, often greeting us at the door and then leaving, unable to just BE with us. The other day he walked into my house at dinner, grabbed some food off the dinner table and ate it in his car. It was 35 degrees Celsius out. I have air conditioning and chairs. It’s so strange and upsetting and yet I can choose to let it upset me, or I can ignore it. I’m not there yet, it’s still upsetting, but I do see now how I make it worse with my thoughts about it. It’s not personal. I can’t be mad at him for not being who I want him to be — that’s futile. Sigh.
Explaining this to you all is important, because until I work through this, I will not be able to move past it and I will continue to invite men into my life who trigger this same anger, disappointment and feeling of unlovability in me, not to mention the fear of abandonment and fear of rejection. Feelings that I’m a fuck-up, or a bad girl, or somehow less than, all stem from this critical developmental relationship that was never functional. So in my life now, how this shows up is that when a man goes silent with me for a few days, my default is to examine what I could have done to make him disappear. 12-year-old Maria feels very unsafe when men go quiet for a few days. What I love about Monsieur Magique is that he’s not at all afraid to speak his feelings and thoughts, but what doesn’t feel good is that he can’t communicate consistently. It’s normal to only hear from him twice a week via a text reply. If I get tired of carrying the conversation, or feel like I’m doing all the sharing and I decide to ignore my impulses to share bits of my life with him, he will finally send a note after four days. There’s no daily cadence of chatter, which I actually think is healthy in relationship building. Simple courtesies like “good morning” and “goodnight” would be lovely, I would be really happy with an “This made me think of you,” but this is not how this is going. I would honestly settle for a few times a week of “here’s what’s been going on for me, what’s been going on for you?” As a writer, my love language is words! Followed by quality time and touch — hard to get any of this when someone doesn’t have time for you!
While I can accept that his work and parenting situations leave him very little personal time (as he’s quick to explain when questioned or challenged), when you add it all up there’s the faint smell of bullshit, too. He’s able to make time to run in a triathlon with friends, he has time to watch stuff on YouTube, and as even my ex was quick to point out yesterday, “It takes 30 seconds to send a text to let someone know you are thinking of them.” Ha! So I did the thought work. I applied the model of writing down all the circumstances, evaluating which thoughts were leading to what feelings, and then examining the actions and results that came from each. And I could clearly see where I was making matters worse and what was a result of his lack of engagement.
Dr. X suggested I follow Thich Nhat Hanh’s meditation on the five-year-old self, which has three parts. (Full details here.) The idea is that if you can feel compassion for your inner child, if you can tell your inner child that you’ll always take care of them, and then you shift your attention to seeing your parents in their vulnerable, fragile, five year old selves, you can heal a lot of the past. This meditation will be my focus for the rest of the summer, because as a parent, healing the inner child within, as well as the inner children of our parents that live within each of us helps us to parent our own children with compassion and presence. It stops the cycles of our past (in my case violence, lack of agency and neglect/abandonment) from being transferred to our own children. I’ll let you know how it goes.
It’s been so long since I’ve typed that I don’t even know where to start. Lots has happened, and nothing’s happened, ya know?
I went on an epic, multigenerational trip of a lifetime and I have so many thoughts about that. But they are not yet for this space. And things with Monsieur Magique are… the same? And yet everything is different.
I’m not going to drag this out in the typical way. I think I will just summarize, because I’m tired of myself. I keep getting stuck on the same parts of myself, the parts that needs attention and validation, which I’m well-versed in Buddhism enough to know is my ego. I, like 99% of people on this planet (in the west, at least) am trying to fill a hole somewhere that doesn’t actually exist, because apparently none of this is real. It’s all projections of our minds. Huh.
If you’ve been coming here a while, you know my sticking point. I’d like the men I’m dating to text me and say that they are thinking about me. Or to pick up the phone and call me. My love languages are Words of Affirmation, Touch and Quality Time. My custody arrangement is such that I only really have every other weekend to myself overnights, and even that often gets eaten up by my ex’s work schedule or the kids having events that a mom should attend.
But most men are unitaskers and compartmentalizers. They don’t talk to four different group chats all day long in the middle of work. They are not wired that way. I, on the other hand, am co-dependent with everybody. Haha. I have bazillion group chats, plus robust social media friendships where I am constantly communicating all day long. Writing stuff down feels good to me. However, I think it’s all a bit much sometimes. And in working through a new relationship, you can’t compare one method of communication to another.
I am dating someone who works 80+ hours a week, super-parents his kids, and hardly sleeps. And somehow, despite this, he is trying to make a wee corner in his schedule for yours truly. And yours truly has a lot of trouble just accepting this. She gets restless and makes up stories about her time being disrespected. Or that maybe this dude is so scared of his past mistakes that he is keeping her at arm’s length.
All of this turned out to be right, but it’s also wrong. When I feel like MM is disrespecting my time, I’m also disrespecting his. He works A LOT. It’s unsustainable and he knows it, as we discussed when we last hung two weeks ago. I tried to get to what would his life look like if he was working 40-50 hours a week. And after some deep heart to hearts, I think I both confirmed what I already knew and asked for what I needed, as did he. I will paraphrase somewhat.
“I get the sense that you want more, but right now I work 80 hours a week. The limited time I have free I want to spend with you. Alone. I’m this close to burning out and can’t take on more right now.”
“Of course I want to meet your friends and I want you to meet mine, but I just can’t right now. I do want to plan a future at some point but I’m still finalizing my separation and trying to close these deals at work, so it’s not clean right now. And that’s not how I do things. You’re not seeing my best and I don’t feel good about that.”
So basically he’s a grown-up. I can’t have all of him right now. Maybe never. And vice versa. I don’t want to give up my lady friendships or my writing time. Or my concerts, which I get the feeling he would not enjoy because his love for cheesy pop doesn’t jive with my passion for alternative bands and singer-songwriters.
However, if I’m truly honest with myself, this isn’t working for me. I’m being asked to stay cool on ice for four months. I’m subtly being asked not to text or send photos. The issues here aren’t that different from the ones I had with Ali, Mr. Saturday Night, or even Theo. The men in my life aren’t showing up the way I need them to. My expectations get called into question and I end up vacillating between wondering what’s wrong with me and feeling gaslighted or disrespected. I get told I should accept the male need to chase, but I detest playing these games. They are not true to who I am, which is raw, honest and excited.
My favourite Buddhist nun, Pema Chödrön, asks us to stay with ourselves in times of discomfort. Don’t act. Sit still in the eye of the storm. And I have been trying that, but with varying degrees of success. I’ve realized, it’s OK to have limits. I’m not a Buddhist nun. I have wants and needs and desires. I’m human. I’m not ready to give it all up to live in the grace of the universe 24-7, although the Buddhists would have you believe that the love of source energy is better than sex. I want to have my cake and eat it too.
But perhaps, this experience will lead to my final act of total surrender. I can’t control life or love and neither can you. I can imagine a future, dream of it, try to manifest it through beliefs, but at the end of the day all I can control is how I prepare for a moment and how I react to a moment. And I’ll admit I haven’t been too graceful at reacting to being ignored. Being ignored is my trigger. And social media makes it so that I never have to feel ignored, not even for half a day, unless I don’t need it or care about it that day.
So much meditation and thought work still to do to clear this hurdle. And maybe an acceptance that I never will. All my important relationships with men have been “Do you love me?” exercises, stemming back to things that happened with my own dad. The difference is: I’m quite certain I love myself now, and yet, perhaps not fully. Perhaps the “Do you love me?” exercise is really one I have to apply to myself? Time to do a Wild style walk in the wilderness? Or hit a silent meditation retreat? I’ve got no problems being alone, I even crave my solitude. But perhaps I have to go cold turkey with my addiction to people and the internet?
Let me ponder this some. Am I looking at this all wrong? Am I right to express my disappointment about how this is going after six months? I welcome your comments and suggestions (scroll back up for “Leave a Comment” feature).
I missed a key part of the evening in part two! We had a pretty in depth discussion about exclusivity. It’s worth noting before I take you into the depths of my negative thoughts. I told him I was seeing other people when we were first dating, but then I stopped, because I realized that I wouldn’t like it if he were seeing other people. He smiled and said, “I’m not seeing anyone else. I don’t have the time, nor do I want to.”
Also of note, after recapping this weekend I’m writing about to my friend, she said, “It sounds like he’s in a relationship with you and you’re not aware of it. Like you’re still wondering if this is a relationship.” Whoa. Bang on. All this to say, I’m in a much happier, more grounded place at the time of this writing, two weeks since this all happened. And yeah, I’m in a relationship. Surprise!
I scrapped all my plans and went home to rest. Bath and a nap were what I needed to ground me, or so I thought. I was meant to meet my business partner, Rock n’ Roll Cowgirl, later that evening. She’s the one who introduced me to Monsieur Magique, and I think she’d been dying of curiosity to see us together, so we’d invited MM to join us.
My neck was in really bad shape, and so I did something I’d qualify as stupid. OK maybe risky is better. I had some edibles in a drawer and I took a quarter of a “relax” one and a quarter of an “uplifting” one, hoping to take the edge off my pain and at the same time give me some energy for the night. By the time I got to the bar, I was ridiculously stoned (did I mention I had never tried this before) and on an upper/downer roller coaster that I do not recommend. I experienced the entire evening as though behind a glass and was paranoid AF. I told RRCG that I was stupidly stoned, and we had a good laugh about it, because I knew I was going to be a total weirdo and I needed her to know, lest she think I was being rude or just a freak in general.
MM had been odd about the fact that RRCG’s boyfriend might be joining us. He thought of that as a double date and was opposed to the idea. I could give two fucks about it, tbh, I just wanted to see RRCG, whom I adore, to celebrate our recent event success — OK, OK, and maybe get her POV on MM and me. RRCG’s boyfie did show up and my paranoia had me thinking, “I don’t want MM to think this is a fait accompli!” So I texted him to say who was there as a heads up. I missed his response, which was, “OK, let’s not stay too long then.”
I ordered a salad, because I needed to eat to calm my nerves. But once MM got there I couldn’t relax. He was surprised that I was eating, because we were supposed to go out to eat and obviously this was sending mixed signals because I’d missed his text. I kept scanning his face for annoyance with me, something I used to do with my ex constantly. RRCG was on fire, talking to fill in the conversation gap that we’d typically share together.
“What do you like about Maria that’s different from your past relationships?” GAH! I wanted to crawl under the table. I have trouble with compliments at the best of times, but it’s safe to say that being on a THC-induced paranoia roller coaster didn’t help that.
MM smiles. “Well I can’t compare to past relationships, like it’s not better or worse, but I have to say that if there’s one word to describe Maria, it’s ‘easy.’ She’s just so easy to be around.”
At this point I became a melty liquid pouring under the table where I felt safe. I had been trying to stay ultra present, but the damn glass window of my mind that I was experiencing the evening through was making it so tough. Then RRCG asked the same question of me. I took a deep breath and tried not to fuck up my response.
“I love that Monsieur Magique knows who he is. He has a strong sense of self that is quite attractive. That’s really rare.” I can’t stress the importance of this enough. While at times he can be stubborn about it, knowing who he is and what his boundaries are gives me a really solid playground to explore.
I couldn’t shake my discomfort and because of my unclear mind state, couldn’t quite gauge if what I was seeing and experiencing was really how I saw it. When energy is stuck and reality is unclear, you gotta move until you get some ground. So I got up to use the bathroom and check my phone (my security blanket) and that’s when I saw his text. I was confused because he’d ordered a second drink, which made me realize we were missing each other’s cues all night. I made an executive decision in that moment and stopped at the bar and paid our tab. When I came back to the table, I touched the back of his head gingerly and said, “OK we should go. You must be starving. I settled up so we can leave whenever.” His face whenever I pay delights me to no end. He’s still so surprised by it.
We said our goodbyes and headed towards my neighbourhood for a bite. But it was late, 10PM and I knew in my gut that my neighbourhood is dicey after 10, notorious for closing early. In the car we debriefed on our evening so far. I apologized for being a bit out of it, told him I’d taken something to ease my neck pain and that it had made me light-headed so I’d ordered food to settle myself a bit. He teased me for a text I’d sent earlier that said, “Let’s keep lines of communication open.”
“What did you mean by that?” He was right, of course, there was a double entendre there in my intention, but I went with, “What? I just meant check your phone so that you know which bar we’re going to!” I love that he catches it and calls me on my shit. I can’t hide.
He looked at me sideways, “You still don’t sense me, do you?” Somethings get lost in translation, but it doesn’t matter, this question was enough to bring me out of my fog and into the present. Boom! I’d been so focused on exterior stuff, on expectations and interpretations, that I’d forgotten to sense him, to just enjoy his presence.
Like, for example, we’re dating, so my expectation is that we do “date stuff.” Or that we shag constantly. But can’t I enjoy him regardless of what we’re doing? Am I into him or just looking for a dance partner? As soon as I realized what I was doing and the thought loop I was trapped in, it faded. And suddenly our whole weekend changed.
After a few expected “Kitchen closed” conversations, we found a spot. It was a noisy BBQ joint, full of bearded white guys in plaid. He looked at me and said, “This is what we’ve chosen, so let’s just enjoy.” As if he knew part of my brain was calculating other options in the hood. So we ordered (freedom) fries and ribs and talked about our first jobs and laughed and flirted and basked in each other’s company.
The rest of our time together was delightful. And I’m happy to report that this past weekend offered more of the same, but deeper in a gentle simmer kind of way. This is a Le Creuset slow-cook bourguignon, not a BBQ. I dropped my expectations, committed to my choice (hosting him for dinner and Beyonce’s Homecoming documentary at my place) and just ENJOYED him. That’s a whole ‘nother story, but let’s just say, yes, I AM IN THIS THING! I AM GETTING WHAT I WANT NOW THAT I’M KNOWING WHAT I WANT! And what I want for right now is him. He holds me all night long and wants to talk feelings and laugh and cuddle… he can watch three-hours of Queen Bey and not even really be that into her music, because I want to. He ADORES me. He constantly asks me what I want, encouraging me past my comfortable-uncomfortable place of being accommodating, of “sure, sounds good.”
OMG I am falling and while it’s scary as heck (hence my past focus on all the perceived negatives), I’m doing it man! I’ve been hurt before and survived, and I’m certainly not the woman I was 2.5 years ago. I’m way stronger and more awake now. I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Clear eyes, big hearts, can’t lose. Let’s do this thing!
After we made plans, he suggested a phone call. “Heading home in 1o and then I’ll call.” The pattern continues of course, the one where he says he’s leaving work but he doesn’t leave work. Something to keep watching and being curious about, seeing if it shifts.
I was putting the kids to bed when he texted and told him to go home, get settled, eat something. I know he doesn’t take care of himself consistently, that he rushes from A to B and fuels himself in frantic sprints in between. And there’s the cigarettes, which we know is gonna be a thing eventually, but it’s early enough on this journey that I feel like something could shift.
45 minutes later I messaged him, “OK ready! In bed and drinking my sleepytime tea!”
“Just leaving work.” He called me from the car, smoking out the window while he drove and we talked. He walked in the door talking to me, fed the cat while talking to me, made himself a wrap while talking to me, and then finally sat down. Exactly what I was trying to avoid. But maybe it doesn’t bother him?
“So what do you want to do Friday night?”
“Should we go straight to bed this time?”
I had another intensely chaotic work week, where everything is changing hour by hour and I am honestly not sure if I should keep working there because the universe keeps trying to throw me off this horse and somehow I keep insisting on hanging on, but that’s another story.
I worked a bit later than I would have liked and decided to go to the work gym to shower off the day and prep for a night of SEXY TIME! I texted him at 6:30 to say I was prepping but might be a bit later than 7:30. “No rush! Still at the office.”
Me, sarcastically. “Where else would you be?” Not cute, Maria, not cute. Passive aggressive snark is not a good look. Stop it.
Packing my overnight bag was a bit of an ordeal as I didn’t know what we were doing the next day so I overpacked and that took time to sort. I decided to Uber instead of taking public transit due to tardiness.
“I’m here!” I texted at 8 p.m. (A beat as I looked in the windows and rang the doorbell for the third time…) “But you are not.” Harumph. My phone rang immediately. It felt like he was giving me extra French accent to make up for it. “Hi sweetie! You’re there? Have a seat in the front or back. I’ll be there in 10.”
So much for going straight to bed. I was pissed and staring at an ashtray of cigarette butts. I decided to write a dirty story on my phone of what I’d like to happen (I walk in the door and he is all over me before I even remove my coat. His hands are up my shirt, undoing my bra…) when he showed up.
DAMMIT. That smile. Those piercing blue eyes. Dammit dammit.
But also… no crotch heat. Just friendly familiarity. We hadn’t seen each other in three weeks. I thought… I thought… (I walk in the door and he is all over me before I even remove my coat. His hands are up my shirt, undoing my bra…)
He produced the French wine he brought me from the place where he visited his parents. I produced wine from the same town, bought here though, because that’s how I roll. We drank both on the couch and ordered pizza and watched American Idol clips on YouTube and it was all comfortable as hell, but, but, but…
It’s a bit soon for this level of comfort, no? I wasn’t getting any crotch energy from him at this point. Whenever I playfully approached him, got the feeling he wasn’t into it, so I backed off. He seems to be stuck in these habits: work more than is healthy for a human, come home, drink and smoke and watch purely entertaining things on YouTube. So I went to the bad place. The place where I’m so triggered by someone who consumes too much wine to relax, triggered by someone who watches too much YouTube to relax. The place where someone is avoiding my advances. I was married to that person.
But then we had such an intensely personal conversation. He said that he could tell I was feeling frisky, but that he felt so gross after work that he needed to relax and have fun a bit first. I was glad he told me, and I get it. It’s not always going to line up perfectly. But let’s just say that I like nothing more than forgetting about work with a good romp. I’d had too much wine by that point and I have no idea what I was saying, but if I’m this candid when I’m sober, you can imagine what I might say when tipsy. It’s all blah, blah, blah in my memory right now, but I do recall saying something about how our values are so aligned and how much his children would adore me.
“You don’t need to sell me on this. I know my kids would love you. I see it (pause) but I just can’t.”
That’s when I realized that it hasn’t even been a year since he left the woman he lived with AFTER his marriage ended. Slow your fucking roll Maria. If you think you’re scared, he’s doubly so. “I understand, and I respect your boundaries.” And I truly do. But I can’t shake this niggling question in the back of my mind. “Is this working for me?”
“Right now, I want you to look at me like I’m sexy,” he demurred. As if. I guess I’d turned off my searchlight eyes when I got the cold crotch. Blink. Just like that, back on. I’m amazed that I’m in my forties and still this horny all the time.
“It’s 11 p.m., time to put you to bed.” So to bed we went and it was fun, but still a bit rushed. I forgot my earplugs, so his damn jealous cat kept me up all night. I was uncomfortable and stuck in a negative thought loop, and lo and behold I woke up with an old neck injury from 2012.
I have talked about the metaphysical before. The body has a funny way of showing you the secrets its been keeping. If I read my diary from 2012, it’s the beginning of the end of my marriage. At about the same time, my neck got severely pinched, causing parasthesia (that’s a feeling of tingling, like spiders crawling on you) on my face. It took months of chiropractic, massage, desk adjustment to repair it. I used to joke to Theo that he was the literal pain in my neck. When he left, the pain and tightness disappeared.
Monsieur Magique had to go to an appointment first thing, so he kissed me and left me in bed. “Maybe you can sext me,” he joked as he left, inferring to an article I’m working on about the ubiquitousness of the medium. I slept for a bit and then I had a shower and got back into bed. I light sexted. “Showered and back in your bed, waiting for you…” He’s still new and not ready for tit pics yet.
I lay in bed, lucidly resting, when I heard him come home. He came up and saw that I was “sleeping” and then went back down. What?! Did I look too cosy? I fell asleep again and when I woke, I realized he wasn’t coming back up. How much time had passed? Was I merely being impatient? I began to get dressed. Suddenly he was outside the bathroom door.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m getting dressed.”
“I just got your text right now.”
Whoops. Signals crossed again. I made my way down to find a gorgeous spread. Croissants, hand-chopped to perfection fruit salad in pretty bowls, tulips. Sigh. No crotch energy, but so fucking romantic.
We loitered a bit. He tinkered in the yard while I closed my eyes and tried to stretch out my neck. But I was stuck in a horrible place mentally. Like with the neck pain, an old version of Maria, one I’ve worked through (or so I thought), showed up and wouldn’t leave. And she was picking apart all of it and mad because the day wasn’t meeting her expectations of hand holding in the sunshine and going for walks. Also that we weren’t shagging again. I just assumed it would be a weekend fuckfest. Nope.
Instead we ended up at the mall to buy his daughter a birthday gift. Then we went for tacos. I was exhausted and repeating myself and just not my sparkly self. It felt like there was a wall where normally I’m happy to just orbit in his energy. I could not shake it. We decided to break after lunch and meet up later. I needed some alone time to clear my head, maybe do some yoga and some work. Little did I realize that my mood would get so much worse.
I never realized how passive I can be until this week. I read an article about passivity vs. passive aggression vs. aggression vs. assertiveness. We use all four of them at times, but there’s one that dominates. I can be assertive with my kids and assertive at work, speaking clearly for my needs when needed, but somehow in matters of love, I’ve lost my voice. Lost my SHOUT!
Where aggression is bullying and passive aggression is manipulative, passivity is saying everything is OK even when it’s not. Assertiveness, however, is simply saying what you mean from a place of kindness and respect, from a place that honours you as much as it honours the other person.
Passivity means avoiding eye contact during conflict, or avoiding conflict altogether. Passivity means I’m not being clear with my wants, my needs and my boundaries. What came out of my therapy session this week was that I need to be more direct. (Hi lady! My lovely therapist reads this blog. It makes our sessions super awesome and I’m grateful she appreciates my writing.)
While out with my sister and girlfriends last week, I was asked to talk about Monsieur Magique. I replied that had they asked me a week prior, I’d be all gooey, but as he hadn’t messaged me in four days, I was annoyed. “Just text him,” they said, but I reminded them that I was still a bit fucked up from my marriage and so one of my biggest fears is that I will like or love the other person more than they love me. That, as a result, I want to be chased a bit. I get that this is scarcity mindset, but bear with me. I also worry, I told them, that I will do more, nurture more than the other person, that I will give so much and lose.
“Just be yourself and treat him the way you want to be treated,” my sister said. “Text him now.” So I did. He was in NYC for work but responded immediately. “Hi, sorry I haven’t been in touch. Crazy busy. How did it go on Monday?”
We chatted a bit about where he was, my big event, etc. He was flying home the next day. When I woke up the next day thinking about him, I said, fuck it, be yourself and texted that I was thinking about him and couldn’t wait to be in his arms again. He texted back later that day, rushing from airports to playdates and offered to call that night after the girls were asleep.
I was prepping for my big speech/talk the next day, but kept glancing at my phone. And much like I’ve been waiting for that postcard to show up in the mailbox, it was there, in the back of my mind, distracting me when I needed to have my head on. (Distraction, like procrastination, is a good reminder that there’s emotional regulation work that needs to be done. Also, SIDEBAR: is romantic love even worth all this mind-fucking? Sigh. Yes, yes it is.) Anyway, at 10:20pm I picked up my phone and begrudgingly texted, “Look I know you’re probably tired and I need to focus, so let’s connect later in the weekend, k?”
He responded a few minutes later. “You don’t want to talk?” Followed by explanation that I didn’t ask for, followed by, “Just call me when you can, even if only for a short time.”
Sigh. Eye roll.
So I did. “Sure, sounds good. Give me five.”
I called him twice, fumbled and hung up, because subconsciously I wanted the feeling of him calling me – like he was SUPPOSED TO. “I don’t know why my phone is doing that…” I answered, playing dumb. We had a lovely chat, he was curious about my event and the talk and how it was all gonna go. He wished me well and sent me off to bed. C’est tout. I was kind of hoping for an additional text the next morning but it never came and the call the night before was enough, I convinced myself. Why am I so NEEDY?
The event was amazing. Exceeded my expectations and we are getting so much better at this. I left feeling proud but exhausted. I walked into the house after a FULL day of emotional thought work with 35 women and was greeted by my boisterous, funny kids. As they were telling me about their day with my sis (“We played RICH all day! We went to the RICH mall in our RICH car and bought stuff. Now we are drinking our RICH water!” LOL), I was changing outfits and trying to coral us out the door to meet friends for dinner, when my phone rang in my hand.
Flashback to when I was feeling giddy one day and put heart emojis around MM’s name in my phone. So when he calls it’s super alarming. It’s like LOVE itself is calling. I was so discombobulated in that moment that I answered, “Hi! Did I just pocket dial you? What’s happening?”
His voice always waits a beat, smooth as silk draped in soft smoke plumes and velvety French, always slightly amused at my Amelia Bedelia sensibilities around these things, “No. What? I’m calling to see how your event went.”
I took a breath and ran to hide in the kitchen – the furthest back place in a house with no privacy. I gave the rundown of the event, told him it was magical. He listened and asked questions and let me go. “Well you sound busy, I just wanted to check in and see how it went and it sounds like it went great. Go enjoy your evening with the kids.”
When I had a moment to gather my thoughts, I sent a text. “Thanks for calling. Sorry for sounding so frazzled. I adore being called and haven’t had a relationship where a man called me on the phone for a long time. It’s so thoughtful and means a lot.” Better?
If I’m being honest, I’ve had at least four therapeutic conversations in the past week about my needing to be more direct. The one with my sister, one with Dr. X during a homeopathy call, one with my business partner Rock n’ Roll Cowgirl during a business call (we talk every day so it’s probably more) and then one with Danny my therapist (there Danny! I gave you a nickname, same as the street you work on, but also because you kept referring to Monsieur Magique as “Daniel“).
I was trying to get to the root of it, wondering if it was from childhood. There’s definitely stuff there. I always felt “not heard” as a child. I lacked agency and autonomy because my darling mother, who was raised by post-genocidal parents and was an immigrant to this country, was a dictator more than a teacher. It’s the reason (I believe) that I need to broadcast every thought on five channels when I am struggling with or celebrating one.
I never truly learned to trust my own voice or decision-making as a kid, because I was always taught I was too trusting, too willing to see the good in everyone. It’s the reason I need to ask the chorus every time I’m noodling through a decision. Because I’ve forgotten how to trust my own intuition in certain situation. I’m getting better at it, it’s a work in progress, but I wanted to write about this today because I think it’s something a lot of people (women in particular) struggle with, and because after all the work I’ve done on mindset and behaviour (which will be a lifelong practice), this is one of the last niggling pieces to work through. So of course it’s THE BIGGEST.
But Danny was quick to remind me that I didn’t need to go that far back into the past to find the source of my inability to speak my truth. That my experience in marriage had a lot of silencing or dismissing of my attempts to ask for what I want or need. Right. She encouraged me to talk to Monsieur Magique about why it’s so hard for me to ask for what I truly want or need.
Dr. X is so good at reminding me to step into myself. To “stop it with the pity party of that last post,” which, hilariously, Danny thought showed that while I accepted the cadence at which I was seeing Monsieur Magique, I quickly determined I needed more effort in between visits with him to keep the connection. Positive! And this is normal, I think, the dance of figuring out how to communicate, how to find middle ground, how to determine how the dance goes. It’s OK to ask the DJ to change the song if you don’t like it. It’s not OK to dance a dance that brings up painful memories. If you catch yourself in Old Habit Energy, you HAVE to say something or change something up, otherwise you’re participating in self-harm.
By Tuesday this week I was annoyed again. We’d been chatting and yet there was no invite for the weekend. It was a rare event in that he typically books the next date at the end of the last one. Invites from friends were coming in, but for some reason, I wasn’t saying yes to anything. Actually I know why I wasn’t saying yes, because my tendency is to fill my calendar and I had mindfully tried to leave gaps for MM time! Am I supposed to channel that book from the 90s The Rules? What was it? If he asks you out later than Wednesday, say you’re busy? Ugh. I don’t want to play games. And yet, it’s all a damn game. Isn’t saying you’re not playing also a way of playing? “Play your cards right,” my mom keeps saying, creating self-doubt, implying that I’ve got something to lose in a man other than in myself.
Dr. X told me to just be direct. So I messaged with, “Are we seeing each other this weekend? I’m starting to make plans.”
“What are your plans? Want to come over Friday night?”
Sure, sounds good.
What I should have said was, “Yes, I haven’t seen you in three weeks. I want to come over and have sex with you Friday night, before we do anything else, not at 2 a.m. And then I want to get a glimpse of what the best of you is. I want to spend the weekend with you and see how our downtime plays, hopefully with a mix of doing fun things and multiple shagathons that result in many orgasms for ME!”