So free

I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up in the way I have been. At some point, I’m going to meet someone really special. And then what do I do? Do I hide this from that person? Do I admit it? Do I let them read?

Maybe if I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me, regardless of the outcome, I just bear it all and am OK with it. The right person will accept me as is. But will they? Am I too much? Do I reveal too much?

I went on three dates this weekend. I decided to date a variety of ages and walks of life, because you don’t know what you don’t know. My type 20 years ago was a handsome, artsy boy who read stuff and knew the names of bands I liked (or should like). Funny, because apparently that’s still my type, just in man form.

#1 was a nightmare and I need to turn it into a comedy without being terribly offensive. I will just say, open marriage dude with a SIX MONTH OLD baby at home. Go home to your wife! Jeez!

#2 was young in the very best way. Do you remember what 27 was like? You were full of LIFE! Possibility! Options! And this guy knew it. He knew every ounce of privilege he occupied and he was grateful for it. Adorable. Educated. Great conversation. Sweet AF. But if I’m honest, there was sexual chemistry lacking on my part. He was def into me and that was great! I mean I’m not zen enough to not get flattered by that. I might take him to a ball game in the future.

#3… smitten. Just like that.

Gonna leave it there because it’s late and my battery is almost dead and I really want to give the story of Saturday night time to percolate, because it was kind of magic. But you know what? I didn’t freak out. I had only slight moments of “should I text?” but then left it be. (Spoiler alert: He texted today and man did I get a zing from a simple, “How was your Sunday?”)

Ali is back from a trip he forgot to mention he was going on (typical), so I had somewhere to put my flirt energy. I told him I’d only see him again if we did more than just fuck. Putting my foot down. I need to have my brain stimulated. Funny enough, he agreed.

Plus, hot off the presses!! Drew from work is humming around this orchid, building a friendship with me slowly, just behind me on the divorce timeline. I’m his dating and divorce sensei, like Ali is for me. Does he want to sleep with me? I certainly hope so, because he is gorgeous and really nice. But I also kinda want to date him. He has a good heart. Fragile, like mine. He’s kind and thoughtful and doesn’t treat people like shit. In fact, I like him so much, I’m just gonna park that as a friendship and see how that develops. Can I be my honest self with him and he still wants to pursue the next step? Would be nice, but I’m not going to go into this with that intention. I could use a friend. I’ve forgotten how to be friends with men. And it’s nice to have someone to vent to with no expectations for anything more.

All this to say, the horse is out of the barn now. When spring finally decides to show its arse to the northern hemisphere, I’m so ready.  It’s time for my rebirth and everything’s coming up tulips.

Random thoughts from earlier this week that needed an edit

**Giving this another path because stream of consciousness dictating into your phone is not quite the technology it needs to be yet.

I have a Theo reunion fantasy playing in my head as of late. It might be because I’m ready to start dating again. Well, I’m not ready, but it feels like maybe I should give it a shot. Of course this coincides with Theo and I getting along better than we have in over a decade. Suddenly he is the thoughtful, appreciative, giving human being that I fell in love with. And I know it’s a trap. I know in my heart of hearts that this can only exist because we are not together. And that is so fucking sad. Because at our best we were magic. We were the mystical wonders who made two incredible human beings out of love.

So here is how my fantasy goes. He asks me out, simple. He takes me somewhere awesome, maybe our usual spot, a dark little bourbon bar that has great food. He does something chivalrous— a romantic, sweeping gesture like he did when we were first together. He’s assertive with the kids when they ask where we’re going. “I’m taking your mother out to show her that I appreciate all that she does.”

After dinner he walks me home and he tells me he can’t live without me. He takes me up to the top step, right by the door that opens into the house we bought together so many years ago. And then with me on the top step, with him down a step to even out our height difference, he tilts my chin towards his face and suddenly he kisses me in the way that only he knows how.

Suddenly I’m engulfed by the mouth I know intimately and by heart. This goes on for sometime. Weeks go by. We go to our social worker to get her blessing and surprisingly she gives it to us. He moves back in. We make plans to get a bigger place because suddenly he doesn’t fit here anymore. And this house is full of sad memories that the happy ones don’t quite erase. He makes me coffee every morning, like he does now, except he brings it down to my bed each day with a kiss and the look of tenderness.

Edited to add: Looking at this description again, I realize that none of it is about sex. If I read it back to myself, it’s about being noticed and appreciated just as I am. It’s about connection and value. And frankly, now that I will be exposed to more sexual adventures, I’m realizing that it’s not a priority for me. That, for me, good sex is a byproduct of connection and intimacy. It’s important but it’s not the tentpole. It’s just indicative of the health of a relationship.


We do nice things for each other now, and these days we actually notice them. So getting back together feels so natural in that way. But I have to remember that the reason there is no resentment is because we don’t live together. And yet when I look at him some days, and overwhelming desire to hold him in my arms and kiss his face takes over. And I’m so scared to say it out loud. Because we tried that for so many years and it only ended in heartbreak. And I can’t possibly imagine myself doing that again.

Today I realized I’m not crying as much as I was a year ago, and that was profound. I posted an Instagram story to commemorate that moment with that realization. I’m happy here, now. I feel it, and Theo’s happier too. Neither of us seems to be enjoying dating. Above all else he really misses his time with the kids. And I struggle when events happen with three of us that the fourth person can’t participate in because of the separation. In some ways it would be so easy to go back to how we were. Except, it wouldn’t. I know this and yet the fantasy lingers. I wonder if it’s the same for the kids.


My daughter is at that age where she’s getting pre-pubescent hormonal nightmares (she’ll be 11 this summer). She came down to my basement bedroom in a tizzy last night around 10:30. I told her to crawl into my bed, as there’s space to do that now that her dad is living in an apartment a 10-minute drive away.

“I’m feeling really scared right now,” she said in a small voice. I told her that I knew the feeling, that she is so much braver than I was at her age, that I had been afraid of a lot of things, growing up with post-genocidal anxiety that was handed from my grandmother to my mother and down to me. “I used to be scared of bees, animals, of my own shadow!”

“What are you afraid of now?”

“Well I’m always the most worried that something terrible could happen to you or your brother. The second thing I was always most worried about was that your dad and I wouldn’t be together. (Pause.) But that happened… and I survived.”

“You know what? You’re stronger since dad left.”

“How so?”

“Well you used to rely on dad to do lots of things for you. Because he was your man. He was THE man in house. But now, YOU’RE the man. You’re the man-woman.”

Whoa-man. Heart-swell. Kids say the darndest things.

Everything’s coming up Winehouse

Every time I go to hang at my friend Lars’s house, he puts on Back to Black on vinyl for me. It was the tail end of summer and he’d just enthusiastically procured flats of peaches and called me over for our annual canning session. His wife Zofia and I poach, pit and peel, but Lars is the sterilization and syrup master. He runs a tight ship. And that’s part of the joke, really. He’s so stern with us, that we invoke sulky teenagers who are forced to spend time doing chores when we’d rather be riding bikes.

Every January when I open a jar of summer, I say a prayer of thanks to my friend for insisting we do this crazy thing that takes a whole day and wrinkles our fingers and stickies up the floor, with an adorable terrier trying to trip us the whole time.

He plays the epic Winehouse LP on every visit, because one time, before Zofia was in the picture, we went to karaoke together and I sang “Rehab.” And whether he has a clear memory of this or not (I’ve never asked), Lars has somehow connected me to Amy Winehouse in his mind. A fellow big schnoz babe with a furry face, I love Winehouse, but to be honest, I never REALLY listened to Winehouse, at least not with intent until this past holiday season.


I am a big lover of Christmas. It’s my jam. I’ve always made a big production of it, for my entire life. I’m the girl who starts playing Christmas music in November. IDGAF, I love the ridiculousness of the whole thing. It’s the same reason I love Celine Dion, or period films. I love pomp and circumstance. I love overt gestures. I love when anything is done big and loud and proud.

But this Christmas I was a mess. I spent Christmas Eve with my parents (watching a period piece). I woke up early Christmas morning and drove out to my ex-in-laws in a snowstorm, to watch my kids open their gifts. It was the first of maybe 19 Christmas Eves that I did not spend with all of them, at my ex-MIL’s house. And it was ROUGH. My ex-MIL, who is not evil (not since she stopped being shitfaced daily anyway) gave me a passive aggressive greeting card. It said, “Merry Christmas to the both of you.”  Which was kind of hilarious, but also she didn’t do it for any sense of irony, just “why waste a perfectly good card?”

I spent NYE completely alone. By choice. I made a bubble bath and bought myself a baby bottle of Veuve, moved the TV to the bathroom and rang in the New Year watching Call the Midwife. Hashtag: #doublebubbles. But leading up to all that was so fucking painful. I don’t even know if I fully understood that pain. It was like when I went to go get my tattoos. I was in a trance, completely out of body—no, the opposite, so completely in my body, but also in that quiet room in my brain. The holidays were like that, too. I was getting through, but going into the panic room in my mind, hiding the bodies there.

And so my love affair with Winehouse began. Because listening to someone else spilling their entire soul into a work of art was preferable to tuning into my own.


For you I was a flame
Love is a losing game
Five story fire as you came
Love is a losing game
One I wish I never played
Oh what a mess we made
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game

Theo and I have been talking. He has been making eyes at me again, but I have not indulged, even if it would feel really goddamn good. One Friday night, he asked if he could buy me a drink while waiting for our daughter to come out of music lessons. I should not have had a second bourbon cocktail in under 30 minutes. But I did, and I started to reveal things and to ask things. I told him that I was kind of seeing someone, if you could call it that. When he asked if I could take our daughter the next day (it was my weekend off), I told him about Ali and our impending date the next night. Then I told him how Ali is in his thirties and can go three rounds in three hours and how he’s just for me right now, just for fun. I shouldn’t have. And yet… was there a part of me that wanted Theo to hurt?

Then, boomerang to the face.

“I was seeing someone too,” he said quietly. When pressed, it turned out she was a young woman he used to work with. A 20-something ballerina, because OF COURSE. And I should know better. Boundaries, blah, blah, blah. But I went there. WE went there. I saw her tall, perfect-postured, size-ZERO photo. “What was it like, being with her,” I found myself asking. “Do you really want to know?”

“Yeah.”

“Well she was young, so she really wanted… to learn.”

“Aww, your teaching degree finally came in handy!” Laughter from both of us. He told me she was ultimately boring and not funny, so it pilfered out. Yeah mofo, because this kind of humour comes from crazy and crazy is work! “Are we friends now?” he asked. Sure, I replied, why not. It was one of those “fuck it” moments where suddenly you are going there, like when you have a Big Mac combo (and maybe a McNugget appetizer) and it seemed so fine and cool when you decided to do it, but the next day you feel like total shit.

But somehow the thing that has survived this fucked up scorched earth of a year is our friendship. It’s like the cockroach in Wall-E, it refuses to be incinerated. It’s here to stay, in this ugly, unforgiving landscape. Because there’s still life on this planet.


Played out by the band
Love is a losing hand
More than I could stand
Love is a losing hand
Self professed, profound
‘Til the chips were down
Know you’re a gambling man
Love is a losing hand

We had another boundary issue when Theo walked in on my “session” with Ali on the weekend. And that is a really funny story that I want to tell in full humour mode, not in this sulky, “who the fuck am I and where did this all go wrong” mindset. But let’s just say we now have a code in place and it’s called “going offline for a few hours,” which I thought was really apparent while being subtle when I texted that, but apparently not, because SURPRISE! Anyway, lesson learned.

The day after THAT incident, we all went to the movies as a family and it was nice. I like that we can hang out. It’s awesome for the kids. But it’s also confusing because fuck, don’t we all just want to be a family in the real way again? Like if you eat vegan cheese all the time, don’t you sometimes just want to go down on a double cream Brie? Don’t you wish you could stay there forever without enslaving cows?

Let’s just say that it’s been a month of openness and transparency and that’s lead to some comfortableness in what we are sharing and how we are talking to each other. So we went to what I will forever refer to as “the Big Mac” place again today. I texted him to ask if I could have a second weeknight off during the weeks, now that the job he’s working on is wrapping up. He was weird about it, like why would I be asking for more equal distribution of time with the kids? Or maybe he was miffed that I said it was 75/25 right now (pretty damn close when you add it up). He doesn’t count the hours they sleep in my house, he only counts awake time, so you can see where this gets complicated.

I was honest and said, “Look I’m going to start dating with intention soon, not just fucking around, and I need time to be able to explore that.” And that turned into a looooong text exchange and he was left feeling like the one who just ate a Big Mac I think. There’s always that moment where I think, he could just come out and say it! Just ask! I would consider it. Because I still love him, though not in the same way I suppose. Deep down I am still that girl who wanted her father to love her, who became the woman who wanted her husband to love her. I got my father’s love in adulthood, when I let go of needing him to be like other fathers. But would I, could I, ever get the same with Theo?


 

I finished my fave breakup podcasts: Alone, A Love Story, A Single Thing and the ex-husband/ex-wife combo that did the fantastic Our Ex-Life podcast decided to call it quits on the cast, because the dude started dating someone seriously and I think it bugged her. So today I started Esther Perel’s Where Should We Begin? Coincidentally, the day that Theo told me that he no longer wanted to be romantically involved with me, I began listening to Perel’s book, Mating in Captivity.

The premise is that Perel gets one counselling session with couples in crisis, and each episode reveals the massive fault lines under the bedrock of every kind of marriage. The second episode, with two moms struggling to make each other feel special and loved under the weight of little kids destroyed me. Because I found myself back in the place I lived in for so long, where I wanted to desperately for Theo to feel loved, and I wanted to feel loved and appreciated myself.

There was talk of defining roles. One person has to be the planner of the date, the other person has to be the planner of the logistics of the children so the date can happen. And these women, they so clearly loved each other, you could hear it. They were just missing the path to connection over and over again. And that’s when I started sobbing uncontrollably in the car.

“He couldn’t do it, remember! You were doing it ALL. All the roles were you. And he kept saying that he didn’t have the capacity to love you how you needed to be loved. He refused to meet you halfway. He refused to date you. He kept saying the children came first and you kept telling him that making time as a couple was ultimately good for the children and he refused because he didn’t want to be with you and you just have to fucking accept that!” my inner voice screamed. Heck, I may have said some of that out loud.

Every, single time I think about getting back together, my wound reveals itself, reminds me that our marriage was cast aside like an orange rind. Like something that was once so whole and perfect, it contained all of our life, but now there was no putting it back together or seeing it the same way. It was refuse, and we were left exposed, vulnerable, thin-skinned, in pieces.

Though I betted blind
Love is a fate resigned
Memories mar my mind
Love, it is a fate resigned
Over futile odds
And laughed at by the gods
And now the final frame
Love is a losing game


I went down the Winehouse rabbit hole in the dark months of winter. I listened to Back to Black on repeat. “I died a hundred times,” she sings on the title track, and didn’t I feel exactly that? I wanted to know every lyric, every inflection. I wanted to crawl inside her hurt and wear it like a blanket. The album became the holding place for my own pain, like a machine I could put my broken heart in to have it come out as polished as beach glass. Garbage, but pretty garbage. Smooth garbage that could become something worth looking at.

Then I watched the movie.

I’d been putting off watching Amy, which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary, because kind of like watching Titanic, you know how it’s going to end and it’s not pretty. And man did I ache, watching a talent so rare be destroyed by the media machine and by her own hand. To be consumed by heartache. To live in the place of longing and worthlessness. It’s so terrible to watch a bright spark be unable to see the shiny diamond she is. I think my friends felt this about me, too. My relationship consumed me and anger ate me from the inside out. I was mentally bulimic. I would put good things inside me in the form of experiences or art or meditation, only to barf it out to make room for the demons. I just wanted him to see his fault in it all, as if somehow that was the way out. As if somehow that would make it all better. Instead it took us both down, like the heroin did Amy and Ray-Ray.


The day Lars, Zofia and I canned the peaches, it became clear that we needed help if we were to get it done with an evening to spare. So I texted Theo to ask if he and the kids would mind helping us. So they joined us, pitched in, laughed and in the end we all went up to the roof deck for shawarma as the sun set, pink and orange on our famous city skyline.

So we are history
The shadow covers me
The sky above
A blaze that only lovers see

This family, it’s not quite a masterpiece, but it’s a work in progress.

The peaches? Perfection.

Sexual self-care

I was at the chiropractor over the weekend, and boy do I love my chiropractor. Like if you could be besties with someone you see for only 20 minutes every 4-5 weeks, this would is me and Dr. B. Anyway, I was telling her how Theo and I are in a good place now, for the most part, and how we still do little Acts of Service for each other. Things that would have seemed ordinary in married life, but are amplified as super good deeds now that we are apart. And in the banter about how he makes me coffee when he comes over to look after the kids, I mentioned that I had recently encouraged him to go talk to someone about investing the money I gave him for the house.

“Wow, you really were doing it all, weren’t you?”

I paused to reflect. Yeah, I honestly think I was. Because if I think about the things he did, he still does them now, just without living in the house. He still makes my coffee and the kids’ breakfasts and lunches, he still shovels the walk (when he’s here during a snowfall), he takes out the trash for me, takes the car to the garage… and he’s a good dad to the kids. Done!

Wait, I skipped too far ahead, because as Dr. B and I were catching up, I mentioned that I haven’t had sex or dated since August-ish. And then I told her that Ali (yes THAT Ali) had been messaging me, flirting and asking to see me. He’d asked me to a concert (I couldn’t go), he’d asked me to make time for him and I was wishy-washy about it, and finally he came right out with, “I need a date and time to see you please, gorgeous.” Well, hello there! Apparently that’s how you get my attention, by being direct and insistent.


The thing is that Ali has been seeing Svetlana (did I call her that? I usually refer to her as the Russian Twinkie). So after I agreed to meet him, I had a bit of panic. I don’t want to be the other woman and break some young woman’s heart. I don’t have any Mrs. Robinson fantasies, last time I checked. I don’t want bad dating karma (which I know is not science, but whatever). In discussing this with Dr. B, the tangent eventually got to all the things I did for Theo.

“You know what? I think you should go out with Ali and just have fun,” Dr. B said thoughtfully, “I mean, you’ve been dealing in a lot of masculine energy by carrying it all, and now you need to balance your female energy. It’s time to let someone take care of you.”

I thought, heck, I shouldn’t assume here. Maybe he just wants to meet up for a drink and see how I’m doing. Maybe he wants to talk through his relationship, decide if he’s having kids and then make dating decisions accordingly. But I washed my sheets anyway. I coloured my roots, and shaved all the things anyway. I put on a body con dress. Because even if it was a maybe, I have not had sex since the summer. Didn’t I deserve a little body worship?


He was sitting at the bar, a sure sign that he wanted to get touchy (as I now know), and greeted me with a long tight hug. We chatted easily, with no expectations and no holds barred. There was a moment when I realized that if we respected each other’s boundaries, this could be one of the best friendships either of us might have. I mean how many people can go out with someone, say whatever they want, ask completely honest questions and have them answered equally honestly and then have that same person want to rip your clothes off? It dawned on me that I’d been selling this possibility short.

To be fair, I think over time and with my distance, he’s learned he can be candid with me and it doesn’t hurt my feelings. Not the kind of candour that’s mean-spirited, but talking through his sexual frustrations with the Russian Twinkie, or discussing whether he could be monogamous ever again. I don’t judge, because he’s not my future husband. He’s my friend who likes fancy cocktails and a solid fuck. Which is pretty much all I have time for once or twice a month.

I’d also been completely denying myself of any corporal pleasure. When I decided to hunker down until I got through the toughest parts of the separation (the agreement, Christmas/New Year’s and the Year One milestone), I became someone who binge-watched a lot of TV and hid under the covers. I barely had a sex drive, because what was the point? I could take the Dolphin out for 5 minutes or I could sleep. Sleep typically won out (though I’ve had to replace the batteries a few times over the past year).


So there we were at the bar, handsome, delicious Ali and flirty me, and it only took one drink for us to get handsy. I found his mouth irresistible and distracting. I asked upfront what kind of agreement he had with the Russian Twinkie and the lines seemed fluid enough that after two drinks I planted a kiss on him. WHO AM I?

He made it clear that coming home with me without telling her first was a little bit of breaking their rules, but at that point I was ready to take him to the fancy single bathrooms in the basement. He paid the check and we walked a good 20 minutes back to my place, chatting and giggling the whole way. He offered dating advice, admitted it would be challenging for me as a smart woman who is “a lot.” (Parking this thought for later.) When I asked him his opinion on #MeToo, I thought, “Damn, that was stupid,” but he answered thoughtfully and respectfully and his opinions aligned with my own, while giving me something new to ponder. Man we make each other laugh, it’s… nice.

The next several hours (yes, HOURS, thank you Mr. 36!) were gold-medal-worthy. He is a generous and considerate lover. Any woman would be lucky to sleep with him. He is just so happy to be fulfilling a seven-year fantasy that it’s easy for me to be my wild self. To play with sexual me, explore what she likes and how she may want to be perceived, but also it’s a huge practice in letting go and getting to the root of my true sexual self in the absence of an ego who is performing for applause. Because there are no expectations to make a life out of what we share, we can just be our animalistic selves. It is dirty and hot, but also playful and fun. No, it’s FUN! Bolded, underlined and italicized. So much flirty banter and talk of fantasies, and LOUD!

Of course today, I’m a giddy schoolgirl. I can barely answer, “How was your weekend?” I should have brought extra panties to work. I found a hickey on my thigh this morning and now I want to answer every question with, “I HAVE A HICKEY ON MY THIGH!” I am writing this on my lunch break to get the goddamn thoughts out of my head.

“I need to do this more than every six months or so, so that it’s not such a novelty,” I texted my best friend. My best gay said, “Oh just fuck him. Be a gay man for a while!” So perhaps that’s it. Ali will continue to see other people and explore what he wants for the rest of his adult life, and I will ask him to come over for afternoon delights every few weeks when I have some time. Neither of us has to get off the path we are on right now.

I’ve never had a lover—at least, not one that I didn’t try to make my “boyfriend.” It seems indulgent, but also feels like the right thing for right now. I’m not ready to date just yet. Not ready to really put myself out there. Not ready to navigate how to be a mom who dates and worries about when to introduce someone to the most important humans in her life. This is safe, and a sure thing, and brings me SO MUCH JOY! I’m not doing it because I have to. It’s not a “should.” I’m filing it under self-care and patting myself on the back for now. Go get yours, girls.

 

 

Oh well, whatever, nevermind – a medley

Happy 2018!

My big kid is learning a Nirvana song on the drums right now. We’ve gone down a mega grunge rabbit hole. I’m still unsure as to how to answer, “What does it mean when Kurt sings, ‘Broken hymen of your Highness, I’m left back/ Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back’?” But so far, no one has asked. The print on the sheet music is very tiny, thank Gord.

We listened to “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters, and in context, the lyric, “You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when,” kinda makes sense, but it opens up a HUGE parenting conversation when you’re trying to teach your kids consent. Technically, Dave Grohl is making a blanket statement here, consenting for the person the song is written for to keep going, no matter how much he pushes back. But as women, we all know that blanket statements don’t apply when it comes to consent. Consent is a moment to moment discussion, a check-in. “Is this still OK?” It’s looking at verbal and non-verbal cues to understand if the person you are with is still comfortable with the set-up.

In going quiet the past few months, I’ve had time to flesh out a few ideas. (PSA: It’s FLESH out, NEVER FLUSH out PEOPLE! Go see The Oatmeal’s description as to why.) For years, I ran my marriage in a “You’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when,” style. There was so much I wrote off as “just his mental health issues.” “Buckle up,” I’d tell myself, “You signed up for this. In sickness and in health, remember?” Mind you, my wedding vows were in another language and I barely remember them, so maybe I didn’t need to focus on them so much, but I digress.

I had lunch with a friend who is a yogi and a healer yesterday. Catching up, I found myself synthesizing my thoughts on the last decade, on where my relationship fell down and my responsibility in it all. It’s dangerous though, because like any story, you get better and better at telling it, and you may unconsciously be reinforcing untruths and false beliefs that make your ego feel better and mean you don’t actually have to own your bullshit.

I recounted how I was told that he was “not in love” with me anymore. I recounted how our marriage counsellor politely fired us. I recounted how I then called a psychologist for myself. I told her that my husband said he’s not in love with me anymore, and that he was depressed and not to be taken seriously, and could she help me build the mental fortitude to insulate myself from these verbal attacks.

Cough.

There are many things that I
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how (OASIS, WONDERWALL)


It wasn’t until I was told I would need to seek romantic love outside the home that I broke. After months of therapy, I did achieve my goal, although the outcome was significantly different than I imagined. I had the mental fortitude to know I could walk away, that as difficult as it would be, I didn’t have to take the abuse anymore.

“You know, when someone consistently tells you they are a wolf, and you treat them like a cute little family dog, you can’t really be mad when they eat your flock of sheep,” I said to my wise friend over tea. We had a good giggle, because OBVIOUSLY! But sometimes it takes you 19 years to learn that lesson.

Look, the wolf really wanted to be a dog. He tried sitting, and giving a paw and singing for his supper, but he couldn’t stop murdering sheep because that’s his true nature. He didn’t want to be kept in a house, he wanted to be out pissing on trees and hunting bunnies. He wasn’t the most cunning wolf though, so it was easy to believe he was a dopey dog that just needed to be house broken. But I have to own the fact that I did not want to believe him, no matter how many ways he tried to convince me. I thought I had what it took to love the wolf into domesticity, I thought I knew better than him.

I want to be the girl with the most cake
I love him so much it just turns to hate (HOLE, MISS WORLD)

In return, he became confused about who he was. Whenever he took a dump in my new shoes, he’d feel terrible and mope with his tail between his legs. But over the years he grew increasingly resentful at this angry woman, who wouldn’t let him be his free lupine self. Who expected him to hand over the dead squirrels and wipe his paws on the mat on his way in, before chaining him to a repressive life that most people dream of.

But I didn’t listen. When he said he would never live up to my expectations (on our first date), when he said he could only take care of himself (when we were first married), when he said he didn’t see how this was going to work (in the last few years), all I heard were excuses. And, to borrow from my smart yogi friend, I was right, AND SO WAS HE.

I’m so ugly, that’s OK ’cause so are you (NIRVANA, LITHIUM)


Anyway, I’m slowly learning to get over it. To let it go, a piece at a time. We are mostly friends now, because I still tolerate a lot of bullshit. But it’s good for the kids to have him in their lives, and they will draw their own conclusions in their own time. We survived the holidays, which was a roller coaster of emotions. Bittersweet, lots of tears, heart to hearts and big belly laughs, too. And now I sit with my cup of tea and my keyboard, in the cold-warm of January. I’m still dating myself and that’s going well. We like all the same podcasts and recipes and Netflix and Prime shows.
I go through bouts of intense grief, and then I get into self-care mode: bathing, downward dogging, wine and cheese with friendsing, journalling, singing the songs of my youth at full volume, and somehow I am standing strong again. It’s never a straight line, I remind myself, don’t beat yourself up, girl.
I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky (PEARL JAM, BLACK)

“Weather is a good teacher,” I told my friend, who is wise enough to know all this, but sometimes even sages need to be told something in a different way, a different voice or perspective to re-learn a lesson. The days are sometimes grey and dreary at this time of year, but one only has to take a flight to remember that the sun is always shining above the clouds. Sometimes we have to wait for the clouds to part or the seasons to change to feel better again. We have to remember that storms will inevitably blow in, but they too, shall pass. Breathe, move, be still, soyez patient! BREATHE!

Grunge music exemplified the pain I experienced going from adolescence to adulthood. It’s working for me now, too, in a different way—reminding me that things aren’t as bad as they seem in this moment; that “future me” has left a letter around here some place, telling me to get my shit together and stop spending so much time getting my eyeliner right and putting my faith in weak men. The world is changing and mine is too. Here’s to the better.

Black hole sun
Won’t you come
And wash away the rain
Black hole sun
Won’t you come
Won’t you come (won’t you come) (SOUNDGARDEN, BLACK HOLE SUN)

Stepping into Maria

I haven’t published any writing in weeks. Over a month, I think. And I’m sorry. There have been a few developments and my reasons are sound.

1. I started a writing club with a few friends and having three hours a week to write is glorious. However it means my creative energy flows into that project and the blog gets neglected. I’m working on that though.

2. My ex started working nights, so aside from writing club, I am with the kids every single evening. And truth be told, I don’t mind. I’ve dug myself quite a debt hole, going out to dinner and for drinks, sometimes 3 or 4 times a week when I don’t have the kids. Generally indulging myself when I feel sad. So being home is good because I’m finally having to face my financial reality post-separation. It’s painful but good, and I’m taking steps to fix my mistakes. But I’m not going to lie, it’s also scary as fuck.

Also, my babies (I know I don’t talk about them much here), well I love them. It the purest, most wonderful love I’ve ever experienced. I love making dinner and doing homework. Sure, I’m a control freak and part of that is that I get to quality control stuff. My way is the right way, blah blah blah. (What? You think HE was the ONLY reason we broke up?) But I also love seeing that light come on in their eyes when they really get a concept, or when I coach them to motivation or success or understanding. And the hugs and the love in return… I need it so much right now. Sometimes I worry that I’m too transparent with them, too honest with my emotions, too needy of their affection, and it scares them. But I gotta be me and teach them there’s no shame in that. Teach them that in spite of all the stress and worry, we have a good life together. I want to work hard to be someone they are proud of.

3. My new job (YES! I got THAT job!) is insane. I know it’s par for the course, but seriously, every time I start a new job I think, “Holy shit, you are so unqualified for this job!” And I talk shit to myself, because I’m overwhelmed and as a know-it-all it’s really hard to be in meetings where you don’t know what the fuck is going on. I say shit to myself like, “What do you actually do? What do you actually deliver? You can barely pay attention in meetings because you’re like a fucking grieving ghost. Where is your fucking brain? They are all gonna eat you alive.” So by the time I come home, do all the mom stuff, give my email and Facebook a cursory glance, all I can do is lay on my heating pad and watch This is Us. Fuck.

Anyway, no excuses. You twenty or so lovely people have invested in this story and I owe you an update.


After I snogged the second ex-colleague, the one who has been dating an old friend of mine for a year, I felt like a giant hairy arsehole. My guru and dear friend, Dr. X, messaged me from Spain and told me she was concerned I was going to get VD (or some other hip retro acronym that means “diseases from dicks”). And I had to concede that she was right, I was flirting with disaster and I was feeling terrible about it.

Case in point, one of the last times I saw Ali, right after my vacation, I came home and hastily took razor and scissors to my pubes. He’d already proved he was a bit porny in his 30-something sexual tastes and I didn’t want to go in full bush. Actually, full bush would maybe be ok. The ratty, half-bush situation I was sporting after a trip to the beach for just over a week was just not gonna work for either of us. And when I quickly chopped away with bad, 40-something eyes, I took off a science lab-appropriate piece of my labia. I had to put a bandage on my vajuj to stop the bleeding, and I texted friends wondering if it was wise to have sex with someone as slutty him (whom I now know to be a disgusting predator) with an OPEN WOUND on my lady parts. My inner voice was screaming, “Don’t fucking risk it!” But the other voice, the one that wants me to stop being such a worrisome goody-goody, said, “Go on, girl. Get it!” There’s a lot of things that happen before that condom goes on, ya know? Not smart. *Shudder* But yeah, I went over there and shagged him anyway. Amazing how you can ignore pain during sex.

So I decided to take a break from dudes and dicks and dating apps. Everything was changing (see #2 and #3 above) and I needed to focus. I prioritize for a living (though everyone I work with seems to suggest I’m bad at it — not true, for the record, but very few people I work with realize how fucked up the system I work in is), and the boy thing just got moved out of the roadmap and into the parking lot for now. It became a needless distraction that was sapping my energy from the two things I need to be really good at right now: kids and work.

Right before I decided this, I’d made a date to see Ali. But after TSTSHB (The Snog That Shouldn’t Have Been), I got completely demolished by a cold. And I took that as my body’s way of telling me that I needed to quit the boys cold turkey. No patch, no chewing gum, no elastic band to snap against my wrist to resist the cravings. I put new batteries in my vibrator, made a Soundcloud playlist (I love sex audio. I’m too picky about the visuals in p0rn, plus 19763 other issues I have with p0rn), and decided to cancel my date.

Now, I’d love to make you think that I had some sassy way of ripping off the bandage, but no. I had a wee, stupid relapse and when I messaged him to say that I was too sick for a shag, I responded to his, “Awww, too bad” with the suggestion that if he really wanted to see me, maybe we could catch a movie or something. Not sure how he got out of that one, but he didn’t bite. It was clear he doesn’t want to date me and I knew that I was so done with him. Because — data point! — I don’t JUST want booty calls! I think I’m getting closer to knowing what I want and need right now.

I should have known WAY earlier, obviously, that Ali had no interest in maintaining a friendship with benefits in the same way I did. Like when he lead me on that first night together and then proceeded to ghost me. Or when I fucked him for the first time and he didn’t even message me after. Or the fact that after our last tryst, every time I saw his green light on Facebook Messenger I would pause, because I realized I didn’t have anything to fucking say to him. Because, friends, he couldn’t volley.

Mid-September, I posted a pic or video of myself at a baseball game, during which my home team totally shit the bed. He messaged to flirt; wasn’t I the cutest bad luck charm ever? (They tanked the last game I was at, too, after which I’d gone to his place.) I came back with, “At least last time *I* scored!” And then it died, because he’s never going to be funnier than me. I believe he knows this. So with me not having anything to say and him not wanting to be with someone funnier than him, who is a little bit broken and messy and has a lot of rules around when she can actually go out, well… I can’t even say it fizzled out.

I wanted to wrap it up with something cool, like, “That was a fun summer, but we both know this isn’t going anywhere.” But I lingered on Messenger for days, typing and deleting, wanting to go first and then not wanting to go first, still kind of hanging on to the promise of that first night and wishing he would turn it around. And in my stalling, he got to go first. Or rather, she did.

“Svetlana Sunflower is In a Relationship with Ali Ahmed.” Her profile is that of an old, George Carlin-looking man shrugging. Maybe it’s a joke? I can tell I’m not the only one who is shocked. There are usually 12 other women, with whom the only mutual friend we share is him, who jump all over his posts and today they respond with open-mouthed WOW emojis. I unfollowed his updates weeks earlier, but I can’t resist this daily temptation to check his FB, which is how I see this. He is an enigma, closed and confusing, like your local shop on a statutory holiday. One week he’s buying plants with one woman, and the next he’s “in a relationship” with someone completely different. It’s gross actually.

The suspense killing me, so I go to his Instagram and search his followers for “Svet” and I find her. “Summer goth,” says one photo. Another proves they were together a few weekends earlier. She is so fucking young, with crazy milky skin and perfectly thick eyebrows and a dark sense of humour that isn’t quite jaded yet. White flag. Ugh.

But I didn’t want him anyway, right? Still…

****************************

The upside of all this is that I learned the lessons quickly. I didn’t spend two decades wondering, “Why isn’t this working? If he would just ______ it could be so great!” Done, and some of that deciding was not up to me, but I think I was catching on. An improvement in the algorithm. I’ll take it.

The other brilliant nugget from all this is that I’m happy now. Well, I’m still working through the feeling that I’m going to be fired every day, but generally, I’m happier. I feel a sense of purpose that I haven’t felt in some time. “You are stepping into Maria,” says Dr. X and she’s right.

After my child had a terrifying illness, major surgery and unexpected complications four years ago, I was fucked up. Really and truly fucked up. For a long time after, I would tell people that I felt like a skeleton wearing a Maria costume. I really don’t know how else to put it. I knew I was supposed to be Maria and say Maria things and shine my damn bright shiny smile on everyone so they’d feel better about the fact that my child almost died and our future was uncertain. But I was running a shitty Turtle program and the world had moved on to JS Node and it just wasn’t cutting it. RT 90; RT 45; Repeat 15. I think I fooled people for a while, but it didn’t last. I had a permanent anger at the world, pissed that I kept getting pissed on. I wasn’t fun to be around anymore. The processor on the Commodore 64 was not fast enough, and there was a constant hamster wheel running behind the angles on the screen.

I’m still working through this anger. It burbled up on the weekend, on a girls’ weekend away where I felt like a bit of an outsider. A perceived injustice, a slight, set me off. It comes when I feel like I’m on the outside, which I have to be careful of at work, too. And then boom, the dark cloud crosses my face and occupies mission control in my mind and there’s no turning back. The consequence is almost always regret. This weekend it was the hurt feelings of the other party, and I suspect that rift is not going to mend anytime soon which is sad because my relationship with offended person has been the longest of my life.

Then there’s the sadness. Some days, I throw a real pity party and rehash all the absolute shite things that have happened to me since I had my first child and I collapse under the weight of “This is just not fucking fair.” It feels so heavy, having to do it all, afford it all, rely only on myself. Some days it’s just too much. I also don’t know when the grief is going to hit. Sometimes it’s just hanging in the background, humming an annoying low buzz. Then, WHAM, I’m sobbing outside a brewery in a small town, because a flight of beers and a Radiohead song made me miss Theo, my ex.

I have a hard time being around couples and women in healthy relationships, too, depending on the day. Some days I can be so happy for the couple, and I thank them for showing me that healthy relationships do exist. Other days, the couples or women are just a searing reminder of what I’ve lost. And this sends me spiralling down the rabbit hole of shit-talking myself.

But I’m “stepping into Maria” and that’s gonna take time. And reflection. And the thing that is not quite happening right now is making time for reflecting. That’s gotta change real soon. In the meantime, I’m touching the rocky bottom here and there and knowing I don’t want to spend much time down so low. But there’s something to touching the scary place with the tip of your big toe and not turning away from the discomfort but sitting with it. I’m trying to do that more, to stay with the uncomfortable feeling, because there are lessons there. We are so used to turning away when things feel icky, and with social media and TV and the internet and phones— it’s just so easy.

I’ve been not occupying Maria fully for so long now. Four years at least. Maybe in my next post I’ll focus on what I’ve learned about her this year. Maybe, if you know me IRL, you could chime in with suggestions in the comments, and I will weigh each of them with a simple meditation of “Is that true?” Asking this question is a good place to start. When you shit-talk yourself, stop and ask, “Is that true?” And then sit with it. Heck, I should re-read this whole post with the “Is that true?” lens.

I did get a glimmer of longing though, this past weekend. A realization that perhaps I don’t want to be alone and self-sufficient forever. That sharing happy and sad moments and experiences with someone who gets you is a good thing. The challenge will be replacing the person who has been that for me for two decades. Because the biggest realization of late has been our co-dependence. I’ve gotta stop enabling Theo, and I’ve gotta stop relying on him or reaching out to him for emotional or other support. And that, my friends, is gonna be the focus of the next few months. I can see true independence in the near future. I’m getting there. Stepping into Maria is like being born again. It’s painful and it’s beautiful, and at the end of the tunnel, there’s life.

 

The great big no

youngadult

I’m kind of a mess today. I’m nursing a big barrel of shame—and a hangover.

I was listening to The Lemonheads on the weekend and since I’m acting 23 and not 43 and the 90s are back in style, maybe I need to explore this song in the context of this post.

I went out with another former colleague, last night. (This seems to be my prime dating pool right now, though after I tell you this story, you’ll understand why I’m never going to do that again.) Let’s call him Evan (as in Dando). I was hoping it was a date and I had sexy, flirty thoughts about it all day. Partially because I’ve always found him hot, but also because he and I have always had a bit of a soul connection. He’s witty and adorable and there’s something appealing about him. He’s effortlessly cool and a bit of an intellectual snob and I am always drawn to those types, probably because my dad was always an asshole who read a lot of books.

When he arrived at the bar, everything felt neutral. I didn’t get a vibe from him that it was a date. And shortly into our conversation about how he’s not lived with his wife for 2.5 years, I asked him about dating and he replied that he’s been seeing another one of our former colleagues for about a year. Huh. OK. Moving on.

So I did that thing I do, which is to just be myself, un-self-consciously babbling and oversharing too much, revealing that I’m slightly broken and messy. Why do men fall for that over the together-me? I had FIVE bourbon cocktails. This is all not a good mix. I am a horrible tease when drunk.

Lover don’t turn your head.
Just let me walk away.
I thought I might have to say,
You’re asking the wrong guy.
She wonders how.
Thinks she knows now.
She’ll be right.
They always go bye the bye.
The great big no. Great big no.
Great big no. Great big no.

 

I honestly thought I’d be done after two drinks, but Evan kept ordering Manhattans and then getting frustrated when they weren’t “perfect.” He was too discerning about the food and the drink, something that would probably make me nuts if we were ever dating. But we had fun. He’s broken, I’m broken. His story was tough to hear, and I can only imagine what he was like when he was at the same point I am now. He’s struggling to figure himself out, struggling to pick up the pieces, but also he’s OK with it. His kids are older. He’s almost at a big turning point.

I don’t even know how three hours went by, but they did and the drunker I got, the more flirty I got, even though he is dating our mutual friend. I was shameless, talking about how no one since Theo has gotten my A-game in bed. (Ugh.) Talking about how Ali has some sort of program or algorithm for having sex and how that’s not really enough for me as a canvas that needs a painter. Talking about the Brazilian and his bad tongue.
Is nothing okay with you? 
Is nothing okay with me?
Is anything happening to have to go to sea?
He wonders why. The indigo guy,
He’ll be right.
They always go bye the bye.
The great big no. Great big no.
Great big no. Great big no.

I don’t know how I kissed him across the bar, but I did. Maybe he asked if he could kiss me on the cheek and I turned my face in at the final moment. I used Ali’s moves on Evan, I somehow leaned over the corner of the bar and planted a peck on his lips. Damn. “Oh I’m glad you did that,” he said.

Five bourbon cocktails means lots of last night is fuzzy. Did we kiss again in the bar? Was there tongue? I dunno. Maybe? [INSERT SHRUG EMOJI HERE.] We said goodnight at some point. He went outside to smoke some liquid e-cigarette thingy and I went to the ladies and popped some gum in my mouth. And then, when I got out there, he said, “Let’s do that again.” And I was so fine with it because drunk Maria is a horny slut, and man, he was a good kisser and I knew that the experience would expire the moment we walked away. Because hell, we are not ever doing that again.
Everyone knows everything
Everyone knows everything
Nobody, nobody has got no one to go to.
Great big no.
Great big no.
Great big no.
Great big no.

I rode home in the dark, defying death somehow (touch wood, ptoo, ptoo). I wobbled into the house and Theo was waiting and perturbed by something. He confronted me about something our daughter said I said about him, about why we broke up. And the mental gymnastics I had to do to get through it were brutal. I was too wasted for the conversation. I should have stopped it. But instead, I tried to do a brain cartwheel onto the mat and it quickly spun out of control.

We haven’t fought since he left. Not really. I’ve never said all the things I wanted to say because I’ve spent years arguing the same arguments. He can’t acknowledge my hurt, he can’t take responsibility for his actions. When I drunkenly listed off his infractions last night he told me the reason he did those things was because I am full of hate for him. Wow. Even if that’s remotely true, my resentment should not be your excuse for signing up for an adultery dating site.

I tearfully asked him to leave. Later, I texted him to let him know I was sorry and we both admitted responsibility for how that all went down, apologized and committed to getting back on track on the path we were on: friendship and coparenting respectfully. This morning we hugged and I made the mistake of breathing him in again, but with the added mistake of looking lovingly and brokenly into his eyes. Sigh. I’m the world’s biggest fool.

Felipe texted last night to say he had made progress with his daughter and that he was thinking of me. He calls me Bonita. I love that. I told him that I was feeling like a piece of shit and didn’t deserve his praise and he wrote back the most beautiful words of encouragement. I’m kind of grateful he’s still there in the background, but have to remind myself that he’s not anywhere near the right one to date right now and that his kisses left my skin crawling.

Ali messaged too and I will see him next week to have my itches scratched. I view my Ali nights like going to the chiropractor. He will wring me out in his 7/10 way, pushing all the right buttons, but failing to make poetry with my body. But he always leaves a huge smile on my face.

This morning I woke up with guilt about kissing the boyfriend of my friend. I haven’t seen her in years, but we used to hang out a lot and I have a lot of affection for her. It was a shitty move on my part. I don’t know if they are using labels, but still, I should not have put my tongue in her dude’s mouth. But as my beloved gay chastised me today, “Oh don’t stress out. It was only a snog.” Right? Let’s go with that.

I need to be mindful that my flirtations can get me in trouble. That there are real consequences to my actions and I’m playing with people’s feelings after all. But I also need to accept that I am hedonistic and messy right now. Maybe there’s no statute of limitations on how long I will live like this, but I think that’s par for the course for the next six months, until we pass the one-year milestone, at least. Because hey, I haven’t defined the charter of rights and freedoms for the country called Maria yet. I haven’t outlined the mission statement. What does Maria represent? What does she stand for? What will she unapologetically not stand for? What resources does Maria have and what does she need in terms of partners and allegiances to make her country stronger? That, my faithful readers, is what I’m hoping to figure out before the ball drops on 2017.

Whoah (Lover don’t turn your head.)
Lover don’t turn your head.
No. (Lover don’t turn your head.)
Is nothing okay with you?

Written by Evan Griffith Dando, Tom Morgan • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC, Domino Publishing Company