Year one, done

It’s been a year since the worst day of my life. The day I had to break the hearts of the two humans that I love the most. The day I had to tell them that their father and I would no longer be a couple.

It had been two months of harbouring the secret, to get through Christmas, to work out the plan, to talk to social workers to understand how best to tell them. I wanted to do it right, if there’s such a thing. I’m still trying. It’s a constant pull between my hurt feelings wanting to lash out at their dad and realizing that doing so would jeopardize a relationship that was always held together by a string, strong as hemp rope on one end, but thinned out to the most fragile of threads at the other.

Our favourite social worker, the one our family still sees, suggested we present the information as a unified front. Under no circumstances were we supposed to give any hints or suggestions that we may get back together. It was over, we needed to stick to the storyline, because any window of wavering would be a forever open door for kids who just want their parents back together.

We ordered sushi, a family favourite, and talked happily during dinner. People always ask if the kids suspected. I will say that while they felt weird energy in the house during those two months, and caught me crying a bunch of times, they really didn’t see it coming. I never ever wanted to do this to them, as a kid who had suffered a (temporary) parental break-up herself. And I told my now-ex that once we broke their hearts there was no turning back.


He waffled over those two months, but whenever he’d say, “Why are we doing this?” I would ask him why he felt we should stay together. The answer was always (and is to this day), “Because it’s harder than I imagined.” Not, “I realized how much I love you and what you mean to me, and I can’t believe I put you through all that shit all these years.” Nope. Not, “I realize I can’t live without you.” Nope. Repeat: He does not love you the way you need to be loved, Maria. Breathe.

For years, during many late night discussions about the state of our relationship, I warned him about how this would affect the kids, how they would struggle in life while all their peers had (happily or unhappily) married parents. I knew first-hand what it was like, while he, with parents unhappily married for 50 years, only saw that relationship as a trap. His story, his narrative, always won out. He would dig in his heels and say, “The kids will be alright because it’s us. We’re not going to do it in a way that makes us enemies.” It turns out we were both right.

The kids are alright, but they have moments of deep sadness, or fear, anxiety, frustration. They are stuck on the why, but the why no longer matters. It just IS. We must accept it and move on. Theo was right, we would do it differently. I did a bit of mudslinging in early days, but through meditation, yoga, therapy and the buddhist practise of accepting impermanence, I have learned to let go of my anger and my sadness. Sure, they creep in sometimes, but I know to breathe through it, turn it into a joke and to resist sending that angry text.


This morning’s angry text was going to be, “Who the FUCK is that woman on your Facebook feed saying what an awesome family you have? Just because you made a fire on the beach, as if making a bonfire earns you Parent of the Year! Stop using your fatherhood to get laid, you piece of shit!” But instead, I went to yoga and thought my hamstrings were going to snap like elastic bands pulled too far. The kids joke that I’m becoming a Zen master, but maybe I’m just becoming an asshole who buys too many Buddha statues and is getting mature enough not to fire off texts before I’ve thought through the repercussions.

When the kids do express their sadness, we sit with it. I have, in some ways, become a better mother through this process. I’m not anxious about their fears and pains like I used to be. Or rather, I notice the anxiety and guilt rising up within me, and I take a breath and pivot to Supermom. Dad is Fun Dad, and there’s something good in accepting that. I can be too serious, talking them through mega heavy life topics, like drugs and abortion. Dad is just Fun Dad. He gets them outdoors. He pushes their physical selves into the physical world, taking them for hikes on the beach and then returning to his sad dad cosy basement apartment to watch a movie and eat something warm that he’s made for them. I am the keeper of their minds and their souls, he is the keeper of their bodies and their place in the outside world. We both approach their anxieties differently, and both are good.

When I think of us like that, it does make me wistful. It does make me want to get back together, but then I never ever saw our relationship as “that bad” until I got out of it. Sure I was unhappy, but wasn’t everybody? But then I remember that, regardless of whether I agree with the thinking, for him every fight was Hiroshima, every argument symbolizing the end of days. I love him, but I’ve come to realize that he’s a narcissist. He can only really care for himself. But maybe, just maybe, through divorce he is learning how to take care of the kids, too. I hope so for their sakes.


That night, after sushi, we told them. Or rather, I told them. Because he was frozen in inaction, wearing a suit of cowardice, of his own making. We told them he was moving out in a week (which was the timing prescribed by the social worker). And the girl one laughed at first, because she thought it was a joke. Surely her parents who claimed they loved her wouldn’t do this to them! I’d promised her once, and she’s always reminding me, that her parents were never ever getting divorced, because I swore to her that I would do everything in my power to avoid that outcome. And I did. I did do everything possible, from therapy to allowing him to move away to another city for six months, to considering the open marriage he was asking for. But it wasn’t enough. I was never enough.

Why? They asked over and over again. I wish I could tell them. I barely understood it myself, but I HAD to secure my freedom. I could never tell them of the years of mental and emotional abuse. I’m sure their dad would probably say the same about me. How do you tell kids, “Your dad wasn’t strong enough to be my man”? He couldn’t handle that I was smart and funny and pretty and successful and well-liked by so many people, while he couldn’t seem to find his footing as an adult. He was a shrinking violet, scared to share his experience of the world around him, and he felt my strength was drawn by making him weak. I can’t say if that’s true, but it was certainly true for him. I’ve come to accept that, too.


I didn’t kill him when he stupidly said, “We don’t know. There’s a chance we might get back together.” But I did give him a death stare and a strong kick under the table. “That is not true,” I said stoically, trying to close a door that he was trying to keep open a wedge out of weakness, “Dad and I are over. We are never getting back together.” We all cried, and I can never forget the pain of causing my children such agony. I’m still trying to forgive myself.

Then I presented rose quartz necklaces that I’d had made for us all, to keep our hearts close. Then we played a board game. Everything is rather hazy from that time, like when that bad thing happened to you as a teenager and you just walked around with that sick feeling in your stomach for days, wishing it wasn’t true. I don’t know how we got through that week, but somehow we did. And what followed was a time of mourning, change and open hearts, a love bigger than I knew I was capable of giving or receiving.

A week from now will be the anniversary of the day he moved out. I’ll be back next Sunday to reflect on my memories of that story. Thanks for reading.

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)

A Tragically Hip Marriage

I watched Long Time Running last night, with the adorabeasts in my bed, which made it all hurt a little less. And there we were, slow dancing to “Scared” for three or four seconds, singing the lyrics. My head on his strong shoulder, against his Phantom Power shirt. We’d ridden bikes to the arena that August, just a year and a bit ago, sweat of the humid city summer rolling down our backs. My hair was curly-frizzy, the hair he has left was matted with sweat. On his wrist, the watch we bought on our only trip to NYC when things were starting to get really bad and the fissures in our relationship started to resemble the giant gaps in the ground of a Roadrunner cartoon. The cliff was impending, but I thought we could “Meep, meep!” our way across.

I am wearing a Dia de los Muertos type skull tank that gringas like me get when in Mexico. We were in Sayulita for the wedding of our dear friends when I got it, and in terrible shape. He was living in another city for work (and to get away from me) and I was paying for it all. At the wedding he got ridiculously drunk and forgot that we needed to get our kids home, because our sick kid gets migraines if she doesn’t sleep properly. My resentment grew with every minute that he did nothing to get us home, because he was having fun and his fun always came before the rest of us. Then it started raining on our sleeping kids while he guffawed with an old friend and I completely lost my shit on him, because there were no cabs and no way for me to walk all the way to Gringo Hill from where we were with two sleeping kids. I should burn that tank top.


Gord Downie died this week and I am faced with a gaping space in my soul. Every single Hip song for me is a reflection of us. Every guitar lick, every lyric takes me to a specific scene in our marriage. Trouble at the Henhouse was released as our friendship was burgeoning and was frequently played throughout our marriage (you can read an entire post set to “Flamenco” here).  Phantom Power was released right when we started dating and in many ways, it’s the most definitive Hip album. “Poets,” “Bobcaygeon,” “Fireworks,” all on the same disc. “Escape is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man” was his anthem, and I never saw it as a song about bands passing each other in concert halls, but part of me wondered if Theo saw it as the song which represented things I never knew about that happened when he was living in London. That song brings me right into sunny rental apartment living rooms with their mix of IKEA and hand-me-down furniture, movie posters gracing the walls. “Those melodies come back to me… At times beyond our heartbeat.”

Music @ Work was released the year we got married and moved into the concrete box in the sky downtown, overlooking the CN Tower. Our song was “Stay” — “You’re a fighter and a lover. And there’s no one up above her. So, stay. Stay.” But he couldn’t stay. He tried. I have days where I believe he tried his hardest and days where I think he could have tried harder, but today it’s the former. He wasn’t cut out for marriage, to give himself completely to another. And in the future if he manages to change that I will be bitter and happy for him in the same breath.

In Violet Light came next and that’s when we started to diverge. Theo was still committed to the Hip, but I was starting to wane. I don’t know why. If I reflect on it, I think it would be because Theo might read this and not think of me with any of those songs or albums. His relationship was one-sided. Just between him and Gord. Where as I saw it as more of an infinity symbol, a symbiotic relationship between my love for Theo and my love for the music. The music was the soundtrack for our playing house, where as for Theo, the music defined HIM. “O’ for a good life, we just might have to weaken,” sang Gord, and we took his word. Maybe it was OK to allow for some space. Have our separate lives and converge at the end of the day to share privately what we’d experienced, who we were when it was just the two of us.


In their consistent way, the Hip released an album every two years. I recall nothing of In Between Evolution in 2004. I was pregnant with our first and so much in my own head that year. Wikipedia says it hit Number #1 on the Canadian charts the week it came out, but I don’t know a single song. By the time World Container was released in 2006, we had a baby who’d had a stroke, and a big grown-up mortgage in a new part of town with no friends there, and I was working part-time and feeling immense guilt about it. I had a two-year-old mom blog and was starting to overshare online to bigger and bigger audiences. And suddenly my separate life was no longer about going to the movies after work with my best gay and then coming home to retell the plot, but about living a life online while baby was sleeping, a life that he felt too far removed from to even care about. Worse, he felt super uncomfortable about where the internet was taking me and how much of my deepest, darkest thoughts were being shared with complete strangers.

On the other hand, I was feeling an incredible sense of community online. Motherhood was a lonely experience in a lot of ways, and reading honest accounts from the trenches was wonderful. I loved trying to be funny in my descriptions of the day to day. I loved the raw way I wrote and felt myself getting better and better with each post, my commenters encouraging me to keep going. But Theo does not like feeling like anyone knows anything about him, which I believe is part of the reason he didn’t find success as an artist.

Gord Downie splayed his insides out in song. A good artist does this, tells their truth, in their own way, revealing themselves in a way that we can all relate to. I was doing the same in my writing, but I suppose my ego started to come into play as well. With every accolade I began to get bolder in what I would share. I carved a niche for myself, writing about sex and arguments in a way I should have considered a bit more before publishing. Theo asked me to stop. He would never be comfortable with it. And so in time I began to hold back. And in holding back, I began to lose interest in writing.


When We Are the Same came out in 2009, we were two kids deep. I’d been getting help for my PTSD after my traumatic first birth. I’d gotten a do-over with my second baby and the panic attacks were decreasing. But I was working four-days-a-week at a startup, and with the constant sleep deprivation, my tendency to being capital ADD-distracted was making me struggle at work and home. I felt Theo judged me harshly in those days. I would constantly ask him to cut me some slack. The house was a mess and I couldn’t keep up. He was home with no one else at home most days before going off to work nights and felt that we left everything for him to clean up and he was mad about it. I was angry that he was home all the time with all this time to himself and things weren’t even or fair at all. Couldn’t he JUST CUT ME SOME SLACK?!

I shit-talked myself a lot at during that time, and without writing to process it, I was lost. That’s why I’m here, writing secretly under a pseudonym. Blogs are my moleskins. I need them. I began to fall deeper and deeper into despair. Sure, there was still a lot of light and joy during that time. I’m sure if I go check Facebook, there are photos of smiling faces and happy memories and trips to the beach with adorable little people. But the fissure was widening, and I mistakenly thought that once the kids were older, I’d be able to get out some Crazy Glue and some ratchet ropes and pull the whole thing back together.

In the background of our old rickety house with the creaky floorboards and the crumbling plaster walls, Gord sang, “Who are you? What is it with you? Who are you?” over and over on “The Last Recluse” and I struggled to answer.

You broke my heart, from the start
Made me work, work so hard
to get where I am
to where I’d let you do it all again.
Who are you? Who are you?

What do I do? What do I do, without you? 

Eight years later, I am attempting to answer.

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

The winner takes it all

I just googled “songs about failure” and found that loads of sites have written about this very thing. Clearly I’m not the only one who has a burning need to answer this question.

I often need some kind of hook to write. On this blog, it’s songs that inspire me. Sometimes my writing begins because a song is in me and it feels relevant that day. But tonight, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, and it was what she said about failure that triggered my song search.

Big-Magic-quote

Gilbert is writing here about creativity, but the same could be applied to the end of just about anything. In my case, a marriage. Is marriage a creative enterprise? I don’t know for certain, but I love the idea of approaching relationships like any creative endeavour: with curiosity, interest, reverence and a desire for wonder. I also know that a mix of creativity, talent and divorce made a helluva good ABBA song (which is a TOP failure song according to the internets—and the hook for this post).


I don’t want to talk
About the things we’ve gone through
Though it’s hurting me
Now it’s history
I’ve played all my cards
And that’s what you’ve done too
Nothing more to say
No more ace to play

The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That’s her destiny

Sometimes a relationship is like a game of solitaire (ironically). Sometimes, no matter how many times you’ve played and whatever strategies you’ve developed, you’re not going to win. You can shuffle the cards in the slush pile over and over again, you can review your moves to see where you went wrong, but you can only struggle for so long. A card here or there could possibly change the outcome of the game, but the longer you go, the more you understand that struggling against what is just ruins your fun.  And sometimes you missed the card that could have saved everything, but now it’s trapped in the middle of three cards and can’t be used to change the destiny of the game. To save your sanity and your capacity for pleasure, you must declare, “Game over.”

I’ve been struggling. With regret. With the decisions I’ve made. With feeling like I let my kids down. The terrible voice in my head tells me I’m selfish, distracted and removed. We all went away together last weekend, the four of us, and I spent 30 hours in my old life. And it was fucking hard. Because, you know what? Lots of it was idyllic.

I had to remind myself, over and over, not to fall for the illusion. We were our perfect selves for the time we were together, and while we didn’t get along the entire time, there was such an ease and fun in getting the band back together. I could feel this pull, drawing me back into the slumber, back into the bubble, where I could live out my days unconsciously. It would be so easy, familiar. But then I recalled my mantra.

A few nights earlier, when Theo was making eyes at me, as he has been at almost every encounter recently, I waited for the right moment and then got the courage to say, “I’d like to call out the elephant in the room. The reason this feels so good right now is a direct result of the decisions we’ve made.” There is peace, because we don’t live together anymore. I’m attractive, because he no longer takes up all the space in my heart and mind, tormenting me with neglect and negativity, turning me ugly from the inside. My therapist asked me to remember that: The reason this feels so good right now is a direct result of the decisions we’ve made.


I was in your arms
Thinking I belonged there
I figured it made sense
Building me a fence
Building me a home
Thinking I’d be strong there
But I was a fool
Playing by the rules

Our house doesn’t fit him anymore. The hobbit hut we live in is too small, and the space he created by leaving has been a gift. I don’t just mean the 6-foot, 200-pound space he left, but the hulking demon he dragged around. It punched holes in walls with its tail, darkened the house with nostril smoke and frequently burned shit to the ground.

Theo’s demon is quiet now, I can see that. It no longer gets triggered by my demon, their collective pain waging war on each other. He’s lost weight because he’s exercising and has no money for fancy food. He looks lighter in the face, too, in his eyes and on his brow.  His smiles are genuine and his laugh is easy and it’s clear from head to toe that he’s doing well. It’s all very attractive. The therapy is helping, but I have to admit that the therapy is infrequent. The time apart is consistent and plentiful. It’s clear what’s helping.

The gods may throw a dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain

Sometimes we reach out to each other, hold each other carefully, knowing that the other is also made of glass and that pressing too close together would smash us both into a confetti of cuts. I feel his strong, familiar arms and melt a little. Not from love so much as nostalgia. But I made the mistake of breathing him in this week during a hug and it left a chemical burn on my heart.

We went out of town for our kid’s birthday and we stayed up together after the kids were asleep. We sat outside and shared some wine and then I decided I wanted to know about what he’s been up to. He told me he’s been with four women since he left. So I embellished my number and said four for me too, even though it’s only been one. Ali. I was surprised by how easy our conversation was, but the biggest shock was realizing that it didn’t hurt. It wasn’t painful to hear that he’d slept with other women. Had we stayed married, had we tried to live an open marriage as he’d asked, it would have been.

But tell me does she kiss
Like I used to kiss you?
Does it feel the same
When she calls your name?
Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say
Rules must be obeyed

It’s also important for me to remember that him making eyes at me is not a sign that he wants to move back in. The suggestion is for sex, not rekindling the marriage. When I brought up the elephant in the room before we went away, his response was, “Doesn’t stop you from looking good.” He’s never asked, which maybe I don’t ever want to be put in that position, for me to take him back. And yet, there’s a remnant of a fantasy there. This bizarre egoic wish that he’ll beg to come back, admit he was wrong and fight to change everything to make it all work. Which is crazy. Because he’d have to change his whole self to fix the things that need fixing and isn’t that what sent him into depression in the first place?

He added quietly, “Doesn’t stop you from BEING good.”


We got into stupid arguments over the weekend, highlighting our inability talk to each other in the same language. It made a key point stand out—”This is as good as it gets,” I told him. We have to accept that by killing the marriage, we saved the friendship. We are never going to get past the bickering caused by different paces in living and word processing. We tried for years. We got stuck and it started to kill us. Sometimes the only way out isn’t through, but it’s by backing the fuck out slowly.

The judges will decide
The likes of me abide
Spectators of the show
Always staying low
The game is on again
A lover or a friend
A big thing or a small
The winner takes it all

Sitting outside and looking at the marina, I caught a glimmer of what looked like hurt in his eyes. The intensity between us was palpable, and as usual, he’d consumed 80% of the bottle of wine to my 20%. I excused myself and he stopped me, “I love you, Maria. I will always love you. I have a profound respect for you and I’m so grateful that you are the one I’m raising children with.” I smiled and put myself to bed next to our daughter.

I must consistently remind myself that our marriage is not a failure, it just ran its course. Our marriage was a decent success, it was just finite. It had a best before date on the bottom that we never took note of and one day—BOOM—it soured. And if I must rethink that statement and accept that it maybe was a failure, then so be it. The point of failures is to learn from them, right. To paraphrase Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s your ego that gives a shit about the humiliation of failure. Your soul does not give two flying fucks. Your soul just learns from the experience and then expands to fill the empty new space.

“I am who I am today precisely because of what I have made and what it has made me into,” says Elizabeth Gilbert. I have to believe that no matter how sad, we are standing here, together but apart, for a purpose. And what comes next, if we remain awake, will be pure beauty. No mud, no lotus.

lotus

I don’t want to talk
If it makes you feel sad
And I understand
You’ve come to shake my hand
I apologize
If it makes you feel bad
Seeing me so tense
No self-confidence
But you see
The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

I was over at a friend’s for dinner tonight and our truths came tumbling out. She told me that I was never to sleep with Theo again. (I’ve had a good track record there. Not since before I took my ring off on January 1st.) She also told me that Ali could never be for me, because my love language is obviously “Words of Affirmation.” I just went down the 5 Love Languages rabbit hole and Physical Touch and Quality Time were tied for first place and Words of Affirmation was third, followed by Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts. But I know what she means. I’m a word girl. I believe words have power and should be used carefully and with intention (something I’m not often good at doing verbally). I need to be with someone who can match my desire for sharing words and stories, someone who is not afraid to be vulnerable with his truth. Someone who can handle the desires of my mouth and my mind to express through words (and also touch).

I thought I’d write a second post about Felipe, a man who was good at “Words of Affirmation” and all of the 5 Love Languages come to think of it, but terrible at kissing and needy (though his words never lined up with his actions in this area) in a way that I couldn’t abide right now. But I will just summarize. He was a mansplainer, who insisted on smoking up on every date and his energy was nervous until he did. And when I wasn’t baked, I realized that no, the kissing is actually offensively bad. It was a mansplaining of the mouth, like his tongue needed to teach me something. And finally, I have just spent two decades with someone who didn’t have a job and who self-medicated, and do I need to do that again? Naw. That’s not progressing.

Old Maria would have kept Felipe on, because he’s nice. Old Maria would have convinced herself that she could help see him to greatness. That she could “fix” him. New Maria ain’t got no time for that shit. As a former therapist once advised, “When we are cheerleader personalities, we see the good in everyone—which is a gift! But next time, find someone who can meet you on your level and can celebrate your successes with you.” My new therapist cautions that this is not what I want just yet, that I’m still A/B testing and having fun, so don’t rush it. When I asked her how I should end it with him after three dates, she said, “Whatever you can live with.”

So I texted Felipe that I still have feelings for my ex. I texted Ali the opposite, that it was clear to me how much it was over. Both are true and both are also a lie. I love my ex. I’m confused by the way he looks at me. But the feelings I have are plain old grief. There are love, admiration and respect elements there, but they are primarily based on seeing him with our children. I know, to quote Taylor Swift, that we are never, ever, ever getting back together. And the more that becomes an absolute, the larger the ocean of grief to cross. But I’m a tenacious mofo and I will survive this.

I’m listening to my inner voice again and feeling confident in her every step. And right now, no relationship is worth losing that power. Not spending creative and emotional energy on a man is delicious. I’m having an affair with writing at the moment, for the first time in a long time. It’s just for me.

“I was suspicious,” Felipe replied to my send-off, which bolded, underlined and italicized for me that I was right to let him go. No regrets. No looking back. Just utter relief that I am not waking up 20 years later with this realization.

So the winner takes it all
And the the loser has to fall
Throw a dice, cold as ice
Way down here, someone dear
Takes it all, has to fall
It seems plain to me

Written by Benny Goran Bror Andersson, Bjoern K. Ulvaeus • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

 

Bye Felipe

I shut things down with Felipe earlier this week. We’d been on three dates, but the way he spoke, he’d already married us in his mind. So I did what any rational 40-something who has had her heart broken by the love of her life would do. I freaked the fuck out.

Our second date came after that brutal mediation session two weeks ago. The one where they got the numbers wrong and I discovered I was fucked for life it would cost me more than double to pay my ex what’s fair so that I could keep the family house. I needed a distraction. I’d blown Felipe off to hang with The Momz the night before, which should have been a clue, but we were one date in and “uteruses before duderuses” as my pal Amy would say.

I texted him to meet me somewhere and he was all giddy about it. “What am I going to wear?!” Cute. He met me at a bar with a gift of some Brazilian food “for you and the kids” and said, “You’ve had a hard day, so I hope you don’t mind but I brought you something. Open your hand.” And then he gingerly placed a joint in my hand. I’d had a shit day and I’ll admit, I was impressed with the kind gesture. But as soon as I said that I really needed a toot, he was off his seat and ready to go smoke. My spidey sense went off, but I chalked his behaviour up to nerves.

I convinced him to sit down and order a drink. The bar was loud, but we talked a bit. I showed him a photo of my daughter and as soon as I opened the FB app, he said, “Felipe Luiz—you can add me!” (Too soon, buddy.) I didn’t mind his halting English, though he had a tendency to over-explain things and later contradict himself. Just something lost in translation, I thought. We were having a drink when a beer sales guy came by with samples. I chatted the beer dude up because I’m friendly and like free samples, and I soon learned we had a friend in common. We asked Felipe to take our photo to share with our friend, who was having a bit of a moment with a certain hashtag around a magazine cover she’d been photographed for. It occurred to me that I shouldn’t be chatting with this strange man so enthusiastically, but I wasn’t attracted to beer dude at all, so I ignored it. I’m a social creature and if Felipe was jealous, he didn’t let on.

Felipe clearly wanted to get out of the bar, so he paid up and we left. He has this weird habit of not saying what he likes and waiting for me to lead the way, or saying he doesn’t like something and then ordering it because I did. It frustrates me when people don’t speak up for themselves. I offered a walk to a nearby park so we could chat and smoke and a few more quirks came out. He insists on walking on street side of the sidewalk, “in case a car comes, it will hit me first,” he said. “Oh, of course,” I replied, “You probably have a thing about that. Makes sense.” (His first wife died in a terrible car accident and he was driving. A truck t-boned them and hit her side.) “No! You think so?” he seemed surprised. “That’s OK,” I reassured him, “But yeah, probably. It would make sense.”

Then he brought up his discomfort with dark open spaces, because in Brazil you would be worried about being robbed or killed. I have to acknowledge my North American privilege here. If I were a woman alone, I would also be nervous somewhat, though the older and more invisible I get, the less so. But truthfully, I am a woman in one of the safest countries in the world and when I’m in a group or with a man, I am not afraid. I’ve worked very hard to diminish my fears. I spent a lot of years too afraid to enjoy the outdoors and one of the greatest gifts from my ex was teaching me to trust that everything would be OK. So now that I’m in this period of great independence, I relish in aloneness and quiet spaces with few people. In a city the size of this one, finding an empty space is a gift!

We held hands and I didn’t like the way he held hands and that made me sad. I have a certain way of holding hands, because my hands are tiny like a child’s, and he corrected it. It made me miss my ex, who knew exactly how I liked to hold hands and despite our giant height difference, we just fit. But then Felipe kissed me on a street corner at a red light. And it was not good. His tongue is aggressive, like full snake, left-right left-right swishing in there instead of gentle swirling. He has very thin lips, but even so, one should not launch a full scale tongue attack. Then I did something I am typically not comfortable with. I decided to relax into it and let him lead. And suddenly the kissing was better! It started to drizzle so we ran under a pergola and lit up.

The conversation was lively and fun. He was just the right kind of sarcastic, not mean at all, but witty. We played a bit of a game where we taught each other how you greet someone in our different cities and cultures. One kiss on the cheek in Sao Paolo, two kisses in Rio. Super cute. He was hungry and wanted to take me to a BBQ restaurant, so we began walking in the direction of my ex’s apartment. When we passed a certain bakery he asked if I would meet him there on Sunday. I told him I had my kids so it was out of the question. “But you can bring them and then tell them you ran into your friend Felipe!” Um, no. “I’m just kidding,” he replied, but I was not having it.

It started to pour, so we hid under some trees and made out some more before deciding to run to the BBQ place. The BBQ place had shut down their kitchen early because of the rain, but offered us a seat. Felipe asked for water and napkins for me, which was sweet. I realized I was very, very stoned. I only smoke a handful of times a year at most, so I’m just not used to it. Somehow we left the BBQ joint and headed to a pub across the street and that all seemed to go ok.

There was, of course, a bigger red flag than his traumatic past. His unemployment. While his words said he was waiting to start a course and improve himself, broken me has lived through that once already with someone else and doesn’t want to go there again. I’m looking for security. I’m looking for a grown-up. I’m not looking for excuses. In the most Jane Austen of ways to analyze this—he doesn’t have any prospects. But the conversation was great and I was really feeling ok about it all. This would be a nice second love affair, I thought. It was simmering and I wasn’t ready to take it off the stove or eat it yet, but there was something good stewing. I’m certainly not ready to make a meal you host friends for, but there was at least a snack here.

We had to leave so I could send my ex home (he spends his two weeknights with the kids at the family home) and I found myself not wanting him to walk me home for obvious reasons, but also I didn’t want him to know where I live. He lives five minutes from me and that’s already too close for comfort if something gets weird. We kissed in the street and I was so baked that I didn’t care that the school moms might see me. I started to put his hands up his shirt. “Don’t torture me,” he said with a smile. I felt sexy and powerful.

He texted me several times a day after that. While he kept saying that he knows my kids come first and that I’m devoted to my new job second, and that he’d wait for me no matter what, there was a daily testing of the boundaries. There was a lot of “I missed you today,” which is not really about me, but about how he needs me to make him feel. Still, I was optimistic and also curious to sleep with him. But while I initially enjoyed seeing his messages pop up on my phone, they started to feel oppressive real quick. A good morning here, a rose emoji in the middle of the day, all lovely. But the worst of it was all the schooling and encouragement, the overly complimentary—if I wanted that I’d call my mom!

And the truth is, if I was into him, like REALLY into him, I’d probably be all over it. But I’m just not in the market for that right now. But I booked a third date anyway, very stupidly, after my third sexual encounter with Ali (SO DAMN GOOD!).  A friend joked that I am the Goldilocks of dating: one guy who rarely texts or calls, the other one does it too much. “The next guy will be just right,” I joked to my therapist. “But no,” she said firmly, “You don’t want Mr. Just Right right now. You’re not ready for that!” She’s goddamn right, I’m not. To be continued…