Cecile and Valmont

cecilevalmont2

I’ve begun to think of Mr. Saturday Night as Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) to my Cecile Volanges (Uma Thurman) in Stephen Frears’s brilliant film Dangerous Liaisons. After our last encounter in the bedroom, I joked to some girlfriends that having sex with me is probably like fucking a 17-year-old, because dammit, I’M SO NEW!

Now let’s be clear, Valmont is an evil character, prioritizing his own game of power and desire over what’s even in his own best interest. He destroys nearly everyone in the story, just to try and win a game with the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close). But there are these moments of levity and hotness, when he seduces the young, virginal Celine, awakening the desire within, teaching her the ropes in the bedroom, that I find compelling in my current circumstance.

Mr. SN is an incredible lover. All that actor training means he reacts IN THE MOMENT. He is constantly reading signals and changing up strategies and moves accordingly. A lifelong bachelor, he has probably had dozens of lovers (I’m at six sexual partners at this point) and clearly knows the female body and how to give it pleasure. But what’s more, he revels in giving a woman pleasure, over and over again. He is rough in all the right ways, like he knows just what I need for sexual healing right now. “You’re a gift,” I told him last Saturday night, revelling in the beauty of what occurred between us. “YOU’RE a gift!” he replied and that’s all I needed to get to fireworks. BOOM!

So as I’m writing, I’m realizing what’s standing in the way of all of it IS ME. Me thinking, “What is a beautiful man like this doing with a big-nosed weirdo like me?” Me thinking, “Oh this is never going to work because…” I’m trying, desperately, to stay in the moment, stay grounded, but I can’t help but think, “Would my parents like him?” WTF?! I’m not looking to bring someone into all that again just yet! But traditional dating norms are so ingrained in my psyche, that I can’t shake the romantic fantasies of something that needs to be, to quote Outkast, “forever-eva?”


OK here are the things that bug me about this relationship. Let’s get them all down, shall we?

  1. Lovers, he’s had lots of them, and that’s intimidating for a girl like me. He talks about them A LOT. So I’m having to work through some feelings of insecurity there. We went to dinner in between sex courses and I caught him looking at our young female server with interest. And I couldn’t tell if this is part of a game that he’s playing with innocent little me. Like was he leering intentionally or absent-mindedly. But I DID NOT LIKE IT.
  2. He doesn’t hold hands. Or spoon. Or kiss the top of my forehead affectionately the way Ali does. I get that everyone is scared to catch feels in this brave new world, but sheesh! And I can see it, clearly, how we start out not speaking the love language of the other and how I change and bend to fit the person I’m with, rather than advocate for what’s going to work FOR ME! To his credit, he does ask me a dozen million times, “What do YOU want?” But it’s in a way that makes me nervous, because I’m not used to speaking those things out loud in a relationship. Is this even a relationship?
  3. He kinda tells the same stories over and over, and it kinda works for us, because I have memory problems and can’t retain a lot of the details he so easily spits out. He can recite poetry from memory, give detailed historical facts and dates, and I barely remember them because my brain is funny from 20 years of working on the internet. But while I don’t remember the finer points, I do remember that he’s told me this stuff before, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s all there is to him. If he’s nothing but these perfectly polished stories, worn into pretty beads from years of honing the telling of them.
  4. I’m stuck on the fact that we are not financially in the same place. He lives with roommates, “to help with the rent.” I live with roommates too, but I’ve birthed them. I don’t NEED someone to make as much as I do, but it definitely helps to take the awkward out of who pays for dinner and whether we can do more than meet in a bedroom. If there was a future here, I’d long for travel and trips to the theatre. I also have lived in an income inequity situation, where I made 70% to Theo’s 30%, and while I think that Mr. SN is a more evolved human when it comes to ideas around gender, I really think that most men do not like when their women make more than them.
  5. He ignores texts when it suits him. He has this particular affliction especially when I say something too forward, or send a selfie. He’s controlling in the bedroom, which suits me very well as someone who has to have her shit together in all other areas of her life, but I can’t help but wonder if this non-response is a subtle control technique too. It was really bugging me, but I decided this morning that I would not give a fuck, because at my age, one only has so many fucks to give and if I want to send a selfie, I damn well will. Deal with it. I would, however, really like a dude that texts to say he’s thinking of me. I want someone who sends links with, “Saw this and thought of you.” Between this and the no-PDA, Mr. SN does not have longevity with me, and I have to remember that before I fall for someone who is just going to make me angry over time for not being who I want them to be. Been there, done that.

Holy fark, you guys. Writing it all down so concisely really helps to slay the demons that are plaguing me. Right now I’m in a small beach town on a giant lake, and the ENTIRE COUNTY has the same name as Mr. SN. The museum is named after him, the county roads, the local bakery specialty. It’s not a good place to get thoughts of him out of my mind. There’s even a sign a block from here that has the same word that’s tattooed over his heart, along with http://www.exploreHISNAME.ca under it. It’s torture. I think (?) he knows this. So his silence over text is extra tough on my soft Cancerian heart.

But it’s my last day in my early-forties and the heat wave finally broke. I’ve got a solid bike ride with my kids planned today and a lot of doing nothing. I’m putting a reminder on my phone that says, “Men ain’t shit” (saw that here) to remind myself that I don’t need some dude taking up my valuable brain space. Show up for me in the way I need or fuck right off. That’s what being in my mid-forties is going to be about.

When reading about Viconte de Valmont now, having not seen the film in many years, it’s clear that he raped Cecile and that in the novel that is expressed as a way to seduce an inexperienced woman. I’m writing that point down because memory and the mind are funny and are often not to be trusted. My fantasizing about this older, experienced conquistador taking control of my body is flawed. You can imbue any relationship or experience with the lens of your choosing. I must be vigilant to ask, “Is that true?” of any idea I concoct around these relationships and my thoughts about them. Because it would be so easy to manufacture something that’s not there and then wake up a decade in, wondering how you got there. Wondering why this person is not the person you fell in love with. And I’m just not willing to fall into that trap again. I’m worth too much for that.

I see London, I see France

You saw that headline coming, didn’t you? I mean, Gap Year!

Two weeks ago, I swore I’d swear them all off. After turning down 27 when I realized I’d never be attracted to him, and then gracefully cutting my emotional tie to Ali, I thought about Mr. Saturday Night and Le Prof and I thought, “I’m done with the bullshit.”

Well, I didn’t totally get there on my own. My BFF, Boss Lady, and I reviewed the current cast of characters in my life, and she was blunt. “I don’t think any of these guys are the one to move ahead with.” She pointed out that I left the father of my children because I ran out of tolerance for his bullshit, so why was I going to take bullshit from this lot? Do I need to put up with a sextaholic and a dude who only texts about the weather? DO BETTER, MEN!

So I mentally shifted, had good food and hangouts with my pals, went dancing, laughed until I cried. And then of course, the men sensed it, because the universe likes to fuck with me, and well, I’m weak. Le Prof asked me for coffee on the first sunny Sunday of the year and given my “everyone gets two dates” rule, I said oui. We met on a cafe patio. I was casually late and he glanced at his watch and gave me a disapproving look. I ignored it, because fuck it. He was late on our last date. I was even. If that makes me petty, so be it.

I’ll admit that I’d been put off by his nightly requests to “play,” his seemingly insatiable appetite for sexting was wearing thin, and part of my nonchalant attitude was born there. (He claims he’s insatiable only for/because of me.) But in person, he was completely charmant again, instantly intelligent and funny, completely respectful. Knee to knee, we spoke at great length about grey issues around race, religion, politics, responsibility. He spoke to me mostly in French, and I tried to summarize my understanding. “The French lessons are free if you stick with me,” he quipped. I’m a pretty intelligent woman who can see through a lot, but when it comes to men, I am a dripping wet mess over an accent and a foreign language. If he is sexually driven by the visual, for me the turn on is mental and aural.


Am I a fucking sapiosexual? I don’t like that word, mostly because the guys in apps who say they are one are full of shit. (A sapiosexual is a person who finds intelligence attractive or arousing.) But I’m realizing that for me, everything sexual happens in those early conversations: the flirting, the witty banter, the ability to volley back some sexy sarcasm. I can’t imagine a life without this spice. It’s everything for me. The question is: Is it sustainable?

“This is my favourite week,” Le Prof sighed, reminding me that the Sunday prior, our entire city was hiding indoors due to a snowstorm. “In just a week it can go from winter to spring,” he enthused en français. What a great metaphor for life that we should all remember, I said, smiling at the discovery that I liked this man. Le Prof continued to French my ears with his sentences and when it was time to go, we French kissed on the sidewalk, and I didn’t care if the whole world was driving by the busy avenue watching us. My city was Paris in that moment, the pair of us a cliché Robert Doisneau black and white photograph.

robertdoisneau

I have since been completely forthright with Le Prof as we try to navigate two equally complicated schedules. I told him I don’t want to be asked to sext all the time when we haven’t even actually had sex yet. I told him I don’t have much time to date, but if he’s willing to get to know me and be patient, that eventually our schedules might line up to make room for this. He responded, “To be clear, I’m not looking for sex. I’m looking for extraordinary sex. Let me know when you have three hours, not 30 minutes.” Um, hot. We shall see…


A few days later, I dressed pretty, let my hair go free and big and wild (my ex preferred me to straighten it) and sat at a bar in a dark woody establishment, waiting for Mr. Saturday Night. It was finally the day of days, the date I’d invited him to weeks before, because the event was a mix of museum and theatre and if you’ve been reading, you might recall that he’s a hyphen of these elements.

When he arrived, I had a glass of red, because happy hour was ending and it had been a LOOOONG news cycle full of emotions. Being hyperbolic by nature, one can only imagine where my head was at. I have two states:

THE SKY IS FALLING! < – – – – – – – >  EVERYTHING IS AMAZING AND WONDERFUL!

But as soon as I saw him, you can guess which camp I switched into. In fact, just thinking about laying eyes on him makes my stomach flip-flop. I get that he’s an actor and they are supposed to be beautiful, but wow, he just does it for me, and it’s not just the sparkle in his eye and his adorable mannerisms. He was wearing a black button down shirt with a black tie and a black blazer and dark jeans and I nearly fell off my barstool, but managed to keep it cool. I think.

NOTEWORTHY: Guys! I made it to Date 3!

“What’d I miss?” the Fantastic Mr. Foxy Saturday Night asked with a sly smile.

“Well, you have 10 minutes to decide if you are into buck-a-shuck oysters,” I informed him, secretly hoping he was, because oysters! To my delight he was totally game. We talked about our work weeks, his big project, his health and his daughter, and I will leave out the details but just say that he’s so damn easy to talk to.

We headed to our event across the street and immediately he recognized a beautiful woman in a smart suit standing out front. They embraced and caught up while I stood back a bit, observing the scene. I had a feeling this would happen, and I wanted to pay attention to how I reacted. She was a big deal in the theatre world and as we walked away he casually mentioned that they had been lovers. To my surprise, only the slightest pang of jealousy. The overwhelming feeling was a thrill and also the relief at having met someone who could just come out and tell me the truth. This is who he is, George Clooney, minus the Lake Como house, a 50-something eternal bachelor, a lover of women. If we make it to date 4 or 17, I’m sure there would be a lot of former lovers we’d run into. (I’m pretty certain we’d run into some current ones too.) The old me would have hated this, but since I am adopting a “Holly Golightly meets Rey the Jedi” mentality about dating (I belong to no one, no one belongs to me, I belong to no one, no one belongs to me), I allowed myself to just be a bit removed and enjoy the scene.

hollygolightly

He worked at the event space at one time and knew some of the staff, who were all happy to see him. I’ll bet he was lovely to every person he worked with, from the lowest rung to the highest, I can see this already, even in just a month or so of knowing him. He introduced me to his friend the bartender, and we got free drinks. As he walked through the atrium saying hello to people he recognized, I noticed the way I was being seen. Everyone who saw me with him looked at me like I was the flavour of the month, which again, is my perception, I have no actual proof of it. But I found it thrilling. I’ve never been anyone’s younger arm candy before, not that I can recall, and now in my 40s, it’s exciting to be seen this way. To be with Mr. Saturday Night is to be “one of many” and I wonder if my girl Amal felt this way when initally out with the Cloon-dogger.


We enjoyed the presentation, whispering in each other’s ears throughout. Man I wanted him to take my hand, but alas, no. I’m chalking it up to “he wants to pace it.” But compared to 27, who was adorably handsy in the movie theatre, and Le Prof, who texts throughout the day in an attempt to connect, Mr. SN is distant. But while frustrating, that’s more about me and my need for attention than anything. Watching/observing it, because it was an issue in my marriage too. It’s how I ended up with Theo; I found his distance was catnip for me, because it made him less attainable. The new Maria wants EQUAL ENTHUSIASM. Something to explore, for sure.

Mr. Saturday Night and I toured the galleries of ancient European empires afterwards and I was tempted to pull him into a dark corner and snog him with a coy, “When in Rome…” but I resisted. I need a better mantra going forward than, “Don’t let him sense how much you want him to kiss you!” We talked about a big exhibit he was curating and he mentioned a reception for it, then, after a beat, “You should come.” I told him I was going out of town and would miss it, but would love to see it at another opportunity. To be honest, it’s too soon to meet “his people,” especially in my “flavour of the month” capacity, and I was relieved to have an out.

We talked about our big breakups over wine and cheese, he mentioned that he’s got no sexual bucket list but that he’s into it, he just knows what he likes at his age. Interesting in contrast with Le Prof, who is in a mode of sexual exploration… I wonder which man has had more lovers? Then Mr. SN asked if I’d slept with anyone since my husband left and I told him that I’d had a “friends with benefits” situation, but that had ended recently. I told him I have no expectations right now, that it’s like I have a Eurail pass and I’m moving from town to town. I’m not ready to settle yet. He laughed and nodded in approval. “So in 20 years, you’ve slept with two men?”

I think I got a bit defensive at that. He wasn’t accusatory, he didn’t mean anything by it, just an observation, but my response was something to do with the fact that I had a lot of practice in those years and I’d learned a few things. But have I? Am I as good as I think I am? Suddenly I felt nervous.

Somehow we recovered from that moment and noticed that we were the last two non-employees still sitting there. He and his bike walked me to the subway in the rain. At the doors to the subway, there was a “So I’ll see you when I see you?” kind of awkwardness in him, and I was sure he liked me too. And then there was a kiss, a soft wet kiss in the rain that intensified and I so tried to keep my hands at my side but I couldn’t help but lift a hand to his beautiful face and stroke his bearded chin. So if this were a London kiss, it might be like Mr. Darcy kissing Bridget Jones. There are disappointingly few famous London kisses, which is something to consider. Is Mr. SN a Mr. Darcy? Can there be parallels to their cool as a cucumber ways being misconstrued as disinterest? Is he just an introvert? I don’t know, but two epic kisses in a week was nice.

bridgetjoneskiss
What’s next? I don’t know, but I’m rolling with it. I’m learning that I overbook myself all the time and for the first time ever, my pace is exhausting even ME! Why do I need to fill all the spaces with activities? I’m booked until June! So I made a point of going through my calendar and marked off a few dates that I should keep open just for dates. I marked off some quiet time too. I’m trying to get to a space of quitting, I think, of saying no to the pull of DOING ALL THE THINGS. I read this great piece in the NYT on this concept and I’m going to let it marinate. I need to learn when to step back and observe, as I did that night with Mr. Saturday Night, but in my own life. If I don’t make space, if I fill all the gaps, I will never make time to mindfully clear out the warehouse of my mind and soon it will be filled with debris and old lawn chairs again. Off for a really long walk in silence in the sunshine. À bientôt.

I’m getting ready

Why do we always rush the ready? Is it fear that we’ll wait too long and miss an opportunity? Do we lack the faith that another opportunity will come along?

I think there’s something in there about faith. It’s a big theme in the book I haven’t been writing because I’ve been here spinning yarns and trying to process what is happening in my brain and in my heart.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Michael Kiwanuka this week, and so I’ll take my inspiration from him. Listen along here.

Oh my
I didn’t know what it means to believe
Oh my
I didn’t know what it means to believe

Do I still believe in love? And what kind of love is it that I believe in? Eckhardt Tolle says that “true love has no opposite” but how many married couples believe that they love each other, yet can also feel a deep resentment bordering on hatred when their partner does something as offensive as putting the toilet paper roll on the wrong way? (YES THERE IS A WRONG WAY! It’s OVER not under, fuck off already.)

My friend Gryff often asks, “What do you believe?” We’ll be in a meeting trying to solve something complex about our business and he will always bring it right back to beliefs. I don’t give beliefs enough credit or brain space. What do I believe?

My favourite belief rant of all time is performed by Kevin Costner in the film Bull Durham. I will leave it here for you (he kicks in at about 1:04).

“Well, I believe in the soul… the cock…the pussy… the small of a woman’s back… the hangin’ curveball… high fiber… good scotch… that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent overrated crap… I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a Constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. Goodnight.”

If I had a similar sermon it would be as follows:

“Well, I believe in the soul… that men and women are deliciously different but deserve equal rights… homemade granola… good bourbon… libraries… the curve of a man’s hipbone as best exhibited by Brad Pitt in Fight Club… that Big Bang Theory is indulgent overrated crap… I believe in eye contact that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up… I believe that life is too short for cheap shoes and crappy champagne. I believe in celebrating the over-the-topness of Celine Dion and the Spice Girls, but that indie singer-songwriters offer a path to enlightenment. I believe that your heels may never touch the ground in downward dog, that it’s about the journey not the destination, that Montreal is the most romantic city on earth. And I believe in seizing the moment via long, slow, deep kisses that happen in the 30 seconds before a movie starts. Goodnight.”

Needs work, I’ll admit.

But if I hold on tight, is it true?
Would You take care of all that I do?
Oh Lord
I’m getting ready to believe

Religion and spirituality have long given us an all or nothing approach. Either you believe in what they are selling or you’re out. But my book offers an alternate path for those seeking for something to help them feel tethered in a storm. So many of us shy away from admitting to some kind of belief system, because saying you believe means you’re either a bible thumper, an extremist or a new-age-y fluffernutter. Believing isn’t cool anymore. Unless it’s in a sports team. In true patriarchal style, the last bastions of belief are either extremely rigid or involve a score. Fuck that.

Oh my
I didn’t know how hard it would be
Oh my
I didn’t know how hard it would be

If I’m honest, I’ve been apprehensive to talk about the subject of my book for that exact reason. And it’s been hard to write it. Because the format of writing a book is nothing like writing a blog post or a magazine article. But also, because maybe I didn’t believe that I could do it. And maybe it’s time to have some faith.

But if I hold on tight, is it true?
Would You take care of all that I do?
Oh Lord
I’m getting ready to believe

I’m-a-gettin’ ready to believe. To believe that I’ve got this. That the love will come when I love myself, all of me, even the ugly parts. I posted a super unattractive selfie this morning when I was feeling my lowest. I’m so good at sharing the funny or the fun, but I wanted to see what would happen if I posted the other side of me, the one that plagues me with loneliness and self-doubt. The one that’s full of worry that she’s unlovable, that finding someone worthy of her time is so much work and the task seems impossible.

The response was immediate, an outpouring of love followed by quiet DMs from people suffering in silence. In loving what I perceived to be the unlovable in me, I was greeted with love. Pretty sweet.

And hey, there are parallels! Journalling through your grief allows you to find them. It’s wonderful! What do you do when a task seems too mountainous? You break it down into smaller chunks, into milestones. And writing a book and finding someone to love will both need goal posts to look towards, something to measure oneself against to understand if the achievements and work being done is leading somewhere meaningful.

This involves lists, and I motherfucking LOVE LISTS! Lists I can do. I think. Nah, I BELIEVE.

Then we’ll be waving hands, singing freely
Singing standing tall, it’s now coming easy
Oh, no more looking down, honey, can’t you see?
Oh Lord, I’m getting ready to believe

So I’m getting ready. I know I have to deal with my debt. I’ve been spending stupidly to fill holes in my heart. I need to face that beast before I can consider sharing a life with someone else.

There are a few stragglers from the reno I did around the time that Theo left. I need to complete those and make keeping my space wonderful and inspiring part of my daily practice. To lovingly put things in their homes once I’ve rid our space of ghosts and goblins, AKA the bits of Theo that still hang about the house. I need to mindfully make my bed, like it’s a prayer to have someone great sleep in it, next to me, my hand on his chest, my ear to his heart. That’s a goal worth mindfully pursuing.

I need to practice a morning routine that feeds me. Which means I need to practice a meaningful bedtime routine. I’ve been nagging myself about this for a while, but I want to really try to achieve it. It’s a worthy goal, because it sets me up for hygiene habits that help to ground me and balance my mind.

Then we’ll be waving hands singing freely
Singing standing tall it’s now coming easy
Oh no more looking down, honey, can’t you see?

Spring is technically here, but it’ll be a month before the weather makes me feel like it’s aligned with the calendar. I can’t wait to take my bike out, and maybe I’ve been stalling on that because of the weather and just need to suck it up. I’ve been going to the gym, and need to make exercise a habit, because it sets me up for feeling sexy and wanting to have sex with men who are not going to be my life partner, but are going to teach me a whole lot of things about myself.

I’m not saying I can’t be with men before these list items are tackled, but I can’t seek out someone truly meaningful until I get my house in order, my inner house and my physical house. I’m not ready for the big show yet, but I’m-a-gettin’ ready.

Mr. Saturday Night left me with that breadcrumb about his dog and I decided (with some feedback from my inner council) to leave it there. Because fuck. I don’t want breadcrumbs. I want a meal. I want the fact that I kissed a man in the front seat of his car to leave him slightly breathless with anticipation of where that kiss might go. I want him to be considerate enough to tell me I’ve crossed his mind when I have. I want to believe that he’s not so much like my ex-husband (though so far, signs point to yes). I want him to believe that I could be a lot of fun, and that I’m mature enough to not get carried away imagining that we’re in love when all it’s going to be is a summer of fun.

I want to learn how to be that person, frankly. I want to not go into a tizzy every damn time a dude doesn’t text. I want to be strong enough to walk away, because that’s not for me. Fuck yes, or no. I gotta start saying no to guys who are skim milk. I want cream. Come full fat or fuck off.

Oh Lord, I’m getting ready
Oh Lord, I’m getting ready
Oh Lord, I’m getting ready to believe

Keep moving

Mr. Saturday Night sent a text about his adorable dog, 24 hours after my text thanking him for our lovely night out. Which, not sure what I’m supposed to do with that, but experiencing my own impatience mindfully has been interesting.

If this is indeed my Gap Year, then why am I freaking out because I’m smitten with London? I still have all of Europe to explore! I haven’t even been to South America! There’s a whole world of experiences out there. Why the pressure to hang out in one city for so long?

Here’s the thing: Dating strangers is hard. I mean aside from having to take precautions as a woman to protect yourself from creeps. It takes a lot of energy to talk to strangers and get their stories, and then assess what their stories mean about them and how their stories might intertwine with your own stories. Where will the pain points be? What will trigger you?

You end up reading between the lines. Like when Date #4 (I haven’t told you about him yet) talked about his marriage ending, he kept stumbling and glossing over some key painful memory — that I assume means he eventually cheated on his wife and he doesn’t want to talk about it, because that would mean justifying his behaviour. And then I have to assess, do I see him as “Once a cheater, always a cheater?” Or do I accept that this human fucked up because he was hurting and has since found the language and the means of expression (he paints) to work through it?

What about him will piss me off? What about me will piss him off?

Dating strangers takes time, and coordination. It’s a volume game—you gotta kiss a lot of seemingly sweet frogs (and a few toads) before you find the prince, or something like that. I don’t believe in fairy tales anymore (pretty sure that The Princess Bride ruined me for life), but the frog/prince analogy does stand up when it comes to setting your dating expectations.

Then someone captures your imagination and suddenly all you can think about in boring meetings is how much you want to fast forward to the date where he takes your clothes off. Except you don’t really want that to happen so fast, because what if he’s bad in bed and then this part of the fantasy is no longer delicious and now you have different things to occupy your brain? Ugh. It’s a lot for a neurotic over-thinker to deal with.

And is the end result worth it? Lasting love is so rare and so much work. So really what we are banking on is the smiley, giddy, floaty feelings of early love. We are, as a society, addicted to the feelings of early love. Many of us do not see the payoff from the effort required for love to evolve into a thing of beauty; a sharp, jagged piece of glass that’s been slammed against the shore so many times that it becomes perfectly polished beach glass that you want to put in a jar and admire.


I also have to remember that not every “city” I travel to in my Gap Year will cause me pain. I have to resist the desire to be pain-averse. I have to resist the urge to never let another man make me cry again. Because love is worth it.

I think. I have been taught to believe. And in the meantime, learning how to be friends with men, determining which kinds of men will feed me and fuel me forward into my journey, well that’s the lesson of the Gap Year.

And because dating is so tough and leaves one so vulnerable, the urge to stop and put roots in the first “city” I find adorable is an impossible pull to resist. You want to explore. You’ve only seen the shop windows, you don’t have a favourite bar yet. You’re just getting your bearings. But hey girl, don’t stress, you’re gonna breeze back through here the moment someone sends you a ticket.

Head to the next city. See what it’s about. How do you feel there? What will you learn? Don’t get attached. Don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t start fantasizing about bringing all your friends to be charmed by this city (I am so doing this with Mr. SN already – mentally planning outings with him and the friends of mine who will adore him).

That’s the other thing. Is part of the pull of Mr. SN the fact that he’s so fucking charming? We are all looking for mirrors, aren’t we? Am I smitten because he adds value to my identity or because he adds spirit to my soul? I dunno, but I like this town. My brain is growing in this town, this town makes my stomach flip flop, so I’m definitely coming back to London. I’m not done exploring yet.

But in the meantime, I’ve got a trip to Paris booked on Thursday.

Show me, show me, show me

I’m watching Lovesick on Netflix and feeling this final season intensely. Like the show just got good halfway through the last season. Mostly because the lothario, Luke, finally gets a soul. Do you watch the show? It’s British show about some roommates/friends and the messy relationships they get in and out of. No one on the show is particularly accomplished career-wise, and the main love interest, Dylan, is a bit one-dimensional. He’s needy and pouty and I don’t get why Evie loves him. But the Luke storyline really gets me.

None of this has anything to do with the fact that I went on another three dates this weekend. Except it does. I think the main theme of Lovesick is trying to understand why the heck we are so obsessed with the idea of love. Why is it elusive? Why do we AGONIZE over it? Why can’t we get this right?

I am in overthinking zone again. As I have ZERO CHILL, I wasn’t very patient about Mr. Saturday Night at all. After some weird texts about the weather during the week, (and one text where I was hoping he was on my side of town so I could steal him for a drink), there were still no date invites or inquiries into my time. I caved and sent a “Friday!” Because, hello, it’s been two weeks, and I truly DID want to see him again. I wanted to know if the magic I felt on the previous date still held.

Also, since we’re being truthful and all-revealing here, because I really need to sleep with someone who is not Ali already, so I can gracefully exit that which does not feed me.

Anyway, I’m kind of mad at myself, because if “Fuck yes, or no” applies, then I should have just chilled out. Because he’s not in the “Fuck yes!” camp. I’m getting vibes, but they are not clear.


Compare that to 27. 27 is adorable and charming and eager to hang out. He messaged me mid-week wondering what I was up to, and I decided to invite him to see some French cinema with me. I had wrongly assumed that he was a cinema guy—he was not. But he was eager to hang and joined me anyway.

The short films were bizarre but endearing, early feminist New Wave cinema. Right up my fucking alley. I was curious about the director, and so thrilled I went. When you’re a mom, going to see a film that is not a Hollywood blockbuster feels really frivolous. I mention this to 27, how I love the deliciousness of anyone who gives their life to art, and how experiencing it is akin to what eating caviar must feel like for some. He shrugs in his young man of privilege way and acknowledges that he may not have money or career stability, but he’s wealthy in time. Sigh. 27.

He holds my hand in the movie and has his hand on my knee. His palms get sweaty. And as soon as I know the final short is over and we have maybe 30 seconds of darkness, I lean in and kiss him. But it’s meh. No spark.

We walk for a good half hour. It’s too cold to hold hands. He tells me he likes heavy metal and I tell him that one of the things about being in your 40s is that you realize, “I’m probably never going to like heavy metal.” His first Radiohead show would have been my fourth or fifth. In the 16 years between us my entire adult life happened. We part ways at the subway and kiss again. My takeaways are that I like boys who hold my hand and make their desires clear through body language, but who go slow and respect my need for pacing. I decide he is voted off the island and delete him from my spreadsheet when I get home.


I have a spreadsheet and a document. Both are called Project Equal. In them I document what I learned from each date. I am gathering my requirements for the ultimate project: finding my equal. I am listening to my gut and learning what I want and need. What are must-haves, nice-to-haves and deal breakers.

I have watched Amy Webb’s TED talk on winning at online dating via creating your algorithm. It makes sense to me, though I don’t agree with her scoring system. I decide I will give each human two dates, unless the first one goes HORRIBLY wrong (don’t worry, that story is coming), because the first date can sometimes be misread. People can be off their game. Also the second date allows you to confirm if your gut was right.

 

Anyway, Project Equal deserves its own post, because it should have holes poked in it by you, fair reader. So let’s just leave it for now and come back to it later in the week, k?


So, “Friday!”

A bit of vague and flirty exchanges happen. I’m not being direct because I’m hoping he will make the move, but that’s not his style. He wants me to be clear. He pulls it from me slowly. When I finally say, “I’m busy tonight, but free Saturday and Sunday,” he finally asks, “What would you like to do tomorrow night?” If he wasn’t into me he’d say he’s busy, right?

Oh god, he finishes his points with, “Right?” a lot of the time and it makes my stomach dizzy just thinking about it. 

So I answer, “Cosy bar and continued conversation for starters? Preferably with an actor/historian/museum curator…”

“Sounds great, I hope you mean me.”

I DO mean him. I adore that he’s a slash. Actor-slash-historian-slash-museum curator. In fact his deep passion for his work is one of the sexiest things about him. Did I mention actor? He also happens to be gorgeous.

We make plans to meet on my side of town. It’s like tourism for him.


I am in the bar and awkwardly trying to decide if I should just sit at the window bar or wait to be seated, when I see him. My heart does a little flip flop but way under the waistband of my jeans.

I was hoping to have my sheets out of the dryer and my bed made, the house tidied before this date, just in case. But when it became clear that my bed would be covered in laundry, I changed out of my best dress into jeans and one of my favourite tops.

I’m aware that nothing may come of this. But I also don’t want to blow it. I throw out all my own advice about always being yourself and being confident. I’m not confident about this AT ALL. “Don’t be a dork Maria,” I tell myself, but tonight teenage Maria decides she’s driving. He crosses the street like James Dean, wearing a black leather jacket. He walks in and we kiss on the mouth, a sultry peck, as though this is how we always greet each other.

Again, we talk for three hours straight. My head is swimming when I’m with him, because he’s a walking encyclopedia. I learn a few things beyond our city’s history too, about exes and family and health. He asks thoughtful questions and at some point I’m acutely aware that I’m looking at him the way I looked at Jude Law one evening in London.

(Allow me this sidebar: I was sitting out back on St. Martin’s Lane in 1999, after just seeing Cate Blanchett in Plenty, writing in my journal about the experience, when good ol’ Mr. Gattaca walked past and I was gobsmacked. I’d spotted him in the audience that evening and paid 45p for binoculars to get a better look, but now here he was, three feet from me! Jaw on the ground, he noticed my face, waved and said hello.)

This is kind of how I imagine I’m looking at Mr. SN when he talks about Stalin or the mother of his child. He is magic for me, a curious mind who loves to be a sponge. Part of me wants him to be bossy, to teach me. He’s only 6-7 years older than me, but there’s something statesmanly about him. Every hair on my body is standing on end as I think about him.

My brain is at war. “Stop looking at him like you want him to kiss you,” is battling against, “Send strong kissing vibes so he knows to move in.” The music is awesome tonight, 80s New Wave, ska and alternative predominantly, and the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” comes on and I’ve never wished for a kiss so hard. But it’s too obvious. He’s the master of moments, or so I suspect because of his theatre background. So regardless of what I do with my body language, he is not moving in, and I am forced to behave and heave with anticipation. He’s storytelling about storytelling and I’m enthralled. He makes the sign of the “come hither” with his hands, but it’s in context to what he’s saying (“You won’t believe what happened next…”) and I make a note to work on including that move in my seduction if I ever get the chance.

“I’d bet his hands would feel nice on your boobs right now,” says my teenage alligator brain.

Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream she said
The one that makes me laugh she said
Threw her arms around my neck
Show me how you do it and I’ll promise you
I’ll promise that I’ll run away with you, I’ll run away with you

Finally, he says, should we go? Or something to that effect. We split the bill, he offers to drive me home. He wears these hot glasses to drive and I am LOSING it, people! He drives a station wagon, which is so my jam, and I don’t even realize what a massive dork I’m being. Because, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!


We banter about the neighbourhood. He’s so lost, but I guide him to my curb. Do I invite him in? Well no. The house is a mess and I have my period, and I am striving for “start as you mean to continue,” except I’ve started as a horny teenager.

I don’t say any of this out loud and we comfortably chat in the car until horny teenager wins and I lean way over to him and say, “Well you are cute and charming, thanks for a great evening,” and I kiss him. We bonk noses first (because, of course), and then French a bit, but I’m not being mindful at all. I’m a nervous bunny and my heart and brain think that Morrissey is still playing and they are at the Dance Cave. I clumsily break away, say, “Ah, I’ve been wanting to do that ALL NIGHT!”

“All night, hmm,” he replies with a devlish grin. I say an awkward goodnight and run up the stairs, because I’m teenage Maria who has NO GAME.

I woke up this morning thinking, “God! You were terribly presumptuous! Nothing about his body language said you should kiss him. You should have asked first. You should text him and acknowledge that maybe you crossed a line.”

Other side of the brain, “What?! He kissed you back! Isn’t that sign enough? STOP overthinking it!!”

I last until 10:30 am before texting him. No. Response. All day. Which means nothing. I know he had a super busy day. But gah! Did I fuck this up? Do I want to be doing this to myself? Is any man worth this? Am I never going to be able to date because I can’t get my brain to shut the fuck up?

My ex, whom I keep swearing I’m never going to have a dating conversation with ever again, chastises me when I try to get his take. “Play it cool! We’re not 25. Dudes like to chase! Let him chase you!” But that’s a fucking game and I don’t want to play. I just want to be authentic, I just want to be me with my guard down and lay it all on the table, but I have so much more practicing to do. I decided today that whatever happens, happens. One moment at a time. Slow down. You don’t have to rush it. Patience. Patience.

Patience.

“Fuck yes, or no.” I’m firmly in camp “Fuck yes” here. But is he? And if he isn’t, well, shrug, I have to let it go. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me two enchanting evenings of story sharing. I do sincerely hope it’s not over yet, I have so many more questions to ask him. If it’s a go to the next round, I’m going to take a break from dating others for a bit to explore this one, slowly. I want to do this mindfully. I want to savour this feeling.

You
Soft and only
You
Lost and lonely
You
Strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You’re just like a dream
You’re just like a dream

 

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.

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.