Smashed, sex, skunk, smashed, serenity

I should have known when my horoscope suggested the hell that would erupt from three planets being in retrograde. But what does one do when they only kinda-sorta believe in astrology? Stay in bed for a month? Not an option.

It has been A WEEK! What happened to me was enough to put most people in hospital. I’m shaking my head trying to understand why I am still standing—with a smile on my face, no less. I have truly, never felt more grateful to be alive, healthy, with most of my mental health in tact.

A day after dancing to Stevie Wonder in a field under the super powerful Blood Moon, I had a fairly busy day. I picked up the adorable dog of Zofia and Lars (of the Peaches), whom I had offered to watch for a week while they travelled around Europe. Saw the movie Eighth Grade with my “cinema gay,” a dear friend for almost two decades whom I love going to see art house films with. Then ended up going to see a Chicago House DJ I was a big fan of…

The women I went with (my Witches crew) were all doing E or M or whatever the kids call it these days, because the late night house music scene does pair nicely with a lick. I have not touched the stuff since 2003, and with all the fentanyl-laced horror stories I’d heard of the current stuff going around, I decided not to chance it 15 years later. Also, I’m a 40-something mom, and given I’m already playing in enough spaces that would make my children shudder, I decided to pass. Instead I got stupidly, embarrassingly drunk; the kind of drunk where you don’t realize you’re drunk or how much you’ve been drinking so you keep going because you’re in a social situation that makes you feel a bit out of your element.

I was so drunk that I picked up a HUGE Georgian man with a thick accent, but not so drunk that I gave him my real name and number. But drunk enough that I left before the Chicago DJ came on, because I’d puked in the bathroom and had the spins.


The following day, I convalesced in my “convalescing chair” (AKA a zero-gravity chair). I knew I had to pull it together eventually, because I’d offered to make Mr. Saturday Night dinner. I am getting used to the parameters of this relationship: We meet, we have a toast and share stories over food, and it’s often book-ended by seriously hot sex.  Every. Other. Week. There is some sporadic texting in between, which we’ve established is not his A-game.

BUT HELLO! I have an attentive lover with a cool job and an incredible mind. He is gorgeous and makes me laugh and literally asks nothing of me. He still doesn’t hold my hand, but to be honest, we’re not walking down the street so much these days. I can’t recall what it was that I asked him a few weeks ago, but something along the lines of, “How come we haven’t gone to X together?” And he replied, simply, “Because we are doing this at the moment,” and then proceeded to make me have an orgasm that shot out the top of my head.

I AM HAVING HOT SEX.

And yet I am not able to stay there, in the “I am having hot sex” zone. I’m constantly wondering if we’re veering into a relationship, or what that looks like, and what my people would think of him, and, and, and. Why? We’ve already established that this current affair is all I have space for at the moment. Are we so programmed by society to try to turn every encounter into a “RELATIONSHIP”? I am truly trying to be mindful of this and reprogram myself. This is so good right now. Enjoy it, Maria.

I will blame my hangover on the stupid decisions I made that night. We were in the midst of insanely hot sex, in between sex courses, if you will. And so it wasn’t a “condom on” moment and somehow he slipped inside me. And I didn’t immediately jump off. Instead I had a beautiful, shuddering orgasm with him unsheathed and inside of me.

We had had a discussion about birth control, namely that I feel like I spent too long taking synthetic hormones and didn’t want to do that again. I have done my duty for procreation and avoiding it, and I don’t want it to be mostly my responsibility anymore. Also, everybody is fucking everybody in this brave new world and I don’t want a disease. And yet, it happened. And I didn’t stop it.

Condoms protect you against pregnancy and disease, but what I didn’t account for was that condoms also protect you against FEELS. Everything about the experience felt so intimate. I suppose firsts always are. But this subtle act, whose impact could be HUGELY disruptive (or even deadly), changed the nature of “us,” leaving me so vulnerable and tender, that when he left I could feel myself falling.

AND I FREAKED THE FUCK OUT.

If I was falling, was he falling too? Should I allow myself to fall? Should I, instead, consider dating other people to prevent myself from falling? I made a panicked call to Dr. X the next morning, who reminded me that I’m an adult, who is smart and— when grounded—is not going around subconsciously choose another version of my ex. “Give yourself a break!” she admonished. And she’s right, I’m too hard on myself, and my childhood patterns of being made to feel like I shouldn’t trust myself, my own gut, because I’m too sensitive, too romantic, too trusting rear their ugly inner voice. A lifetime of being gaslighted. I second guess myself. I forget that no one can know me like I know myself. I forget that I, too, am trying to choose what is best for me, what will protect me from getting hurt again.


Later that week, reading out on the back deck, adorable dog at my feet, I caught the faintest whiff of skunk musk and decided we should come in. I tried to coax my sweet charge in. He made it to the threshold, looked into my eyes and was suddenly off like a shot. It took a moment to understand what he’d caught by the neck in the back bushes, until the overwhelming stench took over. This sweet little, maybe 18-pound dog had just viciously murdered a skunk. What. The. Fuck. Was. I. Supposed. To. Do. Next?

I have little experience with dogs, and frankly dogsitting was an attempt to see if we could manage adding a canine love to our family. But now I was in over my head. What do I do? Tomato juice? No that’s a myth, I think. Uh, uhhhh, uh… I called Theo. Out of habit. He was just about to go to bed and offered to Google it for me. Um, thanks?

I hung up and called my pal Blanche from up the street, who has lots of experience with dogs. She had all the stuff and drove over, helping me to bathe a dog for the first time, one who was covered in skunk musk, no less. I bathed him again the next morning and decided that if I’ve experienced one of the worst things a dog owner can live through, then maybe I could hack being a dog owner after all.

(I made Theo come over to deal with the skunk carcass and bought him dinner as thanks.)


I put the rotting skunk in several plastic bags and out on the curb for the city to pick up. Then I passed it, stinking in the flaming hot sun, while I packed the car for a week away at the beach with the kids. I was so proud of myself, covered in bike grease, tits sweating, for doing it all by myself.

On the way up, I decided at some point to stop using GPS navigation and to teach my kid how to use a map instead. But GPS had rerouted us to avoid traffic and we were on unfamiliar roads. My kid got distracted and we missed a turn onto another highway. I was so eager to get up there and to start the holiday (especially after the week I’d had), that I turned into a farm house driveway to get back to the missed highway. I perceived a break in traffic and proceeded.

BAM!

An SUV was approaching and I’d somehow failed to see it, as had my co-pilot. In milliseconds, the front of our car was shaved clean off. My children were beside themselves with fear and panic. I felt beyond terrible. What had I done?

Fortunately, by a complete miracle, no one was hurt. The tow truck driver said that even a second difference in the collision, our car would have flipped. The officer was incredibly kind and compassionate. (And hella handsome. In fact, I considered trying to find him after to ask him out.) We were a short drive from a key landmark by the cottage we were staying at, so the tow truck driver took us there, where family members met us to help us take our things to the house, before our car was towed away. We are incredibly lucky. We were on the beach two hours after the incident. I had to check if I had a horseshoe shoved up my arse. I have never been more incredibly grateful to be alive.

I wasn’t distracted by a device, but my mind was so focused on the future, on the destination, that I completely missed the present moment of the journey.

BAM! Life has a way of teaching you the lesson you need to learn.

I am on a journey with Mr. SN. He is a gift, a miracle of sorts. He is building me up sexually and in some ways spiritually. Whether by what he does, or what he doesn’t do, he is teaching me about boundaries, about choices and decisions and consequences. He is teaching me that some things that I’ve prioritized in the laundry list of things a man should bring to the picnic matter less than I once would have thought, and that other things—ones I hadn’t even considered—matter more.

The universe does not give us what we want. The universe gives us what we need. I clearly wasn’t paying attention to that, and BAM! If you’re reading, I hope this is a reminder to be gentle with yourselves and to be mindful as you go about your day to day.

I have to stop focusing on the destination. I have no spot on a map that I’m trying to get to at the moment, and even if I was, it would be irrelevant, because the future does not exist, except in our minds. By the time we experience “the future,” it is the present. Be present. Be careful. Look both ways, multiple times, before crossing the street. Enjoy the ride. Don’t become obsessed with the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months where you have to wait before proceeding. Proceed when the time is right. Proceed when it’s safe to do so. You will get there eventually, even if you don’t know where “there” is quite yet. In a mindful life, it’s the road shows you where you need to be.

20 years

April 10, 1998 was a Friday. I put on these tight low-rise baby blue printed jeans I had with a slight flare below the knee. I put on my shiny white low-cut tee. I coiffed my bob and put on some Spice Girls-style platform shoes. I wore Cool Water perfume.

I had convinced my inner circle to go with me to the birthday party of this guy I was friends with in college. We were graduating from our program and loads of my school friends would be there. And it was becoming apparent that I had a total mega-crush on the birthday boy.

He was shy and awkward, but possibly the funniest man I’d ever met. His energy was infectious and when we talked about the music and movies we liked, we had so much in common that I wondered how we could have existed our whole lives liking the same things and not have known each other. One day, I got to my locker to find a VHS copy of Stand By Me in it. We had gone for tea and had an intense conversation about how much we both loved that movie. “Barforama! Hahaha!” The romantic gesture made my stomach flipity-flop as I scanned the halls to catch a glimpse of him so I could thank him.

He was slightly dorky, but muscular and bright, and if I’m being honest, beneath his plaid shirts and baggy jeans I saw the potential for someone great. He just needed a bit of work is all, like he was a pre-war cottage with great bones in an up and coming neighbourhood. Little did I know he was a money pit with archaic zoning laws.


The girl everyone thought he had a crush on was there too. She was wearing a crop top that said EVERLAST, the iron-on letters struggling against her robust rack. I thought for sure he was going to go off with the reigning queen of our program, but instead he sat with me, drinking beers while I downed Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

“So, you’re drunk enough, why don’t you go ask Melissa to dance,” I teased.

“Because… I don’t like her that way… I… I like someone else.”

I’m a bastard and prodded until he spit it out. “I like YOU, OK?!” Then we danced, I can’t remember the song but I’m sure there’s a journal in my possession that has it documented. I put the journals in a box with the wedding photo album. They are decaying in my parents’ garage, because I can’t fucking look at them without crying. They are the history books of this great nation that rose to power and then had its borders attacked. They are the Museum of Czechoslovakia and what was once one country is now two. The artifacts cannot reside in the Czech Republic or Slovakia, so they live in no man’s land.

When we danced he asked me to go out with him the next day, but I had plans to see Radiohead the next day, so I asked for a rain check (priorities!). “I’d kiss you,” he slurred, “But I’m too drunk and I don’t want it to be like this.” It wasn’t our first date, but we always marked our togetherness as April 10, his birthday, because we were inseparable from then on. Until we weren’t.


I didn’t mean to ask to take Theo to dinner tonight. I was actually just trying to get him to make his own plans with the kids and his family, but no one in his family has the sensitivity to think that there son or brother might be alone on his birthday and maybe they should do something for him. I knew that he would not ask his friends to do something. People learn from us. And he has spent a lifetime teaching everyone that he is OK on his own. He’s the subject of Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a Rock.”

Except he’s not. I asked him to do the Myers Briggs and he got an E for Extrovert, which surprised me. He pushes everyone away, but like anyone, he wants to be acknowledged and appreciated. So instead of going to see Tinder Nightmares like I REALLY wanted to, I found myself spending $200 and sitting at a table with our kids, the birthday boy and his parents. I even thought to invite Lars (of the peaches) and Zofia to join us.

I got the kids to pick out thoughtful gifts weeks ago. The girl one spent a sick day making a card and decorating wrapping paper that she made herself. I wrote, “Thanks for all you do for me and the kids,” in a card and when he read it this morning he smiled. Somehow the words resonated, which made me sad for all the depressive years when my appreciation could not get through to him.

I know that regardless of how many times I honour him on special days, the sentiment will not be reciprocated. Last year on my birthday, he showed up empty-handed, kids empty-handed, my first birthday with no one. He said, “I wanted to get you something, but I was waiting to get paid.” That’s OK, I said, like I say every year because I expect nothing and yet part of me hopes this is the year he does SOMETHING, a card even. “Yeah, I really wanted to get you a composter.”

Ummmm… why? So every time I take out the garbage, I think of you? How did we get from “Stand By Me in your locker” to “composter”?


When we renovated our first bathroom, back when we were one child in and still so very much in love, we found an antique clawfoot tub. When we flipped it over to paint it, the date embossed on the bottom was April 10, 1940. I’m sure relationships started and ended on that date too. I wonder sometimes about whether couples were happier then, whether expecting less from life was a good thing.

But I’ve only got this life to go on, and I know that we are both happier and more sane. I know that once he got rid of the wife he believed was making him miserable and the job he believed was making him miserable, he could see how much of all this depression was actually on him to own and take care of. He’s starting to do the work and that’s the only gift he can really give me at this point.

My Facebook memories today were mostly painful reminders of me posting birthday greetings to Theo year after year, joking about his disdain for Facebook and praising him as a father, a partner and my best friend. Was I faking it? Did I mean it? Was it real? I’ll never really know.

I spent the dinner feeling like I was in the Twilight Zone. Like everything about it was so familiar. No one in the damn restaurant would imagine we weren’t a couple in a real family doing really family things. We looked so NORMAL and I couldn’t help but think, “What was wrong with this?” I kept looking at my phone for zings from boys, but there was nothing and the kids could sense my discomfort and chastised me for looking at my phone during dinner. So I sat with it, the discomfort, the farce, the “for the good of the children.” I took an Instastory of my prosecco glass and toasted to my character and the high road. My kids were happy. Their dad was happy. And my happiness ebbs and flows, but it’s here goddamit, and I can finally breathe.


To give you a sense of how long a 20-year relationship is or feels like, have a look at this list of other things that will turn 20 in 2018.

My gap year

I saw Ali again. He messaged me after a week away (and forgetting to mention he was working in another province for a week). He got back and realized that he’d just missed my free weekend and was bummed. I was high off my date with Mr. Saturday Night and didn’t feel like indulging him for shit, and yet who knew how MrSN was gonna go? I want to occasionally break one off (or four) as much as the next girl, and Ali is so damn good at making me feel like a goddess. I told him I could maybe find some time and would let him know.

After I made the mistake of inviting MrSN to a late-April event too soon (I’m the consummate planner and this can hurt me as much as help), as much as I wanted to give him my rare free Sunday, he never asked so I left it. Plus, I really do love hanging out with Ali, I just don’t love the long silences in between. I want a daily little zing on my phone, or every few days at least, but Ali can put me on the shelf for far too long for my liking. There’s something about being a considerate partner, one who knows to check in every few days, or just help the cadence along with a “saw this and thought of you” or a “you crossed my mind in a meeting, so just saying hi.” I reluctantly told Ali he could have my Sunday but we needed to DO something other than just shag, because frankly I feel empty when our encounters are only X-rated. To my joy, he agreed with me.

But as the date grew closer, it was clear he had planned nothing. His mind was on the A+ sex (and who could blame him?), but I really want to be treated like more than a plaything, this much I now know. “Will everything be closed for Easter?”

“Looks like you have your homework cut out for you,” I retorted, with a winky face to take the bitchiness out of my text. God! Do some work! Why am I always with men who don’t want to make the effort for me?


My fucking ex told me over Easter brunch that he took his date dancing to new wave music and it took every ounce of energy for me not to reach across the table and poke him with a knife covered in hollandaise sauce. We’ve been chatting casually about our dating lives, which feels good and also weird. But on Sunday, we did the Easter egg hunt at his place and then went for a walk and took the kids out for brunch and all was fine! For the good of the kids, and all that. Until he quietly mentioned that he’d been on his third date in a week with a woman and took her dancing the night before.

Then I was wrecked. Would it have killed him to take me dancing on occasion? He knew how much I love to dance. It’s appalling how little effort it would have taken to make things better with us, effort that he REFUSED to do. Then the wound opens again. “He didn’t love you like that,” it whispers. “He didn’t want to love you like that. He couldn’t love you like that. He didn’t have the capacity to love you like that. He said it over and over and you didn’t want to believe it. Just accept it and let go.”

Because of the Easter parade in his neighbourhood, we came back to my house and they all piled on the couch to watch TV. I had made the aforementioned plans with Ali, because—if I’m honest—having intense sex with him numbs my brain and also makes me feel like I’m rebelling somehow. Like if I fuck Ali for four hours then I’m somehow getting back at Theo. Which the rational part of my brain knows is not true, but the teenage/alligator part of my brain wants to believe is the antidote to feeling sad about how my marriage went out.


My first sexual relationship was like this too. He was terrible for me. Everyone knew it and I knew it too but somehow I was determined to see it differently. I remember cruising downtown on a Saturday night down the city’s main street, passing a median where cute boys were standing and when our car got stopped in the bumper to bumper traffic one yelled out to me, “Hey are you Manny Rodrigo’s girlfriend?” Why yes, I exclaimed, excited that Manny was telling people about me. The boy looked at me and smirked, and just as our car started rolling again, yelled, “He cheats on you ALL THE TIME!”

It was 1992 and skinny eyebrows were all the rage. Linda Evangelista, Helena Christensen, Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington… all the supermodels of the era were sporting them. I was 18 and fashioned my look on Madonna’s Erotica, sporting crop tops with men’s pants and berets and very skinny eyebrows. I came down for dinner one night and my father reprimanded me for making my brows so skinny. “It’s the style,” I argued, “You don’t know anything about FASHION!”

madgeskinnybrows

“You look like a whore.”

I was so mad. What the fuck did he know? I was 18 and newly sexual and did he know how lucky he was to have a daughter who only had one sexual partner at 18? If he thought he had a whore for a daughter, I’d show him. So I drove to see Manny and fucked him silly, putting on my best whore performance.

I know that didn’t hurt my father, because it’s not like a sent him a VHS tape of the event. I also know that having sex with “He cheats on you ALL THE TIME” with no condoms and just birth control pills was fucking stupid (I was SO DAMN lucky it’s not even funny). Just like I know that shagging Ali on Sunday for four hours wasn’t going to hurt Theo. So why do I go there? And why can’t I just own my own sexuality without the idea of a patriarch that I need to get back at, or a kinky man driving my actions so that I don’t have to be accountable for my desires?


But Ali. His apartment was beautifully sunny. He’d put up some photographs and prints with more character since the last time I’d been over. He’s been studying my place and taking notes on what makes it warm and inviting, so I was flattered that he’d made changes after our last conversation about my decor. But I know they are not for me. Ali is about power. His appetite for more is insatiable, and putting pictures in a frame that make him seem like he’s got a strong sense of where he’s from is all part of him trying to stake out his turf in the big world. He is so beautifully complex, but I also worry that the writer in me fills in his blanks in a way that he might not see himself.

Here’s a guy whom I perceive as being often distant or unavailable to me in the way that I want or need a guy to be with me. But when he wants me, Ali WANTS me. He thinks I’m amazing and says things like, “What do you have to be neurotic about! Fine as hell, brilliant, career angled sharply upwards…” He’s a fan, and having sex with him is lovely, because he adores me physically and mentally. But there is no soul connection, and he’s so much an atheist and a logical thinker that I don’t think he gets that.

In his mind, he’s thinks giving me what I’ve stated I want. I asked for a sexual relationship and he delivers. But what’s missing is the other part, the dating and doing stuff together because we actually have fun together. He thinks he’s an open book, and if I ask him questions, he does answer thoughtfully, but part of him is behind a wall somewhere. He’s always a bit cagey because he’s dating so many women and doesn’t know what he wants from his future. And I don’t think he will know until it stops him dead in his tracks.

We cuddled on the couch for a bit and the goal was to go for a walk and then come back to Shag City. We talked about how our dating experiences on the apps were going and he did mention casually—in between kisses—that while we’d started out X-rated, maybe we should consider dating each other officially. Bah! I don’t even know what to make of that? What would be different? So I just kept kissing him until eventually the couch action proved too racy and exciting, so we agreed to change the order of events around and headed to the bedroom.

What followed was epic. Hours of fun with a wee nap in the middle and FIREWORKS at the end. He has this gorgeous skylight that flooded the room with light, and when he spooned me and fell asleep, I could hardly close my eyes for the smiling. He’s definitely a generous lover and is verbal with his praise and adoration of my physical self and my sexual prowess. (Hey, I’m in my FORTIES—I’ve got some chops!) And that is truly yummy in the moment. It’s like buying jeans that make your ass look good. Except with jeans, you can put them on whenever you want. In Ali’s case, the jeans decide when I get to wear them.


Eventually we got up and walked to get a bite to eat. We talked about dating and dating apps and weird experiences. I tried to be thoughtful and ask questions, but there’s something about our conversations that just don’t… FLOW. At least, not for me. We picked a place with a vibe and food that was too pricey. He’d been drinking the night before so he chose a soda and a salad. But I was happy to be with him, happy that he and I can be really honest when we choose to be. Still something niggles at me. Something makes me feel sad when I leave him, and it’s not because I miss him. It’s because there’s something missing in me.

This sadness followed me into the next day and I ended up having what I call a “Bad Divorce Day,” where the grief at the loss, the loneliness and the feelings of being unlovable overwhelm. I know this is bananas, because I have an abundance of love in my life. But there’s this nagging feeling about how hard it will be to actually find someone to partner with who can love me the way I am. Which, as I write this, I know that’s a story I’m going to keep perpetuating if that continues as my focus. I have to work to change the script. And maybe, after running it by Dr. X, the key is going to be to cut both Theo and Ali out of my life to make room for someone who is just right.

I do have a new realization after the events of the past few weeks. I’d like to fall in love again. I’d like to bet it all in the hopes of finding someone to swoon over. What I will no longer do is put any expectations of forever on that someone. Whatever happens happens. I want to be a bit of a tourist. I can love New York and London and Paris and Madrid and Montreal all for different reasons, and I’d like to live in them all before I die. Istanbul will always have my heart, but we aren’t meant to be together for long. There’s something in this metaphor that may be worth exploring while my kids are such a big part of my life. Would it be possible to find a few great men, who would fulfil my emotional and physical needs for a few years until I’m really ready for another life partner? Could it be like visiting my favourite cities over and over again?

Maybe taking a traveller’s approach to dating is the way forward. I’ve decided this is my gap year. The year I try a bunch of experiences to see where the gaps are, what needs filling, and where I need to grow to fill those gaps, rather than filling them with someone else. But if the men I date are like the places I would visit were I 22 and backpacking through Europe, that’s OK, because each destination will be special in its own way for what it teaches me about myself. More to come as I test out this idea.

 

Random thoughts from earlier this week that needed an edit

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

“What are you afraid of now?”

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

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

“How so?”

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

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

Everything’s coming up Winehouse

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Then, boomerang to the face.

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

“Yeah.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Then I watched the movie.

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


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

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

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

The peaches? Perfection.

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.

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