Saturday, April 30, 2011

Finding the Magick

Well, as is the way my life goes, everything went right up to the eleventh hour, stressful and dauntingly harrowing. Now, the good news is that historically this has worked in my favor. When I went to the Mediterranean last year, my flight touchdown was very tight relative to the ship’s departure, closer for comfort than I would have preferred but I hadn’t booked it so I couldn’t really protest in the aftering. Anyway, of course my flight was not only delayed but slower than the pilot had anticipated due to tradewinds or down drafts or the butterfly effect, who knows, and in what could have been hours of blind panic I had to establish a game plan. First thing, don’t panic. Now I am not a particularly Zen person as you may have noticed, I go with the flow but I also think ahead, plan ahead and anticipate every possible (negative) outcome. But in this case I had a mantra; over and over I kept reciting to myself, “The universe does not want you to fail. The universe would not bring you this close to fail. It’s going to be scary but you’re getting all the bad stuff out of the way.” You see, the whole process of even going had been an interesting challenge being that I was traveling with someone already overseas so we were confirming things via very limited email, I only had one narrow little window of opportunity in which the dates worked out, I was not going to have the money for the flight until right before I left, so I had to mortgage my soul against two one way international flights, and quite truthfully once I had everything booked, I made no other plans, arrangements or even currency exchanges, just trusting to fate that all would work out. And of course, as you know it was amazing. But getting back to my flight, I grabbed one of the flight attendants, a dark-haired woman, warm face, sympathetic…but not smart. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t just take a later ship. Wow. So I convinced her to move me to first class so I could be the first one off the plane and run to the flight counter to arrange for my luggage to be delivered to our next port of call. While there I did connect with a rep from the ship, and with a sigh of relief felt the first dawning of a smile at the edges of my mouth. I knew it would be ok. But we were still missing people. Now I was under the impression the ship was leaving at 3:30 and it was already 3:15. The rep assured me the ship didn’t leave until 4:30 and would not be leaving without us. Of course my poor friend who is now working on the ship and is in full crew mode, is being inundated with questions he can’t answer, “Is she onboard?” “I don’t know.” “Do you know when her flight was landing?’ “No” “Do you have her flight details?” “No.” “Can you call her?” “No.” Ok, so we left out a few minor details in our planning and communication. By the time I made it onboard at 4:45 pm (The ship was actually delayed until 5:00 due to other flight delays) I was one of nine people not yet onboard. Nine. Out of two thousand six hundred and fifty. But I made it!!

And now, here I am again, heading to the Mediterranean this time as a crew member. And it has been just as harrowing getting here. Between my on again off again (but really let’s face it, only in my head, it was never on again) romance, my impending divorce which ironically has made my husband and me much better friends, and an injury that was going to prohibit my return, then just delay it, then possibly curtail it again. I did not know for sure if I would be able to return until this past Monday and I did not have my return details until Thursday. And then Friday, I left and now it is Saturday and I am once again onboard. Because of the timing, I did opt to drive the approx 1000 miles to the ship. The first 500 were in the rain and I hydroplaned once, a car accident representing the ultimate in irony. I cried for the first 200 miles. For 100 miles I was good, happy even, and then I stopped for lunch and broke down again. Tears for another 100 miles, the heaving, can’t catch your breath, sick in your stomach, what have I done and is it ever going to get better kind. Good g*d girl, what the h*ll is wrong with you? This isn’t a Bronte novel! And then I got a message, a farewell that cheered me and lifted my spirits. Of course, more tears but this time, bittersweet, the tears of loss and understanding that some things were never supposed to be, hard as it might be to accept, that sometimes it isn’t about what feels right but the need to be happy and excited not only about what is but what could be, instead of what could have (but never would have) been. Yes, I experienced several levels of mourning in one solo road trip. And it gets better. Finally after many tears had been shed, I found the sun. It was bright and beautiful as though the world was washed clean and new just for me and I decided to take it as a sign, a sign that I need to let this go. I have built everything up so much in my mind, thinking somehow I had something to prove and really I don’t need to because in the end, what is, is, it doesn’t really matter how we got here. It doesn’t really matter what we’ve lost or what we could have had. I realized, it only matters to me. Because I crave the struggle, the puzzle, I am addicted to and nourished by the suffering even as I am damaged by it and I don’t need to be. He doesn’t expect or want me to suffer, I don’t need to prove that I loved him by hurting myself more. Wow, ok then, enough of that! So I am back to embracing life, something I lost a bit in the fight to keep alive a relationship which was already over, because somehow I felt I had something to prove, that somehow it was some shortcoming of mine rather than just, not. I thought there had to be a lesson, some meaning in all of it, and in the struggle to find meaning, I just made things worse. I wasn’t ready to just say, it was fun while it lasted because somehow in my mind it diminished it, made it casual, yet I know it wasn’t, so why would acknowledging it was fun and now it’s over be a bad thing? So, I am ready now. It was fun while it lasted. Really, really fun! In the end, does it need to be more than that?

Well, the sun went down and when I tried to latch on once again to the pain, the universe, my dear sweet travel companion and truly my dearest friend though I sometimes forget, intervened. As I pulled onto the turnpike I became painfully aware that this is a Florida toll road. Now if you know anything about tolls in Florida, they are really annoying, not well spaced and always tiny increments, $.75 or $1.50. Approaching the first one with apprehension-no problem, $.75, counted out from pennies in the bottom of my purse. Bahamian nickel, no, that won’t help, oh and one euro. Perfect! It’s ok, I have enough to get to the next exit…cr*p another toll before the next exit. So there I am pulled over on the side of the road because I know I spotted a quarter down by my feet some weeks back. Lift the floor mat, low and behold, a nickel, oh and a dime, closer, closer. More pennies from the bottom of the purse and we’ve got it. Next stop 7-11. Chock one up for not cleaning out the car. Yeah, with this life, who can stay melancholy for too long? No wonder he found me so amusing, I lead a charmed life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bittersweet Farewells

So it ended as these things so often do with kindness, tenderness, tears and goodbyes. He boarded a plane, I boarded a ship, both bound for entirely different worlds. Someday I will look back at this time and smile. For now my heart just aches but I know there will come a day when I will find someone to share my heart and soul and life with, whatever stills remains when the time finally comes, someone who will love me proudly not shamedly, someone who will love me equally; a true partner. For now, that person shall have to be me. And you dear reader, do not despair for I do have vast worlds to conquer and the new adventure is just beginning. And now, to the ship.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Lesson

I have backslid so far over the past few months that I can’t quite see the water’s edge anymore. I was trying so hard to find myself and not define myself by my relationships and leave myself open to new experiences; learning experiences most encounter in their adolescence, training in coping mechanisms that allow one to weed out the good from the bad, the healthy from the unhealthy, those who love you from those who use you. But the problem is, in leaving myself open I have once again discovered that things are not so black and white. No one shows up with a rose, a ring and a white stallion. They show up with baggage and walls and all kinds of obstacles and the harder you work to overcome them, the more vested you become. I lost myself in love…again. But it was an entirely different experience. I didn’t change who I was, I didn’t alter my behavior or interests to align with his, but I did lose myself. I lost myself in the belief that I could have a life which was never meant for me. My demon on a black stag was as imperfect and fallible as they come, not the most handsome, not the kindest nor the coolest but to me he was the one I dreamt of lying next to and waking up to, the one I couldn’t wait to see, the one I wanted to share our most exciting and most mundane tales with, and the one I wanted to talk to and argue with; a partner in all things. The one I wanted to call my love and friend. None of which I told him.

I knew it wasn’t going to work out but somehow the closer we grew, the calmer I felt. I am not one who does well in her own mind; as I’ve said I think too much, I push too hard, I make the most horrible assumptions about what people think and feel about me. Yet somehow, I remained calm and was for the most part able to maintain myself, until I left. Ironically even when I would sort of lose it, fearful that he would not be able to handle or understand my crazy, he just took it in stride and was kind; not judgmental, not confrontational but…amused. No one has ever been amused by my crazy…well, until I started this blog! But no one I’ve ever been involved with has been amused by it; my friends, my gays, yes, but my relationships, not so much. And when I left, I discovered that I was losing myself all over again, combating exhaustion and loneliness, trying to remain close without being smothering. I tried to fight it, I tried to stay cool and just sort of live the life I was in, knowing that I would sort everything out when I returned. But life isn’t like that; it doesn’t stand still. My heart is once again damaged, when I thought nothing could pierce it again. I truly believed that after losing so much, I couldn’t feel loss more profoundly but it’s not just the end of this relationship. Oh, how I loathe that word. It is the death of me. If I could find a way to fall in love, get married, have children and grow old together never having uttered the word relationship, I would be a far happier woman.

I wish I could say that this is a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder and that in the end I’m just remembering the good parts and glossing over everything else in my head. I wish that were true but I am very much a pragmatist and was VERY reluctant to move forward because I didn’t trust any of it given my situation, but in the end, I fell, harder than ever before. And now he has moved on completely, just as I begin the process. He is leaving, moving up north to make a new start of his life and would prefer to leave the past in the past and me in the dust. And I am left to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, a broken marriage, a broken life. Not his doing, but it all seemed so much more manageable when I thought I’d have a partner in this. Perhaps it is for the best; not the most auspicious beginning for a relationship, dovetailed onto the end of another but hell, I decided that I didn’t care. I always do the right thing and I decided in this case, maybe the right thing was the wrong thing. Maybe love just comes when it comes and you have to go for it. I hesitated. I did not risk for love. I’ve said before I tend to get close to the finish line and not cross it and now I am left wondering did I do that again. Would it have even made a difference? Questions which will never be answered.

I asked him once what was the purpose, why did this happen, what was the lesson I was supposed to learn in all this. “I think maybe the lesson is that you shouldn't settle for a relationship that is anything less than what makes you happy.” I only wish he’d understood that I had one. I only wish I’d understood it too.

So where do we go from here? We cry, we write, we start again. We do our hair, brush our skuzzy teeth, shave our legs, let someone buy us a drink…do whatever it takes. The thing that sucks is that what it takes is time.

The Best Medicine

So in my incredible gift from the universe weekend, my one late night cathartic bloodletting aside, I spent the entire time laughing until I couldn’t catch my breath. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for the momentary respite. I’m starting to wonder if life is a series of events tied together, then maybe a good life is a series of escapes from the daily grind. My most fulfilling relationship was months off the grid, running parallel to reality, close enough to reach out and touch it, but still slightly absent from it. And my most healing moment came when I left town and escaped everything just for a bit, returning hopefully in a slightly better head space than when I left. So I want to talk about two things, D*llywood and the healing process. So, we spent a day at the celebrity inspired theme park and since I was still rather laid up with an injury, I rented a wheelchair-the best $8 I have in fact spent in many months. Now I am from the east coast and very accustomed to a rather litigious community of people so we are extremely up on PC and making sure we are ADA accessible in all things. Tennessee as a rule is not so much concerned about PC or appropriateness. Now don’t get me wrong, the park was fab and we had a blast but perhaps at times for entirely the wrong reasons. When we arrived, I noticed a “baby” in a chair behind the ticket taker and as I was contemplating who would bring their child to work, I realized it was a doll. So I said to her, “I thought for a moment that was a real baby.” “Yes, that’s my little girl,” was her all-too-creepy reply. Ok, didn’t know this was a haunted attraction.

So we go get my wheelchair and I wheel myself around for about 5 minutes before I confess that the presence of hills in all directions is daunting, and I reluctantly let my friend take over pushing me. Admittedly, he figured it was a fair compromise because we did save about two hours of lines by being able to use the accessible entrances, um, when we could find them. They are not well marked at all, and in fact are marked by a sign which shows a person getting up out of a wheelchair so I kept getting up and limping my way to the access entrance only to be scolded by surly ride operators for not wheeling myself all the way to the front. The best though was lunch. We went to a restaurant and he wheeled me up to the host’s stand. A lovely big-haired blond dripping with southern charm looked at me, then looked away at my friend and in slightly hushed tones so as not to upset me asked, “Can she walk or do we need to wheel her to the table?” To which I replied, “ No, I can walk.” “Oh,” looking back at my friend, “it's ok, we can wheel her to the table if it’s easier.” To which I replied, standing as I spoke, “No, its fine. I just injured my foot. I can walk.” Blink, blink. And turning to my friend who at this point is straining to stifle his giggling says, “Ok, we’ll find her a table close to the door.” So weird.

And that wasn’t the only one, just the most awkwardly amusing. We had great fun with it, staging fights and making people entirely uncomfortable. The number of times he said, “Why do you do this? Didn’t you learn your lesson?” was admittedly truly appalling.

So, besides just the immense amusement factor of the day, what lesson was there in all this? Well, laughter truly is the best medicine but there was another. You see, I really was feeling very defeated before I left and even into the second day because I’d already gone nearly three weeks with little progress in healing and my dear friend kept saying to me, “Be patient. It goes like this, it doesn’t heal and it doesn’t heal and then one day it will just feel better and the healing will come quickly.”

And on the third day, I could walk. Not perfectly, but better. By the fourth day, I was doing quite well. Strangely enough, my mood tracked very similarly. For weeks, I have been stuck between confused and angry. And then suddenly, I was into sad and accepting. It doesn’t sound better but it feels distinctly different and at this point, different is vastly better. At times I even feel happy in the memory of what has passed. I know with patience, the times when I am sad will be fewer and farther between. It’s like my injury. I couldn’t walk and then I could and now the pain, though present is quite manageable, nearly imperceptible at times. I don’t yet know wherein lies the salve that will take the emotional searing pain to dull ache but at least I can see progress and if the emotional tracks the physical, it will come quickly now.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


So, I have had the most delightful, rejuvenating and enlightening weekend. It was entirely unexpected and spontaneous and incredibly necessary. Let me preface this by saying, I took a very bad fall a couple of weeks ago and ended up on medical leave unable to return to duty. I think I shall recover before the leave is up but it has been touch and go and should I not be better in time, I shall lose my contract and my opportunity to go to the Mediterranean, this last bit I’ve been making peace with over the last week. What I didn’t make peace with was the unresolved nature of my friendship with Heath, my demon ex-love. Apparently I chose to make war, not peace and sent a very damning email which, had I thought more thoroughly I would likely not have sent. I shan’t go into details because there is no value in it, but suffice to say, I beat myself up pretty badly over the whole thing and Heath did not respond well. But it brought a few things to light and in the midst of my self-pity, I had a couple of really powerful epiphanies. Firstly, I thank the universe for the literal gift of this weekend. I didn’t know how I was going to survive the self-abasing punishment I was bestowing upon myself for another two weeks and was discussing this very real concern with a friend of mine when he got a message that his friend couldn’t go out of town with him because of the potential government shut down, so he invited me instead. Now normally I would talk myself out of such a thing, but since I’d only found out days before I wasn’t leaving for the sea, and I needed to convalesce anyway, I figured, why not? If the universe was willing to potentially alter the course of US history to accommodate my recovery, who was I to argue? Besides I can do it out of town just as easily as at home. And boy was it fantastic but we’ll get to those stories later; for now I shall stick to the topic at hand to try and at least lay the framework for what comes next. So, as I said, I’d been beating myself up quite a lot and really for the last couple of months I have had a pendulum swing that would span the Atlantic. I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t quite get a handle on it. But finally I had to just realize, hey, I’ve really only dated three people in my life and really I haven’t dated since college so maybe that is why I am so bad at it. Also, I was at sea, away from home for the first time since college trying to manage the breakup of my marriage, a new relationship, a new job, and a lot of other very non-incidentals that I won’t go into, but suffice to say, I realized that I just had to cut myself some slack and admit that I wasn’t at fault for everything.

Ok, one of the things that happened on the ship, very near what would turn out to be the end of my contract was I had a one night stand with one of our musicians. It came from a flirtation and from the fact that by this time, I was getting all sorts of messages that my relationship with Heath was at an end and that he would prefer I live my life and not tell him details that would make him jealous but that he wanted to stay my foothold in reality but that I needed to move on and that’s what he was doing but that nothing was going to drastically change before I got home and we could sort it out then. So, needless to say, by this time I was utterly confused and doing a bang up job of making the whole thing worse. I was depressed and conflicted and incredibly lonely and resigning myself to the fact that things were over. So one night, I went to bed with our drummer. It was lovely and awkward; I found out he was much younger than I realized and that he had bunk beds and a roommate who was still asleep. Thankfully my drummer at least had the bottom bunk. But we had a night of solace and then, it ended as all good one night stands should. He got serious with his girlfriend, forgot my name and out of a room full of people, asked me to take their picture together…and that was Valentine’s Day. Now, understand, I didn’t think we’d ride off into the sunset together and quite frankly, I didn’t want to. I was and am, still very much in love with someone else. But it was still humbling. I saw him on the beach next day, he asked me how I was and I told him I’d been better since I had kind of a rough night. I gave him a bit of a hard time about it, he bought me lunch and we called it even and had a laugh. Its weird how easy-going I can be about the unimportant stuff.

So back to the present, in my swing back around, I sent Heath an email saying I needed time to fall out of love, that I was really struggling with everything, needed time apart and that I hadn’t been entirely honest. I told him what happened. I was probably too blunt but in truth, I thought it would relieve some of the tension between us, let him off the hook a little and maybe we’d have something to laugh about later since the tales of my failed love life inspired our initial friendship. But that is not what happened. Instead he said that I should not have let him suffer that whole time, having thrown away what was special between us. I realized my folly all too late.

I realized a couple of things over the next few days. First, that until I let myself off the hook a bit and stopped beating myself up about the email and my own emotional volley ball match, I wasn’t going to get to the root of the problem. I also realized that despite my trying to communicate, something I have often been accused of not doing, I had flipped back and forth, sending conflicting messages while I tried to work things out in my head and on paper, but I had never asked the one question that was really nagging at me, the entire source of my hurt. “Did you stop loving me while I was away?” I never asked it because I was so afraid of the answer, but the truth is, it’s the one thing I needed to know. It didn’t change the outcome but it really changed the framework. And I think I was always operating under the wrong assumption about that.

And in the course of the weekend, I did have one night of meltdown, online, with the friend who had encouraged me to send the email in the first place. No, it is not his responsibility, but I did let him sway me despite the fact that he had a vested interest. But here is where the plot really twists. That night, as I lay in my own pathetic tears, whipping myself with a steady stream of self loathing, he laid into me. “To hurt myself was to hurt him,” he said and he wasn’t going to let me hurt him anymore. Not after how I had hurt him before. How is that? Well, he proceeded to tell me for the next four hours.

No, this story has a happy ending. The tales of my malice strongly resembled those of my dear friend Heath, my lovely demon. Just as thoughtless, just as convoluted and just as misunderstood. And suddenly, I got it. I had lost myself while I was away, trying to decipher the best plan of attack; to let on how lonely I was and how much I wanted to be a part of his life or to pretend that I didn’t care so that he could move on. Would he be more hurt to know how much I cared or to think I didn’t at all? And maybe, just maybe, he was having the same questions trying to do right by me without hurting me or stringing me along and I was too wrapped up in my own hurt feelings to see it. So, I spent the better part of an hour talking my friend and myself from the ledge, apologizing for how absent I had been, and for not being supportive when really what he had wanted and what he had asked for were vastly different. Just as what I had wanted and what I had asked for were vastly different. And perhaps it was the same for Heath. Too late I have learned this lesson, but at least this time, I realized months in and not years in that I had once again lost myself by trying so hard to solve a mystery that I didn’t understand; I wish I’d taken even a week or two to let things settle but I let my desire to see him outweigh my common sense and my sense of self-preservation. I have found my way back to myself. I suspect that my friendship will be a casualty of this particular life lesson but perhaps that is the price we pay for finding ourselves. I can only hope to mend what was demolished, but I fear it shall never be the same. Then again, perhaps it will be better. I know for sure that I am made better for it. It may be too much information to share dear reader, but you’ve come this far. I am offering up yet another challenge to myself as a single married girl. I am off sex for a while, at least until I can get my head on straight. Though I don’t regret what happened on the ship, it has cost me dearly, a price I don’t wish to pay again. I have slept with a handful of people in my time, and made love to an even smaller faction. I don’t know if he understood the distinction, but I know I prefer and deserve the latter. I have been forging ahead, trying to leave myself open to new experiences, so now I shall leave myself open to friendship and temperance. Who knows what wonders lie along that path.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Memories of a Mother

So, my mother has been on my mind quite a lot lately, probably because I’ve been in crisis and I really need her right now. I know she would listen…and judge…but not harshly and not for long. My mother was always cool that way. She never bullsh*tted me about the ways of the world. I remember “the talks” when I was coming into my adolescence. One of my favorites was her “don’t do drugs” speech.

“Laurel, you know drugs are bad, I mean, that’s what the ads tell you, right? Well, obviously drugs aren’t bad. They’re great. I mean, why else would people want them so badly. There are whole criminal families dedicated to it. In fact, when I was younger, I loved amphetamines. LOVED them! We didn’t know they were dangerous of course, so the doctors used to give them out like candy. ‘Need to lose a few pounds? Here’s a pill. Have a big test coming up? Take these.’ I was so skinny and I got so much done! One weekend, I painted to the whole house.”

Mom, seriously, where are you going with this?

“But then my friends started dying. I’ll tell you Laurel, if they didn’t hurt you, I wouldn’t care if they were legal or not. I’d get them for you. But I love you and I don’t want to see you get hurt. And as for pot, I tried it a couple times…never really did anything for me.”

Yeah, that one stuck with me. How are you going to be a rebellious hellion with that kind of support? Where’s the fun without the stupid teen curiosity. So…I never did drugs. She had her demons, which is a part of why I don’t really drink either yet still I loved that woman so much. For all our problems, for all her foibles and shortfalls, she was by far one of the coolest people to grace my sphere. So I am going to honor her memory with a few stories about her because, good, bad or indifferent, love me or hate me, I am in great part who I am today because of her. And, truth to tell, as hard as it is to admit, part of this journey, part of why I have been able to break away and finally admit that nothing was working was because she died. I know that sounds awful, to say I stayed in a marriage for my mother, to say that I remained miserable and shortchanged myself on success because of her, but if she was here, things would be very different and I might not have seen the dire state my life had become. In part, she died to save me; no, she’s not Jesus, don’t worry, I haven’t completely lost it despite the sleep deprivation. No, she died, not intentionally and not with that thought in mind but to say I am not grateful would be a lie; grateful for what she gave me in life and grateful for what more she has given me in her passing. I miss her so much, but perhaps this was the only way she knew how to care for me anymore, the only way she knew how to see past her demons and love again.