Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TIME OUT

We’ve all been around someone who was in the midst of processing a breakup. These people are not fun. They’re insufferable. The exit doors seem so far out of reach. Being as I live in a rural area, cut off from most social contacts, I had three full days on my own to work things out before unloading my I’ve Been Dumped sentiments on someone else. I succinctly responded to a few text messages and emails from friends and relatives who wanted updates on my getting reacquainted with Tim but I wisely refrained from phoning anyone. (Unfortunately, blog readers were not spared but they had that handy Back button as a handy exit door. So close, so easy to press!)

Sweaty & exhilarated.                                            
My mind needed to find its own exit. Despair is best in small doses. I found many healthy forms of escape. On Friday, Dumping Day, I had one of the best runs of my life. So much energy! I had to force myself at some points to slow down for fear that I’d wear myself out and have to hobble home in darkness. But I remained the Energizer Bunny the entire way. I smiled through the sweat and amassed a photo essay as I stopped at various locations to snap shots of pristine scenery. For the first time all summer, my sneakers even had mercy. No new blisters. Bonus!

I swam 5K on Saturday, 3K on Sunday. Nonstop. Why take a break? I needed to swim. I wanted to swim. Nothing to do but rote stroke work. Some people are lulled by counting sheep; I count laps.

I bought hundreds of dollars of plants to restore my neglected back deck. I yanked a summer’s worth of invasive vines. I picked blackberries from the backyard and then set out on a short road trip to pick more over a span of ninety minutes. Sorry, bears. Cobbler calls. And I made that blackberry cobbler, serving it up with a few scoops of Haagen-Dazs limoncello gelato. (Oh, what a combination!)

When I finally met up with a friend, it was to shop for and create a vegan meal together. Sure, we talked some about my disappointment, but his news was far more interesting. He’d just met a guy online from Sausalito and they plan to meet next week in Seattle. So many uncanny coincidences and life parallels between them. I got goosebumps listening to his optimism, his certainty that this was, as he put it, his next “forever love.” I truly hope all his intuition proves accurate. The camaraderie ended the weekend on a high note.

The distractions were most welcome. By the time I woke up Monday morning, I was done with disappointment. Sometimes the quickest healing occurs when we smack a bandage on the open wound and get on with life.

Monday, August 25, 2014

WHAT NOW?

This all comes as a surprise. Suddenly I have blog fodder. Not that I want it.

I had decided not to write anything more about my relationship with Tim. First dates—awesome ones at that—made for a welcome, happier tone in my posts. I felt there was also a unique story to be told in having a budding romance put on hold by a pre-planned six-week escape from my rural home. Returning to British Columbia, I wanted to keep the rest of the relationship private. Let it grow and blossom in private.

But then he snipped that beautiful blossom, stomped on it, picked it up and yanked off each colorful petal, all the way down to He loves me not. Some of the most stunning flowers have tragically short growing seasons. Getting dumped sucks.

It so I’m back to blogging. My site has a long track record of chronicling isolation and dating woes. Aren’t you tired of it? Have you really ogled every cat video on YouTube? (If so, may I suggest this clip with talking nachos? It garnered repeated viewings and hearty laughter from my cousins at the cottage last week. But then, my aunt was generously refilling everyone’s wine glasses.)

I could be hateful. I’ll leave that to my comrades on Twitter. They’ve endearingly shown their support by referring to Tim as a douche, an a**hole and a cognitively and visually challenged bat. Dan made me laugh out loud—no, I will never opt for the overused, now meaningless “LOL”—when he tweeted, “I say we destroy him.” We need people like that. I think of Elizabeth Perkins and Jim Belushi in “About Last Night”. (The original movie, adapted from what is likely a superior David Mamet play.) Removed from the immediacy of the situation, they diffuse things and ensure that negativity doesn’t fester within. If things take a comical bent, all the better.

Truth is, I don’t have a drop of anger for Tim. I am deeply frustrated, disappointed, disheartened and just plain sad. (Sorry, anger. There’s no room for you!) Dumping happens. I get that. I am not immune. (I never get a flu shot as I have a faint-inducing aversion to needles, but if someone created a dumping shot, I’d be first in line. Both arms for safe measure. Let me just lie here on the floor first.) Before I left for the summer, Tim and I could not have had better dates. Even this week, Tim talked about the second date that didn’t seem to end. He referred to us being in a bubble. He talked of the sparks from the date before I headed to L.A. It was not a one-sided feeling. I had every reason to believe in our potential.

Had I stuck around this summer, I doubt I’d be blogging about Tim. The momentum would not have been interrupted. But I had made a commitment to be in Los Angeles for five weeks. I served as dogsitter/housesitter for a very close friend. And, really, before Tim popped up, there was nothing I needed more than a long vacation in La-la Land. After my darkest spring ever, I needed the summer retreat.

L.A. served me well, but it created too much distance much too soon. We never got back on track. Our last date showed glimmers of what we’d had. The conversation was inquisitive, an exchange of sharing our perspectives which continued to feel in sync. It was playful, punctuated by at least one long, glorious laugh. I never thought a nudging conversation about progressing physically would kill it all.

The disappointing end to something that had such a promising start leaves me where I was pre-Tim. I am profoundly bewildered. After getting a glimpse at something great, the state of bewilderment is even greater. Didn’t think that was possible.

When people don’t go the “He’s a douche” route, they show support with empty, hopeful statements.

“He wasn’t the one.”

“The right guy will come when you least expect it.”

“You will find love. Be open and he will come.”

Fortune cookie sentiments. How do I remain hopeful after nine years of hopelessness? If he is out there, what the hell is he waiting for? Where is he hiding? And why is he hiding? It is cruel to continue to dangle the thought of him in front of me all this time. This is the slowest form of torture.

This one did not work out. He was not The One. Fine. His quick exit affirms that. Okay. But I need something more substantial than a fortune cookie for sustenance. (Does anybody even eat those dang things?) I need real hope. I need a sign. Hell, I need The One. Sooner rather than later. This week would be dandy. Next week will do.

Please let the waiting be over.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

DENIAL & DELUSION

Day after the dumping. Time for denial and delusion.

I’ve checked my phone and Facebook—oh, let’s leave just say too many times. I anticipate his message. He needs to talk. Yep. He realizes he’s made a mistake. Biggest of his life, no doubt.

And in that odd little fantasy, I suddenly have power. So I spend chunks of the day thinking what I will say. How much should he have to beg? And, with me in control, what will I decide? It’s the same kind of imagined conversation you have when you plan to confront your boss or a difficult neighbor. Or even that person ahead of you in the Express checkout line at the grocery store who thinks nothing of unloading thirty items…and running back to grab a carton of milk.

These talks never happen.

We play them out perhaps as a form of release and maybe to affirm how ultimately wimpy we are.

I don’t want power over Tim. I just want to talk. And, yes, convince him that I am worth it. We are worth it. Still delusional.

If nothing else, I do have a few things to say. I delayed hanging up after Tim indicated he was done with me. I wanted to think things through. Make sure I said and asked what I needed to. Get that closure. But there are always thoughts and questions that only arise after the conversation. It’s hard to think clearly when someone you’re smitten with says he’s not sexually attracted to you. What about all the messages that opened with “Hey, handsome”? What about those wanting looks? What about all the flirtation? What about the comments about my body? What about the kisses and the commanding hugs?

Without closure, I’m left to draw my own conclusions. I don’t believe him. I think I scared him. That’s far more plausible. I like to know where I’m going. I ask. It’s not meant to be intimidating. I don’t understand how it can be interpreted that way. Tim said he waited more than a day to get back to me because he wanted to reflect. He acknowledged he has a tendency to be reactive. And yet I don’t think anything changed with the extra time. I think he stuck with the same reactive thought: Run.

But what do I know? Nothing really. Except it is over. And that message from Tim won’t come. I have to move on. To what, I wonder. Again, what do I know? Again, nothing really.

I bought some Häagen-Dazs. The real stuff, not the Half the Fat option. It’s that kind of night.

Friday, August 22, 2014

BEFORE AND AFTER

The following entry is an unfiltered before and after account of an experience that many of us face all too often. I wanted to capture the thoughts and feelings as they occurred. They don’t put me in the best light, but I think it is important for others to read something relatable. We can’t always simply put on a happy face.

Before:

My heart races. I am sitting in a café in town, trying to get back into my regular writing routine after being in Los Angeles and Ontario for the past six weeks. It’s been a summer of distraction. That can be a good thing.

But Tim just texted. “If you’re around today, what time would be good to call you?”

I immediately feel panic. He’s done. At least he has the dignity to dump me on the phone instead of with a text.

A few days ago, I pushed the conversation. Maybe too much. “Where are we at?” It had been our second time seeing each other since I returned from my travels and we hadn’t managed to close in the distance. The physical connection, in particular, wasn’t there. Craving something physical, yet too timid to initiate, I needed to know Tim still felt something. I made it clear that I certainly did. Tim seemed startled and defensive. We seemed to work it through and ended the evening with one of his strong, warm hugs and a welcome kiss. I felt reassured, but I think he felt unsettled. How does one conversation take two people in opposite directions?

So now I am worried. I want us to move forward. There is great potential. But why the Friday morning phone call? Doubt has a nasty habit of popping into my head and spreading like an invasive vine, winding around and strangling all other thoughts.

My hands are shaking as I type. It’s the caffeine. They make strong coffee here. I feel it more as I haven’t had this blend all summer. And this is my second cup. It can’t be nerves. That explains the rapid heart rate, too.

Right?

After our Tuesday date, I called the following day and left him a message. He immediately texted to say he was visiting with a friend. “Let’s connect in a day or so.” The following day passed. We’re into the “or so” part. I suck at waiting. That’s when Doubt sees opportunity.

The unknown of a new relationship can be exhilarating. It can also be maddening. You can’t take anything for granted. How do you know what the other person is thinking and feeling? Or not feeling?

And so I wait. I text back that we should talk in half an hour. That gives me time to calm the nerves and to get out of the coffee shop. I decide to burn off this hyped up energy with a walk along some forest trails. Nature soothes me. Usually.

I want to get the call over with—whether it’s good or bad. I need to know. If I wait until after work, I’ll just obsess and Doubt will get the best of me.

Yes, good or bad. Tell me.

But please be good. Please let the call be about when we can get together this weekend. Let’s move forward. If I say “please” enough, can I will good things to happen? Can I shake this doubt?

 

After:

I want my limo ride.

Yes, this is proof that reality TV has impacted reality. Mine, at least.

On “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”, when you get rejected, you are hauled off in a limousine and your immediate thoughts (and tears) are recorded for the amusement of millions of viewers.

In my defense, I shed no tears. I just felt a profound frustration. I let a possible relationship linger over the summer. It felt good to think that something might continue once my days in L.A. ended. And, for a few days, they did. Tim and I reconnected twice in the days since my return.

All good. And yet not as connected as pre-L.A. I knew the first coffee felt flat. The second get together was comfortable but that was all. Give it some time, I thought. But the evening ended abruptly. Tim wasn’t checking the time—usually a good sign—and didn’t realize there was no time for dinner. We hadn’t kissed beyond the “hello” peck. He hadn’t grabbed me and wrapped me in his arms. I needed clarification. Are we on track?

This startled him. He seemed to think everything was progressing nicely. My asking made him get defensive. And that’s when I sensed I had erred. Sometimes I can be too communicative.

I got dumped. Tim said that my question made him reflect. He’d thought things were fine and then realized he wasn’t as affectionate. “You needed to initiate, too,” he said. I’d indicated I was ready, but I knew it was too late. That monkey on my back—fifteen years without physical intimacy--has made this shy guy fearful. I don’t want to get shot down. And yet it happened anyway.

When people break up, they throw out so many explanations in search of something that will stick. Anything to finish the conversation. Unfortunately, it all sticks with me. He went on to say he could see us as friends, he didn’t want to be physical with me, he didn’t feel attracted.

Oh, my god, I have heard this over and over again. This is why I spent the summer rationing my food, repenting when I’d have a margarita and working out my body beyond the point of fatigue. Must seem attractive. Tim had been so clearly drawn to me in June. Must maintain until he is drawn to the attractive inner me.

So much sacrifice. No gain.

Five dates. Best run in years. (How sad.) Best prospect. Same result.

No tears. Just more bewilderment.

I thought things would be different this time. What now?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

OUT OF LINE,...AT LAST

I remember it clearly. From grade to grade, it was the established routine. The teacher announced the group game for gym class, picked two students to be captains and then instructed the rest of us to line up against a wall.

It always felt like a firing squad proceeding.

One by one, we’d be pardoned from imminent execution. Steven M., Stephen P., Kevin, Cam, Tim G., Jeff, Becky.

When the first girl’s name got called, I’d start to sweat. We were nearing that shifting point, going from optimal draft picks to making the most of The Leftovers. Still, I knew I had plenty more time to lean on the wall. If I’d wanted to say a prayer, I could have mumbled it in English and in Latin. After learning the language with a handy Rosetta Stone kit.

But my prayer was simple. Even without words—in whatever language—the message was clear. Please don’t let me be last. This time, let it be Mary Novakovic. Yes, hail Mary. This was a brutal game of survival of the unfittest. She was my only hope. I never figured out the logic over which of us got the begrudging last nod. Hell, it wasn’t even a nod. When you ended up last, no one even called your name. You just knew which team you were on by default…and by the grumbles of your “teammates.” Really, you were the enemy.

And then, when it was game on, the playbook was simple. Whatever it takes, don’t let him get the ball. Ever.

I should have been happy when my grade nine P.E. teacher introduced an individual sport. No more letting the team down. But wrestling? Really?! That was worse. As we’d practice with a partner on mats spread around the gym, I’d always get the guy who wasn’t quick enough to find someone—anyone!—else. “Don’t you dare touch me, faggot.” He never attempted to whisper, but the teacher never seemed to hear. And then, after an awkward thirty minutes of being repeatedly pinned to the mat, the teacher would call us all to gather around a center mat for impromptu wrestling matches, viewed by all. Watch how fast the wimp surrenders. I was the unwilling participant in a comedy routine. Unbeknownst to me, I was a master at physical comedy, feebly flailing about for all but a few seconds. Snickers all around. If I had even a shred of masculinity in me, I was stripped of it then and there.

When my family moved to Texas at the start of tenth grade, I knew the misery would somehow increase. Football ruled. And I always found the ball too large for my hand. I didn’t like stretching my palm so much. I always felt like the football had a glaring design defect, but no one else seemed to notice. Somehow I stumbled upon the swim team and, though I was clearly among the worst, I never let people down as long as my coach kept me off the relays. The swim team became a place of refuge. It’s what helped me survive high school, at least until my two best friends on the team started a rumor in twelfth grade that I was gay. Mortified, I quit. They’d outed me before I’d figured things out for myself. That’s when I first thought of suicide.

I could go on and on with tortuous stories of how much my lack of athleticism shattered my self-esteem. It didn’t help that I was two years younger than my classmates, but I knew my coordination challenges were about more than age. I’d never catch up.

That’s why it astounds me to think of where I am, only a couple of month shy of fifty. I’m no jock, but I am athletic. Sort of. Now, when I swim up to one hundred minutes nonstop in lap pools, I consistently take the Fast lane. It stuns me that, as I go from city to city during my travels, I belong in the same lane. It’s not just that people in my community are freakishly slow swimmers with an affinity for the dog paddle. I am a swimmer.

I’m also a runner. All summer, as I ran in groups, I always finished first. I’d run the six miles at a comfortable pace, plenty sweaty but never out of breath and never sore (other than the pesky foot blisters that grew so large I named them. Ernie. Howard. Clarence was particularly menacing). I’d finish several minutes ahead of the next runner. Minutes! Ample time to cool off and take in the ocean views before dinner.

I no longer have to give myself pep talks before going to an out of town gym. Wimps have just as much of a right to use the gym. Even greater. You need it. Who cares if you have to share your weights with women. (Say, is that Mary Novakovic?!) I’ve made progress. I am not one of those steroid oddities with puffy muscles who sounds like he’s giving birth as he lets a monstrously weighted barbell crash to the floor. I don’t think I have the right demeanor to be a barbarian anyway. But I do find myself regularly lowering the weight pin when I hop on a machine after another guy. And I don’t gravitate to the low-lit corner of the weight room to complete a set of bicep curls. If I peek in the mirror, I can even see a bicep muscle finally adhering my plea: come out, come out, wherever you are. I fit because I’m fit.

I survived that prolonged humiliating boot camp known as Physical Education. Thankfully, most of us do. What amazes me is I found a way to escape the Wimpy Kid label. Without all those horrid group games and beyond the mocking scrutiny of classmates, I actually transformed my identity. The self-esteem issues have never been fully repaired, but I am athletic. I actually look forward to heading to the gym right after I post this. I won’t flee after ten minutes. Most likely, I’ll extend my workout. Tack on more ab crunches. They seem to finally make a difference.

It’s astonishing. Back in third grade when there was something about Mary and me, I’d have never imagined a day when I craved exercise, when I found it rewarding. I never thought I’d belong. Seems I faced the firing squad hundreds of times and lived to tell about it.

Remarkable, indeed.   

Friday, August 15, 2014

THE COLD WAR

“You know,” the cashier said, “so many people are coming through with cold medicine. I just started getting the sniffles myself.”

And I’m getting a big ol’ lump in my throat.

I have three days to conquer the cold. And I’m the type who usually takes six weeks to work through the common cold and its evolving symptoms. Currently, it’s a sore throat, stuffy nose and plenty of achoos to make me a too-tall Sneezy.

But, really, I’m a colossal Grumpy. After a six-week absence, the last thing I envisioned in seeing Tim back in Vancouver is me offering a dainty right-handed wave while the left hand gestures the STOP signal. “Stay back. I’m contagious.” How romantic.

That’s not how it’s supposed to go. I’ve seen every romantic movie ever made—or at least ever featuring Meg Ryan—and not once does the partner get off the plane cradling an oversized box of Kleenex.

Until the counter lady at the drugstore mentioned the parade of cold medicine shoppers, I was trying to convince myself that I’d developed a sudden allergy to Ontario and our family cottage. If only. I could adjust to staying away from that. Fifty years of cottage life. It was a good run. But Tim? Really?!

I want to leave the cold symptoms behind at the Ottawa airport. Abandon them like whatever lotion I forget is buried at the bottom of my backpack. “I’m sorry, sir. You’ll can’t take the hair gel with you. And you’ll have to dump your nasal congestion, too.”

No problem.

For now, I’m spending extra hours lying in a very uncomfortable cottage cot, trying to sleep, but really just tossing about as I seek to clear an airway and defend myself from a mosquito I can hear but can’t see. Supine and vulnerable. He’ll get me. He’s just messing with me, having a little fun first.

It’s become that kind of visit.

I’m popping Sudafed and lozenges. I’m blowing out an endless stream of phlegmy mucous—four or five pounds? Do I look slimmer?

In truth, the sore throat is on the way out. Apparently I managed to drown it in orange juice. The sneaky sneeze attacks are less frequent, but still ominous. The heart of the matter rests in my nose. Time is ticking and it’s still running.

So what’s the most romantic way to hand-wave anyway? Just in case I lose this battle.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

UNSAID

Some of us conquer depression, or at least find ways to cope; some of us don’t.

Oscar-winning comic actor Robin Williams tried the coping thing. Apparently, it didn’t work. Reports are that he committed suicide yesterday. My mother mentioned Williams’ death after she watched one of those morning shows where the hosts have a coffee mug Superglued to their hands. (Are they sponsored by Folger’s?)

“Robin Williams died.” That was it. She went back to sipping her own cup of coffee.

That left me to surmise the cause of death. And, sadly, I made the assumption that most of us make when a celebrity who isn’t particularly old dies. “He’d gone back to rehab recently,” I said.

“Yes.” Again, that was it. My endlessly chatty mother had gone tight-lipped. A first. No rambling Girl Guide speech about the evils of drugs, no judgment about fame and all the bad in liberal Hollywood, no wistful statement like, “He seemed like such a nice young man when he was Mork.”

She let the drugs assumption stand. My mother held back. Depression is still a hush-hush word.

And I know what she was thinking. Robin Williams had depression and killed himself. My son doesn’t need to hear that. Don’t put those thoughts back in his head.

Because if I suddenly want to revisit a childhood game, let it be a round of Follow the Leader with Robin Williams. The man and I were never united in some sort of Jonestown pact. I couldn’t even sit through a full episode of his last sitcom, the unfortunately named The Crazy Ones.

There is no connection.

Except in my mother’s mind.