I am inviting you to take a journey with me, into the shadow and light, the depths and heights, the blessings and lessons. The path is marked with signs at certain spots and totally-winging- it-following- the- inner- GPS at other points. Some might say it is treacherous with winding roads, precipitous drop-offs, and unseen dangers. Others wax poetic about it and tell glorious tales. While there may be a map, it looks different for each person who unfolds it. The journey is called Love.
The Journey of Love
It is our birthright. Each person who arrives on the planet is worthy of it. Sadly, not all experience it to the degree that they deserve. They internalize the pain of the loss of what they might never have had and long for it all their lives. Blessedly, I am not in that group. I grew up in a family rich in love. My parents met serendipitously at the party of a mutual friend. Surprisedly, even though they traveled in the same circles and actually worked out at the same Y, their paths had not crossed…until they did.
My mom, Selma had been in a seven-year relationship with a man I had come to refer to as ‘on again-off again Freddy,’ since they had broken up and reunited many times. He stood her up for a date on New Year’s Eve and she was pissed! Soon after came the party, where he actually showed up and beckoned her over to him. She squared her shoulders and replied,
If you want me, you come to me.
Not sure if he ever approached the woman my father came to call ‘the most beautiful girl in the world,’ but a curly-haired, blue-eyed man named Moish did. His thought was, “This girl’s got chutzpah.” (Yiddish for ‘guts.’) They spent the evening talking. Their first date was at a Chinese restaurant and her fortune read, “You’d better prepare your Hope chest.” She kept that slip of paper in her wallet until it was stolen when I was a teenager. They were married the following year and my sister Jan and I were born into a home that was filled, overflowing with love. My parents set an example for a lifelong loving marriage. My dad died in 2008 and my mom followed in 2010. Their legacy lives on in ways that I have allowed to delight and limit me. How is that possible, you might wonder?
They set the relationship bar really high, and in all of my years,
I have yet to leap over it; although I have experienced deep, passionate, committed love in the form of various relationships, including marriage with a man whom I also met in the form of synchro-destiny. We were wed nearly 12 years when he died of Hepatitis C in 1998. It was what I thought of as a ‘paradoxical marriage’, with highs and lows that went beyond what I had ever imagined.
In the interceding years, I have engaged in short term relationships, have had lovers and FWBs. I have done the internet dating thing and didn’t find it a whole lotta fun, since often the first dates felt like stressful auditions. Job interviews seemed easier. I wondered if there would be a second date and seemed to be at the whim of someone else’s choice. I have been incidentally polyamorous, rather than intentionally as some friends are.
Many years ago, a friend asked me if I could love whoever it was that God sent. I smiled and told him that I could and indeed I have. One dynamic that has remained with me is that with very few exceptions, I have remained friends with anyone who has been a lover/partner. Conventional wisdom states that once a relationship ends, we move on and don’t look back and certainly don’t maintain contact with former intimates. I guess I’m just not wired that way. What I have discovered is that each person becomes part of the fiber of our being (not in a co-dependent way). I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I contemplate those who have been in my life, even if we haven’t spoken in ages.
The Groundwork for What is to Follow
A confessional…although my professional work (as a therapist, minister, journalist and presenter) is all about relationships, I have been single for most of the years since Michael died. I have enjoyed the freedom involved and have missed the company of a consistent love-mischief maker. I have reveled in the ability to come and go as I pleased and have desired someone as a traveling partner. I have wondered what was lacking in me, what was wrong with this picture and what cosmic joke the Universe might be playing as I called into my life almost-not-quite-you’re-getting-warmer folks who, if their qualities were blended, would make the most spectacular partner. I have written copious amounts about my travels and travails on the relationship road. I have risked loving over and over. I have engaged in the practices that coaches recommend. I have had the words “I’m ready” on repeat, but clearly had not been.
A month or so ago, my friend Betsy Chasse (talented filmmaker best known for the iconic movie, What the Bleep Do We Know?) sent me the trailer for a new documentary called Radical Dating: Finding Love Over 40 and asked my opinion. I thought it was real (but not in a reality show, hyped-up overly dramatic kind of way) and that the people highlighted in it had issues common to most people, both single and coupled. She gathered together dating coaches to work with those who agreed to be filmed. I loved the idea and wished that I had been able to participate.
Be careful what you wish for!
She reached out and suggested that I engage the services of one of the coaches, named Lori Ann Davis. She had met her husband using the techniques she teaches her clients. I took a deep breath and with some trepidation, I contacted her. I did a bit of self-deprecation, telling myself that I ‘shouldn’t need her services, I could do this on my own. I know all the right things to do.’ Then I remembered that one of my long-standing issues is the pouty two-year-old, “Do it myself!” while stamping my foot, insisting that I can tie my own shoes. That is the same dynamic I have sadly integrated into relationships.
Since being widowed, I have been a single parent and sole support for my son and myself. I have, of necessity, taken care of business, working several jobs, doing what was necessary to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Somehow, along the way, I have interpreted and internalized those actions so as to prevent a man from taking care of me. Not in a needy, clingy, dependent way; but rather in an honoring way. I have not wanted to appear weak and not wanted to feel vulnerable. I have not wanted to ask and have been grateful when it was freely offered. I haven’t trusted that anyone was strong enough to take care of me, as I have done for partners.
Lori Ann and I began the process by having me complete a Relationship Readiness form. Quite revealing. It pinpointed the areas where I needed to do the work. No surprise that they fell into the aforementioned areas, and they truly relinquished my past perceptions about my marriage and other relationships before and since.
When we spoke via Skype yesterday, I told her about the know-it-all in me and she encouraged me to be open to learning what there was for me to grasp. I am determined to be teachable. One of the longstanding blocks is the belief that other people/potential partners get to choose me. Who doesn’t want to be loved best of all? There have been times when I have chosen someone and they have (lovingly) declined. Yes, the reverse has also been true, but not as often. I have told myself the story that I am too much or not enough. Needing to exercise the Goldilocks principle and realize that I am just right for me and for the partner who is claiming his ‘enoughness’ too.