"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Friday, February 17, 2012

Signs that Perhaps I Have a Few Things on my Mind

During the year that we dated before we got married, my husband quickly learned about a few of my most prevalent quirks. Namely, I lose my keys and my cell phone a minimum of three to four times a day. I have some other more endearing idiosyncrasies, but the loss of the cell phone and keys is a constant. And yes, I have tried the clap-your-hands-to-locate-the-key-ring gadget, and the simple bowl by the door where I could easily deposit these items when entering the house so they can be effortlessly located later. But no matter what, all attempts have failed to rid me of these issues.

Luckily, as I have said before, my husband is patient and is pretty constantly amused by this phenomenon. And I don’t use the word phenomenon very often. But I have managed to lose my keys and/or cell phone within seconds of holding them in my hand, taking HOURS to find them after. I have been late or had to be a no show to dinners and gatherings because of my inability to locate my keys. And if you are still doubting my use of the word phenomenon, I present exhibit A, a photo of my keychain. The fact that it resembles a janitor’s key ring is no accident. I did this on purpose. My thinking was that SURELY if I put my keys on this HUGE keychain, I couldn’t lose them. I mean, seriously. HOW can you lose this set of keys? How can they not remain in plain sight wherever I leave them?

I have tried to blame a lot of things: stress (probably a factor), my busy schedule (possibly, at times, also a factor) and then, when I am desperate, I blame our dog Bear, or some other innocent bystander, including my husband. This usually draws the reaction of a raised eyebrow from Shea, and maybe the reminder that at NO time since we have been together have my lost keys been anyone’s fault but my own. This reminds me to shut up and keep searching, because as I am honestly aware, this is my issue.

I have also occasionally run out of gas. However, this hasn’t been as frequent, at least within the last 6 months. So, I am going to write that one off to issues we DID have with the gas gauge, and the fact that the majority of those occurrences took place while I was working and trying to plan our wedding simultaneously. You can blame a lot of things on the stress of planning a wedding, it comes in handy, people actually do sympathize if they have done it before. I have done a much better job of monitoring the gas level in the car after the third time my husband had to pick me up, stranded by the road, with one of the many gas cans he had to buy in preparation for these occurrences. But, like I said, the last time that happened was over six months ago.

So, if you are thinking, wow, her husband is AWESOME and patient and wonderful, you would be right. Most of the time. But he was all of those things last night when I topped my own record of absent-minded activities.

We were both a little excited that our favorite breakfast restaurant was hosting a pancake supper to benefit a local charity. We were also happy to be able to see Shea’s cousin and her boyfriend and get to visit and chat with them, which we don’t get to do enough. So, we headed to the restaurant, arrived and parked, walked inside, and were immediately seated and enjoying the conversation and pancakes. I should probably mention here (in my own defense) that I was having a migraine last night, but I was determined to power through dinner.

So, after dinner, we walked out of the restaurant, and I had difficulty locating my keys. This is not an unfamiliar occurrence, so everyone was giggling a little as I dug through my purse. My husband was shaking his head, and without any prompting, went back in the restaurant to look for my missing keys at our table. He came back empty handed.

I knew that the keys weren’t in my purse, and that sinking feeling in my stomach hit. I knew that I had locked the keys in the car. Shea shot me a sideways glance as he led the way to the parking lot. He was walking a little ahead of me, and in a somewhat irritated voice said, “Honey, you left the lights on!” I cringed. Then, he stopped in his tracks. I am not sure I will ever forget the look on his face at that moment- a combination of horror, shock, anger, and amusement. I was standing a few feet away in the parking lot, Shea was beside the car. “Honey,” he said, “THE CAR IS RUNNING!” Everyone got quiet for a second. I honestly shocked myself with this one. When we had arrived, Shea had gotten out of the car and walked ahead, waiting for me closer to the edge of the parking lot. (It sometimes takes me a few moments to get my things and get out of the car). I had followed behind him, locking the apparently running car with the lights on, behind me.

Again, in my defense, I was battling a migraine that I didn’t want to keep us from one more event (this happens more often than I would like). AND, I have some family stuff going on that is worrying me these days. But, to be honest, I battle migraines two or three times a week, and there is ALWAYS something going on that is worrying me.

To make the rest of the long story short, there were two police officers who were also enjoying the pancake supper (at least before I came back in the restaurant and begged for their help). They tried to help us get into the car, with no luck. They were so incredibly kind and stayed with me in the parking lot while my husband was driven by one of our dinner companions to our house, where he was able to break in through a window and get the spare keys and come back to remedy the situation.

The policemen were kind and funny and enjoyed giving me a little grief while we waited for my husband to return.

So, it all turned out fine. This is just a little snippet of life with me.

I once mentioned to my husband that perhaps there was an upside to all of this phone and key losing nonsense. Perhaps there was some award I could receive for the sheer number of times this sort of thing happened. My husband, without hesitation, looked at me and said. “Honey, you would then lose the award”.



Sunday, February 12, 2012

Worth this Love

Several months ago, I entered an essay contest. I found out about it close to the deadline, but I felt good about my entry. I know thousands of people also felt good about theirs. The winners have not been formally announced, but they have been notified.

So, I didn't win, but thought I would share my entry anyway. One really good thing about contests and submissions, no matter the outcome, it gets me writing and makes me finish things. All good. The subject of the essay was this: When did you first understand the meaning of love? Maybe you were a child, witnessing a generous act by your father or mother. Maybe the lesson came later, as you grappled with the challenges of being a friend, a spouse, or a parent yourself. Whatever made you understand love—and yourself—better, tell us about it.

As I always do in the aftermath, I see a million things I could have done differently now, maybe made it better or different...but it is what it is. I feel like I write a lot on this blog about my husband and my joy in finding love when I had given up. I always share my story, not to brag or gloat, but to hopefully give someone out there hope. I lived a long time without it, and that is a very hard and lonely place to be. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

So, here is my essay, and my dose of hope out there to anyone who needs it.

Worth This Love

I thought I had found it one hundred times before. It was the whisper of my mother’s voice in her moments of denial. It was my father’s brief flashes of noticing me in his clouded mind. It was the boy I loved who reminded me so much…of him. The one who came after and the next, all the same pain—just in a different package. Each time I quaked with relief—finally, I have found it. Finally, I know love. And then, the bottom would fall out. My mother would retreat to her cocoon, my father would lose sight of me, the boys, one after the other, would suddenly become clear to me as false, no longer shadows of pain, but vibrant in their own colors of deceit, betrayal, and abuse.

Each time I felt more alone in the aftermath, farther away from love than before, and I slowly saw my faith in its existence erode. Maybe it was all a fairytale. Fiction. Or maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe the problem was with me.

I remember so well the day I gave up. Sitting in my apartment I told myself what I believed to be my destiny: I would always be alone. It seemed out of control—beyond my ability to change. Each attempt at love pulled me deeper into a pit that was so hard to crawl out of. It seemed simple: leave the pit behind, face the facts, go it alone. Forget the childhood that didn’t make sense, the alcoholic father and lost mother, stop trying to be the light of someone’s life when my bulb had obviously burned out. Find a way to make a living supporting myself and hopefully needing no one.

And that’s just what I did. Something changed in me that day. My career took off as I focused on nothing else. Moving up the corporate ladder, I felt the pit not only far behind me, but filled. I no longer felt in danger of slipping, falling, hitting bottom and trying to crawl out. The ground behind me was solid. I chattered with girlfriends about longing for love, wishing for dates, but I knew I was just painting a picture of normal for them. I invested no hope for a first kiss, love at first sight, or even a comfortable arrangement. I wasn’t playing it safe. I truly believed I was too flawed to participate. Too imperfect, too damaged, too broken to be worthy of love at all.
I crisscrossed the country on business trips, gathering compliments, raises in salary without asking, recommendations, and glowing reviews. It was the air I breathed. Each new company event I created was my first date, my relationship, my happiness. I was at the top of my game, making more money than I could have ever imagined. I would stare at my paycheck—every paycheck-- in disbelief. Staring back at me was my worth. More than I had ever been worth before.

And I cried myself to sleep every night. For years and years and years.

The cracks came when the economy tumbled. There were thousands of people just like me—with the glowing reviews, the ability, a successful track record. Jobs were cut, layoffs became commonplace. There weren’t enough jobs even for the best and the brightest. I was unemployed. No large paycheck. No worth.

Everything came crashing down. Friends were concerned. My phone went unanswered. Why keep it connected? Unemployment scarcely paid any of my bills. I awoke to eviction notices taped to my door. Large bold letters telling the world what I had known all along.

The pit opened up again—this time so fast and with such force that I was almost swallowed whole.

The therapist’s couch seemed a farce in the beginning. A place to sit and hear the endless excuses for my failure, to be told all that I wasn’t. I sat staring for the first visits. Refusing to talk, in a standoff with the supposed professional across the room. I had given up. I didn’t need to be saved. I wasn’t worth being saved.

After a few visits, silence turned to tears, words rose from pain I hadn’t let through. I didn’t want to go back, but there I was, dealing with everything that had brought me here. For the first time saying the words. For the first time hearing it was not my fault. For the first time, beginning to believe it.

I had lost everything. That was when I found myself.

My therapist stayed two steps ahead and lit the path for me. My path. The path back to a life without fearing an unannounced sink hole. A life of believing that I had value, I had worth, I was more than the sum of my mistakes, more than the pain I had suffered.

It was a slow, steady climb. Some days were brighter than others. Some days the therapist’s couch was the only place I felt safe.

The world was different to me now. I looked again at my paycheck in disbelief, this time questioning how I could survive on so little. My life was scraped together, but whole. My life was my own, not a company’s and not dependent on the next glowing review. Work was work. Home was home. The presence of my dog Bear, a new addition, who never would have fit into my career-based life before, was a comfort. A true to my heart, not laced with guilt, comfort.

My friendships were deeper, richer, more authentic. I was almost someone they had never met, with the comfort of years of shared memories, middle school photos, and bridesmaid’s gowns. I had time to be the friend I always wanted to be, and to truly know the joy of returned phone calls and emails—not checking on me, not asking when I would ever be in town, not just a required note on my birthday. Real engagement in my life, and renewing bonds that thankfully outlasted my descent.

One friend suggested a date. Someone we both knew. Someone we had grown up with. Faint memories of junior high classes, passing in the halls. No flicker of romance then, barely an acquaintance. Definitely not the stuff of chick flicks or fairy tales.

Even more the reason to go. No real chance of anything. Just a date- maybe a new friendship. Maybe nothing. Probably nothing.

The night was normal and electric. Unfamiliar and personal. Unlike any other date or wish or figment of my imagination from my past. Nothing fiery or predestined. Just a night.

Then another night, followed by more. What I thought I had found one hundred times before, in another lifetime, when I felt I wasn’t worthy or deserving…was becoming real. I was 40 years old. I had never married, never been close, never thought it could happen. Even now, wasn’t it too late?

This love wasn’t something I created; it wasn’t something I tried to be for someone else. It wasn’t the conjured moments of something I wanted so badly. He didn’t remind me of him…at all. It wasn’t the same pain. It wasn’t a perfect Hollywood set up. It just was.

I slipped into a level of comfort I had never known. Not for one moment of my life before this love was I ever completely myself. How sad, but how beautiful at the same time. I felt myself trusting completely for the first time, knowing the freedom that is saying I love you, and knowing the words returned have meaning and are not just spoken.

My husband Shea was my classmate in 7th grade, sitting half of the alphabet away from me in Language Arts class. He is the person who taught me the meaning of love, its definition in strained moments, its beauty in trusting the unknown. He is the person who makes me laugh until I am gasping for air, who knows the secrets of my childhood and my innocent wishes for unattainable dreams. He knows the emotions behind my indiscernible facial expressions—and when a smile is masking a painful memory. He has given me a new definition of love, far away from how I had defined it before. It is knowing there is a tomorrow, brighter than the present day- even with whatever struggles we face. It is a life without the fear of betrayal, the truth always between us, and the belief that the most flawed parts and quirks I posses are endlessly endearing. This love is not regretting one moment of the life behind me because it led me here, to this place, this instant, to this dance of life I am living that never leaves one second taken for granted. Something I tried for so long to define has been explained, written for me, given to me as a gift at the age of 40.
I have found my worth, I have found my value.
I have finally found love.



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