Thursday, July 29, 2010

Contradiction or just Complicated?




I often wonder if I can be defined... if I can learn more about who I am through the scientific and psychological exams and quizzes that "define" or "label" people.

I'm never JUST one answer. I'm always a very nearly equal of two.

For instance... my Ayurvedic dosha is both kapha and pitta.

My temperament is a balance of melancholy and sanguine.

Even my astrological sign of Capricorn is both earth and water, with a goat's body and a fish tail.

A Myers-Briggs assessment shows that I am both intuitive and logical... using both thinking and feeling.

I am right brain AND left brain.

When I was singing in my last band, I was both a songwriter and, during my work life, a technical systems engineer.

I can see both sides. I feel both things. I cannot always decide.

I am both spiritual and sexual. (And no, I don't see either as mutually exclusive.)

I love the ocean and the mountains.

Musically, I like country AND western. (Ha ha! Just seeing if you were still reading.)

I like the city and the country.

I like mod, eclectic and antique.

Perhaps I am undefinable. Maybe I'm outside the confines of labels.

I can be both conservative and liberal.

I am bisexual, attracted to both men and women.

I can't decide if I'm completely undecided or balanced.


Ying and yang, ya'll.


Eh, I'll just say I'm easy to get along with.

*big grin*


Have a great weekend!! (I'm spending it with my man!!)


***

I apologize to some of you who tried to comment yesterday and couldn't. It appears that some could... and others could not, for some odd reason. Thanks for trying and please send me an email if you're still having problems.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Conscientious children



The other night I really wanted to attend my friend D's A Course in Miracles study group. I don't go as often as I'd like but I woke up with the definite thought to go.

The problem was, my babysitter was unavailable.

Somewhere in there I had the crazy notion that perhaps I could bring the kids along? Maybe they would sit quietly and draw or color for the hour and a half of class? There was even an empty classroom, across the hall, where they could talk and play and not disturb my group.

Yeah well anyway....

They weren't bad but they didn't exactly stay put either. One member of the study group found the girls playing in the restroom and wondered who they belonged to.

*sigh*

That evening as I was putting them into bed and had their complete an undivided attention, I told them that I was disappointed in their behavior. I explained how it was embarrassing (a word they've been using more of lately in relation to their peers) when the woman from my group realized the restless and giggling children were mine.

Rose began to cry, "Mommy, I don't like you telling me this. What you're saying makes me feel really bad!"

I almost giggled. Isn't that the whole idea?!?

***

A few days later, I'd asked both children about something that had been emptied and put back into the refrigerator.

Neither one would speak up as to who had done this seemingly harmless thing.

Then I noticed a slight half-grin on the face of my adorable 5-year-old, Grace.

"Grace, honey, are you lying to Mommy?"

Her eyes widened, "Well Mommy, I didn't want to get in trouble!"

I explained that what happened was such a little thing. It was nothing more than an opportunity for me to teach her what to do when a container is emptied.

But I had to continue to explain that lying is a very bad choice. As I explained this to her, she began wailing, "Mommy, you're making me feel soooo bad!!"

***

When Rose was just a toddler, I was introduced to a parenting technique called Love and Logic. I remember thinking it was brilliant because it, in effect, separated the child from their actions. It also taught that they were responsible for their actions, though not defined by them, and that there are consequences.

It was during that time that I learned the term, "sad choice".

Instead of saying to my child, "You are a very bad girl for lying or disobeying", which is how they probably feel, I emphasize that they simply made a "sad choice".

A choice whose consequences make you feel sad.

Though I've used that term for over 6 years now, I think they're finally understanding it. I think they're finally comprehending that lying or disobeying makes Mommy speak up and when Mommy points it out, then they feel sad.

They are actually realizing, FINALLY, that their actions affect others and that, in turn, might make them feel bad.

Now to have them actually realize the effect of these choices before they decide their actions.

One step at a time...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sometimes I feel a little....










(or Alanis' remake!)




But somehow, despite it all, Gentleman Jack sits quietly, listening to me and says,
"Baby, I think it takes you awhile to process things... but really, I think you just want to be heard. I think you need to talk it out for yourself OUT LOUD. I hope you know that I will always be here to give that to you."

And then I feel a whole helluva lot less alone. And definitely less insane.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An Examination of Marriage: Why?

What reasons do I have for marriage anyway, other than the conventional societal expectations of a mother and a father in a household filled with children?

When I examine the idea of marriage, especially compared to what I have now, I have to ask myself: What will I gain?

It feels better than "What will I lose?".

To quote from Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Committed:

"I do not need this man in almost any of the ways that women have needed men over the centuries. I do not need him to protect me physically, because I live in one of the safest societies on earth.

I do not need him to provide for me financially, because I have always been the winner of my own bread.

I do not need him to extend my circle of kinship, because I have a rich community of friends and neighbors and family all on my own.

I do not need him to give me the critical social status of "married woman," because my culture offers respect to unmarried women.

I do not need him to father my children,....so where does that leave us?

Why do I need this man at all?

I need him only because I happen to adore him, and because his company brings me gladness and comfort, and because, as a friend's grandfather once put it:

'Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.'."

Yet... unfortunately...

"It is only love. And a love based marriage does not guarantee a life-long binding contract...

By unnerving definition, anything that the heart has chosen for it's own mysterious reasons it can always unchoose later - again, for its own mysterious reasons. And a shared private heaven can quickly descend into a failed private hell."

It is frightening to consider that love may not offer a guarantee in marriage. Especially when I look at our differences and what all could go wrong. I've lived it. I've seen it. I've felt it. And I've, by the grace of God, survived it.

"In the end, it seems to me that forgiveness may be the only realistic antidote we are offered in love to combat the inescapable disappointments of intimacy."

Realistically, the only thing I can look forward to, when and if I do enter into the institution (why do we call it that? as if we should be donning straight jackets?!) of marriage again, are many more opportunities and lessons of forgiveness. And I think I'm OK with that.

After all, we're all imperfect beings, aren't we? Imperfect beings who long for nothing more than for someone to love us anyway.

"Don't expect your spouse to be perfect. Remember if they were, they might not have married you."
~ Gary Chapman

Sunday, July 25, 2010

An Examination of Marriage: Putting all of my proverbial eggs in one proverbial basket

As I examine my fears surrounding the idea of marriage, I recall the first few months of my previous marriage.

We'd purchased a home, further out than where I had lived for well over 3 years. I knew not a single person in the area where I now resided.

My friends, once by the multitude, had stopped calling. I suppose they assumed I was living in wedded bliss with my new husband. Unfortunately, he was a traveling businessman and was gone from even before our marriage began.

I was married. Yes.

And I was excruciatingly lonely.

***

When I consider marriage to Gentleman Jack, not only would I be committing to this wonderful man, I would more than likely be uprooting my family and moving 3 hours from a place where I've lived for more than 20 years.

My family is here.

My friends are here.

My children's family and friends are here.

I think my concern for all of us would be loneliness. My daughters would see their father less often and extra efforts would be made for them to spend longer periods of time with him. We would gain new friends, of course. I would certainly reconnect with family and friends around the town where Gentleman Jack lives - I did grow up there.

But what if... again with the what if's....

If I uproot all of us, change my life, OUR lives, lose friends, move on, then I am, in effect, putting everything into one man.

The thought of this terrifies me to my very core.

I did that before and was left standing alone, post divorce, wondering why I depended on the institution and vows of marriage to begin with.

It seems that just as divorces scares friends away, marriage does the same thing.


Perhaps, I'm considering how that change would feel. I would most certainly adore being around a new combined family of Gentleman Jack, his children and my children. However, I have more than myself to think of. There is also a big part of me that would like to maintain my network of friends, my identity as "T" and all that goes with it.

My network of friends... these people in my life... they are here for me. They are my support system. Each of them take turns providing me with love and support when Gentleman Jack can't. I've even taken special care that I don't depend on Gentleman Jack for everything. I've done that before. It simply... doesn't work. All of those expectations to be my "everything" is too much pressure on my partner and will obviously leave me feeling disappointed.

Yet, both of us struggle with this.

He knows that he cannot be my "everything". We both recognize this from the aspect of being married before and also from a relationship maturity level. I do, however, think that a part of him wants to be. He knows that he cannot be here to give love and support all of the time. I know this too. This is why I have others to lean on and spend time with. And yet, a part of me wishes that he could be. And a part of him doesn't like that I have to depend on others.

As long as we're long distance, I naturally maintain a separate identity, separate friends, and separate life from him. We're integrating slowly over time and distance.

Being together, in the same house, CHANGE.... still feels like a stranglehold but it is, with each day, gradually loosening its grip.

I'm so afraid of falling into past patterns of expectation.

I also wonder if this is why, prior to Gentleman Jack, I was beginning to feel more comfortable with the idea of "friends with benefits" or "polyamory". If I spread my love and my legs (pardon the expression) for more than one person, I could always have a back up plan in case someone failed to pull through for me.

What a ridiculous and most selfish notion, isn't it?

(For the record, I am so thankful for a blog in which to process all of these thoughts. Putting it "out there" is really helping me to evaluate my own fears, concerns and utter selfishness.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Examination of Divorce: Who Am I

I was looking for something in my email a few days ago and found an old email I'd written to K, the man with whom I cheated on my husband.

The email was written a few months post separation from my husband, and I had apparently reached out to him. I was confused. Lonely. Lost. I vaguely remember that he had come to see me to console me and I was an absolute mess. I don't recall what happened that day but from the sound of this email, I most certainly tried to obtain his affections yet again.


"Sorry I've been silent on this end. Just in a weird place. I think it freaked me out for us to be so close again. I just can't do that again. Don't apologize ( I know you will ). I thought I wanted to go there but my emotions can't handle that yet. Boy I'm learning lots about myself lately.

I love you. I love making love to you. I miss you. I know we'd be great together. I can't do that to your wife. Again, if she wanted to be involved... now that'd be fun... but even then, I'm not sure I feel like being sexual right now. Some how... I'm just going through so many changes emotionally. This is so strange to me. Its like I don't even have control over who I'm turning into! I think I'm so sure about something only to find that it just doesn't fit! Its just different to have absolutely no control!! And yet, for some reason, I'm ok with it. Just going along for the ride...

Anyway, I've been thinking of you and wanting to write but just can't complete a thought on most days... I honestly feel that I've had a lobotomy.

Please don't be upset. With me or yourself. I led you on thinking that I wanted to be with you again. I was sure I did (still think I do) and yet, it feels forced. I want things to feel natural and nothing feels natural yet. I can't wait til it does."


I found it interesting, those feelings I was having. I almost feel as if I'm going through the same things as I'm examining the idea of marriage again as well. Not the infidelity stuff... but the 'who am I?' and 'what do I want?' questions.

Change is interesting, no?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Introspect and lessons from my children

As mentioned previously, Gentleman Jack encourages me to speak up and find my voice. Though I tend to shut down and pull back when hurt, Jack pointed out an observation he made while I sorted through arguments between my daughters and his son on our vacation.

"You told all three of them to say, 'That hurts my feelings', didn't you? Why can't you do that?"

Eh... we teach what we need to learn, right?

***

Speaking of teaching our children what we need to learn... The other day, I asked Grace to do a chore that she wasn't too thrilled about.

"Can you do this for me baby?" I asked, "And without whining. And with a smile on your face."

My sweet 5-year-old daughter did as she was told, smiling the whole time.

It was then that she observed me doing a chore and asked, "But why aren't you smiling, Mommy?"

Yeah. Good question.

***

I think I have a long time little girl fear of being forgotten.

I've noticed recently that I'm the kind of person that will reach out to friends or family out of the blue to let them know I'm thinking of them - especially if I haven't heard from them in a while. I don't always feel that people do this with me. Perhaps occasionally.

Maybe my reaching out is a normal, subconscious action of treating others the way I wish to be treated.

I want to know that I'm thought of. I want to know the love is still there, even when I'm alone.

Maybe that is another reason why I have had patterns of attention-seeking behavior too.

If I'm still carrying around this fear from my own childhood, I wonder how I can prevent my daughters from falling into the same patterns.

****

Last week, after returning home from our trip, we found that our beta fish had died. I had placed a "7-day feeding block" in his tank that apparently didn't feed him.

*pout*

The death of the fish sent Grace into a tearful retreat that lasted about 2 minutes.

Two days later, however, both daughters unfortunately discovered a gruesome-looking death of our beloved Muffin, the teddy bear hamster.

I'm still wondering if I, in my post-vacation exhaustion, accidentally left his cage open. We found him hanging in the posts of the table, his poor little neck broken and his body dangling. Both children and I were hysterical upon finding our sweet and lovable remaining pet in this horrific position.

We cried. We prayed. We buried him (ironically and quite unintentionally in a muffin box) in the backyard.

Lots of people have been saying, "This is a good lesson for your children. Death is part of life."

Funny. Not many people say that about divorce and yet sadly, it is as much a part of life as death.

No one ever tells us that it's a good lesson, do they?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Examination of Marriage: Independence

Very commonly, when asked how I'm doing in my long distance relationship, my answer is, "I love it. I'm very independent, so it works for me."

Most of us single parents say one of the joys of being single is that we no longer have to ask anyone's permission to do what we do. What we "do" could be anything from "how we parent" to "whether or not we decide to wash up dishes after dinner" to "who our friends are".

I'm not sure I can examine the idea of marriage without examining my need for this so-called "independence" as described above.

Is it that I enjoy not asking anyone's permission?

Or

Is it that I no longer feel that I have to do without because my partner doesn't want the same things?

***

I'm looking back over a few things I wanted to do on our vacation in Mexico. I specifically chose not to do 3 things that I really wanted to do only because Gentleman Jack didn't seem interested. I began to feel some sort of resentment towards him until I realized that it was ME who chose not to do them. I didn't want to feel like I was making him uncomfortable or that he wouldn't enjoy what I wanted to do. There were a few times I wished I was on the trip alone so that I could be INDEPENDENT.

Is that really what this is about?

***

At lunch last Friday, I listened as my friend told me about the troubles in his current relationship. Every time he is doing something, apart from his girlfriend, she gives him hell about it. He's bending over backwards to be around her because when he's not, she's not comfortable at all.

"I'm not enjoying it anymore. This is why it's just easier to be single," he said, "I think I prefer to be independent."

"Do you think maybe that you and I are still 'people pleasing' like we said we wouldn't do?" I asked him after explaining my Mexico resentments. "Like maybe we need to find our voice and speak up instead of trying to make sure our partners are always happy. We seem to be giving up part of our own happiness to please them."

After all, Gentleman Jack and I did go deep sea fishing even when I said I didn't want to go...

***

I'm not sure why I'm having difficulty speaking up. Gentleman Jack listens to me and respects what I have to say. He's never asked me to change who I am but he isn't shy about expressing when something makes him feel uncomfortable.

He, on the other hand, doesn't apologize for who he is or try to change to please me. He just is.

Sometimes I don't always like the choices he makes but I have nothing but love and respect for him for always being honest and true to himself. Unfortunately, I don't always speak up, like he does, when his actions make me feel uncomfortable. He either senses it or, if I do speak up, he will apologize or sometimes he will defend his position. When he is in defense mode, I usually pull back my opinion with apologies. Thankfully, he remains consistent in supporting my voice and how I feel, even if we don't agree.

I so wish I could feel more comfortable with my voice and my opinions. After all, we've agreed to disagree on many things. I often wonder if maybe I'm still unsure of who I am?

I think I struggle with the marriage idea because I don't want to lose who I think I am and what I've learned about myself so far. And I certainly don't want to give up my happiness so that someone else never feels uncomfortable or disappointed.

Still, it seems there is a fine line in there somewhere, between maintaining identity and being selfish.

I'm working on locating the balance and finding my voice.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fat and happy is BORING...

Over the weekend, I was alone most of the time. The kids were with their dad and I chose not to drive back to Louisiana to visit Gentleman Jack since we'd returned only last week from our vacation.

I've been very introspective, as you've noticed, since our return from Mexico. On Saturday, I wrote out a week and a half's worth of blog posts (to be published still) on much of what has my mind reeling.

On Sunday, as I ate my late breakfast - I'd only just managed to roll out of bed at 10:30 a.m. after 10 full hours of sleep that I apparently needed - I sighed over my meager meal of eggs and toast and declared, "I'm bored."

I've noticed this lately. I'm bored with so many things... I'm bored with the food that I'm eating. I tend to cook the same things over and over again, not really challenging myself, because I'm truly not that good of a cook. I don't feel like putting forth the effort and my kids are also in that place where they still hesitate to try new things. Honestly, when the kids aren't around recently, I rarely cook at all. I've even eaten fruit or cereal for dinner on the nights they aren't home.

But I'm not sure that's what it is.

I'm also bored with my fitness routine. Or rather, the lack thereof. I haven't set any triathlon goals this year. I just don't feel like paying for them anymore. (It's not cheap!) With lack of a goal, my training has been sparse and I've not been pushing myself at all. I've also noticed that when I don't move my body, I feel old, tired, weak. I sleep more. I do less. My motivation is lacking.

Are you yawning yet?

I went to a yoga class last week when I didn't feel like it. I was nearly falling asleep all that day at work. Yet, I pushed myself to attend class and my body amazed me with it's strength. Apparently, my body was craving yoga!

Usually, when my body is craving yoga, my spirit is too. My spirit is craving awareness... a longing for appreciating the present moment.... a reminder to breathe.

This thought occurred to me when I decided to challenge myself on Sunday too. I did my own sort of random triathlon at the gym: swimming several laps in the pool, riding a stationary bike and running on the treadmill. I flopped almost helplessly in the water during my swim. I couldn't seem to get the rhythm of my breathing just right. In that awareness of my struggling breath, I decided to focus on it, move past it, and stay present throughout the rest of my swim, bike and run.

After my work out, I felt great! I was an entirely new woman!

I've noticed Gentleman Jack has been lacking in his usual fitness regimen too. He used to weight lift 5 times a week and now hasn't been to the gym in months.

Do you think we're suffering from the laziness that sets in after settling into a comfortable relationship?

(Thankfully, neither of us has gained the "happy belly" that showed up on both myself and my husband during our marriage. I lost all of the weight with the not-so-fun divorce diet.)

I do wonder if we've moved into some sort of place of contentment... and yet... as humans are wont to do, we begin to feel bored with our contented happiness.

Or is that just me?

Gentleman Jack seems perfectly happy in his state of lax. I've even begun to feel irritated at him for not challenging himself anymore at the gym!

I'm also very certain that my persistent analysis has also kept my mind from being focused on the beauty right in front of me.

Anyway, all of that rambling to conclude: I've lost my awareness somewhere.

If the physical movement and awareness of breath is what I need to feel alive, then I shall continue. Instead of attracting drama, wishing for change or something new or different, I will slow down, sit still, open my eyes, breath deeply and appreciate what I have.

Because, though I am processing my fearful thoughts on marriage, I truly am happy. And I wish to enjoy it rather than chase it away.

It's a little ridiculous that I'm even having this conversation with myself.


"Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Have you ever searched high and low for your glasses only to realize they were on your face all along? That is how it is with happiness."
~ Me

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An Examination of Marriage: Hierarchy of Needs

Since I have some apparent issues with the subject of marriage, I thought I would read a book about it.

Reading books helps my thought process and I have to process anything that makes me fearful. It's just what I do. Please bear with me as I examine the idea of marriage and what causes my sense of dread.

The book that I chose is Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert is best known for another favorite book of mine, Eat Pray Love, which inspired this blog and my quest, in many ways. It seemed only fitting that I would continue to read about her journey in the hopes for continued inspiration of my own.

In the introduction of the book, the author explains that she felt it nearly impossible to follow up after the success of her last novel. (Who can blame her?!) Then she dives into chapter 1: Marriage and Expectations.

In this first chapter, Gilbert centers on a conversation she had with some women in an aboriginal group in Vietnam. With the help of a translator, the author asked questions of these married women to discover what marriage meant to them. What did having a husband mean to these matriarchs of families who basically shared a one room house together?

Her questions were met with confusion and laughter. After all, marriage was simply something that was done, more than likely arranged, so that families could continue to procreate and prosper. There were no emotional entanglements or defining moments of love for these women.

Gilbert goes on to say how, in this country, we are defined as individuals. We work, more than likely, not for the common good of the family or community but rather for the common good of ourselves.

Since reading that chapter, and hearing about marital views from other countries, I also believe that we view marriage differently because of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Do you remember this chart?




In societies where basic physiological and security needs are a struggle to meet, I would imagine that being especially particular about who you married never occurred to men or women. I would think the minimum requirement for a partner would be can this person provide for me as a wife or husband?

Requirements would be simple:

Can he bring home food?

Can she cook and care for children?

Even moving up the hierarchy, some marriages are arranged not only for these basic reasons but also for a sense of community, of family, of belonging. Arranged marriages, as pointed out in Gilbert's book, mean that the choices are limited. Your family or your status decides who you will marry. In having limited choices, again, there is no point of contention like, "Will this man inspire me to be a better person throughout our years together?"

Most of us are fortunate, in this country, to have our basic physiological and security needs met. We are also fortunate to have many of our psychological needs met as well. We set career and material goals that are readily accomplished. We have friends and family with whom we choose to remain in contact. Or not. We have the freedom to move away, start our own "network of love and acceptance" with friends from school, work or our communities.

Sometimes the need for love and belonging is satiated after we're in a committed relationship.

With these needs satisfied, of course we move into the upper levels of the hierarchy and seek to find fulfillment through growth and self-actualization. This, I believe, is where we decide whom we will marry.

Or this is when we become even more demanding in an already comfortable relationship.

This, I believe, is why we put so much emphasis on "What can this person do for me?" beyond the basic needs that marriage provides in other societies. We want someone to help us to reach our full potential - the feeling of complete satisfaction of needs.

With the freedoms we enjoy, we also have an endless array of choices, don't we? With so many choices, we endlessly wonder, "Am I settling? Did I choose too soon? What if this choice is wrong?"

Too many choices can be debilitating.

Even after we've made our choices, our satisfaction is temporary. We want more. We aren't happy. We feel uninspired.

After all, we are still attempting to have those upper hierarchical needs met. If my current partner isn't satisfying those needs, there are still so many others to choose from.




For more info: http://honolulu.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/guidebk/teachtip/maslow.htm

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Diving Bird and The Flying Fish


There once was a bird
She had all she could want and 
Could never imagine wanting for more.
 The bird could dive deep into the depths of the lake 
But only for a moment.


She was happy in her air
Free.
Flying.


There once was a fish
He, too, had all he wanted and
Could never imagine wanting for more.
The fish could sprout wings and breathe air, outside of the lake 
But only for a moment.

He was happy in his water
Free. 
Swimming.

The diving bird and the flying fish met
And became friends

The bird loved hearing his stories.
Tales and legends of life under water
was nothing she ever thought of,
It was different
something she could
only experience in brief glimpses.

The fish listened to her stories of other lands
The stories were nothing like he imagined.
Plus she was free and could fly away anytime
Something he couldn't really do
If only for short intervals of time.

There once was a bird and a fish
And they fell in love.

Impossible you would think that
the two most unlikely creatures
could ever meet
Than ever fall in love.

Though the question that will always be asked..
Where will they live?

The answer is simple:

Who cares?

For they love each other,
And that is all that matters.




The title of this post, a fitting description of myself and my man, was taken from the book Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. Artwork by Koshkio and can be found here. The poem was paraphrased from another poem by issues09 and can be found here. Emphasis is mine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Post Pre-Proposal Processing



Since the marriage discussion on the beach, I've been feeling introspective. I've also been feeling ill with sinus stuff, my brain is still on vacation and I've started to PMS... Of course, all of those things tend to add to the self-analytical overthinking.

Please pardon these ramblings if they make little or no sense.

I'm still trying to reason with myself on my reaction to Gentleman Jack's "proposal" (or rather pre-proposal. Or should I call it a gesture of promise?)

I mean, my initial reaction was, "Yes, indeed! Absolutely!" Then I felt those hopes dashed the next day.

I also have to remember that I was literally out of my mind in that moment on the beach. And completely surprised.

But still....

Am I that frightened of the marriage idea?

***

I have also realized that a big part of my reaction to the beach surprise was that I was afraid he didn't mean it. Maybe it didn't seem official? Maybe because it was awkward? Maybe I didn't understand what gesture he was aiming for? Or maybe I was afraid that he'd take it away again - like it seemed he did before?

Or is it because there are still some things that I'm unsure about?

Since the beginning of this relationship, we've taken everything veeerrrry slowly. We've never, by any appearances, been the "typical" couple. How could we be - living 3 hours apart from each other? Heck, in the beginning, we didn't even think we would end up in a relationship. We were just lovers, enjoying ourselves.

Yet here we are, more than a year later, still living apart and still loving each other. This idea of "marriage without license" seems the perfectly natural progression of things. We're committed. Even though, really, we always have been.

So what am I unsure about?

***

When I returned to work on Monday, I was feeling a little out of it. Here it is midway through the week and I still have vacation brain! The CEO jokingly made a comment that I keep reflecting on...

"Why didn't you come back to my office and give me a big hug and tell me how you missed me?!?!"

Well, honestly, I didn't miss him. Or anyone for that matter.

Then I started to ponder on that thought:

When was the last time I missed someone that badly?

I think I may keep people at a safe distance from me so that I don't miss them. It hurts to miss people. I simply don't trust myself or others enough to allow them to get too close. If they get too close, it would really hurt me if they went away.

Is that it? Or is it something more spiritual than that? Maybe I see that we are never separate... even when we are?

I'm trying to learn that. I don't think I've got it though. I wonder:

Am I keeping Gentleman Jack at bay because of fear? Is that why I attracted a long distance relationship to begin with?

***

Uncertainly abounds.

There are loads of things we don't have in common. There are a few habits that could make me a little crazy if I let them. We still haven't figured out the distance situation.

If we were in the same town, perhaps I'd feel more certain, one way or the other?

I do know this:

We parent our children similarly.

We love each other.

I absolutely adore spending time with him. I smile and glow and giggle. A LOT.

We are amazing partners to each other.

He remembers me... he is considerate, attentive and sure.... he reminds me of his love, even when he is not here.

He is more consistent in his actions than any man I've ever been with. That I am very sure of.

I just hate worrying if all the good will go away. I think that fear was raised when I perceived that he "took back" his proposal the first time.

Or worse... what if it doesn't work out? What if those things aren't enough? What if I lose myself or he loses himself and we long for our independence again? What if each of us needs more and we have our hearts broken, yet again?

I believe each of these baby steps are as much for my benefit as his. We're committed and yet treading carefully.

I'll get past this. When my mind is right again.

Just needed to process....

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rings, Beaches and Surprises



A few days before we were to leave for our vacation, I was enjoying my nightly phone call with Gentleman Jack. He was goofy with anticipation about our trip together. He was at home, sprawled out on his couch watching one of the American Pie movies and laughing his ass off while trying to talk to me.

He sounded especially silly. He'd spent the evening packing and made himself a drink. I just didn't know how many.

We were chatting away, with him chuckling here and there at the movie... and he says the following to me,

"So, I'm thinking while we're in Mexico, we should tell everyone that we're married. Don't you think? I mean, we pretty much are. And we can still continue the way we're going because its so good but just declare ourselves married. Without all the legal crap. Ya know?"

I agreed and declared him my "husband without license". We laughed and said we should coin the phrase.

As I drifted to sleep that night, I was smiling. He'd been especially mushy on the phone that night.

I thought to myself, "Yes, that's it. This is perfect. We can remain long distance for now but committed to each other. I love this idea: Married without license."

***

The next morning, he texted me that he felt hungover.

When we talked later that day, he apologized for being so silly on the phone. I said something about his declaration of our marriage. His response, from my recollection, was something like, "Oh. Ugh. I was drunk."

Pssssshhhhhhhhhht.

Did ya hear that?

That was the sound of the air being let out of my balloon.

*pout*

***

Fast forward to our last night in Mexico....

Well, wait a minute, back up a bit.

All during the week, Gentleman Jack made comments here and there about rings and jewelry.

See? I'm a pretty simple granola kind of girl. I don't paint my nails and I don't really wear jewelry. Now, I do love jewelry but I don't wear it that often. I don't think rings are that appealing on my short stubby fingers. Earrings get in the way of answering phones at work. Bracelets and watches irritate me when I'm writing. Necklaces are good... but they tend to draw even more attention to my chest area. And I don't need more of that.


When I was married, I rarely wore my diamond ring. Most of the time, I wore a simple gold band. It was perfect for me.

Back to the story...


At random times during the week, Gentleman Jack would make comments like, "Its too bad you don't wear rings." Or his mom would say, "What kind of jewelry do you like?"

I didn't think that much of it. I mean, we've already nixed the married without license thing, right? Didn't we?

Didn't we?

***

Our last full day in Mexico, we went deep sea fishing. I'd taken Dramamine because I get sea sick. I'd taken another one on the boat because my tummy felt ill.

Are you keeping up with me here? That's 2 Dramamine in a girl who very rarely takes medicine because it affects me so much stronger than most people.

By the time we arrived back at our villa, I was S*T*U*P*I*D out of it. I couldn't even lift my arms to type at the keyboard. Like drooling out of the side of my mouth. Out. Of. It.

So there we were that last evening, at this romantic, gorgeous restaurant on the beach..... eating by candlelight.... Gentleman Jack, me and.... yeah, the whole rest of the kids and family... but still. It was a beautiful night.

Gentleman Jack turns to me at the dinner table, takes my hand, looks into my eyes and says,

"Ok baby, do you think we should tell them now? Do you think we should tell them that we're married?"

He says it so sweetly, wide-eyed, completely and soberly in love with me. And do you want to know how I responded?

"Er... um... eh... sure. I guess so."

......

......

.....


What.

The.

Fuck.

Ya'll?



Pssssshhhhhhhhhht. Crack! Crash!

Did ya hear that?

That was the sound of the air being let out of his balloon and then his heart breaking into a million pieces...



He looked devastated. He thought my response was nonchalant to him. He's been married twice before. To even mention the "m" word, to him, is a BIG DEAL.

And to me, it is too!

But I was confused and the frickin' Dramamine made me all stupid and now he was hurting and I couldn't even understand what day it was.... Grrr....

Apparently, he wanted to surprise me but accidentally let the cat out of the bag when he was drinking that night before we left.

The next day, I tearfully apologized about my response and confusion. I still feel bad about it.

Thankfully he still loves me and wants to spend the rest of his life with me.

Whew.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Storms bring out True Colors



This past week was the longest amount of time that Gentleman Jack and I have spent together - 7 days straight.

Of course, as expected, there were some challenges. How could we NOT be challenged traveling outside of the country with our children and his family?!

Not to mention the fact that his mother's room was right next to ours!!

All in all, I felt really comfortable around his family. However as I alluded to before, the travel dynamics were definitely different than they were when Gentleman Jack and I went to Mexico alone.

***

I noticed early on in the planning stages that his siblings and their families didn't seem so sure about the whole renting a beach house in Mexico thing. I found myself explaining in detailed emails what to expect. Even still, some things cannot be planned for. And why should they? We were on vacation for pete's sake!

For instance, the second morning of our trip, after a night of non-stop thunderstorms, my 5 year old woke me because she was scared of the thunder. I went to her bedroom, down the hall from ours, to lie down with her for a while. After about 20 minutes, I began to hear the tell-tale drip.... drip... sounds. I walked midway down the hall and noticed the floor was wet. Upon closer inspection, I noticed water leaking in from the door that lead to the rooftop. Within the next hour, we had Niagara Falls rushing down the stairs from our 2nd floor and flooding the entire first floor of our villa.

Gentleman Jack, myself and his mother spent the next hour or so with towels and brooms and mops pushing the water down the stairs and out the door. I discovered some life jackets in our bathroom and the three of us joked about needing them. There were no worries though! The house is completely tiled and the rain stopped. Our maid showed up within the next hour and brought assistance too.

To us, it was an adventure.

Unfortunately, not everyone handled it that way. Words were exchanged and I was witness to even more of Gentleman Jack's family dynamic. I stayed out of the way and made breakfast for the kids. Then, as quickly as the rain had subsided, so did the tension.

***

I also noticed that I naturally slipped into mommy mode with Gentleman Jack's son and his family.

And everyone let me.

Each morning, I was cooking breakfast for all of us. Gentleman Jack and I were also actively parenting three children during the waking hours.

One particular morning, I was cooking breakfast and putting sunscreen on the kids AT THE SAME TIME.

Everyone else was comfortable reading books and playing games. Even Gentleman Jack was playing a video game on his phone. I began to get a little snippy with the kids. Apparently, I was starting to resent this role I was playing.

Thankfully, Gentleman Jack is my mind-reader. He could tell I was irate and immediately picked up on the reason why.

Note to self: resentment means I've not set a boundary.

***

Another time, he was not a very good mind reader.

I'd woken up one morning later in the week on the wrong side of the bed. I'd had miserable dreams all night and had a sore throat. I was touchy all day long and he knew it.

Sometime during the late afternoon, he jokingly said something to me, about me, in front of his sister. They both laughed and thought I would laugh too.

Instead I took it personally.

He didn't notice because..... I guess I hide it well. Sometimes...

He figured it out after I had disappeared for 30 minutes and no one could find me hiding on our balcony looking at the peaceful sea. He was sick to his stomach that something was wrong and he didn't know what it was.

I tried to tell him that I was processing it because I couldn't understand why I felt so sensitive that day. I didn't want to talk about it. I was perfectly fine sulking in peace.

But he wanted to know. And wouldn't let it rest until I told him.

I angrily and tearfully told him how my feelings were hurt. He acknowledged that he understood, apologized and held me. I was still in a weird place and thankfully, after he understood, he allowed me my own space to continue processing.

We were better by dinner time.

Mojitos helped.

*smile*

more tomorrow... including the beach surprise



"Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky."
~ Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Firsts, for me, in Mexico

Well, friends, we're home from our wonderful vacation and I'm weary. I'm going to get the kiddos into bed and crash right behind them...

Before I get to that, I did want to do a quick brain dump, if you'll pardon the expression, of firsts that I encountered on this trip.

  1. Ceviche - why oh WHY did I ever wait this long to try this magnificent dish?!? YUM! I could eat it often! As a matter of fact, I have a lovely halibut fillet in my freezer that is begging to be marinaded in lime juice. Yay!
  2. Snorkeling with the kids - I've dragged the girls along beside me in their lifejackets while I snorkeled. It was fun to see them actually do it on their own this time.
  3. Swimming with turtles - Ok, I've seen turtles scuba diving in Hawaii but never while snorkeling in Mexico. I also saw a sting ray, held a star fish in my hand and fed sardines to an eel.
  4. Deep sea fishing - I get notoriously sea sick so the thought of this trip made my head spin. However, you put enough Dramamine in me, I guess I survive just fine. (Though dang, I was out of it the rest of the day.) My man pulled in a big ass barracuda.
  5. Visit new places - Because I've been to this area so many times, I tend to go to the same restaurants and do the same things. With Gentleman Jack, the kids and his family, I decided to share my favorite places AND try a few new ones. I found a lovely new restaurant and fun free activity that the kids really enjoyed.
  6. A surprise on the beach - well.... kinda.... that's a story I'll have to save for later. Shhhhhh!
Sorry to tease but I'm tired!

Night all!

    Friday, July 9, 2010

    Travel Dynamics


    Hola from Mexico.

    I'm sitting at the dining room table of our villa drinking a margarita while Gentleman Jack sits right outside the screen door watching the kiddos swim in the pool. On the other side of the pool is the beach and the ocean - much calmer than it has been the past few days.

    Ahhhh... yes, this is the life.


    It has been an interesting trip so far. We've been having a BLAST but having the kids around and having Gentleman Jack's family around definitely changes the dynamics of traveling on vacation.

    For starters, when Gentleman Jack and I came here in December, it was "solamente dos" - only the two of us. That was when we initially learned that we travel together very well. Each of us is very laid back and lazy on vacation. We take our time in the mornings, look at a couple of options of things to do and then head out. Or not. Neither of us wants to do many touristy things. We enjoy the relaxed aspect of vacation.




    A few members of his family prefer to have things planned out and would rather be near crowds. His family travels the world so it's not that travel makes them nervous. No, they just prefer the comforts of planned activities. Gentleman Jack and I could, more than likely, travel somewhere with no plan at all and still have the time of our lives.

    Having the kids with us has also been quite a challenge. My girls are joined at the hip and get along very well. Gentleman Jack's son, Fireball, is, well, a fireball. There has been plenty of "me vs. them".



    They've fought and gotten into it a few times. I think this is good though. They're sort of forced to find a good play dynamic. Here we are in mid-week and they've actually had a great day so far. We've also noticed that being hot, hungry or tired tends to bring out more aggression and frustration. We've been able to stay on top of it so far. Thankfully, our parenting styles are similar. Whew.

    Anyway, I think we're going to go snorkeling today. The ocean is beckoning.



    Hasta luego ya'll.

    Wednesday, July 7, 2010

    Thrifty



    Sometime during my later high school years, I discovered that I could find very unique clothing at Goodwill Stores. My mom, sister and I loved to hit flea markets and garage sales on the weekends.

    And the prices were always PERFECT for a girl with a waitress job!

    At Goodwill, I would spend hours searching through rack after rack of clothes for that really cool find. I found some items with tags on them or vintage jackets that I could wear over t-shirts and jeans. At garage sales or flea markets, I was always looking for rare albums to add to my ever-expanding music collection. I had all the patience in the world for that kind of bargain shopping.

    Today? Not so much patience anymore - I loathe to shop - but I still love those bargain prices.

    ***

    Every new season, the kids and I clear out our closets and sell or donate clothing. Then we hit the consignment stores for bargains.

    Well, this single mama was thrilled when a new thrift store opened in my little town!

    I walked in there before we left on our trip because I needed another suitcase. (Have YOU ever tried packing for 3 girls for a week's vacation? Nuff said, huh?)

    I scored on a great used suitcase for $9.99. I also browsed the racks to see what sorts of other things I might need later. *ahem*

    ***

    Lately, on Fridays, the gang at work has wanted to go hit garage sales over lunch. Our lunch breaks end up being 3 hours long but hey, when you're out with the CEO and VP, it's ok, right?

    We've so enjoyed finding rarities at estate sales or moving sales where everything right down to the silverware is for sale.

    It's become our new obsession.

    We're calling it "team-building".

    *giggle*

    Remember earlier when I said I loathe to shop? I think it's more fun in a pack.

    Just sayin'.

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Learning moments

    Grace, my 5 year old, is going through a growth spurt or something. She's not been her usual calm, happy-go-lucky self.

    Maybe the heat of the summer is getting to her? She loathes being hot. I can still remember the joy on her face as a baby... when the cold winter air would rush to her fresh skin, she would delight in it's crispness. Being hot and sweaty gets her all pissy.

    As we prepared to walk out the door for summer daycare, she had her arms filled with things she needed for school. I heard her getting angry as I walked away from her and down the hallway to turn off lights.

    "I need help. I can't open the door! Argh!"

    And then silence.

    I was surprised because in the past few weeks, when she's lost her temper like that, she's apt to fall into a tantrum, throw things or hit her sister. Silence worried me.

    I walked out into the garage and she was already in her car seat, ready to go.

    "Grace, are you ok, baby?"

    "Yep!" she said with a smile.

    I had to give her props.

    "I'm very proud of you honey. You didn't get stuck in the mad."

    She grinned, "What does that mean?"

    "You've heard that you can get stuck in the mud, right? Well, some people get stuck in the 'mad'. We all get mad. All of us gets frustrated at some point. Even grown ups! When we feel those feelings, it's really easy to get stuck there. I'm proud of you for getting mad and then moving past it into how to solve your problem. I'm happy that you figured out a way to put your things down and open the door."

    ***

    Gentleman Jack and I have wonderful discussions about parenting our children. Both of us come from hot-headed families and can lose our temper with our children.

    I really love that he's a single parent too. I don't feel so bad when I react to things because he's always there to say, "Yep. Been there too."

    We also share these 'learning moments' where we talk to our children about why we're upset. Each of us has stories of those times when we feel we've broken through the barrier of parental wisdom to childhood innocence.

    He may give a sports example to his 13-year old son who's upset for being restricted from video games and TV.

    I may make up a silly phrase like, "stuck in the mad", to get my point across.

    Another wonderful side effect of these "learning moments"?

    - We're learning from our children.

    - We're learning that our parenting styles are very similar.

    - And we're also learning that we're not alone.

    Saturday, July 3, 2010

    Travel Plans

    Our view for the next week



    Last week, I spent most of the week cramming in two weeks worth of work. And doing laundry. And packing. And trying to plan out what to pack...

    Because, oh yeah, Gentleman Jack and I are heading to Mexico again.

    The difference this time is that it's a family vacation. Family. As in FAMILY.

    When we returned from our last trip, he shared with his family all that we experienced and how amazing the area is. This year, we decided that we should ALL go to Mexico... his entire family and my little family too!

    Gentleman Jack's mom is also "sandal-wearin'" (a term Gentleman Jack uses lovingly to describe my granola ways). Long story short, she and I "get" each other. She also loves my girls. My daughters have met her a few times but not for long periods of time. It will be interesting to see what sort of dynamic they'll have with her after she spoils them rotten for a week.

    Heh.

    Anyway, we're so excited about the trip that every morning my daughters have been whining, "Are we leaving today? No? Wah!"

    They've been to Mexico a few times with me before. They know what to expect... including the not-so-fun-lines in immigration.

    I love that they feel comfortable in my favorite place in the world.

    Which brings me to my question...

    Every time I travel to Mexico, I am thrilled because I can look forward to relaxing and downtime. I've done all the "touristy" stuff. I've explored the area over the 20 years I've traveled there.

    I like going there because if I want to sit on the beach, eat freshly made guacamole and drink margaritas, I don't feel like I should be doing anything else.

    In other words... it feels like HOME.

    However!

    I also struggle with the question of, "Shouldn't I travel somewhere else this time?"

    It's not like I have a huge travel budget. I have to be selective where I spend my dollars. I also still have loads of places I want to go.

    I've also tried other island locations and not been nearly as comfortable as I am in Mexico.

    A nice house on the beach and crystal turquoise waters and orange juice that has a hint of lime and colorful dresses and beautiful Spanish and homemade pico de gallo and seafood that was caught just a few hours before.... it keeps calling me back for more.

    What about you? Do you have a favorite vacation spot or do you like to try something new every time?

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    I have no words... so I will share someone else's

    Last weekend, I put up a blog post about my friend Jim at Depot Dad. Jim is an inspiring single dad of two children and one hell of person. This planet is better with him on it. I'm just sayin'.

    Jim has been battling cancer, melanoma to be precise, for close to 2 years now.

    I knew that there were some questionable scans he'd had recently. I knew that he had been called into his doctors' office late this afternoon but I didn't think much more about it.

    I was blow drying my daughter's hair this evening when suddenly, I felt nauseous. It hit me like a wave of sadness and I knew... it was Jim.

    I walked into the other room and had a text message. I knew... I knew without even hearing his voice...

    It's not good news ya'll.

    By the time I actually got him on the phone, I was nearly hysterical. I was expecting an emotional response from my friend. What I heard instead was calm.

    He carried ME during that phone call.

    I really have no words for this experience yet. Instead, I'm going to post something that Jim wrote almost 2 years ago, right when we were first becoming friends.

    I can think of no other way to honor him except to share with you his own words.

    ****





    Single Parent Boot Camp

    “Keep your butt down, soldier, or it’ll get shot off some day!”

    By Depot Dad

    That’s prudent advice in any endeavor actually and...what’s that? You don’t know about Single Parent Boot Camp? Well have a seat and let me give you a first hand account of the experience as I still navigate the barb-wire training course of single parenting.

    I first arrived at Camp Cantwinfertryin last March.

    110 degrees in the shade and all you get for supper is a steady helping of grief. Each day starts off with a 20km hike while carrying a 60 pound pack filled with pressures, fears, and worries. But its not all bad, since the camaraderie of the recruits is unrivaled in any organization.

    Without a doubt the most difficult part of single parent training is the obstacle course. So they are:

    The Tire Tread Mill

    You have to hold a load of laundry and a bag of groceries up over your head while running through a field of tires. I hustled through this one as quickly as I could. I lifted my knees high. I landed in the center of each tire. In a few minutes I was across the yard. That’s when the Sarge yelled,

    “Now get back to the beginning, Rookie, and do it again! You’re a single parent – you’re never finished being TIREd! HAR HAR HAR!”

    And with that terrible pun still ringing in my ears, I ran on to the second obstacle…

    The Budget Balance Beam

    This one is tricky for sure, you have to cross a ditch of bills, taxes and expenses on the narrowest of income beams. All the while you are tossed to and fro by the winds of ever changing economic conditions. Its a tough one, I’m telling you. But once licked, you can move on to the…

    Slippery Slope of Infatuations

    All I remember about this oil slicked hillside surrounded by so many thorny bushes of heartache was the Sarge yelling at me from the sidelines,

    “Keep your wits about you, Rookie, or you’ll fall before you’re ready!”

    I almost bit it on that one, that’s for sure. But I managed to pull through and then I faced…

    The Negotiation with the Ex Mine Field

    Now, I don’t mind telling you this one had me scared. Hardly a single one of my fellow recruits got out of this one unscathed. A divorced mother to the left of me got blown sky high by a miscommunication about who got to host the birthday party this year. A single father on my right narrowly missed a “two days late on the alimony” mine when he was suddenly blown to bits when he stepped on a “child tattled about cereal for dinner” bomb. It wasn’t pretty. Still we pushed on to…

    The Mood Swinging Ropes

    This one looked too easy. Grab a rope and make a simple swoop over a little patch of dirt. Imagine my surprise when, upon grabbing the rope, I was suddenly propelled this way and that. The rope spun me into a whirl of euphoria, then dropped me fast into a nauseating funk. Before I could get my bearings, it had thrown me back to where I had started, leaving me feeling as if no progress had been made. Finally, it catapulted me on to the next obstacle and that’s when I saw my undoing…

    The Climbing Wall of Despair

    One has only to scale the wall using a hanging rope and throw themselves over the other side. As I stumbled towards this last obstacle, I saw it was but a small task for so many of the other single parent recruits. They propelled themselves up and over with the greatest of ease. But as soon as I grabbed the rope and attempted to pull myself up, I knew I was in trouble.

    “What’s the matter, Rookie?” came the familiar voice,”All tuckered out and feeling hopeless? Well ain’t that just toooooo baaaad! Now get climbing!”

    I gave it a second go only to end up flat on my back in a fit of tears.

    “You can’t lay down and blubber about yer troubles, you hopeless wreck!” came the sarge’s supportive advice. “Now GET OVER THAT WALL!”

    But it was useless. Every time I tried to get back on my feet, I slumped back down to the ground. I was beaten.

    And that is when the most surprising thing happened. A bus load of single parent graduates had stopped by to check out the new greenhorns. And as the door swung open and the experienced single parents came pouring out, I heard, not laughter and judgement but…

    “Cut corners where you can,” yelled out Heather from iHeartSingleParents.com. Kitkat4real followed that with, “Everything doesn’t have to be perfect!” Sweets pulled out a bullhorn and shouted,”Take each day as it comes and don’t sweat the small stuff!” Then I saw singleparentdad waving a giant flag. He yelled out, “When I’m so tired and I can’t even lift an eyelid, I think about my little boy and I am able to find the strength to get a few more things done.” T was next with a heartfelt, “Don’t feel like you’re alone in this!”

    And lastly, out stepped Ms. Single Mama herself. “Hey, you’re doing it all yourself now after years of having help! You can’t – as a human being – just suddenly adapt to that overnight. It takes time!”

    They all started cheering and I felt the strength return to my arms. I stood up and grabbed the rope. I pulled myself up and over to the sound of whoops and hollers. I made it over the wall of despair.

    And that is where I am today. Sarge says I still have to go the full 12 months, because I’ve got to learn to do the course blindfolded next. He says its the only way to be sure that these new skills are second nature and I can overcome obstacles without a second thought. And that’s fine with me.

    With a cheering section like mine, how can I go wrong?

    Just remember to keep your butts down, everybody, and I’ll see you on the other side.

    (Photo by Ms. Single Mama and post originally published on Ms. Single Mama's website August, 2008)