In the year 2050, I became this meme on Spacebook. Here’s why.
Age 0. I was born.
Age 7. My dad died. His heart stopped. My heart broke. My family broke.
Age 8-17. Survival mode training 101, Part 1.
Just add tequila.
Age 18-25. Survival mode training 101, Part 2.
Had husband. Had miscarriage. Had lots of tequila.
Age 25-41. Got rid of tequila. Got new husband.
I got a starter survival toolbox. Some items included: 1-family of choice, 1-Blue Book, 1-Higher Power.
Read some tools, practiced some tools, lost some tools, misused some tools, lacked some tools.
Age 42-55. Put main toolbox in the garage. Got some tools out on occasion. Usually between kid’s events, bouts with cancer, mother’s funeral and Modern Family episodes.
Added second toolbox. Included brightly colored paint, some joy, furniture, brushes. Kept this one in the house.
Age 55. Life and my immediate family, as I knew it for 26 years, blew up all over the living room.
Main toolbox found, under the rubble. Second toolbox proved to be a lifesaver.
Age 56-60. Did not die. Learned how to live. Took a minute. Got out the main toolbox. Added more books, more family of choice. Upgraded Higher Power. Added the Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of to my second toolbox. Used frequently.
Age 60-62. Got a wake-up call that I am gonna die. Don’t know how long I have. Estimate just under 30 years.
Found open door to a road less traveled. Walked through the door. Drove down the road. Led me to the beach. Brought both toolboxes. Put in the front seat for safety, like eggs and bread.
The main toolbox got upgrade. New Red Book added. New family adopted. Higher Power got another upgrade.
Realized Higher Power has their shit together. And I am not far behind.
Age 62-64 Continued using toolboxes. Got rid of tools that no longer worked. Upgraded to new and improved tools as more was revealed. Leaned into love. Burned fear in effigy. Surprised myself.
Age 64-90 Continued waking up with direct access to salt water and sunshine. Adapted toolbox and lifestyle to fit each other. Continued to upgrade and maintain Higher Power connection. Like electricity. Paying the bill by fully expressing my gifts and sharing. Wrote one kickass book. Or twelve. Won award for most fun grandmother in the history of time. Lost award for most humble grandmother of all time.
I got high yesterday. It had been a tough day emotionally, one in a series of many. I did not plan it. I started my day feeling emotionally spent from having made some tough decisions. The kind that sap so much mental energy, I think I can’t move my body.
I used to misinterpret those kinds of days, when I was emotionally fried to mean I could not do anything physical. I would intend to do 3 exercise classes in a week, but then at the end of a workday from a dissatisfying job, I would tell myself I can’t exercise, not realizing that that was a lie. In fact, exercise was not only possible then, but I did have the physical energy, I just didn’t know it. That was 30 years ago. Now, I know that mental fatigue does not mean that my body cannot move. I am fully committed to walking 2 to 4 miles most days, in spite of the heavy emotional ones that leave my brain feeling like mashed potatoes. And I am always better for getting out there and moving my body.
After a morning phone call with a friend where I could hear exhausted chatter coming out of me, all the while my gut was saying “You are too tired to talk. You need to rest,” I caught myself. I told my friend I felt like I sounded like what tired animals look like when they pace aimlessly around in circles and she said she could hear that in my words. I hung up, revised my ambitious plan for the day to look more like gentle self care and self compassion. After all, I had just come out of several weeks of trolling online dating for hours on end. No wonder I felt so wiped out. I was.
I needed to go to the grocery store, and the beach was out because of rain, so I saw an opportunity to go get some paint for a custom order rocker I have to paint. And I wanted to attend a new support group online at six thirty in the evening. Perfect! A couple of errands, cook myself dinner, support group, a little TV, then bed.
But that is not what happened. I got through the first errand picking out some yummy colors for a rocker I was painting for a client in Memphis when an idea came out of nowhere. “Let’s go look at shoes!” That sounds innocent enough. My rationale was that I do need shoes for walking in the summer, as well as some inserts in my current walking shoes. But the energy was not there. And you don’t have the full context.
You see, I have a history of shopping and overspending to avoid dealing with reality. It goes hand in hand with an eating disorder and alcoholism, if you want to categorize it by addiction or disorder. Along with that, my most recent addiction of online dating to excess, you now have a better picture of my challenges. Or, the main moles whose heads pop up in my game of Whac-A-Mole.
Alcohol has been out of the picture for 36 years. But you can’t not eat and you can’t not spend and you can’t not have relationships with people, so those have all been to excess for me in the past thirty some years, talking turns rearing their furry little heads. The food has had a tremendous amount of work put in by me and that disordered eating, which has twice required treatment is most of the time in remission. The relationship/aka online dating obsession has only been a thing since my divorce five years ago, after a 26 year loveless marriage so that is a new mole, relatively speaking and as my previous story indicates, I have disconnected the power to that little furry guy just this week.
My mother was in the fashion industry. She worked for the chic women’s magazine Women’s Wear Daily in New York City, right out of college with her journalism degree in the 1940’s. Her last business which closed in the 90’s was a high end dress shop, serving the wives of wealthy monied oil barons and the old money of Tulsa, Oklahoma. She did fashion shows on private jets. Served wine in the sitting area outside of the dressing rooms. All of the nurturing that she had to offer went to her business. None of it came home to me. And many nights, neither did she.
My brother and sister were adults out on their own. I was in high school and I was home alone. Alot. My mother had her own problems, namely acting out promiscuously with married men and bar hopping to get attention. It was very important to her that she be seen. She had gotten used to that when she met and married my father in New York City, where he was a dashing handsome celebrity in show business. They were a beautiful couple, hob nobbing with the show business elite of radio and television and music in Manhattan in the 1950’s, so after my father’s untimely death in 1967 at the age of 42, her party, the one with the silver spoon and the Stork Club and Big Apple came to a screeching halt.
Her store was the only place I really saw her much. It was clothing for women, which did not fit my adolescent form in high school, but she would not buy me much from stores more appropriate for me, so I was stuck with pants that pooched where I didn’t have hips because that was what I got.
Over the years, I developed her love for clothing and fashion and pattern and texture and color, and I learned a lot from that exposure. In some weird way, the clothes I got from my mom, were a form of love in my experience, so it makes sense now as I write this that I would become a compulsive shopper, as I was groomed for it really when that actually WAS love from a mother who did a poor job of giving it otherwise.
I walked into the shoe store with the best intentions of just trying on some shoes for beach walking and getting some inserts for my sneakers. It was dark and rainy outside and I had just enough time for this quick stop before heading to the grocery store and then home. This is where the high comes in. Most of the time, when I go into ANY retail store, I pray this prayer, “God, please make this a sober shopping experience.” And for good reason. Because for me to walk into a store full of pretty things with a 1,000 open line of credit on a card and not say a prayer for protection, I can get and have gotten into some serious debt over that. Especially when I have been upset or emotional. And I practice what I call sober spending as a rule as a means to do just that. Be sober with money. Some people would call it being financially responsible. That works for them. For me, it’s sober spending.
Before I share what went down yesterday, I’ll share another episode of, let’s just say, me getting shitfaced on shopping at Chico’s. Chico’s is a women’s fashion store, similar to my mom’s and was at one time my favorite place to go for clothes. On this occasion, I was freshly wounded from the surprise ending of my 26 year marriage one night in my living room some weeks prior. I had dropped my daughter off to go to a concert in Oklahoma City and decided I would take myself out to dinner and shopping while I waited. And when I say my life blew up, I mean it. I thought my then husband and I were working things out when all in one 24 hour period, I learned that no only had he relapsed in his alcoholism, but he had been paying for sex and acting out in a full blown sex addiction, spending tens of thousands of dollars in the process for at least 6 years right under my nose, which had been up in the cloud of denial for that entire time. So, needless to say, I was hurt, and perhaps fit the description of a woman scorned.
So as I am putting my pile of merchandise on the counter that had to be 14 items stacked, I am vomiting this all to the woman ringing me up. Just like she were a bartender pouring me shots that just happened to come on plastic hangers.
“And then he…” me having inappropriate oversharing “this happened to me” tourettes all over her because that was the best I could do at the moment. Thing is, Chicos hires women my age for part-time work, so she was commiserating with me that she had had the same experience and the woman in line by me, who may have well been swivelling on top of a red leather trimmed in chrome bar stool said this to me. “You know what some women in your situation do, they go out and buy a ‘Fuck You’ Lexus.” Believe me, had that been an option, I would have. But that money was gone, so clothes it was.
Yesterday was not much different in that I was emotionally spent, for different reasons, but still raw and hurting. I walked into this brand new store, full of fabulous shoes, handbags, beach apparel, well lit and displayed, literally out of the dark of the storm into the light, and there they were. My bartender and the servers! The manager and two clerks who had no other customers, plus the owner, who happened to be there with his wife. I turned on and connected to get off before I even got near the register. Just looking at the funky artistic designs of the bold, colorful shoes in snakeskin, leopard, sapphire blue, metallic and combinations of all of these. When I tried on the first pair, the owner, or, should I say the dealer, spoke to how great the shoes looked and said maybe I should be a shoe model for him.
My ego grabbed ahold of that like a shot of tequila and went to town. What should have been a twenty minute stop turned into over an hour after I virtually created a position for myself in his store as someone who would essentially lurk around customers, getting a read on the one who might be receptive to buying if I saw them hovering at a display, slipped into the back to grab a pair of what they were looking at to wear out and show them, “this is how they look on,” it was brilliant. And the owner was all over it. I gave him my number, after extolling my retail history resume and upbringing, bragging how I knew when to leave customers alone and when to cater, sharing my lesson learned from my mom, who used to nag me to try things on, saying, “go on, try it on, you can’t tell until you try it on,” which was accurate, and he was literally going to create a spot for me. So I left, elated, but only as long as the light from the store’s door closing behind me still reflected upon me. By the time I got in my car, and after calling my neighbor still flying to tell her what happened, I hung up, my mood began to rapidly deflate and by the time I got home, the high was gone, replaced by exhaustion, no groceries, an overpriced to go order and me too spent to be on that support group meeting online. Instead, I checked out on the couch with Netflix and girl scout cookies.
I don’t want to abandon myself anymore, so today I succeeded in not doing so. I got my groceries, spent the afternoon sunning at the beach and fed myself a nice dinner. So tonight, I committed to myself that I would write this instead. And I love me more for doing so. Now, I can watch a little Netflix and go to bed feeling good about getting to the grocery store and being there for me and with me.
I am sitting on my couch on a Monday afternoon. It is raining outside here in Florida. 70 degrees. It is March 1st. I don’t know why I am writing but I am. I am binge watching the same Netflix show of seven seasons that I first began in October as a way to cope with so much alone time during this pandemic isolation. I am at the end of season seven for the fourth or fifth time, I have lost track. It is called Offspring, a show complete with hot Aussie men, a dysfunctional family, sunshine, laughter and tears and quite alot of wit and poignancy, but I got bored after sleeping through an episode or so, so here I am typing away.
I was feeling lonely and started to do what I used to do which was look to social media to fill the void. I got as far as my Facebook page, where I updated my profile picture, knowing that by so doing, I could get some likes and loves and maybe if I am lucky, some comments. Those are the brass ring you know. I mean, anyone can hit a like or a love but an actual comment. Someone actually ambulating their fingers and going to the trouble to make words out of letters, well, that just feels so…empty really. In the long run. Because this is what happens next, for me, and this is the reason that I have abstained almost entirely from Facebook since the middle of December.
Now, I have set myself up for more loneliness, not less. Because now, I have a choice to make. I can go back to my Facebook to see if anyone has seen my new picture and then see if I have had any likes or comments. And then I can spend time living in my head wondering if certain people I find attractive have seen my picture. Or, whether friends have missed me or not. In the past, it inevitably ended up with entire evenings lost in scrolling, reading posts, being outraged at some, tickled at others, touched by a couple of memes, but ultimately coming away feeling spent, tired and MORE lonely than when I signed on and those hours spent scrolling are never coming back to me. Because I have used something outside of me to try and fill me up, when what I am actually doing is abandoning myself in the process.
Social media!?! It really isn’t social at all. At least not in my “I live alone in Pandemia and I am single” experience. Because since the time I have left Facebook, I have only heard from a small handful of the over 1400 friends on my account. Admittedly, there are probably about half of those who are only friends for business reasons. We have a code where we friend each other and then like each other’s business pages to grow those business pages and hopefully grow those businesses. Facebook algorithms give business pages more exposure when they show a higher number of followers and fans.
I am not judging or criticizing any of those people who I have not heard from. It is a two way street. Just observing my behavior that leads nowhere good.
Today, I decided to do something different. I know people who say that doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insane behavior. And I want to feel better, not worse. So that is why I am telling on myself here because who knows, maybe I am not alone in my behavior. Wouldn’t it be ironic if by posting this story on the social media apparatus of my WordPress blog page people relate and take some kind of comfort in knowing that they are not weak or flawed or unloveable, all feelings I have had today backed by the gray rainy sky that blocks my solar mood altering sun from me.
We are coming up on the one year anniversary of Covid 19 taking life as we knew it, and hermetically sealing it, or in some cases, us in, leaving REAL social interaction in some cases potentially dangerous to our health. I am so thankful that I have remained well from that sickness.
The sickness I have had has been loneliness. Actually, loneliness is not a sickness, but I have some shame admitting mine. My response to my loneliness at times, is seen by some as sick behavior. I am just going to call it learned behavior. The other social media that I have gone to at times looking for something outside of me to make me feel less lonely is online dating sites. While I do have a valid desire for a loving romantic partnership, I have a pattern there. I start out telling myself that I can do so in moderation. Just sign up for one app, only check it every so often, maintain balance in the rest of my life and before I know it, weeks go by, four dating sites are downloaded on my phone, hours of my nights spent scrolling through pictures of men looking for…something outside of myself to fill my void, entertain me or take away my pain. There have been several dates. First and last, all in ones. I can’t believe I am admitting this on paper, but truth is the only way for me. And the truth is that I don’t want to feel discomfort or grief or loss or boredom for that matter and these are things in me asking to be felt.
I have a support network in place set to catch me when I need to be comforted as I purge losses that I have distracted from in any number of ways. TV, food, shopping, men, women, your life, world news. It is far more exhausting to distract at this point than it is to just sit with the feelings and let them come out. But I still fight just holding still.
I am having to unlearn some bad advice, or better described, “programming” I have subjected myself to for a very long time and took to be gospel truth. For many years, I have heard the terms, “fake it til you make it,” and “act as if”- two of the worst bits of advice given by people who don’t know what else to say when someone is really in need of dealing with some really uncomfortable feelings. Advice typically given by people who can’t be with their own uncomfortable feelings, so it just trickles down like a bad infection to many unwitting eager for relief listeners. I tried it. It doesn’t work.
For me, it only caused me to believe that I was somehow flawed for having anger or fear or grief or loneliness. And I have them all. At some point or another. Because I am human. I still have shame even writing this here. But I want to be over this.
So as of this moment, I am not cruising Match.com or Bumble or Tinder or Hinge or Plenty Of Fish, which, by the way goes by POF.com and would be better named POFFOT.com, (plenty of fish floating on top.com), and yet I go there. Desperate. But I want to bring a more whole me to whatever relationship I have coming, which I sometimes trust the Universe is preparing for me.
To be fair to me, and to anyone out there, I don’t bring a healed person to the table, so I am going to do some more of that before I get out there again and I really hope that I allow my daily walk of life to be the source of people I date because online dating leaves me spent. And not in the sweaty, fun way. I rationalize going there by saying “It is hard to meet people out in the world” which I find to be true, but I also find meeting people who I have anything in common with online to be difficult as well. Maybe more so than if I just give it up and see what happens. At the store. At the beach. Who knows. Clearly, I don’t and my way certainly isn’t working.
Honestly, I don’t feel like I am very available right now. I tell myself and others that I want a meaningful relationship and I do. But if I am completely honest with myself, I don’t have a lot to bring to the table right now and I don’t want to lose myself in someone else or use their attention as a distraction for feelings that I am trying to avoid. That is not fair to them. And not good for anyone. Just writing that here is scary because it means getting more intimate with me.
So that is where I will be. Hanging out with friends, open to timing other than mine to fulfill that heart’s desire because I have done nothing but wear myself out, lead people on, lie to myself and spin my wheels. I have caught myself saying “he’s a game player.” “He’s unavailable.” “He’s all talk.” That all may be true, but guess what? I am the common denominator. The laws of attraction are at play here and that tells me that these things are all true of me too, or else why am I attracting this type of man, so I am stepping back.
In the meantime, I have art to create, words to write, a one eyed cat who needs and gives love, a beach to comb, sun to soak up and being to do.
I woke up this morning from a dream. I don’t have them very often. At least I don’t remember them.
I was caring for someone’s child, about the age of two or three. The child, not me. Or was it? She bore a strong resemblance to me at that age.
In the dream, I was fully focused on my work. Nothing else. The task at hand to care for this child was my only focus.
I was in a house. That felt like home. It had a bright living room with tall pane glass windows on both sides of a big white stucco fireplace. There were windows on all of the bright white walls. With lots of sunlight filling the living room with warmth. I was alone with the child. Fully attentive to her needs. She had cherubic blond curls and big blue eyes.
My heart desires romantic love, but my focus was no longer that. I was not thinking about a man. Of attracting a man. Of having a man. Of loving a man. Of a man loving me. Caring for this child was both fulfilling and enough.
I was minding my business and the door opened. And he walked in. I was surprised. Not expecting him. I was trying to process his arrival on the scene. I was thinking, “ Who is he? Why is he here? Should I be alarmed?” No one had informed me that he would be arriving to do his part of the work that there was to be done. In this home. Where I was a part of caring for the child that lived there.
In fact, I don’t really know who I was working for. There was never a person that represented that in the dream. But it was understood that both he and I had jobs to do for someone or something in the same home where I was caring for this child.
The man was earthy. Slightly taller than my frame of 5’10”. Raw, edgy, and real. Honest, too. There was no effort on my part. He just showed up. “You are a slim woman.” His first words to me. I felt immediately vulnerable. Apprehensive to hear the next words. Would he be objectifying me? Is he just about what he sees? He continues. “I like a slender woman.” As if to say, “I like pizza.”
His frame was slender, and I could tell he had been through some storms in his life. It was a feeling. And a knowing. And an edge. And a magnetism. “Good God.” Exactly that. The attraction was strong.
“Where are you from?” I asked. Observing him doing the task at his hand. Checking out his form. His arms. His hair. His shape. It was hard to see his face at this point. It appeared he had taken on a job for the same employer I had. Work of a handyman nature. I think he was working on the bottom step of the stairway to the upstairs. “Virginia.” Is what I heard in a voice that sounded older than he looked. It had a richness in its tone coupled with a rough edge. In the center it was deeper. Just like I was getting in by listening.
I was not able to get a good look at him all at once. Partly because I am shy at first and was afraid to look at him for very long. And partly because the dream only revealed his image to me a little bit at a time. And with that revelation, I really liked what I saw. He had the most beautiful black hair. The attraction was strong. Undeniable. And oh so mutual.
I did nothing for his attention. And I had all of it anyway. He was fully in the moment. And so was I. It was electric. He wore a white t-shirt and jeans. The container of his body was attractive because he was in it. There was a magnetic thing happening. Hard to put into words. But it was strong. And unavoidable.
He began to ask about me. I don’t know what he said, because I was on sensory overload as the blur that had entered the door was starting to come into focus, his features gradually defining themselves. What he said was almost irrelevant because I felt as though he already knew everything about me anyway and was just making conversation because that is how we do it.
His eyes were beginning to show themselves to me. They were piercing. Brown, very dark, with a glint that was in the shape of a smile. I just had to pause as I wrote to utter to myself, “Oh God.”
The closer he got to me physically, I would say I knew I was in trouble. But I was not. It was right. And right on time. And I had nothing to do with it happening. I was completely out of the way. Which, historically, in romantic relationships, I had been a 100% initiator with 100% failure rate. Some call that kind of behavior insanity. Defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
He had something in his hands that played music I think. I’m not sure, because by now, he was in my space. And I was good with that. I had a sense of abandonment. Not concerned about boundaries. Or hula hoops. Or rules. “You don’t know him. You only just met. Are you crazy?”
But I did know him. On a deep level. At my core. Almost instantly. Besides, when you are really crazy, you don’t know it.
I had a hole in my sock. And I was embarrassed for a minute. That feeling was quickly replaced by the attention I was being showered with. Showers are good. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Oh my God.
This was not about sex. This was about love on a deep and spiritual level. And in spite of the many words in many languages that I have to choose from, there are none that would adequately describe the feeling of simply being in the room with him. When he touched me, all four of my other senses all but shut down. Without permission, I touched his gorgeous, thick black hair. It had only a few flecks of gray. It was rough to the touch.
Coarse, but he was not.
He was gentle.
I am pausing again. Not sure if I want to share.
I was no longer trying to attract a man. And one came anyway. Not because of me or anything I did. Or how good my hair looked. Or if I had on makeup. Or wore that cute polka dot sundress. Or if I was witty. Or articulate. Or said the right thing on my Match.com profile. I had nothing to do with it.
When I get lonely, my friend tells me that I’m easy to love and that makes me happy and gives me hope.
This was a hard one to wake up from. But it strengthens my faith that there will be romantic love in my life again. And that I don’t have to do anything to earn it.
I’ll just make caring for that little girl my full time job and leave the rest to God.