10 Free and Easy Ways to Be A GREAT DAD

It wasn’t rocket science nor did any of the things that made a difference cost money. Any man can be like my dad and/or my step dad… Here are a few of the things they did…

Today is Father’s Day and of course, I am thinking about the incredible paternal influences in my life. Hardly a week goes by where I am not reminded of some major impact my father had on my life even though he passed away almost 25 years ago. I’ve written about him quite a bit over the years I’ve been blogging but I’ve never really talked much about my step-dad. I got lucky at the age of 14 when my mom married him, although it took me a few years to realize it. He was a strong mentor and a true cheerleader in the face of my dreams. He fiercely loved my mom and provided another amazing example of how to respect a woman. He epitomized fairness and equality even while being a strong disciplinarian. I didn’t always agree with his approach, especially if he was bellowing but in retrospect, I appreciate his passions.

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1990 with my Step-dad Francis K. Bean

I cannot speak about ‘being’ a father but I can certainly attest to the attributes of two remarkable men who embodied the role successfully and share my perception of how they contributed to my life in such positive ways. It wasn’t rocket science nor did any of the things that made a difference cost money. Any man can be like my dad and/or my step dad… Here are a few of the things they did:

THEY SPENT TIME WITH ME

I never really cared how… it might have been sitting on dad’s lap as a little girl, fixing something, or being a helper as he tinkered on one of his many projects… It was often taking a walk, swinging in a hammock, or cooking together.  I  always knew that my dad and my step dad were available to make me a priority from time to time.

THEY LISTENED TO ME

Both of these men were on my ‘call list’… the ones you could call at any time, for any reason, under any circumstance and they would listen. They knew when to ‘fix’ things and when to simply listen. They offered suggestions but didn’t criticize. They didn’t get defensive or judgmental.

THEY TAUGHT ME

My father in particular was one of the most patient and kind individuals I’ve known. He found the patience to help me over and over again regardless of the task I was learning. My step dad might have had a bit less patience but he was determined to stick by you until the knowledge was imparted. Both of them were completely selfless when it came to sharing what they knew from common sense to book smarts, and they were equally relentless in their pursuit of acquiring more.

THEY FORGAVE ME

I was less than a perfect child and my mistakes occasionally ran deep and wide. They provided me with the space to fail and learn and they were always there to help me stand back up. When I was rude or sassy they stood firm, but let go and moved on without persecution or resentment.

THEY MODELED FOR ME

They modeled the behavior they expected from me. It was never ‘do as I say, not as I do’… While neither one of them were perfect of course, they upheld the values they spoke of; integrity, honesty, compassion, and respect. They never asked something of me that they weren’t willing to do themselves.

THEY PROTECTED ME

They protected me. Sometimes it was from myself, others it was from a boy who broke my heart or from a bad financial decision. They stood by me when strangers were rude or when I was treated unfairly. When Rocky died they literally held me up – one on either side of me and when I remarried, they shared time on the dance floor with me. I felt safe in the world because of them.

THEY ENCOURAGED ME

My father said that the only thing in the world I could never achieve was to become a father… other than that he said, “dream away”. My stepdad believed that I would conquer the business world and would challenge me to “work my brain” during the years that I chose to stay at home with the kids. If I had an idea, they were the inquisitors and financiers in support of the endeavor.

THEY TALKED TO ME

They asked about my day with genuine open-ended questions and prompted solid discussion about my life, social issues, and investigated topics of shared interest. When I moved away they would call me first… wanting share in my life even from afar. They were never salty or sarcastic about who called who – they promoted interactive communication that I knew was respected.

THEY LAUGHED WITH ME

I grew up knowing that it was OK to be silly and have fun, to tell jokes and play pranks. My dad and stepdad laughed with me even if I was laughing at them sometimes. My father was especially good at knowing how to balance life with silliness and laughter.

THEY SAID ‘NO’

They set boundaries, established rules, and demanded respect regardless of my age. I learned early not to expect everything I wanted but that my needs would be met. Of course, when they were able and often with delight, I was the recipient of their generosity whether it was a plane ticket home or a new dress for no reason.

These are the things that stand out.

My son recently became a father for the first time and I know he will be a great one. He has grown into a kind and fair man with an even temper. As I watch him look at his son, the love and awe in his eyes is vividly apparent and I know he is experiencing a love far deeper than he has ever known. This list is for him as much as it is for anyone so that his own son may someday describe him from this vantage point.

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2017  New Dad Francis Marion with son Francis Marion

I never cared how much money my dad earned or how many places he took us. It didn’t matter if we went to Disney because we spent Saturday afternoons walking along the creek looking for tadpoles. A deep and thought-provoking conversation over a pot of coffee was far more memorable than taking his credit card to the mall on Friday nights.

I was a lucky girl and I like to think that some of the characteristics that my father and stepdad demonstrated infiltrated my own parenting. I see most of them in my brothers as I watch them with their young children and I wish them for my son as he embarks on this personal fatherhood journey.

Happiest of Father’s Days to all the dad’s out there!

 

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Committment

We danced the night away taking great pleasure in our ‘little secret’ which was nothing more than a promise to one another but held tremendous regard in both of our hearts.

Continued from Fitting IN

“We must accept what comes to us at a given time, and not ask for more. But life is endless, so we never die; we were never really born. We just pass through different phases. There is no end. Humans have many dimensions. But time is not as we see time, but rather in lessons that are learned.” ― Brian L. Weiss

I hadn’t been skinny dipping in decades and my mind was reminding me of the extremely limited appreciation I had for my body image. I had four children and the evidence was everywhere. I stayed neck deep in water as I turned and looked back toward the beach to see Harlan’s reaction. I noticed he was just completing the removal of his own clothing and walked, a little more self-confident, into the water toward me.

The sensation of being naked, in the sun is not sexual. It is exhilarating – primal almost – there is a transcendent element perhaps in the way that sun and water come together on the totality of your body. We were there together, experiencing the cardinal thrill of just being two people entangled solely in nature at its finest. We dove under the water, splashed it at one another, and swam a bit. The intensity of the beauty of the beach and the water paled compared to the intensity of how we were looking at one another. I felt as if I could see into the innermost corner of his soul and I believed he could see mine. We moved toward one another and I wrapped my arms around him with an immediate desire to never let go.

When I stripped off my clothing, I apparently also abandoned the reserve that had allowed me to keep myself from going this deep – from acknowledging feelings this vivid and intense. I was back there – in that place of vulnerability where there is an unlocked door to the cavern of fear and to the one of hope. I had been inching my way there, noticing how our relationship was growing in respect and acceptance, noticing how great he was with the girls, how open he was to tolerating my ‘stuff’. I was instantly joyful and terrified that I might be blasted out of this position and yet I wasn’t moving away – I was present and intentional.

“I love you”, I said.

“I love you” he replied.

“I want to be with you always”, I say softly and lovingly. Previously, we had briefly talked about marriage and yet we both knew that it didn’t make sense financially and so we had taken it off the table. I didn’t need a piece of paper or a group of people to validate how I felt right then, about this man or how he felt about me. We knew what we had. We knew our intentions. We spoke them then.

“I promise to always be there for you, to respect you, and to listen.” He was watching me. “I promise to be authentic with you and to share myself completely as I am able.” The words had not been premeditated and were pouring from my heart. I continued. “I promise to support you and to learn from you”.

Each of us smiled patiently. He begins “And I promise to be there for you. To support you and help you whenever I can.” I see an intensity in his face that tells me he is speaking from his soul. “I promise to hold you and comfort you, to keep you safe.” My heart flutters. “I promise, to be honest at all times.”

I must admit that I am right now – writing the words that I believe we said to one another. We’ve often talked about the preciseness of what we remember hearing and saying that afternoon but I believe that we were both so caught up in the moment that all we specifically recall is the ‘essence’ of what was actually spoken. We acknowledge that we dedicated ourselves to one another in the water, in the buff, on the beach, with no one in attendance and it was probably the most romantic thing that has ever happened to either of us. We walked out of the water different than we had walked in.

We weren’t married, we weren’t legal, our union would never be officially acknowledged but we knew… we felt the strength of the emotional coupling that had taken place and we knew it to be a soulful bond. Perhaps – we would later comment – it was as natural as it was because it had happened before… perhaps in another lifetime and we were simply reuniting with one another. It was intimate, organic, and spontaneous. It was perfect.

Later that day we held hands and looked sheepishly at one another as my brother and his new wife committed themselves to one another on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean at sunset. Their union was beautiful and traditional and legal but no more intrinsic than the one we had self-officiated earlier in the day. We danced the night away taking great pleasure in our ‘little secret’ which was nothing more than a promise to one another but held tremendous regard in both of our hearts.

Leaving Puerto Rico was bittersweet. We knew we had a ton of obligations as soon as we returned home, Harlan would be opening his print shop and I would be starting my last year of classwork before I began an internship. We were full of hope and optimism for what our lives together would bring. It wasn’t perfect… we still couldn’t ‘live’ together but knew that there as a timer on that restriction. We knew that we still had much to learn about one another and more emotional bags to unpack. We realized that daily stressors would continue to challenge our coping skills. All we could do was find comfort in the idea that going forward – we would be doing it all together.

Harlan wasn’t setting quite the sail that he had anticipated. Instead of setting out down the Chesapeake Bay, he was setting up in a small Pennsylvania town. I was allowing myself one more shot at love in spite of all the resistance I had professed; swearing to give up on men. I had no idea what life had in store for me but I knew that in every experience I had to date – there was purpose and value. I was beginning to see myself in a new light – one where strength and love poured over me and into my spirit; where that energy drove me.

I found myself trusting that the Universe, God, was indeed on the same page as me although I realized that its demonstration of time was something that I still needed to reconcile. We used different clocks apparently. There was still so much to learn and I discovered an urgency and an affinity to seek it all.

Growing & Going Deeper

He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave.

Continued from Choosing Love

“If you want to have the kind of relationship that your heart yearns for, you have to create it. You can’t depend on somebody else creating it for you.” ― Gary Zukav

I found it fascinating how easy it was to have a man in the house again. Harlan was there a lot because as a single mom, it wasn’t all that easy for me to just leave. Sara was not yet driving and so I was generally required to take someone, somewhere. Harlan lived about fifteen miles away from me and had a different sleeping schedule so the hours we could steal for any alone time to build upon the budding romance were few. Most of the time, we shared our time with my girls.

We did love to take our drives, though. We were both on a Starbucks kick back then and so to sneak in a block of ‘us’ time, we would hop in the car after dinner and run up to where it all started… our local Starbucks and take a long way home while we ran through our days. It was on those drives that we created a vision of our life together. He knew that I couldn’t get married or live with anyone as a restriction of my divorce agreement unless I wanted to forgo a significant amount of alimony and so we talked about how to navigate a close relationship but within stringent boundaries. I wanted him to wait for me but there was still seven years until I had any real freedom without financial strings. It was a lot to ask, I thought. He said he would take it one day at a time.

When I met Harlan he claimed that he was but a minute away from hopping on a sailboat and escaping the town where he had been raised. Some of the memories there were dark and haunting – worthy of burying and escaping. I didn’t want him to go anywhere and meeting me – loving me – put a huge wrench in his long-term plan. I worked diligently to help him renegotiate a vision of his future; one that included me.

His work as a Graphic Artist in a small print shop was just a ‘fill in’ job until his house sold – that was the only thing keeping him local to me. My entrepreneurial energies kicked into high gear when I realized that the community in which I lived was void of the kind of services he currently offered where he was employed. We began to build a blueprint for developing a retail business in the community where I lived so that he would be right around the corner. I figured that if he could make money and build a foundation here, the motivation to stay would be much stronger.

One of the things people say about me is that I am a ‘doer’. When I get a thought in my head, it often leads to manifestation. Sometimes, it gets ‘almost there’ and other times it gets there and fizzles but most of the time, the things I try at least get started; and I’ve started a lot of things! This wasn’t my first array into building a business so I used all of the accumulated acumens to lay out our options.

The Universe heard me and I knew God was helping when the necessary components came perfectly into play. We found a location – it came with an apartment – but it had to be converted into retail space. Harlan had a year of recent experience (and a lifetime before that) of reconstruction and so we bought a building and began our first joint project. In reality, it was the second one… the first construction project we engaged in together was building a shoe rack for the laundry room at my house. It was a shoe cubby actually and held more than twenty pairs of shoes which are nothing when there are four females in one house. It was still early in our relationship and frankly, I was on my best behavior. If the shoe rack wasn’t perfect – no biggie… it was in my laundry room.

This project was a little bigger… we had to gut a residence down to the studs, tear out walls, put in beams, construct a forty foot ramp, include a handicap accessible bathroom and shore the flooring up to fit commercial building codes. It wasn’t an initiative for the faint of heart. All the while, I was still a single mom and a full-time grad student. “No problem,” Harlan says… “I’ve got two months of income set aside and I’ll do all the work”. Our budget was strict and we began the end of June with a deadline of August 25. We were all traveling to Puerto Rico for my little brother’s wedding over Labor Day and needed to open for business – to start making money – as soon as we got back.

This is the kind of thing people who have known and loved one another for decades don’t’ attempt for lack of temperamental discipline. We had only known one another for six months and our naiveté may have been our saving grace. We learned a lot about each other in that two months. We learned that we sometimes speak a different language. We learned that we are both always attempting to help. We learned that we have defenses and triggers.

Harlan and I are well into middle age at this point – each with histories rich in disappointment, rejection, and betrayal of some kind. Each experience having left a scar and a story. The end result is an array of defense mechanisms that become exposed at the most interesting times. We learned that I am a perfectionist (cough, cough, sigh) and we learned that he is too – in a different way and with different things. I could take a shoe and pound in a nail – as long as the nail goes into the wood. He, needed just the right hammer – the one designed for that type of nail – before pounding could begin. And saws… there are so many kinds of saws! Just give me a damn blade!

We sat on the front porch a time or two ironing out a misunderstanding, attempting to reconcile how we each felt and trying desperately hard not to repeat mistakes from relationships past. We mustered respect in our disagreements in a way that had never existed in my man/woman interactions before – it was so refreshing and enlightening to see and experience a difference of opinion that didn’t end up being a confrontation and all out fight. We learned that the way we use common language is sometimes different – our words have different meanings and we learned to navigate the differences.

As we continued to learn from one another – not just construction tidbits but also how to trust one another’s judgement and value our experience, we developed more and more emotional intimacy – our friendship grew in and around the love that we had proclaimed to feel toward one another. We easily laughed with each other and continuously found topics to fill our conversations. At the end of each day we were tired and spent but found energy to cuddle as we drifted off to sleep.

Harlan was a kind of man that was new to me. He was modest, so modest in fact that I didn’t know how to behave. He didn’t seem to have the same kind of ‘expectations’ that others had in my life… going to bed and cuddling didn’t need to lead to anything else. I literally was able to enjoy the experience of feeling his arms wrapped around me and know that I was loved even though we just laid there – drifting off to sleep – we were together and it was nice. My love grew deeper.

And the Kissing Begins

We had a table close to the center of the room and yet I distinctly remember looking in his eyes and not noticing anyone or anything.

Continued from Proven Prophecy

“Hard to sit here and be close to you, and not kiss you.” – F Scott Fitzgerald

Time passed quickly and we had yet to have a lull in our conversation. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to kiss him. I liked looking at his mouth and considered how his mustache would feel against my lips. I felt a stirring that had been dormant for far too long.

“What?” he looked at me puzzled… “Did you just say you wanted to kiss me?” he appeared to be blushing a bit.

I imagine that my eyes gave away my surprise that he had seemingly just read my mind and the idea that he had sent mini shivers throughout my insides. “Um… actually, I was just debating that idea”, and crimson spread quickly across my face as my eyes darted everywhere but toward his. Our coffee was finished and I needed to walk… “how about a walk?” I asked.

We stood up and headed out toward his car where he introduced me to a small long-haired Chihuahua who was yapping at full force and bouncing around the front seat of Harlan’s little truck. The window was open a crack and I was terrified of the energy spilling out of there as he barred his teeth and tried to convince me that he was big, bad, and ferocious. “This is Bear”, Harlan told me – “because he is BEARly a dog.” He opened the door of the truck which encouraged the dog to leap into Harlan’s arms while hyperventilating – or sounding like it anyway. I was smiling from ear to ear mostly because this really big guy was being completely and totally loved by a tiny, hunk of fur. It was a heartwarming sight. I noticed a kindness that few people in my life possessed. Another flutter of my heart occurred.

We walked across the parking lot and down the length of the shopping center. It was a classic winter evening with a soft drizzling rain making it seem twice as cold as it was. We talked long enough that I knew I wanted to see this guy again and probably, again after that. I had to get home but I really did want to kiss him – even though this was the first date… something drove me to move in toward him and lean up. It was a gesture so native and instinctual that neither one of us hesitated or resisted, we moved together and gently, ever so briefly, kissed.

It wasn’t fireworks or a trumpet tribute – it was better than that – it was comforting, safe, and soft. It was compassionate. I knew in this one modest moment that this man and I had a connection that was diametrical to any other in my life. I could feel the anticipation building from the center of my being and I looked at him intently while I said: “you and I are going to have a lot of fun together.”

 

I went home with a dreamy look and a perpetual smile that is indicative of liking, lusting, and infatuation. The girls were there to ask how it went and noticed immediately that I had taken on a giggly persona and so they knew. I sat alone for a while that night after they were tucked safely in bed and considered my life. How many times did I say I was finished with men? With love? How could I have a relationship and be the mom I wanted to be? How will the girls react with a man in my life? Am I willing to consider marriage?

There were so many questions and no answers just yet. The one thing that I did know is that I wanted to do this differently. I wanted to stay ME at all cost. I knew that I wasn’t willing to give up all the ‘inside’ work that I’d been doing, that I had accomplished for the sake of a relationship. How does one do that? I never had before.

With Rocky, we were just young and moldable. We were two pieces of putty when we met and we melted into a single, solid form that was shaped by our combined interests, goals, and aspirations.

With Hubby, I was dedicated to dream manifestation so concretely, that I created whatever image was necessary to create the vision and along the way, I lost track of where “I” was.

I noticed also that with each of these other two relationships, I had kissed them the first night I had met them. What did that mean? I laid in bed that night thinking; my mind running ahead of me faster than I could keep up. I contemplated my future, with and without a man – with and without Harlan. I only knew what he had allowed me to see and yet I already felt ‘at home’ with him. How crazy am I to consider moving this fast again?

I told myself to slow down – to be more present … ‘one day at a time’ I told myself. Everything was fine just as it was. I didn’t have to be in a hurry for anything. IF I wanted a relationship, it would have to fit into what ‘already was’. I must have talked myself to sleep that night, convincing myself to take a deep breath and relax; to go with the flow. I woke refreshed and feeling less intense – ready to take on the day.

That was until Harlan called. My heart skipped a beat when I heard his voice early in the morning and he claimed to ‘miss me’. Eyebrows raise and I feel an exclamation popping up in my mind… dude… too fast. I knew that if we were ‘both’ on the fast track – I was in trouble.

We made plans to get together for dinner on Wednesday when the girls went to their dad’s house. I met him at his office, a temporary job that he was just filling time with, and we went to a generic restaurant around the corner. I had been there before. It was large and noisy; open and crowded. We had a table close to the center of the room and yet I distinctly remember looking in his eyes and not noticing anyone or anything. Even our waitress had difficulty breaking the trance between us.

I was trying so hard to take it slow but our energies were electric as soon as we were in proximity to one another. We went back to his place after dinner and I noticed he was a minimalist. What a far cry from my own home where design and clutter were intertwined. Hmm… There was a loveseat in the living room – a love seat and a lamp. There was a desk and one chair in one of the bedrooms he used as an office, there was a bed in another room he considered the master, and then there were two stools in the kitchen. That was it. I looked around and quickly chose the loveseat. It was just a bit awkward but we had yet to experience a respite in our conversations so we carried on, getting to know one another.

Proven Prophecy

It was too coincidental … no – there are no coincidences… I had just met ‘my man’.

Continued from Soul Theory and Chances

“When you stop trying to find the right man and start becoming the right woman, the right man will find his way to you.” ~ Unknown Author

It started simple enough, a sentence here, a paragraph there. I vacillated between acknowledging the flirtation and hesitating to make a move back. He was persistent and quick. If I returned an email in the morning, there was another comment or question within an hour usually. I learned a bit through email at first. His name, his work, and his family were all introduced in electronic format; simple words that were announced by my good old AOL pronouncement of “you’ve got mail”.  And then he asked if we could talk.

Talking made him real. And I had to think about whether or not I truly wanted him to be real … wanting something and having it are two very different things and as much as I claimed to want companionship – it came with other things – like real telephone conversations. I gave him my phone number and told him that I would be driving up to get my older daughters the next day and we could talk then.

My girls were with their girl scout troop, on an annual trip that at one point turned into something fun for the mom’s too. They went ahead of me and so I had an hour’s drive to chat on the phone with this new guy. He had a great voice and I found myself enjoying the sound of it. I recall asking him if he had any bad habits to which he replied: “I slurp my coffee”. I decided if that was as bad as it got, I was in luck. We realized that we had a lot in common, daughters, challenging lives, childhood scars… and he seemed to be interested in talking beyond the surface – to be introspective. I liked that a lot.

We talked for the entire hour and then some as I sat in the parking lot outside the hotel for a bit. I tore myself away from the conversation by promising to talk with him again the next day. Cell phones made connecting so much easier and more immediate. The girls had a blast with their friends and I had fun with my mom friends – consuming a nice amount – perhaps more – of wine that evening. We ‘bunked’ in the hotel room, sharing queen beds so that we were all four to a room. Cozy and thrifty! I don’t sleep well under those conditions and it was a long night. At just after six am, my cell phone rang. Thinking it was one of the girls, of course, I scrambled to answer it as we all woke up – a couple of us a little worse for wear. “Hello”, I whispered… “Did I wake you??” a sobering masculine voice asked? Wait… what time was it? I looked at my watch again and double checked it against the LED readout on the nightstand between all those sleeping moms… “who is this?” I uttered in a hushed tone.

“It’s Harlan”, he said. Mr. Match.com guy. I learned right off that he woke up with the cows and accelerated with the sunrise. He claimed it was the ‘Mainer’ in him – after living in snow country for more than twenty years, he had a habit of getting up to add wood to the stove before anyone else attempted to move. He took care of people by keeping them warm – and apparently, talking to them at the crack of dawn.

Since I was in a room full of sleeping women, I had to hang up but promised to call him back quickly. I had the sense he was sitting somewhere, near a computer, probably slurping a cup of coffee while I groped around for my clothing and a hairbrush in an effort to get out of the room and down into the lobby.

Coffee has always made my morning better and so I grabbed a cup before I sat down to redial my phone, gathering some energy, and shoring up my mood so that I could at least sound, intelligent, and entertaining. Does anyone sound like that this early in the morning? I tried to imagine. We talked and talked. We talked so long that one by one, the moms and girls walked through the lobby on their way to breakfast, noticing that each time they passed by, I was still there in a chair gazing past the people, through the window, and into the sunshine that was coming back in through the plate glass. I learned all about his prowess at golf and football; about his art and farm animals; about his jeep and his dog. With him, I shared my children and my ex; my academic career and my goals; as well as my current thoughts about reincarnation and spiritual development.

He was a good listener and I began to feel a little giddy. Talking on the phone was better than email. I felt safe and comfortable. He wanted to meet.

Just the thought of it made my hands sweat. Now I was imagining that all the things I had begun to like about him would be overshadowed by things that could be wrong with him. Geez… I was a coward at heart. I realized that I wanted all kinds of things but had very little grit when it came time to go get them. I was risk adverse. I forced myself to work through those feelings; to push past them and I managed to agree to meet him but…  it would have to be on my turf.

There was a Starbucks close to home, far enough away so that it couldn’t identify my neighborhood but close enough that people I knew may be there or could – at a moment’s notice. I had read up on how to be a good ‘internet dater’.  We agreed on Monday night after dinner, that way I could use the excuse that I had to make it home to make sure all the girls got to bed in case the date wasn’t going well.

I got there early – better for the satisfaction of my control issues – and took a seat in the back so that I had a view of the entire café. He told me that he would be wearing a cream sweater with khaki pants. I hadn’t been there long when I saw him walk into the store. He was tall, and I recognized the combination of height, mustache, and cargo pants that he had promoted as ‘his style’ from his online profile. I watched as he walked in and stood at the register to place an order and had a minute or two to observe before he glanced around and our eyes met.

He had nice eyes and I noticed how trim and muscular he was, I could tell even through the winter clothing he was wearing that he had been an athlete. I also noticed how straight and tall he stood. It was something that my mother always commented upon. She used to tell us that posture was necessary and always noticeable. I believed her now. He came over and sat down next to me, smiling – I smiled back and we sat there for a second or two not saying anything; it felt like minutes before one of us spoke. He was funny. His sense of humor was a bit sarcastic but it was quick witted and I found myself laughing.

I was having fun. It felt good to sit there with a man, laughing and enjoying myself. I was glad I took the risk and the longer I sat there, the more interested I became. We identified a number of times in our life that had been ‘almost meetings’ as if we had danced around the country after one another at various times but the timing was never right. I suddenly remembered the prophecies I received on the mountain from my roommate and from Michael… this was it – Harlan was the one they were talking about. It was near the end of the year and almost Christmas in fact, Harlan’s birthday was on Christmas. It was too coincidental … no – there are no coincidences… I had just met ‘my man’. It was Monday, December 10, 2007.

NOTE  *As I finish writing this and get ready to post I realize that I am writing about a day EXACTLY nine years ago. I’ve been writing now for 83 consecutive days and there is no way that I could have mapped this out to coincide with exact dates. I am tickled that the Universe is allowing me this trick, providing affirmation that it is leading me, honoring me with words and memories as I need them. I am humbled and grateful.

Jay’s Lesson

There were so many expectations, hopes, disappointments, and potential for rejection that it took more courage than I thought I might have for now.

Continued from Consider The Possibilities

Sometimes life doesn’t want to give you something that you want. It’s not because you don’t deserve it, but because you deserve more.  ~ Unknown

A few days ago I talked about dating again and mentioned meeting a great guy on an arranged ‘lunch date’. His name was Jay and we had a second date, and then a third. We met for lunch a few times as it was a better in both of our schedules. He had four girls but they were mostly grown or almost there. He talked about them like they were amazing, making me believe that he was an amazing dad and that excited me.

There’s always a question when dating after divorce about when to introduce the person to your children – if ever. I wasn’t especially excited to have the girls meet Jay but they were curious and so I didn’t wait long… they knew we were seeing each other and they knew I liked him. I told them the basics, what he did for a living, how many children he had and what I knew about them, and I shared the general details of how we spent time together. It seemed to be going pretty well and so I invited him to come out for dinner. Awkward!! There we sat, at the dinner table that we used to share with their dad. I don’t know exactly what they were thinking but I thought it was weird… to have a different guy sitting there having a conversation with my children, someone other than the man with whom I had been sharing them with for twelve years.

He was pretty cool though… as the father of girls, he knew all the right shows – had seen and could talk about – The Gilmore Girls. He was friendly and conversational, knowing just how to fit in and when to sit back. They thought he as ‘weird’ – as any teen / preteen would typically think and perhaps he was – a little.

We continued to spend stolen pockets of time together, each of us taking turns driving the fifty-minute span that separated us. We took a weekend and spent it on a boat that he shared with another family member and I learned that he took fish oil supplements. Good for him – bad for anyone that got close enough to kiss him. I’m not one hundred percent that it was the fish oil, perhaps it was another issue, but that man’s perspiration was one of the most unpleasant smells I’ve ever experienced. I’m not convinced he wore deodorant and even if he did, I’m not sure there was a perfume strong enough to mask his personal scent. I don’t mean at all – to be unkind, simply descriptive of an attribute that was marginally manageable.

I struggled as to whether or not it would be a deal breaker for me. How do you tell someone … they smell and not be rude? How can they not know? Is it highly intolerant or critical of me to ‘not’ date someone because of an odor? I realized it wasn’t all of the time and hadn’t spent enough time with him to decipher what prompted or initiated it.

When I graduated with my undergrad, he slipped into the mix of celebrants – in fact, he was front and center… something that I was really questioning at the time but didn’t know how to ask him to ‘sit back’. Sadly, I don’t have any photographs of that day without him in it. He escorted me home that day to my surprise party and consequently, met many family members and friends… in retrospect – it was Way. Too. Soon.

Jay was unapologetically himself and I loved that about him. I envied his ability to be authentic regardless of the circumstances and I made a note to investigate that quality / feature about myself. It was a new and exciting proposition for me – to just be me. He didn’t apologize for his peculiarities or idiosyncrasies – he accepted himself – completely and I noticed. I liked that about him. I wanted to be like that.

Jay wasn’t divorced yet and since – at that time – neither was I, it seemed to be a bond between us … our ‘almost’ ex-spouses were somewhat thorns in our environment. We had each been ‘separated’ for over a year but the divorce piece was complicated. He began introducing me to a couple of his daughters as ‘a friend’ and then braced for the backlash from their mom. We had custody of our children on the same weekends so that worked, but there is SO MUCH to navigate when you are forced to maneuver through a dozen different personalities just to spend time together. We were attempting to finalize our plans for the upcoming July 4th weekend – whether or not to take all the girls someplace, my kids, or his, and it was just too complicated. He was firmly planted in his community – and I in mine. To that extent, we were either unable to unwilling to compromise. We were on the phone one afternoon and he was unambiguous with his words “I can’t date you anymore, it’s too hard”.

He tried to explain that there were just too many complications with his wife, his girls, my kids, the distance… I recall being somewhat stunned as there was no warning. I had never realized that his skin was that thin – or perhaps (giving him the benefit of the doubt) there was much more under the surface that I had not been privy to. In either case, I could feel myself shut down instantaneously … here it was again – rejection. Oh well… at least I hadn’t let my heart out – had I? Nope… it didn’t hurt, not really – I was just surprised. I hadn’t loved Jay. I realized that I hadn’t even let myself consider loving him. It was fun to be liked, to be wanted – for a while.

I walked out of my bedroom after that phone call and into Sara’s room. “Jay just broke up with me”, I told her. She looked at me with big eyes, wondering and waiting for more… “are you ok?” she asked. “Surprisingly… I’m good – it’s all good”, I say.

_____

On the drive home from the mountain I thought about Jay – what purpose did Joe have in my life? Why did we meet? I loved his authenticity. I needed to consider why it was such a strong element for me and how could I embody more authentic-ness? (um… duh – in every way!) I realized that Jay demonstrated that I could still get butterflies. Good to know. I also noted that I could be found attractive to a man. As crazy as it sounds, for someone with low self-esteem, coming out of a marriage to a man who preferred the company of other (many) women – this was somewhat of a revelation for me. I was desirable – at least to a guy who smelled like fish oil. I considered Jay practice but also acknowledged that dating sucked. There were so many expectations, hopes, disappointments, and the potential for rejection that it took more courage than I thought I might have for now.

I filed away the introspection about dating and organized my life. It was time to start grad school. I was excited with the idea of learning more.

Penetrated Composure

As anyone who has been down this road can attest, no matter how congenial your intentions, emotions can supersede the best.

Continued from In-Between Spaces

“I am more and more convinced that some people are put in our lives solely to try our patience and tamper with our tolerance levels.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich

I’m not sure we – as a culture – consider the expression of emotion as a strength but after hearing Ellie say it I was able to ponder her words. It’s true that we want mostly want to run away from or fight back when we experience negative feelings and surely, moving them out of our awareness seems like the most logical plan to feel better. Facing them, experiencing them, processing them, and allowing them to ‘BE’ is far more difficult than putting them in a box and sticking them on a mental shelf. Admittedly, feeling some things is just too hard and there are appropriate times to shelter our psyche from the pain of *some* emotions but generally – it is better to feel them and allow them to move on – away and out of your sphere.

I will say however that hearing this and truly learning it are two very different things. I recall one afternoon in particular where I failed at this principle completely. We were meeting at the office of Hubby’s attorney; he and his attorney, me and mine. Additionally, our corporate accountant was also there although I still have no idea why except for the potential for them to collectively intimidate me. I was choosing my battles carefully and so meeting there was a deliberate concession. We sat around a large table with Hubby’s attorney at the head – she was managing the discussion. I seem to remember that we were attempting to ‘line-item’ the specifics of asset distribution and support details. What I do remember is a challenging series of questions from his lawyer – we probably could call her the Queen Beeatch – about my impending Psychology degree. She determined that it was a waste of time because it was ultimately worthless without going to Grad school and he “definitely wouldn’t be paying for that”.

We went back and forth about the value of my contribution … trying to establish my ‘worth’ in the business and marriage. They were attempting to determine my employability and how much money I could earn outside of the business that we owned together. It was a rather ridiculous conversation as I still didn’t have a degree and all my ‘earnings’ had been run through the business so there wasn’t anything concrete from which to reference. In addition, I would be required to sign a ‘non-compete’ agreement when we terminated the marriage – rendering me unable to work in that industry within a certain mile radius for years to come. All the knowledge I had acquired over twenty years would be irrelevant.

My attorney was good, arguably equal to Queen Beeatch in qualifications but in terms of attitude, she was a delicate flower sitting across from ugly, spiteful, demeaning, bitchy, arrogance. I needed more power. I thought we were prepared but having never been through it – the things I had on paper were inconsequential compared to the pompous energy and disposition Hubby’s lawyer brought to the table but I did not stand down. My heart steeled up… protecting me from disintegrating there on the spot, from melting into oblivion, which is what I wanted to do. What was accountant Steve thinking? I was pretty sure he knew the scene… he had been around in the early days of discovery and exposed to my fury when I found financial items in our books that were corroborating of my fears. I felt betrayed now by him as well… how does one do a job regardless of the integrity of one’s client? The attorney I understood… the accountant?

As anyone who has been down this road can attest, no matter how congenial your intentions, emotions can supersede the best. I drew weary, exhausted actually. Emotionally drained of any recourse that I had planned and simply wanted the afternoon to end. We took a break to allow each of us to conference for a moment with our representative and my attorney’s only question regarded education. We didn’t have anything in writing about college for the girls. I couldn’t imagine any situation that would have prevented Hubby from providing college funds if he was able so I bowed out of the need to further the agony of this day. I wanted to leave. We got the green light without much more circumstance and I left the building, I left everyone behind and walked to my car feeling alone and crushed. It wasn’t what we had been discussing per se, but the tone of the meeting … as if there was some unseen overarching power that Hubby’s ‘side’ had over mine. I don’t know how his attorney slept at night. I won’t group her into the whole of the legal profession but she certainly upheld every negative stereotype I’d ever known. I wondered how much he was paying her compared to the fees I had accumulated. Our divorce was costing tens of thousands of dollars.

I got to the parking lot where I had quickly pulled into and thought perhaps I had walked the wrong way because my car was not there. Everything else about the scene was memorable, the same, except my car, was missing. I then noticed a sign which had not entered my awareness when I pulled in, warning customers that the space was explicitly for another business and all others would be towed.

Are you fucking kidding me?

I pulled out my cell phone with shaking hands and called the number on the sign only to find out that my car had been towed to a local impound yard. Shit. Crap. Damn. Seriously?? The impulse to sit down, cross-legged, right there on the asphalt and throw a temper tantrum was exceedingly strong. ‘What would that solve?’ my mind cautioned. As a carousel of possibilities circled in my head, I found myself walking back to the law office.

Hubby was still there speaking to his attorney in a different office and had to be summoned by the secretary. I explained what had happened and he offered to take me to where the car was located, not far from where we were. I hated that I had to ask. I wish there was another logical and simple solution but we were both there and I had spent fifteen years depending on him to get me out of a tough spot… I was doing it again.

We walked out to a rear parking lot that I hadn’t been told about or offered… his truck was there and I got in. Immediately I noticed a woman’s touch. His and her sunglass holders, lip gloss in the center compartment, and a ‘frilly’ bottle of flavored water that I knew he would never drink. Oh, my heavens, when would this shit be over? I found myself, once again not being able to breathe. My heart was racing and my thoughts screaming to let me out of the truck but I was unable to speak or move for fear that my body and thoughts would connect and betray my wishes to exhibit composure.

We drove into the garage where my car had been taken and I got out as quickly as Hubby stopped. I moved toward the office so that I could pay the fines and leave but he got ahead of me to open the door and I noticed, pull out his wallet. I was obviously shaking at that point and my restraint was dwindling rapidly; my eyes were swelling with tears and I was afraid to attempt speech. I let him pay the ransom and swiftly grabbed my keys, said “thank you” and turned to go. He followed me. Please… just let me get the hell out of there.

“Are you ok?” he asked as I slid into the driver’s seat of my car and turned the key. “Really, thank you,” I whispered as a tear finally escaped its hold and ran down the side of my face, fortunately, on the side he couldn’t see.

Photo credit: flickr.com/volver-avanzar !!! via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND