#81 Attend a Mystery Night Out

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#81

Attend a Mystery Night Out

Are you a mystery lover? Do you like to solve problems? Are you seeking a new idea or an alternative for your next ‘date night’? While murder mystery ‘game night’ boxes have been around for decades, the idea has taken on a very different vibe with museums, galleries, restaurants, and others getting in on the fun.

Host at Home

If you want to invite a few people over for a fun night at home, consider a box game – readily available from a variety of places. You’ll get everything you need to invite a few friends over and role play a real life game of Clue. You don’t need the box though – you can download a game and all the necessary information to play.

Get Out

Not into hosting? Want to be a partygoer? Keep an eye out for a Murder Mystery night in your community. Local theaters, tourist train companies, galleries, libraries, and even small townships have hosted murder mystery nights with themes ranging from Casablanca style nights to Old West Gold Rush motifs.

Finding Fun

A simple Google search for “Murder Mystery Night in YourTown” will hopefully return a number of options in your community or nearby. Sites like Eventbrite and Yelp also returned local options and Yelp of course, offered some reviews and comments about the events themselves but word of warning for those comments: The fun is often determined by the people involved in the experience and as such – will be different for each group.

Social

Just a few days ago I touted the benefits of a game night and this is just a twist on that suggestion. It’s yet another way for couples to enhance time together in a unique way. It’s a great opportunity for families to get disconnected from electronics and do something fun. It’s an entertaining way to spend time getting to know new friends or building comradery with business associates or team members.

Do a quick search for opportunities in your area, gather one or more peeps, and …

Attend a Mystery Night out.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#254 Go on a Date

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#254

Go on a Date

This advice is particularly focused on those of you in a relationship of some nature although I’ll mention single folks too. As a marriage counselor, perhaps the single most common reason that people end up in my office is because they loose connection with one another due to lack of energy directed to their relationship.

Dating is how many of us got to know one another. It is how we built emotional intimacy, how we discovered our interests and commonalities. After a few years, we assume that we have nothing left to say and our conversations center on work, bills, and perhaps kids. Novelty, excitement, and interest begins to wain.

I recently discussed self care and it’s importance to our mental and ultimately, physical health. It’s message pertains to relationships as well. What is starved – hungers; what is not watered – dies.

What is a good date?

First and foremost, do something you consider fun. If we’re not enjoying ourselves, it will be challenging to engage positively.

Consider also to do something active. Engaging body and mind doubles our personal interaction and creates a broader dimension for conversation. From bowling, kayaking, a ropes course, or rock climbing… an active date will offer opportunities for conversation that goes beyond your day to day life.

Don’t use this time together to resolve issues. Step back from the struggles or challenges in your life and allow the date to be a mental vacation.

Find time to physically connect. Some people use a date night for an exclusive opportunity to spend time connecting sexually. While this is definitely an important element in any solid relationship – it is not the end all. Sex without an emotional connection is available anywhere. To keep a connection with your partner, it is imperative that both the emotional and physical are combined. It doesn’t matter which element comes first as long as both are present. To clarify, physical connection doesn’t ‘have’ to be sex… holding hands while strolling through a festival and staring into one another’s eyes for a few minutes can intensify a couple’s connection nicely.

Are you single?

Most of the same advice applies. I’m hearing more and more from clients and family how single people are dating less and ‘hanging’ more. The ‘Netflix and chill’ mentality has infiltrated the tradition of getting to know one another by getting out and ‘doing’. I see people who developed a relationship over movies and sex but are now wondering what they actually have in common outside those parameters.

When you’ve moved past the ‘swipe right’ stage, step out and do something fun! Find common interests and activities that you can get passionate about together. There’s a lot of truth to the old adage… “the family that plays together, stays together.

Do your relationship a favor and make it a point to…

Go on a date.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

Photo by Spring Fed Images on Unsplash

Fitting IN

Continued from Growing & Going Deeper

“The best feeling in the whole world is watching things finally fall into place after watching them fall apart for so long.” ~unknown

Our work on the shop progressed with buckets of sweat and dozens of late nights. We worked side by side, each of us with our tool belts on, attempting to decipher who would be the chief over which project. He was better with the construction pieces and I headed up the painting and design elements. We realized that we worked together well – managing to iron out the kinks when they arose. Some of our first major disagreements happened over that project but for the most part we calmly and (most importantly) respectfully – broke them apart to understand where our communication had lapsed.

So many things were different for me in this relationship – we both came into it aware. We were self-aware, which I find to be a full one-third of the challenge when attempting to address problems. We both had a good idea of the baggage we had accumulated as a result of our prior relationships and the distorted ways of thinking that were generated in various parts of our childhoods. We were pretty typical in that there were some combination and degree of control issues, abandonment, trust, self-perception, self-esteem, self-worth… the same kinds of things that are common in adulthood throughout our culture – varying only by extent and juxtaposition. For the most part, we were conscious of how those elements played out as we interacted – how the defense mechanisms were triggered – and how we consequently reacted.

Knowledge is great but we both had developed some habits that were harder to break. I was quick to shut down – to withdraw and go silent. That had been the best way for me to cope for a lot of years but now, it wasn’t effective. When I used that technique, it spurred a different reaction in him. We had a lot to learn about this dance that we did – it was early in our relationship and our starry eyes often provided cover for the growth that was ready to sprout. It was a wonderful beginning and we both felt it.

My brother was getting married and the construction was not yet complete. We really needed to open for business when we returned from the Caribbean and so we handed the project over to an extremely reliable and trustworthy contractor (extended family member). The five of us (all three girls, Harlan, and me) boarded a plane and made our way with taxies, boats, and rental cars – eventually arriving at a three bedroom house we rented on the island of Vieques – just off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. It was one of the first times that Harlan and I openly shared a room within open sight of my daughters.

I had talked to them about it when I booked the house. They knew he stayed over from time to time and they knew we traveled together but it was still a bit awkward having a full-on relationship with a man who wasn’t their dad. They thought I was weird and gross for ‘wanting’ to sleep in the same bed as him but it was a turning point for us and the environment was supportive of the change. Our house was part of a larger complex but small enough to feel intimate and it sat right on the beach – overlooking the ocean with the British Virgin Islands off into the distance.

Vieques used to be occupied in large part, by the US military and so there is a major portion of the island that is still raw and undeveloped. It is accessible by jeep and there are some incredible, unspoiled beaches if you are willing to drive slowly and patiently across tough terrain to get to them. We rented a jeep and explored the island for a few days before other family members arrived. It was almost like a honeymoon – well, maybe not a honeymoon considering the girls were there and I still cooked dinner most nights… but it was a getaway.

Our time on the island felt like a family vacation. Harlan got along amazingly with the girls even though they were hesitant about his presence there from the beginning. He had a special way of being supportive when they needed it but allowing me to be the parent. He never tried to be that to them, recognizing that they had a father. He did want to offer confirmation or affirmation when it was called for – he went to swim meets and concerts, was open to talking with them but rarely… expressed criticism or attempted to discipline. It was as if he knew their limitations and demonstrated respect for them.

One afternoon, while we were all enjoying some beach time and the older girls, were getting surfing lessons from a couple of other teen boys – a great pick up play – I noticed some quick movements in the water and then saw Harlan holding Emily in his arms. It seems that she got hit by a wave and went under – apparently in a way or for long enough that it was cause for concern so he scooped her up; bringing her into the safety of strong arms and fresh air. Since then, it has been a ‘remember when you saved my life?’ moment memory.

This man protected my child. Any parent out there knows the depth of feeling… is it gratitude, appreciation, satisfaction, or acclaim?? When someone ‘cares’ for your child. When they put the needs of your child above their own – it’s as if they are on your team – automatically – partnering with you. I saw that in Harlan that week. He looked out for my girls in a way that allowed me to know that he had their best interest at heart. He had demonstrated that before – when he let them know that they had to be happy with my choice in him – but this week he cemented it for me. I was madly in love with this man.

We ducked out of festivities one afternoon, leaving the girls in the care of the family who had finally arrived in preparation for wedding festivities and drove out to one of the secluded beaches. We kept driving until we found one that was deserted. We wanted a bit of alone time. We didn’t have our suits or towels for that matter as we had been at a barbecue – a ‘get to know one another’ for both of the families that were there. We pulled up to this Caribbean cove of white sand and aquamarine water. There were clusters of palm trees in each direction and a soft breeze that seemed stimulated by the waves crashing on the beach. It was warm and the sun was intense.

We stood in the shade – on purpose – while we observed the incredible absence of human intervention and appreciated the exquisite beauty. Harlan stepped out onto the beach as I looked around to make sure that no other human being was in sight. I took a deep breath and stripped off the limited amount of clothing that I could tolerate in this island heat, leaving every stitch in a pile and ran across the sand, buck naked, right past Harlan as fast as I could into the safety and protection of the crystal blue water.

Growing & Going Deeper

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.

Choosing Love

Continued from Falling

“The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry lifetime after lifetime.” ― Alex Collier

After Harlan told me he had been treated for melanoma I was a bit heartbroken. I didn’t want to go through that again, I couldn’t imagine setting myself up for loss one.more.time. I struggled to find some peace with the idea of letting him go – before he ‘really’ got under my skin and into my heart. I felt disappointed and a little defeated because I had finally met someone worth allowing myself to fall in love again and he is telling me that he had thought he was going to die a few years prior.

He had said the only treatment he had was excision of the mole… no radiation or chemotherapy. One would think that it couldn’t have been too serious and yet, a cancer diagnosis is terrifying no matter the circumstances. Every time I thought I could overcome my fear, the memories of my step dad’s journey with melanoma crowded my vision and then I could see myself again as a widow sitting in the front row of a funeral service. I just couldn’t do it.

I picked up the phone and called my Aunt. We had been close since I had settled my grandparent’s estate and she was like-minded in spiritual philosophies so it was easy to talk with her most of the time about this existential stuff. I needed to think out loud and bounce my thoughts off of someone.

“I met this guy”, I started telling her the story of Harlan and our instant connection. I shared with her, the prophecy from my mountain trip and gave her a general description of how things had transpired so far. I told her about his melanoma and how scared I was to take the risk of loving him.

“So, let me get this straight”, she said. “You are going to throw away the opportunity to love a person whom you are describing as a ‘soulmate’ because he MIGHT die?”. She sounded incredulous. “I thought you believed that everything happened for a reason”. She was challenging me.

I recalled an evening she and I were sitting on the porch at my grandparent’s farm in Northeastern Pennsylvania overlooking the amazing acreage there in the Blue Mountain region. The beauty of it was always intense, no matter the time of year. It was one of those places where you sit and observe the perfection of God’s work, of creation. It is one of those places where the paragon of color, texture, and shape are apparent. We were sitting there talking, taking a break from the emotional aspects of our losses; she of having lost a sister and her parents and me – my mom and grandparents. It was a lot to process. The conversation had turned metaphysical. We talked about the lack of coincidence, cosmic design, divine intervention, universal intent… all of the things that inspire me deeply…

Suddenly it was clear. If I believe that everything happens for a reason, then I had to deduct that

THIS moment

In its intention

Is perfect.

That meant – every moment of my life – each one… in its overall intention for the rest of my  life was perfectly designed.

The intensity of the meaning of that realization took me by surprise. Whether it was God, the Universe, Mother Earth … it didn’t matter – each moment of my life was moving me toward the next… perfectly. It was a concept that we both internalized and committed to memory – feeling quite satisfied that we had discovered something so profound.

She was reminding me of that now as I questioned the value and or the validity of meeting Harlan, of falling in love with him. She reminded me that there are never any guarantees. She asked me if I would have married Rocky even if I knew that our time together would have been short. I knew I would have – those short three and a half years were precious to me and had produced Frank… I would never have given that up. She asked me if I would have married Hubby even if I knew the outcome and as much as I wanted to say a resounding ‘no’ – I knew that the girls were a product of that union and nothing on earth would have me regret those blessings. I wouldn’t change anything about my life.

She asked me to think about whether I was willing to reject even a day of love, of being loved, the experience of the joy that being in love brings for the sake of safety. So, “in other words, she said, “you would rather feel nothing – no pain, no joy, than to feel love and potential pain??”

Hmmm…

I didn’t ‘want’ to feel ‘nothing’ but I was afraid. I was afraid of the pain that loving someone -and losing them- entailed. I was terrified of the darkness that ensues when love ends. The idea of experiencing that again panicked me but then again, the idea of never loving again wasn’t what I wanted either. Crap. Shit. What do I do now?

I appreciated the phone call even if it didn’t solidify a decision to end my budding romance. Rather, it did just the opposite I was more clear on the emotions that I experienced when he told me about the melanoma. I realized that when I noticed the potential for emotional pain, my response was to shut down, turn, and run away. That’s normal, right? Who ‘wants’ to feel pain? I understood then that the ‘fight or flight’ response we instinctively use wasn’t only for our physical protection – it was for our emotional protection as well. In our efforts to preserve our emotional integrity, we avoided or fought back emotionally.

My desire to run away from Harlan in case he died was an instinct to avoid the pain of losing him. The mature adult part of my brain that held on to rational thinking knew that there were no guarantees even if he had never known the word melanoma; after all… Rocky believed he would live to be one hundred years old. Nope, no guarantees at all. With very little conscious thought from that point on, I allowed myself to love.

I picked up the phone to call him, just to remind him that I was excited to think about what lay ahead for us. I looked forward with a little apprehension but less fear by knowing that right now… here… in THIS moment I was choosing love. At some point, I noticed that I always choose love.

Falling

Continued from And the Kissing Begins

“All love stories are tales of beginnings. When we talk about falling in love, we go to the beginning, to pinpoint the moment of freefall.” —Meghan O’Rourke
After only a few dates I knew I could easily love this man. We were able to talk about almost anything and we shared a number of important priorities. I could also tell that we were different in a lot of ways. I knew now that a good relationship is one where we celebrated the similarities between us while at the same time, embracing and respecting the differences.  When we weren’t hanging out with one another, we were talking on the phone; and still – the conversation flowed.

On the next kids weekend with their dad, Harlan came and stayed at my house. We built a fire in the fireplace, rented movies, opened a few bottles of wine and created a blanket / pillow heaven reminiscent of our childhoods. We slept there – in front of the fireplace – participating in an adult style sleepover as if we were in our twenties all over again. It was romantic and loving and relaxed. For approximately 48 hours, we ate, slept, and chatted at will… no schedule, no interruptions, no expectations. It was magical.

Eventually, we got into more nitty-gritty things, what had happened in our marriages, the imperfections of our extended families, the challenges that we grew from. One of the many things that really attracted me to Harlan though is his heart. He appeared to be intensely compassionate and considerate of others – an empath almost. I could tell that he would literally ‘feel’ the experience of others and sometimes, there was simply no benefit at all in that.

We talked about him meeting the girls. I had introduced them to Jay too soon but then, I had never felt this way about Jay. I felt something stronger and growing for this man. I wanted to see how he would be around the girls.

That desire made me think about myself as a mother… how many mistakes had I made? How many had I learned from? What had I learned exactly?

The girl’s father hadn’t been discriminate in his choice of partners and had no regard for the girls’ thoughts on the matter, telling them to ‘get over it’ and ‘it was his choice, not theirs’. Consequently, the girls certainly didn’t have the relationship with him that I had always envisioned. There was a strain on the father-daughter rapport almost constantly because of his relationship. I didn’t want the same outcome. I wanted to find a way to balance a personal romantic relationship with that of my role as a mother and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the latter.

I knew from my own childhood that when moms and dads begin dating again, they can get too absorbed in the new partner – way before the kids have a chance to ‘catch up’ with their feelings and that, wasn’t the best scenario either. I wanted the girls to like Harlan and so, I invited him for dinner.

It wasn’t as smooth and as easy as when Jay came… even though Harlan had daughters, he wasn’t up on Gilmore Girls or Hanna Montana because he mostly watched sports or public broadcasting. He wasn’t a reader of Harry Potter or Nancy Drew. He attempted to connect with Swimming but eventually found that they like many of the same movies. Harlan likes practically any movie; chick flick, adventure, or animated. It didn’t’ matter too much, he had seen all of the trailers if he hadn’t seen the actual movie and so he was able to foster a conversation on that front, easily.

My oldest daughter Sara, being a bit more mature and perhaps more present and considerate of her surroundings – attended to Harlan like proper company by engaging him in conversation as she could. Erin seemed indifferent and Emily stuck to me like glue. I watched each of them carefully and at one point, noticed that they were watching me. This was a new thing for us and we were all in unchartered territory. No one knew the rules or how to play the game so we were just ‘winging’ it but it was going ok – at least for now. He didn’t stay long after dinner; I guess we were thinking we would ‘ease’ into having him around.

And that’s what we did. Harlan made it very clear to the girls that they needed to come first – he wanted them to know that if they didn’t like him or want him around – it would impact our relationship negatively. He knew- he realized that for US to be happy, they had to accept him in my life. It was his philosophy in that regard that opened the door for me to fall head over heels in love with him.

I told him one evening when we were at his house. We were standing outside, under his carport and I was attempting to leave but each time I took a step toward my car he would lean down and kiss me, stealing my breath and preventing me from moving further. I knew I had to go but it was so difficult sometimes – tearing myself away from him. I loved all that kissing. I reached my hand up to his chest to hold him back, keep him at bay for a minute… I had to breathe. “You know”, I said… “I am falling hard for you. No doubt. I am falling in love.” As if it was some kind of competition and he knew he had won – he replied “Oh yeah? I already fell. I love you.” He was one up and I was too weak to prevent an all out swoon. He caught me by placing his hand firmly and strongly on the small of my back as he pressed me to him again, for another kiss – this one full of love.

Later, I’m not sure if it was a week or a day in an austere conversation we were having for the sole purpose of filling in more details about our previous years of life, he mentioned that he thought he was going to die. He had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma and had a significant mole removed from his shin. It had been nine or ten years at that point and he said it in an unremarkable manner as if had been just another day. And yet, he spoke about it as if he had thought his life was over, the melanoma had been considerable enough that he somehow believed his life was in danger.

My heart lurched as memories of my step-dad and his slow, agonizing death from malignant melanoma inundated my mind. He too had found a mole and his life ended because of it. My thoughts also went right back to Rocky’s death and the excruciating emotional pain that I felt when he died. I felt as if I was on a merry-go-round, noticing all of the love and loss in my life as it went faster and faster while the seat I was on went up and down, creating a chaotic sensation so intense that I found it difficult to catch my breath. No way… I was not doing this again. Nope. Thank Goodness I found out early… while it was still easy to get out.

I had to end the phone call and collect my thoughts. I couldn’t find any logic or rationale that correlated to my willingness to take the risk that yet another man I loved, would die on me. At least it hadn’t gotten very far and it would be easy to end. Shit. I really fell for this one.

And the Kissing Begins

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

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.

Soul Theory and Chances

Continued from Stepping Out

“The purpose of our journey on this precious Earth is now to align our personalities with our souls. It is to create harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for Life.
It is to grow spiritually.” ~ Gary Zukav

Taking classes online meant that almost all my work was writing – probably 98%. We had discussion questions to post and respond to, as well as papers to write, in most classes, weekly. The discussions were designed to generate critical thinking. Why?? We were always asking why. Why do you think that way? Where does that originate from? What are you trying to accomplish? The student body was much more diversified than the undergrad scene I had just come from and so it was a pleasure to have in-depth conversations with people who had some life experience under their belt as well.

By Spring, I was deep into learning different counseling theories. As it turns out, mental health counseling was a rather ‘new’ profession – not derived from psychology – as most of us probably assume as I did. It morphed from the Parsons vocational counseling efforts which began just after the turn of the twentieth century. Up to that point, Psychiatrists and Psychologists gave mental health advice – predominately at the doctorate level and they are trained in a ‘medical model’. Essentially, a medical model attempts to determine what is wrong or broken physically (i.e., brain chemistry) and then works to ‘fix’ it. The counseling profession today is mostly designed to address mental health from a ‘strengths’ perspective. We consider all the things that are good – what skills, attributes, resources, etc., do you already possess that can help you move through the challenges that you face on a day to day basis?

There are a half dozen or so mainstream theories on human behavior in the counseling field and very few therapists today use one of them exclusively. Most of us begin by utilizing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in its core form – looking at how we think and then encouraging supportive behavior to reinforce new / improved thoughts. Along the way, we will inject tidbits from other ideologies such as…. humanistic, existential, and transpersonal concepts.

One of my final papers was to conceptualize and present a new, personal theory of counseling. I called it Soul Theory. It was complete with a view of human nature, therapeutic goals, anticipated client experience, and therapeutic techniques. It also outlined therapists function and roles along with a guide to direct the relationship between the therapist and client. The basic tenant was this:

In soul theory, it is postulated that an individual is comprised of not only body and mind, but also of the soul.  It is the soul’s purpose to guide the human existence on a journey toward the ability to experience complete unconditional love at all times.  When the soul is in balance with the body and mind – in a state of love – behavior is normalized and absent of maladaptive patterns or pathology.  The human experience of emotional states is the result of an imbalance between the soul and one’s behavior or thoughts.  Soul theory is based on the premise that the soul is connected directly to the divine and is all knowing.

I’ve added the paper in its entirety as a page for anyone interested in reading and thinking about it.

I was more fortunate than many and didn’t have to do anything except concentrate on school. When the girls left for high school each morning, I grabbed my coffee cup and headed into my home office where I was able to sit in a comfortable chair and work on a recent model desktop computer. I stayed in my jammies most days until mid-afternoon. Occasionally, I would grab a textbook and head out to the hot tub to study. It wasn’t a bad life and I expressed gratitude for it on a daily basis. The one thing that ex-Hubby always deserves credit for is making that deposit every month that allowed me to educate myself and raise our daughters. I am grateful to him for that privilege. It was a solitary life, though. I was in the house alone or with teens all of the time. Once in a while I would go to lunch with a friend or talk with a neighbor but it wasn’t ‘company’ or ‘companionship’ and I am a social creature… I wanted to meet someone. I wanted to hold hands and kiss and… well – I was craving camaraderie with someone of the opposite sex.

By now it was late October and the quandary was still the dating thing – it just wasn’t my style really and yet, how does one meet someone in Suburbia? I meditated on it for over a week, I prayed and allowed my mind to be open for an answer. I sat quietly during the day for a month or more and ‘heard’ that I needed to put myself out there. I knew I needed to ‘open the door’ at least so that the Universe could send people my way. A month had gone by and Thanksgiving had passed, Christmas was around the corner… time was passing and I was still lonely. I decided to do it in the least aggressive, least intrusive, and least risky manner… I refreshed my Match.com profile and promised myself that I wouldn’t sit there for hours looking through profiles but I would wait. That was the open door – a picture and a paragraph that offered a glimpse of myself, of my life. I vowed to respond to anyone – everyone who made an effort to reach out to me after all, I didn’t know who they might be and I secretly self-pledged not to judge the people knocking on the proverbial door.

And there was nothing for a solid week. I was beginning to feel like a true loser. I asked the Universe again… “what’s going on”? I would whisper to myself in my thoughts / prayers and I got busy preparing for the holidays.

Just after the first of December, I received an email notifying me that there was a message in my Match.com inbox. The tagline of the message was ‘You have a nice smile’. Ahh… that’s cute – a bit corny, but cute. I liked the idea that someone noticed ‘a smile’ and that it prompted him to mention it. I clicked on the profile of the person who had messaged me and saw a man in sunglasses, sitting down but looking kind of ‘up’ toward the camera. He was wearing dark clothing and had a grin – not a smile – on his face. Crap. I couldn’t see his eyes. I put a lot of stock in what I saw in someone’s eyes.

I could tell by reading his personal paragraph that he was eight years older than me, was divorced a few years ago, and bought his clothing at EMS. I’ll admit that I had to look up what kind of store EMS was and I thought it was a bit strange that someone would tell me – actually, the world – where they bought their clothes, but o.k., perhaps it was an identity thing. After researching EMS, I got a handle on a guy who was probably athletic and ‘earthy’. Simple.

I could tell by his photograph that he had blondish hair and a HUGE mustache. That would be different for me – I never got too into facial hair but hey… I was on an adventure. He claimed to be six foot four inches – Yay for me! A tall guy. I ‘winked’ back at him. I had no idea what the proper ‘protocol’ was and I had asserted to myself that I was NOT going to be aggressively pursuing a companion. I wanted to be chased a bit.

I was about to find out if I had any ‘flirting’ energy left in my spirit.