#146 Plan a Surprise for Someone You Love

We love the dopamine rush when we pull off a surprise and many of us enjoy the experience of receiving these kinds of gestures.

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.

#146

Plan a Surprise for Someone You Love

This suggestions will elevate happiness for both you and someone special in your life. Surprising someone is always fun but planning a little (or big) surprise for someone you love is the best! For this particular post, the intent is to up your game romantically.

Dopamine Rush

A lot of us made this part of our early romantic life. We commonly offer the unexpected as a way of initiating romance. We love the dopamine rush when we pull off a surprise and many of us enjoy the experience of receiving these kinds of gestures. Coming home to an impromptu candlelight dinner… a hot drawn bubble bath with spa music… being whisked away for a steamy night in a local hotel room… These kinds of surprises turn up the ‘you’re special to me’ meter in any relationship and they are generally low cost; low effort.

Awareness

Keeping this type of energy alive in a relationship demands awareness and intent. An awareness of time and activity with the intent to keep our romantic partners needs and interest in the forefront of our mind regardless of the years that have passed.

Appreciation

Perhaps the surprise is being picked up from work and escorted to a coveted sporting event or a favorite restaurant. Perhaps it’s bringing in a cleaning team or scheduling a babysitter for a couple’s night out. It could be as simple as declaring it “Jane/John Appreciation Day” – and treating that person as if you would on a birthday or Mother’s/Father’s day – but for no special reason other than they are ‘appreciated’. Everyone receives an endorphin rush by being appreciated.

Keep Them in Mind

It’s important to specifically consider the individual you are wanting to surprise. The surprise needs to be something THEY would enjoy. Some people don’t like ‘surprises’ so the gesture needs to be softer and maybe less spontaneous. It may be important to have a random and casual conversation with your romantic partner to find out what kind of surprises they would enjoy and then write them down or commit them to memory.

Spice up your life, invest in your relationship, and elevate your mood by…

Planning a surprise for someone you love

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

#282 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Not that there isn’t a place for reading that style of book – they’re light and fluffy… perfect if you want a quick, easy solution for fun-in-the sun (sans electronic) entertainment.

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#282

Read a ‘beach’ book

Sometimes we just need a break and that’s why we go to the beach and often, when we get there, we read a random book – something easy and relaxing. However, not all of us can get to a beach so my recommendation then, is to let yourself read a ‘beach book’. You know – it’s one of those – sometimes known as ‘junk novels’ – a book without critic acclaim, perhaps not even a solid plot.  It’s one of those easy to read, easy to absorb, and easy to finish books.

Romance Novels are the obvious choice for a lady’s poolside read and the variety exists along the continuum of Nicholas Sparks and Danielle Steele (with solid plots) or to the other end with a good ole fashioned Harlequin Romance type of read that shakes out the storyline in the first forty pages and becomes predictable half way through. Not that there isn’t a place for reading that style of book – they’re light and fluffy… perfect if you want a quick, easy solution for fun-in-the sun (sans electronic) entertainment.

I’ve never known a man to be interested in romance novels – my thoughts about ‘beach books’ for men are similar but oriented more toward spies and zombies. My intent, of course is not to be sexist here as I completely acknowledge that those genres are not gender biased by any means and that there is a man (or many), that I simply have yet to meet that truly gets into a Nora Roberts novel.

So, the season is upon us now with this Memorial Day post and many of us are simply ready for some physical and mental R&R… put down the academic journals, the textbooks, the self-help bibles, and the heavy duty winter reading books that make you think about the world in a new way and pick up something less intense, less thought provoking, and less educational for your outdoor relaxation time…

Read a ‘beach book’.

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

#302 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

The low light condition of a room lit by candles resembles dusk to our brain – creating a reflex to begin winding down – and our body naturally starts to relax.

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#302

Light candles

For more than 5000 years, candles have been a part of our lives – first for providing light, then ambiance, and in more recent time – they have offered us a way to make our environment smell better. Additionally, candlelight is attributed to romance, relaxation, and focus.

Candle meditation is beginning to rise in popularity as the flame offers a specific point of focus and is naturally soothing to our brain. Candle yoga is offered in some studios for the same reason. Our faces and bodies look softer (and younger?) in candlelight. The low light condition of a room lit by candles resembles dusk to our brain – creating a reflex to begin winding down – and our body naturally starts to relax.

Companies have made giant fortunes on the business of providing us with candle options. From the home party company Candlelight that many of us were familiar with as it made its rounds through suburbia in the early 2000’s, to the Yankee Candle Co. storefront in malls across America – businesses are marketing to our adoration of soft light and nice smells.

Some of us have even been introduced to the correct ‘way’ to care for our candles, depending on how many wicks it has and what kind of ingredients it is made of. Craft stores have dedicated entire isles for candle making supplies as the creatives among us take on the challenge of personalizing our little wax lights. And the combination of scents have matured from Rose and Cinnamon to Roasted Nutmeg Butternut Squash and Cucumber Melon Ocean Breeze… tantalizing us with the idea that an ocean breeze could actually be contained in a jar filled with wax.

Nevertheless, there does seem to be validity behind the idea that lighting a candle at home – for a variety of reasons – may add to your sense of well-being. So, if you are seeking relaxation, aromatherapy, or a nice romantic evening I’ll offer the simple suggestion of…

Light Candles.

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

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.

Falling

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.

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.

Prince Charming Remix

Seemingly, for the second time in my life, Prince Charming had infiltrated my world in such a way that I appeared to be rescued

“We race through our life without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go.”  – Jim Loehr

Moving wasn’t a problem for me. I had done it approximately every 12 months since I was 12 years old with one two-year exception those last couple of years in high school. Fortunately for me this move was considered a ‘corporate’ one so the packing, loading, and moving was completely managed by a third party. I was present for the pack-out and everything went painlessly until the moving men lifted the mattress and box springs to reveal the (thankfully still boxed) dildo that E had given me as a gag gift which I had stored under my bed. My face abruptly surrendered to a warm crimson flush and I was immediately torn between a quick grab and hide or a quick run from the room pretending that I hadn’t seen a thing. I bolstered my pride and exited the room reminding myself that I’d never see these men again. Today I am sure it’s not the first one that they had ever seen but then – I felt as though it might as well be a scarlet letter plastered on every box that they packed and carried onto the moving truck. I imagined myself branded.

I moved first into his apartment until we received the occupancy permit on our townhouse. One might imagine that a lot of information can be gleaned from a man’s bachelor pad. The only thing I realized is that he collected Playboy magazines and considered salt and pepper ‘spices’. My commute to Jersey was grueling and to compliment the difficulty, I had enrolled Francis in a Catholic school not far from our new house; a school that didn’t offer transportation so I drove him into the city daily and picked him up from their aftercare program by 6 pm.

I had a vision of what constituted a family. I naturally fell into thoughts and routines that had felt comfortable when I was married. I failed to distinguish them from my marriage with Rocky and this new relationship. I wasn’t on the same page as my new guy. As a matter of fact, we probably weren’t in the same book or perhaps even in the same library. I intellectually knew that he would need time to adjust to a lifestyle with a child that wasn’t biological his but the emotional part of me had difficulty balancing that logic. I was straddling life between being a single mom and a couple. The triangle had yet to close.

Wedding plans were furiously moving forward as we moved into our home and began to establish a life together. We were getting married in his hometown. We used his church and his pastor. For the second time in my life I was going to marry on terms that were dictated predominately by my future husband in terms of location and clergy. The other details were mine or ours as it would be and it took years for me to realize that each time, I was so eager to be loved that I acquiesced my own wants. I recall telling myself that it wasn’t important to me. That I was compromising. Indeed, that part may be somewhat true. It is also true that I felt if I were to make my needs known or demand they should be a priority – that the plan may decompose, self-destruct, and never manifest. I had somehow developed a belief that if I didn’t ‘go along’ with the desires of my partner, that I could be – would be… dismissed.

Our relationship had challenges – after all, we had known each other all of 5 days before a proposal, 12 days before an official engagement, and 6 weeks before moving in together. In addition, there was a cute little (almost) 6-year-old in our midst constantly – yearning to get to know this new ‘dad’ and we were still attempting to learn about one another – all three of us. I was afraid. Plain and simple – I was afraid that if I allowed myself to really love this man – he could leave me and I would experience something similar to the pain that I felt when Rocky died. I was constantly in a state of vacillating between wanting to be in love and afraid of loving.

In addition, I had fantasized for six solid years about what it would be like for my son to have a father. There was a solid, visceral, and vivid picture in my mind of what that entailed. It wasn’t manifesting in the way I had dreamed. The raw, organic paternal representative that I had envisioned all these years was slow to emerge. I had very little empathy for what it must have been like to integrate an immediate ‘family’ into the life of a serial bachelor. He was a year older than me and had never married.

Back then it was less typical for people to wait until their 30’s to marry. As a female, when you met someone that age you would simply assume they were divorced. When I found out he hadn’t been married I was immediately suspicious – why not? Of course I heard everything that sounded like a string ensemble to my heart “he had been waiting for me”. I was completely impervious, simply devoid, of an understanding of how gullible I was.

Work wasn’t working. The drive, the change, the people… it wasn’t working for me and I didn’t want to move back into a sales position. It didn’t seem like an alternative to me because it would have put us in the same sales office, competing against one another. He was the top broker in that region. I was at least smart enough to know that our egos (and hence, our relationship) could not have afforded such direct rivalry. His success afforded me the option to work or not.

I quit – by fax machine. I had thought long and hard about my decision and had drafted a superb resignation letter but I was pretty much a big ‘chicken shit’ because I knew that I would be disappointing a lot of people. A few whom had invested a lot of time and energy in my success and I was quitting – letting them down – giving up. I didn’t have the heart to face their disapproval. I faxed my letter at 9 am. They were incredulous. It became a ‘story’ that I never lived down; a sublime example of ‘what NOT to do’ in a corporate environment.

It was early 1990 and everything had changed. My life had pivoted in a way that had been unimaginable just six months earlier. I adopted a narrative of romance – it was all so romantic. Seemingly, for the second time in my life, Prince Charming had infiltrated my world in such a way that I appeared to be rescued. Perhaps this time it was more a reality than a simple perception. I was no longer alone, broke, or a sole parent. I was beginning to dream again. I allowed myself to visualize a future that included another grownup. I was again, allowing myself to depend on someone to be there; to have my back, to be reliable.

There was only one problem.  Just under the level of my conscious awareness, fear was woven into my thoughts, actions, and reactions. No matter the reassurance or behavior, no matter the support or reinforcement, I had learned to distrust that someone who loved me would ultimately be there for me. In retrospect, I wonder if I somehow intentionally chose someone who would fulfill that prophecy.

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My Heart at DEFCON 1

Holy crap… did God just talk to me? Was that my imagination? Who’s there?

I spent the end of my twenties as a single lady. In retrospect, it was a time of defense. I was in personal DEFCON 1. I was unwilling and unable to invest my emotional being in any type of intimate connection. I developed ‘control issues’. Ultimately, at any time that we feel unsafe – emotionally or otherwise – we attempt to gain control of our surroundings so that we can experience comfort. My intent was not to control any ‘person’ or really any ‘thing’ – simply create an environment in which I felt emotionally safe. It was much harder to do than one imagines.

In those years I did have a relationship with a guy who was really, really, comfortable. He was great. Non-confrontational and easy, really easy to be with. He was fun. He wasn’t a lot of other things that really mattered to me but I loved the ease with which we existed together. It was mostly a long distance relationship and when it became a REALLY long distance romance because he moved – he asked me to marry him. He called dad and I said yes. There was no ring – no real plans – it was a desperate proposal. We loved what we had together – we didn’t love each other!

He relocated and started building his life in a new town – I was setting things in motion to get there. It was really hard for us to connect when we couldn’t even spend weekends together (Ahhh… time before cell phones and Skype). He was lonely – I was distracted and busy with a preschooler and a 50 hour per week job. We started arguing and disagreeing about timing of my move, etc. One day he called and talked about an ‘attraction’ he had to a woman he was working with… he was reconsidering our engagement. I didn’t give him a chance. My reaction was at gut level and instinctive…. “I guess I’ll just have to get over you then.” That was me – controlling. I believed I was in control of the amount of emotion that I could allow in the experience. I shut down anything that was intense. I had developed a coping mechanism that was completely unhealthy. I was refusing to feel.

It was me – reacting to yet another loss in my life. I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt – I didn’t let him explain or share feelings, insecurities, or fears. I shut him down before he could shut me out. He was done in my mind. I had reacted from a place of deep pain – a part of me that had lost love and had yet to be willing to experience the vulnerability of truly loving again.

Love – in any way – did not feel safe.  I had loved my mother and she left. I had loved Rocky and he died. I had loved another and he got sidetracked. Bam! Fuck love. I was now in control mode and making sure that love didn’t touch any part of my life. Defense … Defending … Protected. That was me.

I didn’t know that I had adopted those mechanisms. I was on auto pilot. I was dating and anticipating… excited to meet each new guy but every time, failed to make a connection that felt authentic or long lasting. I was holding everyone I met to the standard of how I loved Rocky and of how he loved me. Even though there were real moments in my marriage that humanized him, Rocky remained a superman in my mind. I had him on a pedestal of sorts. I knew that there were problems in our relationship that were real and typical of young love – it didn’t enter the equation when I associated men that came after him. No one compared.

I put a lot of focus on being a mom. I rented a room in my house to a guy that had been a really good friend of Rocky’s. He was in the area for work and was a great addition to our home. I wanted to love him. We weren’t romantic at all but I wanted to be with him – he was a connection to Rock. I couldn’t. I’m not sure he ever knew my thoughts and I’m still not completely sure if I was simply horny and trusted him or if I loved the idea of him from the perspective of the memories we shared. We had both loved the same guy – differently of course – but it was a connection that I didn’t have with anyone else. I lost track of him eventually.

I was a mom and a hard worker. I spent a ton of time working (a pure commission job) just to make ends meet. Rocky didn’t have life a life insurance policy. I distinctly remember a couple of guys from some Veteran’s group sitting at our kitchen table before he went overseas, trying to sell us a substantial policy but we were poor and young. We believed there was time. He had a small benefit from the Navy Reserves but it took me a long time to submit the paperwork. There was a finality about it. If I got the money it meant, he wasn’t coming back.

Our life (Francis’s and mine) was forging forward without much effort. I bought a house by assuming a mortgage. He started preschool and I kept working. I would drop him off at daycare in the morning – pick him up at night – take him home to eat dinner – and then wait for the babysitter to come so that I could go back out to work and yet… we were basically broke. I had never finished my degree so I felt stuck with the job I had – a sales job with an investment company. I was determined to make something of it.

I was lonely though. I still wanted a piece of that dream I had created all those years ago and I had become somewhat depressed and pessimistic – angry almost – about it coming to fruition. I recall a pivotal moment one evening when, after making a dead end sales call far away from home, I had started the return trip home – in tears – feeling completely and totally defeated. I was sure that none of my dreams would ever come true. In an instant – there was a voice – a male voice – deep and comforting – that said “stop being narrow minded – there are so many possibilities”. Holy crap… did God just talk to me? Was that my imagination? Who’s there? It’s hard to explain what a deep sense of ‘knowing’ I had immediately. It was so intense that I started laughing. Like a slide show on fast forward, dozens of potential life scenarios appeared in my mind. I went from sadness to exhilaration in a second (this experience is what I reference when I attempt to empathize with a psychotic break). I experienced an understanding that had not been there before. I would be OK.

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Photo credit: Skley via Foter.com / CC BY-ND