As I write the delicious earthy scent of roasting potatoes mingles with the heady aroma of fresh-made chai, tempting odors wafting leisurely and sensually through my house. My kitchen is redolent of spices and ghee, olive oil and garlic: comfort smells from my past mingling with comfort scents of my present. My mouth is watering in anticipation while somewhere deep in my recesses an inner smile has formed.
Since last Thanksgiving – even a few months before – I’ve been on one incredible roller-coaster ride. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. From a devastating breakup to recurring bouts of illness to my sister’s sudden and serious hospitalization to my mother’s decline and death to my uncle’s death days later to my thyroid cancer diagnosis to increased certainty that my job will be eliminated in the upcoming year…hell yeah, it’s been a whirlwind of chaotic and emotional messiness. Just writing out that torturous run-on sentence – the breathiness of which befits the tidal wave of events churning one upon the other – makes me sigh with weariness.
This post is not about indulgent woe-is-me whining. It’s about gratitude, and about giving thanks for the goodness, the grace, the strength, the courage, the hope, and most importantly, the love, that infused this past year. It’s about the lessons learned, and of the ups that made the downs bearable.
This is the year I finally accepted that I stand alone. That’s not a negative; it doesn’t mean I don’t have friends, family, and a wonderful circle of people whom I love, and who love me. It simply means I no longer hold my breath waiting…for a soul mate, an elusive partner. I still dream, I still long, I still believe in future promise, in connections and in love of all kinds, but these thoughts no longer color my actions. I’ve learned to live in a more fully-realized present. And, by embracing my aloneness, I’ve firmly taken control of my own life, my own destiny: my finances, my health, my career. For becoming empowered, I am grateful.
This is the year I made peace with the past. I found compassion for a parent whose compassion for me had dissolved long ago; in the end, I could not turn away from a scared and dying woman who had parented me the only way she knew how, and whose actions helped shape the person I’ve become. I looked my brother in the eyes and explained why I couldn’t forge a relationship with him, not now – maybe not ever – and he, surprisingly, seemed to understand. And I discovered unexpected friendship in a former lover after a breakup so traumatic that I landed on a therapist’s couch, grappling with my grief; I never imagined we’d eventually refashion ourselves as loving friends. But during the height of this crazy year, when every event seemed to converge into an unmanageable chaotic frightening jumble, he was the one who extended his arms, offered his ear and his shoulder, and opened his home, giving my bruised and battered soul a respite from the world. For learning there is sweetness and love after pain and loss, I am grateful.
And this is the year I fully comprehended how truly fortunate I’ve been, how truly fortunate I am. I have my beautiful family. I have my health, I have my friends, I have my yoga practice. I have everything I need and everything I want, right here, right now, as I sit in my kitchen writing and enjoying the aromas while my children sleep; even in silence their joyful energy fills my home. The past year has taught me to take nothing for granted, to live in the moment, to love with abandon, to let go of that which does not serve me. And for that, most of all, I am grateful.
Many blessings to you on this day of giving thanks. Namaste.
My life – my viewpoint – has changed drastically in the past few days.
On Tuesday, Gambit and I left for the national tournament. We almost didn’t make it.
My car hydroplaned.
I will make light of this publicly, but I confess here that I have never been more terrified in my life. I completely lost control of the car for a few endless, horrifying moments that felt like forever. We swerved and slid and careened wildly all over the road. Fortunately, it was late and no cars were on either side of me. But there was a construction median wall to my left and a non-guardrailed drop to my right and I HAD NO CONTROL. We veered perilously close to both edges but somehow did not crash or tip over or fully spin.
I have no idea how I righted us or whether fate stepped in and decided to lend a hand. All I know is that eventually the tires connected to the ground again.
The whole incident probably took less than a minute. Luckily, Gambit slept through all of it.
But I couldn’t stop trembling and shaking for the rest of the drive that night, adrenaline making me queasy.
On Wednesday, we embarked on the final leg of our journey. We arrived in Chattanooga apparently minutes after the tornadoes hit. If we had left a little earlier, driven a little faster, not stopped for coffee…yes, we would have been driving blithely along directly in the tornado’s path. We had no idea about weather conditions; we were listening to Gambit’s iPod on the road instead of the local news. I had noticed that the sky ahead looked odd and ominous. I pointed it out to Gambit as a curiosity only.
After inching through Chattanooga amidst rubble, power outages, downed trees, road signs snapped in half, unable to pick up a radio station to figure out what the hell had happened, we hit a clear patch of road.
I thought a rock had hit us.
We were being pelted by hail hitting the car so hard that Gambit flipped, thinking the windshield would break. He was scared. I was scared. I pulled over to the side to wait that one out, shaking my head over our wild road trip, hands clutching the steering wheel in a death grip as insane truckers whizzed by, rattling our tiny car.
We eventually arrived safely, driving cautiously under a literal black cloud and a tornado watch. Our story ended well. But something has changed in me.
I think I came the closest to a near-death experience than ever before on this trip. Surprisingly, I felt no fear for myself.
But while we were swerving, the first thought that flashed through my head: Please, God, not Gambit. He’s too young, he’s too young. I was begging for him to be spared.
The second, my love: Please, God, just let him know I love him.
And then a kaleidoscope of loved faces flashed before my eyes, my children imprinted over all.
I feel corny even writing this. It sounds sappy and maudlin, like a made-for-TV movie. But it’s true.
I’m not sure whether the change I feel is permanent or a reaction to the past few days. But I’ve slept through the night for two nights in a row. My angst has faded. I think, perhaps, I am simply grateful for another bite at this thing called life.
I am grateful – so grateful – for second chances.
Namaste, my friends.
Due to tornadoes in other parts of the country, my flight has been delayed at least five hours. At best, I’ll be touching down around 2:00 a.m. I haven’t decided how to handle work tomorrow: go in on time, late or not at all. Much will depend on what happens tonight and if I can sleep on the plane.
While I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own cozy bed tonight (well, tomorrow), I hate leaving the mountains. Even through patches of rain and dreary gray drizzle, I feel at home in this climate. I thrive in cool crispness just as I completely wilt in oppressive humidity.
I’ve had quite a bit of time to think in this peaceful setting; my musings have run the gamut. In particular, I’ve thought a lot about words vs. actions. I tend to fall hard for the pretty words: the writer-wannabe in me responds favorably to a thrilling phrase, turning a blind eye to the truth before me.
Something post-divorce affair once wrote to me came tumbling back today as I visited my mother. To his credit, he eased my transition to singleness by giving me his shoulder and support whenever I began to fall apart. I’ll admit, because I was so fragile and overwhelmed then, I fell apart a lot. One of those times was when my mother would not help me with my house purchase. Though I was already steeled for the refusal, her reasons blindsided me: she would be doing me no favor if she helped me divorce, for no other man would ever want me. I was too old and plain and nothing special intellectually. I should do anything I could to hold onto The Ex. Then she hit me with the subsidized housing zinger.
I was sliced through with pain, feeling unloved, unworthy, pathetic, horribly insecure, rejected on multiple levels.
And that’s when post-divorce affair wrapped his loving words around me: I am going to take you to visit your mother, he wrote. We will face her together. She is going to see how much I love you, how wonderful you are in my eyes. She won’t be able to deny the power of our love, that someone finds you worthy and beautiful and special. She will feel it, she will respond to it positively.
I have not forgotten how those words (paraphrased poorly above, but written with great sincerity and eloquence in reality) made me feel, how they were balm to my wounds. Those words, and others like them, were a major reason why I stayed emotionally tied to him long after it was over.
It took more than a year, making a complete idiot of myself in the process, before I felt fully recovered, before I could separate his words from his actions.
I visited my mother again today. She seemed especially happy to see me. We sat on the couch in my uncle’s overly warm room and filtered through his sheet music together. My cousin entertained us with an impromptu piano concert; my uncle impressively recited Joyce Kilmer’s poem, The House With Nobody In It. We talked about the children; my mother asked again if there were any way The Ex and I could make a go of it.
I shook my head firmly. No, mom. I said. It will never happen. I’m sorry.
My mother actually changed the subject. My divorce was not broached again in the conversation.
As I rose to leave, she grabbed my hand, pulled me down to her on the couch. I kissed her cheek. “Good-bye, mom.”
Her eyes filled with tears as I straightened up. She clutched my wrist. “Thank you for coming,” she said. “I know you’re busy.”
“I love you.”
Now I sit in the airport, my head spinning. Which words, which actions do I believe? Is my mother the woman who told me no man would want me, who treats my siblings more favorably financially because of my divorce? Or is she one who clutches me, cries and says she loves me?
For now, I’ve chosen to fall for the pretty words, the ones I long to hear.
And so, my simple, but heartfelt, response to my mother:
“I love you, too.”
Last night, while searching for college transcripts (long story), I found a stack of The Ex’s love letters to me, tucked away in my grandmother’s desk.
He wrote copiously in those days, scrawling whatever came to mind on any available scrap of paper. His letters were not mushy or treacly, but they rang with honest sincerity. He spoke of our bond growing ever stronger, of the future he envisioned, of how he loved me. He even wrote poetry; re-reading his work, I’m surprised at how good it was.
But with the clarity of hindsight, it’s obvious what was missing from his writing: passion and desire. His letters and his poems sweetly and lovingly described our journey together…and of his hope for greater discoveries. He sensed, even then, that there could be more. He believed he would eventually find completion with me, for he loved me with all he had at the time; he ascribed his lack of experience to our missing smolder.
Twenty years later, we’ve learned that, while love is a good starting foundation, without that spark, it’s almost impossible to sustain a marriage over the long term. And so, while our love remains in the form of a solid friendship, the search for passion and desire continues for both of us.
So many years of rejection and disappointment left me convinced that The Ex’s bitter accusations as our relationship died were true: I was a cold, frigid, passionless bitch that no man could possibly want. And so, when post-divorce affair penned his passionate pleas, including richly romantic poetry, I fell willingly into his arms, because overriding rationality and sanity was this thought: Someone wants me.
Afterwards, as I recovered from losing his love and interest, a well-meaning friend pointed out the obvious: I was in love with love and not necessarily with the man. I didn’t believe her at the time, but I now realize she almost had it right: I was in love with being loved. I loved the man for loving me, for sensing something desirable in me. I chose to trust his words, for they were so very eloquent, even though I couldn’t quite trust his actions.
It’s too soon to analyze my latest romance dispassionately, but it, too, blossomed, in part, because of heartfelt messages laden with need and desire. I loved my love’s writing, for it was like him: direct, honest, true, sincere, imbued with his own passion. I’ve saved every perfect email message – more than 800 – but as of yet, I cannot bear to re-read any of them.
I do, however, read his one handwritten letter, written after we said farewell, over and over again. I run my fingers along the sharp indentations of his pen strokes and examine the changes in his penmanship, imagining these as the moments in which he stopped to reflect upon his next line. I’m sure he wrote cautiously and carefully, attempting to convey love but finality, too. And I sometimes wonder what a fully-realized, handwritten love letter from him – one that didn’t speak only in past tenses, one that celebrated our present while dreaming of our shared future – might have been like to hold, touch, read, savor.
I will never know. But I know how I would respond, for I write to him regularly during my 2 a.m. witching hour, infusing my letters with everything that’s in my heart: how I miss him, need him, want him, love him. My words aren’t necessarily sad, just replete with my yearnings and, I admit, my intense physical hunger for him.
After I pour out my longings, I tear up my letter and return to my bed. Alone, awake and filled with rampant desire, many more words…seeds for the next letter…already begin tumbling about in my heated thoughts.
Organic Farmer is back…sort of.
I was responding to a Facebook message when his name popped up on my chat list. I immediately initiated a dialogue: OF? Is that you?
It was him, typing painstakingly slowly, running the words together. He managed three lines before his sister took over. She chatted a bit, thanking me for being kind (I’ve contributed money here and there for his medical expenses). She told me he had tired and had to sign off.
The brief conversation between OF and me was bittersweet, for in his first line, he asked: whoareyou?
Of course, I didn’t expect him to remember me. But once he had written to me: I admit I’ve been tempted many times during our email exchanges to say I love you and get all romantic and kookoo. There may be something about you that you have this effect on guys, we sort of feel hypnotized.
And now he is asking: whoareyou?
In truth, I didn’t want him to push his memory too hard. I don’t want him to remember me, at least not everything about me, because I hurt him and disappointed him too many times after he had written such sweet words.
After several months of emails and chats, I had promised to meet him early last summer, clarinet in hand. We planned to sit down to Turkish tea and an afternoon of chamber music – and to see if, perhaps, we might make a different kind of music together one day, despite his already-complex life. In so many ways, he was perfect: smart, idealistic, talented, thoughtful, honest and extremely – extremely – open-minded.
And he was handsome. And he yearned for me desperately. And he was fully available, albeit unconventionally.
But at the last minute, still mourning post-divorce affair and nervous over anything that smacked of complications, I let our first opportunity pass me by: I refused to see him, even as a friend.
Although stung by my rejection, he cautiously continued our friendship.
I next promised to meet him over Labor Day weekend. Three more months had passed; I had completed a grueling year of recovering and regrouping. I finally felt ready to move on.
His freak accident occurred two weeks before we planned to meet.
The rest is relegated to history. I chose not to keep my Labor Day plans, not sure of my role, not sure if I should visit him in the hospital. Instead, like a coward, I ran: I took Gambit to the state chess tournament, where fate had a new twist in store for me.
Organic Farmer’s re-appearance today, on my difficult Friday, felt like a warning: Do not let life pass by while mourning something that will never be.
And his question – whoareyou? – resonates, because someone who once thought he might possibly love me has, quite literally, completely forgotten me. I cannot help but draw parallels to my current situation.
Maybe we found each other because I’ve got a habit of saying I don’t matter, and yet I am ready to stop doing that, and start mattering to myself. When the student is ready, the master appears. Maybe that’s what we could learn from each other.
Today, I was the student, hurting, lost and seeking to matter. And the master suddenly appeared.
Lesson learned…and taken to heart.
I still miss you, my friend.
It’s been a weekend of forward bending and arm balancing.
Emotionally, forward bends are a form a surrender, a giving up of oneself, a release. Yesterday was devoted entirely to forward bends. My body happens to be particularly well-suited for these postures; I was able to achieve most of the advanced versions and sustain them through the entire count.
I arrived home last night a little sore but emotionally unchanged. I slept fitfully, as usual, and woke up early still blue and extremely self-pitying. As the morning wore on, however, my mood started to shift, veering toward…dare I say?…optimism. Perhaps all that forward bending had steathily begun working its magic.
Midway into the final forward bend series today, something in my body actually did release, sending me reeling giddily as though I were drunk, stoned. At first I thought I was light-headed because I forgot to eat (which I tend to do when I’m either overly excited or overly sad). But the sensation didn’t ebb; it settled deep into my back muscles, resting there.
I felt calm. I felt peaceful. I felt a glow.
Then came the arm balances.
Emotionally, arm balances are all about conquering fear so one day you can fly high and free. Physically and practically, upper body strength is vital.
Emotionally and physically, I’m yin to arm balancing’s yang: I have a lot of fear. My feet are mired firmly on the ground. I have very little upper body strength.
Somehow I struggled through. But my soft upper body prevented me from achieving poses that my flexibility would otherwise allow. I was becoming discouraged, frustrated, even angry at myself for being mushy and weak.
We moved into handstand, a pose I have never attempted.
Under our teacher’s precise instructions, I succeeded in doing a handstand against the wall. But I was the only one in my class who would not try it in the center of the room, even with a spotter. I knew my arms were already turning into wobbly masses of jello and would not support me long enough.
And then there is fear. My classmates are fearless…or else they put on a damn good show. They’ll try anything; they hop up in front of the class and strut their stuff bravely. I’ll confess: the petty part of me thinks some of them are show-offs. But at least they try.
Not me, not in that way. I do try, but it’s different somehow: I’m shaky, insecure, tentative, my fears blatantly naked and exposed to the world. And I don’t know why I’m like this. I don’t know what scares me so and why I’m not suited to faking it till I make it.
But I do know my fears lessen more and more. And I realize that, despite my fears, I almost always soldier on and power through. I look back at who I was…and who I’ve become…and I can visualize the me I will be one day, one moment at a time, one step at a time, one push-up at a time. Heck, I’ve conquered headstand this year. Handstand will come.
So the immediate goal is to work on becoming even stronger, in mind and in body.
And then I will conquer fear.
And then I will fly.
The day began blissfully, rapturously, full of mutual passion and love and desire.
It ended in pain.
We said good-bye forever because…get this…we were falling too much in love. Because we can never be together fully and because we were only going to prolong the agony by continuing.
It was the right thing to do. But I’m in such agony now…and I had such a tiny taste of the ecstasy.
I am so twisted inside, I have no words. There is nothing to say. Our love was pure, mutual, honest, true. Our ending was the same. We both know exactly what we walked away from. And I will never find the words to adequately express my sorrow or my pain…or my love.
“You have so much passion…” my new friend wrote.
Sometimes I’m uncertain if what I’m doing springs from passion. Perhaps a better word, in this case, would be lunacy.
But I do have a passion for him, physically and emotionally, a palpable desire that wends its way through my waking thoughts and filters into my restless dreams. My longings truly make me a little crazy at times, so lunacy fits.
And, oh!…the complications: Once again, I’ve fallen for a man with complications, distance being among them. Call me crazy, again.
I wonder if my choices are sub-consciously deliberate; if, after too many years of living as the more submissive partner, that I fear a fully-realized relationship. Distance insures a safety-net, allowing both the luxury of romance and the relief of independence.
Long distance relationships are often kinder and better edited because they’re conducted through media that allow time to think and to consider: emails, letters. Verbal spontaneity is less prevalent day-to-day. But the downside: words have to stand completely on their own; body language or loving facial expressions do not smooth the rough spots off hurtful, carelessly-tossed written words…or conversely, do not convey the depth of emotion that a simple gaze or a touch can.
And longing. Oh, God, the longing. Long distance relationships feed off of longing. They live on the edge of never-quite-fulfilled desire: the breathless counting down of days, the rapturous union, the bittersweet farewells and then, like junkies seeking the next fix, the plotting for the next meeting.
Yet another part of me wants to have it all.
My adult romantic relationships have been imbalanced, unequal. I have no regrets over any of them, for I’ve become who I am because of the people in my life. But sometimes I yearn for that fully-realized relationship: an equality of passion and desire, love and friendship, open, honest, free…in the same city, in the same house, in the same bed.
My new friend and I have already labeled our burgeoning feelings: Love. But it’s not forever love, not eternal love; it’s love in the moment, an emotion between us that will always lie far beyond friendship, but one that may never blossom past love in the now.
I cherish his kindness, his sensitivity, his tender writing through which his own longings bleed through. I wonder sometimes…Why me?…for very rarely am I attracted to someone before he is attracted to me. The sequence is significant: I’m used to responding to attention and then growing my own attraction.
But this man: His physical appearance socked me in the gut before I ever spoke with him, before I ever knew the intelligence and romanticism behind the mesmerizing eyes. I saw him; I desired him. It was that simple. Therefore, my baseline with him is set at the highest end of the passion meter and can only go further from there.
Which is why he wrote, “You have so much passion…”
Because for him, I do.
What we share is so new, so fresh, so tentative that I have no idea where it’s heading. But love in the now is enough…for now.