A Lobster Love Story, Times Three.
At 41 years old, it is with a certain amount of embarrassment that I refer to my Lobster as my "boyfriend". [Click HERE for Lobster, defined.] You'd think this would be easy enough to avoid, but you'd be wrong. Last week alone, somehow - even though I see very few people these days - I was asked a minimum of THREE times if I were married. Followed by, "How long have you been together?" Um, do you mean consecutively? It's not an easy answer.
Around 2002, I was a 30 year old single mom to an angst-ridden, moody, already-bigger-than-me 12 year old boy. I had just recently pulled it together and broken off an engagement from an emotionally abusive jackass (a San Francisco Firefighter, and the reason why, to this day, I am the only woman I am aware of who finds firefighters totally repugnant). I worked long hours and was under a lot of stress, so I was pretty excited when I was able to work enough overtime to pay for a no-kids-allowed houseboat trip with friends, most of whom I'd known for 10 years, give or take.
I brought along someone new to the group, a 6' tall, size 4, platinum blonde friend and co-worker (let's just call her Barbie, shall we?). When we arrived we were greeted at our vehicle by a few friends, one of whom turned out to be someone's brother - Chris. Not surprisingly, the men were absurdly friendly and overzealous in their assistance upon our arrival. This is to be expected when in public with her; someone once apparently mistook me for a bar stool while out with her, almost sitting on me while trying to get her number. AWESOME.
Anyway, I digress. In spite of the odds, Chris and I ended up together. It was immediate and intense, that kind of love that worries you because you think you can't live without it. We lived two hours apart and managed to date for about two years. He had an easygoing teenage daughter that I loved, and I had a defiant teenage son who went out of his way to keep people from loving him. Chris was immature, and I had been forced to mature before my time - and so I tried to demand maturity from him. At about a year and a half, I could feel us circling the drain, but ignored the symptoms and hoped for the best (because THAT usually works, right?). During what turned out to be our last breakfast together, there was an excruciating silence wherein we both realized quite suddenly that there was nothing left to say; I guess refusing to admit defeat does not stop the break-up train.
|Don't ... think ... about it|
After he broke up with me I called a psychic (don't judge! You, too, can make an appointment with her - just click here: Pinky). My sister and I met her in Santa Cruz, at a psychic fair (we still refer to her as "Pinky," because of her glowing, flowing, glittery-pink display). She said he loved me, that we'd be back together eventually, that this was not the right time. NOT what I wanted to hear. I cried, I sobbed, I watched TV for two solid weeks. Then, I found a counselor and told myself I was only allowed to cry at her office, and I kept that promise, most days. I forbade our mutual friends to mention Chris to me, I joined eHarmony and Match.com, and serial dated. I worked, I worked out, I started doing yoga ... none of which got rid of that feeling (you know the one I mean). However, by the time I opened an email from Chris months later (asking whether I still had the "balance" of his father's pots and pans, and telling me how sorry he was to hear that my grandmother, and then our dog, had both passed away shortly after he dumped me), I was finally pissed off instead of sad. Too scared to open up a barely-healing wound, I fired off a very clear go-to-hell message.
Time passed, even in the face of my personal Armageddon -- I changed jobs, took classes, started to feel independent and secure for probably the first time in ... ever. I met a man and we fell into overwhelming infatuation. That turned pretty quickly into a less than mediocre relationship, but inexplicably (as is so often the case with me), I forged ahead. We got engaged and married, in spite of my nearly passing out during the ceremony when the sickening knowledge that I was making a huge mistake overtook me. I sent out announcements with a hopelessly romantic photo attached, and made sure to send one to Chris' brother and his wife, specifically with the hope that it would be left out where Chris could see it (to my delight, I found out later, it was - SCORE!). Not long after I was married I heard Chris had moved to Arizona and was engaged, and I still felt that familiar stab. DAMN IT.
It was around then that I started seeing Chris pop up on Facebook. I pretended not to see, but eventually he sent a friend request, and seriously ... like I might say no? I was totally fried - finishing up yoga teacher training, my son turning 18 and preparing to graduate high school, my marriage falling apart. I was hoping to hear his life sucked as badly as mine, but he didn't give me that pleasure. I got no inkling at all that life in Arizona with his fiancee was anything short of dreamy (Barf).
My husband and I separated, and I moved into my own place. I heard from Chris that he'd be in town for some dorky motocross event with friends; he wanted me to meet him for dinner. I said yes. Now, I have found that it is a good indicator that you're about to do something incredibly stupid, when you don't feel compelled to tell anyone about it. Neither of us told a soul we were meeting. In fact, we actively went out of our way to hide it from people -- but continued to loudly convince ourselves it was a perfectly fine idea.
It was not, as it turns out, a fine idea. I just remember the next day thinking, shit, I miss him, that did not go at ALL as I had planned. We had lunch a day or so later, and he went home, and I expected I would just be nursing a broken heart all over again for a while. He still lived with his fiancee (of five years - really, who waits that long? DO it, already!), and I had yet to file for divorce. We managed to keep all of this hidden from people, until about two weeks later when he attempted to move out of said fiancee's home. She discovered the reason he was so suddenly leaving after hacking into his email accounts, and the craziness that ensued defies description.
He half moved out of that house and in with his mother in Arizona, and half moved in with me in an apartment in California. He lost his job shortly thereafter (I am like some sort of financial success repellent), and his "hobby" business became his only business, serving as a very convenient excuse to continue living between two states (and two women). One day, after one too many crazy texts and/or emails from his ex, I felt some sort of cement wall spring up around my heart. It was instantaneous -- I was driving somewhere, and received a text from her telling me they had seen each other, and I was done. Over it. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. I suddenly didn't care where he was or what he was up to. I was in the middle of my own divorce, my son was preparing to leave for the Air Force, and I was just finished with the whole ugly mess. He tried to convince me we should have dinner when he came to get his things out of storage, but there was NO way I was letting that happen. No Renee-Zellwegger-in-Jerry-McGuire-moment for me, thanks ("You had me at hello ...!") .
In February 2010, my son left for Basic Training. I had a lot of new time to myself. I did a lot of yoga. I drank a lot of cocktails. I taught a lot on weekends. I worked, I played, I worried about my son, but what I remember most is that I didn't think about Chris at all. I didn't feel sad, or lonely, or lost, or ... anything. There was a complete void of feeling. For the first time I was single, no child at home, and not looking for a boyfriend - for reals this time. I was healing from a lifelong pursuit of happiness in the form of a husband and someone to be a father to my son, and the continuous hurt and disappointment that resulted.
Aaaaand, Once More: Round Three
Cut to June 2011. I had been tentatively planning to attend an annual camping trip with friends for the 4th of July. My friend Joy (I know, ridiculous -- but yes, I have a friend named Joy) had said, "Chris will be going on this camping trip. I want you to come, but I thought you should know." I had said (and I meant it): "Whatever, I don't care anymore -- seriously." I was leaning toward going, but still unsure -- my camping stuff was all packed away, I didn't feel like being seen in public in a bathing suit, blah blah blah.
A week or so later, on a Saturday morning, I was standing in the shower thinking, you know, I might be ready for a relationship now. Maybe. I sent out a prayer to God, to my guides, to anyone who might be listening and have some say in such things: "I think I might be ready to let someone into my life again. If you agree could you just, I don't know, send me someone decent, please? If I'm not ready, you know, whatever. Thanks." As if on cue, that very afternoon I received an email from Chris -- supposedly he just wanted me to know he was going camping, so it wouldn't be a surprise, and to break the ice so we would not feel awkward. I actually looked up to the ceiling and laughed and said out loud, Really?? This is who you're sending me? Is this some sort of cosmic joke? It was pretty comical to me. I still had a hardened shell around my heart, and my biggest concern was that I didn't want an ex boyfriend to see I had put on weight; it truly never occurred to me that I would ever love him again. (Insert buzzer sound here) WRONG.
I went on that trip. There was the initial awkward exchange, but there were plenty of people around and it didn't last too long. We kept our distance, and I didn't feel even a twinge of renewed interest that first day. Then, dinnertime came. We had all been in the sun, drinking, talking, hanging out. Back at camp to make dinner, Chris called me over to the barbecue where he was cooking. "Hey," he said, in a drunken slur. "Go wake up my brothher. He's in hiss tent." "Okay," I said, and I turned to leave. To my surprise, he gave me a parting smack on the ass with his hand. I stopped in my tracks, turned, and said, "Um. Did you just hit me in the ass?" "YESs," he said, Cheshire cat grin on his face: "... and SOME pepple might think that was inappppropriate." I just laughed, and went to wake up his brother, Jeff. (Apparently some had been hitting the beer bong a little harder than others.)
As the night wore on, and Chris continued to drink, his, uh, advances became louder and more persistent. He's a largish, loudish person on any given day, so this was really something to see, and the entire campsite was pretty entertained. "Choy. Chjoy. JOY. Come over here. I have something to say. JOY! Why do you keep trying to get AWAY frommeee?" I said, "Chris, I ..." to which he replied, "Don't call me names!"
At dinner, sitting at a picnic table with about 5 feet between us (and other people at the table), Chris said, "Joy. Come over here, Joy. Why are you sitting so far away? Sserioussly," and he reached over and slid me up next to him. I eventually got up and walked away, but he followed: "JOY! Stop moving!" I stopped and turned and said, "Fine, here, say it. I am trying to stop you from saying something you will regret, but you're clearly not going to be deterred." "JOY. Joy. I LOVE you, Joy. I loved you before, I love you now, I have always loved you. I know we can't be together, whatever the reason -- I know it would never work; one of us would have to give up too much to do it. But you are the love of my life. You always have been."
Quietly, quickly, and barely detectable, I felt a fissure forming in that shell around my heart. I just said something like "okay, you're right it would never work," and moved away as quickly as I could. But that was it, I was done for, and I knew it. That was the beginning of the end of my futile resistance. (Apparently, a sloppy, drunken, proclamation of love is what it takes to win ME back -- I gots standards, after all.) That was July 2011, and by December I had moved to Arizona.
|Gotta love a man |
with a cat in his coat.
And what is different this time around, our third attempt? Well, communication, for one. If there is an elephant in the room, we discuss it. We have also grown up enough to accept one another just the way we are (I have always said, it is all about finding someone whose crap you can put up with, and vice versa - because we ALL carry some crap). But it is the ordinary everyday things that make my heart overflow. Like, if he gets to the coffee maker first, he makes me a cup and delivers it to me, wherever I am. He makes me laugh every single day. He supports my every endeavor, and he is my biggest fan. And we have never, this time around, had an uncomfortable silence like the one at that awful breakfast so many years ago. A comfortable quiet between two people can be a beautiful thing.
|YAY for happy endings, and|
So, no, I am not married. I am 41 years old, and I live with my boyfriend. There have been some seriously difficult times since I first moved to Arizona, emotionally and financially, and I am certain there will always be more waiting in the wings. I might not be able to tell you with certainty how long we have been together, but I have never been more sure that I am finally, at long last, in the right place, at the right time -- even if that place is located in the middle of nowhere, northeastern Colorado, surrounded by weeds and farms, without a yoga studio, Target, or Starbuck's within 50 miles. Now that, my friends, is Love.
"And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course."
- from The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran