I’m a divorced, single mother of three daughters. I am a writer, teacher and slightly addicted to exercise and Facebook. I spend an average of two hours in my car each day driving my daughters to and from playdates and sporting events, and make a better than average macaroni and cheese from the box, (who knew adding extra milk to the mix would be such a hit?) I take my kids camping once every year, to the dentist regularly, and make sure my three daughters know about manicures, the art of finding a decent sale, and that reading more than texts and IMs is critical to becoming a decent human being. But in truth, there is much more to me than this. I’m a woman. A 42 year old woman who finds herself relentlessly horny, sometimes lonely and a burgeoning talent in the fine art of Guitar Hero World Tour. But also, I am a woman whose heart has been more than slightly broken.
For 17 years I was married to my college-sweetheart, a less than stellar relationship in which I was reduced to nothingness. As his “pretty wife with issues” my husband thought me capable of nothing more than paying the TV Guide bill because it wasn’t “complicated,” and thus, after living with this controlling workaholic for more than 6000 days, my self esteem dropped altitude daily. Whether it was using the wrong spoon to stir his egg yolks or choosing the incorrect diaper rash ointment when my children were infants, he felt he could do it better. And while I survived the excruciating pain of this marriage, divorce, and then the destruction of my fragile family of five, I thought my heart could not possibly be broken into smaller pieces. And when, six months later I imagined I had found my true north, a soul mate, and veritable prince I took those pieces of my heart and gave them to him. Everything about him was the complete opposite to my soccer mom, private school West Los Angeles existence. But even though he was 11 younger than me, a rebel with the smallest of small diamonds in his slightly crooked nose, and tribal’s band tattoos adorning his freckled biceps, I offered my heart whole-heartedly because I believed we were meant to be together. That his two blonde daughters and my three would form a new family and that this tattooed boy-man could be the super glue to put my heart back together. However, he never came home when he said he would, preferred playing poker and snorting cocaine to cuddling and HBO, and thus turned into yet one more villain; the anti-prince who tore those little leftover pieces of my heart, frayed at the edges from my marriage and divorce, into microscopic shreds of nothingness.
It has been damn hard to do the work necessary to restore my heart into its original mint condition. I’m talking more than going to a few hours of therapy or taking little blue pills to make me happy again. I am a soul who needs to dig deeper. I wasn’t satisfied with a superglue fix-it strategy. I went to spiritual boot camp, cut off from contact with the outside world for 10 days because I was absolutely desperate to do whatever necessary to re-cast the mold of my heart. I cried tears that came from savage dark places in my belly when I faced the fact that as a child my father could love me only when he had time. I experienced a level of raw, hateful pissed I imagined only rapists or murderers could muster as I crucified my mother for forfeiting her right to life because she thought self sacrifice was what all women should do, and for teaching me that I should live this way too. I learned I had become cold and hardened from my father, because it’s what he learned to do so he could survive the death of his father days after his Bar Mitzvah, not yet a man, still just a boy- a boy of 13. And then, ultimately, I learned to forgive them. Forgive my parents and love them, embrace their human-ness and hold them close to my heart. And most important, i learned to forgive myself. And for ten days as I wrestled with the past and learned to love myself I rebuilt my heart, one small fragment at at time, triumphantly retrofitting myself with a heart that was pure, whole and full. And now, two years later, the truth is that I have gone to such lengths to keep my heart whole that I have clearly missed out on the possibility of love for fear of losing what I have fought to find my entire life: love of myself.
But now, dammit, I want more. I want to love a man. To be loved. I want butterflies. I want. I want. I want. And thus, when I hear that smart new ring tone singing from my phone, see a new email pop up, or that little grey text bubble explodes onto the handsomely accessorized face of my shiny new iphone. something happens. And that something is nothing more complicated than good ol’ possibility. The possibility that perhaps this email, text or voicemail will finally, once and for all, be from my prince charming. After all, now I am ready. And I don’t want some glorified hottie or one of the bad boys I used to desire, but a real-life man o’ my dreams. The one man who is handsome, (ok, hot…I admit I am a bit of a look-ist!), brilliant, spiritually evolved, financially secure (who wouldn’t dream of that?) and romantic . The man who respects me but also wants to get down and dirty between the sheets. In short, the man I have been hoping would find me .
The conundrum for me, however, is this: How does one moderate the feelings that accompany the notion of possibility? How can I protect the heart of my heart that has become my version of a ’77 mint condition Gran Torino? It’s whole. It’s happy. It’s full. It’s damn near perfectly restored to it’s original condition. However, after 42 years I know full well that if allowed to percolate, marinate and gestate the dangerous fire of possibility could damn well combust, releasing a toxic chemical spill of butterflies, excitement, hope and lust. And then what am I to do if, in fact, my hopes, dreams and desires are dashed yet again? Until recently, the answer has been clear; renovate the home for my heart MacGyver-style. One part skepticism, one handy dandy extra large piece of cautious optimism and two parts hard core steel girder. This architectural brilliance would render me strong and well shielded, perfectly equipped to defend against heartbreak. Protected from what hurts possibilities may bring.
Why then was I so aghast when Dan, a man I had casually dated for nearly a year and had nicknamed me “Lish” because he thinks me delicious, recently called me out, declaring it is me who is the one who wears the “closed” sign on my heart.
“Lish,” he wrote that night as we IM’d on Facebook.
“ Lish,” Smileyface. I wrote back returning the pet name as we had been doing for months, our Lish/Lish familiar dance of flirtation in full throttle.
“Where you been?” I asked, referring to his recent disappearance from my text message, email, and Facebook radar.
“Me, Lish?” he asked. “I think you disappeared. Not me.” Sadface.
He had noticed? Perhaps I had not returned a text or two. Maybe I had scheduled other possibilities in his place? Deflecting the accusation I mustered my best defense; attack.
“What’s up…. anyway…. Lish?” I wrote, typing furiously while most likely waiting for an incoming IM from someone else. “We have been non-dating dating for nearly a year and it has progressed into nothing. WTF?” I wrote, using my well articulated IM vernacular.
“Lishiousness…come on? I think you are just as emotionally unavailable as I am,” he wrote. Smiley faces, winks and sad faces blatantly missing from the conversation. “And, because neither of us has expectations it works. Am I wrong?”
Shit. Dan had noticed. Had my “I will reject you before you reject me” strategy leaked into those lovely dinners at The Ivy? Could my cup of ick have runneth over at the movies, tainting the kisses and the popcorn? Did I spill drops of apathy and fear when I dashed from his room at 2am, the sheets still warm? Had this state of the art heart home become so secure it had left me unable to let in any possibilities – even the possibility of love.
In fact, I had removed all possibility from my incoming possibilities because it was simply easier to put each one in some sort of predetermined category, neatly sorted, grouped, and stored in my mind. “Too young.” “Probably wants kids.” “No chemistry.” “Too busy.” “Too old.” “Too focused on work.” Or how about something as simple as, “Doesn’t text back immediately?!” And, in this perfect psycho-arrangement, it enabled me to put the wrong-ness right back on them. The “hims.” I had convinced myself, and the world at large.” Well, everyone I hoped except “5, 6, 7, 8 Date Dan,” the guy who called me out, named thus because I had been on more dates with him than anyone else. Yet while I claimed I was ready for love, I had kept Dan at three arms lengths away, safely putting the blame on him for not wanting more than the arrangement we had developed. A skosh more than “booty call with dinner” Dan was interested in my life, asked questions about children and job when appropriate, and seemed to genuinely care about my health and well -being. He even called the morning my mother died, which seemed exceptional, as we had mostly communicated via text messages during the 10 months we had been dating.
And so I bitched. Whined. Complained, stating that there was a critical lack of possibilities whom lived in the greater Los Angeles area. They sucked. Not me. But then damn Dan called me out and the gig was up. I had been busted, and while it would have been less painful to keep categorizing and perfecting my version of the “Heisman” (as in Heisman Trophy; The statue of the football guy strong-arming his opponent!) I knew that my heart wasn’t really digging life in Fort Knox. My heart was big, loving, filled with mo jo and reaching desperately for light. For love. Thus, I realized it was time to MacGyver a new plan – a plan to bust her out! A plan to experience each possibility for the magic of what it could bring. It was time to let go of expectation, leave yesterday’s yuck in yesterday, and live each moment exactly in the moment. But how?
How can a woman who has had her heart shattered (and who hasn’t?) be truly free from letting the memories of yesterday’s pain impact her possibilities? After nearly half a lifetime of living one way, can I really expect to free my heart? Sure, I’ve chipped away at it. Therapy. Girl talk. Hell, even Cosmo, and of course, time. But my heart, my HUGE heart wanted true freedom. My heart wanted more than dinners and booty calls. My heart wanted to be held. Touched. My heart wanted to give not to get, but just to give. My heart wanted to love.
And as I pondered, analyzed, and therapized I got an inkling that perhaps this Fort Knox approach to keeping my heart safe was all wrong. Dan had noticed. Perhaps Alex had noticed. Maybe Justin, Patrick and Michael had noticed too? Perhaps, in fact, I had moderated my feelings so well, so fearful of the little spark possibility births when born into the center of my chest, that I had prevented the possibility of real love from coming into my life. Maybe, I considered, I should allow it, letting possibility unleash its ball of fiery white energy into my gut. Maybe I needed a jackhammer to tear down the walls protecting my Gran Torino heart?
And then one day in yoga class I noticed something. I had just been practicing yoga for two months, and I loved that it blended mind and body, often providing opportunities to find peace of mind, as well as and opportunities to reflect. It was during one of the most strenuous poses that it dawned on me that perhaps freeing my heart required something like nail clippers, or scissors. Maybe I didn’t need to use a jackhammer to free my heart from its perfectly designed hurt-free home. There I was in the yoga studio, bending over, (they call if “folding over,” but I was definitely making an effort to just bend) sweat dripping onto my unaccessorized plain blue mat, unsuccessfully trying to breath through my nose when I realized how I had killed possibility in my effort to protect my heart. I had been so focused on what had happened in the past and what could go wrong in the future that I had been avoiding the possibility of each new day. When I focused on trying to put my body in one of those twisty bendy position that was difficult and new, I didn’t notice the sweat, I didn’t care that my mat didn’t have a cool purple skid free blanket like the other cool yogis have, that I wasn’t breathing through my nose, or that I had not done this before. When I was in yoga I was simply breathing. Just being. In that moment, my thoughts were nowhere but on 2nd street, in the yoga studio trying to put my body in that twisty bendy position. And then I realized, my body is, in fact, the ultimate reality check. Where my body is, is where I am. My mind can wander to later that day, wonder if he will call or even appear in my life. My emotions can flare remembering the hurt I experienced when tattooed boy- man cheated on me with Jeapordy’s version of Vanna White, but my body can not leave the present moment. It has nowhere to go unless I move it. And then, the moment will be new and fraught with unlimited possibilities. The past is gone. The future is uncertain. I might get hurt. It is possible, maybe even inevitable. Yet what I discovered in yoga that day is this; I can claim my heart with confidence and free her knowing each moment and each possibility is brand new. I have never lived those moments until they happen. Each text message, the glance from the guy in the coffee shop made with smiling eyes, a conversation in line at the bank, or even the new profile on Jdate is one moment FILLED with possibilities. I can release my heart from Fort Knox knowing that if I let her free she will blossom. She will flourish. I can take each moment and live in the awe and wonder of what may be, allowing my heart to grow, fill with love, and gain power from the vulnerability of knowing I might get hurt and will still survive. In fact, my heart will thrive because I am living my life as a free woman –moment to moment. From this place of wonder, from this awe my heart can be free. And I can truly open to what possibilities are possible.