Phyllis

I think in all the haze of this whirlwind of romance I may have said something like, “Maybe we should keep this to ourselves until we have more answers.” Oh, I can sound practical, but apparently, the practice of practical is impractical.

I have in my hand an empty bag. Where the cat, dog, hippo, velociraptor were supposed to be. I have let them all out. Note to everyone: I suck at secrets. I assume you all know that by now.

Before I told my friends, while I was still in the blur of travel, I told the woman next to me that he was my fiancé.

Let me explain.

From the moment when he got down on his knees to propose, to this very minute right now, I am in a blur of disbelief, relief and calm. Calm, is not what I expected.

But, when we got to the Atlanta Airport we only had a short time before Dave got on the plane. We found a  place to sit and wait and hold each other, a row of seats. There I decided on how this departure was going to go. I told him that I needed it to be that way so that I could survive. That we would get up and hug and kiss and then he would walk away. That had to be how it was because I would not be able to make it otherwise. He only looked back 3 times. God, bless him for that.

I sat back down when he was gone and burst into tears. I was in public, so I was tying to hold it together, which just made it worse. Then I felt a small had on my arm and a voice said, “Are you ok, honey?”

I slobbered out a, “no”. Then she said, “go after him”. If my legs had not been turned to pudding I would have run after him. If I had had my passport I would have never looked back. But I know in my heart that he will be back, and I also know that if I ran after him he never would have gotten on that plane. And we need to get our shit together so we can be together for the rest of our lives.

I croaked out, “I don’t have my passport.” She just said, “oh.” She held my hand until I could breathe again. Then I looked at her. This tiny black woman with fairy like hands and an angel face. She was so beautiful. She had such a sad look in her eyes. I asked her, “Are you alright?” And she said, “no.”

She had lived with a man for 9 years 20 years ago. He had been the love of her life. But they had separated and lost each other. A few months ago he tracked her down. They had been talking and she had come to the airport today to fly to New York to meet him. As she entered the airport he had called her, and he had told her not to come, that he had changed his mind.

This tiny resilient woman said to me, “I love him, but he does not deserve me, I will not cry for a man who does not know how special I am and who would throw me away.” I asked if she had family or friends coming to get her. She told me the woman behind the ticket counter was her friend was was off in a few minutes. She told me it was never too late for love, she was 59 after all. Then she asked my name and I asked hers.

For the second time in the same day I held both hands of a person I had only just met. I looked into her strong, fire blazing Valkurian eyes, and I shared a moment that will be forever with me.

“Look at us,” she said,”on either side of love.”

Yeah, look at us. God bless Phyllis and her strong heart and kind hands.

And thank you Universe for finally allowing me to be on the winning side of love.

What a difference a year can make.

In 2013 on my 51st birthday, I took a picture of myself. It was the first thing in the morning and I photographed myself in my bathroom mirror about 2 minutes after I had gotten up. I look like I had been dragged behind a particularly large bus. For about 3 miles. In the desert. On the moon.

I had been bleaching my hair and waffling between shoulder length and the short short hair I really wanted. The bleaching was the transition into having the white in my hair be ok, and not just, why does my hair look like the broom over there in the corner?

This photo was also telling, because I have what I call the “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke” smirk on. This smirk began a few months earlier when I looked around my life and realized I was over 50 and that I was looking as at good as it was going to get for me. Under the smirk was the belief that I was going to always be single. And under that, and not very far, was the question of whether or not I was interested in dealing with this alone and loveless and solitary life for another 20 or 30 years. It was this long hard stretch of highway that I was not looking forward to.

My life was good, don’t get me wrong. I had a job I liked, I had a home I could pay for and live relatively comfortably in, I had a good relationship with my remaining family member. But there was a weight to my life that was overpowering. I was in physical pain, and in mental “who gives a shit.” The physical pain was from the fall 3 years earlier, and from being fat, and from working in a job that I never get to sit down to do. It was from me not bothering to take care of myself, because I just had given up hope.

My boss Mike Kelley saved my life.

He offered to pay for me to go to Seattle Athletic Club because they had a swimming pool, and that would be a way for me to feel better. I could exercise in water, safely and get stronger.  So in July (?) I began going. The first day just getting my old ratty swimsuit on was a challenge. Then going up and down the ladder was more of a workout than I expected. I was stiff and sore the next day. But I also felt  a bit better.

I continued to swim for a month or two. One day, a particularly beautiful fall day, I was floating in the water day dreaming. I could look out the high windows and see the end of summer green of the leaves on the trees waving in the blue sky. I was at peace, suspended in water and relaxed. Content for the first time in years. No pain, no thoughts, just peace and grace.

And then in my head I heard, “get back on-line”.

I knew that I should try one more time to do the “dating thing”. One last time. I let go of the belief that it had never worked before, so why would it work now. I just thought, I am in this place of total surrender and not thinking life is all that worth living, so what the fuck. The next day I took a selfie after work and put my profile on two websites, Plenty of Fish (where Marilyn had met Blaine) and Geek 2 Geek. I am a Pisces so I almost always have two things going at once. It helps me feel balanced.

I had no faith that this would work. I have been trying this for years and I either get super scary ass guys responding or none at all. I mean not even the scary ass guys will respond to me.

On Plenty of Fish I had a guy named Mark Casanova respond to me. After I made the first move. He seemed nice and was not horrible to look at. And he was tall and lived within the 25 mile range I was firmly set on. I have learned that unavailable can mean all sorts of things, gay, emotionally and physically distant, married. Mark Casanova was none of  these things.

We talked on-line and then set a time to meet. We planned on meeting at the Barnes and Noble in Northgate. Coffee date. Sunday afternoon at 3. Easy peasy.

I went and waited 30 minutes. Granted he was texting to tell me he was running late. But still. When he finally arrived he looked like a very nice man, like someone my father would have been friends with through the police department. He changed the coffee date plans and suggested a walk through the mall. Then he took me into a camera store to look at cameras because he wanted to replace his, which felt like an errand to be done at another time. He offered to take me to dinner, and I said sure. We went to Azteca in the mall. There he regaled me on his amazing ability to make money, his love of gambling (where I could stand beside him in Vegas as he played the tables) and his skill with making money. Then as I had a mouth full of food, he said, “I want to just lean over and kiss you right now.” Which is something I have not had anyone say to me in 20 years. It was shocking and I also felt irritated and flattered. I said, ” I am eating a burrito right now.” Cause that is what you say in that moment.

After dinner and lots of conversation on his side of how he was new in town and, where should he buy a house that would be convenient to me, and did I mention I have skills with money?, he walked me to my car. Then he said, “I am going to kiss you.” And he did. And I felt nothing other than a desire to wipe my mouth.

And then I thought of Dave.

It took me a week to muster up the nerve to let him know that I was not going to be dating him. He was texting me how we could go on a day trip the next weekend. And I kept waffling. Then on Sunday a week from the first date, I called my friend Grace, who I felt he might be a good match for, and asked her if she would think it weird if I gave him her number. The fact is that he was very nice and very smart, and he was raring to go, which I realized I was not. She was open to it. Because that is the great thing about Grace, she is raring to go and try anything.

Then I called Mark. I let him tell me that I was apparently not ready to date yet, which was mostly right, and that I was making myself clear by not responding to him, again, spot on. Then I told him that it was weird, but that I thought he and my friend Grace might hit it off, then he could still be in our circle. Which as I write this makes me aware of what a ridiculous thing that was, and I am surprised he didn’t put a hit out on me. But I know how disappointment feels, and I just couldn’t bare that I was doing it to him. He was first and foremost a nice man, who made the mistake of thinking I was a nice woman.

He deserved someone to love, who loved him back.

He deserved a Dave.

I deserve a Dave. I deserve my Dave. I am stunned that I have my Dave. And though I tell myself I am worthy of his love,  I am amazed that I have it.

So almost 1 year to the day of the morning of my 51st birthday, I am engaged to my Dave. In one year my world has turned upside down and I want those 20 to 30 years now. I want them desperately, because I can share them with my Dave.

What a difference a year can make.

Valentine’s Day 2014

I have stepped into an new and different world. A world that I have been watching on movies and on TV shows for years. A world that I did not know existed. Really, I intellectually knew, but I had no idea how it felt.

I have believed myself to have been in love a couple of times in my life. But they have always been these precarious experiences with people who never ( I repeat NEVER) felt the same way I did. I have never in my life been in a recipricol relationship. One where the person I liked, liked me as well. Ok, rephrase this. I have been liked, but not loved. Not in a way that I felt.

I am willing to accept that it is me. That I am the culprit in this. I have the regular trust issues. That I have never had a whole lot of faith in myself as a person and so why would I have faith in anyone else?
I have always assumed that I am the 2nd choice, the Also Ran, the person who would be picked last. Always. It was true of my childhood with my parents always making me feel like my sister was more important. One year at Thanksgiving we were at the table talking and I jokingly said, “Yeah, mom and dad always liked you best.” And my sister said, “Yeah, I know.” And she was not joking. When my sister was away at college was the only time I felt like I had mom’s attention at all, and those 3 years will always be special to me.

Naturally, going into school I watched other kids as they paired up and acted out their first love affairs. I watched from a careful (read: introvert) distance. The one time I tried the “check the box if you like me system” I received a crushing blow. I didn’t tell anyone I liked anyone for another 10 years.

My mother tells the story of when I was about 2 and a half. I had been slow to walk. I mostly crawled from place to place. One day she had a group of women and their children over. The mothers were all talking and drinking coffee, the children were all walking around getting into things. I had crawled over to my rocking chair and was watching everyone. My mom says I was rocking faster and faster, she could see I was getting more and more agitated.  Then suddenly I launched up out of the chair. I walked half way across the floor and walked smack into an open door. The whole room went quiet. Without a noise, I walked all the way back to my rocker and sat down. I did not try to walk again for 3 months.

This is typical of how I am. Apparently I had a huge shiner and bruised my whole face. I can tell you that in my head I was thinking, “Well, that didn’t work. Don’t think I’ll try that again for a while.”
The reason I know this is what I was thinking is because it has been an ongoing theme my entire life. I jump in, all or nothing and then at the first set back I retreat. I have no concept of Baby Steps.

This year is the first time in my life, MY ENTIRE LIFE, that I have had a boyfriend on Valentine’s day. I have had only one Valentine’s day where I spent it with someone I loved, and that was because Kris came to Seattle for Valentine’s day weekend the year that Don and I broke up the week before. He just showed up. We went to brunch. We watched movies and ate popcorn. He slept in my room with me and I got the first night’s sleep I had gotten in weeks. It was lovely. And it only hit me that it was Valentine’s Day as he was leaving.

My birthday follows Valentine’s Day by a week. So I have always felt like I could stretch some of the love I get on my birthday to Valentine’s Day. It has been my secret for feeling like I was ok. That I was not the last person in the world.

This year, however, I have a boyfriend. Granted, I have not yet physically met him. I don’t know what he smells like. I have not hugged or kissed him. But I am as smitten as smitten can be. And he is romantic as hell. I never thought the things that happened in movies could happen in real life. I just assumed it was as real as unicorns and being a size 0. The fact that I have never had a boyfriend on Valentine’s day is just a given to me.

When I woke up Friday, Valentine’s Day, I went on-line and found 5 red roses on the computer for me. 5 because it is 5 days until we finally meet. And red roses because he is my BOYFRIEND! He struck first. He took the lead. I was dazzled. Almost as Dazzled as when he wrote me the lyrics to “Let’s Face the Music and Dance”. I went into the world of Valentine’s Day 2014 feeling differently.

And I’ll be damned if it didn’t manifest for me. I received a white long stem rose from my friend Brenda’s husband John (He had come to meet her at my store and brought us both flowers). Abbie brought me a breakfast Chai. (And remembered to bring me sweeteners.) David came in to huge me and call me Valentine. Matt and Calum both posted on my wall on FB. Greta gave me a Valentine like she does every year. As did Jeff DF and Kathy (who mailed theirs) My friend Leo gave me hand lotion and a hug. A friend who I have been estranged with came in and we talked about my upcoming trip to meet my Boyfriend, and she and I made a real connection toward repair. One of my favorite customers gave me an entire box of Whitman Sampler Chocolates. The necklace I ordered for my trip arrived. My sister and I had dinner together and then she bought me a pair of tennies for my trip, and for my Birthday too.

When I got in the car to go home,  it occurred to me I received Friendship, Hugs, Chocolates, Jewelry, Lotion, a Rose, Cards, Dinner out, New Shoes and LOVE from all over the place.

I know I have had those things before, but this was overwhelming to me. Why? Because I was aware of it. I was in a place to receive it. I was a willing participant in being, receiving, and giving love. It is a new world for me. To jump in and find that not only is the water fine, but I am no longer on the outside looking in. I am just trying to take deep breaths and know that I can get used to this.

Thank you.