Connecticut River Tree Swallows

Early Monday evening I boarded the River Quest, a 64’ catamaran at Eagles Landing in East Haddam, CT. The purpose of the cruise was to watch a large flock of Tree Swallows descend onto Goose Island at sunset, where they roost overnight. For a few weeks every late summer and into early fall, the swallows gather here, near the mouth of the Connecticut River as they ready for their migration south.

This behavior is known as “staging”. The swallows choose this particular spot for a variety of reasons, such as the ample food source of flying insects (they dine on the wing), which they load up on before their long flight. Another reason is for the protection from predation that Goose Island provides. It is dense with Phragmites, an invasive marsh reed, making it nearly impossible for predators to approach from anywhere but above.

It is not completely understood why they join forces in these massive communal roosts, but it is likely for the safety in numbers. And the numbers are impressive. Estimates vary. They are hard to count. But it is generally agreed that between 250,000 and 500,000 gather here annually in flocks so dense that they show up on radar.

After an hour’s boat ride down the river, where we saw Bald Eagles, Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets and Belted Kingfishers, the captain positioned the vessel for the best view of Goose Island. The naturalists on board turned our attention to the incoming swallows.

In this half hour before sunset, the Tree Swallows started flying in from all directions, from their daytime feeding grounds. In the span of 15 minutes or so, dozens of birds turned into hundreds, then thousands. There were ribbons and clouds of them coming from every direction. We saw a couple groups flying in low over the river, skimming the water for a final drink before joining the others in the sky above the island. Just before sunset, they likely numbered in the tens of thousands.

Through my binoculars, the view was almost more birds than sky, and I could see individual birds twirl and dip and dive. Still looking through the binoculars, I pulled the focus in closer. More birds. I pushed the point of focus out further. Still more birds. These adjustments revealed just how deep and massive the flock was.

At this point, the captain announced that the mass of birds was showing up on his radar, and invited us into the cabin to take a look. I made a quick dash there to see, then back to the deck, not wanting to miss their descent.

For a few more minutes after sunset, the cloud of birds twisted and shifted above the island. The flock would tighten, float up, then down, then swirl back up, loosen, and then do it all again in a new pattern each time. Aerial acrobatics.

Then, in groups, they began their descent.

It seemed that one bird would cue a group, then they’d form a vortex and funnel down. Then, when the funnel got lower in the sky, the birds would suddenly drop and dive straight down, careening towards the Phragmites at 60 miles per hour. It seemed impossible that they could land safely at that speed. But of course they could – they were built for this. Still, it was stunning.

It literally took my breath away. And with each group’s descent, I inhaled sharply again and again. I had tears in my eyes as I watched, and goosebumps all over. The man to my left kept whispering “Oh wow. Just wow.” despite the fact that he’d seen this 5 times before. I was glad I wasn’t the only one so deeply in awe of the sight.

Then, abruptly, it was over. We all stood there in silence for a moment. A moment later, I could feel a collective breath of release, followed by a quiet chorus of “wows” and “oh my gods”. I think some people clapped. I can’t remember. I just stood there smiling and silent, my chest bursting with excitement, overwhelmed by joy and wonder.

I’ve known for a long time that this is a bucket-list item for a lot of birders. What I didn’t know, but learned from the CT River Quest website, was that Roger Tory Peterson, the world-renowned naturalist and artist, owned a home in Old Lyme near the river, and had this to say about this about the Goose Island swallows:

“I have seen a million flamingos on the lakes of East Africa and as many seabirds on the cliffs of the Alaska Pribilofs, but for sheer drama, the tornadoes of Tree Swallows eclipsed any other avian spectacle I have ever seen.”

I’m so grateful to have seen it.

More Food Birds, Less Pain,

-L

Note: I am not a birder who takes pictures or video. I tried to get a few with my iPhone on this trip, but they were no good. But if you search for “Connecticut River Tree Swallows” on YouTube, there are some good videos to be seen. 

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Balls Deep

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Was Sean’s idea to “edit” our June work calendar like so, I swear.

I started working on a blog post in June, shortly after the end of a 6 month relationship, as a way to process what-the-fuck-just happened. But I’ve struggled with it. Blindsided and still in shock, I knew I wouldn’t have the clarity to write about it well, but I started jotting things down anyhow.

The temptation to vilify him was strong – there were lies, you guys. Well, one big one at least, about not actually being in love despite saying otherwise for months. But as crushed as I was by his confession, I knew it wasn’t fair (or even all that interesting) to call him out. Besides, he isn’t a plotting or evil person. Broken maybe. But who isn’t, in some way?

I’m not condoning how poorly he handled things, which was very, very poorly. But focusing too much on his fuck-ups kept me from really looking at myself, which, if you ask me, is the only work left to do when someone eats your heart, then vanishes.

When I wrote, I found myself trying to justify my response to the breakup. I was really upset. The day after, I wailed and sobbed, my head on my friend Martin’s lap, while he handed me tissues. I barely ate or slept for two weeks. I was so embarrassed by how I felt. I desperately did not want to shed tears for him. And I just kept wondering why it hurt so much.

The more I dug into the original post, the more I saw that the pain of this breakup was tightly tied to the pain of the two that preceded it. The first one knocked me down so hard it took me 5 years to be able to fall in love again. The next time I fell in love felt like redemption, but it wasn’t, and it took me a year to bounce back from that.

In theory, or so I thought, this breakup should have hurt less. After all, I was only with this person for 6 months. But in the first few weeks, it felt way worse than the last one, and I was astonished by this.

Days after the breakup, I admitted to my co-worker/friend Sean, how pathetic I felt for being so upset.

He threw his arms out, exasperated, and said, “It’s not pathetic Louise! You two were balls deep in a relationship!”

Succint, validating, and so Sean.

And it is true. I, and everyone else, thought we were “balls deep” in a relationship. But even though he was driving the relationship fast in every other way, he wasn’t in it deeply at all. He had one foot on the gas and one on the brakes the whole time.

At some point it dawned on me that I’d never had my trust betrayed like this, at least not by someone I was madly in love with. So, even though it could have been worse, it made sense that it still hurt like hell.

And it’s not like this shit gets easier. But at least I’ve made progress. This I know.

My own issues around intimacy are deeply rooted in my childhood, and I have worked hard my whole life to repair what was broken. Those issues make it tough for me to open up and trust – and they also make bouncing back from heartache and disappointment more difficult.

But describing precisely how my issues factored into the pain of this breakup? I was worried it let him off the hook somehow. But more so, it is so difficult to be that open and vulnerable about your own shit.

And there are some people who chalk that shit up to “crazy.”

But then there’s the rest of you.

As difficult as it was to start the breakup post, it’s been more difficult to wrap it up. I wrote redemption into the end of it, because I know it will soon be true. I loved. I got hurt. I will (very likely) love again.

But I still have days of heartache and anger that don’t yet feel like redemption.

For instance:

A week ago, after a proper stretch of feeling better, my phone rang while it was in my hand. It was him. I just stared at my phone, bewildered. I didn’t answer. I knew it was probably a pocket dial, and to my relief, the 2 minute muffled voicemail confirmed this.

But then then a profound disappointment took over – revealing a hope for reunion that I wasn’t aware I even harbored. I deeply resented the feeling.

How could I want that, after how much he hurt me?

It took days for me to get back on track. What did the trick was admitting to a friend how foolish I felt for still pining for someone who didn’t even love me. This friend, of course, reminded me this was just part of the process. Lots of steps forward, a few back. Simply by revealing a feeling I was ashamed of, it all but disappeared.

Turns out the road to redemption is curvy as fuck, and paved with messy, embarrassing emotions.

So I decided that if I’m still just a butt-dial away from a gut-punch of uncomfortable feelings, maybe the original blog piece needs more time. Or, as another friend pointed out, maybe it served its purpose in helping me process things, and doesn’t need to be shared.

And while I only half believe it as I write this, I know redemption in love is possible. My gynecologist, of all people, assured me of this as we wrapped up a routine appointment. She asked about any recent partners, as these doctors do. I briefly explained the relationship and breakup, trying to gloss over it, but my stupid eyes welled with tears.

Usually funny and slightly irreverent (she calls my uterus “that sucker”), she got quiet, and pulled her stool up close to my chair. Then, dead serious, she looked me square in the eye and told me of a breakup she went through that was nearly identical to mine. She explained how the next man she met (now her husband) was so careful with her heart, knowing she’d been crushed by the last man she was with.

“I know this sucks,” she said, “but promise me you won’t give up, and that you’ll keep doing the work, and I promise you that you’ll find the right person .”

My eyes filled with more tears.

“Can I ask you something?” I asked.

“Of course,” she replied.

“Do I have to pay a double co-pay for this visit?”

She laughed, said this one was on the house, then sent me on my way.

****

I don’t know if my story will have the same arc as hers. But I hope it does.

And I don’t know that I’ll ever finish the original blog post. Maybe I need a few more steps forward, and a few less back before I can fully believe the bit I wrote about redemption.

In the meantime though, I’ll follow my doctor’s orders.

More Food, Less Pain,

xo-L

a little holiday love

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Ninigret Pond, Christmas 2015

On the surface, this Christmas Eve doesn’t look much different than my Christmas eve last year. I am living in the same flat, in the same town, and working the same job. Nothing much has changed. I even drove to the same Portuguese market that I drove to last year, for wine, cheese, and sweets.

But last year, on that 20 minute drive to the market, I cried. A lot. A few weeks prior, I had parted ways with someone I’d been in love with for a year. We were supposed to spend Christmas together. I cried because I imagined the car loaded with wine, cheese, an overnight bag, and sweet little presents for him. Instead, I was in my gym clothes, killing time with pointless errands, and going to buy wine for parties I wasn’t even sure I’d have the energy or heart to attend.

Today on the drive, I was in my gym clothes again, but I was smiling. The slightly fuzzy scenes from a truly proper date last night were coming into focus, making me giggle every few miles or so. (I mean, I took a fucking saber to a bottle of Champagne like a goddamn pro, you guys!) I was smiling too, because I knew I’d come so far from the heartache of last Christmas. 

2016, as hard as it was, and still is, blessed me with time and space to heal from the hell that my 2015 was. This hasn’t been a great year, (we all seem to agree on that!) but I’ll take it. I made some dear new friends, and was safe in the company of old friends who are just always fucking there somehow, waiting with love and patience that I hardly feel worthy of. But I’ll take that too, with so much gratitude, that I do not show enough.

As I write this, a sweet friend of mine is napping on my couch after having a wretched, horrible day that nobody, especially her, deserves. I’m grateful that I am healed enough from my heartaches to help her through hers. Even in our blessed and comfortable, “first world” lives, pain like this needs and deserves love and attention. Especially today, when there is so much pressure to be joyful for the holidays.

Happy holidays friends new and old. I love you all.

More love, less pain,

xo-L

My Super Honest Dating Profile

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I’m told I look just like my picture.

My self-summary:

Socially awkward. Risk averse. Perimenopausal.

What I’m doing with my life:

Prepping for the possibility that I will collapse, alone, in my apartment. Neurotic and unoriginal for a woman my age? Sure. But it is largely out of consideration for the person that finds me, (likely my landlady), as well as the person who will have to fetch personal belongings for my hospital stay (likely my brother, IT Guy). So I do my best to keep my flat an acceptable level of clean and organized. Besides, if this morbid fantasy medical emergency kills me, I guarantee you that Ghost-Louise will haunt the person who cleans out the fridge in an attempt to apologize for the month-old soup leftovers, which I think we can all agree is super lame for a ghost.

I’m really good at: 

Shame spiraling.

Attracting felons.

Condiments. All the condiments in my fridge are active condiments.

Making soup. I’m soup-er jazzed about experimenting with citrus in my soups this fall!

The six things I could never do without

  1. A box of tissues. My brother says I cry a lot.
  2. Peanut butter.
  3. A spoon for peanut butter.
  4. Alcohol. Or I’d have to move to a cabin in the woods in Maine.
  5. Xanax. For those times when day drinking isn’t socially acceptable (or allowed at work).
  6. Complete and total autonomy.

I spend a lot of time thinking about:

  1. How I once said to my therapist “well at least I’m not a serial killer!” to which she thoughtfully (almost too thoughtfully?) replied, “well that is certainly a valid point, considering your childhood.”
  2. What I’m going to eat next.
  3. My sinuses.
  4. Moving to cabin in the woods in Maine.
  5. Whether I’m that chubby girl who gives a BJ on a second date so guys will like me, or if I’m just a liberated, slightly perverted, sex positive woman.
  6. Anechoic chambers.

On a typical Friday night I am

  1. Trying to dodge plans so I can go home, eat soup, and work on my birding bucket list.
  2. At a bar, not talking to you because:
    • I’m not attracted to you.
    • I’m attracted to you.
    • You’re talking to the tall blond types, ignoring me completely, which is your loss because this average height, 43 year old brunette pear has the breasts and the vaginal tone of a 25 year old.
    • I hate talking, strangers, and bars.

Recent books I’ve read:

“I Feel Bad About My Neck” – Nora Ephron

“How to Build Your Own Spaceship: The Science of Personal Space Travel” – Piers Bizony

The most private things I’m willing to admit:

I once fell asleep eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

You should NOT message me if you:

  • Are 22, and are looking for a cougar experience.
  • Are 22 and want to have a threesome, but have gravely underestimated the imagination of a 43 year old woman, and, subsequently, you cannot handle her suggested variations on the theme.
  • Think a first message about licking my asshole is a good strategy.
  • Have a user name that starts with “Tongue4Use”.
  • Have a user name that ends with “69”, EVEN IF THAT IS YOUR BIRTH YEAR, perv.
  • Are holding something dead in your profile picture.
  • Are wearing a ski mask (or any mask, really) in your one and only profile pic.

If I had a personal motto, it would be:

More Food. Less Pain.

One Good Month

In early May, I drove to Maine,  alone, for a much needed weekend of hiking in the mountains. My Favorite Niece, ever perceptive and generous, was largely responsible for making this happen. When I had a last minute car issue, she called upon our friend, Sugar Pumpkin, to help me sort it out, then off I went. I promised to repay them both somehow, but all they asked for was a blog post. So this is for them. A little late, and I owe them something funny eventually, but I had to get this out of my system first. 

********

More often than not, May is not my month. The unexpected loss of my father 16 years ago left its mark. And every May since, with the background reset (cue the lilacs) I brace for the worst. In doing so, I subconsciously create chaos, or consciously cut my losses. Or, in a really bad May, I do both.

Last May, was one of those really bad ones. I moved suddenly, lost a friendship, and abruptly ended a relationship with a man I was madly in love with.

The chaos didn’t end there. In the months that followed, there were more changes, both positive and negative.  In July, I lost my job, and it was awful. In August, I reunited with the man I was still madly in love with, and it was bliss. In September, I went back to work. In October, I moved again. Then, in November, with hardly a warning, the relationship ended for good, with an “I can’t do this” email, from him.

It could have been worse. Each drama, on its own, was “no disaster“, as Elizabeth Bishop put it in “One Art”, her poem about loss.But the frequent upheaval and disappointments were exhausting. It was like 6 months of May.

The external chaos finally ended in December. I was glad for the arrival of winter, and the way it demands less of us here in New England. Bewildered and dizzy from the year, I took stock. What remained of my life was exactly what I needed to recover: a place of my own, with a claw foot tub; a low stress job in a blessedly quiet office; and an abundance of free time and autonomy. But I also had more sadness and anger than I knew what to do with.

I wish I could tell you that I spent the winter drinking tea, reading Brene Brown and journaling, but it didn’t happen that way. Managing the dips of sadness, the peaks of anger – and the numbness in between – preoccupied me. In these first couple of months, my attempts at self-care were halfhearted, and short lived. I was angry at myself – enough so that I did not believe my wounds deserved attendance, or, that my bad decisions, forgiveness.

At the very least, I understood the healing power of time. In those first months of winter, waiting was the best I could do. So I welcomed snow storms, watched Netflix, and took long baths in my claw foot tub while reading entire issues of Vanity Fair. On weekends, I drove to nearby towns where no one knew me, and walked, or read books in local coffee shops. I ate ice cream, and drank bourbon. Neither tasted like love, but they came close.

After a couple months, when I felt ready to unpack it all, I called my old therapist and got to work. With her help, and with the love of my truest friends, I began to snap out of it. I watched my appetite for things other than ice cream and bourbon come back – like being outside. In April, I woke up one Saturday, drove three hours north, hiked a mountain, then got in my car and drove right back. I was sore for days, but it felt like a start.

It was nearly mid-May when I drove to Maine. I took me until then to remember the May-curse. I was five hours into a drive that was supposed to take four, and frustrated. There had been traffic, then dense fog followed by heavy rain. At hour five, Google Maps estimated another twenty-five minutes to my hotel.

But it didn’t factor in the frogs. The last twenty mile stretch of road happened to be through a marshy, wild area that is prime frog habitat. When it rains, and especially in the spring, frogs often leap onto roads looking for warmth, or food, or sex. I had forgotten about the phenomenon, despite witnessing it on prior trips north.

The road I was on was alive with frogs. There were so many. But there wasn’t anything I could do to avoid hitting them. I was on a two lane road in an area called – I kid you not – the “Unorganized Territory of South Oxford”. It was pitch black. There was no alternate route, nowhere to pull over, no friendly country cafe to pause in. And besides, the rain wasn’t ending anytime soon. There was no sense in stopping.

So I drove and squished a thousand frogs. I cringed constantly, and kept reflexively yelling “Sorry!” to them. I whispered “what the fuck?”, over and over again. I wondered what it all meant, the traffic, the fog, the rain – and now frogs? Was this another “fuck you” from the universe? Was this the start of another cursed May?

It took me 45 minutes to drive the remaining 20 miles.

The next morning, with coffee in hand and hiking shoes on, I drove on dry roads to a trail head, and thought about the frogs. I felt for them. I mean, I went looking for warmth and food and sex (well, love) last year, and I too got crushed. But I stopped this line of thought when I remembered my new policy against self-pity, and my old policy against anthropomorphism.

And did every last thing need to be a reminder of him?

Or of my shitty year? 

On my first hike of the day, I admitted that it was simply a mix of decisions and timing that brought me to that road. Not to mention other factors beyond my control, like weather – or the civil engineering that went into cutting a road through a marshy forest.

Kermit
Another MS Paint masterpiece by Favorite Niece.

While hiking, I also realized that the factors that had me murdering frogs the night before were the same factors that brought me to the wild, beautiful, breathtaking waterfall I’d just reached. The difficult drive wasn’t symbolic of anything other than the fact that life is sometimes chaos, and sometimes calm. We might think we’re in control, but we just barely are. Things can fall apart in a heartbeat, and we can wreck them in one too. My year was one long lesson in that.

When May ended, I realized that I managed to not fuck anything up, consciously or subconsciously. One bad drive aside, it was a good month, though I can’t explain why. Maybe the spell is finally broken. Maybe therapy works. Maybe going away helped. Maybe I’d finally mastered “the art of losing”. Time will help me figure it out. Right now though, I’d rather move forward, and not worry too much about being squished again.

More Frogs, Less Pain,

xo-L

 

 

10 Signs You Need to Snap Out of Your Post Breakup Slump

1. You happily spend a Saturday night creating an excel spreadsheet of your birding life list.

2. You find a moth in your apartment. You name him “Charlie”. You talk at length with him about your day.

3. You are crushed when you find Charlie’s dead body in a houseplant a week later.

Charlie
RIP Charlie                                                      MS Paint original artwork by L.R.

4. You yell “Yay! Bedtime!” every night because sleep is a break from being angry and/or sad. Until # 5 happens.

5. You have a dream that you are carving an ex-boyfriend’s head as though it were a Thanksgiving turkey.

6. After months of trial and error, you’ve figured out which of the 5 spatulas you own is the perfect spatula for scratching your back.

7. Your new favorite iPhone game is called “Neko Atsume”, which means “cat collecting” in Japanese.

8. Your find yourself halfheartedly sexting with a guy from New Delhi, while vacuuming.

9. You are so totally on board with the mindfulness coloring book fad.

10. You are on two dating websites, but almost never log on to them for fear it will lead to a date.

More Food, Less Pain,

xo-L

6.5 Months (or so) Later

Well, actually it’s closer to ten months since I’ve posted here.Fifi-Roberto-open-season-2-25058326-640-480

I was reminded of this fact last week, while dining with Favorite Niece and her friend Sugar Pumpkin. Not only had I not written in 10 months, they said, but the blog link wasn’t even working. (I forgot to pay up for the domain name.)

Apparently, Sugar Pumpkin wanted to re-read my last post, Six Point Five (6.5), about online dating, which she recently signed up for. If I were her dating coach (and thank goodness I’m not), I would discourage her from reading that post – unless she was trying to make herself feel better about her own experiences. But I have to keep my 2 loyal readers happy, so I promised to renew my domain name, and that I’d make an effort at a new blog post.

I didn’t write for all those months because I lacked time.  I had moved, and was busy with a new job, and things on the dating front were going well for a change, which does not always make for good copy. That’s not to say there weren’t some blog-worthy, moments, like dating 2 Christophers for a couple months, but I could never manage to pull a post together.

And then, in March, I fell in love with one of the C’s, and could not bring myself to write about it. You have to have some mad writing skills to make falling in love sound good, and not gag-inducing drivel. I was certain I would achieve only drivel, so I didn’t dare to try. There were difficult things about it, which were probably worth writing about, but they seemed too self-indulgent and first-world-problemy to describe.

Cufflinks (his nickname, to help my friends differentiate the two C’s) and I lasted a few months, and it was as wonderful and as complicated as it gets when two 40-something people try to open their hearts again. We adored each other, and laughed our faces off drinking scotch and playing darts in his loft. I had moments of perfect happiness watching him cook for me.

We tried to make it work, but we struggled with schedules and communication. I was overwhelmed by the job and the living situation, which were turning from bad to worse, and I couldn’t handle much more stress, so I broke up with him. It was a rash decision made in an emotional moment, one I regretted instantly, and likely did too much damage to fix.

But then this has been The Year of the Phenomenally Bad Decisions that lead to big life changes: a move, a new job, and a new relationship. I knew there were risks in each of these things – but I didn’t think they would all collapse around me the way they did, which was all at once.

All three things ended on the worst of terms.

Leave it to a kids movie,  Open Season 2 , to provide me with an epiphany. Watching it with my friend’s kids recently, I identified with Fifi, the angry toy poodle who slowly loses his marbles, voiced by Crispin Glover. Fifi gets his due in the end, and Roberto, the otherwise dimwitted basset hound says “I gotta admit, he kinda had that coming.”

Now it’s time to tease out where I went wrong versus where I was wronged. I’m heartbroken, burned and bruised, and my trust in myself is strained. But I am also resolute, and somewhat optimistic (if you catch me pre-2nd glass of chardonnay, that is). And I have August off in Newport, so there’s that.

And, just to be safe, I made my friends promise to help me steer clear of any phenomenally bad decisions for at least a few months, so I can get back on my feet again. Perhaps I’ll even write more with all my free time. Perhaps for Sugar Pumpkin, I’ll even force myself to date again, strictly for blog inspiration, and under the very close supervision of my friends, of course.

More Food, Less Pain,

-L

Six Point Five (6.5)

Recently, I received a message from a guy on an online dating site. It was just a number, 6.5, and nothing else. Not even a hello. I didn’t get what it meant, so I looked at his profile for a clue.

 
I love that he put the ten (10) in parentheses, as though writing a lease or legal document.

It was then that I understood. He was rating me.

****

I started online dating last December. I’d been single for almost four years, but had only been on a few dates. My friends were starting to worry about me. I guess the pleasure they once found in my awkwardness around men was turning to panic. They urged me to try dating online as a way to get out of my comfort zone. I protested, and explained, probably in whining tones, that I like my comfort zone, and that it smells like cookies, and that no one ever wants to see me naked there. They rolled their eyes at this, and helped sign me up for Tinder and OkCupid.

It was terrifying at first. It felt so inorganic. But the last time I was single and dating was over a decade ago. I was in my late twenties, and cuter. My badly broken heart wasn’t holding me back. There seemed to be more single men to choose from. It was less complicated back then, and much easier to meet people.

Online dating was also daunting to me because I have always been shy and awkward around total strangers. I’m incapable of small talk. Not to mention I have no idea how to flirt, and, in turn, have no idea when someone is flirting with me. So having dinner with someone I’ve never met, where there is an expectation of something romantic is not my best look.

At first, simply getting a message from a “match” was enough to make my palms sweat. The first time a guy asked for a date? I ignored him for three days. Trying to return a message would leave me twisting in my chair, and asking my girlfriends to help me come up with witty responses. This was a great source of entertainment (and relief) for them.

After a couple months I got the hang of it. I came up with my own witty responses. I even got brave enough to call men out when they were lame, or weird or inappropriate.

082e7-darin2b2Sometimes that was a boatload of fun (Darin, for example), other times it was horrible. I learned that the normal rules of etiquette do not apply in the virtual dating world – for instance, it is standard operating procedure for messages to be ignored. I didn’t get this at first, but now I do. It is the gentlest, and easiest way possible to show that you are not interested.

Once I mastered some good practices, I got more comfortable. By nature, I am curious and open-minded, and it turned out that these traits helped keep me motivated and willing to engage. But these traits worked to my disadvantage as well, leading me to message much longer with people I knew would never be a match. But I was too fascinated sometimes to stop, and excited about my new found confidence with this format.

I quickly realized just how naive I was. Kinks, and fetishes, and open marriages, oh my. Did you know there are men who get off on having their small penises made fun of? I didn’t either, but spent a couple weeks chatting with one. I got quite proficient in making small dick jokes, though we also talked about real things. He was sweet, self-aware, and sex-positive, but I was too scared to meet him in person.

And speaking of sex-positive, I wasn’t even aware this was a social movement until someone used the term in a message. I’d like to think it’s because I never needed to put a name to my personal evolution from a repressed Catholic girl to a sexually healthy forty year old woman. But as open minded as I think I am, I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought that people had fetishes because they were damaged in some way. I learned otherwise, after asking a lot of questions of the men who were willing to share their experiences. They were eager to explain to a listener who wasn’t judging, and I’m guessing that’s because they’ve been misunderstood and shamed all too often.

I’m less judgmental of the open-marriage thing also. I don’t have much to report on it, other than I don’t recommend dating a guy who is married if you are single. It’s tough on the ego, even if the sex is good and they are respectful and cautious. Do yourself a favor and save that experience for when you are both in open marriages. I will say that I understand the model now a little better, and judge away, but it’s more common and not as weird as you might think. I’m not saying it’s superior to traditional, monogamous marriages. But I don’t think it’s worse.

I did manage to date a few unmarried men without fetishes. But it didn’t pan out so well with them either. One of them gave me a three month long, real life demonstration of what approach-avoidance behavior looks like. Approach (text a lot), Avoid (don’t text for a week). Repeat. I let the cycle happen a few times, but had enough on the third go-round. Also, I was fairly certain he gave me an STD. When a good friend pointed out that his name rhymed with “STD Nightmare”, I laughed so hard that I wanted to kiss her on the lips. But I waited until all the tests came back negative before doing so.

Another guy showed me that men, as well as women, can be Class Five Clingers. He seemed sweet and passionate, and really into me, which felt great. But he wanted to fix things around the house after two dates. Then, when we were in bed one night he asked me to kiss him like it was our wedding night. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in. I don’t know what it means, but it doesn’t matter, because he ended up being mean to me. I was stunned by his cruelty, but it barely penetrated. I’d only ever been with kind, level headed, good men. This particular experience was, at the very least, a reminder of my good fortune in this area of my life.

****

 

e0fe8-6-5

My response. I know. Not my proudest moment.

I don’t know why 6.5/Douchelord guy got to me so much, but I shut down the online dating accounts, and washed my hands of the whole thing. Being rated, even by an anonymous douchelord, put me over the edge. I’d known for a while that trying to date this way wasn’t for me.

I know this brand of cruelty happens in the real world too, – but online, it happens constantly. And I just don’t need to be tested that much. I’ll keep my thin skin, thank you.

There is good news though. I did have a lovely, proper, normal date recently. It restored some hope, even if it didn’t turn into anything.

And I did learn a lot about myself these past ten months. I gained some much needed confidence back. I learned that I have a sturdy backbone, and a healthy sense of self worth. Most importantly, I realized that I am ready to let someone into my heart again.

Which I now see was the point my girlfriends were trying to get me to. And I love them dearly for this.

More Food, Less Pain,

xo-L

Face-planting in May

Bre,

I fell and broke a tooth a couple nights ago. A front tooth. Ok, not one of the two front and center ones, but one next to those. My right lateral incisor. Broke off the bottom half. I was walking while looking at my phone, like a dummy. It was dark, and I was exhausted and a little slow from a couple glasses of wine.

It happened so suddenly that I had no time to react or brace, and so my face was the first thing to hit the front of the parked car in my path. My hand hit the car next, too late to save me, but bloodied from the effort. I slowly stood up, stunned, but with enough sense left to assess the situation. I knew I was okay, but I also knew that something cracked when I made impact. Then I felt a piece of tooth on my tongue, and spit it out with force. I’d like to think I looked like a bad-ass boxer in the middle of a fight. But I doubt I did.

I feel sick as I write that. It was awful actually, but it could have been so much worse. The break didn’t expose any nerve, so there was no tooth pain. My hand and my neck are sore, but there’s no visible sign of injury. My lips are swollen, but it’s barely noticeable. They just look plump. Maybe even sexy. Except for the unsightly gap in my smile. But my dentist got me in quickly, and by noon I had a new tooth. It doesn’t look the same, and will take some getting used to, but I was so grateful for modern dentistry yesterday that I thanked the staff there about 6,000 times.

What kills me about the whole thing is that it’s May, and crazy shit like this seems to happen to me in this month. I’ve probably talked with you about it before – how my therapist said that there is some muscle memory/brain trickery that goes on when we approach the anniversary of a traumatic event. It’s not that we’re necessarily sad about it,  or reflecting much on the event, but our bodies and brains remember. Things get stirred up. We subconsciously brace for the worst. It’s called the “Anniversary Reaction”, and is fairly common I guess.

My dad died on May 31st fourteen years ago. He was 69, and it was supposed to be a routine surgery. And now every May or early June something in my life goes severely pear shaped. It was four years ago, in the first few days of June, that R & I parted ways after seven years together. In the last week of that May, we fought with a terrible intensity, and split in the first days of June. I don’t know why we didn’t break up in April instead, or July.

That was the year you and I met. Remember what a mess I was? Ah, memories.

And then last year, in late May, I learned he was getting married. I cried for 24 hours, much to the bewilderment everyone close to me, including myself. It’s as if the pain was reconstituted somehow when combined with all the other things May stirs up. A week later I got the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had – which put me out of work for a week, and in the ER one night.

I thought I was getting a pass this year. But May has been crazy from the start. There’s the move to the new place, which is positive, but exhausting. There’s been some tough, sad family stuff, also with positive outcomes, but trying nonetheless. I’m attempting to date via the app Tinder, which is probably the worst idea I’ve ever had. The one decent, sweet, real person I’ve met happens to be in a healthy open marriage. A lot of guys are just inappropriate, and want to send pictures of their dicks.

And now the tooth, which, in itself isn’t that big a deal. But it feels like a reminder of how little in life is within our control, and how fast that can happen.

I barely slept the night it happened. I kept thinking of all the things I did “wrong” that lead up to that moment: not enough sleep, no dinner, 2 glasses of wine, looking at my phone while walking. And those thoughts snowballed into a full blown attack about me not having my shit together. I mean, if I had my fucking shit together I would have eaten dinner, and put my phone in my purse while walking. I’d have all my teeth, meet a good guy,  be more financially stable. Prettier. Smarter. Ten pounds lighter.

You know, totally logical stuff.

Some nurturing last night helped. I took a walk to the water, did some weeding, ate a healthy dinner, and enjoyed a quiet night in with a welcome interruption by girlfriends bearing ice cream. The solid night of sleep I got made all those awful thoughts I was having go away.

And today I see things more clearly. Falling on my face? It doesn’t really matter how that came to be. It happened. Accidents happen. Life happens. As do breakups, and Dads dying before they ought to. We try so hard to control, prevent, or deny the inevitable.

So much of the struggle with pain is in our resistance to it. Then there’s more pain in the “second arrow”  (a Buddhist teaching) of blame we shoot at ourselves. It doesn’t help to control. And it doesn’t help to blame. The wound needs attention, nothing else. So if a face-plant in May was what I needed for a reminder of this, then so be it.

I’ll take time now to tend to the wound losing my father left. I’ll reflect today and tomorrow. No resisting. And I’ll remind myself that all the fucked up pear shaped things that happened in the Mays since have brought me friends like you.

See you soon. xo