The Light In The Closet

lightinthecloset

He always leaves the light on in the closet.

When my boyfriend and I first moved from a barely livable studio apartment to a recently renovated one-bedroom in a prime Manhattan location, I was elated. I imagined a fresh start with less stress, more space, and a truly adult experience. Sometimes it’s hard to be an adult in a city so prohibitively expensive that you can be fifty-years-old without a penny in savings and a revolving door of college-aged roommates helping to make the rent on your barely-affordable-though-thankfully-still-rent-stabilized-apartment. As my friends across the country have invested in four-bedroom homes in small suburbs, gleeful as their equity increases, I will defensively argue it’s all about location and we are two blocks from Central Park. Even if our monthly rent could buy us a half-million dollar home elsewhere, we could never find an apartment to buy in this area for that price.

The initial excitement about our move was palpable and our plans embraced the smallest details of organization. I insisted he take the massive closet in the apartment, located in the hall. It’s huge for an NYC  apartment and could effectively house a twin bed. I remembered how his early morning schedule when he was working full time could be disruptive and this way he could get ready for work without interrupting my unpredictable sleep and work schedule. I also figured that it was a polite way of getting him to stow away a very masculine and somewhat hideous piece of furniture. I had never imagined that a temporary out-of-work situation would become so permanent that I would be the one making noise in the bedroom in preparation for early morning call times and late night returns while he slept.

Our new place began to feel tainted and no longer new. Bad habits on both our parts became a circuitous battle that we were too overwhelmed to address.  Instead of focusing on the little things that I loved most, our interactions became a series of anger-inducing episodes. He drank all my wine and I came home to an empty bottle. The peanut butter miraculously disappeared in a 24-hour timespan before I even tried it.  The dog still needed a walk. No cream left for my morning coffee. And the biggest insult of all — he kept forgetting to turn off the closet light.

At first I would say something upwards of five times a day.

“Dear, you left the light on again.”

“You keep forgetting to turn off the light!”

“Are we made of money? You’re running up the electric bill!” Surely that low-energy fluorescent light used in classrooms, prisons, and also his closet was costing a fortune. But when your loved one has been out of work so long and every penny feels like an ounce of gold, the stress becomes so much that you just explode:

“WHY THE FUCK IS THIS LIGHT STILL ON? I TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES!”

I am now the irrational villain, the angry mom, the terrified girlfriend who has no idea how we are going to find our way out of this mess. The pressure of such an expensive apartment becoming my own… when he has to leave. Because we aren’t getting along and it feels any day we are going to shatter into a million pieces– pieces just waiting to be swept up into the drama and the misfortune that life has now become. The raging headlines about joblessness being low and the economy being  robust are adding to the torment when I lie awake next to a brilliant, hardworking, witty man with a law degree and a path of rejection becoming so long it feels like a road that never ends. I am used to the rejection given my chosen path in entertainment, rationalizing that a decade of life spent being often rejected and overlooked is just the way it is.

We come to the brink so often, as months of normalcy and mutual love are unbound by the next near-despair moment before another financial life preserver finds him. I think of the very early years in our relationship, when I would have a dry spell of bookings and he would have his reliable salary and schedule. I would stay in bed, wasting the morning in dread that I would not make something of my life. Drowning the hours in tabloid news and social media, I would take whatever distraction came along to keep me from further rejection. Yet now my empathy for his plight is clouded by sadness and anger and absolute terror. I cannot see through these smokestacks of rage.

Everyone is getting married around me, full of certainty or a self-fulfilling prophesy I have yet to master. Their relationships are new and they must not have experienced the lows yet, I keep hearing amidst my mind’s chatter. It will be better when we are out of this patch. It will feel like a beautiful inhalation after you have held your breath underwater for much longer than you should have. Scientifically it is just impossible for something to stay the same forever. It will not always be this hard.

And then one night he doesn’t come home on time. A message lost in the digital space causes me to panic. What if something happened in East Harlem, where he is doing a side gig to make money? My mind wanders to the very beginning, as it often does when I imagine a life without him. I think of how new and loving and supportive everything once was and how willing I was to take this chance with him. I go to the kitchen to get a glass of water, noting that his closet light is off. I am struck still as I imagine that light were to never come on again.

He returns home but I have already felt the loss. We go about our routines that are going to have to change for us to survive. But some may just stay the same. He leaves for the gym as I am returning from yoga and I look to his closet to see the light is on. I silently turn it off this time, vowing to never mention it again. From now on I will flick the switch without complaint and use it as an opportunity to love and appreciate that we are still here.

 

 

The Real Signs He Really Loves You Pt. 2

A four-year journey from the original, not-so-loving, “Top 16 Signs He REALLY Loves You

1. He shows up, consistently. He honors his word and cares about your happiness as it’s integral to his own.

2. He agrees to ride a 13-hour bus to Niagara Falls because you scored two tickets for 50-cents, even though he gets motion sickness and hates traveling.

3. When you’re terrified of a decision to get a puppy and have a freak-out moment over this dream (and responsibility) becoming real, he assuages your fears and helps you commit to the dream and even offers to help clean up every now and then.

4. He hates to dance in public, but spends two hours dancing and spinning you around the dance floor at your mother’s 50th birthday because it’s what you want (and meeting all your hick relatives takes away the threat of humiliation after already being labeled a “Metro-Sexshhoooouuuuhhl.”

5. He offers to make a salad for dinner, even if he’d rather country-fried steak and mashed potatoes.

6. He downplays the assholes in your life, mocking them to the point of muting the obsessive thoughts you couldn’t otherwise abandon.

7. He lets you cry or laugh in excess, even when it’s slightly annoying to him. 

8. He goes on the late night walk with the dog, or music show, or random party, even though he’d rather be at home, reading in bed.

9. Even when he finds himself in financial uncertainty, he courts you and makes you feel appreciated.

10. He lets you ramble about past men from time to time and doesn’t take it personally when you need to vent.

11. He sings the corniest love songs of the 70’s and 80’s, directing their sanguine messages to you every single day.

12. He wears the ridiculous t-shirts you give him without protest, if only just around the house.

13. He brushes your hair, even if he feels it goes against his bad-ass, masculine image and could be considered gay.

14. He sits through a c-rate horror flick or overpriced 3-D version of “A Christmas Carol” because it’s your turn to choose the film, even when it’s the last thing in the world he wants to see.

15. Everyone in his tight circle of family and friends remarks on how enamored he was after first meeting you.

16. He poses for photos when he hates being in front of the camera and you just have to capture your birthday brunch at Balthazar.

17. He may not say it often, but words aren’t needed to know his intention and feelings are legit.

The Real Signs He Really Loves You Pt. 1

Four years ago I wrote a sarcastic, eye-opening list of the “Top 16 Signs He REALLY Loves You” as a reaction and book-end to a seven-year romantic entanglement that left me empty, depleted, frantic, and foolish. It was the end of a passionate era of heartache for me with a man I had idolized and admired, who had no option but to fall painfully short of my expectations and desires. Everyday, new readers or returning bloggers read that list and I can only imagine the doubts they must be having to conduct a Google search for signs of love. It wouldn’t be the end of heartache in my twenties, and I should’ve run just as fast from the next fellow who came along, greatly admiring the honesty and awareness in that loveless list of signs. He bonded over my heartbroken, torrid blogs with their finger-pointing and blatancy until the day came when he revealed his self-centered, asshole nature and became my blog-venting target. Suddenly the man who longed for some attention, wanted nothing of it, positive or negative, fearing any connection to me would foul his impulsive political ambitions. And all the while I dealt with cowardice and foppish actions betraying proclamations of dedication from weak men, there was a dude who became a dear friend and pen pal to me. We vented and emailed of our dating adventures and I counted myself lucky to have another new friend, as I was always a magnet for great male friends and poor male lovers. But never once did I allow myself to consider anything further would develop, as we lived in opposite sides of the country and long-distance entanglements had left me unhinged from years of false hopes that something would work out in similar setups. Yet, here, I ended up in a healthy relationship approaching the two-year mark of dating.

This past weekend I found myself sucked into two romantic-dramedies, “Love and Other Drugs” and “No Strings Attached.” They provided a reflection, a look into two beautiful 20-something girls who were opposed to being labeled a girlfriend, called “darling” or “baby,” and kept themselves guarded and protected, all the while these loyal, grounded, loving men pursued them. It caused me to reflect on the journey to here and the sheer determination of the man who has won my heart. His modesty and shyness would singlehandedly erase this blog from existence and have most often kept him out of my blog-status updates- and any other Internet musings. Since we live together in a matchbox-sized apartment, I’m sure the last thing he needs is more of me, so perhaps his own blog-avoidance can spare him the shades of red his face would turn uncovering this blog. Lately I’ve teased that he never wrote me a love letter and needs to do so. And then I began to pull up past emails and holiday cards, speckled with words of dedication and determination, honesty and self-deprecation, and an absolute authenticity that compromised his ego or pride for the long-lost art of being direct and sincere. This dude made it clear from the start that he was smitten and respected me and from the utterances of those words, every single action aligned with his verbose correspondence. And it was only in time that for the first in my life that a man meant what he said and did not shy away from my coldness and detachment, or my trepidation or battle wounds from my tumultuous past. At the time I didn’t register the intent, since every other fool had stepped up to the plate, promised a rose garden, and delivered a sewage treatment plant. 

When we first met I was dressed in a white lab coat, working at a Legal Tech conference, nursing wounds from a recent “break off” (not even substantial enough to qualify as a “break-up”) and was hired to encourage vendors to come up to a private suite to be wined and dined while my bosses pitched their services. Apparently the lab coats symbolized that we could fix the problems with legal service providers. It made little sense. The job was as dreadful as could be, with long shifts and a neurotic client. But this one guy and his colleagues kept returning, for what I presumed to be the free beer and legs of lamb.

A heavy set, boisterous theatre actress sporting the same ridiculous lab coat pulled me aside and said, “That guy is really into you. That’s why he keeps coming back, but you can have him. He’s too perfect for me and looks like a Ken doll.” I just laughed, overtired and turned down the numerous offers to grab drinks after the show from this Ken doll. He resided in Austin, and as I was without a place to stay for the upcoming South by Southwest festival, I inquired about crashing at his place in lieu of the shady highway motel I inevitably ended up at. Because in my direct and naive way, I had learned it’s easy to crash at a nice dude’s place and not be taken advantage of. He was hesitant, as he was concerned he may be more seriously involved with someone back home by the time I arrived and that would complicate his life. I didn’t care about that. I just wanted to crash in one of the two bedrooms his great house allegedly contained. 

We never connected until almost a year later, while he was visiting his dad in New York for the holidays, newly single just as a week after I was recovering from yet another “break-off” that had me on my knees in despair, as it was the last drop before the glass completely overflowed. The best answer was to go on a date with someone attractive, funny, and new. We had a night of dinner, drinks and bar-hopping, and side-splitting laughter that left me in a pleasant (for once) pain the following day. And then we returned to our normal lives, serial dating and detailing our adventures in long-winded emails. He returned a few months later for the same legal conference and thanks to a dreadful economy, I was spared sporting a lab coat and painfully boring hours at the show. But every night he would call and invite himself over, shameless in insisting that we spend time together and go out. His candor was welcome and by his fifth and final night in town, I had to abstain from seeing him and he promised (and lived up to it just once) that he wouldn’t call me. I was incredibly fearful that another night would make it very hard for me to say goodbye. We continued to touch base, and not a month later he was laid off from his corporate job and took to being a rambling gambler in Texas, playing poker and regaling me with his exploits, affairs, and occasional bouts of loneliness. I continued to serial date, from rich older eccentrics to younger, optimistic chaps, promising myself I would never tie myself down again (and secretly admitting that I had always wanted a strong relationship). And then in August he invited me to spend a week with him on Fire Island, to provide the sole female diversion from the gay crowds that stayed at his father’s B&B. 

We spent five days in perfect weather on the beach, my most loved earthly pleasure, and he continued to tease me about breaking his father’s heart, who insisted that his son should be with me but that he felt he could never have a girl like me. Once again it was very hard for me to say goodbye, knowing how many broken hearts amounted from temporary goodbyes that turned into forever goodbyes with the shift of a wind. The experience was too much like deja vu, here I was falling for yet another man who lived far away and was seemingly in no place to be in a relationship with me. And then I received an email and with certainty he declared he would be moving to New York and to not feel any pressure that he was doing it for me or would want a relationship. Of course this email was subsequently (and nearly immediately) followed by his determination to want me to solely date him and be his girlfriend. In the four months that followed, with my bitchy code of self-protection, he consistently showed up and patiently (sometimes impatiently) let me be myself until I was ready. We’ve been together ever since.

It’s of late, that the wholeness of this relationship has begun to make it’s impact on me. Relationships have their own tides, ebbing and flowing in ways we may not understand, but lately I am awash with appreciation and love for what I have in my life. I have fought my internal battles, disappointed my ambition and drive have taken a backseat to living in the moment and acknowledging the beauty in the simple and small. But with this has come an internal glow and happiness, a sense of fulfillment that may, at the end of this life, carry more weight than what I once thought should matter the most: career, fame, and fortune. I understand the fragility of relationships and the ever-changing desires and motion in the modern world. I recognize that nothing will necessarily last forever and we can’t always be certain of longevity. But even still, this time in my life has resonated that even though relationships may be fleeting, self-worth doesn’t have to be. And after the blessing I have been given with such a great man, no matter how life may twist and turn, I will never be sucked into the tornado of sacrifice with no return as I once was. That is sweet clarity.

And as an addendum, thank God I didn’t end up with any one of those assholes that chipped away at my wild heart. The journey was worth it’s current pay-off.

 

Accountability, Where Are You?

I’ve been left with a bad taste in my mouth for the past few days and try as I may to cover it with a nice cold Irish stout, the sense remains. This past weekend I was essentially hounded by someone trying to issue a gag order. Artists don’t like to be gagged. Nor do Americans as far as I know. In today’s landscape of a digital world, the international community has replicated small town America in that no one has a private life and any of their secrets can be streamed across the world with a quick click on a mouse pad. Instead of trying to photoshop one’s life into a squeaky-clean image, I’d imagine it makes far more sense to live an ethical life. Instead of putting on a show of being a “good person,” why not actually be that good person? Since writing a memoir at the age of 18, I know what it’s like to be in the public with my life, if only on a small scale. I recall being in a Media class in college and thrilled that privacy could dissolve because it just might mean people feel less free to be lousy in their treatment of others. It was a naively optimistic hope at best.

Today my vitriol was unleashed in lyrics about a man who is destined to fall. He may place the blame on everything around him, but this time it is his “call to fall.” I’m not a stranger to literary figures and actual individuals who are ready to point their finger at others when self-destruction is their personal super highway in life. I’m glad to be a songwriter because without an outlet this insurmountable disgust and anger could have amounted in something spiteful. Something that all my friends and family members felt he deserved.

It may be highly egoic and it reaches back to when I was at least 4 or 5 but I absolutely hate to be told what to do. I hate it. I’ve always valued my own capacity to make reasonable decisions. And being told what to do simply makes me want to do the complete opposite, particularly when it’s by someone issuing orders solely for his own gain. I’m not sure a scapegoat is ever needed if you’re living an authentic life. Because you would just accept- it is what it is.

Although I abstained from commenting about this individual, on the basis of my own rationale and not the implied gag order, I saw how quickly the public sees through bullshit anyway. I know we all may look to our neighbors and the population as a whole and think, “Wow, what a bunch of morons.” But, honestly, when it comes down to it- I think most of us can spot a phony.

A Range of Emotions

I thought that there is a limited range of emotions. That by a certain point in our lives, we’ve felt everything from sadness or joy or madness or fulfillment or loss and they come to us in varying degrees of intensity. I didn’t think it was possible to feel something new and undefined. Tonight I’m feeling a combination of so many things, but though one would think loss would incur stress or longing, I just feel present. I fell in love with someone at the wrong time, the wrong place in our lives, and it drove me mad to not have it reciprocated. There were trips and gifts and support for my career, but inconsistent. I couldn’t develop a level of trust in any of it.

After an argument last week, stressful but direct, I said things that were hurtful. But what hurt the most is that they were true to me. Maybe I’ve been too judgmental on what a friend should be, what the essentials are. When you add love to the mix, it gets even muddier when only one of the two  actually feels it. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties sticking around, showing constantly how witty or how loyal or how good I was. Emotionally, I was left raw and unattended. I used to think even the wounded deserve a chance to fall in love, that it somehow wasn’t enough reason for me to walk away.

I tried this time, never expecting to fall for someone I truly could not stand early on. But underneath the neurosis and baggage, behind the pain and wounds, I saw the hope and drive he had to be someone good. I fell in love with the essence of him. And while he’s perpetuated that we cut ties forever, I feel nothing but love and compassion and hope for him. Maybe growing older allows us to accept things with more grace. Maybe a person takes so much heartache in one lifetime and the capacity to endure more just dissipates any potential for more disappointment. But this time, I just don’t feel disappointed or regret or unhappy with my decisions. I followed my heart and instincts all the way and I couldn’t sweep my feelings away anymore.

I just wish him love.

Relationship Advice

Through a referral from my own “top 16 signs he really loves you” I came across a site of relationship advice. A few weeks ago I was in Barnes and Noble before heading to a concert. It was a Friday night and I was in the Human Sexuality department, researching my current interest in Taoism and sex. Next to me was the “Relationships” section, which is the premiere hook-up spot for black dudes. Not one, not two… but three of these guys came up to me with a sob story, one surely had a Visine tear in his eye, as they asked for recommendations to overcome their heartache and any books I could suggest. Each time I’d flash the title of the book I was reading, from “Urban Tantra” to the “Multiorgasmic Man” and declare, “I don’t read that relationship crap. I’m interested in sex.” One by one they shied away. The last guy declared behind a smirk, “I tried that and it hurts!”

While the pick-up attempts were admirable but unsuccessful, my consumption of relationship material is apparently a lie. Somehow my blog piece was tied to a search that offered relationship advice and I read a few articles to keep up with the competition. I think they were more heartfelt and kind, but the following paragraph sent me into guffaws. Maybe because the example seemed quite hyperbolic and unrealistic yet I somehow fit into it:

The first relationship compatibility element is: How much uncertainty
can you each live with?  That may sound like a strange question, but it
is fundamental to issues such as handling of money and budgets, and how
you bring up the children if you have any. If one of you favours a
steady job with a reliable pension scheme, and it’s got to be fish on
Fridays, you aren’t going to get on too well with a freelancing, bungee
jumping aspiring pop star, are you?

 Just when I was about to schedule a bungee jumping escapade.

To all you homeboys that want some advice (and to not pick up on the seemingly vulnerable white chick in the relationships aisle), I recommend the following links-

http://ezinearticles.com/?Relationship-Compatibility—How-to-Be-Sure-Youve-Got-It&id=1327764
 

A New Earth Regarding Sex and Politics

The title of this blog is possibly saucier than the content it may contain. First, I’m months behind in the Oprah-Tolle-Change-Your-Life-In-The Power-of-Now online classes. Instead of letting the discussions drag on for ten weeks, I’m reviewing the courses in five days. I’ve always been in favour of rushing and condensing. I’d like to develop a formulaic approach with Fred see if a flaky plan can be exchanged for some more rhyme and reason. Part of this “New Earth” diet is to let go of resistance, control, and fighting for things in life. As I learned today, “the need to fight and win” is more enervating than the actual fight. Actually, I may have incorrectly paraphrased that. But what I learned in today’s lesson is that we are meant to be transparent in situations of drama, turmoil, and noise. Like the polluted Hudson River that my exposed rump endures on my kayaking adventures… you’re just supposed to go with the flow and not put up walls of resistance. The control freak in me does not want to be like the Hudson River. It wants to be a fighter.

As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time with guy friends and tearing apart the bizarre world of dating. One of these friends, who I dated briefly years ago, felt that dating itself is the problem. He alluded that dating is a manufactured, awkward, and uncomfortable experience for all people involved. I tend to disagree, but as they may say- practice makes perfect. Serial dating has taught me the art of handling bizarre conversations, initiating new questions to beat the standard prompts about family, work, blah blah blah, and having an overall good time no matter how weird either of us may feel. I have no issues with dating. I actually think of it as a novelty. It’s the evolution or conversion from “dating” to “relationship” that is always a particularly difficult and often fatal (metaphorically speaking) turning point I find. I am, in fact, a magnet for emotionally unavailable and terrified men who put up a long, ardent fight until they get me interested. Then they run, hard and fast. My straight dudes, with their advice will often claim that our friendships are so open and great that if we ever were to date we wouldn’t have that problem. I then argue the obvious mistakes they may have made with women in the past. Because there is a point in all “dating” scenarios that one or both of the parties involved will aim to sabotage the good. It may be through unconscious actions or blatantly dumb moves, but the moment always arises right around or before the “transition.” Wining, dining, and making out in Central Park on random romps were simple. The funeral march begins after a few of these otherwise awesome encounters, for those rare times that a second and third and fourth date occur. In the New York dating scene, anything after a first date can also be considered rare.

But  why do we even go through this? It’s like an intense cardio workout that is nothing but brutal for the first twenty minutes. The harder the routine, the more I find myself questioning if I want to continue. But once I hit my stride, the endorphins rush, my heart soars, and I feel victorious for hanging on for the relief. In retrospect it wasn’t so hard afterall.

If  dating wasn’t complicated enough already, we now have the added benefit of the Internet where passive aggression can take a firm hold and sabotage a budding relationship. Befriending one another on Myspace or Facebook is just another nail in the coffin during the courtship period. Last year I was seeing someone who communicated his sudden disinterest in me by removing me from his number one friend on Myspace to the number twelve spot. I was devastated at the time, particularly when he argued that everything was fine. Looking back I wonder why I even gave a shit. Everything can be misread on these blogs and tagged photos, leaving someone to wonder is he or she dating that person? What does that comment left by some other girl about cool-whip and chocolate sauce really mean? When did he go to Ireland… he told me he was hanging with friends this weekend?! Not only does online stalking become totally acceptable, but people begin to feel like they have a real relationship with someone else based on reading status updates and drunken blogs and tagged images. Thus begins cyber-warfare in the dating scene. And cyber-warfare does little to aid us in emulating the Hudson River. And that is the goal, after all. To be one with water.

The problem with those dating experiences that never surpassed the conversion from “hooking up” to “relationship” is that these people feel there is a continuum, which can amount to a parade of “formers” who want another chance. See if you were never officially in a relationship, then there was never an ending, right? Wrong. One drunken text of late told me that there is “clearly a connection” still between me and the drunken former and it was somehow childish of me to not return his calls and meet in person. It’s funny because I clearly saw that connection for the five years I spent waiting for this person to wake up and spend time with me, when he was more comfortable dodging phone calls and keeping space between us.

Now, how does this tie into politics? Everyone knows I am a die hard Hillary Clinton supporter and have yet to openly support Obama. I just didn’t have much of a sense of the man behind the suit. Then today, my decision to rally for this man came from the words of a woman- his wife. I caught her on “The View” this morning and found her to be educated, strong, empowered, and empathetic. She is completely supportive and committed and any man who is capable of being married to a woman with such strong opinions and ambitions of her own has my vote. It was a reminder to me of why any of my close friends or even I go through all the circuitous games and bullshit of dating and the dreaded “conversion” period. Within us all is that shred of hope, that “audacity of hope” for something that withstands the test of time while allowing for our own spiritual and personal growth.

In the meantime, I’m going to practice being like the Hudson.

Conversations at the Y

Every day I hop on the crosstown bus and ride through Central Park to the Y on the Upper East Side.My latest release has been found pounding away the hours on an elliptical and stairmaster to keep away the circling thoughts in my overactive mind. I received the free membership by volunteering to be a poster child for their new brochures- a WASP representing a Jewish institution has been found offensive to some, but I’m quite amused.  Earlier this week, I was racing up the gym’s stairwell and slowed behind an older Jewish man with a rather sly smile on his face. He allowed me to pass and I thanked him. Ten minutes later, in the midst of my workout, I noticed the same 70-something man circling the nearly vacant gym with his eyes frozen on me. Three times around the gym before he leaned against the unattended elliptical to my right.

“Are you the pretty young lady that passed me in the stairs?” he asked. Headphones in my ears, I looked at him and nodded. I was out of breath, at the highest level of the machine and not in the mood to chat. “You’re a pretty girl and I bet all these creepy guys try to talk to ya ‘ but I bet a lot of guys are too scared to chat. Well I’m not scared.”

My face broke into a smile, and I couldn’t help but laugh. “See! I made a pretty girl laugh today. Not every man can do that. You look like you’re tired. Why are you on this machine? Is it good?” he asked. I removed my headphones in defeat and smiled at him. Our dialogue followed:

Me: It exhausts me.
Him: Isn’t there something in between?
Me: I want to be exhausted. It releases my stress.
Him: Okay. Mind if I try? It looks easy to me.

So the older man, who I soon learned was named Lou, got on the elliptical and took to it quickly. We moved at the same pace, but I was breaking a sweat and panting.

Lou: You’re a faker. This is easy. I don’t know why you’re so tired.
Me: It’s because I’m on level 55 and you’re on level 15.
Lou: Is that so? I’ll show you!

He stepped it up to 35 and within the first few seconds, I truly thought poor Lou was going to pass out or have a heart attack. Gasping for his breath, he continued his interview session with me.

Lou: When did you first notice that men were staring at you? You had to notice when.
Me: I have no idea.
Lou: Why do you think men like to look at you? I guess it’s nice to look at something pleasant.
Me: I guess. You have some interesting questions, Lou.
Lou: You got a boyfriend?
Me: No.
Lou: You got a lot of boyfriends don’t you?
Me: No. Men like to chase after me and when they finally get what they want, well, they move on or sabotage things.

Lou was silent for a moment and my mind began reeling. This is the reason I was pushing myself so hard. I didn’t want to think about the circuitous dating in my life as follows: Guy meets Girl. Guy obsesses over Girl and calls her. A lot. Guy does anything for a chance to spend time with Girl. Guy makes promises that this is real. Girl takes things slowly. Guy fantasizes about Girl. Guy gets the real Girl and freaks out.

Lou: I’d imagine a lot of guys are jerks and a lot of the nice guys are scared.
Me: Well, the last one would rather have a blow-up doll of me than to be with me.
Lou: A what?! That’s just silly. But these fellows are young, they’ll learn. How old are they?
Me: In their thirties.
Lou: They should know better. What guy wouldn’t want to be with you?
Me: It gives me more material for songs.
Lou: Oh yeah? What’s the name of one of your records?
Me: I wrote a song last night called “Revolving Door.”
Lou: Ha ha ha! (he was half-laughing, half-puffing) That’s a good one. You wanna sing it?
Me: Not under these conditions.

I finished my workout and poor Lou was still trying to finish his ten minutes at a higher rate than he should’ve been. I told him I was going to the bikes now and he said he might see me over there. I went across the gym and while on the bike, I turned and watched Lou peering around a pillar. Everytime he saw me turn, he would duck behind so I didn’t notice. A few minutes later, he snuck behind me and leaned the unoccupied bike to my left.

“I hope this bike business is easier than that was,” Lou said and I jumped, unaware he was breathing over my shoulder.

I watched him struggle to lower the seat, which went crashing to the floor. Once adjusted, he got on and couldn’t move the pedals. “This is just too high a level. I need to take it easy.” Poor Lou, pushing his body to its limits just to continue our conversation.

“I think you’re a beautiful girl and you need to just be happy. Don’t worry about the revolving door stuff. The right people will stick around,” he said. It was what I know is the truth and really needed to hear. He told me of his own life and kids and friends at the gym. I listened… glad that he was so persistant. Being a determined person, I’m a strong fan of persistance with people. It was one of the reasons I found myself feeling sad on this day, with my recent “revolving door” episode. I’d like to think that Lou lived his life for its reality, and not in a fantasy bubble. I’d like to think that I’m making the choices to stay in reality… I don’t want my dreams to just be a fantasy. I want to live them. I don’t want my relationships to be virtual and based on someone’s fantasy. I don’t want to be on some pedastal, where the only place to go is down. Why is it that fear can be so deeply intertwined with dreams and fantasies? I always thought if people want something, and receive it, that they’ll be happy and celebrate it. I sure as hell am, even though I then strive for the next thing. There’s a reason so many people win the lottery and end up broke a year later. It’s such an important thing to remember on this journey…

Thanks, Lou.

On Ghostly Friends and Solid People

My sister came over last night, after I slept a solid 20-hours straight with some horrific headcold-flu-fever-inducing-nightmare. All the while my little Scarlett slept curled next to my head, occasionally reaching a paw to my face to see if I was still alive. During her visit we scanned through all the photos of the past few years I have in my files, noting how many people I once considered close friends had just disappeared. The majority of them were gobbled into their own life problems and despair, circuitous cries that brought some of them into fifty years of being miserable on this planet. And every one of these disappearing acts had left a rather good friendship for the sake of being in a terrible romantic relationship with someone that brought them nothing but misery.

I received a voicemail from one of the solid people in my life, who in spite of his heavy load of life’s challenges, is always there if I need something. He articulated, “Michelle, your outgoing message is just too cyncical for a young person. I don’t like it. You should really consider toning it down.” Quite an amusing comment from a man who tops my cynicism tenfold. And I thought I was being sarcastic- there’s a mild difference in delivery there. But instead of taking the time this morning to feel lousy about the people who have been lackluster friends and human beings, taking what they can when they want it from me and disappearing when I may actually need them, I decided to reflect on the positive. The incredible people I’m lucky to have in my life. Some of them I’ve watched face life or death scenarios in the past few years, some of them still recuperating, and who in spite of their struggles with health and recovery have been far less in professing their misery and despair that friends of mine who’ve had life fed to them on a silver spoon. Some people are just solid and loyal to the core. Their faith and determination are blinding. When I get on my own self-indulgent whining, particularly when trapped in my apartment and getting over a cold, I look to their life paths with admiration and gratitude. Thank God for the solid folks, or I may not have endured all the ghostly ones so easily. Actually, it was never easy… maybe easier because of the good souls in my life. So thank you, solid ones.