Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Wondrous Journey (Ch. 1): "Pretty Blonde" Meets "Hopeful Romantic"

"Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place." (Zora Neale Hurston)

This journey began, as do all great adventures, as the result of an "itch" - a nagging dissatisfaction of a kind, or a persistent desire to discover something new in life.

Without going into all of the reasons, I had decided in the summer of 2004, that I was determined to find "Love".  I had spent almost all of my adult life alone; devoting all of my time and energies into my teaching and coaching careers  But in looking back, I can also see that it was fear that kept me alone too.  Fear of being rejected, fear of opening myself up to another, fear of admitting that I didn't even "know" who I was?  I think all of those were there, and had convinced me for so long that I was "invisible" and that love would never find me.

Me in Paris, July 2004. A world traveler, tired of being alone
But at the age of 46 that was no longer true. I was tired of living the solitary "invisible" life that I had always lived.  I was now willing to do something new (what - I wasn't sure!) - and to risk what I'd been scared to risk before - all in the hope of finding someone to share my life with.  So, I began my search that summer, inspired by a quote from an ancient Chinese philosopher:

"To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage." (Lao-Tzu)

I took the "leap" and joined two Internet dating services.  I posted a profile and pictures of my "handsome" self, and seriously dove into the dating world for the first time.  Yes - the first time.  Prior to this, I had gone on maybe 2-3 dates - usually just "tagging along" with buddies as a "wingman", but never initiated on my own.  Hard to believe for an intelligent, thoughtful, somewhat good looking, professional 46 year old man - but true.  I think I had taken way too seriously the belief that I was somehow "invisible" to, or "immune" from love.

Like all explorers who preceded me - Columbus, Cook, and Cousteau - I launched myself out into the "strange waters" bravely, yet also naively unaware of all that I might encounter.

I met many attractive women around the area.  We exchanged dozens of flirty e-mails and went out on dozens of forgettable dates.  God - were the 1st ones nerve-wracking!  It's no fun being 46, and feeling like you're 16, again!  I say the dates were forgettable, not because I didn't have fun at times (I did), but because in the end I never met anyone with whom there was a shared "spark".  For four long months, it was just one string of "first dates" after another - which after awhile felt strikingly similar to job interviews (hardly romantic and dreamy!)

The women I met were all cautious; not ready to risk their hearts like I was.  And who could blame them?  They had lived lives that I had no clue about, having lived alone and sheltered for so long. All of them had been previously married - usually for 20 years or more - only to have the unions ended in sadness and divorce.  And even though I tried to be understanding - tried to be patient - I soon tired of hearing the following empty compliment offered to me at the end of yet another "first" date:

"You're a real nice guy.  I'm sure you'll find someone special." (Just not me!)

By December, I was beginning to wonder again if I'd ever find what seemed so easy for others to find - but so elusive for me.  Love. It was hard to sit in restaurants and look at other couples in love and wonder "What's that guy got that I don't got?". But I kept looking through the gazillions of profiles online: searching, seeking, hoping to find someone special.  And then late one night, this picture and profile appeared in my mail, under the heading, "Pretty Blonde"

The first picture of Deborah I ever saw
"...Attractive, intelligent, petite blonde with big green eyes and a bright smile. I would love to find a special man. Is it you?" (Signed, "D")

Wow.  I was captivated by the picture! I loved this woman's eyes. They seemed so thoughtful; so able to see deeply inside something or someone (I later found out just how true that is!). And her simple desire - to find someone special made my heart jump.  So did I !

Ironically, I suddenly realized that I had seen this photo and profile months ago when I first began dating. I don't know why I never pursued this "Pretty Blonde" earlier - probably because I had thought "Ah. She's so pretty.  I bet she has lots of dates.  What chance would I have?'. But my heart had jumped then when I first saw her, and here it was again, filled with a warm stirring.

So, for the first time with her (and not the last!), I said "What the hell!" and sent a "daring" reply back to her, asking if she was brave enough to meet a "Hopeful Romantic" like me.  Would "D" reply?  She did the next day.

"Yes, I'm brave enough.", she said. "You sound to be an interesting man. I think I might enjoy getting to know you. Take care, Dawn."

And so the door was opened.  Over the next several nights, we began exchanging friendly e-mails, telling each other our "life stories" so far.  Her name was Deborah.  I didn't know why she had called herself "Dawn", but it didn't matter to me.  She lived in Grants Pass (30 miles away from me in Medford); was divorced after her 27 year marriage ended because of her husband's alcoholism.  She had a 19 year old son living at home, and she worked at the local hospital as a registrar.

I wish I could remember what it was exactly about Deborah that inspired me to ask her out after only a handful of e-mails.  Maybe I sensed through our conversations that she had a playful and open heart.  Maybe I was just enchanted by her eyes.

But maybe I think the real reason was a lesson about Love that I think I only appreciate now.

Real love lives in a part of us that is separate from our minds.  Thinking about love can never lead to love. It isn't the mind that love touched when it first finds us.  It's a part of us that whether we call it the "heart" or the "soul", it's a part that knows beauty without thinking about it.  It's there that I think all that's noble within human beings resides - waiting to be expressed.  Waiting for the chance to touch us. It's there in that unseen part of me that I know I was touched by this "Pretty Blonde".

So we agreed to an official "first date" that Saturday night:  dinner at "Vinny's", an Italian restaurant in Grants Pass.

Little did I know that the adventure would begin even sooner!

A Wondrous Journey - Falling In Love and the Lessons Learned Along the Way

"I have waited too long to tell this story." (Me, September 17, 2005)

Nine years ago those were the opening words I wrote into a new journal - a journal that for some reason I then put aside and only recently rediscovered while cleaning my office.

As I leafed back through the opening pages of that journal, I remembered what was the story that a part of me wanted to tell so eagerly.  I could even feel the tug of that desire pull on me again today - gently whispering, "Yes.  Follow your heart.  You know you want to do this.  You say you want to write.  Write about something that is a story uniquely yours and that you care about. Dare to do it."

And I knew that's what any writer ultimately must do.  Listen to that small voice from their heart and write about what moves them. And so I shall.

The story that I will begin to tell is the story of how a man who spent most of his life alone and preoccupied, chasing all the things he thought would make him happy, finally had the one thing happen that he never thought would.  He fell in love.  Or I think more accurately, love found him.

A special note Deborah left in my office one day
That man is me.  And this will be the story of how I first fell in love with my wife Deborah, and how I continue to fall in love with her again and again as the years have gone by.  It has been a wondrous journey, whose twists and turns I could've never predicted, but I am ever grateful for.

I think one reason why I feel so moved to write this story is because I know there is so much of Life in it:  joys and sorrows, adventures big and small, light moments and painful ones, quiet intimacies and new surprises shared.  Who wouldn't want to write about, or read those kinds of things?  Who wouldn't want to live those kinds of things?  We share complaints; we share gossip; we share our plans and problems.  Why not share something beautiful and inspiring, like how we fell in love?

The other reason why I feel so moved to write this story is because I know that because of this shared journey I have learned so much.  I knew it 9 years ago when I wrote:

"And throughout this journey I've grown as never before in my life. I've grown to see more clearly my true self, and have come closer to being the man I've always wanted to be."

It's even more true today.  I want to explore what the real lessons are that Love has taught me along the way.  They have been the unexpected bonuses of our love that I want to remember.

And there's one more reason I want to write this story.  I want to write it for the two of us.  We both are deeply grateful for the love we share, and know that we are blessed to experience something special.  I want to write our story for us to remember.  If anyone else ever reads it, doesn't matter so much to me.  This is a special love story: one I'm glad to be living.

So, consider these opening scribbles my prologue.  The rough draft and first shaky steps taken.  It takes a little courage to pursue a dream, and to be open so that Love finds you.  But I know that it's worth it.

Subsequent blog entries will be the "chapters" of my story.  Who knows how many there might be? The story still continues.

"Who, being loved, is poor?" (Oscar Wilde)

I am a very rich man.

I cannot wait any longer.  Let the story begin.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Love Is Never Lost

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." (Henry David Thoreau)

Have you ever gotten lost?  It happens to me more than I'd probably like to admit!

  • I can get lost in a small parking lot, trying to remember where my car is (I try to disguise it by telling my wife, "We're on a scenic tour" - don't think I've fooled her yet!).  
  • I can get lost in enjoying a simple pleasure, like reading the newspaper - and forget that I have garlic bread cooking in the oven - only to be reminded by the wisps of smoke curling out of the kitchen.
  • I can get lost in a thought...a memory...a wish... a regret.
And a funny thought just struck me.  In each of these cases when I've wound up lost, I've always thought at the beginning that I knew exactly "where I was" and "where I was headed".  So how did I get lost and wind up having to struggle, one way or another, with trying to "find myself" again?

I ask these questions because I've felt "lost" for awhile from this forum; from my blog.  I haven't written in it for 6 months - the longest dry spell in the 4 years since I began it.  And truth be told, I haven't felt even the slightest desire to do so.  Been completely empty.  Desert dry.  Cold and uninspired.  Scared to even dare to look at a blank page.  I'd read past entries that I had written and wonder "Who wrote that? It couldn't be me!  There's not an ounce of that creativity in me.  I've lost it."

I had begun writing this blog saying I loved doing it.  Where had the love gone?  How could I have lost it?  How could it have left me, just like that?

Yet, here I find myself - sitting at the computer - struggling to write again, in much the same manner that a newborn deer struggles to stand for the first time - legs akimbo, knees a-wobbly - but innocently determined.  And as I tap away, I can feel something gently tap my heart  and whisper what I know is the truth.

A real love never leaves.  A real love can never be lost.  It can be forgotten for a time.  It may seem as if it's been supplanted by other objects and "loves".  But a real love will always wait patiently for my return - and won't admonish me when I sheepishly crawl back, "Where were you???"  

Because a real love simply wants to give itself - without expecting anything in return - knowing that it grows greater through its willingness to do so.

"On a cloudy night when nothing seems above, still, there is love. Always love. For something, for someone. It's never done. Never." (Jeb Dickerson)

Real love is timeless.  It is never "done" with me.  But it also will never force itself on me.  I must always be willing to step towards it.  I must be willing to sacrifice something for it. I must be as willing to sit and wait in the emptiness for it, as it is willing to wait for me.

So, I'm happy sitting here on a sunny Sunday afternoon, feeling a forgotten love rekindled.  I smile and shake my head when I realize that the only thing keeping me from what I loved, was "Me".  Silly!

"If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at every time in your life." (Cher)

The first step back towards what we love usually requires just one thing:  Starting over. And starting over.  And starting over again.

And so I shall.

I'm looking forward to seeing what new Pearls I stumble across as my journey continues again.