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!

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