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|
"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|
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!