Latest Entries »

Soul Mate

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.” Elizabeth Gilbert

She sits in the sand with her knees drawn and her chin resting on her arms. She stares at the waves, wishing they could carry away her loneliness and feelings of despair. These feelings are not foreign to her and she’s not even sure who she would be without them. 

The only person who would understand her melancholy has been absent from her life for twenty years. Even with two decades between them, her bond to him remains. At times she wishes she could sever the ties that bind her heart to him, but most times she clings to that bond as if it is a life preserver in a stormy ocean. She is afraid that letting go will erase his existence in her memory although his presence in her heart is gut wrenchingly painful. If she sheds the guilt and connection, then she feels her disloyalty to him will be complete. 

She has yearned for years to have someone she can talk to about their friendship. But the few times she has attempted to explain his importance and role in her life, she has failed miserably.  Truth is she has never fully understood the dynamics between them. She knows that they loved each other unconditionally and accepted each other in their “as is” conditions. They had an extraordinary psychic connection that allowed them to communicate without words, even over a telephone. In a lot of ways, their conversations were most raw, honest and in-depth when they were silent. They had a mutual understanding that they would never be lovers, but there was always heat and passion simmering between them. 

A touch of his hand on her cheek was more calming than a bottle full of valium. He truly centered her and she relished the freedom he gave her to be herself. He was her anchor, her protector. He was the one person that did not expect her to be a caretaker or problem solver. She was not afraid to lay her vulnerability in his hands. Somehow she knew she was his greatest treasure and he would do anything to keep her heart safe. That is why he reigned in and denied his desire to possess her. His internal demons could shred her and extinguish the inner light that radiated from her unknowingly but constantly. She knew he could sense the fear she had of succumbing to their connection.

Neither of them could have predicted the end of their friendship.  The tragedy that tore them physically apart unfairly allowed her connection to him to remain, but in fragments.  For him, he no longer knew she existed.  And as the salt water tickled her toes, she conceded that he was better off for it.

“That is how love relationship is meant to work,  each partner transforming the other. The strength and power of each is untangled, shared. He gives her the heart drum. She gives him knowledge of the most complicated rhythms and emotions imaginable. Who knows what they will hunt together? We only know that they will be nourished to the end of their days.”  Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D   Women Who Run With the Wolves

These words touch a part of my soul that I cannot easily describe or possibly even identify.  It seems to sum up my young and idealistic view of LOVE — everlasting love. I am no longer naive enough to believe that love alone can sustain a relationship, but I still like to dwell in that mindset when the everyday world pours doubt and hardship over me.  My experiences become soggy, like corn flakes  left to soak in milk for too long. The edges lose definition and the flavor seeps away.

At forty, there are still so many unanswered questions about life, relationships, self-image, family, etc. Where is that talisman of wisdom that we are to be granted as we age? Why does it seem that life becomes more complicated? I want to charge into a sophisticated, upscale department store and demand to purchase the nonchalance and free spirit I was certain I would be draped in when I hit forty.

I don’t want to care about the disdainful looks I get because of my overweight figure or the snide comments when I color my grey roots an outrageous burgundy.  I long to be comfortable in my skin — as marred, scarred and stretched as it may be. I no longer want to look in a mirror and feel disgraced by my many imperfections, but I want to be overjoyed and confident in my attributes.  

The one stumbling block I constantly trip over is the very cliche truth, “You must love yourself before someone else can love you.”  Once I overcome this, then perhaps I can share a heart drum with my husband for the rest of our days.  But I will let him do the hunting while I am breaking the mirrors.  

Stranger In Her Bed

She looks over at her sleeping husband. She soaks in his peacefulness and marvels how sleep can erase the lines of worry and wrinkles of time that normally define his face. She smiles at the white hairs that now dominate his goatee and thinning hair. She knows they have both changed a lot physically since their first kiss eleven years ago. The deep rise and fall of her husband’s chest assures her he has escaped the stress of his job and his numerous responsibilities to his family, at least for the next six hours. As much as she wants to envy his ability to shed the restraints of the real world, she is actually very grateful that he is granted this reprieve each night.

She knows the physical features of this man better than she knows her own; however, she cannot shake the feeling that she is sharing this bed with a stranger. She no longer knows his deepest desires or darkest fears. She no longer knows what to say or do to bring the twinkle back to his brown and blue eyes. She knows nothing of his current nightly dreams or even who he considers to be his closest friends. She may still know what foods to prepare him or which shirts he prefers to wear, but she is clueless about the emotions that must pass through him each day. 

Oddly, although she has lost touch with him in so many ways, she knows undoubtedly that her love for him has not diminished. It is that love that makes the distance between them so frustrating.

She knows the shielded emotions are not to hurt her but are in fact a way to protect her from worry and additional sleepless nights. She sadly smiles at his slumbering form as she realizes that their conversations focus on the boys and their schedules and schoolwork.  They share funny tales of their friends or laugh over the latest celebrity debacles. Her finger gently travels over his scruffy cheek and down to his sleep-slackened jaw as she tries to recall the last time they truly shared quality time alone. They have had several one-nighters when all the boys were away, but they only used the peace to catch up on sleep, not each other. She sighs heavily as she realizes that it has been seven years since they got lost in each other and allowed the other to glimpse behind their protective walls.

She peppers his shoulder and tattooed bicep with quick kisses as she prepares her own mind and body for sleep. Resting her head against his, she silently pleads to the universe, “Bring us back together. Let us use each other as our safe havens and not resort to silence and reluctant acceptance. Let us not repeat our past mistakes!”

A chartered life

Image

 

On our first trip to Aruba, Wayne and I splurged with a private chartered sunset dinner cruise.  The Captain and his wife were the sailing crew as well as butler and chef.   We enjoyed a very leisurely cruise around the northwestern coast, marveling at the blue topaz waters and losing ourselves in the breathtaking sunset.  We spent most of the cruise happily enamored with each other but also took advantage of the sailing time to get to know the Captain and his First Mate better.  They told us how they sold everything they owned to purchase the charter boat and another small sailboat that they used as a houseboat.   It had been a dream of theirs since they met to combine their love of each other, sailing, cooking and people into a thriving business.  What makes this story truly remarkable was that they also had a young daughter.  A small sailboat served as a home for the adventurous threesome.  I could not truly comprehend the notion of giving up all worldly possessions to start over on a dream that has every likelihood of shattering with nothing to show for it.  That fear did not stop this daring couple.  They chose to have faith in their love, their friends, their country and their dream.  

It has been almost ten years since we sailed on the Morning Star, but the experience and their story has stayed with me.  I sometimes close my eyes and think of pulling up anchor on my current life and setting sail to newer, calmer waters.  I imagine being a waitress and bookstore cashier and Wayne working as a mechanic while we live in a small cottage on the sound.  Our boys would have fishing, crabbing, surfing, paddle boarding, and swimming to entertain them.  We would own less but we would possess so much more. 

The notion of starting over is exciting and enticing, but the fear of failure and lost friendships overwhelms me.   The fear wraps my dream up in a bubble and holds it just outside of my reach.  The fear taunts me with the endless “what ifs” and smashes each positive thought against the boulder of reality.  Sigh. 

But I comfort myself by saying “one day”.  One day when all three boys have moved out and have started their own lives, we will do it.  One day, I will have the courage to move away from the familiar and embrace the unknown.  In the meantime, if any of you need a caretaker for your beach/lake home, call me.    

Stranger Danger

I am a little upset with my friends that have been around me for the past five years.  Is there a reason none of you told me that I was completely sheltered as a stay-at-home mom to Luke?  Venturing forth into a “normal” life since Luke started kindergarten has been exhilarating, liberating and down right embarrassing.

Since the boys started school two weeks ago, I have only taken one day to “play”, meaning visits to Panera, Starbucks and Barnes and Noble to partake in my nasty writing habit.  It was during this spoil-me-rotten outing, that I was engaged in conversation with a 40’ish man with an infant.  In the past five years, I have not encountered a single stay-at-home Dad during my many public appearances with Luke. I was quite startled and attempted to nonchalantly answer the Dad’s questions as quietly and friendly as I could.   When it became apparent that I was not going to be allowed to easily escape this social trauma (where in the hell is Luke when I need him????), I found myself nervously looking around for the television cameras and stalker wife.  Then I found myself being compelled to speak to the cooing, smiling baby while drowning out his Dad (discussing political opinions with a complete stranger is on the very top of my personal DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT list).  As I was talking gibberish to this little baby donned only in a onesie, I touched him.  The baby, people, NOT the Dad.  I grabbed his adorable little toe, which made Baby laugh and Dad cringe.  I quickly drew back my hand but realized the sin had been committed.  The Dad continued to stare at my guilty hand as I attempted to hide it under my iPad.  The direction of the conversation changed dramatically as the Dad then began a commentary on the ills of today’s education system and the failings of many parents.   I was being subjected to a lecture of proper child management just because I touched his baby.  Relief coursed through me as I held my watch up for the Dad to see that I HAD to leave so I could pick up my wayward children from school and continue subjecting them to my horrifying and wayward parenting style.  

Why didn’t any of you warn me that I needed to take a refresher course in proper socialization skills before going forth into the world without a child in tow??  I think I will take Luke with me to B&N this coming week and introduce him to the Dad.  Ha!! Won’t he be impressed??  Bet that will teach the Dad to speak to strange women in bookstores!! 

Sea Glass

Image

 

I really think they could be called see glass.  Some of the colors can be found in the eyes of friends and strangers. Just as each of these treasures have their own unique texture that gives clues to their past lives, the eyes do the same for us.  So often the eye color (bright sky blue, deep cornflower blue, whiskey brown or seagrass green) catches our attention, but it’s the subtle glints or shadows that draw us in.  The stories we find in the eyes make us want to grab a mug of hot chocolate and sit with piles of pillows in front of a crackling fire to listen to the joys and disappointments of that person’s entire life.  It entices us to share tears that streak our cheeks and laugh until our stomachs cramp.  We hunger to see the anger flare that tempers our spirit.  This is what I see when I look at my sea/see glass.

Tattered Tapestry

I recently posted on my Facebook status “How do you move forward if you don’t know what is holding you back?”  None of my Facebook friends offered me an answer, but one of my novel characters that currently resides in my head did reply.  He told me that my past was holding me back.  He told me I had to let the past go.  Well, it took a few days for his message to truly sink in because I allowed myself to get lost in his beautiful mocha chocolate eyes and I was absolutely mesmerized by the deep dimples that appeared as parentheses around his boyish grin.  Thankfully, I was able to snap out of his seductive trance before my fingers found their way to his black strands of hair that curled provocatively at the collar of his turquoise jersey t-shirt.  Anyway, when I finally allowed myself to concentrate on the meaning of his words I understood what he was trying to tell me; however, I find myself disagreeing, at least partially.  (Now that is perfectly normal Dana behavior!) 

There are parts of my past that I threw away quicker than Blake Shelton can sing “Chew tobacco, chew tobacco, chew tobacco, spit”.  Obviously, those moments were the ones of regret, questionable decision making or drunken blunders.  But there are parts of my past, or more accurately, people of my past that I don’t want to let go.  There are relationships that ended but with no closure.  These “lost” friends have created patches of emptiness in the tapestry of my life.  In some cases, I am unable to weave these friends back into my life because of death or trauma.  In some cases, I am unable to weave them back into my life because I am afraid I am not made of strong enough fiber to swallow my pride, face my fears or expose my vulnerabilities to them.  I often look at the picture of my life and it is those blank spaces that fill me with so much angst that I allow myself to become stagnant.  I yearn to tie up those loose threads and create a beautiful rendering of what I want my life to look like but since I never learned how to sew, crochet, knit, weave, or patch I find myself unable to do so. 

I know many people would say that for the friends that left by choice, then they weren’t true friends to begin with.  I think we resort to that so-called wisdom when we don’t want to force ourselves into action to right a wrong or to simply communicate an apology or request for an apology.  For many people, letting go is simply far easier than throwing a lifeline and struggling to maintain that hold when we are weary, hungry or in pain.  For me, letting go was easier at the time.  But as time goes on, my soul begs for the second chance, or perhaps even third. 

Maybe I can move forward after attempting to rescue the lost friendships that “incomplete” me.  Maybe if my honest efforts are rebuked, then I can move forward knowing I have at least attempted to put my tapestry through a sewing machine.  Fortunately, I have many fine tailors among my current friends. They will help me learn how to snip those frayed edges.

A Dreamweaver’s Broken Web

Image

Last night I found myself giving the dreaded parental lecture “Live up to your potential” to my two oldest sons.  They have been in school for a total of seven days and I have already dealt with homework despair, procrastination and apathy.  The thought of doing this song and dance for another 173 days makes me queasy, tense and angry.  And my boys could sense that last night as I heard the words of my parents spew forth from my mouth.  “I am not upset that you didn’t get a perfect grade, I am upset that you didn’t follow directions” and “You are not giving it your best effort, you are doing just enough to get by”.  WOW!  Now, this is not the first time I have repeated nuggets of wisdom from my Mom and Dad (I have been saying, “Dry your face or I’ll give you something to cry about” for quite a few years) but it was the first time I realized I was repeating words that I NEVER EVER wanted to say to my own children.  Not because the words aren’t true or necessary, but because I have absolutely NOTHING to back them up with.  Because honestly, at forty, I haven’t lived up to my potential.  I have not put forth my best effort since …. well, maybe third grade?  Even though, giving natural birth (with the aid of mild sedatives) to three children did require my absolute best effort at those times.   At some point, one of these boys will be brave enough (that would be Luke) to call me out on this.  “Excuse me, Mom.  Where is your college degree?  Where are the pictures of all the great opportunities you took advantage of because you persevered through school, hell and high water? Where is your bank account statement showing the great profits earned with all of your hard work?”  Yep, that day is coming.  With Luke’s common sense and fearlessness, that day will be here before he starts first grade!

That really doesn’t give me much time to prepare a reasonable, somewhat honest answer.  I look at the pictures above and I see my dreams and goals shine back at me.  I see that sparkle in my eyes and know that was my future that glowed so brightly.    Certainly my dreams transformed as I grew older and my life circumstances changed, but back then I never stopped believing that I would achieve my dreams.  From being a model, to  a sports broadcaster, to a lawyer and ultimately a television producer, I always KNEW I would accomplish my goals.  I was so full of passion and motivation, I never considered that I would encounter obstacles on my chosen path.  At some point, that changed for that girl above.  The light in my eyes dimmed a bit.  The smile was forced when I did choose to smile. The “world of opportunity” was no longer in my young, eager hands.  I cannot pinpoint an exact moment or event that caused me to become cynical, distrustful and defeated.  I believe it happened over a period of time during my college years but the why it happened no longer bothers me as much as the why I LET it happen!   I made choices that took choices out of my control so I could claim no responsibility for the direction my life took.  I look back now and I see the loss of so much potential!!  But how do I put my experience into a perspective that my boys will understand?  How do I teach them that they must believe in themselves because everyone else’s belief in them will not be enough to sustain them when life gets tough?  How do I explain to them that I don’t want them to watch five or fifteen years of their life pass them by without weaving new dreams?

Let me clarify — I am not disappointed in my current life.  I am so freakin’ fortunate to have a great marriage, the most awesome sons, a supportive extended family and a bunch of crazy, loyal friends.  I wouldn’t change ANY of that!!  I would change the fact that somewhere along the way — from college until now — I lost myself.  I forgot what makes ME tick.  And quite honestly, I didn’t think that was even important.  I let my dreams get caught up in the web of life and those dreams got wrapped up so tightly with loss, depression and fear that I gave up on untangling them.

That’s not exactly an image I want to give my boys about their future.  I want to be like Charlotte (of Charlotte’s Web) and weave words of hope for them.  Maybe I can tell them that the college degree, fancy job title or huge bank account will not guarantee them happiness. That happiness comes from accomplishment — whether it is solving a geometry problem, writing a flawless five-page paper about dystopian fiction or striking out a batter — it is a sense of pride that you achieved something that you set out to do.  But telling them isn’t enough.  I must show them.

I am no longer that girl pictured above.  I am the woman pictured below.  The one that is learning that I may no longer have the desire to obtain a college degree or work a stress-filled job, but I have the ability to create new dreams.  I have the love of four men (three young ones and a more mature one) that look at me as if I can reposition the sun if I choose to do so.  And I have talent, creativity and yes, even passion that can help me achieve my new desires.

Image

I admit it.  I think Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”  (featuring T.I. and Pharrell) is a fun, catchy dance song.  It makes me move.  It makes me smile.  And watching the video makes me roll my eyes.  I actually give Thicke (and his publicity/marketing team) a lot of credit for finding a way for this song and video to reach millions — naked women.  My husband was able to tell me all about the video (not that there was much to remember or process) but he fell short when it came to reciting the lyrics or even knowing who sang the song.  Of course, if Thicke was truly a marketing genius, he would have included a bit of footage of himself stripping out of that black jacket and white button-down dress shirt.  He could have left his pants on (maybe button undone) and women would have outnumbered the men in the views for the video online.  Look at the amount of money “Magic Mike” made and women were treated with nothing more than a few glistening half-nude dancing men.  With Thicke coming dangerously close to the image of Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades trilogy, that man could easily sell millions of video downloads with a strip-tease “empowering” the topless models prancing around him.  Add in the feminist controversy and it would be the most viewed internet music video of all time.  

The controversy brings me to the lyrics.  Many people do not realize that I have a moderate to severe hearing impairment made worse in the past year by a chronically ruptured ear drum in my good ear.  So, if the music is not very loud and in an enclosed space — I may think I am listening to Chicago when in fact I am listening to the Zac Brown Band.  I was able to catch the “b” word while listening to “Blurred Lines” on my iPad the other day so I am morally responsible enough not to pump up the volume to twenty with the boys around.  After catching a glimpse of a news article about the controversy surrounding this song, I decided to look up the lyrics and figure out whether the song would be censored in my house (around the boys at least).  No need to call CPS.  My sons will not be purchasing, watching or listening to this song at our home within the next several years.  If I choose to purchase the song for my own listening pleasure, it will be discreetly filed with Nine Inch Nail’s “Closer” on my iPad.  

After quickly skimming the lyrics for the first time, I understand how some women could be greatly pissed off by the song.  But then I decided to read the words again, processing the song just as I did the Fifty Shades trilogy.  And when I did that, I found there isn’t much difference in the scenarios presented in the song and those in the books.  The words truly aren’t any cruder.  The nudity is a necessity in both mediums given the subject matter.  There is a very Dominant/submissive vibe with a bit of pain thrown in for sensory stimulation.  The only real difference is that the author of the trilogy was female and the performers of this song are all male.  Put in that context, I am not disturbed by the song any more than I was disturbed by the Fifty Shades books (and countless thousands of similar mommy porn).   But take my opinion for what it is — an opinion from an open-minded female that in my younger days was more entertained at a gentleman’s club than I was at a male revue.  (I had to pay for all my drinks at the male revue while all the Hooter Shooters were generously paid for by the male patrons at the men’s club — therefore, it was cheaper entertainment!)  

Now, I must get to work on that email to Robin Thicke to see if we can make that strip-tease video happen.  

My Fairy Godmother

No, I do not fancy myself a real-life (or alternate-life) Cinderella; however, I do have a fairy godmother.  Her name is Teresa Coward and she became a part of my life when I was only seven years old.  Teresa quickly became my Mom’s best friend and has forever remained a part of our family circle.  We lost Teresa last month after her very long battle with ovarian cancer.  Yesterday, Teresa’s family and friends gathered to celebrate her life with a pig-pickin’ just as she would have wanted.  I know she wanted it to be a joyous occasion but no one could hold back the tears as we remembered and shared how much Teresa meant to us all.  

Teresa’s kitchen was always filled with warmth and sweet aromas.  I could always count on her for a “real” hug — not one given out of obligation but one that was always heart-felt and accompanied with a smile.  Teresa possessed one of those hearts that was always overflowing with love and that often meant you would see tears glisten on her cheeks, no matter the occasion.  Talking to Teresa was like docking at a safe haven.  No matter what was going on in your life, she would listen and love unconditionally.  In all the thirty-three years I had with Teresa, she never chastised me or made me feel guilty about any life choice I made.  And no matter how angry others around me may have been with me, I was ALWAYS “Sweetie” to Teresa.  

My fondest memories of Teresa are when Quint, her oldest child, was just a baby.  I wasn’t quite old enough to be a real babysitter, but I pretended to be.  I became Teresa’s “helper”.  I would cheerfully lay in the floor and play with Quint.  I would try to soothe his cries and elicit smiles and giggles.  All the while, Teresa would be cooking, cleaning and keeping an eye on her baby and  “helper”.   She would patiently listen to my endless chatter and smile at my pitiful attempts to be mature.  It was during these times that I swear I could look into Teresa’s eyes and see her heart.  The joy she felt at being a Mother was all-consuming.  Her joy of motherhood increased ten-fold when little Carlie joined the family several years later.  Since I was in my teens, my time spent with Teresa, Stuart and the kids was limited.  Not because they didn’t have time for me — I was too absorbed in my own life (school, boys, boys, boys, etc.).  No matter how neglectful I became of my relationship with Teresa, she always made sure I knew she was thinking of me.  I remember a phone call I received from Teresa a few weeks after I went off to Chapel Hill for college.  She just wanted to “hear your voice”.  She listened to me complain about my math and biology classes and I could hear her smile as I told her about my English comp class.  She also told me that Quint was quite upset with me as he felt betrayed that after years of teaching him about Duke basketball and sharing my love of the Blue Devils with him, I became a traitor and attended UNC-Chapel Hill.  That made me laugh.  

Teresa and Stuart hosted David’s very first party when he was just three months old.  I think Teresa just used David’s birth as an excuse to get her friends together and eat some good food!  But regardless of her ultimate motive, she surrounded us with love that day and she was able to witness that same maternal love for my own son as I witnessed in her during my childhood.  

Just as she was present for many of my greatest moments, she was also present on my darkest day.  Teresa and Stuart were the first of family and friends to be with me after I learned of Christian’s death.  They accompanied me to Franklin Regional Hospital where I had to identify Christian’s personal effects and make the first of many decisions regarding his remains and memorial service.  Teresa was the one that held my hand as I processed that I had lost my very best friend and that I would never again hear Christian’s voice.  Teresa was also the one that assured me that David was safe and well-cared for at the preschool that day since the Highway Patrolmen did not have that information.  She is the one that called my most trusted family doctor and David’s pediatrician when I began to question how to address Christian’s death with David.  She never left my side that day until my parents and uncles were able to get home to me.  

Life was often complicated and difficult after Christian’s death and until my marriage to Wayne.  Others around me sometimes questioned my decisions and even my sanity.  During such a time, I received a phone call from Teresa.  She was calling to check on me and see if there was anything I needed.  I immediately began to get emotional and defensive as I thought that I would surely be lectured for the direction I was taking my life.  But I should have known better.  Teresa said, “No, Sweetie.  I am not disappointed in you at all.  I know you are a smart girl with a good heart.  I know that everything will be okay.”  She also assured me no matter how it seemed at the moment, my family and friends still loved me very much and with time it would all work out.   

Needless to say, I am sure she was relieved when life did indeed work itself out for me and my family.  Teresa enjoyed watching my boys grow from babies into little boys (and for David, a big boy).  She was entertained by their diverse personalities and gradually I stopped receiving Christmas presents from Teresa but that was okay, because my one present was replaced by three presents for my boys — always picked out to cater to their unique personalities.  

After Teresa’s diagnosis of cancer, I preferred to communicate with her through email so she couldn’t hear the emotion in my voice over the phone.  I knew she needed those around her to be strong and I knew I was incapable of doing that for her.  I know — very selfish of me but very true.  But I value that selfishness today as I went back and reread all the personal emails she and I exchanged over the past few years.  I will not have to rely on my very faulty memory as I have her words and many xoxoxoxoxoxox’s.  

Honoring such an amazing woman has made me recognize the need for my children to have fairy godmothers in their lives.  I believe Wayne and I have done an excellent job of surrounding our boys with friends that will give them the same security and unconditional love that Teresa gave me throughout my life.  So, Kate, Momma C. and Ms. Melissa — thank you for loving my boys.  Thank you for embracing them as your own and teaching them that no matter what is going on in life, theirs or yours — they will have their own safe havens away from home and me.  As I learned, that gift is priceless.  

Teresa, thank you for loving me, faults and all.  Thank you for the hugs, smiles, and chocolate chess pies.  Thank you for sharing Quint and Carlie with me.  Thank you for holding me together after Christian’s death.  Thank you for showing me how to live life completely, faithfully and courageously.  Thank you for being my fairy godmother.  Love you always!!  Image