You’re Mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Here’s a sneak preview of what I’m hoping you’ll finish in a certain publication you might have heard of.  No guarantee, of course, but fingers crossed.

He had told me he needed to leave over an hour ago, but he was still here. A battle of wits was in full swing. I was winning, and I could tell he liked it.

The banter continued, the chemistry, obvious. He finally paused, studying my face. My chest tightened. I knew that look, and I knew what was coming.

“You are, I don’t know, I’ve just never met anyone…”

I stopped him before he could finish, “Are you married?”

He laughed, clearly taken aback, then looked down.

“No. I mean, not technically. Or I guess technically I am, but it’s been over for a long time.”

This is now one of the first questions I ask if I’m interested in someone. And this is what I’ve learned: “no” usually means yes and “getting a divorce” means I want a divorce, but I’m not yet and won’t be for an indeterminate amount of time.

To be clear, I’m not seeking out men who are married. But as it turns out, being 40 and newly single seems to be the status quo. It also turns out that single is open to interpretation.

When I first got divorced, one ex-boyfriend after another started reaching out. I was a bit naïve in the beginning, thinking they just wanted to catch up. I quickly realized that even if we aren’t the type to keep our married status current or obvious, social media can be telling if someone’s paying attention. It can also be very deceptive.

When the one I never quite got over showed up, I, of course, scoured his social media. His status? Married. There was a good amount of pictures of his kids and family vacations, so I reasoned he must just want to catch up.

After a drink or two, however, I got the truth. He’d been separated for months. The marriage was over and had been for years. The situation was complicated: the kids, the house, trying to separate finances… but he was finally ready to move on.

This all made sense at the time. My divorce was painful and not immediate. But logistically, it was relatively simple and finalized within a few months. In short, we didn’t have children.

So I listened. I listened to him tell me that he’s thought about me all this time, that he loves his kids but wondered if he made the wrong decision, that the reality is, I’m the person he wants to be with. Yes, I was still a little crazy, but I’m like no one he’s ever met…

I believed him and we plunged in. I had the person I thought I was meant to be with, and he had an exciting distraction from the painful reality of his day-to-day.

Therein lies the tragic flaw. For men in the thick of a mid-life crisis, I’m a distraction from reality, existing in the realm of a fantasy they conjure up.

I’ve become their manic pixie dream girl, the female version of a night in shining armor who “…has no reason to exist except to cheer up one miserable guy.”

This is it, in a nutshell: (explained by Hugo Schwzer)

I thought less about her and more about how it was she made me feel… As unstable as she may be, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl not only senses a young man’s potential in a way he can’t, she intuitively knows how to lead him to his destiny. She knows him better than he knows himself, or so he believes. That convenient assumption allows the young man both to adore the MPDG and to avoid any responsibility for reciprocity. How can he be expected to give anything back when she has this magical intuition about the world that so vastly exceeds his own?


Advertisements

Your attention, please.

I wasn’t feeling it today. It’s grey out. I don’t do well with grey (except to fend off black and white).

So instead of writing, I committed to catching up on reading and stumbled upon Behind the Scenes by Brandewijn Words.

It wasn’t his generous words that got me (although beyond humbled by and grateful for them), it was his message. I realized it plays into the same theme as the two posts I read immediately before, and the book I’m currently reading, What is in the Way is the Way, and a documentary  I just saw, Leaning into the Wind.

Apparently, there’s something I need to pay attention to.

The theme/s, more or less:

In BW’s words:
“…the way that the world grabs me sometimes. How it twists my perspective and I see it from a different angle… why it’s important to get on the ground, sometimes, and look at something from a completely different point of view.”

Andy Goldsworthy’s words: (Leaning into the Wind)
“There are two different ways of looking at the world. You can walk on the path, or you can walk through the hedge…step aside off the normal way of walking or looking.”

 The Incurable Dreamer’s: 
“Each step I took was with intent and an understanding that pain is what paints the sky with breath-taking beauty and ignites your soul in the grasp of darkness…even when your heart loves so deeply it threatens to destroy you, it is possible to feel blessed.”

Tom Being Tom’s: 
“But if we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.”

In short, it’s about perspective, about paying attention to what’s happening in the moment, being curious, leaning into the questions, and most importantly, the emotions behind them, especially the uncomfortable ones

It’s the very thing we stop doing as we get older. We know all too well the spaces that hurt. We’ve experienced the pain of loss, heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, and failure. And we’ve become masters of avoiding them, no matter the cost.

Yes, we survived it, but it changed us. It scared us. Why risk feeling that way again? Running, numbing, suppressing, avoiding: these all seem like the safer bet. So we stop taking risks, “stay on the path”, chalk it up to life is hard and spend our days either stuck in the past or praying that things will get better in the future. Or, we lose ourselves in trying to control and fix everything that’s wrong.

Life, its unfolding, loses its color…and turns to grey.

“Fear needs time to exist. It needs stories of past and future in order to get a foothold in your mind.” – Mary O’Malley 

I see this happening all around me. I see this happening to (or with) me. I’m missing out on so much of the good that still exists, wasting what could be beautiful moments because I’m so focused on fixing the handful of things that are wrong,

But the pain is there to teach us, and the lessons will keep coming back until we learn them, increasing in intensity until running, numbing, and avoiding are no longer options if we’re going to survive.

The fucked up thing is these lessons stem from stories we made up based on beliefs we adopted when were tiny…based on fears we developed when we were tiny.

We run away from them, imagining the pain, shame, or anger will be too much to handle. But by doing so, we give them their power, letting them gain momentum and snowball into something so enormous, when it finally catches up with us, the blow is crushing.

Crushing, but not final.

“If we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.” ~ Tom Cummings

The irony is we spend our entire lives trying to find happiness, experience joy and avoid pain. But it’s pain that amplifies our experience of happiness and joy. And neither joy nor happiness needs to be found. We always have access to them. We just get so focused on avoiding pain, we lose sight of them.

So what happens if we stop pushing pain away and invite it to stay instead? What if we just get curious about it, without berating or judging ourselves? Whether it comes from anger, shame, sadness, or fear, we simply ask where it’s coming from and why…and we listen.

What happens is we hear the same story we’ve heard for decades. The one we made up to try to understand the inexplicable when we were tiny, the one we play on repeat, that confirms our deepest fears.

If we’re not vigilant, if we don’t pay attention to our underlying agenda to play it safe and avoid the pain, the cycle continues: we get sucked back into the past, scared the future will hold more of the same…and we lose the moment.

So what if we try something different, change our perspective? Instead of doing whatever we normally do to escape it, we welcome it and give that tiny one the attention and compassion s/he has been screaming for?

I can’t answer that yet. My lesson, the one I thought I’d outrun, it caught me. And yes, the blow was crushing, the pain, excruciating. But there’s no more escaping it, and I’d rather not repeat. So, I’m leaning in. You have my full attention.

I can say this, though: it isn’t screaming anymore. It still demands my attention, to be sure, but it has loosened its grip. It has also made it clear that I’m not in control. I don’t get to decide when or how, and there is no one clear path out of this. I just get to ask questions…and listen.

Oh, and the sun finally did come out, as it always does. But to be honest, the colors were more vivid before. I was just too focused on the grey to see them.

ionus.buffalo
* Image by Ionus Caras

“When she turned to face it, she transformed it. Her biggest fear became her greatest strength.” ~ b.breazeale

Penetrable Fortress

I sometimes wish my heart would callous. When it’s surpassed its threshold, an impenetrable fortress would rise, defenses firmly in place.

But it doesn’t…

balloon.pink
                                                                                                             *Illustration by Rebecca Dautremer

It remains open, taking in everything at once,
with an intensity that maybe one day…will transform good intentions, into magic.                                                                                                                                                                                         

The Butterfly Effect…or Just Great F*cking Writers

Edward Lorenz and the Discovery of the Butterfly Effect

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”
                                                    — from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

If you’ve been following ‘the challenge’ initiated last week, you hopefully experienced the magic that happens when people break out of their comfort zones and inspire others to do the same.

If you missed out on some of the action, Tanya, our Incurable Dreamer, summed it up perfectly in “the losing of my poetry virginity

Last week, she [that’s me] wrote a poem [inspired by George Ella Lyon’ original ‘Where I’m From’], and what has transpired since then has been nothing short of extraordinary.

The poem she wrote was inspired by a prompt – Where I’m From.

Her idea was to post it on her blog and challenge someone to write a poem about where they are from, and then hopefully they too would pass it forward. Well, that is what she did, and that is exactly what happened. She challenged Tom who challenged Wulf who challenged Susan who challenged Bojana.

Inspired by Brooke’s words, Brad and  LLY1205 didn’t even wait to be challenged, they both just got right to it and wrote and posted their poems.”

ws_The_Butterfly_Effect_1600x1200.jpg

                                                                                                                          * image from http://thebutterflyeffect.org/

This wasn’t a competition, by any means. But we were all nervous to try something that isn’t exactly our strong suit. Even our celebrated poets expressed some anxiety about presenting their piece. I suppose it’s because we are all following the same model- one that requires us to reveal some of the most intimate parts of our stories- and create something on the heels of the previous person who blew us away…

But no pressure…really.

So, back to the whole butterfly thing. Yes, I will acknowledge that I set this in motion…flapping my wings if you will. But, as Edward Lorenz, creator of the chaos theory postulates: (Cool article discussing the butterfly effect here)

“Subject to the conditions of uniqueness, continuity, and boundedness … a central trajectory, which in a certain sense is free of transient properties, is unstable if it is nonperiodic. A noncentral trajectory … is not uniformly stable if it is nonperiodic, and if it is stable at all, its very stability is one of its transient properties, which tends to die out as time progresses. In view of the impossibility of measuring initial conditions precisely, and thereby distinguishing between a central trajectory and a nearby noncentral trajectory, all nonperiodic trajectories are effectively unstable from the point of view of practical prediction.”

Simply stated, the noncentral trajectory of my challenge was effectively unstable and wouldn’t have unfolded the way it did if you all had let it die out

Okay, enough of that. In short, it was not I who accepted the challenge and wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person, who wrote something brilliant enough to inspire the next person…

Maybe I did initiate a breeze. But you all gave it the momentum necessary to make the next person’s words take flight, compelling them to dig deeper and soar to heights that took our writers and readers by storm and left us all spinning. 

So Tanya, thank you for finishing off this whirlwind week of words with such grace, depth and courage. And thanks to the rest of you brave souls who gave us an enchanting glimpse intowhere you are from.

Life-is-poetry-that

See where Mirian, from Out an’ About takes us next…

Challenge, Accepted. Brilliance, Ignited

A much-deserved follow-up to The Lion’s Lair & A Challenge.

Tom being Tom certainly rose to the challenge, eliciting the following reaction. I decided to include it here because it also applies to the previous poems I got to read, written by two brave souls who were inspired by the prompt. (Their masterpieces are included below Tom’s).

These poems do everything I think poetry should- tapping into the spaces where emotions lay dormant, conjuring them up, gently at first, until the next line, then the next, until I feel all of it acutely, getting a sense of what galvanized the words, yet wanting to know more about the spaces in between…

Tom:
How is the youngest different? How did you transition from a youth that seemed complacent to living your life fully, authentically, staying curious, aware, concerned? How is it that you can delve into the ‘why’s’ of the wrongs and actively contemplate how we can right them? How did you find enduring love…what do you do to keep it so?

Brad:
Who did you lose? Where does the pain come from? What keeps you restless, or have your roots finally taken hold?

Elizabeth:
Where do I even begin?  Where do the maple roof and stonework reside? Is it your eyes that stay guileless? Did you find the gold you were missing to fill in the empty space?

No one needs to answer these questions, of course. The answers are there…lingering in the spaces between.

Next up, our celebrated poet, Brandenwulf, author of blogBrandewijn Words, More magic to come, of that I have no doubt.

(Addendum: Brandenwulf wasted no time, and of course, created a work of art that sent us all reeling…get ready:  I am 

Crafted by our brave soul, Tom being Tom:

Where I’m From

I am from Krypton
And from Asgard.
From the Bugle and the Planet.
From a Manhattan in my head,
Covered in Webs.

I am from The Seven,
From Cecil and from Peggy.
The spoiled one.
The youngest.
Like all the others,
Only different.

I am from wasted youth.
From passing grades,
And boredom in math,
And history and gym.
From doodling, not studying.
From building worlds,
And playing games,
And ignoring rules,
That make us “great.”

I am from barley and from hops.
From summer heat,
And charcoal and gas.
From burgers and steaks,
And spicy wieners on the grill.

I am from umbrellas,
In the rain,
To turn the meat on time.

I am from golden dogs,
And Mrs C.
And love beyond compare.

I am from the search inside.

I am from earth.
I am from you,
And you are from me,
And we are from here,
This place called home.

That we destroy.

I am from tomorrow.
Where there are no wars,
Or hunger,
Or hate.
Where the needs of the many,
Outweigh the greed of the few.
Where children do not die
Where they learn,
And borders are open,
And treatment is free,
And no one needs nations,
And no one needs gods,
To tell us we’re alright.

Because we’re alright.

I am from Hope.

And it is with Hope I shall remain.

Written by Brad, Writing to Freedom

Where I’m From

birthed in Madison Wi
raised in Mclean VA
independence sought in Portland OR and Boulder CO
landing in Fayetteville AR
my tender roots started to grow
in the shade of a giant willow tree
nature's love nested in my heart
dormant until pain demanded action
I sprung forth like a shot
traveling the country near and far
finally a winter's rest in Portland OR
with self-exploration taking hold
then off to new adventures in Boulder CO
where the men did call and brothers we became
but death came knocking and changed the game
wanderlust took hold and fear went traveling
a weary traveler landed in Arkansas
with roots tenuous at best
too little water and soil
constantly pulled by restless feet
finally defeat layed down the law
at 50 the game became survival
slowly self-love took root
nurtured in compassion and care

Where I’m From – 2

I'm from willows and creeks,
backyard retreats
riding bikes, badminton and croquet
childhood glee amid adult defeats
lost friends, isolation, and pain
solace in books, school, and work
with excellence the measure
I'm from generations of pain
locked in booze and depression
tendrils of love in booze and sex
travel, parks, hiking, and a VW Camper
I'm from men's groups, soul searching quests
advanced in hiking, biking
photography, dancing, and play
then death came calling
roots pulled up again
I'm from fear and losses
responsiblity and survival
with no clear path forward
a hint of light grew in the dark
compassion and care leading the way

Written by Elizabeth, author of Serial Outlet,

Where I am From

When you buried my shovel

I was left idle, unmasked and thinking

There is no glitter in my well

No gold ‘mong damp and mossy dark’

Most ropes would recoil

But these linen plaits graze water

Unfrayed and still and tranquil

As the maple roof and stonework above

Anglo, Roman-Catholic stays

Build ribcages smoother than granite

And flakes of mica without replace

Ingots for those who would clamber within

Some eyes stay bright and guileless through

Trials largely of one’s own making

Rope winding, coiling back to

Where I am from

——

For more brilliant reading, here is an additional poet who also reignited my love of poetry…reading it, anyway. ;o)

Susan, author of blog: Flowering Ink .

poetry.fell

The Lion’s Lair & A Challenge

Okay, a break from soulmates. I received an unexpected, much-needed gift this week and got to spend a couple of hours with my writing teacher, Miss Lisa Jones.

I discovered Lisa when I was in a coffee shop doing research for my upcoming trip to the Congo. I was thinking I should learn how to write so I could share my experience with friends and family, looked up from my computer and there was her flyer posted on the community board. I was sitting next to her within a couple of weeks.

Four years later, now a self-declared writer, I got to revisit the process of trying to follow her prompts and find the courage to read what I came up with (which is never what I want it to be) out loud to a room full of strangers. It’s terrifying and exhilarating and always sends me soaring way outside my comfort zone.

Poetry. I kinda hate it. I don’t know how to do it, and I always feel like I’m imitating Dr. Suess.

So, of course, our first prompt was a poem. I’ll share it with you and what I came up with (which I think sounds like a darker, more jaded version of Dr. Suess).

Okay, so a challenge: I’m gonna pass this off to one of you, and if you are up for it, I would love to see your version, your story.

When you post, or if you prefer to pass, send to on to someone you think might want to experiment with it.

The first victim, if he so chooses, is Tom being Tom. :o)

My version of Lyon’s original:

Where I’m From: The Lion’s Lair

I am from pigtails, teddy bears, things tied in bows
From cow pastures, barbed wire, dry, dusty roads
From Vodka bottles buried
beneath dirty clothes

I’m from TV dinners, pudding pops, sweetened ice tea
From silence, shame, and muffled screams
From two best friends
only I could see

I am from weeping willows, bare feet, Fourth of July
From Bible study, train tracks, the cicadas’ cry
From climbing trees, scraped up knees
chasing fireflies

I’m from dreaming of anyplace but here
From invented fairytales and judgmental stares
From her inevitable return
from the lion’s lair

I am from faded photographs of faces unknown
From a wild heart with a gypsy’s soul
From an untethered spirit
that can never let go

Where I’m From

~ George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush,
the Dutch elm
whose long gone limbs I remember as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I’m from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from perk up and pipe down.
I’m from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments–
snapped before I budded–
leaf-fall from the family tree

 

IMG_7886

Finding your Soulmate 101 (or whatever the prereq to that would be)

“Do you believe soulmates exist?”

My friend asked me this as he was telling me about his impending breakup.

“And if they do, how do we know we’ve found our actual soul mate vs. just a deep connection or fleeting love? Is it really worth the energy and potential pain if we’re not sure?”

I answered the first question without hesitation. “Yes, absolutely.” But the second one gave me pause. How do you know, especially in the beginning, when it all feels magical?

But yes, there is definitely a distinction. Putting it into words, however, is the equivalent of trying to explain how it feels to be loved or to have faith.

Love feels like your soul has been kissed. Faith feels like love in its purest form.

But that’s hard to conjure up on a whim, especially while trying to avoid saying all the things that made me cringe when I was in the thick of a heartbreak.

My enlightened response? 

“I don’t know…you just know.”

If that doesn’t make you cringe…ambiguities and sweeping generalizations are the last thing you want to hear when your heart is being ripped out. You want fucking answers.

So I decided it best to keep my mouth shut, nod my head empathetically and refrain from rattling off reasons why it’s for the best. All I really wanted to do, however, was encourage him to memorize how he feels right now so he’ll remember the next time this happens: the pain really doesn’t last forever…I think.

Thankfully, I opted to keep my mouth shut.

I saw his relationship unfold from the beginning. There were obvious warning signs, but he couldn’t see them, of course. We rarely can.

We’re too immersed in the present moment, relishing in the excitement of discovery. We finally found someone who fits, who can finish our sentences, celebrate our quirks, shine light on the beautiful parts that get lost when no one’s there to name them. We found someone to play with, to laugh with, to make our hearts fuller, lighter. We found our soul mate…

Or did we? How do we know for sure, if what we found is real, if it’s worth the gamble when the stakes are so high.

We don’t, I guess…until we do.

Full Disclosure:

Okay, I don’t really know that “you just know.”

It makes sense that you would. I’ve heard that’s how it works. But I honestly can’t speak from experience. I’ve never met mine, not that kind, I don’t think. I thought I did. But, I would know, right?

The whole thing got me thinking. Not just about ‘finding my soulmate’, all of it- the different shades, degrees and patterns of connection, love and relationships.

But seriously, I’m still here? 101? I should have a Ph.D. in this shit by now. Or at least be making substantial progress. So why do I still feel like I’m learning how to spell?

Y-O-U  A-R-E  D-O-I-N-G  T-H-I-S  A-L-L  W-R-O-N-G

No, this isn’t where I want to be- sifting through relationships that are frustrating and unfulfilling. And truly, as much as it might appear to consume me, I’m not on some mad quest to find the one. I’m fine with a break from it all, knowing that I’m still a bit fragile and borderline calloused…not a good place to start from, I’ve discovered.

Yet they continue to surface, and I continue to play them out: these impossible scenarios that turn into an insidious dance- one that gets replayed over and over, making sure I stay a little fragile and increasingly calloused.

So time for a bit more self-reflection (which I assure you, I’m super excited about).

However, I have additional incentive this time; my friend needs some answers.

So I did a little research…

main-qimg-2592687103b4ae9ed523a74fcbd39950-c
Picture courtesy- KosovaLive360

Next week: No assignments. Attendance encouraged, open-mind required.
Extra credit for any shared soulmate encounters.