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’m doing a little research…

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Picture courtesy- KosovaLive360

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

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Sneak Preview: Salsa, Heartbreak, and Redemption (or something like that)

Thought I would give a taste of why I have disappeared for a spell. I have no idea where or if this will be published, but I thought I could try to spread a lil’ hope for those of you in the thick of ‘rebounding’ from a heartbreak in the absence of a rebound, at least in the traditional sense….

“Burdened no more is soul for whom life flows through dance like breath.”
― Shah Asad Rizvi

He grabbed my hand and slid his arm around my waist, pulling me closer. Our lips were close enough to kiss. My eyes lingered on them as they made their way up to meet his gaze. He smiled playfully, “Relax. Try not to think, and just let yourself  feel. ”

The music started. A cacophony of horns and percussion thrust us into motion. I knew I was tensing up, and the only thing I could feel was my heart racing. He let go of my waist and slid his hands down the length of my back, letting them rest firmly on my hips. He paused for a second, teasing me like he always did before he sent me spinning. I threw my head back, laughing, as our playful improvisation began, our bodies syncing up perfectly. Without saying a word, he would tell me exactly what he wanted me to do, and I would gladly submit. He had me exactly where he wanted me. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than how I felt, completely immersed in the moment, and deliriously happy. Then the music stopped.

This is how I got over my first heartbreak. I started dancing.

My boyfriend had found someone else. I didn’t blame him. We were going on year four of what had become a vicious cycle of trying ‘just one more time’. I knew it needed to end, but I wasn’t ready to give up. He was, and he did.

So I did what I always do when my heart gets broken; I planned my escape. I sold everything that wouldn’t fit into my suitcase and bought a ticket to Spain. Just over a week before I was supposed to leave, my stepdad called. My mom had been in a car accident.

I didn’t go to Spain; I went to bury my mom instead.

——————————————————————————————————————

I finally stopped rambling when he walked over and motioned for my hand. I wiped it on my skirt, confessing,

I’m kind of nervous

He smiled. Really? I had no idea. 

I feigned annoyance, laughed and offered up my sweaty palm. He led me through some basic steps, which I fumbled through, stepping on his feet more than I care to admit. He finally stopped, stepping back and studying me for a minute.

Not bad, he said, acting surprised. Actually, that was pretty good. You clearly know how to dance; we just need to get your confidence back. But first, there is something more important we need to do.

He had my attention.

I think you’ve forgotten how to feel. And you can’ t dance if you can’t feel. So I am going to try something that I think might help.

He most definitely had my attention.

Close your eyes and don’t open them until I tell you.

I stood there, my heart racing, waiting to see what would happen next…..

 

——————————————————————————————————————–

More to come….   ;o)

 

salsa.painting

 

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Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

www.briyabags.com

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My First Article Published in the Washington Post: His Kids…

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Well, this is kind of exciting! Check it out and I always love comments and shares!!! 🙂

I Never Met His Kids. But They Still Had The Power to Make or Break our Relationship

Note: The last sentence gets lost with the ad, so read to the very end! 🙂 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soloish/wp/2017/06/12/i-never-met-his-kids-but—they-still-had-the-power-to-make-or-break-our-relationship/?utm_term=.776c14394939

 

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Please check out my social enterprise, Briya, and help us empower women and children with education and economic advancement opportunities across the globe.

Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

www.briyabags.com

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Whipped Cream Revisted (Published in Thought Journal)

An entertaining one for your Tuesday morning. 🙂

What Not To Say To The Cute Guy ShopAt The Coffee 

 

Please check out my social enterprise, Briya, and help us empower women and children with education and economic advancement opportunities across the globe.

Briya produces fashionable bags and accessories that allow adventurous spirits and dedicated change-makers to travel in style while helping women and children to reach their full potential in underprivileged regions around the world.

Shop here: www.briyabags.com

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Masters of Our Fate

The opposite of recognizing that we’re feeling something is denying our emotions…disengaging. When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending .”  – Brene Brown

Timing. I struggle with this whole thing, both in the sense of the ‘space-time continuum’ and in the sense of being defined as ‘good or bad’.

Space-time continuum. Time as duration. What we use to define how long it takes to do something or for something to happen. How long we have been married or working at a job or living somewhere. In theory, this concept of time should be relatively straightforward. But it does seem to be relative, doesn’t it?

Bad timing. We hear it all the time. It’s usually a deal breaker, right? You got the perfect job offer or met your person or want to move to a new city…whatever the situation, there is something you want, but the circumstances aren’t ideal for it to happen.

I think ‘bad timing’ can be split into two versions: 1) Timing as uncontrollable– when things or events (beyond your control) happen to you, and 2) timing as a decision– the point when you decide to let things or events happen (or not happen) to you.

Timing as uncontrollable: Clearly, there are events in our lives over which we have no control. For me, there have been terrible things that have happened at the worst possible time, and there was nothing I could do about them. My dad getting terminal cancer when I was about to graduate from high school. My mom getting in a fatal car accident two weeks before I was supposed to move to Spain. Meeting the person I thought I would spend the rest of my life with at the exact point when his world came crashing down.

Timing as a decision: But there are also times in our lives when events happen based on the choices we make…or don’t make. We convince ourselves that a certain outcome can only be attained based on “logic” or after a series of stipulations that first have to be checked off.. (I can pursue a new relationship or career, as soon as I…or I can finally take a vacation or sign up for a writing/dance/photography class once I…)

 

Timing has become particularly relevant in every sense of the word over the past year. Falling in love ‘at the worst possible time’. The duration and perception of time enduring six months in a dysfunctional relationship. The death of three boys because I was in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

Time- it can be a curse, a prison, and a means of facing our fears. It can also be a gift, a source of hope and barometer for progress. More times than not, it how we choose to approach it.

This has become especially apparent for me as I try to approach dating and relationships post-divorce and heartbreak. I’ve heard repeatedly from well-intentioned friends, “Are you sure you are ready?”, “You know, they say it takes at least half the time you were in a relationship to get over it.”, “You are supposed to give yourself at least a year after you get a divorce before you start dating again.”

Am I ready? Do I need to wait a year, or 5 months? What if I meet my person somewhere in-between? Do I walk away because the allotted time has not passed? Am I measuring time by the actual end of the relationship or the point at which I knew it was over?

I don’t think there is a strategy or ‘perfect time’ to get back out there. Clearly, there are points in our life that might be better or worse for starting a new relationship. But I think this is something we have to decide for ourselves, not because a friend or a book or a therapist gave us the go-ahead.

Timing can be a deal breaker, there is no question, but I also think that we have a huge say in whether it is or not. I think we often use it as an excuse. It is easier to dismiss something as bad timing vs. questioning why the timing is bad. Is it really timing? Or is it the underlying emotions we are too afraid to unpack? Acknowledging they exist means we have to do the work. Admitting timing is irrelevant- if we are brave enough to do so- initiates a process that can be very painful and anything but a quick fix.

But isn’t it actually more painful to keep repeating the things that aren’t working in our lives? Isn’t it more painful to continue preventing ourselves from experiencing life fully, whether that be love, fulfillment, success…whatever it is that would make your heart happy. But happy takes work. It isn’t something that just happens. It is something we have to make happen. It’s a decision.

“No one can be both happy and unhappy at the same time, right? One blights the other.”
                    ~ Mike Dooley

I have a love/hate relationship with this quote. It seems completely logical and seemingly impossible to apply to my day-to-day. It would be so much easier to be the victim, to believe all of these things are happening to me and chalk it up to bad timing.

But that’s exactly what defines us, isn’t it? We can’t always control our circumstances- and yes, our circumstances can be terrible. But, at the risk of sounding like a cliche, doesn’t all come down to our approach?

Are we the victims of ‘fate’, or are we the masters of it?

This brings me back to timing, but in the time-continuum sense. Application, essentially. How exactly do I do this whole transformation part? Relationships, for example, since this is definitely something that has not been working for me. And I’m not the least bit interested in repeating my past experiences with them.

Am I ready to get into a relationship? I really don’t know. The truth is, I’m questioning everything right now. I don’t 100% trust myself anymore. My intuition and ‘follow my heart’ approach to life has not served me of late. It is extremely challenging at this point to trust myself, or anyone else for that matter. More times than not, I find myself functioning from a place of fear and insecurity.

So does this confirm that I’m really not ready to put myself back out there? Maybe. But I’m not sure the alternative, forcing myself to steer clear of all things intimate, is the solution either. I don’t think you can know for sure unless you know and trust yourself enough to listen to what your intuition is telling you.

What I do know is that I can’t do the work if I’m not giving myself the chance to try again. True, I need to be very cognizant of the issues I need to work on. But, if I am determined to never go back to the place I was a few months ago, then I have to figure out how to go another direction. Standing still certainly isn’t going to get me anywhere.

Oddly enough, the general theory of relativity kept surfacing when I was thinking about all of this. Quick review (I definitely needed one).

The theory dealing with gravity…based on the postulate that the local effects of a gravitational field and of acceleration of an inertial system are identical.

I know, where the hell is this going? Bear with me, here.

If we want to move forward, then we have to be willing to fall and trust that the result will be a progression forward. One cannot happen without the other, because they are happening simultaneously.

And just to take it to the extreme, cause that is what I do, let’s consider the space-time continuum

The four-dimensional continuum- consisting of length, width, depth, and time- in which all objects are located and all events occur, viewed as a single and continuous framework for existence. 

So, moving forward in time (i.e. progress), and how far we are able to go, are inseparable from the depth and breadth to which we travel.

Okay, just one more and I’ll stop.

There is a cosmological theory that the space-time continuum has a curvature in 3 dimensions. So, if you travel in one direction long enough, you will return to the same place where you began.

So, metaphorically speaking, if one of the primary forces of gravity is acceleration, then couldn’t that mean that we have to let ourselves be pulled down/go to the depths of what is keeping us stuck, in order to move forward? Isn’t the latter impossible without the former? If we do let ourselves travel the depth and length needed, then wouldn’t that lead us back to the place we were, to a place of falling or being in love, but now armed with the knowledge and tools we acquired on our journey back?

Just something I was thinking about…

Regardless of the applicability of my Einstein tangent, I think you simply have to find the courage to go deep, dig up all the shit that is keeping you from where you want to be, and replace it with behaviors and actions that will manifest what you truly want.

Some say that you have to be alone to do this. I don’t agree. For me, my issues usually surface when I am navigating the emotions involved with being intimate with someone. All the fears and insecurities that, for me, are inseparable from making myself completely vulnerable and opening myself up to potential rejection. It’s actually my worst fear and what has resulted in the most growth.

When you do experience the pain of rejection, the last thing you want to do is go through it again. it’s instinctual, right? Fight or flight. Stronger than our inherent desire to avoid pain is our instinctual desire to make it stop once we feel it. But it’s been my experience that it is much more painful to be alone because I was too scared of getting hurt than to stay and fight through the pain with someone I love and trust. You can’t experience the opposite of pain and fear, which I think is love if you choose ‘flight’.

So I guess that is where I’m at. I’m ready to fight again. Maybe it is too soon. Jumping back in the arena sounds terrifying. It is terrifying. It feels so much safer to stay on the periphery, to protect myself from any more potential suffering.

But is this living? Or is it just existing?

I don’t want to just exist. So my only other option is to fight. Yes, it’s scary, but complacency scares me more. I saw my parents do it, my grandparents do it, others I love do it. It was heartbreaking to watch and it literally killed them. I tried to fight for them, but I couldn’t save them. So now it’s me and the things I love I have to fight for. I don’t think it will always be a fight, in the sense of a struggle. But I do think there is always a certain degree of pain to navigate in the beginning.

But I think it’s time, and it has nothing to do with timing and everything to do with my decision to risk falling in order to move forward.

Out of the night that covers me,
      Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
      For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
      I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
      My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
      Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
      Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.
                                       – Willian Ernest Henly 

Sex & Dating Revisited (published in Thought Catalog)

New and improved version published in thought.catalog. Check it out! 🙂

The trials and tribulations of tinder after your twenties

Please check out my social enterprise, Briya, and help us empower women and children with education and economic advancement opportunities across the globe.

http://www.briyabags.com

Sex & Dating: Round Four

So here we are- separated, recently divorced or single, maybe enough time has passed to try and get back out there. Or you took the leap and got your heart broken and are petrified to go back out.

Regardless, this whole starting over process is not for the faint of heart. You have been warned. Or am I an anomaly here? Because I find this whole thing terrifying.

The exception might be if it just happens organically. Facebook is actually your ‘friend’ in this scenario. You reconnect with an old boyfriend or friend and discover or rekindle a connection. You like each other. You know what you need and want and can be honest and candid with this person because you have a history. You trust each other enough to approach intimacy in a way that is safe enough to start with. It’s a much less painful approach, I assure you.

But this is rare, unless you are in the proximity of your network of old friends or recyclable boyfriends. If you are not, your options are a bit more… well, you’ll see soon enough. Please know, I feel your pain.

Match.com, Bumble, Tinder. These are the ones I have dabbled in. I’m sure there are a dozen others, but these three have sufficiently traumatized me enough to hold off on taking anything else. And I have downloaded and deleted all of the above at least 3 times in the past 3 weeks.

Lessons learned thus far: free apps are for the most part a vehicle for a one-night stand. If it is sex you are after, Tinder is your go to. Bumble is a notch above as far as substance goes, but it’s a tossup. Match.com you pay for, so a bit more of an indication that there is some potential longevity. But it’s still a tossup.

This is precisely why I have deleted and re-downloaded enough times to keep their heads spinning with regards to whether I’m in or out.

It’s such a fine line between not being ready, still too fragile and you just need to get out of the house… and your head. Or maybe you really do just want to have sex… which is completely valid despite how taboo this admission still seems to be, especially for women. Really? Are we not past this antiquated stigma? I find it kind of shocking, to be honest.

So you agonize over your profile, wondering if it is too much or not enough. Which picture shows your best angle but still looks enough like you so as to not elicit disappointment if actual contact is made. Does your profile description sufficiently represent who you are without scaring the shit out of potential prospects, or is it too bland? Either way, you increase your chances of heading ‘left’.

I’m pretty sure mine might be a bit much. I wrote it on a day I just wanted to get over with- Christmas. What better day to write something that is supposed to confidently boast all of my best qualities and outlook on life? My venue, the brewery down the street- the only place other than Starbuck’s that was open. And let’s be honest, the task at hand warranted something a bit stronger than a venti latte.

Admittedly, the tone was a bit cynical. The chosen quote, the first thing my prospects would see when they click on my picture, was the following:

“You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, someone not everyone knows how to love.”   – Warsan Shire

Well, that should reel them in.

Next, profile description:

Adventurous, compassionate, globetrotter, save the world kind of girl. A DEMOCRAT, through and through, active, fun, independent, a little crazy (mostly in a good way), Virgo, considerate, kind, a bit of an introvert in an extroverted fashion, animal lover, NOT a homebody. Normalcy scares me.

I’m interested in finding someone who can keep up, who is kind, smart, compassionate, worldly, socially/globally aware and engaged, fun, healthy, fit, active, handsome, interesting, adventurous…. with a great sense of humor. A unicorn, in essence

Shockingly, I instantly got a constant stream of men claiming to be ‘my unicorn’, the majority who were between the ages of 54 and 60. There were a handful, like five, who had some potential, maybe three who refrained from taking a picture of themselves half-naked in their bathroom mirror or at the gym, and maybe one who did not feel compelled to share a photo opp boasting their prize catch or brand new car.

Be clear, you get to select your ideal age demographic, and I did not select my cutoff to be 60. Forty-eight is not 60.

What the hell?

Now commences the slew of indicators we have to endure to express even the slightest interest: The wink, a thumbs up, ‘he’s interested’, ‘you’re his favorite’, ‘your move’…

Now what, exactly? Do I wink back? Or should I favorite him instead? Does he see these with the basic subscription, or does he need premium? What if his ‘notifications’ are not activated? If I really think he is cute or I see potential, do I email him? Too forward? Truly, is there a manual for this?

When you finally manage to select the appropriate indicator of interest, now begins the process of dating via thumbs. First contact, think of something witty and engaging to say to catch their attention. So do I offer up my wittiest banter, or is that too scary? Maybe more casual and aloof is better. You finally reluctantly press send and wait. And then the back and forth ensues.

I find this exhausting. My thumbs can’t keep up. So I now allow them only 3 exchanges and then throw out the ultimatum. We can either meet or you can continue on your path of winking and swiping right or left.

It’s so superficial and unrealistic and basically equivalent to a video game. You go into pilot mode and just start swiping whatever direction your mood dictates. Mine is left more often than not. In fact, I have swiped left so many times in a row the app keeps on asking me if I know how it all works. “To match with someone, you might consider swiping right.”

Yep, got it, thanks. Give me some effing decent options then.

You know you are maybe not doing it correctly when you frequently receive the message: ‘looks like you are out of people. Check back soon or invite some friends.” 

Wait, what? Invite my friends? I know this sounds crazy, but I don’t really want to date my friends, nor do I want to subject them to this whole thing.

Delete.

So, below are the results thus far:

  • One Tinder date, app promptly deleted.
  • One Bumble date, not terrible, but not enough to keep me swiping right. Deleted.
  • One Match.com date. Success, first try. A good but brief first attempt. But it didn’t work out. The dreaded deal breaker. Timing… deleted.

Timing. As much as I tried to convince myself that ‘love conquers all’. It just doesn’t. It simply won’t work if the timing for either one of us is wrong. I think this might even be worse than rejection. You know it could work, you know it has the potential to be beautiful and enduring. But it can’t be right now, and most likely won’t be in the future. So you let it go and keep swiping.

Round two.

So sex.

Most likely, we have been a bit deprived in this department if we have been married for decades or are too timid or scared to get back out there. Chemistry is kind of a make it or break it at this point, at least for me.

So we made it through all indicators and rapid-fire text exchanges. Your two hours proved good enough to transition to the next stage. Now what? Do I make the first move, or does he? Do I lose his respect if I do, is that still happening, or is that a relief for him? Are we still expected to wait until the 2nd date? Or is the third considered more appropriate? Is the first date completely out of the question if we want a second? Do we really want a second if there is no chemistry on the first? What the hell are the ‘rules’ now?

Someone, a manual, please. I would do it, but I have absolutely no idea how to navigate this part.

We have to be safe, so we comb through all things social media- Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn to start- their friends, their family, their friends’ and families’ comments, their responses. Do they have a lot of friends? Do they seem ‘normal’, are they kind and responsive?  Is there enough contact where you can see a pattern in their responses?

If they sufficiently pass the social media screening, how do we approach the whole sex thing? Cocktails are definitely in order, but not too many. Do you talk about it before, or do you just let it unfold? How and when do you broach the whole disease/protection discussion? How do you know for sure? Most people assume they don’t, but clearly, there is no required certificate confirming their negative/positive status. The safe route is clearly best, but what if it goes past a handful of dates? Do you demand proof or a trip to the doctor before you proceed?

Exit strategy.

Somehow you made it through all the initial phases, but it’s just not there or isn’t going to work long-term. So you stay in it too long because you are terrified of having to go through all of this again with the remaining prospects that you reluctantly left in your queue just to have some options or validation that someone believed you worthy of ‘right’.

So how do you end it in this day and age? It feels like there is so much more pressure now. This is my downfall. I know we are all fragile and trying to get back out there, build our confidence back up, learn how to do this whole thing after decades of comfortable complacency (if there is such a thing). The last thing I want to do is make you feel bad. And I don’t want to feel bad. So do I just start responding to your texts less and less? No, I need to act like an adult and tell you the truth. “I’m just not ready. It’s too soon. It’s truly not you, you are awesome…”

Jesus, this is all just too much work right now. Deleting all things virtual dating seems like the best option.

But then what is the alternative? Joining a running group or a group anything and finding yourself surrounded by single millennials who make you feel old and desperate?

Round Three.

No, all three deleted. I truly am not ready- still too fragile, too picky, too worried about making you feel bad. And as much as I need a solid meal and some validation that I am still worthy of ‘right’, enduring two hours of forced conversation makes me just want to be back home and wallow. And, as I have been repeatedly told, I scare the shit out of you anyway. And I don’t want to be scary, nor do I want to waste two hours with someone who can’t handle me.

Maybe I should just embrace abstinence for a spell.

But I don’t want to be abstinent. Jesus, fine, I’ll give it one more try. Forever the optimist, it seems.

God help us all. We’ll get through it. But you have been warned…not for the faint at heart.

Round four.