Your Mid-life Manic Pixie Dream Girl

A sneak preview of an article in the works:

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 40ish and newly single seems to be the status quo. It also turns out that single or even just available 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, his situation was complicated: the kids, the house, the 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 loves his kids but wondered if he made the wrong decision, that the reality is, he’s thought about me all this time and has never met anyone like me…

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?


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A Love Story of Sorts

In keeping with the theme this week, I’ll offer up a love story of sorts.

Okay, it’s not really a “love story”, in the traditional sense. But it is a story, and it does involve love.

In the romantic sense, love has proven itself to be a fickle companion. I’ve lost myself in it and also found myself. I’ve sworn it off completely, and then blindly plunged back in. I’ve felt it with a force as powerful as breath, and now find myself wondering if it even exists.

But I’m a romantic and seem to be incapable of giving up on it completely.

So Valentine’s Day. I admittedly get seduced by it all: a day dedicated solely to celebrating the person I love and being spoiled by the person who loves me. It’s a subject I believe worthy of its own holiday.

But I’m also acutely aware that this day can place loneliness and heartbreak at center stage, making the absence of the person we love as consuming as their presence used to be liberating.

That’s the side of it I was on, once again. There was no lover to spoil. And besides the sweet guy at the coffee shop, I wasn’t the object of anyone’s affection.

All to say, I expected to be in the same place I was last year: front and center.

I am, in fact, front and center, but not in the same place.

It feels more like equilibrium.

There was no huge revelation that occurred. I didn’t even realize anything had changed until the sweet boy at the coffee shop gave me a chocolate heart. It made me happy. And I didn’t want it to be from anyone else. And I was completely content with the fact that I had the whole day to myself. And there wasn’t anyone I was missing (not entirely true. I miss perhaps the true love of my life, my Biscuit, terribly but subject at hand.)

It seems I unknowingly declared a truce.

Despite the fact that I desperately wanted to move on, I kept looking back. I’ve recycled everything possible- memories, relationships, behaviors- all of which kept taking me back to the exact same place I was before…which was the last place I wanted to be.

This isn’t to say that my mind has completely stopped revisiting what’s lurking beneath the surface. But I finally understand its tactics. I can catch it now, reel it in and release what has clearly been sustaining my demons all along.

But there is admittedly one last relationship I’m trying to rekindle. It’s risky to be sure. It was extremely messy before and full-on destructive when we parted ways. But I really do believe it will be different this time.

I think she’s finally realized she had something special that she came really close to losing.

and-suddenly-she-found-herself-grateful.

The Return of Magic

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I received a request to repost this one, which is very good to hear since this is the premise of my book…. which has admittedly been put on hold for a spell, due to the whole ‘trying to piece my life back together’ thing.

I contemplated adapting it to the present tense, but decided it could possibly be an offering of hope… or induce fear, depending on your vantage point.

I wrote this in the thick of a heartbreak that made anything that came before seem like a minor scratch. And although I am not where I had hoped I would be 9 months later, it might provide some sort of solace to know that there were a few other events that happened simultaneously, delaying my arrival to the finish line I keep hoping will emerge.

God, wouldn’t that be amazing? If there was this definitive line drawn, one we could see off in the distance that would confirm that every excruciating step was a tangible progression towards arriving on the other side, both feet planted firmly on the ground with no fear of that next step being negated by the two you just took back…yet again.

I wish I could tell you I was there, basking in the glory of victory, heart intact, fear nowhere to be seen. I’m not, not quite, but I’m close. And on a good day, I can almost hear the crowd cheering in the distance as I watch one more mile marker go by, signaling my arrival is imminent and there is in fact, hope.

But most importantly, she has returned, our protagonist. She never technically left, but I tend to forget how unruly she is and always write her off when she doesn’t show up how I want her to…

On the Subject of Magic

 

Definition of Magic (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

  “An extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.                                             Something that seems to cast a spell.”

I find a sense of irony is trying to define magic, just as I do with attempts to define love or evil or god. These all have very different meanings that are dependent on each person’s beliefs and experiences. But, this is what makes us human, I suppose. Our inherent need to define all that is around us, to place all things firmly and tangibly into reality, it is what I believe to be one of the worst tragedies; most things clearly defined leave little room for the extraordinary.

Of all things intangible, magic might very well be the most elusive. It is a very real force that influences almost every moment of our childhood, allowing us to navigate our world curious, uninhibited, full of wonder, and open to every possibility. But this elusive force will inevitably succumb to its nemesis. We all must grow up, right? We all must face reality.

So, like most people, Magic eluded me for decades, until reality had sucked all the life out of me, and I realized that the only one who could save me had gone missing.

Magic means different things to different people. It can be the thrill you feel when you throw your hands up and plunge down a rollercoaster when you hold your newborn baby in your arms when you reunite with an old friend or laugh so hard you cry. And, it can be the spark you feel when you meet the love of your life. Perhaps you don’t think of those things as ‘magic’. Maybe you label them as joy or happiness or fleeting moments of emotion. I guess they can be those things, too. I just see them as magic.

I know that experiencing those things and realizing they are precious moments that should be sought out regularly just gets harder to do when we are older. We have responsibilities, distractions, stress, and anxiety. We are in jobs we hate or relationships that aren’t working. We have been hurt and betrayed, disappointed and rejected. We become cynical,  jaded and complacent. And there is just no place for magic there.

But every once in a while, you encounter that person who has found it. This person exudes it and it is contagious. You want to be around them as much as possible, you want to feel what they feel. You want it to work its way into you. But they haven’t been through what you have, right? They don’t have the same past and stress and pain as you do. You would be ‘happy’ or ‘carefree’ or feel that magic, too if you weren’t in the life that yours has become. I can’t tell you how many times I have chalked it all up to that. I judge those people. I resent them….and I so envy them.

So, there I was, in my beautiful home, with my amazing husband, my precious dog, and my stable job. And I felt like the life was being sucked out of me. And now I question what everyone does after they completely blow their life up. Was I just completely selfish? Did I just not appreciate what I had? Is this the whole ‘grass is greener, holy grail’ thing? Maybe. Well let me be clear, the grass is not greener where I am sitting right now. In fact, I have never been in more pain and felt more hopeless than I have over the past 6 months.

But I can’t pretend it didn’t happen. It was magic, even if I was the only one who truly felt it. And it changed me, making it impossible to settle for anything less.

And so I’m back to the place where I spend most of my time, teetering between cynicism and steadfast conviction. I found it, the one who went missing. And as fleeting as it was, it was undeniable, filling in the empty spaces that had rendered me a slave to comfortable and safe. It was as if someone had pushed play and all the parts of me that had been dormant for years- that had craved inspiration, intense connection and the kind of love that made the thought of its absence unbearable- all came alive, all at once, and there was simply no going back.

But my god, the utter devastation that followed, the acute turned chronic pain that is so consuming the only way through is to try like hell to feel nothing at all. How could I not question whether it was magic at all and if such a thing even exists? It feels like I’m being forced to walk after finally learning how to fly.

To make things even more confusing, in those rare moments of clarity, I can get a glimpse of what might have actually been missing, that intangible thing I have been searching for. I think it might possibly be that little girl who always sought it out, magic, and worked like hell to bring it to everything she did. I lost her. She conformed and opted for ‘normal’ and ‘safe’ instead. As much as I wish I was, I’m just not these things. And it turns out, these are the things that most people choose. Perfect, right? I found what was missing and lost everything in the process.

So, that’s it. Sorry, but no ‘magical’ words of wisdom come to mind to share. I am a bit nervous, to be honest. If there was a time for me to be jaded, this would be it. What if I already am? What if the cynicism sticks? Is there no going back? Is this just how it’s going to feel from here on out?

No idea. So I do the only thing I can at this point. I get up in the morning. I try to do things that used to make me happy. I force a smile and initiate conversation. And I try to do what seems to work for most…I try to face reality.

Maybe there really is no such thing as magic.

 

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

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