Archive | October 2011

A New Chapter

I’ve read my fair share of Danielle Steele romance novels in the past. The thing that’s great about them is that they always have happy endings. No matter what obstacles the hero and heroine face, in the end you know if you keep reading there will be a happy ending. Most formulaic romances are the same. It’s a sure bet that if you stick with it, at the end it will be worth it and your heart will be warmed. Same goes for romance movies.

With other genres, sometimes right away, there is conflict and violence and disturbing subject matter, and you have to put the book down, because what if it stays that way, with no happy pay off? Really, why read a book where there is strife and more strife and then they all die? Yes, I know there some classics like that but in this day and age, where so much more feel good literature is available, I stick to happy.

When you think about it, relationships are like books.  If they start off riddled with volatility, there probably isn’t going to be big change. Sure, there can be a paradigm shift and a character arc, but in real life? People generally don’t change. If it starts rough, it’s probably going to stay rough until it’s over. Some people enjoy that, they like the roller coaster and the mystery and hate the formulaic romance in literature and in life.

There are some readers who will stay with the book till the end, no matter how bad it is, and then there are people like me. Hit some slow patches, or too many chapters of hopelessness, too many chapters of bad writing or inconsistencies, and I’ll put the book down. I’m guilty of the same in relationships.

It’s taken me this long to see the connection.  If I could discover and immerse myself in a “good book,” a worthy relationship, where I could trust “the author” that no matter the struggles mid-book, if I just stuck with it then there would be a happy ending, then I think I could risk it. I could put myself on the line for one of those epic novels where the characters start young (okay missed that boat) and have a long life of trials and tribulations and in the end, they’re sitting on a porch together holding hands and smiling.

I think my relationship failures have been in trusting the wrong authors to co-write my life story. Surely there exists a man who I can believe in for the long haul, who I can stay with till the very last page.

This is the year I switch genres and up my expectations for happiness.

Here’s to starting a new chapter in my book of life.

Carly G.

Stretching Hope

A few times a year Powerball’s jackpot is irresistibly high, in the hundreds of millions, and several of us in the office chip in and buy a crazy amount of tickets. Someone copies all the tickets so we know our numbers, and then we wait, excitedly. We talk outwardly, and hope inwardly, about what we would do with all that money. Usually someone, since many of us are accountants, tells us what each share would be before and after taxes. And we go home for the night, or if we’re lucky, for the weekend, and get to live off that hope.

I always feel like little Charlie in Willy Wonka, the original not the creepy remake.  Though the odds were against him, he hoped so hard for that golden ticket. He just knew he was going to get it and his life would change forever. Stretching his hope, even if he didn’t win the prize, gave him something to live for.

The hope of finding the right person to love works the same way.  There’s the initial looking phase—unless you stumble across him by chance. Leafing through dating ads, or taking blind dates with all the potential Prince Charmings your happily married friends can muster. Each time wondering if the next one will be the one who changes your life forever.

And then once you meet someone, there’s the courting stage: waiting for his emails or texts with bated breath to discover more about him. Then there’s the phone stage, the meeting, the months or years of discovery. The bittersweetness of missing him all the time. It’s euphoric, and I have to wonder if my rushing into relationships, and hence crashing and burning, is because I didn’t build in enough Hoping Time. If you date someone for years before they move in with you, or you marry them, that’s all time you can spend longing for them, dreaming of forever.

You can stretch the hope so that when you do settle down with that person, you’ve got all those happy memories, those breathless feelings of anticipation to carry you through.

From experience, I can attest that if you rush along, full speed ahead, it’s a blur. Before you even know it, you’re up to your knickers in commitment, and then it’s over, and you don’t much care because you haven’t invested all that much time. You can barely remember how you even got there. If I had a dollar for all the times someone said to me, “Well at least you didn’t waste years on him,” I’d have a lot of money. Except of course for ones I did waste years on.

When relationships are over, the person who ended it can always tell you when they “knew.” There was the one last fight that pushed them over the edge, he bounced one check too many, lost his job, shoved your kid…And you could ask them, “But he did X for years and you stayed. Why was that time different?” They shrug and just say, “I’d had it.”

“I’d had it,” was the precise moment they lost hope. There’s always a catalyst, be it a fight over whether Eminem is a good singer or not, or someone saying, “How can you think that’s your ideal weight?” One of my last straws was when I was home alone giving out Halloween candy and realizing that even if X had been there he wouldn’t enjoy doing it with me because he really didn’t like children. And since I had one, it was never going to work. It might be something small that sets you off, but once it happens and it causes you to stop believing, then you’ve reached an “irretrievable breakdown,” the term divorce lawyers type so frequently, and expensively, into their agreements.

Slow and steady wins the race. I’ve heard that for years but haven’t listened. Maybe it’s time to heed that advice.

Next time I fall in love with someone I’m going to stretch that initial hope phase as long as I can get away with. I’ve still got some good years left in me, no need to rush.

Here’s to getting that winning ticket to the only lottery that really matters.

-Carly G.

A Sign from God and Saying Goodbye

by Carly G.

Next weekend my second husband is getting married. Given that, I figured it was time to sell my old engagement ring. I’d held onto it for a long time, knowing I wouldn’t be able to get back what he paid. But at this point, it doesn’t matter because I didn’t pay for it and anything I received would be more than it’s earning me in my sock drawer. Friday I walked down the street from my office to the Jewelers’ Building. It was raining and I was nervous about the process. The idea of moving on, completely, with the lack concrete connection, was both refreshing and unnerving. I got to the store and it was closed.

As I walked back to the office, I suddenly realized how badly I did want to get rid of the ring. I peered in the windows of some of the neighboring stores, considered asking them if they wanted to buy it. I was ready, finally, and the idea of going back to work and having to bring this symbol of a relationship long dead back home for the weekend bothered me. I waited an hour and called the store. Turns out they open at 10am and I had been a little early. This time the trip was easy. I walked back to the store, still in the rain. After some small talk, and after showing them the original appraisal they had given my ex so many years ago, we agreed on a price, they gave me a check and I went back to my office. I felt a little off kilter the rest of the day but relieved.

The next day I was on a panel at a horror conference and I saw a man take a seat in the audience. He looked just like the priest who married my first husband and me. Surely it couldn’t be him, I thought. What would a priest be doing here? We made eye contact a few times and I sensed recognition. It had been fifteen years since I’d seen him. He left before the panel was over and I figured it would remain a mystery. A while later though I saw him at the booth my group was running. I walked over to him and said, “Excuse me, are you Kevin X?” He said yes and said “I saw you speaking on the panel and you look familiar. Where do I know you from?” I explained he’d married Ivy’s dad and me. We were pretty active in the church for that short period when he had just come on as a priest. It was his first job. He remembered us.

Turns out he’s a big horror fan and we know a lot of the same people. We had a wonderfully lively talk and I explained about my first ex and our divorce. Remarkably he said what I had always hoped someone of the cloth would if I ever approached them. “Well, you clearly had no choice but to get a divorce. If you wanted to get an annulment, I’m sure you could. It’s a big process but you’d be granted one I’m sure.” He then went on to praise me for going through two tumultuous marriages and  raising my daughter alone and also for my writing accomplishments. I told him I didn’t have any interest in an annulment, given I don’t know if I’ll ever get married again and since we had Ivy together, I didn’t want to pretend the marriage didn’t happen. But just knowing that even the Catholic Church agreed I chose an acceptable path, well it made me feel better.

The fact this man should show up the day after I sold my engagement ring  from Husband # 2 felt like a sign from God. I’m not a religious person, and haven’t really been a full-fledged Catholic in more than ten years but it did not feel like a mere coincidence. To me, it was a pat on the back from Someone that I was on the right path.

So today, I decided to also trash that bouquet of roses that are dead and drying upside down in my basement like a carcass. They were from another relationship it’s time to let go of. This has been a big year of letting go and saying goodbye but that is part of the process.

Purging all the parts of my life that were cluttering up my heart has been refreshing. Now that I cleared out my emotional junk drawer, I feel like there might be room left in heart for someone new after all.

Here’s to starting my new life

-Carly G.

When All is Quiet

I don’t mind being single and it beats the heck out of being unhappy with someone. My friends are great about keeping me busy and entertained. Ivy is always a joy and her school events and projects take up a lot of time. And of course cleaning up after Lily, and training her, and keeping her from pushing Henry past his kitty limits, take any time there is left. Oh, and there’s the full time job and the writing.

But when all is quiet, when everyone is asleep and the rest of the night stretches before me, and the ticking of the clock next to my bed magnifies and echoes…then it’s not so easy being single.

Now I’m not saying I want to BOOM, get married or have someone taking up all my time. But when the house it silent, sometimes I do think it might be nice to have a guy around to talk to. And no, I do not mean to snuggle with as it’s still hot in New England and the idea of cuddling isn’t appealing right now. Anyway, Henry and Lily sleep on the bed, on my feet.

What I really miss is talking to someone late at night. You know, when you’re trying to sleep, but can’t, and you and your partner start talking about a show on TV, or a couple you know, or how Tina Fey looks so much like Sarah Palin it’s eerie. At that time of night, it’s not like I can call someone and chat about nothing. So there is just silence, except for the rhythmic ticking of the clock.

The thing is though, I still sleep on “my” side of the bed which tells me that if I met someone new now, he’d just be a placeholder, a replacement for Mr. X. Until I start moving into the middle and accepting that I can do this alone, and that  having a boyfriend is a choice and not a habit, then I’m better off to just go to sleep.

I could get a TV for my room, but then I may never feel the need for a partner, as I could probably spend years catching up on missed episodes of How I Met Your Mother, or House, or any of the series I started watching years after they began.

Sometimes I rest my head on the pillow and stare up at the stars I painted on my ceiling. That is soothing. But after a few minutes their glow-in-the-dark properties fade and I am left staring at a dark ceiling while the clock ticks on.

For now I am quite happy to be single, but for anyone who reads my blog and thinks “Oh come on, she must get lonely sometimes,” I do. But I’m still not nearly ready to venture out there and share my life with anyone except my daughter, my cat, and my little dog Lily. Lily sleeps better with something to hug. Maybe someday I’ll give that a shot again.

Sleep well

-Carly G.

He Picked Me!

How many times  over the years did I proclaim that statement with utter joy? He picked ME, of all the girls he picked me! The “he” doesn’t matter, in retrospect. Until the last couple of years, that was my mentality. I would get myself all dolled up, so to speak. I’d chase or stand back and hope, shine as brightly as I could in the hopes that I would  be chosen by a specific person. And then I’d be thrilled and keep up my word, to the best of my ability, to be the best girlfriend I could be. A couple of  years ago a suitor said to me, “I’m just a guy, you don’t have to deify me.” He probably didn’t say deify but that’s what he meant.

I realize now that I probably did deify the guys to justify to myself why I was with them, to give them worth and status that in some cases wasn’t deserved. It didn’t occur to me then that I could choose someone myself, and also had the right to say. “no thanks” to a man if they wanted to court me. I’d date men even if I wasn’t completely sold on them, because they liked ME. I’d get so caught up in the flattery, I’d just keep running with it, transforming it in my head to a glorious relationship with someone “better than me.” I’d feel so lucky to be in the company of “him.” Of course once it was over I’d see them as they actually were and kick myself, as more often than not they were not worthy of me. It’s funny the tricks the mind can play when you want to believe something.

On some level-okay probably all levels-it’s a straggling connection to my stepdad leaving. If a man shows me a ton of attention I can say “See, I AM worthy.” Looking back now that’s silly as Dad didn’t leave just me, it was the situation he ran from (tail between his legs, unkept promises piled in his wake like Bubonic bodies). The fact he was pretty shitty about it is something I can see now too, finally. You don’t just walk out on people you raise and never look back. Making excuses for him and taking the blame has been foolish on my part. And spending a good portion of my young-and-pretty relationship years trying to prove something to someone who isn’t there is about as unhealthy as you can get. Sorry, I got lost in my head there for a minute.

When I get emails now on the dating sites, sometimes I don’t write back at all if the sender is totally out of the ballpark. Or else I’ll write back things like, “You seem really nice but I’m afraid we’re not compatible because of…” The fact I’m not open to the idea of dating makes it easier, and it is good assertiveness training for me.

It’ okay to say no. It’s okay to be single. And it’s certainly okay to say “no thanks” just because someone picks you as their love interest.

Enjoy your weekend, and embrace your inner strength.

-Carly G.

Solitary Confinement


Ivy has been leaning on me for about a year to watch a documentary called Solitary Confinement.  Tonight  I opted to finally watch it so she’d back off. I would have preferred the topiary documentary but alas, thanks to Netflix, it is now only available on DVD. So I watched the show and no, it’s not in any way “inspiring.” Instead it showed me what I already knew. People who are isolated with too much time on their hands, alone with their thoughts, can go mad. Wanting alone time is one thing. Getting it is entirely another.

This brought to mind Henry Bemis, from that famous “Time Enough at Last,” Twilight Zone Episode. There was a man who wanted nothing more than to be alone, to read. And I’m sure you know the clincher, that the world is destroyed, he stumbles upon the town library and is thrilled-until he breaks his glasses. Irony at its best.

Some people need more social time than others. When Ivy’s not here, I’m happy to sit alone, enjoy the quiet. Soon after my divorce, sometimes I would light candles on the mantle and just stare at them, as I rested on the recliner. And at this (hopefully brief) period in my life, I’ll fight to the death anyone who tries to take away my solace, my Carly time. But realistically, am I ever really alone? No. I’ve got Henry and Lily. And Facebook and email. And there’s the TV which inevitably coerces me to turn it on. And when I refuse, when Lily and Henry are asleep and there are no sounds of meows and barks, or little girls…there are always the thoughts in my head and  the unwritten or unfinished characters vying for their day in the sun. But I bet I could go awhile without seeing real people (except Ivy who always feels connected to me no mater where she is).

When I first started watching the documentary tonight, I wondered how I’d cope. Could I? I pictured myself in the eight by ten foot cell. I’d sit at the desk, or on the bed and write, like crazy. Nonstop all day, every day, transporting myself somewhere else. I’d write whole novels in weeks. But what if they didn’t give me a computer? Or notebooks? What if all I had were the walls and my imagination? What if I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone, even via note, without being sentenced to more time alone?

I’ve been in situations in my past where I’ve been trapped, figuratively, and my imagination has always been my escape. Because really, no matter what is going on around you, you can just SNAP, pretend it’s not, pretend you’re somewhere else. We can see how well my talent of denial of real life surroundings has worked for me in the past but sometimes you need to let your mind take you somewhere else. It’s only when you stay “There” that it’s a problem.

Watching the show got me thinking about my self-imposed dating exile and how I’m happy to pace back and forth in my house. For now I’m like Henry Bemis, before he lost his glasses. There’s a whole world of relationships out there but I’m happy in my house with my kid and pets, and email and Facebook.

Despite the fact I leave Lily’s door open on her crate, she crawls into her special little house and sleeps for hours. I know how she feels. The recidivism rate for prisoners is insanely high and when I think about it, I generally land myself back in solitary too. “The outside” aka “dating” is rough. I like it here in solitary. It’s safe and predictable and for a little while at least, a cell I don’t want to leave.

Who Can You Trust?

Maybe I’m old-fashioned but the sites that cater to “married but looking” or “couples looking for a third” or any of the other special companions people seek out, unsettle me. I don’t lie awake at night worrying about it, and I guess they serve their purpose, but I prefer the couples-only, people-looking-for-monogamous-long-term relationship services.

I know eHarmony prides itself on providing just these types of matches. That said, this week I saw two disturbing profiles that reminded me that just because someone lists themselves a certain way, doesn’t make it so. I’ve become more perceptive and less trusting in general but these two were so obvious, it made me really look at all the ads with a little more caution. These sites are based on the honor system after all. The eHarmony folks trust that if someone says they are divorced or single or looking for monogamous long-term companionship, they are. I however realize I can’t do the same.

Last week an ad came  up that caught my eye. At first glance, the guy’s pictures showed him as very attractive. And he was holding a guitar. Great smile. Good age. Respectable occupation. But then I saw his descriptions and his wants. He said “sex” three times in his short ad. Things he can’t live without: sex. Things he does in his leisure time: sex. Things he’s good at: sex. Things you should know about me: I like to keep things interesting.

So he’s a sex addict who likes to maintain a roller coaster life fraught with drama. Suddenly the look in his eyes, the Svengali “look at me I’m sexy” glance repulsed me. Reminded me of Austin Powers. Kind of like how now if I look at chocolate cake I see yellow fat globules and poop. My perspective has changed.

Then this morning an update came up for someone I deleted. eHamony has a sort of news feed so that if someone adds a new photo or changes something, it pops up, even if you’ve archived them.

The What I’m Passionate About section was updated to read: I AM MARRIED but my wife now knows I’m online dating and she wants you ladies to know that anyone looking for a scumbag then I AM ALL YOURS!!!

On a later section the following was written: I am a MARRIED hypocrite using online dating sites while judging my wife.

Nice.

Yesterday I saw a TV ad for a phone app for background checks. I think it was $14.95 a month. I can see that maybe, if you’re getting serious with someone you might want to run a background check to make sure they don’t have a record. But are you going to run them so often you actually need a phone app for them with a service you pay monthly? Is our society so prepared to be lied to that we need legal confirmation of everything? It seems that yes, we do.

It used to be that most people were honest and you might encounter a pathological liar once in your life. That’s why Jon Lovitz’s SNL character was funny, because he stood out from the crowd. I wonder if he would be as noticable now or if he’d be placing an ad on eHarmony talking about a great job and his single status. “Yeah, I’m single and I make a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. That’s the ticket.” It’s becoming harder to believe what I see in print: in food ads, dating ads, news stories.

I’m sure there are plenty of trustworthy folks out there, but by their forties maybe they just think they need to lie to make themselves marketable. Like used cars. No worries. Now we’ve got CarFax and for the humans we’ve got a phone app.

What I’d like to see is a UPC symbol on dating ads. You scan that with your phone and you can obtain the ManFax. Then when they try to sugarcoat whatever it is they’re hiding you can interrupt and say “show me the ManFax.”

Until that happens though, I just need to take what I read with a grain of salt. I need to move slowly and cautiously, checking and rechecking, making sure what I see is what I get.

Ivy and Lily are, as always, plenty of companionship to hold me over until one honest shining star bursts forth into my life and makes me believe again.

Carly G.