Today I sent out Christmas cards.

This may not seem like a big thing to you, but to me it is monumental. There was a time in my life where I was the Queen of Christmas – where I had my Christmas letter written, printed, folded and sent by the day after Thanksgiving. My house used to be decorated from top to bottom – from Christmas bedspread and shower curtain, to everyday Christmas dishes and wall hangings and a light up Christmas village on the top of the piano. Every room in my house reflected holiday goodwill – and even though I was in an unhappy marriage – I found happiness in the lights and music of the season.

2 years ago, when I broke up with my long term boyfriend, I couldn’t even fathom decorating for Christmas. But a dear friend promised to help, and with a tank full of gas and some fresh deposited debit cards, we went on a shopping spree to deck the halls. She and her husband hung lights on the front of the house, she superglued and pasted and primped and prodded until my house reflected the good cheer my heart wasn’t quite ready to embrace yet.

Last year, I thought I was ready to reclaim Christmas for myself. I went so far as to write the Christmas letter and ask my friends and relatives for their updated addresses, but then it all fell apart. The lovely decorations my friend had bought the year before stayed in their carefully packed crates. I tried to get motivated, but I wasn’t there yet. I did get out there – my friends invited me to participate in their festivities and I gladly went along and enjoyed the good cheer with them. I even bought a small Christmas tree finally and presents for friends.

This year has been different. You won’t find a Christmas bedspread or shower curtain in my house, but the Christmas spirit started in my heart earlier. SH and I are celebrating our first Christmas together, and it has been fun. We’ve gone for fun drives to see Christmas lights throughout the neighborhoods. SH pulled out the boxes of crates, and I discovered a box from my Queen of Christmas days with enough lights to triple our power bill. At first, I was overwhelmed by the stuff I saw. However, it was easy to let go of most of it and just keep the few things that were happy memories and incorporate them with stuff my friend helped me buy 2 years ago, and new stuff SH and I bought together.

I think that has been the difference. The togetherness. As I look around my house now – it doesn’t look like Martha Stewart or HGTV. There are little touches of Christmas here and there – but more than that – everything is stuff we did together – from the hanging of the ornaments on our little Christmas tree – to the wooden and metal ornaments we hung on the big tree in the front yard – to the silly solar snowmen that blink on the front walk – and the rubber Santa duck in the bathroom – it’s not just Christmas – it’s memories of us together working on it.

The Christmas letter I wrote this year was mostly my story – next year, it will be ours. We sat in front of the TV last night, watching holiday cooking shows and folding and addressing and stamping and licking, and together we got them done. When I dropped them in to the big blue mailbox at work and saw them slide inside and heard the lid clang closed, I felt triumphant. This year the Christmas cheer I feel is not something outside seeping in – it is something inside bubbling out.

YAY!

The Verger

“Imagine what you could be, if only . . . “

When I was in junior high, we were assigned to read the short story THE VERGER by W. Somerset Maugham. You can read the full version here: http://www.sinden.org/verger.html

The shorter version:

Albert Edward Foreman was the verger (lay person) of St. Peter’s in Neville Square and had been a faithful servant for sixteen years. So imagine his surprise when he was let go by the new vicar, who didn’t like the fact that Albert couldn’t read nor write.

He went walking to clear his head, craved a cigarette, but couldn’t find a shop that sold any. So he opened his own. It did so well, he opened another. And then another. And then ten more. Until one day the banker talked to him about switching from a bank deposit to a more lucrative form of investment. When he revealed he couldn’t read, the banker exclaimed – “. . . what would you be now if you had been able to?”

To which Albert Edward Foreman replied, “I’d be verger of St. Peter’s, Neville Square.”

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot lately. If things went smoothly all the time, if we were never forced to seek a change for ourselves and our lives, think of all the opportunities we would have missed. So many disappointments in my life have ultimately led me to a place of greater happiness.

Of course, Albert didn’t wait around for his next opportunity to find him. In fact, he went out, cleared his head, found a need, and filled it. He made things happen for himself. He found a way to survive, and ultimately, to overcome.

Sometimes, when I tell parts of my life story, people say, “Oh, my goodness. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

I appreciate the kind words, but I look at where I am now, how crazy the past 4 months have been, and how they might not have happened if some of the bumps in my path had not been there. And I’m eager to say, “No – it’s okay. It’s great even. Because look where I am now. Look at the good I have now. I wouldn’t have had it if these things hadn’t happened. I wouldn’t even know how good it all could be if the yuck hadn’t been there.”

I could have been the Verger. I’m so glad I’m not.

The Bureau of Happiness

It was just a drawer.

But he offered it to me with such openness and excitement that I got overwhelmed. Never before had I been offered space in someone else’s haven. I had asked for it several times – and been first offered a corner here or there to stash some stuff, and eventually been incorporated in to someone’s life.

Now, I was being offered a drawer – a top drawer – where I could leave things behind so that when I came back again, there it would be – ready and waiting for me.

We stopped by the store on the way back from dinner – and I picked up a few things like toothpaste and deodorant and we came back and I put them in my drawer. I’ll admit I was so giddy that I accidentally bought conditioner instead of shampoo, but all in all – it was a quiet little moment of special.

This is just such an amazing relationship, “I told a friend. “It is just so effortless.”

I recognize that not everything will always be like this. But to have an opportunity to move together at a similar pace, not having one partner or the other in the relationship be at different stages and waiting and wondering if the other will catch up – that’s something so profoundly cosmic, and somehow so rare.

“I opened up the top drawer and saw your things in there and it just made me happy,” he told me the next morning.

It makes me happy too.

Rearranging Poetry

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I’d walked by it for months and left it untouched. But finally I turned around and knelt down and started moving the pieces back up to eye view.

It was magnetic word poetry, given to me by friends. When I first put it on my fridge, I’d ask my friends to make a phrase or poem before they left. But last year, while I was dating a guy with kids, they got rearranged. The children couldn’t read, the words meant nothing to them. Instead, they focused on making random lines and bringing things down to their level.

It’s not uncommon for us to destroy what we can not appreciate. Or to disregard the impact of one existence over another.

The old poetry was gone. But as i moved the words back up within reach, new poetry started being formed. I found myself smiling at the new combinations I could make, the new phrases I could combine.

Maya Angelou passed away today. I remember the thrill of going to see her in person a few years ago and hearing her talk. I remember the inspiration her words held and still hold for me. I wondered what new words would inspire us now.

Maybe now is the time for us to look back at the language we use, the language that has been brought down to a lower level, and bend down and bring it back up to a higher view.

I wonder what poetry we could make if we only tried.

Tasting the Cake

I lied about my first kiss.

Not the one from the boy named Billy who defended my honor back in kindergarten. But the one in high school that I told my classmates about, rather than admitting that no boy had tried yet.

It happens. But it’s a shame when it does. Because when I finally did kiss a boy, when it finally happened, I couldn’t tell anyone. I remember leaning in, my lips pressed to his, and thinking “this is my first kiss!” But after boasting that I had kissed already, I felt I had to play it cool rather than reveal my secret.

Other times, I’ve lied to myself. “This is love,” I told myself with my first husband. At 23, I somehow convinced myself I was getting too old and may never get married. Then he and I met and rather than be alone I pushed and I prodded and I rushed our relationship from dating to living together to being engaged to getting married. One month after our wedding, I found myself lying face down on my bed, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling trapped in a situation that would continue until “death do us part.” It took me seven years and my dad’s death before I had the courage to admit failure and move forward.

Why do we rush love?

It’s kind of like power-leveling through a video game. We slash and hack and hurry through the starting zone, barely reading the quest descriptions or paying attention to the story line. We push to reach all the fabulous end-game content we’ve read about and then suddenly – we are at a standstill.

I don’t want to do that this time.

It’s like trying to frost a cake that hasn’t even baked yet. The process of mixing the ingredients, prepping the pans, preheating the oven, and the house filling with the wonderful smells: all this should be savored not microwaved. Anticipation gives heightened ecstasy.

Sometimes I wonder if we try to skip steps in the process because we don’t want to take the time and then see the flaws. We figure if we hurry past the red flags, maybe they won’t really apply to us. Sometimes we mistake the adrenalin of the hunt for the tingles of attraction.

I’m afraid to say that this time is different for me. That sounds so cliché and starry-eyed. But I’m not so anxious this time: I’m not looking to hit milestones and make declarations. I’m okay with taking things slow. I’m not seeking validation or assurances about what is happening. And for something truly shocking, I’m not trying to control the outcome.

“Who is this and what have you done with my Joey?” one of my close friends recently demanded.

She stopped to taste a bite of cake. And the cake is not a lie.

Dating at Fortysomething

I used to not have a problem putting myself out there,” my friend Randi said. “I’d go out, date guys, no problem. But then I got in to the more geeky side of things and when I’d flirt with guys they’d get this deer in the headlights look and I’d get self-conscious and now it’s been a while since I’ve been out on a date. I guess I’ve just forgotten how to flirt.

I’ve had conversations like this with many of my friends in their forties and fifties. They used to date, they want to date, but somehow they just stopped dating. And they aren’t sure why or if they are really ready to do something about it.

“Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?” I recently asked my friend Dave. “Do you picture yourself with someone? Or do you see yourself alone? What would make you happy?”

It depends,” he confessed. “Some days I see it one way, other times I see it the other.

I’ve never pictured myself alone. I’m not afraid to be alone; I would just prefer not to be. Yet the older we get, the more often I see my friends operating on a solo flight through life. Some choose that path; others just accept it as their fate. Like many things, I think the opportunities to find that someone change as we get older. In high school or college you had parties and activities and a seemingly endless pool of candidates. As an adult, you have smaller pools with more complicated consequences – you don’t want to date where you work, make things awkward amongst your friends, run in to them at your favorite hangouts, or be the creepy person in the grocery store trolling the produce aisle for melons and a phone number.

Plus, there is the rejection. There is always someone prettier, younger, richer, more successful, thinner. We feel broken compared to them. And then there is the fear: why does this person like me? What’s wrong with them? Why are they still single? They must be broken, too.

We are all broken,” Rocker points out to me a lot. “When you get to be our age, you are going to have a few nicks and dings and cracks. What you have to see is if both your broken bits work together or just make each of you worse.”

I kind of like that. In my head, I picture a wheel of four hands, each one holding together the broken bits of the other person’s spoke. I’ll have strength to cover you here, you have strength to cover me there. Together, holding hands, we’ll get through this journey.

I fail a lot. I look back at the past year and the men I’ve dated and the reasons why things didn’t work out. I’ve been lied to, cheated on, stolen from, and sugar momma’ed (is that a word?). I’ve flirted with men who patted me on the head and walked away. I’ve had others not even respond. But I’ve also made some great friends, had some fond memories, and told some funny stories. I’m not a natural at this dating thing – I’m sometimes worse than a noob. But I keep trying.

It’s worth it, y’know. Putting yourself out there. I know I’m in a good place right now, so it’s easier for me to say that. But this blog proves I’ve been in bad places too. You have to keep trying – working at it – failing at it – and trying again. May we all find someone else to hold hands with.

The Final Box

It was a short email.

“I’m finally down to the last little bit of stuff to get out of [the place], so please let me know when and how is best for me to get a small box of your things to you.”

You would think after over a year, I would be done with putting this relationship behind me. In many ways, I have. I actually suggested that anything that I hadn’t had in a year was worth throwing away. . . only, he had a DVD of my sister in her one and only horror film role (a very amateur film, but still).

Bite the bullet, Joey.

It really wasn’t that bad. I drove to his work and pulled my car beside his and texted that I was there. A bit of an evil spirit crept in and I pondered walking in to alert him that I had arrived. I wondered what his co-workers would say when they saw me, given everything. They had always been so warm and kind, and several had reached out to me after the split. But I stayed put.

He came out, I unlocked the doors, and he transferred the box from his car to mine. We said some polite banalities, and for the brief moment our eyes met I felt . . . nothing. I watched him walk away with mild curiosity, wondering if the moment was the same for him.

I had actually seen him recently – at a restaurant near my house. I walked in with a friend, deep in conversation. It was only after I was seated for a while and happened to glance to my left that I recognized first the back of his head, and then saw her. I thought of interrupting my friend to tell him, but it wasn’t important enough. I focused on my friend, he was more important, and when we had a pause, I told him only to realize they were gone. Whether they saw me or not, I do not know.

I’ve always said that anyone going through a major break-up or divorce needs at least one year before they are truly able to put everything behind them. I was no exception to the rule. Both moments had been times I had dreaded, but they passed with very little excitement. That’s good. It’s how it should be.

I’m so thankful that this all happened several weeks ago. When a new chance at happiness came into my life, I was able to approach it unfettered with any nagging leftovers from before. It’s an amazing feeling, and I’m a very lucky girl.

I Stalked a Boy and I Liked It

I saw him first on Tinder – a dating app that incorporates Facebook to compare your common interests, mutual friends, and location. If you and your match select “yes” for each other, a chat message feature is unlocked. I’ve been told that some people only use it for a hook up system – others use it to find someone to date. Me, I was using it for research. Yeah, research. I swear. No really. Uh huh.

I’d had a few chat messages with folks, some I already knew, but nothing magical. One guy’s idea of flirting with me was to assure me “I’d blow ya” repeatedly. This was after informing me he was a professor at UNC-Charlotte teaching classes in public speaking and writing. Really? That’s the best shot you’ve got?

Most people answered back within a day or two of matching. Well, except for one. Every time I received a heads up that there was a new chat message, I kept hoping it would be him. But alas, no: it was the “I’d blow ya” guy with another eloquent come on.

In frustration, I clicked on his profile again to see if there was something wrong with him that I could use as salve for my bruised ego. I mean, c’mon, I’m a catch y’all. He still didn’t have any flaws, except one. He hadn’t logged in for 3 weeks.

AAUUGH! How can you not log in when I’m waiting for you to reply?? How dare you!

But wait. We have mutual friends! On Facebook! I could find him!

I asked my friends if this was creepy, and they looked at each other and said “Yes!” but I didn’t care. It was at least worth a shot.

So I stalked him off a mutual friend’s page, friend requested him and he added me back almost immediately. We started chatting and I confessed that I had stalked him from Tinder. (I mean, what if he logged in to Tinder after and then saw that I had messaged him weeks ago – now THAT would be creepy). This way all the creepy was right up front and he seemed okay with it.

Long story short? We met in person and have hit it off really well. To quote a phrase, we are smitten. Indeed, we are in “deep smit.”

I’ve broken several rules this time around, including my “not-declaring-a-potential-new-relationship- before-90- days” rule. Sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. Or at least tested for validity. For research. Yeah, research. I swear. No really. Uh huh.

*dances off happily*

Bottom’s Up

For this last round of tests, I had to lie bare bottom up. And as I was lying there, waiting for them to aspirate me, Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” came on the radio. It’s true, I got rickrolled.

I laughed out loud in the operating room, which surprised the surgical assistant.  It also got me a shot of dilaudid to add to my xanax and morphine.  I’m not complaining.

In fact, I’m very appreciative that I’ve found humor through all of this.  I do believe laughter is the best medicine.

You know what isn’t the best medicine?  Metronidazole. That stuff is just downright nasty. The taste on your tongue could drive you to drink, but you can’t drink because it can have a disulfiram reaction aka alcohol will make you feel like you are going to die.

I was glad to see the bottom of that pill bottle, let me tell you.  Not only does it mean no more nasty nasty, it also means I might finally be recovered.  I’ll know for sure next week, after my third CT Scan. Hopefully, it will show no more post-operative complications, and allow me to get back to work.

Work would be welcome right now. I’ve been cleared to work from home for 20 hours a week.  Fortunately, my short-term disability will pick up the other 20 hours. Short-term disability is a wonderful thing, and I’m thankful for it.  But the transition from my regular paycheck to partial pay has been rough – especially since I had budgeted to be out of work for only 2 weeks, and I’m on my sixth week now.  The decreased pay and the increased co-pays and prescriptions has made things a tight squeeze.  I’ve come to my bottom dollar in more ways than one.

Yet, I’m still here.  Friends, family, unexpected windfalls, generosity and kindness has abounded beyond measure. And joy, happiness, giddiness and glee.  Legos.  Legos are awesome.  Legos that make lego people fly through the air?  More awesome.

You gotta laugh.  What’s the alternative?  Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.  Bottom’s Up, world.

Aliens, Poo and Pelvic Activity

So it has been almost a month since my alienectomy.

To say that transition from alien baby carrier (10 inch dermoid cyst firmly attached to my left ovary) to recovery patient of a hysterectomy and partial oophorectomy (left ovary removal) has been an adventure would be odd.

On the one hand, I had a month to plan.  But there are some things you just can’t plan for properly.  For example, I was aware that the surgery would mean that my stomach would hurt for a while and that I would have 3 external incision areas, and one internal incision area.

What I didn’t know was that I wouldn’t be allowed to push when I had to poop.  Do you have any idea how hard it is to do that?  Let me tell you, there is only one way to poop without pushing – and that is called gravity.  I didn’t know that Gravity would win so many Oscar awards, and I certainly didn’t know that it would be my salvation for the past several weeks.

I knew that I would have lots of free time to focus on other things besides work – but I had no idea how much of my time would be spent focusing on pooping.  I took medicines, special home remedies, avoided cheese, got more advice than I knew what to do with, and then combined them all in one historic day I called “The Great Poo Day.”

But pooping has not been my only focus.  In addition to the admonitions not to poop – I was also warned repeatedly that I was to engage in absolutely no pelvic activity of any kind for the next 4-6 weeks. Sadly, I also had no pelvic activity for several months leading up to the surgery, so one would think I would be rather used to this.

What I was not used to was how much sex fills our lives every day.  Even though I have avoided pelvic activity – I can not seem to escape sex.  I can’t watch love stories, crime stories, comedy shows – I find myself hiding behind cooking shows and the Disney channel – and even those seem to work it in.  And trust me, I know Mickey Mouse’s “Hot Diggety Dog” dance way better than I should (and am a little too attracted to the way Minnie Mouse dances.)

Pooping and Pelvic Activity keep me amused and entertained – and also helped distract me from the real stuff – like the loneliness and the pain and the fear.

Let me preface by saying that I have the most amazing friends. They have surrounded me with love and caring and free slave labor. I would not survive without them.  But there is still those moments when you are lying in bed or half-naked in an exam room or even trying to wash yourself in the shower when the loneliness just hits you.  I miss cuddling – just having someone I know and trust to spoon me and stroke my hair and just breathe with me.

I’m not the only single person out there, I’m not the only one that feels this aloneness – and I acknowledge that.  But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck sometimes.

My recovery has not been as smooth as we planned.  I’ve had side effects like random bleeding that have caused me to go back for additional tests and procedures.  I found out that I had cancer after it was already gone – a circus of highs and lows, portent and relief and intimidation.  Now I’m dealing with an unknown post-operative mass that may just be blood, or could be an infection.  My diabetes adds further complications that could hinder my recovery if it is an infection.  Today I go in for another procedure to sample the mass so the doctors can figure out what we are dealing with.

So what’s a girl to do?  Face the challenges that come – try to distract myself when I can – and blog a little to let you know what is happening.

I’ll try to keep you posted – I’ll try to get back to the business of posting crazy dating stuff – but for now – thanks for reading.