She said to me “Boy, you pushed love away with both hands!”
I’d gone on this Tinder date a couple months after my latest relationship had gone up in smoke. I wasn’t really looking for a hookup or even a relationship. I guess I just wanted some conversation. It was an interesting date and it revealed more about me than I think I really wanted to know at the time. She gave me a kiss at the end of the night and a couple of weeks later asked if I’d like to get together again. I declined, not because of her, but because I’d learned something about myself that made it pretty clear it wouldn’t be fair to her or any other woman.
See, twenty two years with my wife gave me a pretty solid idea of what a stable, successful marriage was all about. Losing her in my mid-forties provided me with the excruciating experience of widowhood. Four kids revealed most of the intricacies of parenthood, both in a marriage and as a single parent. And as the kids grew up, I got to experience being an empty-nester.
The first failed relationship after Liz died provided me with a taste of love just sort of fading away. The second gave me the pain, I can imagine, of a messy divorce. Love still there but two parties unable or unwilling to figure out how to make it work.
I used to look around and say to myself, “Dick, you really didn’t do much with your life”. I’ve been tied to the same company for twenty-eight years. I spent most of those years with the same woman. I just didn’t walk along any of the edges of life. In the words of John Gorman: I showed up. Don’t get me wrong, I did all the things a husband and father and employee are expected to do. But I didn’t do a whole lot more than that. Then Liz died. So I tried to recreate something like my marriage. That failed. Finally, somewhere in that last relationship, I realized that just showing up wasn’t doing me, or anyone else, any favors.
Now, my personal philosophy is that the Universe gets a little pissed off when you just show up. And it starts tossing things in your path to wake you up. Like the death of a spouse. Or a “comfortable” relationship just withering away. There’s no end to the bad shit that can come your way if you don’t open your eyes and get involved in your own life. Because this life is a gift.
Brene Brown speaks to this more eloquently than I can:
“I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing — these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt — has to go.
Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.
Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.’’
I think, way back in my subconscious, I realized that entering another long term relationship would be like giving a big Fuck You! to the universe. And, based on past experience, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. All these things have happened to wake me up.
So, tomorrow evening I get on my Harley, with a weeks worth of clothes, a tent and a sleeping bag. I’m grabbing life by the balls, a week at a time. Wish me luck. I expect I’ll get exactly what’s coming to me.
Thank you for reading.