I accept the challenge:
Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.
This doesn’t need to be a depressing exercise; you can write about that time you lost the three-legged race at a picnic. What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.
Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.
This actually couldn’t come at a better time, so sit back and read part one of “The One Who Got Away – and Boy, Am I Glad!”:
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Let me start by saying, I am very happily married now, and have been for the past 8 1/2 years. I’ve been with my husband, the ‘Publican, for just over 10 years. It’s a good second marriage for both of us, primarily about companionship, starting in our middle-aged period of life, and it sustains me.
In fact, in this morning’s journal writing (I do “Morning Pages” – three pages of longhand writing every morning), I was writing about this subject and I pointed out three areas where I am so grateful for my husband. These are:
1. He has always provided a safe place for me, not just physically, but emotionally. I do not have to walk on eggshells when I’m with him, nor worry about being rejected or abandoned;
2. He has always allowed me to be me. This goes along with number one, above, but it’s richer, too. He has been supportive of my numerous cockamamie ideas, has never questioned my needs for privacy, greater than his own, and has accommodated me in various ways. This is not a martyrdom play, either (*sigh* – I put up with her . . . *sigh*); he knew he was getting a fully formed adult when he married me, so it was more about accepting me as I was, and he has; and
3. He makes me laugh every single day we are together. Seriously, that’s a lot of laughter. Even on days when we’ve been unhappy, or annoyed with each other, we’ve always found, or I should say, he’s always found, a way back to me through humor. It’s made it easier to put things in perspective, and move on, finding solutions when we can, and accepting things (and each other) when we can’t.
Keep those three in mind.
So I have to journey back a number of years to a time in my life which wasn’t as happy. Around 18 or so years ago. I was working more than full-time, being a single mom, living in a townhouse with an upside-down mortgage. I was coming to terms with myself in an area of my life that I never dreamed was a problem until then.
I should have known, though, given my personal and familial history, that this would be an issue, but hindsight – you know it’s that 20/20 thing.
I had borrowed to be able to put money down to get my townhouse. That’s a big no-no for obvious reasons, but when I bought it, it was being done with a wink and a nod. There were plenty of “liar loans” then which led to a run-up in values, a crash, and then the fall-out. Eventually, I went through all of that. This was way before the big crash in 2008-09, by the way. Just offering an historic perspective and a cautionary note for those who think it could never happen again – it could.
So I was in over my head, not getting much child support, not making all that much, and still, I was buying expensive shoes, and books (lots of books), and eating out, and buying clothing, basically spending two or three times what I should have been spending on my very tight budget. And the money went to what? I don’t know – I just know that I managed to rack up some pretty good debt.
I had a background in 12-step programs, so eventually someone mentioned a program I’d never heard of at the time – DA, or Debtors’ Anonymous. Here in Los Angeles, we have a plethora of 12-step programs, so it wasn’t difficult to find a meeting. I think for the first few months, I just sat in the back and cried. By the time I was sharing in the meetings, fessing up to my debt, my “number” as they called it horrified me. See, I wasn’t even opening the bills at that point so to even get to the number was a process of opening my mail and adding it up.
Talk about shame!
My friends were stunned; even my therapist (oh yeah, I was in intensive therapy that was only partially paid for by insurance, so that was another place my money went) wondered why I wasn’t better at managing my money, considering . . . I had an undergraduate degree in economics! Yep. But that doesn’t make you good with your money, it just means you can use calculus to draw a demand and supply line on the board.
So I was a mess.
Months into DA, I started going to a meeting and noticed a pretty cute guy there. And when he spoke! He had the most amazing voice – smooth, low, somewhat husky. A true “radio announcer” but cooler than that, voice. Plus, the best part, wasn’t the package of looks and voice – it was what he was saying. It spoke to me on an intellectual and spiritual level. I don’t know who approached who at first, but eventually over a meeting or two, we introduced ourselves and began to enjoy each others company at meetings.
Now . . meetings are a tricky place to make friendships and other relationships. Only you who have been in 12-step programs really know what I’m talking about. But picture this – people are speaking from the heart about tough issues (alcoholism, drug addiction, debting, overeating, sexual addiction) and sharing as they put it in program, their “experience, strength and hope” with each other. That’s how the program works, “one alcoholic sharing with another alcoholic – on how to stay sober and live life.” To get better, you have to reveal yourself, and you have to put your trust in others who’ve been there, too.
It’s a powerful mix (I was going to say cocktail!) of intimacy, soulfulness with a dash of humor that can be quite amazing. These people get me! you scream inside. They are my tribe. And that guy over there – my tribe mate, well . . . boom chicka bow wow! No wonder we have meetings dealing with sex and relationships.
Just by being in the meetings, I found out a lot about “Jacob” – he was newly divorced and had just been through a foreclosure and bankruptcy. And he was readying himself to leave the U.S. to volunteer/work for an NGO (non-governmental organization) in a foreign country.
The truth is – his “share” was amazing to me. I hadn’t heard anyone be quite as articulate about all the issues surrounding debting and valuing yourself and others, quite like him. Plus he had a long history with 12-step programs and philosophy, as he was also a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.
But to look at him, with his clean-cut demeanor and somewhat dorky glasses, all of this, both his sordid past, and his murky future – seemed put on hold. I was willing to just listen to him talk about . . . well, probably about anything, but he was talking about deep and abiding subjects and not in a stodgy way, either. He had humor and could laugh at himself as well.
One thing I also noticed, and had I been paying better attention, would have liked to have not only noticed, but put a big fat check-mark on, was his flirtatiousness. Yes, with me, but with every other female in the room, too. He didn’t do it obviously, he wasn’t handsy or crude (far from it), but in his boyish nerd persona combined with the voice (oh my gosh, the voice), he had quite a few of us ladies getting the vapors.
We began phoning each other for hours at a time. He was living on a boat in the Marina, a friend’s that he was “boat sitting” for (really, again, how romantic!) I was in San Pedro, which felt like a world away. We’d laugh, he’d tell stories, so would I, we’d talk program stuff like how to remain sane around money, and we’d flirt with each other. Again, a red flag? He never pushed it further, like going on a date, or seeing a movie together, or even having a cup of tea. (He didn’t drink coffee.) I didn’t push it either. But it never occurred to me, which was stupid, right?, that if he was giving such good phone to me, I might not be the only one.
This part of the tale could be “How to fall in love 101” because whether I knew it or not, I was definitely falling and hard. And him? Oh he was leaving soon. But before that – time for an affair with a crazy woman in the canyons of Los Angeles who turned him inside out and upside down. I think he was glad to get on the plane after that relationship soured, which it was going to inevitably.
But I didn’t know much about this until much later in the story.