Five years ago, W. was president again, PJP II had passed, the first face transplant went down in France, and I was single. I wasn’t struggling with it in any conventional sense, and I wasn’t miserably lonely – quite the opposite. Life had taken on a comfortable rhythm post divorce- running 5 nights a week, Law & Order marathons, “Welcome to Moe’s!”, a goal set and met of a 5k a month, peppered with kind friends and mini adventures. Maybe not your cup of tea, but it was mine, and it. Was. Delicious.
While my debt (*cough* thanks ex husband *cough*) had me working a second job a couple of nights a week, I had few complaints. My affordable 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath apartment was in a bustling and alive part of town, and it was painfully charming with its squeaky hardwoods, eat in kitchen and spacious back deck — ideal for writing under a canopy of leaves, among screaming squirrels and birds.
My rub with relationships then wasn’t a source of panic or frustration or desperation – it was one of annoyance and whybotheritis. I’d met and spent time with smart and wonderful men, they just didn’t fit me and I didn’t fit them.
Cut to: my seester.
My seester with a brain as giant as her overly generous heart, with her masters in forensic psychology and her multiple life-coach certificates. My sister, who always has time for one of my rambling ranty calls from across the continent.
As we spoke one afternoon, I imagined her in her LA garden surrounded by bougainvillea and under the orange tree near the guest cottage/her office.
“Go to your happy place.” she said, and I nearly choke-laugh which really isn’t that funny since I’m pretty sure I was driving at the time. “Do you have one? Maybe a park? Maybe a diner? Go there. Go there and bring paper with you and a pen – this can’t be done on a computer, there’s something primal and healing about the depression a pen makes in paper.”
I’m skeptical but intrigued and then skeptical some more, because I feel like there’s a hidden camera in the mix somewhere and I’m about to make a complete fool of myself.
“Make a list.” she tells me. I may have scrunched my nose or rolled my eyes or both.
“Make a list of what the perfect mate looks like – and I don’t mean physical attributes though a few of those are fine, too. I mean what kind of person are they?”
I’m at a loss, and I flashback to a seminar class I had in high school where there were no right or wrong answers but I still felt like every one I could conjure up was not only complete stinky BS, but also horribly wrong.
As if feeling the trepidation rattle in me via our shared DNA, she throws one out one of hers to get me started: “He walks up behind me at the kitchen sink on a Saturday morning when I have rat-nest hair and yuck mouth and tells me I’m beautiful and I believe him.”
“Oh shit,” I remember thinking, “that’s good. I’m using that.” She throws a few more at me and we hang up with the “I love you’s” we’ve been saying for thirty years.
Two days later on my lunch break I head to a park near my office with a blanket, my pen and one of my trusty yellow tablets. I’m still looking around for a suspicious van loaded with zoom lenses ready to capture my idiocy, and embark on the task reluctantly. The next thing I know there are 5 pages of requirements: heartfelt and goofy, they’re representative of things I’d had and never wanted again, things I had and wanted again, things I’d never had.
A few weeks passed and I’d already forgotten the list, the exercise, the trauma of waiting to show up on AFV or a list of Darwin Award nominees when I met The Mc at a social event. I watched from a distance…kind. Confident without being cocky. Laughed openly and freely. Handsome.
There were several weeks of awkwardness that followed before I gave him the nudge he needed to ask me out, and when he did I had circled back around to the list – I was armed and ready with my modern day Santa/cookie demands.
Some might say “the rest is history”, but I usually try not to be that big of an ass hat.
The 4 ½ years since haven’t been all ice cream and cool ocean breezes with sizzling sunsets, and the fact is I have no guarantee the he won’t grow weary of my shenanigans a month from now and kick me to the curb (though I don’t think he will). What I do know is it’s pretty great, and that having the list was no coincidence.
If you’re having a hard time wrapping your brain around it, humor me a bit longer and let me hit you with an analogy. When you need a new pair of jeans, where do you go? Knowing that we each have our own answer, I ask you next, where would you go if you’d never had a pair of jeans. If you’d never SEEN jeans? If you’d never even HEARD of jeans? You might end up at U-Haul rental or a florist or a recycling center. Right? Because you don’t even know what you’re LOOKING FOR.
So just now, I’m writing all this out for you on a yellow tablet in another of my happy places, with a sliver of Sunday morning sun sneaking through the cracks of two tall buildings. The sun is finding its way to my pale, rickety legs while I sip coffee and worry about you.
I’m writing this in case you’re lonely and trying to make something or someone fit that doesn’t. I’m writing it for you in case you’re lost and frustrated.
I’m writing it for us – that we might appreciate what we have or have not, as a reminder that if we focus, if we breathe, if we have patience – we will find what we’re looking for…if we know what we’re looking for.