When I do…

The messages come in quick succession…..my car audio announcing every single one as my phone receives it. I guess my long-time friend, Andy, finally read my blog post about a tree. That’s nice, I think. I’m on a road trip with no time to respond and it’s just as well. We often go long periods of time in which we don’t hear from each other. So what if he liked the writing…..if it moved him. Not that I don’t care……I do. Deep down, I do….and it’s nice to be seen…..even if I’m happy at this point to just write and not be seen at all. I’m happy doing ME. Believe in me….or not…..I’m good.

The messages and response are a bit strange, though. I feel a shift….and I accept it. I accept it like it was always inevitable. I accept it like I’ve accepted job offers in which I’ve stepped fully into myself, my potential. This isn’t an employment opportunity, however….and I feel no satisfaction in maybe and finally proving myself in some capacity. I’m past that….have been past that since my mid-40s. Nevertheless, the shift is there. Something is different.

I decide to ignore it and continue on my happy way. I have a female friend traveling with me and we are having an absolute blast. The last thing I need to be doing is concerning myself with whether some man likes me….especially some man I’ve known over 30 years. I’m also pretty sure that any romantic feelings left in me regarding this person receded over a year ago after a few intimate and vulnerable conversations one night, followed by the realization that I didn’t feel emotionally safe with him.

The funny thing is, in all of the years I’ve known Andy, our only physical contact has been to hug after one of our rare and infrequent visits. Not once have we ever kissed or anything beyond that. This used to bother me….having this stone unturned. It also used to interfere in my relationships with others, whether or not I want to admit that. It’s unexplored territory…..with someone I believed to be the “one” for a very long time. But now, things aren’t the same. I’m not the same. In the fall of 2020, I met someone online who really gave Andy a run for his money…..and this person reignited my call to write. And this….is where….it gets interesting.

The person I met…..never met me in person again after our initial meeting. And while another meeting may have happened the following spring, I didn’t wait around for it. I didn’t wait around to be disappointed….again. Instead, I went out on a date with someone else and had a great time. For a moment, I chose myself…..just as I’m doing now. Although now, there’s no meeting and dating new people. Now, I just can’t find it in me to do all of that. I want to…..but the closest I’ve gotten to connection and comfort since last August is with someone twenty years younger than me. Not exactly a situation in which to get too deep….but that’s unlikely to happen anyhow. Age difference aside, there are no substitutes for this……thing…..whatever it is that I experienced and am still experiencing and going through.

People do show interest and message me…..but I (mostly) don’t respond. Or, I respond once or twice and then cease communication. It’s quite terrible, really….and I’ve been criticized and verbally attacked for it. This does little to make me care or change, however. Again, the last thing I need to be doing is concerning myself with whether some man likes me.

But where does this put me, exactly? Where am I, really? What exactly do I feel about anyone and why am I in this place? And what, exactly, is this experience? First and foremost, I probably should explain that while I know nothing and I am in control of nothing….I sometimes try to control my feelings by resisting them. Resistance, in fact, often feels like the only choice I have….other than to somehow just let go all together. I do this successfully, sometimes, too…..but when the hope creeps in, I have to check myself and push back. You see, I don’t know anything…..but I know that I have three different people, either in my life or on my mind, who are important to me. There’s my friend of over 30 years…..the friend I’ve met in person just once…..and then there’s the person who took me by surprise and who I fell in love with last year. Complicated, right? Yeah, I don’t need any of that. Because, not one of these people has any real, true, or serious romantic feelings for me.

And yet, the reality is that all three of these people have changed my life in ways I could have never imagined. They are the reason I am here now….writing. Andy gave me something to hold onto through many difficult years. Holding onto him allowed me to hold on to myself….and hope. My other friend, as I already mentioned, reignited the spark in me to write….to find myself again and dive deeper into the practice of letting go. If I had to guess, and if soulmates do exist, these people are that.

As far as the person I fell in love with? Well, he’s different. He brought me to a place where I need nothing and no one. At the conclusion of our romantic involvement, I didn’t feel crushed. I felt whole. Yes, I cry when I think about him too much or sometimes when synchronicity strikes….stunning me and beating me over the head with the “truth” that I don’t want to believe because I don’t want to hope. I don’t want to be crazy. I don’t want to be delusional. I don’t want to be unhealthy or co-dependent. I don’t want to be a fool. I don’t want to be closed off to other possibilities.

I don’t want to feel the pain of rejection again…..the rejection that waves at me from the shore, reminding me of the cold and brutal reality of things expressed. No thank you. I’d rather stay adrift….floating out here in the wide open sea rather than trying to come home to a place where the door is locked and my name isn’t on it.

This is why I can’t have much contact with this person. I need to pound it into my brain that he doesn’t love me and there’s no real connection…..even as I’m haunted at every turn. At least, the hope is kept at bay with no contact. With contact, I’m likely to take the fact that he’s a nice person as meaning something more than that. I can’t have it. I’m already over my head in all of the feelings….and just need to take the resulting growth (and possible spiritual expansion) and move forward with that.

And that is where I am. Writing…..growth…..and three people who sometimes feel like my personal team of cheerleaders trying to lead me toward something beyond the limits of a typical romantic relationship. If there is someone else out there for me, I don’t feel it. I used to, before last year, but now….it’s just me and the cheerleaders and any call to search has grown quiet, silenced by this thing. Whatever it is…..

Now, back to the beginning…..

About ten days after I return from my trip to the west coast, I receive an email from an older man I met while traveling last year. Nice guy….a lot of fun. He’s one of those people I believe I’ll stay in contact with for years to come. I am wrong. For some reason, he is under the impression he has to discontinue all contact and our friendship due to a new woman in his life. I am baffled by this…..and a bit upset by the cold and abrupt message he sends me. I mean, I would love to meet the woman with whom he’s fallen in love. I can’t imagine not liking her. I can’t imagine not being friends with both of them.

I message Andy and share this with him. Since we are both back in town, we decide to meet for coffee the next day. It’s a great visit. I’m mostly over the initial loss of the friend who emailed, but share new thoughts about same-sex and opposite-sex friendship. I also share, what I call, a “doppelganger” photo album on my phone……where I’ve collected photos of people who look like the person I fell in love with over a year ago and don’t really talk to. It’s both weird and crazy, but one would have to be in my shoes (I suppose) to understand how this photo album came about.

We then go to lunch, Andy and I….which leads to a longer visit than normal. On the way to eat, he tells me I smell good. I find this interesting, as something inside of me begins to stir ever so slightly. After we eat, a short time later, conversation naturally comes to a close with other duties pressing on our day and we hug goodbye.

And we continue to hug. And I press myself into him a little harder….closer.

Finally, I attempt to pull away…..but not before planting a kiss on his neck and jaw.

Which leads to more. More “goodbye” kissing…..which is really like “hello” kissing.

And then it’s over and I’m walking to my car.

Now, one can continue to blow off coincidences and synchronicity as meaningless happenstance…..and I can continue to deny every “sign” that hits me over the head. But here’s what I know. I meet Andy again, later the same evening. I lay in his arms as we talk…..and touch. Just these things are enough and so much. There are a couple of moments when I can’t stop smiling. Again, I know nothing….control nothing….but I do allow intuition to guide me, as I do in this instance. And this instance…..has been a long time in coming. No matter what happens after, this moment is no accident. Maybe it’s necessary…..for some sort of healing. Maybe it’s something we give to ourselves….time with someone we trust. Maybe it’s the beginning of something…..or maybe it’s the end.

I don’t care what it is. It’s the moment. It’s real. It’s life.

While we lay together talking, my phone alerts me to a new message. I ignore it…. and think nothing of it. I don’t check it until our visit is over and we part ways for the second time that day.

When I do, I’m hit over the head.

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