Happy F@#%ing Valentines!

 

Unknown“Saaay, are either one of you two doing anything for Valentine’s Day?”

That is the sentence, uttered by one of my not-to-be mentioned girlfriends ten years ago or so, that started the chain of events that led to a Valentine’s Day that sucked so bad that I would never care about this so-called romantic day again. It’s a good thing, really. Valentine’s Day seems to breed expectations, and expectations inevitably lead to disappointment. Since my V-Day from hell, it’s been uphill ever since.

Ok, let’s go back to that fateful sentence my friend said over her second glass of wine that night. “Maybe you two should go out if neither one of you is doing anything,” she said pointing her finger at me and the guy she was trying to set me up with, and waggling it back and forth.

The bar was too dim for my friend, or the guy, (let’s just call him Mr. X for the sake of this story) to see the blood rising up to my face, but I was afraid they’d notice me squirming on my barstool. I sent out mental daggers that whizzed right past Mr. X’s face, hoping they would land on my girlfriend’s larynx and shut her up. I did not think it was a good idea to go out with this guy. In my limited experience with him, I had seen the dreaded Red Flags I was now trying to avoid.

“That could work out,” he said easily, and turning to me, asked, “Would you like to go to dinner? I could pick you up around four.”

Thoughts raced through my head like a ticker tape machine on steroids. Wait, he said had a girlfriend, oh yeah, she’s married, and what about his ex, I don’t think he’s a good guy to get involved with, still he’s so nice and charming, and it would be fun to actually have a date on Valentine’s Day, four o’clock, who goes out on a date that early? what could it hurt, I mean he’s never done anything to me, I could just give him a chance, set my boundaries, it’s been four years, just this one time will probably be ok, or should I? 

“Well, what do you think?” he asked, turning to me, delicately picking up his small glass of beer and taking a sip, his pinky finger cocked. My friend was annoyingly mouthing yes and shaking her head up and down behind him.
“Uh, sure, I guess so,” I said casually, narrowing my eyes at my girlfriend when he turned away. ‘No’ doesn’t come easily to me.

Valentine’s Day had especially super-charged expectations that year since it fell on a Saturday. I got ready early, putting on an I’m-Not-Trying-to-Impress-You-outfit of jeans and a black top, and waited for the weird four o’clock pick up.

And waited. I was listening to my daughter’s new Outkast cd, ‘Speakerboxxx’, sexy and rappy, not really my kind of music, but I knew it had that song: Happy Valentine’s Day. The words to the song floated around my room, and eerily bounced off the walls: My name is Cupid Valentino/ The modern day Cupid/And I just want to say one thing/Happy Valentine’s Day/Every day the 14th

I started thinking about this guy, Mr. X. Another song on the album strained through the speakers, almost as if it was reading my mind: I hope you are the one/If not you are the prototype

Could he be the one? I glanced at my alarm clock and it said it was almost twenty to five. He was late! I put on the Valentine song again, the prophetic words kind of creeping me out: Now when arrows don’t penetrate, see, Cupid grabs the pistol/ He shoots straight for your heart/Now, and he won’t miss you!

And then I played the song again. And again, soothing myself with compulsion. Shit, where was he? It was close to 5:30, over an hour and a half late! I obsessively played the song, trying to calm my insides that jiggled with dread. Now I heard the words: I know you’re trying to protect your lil’ feelings/But you can’t run away/Oh oh!

Oh oh, was right. This feeling was so familiar. Fear and longing… waiting for someone who never showed up… this feeling was… (well, for me)…love. I flung myself off of my bed and called him for the first time ever, dialing his number from the business card he handed me when I first met him. His mother answered.

“No, he’s not here,” she was saying, “I believe he went out for the evening. Can I take a message?”

I gave her my name, heart now crazily pounding, all abandonment filaments rising to attention from the Dark Place, and hung up. I paced back and forth in my room, and you guessed it, played the song again. I wanted to hear that last line: Happy Valentine’s Day, fuck that Valentine’s Day/Fuck that Valentine, fuck that Valentine.

I grabbed my keys and coat and headed out into the cold starry night, driving up to the City, solo, to an anti-Valentine’s event for singles.

Sunday morning, February 15, I woke up with my head feeling woolen and wooden. Wooden, like numb, from the mental beating I given myself for being so stupid as to accept a date from this guy when I knew better, and woolen because of the gauzy dressing wrapped around said head, made out of cigarette smoke and wine fumes from the night before, that acted as a sort of makeshift bandage. Yep, my idea of First Aid: add insult to injury.

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Not more than an hour after I got up, there he was at my sliding glass door, dressed in his signature maroon sweatshirt looking concerned. My eyes narrowed. I didn’t even care if he saw me with my unwashed make-up free face, and bed head hair. He gestured for me to open the door. I slid it open six inches.

“Oh my God, don’t tell me you thought our date was last night?” he started.

I shook my head, no, as in stop it, but felt a kind of doubt creeping in. “What? Shut up!” Confusion was ping ponging around my poor head.

“My mother said you called. I am so sorry. That must have felt so horrible to be stood up on Valentine’s Day,” he said taking a step inside the door with his arms out as if wanting to give me a conciliatory hug. I backed up, but said nothing. “Honey, our date was for tonight, I said I’d pick you up Sunday.”

I am so easily gas lighted; did he say Sunday? But then I thought better. I stepped forward. “You said Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day was yesterday.” I kind of yelled that last word.

“Oh, well, I meant Sunday,” he said, and his demeanor suddenly changed from concerned to disinterested. “Do you want to go tonight?” he said half-heartedly.

“No!” I burst out, catching a cry in my voice and swallowing it. “What did you do last night? Valentine’s Day?” I wanted to know, but I didn’t want to know.

“I went out to dinner and a movie, ” he said in an easy monotone.

“With who?” I shot back without thinking too much about it.

“By myself, ” he said.

“By yourself? That’s WEIRD!” I said with way too much emotion in my voice. His face showed signs of momentary injury that hardened into a jaw set of anger.

“Well, ok,” he said, back to his mugging, false persona that he usually showed the world. “You take care now. Don’t be feeling all bad about Valentine’s Day.” And he left.

And that was the last time I ever talked to him.

Not.

But only this first show of bad behavior is on Mr. X.  The rest is on me.  Any claims I had to righteousness ended that Valentine’s Day.

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On Forgiveness

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One moment of true forgiveness can erase years of guilt, pain, or fear.  – Alan Cohen

On Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Mark Twain

You hear a lot about forgiveness these days. Forgive, and not necessarily forget, but rather forgive and Let Go. Lesson Number 122 in A Course in Miracles tells us that “Forgiveness Offers Everything I Want.” That’s a mighty big claim. Really? Everything?

I know that the person holding a grudge bears the burden, not the object of his or her bitterness. I know that if we forgive others, then we will be able to forgive ourselves.

But some people are easier to forgive than others.

Not that I’m an expert, but I have at least passed Forgiveness 101. I’ve barreled through forgiving my parents, (they did their best) my siblings, (ditto) the government, (they can’t please everyone) nature, (there must be reasons) God, (she’s smarter than me) all my Ex’s, (it takes two to tango) and myself (we all succumb to ego and insecurities). But there is one person I can’t forgive completely yet, and that is my last boss. Maybe someday, I will. Maybe never.

It is hard for me to admit that I don’t want to forgive her. Not wanting to forgive makes me mean and judgmental, makes me decidedly spiritually un-PC, but it’s not so much that I don’t want to forgive, but rather that I’ve been hurt, and forgiving her would mean I was letting her off the hook, or saying that what she did was okay.

On my 25th year of successful teaching, The Universe catapulted this woman from faraway lands and dropped her off in the tiny California town I have called home most of my life. At the same time, The Universe led me to the back by my best friend’s farm, near the fields I have frolicked through since I was a little girl, to discover a seemingly idyllic, little blue private school nestled in the back of town. It was at this very spot that the paths of my boss and I were destined to cross. This is the intersection is where The Universe decided to give me my graduate work on Forgiveness.

I had made the hard decision to leave my guaranteed tenure and pension in the public school system and the Test Taking Factory it had become after Bush decided to Leave No Child Behind, to ostensibly finish out my career in this outwardly tranquil little school, a short bike ride from the house I have lived in all of my adult life.

I had three bosses in three years. Boss One, saying how he liked my art projects and the Beatle music I played, told me to keep doing what I was doing. Boss Two, old and Wise, laid back and mellow, mostly talked to me about the Body Pump weight lifting classes we both attended before school. The third year, enter Boss Three, who fired me.

Right off, her name made me mad. She introduced herself to the staff with all eleven syllables of her impossible to pronounce name, including the somewhat pretentious title she tacked onto the beginning, and the hyphenated one syllable of her husband’s last name on the end. We all sat in silence trying to digest this name until someone reasonably asked her what she wanted to be called. She simply repeated this tongue- twister of name in her clipped British accent.

The lack of a pronounceable nickname gave me the message that she was going to keep her authoritative distance, and when she set up her new office way down the hall from us, far from the front office near the entrance of the school where my other two bosses sat, my hunch was confirmed. She was inaccessible.

She might have known this about herself. That’s maybe why she tried to counter the problem by telling us over email, to ‘pop into her office anytime for some hot tea.’ The problem was, if you had the time to make the long trek down the hallway to the other end of the school and peek into her office, she was never there.

I know one way to meander over to that place of Forgiveness is to find ways that you are like your perpetrator. Find common ground. They lied to you… have you ever lied? They cheated on you… have you ever cheated? Ok, her name made me mad.  My name makes me mad!  I have ten hard-to-pronounce syllables on my birth certificate name. But I changed it! I shortened it! I Americanized it! I didn’t tack on titles or my ex-husband’s name! I don’t make people try to memorize it!

But you know, and so do I, that focusing on this name business is all superficial fluff and distraction for what the real problem is. This boss was unapproachable, remote, and her soul difficult to get to. And in many ways, though this is hard for me to admit, so am I, and so is mine. Perhaps the Universe brought together two women with two opposite personalities,  each of which was carefully developed to keep up the wall they had built around their hearts, and to keep that wall strong and fortified.

Maybe here, at the meeting of these two barricaded hearts, is where the Universe saw an opportunity for learning.

Hallways

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Hello.

 

How the hell did I end up here?

 

 

I’m writing my first blog with my laptop propped up on my knees, since I’m crouched down in a dim, narrow, metaphorical hallway, my back leaning against one of the many locked doors that are in here. I am currently residing smack in the middle of an overused cliché, ‘when one door closes, another opens’.

 

 

I’ve been in this dark corridor for six months now, ever since one big door slammed in my face after I was unceremoniously pushed through it. Yup, that’s right, fired for the first time since I was 21 when they let me go from my waitress job at a faux-fancy restaurant near the airport, because I didn’t empty the ashtrays fast enough. After being a tireless, creative classroom teacher for 25 years, I was inexplicably let go without reason from a private school I job held for three years. While I was still in shock, I thought I’d just go back to my old job in the public school system, but when I tried that door, it was shockingly …locked.

 

Since then, I’ve spent all my time knocking on all kinds of doors in this hallway, doors big and small, weird and familiar. Lots of doors.  So far, no one has answered my sometimes insistent rapping, and my knuckles are getting sore. I have a lot of keys on the chain that God gave me, but so far, none of them fit in the locks. I stand in front of all kinds of unlikely doors, (even a coffee shop!) inwardly incanting Open Sesame!, like Ali Baba, and hoping the magic entrance will spring open and I will walk out of this dark hallway and like Dorothy, be standing in Technicolor Oz, munchkins singing all around me.

 

 

I know there must be A Reason for my current predicament.   Perhaps my soul was yearning for something else, but if that was the case I wish my soul would speak up now and tell me what the hell it wants me to do. I’ve been paying close attention to my dreams, writing them down every morning, searching for clues. My faith waivers, huge roiling tsunami type ebbs and flows of doubt and elation. When the tide is low, I imagine I am In Control, and delude myself into thinking that I need to hurry this process along, and if I don’t, doors in front me will remain forever closed,

 

When I was in one of these moods recently, I went to Home Depot and bought two doors, one sliding glass, the other double French, to the tune of a grand slapped on my credit card. Many would (and did) say that this was not the best use of my money when I was on Unemployment with no future means of support. But the metaphor was that important to me. I needed to see new physical doors in front of me. Doors that I could open. One of the doors is still in the factory wrapping in my garage, but the other one has been installed on a former blank wall. I open this new door frequently, just to assure myself I still know how.

 

And so I remain in this strange hallway, looking for a little beam of light. When I was on Alcatraz recently to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibit, I stood in the pitch black isolation cell and listened to the ghost prisoner’s voice on my audio tour describe how he would concentrate in the dark until he saw a point of light, and then he would focus on that pinpoint of light until a world opened up for him, “like watching TV,” he said. I’ll try and report any images I see on my own personal TV in my head, here.

 

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