July 2011 Archives

One summer I was laying on the bank of the Rhine in Schaffhausen and the next thing I knew I was 40 years old.

That's exactly how it happened, I swear.  Enter the Mid Life Crisis....

I'm hard on myself. Or, I used to be. There was a lot I wanted to do. A very long agenda, if you will. And though, it can be argued that I have done a lot, it will never be enough. Lots of people my age feel that way. It's easy to get discouraged now. Heck, we're halfway to 80. The grey hair is no joke. The achy joints have to be oiled and worked. You don't turn 40 and get all Zen. You turn 40 and you say, "Wow, I'm 40! Can you inject this caffeine right into my arm, please?"

So, I thought I would tell you a secret today. In honor of my wise old age and your old age and the fact that nothing truly wise is coming into my brain at the moment...

I wanted to sing on stage with LIVE. I wanted to be the Bob Geldof of my generation. In fact, in my great fantasy of my perfect day, I am onstage with ol' Bob as he pats me on my back in front of millions of cheering fans. Bono is there and so is Lenny Kravitz. I have orchestrated the largest fundraising event ever in the history of charitable causes. MY charity, the one that educates volunteers on civil rights issues around the world by providing opportunities for cross cultural living, is the recipient of these funds. We are a magazine, a non-profit company of 36 employees and hundreds of volunteers. It's more effective than the Peace Corps, more real than missionary work, and it's changing the whole damn world.

In this vision, my children are toddlers. My husband orchestrated the PR for the whole campaign. I have long, dark hair. I am a size 6 vegetarian and never before have I been more vibrant and inspiring. In fact, I am in serious demand to speak at university graduations. Tina Fey and I are close friends and Sting invites my family out for a holiday.

Need I go on?

Let me tell you what I am doing today. This morning I opened the most awesome birthday presents from Mike and the kids and my daughter sang me the Phineas and Ferb version of "Mom It's Your Birthday".  Right now I am typing this blog, then picking up my kids from day camp and going swimming at my in-laws. I might order pizza for dinner. If I'm lucky, I will listen to some music in the car that was a birthday gift from my friend James. Before I go to bed, I have my new Endurance Training Program to do. It's going to kick my ass. 

Life is never what we expect. But it is what we make it. If you are as "old" as I am today I want you to know that we're all in this together. Whatever you thought you'd do by now and didn't - well....there's still time left on the clock.  
There may be a geriatric version of my fantasy day in the future. I'm not quite ready to give up. Until then, poor Ed Kowalczyk will have to wait.

PS - Ed turns 40 on Saturday, so we're cool.

Several years ago a man that I loved very much broke up with me. While this is something that I hear happens in life with alarming regularity, for various unworthy reasons, it is not something that has happened to me much. I was the Ender, the Runner, the Non-commital one in the majority of my relationships, both big and small.  After that break up, I wrote this depressing little diddy called Every Word You Said. Aside from venting my frustration about being left flapping in the wind, I had much to say about the apparent lies the man had fed me during our long relationship. 

All the late night guilty pleasure

you had the balls to sulk 

While I put to rest my demons

You saw not me, but my ghost

When all else was confusing

Tell me, how clear was my touch?

It was nothing that you'd known before

And still was not enough

Merritt Malloy said, "Relationships that do not end peacefully, do not end at all."  Social networks like Facebook are booming, in large part, because of the regret that lingers for years after we have walked away from each other. Oh, we say we have no regrets because having regrets is immature. Ironically, immaturity is at the core of most of those bad break-ups, isn't it? But, like it or not, all these relationships have an impact on us. All those people are not just mistakes, but teachers too. We learned. And we should be thankful.

For a long time it felt as though every one of my relationships ended because I went on auto-pilot with one the one goal of proving to my other half that he did not love me as he thought he did. 
I was young. I was dumb. I was not easily guided.  

While I couldn't focus on the solutions to my relationship struggles, I was able to navigate quite well through the debris after. For me, the years after a relationship ended were like the moments after a hard storm. Everything looked bright and I was thankful for being alive. I clearly remember one significant other angrily screaming at me during our break up, "I know YOU'LL be fine! YOU are always fine!" 

Still, I was not always the one dealing the blows. I've been the bird in the cage, the stunned victim of abuse, and the one who was betrayed. I know what it is like. Very hard to look at your demolished life and imagine doing anything with your abuser other than pushing him off the nearest cliff. That's why I'm thankful for time. Time to process. Time to accept. Opportunity, no matter how many years have passed, to say I'm sorry. Opportunity to forgive. That may be why I still keep contact. I am looking for the moment when we can both say we learned from our failure and did not let it make us bitter.

Yes, I'm THAT woman. The one who remembers all the past loves and wants us all to be Facebook Friends.

I am confused by the lack of clarity with which people regard their past lovers, friends and ex-spouses. When someone speaks hatefully about an ex-spouse, especially if the couple had children together, I am... well, lost. I can't fathom it. I can't understand it. 

I read the profiles of my exes. I sometimes read the Twitter updates and the blogs of those in their lives too. It is a casual and non-consuming thing I do - checking in on the lives of those who once considered me family.  While I don't use a great deal of time doing this, I am also not ashamed that I care what happens to these people. I am not ashamed that, though my love for them is changed, it is not gone. I quietly rejoice in their new loves, accomplishments and happiness. And I even more quietly, still feel their sadness when things are not so right for them. 

I have been told by some that this is not a normal thing to do, that it's unhealthy. But I can't imagine that it would be healthy for me to connect with people and disconnect like love is some sort of switch that I can flip on and off. 
After the end of a relationship, when the dust settles, you should take another look at that person you extracted from your heart. You should also take another look in the mirror. And if you are the compassionate, honest person you attempt to be, you will find a way to look past the stupid things you both said and did. There are a million reasons why relationships don't work out. Unfortunately, we often get so fixated on the debris of a fallout that we forget that at the core of the situation are two people who wanted to make each other happy. 

If we forget the laughs, the irreplaceable happy moments that a past love brought to our lives, the least we can do is this. Acknowledge that we did learn from that person. That, in itself, is valuable. Those lessons, it seems should generate enough respect for those in our past that we regard them with smiles instead of anger or fear or complete apathy. No, we don't have to be Facebook Friends. We don't have to "pretend nothing ever happened". But we can be gentle and kind. We can move on without destroying all the good that once was.

I recently heard from an old friend of mine who was once an integral part of my daily life. We hadn't spoke in four years. We talked about the past and important things we did together. It was nice. And then he said something I wasn't expecting. He said he learned a lot from me.  I can't explain how wonderful it felt to have that nostalgia, that friendly thank you, returned to me. Becoming friends with an old love isn't necessarily going backwards, you know. It's more so moving forward, when you do so peacefully.

When people ask me why I am still friends with my exes, I explain that it's because I CAN. And I'm happy about that.