Terms of Engagement

For me to have taken this long to write this specific post is quite ironic. Because this was not only a moment that I felt I had quite literally spent my life waiting for (well, okay, maybe not my life but the better part of my dating life – especially the last few years), but the cherry on the sundae for readers, the Confession of all confessions. Good Will Green Eyes popped the question and I said yes. This blog has now turned the proverbial corner, and quite frankly, so have I. All of the past stories, triumphs, mistakes, tears, heart aches, joy and celebration had come down to one December evening, with just two people on a side street saying yes to each other. And it was that simple. And that quick.

I can go into the whole proposal story and how it all went down with the details and play by play as if this was a Pat’s game during the Superbowl. But, truly the important things you need to know are the following, 1) the ring is amazing 2) he got down on one knee 3) the proposal took place at a special, sentimental spot for both of us that also happens to be a sidestreet that can look creepy at night 4) the ring is amazing and 5) I was nervous as all get out.  As soon as he said to me after we finished dinner, “let’s go for a walk”, I knew what was about to happen. And all of a sudden finishing my glass of wine became the most important thing in the world rather than listening to what this man was about to ask me. I literally said, “Can I finish my wine first”? Which he responded, “Leah, that’s already paid for. You don’t need to finish it…let’s go.” And so I gulped down the last swill and left the restaurant, out the door, and began the walk down the final gangplank of single-hood.

Please don’t mistake me. I’m ecstatic,thrilled, psyched and overjoyed to marry Good Will Green Eyes. He is everything that I had always wanted my other boyfriends to be – I just hadn’t known it yet until I met him. Not only does he make me laugh, but he listens, he understands, he communicates, he loves, he is all what someone meant for me should be like.  But to be faced with this question that would literally turn my single identity onto it’s very thick head, was a bit scary. I was excited, but somehow walking out of that restaurant and into the possibilities of new beginnings all of a sudden made my mouth dry, my palms sweat and the last sip of wine rush speedily to my head.

I was confused by my reaction. Because, I had already said yes to Good Will Green Eyes so many months ago. I said yes to him when he stuck up for me in the bar and some stranger slapped my butt, I said yes to him when he said “All I want is a shot at the title”, I said yes to him when he traveled to see my family – in all it’s big family glory! – hours away to spend the weekend sleeping in a tent rather than a Holiday Inn, I said yes to him when we first went to mass together and he held my hand, I said yes to him when he wiped my tears after we watched Love Actually, I said yes to him when I threw up the dinner he bought me in a restaurant stall and he still asked me out afterwards, and I said yes to him whenever he put me first in front of his own needs. So why was I so nervous to say yes to him when it mattered most? Oh, don’t get me wrong. That night I said yes loud and clear – and in fact, put the ring on my own finger (what? he was on his knees and needed assistance), but saying yes that time was a finality. It was a declaration, an expression of love and – in it’s own little way –  a goodbye.

For so many years, my “single” identity – whether I was attached to someone or not – defined me. It was a way of how I made jokes, conversation, connected with friends, made excuses for “just staying out one hour longer” when most everyone had already gone home, and, most importantly, shaped my story-telling. So to now be the engaged or betrothed “one” was all of a sudden weird and foreign to me. The ring on my finger defined me now ” as one of those” to all the other single women who glance at ring fingers on buses and trains just to do a quick count in their heads of how many single women really are left in this city. (I only say this because I have done this seemingly petty but very necessary calculation in my head more than once – only to size up competition!). People started taking what I had to say a little bit more seriously – instead of saying, “Oh, well what does she know, I mean, she has no idea what it means to be married/have a family or have a “real” life” — because, apparently now that I was getting married, suddenly there was this concept that the old Leah had been replaced by someone a bit more polished, mature and so above Saturday nights out with girlfriends engaged in frivolous (but fun!) behavior fueled by vodka tonics and smooth-talking bartenders. That gave me pause. Was I more polished? Wise, always, because we only grow and learn through our mistakes and our past relationships – but polished? Mature? Above vodka tonics and batting my eyes at 27-year old men holding my bar tab? That I wasn’t so sure about. Was being engaged to the love of my life cause for me to suddenly change the course of that life? Or was it much more simple than that? The truth was somewhere in between. What did these terms of engagement mean for me and for the identity that I had always hung my hat on when it came to trying to explain myself to others? Hell, when it came to trying to explain myself to me. How would I now define those terms? When I looked in the mirror, was it still the same person? Or when the diamond is slipped over the knuckle, does it all magically turn into a Knottie, a Bridezilla, a registry shopping hound who suddenly has become an expert on all things from floral arrangements to cake tastings to shows to watch on TLC?

Well, the answer, of course, is no. I’m still me. I still crack the same jokes, and wink at the same guys and laugh too loudly with friends and drink a little more wine than I should. I didn’t sign up for the Knot, and I still can’t really tell you the difference between a Mermaid and Fit and Flare cut. When the day is done and finished, and the make-up has been removed and the teeth flossed and the cats fed, I’m still the same person that Good Will Green Eyes fell in love with in the first place. When he asked me to marry him, he did not want to marry someone on the other side of that engagement coin. He wanted to marry me, who always stayed true to me ever since our first date. So why would I change? My friends and family have always loved me for me…why would they want to have someone in my life that wanted me any differently? I won’t ever be perfectly graceful, polished or mature. But what I can be is an amazing partner and friend to this man that I will wear a white gown next to. And that will only take the Leah I started with 36 years ago; and what will only strengthen our relationship was the single life that shaped me. That’s all I can carry forward down that aisle – and that is something that you can’t see in the mirror, you can’t wear on your finger or you can’t register for. My best gift to Good Will Green Eyes will be me  – in all its imperfections and funny jokes and wide smiles and trips up the stairs.

So, I might say goodbye to singlehood…but I promise this. I won’t ever forget what singlehood had to do with getting me here – to that December evening where the question took one minute to ask and what seemed like forever to build up to. It only has to happen once. Let that once happen to the person that you want to be – because the person on their knee or standing above you – will only want just that. And those terms can be just that simple, and just that hard to keep.

If given the choice, I would run down that aisle and hurl myself headlong into Good Will Green Eyes like he’s Mickey Mouse on Christmas. But the truth is, I will most likely only need a shot of Jameson and my dad on my arm. The rest, assuredly, will fall into place.

Copyright 2013, Leah A. Flynn

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The tipping point; living a balanced life

I had the pleasure of giving the following speech last evening at fraternity banquet honoring students who live and lead a “balanced life” while excelling in many ways at MIT. So here is what I had to say…the nods of heads across the room was enough confirmation for me.

 

 

Good evening everyone, and thank you for asking me to be here and speak with you all tonight, to honor this year’s award recipients of the Balanced Man/Woman Scholarship and celebrate their achievements.

I want to first reflect on the language of the award, its core, and the recipients celebrated tonight. The award states it’s intent of: celebrating men and women who exemplify the philosophy of living balanced lives and striving for excellence in EVERY endeavor amidst the VER Y challenging MIT academic environment.:  

When saying that out loud, I ask myself, is it possible to be balanced, strive for excellence, AND be part of the very challenging MIT community? If you fulfill these qualifications, When do you sleep? Hang out with friends? Eat? Spend time with family? Reflecting on who you are as a person, where you want to go and why? So, then I think about, what does it mean to be balanced? Does it mean raising your hand and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, just as long as it spans the depth and breadth of opportunity that the firehose provides us? Is that what balance means? Does it mean being everything to everyone and having just enough time in to squeeze in meals and a 15 minute convo with your best friend? Or does it mean something else entirely different?

If we think about a scale – how does it maintain balance? When an equal weight of mass is placed on both sides of the scale – it eventually balances out. I can’t believe I am actually using a scientific reference in a speech! But what matters (excuse the pun – get it matter!, I am really having fun with science) is what makes up that weight.

Consider this; if you have on one end of your scale school/p-sets/projects/internships and the other side of that scale, fraternity activities/student group activities/part-time job is that really balanced? Sure, these two parts of your life may weigh the same…but where is the rhythm that maintains that balance? The piece that comes in to take away the sting of the hectic lifestyle it ensues? To me, those two sides are too much weight. Where is the room that is made for activities that allow you to just be?

Perhaps being yourself – for you – is within your fraternity, your residential community, your student organization. But tonight, I am talking about creating a schedule of your life that provides you an opportunity to sit in quiet, to allow yourself to absorb the world around you in those precious moments of reflection and thought. And not thought that is made up of logarithms and calculus and bio lab. I am talking the realities of life! Finding your rhythm to maintain that balance. You cannot figure out your balance without reflection. You cannot lead without reflection. You can’t learn from your successes and failures without first taking a time out to think about it first in order to move forward. Reflection can be writing, meditation, drawing, even just chatting with friends, playing video games. The important piece to this is that you are taking a time out to fuel up.

When you move on from MIT, what will balance bring to your life? Will it be friends? Family? A significant other? An activity that has nothing to do with where you got your degree from?  Yes, MIT is a family; a community, a network of people who have similar passions and drive in creating a better – and albeit faster and more efficient – world. But tonight, I urge you to find your rhythm  – what moves and shakes you – but also allows you a balance to maintain the very weight you carry; to really implore yourself to discover a world that is beyond Mass Avenue.

So what does balance have to do with being an effective leader? 

In graduate school, it was important to me that I made sure to schedule a balanced lifestyle among my classes, recitations, graduate assistantship, papers, projects, and job search – for me, my rhythm was my friendships, my opportunity to get to know others, to get to know the city I was living in, to make a few mistakes in relationships along the way. To breathe, to relax, to renew, to concentrate on myself.  Getting to know yourself allows you to open up and think more clearly about the opportunities and challenges that come with being a leader.  For example, I think about how I exemplify balance to my staff as a leader – I say to them – you are no good to me (in this job) if you are sick, tired, or run-down all the time from trying to be everything to everyone and taking on way too much than your plate can handle.

Because, a “balanced” life does not include a life that is crammed to the brim with activity. A balanced life includes time for rejuvenation and being a bit selfish with your time. It includes the phrase “no”. It is not about balancing a ton of academics with a ton of activities and a ton of UPOPS, UROPS, MISTIS and other assorted acronyms.  Balance is about modeling a way of life that does not make you run of breath at the end of each day.  Balance is not meeting others expectations of you but instead meeting your own.  Being an effective leader means at some point you will need to be selfish with your time  – indulge in, if you will, so that your motivation in your work is sustained by an opportunity to take a break once in a while.

I have to admit; I am not a fan of the firehose analogy that MIT clings to as a special shared joke among alumni and students; that being at MIT is like drinking from a firehose. I think that sets us all up to lead a very unbalanced experience of what it means to be a college student, to be a fraternity brother, a friend, a classmate. To drink in every opportunity is one thing; to feel that you cannot keep up with the rush it brings to your face is quite another. We do have the power to turn the faucet down a couple of notches in order to really discover what brings us pleasure from life. And while for right now that might mean be taking advantage of everything that happens at MIT, every day at every hour, drinking things in is DIFFERENT than GULPING it. When you gulp something down, are you able to really taste it? When you sip, you are able to enjoy it a bit. I don’t need to tell fraternity brothers that gulping and sipping or two different things – but I do need to tell you that you if you are tipping the scales more than it can balance, you are no good to the team or organization that you are leading.

To be a leader – you need to be alert, on your toes, aware and cognizant of all that might affect you, your team, your organization –to effectively model the values in which your organization holds so important. You cannot be any of these things if you yourself are weighing down both ends of the scale, where it simply becomes too heavy to hold.

This speech tonight is not just for you all – it’s for me, too. It’s a lesson I need to remind myself day in, and day out. When I want to say yes to everything, to learn all I can about MIT, about my position, about how to continue to improve upon the work we do every day. As a leader, that’s my responsibility. But it’s also my responsibility to take care of myself, to ask for help, and to find that rhythm that helps be balance the scale. You can do it too, I know it.

Good luck with the rest of your semester, congratulations to the recipients and my warmest wishes for the upcoming holiday season. And who knows? Maybe your rhythm will be snow-skiing. In my experience, the lodge is more my rhythm. Thank you!

 

Find your rhythm my friends. Share with the world – it is the journey, not the destination.

 

Leah A. Flynn, Copyright, 2012

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A Letter to X

After one experiences a feel-good sort of relationship, it cannot be denied that one can be tempted to re-track in his or her mind how this relationship 1) surpasses all others that came before and 2) is what was worth waiting for all along. And, of course, the learning lessons from all those past relationships start to become crystal clear. Through past posts, I feel that I have been fair to those ex’s I refer to, carefully telling the story squarely settled within my own perspective and own recognizance of mistakes I, too, had made. But also to be fair to myself as I move ahead in my current relationship – the motherload of all relationships, mind you – there is a time where I need to square up and unload some feelings. I believe all along we – you as readers, and I as being human with her nasty days – have waited for it. It’s cleansing, it’s human and above all else, others need to hear someone else that gets it too. Because let’s be clear, we all have had relationships that have caused us such frustrations and anger. Daring to speak on behalf of others that have shared their dating experiences with me, we have all been down similar roads.

So, if I were to write a letter to X (and to not just one X, mind you, but a combination of assorted x’s that have all been guilty of one thing or another, because yes, I have dated more than one guy that could be just as cowardly, insecure and self-absorbed as the previous) it would go something like this…

I realize that this letter might come to a shock to you, as you probably predicted that I would sit around mooning over you for the remainder of my 30’s, and until then, in my 40’s I would become so resentful, I would settle into spinster phase and I always would continually wonder…”what if about us”. Well, not so much. Because, I feel, at the end of the day, no matter how quickly you may have moved onto the next relationship or how much you dragged your feet on a making a decision about our relationship, or hid behind your own yellow cowardice, I still win. And it’s because of the following things:

  • I no longer have to hide the fact that I’m getting my PhD or that I hold a professional job because you would rather have someone who would stay home (and I quote) “be your rock” while you move up in the food chain of management. Because we all know the full story; there was only going to be room for one successful person in that relationship, and that was always going to be egotistical you.
  • I no longer have to create a powerpoint presentation on all the ways that I can 1) make you happy 2) be a good girlfriend or 3) someday, perhaps your wife. Now, it all comes extremely easy to understand – and no longer have to convince – the person I’m with. Because, from the start, I was me. And that required no convincing or strategic planning document to present him with.
  • I no longer have to avoid bars or restaurants because my partner is afraid we will run into someone I may have once dated. Because hey, get this, everyone has a past, and I’m finally dating someone that has an ounce of security in himself  and doesn’t really care who we run into.
  • It is so refreshing to have someone to show up on time and/or not want to leave early when the event or function we are attending are not – horrors! – all about them.
  • I no longer have to pretend to like certain hobbies in order for you to simply pay attention to me, or want to hang out with me, clouded over with a perception that “hey we have something in common.”
  • I never, ever have to wonder if he is going to call. Because he always has. Because he wants to. There is no secret code, no mystery hanging in the air, no three day rule. We are simply too old – and too secure with who we are – to bull shit.
  • How refreshing to be with someone who actually knows what he wants from life, a job, and THANK GOD, a relationship. No more beating around the bush or hiding behind past relationships that may have “wounded him” so much that commitment is simply not in the cards. Maybe not for you and I, but commitment was always a possibility for you. You just couldn’t say as much.
  • What a weight off my shoulders to not have to walk on eggshells anymore, to weigh words I say like perfectly sculpted measurements, just so as to not offend you, hurt your feelings and/or put you on the defensive. Because all that ends up being is a lot of work at the end of the day and no paycheck to show for it.
  • I don’t have to consistently ask anymore “When am I going to see you next?”, because I already know the answer. Again, no mystery, no “we’ll see” or “my week is pretty tight” or “I’ll call you”. It’s already a given that the person I’m with will make the time because I’m – at last – a priority for him.
  • That I can go to social functions and not worry about having to entertain someone, or worry about someone else saying something that might have offended my partner or made him so angry that he “needs to leave right now”. How refreshing for us to bask in the glow of everyday life knowing that no one says everything perfectly, and no setting or place is absolutely where we want to be all the time – we go because the other person wanted us there. And that’s enough for him. I now have someone that takes in every moment and just finds himself lucky to be somewhere -anywhere! – that’s with me.

Within this letter, I would be remiss – and it would also be uncharacteristic of me – to not also acknowledge ways in which I take responsiblity for how past relationships have gone wayward. These, too have been learning lessons and I know I haven’t been perfect. Now I:

  • Can openly admit that I’m smart, I’m going to be a doctor, and maybe, just maybe, I might make more money than the guy.
  • I no longer wait by the phone because my to-do list, my bucket list, my grocery list and my guilty pleasure list is way too much to tackle for me to just sit around and wait for the phone to ring.
  • I no longer pretend that I’m a vegetarian, an avid skiier, or can slam shooters all night and still be able to get up the next morning at 6AM for work. I love to eat meat, I prefer intermediate hills and hot cocoa in the lodge and 9:30 is my bedtime and Irish Car Bombs are my downfall. And I’m perfectly happy with that.
  • If a guy wants to – or threatens to – leave the relationship (instead of talking about it) because something doesn’t set right with him, he’s “not ready” for a relationship or I have disappointed him in some way, I let him. If he truly “wants a shot at the title” he’ll be back.
  • If a guy questions a friendship I have with a guy or my past dating relationships, only to make a comment like “Well, guys date women like that, they don’t marry them”, I’m out. No one should make time for someone that can’t get past your past.
  • I realize that a relationship is about two people, and just as I have accused others of a similar thing, I also am guilty about making times during the relationship all about me. I am also guilty of placing unrealistic expectations on a relationship – and on you – without really having the opportunity to delve into what the relationship was all about in the first place. That is not fair to you or to me. We all know that it is about both people in the relationship, there is compromise, and that no person should be put on a pedestal without proving their place on top of it.
  • If a partner doesn’t realize that going to an event that my mom and dad are hosting as “important”, that speaks volumes to me. I find another a tree to bark up.
  • If he is not it to win it, than neither am I.
  • I now consider my family and friends’ well intentioned “words of caution” for a guy I’m dating, rather than insisting that they “don’t know what they are talking about” or “all relationships are hard, this one just happens to be harder than others”. I now realize relationships at the start should be easy, for the hard parts are only yet to come.
  • I no longer make excuses for bad behavior. And that, my friend, has been my biggest learning lesson.

Despite the fact that this letter may harbor on the bad points, I do recognize that there were times in our relationship that were loving, fun and memorable and are anchored within corners of a big heart. All of our mistakes are learning lessons of how we come about to the motherload relationship in the future. My hope is that you  -like me – have also developed a list of ways you wish I was different, as well as a list of mistakes you have grown from. This all speaks to how we move forward to what is right for us in the end. For in order to be good to each other, we needed to let go of each other, no matter how it all went down.

***************

Just like Carly Simon’s song, there will be x’s who read this in vain and think this post is still all about them. Truth is, it is. And also about that other guy I dated. And the other guy. And the next.

For my readers who are used to my more optimistic way of looking at relationships, skirting the negative in order to see the silver lining, I still had to write this. It was the last cleansing part I needed to do in order to continue to move forward. Part of the learning meshes with part of the healing. And that is all part of the process.

And to Good Will Green Eyes, thanks for being one of my most best – and favorite! – teachers. Here is to us continuing to learn together in the “fut-uah”!  That is one lesson I look forward to writing about. You think this blog ends here? Au contraire, friends. It has only just begun.

Copyright 2012,  Leah A. Flynn

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Coming home: Achieving the “30’s swagger” and crushing on the City of Champions

If I  said that I was not in love with the city of Boston, I would probably be telling you a  big fat lie.  Maybe my reluctance to be forthright about it is because I feel the need to remain faithful to the Gray and Blue in the world of baseball. Saying that you love Boston to a New Yorker is like saying that you love corduroy skirts to a gay man. It elicits a sense of shock, followed by the blush of shame, and then a shake of a head. Regardless of my Yankee loyalty, I have to admit that more and more every day, it’s gets easier to look people square in the eye and say this place has got my heart.

It’s easy to love this city; perhaps I have always loved it. Nine years ago, post grad school, I was hell bent- on giving the job that I was in just a year of my time, before making my brave move to the “big city”, preferably Boston. I had a couple of my best college girlfriends who lived there, and I had already taken many opportunities to appropriately scope out the city – and it’s blue-eyed, ruddy-cheeked, JFK look- alikes it inhabited – knowing that there was more for me beyond Upstate NY.  Needless to say, the students and the school I was working at the time in 2003 captured my heart, as well as Mr. X, whom I had just started dating. I was in my 20’s and I still had a lot to learn; about guys, about work, about me. Boston was not quite ready for me yet, and to be frank, neither was my checkbook.

Oh, there are plenty of things to be annoyed at in Boston. I can’t tell you how many heels I have ruined because of this city’s cobblestone streets and the their insistence to remain historic and close to it’s roots. Alright, we get it. Paul Revere is a big deal. But so is my leopard high heel pumps that I scored at Marshall’s on sale. Paul should have tried riding through the streets on those babies. We now have a little something called cement and paving, so I’m not sure why we can’t just put some of those cobblestones behind a glass case somewhere in the North End and move ourselves into the 21st century. I also question the driving habits of Bostonians; a simple toot on the horn won’t do for these people when someone isn’t moving ahead quickly in traffic…laying on the horn for a length of a mile at a time is what really satisfies their road rage. And don’t get me started on the cab drivers; the last time I was in a cab, the driver had the nerve to ask me if we could use the GPS on my phone to get where we were going. Um, that’s why I take a cab. Because I assume that you have the lay of the land, here, buddy. And Bostonians love their sports. The T is always packed with drunken fans (mostly out-of-towners who have no clue about public transportation etiquette and either end up not moving into the train all the way to make room for others or burping in your face) because there is some home game that evening; sometimes even two games at a time, wrecking my commute time or how quickly I need to get somewhere to meet girlfriends. Priorities people, please. ‘Cause this town can make a mean skinny margarita.

But then again – the spirit of this “city of champions” is catching, with it’s symphony of honking horns and squeaking wheels on trains, the history it holds along its small and twisting alleys that stretch out like broken arms throughout its streets, beckoning you with cozy Irish pubs and great Italian food. To drive into Boston and see the Pru, the Hancock building and that loveable Citgo sign reach into the sky can widen a smile even on Giuliani’s face. And the more times I drive along the Pike into the city, the more I believe I have come home. That being said, it is important to note that coming home is not necessarily about the physical place, but it’s more about the emotional and mental place you find yourself in. Both may take a while for you to get to; but that’s when you find the journey is worth it.

Next week, I will be 36. My mom told me when I was in my 20’s that her 30’s were some of the best years of her life. I smirked and said, “Mom, you had three kids and another on the way…how could those years be your favorite?” She just smiled back and said, “You’ll see.” Well, now I get it. I can honestly say that I have not been this happy in life until I hit a groove at around 33 or so; it has everything to do with attitude and confidence and taking the mistakes I made in my 20’s and turning them into opportunities in my 30’s. No longer do I find myself second guessing myself among peers, and especially among guys. Now I hold true to what I want, what is good for me, and completely align my values with who I want to be as a person. This might sound like an infomercial on Sunday morning public television, but when they say that 30’s are the new 20’s, I just say that they are the new awesome years of you. No longer do I think that when I walk down the sidewalk, everyone is looking at me with judgements and side comments. Now when I walk down the street and think people are looking at me, I know it’s because I look good. Call it the “30 swagger”. No longer do I have a difficult time speaking up for something and stating my opinion. (Okay, this might not count, ’cause if you ask people that know me, this really wasn’t a difficult task for me to begin with). And most importantly, I no longer feel that getting the hottest guy in the bar to date me is the key to building this sort of confidence.  I learned more often than not, the hottest or most successful guy in the bar tends to be the one with the most baggage to unpack. Which ends up being a hell of a lot of work, and really not worth it’s weight. In the end, getting the unattainable to take notice is not about a sense of worth, it’s more about the fear of avoiding what lies ahead, dodging the possibility of the attainable and what it means to be ready for it. Seeing friend after friend get married in my 20’s and early 30’s only made me feel like I couldn’t be more ready to be married; however, what I didn’t get at the time is that I needed to come into my own. And that Boston – and that guy – needed to wait a bit before I was ready to do so.

Past blog posts have painted the roads of that journey for you, so no need for me to repeat the learning lessons I have shared with all of you. (Just go back and review for your reading pleasure). But, I can tell you that it is completely refreshing to be in a relationship that is easy, that makes sense, and doesn’t have me hanging up the phone after every conversation picking apart things he said just to find some sort of reassurance in those fragmented sentences whether he likes me or not. When I pleaded with God to hit the jackpot when it came to men, I thought he might send me someone along the lines of Bradley Cooper and Chris O’Donnell. Instead, he sent me a smart-ass Irish kid with a Boston accent, killer dimples, a kind heart and who, at times, drives like an 87-year old. Good Will Green Eyes, despite his need for unnecessarily pumping the brakes, gets right to the point. On one of our first few dates, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You know, Leah, I don’t ca-uh if you date other guys. I just want a shot at the title.” This, my friends, is where the tables turned. Finally, I found myself with someone who thought I was worth fighting for. This wasn’t about the chase; this was about someone putting their feelings on the table (along with a couple of Bud Lights and steak tips). This was about not having to bring in an outside interpreter in to figure out some strange, coded language where a date may have indicated that he wanted to be with me, but didn’t know quite how to get it out. There was no need for me to chase, fix or soothe this guy’s ego. There was no need for unnecessary work. No doubt the real work will come later, in the way that it normally does in relationships, growing pains and all. But the “honeymoon” period of a relationship needs to be just that; feeling as easy and as happy as if you were sitting on a warm beach with a drink in your hand. So, needless to say, I hit the relationship jackpot. But getting there wasn’t about trying to capture the unattainable; this was about realizing that the attainable was just what I was looking for. And no, this also isn’t about settling. This was about me getting my head out of my Pilates-toned rear and knowing what real love was when it hit me like a slam-dunk at the TD Garden. Like the Perfect Storm, the trifecta of moving to a new city, figuring out what I wanted from a relationship, applying mistakes in my 20’s to my current situation — it all ended up to be rather timely. Now, I don’t you to walk away from this blog thinking that being in your 30’s gives you this sudden revelation that you will instantly meet someone and that magic fairy dust will be sprinkled across your on-line profile. The work still remains within us to see that we all deserve to be treated the way that truly reflects who we are, what we want and that we are worth the fight.

A couple of months ago we were out with friends at a local watering hole. I sometimes have a tendency to start dance parties even in the smallest of Irish pubs. That evening, I made some of Good Will Green Eye’s friends turn into John Travoltas right in front of me. (that may have also may have been the McGilicutty’s that someone served up, but I digress). Needless to say, we were having  a good time. At one point, I was walking by a group of guys I didn’t know when one reached out and felt the need to slap me square across my rear end. I whipped my head around, my eyes narrowed and a stream of New York-like comments ready to come out of my mouth, when I found that Good Will Green Eyes – this preppy kid from suburbia who went to Boston College and goes to mass every Sunday – was already way ahead of me. Getting right up in the offender’s face, he said, “HEY! She didn’t appreciate that.” The guy quickly apologized, trying to soothe things over, shocked to see that he wasn’t actually going to be getting away with behavior that belonged in the movie 9-5, rather than in 2012. Words continued to be exchanged between the two (I can’t recall them all right now, as my mouth still was formed in a little “O” of wondering where this all came from) and I ended up having to kind of push them both apart, thinking that I suddenly fell onto the set of West Side Story, but also thinking, well, this is kind of hot. Now, I certainly don’t welcome violence, and we all know that I sure as heck can speak up for myself. But somewhere deep inside GWGE, he found his voice. It kind of made me wonder at that point, Bradley Cooper who?  Because to GWGE, I was worth the fight. Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t think that guys who start fights in bars are suddenly your Mr. Right’s. But it was at that moment that I needed to see the wing-man –  that cute guy that always remains a little bit reserved when his his more outspoken guy friends flirts with all the pretty girls in the bar, saving his jokes and dimples for the ones that really pay attention – is the guy that at some time or another, ends up being the one that stands out.  (For some of us gals in our 20’s, we unfortunately don’t open up our eyes wide enough to see these gems till our 30’s.) That night was more about the symbolic nature of the behavior – rather than the behavior itself – that made  me think I just landed the pot at the end of the rainbow. Because, unfortunately, too many times for me to count, I have seen guys I have dated stand back, yawn, look at their watches, and look at me as if to say, “Is this all there is?” Seeing this night unfold in front of me, brought all the dates I had shared already with GWGE into sharper focus. He wanted to be with me, and not just that night, but all nights thereafter. I had to shake my head a bit about that one, as if I just fell and hit it on some cobblestones.

The last time we were at Fenway together, Good Will Green Eyes looked at me and said to me with a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face, “Look around you, gorgeous. This is your fut-uah.” I smiled back, no doubt giving him some smart ass comment, but knowing deep down inside, he was probably right. There have been no more West Side Story situations since then. But there have been a whole lot of laughs, long afternoon New England drives and plenty of watching the Celtics and the Sox. No one said that I had to stop wearing my Yankees hat; but I think everyone can agree that you can come home  – even if it’s nine years later. Here’s to happiness — and here’s to the fabulous 30’s, when it all becomes clear. Let’s play ball!

Copyright 2012, Leah A. Flynn

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Living life out loud; Good Will and Humor (Homer) go a long way

It was this past summer that I sat down and visited with my grandpa (Homer was his name, or sometimes as my sister affectionately called him, Homey) for the last time. I recall talking with him about life and love and what matters when it is all said and done. He told me that the key to love and relationships was a having a good sense of humor and being able to make each other laugh. Of course, being the ham that I am, I whole-heartedly agree with him. In that same conversation, he commented on how proud he was of what I have been able to do with my life and how far I had come. I dryly replied, “Yeah, I have all that figured out, Grandpa. Now I just have to find a husband.” Grandpa being Grandpa, retorted, “Well, that’s not my problem.” I laughed out loud as this was so very true, because we all know that issue solely lies with yours truly.

I remember then having to hug him goodbye as my visit was almost done and he was quickly getting tired.  Sadly, Grandpa passed away a little over a month ago. I was happy for that visit in the summer, for that honest and forthright conversation between the two of us. At 91, Grandpa didn’t pull any punches. But he loved me and all of us. That was something that was true and steady and so very apparent.  I still have so much that I need to thank him for; most especially for instilling in his family a sense of humor and a positive view of life. My grandpa never slowed down in all his years; I think that the last year or so of his life was particularly frustrating for him because he had been used to running from one project to the next, collecting antiques, attending auctions, spending time with – and entertaining! – good friends. He never stopped; he truly embraced all that life handed him; a world war, a wife and three children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, home ownership, a life on the shore of the Finger Lakes, farming, hunting, and many, many loving friendships. I have always appreciated that about Grandpa; his ability to be able to move onto the next thing with unfaltering energy and enthusiasm. His uncanny ability to “rile” up his young grandchildren and great-children at the holidays. Every Christmas when I was little we went to Grandma and Grandpa’s for dinner with the whole family. And every year, Grandpa always called our house at noon on the dot, to see why we weren’t there yet or when were we going to get there already. My mother and father had four children to rally together after enjoying a hectic Christmas morning, so you might understand why we were running late. (Ironically, I do this to my sister every year “Where the heck are you? Where’s my presents?”) So every year, the phone would ring, my mother would sigh, smile and say “That’s got to be my father. Will someone please answer it and let him know we are on our way? Sheesh!” His energy was difficult to surpass. Although at times, I’m sure it drove my mother and her siblings a little crazy. For example, earlier this fall before Grandpa went down for his annual snowbird stay in Florida, he asked my uncle what he thought about him making that trip. My uncle, knowing that my Grandpa was not in the shape he used to be in, told him he didn’t think that was a good idea. Without skipping a beat, my grandpa replied, “Well, that was the wrong answer because I’m going anyway.”  And go he did. Florida was a place that he loved to be in; and a place where he knew he would love spending the last days of his life.  And thank goodness that he had had that; surrounded by friends and a girlfriend who loved him.  Life excited and inspired him right up until the last days of his life here on earth.  And I think that’s the entire point, isn’t it?  Life must excite you; even if it deals you a hand that causes you pain and sorrow or a situation that you feel you simply can’t pull yourself through, the excitement and beauty of life is the one thing that should motivate us along our journey. Exciting does not have to mean that our days need to be all puppy dogs and rainbows, but excitement should be the “not knowing” of what is next and having the understanding that it may be just what you need.

On that note, and with Grandpa’s words ringing in my ears, I’m sure you all are anxious to hear how dating is going for me in Boston. Well, I did put myself back in that saddle again. In fact, I believe this is how I phrased it to a friend when I started dating again, “I’m 35. Let’s get this s#$! done.” I had just had a great dating experience with Mr. PDC and I was ready to  use what I had learned from it. However, the thing about this town is that guys’ interests and passions range from an awfully narrow perspective between loving the “Sox” and the “Pats” and maybe enjoying a beer or two mixed in with that. That leaves me with having to turn my Yankees shirt inside out and understanding what a fourth down means. Forget the fact that I enjoy cooking, black and white movies and college basketball. So yes, I did go on-line again because dating outside  the bar scene scope in this city can be a bit limiting. In Southie, it involves guys that hiccup and stagger their way through their come on lines; I find that there are way too many hipsters in Cambridge and I can’t date someone that wears tighter jeans than I do; and the financial district groupies are made up of  to-be “trophy wives” with hair bigger than the Kardashians and skirts that really should be underwear and I really can’t (and don’t want to!) compete with that. Honestly, if read one more on-line profile that has a guy saying “I live for the Sox” or “I love Tom Brady” I’m going to get sick into my pint of Sam Adams. I guess I should have been prepared for that coming to a city of champions.

Despite the hiccups along the way, dating here hasn’t been so bad. I would imagine it could be worse, but I have had my moments. There was one date that lasted all of 40 minutes; the guy looked about ten years older than his photo, I think he might have had dentures and he fashioned his hair into a pompadour. Uh, no thanks. Another told me that his favorite hobby was bird-watching; he was cute, but no dice. I don’t know if I could get excited about bird-watching. Plus, we all know that I have been down the road too many times of trying to “adopt” a guy’s hobbies for the sake of dating them. Usually it ends up with me having some sort of skiing accident or having to explain to my family why I have suddenly taken up vegetarianism as a way of life. So, staying with my current trend of “doing things right”, I took it upon myself to be myself, and just hold my breath. So, enter down-to-earth, Boston guy whom genuinely liked me, laughed at my jokes and always followed up the same night we were out on a date for a next date. (what a concept! actually following through on a promised next date. Take notes, boys, this actually works.) And he had an irresistably cute Bostonian accent. Everything is “wicked’ or a’s suddenly get an “h” sound attached to them. Sure, he liked the Pats and the Sox. But it wasn’t ruling his life and I didn’t feel like I had to make preparing nachos and pigs in blankets my new hobby. I will be honest; I was nervous to be dating again, as I wanted to see what was “out there” and shop around a bit. But, I continued to hang onto Mr. Nice Guy through the pompadours, the bird-watching and and even a male nurse thrown in there. He made me laugh and I genuinely looked forward to every time we got together. I was extremely comfortable with him, and I could completely be myself and not worry if there was something in my teeth or if I had said the wrong thing or acted too desperate or accidently mentioned where I wanted to  honeymoon.

Seeing that I threw up on our fifth date, this level of comfort came in handy. No, I didn’t have too much wine. I, in fact, just had a bad oyster. Half way through the date, nodding and smiling my way through a wave of nausea that made me wish I was home in my pajamas hugging the porcelain god, I was having an inner fight with my stomach to hold down the two appetizers and half the salmon dish I had just shoveled in. Not good. I excused myself to the bathroom just in time; I nonchalantly strode quickly to the bathroom (do you know what nonchalantly striding looks like? It looks like something out of those commercials where the guy has drank too much water on an airplane and can’t get down the aisle quick enough) and almost knocking over a waiter and a couple of customers in the process. I was able to finally get myself into a stall in the lady’s just in time to very “unladylike” empty my entire contents of my meal into the toilet. Yum-o. The thing is, I should have been mortified. Instead, considering who I was with I thought, no, this makes for an interesting story. I rinsed my mouth, walked back out with my head held high, and sat back down at the table with a wide grin and said, “Well, I feel better! Let’s get dessert.”

Here’s the thing. Grandpa said it perfectly; a sense of humor goes a long way. And so does laughter. So we laughed about the situation, I apologized profusely back and forth as he very sweetly reassured me that it was totally fine, taking my hand and ignoring whatever spot of “leftovers” I still might have had on the corner of my lip, got the check and cut the date a bit short. We made a plan to go to the movies the next day in order to “make up for lost time”. And then, I started to look at him in a different light. Not only did he offer to stop and buy ginger ale on the way home or to hold my hair back if we had to stop along the way so I could get sick once more (cause THAT would have been the cherry on the sundae for the evening), but he asked to see me again (“soon if possible” is how I recall the exact statement) simply based on how I handled the whole situation that evening. I’m not sure what it was — perhaps it was the oyster, maybe it was the past few dates all adding up to something that was greater than I initially anticipated, who knows. And when I looked more closely, his eyes were green. How come I didn’t notice that before? Green eyes are pretty cool. He was pretty cool.  Good Will Green Eyes could stick around. His good will, cheerful attitude (this guy looks like he fell off a shamrock) and overall sense of humor did me in. And his smart-ass banter was wonderfully set at a pace that matched mine, and at times, where I am rendered speechless without a good retort to say back. Well. How do you like them apples?

So the excitement of life that my Grandpa embraced so well is what keeps me chugging day in and day out. It is always full of surprises. I struggled when writing this blog post; how to combine a mini-memoir about my Grandpa into a story about dating in Boston and the dating strategies of Good Will Green Eyes winning me over. But it comes down to this; it’s not any one’s problem to “solve” my dating situation and to find a life partner; that one has always been something for me to tackle on my own.  But not without the knowing in how to get myself there. Having good will and humor in a relationship is always a powerful combination; it is about taking care of one another and laughing through life’s little (and big!) tribulations hand in hand. Thanks, Grandpa, for the life you gave us, for the life you lived, and the life you brought out within us. I know that the way I approach life and the lemons it hands me at times, has a lot to do in how I saw you take it head on yourself. Wavering at times, but always loving it. It is your good will that indeed had ripple effects…we are making waves here, trust me! We love you for it. May God bless you and hold you in the palm of his hand. Right where you have a good view of everything that is happening!

Copyright Leah A. Flynn, 2012

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March 7, 2012 · 5:36 pm

Staying true to your course

When travelling into the city for work, I constantly see people grasp onto bus handles and the metal standing poles so as not to lose their grip when the brakes are put on at the last minute or when the bus lurches forward in order to get ahead of traffic. It’s comical at times, seeing people swing into each other and apologize profusely for spilling their hot coffee on someone or interrupting their good read, but at times it can be annoying when you feel like the entire ride you have had your two feet planted solidly onto the floor, and then inevitably, you end up having to grab onto something desperately until you are able to let go and relax a bit when it comes to a complete stop. Once this happens, people wipe up spilled drinks, exchange embarassed smiles with one another, and announce “Wow, that driver is crazy. What could they be thinking?”

Exactly. What could the driver be thinking? I remember when I was little, and I can’t remember what I was having a fit about, but I remember it involved me stomping my foot at my mother saying, “But it’s not fair!!” (I probably can’t remember because this was such a recurring scene.) My mother just sighed, and said, “Leah, life is not about being fair.” I’m sure for a 6 or 7 year old, this phrase is not only frustrating to hear, but difficult to understand. Because at that young age, getting a Barbie on your birthday or having McDonalds on a Friday night or getting through the day without getting a run in your new tights is pretty much what your world circulates around. That kind of stuff is what makes up your life. Or at least what made up mine. I lived for Happy Meals and was always constantly ripping up my stockings somewhere along the way. But now, at 35, I know what my mom had meant. Life is not about being fair. But life is about learning from what you do have in front of you, and what it might mean to say goodbye to it at the end of that particular ride. Life only really becomes fair when you are at the closing chapter of your life and you say, Ah, I get it now.

About a year to date from when I packed up my stuff to Boston and kissed Mr. Pretty Damn Close goodbye from underneath that streetlamp at my old apartment, I kissed him goodbye again just a few weeks ago. (This goodbye routine is really getting kind of old, by the way). But this time, the goodbye was much different. It was about moving on and accepting that we were turning pages of different chapters at not the same pace. That can be a hard pill to swallow for both people involved, regardless of who jumpstarts the release. So, another chapter closed, a new window opened perhaps, and time to dust myself off and pick off where I started. (Now where was I???). But this time – because you know I’ve had my share of break-ups so I consider myself just as schooled in this area as much as I’m schooled in being a bridesmaid – it was different. Although it was sad, disappointing and a sucker punch to the ol’ ticker, it was completely refreshing to have started and ended a relationship right for once and with some closure. Closure, what a concept!  In some of my past relationships, closure had been just as much as satisfying as Berger’s post-it (“Sorry, I can’t do this”) he left on Carrie’s computer in the beloved Sex and the City series. 

This time, however, I did this relationship right. I was honest from the beginning in what I wanted, I was honest about who I was as a person (and shocking – was completely loved for being who I was) and had an absolutely fabulous time. I could be myself and I didn’t hold back in asking for what I wanted every step the way. Although, asking for what I wanted is what inevitably made the relationship end, me being honest in what I wanted (and for him to clearly respect and hear me on that) didn’t allow for the relationship to drag on down a miserable road that both of us didn’t want to be on.  It was, in fact, the best relationship I’ve had. And I believe it was because it had been true, genuine and honest from start to finish. And it allowed for me to finally understand what I’m looking for, what I want and what I deserve. So this past year was not for naught. The relationship brought so much into my life I can’t help but think that it was all part of the plan in the first place. Mr. Pretty Damn Close was also Mr. Pretty Damn Good. Albeit parting was hard, saying goodbye was tearful, it was all done from a loving, honest place. Mr. PDC was true, genuine and  loving to the end.  And you can’t fault that. You look at that, and say, well, what can I say? I may want to find a reason to run over a photograph of him back and forth in the driveway or make it into a dart-board, but when there is no real reason that I can find to do that, than that’s why I know it was all worth it.

Looking back on some of my past blog posts, I smile to myself. Not because I’m funny, but because it all makes a lot of sense. Moving here, having this job, writing my dissertation, new city, new friends. It all comes together in a myriad of movie scenes that end up being my life. And it’s all threaded together in a masterful way. So someone that’s driving this bus sure knows what they are doing. I just try to keep up and hang on. When God closes a door, I’ll be damned, but I do feel a draft from somewhere of a window being opened. Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t make sense. When this past break-up happened, my first instinct was to look up at the ceiling and say to the man upstairs, “You have got to be ^%$#! kidding me. Again?” And guaranteed, He looked back down at me and said, “Let go of the wheel, kid. How many times have I gotta tell you. It’s not the right time yet. And for the love of Me, don’t use the F-word.”

When I pulled away from Mr. PDC’s house that day, I turned on the radio and Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” was playing on the radio. Turning it up a bit, I was able to smile through the tears. Although I wasn’t pounding the steering wheel and singing at the top of my lungs Jerry McGuire style, I was able to sing along knowing that both of us were “free falling” into what was up next for both of us. No exact plan, but just letting things be for the moment. For the wind to pick up and carry us without having to focus on a real destination. To see and concentrate on what’s in front of us right now and to let the other cards fall where they may. Life can be about holding onto someone’s hand, and sometimes life is just about giving someone’s hand a big squeeze only in order to release it. Thank you, Mr. PDC. Because being a man isn’t just about staying, but sometimes it’s about knowing when it’s time to let go. 

And so, the bus wheels turn, and the trains continue to move us throught its tunnels at sometimes lightening speed, or sometimes a trudging pace. Whatever the case, we may need to grasp something and hold on for awhile. Life can be funny. The  thing that  annoys people the most about public transportation is that they aren’t the ones driving. And the thing that people love most about public transportation is for the exact same reason; because at least for one part of their day, they aren’t the ones driving.

Whether you are at the wheel or a passenger, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; stay true to your course and hang on. ‘Cause what’s up ahead may just be the best part.

Copyright 2011, Leah A. Flynn

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Three’s a Crowd: When past pain follows you into relationships

So here’s a confession. I share this trait with my siblings, other members of my family and a number of my friends; it’s my inescapable habit of laughing at physical humor. Three’s Company was my favorite show growing up; I didn’t understand – nor much care – about the sexual innuendos or Mrs. Roper trying to get it constantly on with the mister or that Jack was trying to pass himself off as gay. Nope, what I tuned in for was Jack hitting himself with the ironing board, Crissy knocking over a table at the Reagle Beagle, or any of the cast tripping over their own feet on a daily basis. At a ripe young age, that kind of stuff made my side hurt. My mother constantly would walk into the room, sigh, and say, “Leah, I don’t want you watching this stuff.” But I couldn’t help it. The roommates’ constant attraction to consistently being accident prone was my first childhood crush (before Ricky Schroeder and Silver Spoons came along). The rush of laughing at someone getting clocked in the head with a swinging door was enough to make my night. And to this day, I die a little inside when someone trips up the sidewalk, slips on a banana peel, or stumbles up the stairs. Lucky I wasn’t there. I wouldn’t have been much help. Oh, I would have asked how you were after the fact. But that would be after I dried my tears of laughter. I’m a sick person. I know it. I accept it. Again, blame it on my family. For some a number of years, there was a stretch of birthday parties where there was always a pinata. And one time, someone was smart enough to get the whole production on video. My oldest nephew, blindfolded and swinging the 2×4 as if he was up at bat at Shea Stadium, took a crack at the pinanta. He ended up skimming the top of the donkey and clocking another family member -the one standing behind the pinata, holding the string that kept it up in the air – across the forehead. Normal, caring people would have rushed to his side. Not my family; amidst the laughter and the occasional “ohmigod are you okay?” dotted with snickers, you could hear someone yell out “Did someone get that on video?” Sick we are. Fun, but sick. Cause at that party, the one holding the pinanta string was the only ass that ended up getting hit.

I have yet to really pull it together and get beyond the slapstick giddiness of seeing someone else getting knocked around like they were one of The Three Stooges. Even at times of seriousness and requiring the utmost maturity, I still lose it. I remember Carrie and myself went out looking for cars after mine had gotten stolen out of my apartment parking lot a few years ago. This wasn’t too long after Mr. X and I had called it quits and I had been suffering with bouts of heartache and the pain of having to get over someone.  To have my car stolen on top of all that was enough to make me feel like a country western song. So you can imagine how psyched I was to look for cars in the middle of November in Upstate New York.  One evening after work, Carrie and I had hit about our fifth car lot. We were traipsing through the rows of cars, trying to read the prices on the side and peeking in to see if it had a CD player or not, or if it had enough room to fit our Target purchases after a Saturday of shopping, or if it had a sunroof for our friends to hang their heads out the window. You know, playing the role of serious car shoppers. Ten, fifteen minutes went by and no one came out to help us. Instead, we saw a bunch of people through the large glass windows all warm inside the showroom, sipping coffee, laughing as they sidled around, watching TV from mounted screens. At that moment, a distinguished gentleman whipped a vehicle into the driveway, stepped out and strode – not many people stride but this guy had it down – with purpose towards the door. He caught sight of us and stopped short. He came over to us and asked if anyone had come out and helped us yet. We told him no. Nostrils flaring, he again strode (now with furious purpose) into the showroom. Although we couldn’t hear what was going on inside, we could guess what probably was happening. The distinguished gentleman – Fred was his name – started throwing his arms around, pointing at us, pointing at the people inside, clearly angry and upset that no one had ventured out to help us. Carrie leaned into me and said in her little voice, “Oh my, it looks like someone is getting fired in there.” After he was finished shouting, we saw Fred make his way towards the door, coming out to help us. He was so upset that when he threw open the door and walked out, and again with all the striding business, poor Fred didn’t notice one of the flag poles that was sticking out horizontally from the side of another pole, right at his head level. His eyes on us and clearly not on this obstacle in front of him, he slammed his forehead right into it, whipping his head back in one smooth motion, and then in another swift motion he moved his head quickly forward and down between his knees, holding his head in his hands. It all happened so quick, and the clanging of the bar still ringing in my ears, Carrie and I just gaped. And at that moment, I knew that I had to pull myself together. I could feel it bubbling up from way down deep inside. My laughter threatened to come out as if someone let out a tremendous fart in church and the priest was in the middle of his homily. Carrie grabbed my arm, knowing what was happening and understanding that I was about to lose it. She hissed, “You’re going to need to pull yourself together”, as he made his way over to us again, still holding the side of his head. He came up to us shouting something about having asked to have that pole removed weeks ago, and mumbling about people who don’t do what they are asked to do in the first place and that’s how people get hurt. Fred then looked at both of us and said, “Is my head bleeding?” Not daring to look directly at  him, I just shook my head, biting my lip and trying to breathe normally out of my nose. His pain for the moment forgotten, he then proceeded to walk me through a nearby Subaru’s specifications, while I noticed out of the corner of my eye Carrie tipping her head sideways looking at his face. She then spoke up and said “You know, sir, you are kind of bleeding…”. He then became extremely flustered and grabbed for his handkerchief – because of course he had one – and began mopping at his head. He was so involved in his job and being angry at his employees that he momentarily forgot about the blood that was indeed dripping down his head. It took a customer to have to point out his pain. Although I’m sure he clearly felt the blow (it was obvious as he had held his head between his legs) he tried to ignore it and push it aside for the time being, concentrating on what was most important; making a sale.  Well, when all was said and done, I didn’t end up buying a car from Fred. But it did make for a good story. And as weird and as screwed up as it may sound, his physical pain made me momentarily forget about my own emotional aches.

It’s inevitable that we all carry pain as baggage into the next relationship we venture into. If we are lucky enough, the person you are with at the time, is open enough to share their emotional baggage in exchange for yours. So you end up trading stories, showing scars and sighing about how “everything happens for a reason” or “well, I wouldn’t be the person today if that didn’t happen” or “shit happens” or, like REM so eloquently sang, “everybody hurts”. It’s true; heartache and painful emotional experiences happens to the best of us. And often, we stride on through life, trying to shove it down and aside as if it’s a pizza box at the top of the garbage heap. We may think our past painful experiences is all just garbage and not worth keeping, but yet, it still ends up following us around like dryer sheets clinging to our pants. And it still effects the way we feel about relationships, the way we approach them and how we move ourselves through the understanding that this time it will – and can – all be different.  It’s funny how something we try so hard to forget about, still ends up consuming so much of our thoughts and how we look at the relationships that we are currently in. In fact, we end up being so caught up in how much we had been hurt, and how much we need to forget about it, and then getting angry that we can’t seem to forget about it and then trying to deal with the anger at the person who caused it in the first place and goddamit why can’t I just forget this already that you forget that someone else’s pain is just as real -and just as present – as yours. I was recently reminded of that with my current partner. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the middle of expressing to him my feelings about  our relationship and sticking together, knowing it was worth it, we were worth it. (and this is hard for me to do. Past experience has led me to believe that having any sort of serious conversation like this with a boyfriend is risking the fact that he might freak out, look at me like I just grew five heads and run the other way). So you can imagine my surprise when I heard him hesitate and say “Are you sure?” in the smallest, most cautious voice I had ever heard him use. That’s when it hit me. He had been just as hurt, and just as angry as I had been, from what he had experienced in the past. Yet, here we were, arms  around each other, and giving us a chance. Scars and all. Obstacles and all. That’s something. And this time, I wasn’t laughing.

I gotta say; Mr. Pretty Damn Close is playing with a full set. And I’m not talking about Bocce. I’m talking about the other B word. The last time I had a serious conversation with a guy in a relationship, he never called me back again. Ever. After saying to him that I didn’t think we had been emotinally connecting lately, I heard him sigh and say on the other end, “Okay, let me just set my stuff down and I’ll call you back.” But he never did. And all that ever spelled to me was c-o-w-a-r-d-l-y. Mr. PDC, however, just doesn’t carry a mental hankerchief around with him to wipe up past wounds, but he does it with grace, patience and a genuineness I had yet to experience. And he listens. And he also can fix stuff. Literally. So that’s pretty hot. But I digress.

Physical humor aside, it’s important to note that no matter if you are staying in the relationship you are currently in, or if you are looking for a new one, take note that there is always someone else who has been just as hurt-or maybe more than – you have. All you need to do is listen, comfort, wipe some tears and offer a hankerchief.  But know when to say when; when pain becomes a third roommate or a house guest that has stayed way past their welcome, it comes due time to learn from it and move on. It’s okay to recognize pain, listen to each other when it comes back to rear its head from time to time, and then move on ahead. It doesn’t mean that you forget, but it does mean to live in the moment and enjoy what you got.  It’s okay  to laugh about it, too, when things are all said and done. Because sometimes, it’s good to see things like an episode from a sitcom. But your life is happening now! No use staying up late for the reruns.

Copyright 2011, Leah A. Flynn

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