Spencer has asked me this question more than once. As it is rhetorical, he is not expecting an answer. But I reply anyway.
“I believe in a God of magic and serendipity. Of coincidence. The master quilter pulling together disparate pieces and weaving something gorgeous,” I explain. “I don’t believe in a God who can love me.”
Spencer suggests I try leading with my heart instead of my head.
A few days later, I mention this to my meditation teacher, Paul.
“Oh she does love you,” Paul replies … continuing on to tell me, in the most loving way imaginable, that I have a habit of “getting in my own way.”
This is not news.
When I ask him what I can do about it, his answer is simple. Consistent. The same answer he has given me for nearly 15 years — the amount of time I have known him.
Meditate. Twice a day.
For a long time, I have sat only in the mornings.
“Try twice,” he says, reminding me that meditation is “plugging in to the source.”
I offer up a few reasons why I cannot, but they fall flat.
“Just do it.”
So I do.
I sit. I close my eyes. And very gently, I begin to say the mantra. Pleasurable, physical sensations wash over me in waves — as they often do when I meditate.
Twenty minutes pass quickly and I open my eyes refreshed, recommitted and wondering why I haven’t been doing this all along.
Less than an hour later I receive a donation to my Go Fund Me campaign, “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain.” It is more than generous. A game changer. The donor asks to remain anonymous, listing the funds as coming from “The Kind and Generous Universe.” Because really, they do …
Is this the God of magic and serendipity and coincidence? Perhaps. Regardless, I’ve been meditating twice daily ever since …
I’m still $307 away from my fundraising goal. My campaign ends in 16 days — when I leave for Girona, to attend a writers retreat with the intention of manifesting blog into book deal, “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain.”
Want to know more about”They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” — How 52 Artist Dates healed my heart and landed me smack in the center of my own life. A post-divorce narrative offering the option of a happy ending, no partner required — and how to support it? Click here: https://www.gofundme.com/awanderingjewess
With gratitude for those who have supported my Go Fund Me campaign, “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” — a post-divorce narrative with an option for a happy ending, no partner required. For those who are open to possibility and serendipity. Who celebrate lovely. And revel in real.
I’m still amazed when I receive an email alert telling me someone I don’t know has decided to follow me on Twitter (@WanderingJewess), or on my blog. Like today.
It makes me feel a little bit “real.”
But only a little bit.
I think Margery Williams best defined “real” in her children’s classic, “The Velveteen Rabbit.”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. (Named for his bald brown coat and missing hairs of his tail.) “…It’s a thing that happens to you … It takes a long time
“…That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
“…but once you are real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
I feel the most real with people who don’t break easily. Who don’t have sharp edges. Who don’t have to be carefully kept. Who do understand.
People like Nora Handler.
I don’t remember meeting Nora. It seems we’ve always known one another. Even when we haven’t. And even when we haven’t seen one another in a very long time. Like lately.
I messaged Nora, thanking her for her contribution to my “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” campaign, and suggesting we get together and catch up.
“Sounds like a plan,” she said, adding “Lots of life has happened since we’ve seen each other.”
Indeed it has.
But we are both real enough to experience it. And to share it … even when most of our hair has been loved off, our eyes have dropped out, we’re loose in the joints and very shabby.
Thank you, Nora — for all of this.
My alarm is on my phone. I keep it on the floor so I can greet the day on my knees, with thanks.
However, I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing the phone back into bed with me afterward, reviewing who has made contact in the hours I’ve been asleep. Usually it’s Facebook — alerting me that someone has “liked” my status. The Daily OM — delivering my horoscope. Or Hilary Clinton. (Actually, her campaign.)
Occasionally it is Go Fund Me, and the symbol that — at least to my eyes –looks like a crown. It appears each time a donation is made to my “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” campaign.
I woke to one the other morning and this message from Kim Jupe.
“Rock it, Lesley! So glad we met in Madrid! I am a fan!”
In total, I have spent less than four hours with Kim. We met through friends of friends, unplanned. Delicious serendipity.
The moment I saw Kim I recognized her as “friend,” and invited her to join me for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants — Dionisos, where Nick the waiter is always flirtatious.
No, we didn’t eat alone in Spain that day … but in those few hours together I was reminded of the magic of traveling alone.
I seem to be open to the universe and its inhabitants in a different way when I am untethered — meeting people I might not otherwise if I were with a partner or friend. My eyes, my ears and my heart are otherwise available. It has happened while traveling overseas — in Tel Aviv, Bonn, and Avignon. Lisbon and Seville. And “at home” — in Chicago and Madrid.
Thank you Kim, for taking the time to connect in Spain. For being a part of that ever-expanding circle around me. And, of course, for your support of my “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” campaign.
In her book, “When You Eat At The Refrigerator, Pull Up A Chair,” Geneen Roth writes about a friend who sees what most call luxury, as necessity. And what others call necessity, a luxury.
Think French-milled soap. A $3 mango in January. Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
The story reminds me of my own friend, Suzanne Pollock, and the whimsical, wonderful, highly impractical coat she was wearing when we first met. White cloth and long, embroidered with large flowers. She found it in Spain and “had to have it.”
As the words tumbled out of her mouth, I knew we’d be friends.
Because Suzanne threw caution to practicality. (A white coat?!! I nearly break out in hives at the sight of white denim … memories of an unfortunate childhood incident involving grass stain and above-mentioned trousers.)
Because she chose form over function.
Because she valued loveliness.
Because she valued herself.
Many thanks Suzanne for your recent contribution to my “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” campaign — my own exercise in impractical beauty and self love.
Impractical as I leave for Girona — where I will attend a writers retreat with the intention of manifesting blog into book deal — in 21 days, exactly 90 days following my departure from Spain.
Self-loving as I take my turn, embracing my own dream rather than supporting someone else’s.
Want to know more about “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” — how 52 Artist Dates healed my heart after divorce and landed me smack in the middle of my own life — or how to contribute to my Go Fund Me campaign? Click here.
Muchas gracias to those who have supported my Go Fund Me campaign, “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” — a post-divorce narrative of how 52 Artist Dates healed my heart and pointed me in the direction of my dreams –- and my goal of manifesting blog into book deal. It is a joy to share three more of their stories and how they touched mine.
October 2015. Valencia.
I am enjoying my first solo holiday since moving to Madrid. A pre-birthday celebration.
I’ve rented a bike. Treated myself to a day at the beach — complete with lounge chair, umbrella, and a massage. And feasted on paella with the friend of a friend, and her family. (A real treat — as my air bnb host has informed me restaurants do not make fresh paella for one. Solo diners have to make do with a ration, cooked up earlier in the day — mostly for tourists who don’t know the difference. Remember … “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain.”)
It is my last evening here. I’m strolling the beautiful, winding streets when I hear … American! Not English, American.
My head spins around, as it does every time I hear my native “twang.” Except this time I am surprised by a familiar face.
It is Gail Mathis. We met just a few weeks earlier in Madrid. And now she is here, in Valencia.
And here, nearly a year later, supporting my “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” campaign.
Thank you, Gail! For your generous donation and for maintaining the connection of chance meetings and serendipity.
I regret I won’t see Gail when we both return to Spain this fall. Our itineraries don’t quite overlap. Plus, I’ll be at writers retreat — with the intention of manifesting a book deal for “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain.”
The Rocaberti Writers Retreat I will be attending this October in Girona, Spain is paid in full!!
Many thanks to Angie Hubbell for donating the EXACT amount needed to help me achieve this auspicious milestone.
Angie has been a co-creator in my life for as long as I have known her.
We finally met in 2007 (We’d shared a mutual friend and had heard about one another for close to 20 years.) when she hosted my then husband and I, visiting Chicago from California, in hopes of finding a home.
After two days of real estate”touring,” we agreed on a condo we wanted to call our own. Problem was, we weren’t sure if we could afford to.
I still don’t know what kind of voodoo mathematics Angie did … all I recall is her scratching down some numbers on a margarita napkin, and showing us we could.
That same weekend our mortgage broker went AWOL. Again, Angie swooped in with a solution — connecting us with a friend of hers who brokered the deal with speed, kindness and grace.
We lived in that house for four years. Rented it for a few more. And sold it last July — days before I moved to Spain. It was the last piece tying my ex and I to one another.
I left for Madrid less than a week later, truly unencumbered. Truly free to inhabit my life. And to discover “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain.”
I feel a bit like a political fundraiser penning a “Thanks for your donation … but there’s still work to do” email.
Yesterday I gleefully posted that the Writers Retreat I will be attending in Girona is now paid in full. What I failed to mention is I am still about $1,500 from my “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” campaign goal — as was made apparent when a friend called this morning and exclaimed, “You met your goal!” Aww … “Well, a milestone piece of it,” I responded. (Detailed cost breakdown here.)
… but there’s still work to do.
Isn’t there always?
I am a firm believer that each person we meet changes our world in some way — large or small. I also believe that, if we’re lucky, a few people change the way we live in the world.
Christine Frazita is one of those people.
I showed up in her San Francisco office in the mid 1990s, not long after parting ways with my previous psychotherapist — the one who had briefly dated my then boyfriend. And neglected to tell me about it.
Christine’s couch provided both a literal and metaphoric soft place to land. And while she was, and is, kind beyond my personal understanding or ability … she also pushed me to work hard to change the way I saw the world and myself in it.
I remember telling Christine about that then-boyfriend. How he had lived in Paris for a couple of years. How I dreamed of doing something similar, but for a variety of reasons, didn’t believe I could.
Twenty years later, I not only believed I could. I did!
Muchas, muchas gracias, Christine! For your contribution to my “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” campaign. And for your help in doing the heavy lifting that got me there.
Christine sent me this sculpture of the Hindu Goddess Durga as a wedding gift. She remembered my religious studies professor at university had mentioned a Goddess particularly appropriate for and inside of me — Durga, Goddess of Power and Strength.
Want to know more about “They Don’t Eat Alone in Spain” — how 52 Artist Dates saved my soul after divorce and landed me smack in the middle of my own life — or how to contribute to my Go Fund Me campaign? Click here.
My commitment to the Artist Date began as a response to pain. To a man I affectionately referred to as the Southern Svengali and the short, sweet romance after my divorce that I couldn’t let go of. I sometimes forget that.
I forget because the weekly, solo play date as prescribed in the book The Artist’s Way, healed me from obsession I only hesitantly admitted.
I forget because two years of creative commitment, coupled with other work, allowed me to release him. Us. And my ideas about the way we should be in one another’s lives. (Which looks dramatically different than I had imagined. And while our contact can now best be described as sporadic, the connection remains strong … sweet and satisfying to both of us.)
I forget because it gently nudged me into becoming the kind of woman I dreamed of being. A woman engaged in life in interesting ways. Who does interesting things. Who has interesting conversations about more than relationships.
But today, I remember.
I remember as I find a hole in my schedule and watch my mind like a rubber band – snapping back to thoughts of the man I dated before I left for Madrid.
While I know there is no slipping back into one’s life as it once was, I had hoped we might explore dating again when I returned. But it hasn’t turned out that way. And in these quiet, alone moments, I find myself once again struggling with letting go. Of him. Us. And my ideas about the way we should be in one another’s lives.
And so it is grace when I hear the whisper that perhaps now is a good time to re-commit to my creative self again. That an infusion of new stimuli might once again quiet my mind and lead me back to the woman who has interesting conversations about more than relationships.
(While a year in Madrid seemed to have the makings of one grand, extended Artist Date, my days were filled with the stuff of life. All occurring in a language not my own. And Artist Dates became, unfortunately, sporadic.)
I peruse the movie guide — more concerned with time, location and the act of going than what will be projected on the screen – and choose a film.
I cut short a phone call. Say no to a text from a friend asking if I would like company. Both occurring after I’ve made the decision to go. The universe seeming to ask, “Are you sure?’
And I am.
I hop on my vintage 3-speed cruiser and pedal to the Music Box Theatre. Artist Date 1.2. (Officially, number 117 … renamed for congruence with my rededication to the practice and my return to Chicago.)
Grinning ear to ear, I purchase my ticket. Giddy to be with me.
This has always been the magic of the Artist’s Date. A turning inward. A return to myself.
Ironic, as the movie I have chosen – Life, Animated – is a documentary about Owen Suskind, a young man with autism and the tools he and his family use to pull him out from his personal world.
How Walt Disney movies become the lens and the lexicon for connection. The language for articulating what we all want. Friends. Romantic love. Work. A sense of purpose. And what we all feel from time to time, what Owen calls “the glop.” The inevitable pain when the things we want elude us.
We join him in watching scenes from Bambi on his first night alone in his independent living apartment – after his mother and father have left. And later, TheHunchback of Notre Dame when his girlfriend of three years ends their relationship.
Heartbreaking moments punctuated with joy and hope, most evident when Owen connects with his own passion and a sense of purpose. His “Disney Club” – where he and other adults with developmental disabilities view and discuss their favorite films. And experience an unscripted visit from Gilbert Godfrey, the voice of Iago from the movie Aladdin.
I sob witnessing their squeals of laughter, excitement and disbelief … as I am reminded that the universe is full of surprises. That it is always willing to conspire with us. And that our greatest joys often come packaged in a way dramatically different than we might imagine them.
That gorgeous moments of serendipity occur when we turn first turn inward – connecting with our tenderest truths – and then out – vulnerably sharing them. We allow the world to join our party. And sometimes even Gilbert Godfrey shows up.
I am a marker of time. I look for patterns in numbers, hoping to find or make meaning of them.
Like last week.
I had been aware of the numerical arrangement in front of me for awhile.
September 15. My spousal support would be cut almost in half. September 16. Two years since the dissolution of my marriage was made final. September 17. My Divorce Buddy’s birthday. The man who walked lock step with me on this path. Also the day I would board a plane bound for San Francisco, for a friend’s wedding.
The same friend whose home I stayed in the last time I was in the Bay Area. When every morning I would write “I am alone because I am getting ready to be alone.” The words gliding off my pen, seemingly without thought or effort on my part. When my then-husband asked for a divorce.
It all seemed “full circle.” As it should be. Recognizing the pattern, the blog began writing itself. The same way those prophetic words did each morning. Of themselves.
And yet, September 15 came without fan fare. I did not check my bank account to confirm the new, lesser amount had been deposited. The 16th was much the same. I felt, remarkably, “nothing.”
On the 17th, I forgot to call my Divorce Buddy to wish him a happy birthday. (Unlike me, he’s not a marker of time. I imagine he may have been grateful for the oversight.) I was too busy packing.
Which left me wondering about 18, 19, 20 and beyond.
Eighteen had me meditating in Golden Gate Park — returning to the “twice” in my twice-daily practice — and then running into my first massage instructor. (Ironic, as I was staying just a few blocks from the massage school I attended and later, where I taught — although I didn’t realize it until I arrived and looked out the window.)
Nineteen, 20 and 21 had me walking on the Bay Bridge and dancing under redwood trees, all the while fielding the persistent question, “When are you moving back?”
My answer, a surprising and consistent, “I don’t know.” Followed by the insistence that “I’m just waiting for the earth to stop shifting beneath me.” And “The universe will tell me.”
It always does. Oblivious to any date on the calendar.
Like it did on 22, my last full day in San Francisco. The only day of my seven with alone time specifically set aside. I returned to Golden Gate Park — to the Japanese Tea Gardens, a place I had never been before. And then to Ocean Beach. A place I went often…especially when life felt crazy. I’d stand in the sand, squint my eyes and wonder if I could see across to the other side if I tried hard enough…knowing I never could.
The place I took my ex-husband on our first date. Where I kissed him for the first time. The ocean wind whipping my once long hair around my face, showering it with a fine mist of salt water.
I sat on the white-washed wall separating the beach from the parking lot, wishing I had something to throw into the ocean. Something to “give away,” to further separate me from him. To further cut the ties that had kept me tethered — unknowingly, until this trip — to him. I had nothing. Nothing but words. A prayer.
“Let the love that began here, let it end here. Let it wash out with the tides. And let something new wash in.”
Twenty-three I arrived home. The eve of 24, on the Jewish calendar, a new year began.
Twenty-five. Today. I worshipped in synagogue this morning but skipped taslich — the ritual casting away of sins, that which no longer serves us. I had already done it…a few days early.
It was my first holiday season divorced and living back in Chicago, alone. My girlfriend called me out on my obsession with the man I like to call the Southern Svengali — the one I kissed for two nights while in Charleston in late October. She said she could not hear about it, or him, anymore.
My non-relationship was affecting my relationships.
I felt desperate and scared. I called a friend who advised me to get on my knees and ask God to remove my obsession him every day.
I did. But I needed something more.
I remembered the comfort I had found in the structured creativity of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and decided to pull it out again — a hopeful, albeit artsy, roadmap out of myself.
This time, in addition to taking on the weekly reading and writing assignments, I committed to the weekly Artist Date – the weekly hour or so block of time, alone, to fill my creative coffers – and to a weekly blog about it for a year. Fifty-two Artist Dates. Fifty-two blogs.
Thursday is Artist Date 52.
I am sitting in a Starbucks on Michigan Avenue killing time before Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. It is 6 p.m. and I have been downtown since 11. I am tired. I am questioning the wisdom in staying here as opposed to driving home at 2 p.m. when I was finished with my work and returning later.
Until I get the text which lets me know I am exactly where I should me. It is from my friend Matt. He is at a coffee shop around the corner, also killing time, before his couple’s therapy session where he will ask his wife for a divorce.
I tell him where I am. Within moments he is standing over me and then we are hugging each other tightly. Teary.
I remember when he told me that he and his wife were separating, more than a year ago. I still lived in Seattle, but was visiting Chicago – smack dab in the middle of my own divorce.
Matt is appropriately anxious. I reflect back to him how thoughtful he has been through this entire process – never rash. We hold hands and we pray together, in the middle of Starbucks. It doesn’t seem strange.
He leaves. And shortly after, I do too, pulling my wool long-underwear back on over my tights. It is December and the temperatures are already in the teens.
I love Chicago at night. Especially during the holidays. Michigan Avenue twinkles with white lights, and skaters glide around in circles on the tiny patch of ice in Millenium Park.
I walk up “the hill” that is Randolph Street to the Harris Theater. My body has once again adjusted to the flat Midwest and takes note of the incline.
I pick up my ticket at will-call and make a beeline for the bathroom, peeling off my long underwear. Winter in Chicago is a lot of work.
My friend Lori is coming out. We embrace and talk excitedly about her ceramics show. Lori is a genius potter. We met her at Lil Street Art Center, where I was stumbling through a beginners’ class. Lori taught me how to glaze.
She asks if I will come back to Lil Street. I am not certain as I have committed my creative energies to my writing and my dance – at least for now.
She asks if I remember Kevin from the clay studio and reminds me he is a member of Hubbard Street. I do remember. It is one of the reasons I am here.
We part company and I run into a woman I have danced with. She is enrolled in Level three West African Dance. I am in Level two. Later, I see Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The world seems small and I am a citizen of it. Or, at the very least, a citizen of Chicago.
The woman in the seat next to mine is alone. As is the woman next to her. We make easy conversation. She is a Weight Watchers member. I am a Weight Watchers leader. She is looking for a massage therapist. I am a massage therapist. She is a widow. I am a divorcee.
She tells me she lost her husband four years ago, and she tears up. For the second time today I am clear that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Right down to my seat: BB10.
The performance, One Thousand Pieces by Alejandro Cerrudo, is inspired by Marc Chagall’s America Windows – the installation I visit every time I am at the Art Institute, my favorite. I shared it with Matt a few months ago when we met downtown for a member’s-only café re-opening. It was summer and we sat in the courtyard noting who was checking the other out. It seems a long time ago.
It is my first time seeing Hubbard Street Dance. The dancers’ bodies are strong. Gorgeous. Not sinewy, like ballet bodies. I think my legs approximate the same shape as theirs, albeit less toned and I feel at the same time cocky and ashamed admitting this to myself.
The stage is glossed and looks like water. I am looking for Kevin. My eyes occasionally roll back into my head. This almost always happens to me at performances. The lights go down and my sleepy kicks in. Except for last year when I saw Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre – twice.
My seats were good – dress circle one night, main floor the other. My experience was dramatically altered by looking straight at the dancers as opposed to peering down at them. I vowed then I would always buy good seats for dance. These seats are good – the Harris Theatre is small and there are no “bad seats.” But not good enough.
And then it is over.
The performance, but not my Artist Dates. They “work.” Like being on my knees works. Not so much in desperation (although I am certain I will find myself there again many times in this life), but in prayer – the antidote to it. Exactly where I am supposed to be.
My friend Dina calls it “shaking the Coke bottle.”
That feeling when “nothing” is going on. When life doesn’t feel sexy. When I am going about my business doing what other people do. Grocery shopping. Paying bills. Taking out the trash. And, seemingly, not much else.
I don’t like it. Given my druthers, every day would be my birthday, New Years’ Eve and the 4th of July all wrapped into one. (Actually, I don’t really care for either of these holidays, but they speak to the notion of fireworks and something shiny, new.)
I want to make “something happen.” Anything. Ergo, Dina’s Coke bottle. I imagine it as glass, and filled with soda made from sugar, not corn syrup – before it was retro. My thumb covering the opening. Fingers wrapped around the body. Shaking violently and knowing when I let up a spray of sticky sweetness will shower me, and anyone in my midst.
Sounds great, actually. The sweet spray, that is. Trouble is, the mess. And the dreaded clean-up. Sticky residue.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way series, writes that “too much drama equals not enough work.”
There is no drama right now. Not enough work either. Correction, it is there. I just don’t seem to be doing it.
Entering billable time for the past month. A tedious and mundane task that will take me, at best, 45 minutes.
Submitting two pieces – already written – for publication. Their titles and the word “pitch,” scrawled on my white board months ago and never erased.
Tackling the looming job search.
What I am doing is writing. This is a good thing. (Consider that the word “write” is tattooed on my right, inner wrist. “Left” on the opposite.)
Except when it keeps me from taking small actions that chip away at what appear large and overwhelming tasks. When it keeps me from making those satisfying little check marks on my to-do list.
This morning, while journaling my morning pages, I gave words to the hidden fear that the Coke-bottle fantasy seeks to remedy, or at the least, cover up.
That I will run out of subject matter to write about. My blog will grow dry and fallow. My life will grow dry and fallow. I will grow dry and fallow.
There is no romance. No big, new job. No decadent travel in the works. There is “nothing” going on.
What I forget is, when I do what’s in front of me, the rest, somehow, seems to magically take care of itself. And often, sexy little gifts from the universe emerge – if I choose to see them that way.
Strangely, it is not a linear process. A plus B does not equal C.
It is like weight loss.
There are weeks when I do everything “right,” the scale registers a gain and I call it a liar. And weeks when I do everything “wrong.” It shows a loss. And I thank the weight-loss goddess and keep on moving. When this happens to my Weight Watchers members, I remind them that it is what they do most of the time that matters.
Or like marketing. My spiritual business teacher insisted that we students reach out to 20 people a day and speak our vision – what we do, what we offer, what we promise.
“I am a massage therapist and bodyworker. I help people fall in love with their bodies, take care of their bodies, and do things they never imagined possible.” Twenty times a day.
When I did this, clients came to me. Not a single one directly from the outreach. But from other places. The universe answering my call. Proof that energy begets energy.
Or, as my friend Teresa used to tell me, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Or, eventually something is going to happen.
So today, I will do what is in front of me. I will lead two Weight Watchers meetings. Meet for another informational interview. Go to a friend’s gallery opening.
I might even drop an email to my friend Steven about a trip to Italy we’ve been considering.
As I commit to this not-so-sexy stuff, the footwork, I feel my grip loosen – fully aware that the sticky, sweet will go flat. But that my life has not. Even if it sometimes feels that way.
Post Script. I met a milliner at tonight’s art opening. She shared that she used to make hats full-time, but that she had to get a “real job” when she got divorced. She found one, with great benefits and vacation. And that leaves her time and energy enough to continue to make hats.
“We’re looking to hire,” she offered. I smiled at the synchronicity. I told her our situations are strikingly similar, handed her my card, and asked if we might talk further.
Sexy little gift from the universe. And no clean up.
The side of my face is pressed to yours. I feel your beard against my cheek. The bone of your right pelvis against my own. Your leg gently, but firmly, straddling mine.
You dance tango. But we are not dancing tango.
No matter, it is the sexiest dance I’ve ever had in my life. I’m certain of it.
I have not danced like this in more years than I can count.
I am referring not only to the leg between mine. Or the man, 10 years my junior, to whom it belongs. But to the friends surrounding me. My farnow, the Kiwi word roughly translated as “family of choice.” Farnow I’ve known for 20 years. Farnow I’ve known for just 20 minutes.
We are dancing to Patti LaBelle. Donna Summer. The Cure. New Order. All of us. Like we did in Detroit. In San Francisco. When I was 20-something and it didn’t feel like “a thing” to stay up late to go dancing.
I am sweaty. Low to the ground. All hips and legs. I feel vital. Sexy. Alive.
“You are in a very good place,” my friend Steven tells me. He is right. I am.
But not for the reasons you think.
This isn’t a story about sex.
This is a story about recognizing another one of my teachers. About the universe tapping me on the shoulder, inquiring exactly where I am with the old idea I tossed into Lake Michigan – along with stale bread. the ritual of tashlich – on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, just a few weeks ago.
The day I muttered, “I let go of the idea that I am only good for sex.” Over and over, like a mantra. The notion being that I might be attractive to men for more reasons than this.
Prior to my marriage, I used my sexuality like a calling card. A year outside of its dissolution, I’m not sure what is. Or if I have one at all.
Earlier in the evening, we did a different sort of dance. Flirty. My ass to your ass. My back to your chest. Your leg between mine for the first time.
“Is this ok?” you ask. Yes, I nod. It is more than ok. I cannot stop grinning.
And then…you are sitting on a stool, no longer dancing. I am not quite sure what has happened. I think it has something to do with the girl sitting next to you, but I am not certain.
I do not want to interfere with anyone’s real life. I am on holiday. This flirtation is fun. But I do not want to hurt anyone. So I leave it be. I leave you be. Mostly.
I dance with Steven and Tim. Anja and Derek. Anne-Marie and Tom. Everyone but you. I ask G-d to help me to be to be present to the people who are with me and not to worry about those who are not.
Later, when you are alone, I apologize for possibly getting you into trouble with a girl. You insist I have not. But that you are certain I am one to get into trouble. You are teasing me.
I tell you it is incredibly sexy when you reach down between your legs to tap on the cajon – the box drum – which I saw you do the other night, playing music with my friend, Tim.
I notice you don’t drink. Neither do I. We talk about living life feeling everything. “EVERYTHING,” you say slowly, emphatically, with a knowing smile.
We talk about G-d. That yours is like Star Wars, “The Force.” That mine is magic, poetry and serendipity. The kind of stuff I couldn’t think up myself.
You ask me about my work. My Judaism. My writing. We talk about your music, the religion of your upbringing, and our friendship with Tim.
I tell you I enjoyed dancing with you. You smile and reply that you enjoyed talking with me. I am flummoxed. It is as if the universe is asking, “Remember your taslich mantra? The one about being attractive for other reasons…Are you paying attention?”
We dance that slow, sexy dance, and say goodbye. I kiss either of your cheeks, feeling your beard against me again. I ask if I will see you again on this trip. “G-d willing. Allah willing,” you say, and list a couple of other names for G-d, but I do not hear them. I am touched by your response.
And you are gone.
I go back to the floor and join my farnow and dance until DJ Gerry can play no more. I think about you whispering in my ear that I could surely tango. That I am a good dancer, but I must know this already.
I do not see you again. I am a little bit sad, but not at all surprised. It isn’t necessary. I have received your teaching.
I want to tell you this. And that my meeting you is a wink from the universe – is G-d. But I do not. It seems too intimate. Too much.
So I blog instead. My sober artistry. A kind of “love letter,” sans stamp. Destination: Dublin, Ireland. I sign it,
“Until ‘the force’ conspires for us to meet again. In gratitude, Lesley.”
Have you ever held onto a crush because it made you feel like you had something going on? Even though you had nothing going on? With him or her or anyone else?
Even though you haven’t spoken a word or had contact in quite some time? Even though he knows he could have you if he just said the word…but doesn’t?
Have you ever latched on to a few kind words from an ex? Allowed a simple sentence to set your mind reeling with possibilities? Wondering what he is up to now? Even though you haven’t seen one another in more than a decade. And you aren’t even sure if he’s married or not? Have you ever wanted to inquire with a mutual friend of his relationship status but decided against it only because you didn’t want to appear tacky?
Have you ever rifled through old journals looking for entries about your time with the above-mentioned ex because you are certain you wrote about it? And when you found those few pages read them over and over again until the images were seared onto your retinas?
Have you ever lingered over every detail about a romance that happened nearly 20 years ago? The one where you were 25 and he was 40 and you asked him, “What is 40 like?” Where he made sure you didn’t die or kill yourself in a drunken frenzy – your first time overseas? And then sang to you in the airport when you said goodbye, lamented over the things he didn’t do with you, knowing you would never see one another again.
Do you tell it with such vivid color all these years later that your girlfriend insists you to write about it? But you don’t.
Have you ever felt closer to your crush after spending time with his friend? And felt guilty about it even though you didn’t do anything wrong?
Have you ever slipped his name into conversation just to keep it alive? To keep him alive?
Do you ever wonder about the ones you call unfinished business?
Your first real love. The first one you got naked with?
The one with good boundaries, who kept you at arm’s length because he was your professor and you were his student. But sometimes you wonder if maybe…just maybe, it could have been different.
The one who slipped his hand down the back of your pants and guided you down the street by your crotch. Made you praise God for dirty minds and dirty hands.
The one who wanted a partner when you wanted a parent. You couldn’t see it then but you can now. And sometimes you wonder what it would have been like if you met later?
Have you ever looked up your ex’s current on Facebook and wondered if you were thinner? Prettier? Better in bed?
Have you ever waxed nostalgic over others and wondered what the hell you were thinking?
Do you sometimes forget that you are making a choice every day? Not to settle. Not to post a dating profile online. But to grieve. To get your own house in order. To trust in magic and serendipity and the divine rhythms of the universe.
Do you sometimes forget that you actually have said, “no”? Not because the suitor wasn’t perfectly lovely, but because you didn’t have romantic feelings. Because you wanted to honor the feelings you did have, wanted to honor yourself and honor him. Because you remember what it is like to say “yes” when you really mean “no.”
Do you congratulate yourself when you remember?
And yet, choice or no choice, do you sometimes feel that strange sense of empty space – like a wall waiting for art? You know nature abhors a vacuum because your friend Teresa told you so and she’s rarely wrong. So you wonder when nature will come charging in.
Do you sometimes wonder if the universe remembers exactly how long it has been since you have had sex? Does it sometimes make you cringe? And other times fill you with a sense of esteem for discernment you had never previously known?
Do you sometimes know that God has done you favor because you otherwise might have stayed somewhere you shouldn’t have. Or gone somewhere you didn’t need to be?
Do you sometimes still have a little bit of crazy that tells you that you are better, worthier, more interesting and more attractive if you have a partner?
Do you sometimes look at someone new and think “maybe,” and know in the past you would have forced that “maybe” into a “yes?” Made it fit, damn it. Made him fit. Like Cinderella’s shoe on a stepsister’s foot? But for now you just say “maybe.”