In case you missed Part 1 here it is: Part 1

So I left you with the realization that I needed to reclaim San Diego for myself. I went to our old places to make new memories with them, either alone, or with someone else. I made new, happier connections. But eventually I realized that was too simplistic and I had to think bigger-way bigger. I had to reclaim the world for myself, and I couldn’t let old memories prevent me from creating new ones. Since I had been so set in my ways and really attached to a very strict world-view, that really left a lot of the world open to me.

I started to try anything and everything and trying to make my life different. I also didn’t shy from spending time in some of the places I shared with my ex. The walkabout is all about finding yourself. I started challenging fears, and my preconceived notions about things. I decided I needed to get in shape, and over the next two years lost thirty pounds, got braces, and started to enjoy life a little more.

I tried yoga, and working out, I went on some dates-ok, a LOT of dates, and continued to improve myself. I tried to let go of the bitterness and anger. I was impatient and I think it’s not in my nature to wait for something. But it was true: only time would fix this. And I tried to convince myself that I could achieve happiness by myself, and that I didn’t need anyone else to be whole again.

I don’t do well being alone, hell, my friends will tell you I never shut up simply because I hate the silence. Every silence feels awkward to me.

It’s weird because I needed someone to want me to feel whole, but at the same time I needed to not care whether I was single or in a relationship. Someone once said that desperation is a stinky stinky cologne. Which makes me think of this guy:

Pepe Le Pew

For me, there were so many steps to my recovery, with a a long period reserved for feeling sorry for myself. I thought my walkabout was long finished when I started dating my current girlfriend. The relationship is the best one I’ve ever been in, with a partner that blows me away with her thoughtfulness.

The most important thing is she makes me feel so wanted and cherished. And I realize now, I needed to feel this way for my walkabout to finish. Everyone is different, and maybe for the majority of us need to feel that they’re awesome as individuals and that no one sets their value but themselves. For me, I needed to feel like I had value. Even if we break up, I feel like she’s brought me out of the fog, and that someone felt something for me that motivated her to treat me so well. So after a few months of dating, I thought that my walkabout was finished.

I was wrong.

The Frozen Four is college hockey’s premier event, akin to the Final Four in basketball. Each year it rotates to a different host city, and my ex and I had a tradition of going every year that we were together. In 2011, the first year after my ex and I split I wasn’t strong enough to go there and deal with the fact that my ex and her family would be there. Even though the tournament was taking place in Minnesota where I had gone to law school, I couldn’t go. I was wracked with fear and simply not ready for any possible confrontation.

I stayed home and watched the tournament on tv, ashamed. That night The Doctor texted me, and in between asking me some legal questions, told me “it wasn’t going to work between us.” Double whammy.

This year, the tournament was in Pittsburgh, where I went to college. I hemmed. I hawed. I convinced myself I didn’t have the money to go. Finally, I convinced myself to try to use miles I had to burn to get there. Everything fell into place and off I went. I made sure I looked as good as possible in case I ran into her. I wanted to make absolute sure I wasn’t going to rue my appearance when or if she saw me.

The first Thursday night game came around and I was nervous. Very nervous. I didn’t know where she was, or how I could avoid her. I didn’t know what I would say if she said something. I cringed every time I saw a UNH sweater, convinced it was her. When I sat in my seat in the upper bowl, I looked at the crowd beneath me. I half-heartedly scanned the crowd until I saw four people staring at me from the lower bowl. Anyone who has attended a sporting event knows, you’re really not looking up during the game. Down yes, as it’s the direction of the action and comfortable to look that way.

Why are these four people staring at me…oh. Sonnavabitch. Already? I immediately felt something. But instead of fear, it was curiosity.  What will their reaction be to my presence? They basically stared at me the rest of the night. I enlisted my friend Mark’s boy to tell me if they were still looking at me. I convinced myself I shouldn’t look at them (yay) but still cared if they were looking at me (boo-hiss.)

“They’re still staring at you. They’re looking away. They’re staring at you. They’re still staring at you.”

Finally the first game ended and my friends and I walked around the concourses. I lived in abject terror as every time we would go around a bend I’d expect to see them. I decided then and there that I couldn’t live like this anymore. The night ended with no ex-sightings, and I went back to the hotel with my friends. We partied the night away and I couldn’t stop thinking about Saturday. The final game. What would I do if I saw her? While we hung out outside of the Consol Energy Center, drinking beers I finally realized what I needed to do. I entered the arena early and walked around, building up my nerve. All of a sudden, I saw them all sitting in their section alone, my ex-MIL’s big red hair giving her position away. I took a deep breath and bounded down the stairs. I told them that I had seen them see me on Thursday and figured I would come over and say hi, and that I wished them well and hoped they were ok. They stared blankly at me, like I didn’t exist and didn’t say a word. I thought to myself this was a little unnerving, but so far I hadn’t broken out in tears or get punched in the face, so I was taking this as a win. Then I looked into my ex-MIL’s eyes and saw the pained expression and the eyes filled with conflicting emotions. She cared! She felt bad! She felt good! Hell she felt something. And for me, that was enough. That she still cared about me, even a little bit was all I wanted, just some kind of recognition after my ex cut off all contact when she left me. I told them to take care of themselves and clutched my heart and pointed at my ex-MIL. She nodded.

I bounded up the stairs, gleefully taking them two at a time. As I reached the top of the stairs I had an epiphany. All this time I had been concentrating on how hard it was for me to get over her. It ate me up inside that she moved on from me right to a guy she met on Twitter. That I was crushed and sobbing every day and she was already in a new relationship. I never, not once, thought it was hard for her to move on passed me. Or that it was hard for her family to move on passed me. Not once did she, or they, contact me. They cut me out of their lives and didn’t look back.

But with a smile on my face I realized something. It’s hard to get over losing me. She’s not over me yet, and it’s been almost three years since she boarded that flight to New England. When I saw her again and I didn’t even recognize her by the way she looked at me I realized something: I had finally confronted my biggest fear, on my terms. I had always wondered what would happen when I finally saw my ex-wife again. Always. I hoped that I would handle it well but I was scared to see her again.

As I hi-fived the confused usher at the top of the stairs, I realized something else.

My walkabout is just beginning.

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The Walkabout (Part 1)

In May of 2010, my now ex-wife basically insinuated that she wanted a divorce, while I bullheadedly decided she meant separation, not splitsville. It was me reading between the lines that weren’t actually there.

She went home, then told me over facebook that she didn’t love me anymore (ouch) and eventually decided she wanted that divorce via facebook chat. (triple ouch)

I was devastated. I kept holding out hope that she would change her mind and that we would figure it out somehow. But a part of me was happy to be free: the entire marriage didn’t work, and we both truly wanted different things, and to be treated differently by our respective partners as well. Our strengths ignored, our weaknesses magnified, we weren’t going to work out without a lot of compromising (also known as “settling.”) And that compromising was going to take a lot of work, work neither of us prepared for or frankly wanted to put in. I think we both knew, at least by the time May 2010 rolled around, that it was over between us. One of us was much more sure than the other, but someone always reaches that epiphany first. It took me a long time to realize a lot of these things.

Right when we split, I got word that JetBlue was doing an All You Can Jet event, allowing you to purchase for $500 the ability for one month, the ability to fly unlimited JetBlue flights. It was the best deal of all time, and to me it felt like a sign. My friend Brian had posted on facebook about JetBlue’s anniversary sale, selling one way tickets for 10 dollars, and that’s how I sent my wife back to her parents for the last time. Now they were offering me a tailor-made walkabout.

A walkabout is a journey that the male Australian Aborigines would take as a sort of rite of passage, so they could find themselves. This was my walkabout. But for me, I didn’t realize that the walkabout would have me travel so far, or last so long, or have me confront things that had nothing to do with my ex-wife.

I went to Greece with my parents and siblings, and we reconnected as a family. My ex never got close to my family, save for my then 14 year old brother. My mother tried desperately to connect with her, because the relationship I had with MY in-laws was borderline magical. Every person who complains about their mother in-law didn’t get mine, that’s for damn sure. That woman was the nicest or just about greatest person I met the whole time I was with my ex. My mother of course, took my relationship in stride and tried to force a connection with my ex, who felt smothered. So with all that strain out of the way, we headed to Greece, a family of five once more.

While the details of that trip are recorded in the obscene amount of photos that I took over the course of two weeks, the feelings I felt on that trip are hard to put into words, so bear with me. I remember talking a lot. Now, I’m a talker but when I talked on this trip I downright gushed like a broken fire hydrant. And of course it was “my ex this” or “my ex that” and how could I forget “[insert bitter as fuck thing about love]?”

I remember talking about my ex, incessantly, to complete strangers. A bus tour where I became friends with everyone (or so I thought) and exchanged contact info, and none of the people ever contacted me (good choice guys.)

I remember looking at a lot of girls, entering a girl-crazy phase that I hadn’t been in for probably my entire life. I remember learning to deal with the fact that I didn’t have to feel guilty about looking at other women anymore. That I actually felt terrible and felt a deep sense of loss. That I needed to learn to be alone, to be an individual again.

That I thought that “it takes time” was a bunch of bullshit advice. You were right, 1000s of strangers, don’t you feel vindicated?!

The hardest thing I had to deal with over these now-almost-three years since we filed for divorce, was dealing with all of the “what ifs.” I just wanted to know the reasons why she treated me so badly, did she ever love me, what I could have done to make it work.”

It took me over two years to realize that I needed to get over the fact that I was never going to get the closure of knowing the answers to those questions that I had. Nope. My ex wasn’t going to give them to me, and I wasn’t going to find them anywhere else. There wasn’t a time machine I could hop into and fix everything. I was never going to know why she did any of the things she did, good or bad. One day I woke up and I realized I no longer cared about getting the answers, and wasting any more time wondering about the what-ifs couldn’t change anything now. That was the hardest thing to get over: not the way I was treated, but that I couldn’t care about why something happened, why it played out the way it did. Instead I needed to know what I was going to do with my life now. If I wasn’t going to get the answers to those questions, why didn’t I go learn from the one person who was going to be around for all of this crazy journey? Myself.

I thought the walkabout would be for that month, and it would be about learning how to be a single person again. I was completely wrong. I first flew to New York, a city about a year before I had spent time with my ex showing her the city of my childhood for the first time. I had a lot of fresh memories of taking her to do all these touristy things. But this time, I was doing all these things by myself. I saw some friends in the city, and realized I still couldn’t stop talking about her. It was still too raw, but to their credit, they all listened to me.

I went to Costa Rica, and Colombia, and then flew to Seattle, seeing places I had never seen before, and having a blast before turning around and flying to Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh is where I went for my undergraduate years, and ironically the last time I had been there was right after I met my ex for the first time. I walked around the city thinking that this was the crazy thing: I had always thought I would be taking my ex here to see the campus and regale her with stories of my misspent youth. Now I was returning to my past: untainted, unspoiled, undamaged with memories of her, and it was soothing but superficial. I realized then that the personal growth I hoped to experience wasn’t there, even as I flew around North and South America in search of it. And I wasn’t going to find it there. I was going to find it at home.

Home. The city that I shared everything I knew about with her, the outsider. The place I desperately tried to sell to her. The place I chose over staying with her and moving back to the East Coast. How could I avoid her ghost? More than anything I needed to reclaim San Diego for myself.

Continued, tomorrow.

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The Friend of My (Girl)friend Is…

One of the things you might have to do when settling into a new relationship is figure out how your social lives are going to exist now, with you spending more(or most) of your free time, exclusively with someone you’re dating.

Some couples do that weird thing where they spend every waking moment together happily and basically disappear from the planet, to exist in their own bubble. That co-dependent shit is scary, to be honest. It’s even more scary when one person feels bad that the other has no friends, and ends up spending all his/her time with their partner out of guilt that they have a social life. That’s no bueno, people.

So what are the red flags? For me, it’s their number of friends. Do they actually have friends (people they see at Starbucks every morning don’t count) or do they really act like you’re their world? It feels good at first, a gigantic shot of mocha-esteem…but then that starts to feel constricting, right?

It’s one thing if the girl is far from home and is new to the city, or she works crazy hours. But even then, don’t you want your alone time too? Or time to spend with the boys on a night out and not feel terrible because your friend-less significant other is at home?

When you watch this video:

you laugh, but it’s kind of true. She has to know that her friends trust you. Wait, what do you do when she doesn’t have any friends to speak of?

Who’s watching the watchers, so to speak. I prefer dating a woman with a good collection of friends, and a rich social life of her own, one that doesn’t need me to be the entire social calendar. If she’s got friends, then she’s earned them. Friends are the people who have been with you for awhile, who chose to be with you in the good times and the bad. If your significant other doesn’t have any, don’t you think you should be a little worried?

So the friend/s of my girlfriend is/are a godsend, a safety blanket, and an important barometer of her independence.

They’re a godsend because they let her continue to have her own life, we don’t have to share everything. People who share facebook accounts horrify me. It’s time to put on your big boy pants, put the velcro shoes back in the closet and grow the fuck up. Get your own damn facebook account: everyone pities your lame co-dependent life.

So while she has her own facebook and her own friends, you’re not responsible for her social life: she can make her own plans once in a while. I know, you might be the one left at home! (gasp!)

They’re a safety blanket. They keep you sane. They leave her something all her own, that she doesn’t have to share with you. I feel like this current age of relationships is prone to over-sharing. We don’t need to know every damn thing about each other. We don’t need to wear the same clothes, eat the same food, watch the same shows, we’re two individuals who come together to make one wonderful relationship. Our differences make us better, not worse. I personally can’t stand myself, when I see my traits in a woman. God, I don’t want to date myself, one of me is more than enough for any relationship. And absence makes the heart grow fonder, don’t date a girl who wants to come home day after day and get into matching snuggies. Don’t be that guy. Have your own space, a place where you can be yourself, by yourself. Those friends are life preservers and keys to the outside world. To my married or basically married friends who haven’t seen me since their wedding day without their significant other attached to their hip, just light the signal flare. I’ll extract you from that mess with some Navy Seals and beer.*

And lastly, you want her to have some independence of her own. Right? Do you want her hanging on your stories because she has none of her own? You want her to bring something to table, her experiences. And friends are the easiest way to get them.

When she has no friends to speak of? Run. It’s a sign. It’s a sign she can’t adapt, a sign that other people might not like her, or the most galling-she’s socially lazy. I went back and realized, the last few women I was serious about? They had very, very few friends. There was a reason: she didn’t need them, she had me. Which horrified me. Suffocated me. Made me look out of the relationship like my cat looks out the window, knowing freedom is just an inch away, desperate to get out (she goes right for the lawn, so maybe the grass is greener.)

If she can’t make friends now, who is she going to be friends with? Lo and behold, look in the mirror, consider yourself her bestie, because if there’s no one else, you’re first…and last.

*Navy Seals not included.

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Step by Step, Day by Day

Remember that tv show that tried to rip off the Brady Bunch and put a new spin on it with Suzanne Somers (sadly not doing any Thighmaster vignettes) and that dude from Dallas?

This one.

The divorced dad of three impulsively re-marries, a widowed mother with three kids of her own. Insta-Bunch?

For me, after my divorce (around two years and counting) I was brutal at dating. It took almost two years to figure out what was wrong with me. For a long while, I was refusing to admit there was something fundamentally wrong with my approach. Now I admit it: there is a big problem.

The steps of courtship, several dates followed by sex, sex followed by commitment, commitment followed by taking trips together…and so on? I’ve never had it.

My ex-wife and I met through the internet. She had met my best friend from high school in real life, and we spent months talking on the internet, and on the phone before meeting in person. We were in love before even meeting, it seemed like a fairytale. We met and there were no steps. We didn’t court. We went from talking, to a sexual, exclusive, intense relationship from that day forward.

I know that it wasn’t normal for things to happen that way, but the experience changed me. We had several happy years together before things stopped being as happy, but I might be forever conditioned by the experience.

I’ll always be thankful for those years, but to go forward I needed to break the addiction to fairytales. I needed to understand that those intense feelings of love don’t happen overnight.

It was easier said than done. Over the last two years I’ve learned a lot about myself, as cliched as that might sound.

My biggest flaw is that I want that love right away: but usually it needs to build up to love. It can’t be instantaneous. After having been married, it’s almost like I want to be married right away, and let’s be honest, it doesn’t work like that. Maybe in Victorian England, but in the US, in 2012, it doesn’t.*

Sure, maybe most women say they’d love to be married. But not this exact second! Slow your roll, self. Even with the women looking for a serious relationship, they’re not turned on by a guy already picturing them married with children, living in the suburbs with that white picket fence.**

I finally realized, I can’t be looking for a replacement for my ex-wife. The things we shared, an intense love, shared interests, and most importantly that familiarity that can’t be found without years together…they can’t be created so quickly.

I have to take things, step by step. And even though I want to be married again, unless I’m getting an arranged marriage (stop dreaming parental units) I can’t just pour water on a plant and “Cha-cha-chia” a relationship.

It has to happen naturally, slowly and patiently. While I want what I had before and crave monogamy (which makes me rare for a manimal) I have to do it at a normal pace. Ignore and suppress the impatience. Ignore the pacing of other relationships (either those of mine from the past or those of others.) And realize, things will happen in their own time, if I let them. I miss being married, but unless I hide that fact, I’m probably never getting married again!

Step by step, day by day.

*Failed pick-up lines that seemed sure to work 100 years ago: “Hey, want to get married and have babies.”

**Or they haven’t been turned on YET.

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(Girl)Friend Request Denied

Social media is so pervasive these days that sometimes you get questions asked of you that give you a momentary pause.

About a year ago, a girl with beautiful pictures and I began to exchange messages on okcupid. Right from the get-go, her priorities were a little off- one of the first questions I got asked was what kind of car I drove (really.) So she’s a little materialistic, but that’s no big deal, tell me more about yourself.

Things got a little weirder after that, since I wanted to meet up and she wanted to talk on AIM. What, is this 1995? Age? Under 30 Sex? Yes please. Location. Wherever you’ll let it happen.

Fine, let me pull out an old screen name from college, an ode to my one and only college band. (I played lead triangle-we made t-shirts.)

We start chatting on aim, and then she wanted my facebook. Wait. Hold up. My facebook? Why do you need my facebook?

I began to think, what was the big deal with letting a stranger look at my facebook. I’d have been willing to give her my phone number and isn’t that a bigger deal? Couldn’t I simply unfriend her later? But there was this nagging feel in the back of my mind. Facebook, especially for me, has so much of my life. I didn’t want her overwhelmed by getting so much of my life at the very beginning of a potential relationship.

Sometimes you need to build to that level of trust, and information. Otherwise what is the fun? I told her no way, and said I’d have to meet her in person before getting facebook friendly.

Why see every picture of me? Why see my status updates? Why can’t you wait until we’ve actually met?

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Where To Go When You’re Lost: From Someone Currently Found.

With apologies, I give you this song to listen to while reading a significantly less brilliant post about my dating life or rather, how it came to be a healthy one. When I first split with my ex-wife, I didn’t know what exactly was wrong with me. I knew what was going on in my previous relationship and my failings (of which there were many.) But what I didn’t know, and what I wouldn’t know for a long period of time, was how to date.

I was completely lost. As a disclaimer, I rarely dated before I met my wife so it made sense to be more lost than the average bear. (Yes, I just dropped some Yogi Bear on you.) I didn’t know what I wanted, I just knew how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel loved, and needed and trusted and respected. I needed more than I had received in my previous relationship. But where to get it and from whom to get it?

At first, I had a naive and optimistic thought that it didn’t matter who it came from, to be appreciated by anyone would be enough. But that was a lie, that I was telling myself-I had standards. To ignore them was to waste my time and those of the women I was going after.

I went out with just about any woman on okcupid/eHarmony/match. What I should have done is reflect. My greatest flaw is that I lack an ability to be introspective. Hell, I still lack a developed ability to be introspective. I’m perpetually looking outward, and needed to improve in that regard before I was ready to date, regardless of my loneliness or desire to prove that I was wanted. Until you know what’s wrong with you, there’s no reason to date. You’ll just be repeating the same mistakes again in your next relationship. That’s just my opinion..want to know some of my other flaws? Well you’ll just have to date me to find out.

Why spoil the surprise?

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Communication Breakdown

This is a short entry but I wanted to put something out there for all of you loyal fans-all four of you. So the story goes about a month ago I tried something different and asked out a girl through less conventional means. No okcupid dates, but another site that has nothing to do with dating. Well, after @TheSassyFiles got asked out by a linkedin guy, I figured it couldn’t be that weird. I keyed in on something she was into, and made some small talk and an opening to do that activity together. Kept it short and sweet (hat-tip to @DatingRev.) So I saw a cute girl that I had met in person, but then used the site and asked her out and we went out together.

Turns out she was married. Whoops. At least it’s a story for you guys. I’m pretty sure she didn’t think it was a date. I will also admit I had no idea what it was, but I was hoping maybe it was a date.

Now the question for my female friends, if a guy asked you, a married or taken woman to do something, and you were not friends before hand, how would you react to the question? Would you politely decline, because it’s odd for a married woman to go out and do something with a stranger? Or that he (or maybe your husband/boyfriend) would get the wrong idea?

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