Posts Tagged ‘Pandora’s Box’

Alone for the Holidays

December 27, 2016

It wasn’t as bad as being alone on an otherwise deserted island, but it wasn’t ideal either. It appeared that I would be alone for the holidays.

Thanksgiving is the most difficult day of the year for me (search for “Cheating Death One More Time,” posted November 18, 2011). Fortunately, my good friends and neighbors, Kathy and Glen Hoff, invited me to spend Thanksgiving with them and their extended family. I had officiated the wedding of their granddaughter Paige, and I’d been to events with the family before, including Thanksgiving the previous year, so it was comfortable and family-like for me. I even went over Thanksgiving morning to help Kathy with food preparation, and I contributed a little food to the event.

I heard from three men that Thanksgiving. The first was my stepson Richard Cornell; the second, my friend John; and the third, Jake. While Richard is the youngest of my late husband’s sons, he’s still only sixteen years younger than me, so not quite young enough to be my son . . . unless I had been very precocious in my youth. But I love him as a son, and it means a great deal to me that he bothers to call me every once in a while. I was sorry I’d missed his call that morning when I was at Kathy Hoff’s house helping with food preparation. I had dated John a couple of times, but no romance developed. Instead, we became friends. He is bright and very active with a mind that likes to penetrate everything using the left brain. I make a good foil for him. Jake had texted me the night before Thanksgiving saying he hoped I had some fun plans. Then we traded a few texts Thanksgiving Day. Considering how careful he was to keep things from getting more than superficially personal, it touched me that he’d texted.

Once Thanksgiving was under my belt, my attention turned to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. For some reason, Christmas isn’t quite as problematic for me as Thanksgiving. Even though Howard had an incident necessitating a call to hospice Christmas night and even though he’d died a few days later, I knew he was close to death on Christmas Day, 2010, and it was time for him to go, so Christmas is a rather benign day for me.

I have fond memories of many a Christmas Eve with my late husband. For many years, we had the Christmas Eve ritual of going out to dinner. Every year, we went to a different place. The most memorable was the Christmas Eve dinner just a month after I moved to Colorado. We dined at the historic Oxford Hotel in Denver. I have no idea what I ate. I was in love; it was a love fest. It was snowing gently when we left the restaurant. We didn’t hurry. It was like being in a Hallmark movie.

I had fond memories of Christmas Day with Howard too. Across many years, I served champagne and little food delicacies as we opened gifts on Christmas morning. Then, after phone calls to and from family, we would get bundled up and head for Rocky Mountain National Park, where we wished the elk a merry Christmas before returning home to Christmas dinner. I had been mostly fine with Christmas since Howard’s death, content to be alone. I didn’t feel that way this year.

Again, fortune was with me. One of my favorite people (who also happens to be one of my apprentices), Lynn Smith, had invited me to Christmas brunch at her house. I was looking forward to spending time with her and the others who would be there.

But as much as I kept myself occupied on Christmas Eve, I was restless. I wanted to create some new rituals and future memories with someone. And New Year’s Eve was shaping up to be another holiday alone too. Why was I bothered about being alone this year when it hadn’t bothered me previously?

Apparently, once Pandora’s Box had been opened with Derek, some interior muscle had been brought back to life. It had little to do with sex (though sex was a wonderful offshoot) but everything to do with relationship. I wanted to love and be loved. I still couldn’t see myself marrying again, and I still couldn’t really see myself living with a man. But I wanted love.

Though not usually petulant, I was feeling sulky and ill-humored, and I didn’t like it. Then I went out to get the mail, and the little boy from next door ran over to wish me a merry Christmas and give me a hug–the same little boy who had brought me flowers from his yard during the summer. I knew that little boy was going to grow up to be a magic man because I no longer felt petulant. I went inside to pack up some soap I’d made that I planned to give to three of my favorite neighbors. And while the boy next door might be growing into his magic, my soap has full-blown magic to it. The scent is of my own creation, a mixture of essential oils. But what makes it magic is the love I consciously insert into it.

When I went to Kathy and Glen Hoff’s house to give them one of the gift bags, they invited me to come over for a little Christmas cheer that evening. Their big extended family would be there, and Andrea, Glenn’s daughter, informed me that there was always at least one straggler. I was happy to be a straggler with that crowd.

When I got back to the house, there were two text messages. One was from Jake. I’d left a message to wish him a happy Christmas Eve earlier. He’d replied. The other was from John. I hadn’t texted him because he was out of the state, spending Christmas with his son. I didn’t want to interrupt that visit. But he had interrupted it himself long enough to text me. I didn’t like admitting to myself that being remembered and contacted mattered so much to me. It was a remnant from half a lifetime earlier when I’d left a thoroughly abusive marriage and attempted to prove to myself just how independent I was. I sighed and let myself accept the fact that being cared for enough to be contacted did mean something to me.

Before the holidays, I’d bought a new dress. I had nothing specific in mind for that dress, but it made my waist look about as small as Scarlett O’Hara’s, it hugged by bosom appealingly, and it’s crinolined underskirt made me feel like a princess. I looked great in it and had hoped I’d find a reason to wear it. It appeared that it would still just be hanging in the closet into the coming year.

melanies-holiday-dress-for-2016

But that fact no longer mattered so much. I’d been reminded that what I really need is to be able to give love to others, whether in the form of magical handmade soap gifted to my friends, my time and attention when a friend wanted it, or my body and full self offered up to a man. And I’d been reminded that I also need to receive love from others, which might come to me as an innocent hug from a magical little boy, an invitation to a holiday gathering, or a text from someone I care about.

I had given and received a bit of love, and I realized that I wasn’t alone for the holidays after all.

 

Note: The names Derek, Jake, and John are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved. The names Richard Cornell, Kathy and Glen Hoff, Andrea, Paige, and Lynn Smith are real, and I am blessed to have these people in my life.

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall

 

Return to Blog Land

August 16, 2016

The e-mail seemed to come out of thin air, and it was like being given clean, fresh air after breathing smog for days. It was five days after the breakup e-mail from Derek. But this e-mail was from someone I didn’t know, a person who was thanking me for my blog.

I had abandoned my blog more than two years earlier on the grounds that I felt it was becoming too didactic. The blog still had a fair number of visitors, mostly because of my 2010 posts on Peru, but I hadn’t even bothered to look at the statistics for a long time.

“I have read your beautiful prose on Living the Dream. What is so astonishing is how tightly my own marriage resembles yours with Howard.

“To the point that just reading your name brings grateful tears to my eyes.

“I only want to say thank you for putting a few stepping stones in front of me when I didn’t know how I could go on.

“Whether you agree or not, I see you as an angel, or at least a kindred spirit, and wish you all the best life has to offer for sharing so unselfishly your wisdom and courage.”

It was signed “Nancy.”

She might have been astonished by what she read in my blog, but my own astonishment in reading her message probably matched it. I had to know who she was and which post or posts she was referring to, so I hit reply and told her I wanted to know more about her and her journey. There was poignancy in her message, and I wanted to know the woman behind it.

In her next message, she revealed that her husband was dying of throat cancer. Home hospice was involved. She said that my story about my experience with Howard’s long illness and death had given her strength. My heart lurched out of my chest and joined her, wherever she was.

This felt very personal to me, and I planned to keep it to myself. But I found myself thinking about something my close friend Sally McDonald had said to me, years earlier. She had told me to write without worrying about who it touched or in what way. My job was to get the words out. I might never know if or how it had affected anyone.

“Years after you are dead,” she said, “someone may refer to something you wrote and say how much it has impacted their life. And you will be gone. You won’t know. And you don’t need to know. Your job is to write. Don’t worry about the rest.”

I also thought about something Marilyn Youngbird had said. Standing very close to me and employing that soft but penetrating look of hers, she said with force, “Your words have power.”

I didn’t recall what had prompted Marilyn’s pronouncement, but these many years later, I did understand that she had not just suggested that my words had power, but that everyone’s words have power, and we should remember that before opening our mouths to speak because their impact can help or hurt other beings. She had been talking about being conscious of the words I used.

I thought about all the people I knew and especially about all the writers I knew. I needed to share the e-mails that had just come to me. So I posted something on Facebook about my e-mail exchange with Nancy and said, “Those of you who write–and there are many of you I count as friends–this post is for you. I want to support you in writing from your heart, from your true self . . . because you never know who you might touch.”

One of my writerly friends, Helena Mariposa, commented on the post saying that she was waiting for me to write on my travels with an open heart. I had used the term “travels with an open heart” in a conversation with her as a way of describing what my online dating experience was all about.

“The travels with an open heart series, if I ever write that, will be very personal and very self-revealing,” I replied on Facebook. “The latest destination is pretty fresh on my heart. New ones unfold even now. I’m not sure I’m ready for it, and it didn’t even occur to me until your comment, but it’s a thought, my friend.”

“Like your grief memoirs weren’t very personal and self-revealing? Hmm . . .” she wrote back.

She had me there. All of my blog posts had been personal and self-revealing, but none more than those on my husband’s illness and death. And I had to admit that there was at least humor in the full contact sport of my dating experiences. My heart was open, but that didn’t preclude unexpected antics and the humor endemic in human experience.

Helena and I took the discussion off Facebook. She argued that there were a lot of baby boomers who were now single and would benefit from my experience, and she didn’t think many people were writing about dating over the age of sixty. And even if they were, she argued that my writing was somewhat unique because it was an extension of my shamanic work. She thought it woke people up to the possibilities.

I had no idea who was writing what about dating because I had not checked into it. And I didn’t know if my writing ever had the potential of waking anyone up. Who was I to do that anyway? I was just a pilgrim going down the same road as everyone else. What I did know I had to offer was a willingness to be real and transparent. But there were risks. Some of the men I dated might not like the idea of going out with a woman who blogged about her dating experiences, even if I promised to leave them out of it. And some men might drop the idea of dating me before it ever had a chance to blossom into an actual date because it would take only a little online research to find my blog. In essence, I thought blogging about my dating experience might scare men off.

But then, it might just weed out the men who didn’t have the kahunas (as opposed to the kahonas) to hang with me.

Derek had opened up one kind of Pandora’s Box for me; Helena was opening another–or at least, she was serving as muse. The more I thought about the idea of blogging about my dating experience, the more I felt pulled to do it.

So thirteen days after the breakup with Derek, I went back into blog land with my first post on dating, a post titled “Travels with an Open Heart.” I was on record with my journey. I felt naked, but strangely, it was a liberating kind of nakedness.

Whatever happened, I was pretty sure that I was meant to blog on this subject, though I really didn’t have a clue why. It didn’t matter. That first post was effortless and fun to write. Maybe I was on to something.

 

Note: The name Derek is fictitious and has been used out of respect for the man involved. Nancy and Helena Mariposa are real names attached to real people I am blessed to know.

 

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall