Posts Tagged ‘Travels with an Open Heart’

That’s All She Wrote

February 5, 2017

Life is full of stories, and I’m a storyteller. Perhaps it comes from my Irish ancestry. Perhaps it comes from my delight in hearing my father’s stories on the rare occasions he could be nudged into telling them. Writing is in my blood, and storytelling tends to be the expression.

When I began posting about my dating experience, it was largely at the prompting of a friend who wanted to hear the stories of my travels with an open heart. I took up the challenge because there seemed to be so many misconceptions about what it means to be over the age of sixty, let alone over the age of sixty and dating. Not all of us have put ourselves out to pasture at that age. Many of us view life as an ongoing adventure that we don’t want to waste, and many of us still consider love and a sex life as part of that adventure.

So I began blogging about my dating experience. I did so more than two months into that experience and after having my first bruised heart under my belt. I have tried to be kind on the page to the men I’ve dated, but I have done that while also being honest about my experience and my feelings. I have sometimes been philosophical and sometimes been more frank about sensuality and sexuality than some readers might have preferred. Hopefully, I have done both with at least a bit of appreciation for the humor in being human.

When I began the blog, I did so knowing that it might scare of a few men. My attitude was that any man scared off by the blog probably did not have the maturity, open-mindedness, and self-confidence for me anyway. I am not a wallflower, nor am I very guarded. But I did not anticipate where the writing would take me, nor did I anticipate just how the writing would be taken by the men who read it. I also did not anticipate how many men would put effort into vetting potential dates.

I told men I dated about the blog at the first meeting. It seemed only fair. I also changed my profile, stripping out information that might identify me, to improve my chances of actually having that first date. I didn’t like doing that, but I began to understand that many–or even most–people are not as open as me. A little less information might be helpful.

Now, more than eight months into it, I have decided to cease blogging about my dating experience. A big part of that is the result of being weary of scaring men off. But it is more than that. When I did an internal scan for the energy around continuing to do this writing, I found that I could feel no energy around it. And for me, that says it all. If I experience an internal sense of energy around something, I know that it is the right thing for me to do. If what I feel instead is a kind of energy black hole, I know that it is not the right thing for me to do.

Will I give up the online dating process? No. Not at this point anyway. I’m just taking my experience of it off-line. And it is the experience that is primary.

Will I have something else to say on this blog? Probably. Eventually. Over the years, the subject matter about which I have written has changed depending on what is going on in my life and what I have the juice to write about. I have to say, though, I’ve had more fun writing about my dating experience than anything else I’ve written about in some time. To that extent, it has returned to me more than I have given it.

If you are single and dating, all the best to you. If you are over the age of fifty and using online dating as a vehicle for it, I bow to you. You have guts, trust, and at least some sense of romance in your makeup. I’m with you.

If you want an ear, you can e-mail me at mmulhall@earthlink.net or just comment on this post.

Thank you for following these posts.

Blowing kisses at you,

Melanie

 

Copyright 2017 by Melanie Mulhall

 

Turning Away from Jake and Towards Myself

January 31, 2017

Change was in the air. Like a hot, muggy July night in the Midwest, it had enough weight and substance for me to taste it.

I knew I needed to let go of Jake. I could tick off more than a half dozen reasons for it, but as Lady Gaga had so pointedly said in her song, “Million Reasons,” even when we have plenty of reasons to go, sometimes it only takes one good one to keep us sticking around, whether or not sticking around is a good idea. I had more than one reason to not turn away from Jake: I genuinely liked him; we had fun when we were together and even when we just texted; there was juicy chemistry between us; and we had shared a particular kind of intimacy with a level of abandon and depth that was not easily replicated. I dragged my feet.

When Jake texted me on New Year’s Eve, I thought it a good opportunity to end things. It didn’t take long for the texting to spiral into sexting. I pointed out that the possibility of ever getting together again was slim since I was unwilling to be a last-minute backup plan when what he really wanted to do fell through, and he was unwilling to schedule me in. I expected his reply to admit that it was an untenable situation. Instead, he agreed that scheduling time together was a respectful thing to do.

But it didn’t happen. Texts between us came and went.

Strangely, one night as I was thinking about Jake and reaching for something in my nightstand, a recording my late husband had made many years earlier started to play, spontaneously. The recording accompanied a photo of Howard and me. He had made it before going to Iraq in late 2004 to train cops as an independent contractor. It was his voice reciting a bit of lyrics from the song “You Do Something to Me” in a Transylvanian accent. He knew it made me laugh every time he sounded like Bella Lugosi saying that I had the power to hypnotize him. All these years later, it was tinny but still audible. I kept it in a small cedar box in my nightstand, buried under other things. It was implausible that it could play by itself because it had to be opened and a button had to be pushed for it to play. But play itself it had. I knew that he was sending me a message, but I wasn’t sure what that message was in the moment. It later became clear.

Finally, four months to the day after our first meeting, I sent a text essentially ending the relationship with Jake. In true Jake style, he responded to the message with understanding instead of just blowing me off. That willingness to engage in communication was a part of what I found so endearing about him.

But it was over, and I found myself pensive about it. At the bottom of it, Jake had been unavailable, and that made me think about the many men in my life before him who had been unavailable, beginning with my father.

Does it always come back to a woman’s father? Maybe so. My father’s unavailability was the result of his introverted nature coupled with the psychological and physical detritus from his World War II experiences that nudged him towards alcoholism. I’d been twenty-seven when he died, and I regretted not having his company and his counsel during more of my adult years.

The other unavailable men in my life, from my first husband to those with whom I’d been in relationship before my second marriage, had been unavailable for a handful of reasons. None of them were unavailable by virtue of marriage to someone else. I didn’t like messing with another woman’s man. They had been unavailable because a man cannot be available to you if he is in serious relationship with his own demons, whether psychological or chemical. After breaking up with a man I deeply loved but whose relationship with drugs–primarily marijuana–took precedence over his relationship with me, I had joked that the half-life of my bad relationships was improving because it had been whittled down from more than a decade to a matter of months.

Even my second husband, the man I’d loved for the twenty-five years preceding his death, was seen by his best friend as something of a lone wolf. He had not been the easiest man to live with, but he had opened to me and been available to me more than he had to any other woman in his life, and the marriage worked.

Now, six years after my husband’s death, I was again contemplating my tendency to be with unavailable men. Derek had surely been unavailable. So had Jake. They were examples of something I had discussed many times with apprentices and others with whom I had done shamanic work. As we face, heal, and clear away the remnants of our internal shadow and everything in us that we’ve put in place for purposes of defense (usually subconsciously), we experience something that is not so much like the peeling of an onion as the peeling of an artichoke’s layers. There is nothing left when the onion is fully peeled. In purely esoteric terms, I could argue the validity of that. But in more human terms, what is left when the spikey outer petals of an artichoke are peeled, then the more tender inner petals, and then the hairy choke, which is bitter and inedible? Beneath that is the artichoke heart, which is perfection.

Invariably, before we reach the perfection of the authentic self (which I argued can be approximated but maybe not completely achieved in this life), we undergo many initiations. And usually, when we rather arrogantly think we have it mastered, we reach the mother lode of what must be faced, the internal equivalent of the hairy choke.

But even when we have made it through that initiation, enough energetic remnants of that bitter obstacle remain that we find ourselves cycling around to it again and again, usually at more profound levels each time, and sometimes, if we’re lucky and have done the work, it is just a challenge and test to our mastery.

The issue of unavailable men was up for review one more time.

But this time, I saw it for what it was in Jake–an external representation of something within me that needed facing and working through. And I knew that clearing those energetic remnants was something I was ready to do. Just the acknowledgment of it transformed most of it.

But was I available? My travels with an open heart across the past ten months had tested and refined my availability. I believed I was available.

I was finally ready for a man who not only suited me in many ways, but one who was available. And I was available to meet him and travel openheartedly with him. It had taken my entire life to accomplish, and whether or not that man showed up in this life, I was ready for it.

Note: The names Jake and Derek are fictitious and have been used out of respect for the men involved.

Copyright 2017 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

 

Travels with an Open Heart

May 23, 2016

“I feel invisible.”

That’s what I’ve heard more than one single woman over the age of fifty say, but I’ve never had that experience, never felt invisible . . . except when I was practicing the fine art of making myself so. In fact, when my husband died, men seemed to appear almost overnight, like sharks that have smelled blood in the water. They ranged in age from thirty-seven to quite a bit older than me. I told the thirty-seven-year-old man, someone I already had a friendly relationship with, that I didn’t date men young enough to be my son. He looked let down. The older men? Well, they were clearly interested, but they seemed a bit stunned when interacting with me, as if they had just been too near a large explosion and could neither hear nor speak. I counted myself lucky with that. I found none of them appropriate or tempting.

Only a few months after my husband’s death, a man I saw as a good friend and who was within the orbit of what I thought of as of an appropriate age for me asked me if I was dating. I was deep in grief fog at the time and the idea of dating seemed as preposterous as climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro just to have a picnic lunch at the top. He was disappointed that I wasn’t dating. Over a year later, he asked again. Whatever answer I gave him prompted, “Oh, so you’re holding out for love,” in response.

It was actually more complex than that, but I took the easy route and replied, “Yep, I am.”

Again, he seemed disappointed.

I made a note to myself that saying I was holding out for love might be a good comeback to come-ons. As it turned out, I needed that comeback more than once. It began to sink in that maybe there was some truth to the notion that men believe widows are easy marks.

I wasn’t.

Actually, for quite a while after my husband’s death, I was pretty happy to be alone. I had always played nicely by myself, and after almost four years of walking with him on his pilgrimage to the other side, I was ready for some time alone. But a little less than two years after my spouse’s death, I was presented with a firm message from the universe in the form of a strange experience. On my way out of my house to attend a meeting, I found that I could not open the door from the house to the garage. It would not budge. Both locks were in unlocked position, but the door would not open.

Not wanting to be late to my meeting, I gathered up my things and left the house through the door from the kitchen to the deck, setting the lock before I shut the door. Just to make sure I could get back in, I tried the key. It would not open the door. It began to sink in that this was no ordinary lock problem, so I decided to attempt going back in through the garage. After all, just because the door would not budge from one side didn’t necessarily mean it would not budge from the other. It wouldn’t. Budge that is.

I finally got back in through the front door, took a deep breath, collected myself, and went back out, relieved that my key actually worked in that lock. As I drove to my meeting, I contemplated what was going on. This felt a lot like the universe’s sledgehammer, and I wanted to take it seriously.

The answer came to me during meditation. My heart was locked from the inside out. I was being told that it was time to turn the key and open to the possibility of relationship. I needed to get back out into the world in a direct, front door sort of way. The following day, I hired someone to fix the back door, figured out that the door from the kitchen to the deck required a different key, and promised to at least be open to the possibility of a man in my life.

But as far as I was concerned, if a suitable man was going to show up, it was going to be in some organic way, not through a dating site. Both my own intuition and what I heard from guidance in meditation confirmed that dating sites were a dead end for me at that time. Still, I knew that could change, and if it did, I needed to be prepared to change my attitude.

Whether or not a man I might be interested in showed up, organically or in some other way, it was clear that I needed my travels through life to be with an open heart. So I opened my heart to the possibilities and got on with the adventure of my life.

Copyright 2016 by Melanie Mulhall