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Man holding a fish.

Man holding a fish.

EIGHT TIPS for men uploading photos for your online dating profile:

  1. Do not make the one where you’re holding the fish your main profile photo. Or the other one where you’re holding a fish.
  2. It is obvious which photos were taken in the 1990s. We don’t need those.
  3. Please upload photos of yourself. The photos of your bicycle, your car, your boat, your Harley, your grill, and all those photos of the fish you catch are missing the point, which is that we want to know what you look like.
  4. Smile. None of your buddies can see you here so you don’t have to pretend you’re a baddass thug. Well, if any of your buddies do see you here, then they probably think you are more attractive when you smile, too.
  5. Multiple photos of places that you have seen and/or like, including images you took from the web (yes that was obvious too)…particularly when there is no caption…do not enhance a viewer’s knowledge of who you are.
  6. Selfies in the bathroom are gross. And not just because you haven’t cleaned the glass for 18 months.
  7. All six of your photos are you mugging for yourself in front of your computer screen. I can tell because your face is lit up with blue light and you have the same exact expression. There must be a photo of you somewhere. Ask someone to take your photo. Do you have friends? Co-workers? Anyone? Hell, I will meet you for coffee and take your photo.
  8. I see that you love your dogs, but do not upload more photos of them than of you. No, not even the ones when they were puppies, or the one when they were fetching sticks in the lake, or even all the adorable photos of when they are napping on the couch. No really. Just one photo of the dogs is sufficient. Just. One.
{photo by Emmet McCusker}

fish

I’m single and busy with work and all my extra-curricular activities, and in years past I spent a lot of time parenting. A schedule like that means I do not meet eligible men. I am comfortable with a computer, which leads me to blog, but it also leads me to online dating sites. I’ve used online sites for over 10 years now, whenever I’m in a drought of meeting people. I’ve had great luck with the sites, and meet mostly genuine people who are in real life the person they projected on their dating profile. In a decade, I’ve only found one man to date long term, but better than that: I’ve made several great friends out of it that still keep in touch. And I have gone on very fun dates. One was a day learning stand up paddle, and I had a blast. The number of people I meet online is exponentially greater than the number I meet in person. Overall, it’s worth the effort to me.

{photo by Stephen Trulove}

fish

Last week, after spending an hour or so reading profiles and looking at photos, I stopped shaking my head and laughing long enough to realize I had been composing a letter in my mind to these guys about Do’s and Don’t’s of online photos. In a moment of inspiration I posted my tips on facebook, and the response was great! My step-dad added his own tip: “To the women, please include a photo of your boat.”

What I did not expect was that in response to my facebook post, my friends (men and women) started replying with pictures of fish. I’ve included a few of them here. Obviously, I had asked for it.

Mt. Hood from I-84 in the Columbia Gorge

Mt. Hood from I-84 in the Columbia Gorge

For me, leaving something in the rear view mirror is more than symbolic. Or, perhaps I should say the symbolism effects actual emotional distance to match the increasing physical distance. In my past I have made a point to watch a place recede as I drove away, to reinforce for myself the fact that I was leaving it behind.  I was reminded of that Friday when I left Mt. Hood behind me as I drove east on I-84, heading for my dad’s house near Boise.

You’ll need some background before I can tell you what happened to me Friday. Then you’ll understand how it was cathartic watching the snow-capped volcano shrink into the distance, having less and less of an impact on me. Like my relationship with Arno.

Maybe a few of you have noticed my online activity has dropped. It’s because my heart is broken and I’ve been in too much pain to interact. In May, just shy of our 3-year anniversary, Arno and I broke up. It was a loving, mutual decision, but a tremendously sad one. I said previously and I’ll repeat it: he’s the best man I’ve ever loved. Still, we shouldn’t be dating, and breaking up was the right thing to do. We had some awesome things in common: lots of energy, positive enthusiasm, wildly in love with the outdoors, relentless drive and responsibility for our own achievements, interest in travel, open minds, a love of deep conversation about challenging topics.  We had planned to get married – even shopped for rings – and had made multiple trips through the Hood River valley to find the best locations for where we would buy our future home together. We built much of our relationship in sight of Mt. Hood, and we even hiked on the mountain together. It’s no wonder Mt. Hood pretty much symbolizes Arno for me.

But we had at least one fundamental difference, and that was how much togetherness we needed. Arno needs a lot of high-intensity interaction. Crystal needs long stretches of total isolation. Arno enjoys lots of little touches, little “Hi, I’m thinking of you, I’m here, I love you” touches, like 30 texts a day (down from about 200 a day in the beginning, thank the gods). Crystal figures if she expressed her love on Monday, then it should hold the other person over till at least Thursday before she should have to think about reassuring her partner again.

We figured this out about each other early on, and set right to work on compromising. Arno worked really hard to give me space and not take it as a personal rejection when I asked for a day without him. I worked really hard to spend more time with him, to learn how to send the touches that he needed since we lived so far apart, and to learn to engage in conversation during moments that I thought would be best honored by silence. Over the years we grew frustrated and exhausted from working so hard, even while appreciating each other even more for the obvious work we were putting into it.

A month after our breakup, the ache inside was beginning to fade, and I was feeling better again. I must have been in denial. Tuesday, less than two months after we broke up, Arno told me he was dating again. The blow knocked me flat.

I thought I had been hurting before, but that news killed me.

I won’t go into details. You’ve had your heart broken before, and …it was like that. All day long Tuesday I was in shock, and ever since then I’ve been miserable. There’s nothing like hearing the other person is dating again to make it very clear that things are O-VER. There is no chance of any last minute miracle idea that will be our solution to making this work. I think it finally became real to me Tuesday that I have no more Arno in my future.

If he’s over me and has moved on already, then *I* want to move on. The knowledge that I’m still wallowing around in the pond scum of loss and pain in the face of his new relationship is totally humiliating. His readiness to date again so quickly (He reassured me that he didn’t start looking till after we broke up. “Start looking?” He had time to recover and “start looking” already?) makes me feel like a fool and doubt what we had.

That’s the cycle of thoughts I’ve had to endure this week. Yuck.

Friday morning I headed east into the Columbia River Gorge with a huge amount of trepidation because it was the first time I would be driving through Hood River since the breakup. Driving down the highway I kept thinking, “I am tired of being miserable. I want to let him go.”

But when I got to exit 62, and then passed it instead of taking it, I couldn’t breathe. Slam! The pain hit me again, and I bawled and gasped for breath as I drove.

One can see Mt. Hood for many, many miles in a rear view mirror, heading through the Gorge. I’d glance at the rearview, see the mountain, and feel an icepick in my heart. Or a boot to my chest. Or one of those dramatic metaphors that work well in YA novels.

And then something amazing happened. As I drove the mountain got smaller. And as that happened, the pressure came off my chest and I began to think a little more clearly again.

I reminded myself that we broke up for good reasons. And even though it feels terrible right now, I will find my happy spirit again. And as much as I shudder to even think about it at the moment, I will love again. In the mirror in front of me I watched that fabulous volcano I love so much, shrinking and fading as I thought these things.

I could see Mt. Hood from the town of Boardman, 100 miles after I had passed exit 62. By that time there was only a hazy tip visible of the snow-covered peak. No overwhelming obstacle, that’s for sure. Just a little hint of a mountain in the distance.

So the cure to my pain is to just keep going.

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Trails in Forest Park are irresistible. Like this. Could you stand here and NOT pick a path and walk?

Arno and I met for the very first time on Mount Tabor, a beautiful Portland park so close to my home that I walked there to meet him. It’s the site of an ancient, dormant volcano. The date went so well that we spent about four hours on Mt. Tabor, till we got hungry and had to come down off the volcano.

After eating, we weren’t ready to separate quite yet. Arno had moved from Chicagoland only months before, and didn’t know many places in Portland, so he asked where we should go next. I had had been in Portland a couple years, and didn’t know the place like a native, but knew of Forest Park, rumored to be one of the largest city parks in the country (5,172 acres). (I’m determined to do some real research some day, and figure out precisely where Forest Park fits in the list, since the lists I have found don’t mention it.)

The sun thought about getting stronger and lighting the world.

In this photo, the sun is thinking about getting stronger and lighting the world.

trillium

trillium

On that day, we walked the trails and tried to keep ourselves steady as we tumbled madly for each other. We came to a beautiful little bridge over a creek, and stopped. Arno called it The Troll Bridge. We paused awhile to see if the troll would come out, and in fear for my life, I caught Arno in an embrace. (ok, maybe it wasn’t out of fear…)

violets

violets

We shared our first delicious kiss on the Troll Bridge. And since then Forest Park has held a special place in our collective memory.

Yesterday the sky threatened rain, and I told Arno I was determined to go outside for a good long while, and get some exercise, rain or no rain. We found our way to the other side of town, to the west hills, and to one of the many trail heads. The drive was beautiful in itself, winding up through the gorgeous homes in Portland’s King’s Heights. The homes are so eclectic, so fascinating, so obviously loved, that it’s always worth the trip there.

Path through a decadent green carpet

Path through a decadent green carpet

We didn’t get rained on, though the sky remained cloudy. It remained warm, and our walk was lovely. Arno turned on the GPS to track us, and we did a 7 1/2 mile loop, which was enough to get the stir crazy out of my bones.

This picnic table is begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

These picnic tables are begging for someone to stop for a lunchtime break.

We crossed many little wooden bridges, but did not come across our Troll Bridge yesterday. We did pause on a couple of them, however, to share a kiss and wait to see if a troll would come out.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

Most of the people we passed on our walk were joggers and cyclists.

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can't trust that guy... ;-)

I asked Arno to hold the camera while I took off my fleece and tied it around my waist. He took my photo! Can’t trust that guy… 😉

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here's a place to read more and see a video about Dave Terry's memorial.

Awwww, I thought this was a really wonderful tribute. Here’s a place to read more and see a video of Dave Terry’s memorial.

DSC_1108

adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

adiantum aleuticum. Eye-catching, lacy, fern hands.

pressed leaves under glass

I’m listening to the voices of parents and children getting closer to my house as they make their trick-or-treating way down the street. They get started late and continue late here in my neighborhood. It’s 7:30 and little ones are still coming. The big kids will continue on after 9pm. (it got dark at 6pm). I’ll just slip off and hand out candy when the bell rings, and you will never know!

My girlie took off for her friends house so they could begin their treating sojourn together. What an excellent time to check in with my life and update my blog.

I downloaded some photos from my camera today and was reminded of two things. 1) I have been snapping shots of wall art in Portland, so if you like wall art you should check out my flickr set. 2) Omigosh! I went to see the Vaux’s swifts again, at Chapman school, and totally forgot to blog it. So, if the treaters continue long enough tonight, I’ll get started on a very late post about birds.

First for fun, I’ll show off my little creative art project at the top. I am incorrigible for making the most of my time, so when Arno shows up for a visit, I make him do my chores with me. We recently met for dinner. We walked to the restaurant, and I brought one of those little Chico bags (my Mom adores them and gave a couple to me). On the walk back home we collected beautiful Autumn leaves. I had picked up a cheap frame at Jo-Ann fabrics for $3.99. Lay down the prettiest leaves, press the glass over the top and viola! Gorgeous seasonal wall hanging.

Here, kitty kitty

T and I were very late carving our pumpkins, but we did manage to get that done this weekend, with success! They turned out great. Of course the barfing pumpkin appeals to a 14-year-old. I stole my design from an image I saw online, but the ears are my idea.

Arno and I have been so busy lately that we barely ever have time to see each other. It’s very frustrating but also a relief that he lives 60 miles away (I’ll let you fill in the blanks). I have a feeling that having kids in school is largely why we don’t see enough of each other now. Anyway, I had just dropped off Miss T at Powell’s to meet friends (how cool are friends that meet at Powell’s?!!) and we had the spontaneous idea Sunday to meet halfway through the Gorge.

Imma sucker for foliage. Love these trees over the streets.

It makes sense to split the distance, right? We’ve talked about it, but not put it into practice yet. He suggested Multnomah Falls Lodge, since it was the only public place we could think of that was indoors. I was hoping for coffee. It was raining buckets in the gorge and I passed a couple of cars in compromising positions alongside the freeway, with the accompanying blue flashing lights. Unfortunately, he ran into the same situation and it stopped traffic.

<realtime>Oh seriously, the kids are really hitting the streets now, and it’s 8:14. What’s the deal with Portland? The last little zombie to trick-or-treat here was about 8 years old. <another knock>Oh! Oh! Twin Little Red Riding Hoods and they were, like, 5 years old!</another knock></realtime>

Multnomah Falls, evening, pouring rain

So anyhow, I reached Multnomah Falls first and hung out in the parking lot in the downpour in my warm and toasty car and waited for Arno. I replaced a bandaid from where I cut myself using one of Natalie’s Amazing Knives to carve my pumpkin. Then I couldn’t stand it anymore and climbed out into the rain and took a photo of the magnificent falls right in front of me. Multnomah Falls blows me away. I can’t believe more people don’t wreck on the interstate right here, cuz this place is too stunning to drive past without a double-take.

I’m out there, hiding under the Info booth taking photos ‘cause it has a roof, and Arno runs up! Yay! So we made a sprint for the Lodge. I had heard somewhere that there was a restaurant at the Lodge, but neither of us had been there. So we poked around, found a staircase, and climbed to the top. Wow! It was magical!

Inside is a real, honest to goodness, park lodge. For dining we could sit in either the fireplace room or the vista room. I chose the vista room and we were seated. This place is stunning; I can’t wait to go back. We didn’t really have time to eat dinner, and we were both driving so we didn’t order from the extensive wine list. Instead we had coffee and stuffed mushrooms and talked as the wet dripped from us. Such a gorgeous setting. Even the dishes were beautiful: antique china with a dogwood pattern. The cups, plates, saucers, all matched in dogwood blooms. The walls were stone and mortar, and in the vista room: glass glass glass. So we could look out at the stunning cliffs that hold the falls. Too much foliage: couldn’t actually see the falls. We will come back in winter.

My girl is back home for the night. She had a good time collecting her loot. “No junk gifts this year!” she crowed. “Last year I got a pencil, and coupons, and a stupid bag of uncooked popcorn. This year it’s all good. Well, except the Jesus book.”

“The huh?”

“This booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws.” She handed it to me, “From this guy. But he wasn’t bad. There was this lady at another house that was like all, ‘I want you to know that Jesus loves you. I have had so many miracles in my life since I chose to believe. He does so much good for us all.’ We were all, ‘um, ok, thank you,’ and backing away. But she just kept talking. ‘He loves you!’ We said, ‘thanks’ and mumbled a little. We were trying to make her feel good, you know, like she was making a difference, but we kept backing away. Finally she closed the door.” Aww, my girl is so sweet.

She had a lot of stories tonight. The Chinese couple. “The lady was surprised to see us. ‘oh! You tricker treat?’ and we all nodded. So she counts us, and leaves, and comes back in a little while with five mints. One for each of us. ‘Tricker treat!’ she says. And then, this man was in the yard, and he came around a bush, and was also surprised to see us. Then his face broke into a big smile and he said, ‘ahh! Tricker treat!’ and he looked at his wife and she smiled and nodded. So they were smiling and nodding and bowing and saying ‘tricker treat!’ till we left.”

At one house, a lady opened the door and held two bowls. “‘You can take either two candies, or one dinosaur,’ she said. We were all like, DINOSAUR!!”

Anyhow, we’re both suffering from colds. (I didn’t go to work today – blehhhh) It’s time to go to bed for my way-too-early 4:30am wake up. I’ll turn out the lights and discourage any other treaters, and then my co-workers will get the spoils! Yes guys, you’re welcome.

Holy cow. Seriously? 9:25 and I hear a little girl’s voice outside…there goes the bell.

my new camera

Continued contemplation, along with a recent conversation, reminds me of all the good I have collected from my past relationships. (dark thoughts about men of my past) Though my history shows many stops and starts with people I attached myself to, I was always genuine in my attachments. Cheesy as the expression may be, I liked learning the phrase “serial monogamy,” because that is how I operate. I haven’t been able to stay with one partner for many years, but I went into each one thinking that I would. My intent was pure commitment. Usually, the end of each relationship came as much as a shock to me as to the other person, though often it was I who had the guts to walk away.

Jess was my first love, and made it a great place to begin. We connected at a core level, with common interests and perspectives. I found out right away what a joy it can be to share life with someone who appreciates the world like I do. We are still friends, and 25 years later we still manage to reach the same opinions with the same thought processes, and we still love the outdoors in the same way for the same reasons. Talking with him is always validating. Aaron was a dreamer, and also validated my love of dreaming about my future, imagining the possibilities. He loved me for it, and taught me very early on to continue to express this precious part of my character. Lynn reminded me that there is so much to love about things that are not dreams, things that are real: the earth itself, simple pleasures like fishing, and children.

My first husband, Mark, brought a lot of music into my life. He played guitar and taught me new things to listen for. He introduced me to classic musicians and new musicians, and made concert-going a regular part of our lives. I even learned to love Bob Dylan! He went out of his way to spend quality time with his friends, and taught me that is how to be a friend. He took me camping and exploring, and we eagerly discovered Colorado and Nevada together. Mark and I shared politics and Northern Exposure. We worked together and did some growing up together. We took some chances and made great discoveries because of it. He sang Till There Was You to me, when I was sick.

Bill taught me so much about family. About loving all of them no matter how they drive you crazy (he had 9 brothers and sisters!). About making an effort to stay in touch, and reaching out all the time because that is what you do for family. Dennis, my second husband and father of my child, proved to me that a man can change his stars. There is never “too late.” A difficult beginning does not predict the outcome, and the love of a child can be the motivation to re-invent an approach to life. Through him I was introduced to the world of addiction, and of recovery. Of setbacks that don’t erase hope. He is, of course, still constantly in my life, and continues to represent a person who decided to become better, and did, and continues to do so. He doesn’t always know the right thing to do, but always wants to do the right thing. He never ceases to hope.

Jeff knew what he wanted and was able to show me that you can love someone and not be destined to be with that person. He taught me about respect. We had intelligent conversations and really engaged with things we didn’t agree on. We learned about each other and forgave differences and fell in love by accident. Jeff called me nearly in tears one morning, on the 11th of September while he watched smoke coming from the Pentagon from his office window, and will always be linked to that day in my mind. Kevin introduced me to surfing, and the inside story of Big Oil. He showed me that rich people are still people. Kirby loved his family, and wanted so much to share his family with me; wanted me to love them like he did. Through his family I learned a new way to conceive of family love and support. Miguel was filled with passion. Everything he felt was huge. He showed me that a man can express himself; can be overcome with emotion, and still be a man.

My third husband Vic taught me that achievement is an attitude, and that anyone can have it. Where we go in life is a matter of where we see ourselves. Though I have always thought of myself as a woman who could accomplish big things, Vic illuminated for me that I was thinking too small. His vision of me was a woman who belonged in a greater category of human beings, and then pushed me to believe it, too. I was attending school at a community college and he said, “If you want to go to school, why not Harvard? Why not MIT?” And so I applied! Vic also helped me develop an exercise regimen, and a love for running when I thought I hated running.

Mark helped me become introspective again. He showed me a better way to forgive, and to be tolerant. I credit Mark with setting me on the right path to be able to respect Dennis again, which was necessary because we were co-parenting. He also reminded me to forgive my father. Mark constantly strives to be a better man, to do the right thing. He will selflessly dedicate himself to a fellow human being in need, even without an idea of where to begin. He reminded me of the delights of surprises and tradition, and shared memory.  Mark brought laughter back into my life when my fierce challenges had hardened me. Laughter is a true gift.

So, I love them all. Yes, I have occasional fits of angry words couched in emotional wounds and surrounded by virtual fists swinging, but I am not sorry for what we experienced together, not sorry that the love has painful sharp edges. Though each relationship hit me with its own unique sucker-punch, I am stronger and wiser now. My phoenix rises more beautiful each time. I am a better woman today for having known them. So thank you, all of you men, thank you.

My arms outstretched to catch the spray

On a plane over the Pacific Ocean, I have an unfortunate juxtaposition of two opposite emotions when I think of Arno. I am more confident and trusting in this man than ever before; more than seems reasonable or rational. I am nearly certain of a future with him, I am on the edge of ready to commit completely. If he asked me today, I would marry him. That is how self-assured and healthy I feel. I am coming back to life again, becoming the woman I knew was buried somewhere deep, deep inside. A woman who is now filled with joy, peace, faith, and eager anticipation, and hopefulness, and expectations of being finally able to enjoy the goodness and beauty of having a regular life without constant damage control. And I am scared to death.

On a given day my emotions wander all over the place, of course. I’ve been mostly on a happiness track ever since I met him. Well, actually, ever since the pain of leaving my last relationship with Mark began to fade, I was happier. My reality includes many ups and downs, and within the happy path that has gradually traveled upward (and out of the muck of my dark history) – in the way that awesome corporate earnings might climb up a chart – there are times when I have been merely pleased and times when I’ve been euphoric, and it averages into a happy medium. (forgive the pun) Today, though my emotions overall remain happy, the track plunged.

This morning I was looking for a notebook to take onto the plane with me, since for some unexplainable reason I always want to write when I am airborne. I came across a spiral-bound notebook that I recognized as one of my old journals. I flipped to the back in case there were some empty pages and I could add my Hawaii trip entries. The journal was filled to the very last line of the very last page, and in discerning this, my eyes grabbed at some of the words.

I was talking about Mark. I couldn’t discern the date because I only marked the month and day, not the year. So… not sure about what part of my Mark experience it was. We were still living in Fitchburg, possibly new in the relationship, because I was talking about trying to ignore my fear and trying to allow myself to feel love again. That’s similar to my current thoughts with Arno, so I stopped paging through, and read it.

At one point I had written that I had “a history of living with ill men, and becoming an ill woman,” and though my past self didn’t recognize this: my journal entries about Mark were a continuation of that sickness. I didn’t see it then, and my intent was to point out how Mark was different from my terrible past men.

I wrote about his selfishness, his lying to me, and his own self-deception. “Of course I can’t be mad at him,” I wrote, “because he doesn’t do it on purpose. He doesn’t even realize he’s lying. When I point it out, he doesn’t know what I’m talking about.” How can a person be so blind to the fact that she is embracing a poisonous environment?

I wrote how he didn’t take responsibility for his own positive emotions. Rather than express his pleasure first person, he asked questions so that I was forced to carry the weight of expression. “What are you doing to me?” he asked over and over in his moments of pleasure. He wouldn’t even wear his own emotions, but made me express it for both of us. I felt like I could have been a blow-up doll and he would have been equally pleased and equally present.

I kept reading in the journal, and saw right there, in black and white, how I had clearly analyzed what was wrong with our communication, but would then go on to say how he was a good man deep inside, so the only obstacle to our improved communication was my ability to perceive his intended messages differently. I made him into some kind of hero. I talked about how he ignored me, disrespected me, and I wrote that since he is such a great person, then it is my job to “re-frame” his words and behavior into something that makes more sense for a good person. “He just doesn’t realize how hurtful it is, so it really isn’t his fault,” I wrote. “I know with patience I can understand the true meaning behind the mindless, empty comments.” Or, “I know he means well, and he’s very thoughtful and caring, so I must remind myself of that more often so my feelings don’t get hurt.”

Oh my god! What in the world makes a woman as sick as that? I have always been intelligent in every single aspect of life EXCEPT for relationship dynamics, and there I am a complete idiot. Why?

I wasted six years of my life being mentally sick with him. I got so unwell I spent the last two years of our relationship going to therapists who never helped a damn thing. I took medications that made me even more miserable, but at least they stopped the panic attacks and the voices and laughter I heard that were terrifying and frequent. My last therapist even tried to tell me to get out of my relationship, but I didn’t realize it till much later. In one of our last sessions, she was saying, very gently, “Some people, when they are feeling the way you are, might consider a change. Sometimes the options they consider might include different personal relationships, perhaps a change in setting. Please don’t think I am encouraging it, I only want to suggest what other people might have in their minds.” I had no idea what she was talking about. And I didn’t ask. I just let her words slide incomprehensibly past my mind.

Alright, alright. My intent here is not to simply to portray what a bad relationship I was in. No really. My point is that I didn’t know that I was in one even when it was making me crazy. In the past I had not seen for years how ill and abusive Tara’s father was. And how self-absorbed and sick Vic was, and Kevin, and Miguel, and all the awful men I always end up with. What is frightening to me today is that I could NOT SEE what was going on. I wanted to be in love and wanted to be loved so badly that I willingly allowed myself to be blind. I saw the abuse, recognized the betrayal, and then spun it somehow into a story about my own shortcomings in not being able to forgive enough, not being sufficiently understanding, or not accommodating the obvious signs of a wounded man who needs to be loved for who he is – because, wasn’t I asking to be loved for who I was? I told myself that I was the stronger person, and therefore I needed to be the one to accommodate his weaknesses, not vice versa.

Ugh.

At one point recently, I broke down and cried when I was with Arno, and told him of my secret terror. I want to love and to trust, but I am very aware that I cannot protect myself. At least I never have. The only means of protection I know is not to fall in love. Or, if I can’t help myself, at least to hold part of my heart back and not give all of myself. Loving Arno is frightening to me because I do not know if I am seeing things clearly. Since I could never tell before, how can I know if I can tell now? Am I currently blind? Do I love him because I am lonely? The fact that I opened up enough to allow myself to express those thoughts shows how deeply I care for him. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t be so scared. Thus it also tells me that I am sufficiently emotionally involved to again be at that dreadful place where I cannot see what is happening in my own life.

Am I there? How is it possible to know?

But remember I said ‘a juxtaposition.’ There are emotions from opposite sides of the spectrum pulling at me: isn’t that how it always is? Fear, yes, but also hope. No, even better than hope: certainty. Assuredness. Confidence and deep unconditional trust in Arno. I am not making excuses for anything about him. I don’t need to. He’s got his own self-assuredness, patience, practicality, and joy to carry him along, so he doesn’t need to suck it out of me. He has no need to bluster and sputter about things I say that could be twisted into a far-fetched insult. He does not remind me of how I should be grateful for what he gives me. He does not tell me how I could be better, or how my behavior is superior and distasteful. Or childish and immature. He does not spend any time at all bragging about himself (unless I remember to ask), but seems intent on convincing me that I am a wonderful person. Arno lives a full, satisfying life, and has chosen to make himself available to me. He loves me unconditionally. And he already told me that if things don’t work out between us, he won’t be sorry we met, because he is already happy with the positive impact I’ve had on his life. “You have already shown me that I can live my life in a better way. You have proved that there are other people like me in the world. You physically express what I have in my mind; you ACT what I am feeling! I can’t envision my life without you in it,” he said to me.

Fear, yes. But happiness as well. And each new day as I learn more and more about him, and find that his words are in perfect resonance with the way he lives, I can trust him more. There are no incongruities, there are no shameful character traits to learn to tolerate, there is no embarrassing bravado, there are no heartbreaking nights of trying to defend myself from misinterpretations. Every new morning I wake up with a peaceful heart, and the fear evaporates a little more. One day it will be gone completely. With Arno I believe I can become whole again.

Arno at the peak of Camelback Mountain

Friday afternoon, Arno flew to Phoenix to visit me. He had been in Maryland for work, and the return flight required a plane change in Phoenix. He extended his layover by two days, and spent the weekend. {…he’s the Internet guy I mentioned last month. Just roll with it, ok.}

Class ended early Friday, and after we wrapped up tasks and had our instructor powwow and settled business for the weekend, I went back to the hotel, eager with anticipation to see my man. I arrived shortly before he did, and in no time we wound down from our day and went out to do a little exploring.

Our students (who are all local) had suggested a dinner with a view at Rustler’s Rooste, near South Mountain. We found the place, and I was delighted to find that it not only had a view but a carefully cultivated character. Entering the place was like entering a mine shaft, past walls of rock and beneath heavy timbers seeming to hold up an equally massive roof. We walked on worn wood and sawdust up a ramp, till we got inside the huge place and found waiters and waitresses in cowboy boots and hats. Arno and I stuffed ourselves on appetizers, and barely had room for the steak when it came. We drank beer from mason jars and listened to live country music.

Steepest part of the Camelback trail. It's easier to gather the height and distance if you can spot the woman at the bottom.

Terry (co-instructor) had said that on South Mountain there is a place to park and watch the sunset. Students concurred. So after dinner, bellies bursting, we drove the short distance into Phoenix’s South Mountain Park and Preserve. It is a lovely winding drive through a piece of desert that is convincingly removed from the city. We followed the road to the top, and found a small parking area and people all around. Evening light was fading, so we parked and followed the others, who sat on benches and rocks, and in a covered stone gazebo, and spilled over the sides of the mountain peak. The atmosphere was magical. It truly gave me a new reason to love humanity. Quiet voices murmured and laughed, children ran in circles, lovers stood with arms around each other. As it grew darker, the people grew quieter, and yes, everyone was there to watch the sun go down. Arno and I found a rock to sit on, overlooking the lights of Phoenix and the setting sun in the distance. We breathed the warm air, listened to the quiet laughter, watched the children. And then, the sun grew huge, and glowed in molten fire, and flattened behind a strip of cloud, then fell behind the mountains in the West.

View of Phoenix from the trail on the way up.

We got up early Saturday morning and left for Camelback Mountain, the peak I can view from my hotel room. We had hoped to get an early start, but had lounged a bit too long. There were no available parking spaces, but we eventually found a place to park in a nearby neighborhood, and made the walk with many other would be hikers to the trailhead. I hadn’t realized what I was getting into. Camelback trail is a serious climb! 1200 feet in 1.3 miles. What the trail lacks in distance, it makes up for in steep uphill stretches. At one point we could scramble up sheer rock face: straight up! There was a steel railing placed to assist, and I admit I used it. Arno, of course, trusted his feet and went directly up the slick rock.

Roadrunner on the trail

Up, up, up. We began at 7:30 am, but the heat of the day was full on us by the difficult stretches at around 9 am. I brought my Red Sox cap, but the rest of me got plenty of sun and a little burn by the time we hit the peak. There were spectacular views of Phoenix. I tried to pick out where my hotel might be. We took a few photos, enjoyed sharing the summit with the others who had made it up, then made our way back down and got to the car while it was still morning. We were passed by multiple people who had decided to RUN the trail. I wonder how many broken ankles happen in this park?

Others enjoy the summit, catching our breath, preparing for the steep trek down

We made our way next to Scottsdale. Apparently, when you are in Phoenix, the places to go have fun are not in Phoenix. “Go to Scottsdale,” they tell me. “Go to Tempe.” So off we went. It was a blazing hot afternoon and nearly as empty in Scottsdale as it is in Phoenix, but this time, I’m pretty sure it was strictly due to the heat. Unlike downtown Phoenix, we found many little shops, and actually browsed them (more to cool off than to shop). I did find some gifts to bring back home. We found a place that makes homemade sodas and ordered root beer and orange floats and carried them to a park with a man-made creek and shade. I splashed in the creek and we sat in the shade and talked till our floats were gone. Back at the hotel, we deposited all our stuff, then walked across the street to Fez for dinner. I admit I am growing weary of restaurant food! Doesn’t it get tedious? Oh, for my very own kitchen again.

We made plans for Sunday on the trails in Sedona.

{Note: Prior to taking up residence at Word Press, I belonged to a community of bloggers at Gaia, which had previously been Zaadz. This post originally appeared on that blog host site.}

I am so disappointed to see all this advertisement on these surrounding pages: “GAIA soulmates. You’re single but not alone. Find your kindred spirit.” Whose idea was this? What have you done?

gag me

I am not here to date, nor do I want to participate in a dating website. It’s great that this site allows us to network with a greater percentage of like-minded people, and of course more of us will be attracted to each other because of that. Let’s let things happen on their own, in the background, and allow the more important messages of: saving our own souls, improving the lives of those we touch, making our planet brighter, and humanity more hopeful, allow those kinds of things to take precedence.

my Gaia profile image

Did a female head the committee to make this happen? A female on the Internet is already painfully aware that she will be hunted by hopeful males without ever sending out an invitation. I have so far not had to deal with that as much at Gaia/Zaadz than at other websites, and I’ve been GRATEFUL. (though I still refuse to put a photo of myself on my profile, for added protection)

My fear now is that this will be another hunting website, when I’m trying to focus on how I can make my world a better place through my attitudes, actions, and choices.

Comments from the old blog:

Katje

I totally agree with you. While I am and have been a part of dating websites before, nothing is more frustrating then getting mating calls on non-dating websites. When I sign onto any of my networking, non-dating sites, I don’t want to have to worry about politely refusing whatever comes out of the woodwork.

Crystal

Me too, J. I’ve been on plenty of dating websites, and I’m not knocking them. I guess I was just hoping for a little bit more choice over whether I’d be on one or not. Gah! “Politely refusing” gets tedious. Thanks for knowing what I’m talking about so I feel less like a self-righteous arrogant *itch. (wink)

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