I wrote a post yesterday about getting back on the dating horse. But I’m not so sure I want to. Life is peaceful now. There is no daily drama. I’m not constantly irritated and frustrated. I’m content. In contrast, a little over a year ago, I wrote this:

It’s May 22, 2011. Mack and I have spent my birthday weekend at the beach. His asshole side made an appearance last night, and I did not indulge him. We were singing in the car on the way to getting my oozy chocolate birthday dessert. I thought we were having a good time with it, when suddenly he snapped at me. He said this is his profession and he doesn’t indulge mere amateurs by singing with them whilst driving in a car. He said at first it was fun, but then he found me obnoxious. By this time we were at the restaurant. He got out of the car in a huff, like he had been put upon and was totally justified in being a prick. I got out of the car after some deliberation, and told him I didn’t want to go into the restaurant. He said, “Fine!” We got in the car and as he exited the parking lot, he gunned the engine a little. I told him I’d drive, if he was going to drive like an idiot. Again, “Fine!” So we switched seats and I drove us home. When we got home, he got out of the car and went for a walk on the beach. I wanted to. But since he announced it first, I simply went to bed. He came back a short time later and slammed around in the kitchen, loudly and angrily, making sure he made his ire known. I dozed in and out, and eventually he came into the bedroom, demanding that I wake up. “Why, so you can yell at me some more?” He left me alone after that. Later he came back to bed, and said, “Great, I sleep this way in two beds now.” Realizing what he’d said, he added, “At least I used to.” So, either he still sleeps in bed with Corrine, or he threw it out there erroneously, trying to make a point in the midst of his anger.

He gave up sleeping and went out in the living room to work on my computer. And read about Galveston. He came to bed a couple of hours later. I slept in my clothes.

I arose before he did, and found a note in the kitchen that he’d fixed my laptop. And the coffee was ready, just flip the switch. But there was no apology. At least not an overt one. He got up shortly after I did. I was still in the midst of my first cup. I was out on the deck, typing on my laptop. He asked if my computer was working. I nodded my head that it was. Shortly thereafter I went inside to refill my coffee.

He said, “So what happens now?”

“I’m drinking coffee, enjoying the morning on the deck.” I paused. Refilled my cup. “Unless you want to yell at me some more and tell me how obnoxious I am.”

“Not really.”

I went back out on the deck with my refilled cup and began writing. I imagined him inside. Pouting.

Last night I didn’t like him at all. I knew we were done. I found him unattractive, and I didn’t want him to touch me. This morning, standing there in the middle of the room, he looked young. Vulnerable. Cute. Maybe it’s not over. Maybe you deal with someone being a complete asshole from time to time.

From time to time, I read back over things I wrote back then, and I wonder what in the hell I was thinking.

That kind of assholeishness isn’t normal in a relationship, is it? Is this the way people behave and it’s just swept under the rug and forgotten? I really do not know. Which is how I kept talking myself into staying.

I had no role models growing up for this sort of thing. My role models taught me that you’re honest, you don’t steal, you don’t lie, and you don’t cheat people. You get a good education and you work hard. I was taught the value of a dollar. I was taught that reading books is magical.

But I wasn’t taught that you treat your partner with kindness and respect. My father treated my mother horribly. He ridiculed her constantly. He told her she was fat. He made fun of her when she ate. He’d say things like, “Just keep eating, Joanna, just keep eating!” She never said a word. But I’d defend her. Some of the worst fights I ever had with my father began when I defended my mother. And those fights were always my fault–because I antagonized him.

I once pressed my mother to explain why she never fought back. She said it was much easier to simply ignore him. I asked her how she could possibly ignore the daily onslaughts, the horrible ridicule. She said she’d just learned to tune him out.

And I was tuning out Mack’s bad behavior. Only it didn’t work for me like it worked for my mother. And so I broke free of him. And once I was free, once I could let go of everything I’d bottled up for a year, I fell into a depression.

And now, here I am, feeling better, and wondering: Do I get involved in another relationship? How do I know he won’t be another Mack? How will I know if he’s a kind, respectful man, and not a man simply on his best behavior for a few months? If he treats me poorly, when do I run? At the first instance? The second? And how poorly does he have to treat me for it to not be normal? I need a role model. Or a book. Is there a book out there that gives examples of what’s acceptable and what isn’t in a relationship?

Is there a book out there telling me what’s normal, and what’s not?

I received an email from Mack the other day telling me he’d sent me the final payment. But instead of just telling me he’d sent the final payment, he continued with a long drawn-out emotional message about various and sundry things; things I don’t feel compelled to spend typing strokes on here. He did say we have no need to contact one another again. Ever. So I guess that means he’ll stop trying to hook me with emotional emails. Oh wait. Maybe not. What was the next thing in my inbox? You got it: another email from Mack. This one included a song he recorded. Apparently about me. I’m not sure though, because I didn’t listen to it.

So how did this final spate of emails make me feel?

I didn’t feel sad. I didn’t feel angry. I didn’t feel regret. I did feel a slight bit of irritation, but not enough to color my day. And I felt relief.

Dare I say it?

Remember the old John Belushi SNL skit, where Belushi ensconced himself in the home of Jane Curtain and Bill Murray and wouldn’t leave? It came to mind this morning in thinking about my latest email from Mack. Yes, Mack still sends me notes from time to time. For months I didn’t reply, but when he sent sympathy notes about my brother, I felt I couldn’t ignore those, and so I thanked him. Since then, I’ve been responding to his emails. In his last note, he told me he’d finish paying off his financial debt to me next month, and we can then finally go our separate ways.

My initial reaction, if only in my head:

We went our separate ways eight months ago. Or at least I did.

But then I started thinking about it. Mack’s been writing me notes since I ended things back in September. He never stopped. In early December, I stopped responding. But receiving his notes, whether I replied or not, kept him in my head. Which I’m guessing was the point. He wrote a song about me once, which included the line: “If I can’t be the love of your life, I hope I’ll still be on your mind.” And here we are, eight months after I ended the relationship, and yes, he’s still on my mind.

The last note he wrote to me, I let him get under my skin. I responded, expressing my ire. I could have kicked myself the next day for writing back. But it’s got me thinking: When at long last he stops writing to me and sending me monthly payments, will it be like a breakup all over again? Of course on a much smaller scale. But will it cause me pain?

What does it take for a goodbye to be final? What does it look like to be fully split? When there’s no longer any form of communication? When they stop getting under your skin? When you stop loving them? When you stop wanting them? When you stop wishing things could have been different? When you stop wishing they were the man you fell in love with?

When have you truly moved on?

After a fabulous vacation in Tuscany, I am back to the mundanities of life. I’ve spent the past week and a half digging out at work (and getting behind on my blogging). I traveled to Chicago for meetings this week, and while I love Chicago in the summertime, the last thing I wanted to do was get back on a plane. My reward was accepting my neighbor’s invitation to drink bubbles by the pool last night. (Much to my chagrin, I think I may actually feel the stirrings of a requited crush.) The combo of the bubbles and all the recent travel finally hit me, and this morning I stayed in bed until 11:00 a.m. catching up on sleep and recharging.

Okay, okay. I won’t skip over the requited crush topic. My neighbor has been crushing on me for years. The trouble is, he’s nearly fifteen years younger, and wants babies. (“But not tonight,” he said, the last time he made a pass at me.) Despite the fact that he’s charming, sophisticated, well-traveled, single, stable, and has a job (the opposite of my last foray into romance), not to mention a sexy Latin accent, there’s just no point in going down that road. And then there’s the fact that it’s a terrible idea to have a fling with a neighbor. So I shall keep it as a flirtation, and enjoy that. But still, there is a stirring in my girl loins that I haven’t felt in months.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good these days. But the anticlimactic feeling that often comes at the end of a great vacation has me looking for something more. The something more that comes to mind is getting back to my running. But I’m having trouble running in the heat on the antidepressants. The Abilify warnings state that it’s easier to become overheated while exercising, and cautions against strenuous exercise. I live in Austin. I exercise outdoors in the heat. I refuse to spend my life on my elliptical (sheer freakin’ drudgery). So I’ve made the decision to see how I do quitting one of the trifecta (Ability, Deplin, and  Wellbutrin). I called Dr. McEnroe yesterday to get his input on my plan to quit the Abilify, but he hasn’t yet returned the call. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to go ahead and stop it, cold turkey. I’m sure there will be those who protest, but I’m going to do it anyway. When I’ve made up my mind to quit something, I don’t do it by halves. Including relationships and cigarettes. And besides, having quit smoking cold turkey some years ago, I can’t imagine this could be any worse. Just rip the band-aid off and get through it. It’s the best way. In quitting drugs, and men.

Hopefully once the Abilify is out of my system, I’ll be able to run without feeling like I’m going to keel over from the heat. And just to get it out there, I really want to be drug-free within the next several months. I’m feeling better. And with proper sleep, exercise, and Vitamin D (and staying away from abusive jackasses), maybe I’ll be successful in managing the depression without the drugs.

I think I’ve got this now.

Today is my 49th birthday. My last birthday with a 4 in front of it. I awoke this morning at the Hotel Bernini in Florence. Last night, I had a four-course dinner at a wonderful restaurant, including too much wine. The meal was so fabulous, I’m not even going to try to top it. I’ve also grown a bit weary of getting lost. Florence is a maze! But since I was out the door at 7:30 this morning, I made it to the Uffizi and didn’t wait in line for long. The museum was spectacular. After I meandered amongst the statutes and busts and Botticelli paintings, including the Birth of Venus, I spent the next five hours wandering through the maze of streets that is Florence. I’ve finished being lost, and now I’m sitting in the hotel bar.  It’s lovely, decorated in traditional Tuscan furninishings of purple and gold.  I’m sipping on a delicious chianti and watching people. Not a bad way to spend a birthday.

Ive got lots of photographs left to post, including those from my favorite day of all:  Cinque Terre, the Italian Riveria. The coast was spectacular. As was our cliff-side lunch.

This has been such a fabulous trip. I’m not sure how I’m going to top it next year: 50.  Any recommendations?


Here are some shots of my morning walk, followed by the lunch cooking class:






















After 12 hours of flight time, I made it to Tuscany and I’m at the villa. It’s lovely. But I’ve yet to sleep on a trans-Atlantic flight. I was plied with Prosecco and Italian salami, olives, and cheese upon my arrival. The chef’s name is Valentino. Perfect.

I hadn’t intended to nap. The plan was to push on through. But then the light rain began, and it was so cozy that I thought I’d rest my head for a moment. A moment turned into a three-hour nap. I feel rested and ready to continue the adventure.

I’m off in search of my villa-mates, whom I haven’t yet met. And more Prosecco.

The painter comes tomorrow. It feels like this change is about a lot more than paint color. It’s been six months since I ended things with Mack, give or take a handful of days. According to popular thinking, it was to take me half the time of the relationship to feel free of him. We were “together” a few days shy of a year. So here we are, at half-time.

At least in my case, the formula is accurate. It took a psychiatrist, a cocktail of antidepressants, a therapist, a personal trainer, an interior designer, a painter, and a scheduled trip to Tuscany. But I’m free of him. Mostly.

I go days at a time without him sliding into my thoughts. I’ve stopped mentioning him to my friends; for which I’m sure they are most grateful. I’ve stopped muttering a barage of profanity to myself, when I do think of him. I’ve started wearing the ring again. On my right hand. I asked two of my dear friends at sushi the other night, “Does it pass as a right-hand ring?” And they said, “It can be whatever you want it to be.” What I want it to be is a very special ring I bought for myself. Which is exactly what it is.

I’m so grateful it sits upon my right hand, rather than my left.

Yes, it’s definitely about more than just the paint. It’s about making my life, my environment, my world, just the way I want it to be. My old paint is a burnished red. And sandy beige. My new paint is a deep vibrant teal and a neutral called Coastal Fog. I’ve always been attracted to cool colors. I have no idea how I ended up with warm. But tomorrow, they’ll be gone. And my home will be vibrating on the same frequency as my soul.

And I’ll have painted over Mack.

And so it begins! I’ve hired a painter who starts Wednesday. Right now, I’ve got the Tuscan look. Tan sand-colored walls with a deep brickish-red accent wall. Olive green in the downstairs powder bath. And a horrific deep red in the upstairs guest bath. Oak cabinets in the kitchen.

Here’s where we’re headed:

From Tuscan red to teal (living/dining/kitchen accent wall; in my open-concept condo, these areas flow together):


I went four days without television. Monday through Thursday. (Recall the goal was no televesion Monday through Friday.) Okay, I did turn it on, but only to play a yoga DVD. That doesn’t break my resolution.

On Monday, as with the early moments of kicking any addiction, I felt free. Buoyant. I embraced the possibilities. I went for a long walk after work, followed by a bubble bath.

Tuesday night I kept feeling a pull to turn the teevee on. (I like referring to it as “teevee.” It feels irreverent.) The pull was almost unconscious. “Turn on the teevee.” “What? No. No teevee. I’m not doing that any more.” A few  minutes later: “Turn on the teevee, dammit. You need the white noise. The distraction.”

Interesting. The teevee was a distraction. Whatever I was distracting myself from needs to be dealt with. So I wrote an uncharacteristic Tuesday night blog post.

Wednesday night I turned on the yoga DVD. It felt like cheating; like smoking a cigar when you’re trying to give up cigarettes. (Yes, I did this. In all fairness, it was during the cigar craze of the late ’90s. And it worked.) I turned off the DVD (and the teevee) as soon as I finished shavasana.

Thursday night. More yoga. Shavasana done. What about the news? Don’t I need to watch the news now and then? No news. Turn the fucker off. Now. Teevee off.

Friday night I caved. Friday was a bad day. Lots of work stress. And I’m getting a new fence. You wouldn’t think that would be stressful, but it was. My jasmine, which I’ve grown from a tiny pot, had spread itself across the fence over the last eight years. I had left work early to quickly cut it away from the fence so the workers could remove the old fence. In the midst of that, with the workers fast approaching my unit, my boss was blowing up my Blackberry with numerous emails about a non-emergency emergency. I hacked at the jasmine, stopped, wrote back, accidentally hitting reply all. The client received an email meant only for my boss: “I agree with your approach. We’ve given them every courtesy. Fuck ‘em.” At least the “fuck ‘em” was referring to our opponents, and not the client.

But I fretted over it for the rest of the jasmine hacking, and for hours after. I ordered bad takeout. I turned on the teevee. Two ways to check out. Food and teevee. And a couple of glasses of wine.

It could have been worse. I could have watched network. Instead I watched North By Northwest. You know the movie: Alfred Hitchcock, where Cary Grant appears in a towel.

I have got to stop using the F word. But first let me get through my fucking teevee withdrawals.




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