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During the most vindictive and biased divorce in the history of mankind, I found myself desperate for a healthy and satisfying relationship. It was a lonely night, shortly after the New Year, that I found myself exploring the personal section of Craigslist for the very first time, about five years ago.
Prior to that, my life was filled with caring for my children and running a complicated household and business while married to my previous traveling and abusive husband. I had no time, nor desire, to explore the personal section of Craigslist, and was quite naïve about who might be lurking in the shadows of that social option.
While reading ad after ad of people who wanted nothing more than a one night hookup, I began to realize that finding a healthy, long term companion might be significantly more difficult than I first thought. The house was much too quiet without the madness of two special needs children who were the center of my universe and the loves of my life. I needed to find someone who could be potentially suitable in the presence of my two youngest children at some point down the road. I wanted to find someone who was at least as intelligent as myself, at least as tall as myself, physically attractive to me, with a strong sense of humor, capable of loving me just the way I was, no unresolved mental health issues, no current alcohol and drug addicted men, someone who loved themselves enough to be actively engaged in ongoing personal self-improvement and... my list grew longer and longer.
Slowly, I realized that my list of requirements set my bar of approval unrealistically much too high. Yet I was determined not to settle for anything less. After contacting a few people, I realized my list had to be even longer. It never occurred to me that I had to come right out and ask difficult personal questions, nor did I realize that so many people were incapable of being honest with me much less themselves.
One more misspelled, grammatically incorrect or hookup ad and I would forever abandon this platform as a likely option to finding my needle in a haystack. My emotional state went from lonely to shocked to discouraged in a very short time. I decided to read the rest of the most current posts and then throw in the towel. That is when his ad title jumped off the page and piqued my interest. “The masses are azzes.” I felt encouraged because the title reflected my exact feelings at the moment. The ad was short but clearly written by someone who was intelligent and, to my surprise, enjoyed my sometimes dark sense of humor.
I took a risk and responded with the same brevity of the ad, doing my best to write as myself and pique his interest as well. We began electronically communicating immediately, and at every turn, we seemed to be on the same page. My heart was cautiously optimistic. Each time we exchanged pictures and words, I grew closer to feeling hopeful that I just might have found my needle. We carried on this way throughout the weeks we spent getting to know each other, and I began to have some feelings for this person I had never met in the real world. Suddenly, I felt as though we had to meet in person. Ignoring safety concerns, I invited him to my home when the children were gone.
This was my first attempt to find my special person and I was incredibly nervous. Waiting for him to arrive, I paced back and forth in my living room, checking the time and the window much too frequently. I knew I was waiting for a VW and when a white car pulled in to my driveway, my first thought was so petty, I hate to admit the thought. I hated white cars with a passion, and because I loved to research for fun, I knew that people who chose white cars were typically type A personalities with extremely specific personality characteristics that were much too similar to my previous husband. Immediately, I decided that was so petty I should let it go and focus on the person and not the car.
My nerves only intensified when he got out of the car with his super curly orange hair and red shoelaces. What had I done?! Was this man merely eccentric or outright bizarre? A million thoughts raced across my brain during the seconds it took for him to move from his car to my door. I studied him intensely and analyzed everything about him, using my extensive skills regarding personality characteristics and the psychology surrounding people and behavior.
When he reached my door, I had been standing in front of the screen door awaiting his approach. Finally, he was right in front of me and I was horrified when my unfiltered brain issued the words, “You’re shorter than I thought.” What an incredibly insensitive and inappropriate greeting! I was horrified at myself. Wow! Was I really that superficial? Yes, I was. Dating a man shorter than me, even by an inch, had always been a petty yet persistent issue for me. I liked wearing high heels and I certainly didn’t want to feel like a Yeti even when I was wearing flats. Even worse, when I wore heels, it brought my height to six feet, my usually preferred minimal height.
I felt awful and apologized profusely while inviting him to please come in and have a seat. Fortunately, I remembered to put my filter back up and be a gracious host. I offered him something to drink. What I haven’t said up to this point is that I have a special gift or a special curse, depending on one’s perspective. I have the ability to actually feel other people’s feelings. Later I learned the term Empath. This man, whom I should call John, was so nervous I could hardly handle it, and immediately I felt an overwhelming urge to comfort him. All of our conversations came flooding back to me and suddenly his height or his crazy hair made no difference. Everything in my person was being driven by his extreme nervousness and I HAD to do something to alleviate John’s discomfort before anything else.
I asked him if there was anything I could do to make him more comfortable when he reminded me that he was accustomed to a climate that was typically warmer than my current thermostat set to a frugal 67 degrees. Quickly, I found my warmest throw and covered John from neck to toe. We sat in chairs next to each other and tried to ease the awkwardness of a first meet in person. I reached for his hand, looking for any way to decrease his extreme anxiety that had become part of me in his presence. We sat in this way for what seemed like a long time, but when I checked the time, not more than an hour had passed.
Since we had chatted extensively and his anxiety had invaded my entire inner self, my mind became a blank tablet. Inexplicably, my only desire was to be close to John and hold him. Uncharacteristically, I asked if he’d like to move to my bedroom so our bodies could achieve thermal equilibrium as defined by physics. This experience was so foreign to me, my mind did not know how to process what was happening, and my every move felt driven by something other than my brain. John and I had a connection that was rare in my 40 years of living. We were connecting on a level that bypassed conscious awareness and lived somewhere that felt like the body’s autonomic system.
Having achieved thermal equilibrium without words, our bodies became one and I had no memory of feeling this connected on such a deep level. We weren’t having a hookup, though by definition, this could have fit into that category. Sex within a couple hours of meeting for the first time. Talk about jumping the gun and throw out all my ideals of proceeding with caution. None of that mattered, I was ecstatically happy and satisfied. For the first time in a very, very long time. There was no anxiety in either of us and I felt blissful. In my heart, no matter what happened, I knew John would be a part of my life for a very long time.
Until I read the email that followed our first meet. It began, “I haven’t been completely honest with you.” My heart sank and shame began to set in. What in the world did I miss?! His usually concise communication became extraordinarily long. The more I read and re-read, the more my heart sank. Being an only child of a single absentee mother with alcohol and drug problems, alcoholics and drug addicts were an automatic NO.