Rejection is a River

In Getting Naked Again psychologist, Ph.D. and author Judith Sills offers some pretty good advice for women 40 and older starting over after divorce, death or being dumped. I believe it’s worth sharing–with a spin. (Metaphors . . . it’s what I do.) You see . . . while I may not be a Ph.D., I do have L.I.F.E. framed on my wall. (It’s hanging next to a B.A. in German and a Reviewers’ Award of Excellence for a romance novel I wrote in 1993. Ok, I’m kidding–about the L.I.F.E. Degree. But the other two not. Them’s I got.) Moreover, prior to my 2016 six month experiment with online dating – chronicled in my humor book I Still Want Fireworks (and available on Amazon hint, hint) – I pretty much managed—over a span of four freaking months—to qualify (in order) on all three of Dr. Sills’ ds. Ergo as a textbook example of, I figure I’m an expert for. Or not. But since it’s my blog, oh well . . .

So . . . here it is, with an assist from Dr. Sills . . . my metaphoric lessons lived and learned—and condensed into a handy-dandy 3 step starting over synopsis:

  1. Rejection. Don’t kid yourself. When you start dating again, it happens. And it hurts! Whether online or off—and even if you really don’t even want the snaggle-toothed, balding, potbellied, dead fish holding loser—being stood up or ghosted or dumped in any way by him still stings! Ladies, rejection is like a river – and it washes away your confidence and erodes your self-esteem. (It also resurrects even long dormant insecurities. But that particular visual doesn’t work with this metaphor. Nevertheless, think of a dam some busy little freakin’ beaver built . . . it slows your mojo flow to a trickle.) In my case, ala online dating, at the three month midpoint I’d had 486 profile views, only 52 email contacts and a scant score of replies that resulted in 1 lousy dinner date. Now I ask you . . . How could any woman in her right mind not feel rejected?
  2. Self-doubt. Being rejected during the dating/starting over process—especially if you were the one dumped or divorced—inevitably leads to the belief that something is wrong with you. And then whoa, Nellie! Suddenly your “toos” (too old, too fat, too needy, too controlling, too whatever) become a side channel that flows right back into Rejection River. Now Reject. Riv. is a churning torrent, raging down Rebuff Mountain to sweep you in self-pity and drown you in doubt. Before you realize it, you are convinced you are undesirable and unworthy of being loved—especially if you were left, dumped or divorced for a better model with obvious upgrades. BTW, even if you divorced him, society has a tendency to still consider you the one lacking. Whether he was an alcoholic, abuser, control freak narcissist or serial cheater . . . it doesn’t matter. YOU walked, so YOU failed to make it work. YOU failed to honor the whole “for better for worse ’til death do us part” promise, and so YOU broke up the family—happy or not. “No wonder no one wants you now!” screams your inner insecure self. FYI, Dr. Sills calls this spate of emotions a “flood.”
  3. Giving up. At some point, however, the feelings faucet turns off. Hot emotion turns to icy indifference. Rejection River has frozen over, and floating floes of ice make navigation a practical impossibility. Indeed, Dr. Sills refers to this as the “freeze.” I call it the “fuck it” phase. No one is ever going to want you—not now, not later, not ever—so what’s the fucking point of trying? You might as well dock your dating boat and hang up your oars. Your paddling days are over. Take up knitting and get a cat. (I love the TV promo I once saw for an upcoming episode of some comedy show. The mom asks her adult daughter, “So, now that I’m undesirable to men, do the cats just show up? Or do I need to go to the shelter and pick some out?” I may have misquoted it, but the essence, humor and truth are certainly there.)

According to Dr. Sills (who I am sure does have a Ph.D. framed on her wall), all of the emotions and reactions relayed above are normal. She calls the whole process “healing.” And healing, she says, “is slow and it does not occur in a straight line.” Healing entails answering a lot of questions, too. For example, what it is that you want now? And what is it that you’ll want later? (See my post or video “Sex vs Intimacy part 1” for more details.) Indeed, you might not know right away. And that is ok. Here is where Dr. Sills believes dating of any form helps, online or off. (Personally, I’m not too sure—but I’ll defer to the real expert, ’cause trust me. My insistence upon fireworks has gotten me nowhere–except burned.) Even if all you learn from the experience is what you don’t want, that’s progress, says Sills. It gets you closer to what you do. (I’ll buy that.) She also talks at length about the need to “relax your requirements,” “check your attitude” and “cut yourself and the guy across the table a break.” She also advocates re-examining one’s objectives, contending that are “different men for different purposes,” whether they be for travel, dinner, conversation or sex. She believes lowering expectations and shifting thinking will put “more fun and less fret” into the dating experience. Her final big piece of advice: “Slow down and resist your urge to hunt for The One” and look instead “for a little while, to date the many,” because “even a lousy date can pay off in several ways.” She lists them on pages 139-140 of her book, if you are interested.

Personally, I’ve spent more time than I ever wanted – or expected – paddling Rejection River. And BTW, Rejection River has another name. Starting out as a lovely, picturesque, seemingly perfect watercourse (no pun intended), it goes by the enticing (and oft deceptive) name of Mr. Right. Unfortunately though, this initially quite enjoyable ride can betray expectations. The current can turn hazardous. And before you know it, you can find yourself headed for a drop-off. Ergo, you need to pay attention to the warning signs beforehand. (Yes. Do as I say, not as I do.) In my case, I sure as hell missed a lot of them. But following the events of two weeks ago (see “Time to Say Goodbye”) . . . yeah, nothing but treacherous rapids ahead. So before I totally wreck my canoe, I gotta dry dock it (no pun intended). I also need to seek out a less challenging stream. Fellow boating enthusiasts do say there’s a less perilous option for my future endeavors. Also heartily recommended by many canoeing experts, including Dr. Sills, I hear tell it’s a rivulet called Mr Right For Right Now. I guess after I patch up my canoe and bandage my bruises, I’ll be looking for it . . . Or not.

About 3 & Me (or Blame it on Barbie?)

I have a thing with the number 3. The Pythagoreans taught it was the first true number. Additionally considered the number of harmony, wisdom and understanding, 3 is also the number of time, of primary colors, of the divine and of magic (i. e. “third time’s the charm”). It is a sacred number in many religions (i.e. the Catholic’s Holy Trinity and the required times under Muslim law a man must say “I divorce thee”). Numerologists say it is the number of good fortune. (FYI, it was used 467 times in the Bible.) Certainly, I’ve always said it was my lucky number. Not that I really believe in the concept—of luck, that is. Save bad. My mother always said if it weren’t for bad luck, she’d have none. I think inherited hers. Her nose, too. (Thanks, Mom. BTW, the boobs . . . really, Mom? Really? Those you gave to my sister?)

But lucky or not . . . the number 3. . . it seems to have a thing with me as well. I have/had . . .

  • 3 sons
  • 3 grandsons
  • 3 houses
  • 3 new cars
  • 3 pure bred Labs
  • 3 mixed breeds
  • 3 published historical romance novels (FYI, The one I didn’t finish . . . it was a planned trilogy.)
  • 3 careers: teacher, author, flight attendant
  • 3 occupations: student, waitress, mother. (Some may say career and occupation are the same thing—but that’s not really the point here.)
  • 3 airlines: America West, US Airways, American
  • 3 bases: PHX, CLT, PHL

Upon contemplation further, I have actually had 3 of a whole lot of things—except husbands. I had only 1 of those. But we were married for 36 years (divisible by 3). I have fallen in love 3 times. And lust . . . yeah, you guessed it . . . 3 times for that, too.

Growing up as a military brat and moving every 3 years, I only wanted to be 3 things when I grew up—a nurse, a nun or a stewardess. In all honesty, however, it was all about the outfits. At 5 or 6 years old, I thought the nurse’s white cap and navy blue cape were the coolest! And I played dress-up and make-believe accordingly. Then we moved. My next school (3rd grade) was a Catholic school—voila! A new fashion fascination with wimples, veils, long black skirts and rosary beads. And I played dress-up and make-believe accordingly. Then we moved (again). By now I was 10 or 11 and far too old for dress-up and make-believe. Until I met the Queen of Dress-up and Make-believe . . . you might know her? Her name is Barbie.

Yes, that Barbie—the fashionista (before it was a word) doll with an anatomically incorrect, impossible to ever achieve body, who warped millions of Baby Boomer girls’ minds as to what the ideal female form should be. Of course, defenders and Mattel (the true Dream House Barbie built) clamor even today to tout her positive points (and they wouldn’t be her plastic boobs). With a thick as a phonebook resume of careers (and coordinating outfits), Barbie has purportedly (according to her propents) inspired and influenced generations of little girls the world over to strive and achieve their dreams as women. It even says so on Barbie’s website: “Leading by example for over 56 years, Barbie has inspired imaginations and encouraged girls on their journey to self-discovery.” And every Thursday they “‘throw back’ to some of the most notable days (you mean outfits, right?) in Barbie history, celebrating the limitless potential of girls everywhere” to “Be Anything With Barbie.” Even Barbie’s creator, Ruth Handler, buys in: “My whole philosophy of Barbie was that, through the doll, the girl could be anything she wanted to be. Barbie always represented the fact that a woman has choices.”

Really? I’m pretty sure my only take-away was a to-this-day fetish for high heels. Be that as it may . . . The career out of Barbie’s hundreds that stuck with me through high school, to the point (no pun intended — remember, my sister got ’em) I actually did my senior career research report on it, was stewardess. Yep, you guessed it . . . the outfit. The uniform, hat and silver wings . . . throw in the glamour . . . the travel . . . What was not to love? Answer: The profession’s stringent physical requirements—of which height was a biggie. As I was not, I fell short (about 3 inches worth). And so I moved on to college and eventually to teaching.

Fast forward 40 years (merely a coincidence, I’m sure, that it’s the same amount of time the Israelites wandered the desert) . . . My teaching job had been eliminated and I had 2 sons playing out-of-state college football. I also had a neighbor who worked for Southwest on one side and one who worked for America West on the other. The fact height and weight and age were no longer requirements to fly the friendly skies (sorry, wrong airline), coupled with the lure of free flight benefits to watch my boys play, compelled me forward—right back to my past. (Remember, The Universe is a circle!) Since there was no way in Hell I was going to wear a polo shirt, khaki pants or shorts and tennis shoes, my choice was as clear as Barbie’s Lucite heels.

30 years after the want, I received my silver wings. Actually, they were some weird brushed bronze color, but that’s beside the point. (Again no pun intended. Trust me, save a brief interim in my breast-feeding days, I remain as flat as my momma didn’t give me.) On my 48th birthday, my instructor pinned those bronzeque wings on my less than ample bosom–and a genuine FAA certified flight attendant was born. Barbie would have been proud. Except . . . sometime between her inspiration and my achievement—dammit! B, you won’t believe this! They took away the freakin’ hat!

Time to Say Goodbye

Sunday came through again last week. (FYI, “come through” I’ve learned is Philly-speak for “drop by.”) It was a Wednesday. Ash Wednesday to be specific (And didn’t that turn out to be prophetic??) It all started with his typical “I’m driving down your street . . .” phone call modus operani.  If you’re a regular reader, you know what happened next. (If not, stop now and read “Sex vs Intimacy” parts 1 & 2 and “Seriously? Again?!” before you go any further.)

At some point in our catch-up over the last month conversation, the subject of a young woman he has known for 5 years came up. I know he’s close to her. They were even involved very briefly years ago (or so he’d said). But she’s 28, a single mother of 2 little kids, and he’s 52. Ergo I thought (and he’d led me to believe) it was now a surrogate daughter/friendship/she needed help to get by thing. Curious (ok, suspicious and confused) I asked how they’d met. Through a mutual friend, to whom he no longer speaks, he answered with a laugh. Why? Because he ended up liking her more than the friend who’d introduced them. And then he launched into the spiel I’d heard ad nauseum over the last year:  “She’s beautiful. I love her, her whole family actually . . . the grandmom, her kids . . . they’re like family.” Yeah . . . I’d heard it alllll before. But tonight there was something different in his tone . . . or maybe it was my willingness to keep my head in the sand?  

<!!! ALERT !!!>  Ladies,  DON’T ask a question you DON’T want to hear the answer to!!!

“If you care so much . . . (Insert:  forced casual shrug and desperate attempt to conceal rising emotions.) . . . why don’t you be with her?”

I need to pause for a moment. I deliberated long and hard about this post. Not about writing it. Believe me. I needed to write it! To get it out so I could let it go. But to actually publish it?  The conversation, the details . . . yes, I vowed when I started singleat60 to be honest and candid (and I have been praised for it), but this is incredibly personal–and extremely painful. To broadcast to the literal world (or at least to the 100 countries where this blog is viewed) my private life? Shouldn’t there be a line one doesn’t cross? And besides, there’s nothing humorous here. All the wit and sarcasm on the planet won’t make this post amusing. 

So why do it? I had to ask myself. Does anyone truly care? Does anyone truly need to know? In truth . . . no. No one. And in truth . . . anyone. Anyone who has related to anything I’ve written regarding this relationship. Anyone who has had a chord struck,  an ah-hah moment or a me-too realization. Anyone who has felt kinship, comfort or inspiration in the knowledge: “Damn! I’m not the only one!” And so there it is. My justification for the no ones. And my purpose for the anyones. To read further or not is your choice . . .

I expected a lot of possible answers. Like “Judith, really? It’s not like that. She’s got little kids and I’m not into raising a third family. Look at the age gap! She’s looking to get married and I’m never going down that road again.” Yep, I expected any and all– except what I got.

“Because she’s not ready to be with me.” (Knife) “Yet.” (Stab.) “But I can wait.” (Twist.) “It’ll happen.” (Pull out and plunge in again.)

Blood pouring (metaphorically speaking) I staggered to my feet and headed straight for the scotch.

“Why are you upset?”

“I’m not upset. I’m confused.”

“No, you’re upset. I can tell. You’re slamming shit. And you always say ‘confused’ when you’re upset. I don’t mean to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you. You know that. Talk to me. Come here. Tell me what’s going on.”

Really, motherf****r! You can’t figure it out?? You’ve just told me you’re in love with another woman. A barely employed, car twice impounded for no driver’s license, check-cashing joint regular, old as your daughter, 28-year-old!

I’ll never know how I sat down again next to him. Almost calm. “I wish I knew what’s wrong with me . .  .” is what I said. (What I meant was “why I had fallen again for the wrong man?” And “why her–and not me?”) Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. The word beat inside me like a drum .  . . the fucking irony, too! The night we’d met, he’d brushed off our 9 year age gap as irrelevant. “Age is just a number,” he’d said. Who knew the fucker’s slide rule went both ways! Talk about your slipstick!!

“There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re beautiful. You’re talented. You see the world. Judith, look at me . . . come here.” He pulled me closer. “You know I love you. You’re a great friend. I trust you. And I do miss you sometimes . . .”

And as if it couldn’t get any worse . . . he kissed me. And then lowered the hammer that smashed my imagined control. “Why do you love me?”

And THERE IT WAS! OUT IN THE OPEN. I had never said it to him, had– in fact– taken great care not to.  “I like you. I care about you. You’re important to me.” Those were the words I’d cautiously used. But NEVER had I uttered that word.  Hell, I’d never admitted it even to myself. And now there it was–the fucking L word outed. Like he’s known all along?

“I don’t know. I wish I didn’t.”

“But you do.”

“Yeah, I do.”

“What do you want from me?”

“To matter.”

“You do.”

Not enough obviously I wanted to scream. Instead I started to cry. And the bastard held me and told me to.

Eventually I stopped and the conversation started again. He backed off his avowal of certainty and gave some half-assed list of all kinds of relationships and how there’s no guarantees and things can change. “Let it go,” he said. “Just go with it. In the moment.”

“You’re hedging your bets. Keeping the door cracked. Men always do. They never truly leave.”

“Men leave,” he retorted, his voice and eyes suddenly like ice. “If I fucking leave, you’ll know it.”

What I knew was that it was over.

In last week’s post I wrote about reconnecting with an ex. How no one and no thing can tell you to move on until YOU are ready.  And so my advice comes now back to haunt me:  Take what is to be taken and learn what is to be  . . . (Hells’ freakin’ bells! Would someone please tell the damn Universe to laugh a little quieter? I’m trying to draw a fucking metaphor here!)

A rekindled relationship is not unlike the vase of tulips sitting my table. They are one of my favorite flowers. I love their look–but more, I love the way they make me feel, mostly because of the memories of Europe they hold. But despite all effort, they change from the perfection they were. The flowers open and the stems bend. They actually become more beautiful to me than in their original condition. But still they bend and droop. And wilt. And still, I am able to see beauty and feel enjoyment. In fact, I convince myself the artful wilt and yellowing leaves are flaws to be embraced. (Doesn’t it say something about one’s goodness, if they can see past external defects and still love?) Then the petals drop and the stems are gangly sticks. Only I can still see beauty and worth to keep. My friends see ugly, wilted remnants of what was. They think I’m nuts to hold on to the tulips. (Yes. We’re still talking tulips here.) But I still feel enjoyment and so I want them there. Until the day I don’t. The day I stop seeing the arrangement for what it was and now can’t ignore it for what it is. The day I can no longer overlook the deficits. Too much of what I loved is gone. It’s ugly. It’s dead. It’s time to say goodbye.

But now the table will be empty. Tulips are out of season. Who knows how long until I can find them again? So look for another flower, I tell myself. Or put a freakin’ plastic plant there–or a pile of coasters and a pair of salt and pepper shakers. Whatever. Or not. The truth, I tell myself, is I just got used to it being there–I’ll get used to it being bare. (Now we are no longer talking about tulips.)

Honestly, I cannot tell you why Sunday stayed until Friday. Maybe I was still stubbornly, foolishly looking for enough beauty to keep the arrangement around? But what held up our arrangement–trust and possibility . .  . yeah, tulip stems. Fallen and empty. So all weekend I looked at the tulip petals scattered across my table. And I stoically mourned loss. (Ok, I cried and smoked–but the loss part is true.) Come Monday I knew. There just comes the time . . .

The time to say goodbye. And it hurts. It hurts like hell.

 

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Seriously?? Again?!?

 A note to my readersPlease know none of the events relayed in this post (or any other) are ever invented or distorted for the sake of literary license. Any issues you might have with plausibility and/or believability, please direct to The Universe and its Complaint Department. The window you need is FACT IS STRANGER THAN FICTION. Take a number. (And a lunch.) BTW, I’ll be the short, older brunette waaay ahead of you in line. The one in dark lipstick and high heels—with a long list of grievances. Now on to today’s post . . .

Dear Self,

You are an idiot.

No, not the techno-idiot you freely admit to being (but yes, you are that, too.) No. You are something far worse. Unfamiliar with the unknown is one thing. Unintended mistakes are understandable—and certainly forgivable. But first-hand (and lots of other body parts’) familiarity, aka prior knowledge and past experience—and still you err on the side of NO caution? Girlfriend! Just where in Hades’ closet were you standing when they handed out brains??

Well, ladies, here’s a newsflash! As it turns out, my brain may just be the reason . . . (Yes, I know. That wasn’t the body part I was blaming either . . .) If you are not a regular reader, you might be a mite confused right about now. So here’s a quick get-you-up-to-speed synopsis . . .

Seven months ago, a FWB (who had become more) pretty much Caspered out of my life. Insert: six months, next to no contact & zero sex. Upon my flippantly telling a girlfriend I needed to get laid (given my lengthy bout of unwanted celibacy), The Universe saw fit to recycle a former FB. Insert: one (ok, two) “Wam-bam, thank you ma’am” sessions & one resultant and illuminating realization that inspired a 2-part post (with an accompanying—and very much experimental!—video.) Entitled “Sex vs Intimacy,” its moral is ironically simple . . . sex is not intimacy. And alas! Intimacy is what I realized I want. Naturally, this revelation occurred nearly simultaneously with The Universe deciding it was time to screw with me again. (Pun intended) Insert: laugh track. Because one month (to the freaking day!!) after aforementioned ex-FB reappeared for his one-time (ok, 2-time) purpose, aforementioned former FWB unCaspered himself with a phone call:

“Say, listen, I was driving through the neighborhood, hadn’t seen you in a while, had some free time, I miss talking to you . . .”

(Oh, is talking what we’re calling it now?)

”I didn’t want to just show up.”

“No, it’s fine. I’m home. Did you want to come over?”

“I’m out front.”

And you know what happened. Here’s what you don’t . . . . Five days later, another phone call:

“Hello, Judith. I was around the corner . . .”

And you know what happened. I just wish I did. More specifically, I wish I knew WHY? Which inspired me to find out. And write this . . .  Why do women reconnect with an ex?

So-called relationship experts have come up with a baker’s dozen reasons. Feel free to check off any boxes that might apply. (I did.)

  • Time invested – there’s a history and maybe the relationship does deserve a 2nd chance?
  • Better the Devil you know—especially considering the decidedly lousy dating options out there
  • Rose-colored glasses—time and distance have caused you to remember better than it was
  • Comfort—it’s what you know (always easier than the unknown) and it wasn’t all  bad (or so you convince yourself . . . see above)
  • Fear—yeah, that unknown thing again, PLUS the fear there’s nothing better out there
  • Hope—you think it will be better or you can change him this time. Or you want to believe one or both of you have grown and learned how to better deal with the issues that broke you apart (see circumstances below)
  • Validation—he wants you back
  • Unfinished business—it didn’t run its course and it needs to. Or the break-up was his idea. (Note:  when men leave, they VERY OFTEN don’t truly leave. They come back. When a woman leaves, on the other hand, she’s usually DONE. And FYI, if a couple reunites after he broke it off, chances are quite good the next time they break up, it will be she making the decision.)
  • Loneliness—aka horniness
  • Lack of self-confidence and/or self-love—you don’t have enough of both or either to move on (see fear, validation and loneliness)
  • Circumstances which caused the break-up have changed. Or improved.
  • Belief, realization or acceptance you are better/happier with than without (see hope above)
  • You still care for/about him—BTW, the more you profess to HATE an ex? The better are the chances that you LOVED him. And probably STILL do. (Been there.) FYI, the emotion that signifies truly O.V.E.R. is apathy. (Just saying . . . ‘cause I’ve been there, too.)

Now let’s talk actual science with a trio of actual experts. According to Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute, the brain develops pathways based on learned patterns. Ergo, if you have laid (no pun intended) down “a powerful pattern that this person was your life partner,” Helen says your brain “can retain traces of that circuity, even if you’ve bonded with someone new.” (F**k)  Now to stir the old relationship pot further . . .

As previously discussed in prior posts, sexual connection unleashes the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin, both of which create a sense of closeness—which in turn creates neurological attachment. In other words, the psyche is marked. BTW, if that person was the first, best or most intimate you’ve had BINGO! The mark is more indelible. (Double f**k) Larry Young, a psychiatry professor at Emory University, gets more scientific specific: “Oxytocin unleashes a network of brain activity that amplifies visual clues, odors and sounds—hence they become soft-wired into your reward system and pleasure sensors.” The way Larry puts it, because seeing an ex “reignites prior encoding,” your brain will “light up the same way a cocaine addict’s does before a hit. [Therefore] it is psychologically intoxicating to reunite with an ex love/former flame.”  However, there is hope . . .

According to Justin Garcia, associate director of research and education at Kinsey, all this neither means you still want to be with your ex, nor that there’s something wrong with you. (Whew!) “It means,” Justin says, “there’s a complex physiology associated with romantic attachments that probably stays with us for most of our lives.” (Triple f**k) BTW, here’s a couple not so fun facts:

  1. Research has shown that an unrewarding rebound relationship can actually cause a person to feel more attached to their ex. (Ragu, anyone?)
  2. A rebound lasts only if it is better than the relationship it replaced. (Yep. Definitely. Ragu.)

So here’s my take-away from all of this . . . If you have taken up again with an ex . . . oh, well. And so what? No judgment here. (I can hardly recommend “do as I say—not as I did!”) But here is a recommendation: (Lists . . . it’s what I do.)

  1. Take a look again at that list of 13 reasons.
  2. Be as honest as you can with yourself.
  3. Then take what is to be taken.
  4. Learn what is to be learned. Both positive and negative!

Now here’s the part no one usually tells you. UNTIL you are ready, NOTHING is going to change your behavior, how you feel or enable you to move on. Not telling yourself how stupid you are. Not logic, not guilt. Not friends’ admonitions and concerns. Not all the cutesy, clever memes on Facebook that tell you Be a priority—not an option, an after-thought or a backup plan. The simple, ugly truth is, UNTIL YOU ARE READY, moving on is not going to happen.

But when that time does come . . .

  1. Want what he showed you you do.
  2. Avoid what he showed you you must.
  3. Then, eventually, you will love as he showed you you could. The Universe willing.*

*Or at least too busy with some expletive-spouting broad with a laundry list of complaints who’s demanding to see the Being in charge . . .

Five Stars! My first review…

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers’ Favorite

I Still Want Fireworks: A Single-at-60’s Odyssey Through Life, Love & Online Dating by Judith Hill is a compelling memoir that takes readers on a rollicking ride down the path of online dating with the author, a well-published fiction writer. It all starts as a joke and the protagonist convinces herself that this could be the path of inspiration for her next book, a how-to for online dating. But it isn’t long before she is pulled into a dizzying world where the line between reality and fantasy blurs. Follow her adventures as she meets and dates guys she finds online and as her mindset shifts. Question is:  Can she really meet in real life the men who are what they pretend to be in virtual space?

Judith Hill’s book is packed with wisdom and insight, powerful lessons from the experiences of a woman who once hungered for love—perhaps desperately. I have read many stories about online dating, but haven’t read anything as exciting as I Still Want Fireworks, even close to it. And readers will love how the author weaves the themes of romance, online dating, online security, fraud, and a lot more into this memoir. What does it really feel like to be single at sixty? The author’s reply will surprise readers and make them change the way they look at relationships. The story is written in a very enjoyable tone and it is very engaging. Fast-paced and injected with a rare sense of humor, this book will keep you up all night.

Contact Judith at judithhill767@gmail.com 

I Still Want Fireworks

Judith Hill’s 5-star humor memoir. Shipping to US addresses included.

$12.99

Sex vs Intimacy (part 2)

If you have not viewed the vlog from last week or read the subsequently published post, you may be a little lost . . . so here’s a quick TMI recap: Last month The Universe decided it was time to end my (at that time) 6 month dry spell. And in the process I took another step along this journey I’ve been on 4+ years now. However, unlike Dorothy’s yellow brick road to Oz, my path to self-discovery appears to be paved with rough and uneven stepping stones, each sandblasted with the words LIFE LESSON in big bold letters. Beneath, in an itty bitty, squint-to-read font, is the actual revelation I’m apparently supposed to “get.” Here’s my latest “got” . . . after sex with a former partner from 2 years ago, I learned that all sex is not the same. In fact, it’s layered like f**king filo dough with carnal lust, physical attraction, shared desire, mutual affection, comfortable familiarity, emotional connection and even romantic love, encrusted with validation, excitement, danger, adventure . . . each and all paper thin layers of difference and distinction. Who knew? (Not I. Obviously.) LIFE LESSON #1

I often write The Universe is a circle that turns on itself. (It’s why the past comes back to bite you in the ass!) But more than a self-returning spiral with a bent toward irony, The Universe also possesses a similarly twisted sense of humor. For example, in I STILL WANT FIREWORKS (p. 35), I wrote about how much I recoiled at the use of the word “cuddle” in men’s online dating profiles. Reading it made me cringe every time! I figured the guy couldn’t much get it up sans blue pill, and so was subliminally looking for a woman not much into the actual act anymore anyway. And they are out there. Trust me. (No judgment. Just saying.) The fact that, according to a May 2016 New York Post article, the appearance of “cuddle” in a male profile actually generated 48% fewer responses than a comparable profile omitting the word, only reinforced my revulsion. Yep, I hated the word and mocked the need for the deed. Hold that thought.

In the video and blog last week, I talked about how each woman has to decide what she wants. I had decided for me it wasn’t a relationship. I simply had a void that needed to be filled. I wanted to feel wanted and desired by a man I felt fireworks with. An occasional encounter with an explosion of excitement, no more. A knee-jerk reaction to a 36 year marriage of nothing but routine and repetition? Probably. Regardless, I was of the opinion a constant routine smothers and kills the excitement I wanted. Ya know the adage: familiarity breeds contempt? Where’s the thrill in all the time? Repetition destroys rare. Routine ruins romance. Moreover, I didn’t want to learn him well enough to see his flaws. I wanted just to take it as it came—without expectation. (No expectation, no disappointment.) I didn’t want happily ever after. I wanted happy in the moment, an only “here and now” thing without ties. Such would leave my walls intact and my heart protected. In short, I wanted casual sex, aka a fuck buddy.

I met exactly what I thought I wanted on the night of my 60th birthday (See Chapter 28 in I STILL WANT FIREWORKS. I still think it’s a great “meet” story.) But fast forward 8 or 9 months . . . and my birthday bar hook-up had gone from simple fuck buddy to complicated FWB. (Yep. Woman plans and The Universe laughs.) One night we were sitting on my couch. It was late, past 11. He had stopped by after work so we could discuss his going to Europe with me. As was quite usual, he set my legs over his lap as we talked flight times, airport codes, passports and dollar/Euro exchange . . . Eventually we touched, maybe kissed. I curled up very naturally next to him, my head on his chest. Just as naturally he put his arm around me.

“You’re cuddling,” he said into my hair, “typical woman . . . they all want to cuddle.” I laughed and snuggled closer, content as hell. “You know . . .” he said, continuing, “I haven’t done this since my second ex-wife. I don’t do it. I aaavoid it.His tone was adamant (as if having stressed and stretched out the word wasn’t clear enough?). Of course, I immediately sat up. “Ok. Sorry,” I said with a forced shrug of feigned indifference. He drew me back. “Nah, it’s all good.” We kissed. Then he spoke again. “I told myself before I came, it wasn’t going to go to sex. I wanted to talk about this trip.” “Ok, so it won’t,” I responded, “let’s talk about the trip.” He laughed. “Nah, we covered it.” And so it went—where he’d told himself it wouldn’t—‘cause it’s what we did. Then we talked—until 3—‘cause it’s what we did, too. (Of course, being a woman, I took the whole exchange to mean more than it obviously did—given the ultimate outcome 3 months later.)

Now let’s put together paragraph 3’s theme of “in the moment without ties” and paragraph 4’s four hour cuddling couch conversation with an interlude of intercourse. . . What we have (besides The Universe snickering its cosmic ass off?) is sex in the first instance and intimacy in the second. Ladies . . . newsflash! They are NOT one in the same! Who knew? (Not I. Obviously.) LIFE LESSON #2. Side note: The last vlog and post named 4 different kinds of intimacy as per experts’ definition. For simplicity’s sake—and the point of this post—I’m going to discuss only 2—but I’m going to call them sex and intimacy. Period.

Sex—even great sex—is not intimacy. And intimacy—true intimacy—is not sexual at all. Even though the term is often used to indicate a couple is in a sexual relationship, it’s a misnomer. Sex is a biological act of physical pleasure wherein you put yourself and your wants and/or needs and well-being first. Intimacy, on the other hand, will cause you to put the other’s first. Here’s an easy memory trick: Sex is the sharing of parts—intimacy is an involvement of hearts. According to a 2013 Psychology Today article, intimacy is a deep and shared closeness that requires a high level of transparency and openness—not physical contact. “The most intimate moments,” say the article’s author, Barton Goldsmith, PhD, “are those that happen outside the bedroom.” Of ALL things (!), The Good Men Project concurred in 2016: “There are countless ways to be intimate, and most of them aren’t sexual.” Who knew? (Not I. Obviously.)

Intimacy is the comfort, affection and familiarity between two people that forms only through the passage of time and communication and mutual desire. (Insert now the sound of The Universe again chuckling, ‘cause I always believed familiarity bred contempt—or at least boredom.) Intimacy is trust and vulnerability. It’s letting down barriers, allowing another person into our most personal spaces and private of places. (I’m not talking moist holes. Remember: sex is parts and intimacy hearts.) It’s a man who has seen me without contacts, without make-up, without boundaries, naked in every light—and sense—from every vantage and aspect. (Definitely, vulnerability! ‘Cause this girl doesn’t leave the freakin’ house without make-up!) It’s a man who has allowed himself to cry in front of me. (Trust me. For a man of my generation—especially blue collar—that’s huge!) And there’s more . . .

Intimacy is knowing small details most wouldn’t think to matter and intuiting huge insights few have ever gotten. For example . . . My knowing of his obsession with cayenne pepper and intense dislike of ATM fees—and bras. And his knowing my need to analyze and control is a manifestation of fear, especially of rejection. It’s shared miniscule moments—not big bangs. (That would be sex.) The way he teased me about how badly I flicked a cigarette butt. (Maybe a factor in why I’ve since quit?) It’s shared experiences that become more than memories, but rather shared reference points, touch points. Ties that will forever bind you both in ribbons and layers of knowing and understanding. It’s the genuine joy of being in the other’s company that supplants the need or want for external diversion. Indeed, we could spent 48 hours straight together—and not ever leave the house or turn on the TV. Never was I happier. Another memory trick? Sex is about the g-spot. Intimacy the sweet spot.

If you’re not quite sure yet the difference . . . each of the details I revealed above—personal, private, boring, meaningless to an outsider details—those are the hallmarks, the telltale signs of sex that traversed into intimacy. You will note, however, I have omitted (quite intentionally!) the L-word. For I believe (until The Universe decides to school me differently) that the L-word is yet another form or type of intimacy . . . another layer, if you will . . . remember . . . filo dough.

At the risk of another food analogy . . . sex is microwaving a jar of spaghetti sauce (take the lid off first!). Quick to prepare, satisfies the hunger and it usually tastes pretty good. Intimacy is a slow simmer all-day Sunday Sauce (or “gravy,” depending on your Italian roots). It takes time for the flavors to truly emerge, develop and blend. To do it really right, you add by degrees and in stages—it all just doesn’t get dumped in the pot at once. And once you’ve had the real deal, you find it difficult—if not impossible—to go back to a jar of Ragu.

So back to the story that started this 2-part post . . .

Rob was Ragu.

But Sunday wasn’t coming back. Not after 7 months. To this day the red Victoria Secret bra he yanked off is still missing a hook, so that I have to fasten it at a looser fit. But I don’t throw it away. I’m not ready to buy a replacement. Just as I realized last month I’m not ready for emotional intimacy with another man. I don’t want him holding me, staying the night or calling me “Babe.” My heart hasn’t healed. Yet. But my other parts? They thought I needed to move on and make do. So I did. And by doing so, I learned LIFE LESSON #3. In the difference between sex and intimacy, there’s no substituting. Fuck! Who knew? (Yeah, not I. Obviously.)

So in keeping–and concluding with my marinara metaphor—clearly I need to find a new recipe. It will take experimentation, trial and error. Realistically, a bad batch or two (or three or more) is bound to occur. But I’ll take it slow. Especially since I know now the ingredients that work to my taste. I’ll find the right balance. Or not. But knowing what I want (and don’t) is a really good start. Moreover, in 7 months my tastes may have even changed . . . Less cayenne? Or maybe a little more thyme this time?

Postscript: Before I could finish and post this post . . . the circle . . . yeah, it turned again. Care to guess who–without warning—showed up at my door? Fuck! (That would be a yes.) BTW, it was a Wednesday . . . Damn! Yep. (And THAT, ladies, would be the roar of laughter.)

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If you want to learn more or read the above mentioned passages, ISWF is available in Kindle ($3.99) and in paperback ($9.99). For a direct link, click on the title below.

I STILL WANT FIREWORKS

Post: Sex vs. Intimacy (part 1)

Warning: The following story contains sexual content and repeated use of the f-word. Reader (and my offspring) discretion is advised.

“You look good,” he said, as he put his hands on either side of my face, holding me still for his kiss.

I remember he was a good kisser. I didn’t remember he was so short. But then again, it had been nearly 2 years . . . a few details of memory are bound to fade . . .

His hands went to either side of my ass and he pressed me close (too close!). “You feel good,” he said.

I felt nothing. No sizzle. No sparks. No fireworks. No desire. In my mind I questioned: Had I really fucked this guy?

I had. January – March 2016. In a determined decision to move on after a failed one year affair, he’d been my rebound after Zurich. Initially, I’d been attracted to his persistence. (Readers of I STILL WANT FIREWORKS can flip to page 163. He’s the Easy Rider who picked me up while I was sitting on a rock waiting for the bus.) Back then he was 45, a truck driver with a heavy Philly accent, pugilist features, a stocky build and the same blue collar swagger that would get me into so much deeper trouble 6 months later. But unlike the Mechanic (who still has a hold on my heart), Easy didn’t have a lot of layers. Worse, we had nothing in common. Eventually the small sparkler of interest that was, wasn’t. It fizzled out. Mutually, I’d always assumed, since he’d not contacted me either in 21 months. So why now? Why now had he texted out of the blue (no pun intended) to show up—after such a lapse of time—back at my door?

The answer is crazy complicated, yet insanely simple—and downright Ouija board weird. Because I wanted him to. I needed him to. And I’d said as much—the freakin’ day before! Sitting and talking with a girlfriend, trying to figure out why the guy I’m still hung up on won’t leave my heart or mind as easily as he left my bed and life, I’d expressed aloud one of the cruelest fallout “frustrations” that occurs when a relationship ends. I admitted I was horny. In cruder terms, I may have said I needed to get laid. I probably just said I needed to get fucked. In other words, I told the Universe. To be fair (and blunt) it had been 6 months. Not only was it the longest dry spell in my sexual life (save the last 14 months preceding my walk-out on a marriage that had become toxic), but the fear of never again having sex was beginning to get stronger. Thus it was in that context that I had confessed to her the thought I’d entertained sporadically without any true seriousness:

“I sometimes think about calling Rob.” (not his real name)

“You should!” she said.

“I’m not interested in him,” I answered.

“It’s sex,” she said. “You don’t have to be. You said he was good.”

“He wasn’t bad,” I corrected.

“Well, I think you should. A fuck buddy.” She shrugged. “They do it to us.”

“So two wrongs make a right—and better the devil you know, right?”

“Exactly!”

And so had I put it “out there” where the Universe heard it.

The next night the circle turned. And the past revolved into present with a text: “Hello, Judith. It’s Rob. Do you remember me?” Of course I did. And of course you know what happened . . . We went out for drinks and then he fulfilled his Universe-mandated purpose and ended my 6 month dry spell. Physically it felt great. It was exactly what I needed and what I wanted. It just wasn’t who I wanted.

I fell asleep on the wrong man’s chest. As aware of the arm that had not wrapped around me as I was of the tears that had. I never heard him leave. I woke up at 4. It was only when I wondered why the Christmas tree lights were still on (and my contacts still in) that I even remembered he’d been there.

Or had he?

In Chapter 28 of I STILL WANT FIREWORKS I posed the question most women starting over must answer for themselves: When all is said and done—and all bullshit and façade stripped away—what is the essential want (or need) you are looking for? There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on each woman’s circumstance and past and what she feels is missing in her life. A woman who was cheated on may choose trust above looks or money or fun. While a woman who hasn’t known infidelity, but who was saddled with an inattentive bore, might choose affection and adventure. A woman who has struggled financially could resolve to struggle no longer. She wants to be wined and dined and spoiled. Financial security, physical affection, companionship and conversation, a social life and/or standing . . . you get my drift. Again, no right or wrong answer. Just know you will likely sacrifice one attribute for another.

In September of ’16, I had done an honest assessment of my life and decided my essential want was sex. Period. I travel just fine on my own (and for free). Clubs, bars and crowds are not my thing. Financially I am solid. I don’t need a male to change a light bulb, the A/C filter or my oil. I’m independent as hell and don’t miss a man to cook for and clean up after. What I missed (and wanted) was the one thing I couldn’t take care of myself (sorry, Carvaka, but plastic is plastic and a man in the flesh is a man in the flesh). I wanted fireworks. Then I met a man who delivered. Yep . . . rocket’s red glare and orgasms bursting in air—and a couple life lessons I somehow missed learning . . . Who knew? (Not I. Obviously.)

LIFE LESSON #1: All sex is not equal. Fuck! (Pun intended) In hindsight (no pun intended) I guess it’s why there are a multitude of different names for it: fuck, screw, get laid, sleep together, make love. When you truly think about it, each has a different connotation. A hook-up is not a fuck buddy is not a friend with benefits is not a lover. Yes, Part A still goes into Part B (or rather more specifically Part C goes into Part P), but as other components become involved . . . time, frequency, familiarity, comfort, trust to name a few . . . well, ladies, now you are really fucked! And not in the way you might want. (I didn’t.) Because now “sex” has begun to evolve into “intimacy.”

Experts have actually defined 4 types of intimacy.

  • Intellectual (a meeting of like-minded intellectual minds)
  • Experiential (a closeness in shared activity or common goal, ala soldiers that live, fight and die alongside one another—or parents raising a family)
  • Sexual (shared sensual and sexual expression)
  • Emotional (shared feelings of trust and vulnerability)

While any of the four can develop into another, it’s the latter two that are the most dangerous. Because of a biological incendiary called oxytocin, playing with sexual intimacy is playing with fire . . . a sneaky, stealthy, subtle and seductive flame that will creep along often without consciousness perception. And then—Wooosh! Emotional intimacy. And emotional intimacy is like a lithium battery fire. It’s not easy to douse. . . BTW, only in its absence do you often even recognize it. (I didn’t) But one truth is certain: Once you’ve had it . . . truly had it . . . Damn, is it hard to do without! LIFE LESSON #2

To be continued . . .

I Know What I Want

I came to a realization yesterday, aided by Judith Sills. A clinical psychologist and author (BTW, I highly recommend her book, Getting Naked Again), Dr. Sills contends that women starting over must decide what they need and want, and dating is part of the process. One can learn even from a bad date, she says. Ala:  learning what you don’t, gets you closer to knowing what you do.  If you are interested in reading more, there’s a short recap in I Still Want Fireworks, pages 274-277. The same logic can be applied to a failed involvement. I shan’t use the word relationship, at least not in my case, because neither man in my recent past “did” them. (One, in fact, avoided them.) But moving on . . .

While working on my next post for next week (entitled “Sex vs Intimacy”), I found myself doing a lot of soul-searching and self-examination. Not so long ago, following Dr. Sills’ advice, I had decided what I needed—ergo wanted—was casual sex. But after experimentation with such—and an involvement that became intimate without his want or my intent—I have reached a different conclusion. In addition to learning a priceless life lesson (and trust me, those are the ones that hurt like Hell!), I realized what I need is not the same as what I want. Need can be mitigated by logic, common sense, outside influences and even financial practicality. So, no, not need. Just want. Period. And I don’t give a fuck anymore what others may think of my choice. Let me say it again. My choice. Whether my friends think it’s a poor decision or even my own voice of reason says, “What in Hell are you thinking?” I simply (and crassly) don’t give two sh*ts anymore. Only what my sons think or say matters to me. And they want me to be happy—so I know they will accept who I bring into my life.

That being said, I have preferences—boxes that must be checked off. (We all do.) As independent as I am, I must have strength. I want to know I am protected when I am vulnerable. Naturally, strength entails physical size. I want a muscular body and a solid build. The scrawny need not apply. I want an air of dominance and danger, even wildness (that only I can tame). In a nutshell, I want big. I know they say size doesn’t matter (and to each their own), but to me it does.

So on to other desired physical characteristics . . . yes, I’m being shallow, I know. But again, to me they matter. While I’ve had blond and fair-haired, even reddish and graying, I just prefer dark, black actually. I’m ok with short or long. I like the look of long, but short is neater. In truth, I’m open to all possibilities. Just as long as that spark sparks.

Speaking of sparks . . . I want to look at him and melt. Yes, him. Never would I think less of another’s orientation, but I’m me and I’m inclined toward males. It’s the way I’m wired. But if you’re into females, certainly it’s your choice! No one has the right to judge. Besides, how boring a world this would be, if we all liked the same things. So back to me . . . I want to look into his eyes and see adoration. And trust. Loyalty. I don’t want ever again to wonder if the male in my life is going to stay in my life. I want to know he is!

I want to snuggle and cuddle. The plain truth is, I need—and want—physical interaction and contact. I want to feel his hard body fold next to mine in the night. It’s ok if he hogs the covers and takes his half of the bed out of the middle. The warmth and security and knowledge of safety he provides . . . yeah . . . it’s a fair trade because I have slept too many years now alone.

But I’m not naïve. This is not my first rodeo. In crudest terms, I’ve had others—lots of others. I know it’s not just cuddling in bed. There will come times when he’ll want to play rough. It’s the nature of males. And speaking of their nature, I know he’ll have those disgusting habits they all do. He’ll fart and snort and burp and snore. And as much as I don’t want to clean up after him, I know I’ll end up doing so. I also know there will be moments of anger, disappointment and frustration. Those furious “WTF are you doing?!? God damn you!!! I swear I’m going to kill you!” moments. Not the pretty side of a relationship, I’ll grant you. But they happen. At least with me. I have a temper—and a mouth.

Yet in the final balance (remember, I’m a Libra), the positives will far outweigh the negatives. Because he’s my reason to get up in the morning when life knocks me down. I matter to him because he needs me. Ahhh . . . time now for another soul-baring confession. Of late, I’ve learned that truth about me. I need to be needed. And truth be told, I want it.

While I want him to always be happy to see me and to want to be with me, I won’t mind if he’s social when we go out. Even if he pays attention to others, I’ll quash my jealousy. And here’s another confession, I actually kinda like it. ‘Cause no matter how much attention he pays to another (and even if she’s stunning and gorgeous and thinner and younger than I), I know without doubt he’s always, always coming home with me.

For better, for worse, in sickness and in health. WOW! I never thought I’d say THOSE words again! But, yes. I will be there for him. Heart and soul. He is mine and I am his. Crap! Talk about your Harlequin romance and Hallmark movie trope! But it’s true.

You know, it’s funny when I think about it. Not ha-ha, but rather ironic as in the Cosmos is getting the last laugh. I really thought I didn’t. But now I know. I want commitment, after all. I want love. Unconditional love.

Yep  . . . dear readers, I know what I want.

I want a dog.

Where To Now?

I went to Church a couple weeks ago. Shocking, right? Truth be told, I’ve been attending Sunday Masses for a while. I started going two years ago, after moving from Phoenix to Philadelphia. Based in Philly, it was a logical decision, A. D. (after divorce). Ironically, however, by doing so I also returned my east coast roots. (My parents were PA and upstate NY born and raised, and I was born in New Jersey while my dad was stationed at Ft. Dix.). But then again . . . life is a circle that turns on itself, returning to end where it begins . . .

Single and alone, after 36 years of being wife and mother, the move itself was a faithful act. And they say faith can move mountains. But I didn’t need a mountain moved (and a transcon moving company had taken care of my worldly goods). What I needed—desperately—was the comfort of believing a higher power had a plan for me. So along with my NJ/PA/NY roots, I returned to my religious ones—ie the Catholic Church. And OMG (no pun intended) was that first confession a doozy!! “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been 41 years since my last confession . . .” Side note:  I made it easy for poor Father Cavanaugh by just ‘fessing upfront to having broken all of the 10 Commandments except the 5th. (Thou shalt not kill.) I think he doled out 20 Hail Marys, 5 or 6 Our Fathers and an Act of Contrition. (I got off light.) But I digress . . .

So back to me in Church, with a pretty clean slate, I might add. Since my last relationship breakup has engendered 6 months of unwanted celibacy, I no longer have to cop to that “sex outside of marriage” thing. Nowadays #2 (taking the Lord’s name in vain) is the one I struggle with. That particular Sunday the subject of the homily was perseverance, specifically “you don’t bury your God-given talents in the face of failure.” It was a coincidence to say the least. Fateful to say the most.

Just the week prior I had written a piece here entitled “  . . . and start all over again.” Its subject was failure, because at that point I’d had a lot of it. Not only on a personal level, having been dumped by a man I really cared about, but on a professional level as well. The book I had decided to self-publish on Amazon had sold a whopping 4 copies! In the post I wondered whether I should shelve the whole project and just concede to having failed. (BTW, a girlfriend told me it was my worst post ever—depressing and sad. But hey, sometimes the events in life just don’t lend themselves to a light and witty post. Besides which—and based upon its hits and comments—I redeemed myself with the next one about vibrators.) So back again to me in Church . . . Oh, dear Lord! “Church” and “vibrators” practically in the same sentence?!? Crap. I wonder which Commandment that breaks? Maybe I’ll just offer a dozen Hail Marys to be safe . . .

But all joking now aside, here’s a confession of a different sort. My writing talent (if it is indeed a talent) has long been a source of frustration and self-doubt. On the one hand, I know I can write. On the other, I don’t always believe it. So as I sat there listening to a discourse about perseverance and talent, I wondered if maybe it wasn’t a message—not exactly a lightning bolt from the sky, a burning bush or the actual booming voice of God—but a message nevertheless. Father C continued his sermon, citing the example of Michael Jordan (arguably basketball’s greatest player) who said he learned more from his failures than he did his successes. The shots he missed in the game he practiced the next day over and over and over again. The ultimate lesson to be learned of course was faith—faith in God—who doesn’t make mistakes. So when man (or woman) does, then he (or she) must work to correct them. Be they actual sins or failures to achieve true potential, i.e. missed basketball shots . . . or next to zero book sales?

Drawing parallel, I began to think. So, short of writing a whole new book, how did I work on what I’d missed? I decided to correct the mistakes I believed I’d made in marketing. I changed the title and cover and book description. (See “I Still Want Fireworks” which addresses the redo in further detail.) Feedback was positive. And so with renewed faith, I awaited results—and steadfastly refrained from checking the sales numbers.

In the meantime I finally achieved a goal I had set four years ago. Six hours before 2017 ended, I finished reformatting the last of my three historical romances. All are now on Amazon in Kindle format. I reedited each, correcting content and character motivation errors, writing mistakes and awkward phrasing. No longer restricted by the publisher guidelines that in the 1990s censored what I could write, I also reworked and rewrote scenes and dialogue. In short, I wrote this time to please myself. Each of the three is different and each endears itself to me for a unique reason.

By far A Knight’s Desire has been my most popular. It is the quintessential medieval romance with a flawed hero, a feisty heroine and a villain readers fall in love with. Hearts Enslaved takes place in Roman Britain, not a popular time frame for a romance, I’ll grant you. More historical in military fact and detail, it was however my favorite to write. I loved its hero—but more importantly it earned my military son’s seal of approval for accuracy. (He read it while deployed, but admitted he’d torn off its bodice-ripper cover first. That’s ok, honey. I don’t blame you. I was never thrilled with the cover either.)

Fires in the Night was the first book I wrote (ever). unnamedAs such, it has the simplest story line—and the most sex scenes. I was a very bored stay-at-home mom when I wrote it. To say it was a romantic fantasy and an erotic escape would be an understatement. Because it is my guilty-pleasure favorite to read, I gave it a new cover. And may I say, DAMN! If only a cover would sell a book, this one would put me on the New York Times List for sure! (or is it only me who needs a cold shower and /or the nightstand drawer . . .)

So now I am at a crossroads. I toy (no pun intended) with the idea of writing romance again. But I don’t think my heart is in it. Nor do I think my life has enough content or humor for a second humor memoir. Besides which, I finally checked the sales numbers for I Still Want Fireworks yesterday. Alas, 4 must be my lucky number. (That would be sarcasm.) Which leaves this blog. And the concomitant question: What the hell am I doing? Or accomplishing? I am no expert on life, nor do I possess any credentials to address its issues. There are experts aplenty who can—and do—do so.  So where to now? Where do I go in 2018 (metaphorically speaking/writingwise, ‘cause we all know I went literally to Paris—see “Now Taking Applications”).

Again, because God has a sense of humor (and impeccable timing), I think my answer came on the last day of 2017 in the form of an email from a follower of “singleat60.” She opened up to me, a stranger, relaying her last few years of adversity and struggle with major health issues. She said she’d been reading me for a while and that it was as if each of my stories when published mirrored exactly what she was going through that week. She told me to keep writing because I “help so many who are going through” what I write about. WOW.  Her words humbled and touched me profoundly. Because she’d included her phone number in her email, I called her. We spoke for nearly an hour. She said she was in awe and honored. No, E . . . it is I who was honored! As we signed off, she thanked me repeatedly for calling. I tried to thank her, but she dismissed the impact the call had had upon me.

In speaking to E, I realized I may have realized my writing niche after all. It’s not my academic knowledge, formal training or expertise—because I have none, none and none. As I’ve said before, the only degree hanging on my wall says German, Russian and History. My Master’s is in Life. Period. But my honesty and willingness to openly and candidly (sometimes too candidly) write about my emotions, doubts, fears and experiences  . . . according to E, they count. Moreover they fulfill a purpose, she says. Again, WOW.

For a week now since (and after seeing a posted motivational video about goal setting for the new year) I’ve thought about my PP&C (passion,  purpose & calling.) Writing has always been a love/hate endeavor . . . I guess that does qualify as a passion. Check. Certainly what I write nowadays is therapy for me, a way to vent and address my thoughts and issues . . . ok, purpose. Check. But calling? A humor blog about sex and aging and starting over? Really? But who would have thought they would resonate so with other women? Not I, for damn sure! Nor have I any real idea with how many. (Though the numbers today say 5355 views by 3162 visitors in 90 countries, let’s be realistic. A lot of that could be pervs simply searching for porn with the word “sucks” in the title.) Neither can I truly know how impactful my off-the-wall musings and attempted humor posts are. But thanks to a fortuitous Church sermon, a random video and a loyal follower’s email, I do know this:  I know the answer to “where to now.” At least for a while . . .

In the meantime, ladies, how about each of you? As 2018 begins, what is your PP&C?

 

Postscript: Stay tuned for this techno-idiot’s foray into an audiovisual realm . . . With E’s encouragement, I’m going to try something new next time, a 2-parter that is half video and half my per usual written post.

Post postscript: In response to readers’ requests, techno-idiot figured out how to provide a hyperlink (I think it’s what it’s called). Click on one of the book titles above, and it should take you to Amazon–if you are wanting to check out any of my books further.