Author Archives: christiangirlsguidetodivorce©

Empowered

A couple of years ago, O Magazine was looking for exciting, funny stories about online dating. I submitted this piece. I shopped it around to a couple of other magazines, as well. And, after a year of “Covid College” (as Anne Lamott calls it), I felt now was a good time as any to put it out there.
*****
I’m 42, been divorced for eight years and have had my heart significantly broken in the meantime. After two brief post-divorce relationships, I was hotly pursued by my best friend’s brother. I fell hard for him. I started to believe in marriage again.

Two and a half years in, he dumped me over email. I was blindsided.

It took a long time to heal, but I eventually did. And I unexpectedly fell in love again. Harder. We were a great match, but our issues weren’t. This time, we mutually ended it.

I settled in for another long winter, so to speak, of healing after a broken relationship.

Several months and too many spilled tears later, my friends were on me.

“You’ve got to get out there again!” they said. “Move on! Have some fun.”

So, I downloaded Bumble, a swipe-right-or-left dating app that “challenges outdated heterosexual norms”, empowering women to make the first move.

Looking for a stable, grounded, emotionally available and healthy partner who knows the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Ideally, you’re wittier than me, I wrote, proudly. I uploaded my most-liked photos from Facebook, sans duck face or bathroom selfies.

And the games began.

Initially, I looked through every single picture and read every single word on every single profile.

After a while, however, it grew tiresome. And to my disappointment, most men didn’t write anything, at all. The ones who did I found insipid, in open relationships, couldn’t spell or ended every sentence with “LOL”.

So I decided to change the rules. I stopped looking for the right one, and swiped right on everyone.

When I matched with a man, I wrote him a message right away.

I think the best part about being single is the freedom to unabashedly consume copious amounts of garlic. You?

1:27 p.m. 7th and Hope. A homeless woman called me “ghetto ass.” I’m quite certain it made my day.

Do you think people who are passionate about CrossFit had terrible childhoods?

If he responded with something witty or engaging, I would continue the conversation. Two days in, I matched with a man six years my junior who was smart, attractive and seemed to have it together. He asked me to “tacos and boozy lunch”. I told him I had to work that day, but I could meet him for happy hour. At 4:30 p.m., he sent me a message:

Come to The Greyhound!

I asked if he were there at that moment. Indeed, he was. I told him I was finishing up at work, but could be there in an hour.

I’ll prolly be home by then, he replied.

I sighed. The guy couldn’t wait one hour? “Prolly” not.

Unmatch.

I did end up on an actual date with an intelligent, down-to-earth guy who was a chef. His passion was pizza ovens.

We conversed easily over dinner and a bottle of wine. As I sat across from him, I tried to force myself to be attracted to him. He was nice enough, seemed normal enough and was attractive enough. I just didn’t feel a sense of urgency in my loins.

When the last of the wine had been drunk and I had passed the quiz on the history of masonry, he walked me outside. Almost without warning, he pawed at, then kissed me. In a last-ditch effort to decipher chemistry, I allowed it to continue for a minute or so. When it was over, the lower half of my face remained wet and raw. The smell of his saliva lingered on his beard and, worse, up my nostrils.

I tried not to dry heave in his face. Instead, I cleared my throat.

“Thank you for dinner,” I managed, weakly.

We parted ways. Later, he messaged me.

I really liked kissing you, he wrote. We should do it again sometime. Naked.

This time, I allowed myself to heave all the way.

Unmatch.

I met a man in the elevator that same week. I was on my way to the basement in pajamas and flip flops, toting a rather large bag of cat poo in one hand, and recycling in the other.

He was a beautiful specimen: tall, dark and upsettingly handsome, with creamy, smooth skin and bulging biceps.

“Hi,” he said. His piercing eyes locked with mine.

“Hi,” I giggled. Suddenly, I was 12 again.

“I like that color on you,” He pointed at my blue shirt.

“Thank you!” I smiled.

He looked me over. “Oh, and you have really cute toes, too. Wow! I’m just handing out all the compliments today!”

I laughed and shifted the bag of cat poo further behind me.

He continued.

“I love beautiful feet. I’m quite good at massaging them, too.”

Ick.

The elevator stopped at the ground floor.

“So,” he lowered his voice. “Are you lonely? Want some company?”

“I appreciate the offer,” I responded, matter-of-factly. “But I’ve got two cats upstairs that are keeping me company. So, no thank you. But, may I ask — does that line actually work for you?”

He flashed a brilliant smile.

“Almost every time.”
*****
I made it four days on Bumble. In the end, I came to the conclusion I always do after re-installing dating apps: online dating just isn’t for me. That is not to say it isn’t for everyone. People can be creepy online and in person; you don’t need an app for that.

Maybe I’m old-school. Maybe I think “heterosexual norms” aren’t so outdated. I have nothing against women initiating the first move, but I like it when a man pursues. I enjoy having doors opened for me. I want to be wooed, wined and dined, and, at the same time, respected.

Am I crazy? Perhaps. But I believe it still exists. I also believe online dating has robbed us of patience, authenticity and an overall sense of decency.

Our culture is addicted to immediacy. One can order up just about anything with a tap (swipe!) of a finger on a smart phone. Food, entertainment, transportation, sex — all at once, even! And if you aren’t impressed, just keep swiping until something better comes along.

If you’re like me, you’re tired of the sifting through the never-ending cesspool of vapid choices presented through today’s dating apps. If you’re like me, you’re looking for a long-term, committed relationship. And relationship takes time to cultivate. It takes effort. It takes chemistry and compatibility. It takes two people willing to come together, bravely reveal their deepest self and personal brand of crazy, then commit to choosing one another, daily.

Is it possible to find that on a dating app? I’m not going to say no. In fact, my sister met her boyfriend of five years on OK Cupid. They were both looking for a relationship when they matched, and they’re a great couple. Even my sister’s cat approves. Not forgetting my own experience: my first post-divorce relationship was with a good man I met online.

Something happened when I put an end to mindless swiping and permanently deleted Bumble off my phone: I felt empowered.

Instead of searching for someone to fill the void when I get lonely, I reach out to a friend. Sometimes that turns into a spontaneous hike, wine tasting or evening enjoying and supporting a fellow musician or actor at one of their gigs.

Instead of staring at my phone for hours every day, I’m reading a lot more. Books! Actual, physical books. I turn the page and smell the paper and write notes in the margin and everything.

Instead of deciding in a split second if a guy is HOT (right) or NOT (left), I’m investing my time and energy in the people I already know. And the more you get to know someone, the more (or less) attractive they become.

Instead of back-and-forth messaging with some stranger who may or may not ask me on – or show up to – a date, I’m getting out of the house and chatting with strangers at the grocery store, gym, or those seated next to me at happy hour. I’ve actually made a couple of new friends.

And by choosing to trust the right partner will come along in due time, I am choosing me.

“How?” You ask.

By saying no to swipe culture and immediacy, I am choosing to slow down. I want to grow, learn and ultimately change for the better. I’m not looking for my “other half”, because that other half is me. I am a whole person, and striving towards being an authentic, wholehearted one, at that. It’s not easy, and sometimes the road is terribly lonely, but loneliness is only temporary. Investing in myself is a priceless gift, away from the distraction and noise.

So, if you end up sitting next to me at happy hour one of these days, please say hi. I’ll be the one doing my very best to engage authentically and with an open heart; my phone buried deep at the bottom of my bag.

Forty-Three

The other day I went to a restaurant for the first time since March. I felt ecstatic, then overwhelmed and horrified. I mean, there were people there. Droves of them. (Okay, there were only about fifteen, it was a strictly outdoor venue and we were all safely placed within many feet of one another.) But still – people! All dressed up, talking and laughing, eating food and drinking drinks. Acting normal.

And for a moment, all seemed right in the world. I breathed a (masked) sigh of relief.

*****
Tomorrow is my 43rd birthday.

Confession: I have been struggling lately. A lot. I am not proud to admit this, but anxiety has taken the wheel. I know I’m not alone in experiencing anxiety these days, and that is somewhat consoling. But tell that to me at 3:36 a.m. when I’m lying alone, wide awake in bed, staring at the ceiling fan and praying its incessant whir will lull me back to sleep. All the while, my heart feels like it’s going to leap out of my chest and bolt for the door, taunting me with maniacal threats of never returning.

The thoughts run like this: What will happen to my career? What do I do next? How do I pivot? Who will publish my book now? Why aren’t people buying my album? How will I make more money? What does my industry look like from now on? When will it return? What does dating look like? (Hint: non-existent!)

And, coupled with recent trips (yes, more than one!) to the dentist – fear in the waiting room, fear of the unknown cost; blubbering in the chair; the sound and smell of drilling; obsessively checking and re-checking the mirror – I finally crumpled.

Give me a pandemic and a truly unknown future, take away my preferred creative outlet and I’ll give you 170% real, raw Leslie. The remaining 30% is reserved for my husband on our wedding night. Snort.

Leslie cries. She makes mistakes. She is anxious. She is a perfectionist. She’s terrified of the dentist. At times, she is horrible at self-care and self-love. She’s constantly battling her bank account. She compares herself to others and subsequently feels like a failure. She isn’t sure how to pivot during this time.

Pivot. Pivot. Pivot. Oh, how I hate that fucking word.

Yet.

Leslie is grateful. Leslie is strong (albeit unwillingly, at times). Leslie is determined. She works her ass off. Leslie apparently talks in the third person. Leslie goes to therapy. Leslie is learning to meditate. Leslie is witty, kind, funny, generous, helpful, capable, talented, honest, vulnerable, hopeful, compassionate, warm, loving, a good kisser, lover, writer, singer, driver, songwriter, teacher, employee, daughter, sister, housemate, friend.

Leslie is loved.

*****
Earlier this month, I was on a Zoom call with more than eighty Biola University Chorale alumni honoring our dear friend, director and mentor, Loren Wiebe, who had just celebrated a milestone birthday.

He shared his wisdom: “Where you end up in life has very little to do with what you’ve accomplished and everything to do with whom you have loved.”

Amen.

I love, and I am loved.

And that is all that matters.

Happy birthday to me.

20th Universary

Today would have been my 20th wedding anniversary.

Over the past couple of days, I have been pondering how I feel about it, and I have found nothing. There are no tears. There is no sadness. I feel nothing. It is just a quiet fact. 

So, today, I am celebrating ten years of singlehood. I celebrate the woman I have become. I celebrate being able to heal. I celebrate the fact I have fallen in love and had my heart broken again and again and again. I celebrate the fact that my heart works, and I’m still open to sharing it with someone again – someday.

Today, I celebrate ME.

#happyuniversary

Grammar Matters

Enjoyed a leisurely Sunday afternoon at my favorite happy hour spot, devouring my latest library find.

Guy seated next to me: “How is it you’re single?!”‬

I looked up from my book, propped my elbow up on the bar and rested my chin in my hand.

“Forgiving the presumptive and irksome nature of your question, the answer is as follows:

Besides the overwhelmingly disappointing inability to step it up to my level, the men who lackadaisically profess interest are petrified to send me grammatically incorrect texts.”‬

Butterflies

I used to attach meaning to butterflies. If one crossed my path, I would take it as a sign that something good was about to happen, or that God was approving. It was something purposeful and special, meant for me.

Later, I decided it was all bullshit.

Eaton Canyon hike - Painted Lady

Painted Lady butterfly I captured on my hike in Altadena, California

Confession: I have been really struggling lately.

I’m stressed out. I’m afraid. I miss New York and my “cool life” there. I still love my ex-boyfriend, even though he’s long since moved on. It’s over, and I accept that. Actively choosing to move forward is a lot harder than it looks (but I am as happy as I look on my Instagram feed, dammit)! I have an album coming out in July that cost more than I raised, and I have no fucking idea how I’m going to pay for it. I can’t get my publisher to return my emails. I’m working, but barely part time. I’m living (again!) with my incredibly gracious and generous friends, Curt and Kathy, and I don’t know how I can ever repay their kindness. (I do pay rent!) I don’t feel like I deserve it. I own nothing but four (really awesome) pillows, a duvet, a smattering of clothes I am extremely tired of, a guitar that, some days, is hard to look at, much less play (see above about the ex), an explicit grammar mug, a bourbon glass (ugh, the ex again), a computer, a phone, and Mavis the Mini (oh, how I love her).

I feel like a total loser. There, I said it. Oops.

This morning, I took my blood pressure and it was elevated.

“Here,” Curt said, as he directed me to the couch and propped up some pillows. He switched on the TV and found the Relaxation channel in 4K. He sat next to me for a moment.

“Take it again.”

It was significantly lower.

“Now come with me,” Curt said, as he took my right hand. The velcro strap of the blood pressure machine dangled from my left arm. He grabbed a sheepskin throw off the couch and led me outside to one of the Adirondack chairs nestled underneath the massive Deodar cedar.

He covered the chair with the sheepskin. I laughed, and sat down.

“Now look,” Curt said, with a smug grin.

“At what?” I adjusted my feet.

“Do you see them? Look across the grass.” He pointed towards the neighbor’s house.

I pushed my glasses firmly to the bridge of my nose. My gaze followed.

And I saw them. A frenzy of butterflies — possibly hundreds of them! — dancing, swirling and fluttering in the air, with purpose.

“They’re called Painted Ladies and they’re migrating north,” Curt informed me, then reached over and pressed the START button on the machine. He left.

I sat, my mouth agape, and barely felt my left arm being squeezed.

I’d never seen so many butterflies in my life. And I’m quite certain there is no meaning, other than the fact that butterflies actually migrate north, along the mountain line, lay their eggs, then die.

I watched them flirt with their struggle. Several flew right across my face. One even flew down my shirt and fluttered momentarily in my bosom, before I helped him escape.

Curt re-appeared with Dick Cat trying unsuccessfully to squirm out of his grip. I laughed heartily, and the monitor reflected it.

And then, the annoying, overused Christianese cliche-because-it’s-true seeped into my heart and spread to my brain.

I am so blessed. And I use that word, “blessed”, because I now know that blessing is synonymous with suffering. There is always joy to be found. And it’s authentic.

Maybe butterflies themselves have no meaning (those poor suckers don’t live that long!), but if you don’t stop and look, you won’t see them.

Right now, I don’t have anything (besides Mavis!) that I would have ever chosen for myself. I am still reeling from leaving New York. I don’t have my own apartment. I don’t have the things and the stuff and the relationship I so deeply yearn for. Or am still grieving.

But I have good, dear, wonderful friends who love me. Friends who listen and encourage. Friends who have invited me into their lives. Friends who are the very epitome of grace. Friends who don’t care if my bank account looks like a 14-year-old’s earnings from mowing lawns once a week.

I have friends who take me by the hand and lead me to the butterflies.

And that means everything.

Epiphany

I had an epiphany last weekend.

Saturday, I drove Mavis the Mini down to south Orange County (California) to spend the remainder of the holiday weekend with my best friend, her husband and their five-year-old daughter.

Somewhere near Disneyland, shoving the remainder of my protein-style burger from In-N-Out into my mouth and shifting from fifth to sixth gear, I actively decided that I was done with my most recent breakup. Well, all of them, in fact. Done-zo. Over it. Buh, bye. Peace out. Thank you, next. (Also, yes, if you need to cue the song, go ahead, but Grammar Queen over here will be spelling out the entire word.)

MOVING ON.

It feels so good.

Here’s what I know: if someone wants to be with you, they’ll be with you. It’s that simple.

I’m not in denial anymore. I’m not holding on anymore. I’m embracing my (single) life as is. It’s actually really good, even if I’m no where near where I thought I would be, part seven hundred and sixty-four.

Another epiphany I had yesterday morning, while dolling up to go to the gynecologist and have an ultrasound of my old, cyst-riddled uterus is this: it’s okay to mourn the loss of what you thought you would have. Or even what you thought — or was told — you deserved.

Life is hard. But it’s still beautiful, even if you were robbed of your ideas and expectations of how it would turn out.

The greatest strength to move forward is found in letting go.

Live fully. Love freely. Grieve if you need to, but don’t linger or wallow. Move the fuck on, because there’s so much great unexpectedness waiting for you. Embrace, live in and cherish each moment from here on out.

Else, your life will pass you by. And it won’t be anyone’s fault but your own.

Forty-One

I’m 41 today. I’m all alone in a big house, taking care of a scrawny orange cat who is a total dick. And since I’m all alone in a big house with a scrawny orange cat who is a total dick AND IT’S MY BIRTHDAY, I decided to lounge around in lingerie. I also did some gardening. In lingerie.

In lieu of writing flowery poetry about turning 41, I am going to quote my dear, good friend Renee.

“41 is going to be your year. You are going to find love in a way you never expected. And you are going to release your album and it’s going to be a tremendous success. You are going to receive the desires of your heart. You are going to be financially stable.

You are going to be completely at peace with yourself, and that’s what the love is. Whether it’s a man or it’s just you being at peace with all of the goodness of who you are and how you are and why you are — you are going to be at peace.”

Amen. Here’s to love. Here’s to peace. Here’s to 41.

Onward

Bad Things: Cancer. Fresh breakup grief. Ex-boyfriends who text out of the blue, despite having a serious girlfriend. Toxic people. Being allergic to avocados. Botched bikini waxes. Mumford and Sons. Not having your boundaries respected.

Good Things: Making music with exceptional people. Having your best friend, her 4-year-old daughter and her parents in the audience, and receiving a love note on an offertory envelope afterwards. Butterflies. Purging yourself of all things toxic. Siblings. The ocean. Mavis the Mini. Going for a run and realizing you have more sprint in you than you thought possible. Writing as catharsis.

Best Things: Knowing you are strong, capable and fully, deeply loved despite any lame, bleak, or tough shit life throws your way.

Onward!

Letting Go

IMG_0855I’ve never been very good at letting go.

Five and some odd years ago, I put everything in storage and moved across the country, to continue my love affair with New York City.

I lived out of a suitcase for too long. I sublet an overly pink princess room in East Harlem and taught my roommate’s cat to play fetch. I rented a couch in my now-divorced friends’ constantly-dark living room. I lived on the road in a tour bus and hotel rooms.

And then, finally, I got an apartment. An amazing one. An affordable one.

“You can’t ever let this go!” they said.

I hired movers and got scammed out of $850.00. I hired movers again and this time, they were honest.

And, on March 16, 2014, my earthly belongings and I were firmly rooted again. I set up a comfortable home in my beloved New York City. I carefully designed and painted my walls. I bought candles, accent furniture, plush towels and really, really, really good pillows. I had my own bed to sleep in again, despite the steady stream of obnoxious noise on 5th Avenue.

I pounded the pavement, determined to pick up where I left off after my divorce. I had almost made it to Broadway in 2009. Surely there was no way I would fail this time!

But somewhere along the way, my dreams changed. Broadway no longer lures or intoxicates me. Besides the constant rejection, I don’t even like musicals anymore. I lost interest in playing someone else on stage.

I just want to be me.

Things at home became extremely tense when my seemingly perfect, married roommates split. I had lived through the hell of my own divorce; now I was living right in the middle of another one. After a while, however, things settled down. I was less trust and a close friend, but I still had my apartment. I still had my stuff. I still had New York City.

Oh, New York City. How I love this town. I could write about it, all day long. But the time is not now. I can’t see very well through my tears.

I am letting go. It is so fucking hard, but I am finally letting go.

I am leaving New York City.

I am selling everything.

I am going back to Los Angeles.

I am going home.

And I am grieving. I haven’t quite processed the brevity of it all, because I am knee-deep in selling everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. It’s like a full-time job. It’s also therapeutic. What was I doing, holding onto silverware, pots and pans and a hand mixer I got for my wedding nineteen years ago? I am now undoing, piece by piece, the life I built here.

I am letting go.

It is my nature to keep quiet when things get hard. I need help breaking up with my boyfriend, New York City. I need my stuff to sell. I need to say goodbye to my dear friends and good neighbors here, and I really don’t know how to do it. I don’t have a lot of time. My lease is up at the end of this month.

“You’re crazy to leave that apartment!” they say.

But an apartment is not a reason to stay anywhere. I’m quite good at painting walls and picking out accent furniture. My worth is not measured by my address. It’s time to move on. It’s time for a new chapter.

It is time to start over. Again.

It’s scary as hellfire and brimstone, but it is also wonderfully freeing.

I am letting go. And I am beyond excited for the next adventure.

18th Universary

Today is my 18th Universary.

I don’t feel anything. It just seems like an uneventful blip on the radar of life. A hiccup. A fart. Weird.

Last year on this date, I sang at my uncle’s memorial service. Just a few days prior, my boyfriend ended our almost two-and-a-half-year relationship over email.

You know the story: that event sent my heart and mind into a spiral of lyrics. I began to compose music in my head. And then I asked for help. And then I went to Nashville and wrote more songs. And then I raised funds to help pay for the cost of recording, and all that other stuff. And a week before my 40th birthday, I recorded my very first solo album. And it’s REALLY good.

Bucket list. Check.

In the back of my mind, I have been waiting for this week to happen. Not so much that today would have been my 18th wedding anniversary, but that I would make it to the year mark of my blindsided breakup.

“I think that dude’s actions have probably occupied your mind and heart long enough,” recently said my friend and fellow bandmate, Phil.

He is so very right. Perhaps it is hard for me to let people go. I don’t understand why they act so epically shitty without regard for other people’s feelings, or seeming consequence. And perhaps it’s a simple explanation: it actually has nothing to do with me.

“As you grow, you pick people who match you. You’ll choose better next time. It’s less a matter of finding someone up to your standards and more about gravitating towards a better match,” said my therapist back in December.

Hey, guess what? I’m growing. It hasn’t been easy, but right now it feels really damn good.

It’s necessary and good to grieve. I have done that. It is necessary and good to move forward. I am doing just that.

And as scary and wonderful and unexpected and unplanned as it has been, I am dating again.

Here we go.

Again.