Category Archives: Ramblings

Worth The Risk, Part Deux

For the last ten years, I have been on the road at Thanksgiving and Christmastime. It was hard, at first, because I was married. I didn’t want to be away from my husband or family. But then I found myself going through a divorce. The road was a soft place to land during a confusing, difficult and traumatizing time.

And then there were a few years where I was single. Transitioning. Moving across the country. Still, the road was good to me. Then I was pursued. Treated as I have always dreamed. I fell in love again and was finally in a good relationship. I had it all.

Two months ago, my relationship miscarried. I never saw it coming.

And what can I say? Nothing. If anything I have learned through my divorce, it is to let people go. I am done fighting for a relationship that only I want. People choose to leave, for whatever valid or huge-pile-of-horse-shit reason. It is the worst, most familiar feeling in the world. So much so you start to befriend the ache in your heart and pit in your stomach. You keep telling yourself that someday, someone will actually choose you and be all in, no matter what. You have to believe it, because otherwise, you sincerely will become jaded and succumb to anger and all of its accompanying pain and grief. You’ve been in this place before. You can certainly do it again. It is an old friend.

And the grief. Oh, the fucking grief. It is an unexpected, rude and sometimes cruel visitor. An unwelcome one, too. A memory, song or a familiar smell triggers the wave that pulsates through your entire body, sending your heart all the way to your wobbly knees. It’s like a bowling ball that’s constantly hitting the gutter, unable to knock over any pin with precision because it was tossed with the sloppiest, most unplanned aim.

“You’ll find someone better,” people say, seemingly flippantly. But it isn’t helpful.

A good male friend recently said, “Leslie, you’re a smart lady. You know pain and I’m not in any way going to talk you out of it. Welcome to disorientation and all of the accompanying shitty, self-loathing and self-questioning feelings that come with it. I don’t know the journey ahead but I know this, too, shall pass and you will come out the other side and know more about you; deepen yourself and find your true relationships and community in the midst.

It’s one of those things. When you hit rock bottom, what do you do? You kinda just sit there and play with the rocks for a bit. You know this is not about you or anything you’re lacking. It sucks and is hard that you’ve come this far to lose this much. I know you feel duped and like you shouldn’t have given so much, but you had no other choice. You had to give yourself.”

He’s right: I did have to give myself. And I was happy to. My relationship was good. The best of my life, so far. I haven’t anything terrible to say about it, except for the way it ended. Or just that it ended, at all.

I told myself I wasn’t going to write about any of this. Who wants to hear about yet another breakup? But here I am. Back in the land of writing as catharsis.

“I don’t know why you fight it,” my dear friend Meredith smiled, knowingly.

I am not looking for attention or sympathy. I am also not looking to censor myself or my feelings. This is who I am. I write to process. I’ve even begun writing songs. If my lot in life is to love and lose, then I might as well capitalize upon the real, raw and vulnerable place in which the pain repeatedly shoves me.

So as I type this from my stale hotel room in Newport News, Virginia, I am yet again thankful for the road. It does not allow me to fully get lost in an ocean of self-pity or grief. My friends out here listen and let me laugh and cry, without any judgment. They’re even helping me create music. It’s as if I have thirty overprotective big brothers. And I am very loved and cared for by them.

I long for the day when I cease crying over this loss. My heart doesn’t believe it, but my head knows it will come in time. And it is what I do with that time that will help shape my immediate future. I am already grateful for the opportunity to have succeeded in relationship where the odds were probably stacked against us, from the start. But when you choose to love; when you choose to make it work, it does. And well. It isn’t that hard.

Perhaps I’m the biggest fool on the planet, but I’ll keep getting back up, dusting myself off and jumping back in the ring. Because I was made for, and to, love. And, again, the risk of loving is always worth taking.

Beer Margaritas (And Some Other Things)

I had a very realistic dream last night.

I found myself standing in the middle of my beautiful, very empty home I owned during my marriage. The wood floors were glistening. All that remained were X’s belongings – mostly books.

I immediately wanted out. It was scary and frustrating to be back in that place.

“I should probably call my mother-in-law,” I said to myself, “and she can take care of X’s stuff. I have to get out of here.” But I didn’t know her phone number.

Cut to me at the AT&T store, discovering I had been charged for X’s phone bill all these years.

“I’m not paying for him anymore! I am ON MY OWN. That is the beauty of divorce,” I preached.

The dream flashes to me unwillingly driving to the in-laws’ house for dinner. When I arrived, the whole family was there. I said hello to a scarily tan version of my sister-in-law and gave her a hug. I noticed the spread on the table: fried chicken and beer margaritas.

BEER MARGARITAS?

“Hmm. They’ve grown,” I thought to myself, as the in-laws have always been teetotalers.

I reluctantly sat down as my mother-in-law asked me how I was.

I hesitated. I truly haven’t wanted those people to know anything about my new life. But I spoke.

“I’m dating a really wonderful man. And I’m happier than ever.”

And then I woke up, kind of wanting a beer margarita.

*****

I haven’t been writing much lately. Even though the old cast of characters occasionally haunts my dreams, there isn’t angst over my divorce anymore. I also feel like I haven’t anything profound to say. The truth is, I am dating a really wonderful man. And I am happier than ever. The relationship is not without complications (which one is?), but it’s real and so good.

My therapist was right: “There are some things that can only be healed in relationship.”

Ironically, and with respect, I would have never chosen this for myself. It just happened. In fact, I tried to avoid it at all costs. But the more I allow myself to relax into it, the more I learn. And I am experiencing how relationship can and should be. There’s a beautiful, vast difference between dating in your early 20s and your late 30s. I kind of wish I could go back in time and have a do-over. But I wouldn’t be who – or where – I am today.

The greatest (and perhaps hardest) thing I have learned is marriage and family is not the pinnacle of relationship. I think I have accepted the fact I will probably not have children. Rather than panic about this (and believe me, I have had many nights over the years shedding mascara-laden tears on my pillowcase), I choose the opportunity to be in a healthy relationship over a checklist of things I want in my life.

I sometimes want to scream at single women who are holding out for these things. Especially Christians. Relationship is hard. You will get hurt. Stop the delusions. No one will ever fit your ultimate checklist. Fuck Jerry Maguire for saying, “You complete me.”  Ain’t gonna happen. Be a whole person, yourself. And for crying out loud, Let Jesus be Jesus, instead of some guy.

Live your life! Don’t hold your breath! Jesus did not come to earth to wave his magic wand and grant us spouses and children. Having those things is wonderful, yes. But it isn’t the beginning, completion, purpose or meaning of life.

Funny: I used to think the only way to “get back” at my ex-husband for cheating and getting married before we were divorced (it will always be funny!) was to find a new, improved husband, push out some adorable babies and show them all off. I now know such thinking is wildly immature. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I wish the church would stop placing marriage and family on a pedestal. Just because I am unmarried and childless doesn’t mean I have failed.

In fact, there are a whole lot of amazing things I can accomplish without a husband and kids. I get to be “Auntie Leslie” or “Crazy Auntie Leslie” to so many beautiful children. I get to travel – sometimes spontaneously – and sing for a living. I am fortunate to live in New York City, with Central Park as my front yard. I get to experience and love people without being distracted by a screaming toddler or a hormonal teenager. I can empathize with the hardships of being married, divorced, single and dating later in life. I get to experience the world without certain responsibilities, and I’m okay with that. Because I’m not alone.

Some of the greatest people I know are those who have lost. A spouse. A child. A sibling. A job, or jobs. Money. Their marriage. Their home. Their entire identity.

It’s not the losing that makes them great, it’s how they’ve dealt with it. And when they choose to trust Jesus and move forward instead of spiral down the rabbit hole of feeling sorry for themselves for the rest of their lives, they become changed.

Jesus said, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26a)

I am no theologian, but I see this verse with very different understanding than when I memorized it at AWANA in 1985, and robotically regurgitated it at Biola University in 1995.

Whoever loses his life for me will find it. To me – and maybe I’m completely wrong – this is about placing my complete identity in HIM, instead of my idea of what life should be because I followed the rules.

It’s taken a long time, but I’m pretty sure I have found a new self. She isn’t anything like I envisioned, but I really like her.

Friends, whatever you are facing, remember we have the opportunity to choose Jesus in our losses. In our suffering. In our waiting. In our disappointment. In our pain. We have the choice to trust Him, despite life circumstances not turning out how we want.

It’s not easy to trust, but I have a feeling it is totally, completely worth it.

Beer margarita, anyone?

You Don’t/Can’t Always Get What You Want

After two, very full months on the road, I am finally back in New York. The days have passed quickly as I re-adjust to life in the dead of winter.

I had the privilege of spending almost three weeks in California over Christmas and the new year. (It is not “New Years”! Get your grammar correct, people!) My days were filled with the familiar warmth of friendship and the sun; sandy beaches and cold, clear ocean water. Every day was perfect, even when it rained. Southern California is completely annoying in that way.

Right before I returned home, I decided to pay a visit to my therapist. I wanted to catch her up on the goings-on of my life and make sure I haven’t gone entirely crazy. I was happy to report self-assessed instances of graduation from co-dependency and stubborn independence; learning to say “no”, asking for help and giving myself grace when I fail to be perfect.

I blabbed about work and dating (and how seemingly impossible it is to do both). I also found myself shaking my head at the fact I have been single for six years.

“I mean, I truly thought I’d be married with kids by now,” I said.

My therapist leaned forward in her plush chair and smiled, kindly.

“Well, we don’t always get what we want in life,” she stated.

Oh, dear God, she’s right.

Aaaand, cue the next song in the soundtrack of my life.

When my hour was up, I hugged my therapist goodbye and told her I’d be reporting back, periodically. As I shut the door to her office, I realized I had echoed what many single women my age struggle with.

Marriage. Family. Security. The lack thereof.

My next appointment was at the gynecologist’s office. She took one look at me and said, “You’re 37. If you want to have babies, you’d better get pregnant NOW, or freeze your eggs.”

“Not happening,” I shrugged, casually. “Not much I can do about it, really. Besides, with my lifestyle, I’m not even sure I want to have kids.”

“All right,” my doctor replied, in a sing-songy voice.

Mother of fuckery, what did I just say?

My therapist’s voice echoed in my head.

We don’t always get what we want.

*****

I’m pretty terrible at math, but I managed to figure out a theory. I’m going to call it the “Western Christianese Equation.” It goes a little something like this:

A + B = C

A = I did everything right / I was good / I followed the rules

B = God (who bears a striking resemblance to Santa Claus in that he most certainly rewards good behavior)

C = Blessing / Hashtag blessed / Getting what I want

I relied upon this equation for quite a long time. I was a good girl who married a good guy. And because Western Christianity more or less teaches us that faithful and obedient Christians get (and stay) married, buy houses and have babies, I thought I, too, would have those things.

And I did, for a while. I had a husband and I owned a house. I had (too many) pets and always assumed I would bear children.

Enter an unplanned element into the equation: marriage implosion. Still subscribing to the theory, however, I was convinced things would work out in my favor.

You probably already know the story, but I’ll sum it up for you: Good Christian Girl fights for her marriage but ultimately ends up divorcing Good-Guy-Turned-Cheating-Douchebag-Husband, who is already (illegally) married. Cheating Douchebag Husband goes on to live in a new home by the sea and have an adorable baby with Sister Wife.

Christian Girl is still single and childless.

Wait – WHAT?!?!?!

My mind wanders to other stories of divorce I have heard lately:

  1. Good guy marries good girl. Guy cheats and leaves her for another woman.
  2. Good guy marries good girl. Guy cheats and leaves her for another man.
  3. Good guy marries good girl. Girl cheats and leaves him. Period.
  4. Good guy marries good girl. Girl quits the marriage and does everything possible to alienate the children from him. (Unfortunately, I know several instances of this scenario.)
  5. Good guy marries good girl. Guy turns out to be a narcissistic psychopath. Girl cheats. Girl marries a second time but marriage fails.

All of these stories are true and have the following endings. Hark back to your elementary school tests and draw a line to match your answer.

A. Person is single.
B. Person finds another person almost immediately after divorce, remarriage takes place, and a beautiful child is born.
C. Person meets another person, a beautiful child is born, and remarriage is taking place sometime soon.
D. Person is dating again.
E. Person is questioning everything.

In all instances, (E) is the correct answer.

Why? Because life does not begin – or even end – with getting what you want. Marriage is hard. Raising kids is hard.

Life is hard.

Additionally, not one scenario ends with, “I am exactly where I hoped/planned to be.”

Therefore, A + B cannot equal C. The equation does not work, no matter how hard you try, or pray.

*****

I long for the day when Christian culture stops idolizing marriage, family and security. We are losing our identities in them. What is more, we are encouraging a mindset that life is not – and cannot be – complete without a loving spouse, 2.5 children and some form of white picket fence.

There are only three things in life that are certain:

1. You are born.
2. God loves you.
3. You die.

That’s it. We’ve got to learn to be content with who we are and what we have, this very moment.

Perhaps The Stones communicated it best:

You can’t always get what you want.
You can’t always get what you want.
You can’t always get what you want,
but if you try sometimes you might find
you get what you need.

 

 

Having It All

Recently, I asked a friend of mine how many breakups he endured before he got married.

He thought for a moment.

“About eleven,” he answered, matter-of-factly. “I remained friends with just one of them.”

My heart sank. A couple of months ago I ended my second post-divorce relationship. It was a good, brief courtship that simply could not withstand distance. It didn’t end as dramatically as my marriage, or as passionately as things did with my first boyfriend. There was no fight, nothing. It just went away with a phone call.

Afterward, I dutifully prepared myself for a roller coaster of emotions and the five stages of grief. When it finally hit, I felt (in no particular order) relieved, frustrated, listless, sad, depressed, numb and raging angry. I burst into tears on sidewalks and airplanes. I had put everything into this new relationship and it didn’t work out. I cut myself off from social media. Then I cut him off. I deleted any and all evidence we existed as a couple. That was the saddest part.

I now feel resolved.

And, for the love of God, I cannot imagine having to go through this nine more times.

*****

I just so happen to be in Los Angeles for the album release show and party with Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses, so I figured I’d pay a visit to my shrink.

I’ve been seeing my therapist five years now – from the initial discovery of my husband’s affair(s) to the very day my earthly belongings left on a moving truck across the country. She’s seen it all. Lately, our visits have been jovial and celebratory.

“I’m really proud of you,” she told me in March. “You’re a miracle.”

This morning, I sat in the center of the familiar floral couch and shared the latest news: gorgeous apartment a block from Central Park, breakup, Japan tour with Brian Setzer and new album and tour with Louis Prima, Jr. I verbally processed how, since moving to New York over a year ago, my lifestyle has become less stable (for lack of a better term), but I now have a solid home base in the city I have always wanted to live.

I have been greatly hashtag blessed with my home, career and community. One thing is still missing, however. I want to share my life with a partner.

“I just don’t know how I will ever meet anyone,” I mused. “I am on the road a lot. I refuse to date online. I did it for years and hated it. I tried a long-distance relationship and it crashed and burned.”

My therapist nodded her head.

“My hope for you,” she said, “is that you’ll meet someone who has his own thing going on, and, at the same time, is flexible and supportive.”

I hummed in agreement, but left thinking, No such man exists.

*****

There’s a huge part of me that is annoyed and angry that I am such a dynamic and talented person. It feels weird to write that without sounding narcissistic, but it’s my truth. For example, if I weren’t so passionate about — and good at! — singing, I wouldn’t be on the road so much. If I were less independent, opinionated, divorced or foul-mouthed and a bit more submissive, googy-eyed and/or mousey, I might land a date with a guy from Christian Mingle who isn’t threatened by my accomplishments, or very presence.

Perhaps if I had a “real” job I’d have time to join a community group at my church in NYC and finally meet someone in the city, get married and have babies. But I won’t do it. I won’t quit what I love just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Other women my age are corralling their two toddlers while the newborn sleeps soundly in a sling tightly wound against their breast. Their husbands still gaze after them adoringly and actually write Facebook posts about how much they love their wives of two, six, 15 or 20 years.

Interestingly enough, neither my ex-husband nor two ex-boyfriends ever acknowledged a relationship with me on social media. No photos. No kissy-face pictures. No adoring posts. Nothing.

The bright side is this: it took less than a minute to erase the relationship and “unfriend” these men I loved. Realistically, I do not believe in the staying power of acknowledging relationships over social media. People come and go, which is why we should all choose our “friends” carefully. As C.S. Lewis says, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.” I’m talking to you, serial Facebook-relationshippers.

A true relationship doesn’t need social media to acknowledge, strengthen or sustain it.

*****

Today, I do not believe I can have it all. Based upon experience, I do not actually believe I can have a successful career as a singer and have a family at the same time. It only realistically works for Gwen Stefani and Beyonce, and they were already rich and famous before they met their also-rich and famous husbands.

I am not sure if I believe, at present, there is a man in this world capable of being my partner. Dating is like playing a game of darts with a bunch of squirrely teenagers. They keep trying to hit the bullseye, but their aim and technique is staggeringly immature; unfocused. The result? Consistently off-mark. And I lack patience for the players to become skilled at the game.

Perhaps I still have a lot of work and self-reflection to do. Well, go ahead and throw all the clichés and Christianese talk in the world at me. Tell me how much you think my life is cool. How hashtag blessed I am. How the grass is always greener. I will not argue with you. Yet, at the end of the day, I go to bed alone. My eggs are dying. I am starting to feel jaded. I certainly feel duped. At the same time, life does not owe me a damn thing.

So, right now, if I had to pick one, I choose my career. It’s all I’ve got. Christian Mingle can go fuck itself.

*****

Where is God in all your complaining, Leslie?

Listen, I don’t mean to complain. I prefer to think of it as verbal processing. I try to encourage myself with phrases such as, “This, too, shall pass.”

Jesus never said that, by the way. It’s just another cocktail of Christianese to numb the pain.

I’ll take a double, please. Neat.

Here’s what I do believe today:

  • God is in control. He has never abandoned nor disappointed me. I am not going to live anything less than a full life, even if — or when —  I want more. God is like the ultimate chiropractor. If I’m willing, He’ll adjust me so I’m walking straight again.
  • The two relationships I had post-divorce were real, beautiful and worth every moment, even the breakup grief. I am finally learning you can love someone and let them go. You don’t have to marry every person you love. It’s an amazing concept. I wish I had grasped it years ago.
  • I’m most likely 100% wrong about not having it all. You can have it all when you surrender your hopes, dreams and desires into the capable, loving hands of God, Himself. He may not give you what you want, when you want it, but He knows what you need. He can change your heart. He can mold your desires. You just have to be pliable.

I don’t think I’m ever going to stop desiring a successful career, a partner in this life to love, honor and cherish me (and I him!) and a family. It’s okay to want those things. Hope (and humor!) is what keeps me going. Even if that day comes and I meet a good man who will choose to lead me on the dance floor of life, I guarantee I’m going to continue to want more (I’ll start with a Grammy, please!).

After all, it’s what makes me endearingly human.

Dear God, Where’s Mine?

A few nights ago, I got angry at God.

It wasn’t an overly dramatic scene. At nearly 2:00 a.m., I was in my pajamas, feeling sorry for myself as I overlooked 5th Avenue from the open living room window. I clenched my fists, beat them against my thighs and muttered, low in my throat (so as to not wake my sleeping roommate):

“Why, God? Why did you give me a desire for relationship and children when it’s so clearly NOT happening?! Just take the desire away! Else, speed it up already and spare me this misery! Quit teasing me! Everyone else has a partner. WHERE’S MINE?”

I shut the window, went to bed and cried myself to sleep.

Okay, it was a little dramatic. I’m almost embarrassed to admit any of this because I want to paint myself the picture of perfection; as someone who doesn’t need love, romance or a committed relationship and family to be happy or complete.

Sometimes I don’t even know if I want those things. They’re too much work. I’m tired of feeling hurt. I’m happy taking care of just myself. I enjoy sleeping in. I like not having to take anyone else’s feelings into consideration when I make a decision. Being single is great, until it’s bedtime and you’re cozying up to just a pillow.

I share this — what I regard as weakness — because I know I’m not alone in my desire for more. I’m not the only one who cries to sleep on occasion, disappointed by my own hopes and expectations; disappointed in circumstance.

But look at how awesome your life is, Leslie. You just moved into a brand new, beautiful apartment in New York. You’re in Manhattan, right by the park. You don’t even have to live in Brooklyn or Queens! And the rent is affordable!

I know. I know, I know, I know. God has been so amazingly gracious and personal with each aspect of this apartment. I wake up every single day, grateful for my home. Not having had a place to call my own for fourteen months can stir a wellspring of gratitude, but beyond that, I have always dreamed of living in New York. And here I am, in a situation and location better than I ever imagined. I will shout from the rooftops how thankful and hashtag blessed I am to have such a wonderful place to live, in my favorite city. There is no question from Whom this gift came. God is so good.

Your career is starting to bloom again! There’s an album coming out in just two months, and you get to travel and live like a rock star! Your life is so cool.

I will not argue the coolness factor of traveling with — and as — a rock star. In three weeks, I depart for Japan with The Brian Setzer Orchestra, and, almost immediately upon returning, I head west for gigs and an album release show/party with Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses. Our newest record, “BLOW”, will be released June 10th and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be featured on it. I love both bands with all my heart. If I didn’t have these creative outlets, I would be terribly miserable.

But touring isn’t always as glamorous as it seems. Life on the road can quickly become weary and lonely. Ask anyone who travels for a living: you start to crave familiarity and the comforts of home after only a little while. It is difficult to make friends and plant roots in a new city when you’re always flying away. Once you’re on the road, you start to fantasize about washing machines, your favorite coffee mug and that one, special pillow that helps you sleep better than any other. Oh, yeah. The one you’re used to cozying up to every night.

It sounds like you’re just in another holding pattern. Look at how far you’ve come! Live your life and stop complaining.

You’re absolutely right, Voice-Inside-My-Head-Telling-Me-to-Shut-Up. But please explain to me why I burst into tears when I saw not one, but two fathers carrying their babies in slings at the park yesterday. Explain why I want to vomit when I see happy couples snuggling together; playing kissy face and ignoring the rest of the planet because they seem to be the only ones on it.

I remember those kissy-face days. I experienced some very recently. And they faded almost as quickly as they appeared.

Dear God, WHERE’S MINE?

You’re just hormonal.

Why, yes. Yes, I am. Here’s hormonal for you: I am thirty-six years old. My body is screaming for sex and babies. I can’t help it. God made me this way and I’m not very happy about it. I’m doing my best to control my urges. No sex? Add more cream cheese to my bagel, please. Cute baby? Replace her sweet face with that of a kitten. I think there’s an app for that.

*****

I plopped myself down in the pew at church on Sunday, hoping Dr. Timothy Keller would cheer me up with some very heady philosophy. My grumpy, gimme-gimme attitude needed fixing.

But Dr. Keller wasn’t preaching. A young Reverend spoke in his stead.

Ooh, he’s cute, I thought. Within seconds, I noticed a very large, gleaming gold ring on his left hand.

Okay. Next. Wait a minute! Don’t scan the crowd for single men, Leslie. Don’t scan the crowd for…

Too late. It’s just what single people do. We scan crowds. Especially church crowds. We will have sized you up by the clothing or nakedness of your left hand in a millisecond.

“Worship,” said the Reverend, “is a universal necessity to place our deepest hope in something. We expect and hope, in the end, this thing will save us. “

I started to take notes, and ended up writing one word over again: Idolatry.

The Reverend continued. “We can formally worship God, but still be giving our lives over to some other idol. We are convinced God is the best bet for us getting what we want,” he said.

Without being prompted, I immediately confessed my idols in writing.

Relationship. Love. Career. Money. Relevance. Success.

UGH.

The Reverend kept speaking. “Have you ever thought, ‘If only I had this one thing, my life will be meaningful’? And then you actually get that thing, and it’s powerless. It turns to dust. None of this sets you free.”

DAMMIT, I wrote and doubled-underlined in my notes. SO TRUE.

*****

I’m sure God forgives my cursing in church. What is more, I am sure He forgives me for idolizing anything other than Him and touting good behavior to get what I want. I really want to stop doing that.

God does not owe me anything just because I overcame tragedy five years ago. On the contrary, He is the reason I came out the other side, not completely fucked up. He is the reason I have joy in my life. God never promised me some fairytale ending. He doesn’t guarantee a tall, dark and handsome man to love and adore me, give me beautiful babies, then play Mr. Mom to them in Central Park while I rehearse my solo concert at Carnegie Hall.

It sure is a lovely fantasy, though.

The reality is, my Knight in Shining Armor is right before me, and He happens to be my greatest chance at love, ever. His love is unconditional. It is never fleeting. It never depends, nor wavers, upon circumstance or feeling. His love is constant, abundant and always available.

I’ll let you know if and when God answers my prayer about taking away the desire for relationship and children. My guess is He probably won’t, since it’s what makes me human. And, even if I do find myself a partner who eventually gives me babies, I doubt any of us will be surprised when I start complaining about parenting.

Until then, I must repeat the truth to myself. Life doesn’t always turn out how we want. I cannot miss out on what is good, right now, just because I long for more. I must stop whining about what I don’t have, because what I do have is far better than I ever imagined.

“Dear God,
Where’s mine?”

I’m right here.

 

Thirty-Six

A couple of weeks ago, I visited my gynecologist.

Per usual, she cheerfully entered the room.

“HI, LESLIE! So! Any relationships this year?” she asked, as she briefly reviewed my chart.

“Oh! Oh, no. No, no, no…nope. No relationships,” I responded, shifting my sit bones on the noisy paper lining the table.

I racked my brain for a moment and felt slightly panicked. I couldn’t remember the last time I had been asked out. March? April? Did an extensive, yet fairly innocent make out session with a tall, well-built, sexy Australian I met at a NYC film premiere count as a date?

No. No, it didn’t, although he did offer to fly me to Vegas for the weekend to “hang out and see some shows.” I actually considered it. Christianity/morality/self-respect aside, a weekend of hot, wild, noncommittal sex sounded pretty tempting.

Knowing my heart, however, I quickly decided against it.

Cheery Doc’s lips twisted in sympathy. “Well, I’m sorry. The good news is, no STD testing for you!”

I tightened my grin, and my knees.

“Yep! Trying to quit! Heh, heh, heh!” The sweat underneath my arms started to soak into my powder-blue, paper gown.

Doc nodded, knowingly. I changed the subject.

“So, my birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks!” I announced.  “Guess it’s time to find a baby daddy,” I chuckled.

“How old are you going to be?” She asked.

“Thirty-six.”

“Well, Leslie, you might want to consider freezing your eggs at this point, just to be on the safe side. I’ve got a great recommendation for an infertility doctor.”

I felt the blood rushing to my head.  Freeze my eggs?  Infertility? What?! Wait a minute. I’m healthy. I can still have kids, right? I have to find a decent date, first!

And then, for a brief moment, familiar anger at X welled up.

I wasted good years of my life with that guy. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose this. I DIDN’T CHOOSE THIS!!!

The moment passed, as I reminded myself how grateful I am to be completely free of X. I squeezed my eyes tight and thanked God for sparing the world one more fucked up product of divorce.

God knows. He is good.

There was no more mention of infertility, frozen eggs or STD testing after that. We chatted about the blog-turned-book, my new life in New York, and Doc did her thing.

“Everything looks beautiful!” She exuberantly informed me. “Happy Birthday!”

As irony would have it, I left my doctor’s office with a six-month supply of birth control, and the name and number of the infertility doctor.

*****

Tomorrow I turn 36 years old.

Thinking back on the past four years of my life – the ones with the greatest suffering, pain, weeping, grace, growth, adventure and ultimate joy – I am not at all where I thought I was going to be.

I’m exactly where I should be.

I never imagined I’d live out of two small suitcases or not have a place to call my own for an entire year. I have never made this little money in my life, in an attempt to pursue my dreams. Haughtily, I figured I would have met an amazing man and be taken off the market by now. I didn’t even plan on spending the summer in California, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have recorded an album at Capitol Records.

Joining Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, the Beach Boys, Bobby Darin, and more, in this recording studio.

Studio B, August 23, 2013. My voice is recorded amongst those such as Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, the Beach Boys, Bobby Darin…the list goes on.

It took pain and suffering, and a huge leap of faith to get there, but I am finally starting to see just a glimpse of what God wants to do with my life. Things are falling into place.

This year – 36 – will see my book, The Christian Girl’s Guide to Divorce, published and on bookshelves. An album with Louis Prima, Jr., where I am the featured vocalist (not just a backup singer!), will hit the charts.  I will tour with Prima and Setzer.

Best of all, a week from tomorrow, I will board a plane back to my beloved New York just in time for the most beautiful season of the year (and the only one I haven’t yet experienced): fall.

At 36, I don’t think of myself as divorced anymore. I’m single. I’ve got a way to go, too. I still need a place to live. I still need work. I still need to make more money to really be able to support myself.  I don’t have it all figured out.

It’s okay, though. God’s taking care of me.

And I’ve never been happier.

Spoon Me, Jesus.

Recently, I made a dumb mistake. What made it even dumber was the fact I blatantly ignored the still, small voice (rather, it was booming, loud and clear) that said,

“Not a good idea, Leslie. Don’t do it.”

Yet, I did it anyway.

The result? I spent an entire day feeling guilty, sad, angry with myself, afraid, remorseful, disappointed and ashamed. I beat myself up for hours upon end. I even felt sick, and muttered,

“You’ve really fucked it up this time, Leslie. Way to go. Way to ruin everything.”

What is this, 2011, and I’m back in jail, with Pretty Gum Chewer and Pock Face at my side?  It certainly felt like it. Haven’t I learned anything in this new life of mine?

I’m definitely being dramatic here, but the truth is, I am terrified of making mistakes. I always have been. Yet, I keep making them.

Humanity, 101.

As I called upon my trusted friends – all whom were unfazed by my confession — they talked and prayed me off the ledge.

“Leslie, you need to stop beating yourself up. God doesn’t see you as you see yourself. Look at this as an opportunity to allow Him to reveal just how much He loves you,” one friend gently stated.

Is it really that easy?

The answer is yes. Yes, it is. It’s called grace. It’s the very definition of the gospel.

I guess I still don’t get it.

I really want to.

*****

Despite my own failings, I’m extremely tired of accepting shitty circumstances and making the best out of them.

I’m lonely. I’m needy. Sometimes I’m sick and afraid. I’m desperate for attention, recognition, validation and LOVE.

What I really want – and am too embarrassed to admit — ?

I want to be spooned every night, by someone who isn’t going to leave.

Is that too much to ask?

I feel silly writing this. But, hey, let me vomit my feelings today, because I’m feeling sorry for myself.  I’m running a fever and can barely move from the couch.  I can say whatever I want. No regrets. Right? (Snicker.)

I’m tired of being vulnerable. I’m sick of being the divorced person who spills her guts, has moved forward beautifully, but is still lonely and disappointed by the mediocre, slim pickings of available men. I’m done being single, but I’m not interested in dating because it is AWFUL, HEINOUS, HORRIBLE, DRAINING and feels like a TOTAL WASTE OF TIME.  I’m TIRED of hoping there’s a man out there who will get it; who will love, value, respect and appreciate me for WHO I AM. I’m EXHAUSTED with lazy, little boys who are looking for a mommy. (I was married to that. Not doing it again!) I’m impatient, and soothing cliches from well-meaning folk turn my tongue bitingly caustic.

Sometimes I even feel like life is passing me by. Even though I am enjoying every moment in beloved New York, I still long for things beyond my control.

But wait, Jesus is supposed to be my boyfriend, right?

In so many ways, I KNOW He is. No human will ever complete me. I KNOW THIS. I KNOW IT, KNOW IT, KNOOOOWWWWWWW IT.

Jesus has pulled me out of the shit storm of life, set me free and re-booted my heart. He has graciously and lovingly helped me grow into a beautiful woman. I see it!  I have fleeting moments of feeling complete, and I experience lovely, personal incidences when He woos me and shows me how much He loves me, whether through creation, a song, the sudden appearance of a white butterfly, a bicycle ride through Central Park, the love of a friend, and providing for me, every step of the way.

Still, my restlessness triggers a thought. Perhaps I haven’t trusted Him enough to be everything. I want my boyfriend Jesus to spoon me at night. I want to feel it.

Good grief, I sound crazy.

In Chapter seven of his book, The Meaning of Marriage, my pastor and theological crush, Dr. Timothy Keller, writes,

“If singles will learn to rest and rejoice in their marriage to Christ, that means they will be able to handle single life without a devastating sense of being unfulfilled and unformed. Why? Because the idolatry of marriage that is distorting their single lives will eventually distort their married lives if they find a partner. So there’s no reason to wait. Demote marriage and family in your heart, put God first, and begin to enjoy the goodness of single life.”

YES, brother man. PREACH. I HEAR you and UNDERSTAND.

Right now, however — at this exact moment in time — singlehood does not feel anything like goodness.

*****

Perhaps I’m standing on the precipice of enlightenment. Perhaps I’m just being a total brat. I think either option is okay, for I will continue to move forward, and hope for things that may not come to fruition. There’s a huge part of me that wants to conquer my neediness for human love and affection, but unless I acknowledge the truth – I desire it – I really won’t be able to move off this couch with any sort of integrity. (Got to schlep my pathetic self to the drugstore for some medicine. This illness is taking over my body, fast!)

My ultimate challenge is to trust God to be everything in my life.  I want the knowledge in my head – He loves me fiercely and will never leave me – to travel to my heart.  I want to surrender everything to Him.

Sigh. This might be the hardest thing I have ever done.

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Everything and Nothing

A couple of months ago, I was asked a difficult question by one of my readers.

If you could do [marriage] all over again, what would you do differently?

I froze. It seems impossible to deliver eloquent wisdom, when my answer seems to continuously change with time.

I feel as if I’ve gotten past the constant emotional state of my divorce, and towards a stable, steady path of healing and forgiveness. I don’t think of myself as “divorced” as much as I do “single”. But suddenly, a memory will pop up, or I’ll actually hear from X’s ass face. My blood pressure rises, and I immediately want to punch him out.

I may be a Christian, but I’m still human.

I’ve noticed still-tender wounds and scars in dating relationships.  Recently, I found myself not believing that someone would love me for me. How would he not quickly discard me for someone else?

That’s fucked up.

But it’s all part of the process.

What astounds me sometimes is the fact I was married to X for ten years. That length of time is not something you can undo overnight. It helps to have little to no contact with him, and, despite the initial shock and hurt, it really helps that he re-married so quickly (albeit illegally). I want, very much, to wish him well. At the same time, I want nothing to do with him, ever.  We will never be friends, and I’m quite fine with that. The person he became is grossly unattractive to me.  And, to be fair, I’m probably equally as unattractive to him.

For as long as we both shall live, however, neither one of us can escape the fact we were married for ten years.  Surely we had something good. I loved him fiercely. I know he loved me. I will never deny that. Yet, as time continues to march on, I can look back and see how different we once were — happy, in love  and with similar life goals — and how quickly we grew apart. Sometimes I think we were just too young. I was as naïve as good little Christian girls get. I have often wondered if I was just a fool to have married my first love.  But then I think about my best friend in high school – most definitely my very first love (I was too afraid to admit it) — and wonder, if I had married him, would we have survived?

There are no guarantees. Just choices.

As comically messy as my marriage became, it is very easy for me to point the finger at X and blame him for the entire disaster. Having been a part of his life for fourteen years, we knew one another deeply; intimately.  I may not have had an affair(s), but I admittedly put my career above my marriage. I was selfish and dropped the ball, too. I am equally to blame for what went wrong. That’s marriage. It takes two.

Wow. It is not easy for me to say that. At all.

With all the self-awareness and introspection I have experienced over the past three years of my singlehood, I have come to the realization that an extramarital affair is just a symptom of a greater problem.  It makes me profoundly sad my ex husband felt he had to seek what he needed outside of our relationship.

Yet Tim Keller says it best in his book, The Meaning of Marriage :
“Why discard your partner for someone else only to discover that person’s deep, hidden flaws?”

What I know of relationship now is so much different from what I practiced in my own marriage. For example, if I seek my identity in my partner, I will always be disappointed. I will crush him with my expectations, and he will crush me with his imperfections. Neither one of us will ever be complete in just each other. X would have never made me whole. Only God can do that. Consequently, any man with whom I enter into relationship again cannot fill that God-shaped hole in my heart.

I sound so cheesy right now. But it’s the truth. I am only just discovering the ability to enjoy being alone and not feeling empty. God is with me, always. I need Him, always. I cannot do this life on my own. Not for a second. He is the only one who can hold me when I’m hurting; He is the only one who can love me unconditionally and perfectly. I am wholly, completely His. Any relationship in addition to that is just an added blessing.

So, what would I do differently?

Everything and nothing.

I am grateful for a second chance at love, relationship, and hopefully, marriage someday. I will give it everything I’ve got, round two. Again, there are no guarantees, but I am ready to try, especially with someone who chooses to stick with me, and I him. It will be worth it. I believe it with my entire being.

I would not be who I am today were it not for my divorce, and all the moments – good and bad! — leading up to it. I wish my marriage hadn’t failed, but, four years later, I’m actually relieved it did. I wish hadn’t acted so crazy in the end. I wish I hadn’t said hurtful things. I actually imagine, someday, X will forgive me, and I him, and our lives will continue to drift in sharp, contrasting directions on the vast, unending sea of grace.

Clichés and the City

Last night I rode the train home after seeing my old college friend perform in a sketch comedy show at the Magnet Theater.  When I rounded the corner on 28th Street, I heard the train approaching.  I scurried down the stairs, through the turnstile and heeded the familiar musical warning that the doors would soon be closing.

There, I saw him: a beautiful specimen of a man, holding the subway doors open for me.

We rode the train in silence. I avoided eye contact but inched as close to him on the crowded train as possible, hoping for the screeching brakes or sudden jerk of movement to propel me into his arms.

Eventually, he sat down, and I sat next to him, only to have him give up his seat for an elderly woman.

The fire in my heart grew.

At 110th Street, he disappeared. I was left disappointed, but relished in the blissful memory of twelve subway stops of unrequited love at first sight.

I shared this story via social media, half-laughing at it all.  Yes, the man was gorgeous, and yes, my heart skipped a beat when his pant leg brushed against my black leggings. Yet, for all I know, he’s got a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or both. Maybe he’s a narcissist, or serial killer. He might have sleep apnea or an abhorrence to brushing his teeth. There are a million ways why this fantasy love story will never work, and I know it.  Still, it’s fun to imagine. I’m somewhat of a hopeless romantic.

The commentary that immediately followed on Facebook, Twitter, in person and over text was astoundingly full of clichés. It was almost as if I had shared my story, desperate for an answer. Quite the contrary!

I know everyone is trying to be helpful, but if one more person delivers a cliché in response to my tales of singlehood, I’m either going to scream, or vomit.  Perhaps both.

The following are a list of phrases I will pay to never hear again.

1.  The right one will come along, or God will bring the right one to you.

First of all, I’m not one to just sit around, waiting for things to happen.  Secondly, how can I argue with a cliché, starring God? He is in charge of everything, but He’s never promised me a second husband.  At this point, I’m just trying to get a decent date.  Furthermore, I do not believe in “The Right One” or “The One”. I believe you pick someone, and make it work. In all my years of therapy, I have learned chemistry and compatibility are the two most important factors that make up a relationship.

Chemistry: You’ve got to want to make out with the person all the time, because eventually, they will annoy the crap out of you.

Compatibility: You’ve got to get along with them initially, and have similar goals, because eventually, they will annoy the crap out of you.

But, you make it work, because love is always worth the risk. 

2.  When you stop looking, you’ll find him. 

Thank you for insinuating I am so desperate for a man in my life, I am constantly looking for one. There are days I rejoice in my freedom, and there are others when I am trying so hard not to look, all I see is dog poo on the sidewalk.

The truth is, anyone who is single and desires to be in relationship WILL NEVER STOP looking, hoping, wondering and dreaming, no matter how much we try to deny it.

3.  Do what you love, and the rest will follow.

This statement is actually less an annoying cliché and more frustrating truth. I moved to New York to pursue my career goals, not to find a man. At the same time, refer to cliché #1. If a man happens to cross my path (perhaps on the subway), I will not reject him. But if he’s not interested, I’m not going to stalk him. (Okay, maybe a little…)

At this point, I am doing what I love, and what I hope to immediately follow is a hard-earned paycheck.

4. Timing is everything. Be patient. Maybe he’s not ready yet.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to wait around for someone to figure out what to do with me. I want to be in a relationship with a man, not a boy who doesn’t know what – or who — he wants.

5.  He’s out there, somewhere.

Whenever someone says this to me, I immediately think of the love of my life, floating silently through the galaxy in one of those heavy-yet-gravity-free, badass space suits. I giggle at the mental picture, and then start to feel sorry for him, being all alone “out there, somewhere” (most likely, lost in the time-space continuum).

Maybe he’s in Indiana.

You know what else is “out there, somewhere”? Giant water buffalo. Babies being groomed to become sumo wrestlers. Dogs who wear sweaters. A cure for cancer. The next teary-eyed winner of a reality television talent competition. The eighth wonder of the world. My Tony, Oscar, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize Awards. Buttermilk.

6.  I don’t understand how someone as smart, talented, articulate and beautiful as you can still be single.

The right one hasn’t come along yet. God hasn’t brought him to me. Maybe I’m looking too hard. Perhaps I’m too focused on doing what I love to do. Maybe it’s just not the right time.

Or maybe you should just ask me out.

A Few Good Men

Last night I stopped at my favorite Pho restaurant to pick up a late dinner.

Andrea first introduced the hidden gem to me a few years ago, and I have been a frequent customer ever since. When I walked through the door, the owner was happy to see me.  He flashed a big, crooked-tooth smile, patted my arm and took me aside.

“When you going to get a man?” His face showed genuine, deep concern.

I threw my head back and laughed, heartily.

“I really don’t know!”

His eyes narrowed.  “Why you have problem?”  He then waved his hand towards my figure.  “You look good enough.”

I smiled and shrugged.

“No dates,” I offered, truthfully.

“Aha!” He wagged his finger in my face. “You too picky!”

*****

As I curled up on the couch with my hot pho and the next episode of “The Walking Dead” (I’m addicted!), I chuckled to myself.

It felt good to know my singlehood / lack of an active dating life was disconcerting to someone other than me.  At the same time, I wanted to protest and assure the Vietnamese restaurant owner I don’t need a man in order to be happy, fulfilled or whole. In fact, I ceremoniously quit online dating for my birthday, and life has been much more peaceful. I got tired of sorting through tacky, suggestive or grossly misspelled messages from men I didn’t find intellectually stimulating, or even the slightest bit physically attractive.

Over the past two years, I’ve been a member of eHarmony, Match.com and Ok Cupid! (My sisters and I prefer to call it “Stupid Cupid”.) I’ve met a handful of nice guys, but ultimately, I’m done with it all.  It just wasn’t working for me. Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer meeting people in person.

I added extra Sriracha sauce to the salty broth and pondered the restaurant owner’s words.

What if I am too picky?  What if I do need a man in my life? I certainly wouldn’t complain if a good one came along, but the whole process of not trying to find one is exhausting.

The truth is, I’m probably trying too hard.  Admittedly, I think about it too much.  For crying out loud, I’m spending my Friday evening writing out my frustrations instead of making out with a hot date.  (Isn’t that what we all would rather be doing?)

And, yes, I’m picky, because I want to date good men; guys that I think are amazing.  Recently, however, the good men I find amazing don’t look at me twice.  It just is what it is.

So I keep convincing myself that I’m OK with all of this. Then, I go into “fix it” mode: I really should keep my mouth shut because I’m not going to attract the “right” person, or, worse: I’ll drive a good man away because I look and act like I don’t have it all together.  It’s bad enough having Divorce and Reckless Driving on my record.  Nobody wants a drama queen.

I know the negative thoughts are untrue, but sometimes I need an explanation as to why the good, available men are so scarce.

It’s disappointing.

My ex-boyfriend was absolutely amazing when he boldly pursued me.  I had no idea things could be that good, or easy, with a man.  He set the bar high in the relationship department until his fear of love, confusion and emotional withdrawal lead to the ultimate ending of our very brief relationship. Twice.

Besides a sprinkling of a few dates with my busy ex-boyfriend, I have been on one other date this year.  I met the guy on Stupid Cupid, and he immediately asked me out.  We enjoyed good conversation over beer a few Fridays ago. I liked him from the minute I met him. We laughed, flirted, exchanged semi-vulnerable stories and he seemed to genuinely have a good time.  Afterwards, he drove me home, kissed me on the cheek and said he’d call me.

He never did.

And that’s it. That is the extent of my dating experience this year.

I paused the television just as zombies violently began tearing into the flesh of an unfortunate, terrified new character.  I crossed my arms, sat in silence, and continued to process my situation. I was reminded of something my therapist recently told me.

“You’ll have to go through a few good men, Leslie, until you find one with whom you are most compatible,” she said, gently.

I have about six weeks left in Los Angeles, and then I will tour the United States with the Brian Setzer Orchestra until the end of 2012. I have never looked forward to anything more.  In a way, my leaving will serve as an escape from the blank canvas that is my love life. I will not have time to sit and wonder why no one has the balls to ask me on a date.  I will be too busy to think, or care, about any of it.

Yet, suddenly, I am encouraged.  There isn’t just one good man out there.  There can be a few.  Or even more.  I had a pretty serious relationship with one already. We didn’t work out, but I’m so glad I dated him. It was worth it.  He was a good man. And, I went on a first date with another good man.

I’m not giving up, just yet.  Surely there are a few good men in my future.

Perhaps good men are like flesh-eating zombies.  They’re everywhere, coming for you (although some drag their feet), and you’ll never know what hit you until they find you.

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