Today I flew from Los Angeles back home to San Francisco. I was in LA to reconnect with friends and family, to see a band I’ve loved since their formation, Garbage, and to give The Genius some alone time with the boys as he prepares to depart for the next 7 weeks. (I have to pause here to say that Shirley Manson of Garbage is massively talented and smokin’ hot. As in I’d marry her hot if I was the marrying kind.)
My trip to LA lasted for exactly 48 hours. In that time-frame I had dozens of encounters. Goodness, at LAX this afternoon I had 5 meaningful encounters alone. That doesn’t include the encounter with a woman last night who had lost her ticket to the concert (I had an extra – got massive karma points for that.), or the man who stepped in as I mangled my photo ops, taking my phone and saying, “You are missing too much of this show trying to futz with your camera. May I?”
“Yes, you may.”
Or the encounter with the cab driver who brought me back to my hotel after the concert. We made each other laugh, and when we said goodbye we looked deep into each others eyes and smiled a big, warm, glittery smile that said, Thanks for making me feel special even though I am just a fare, I am just your cabbie. I think of him now and get teary eyed.
Honestly, drought areas should bring me in for emergency water supply.
These encounters are different compared to those I had before The Pocket Call, back when I was in a relationship. I was more dismissive then. Polite, yes, but not so interested in a connection, more closed off. I didn’t value the power of an encounter. I didn’t give people (nature, animals) credit for being able to impact me in a way that was life-changing, memorable, rich, in the space of a moment or a few. I expected to get that from The Genius and our circle of family and friends, but I didn’t honor what a brief encounter could gift to me.
Spouses, lovers, family, friends – these are relationships that develop over time, morph and shift. They have beginnings, middles and ends, mainly as defined by us. We value them, and we also take them for granted sometimes. We push and pull them, we support, we use, we utilize, we trash ‘em, and we rebuild ‘em.
Encounters may often go unnoticed. Yet they are so ripe with opportunity for growth and joy that I feel compelled to sing their praises. I have to give props to R, who asked me to expand on this idea of encounters, how they are different from relationships, and why I am feeling the desire to move away from relationships and embrace encounters. Her question was this:
I hope you expand on this idea of ‘relationship’- why you are hesitant to call encounters relationships. Just curious, as someone who I am seeing, who has recently been thru a divorce feels the same way- I see a lot of similarities in the way the two of you think. Just curious about your insight.
R, thank you, love you, owe you.
I’m going to suggest that encounters be the new black. A very healthy place to begin exploring the world again after a betrayal. And perhaps the way to live life for the long-haul. As a method of reinventing the way your relationship unfolds. Which is what the person you are dating may be feeling as well, R. But I cannot speak for him/her. So I suggest you read this post together and let me know if I’m on point or not.
Tonight I arranged to meet The Genius and our boys out for dinner. I drove from the airport to the restaurant and straight into the arms of two very excited and happy muppets. I didn’t make eye contact with The Genius upon arrival, or for some time, actually. I have to admit, the first ten minutes or so in his presence is a real challenge for me. I’ve concluded that it’s because I don’t want him to think that everything is okay between us because it’s not. And it never will be again.
Tonight I decided that I was going to employ the same ‘encounter’ strategy that I used in LA. I was going to focus on connecting with my surroundings. To be open to whatever unfolded. To be aware. To engage. Not to judge. Or to expect a certain outcome.
It was so freaking hard.
But I let go. We talked. Mainly about ‘his world’, but I’m sure that’s not a big shocker. It didn’t matter though. Remember? Not to judge? I listened. I didn’t judge. I chose to put myself in a situation where I was sitting across the table from a person I do not like, yet have to engage with, and I just listened and responded. I didn’t judge.
I’m being repetitive because it was profound. So profound that he became emotional and said, “Thank you for…sigh, deep breath, reddening eyes (no tears…please…this isn’t the End of Days)…hanging out with me.”
Our interaction tonight worked because I treated it like an encounter, not a pit stop in a relationship. Once I got over the first 10 minutes of ‘Nice mullet, I can’t believe I have to spend the next 45 minutes sitting 24 inches from you’, I softened my gaze, allowed myself to make eye contact, and I let the encounter unfold. I stayed in the moment.
At the end of the night he felt fulfilled because he felt like he got to ‘hang out’ with me again. To talk to me as if I was his friend. I didn’t judge his desire to feel that way, and I didn’t alter my way of being to foil his desire. I was just me. I felt fulfilled because I got to ‘play’ with this exchange like a science experiment, putting into practice my ‘encounter’ philosophy. The children felt fulfilled because they got to see Mommy and Daddy talking.
For such very different and independent reasons, we all felt fulfilled.
Encounters, to me, are different from relationships because you never leave your own path in an encounter. Encounters exist without expectations. They don’t come with the same labels we slap on relationships. They don’t require us to think about the next step. While they technically have a beginning, they don’t have a back-story. They exist somewhere in the middle, and they can have no end. Encounters are about responding, not reacting. About living fully present in the moment. But mostly about staying on your path and feeling secure in the knowledge that the other person is going to stay on their path. Neither party is looking to derail the other. As Chevy Chase’s character in Caddyshack, Ty Webb, said to Danny, “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”
R, all I can say is that since Sunday I’ve been the ball. And I have had nothing but positive, fulfilling encounters with so many people, lasting from a couple moments to a couple hours. Including dinner with The Genius. I could argue that was the most fulfilling encounter of them all. I think your paramour is on to something…
…As an aside, airports now make me salivate for flight time. I am aching to fly a plane again. I hovered near the open cockpit door for such a pregnant period of time I believe the attendants began to break out in a sweat, fearful that the redhead was unstable. I left the airport needing a thrill to focus on, so I’ve decided to swim from Alcatraz to Chrissy Field. Nuts, I know. But people do it. 1.5 miles. This is the stuff that gives me butterflies. I have to do it.
Let’s hope my only encounters are with humans.