I will never forget the movie Limbo. For two reasons. First, Kris Kristofferson lights me up. He makes the usual man candy – Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tom Brady for you sports fans – look like, feel like, smell like wallflowers. And second, because the ending made me want to assassinate my DVD player. And the director, the writer, producer, whoever put up the cash – pretty much anyone associated with approving the script. Ballsy move, couldn’t quite embrace the ending. So I find it funny that today, as I fly back to the land of Unicorns and bicycle boys, I’ve discovered my fondness for the feeling of being in limbo.
I love it now. I appreciate the sensation. My arms are wrapped around the vapor of knowing not what the future holds.
But when I watched Limbo, while pregnant, the idea of not knowing how it all ends nearly killed me.
Mr. Perfect Timing made his way east after making his intention of Pressing Pause known. With tenderness, we reunited in the EST on the phone; me sitting on the cool bricks of my Mom’s front porch and him touching the walls – all four of them – in an impossibly small Manhattan hotel room. I didn’t feel guarded, didn’t play tough girl, and wasn’t concerned with erecting walls or pulling away to create safe space (Ego!). I was, however, filled with curiosity. I needed to understand what was happening between us in its purest form, without pushing it here or there or having him pull up out of fear of tears or upending me in ‘my fragile state’. (Not a phrase he used, and not anything like what I felt, but what some would expect.)
Where are we headed now? That’s what I most wanted to unravel, and I didn’t care if it took six days or six months. Time was not something by which I was distracted.
We spent an hour weaving our way through his written words. He talked, adding a little texture to what I already understood at face value and, to a degree, on an intuitive level. I mainly listened. And then I let him know how I felt. I appreciated his honesty. I appreciated his timing. I felt his dis-ease before receiving his email, and would have wondered why he didn’t think enough of our bond to be honest with me. To trust me with his feelings as soon as he understood them. To honor me with an accurate portrayal of his feelings. His confession, if you will, made me feel respected. His timing, once again perfect, in my opinion.
I left the decision as to how to proceed up to him, sensing that we both wanted the same thing. To see each other, to dine with Razzle and Family, and to have some quiet time with my Mom, the woman with whom he bonded while I snow-shoed my way up and down Mt. Rainier.
The next day he said, I’d like to be with you at Razzle’s and to spend time with you and your Mom. That feels right.
I drove to Razzle’s house on Thursday afternoon. Mr. Perfect Timing took a car service to the Ivy League part of New Jersey that makes me think of sweet cherry tomatoes and beautiful horses and old colonial homes. We met on a Main Street long enough for an apothecary, a tavern, a farm market, a few antique stores and restaurants, and homes with the metal signposts on front lawns signifying their historical status. Trees sprouted leaves in a color that should be called young green. He emerged from the Secret Service-esque SUV while I had my back to him. I was chatting with a friend and heard her say, A man is about to kiss you…
I wasn’t surprised. I made a joke about how pressing lips didn’t strike me as Pressing Pause. We kissed three times before getting his luggage in the trunk of Razzle’s car. The dis-ease on both our parts had dispersed, as often happens when feelings are acknowledged and freed instead of trapped and left to ferment. I hesitate to speak for him, but I sensed a tremendous relief for us both. Relieved to be together. Relieved to know it’s okay to be open and vulnerable. Relieved to be at ease. And, I feel he was relieved to know that I was emotionally reliable.
I was relieved to know that he could articulate his feelings.
He wasn’t the only one that had a nagging sensation that if we cruised right along at the present clip we’d cruise right into a wall instead of into the sunset…
Six weeks and a few days before that sexy writer guy from the gym with the ridiculous arms and piercing brown eyes that could burn your clothes off morphed into Mr. Perfect Timing, he was engaged. Yep. Engaged. For thirty whole days…before he discovered that the girl with the same name as me…uh-huh…was not being honest.
An innocent reboot of a computer launched a mail program which fired a missile that blew up any chance they had of happy ever after. Ring returned and Mr. Perfect Timing left asking, Can I watch that last part again? so he could make sense of what just happened. We hadn’t seen each other in, oh, about 30 days. I knew he had a girlfriend. I knew she and I shared a name. But I hadn’t been privy to the upgrade in their relationship due to my massive holiday sinus infection which knocked me out of the gym. My first day back I walked through the workout room and spotted him on a treadmill. Our eyes met; both of us lit up. The haven’t seen you in a whiles led to his request for the URL for HGM. I texted it to him. Then, as I reintroduced myself to the elliptical machine, I overheard him say he was learning how to be single in a new town.
Another relationship retired.
Texts led to Deck Night – the night when my inability to see the male agenda had me thinking shop talk and him thinking, When is she going to stop talking so I can kiss her?
Without question there was a certain dusting of Hollywood to our first dance. A couple of bored screenwriters with a few bottles of proseco could spin it into a film over a weekend just by turning up the volume on what actually went down that night. Of course, they’d have to make up the ending.
The next day, I asked and the Universe answered and Mr. Perfect Timing and I rode the rapids. They spit us out in New Jersey, our bellies full of wine and food, our hands linked, our faces tilted up to the night sky as Razzle’s children rooted around in the house for fireworks to ignite.
It had been a long and magical evening of catching up, putting back tequila and truffled cheese and heritage pork. We leaned on each other as lit fuses led to showy displays of sparkle and bang. Then he retired to the guest room and Razzle and I girl talked for another hour. I found him clothed and dozing on a bed, the windows open letting in cool breezes after a humid day. I joked about the sleeping arrangements not being consistent with Pressing Pause. He let me know that I wasn’t funny.
It was too soon to joke about something that was quite serious to him. I was poking fun at that which he sweated out, stressed over, as if it was no big deal when to him it was a pivotal point not just in our relationship but in his life. What I thought were harmless plays on words stung like wasps. Not my best effort at being empathic. But that process of coming into alignment showed me just how serious he was about Pressing Pause so he could “thrive in…a strong, singularly focused relationship that is built to last.” And while he didn’t say this, I could feel that he hoped it was me that was the other half to that built to last relationship, but he wasn’t going to bet on it. Regardless, the process HAD to happen and the outcome was TBD.
We awoke the next morning to the sound of a freight train and turkeys and talked quietly and intermittently, with our eyes closed. He apologized for arbitrarily snatching six months out of the air, as if the process of self-excavation could be timed. He didn’t know how it would all unfold. Or how long it would take. He didn’t expect to sever all ties or turn away when our paths crossed. This he did know: Pressing Pause did not mean in any way that his feelings for me had “deescalated”. (A cumbersome word, but perfect from the mouth of a man.)
It had been 20 years since I introduced a paramour to my Mom. Twenty YEARS. Our 90 minute drive to her home was surreal in its normalness. (Normalness? I know you get it.) This introduction would be different from ALL the rest (not that there were many) because my Mom laid in bed with metastasized breast cancer, and my paused paramour wanted to meet the woman who birthed the girl who may or may not be his love/r for life.
Not exactly your typical meet the parents experience.
By the next morning Mr. Perfect Timing was back in Marin, and a smile was back on my face instead of lost under a furrowed brow. Overnight I figured out EXACTLY why I created Press Pause. My heart filled with gratitude, and when I looked into the mirror later that night I saw a look that said, THIS is going to be so fascinating, so FUN and absolutely necessary in order for me to “thrive in…a strong, singularly focused relationship that is built to last.”
I am so excited to not know what’s next. And here’s why…it begins…JUST before I met my former spouse.