McKenzie Free

One woman's quest for greater understanding through freedom of self expression.

61

There is a gaping hole inside of me

Which nightly I try to fill up

With mounds and mounds of food

And sometimes sex with inappropriate men who like fat girls

It is a gaping hole which by now is the size of a basketball

A small hole that was ripped larger and larger by

my alcoholic father and crazy brother

Made bigger with each failed marriage

That grew to make room for the babies I could never have

And is currently being fed by fear of the spot on my liver

Fear of joining my cancer-ridden siblings in death

At night I feed it with pound cake and chips and red wine

During the day I feed it with professionalism

as I try to do one thing in life well

and sometimes with screaming unprofessionalism

as I fail to succeed in a dysfunctional workplace

At times, like this morning, when I am too exhausted to

stand up straight and carry on in the morning light

At times like this when I stop for a moment and sit very still

Alone with my thoughts

I simply sob until I have no more tears

And then I get up and get on with my day

Wondering if I will ever be able to heal this gaping hole

Or if it’s too late for a full recovery

perhaps just something to shore it up and keep it from engulfing me.

Renewal

It all began with a good-bye kiss.

It still lingers on my lips.

He loved me, he said.

But it was not the ‘big’ love.

Thus began my journey of renewal.

To love myself regardless.

To respect that I am worthy.

To find joy in each day.

The world is my ‘big’ love

and he is but a memory.

The Easy Chair

Oh how I wish I could write like Barbara Kingsolver.  All I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember is to be able to write in a way that elicits emotions from people.  Sometimes emotions they don’t even know they have.  To write something with a kernel of profound truth that people can relate to and say, “that’s it…that’s just how that feels”.

In Kingsolver’s “Pigs in Heaven” her first six paragraphs describe exactly how if feels to be in a relationship after a certain age.  Those sentences resonate with everything I’ve been feeling of late.  As I get older my world is becoming smaller and smaller, my desire for things less and less, and my desire for intimate conversation greater and greater, while at exactly the same moment in time the average man seems to have used up his lifetime allotment of words.

The middle aged man spending his days in his easy chair couldn’t have become a cliche unless there was some truth in it.  Kingsolver’s descripton, “his Naugahyde recliner confronts her, smug as a catcher’s mitt, with a long, deep impression of Harland running  down it’s center” describes it better than I’ve ever heard or read it described.  I’ve seen that same impression in more men’s chairs than I’d care to admit.

The easy chair has always made me sad.  Not because it eludes to TV watching.  I can be the Queen of Netflix marathons myself.  I thinks it’s the singleness of the chair.  Where I would prefer to snuggle up and share my experience with someone (one of my fondest memories is spending an entire day with my God daughter on the sofa watching episode after episode of “Cake Boss” together until someone had to come and force us to shut it off) the easy chair sits alone and seems to say “there’s no room for anyone but me here…leave me alone”.

I have a single, male friend whose living room is set up with the requisite enormous flat screen TV with his comfortable easy chair right smack dab in the center of the room and a sofa pushed back against one wall.  Even when told he doesn’t see that this set up says to all who enter, “it’s all about my comfort…you sit over there against the wall and don’t bother me.”

I am a middle-aged woman, and one on the down hill side of that bell curve.  I am beginning to understand that the chances of meeting a man my age who has a serious desire for emotional and intellectual intimacy is slightly less than the chance of me ever fitting into my original size 6 wedding dress again.  Even if the intimacy were to be there to couple lifestyles at such an age would likely be as uncomfortable of a fit as that dress.

I guess the moral of this story is that I will now have plenty of time to devote to improving my writing skills.

 

 

 

The Affair

He was forty and growing restless in his marriage. She was twenty-eight. Beautiful and vibrant in a way that only those who live life fully can be. They met completely by accident. This may be difficult for some to even imagine in our current world of online profiles, emails and texting, but at one time people used to bump into each other in public and strike up random, friendly conversations with one another.

She dropped a package on the street while trying to open the door to the book store with her elbow. He picked up her package and got the door for her. Neither were there for the books as it turned out, but rather for the coffee shop in the rear as a respite from the crowds of holiday shoppers. They chatted as they stood in line waiting to order. As it turned out, once they got their drinks there was only one table left available and they sat down and shared a warm beverage together.

He did not lie or act coy about the fact of his wife and children. In fact, he spoke of them lovingly and with pride. Oddly, this made him more attractive to her. She knew it was wrong to feel the tug of emotion while they spoke. She forced herself not to reach across the table and touch his hand as she so wanted to do.

He knew it was wrong to ask her to join him for dinner. He rationalized it in his mind that it was only a meal. She rationalized it the same way when she smiled and said “yes”.  This is how it began. Neither one wanting to investigate their behavior more fully. To do so would surely have meant they would have walked away from each other and remained strangers.

He thought, at first, that he could compartmentalize his life. That she would simply be a bit of enjoyment that he carved out for himself. She would not impact the rest of his life. But, as it turned out, she was not a woman who could be kept in a box. She was too full of life and his need to speak with her and be with her would not contain itself to a few hours a week.

She had a very full life before she met him. With him in her life her schedule began to overflow. If you had asked her prior to meeting him if she would ever consider seeing a married man she would have been insulted and answered a resounding “of course NOT”. Now here she was, making up last minute excuses why she couldn’t make her usual volunteer night at the hospital or meet her best friend for drinks or dinner so she could accommodate him when he could get away.

She told no one. Not her sister, her best friend, not even her hairdresser. The volunteer organizations thought her work responsibilities had increased, her friends thought she was volunteering more and should take more time for herself, her staff was grateful that she seemed to be finding a better balance between work and the rest of her life. Only she was aware of the reality of her situation.

He was amazed at how well his business continued to run without his complete focus on it twenty-four seven. Perhaps he could have gotten away in prior years to take his family on those vacations he had assured them were impossible? His wife was beginning to pressure him to spend more time at home and he began to slowly realize that there was no way this could not affect his marriage and his family.

After almost a year of seeing each other they had finally admitted to themselves and each other that this was about more than the convenience of lust. They had strong and caring feelings for each other. Feelings that came with as much pain as joy.   As he began to realize the effect the affair was having on his family, she began to realize she did not want to celebrate another Christmas in a hotel room a week after ringing in the New Year alone.

This is why tonight, almost a year since their first meeting, she found herself sitting alone in the coffee shop where they first met waiting to see if he would join her. If he showed up, this meant he had told his wife about her and had chosen a new life with her. If not, the crazy, titillating roller coaster ride of the last year had reached its end.

She did not know which life he would choose. She was well aware of the schism the affair had caused in his emotions and his life. She also believed his love for his wife was still very real. Part of her hoped that he would choose to remain with his family thereby proving to be the man she thought he was on the day they met. No part of her wanted to be the person that caused upheaval and pain for others. The other part of her, the selfish part, the part that found such happiness in his presence, was holding her breath and hoping to catch sight of him walking down the aisle of books toward their table.

As she sat and waited she realized that no matter what his decision her life would be irrevocably changed after tonight.

The Rain

She walked down the cobble stone street toward the café. She wanted to put down her umbrella and feel the rain on her face but she knew it would draw the odd looks from passersby and that Rafael would be concerned about her wet hair and clothing when she arrived. She missed her home town so much. It rained a great deal in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. There was precipitation of some kind more than half the year. Most people walked about without umbrellas and never let the wet climate slow them down.

She knew that for most people living in Paris was something they dreamed about their entire lives but it was never her dream.   She was tired of feeling guilty about being a small town girl who preferred her small town. She missed the rain, the wind, the coastline, the comfort of everyone in town knowing who she and her family were. As a child everyone in town watched out for you. There were no secrets. Nothing you did went unnoticed or unreported to your parents. Many found it stifling and couldn’t wait to get out of town after High School graduation. She found it comforting and she missed the town and its people terribly that first year away at college.

That was where she met Rafael. She was drawn to his good looks, strong ethics, and his thirst to make social justice a reality for everyone around the world. He was a leader of people. That was evident from the first time she saw him speaking at a rally outside the student union. He asked for her support…and he got it. He asked for a date…and he got that too. From that first date on the two of them were never very far apart. They were known at college as the couple who was trying to change the world…and the ones who just might succeed.

She was not comfortable here in Paris. She could speak French fluently now, and she didn’t dislike Paris in any way, she just longed for something simpler. She hadn’t felt at home in Sao Paulo or Amsterdam either, not even by the end of their five year stints there.

Today she would tell him. Today she would be completely honest and let him know that she had to go home. That she couldn’t spend her life away from the rain and the sea and her familiar surroundings any longer. She would tell him she could not take on another assignment to another foreign city. She had to go home.

As she drew closer to the café she could see him sitting near the window waiting for her. He had already ordered the fizzy water he knew she would want. He would wait until she sat down to order any further. Even though he knew her well enough to know exactly what she would want to eat he never presumed and always waited for her. He was studying papers in front of him, always working, always thinking of what his next step would be, how he could best make a difference.

He looked up and his face lit up as it did whenever he saw her even after all these years. He smiled and waved at her, appearing excited to see her, even though she’d kissed him good-bye at the front door just a few hours ago. He stood when she entered and leaned down to kiss her cheeks. And then she looked into those eyes again and knew…she would not tell him. She would never tell him. She would stay by his side for the next tour and be content with an annual visit to her home town each year. They sat and ate and talked of many things but not of America or homesickness.

When they said good-bye outside and turned their backs to each other to walk back to their offices it was still raining. Just a slow drizzle now. He opened his umbrella as he left but she did not open hers. Rather she walked with her face turned up toward the clouds feeling the water on her face and remembering the cool Oregon rain.

The Dating Profile I’d LIKE TO Post but Never Will

59 year-old woman seeking partner in crime.

Life, and crime, are each more fun with a partner. Doesn’t have to be a romantic partner (Butch and Sundance, Thelma and Louise…) but if you can find someone that you can partner with in life and have great sex with too — what could be better?

Actually LOOK at my photos. I’m well-dressed, my hair looks good, if I’m wearing make-up it’s subtle and well done, I’m always smiling. I’m obviously going to make an effort to look my best at our first meeting and beyond. So it only makes sense I’m looking for a man who will do the same. Do I look like a woman is seeking a man with a filthy ball cap he never takes off, who wears grungy, frayed jeans to our first meeting and hasn’t trimmed his beard this year? Use your noggin!

Actually READ my profile. I’m smart, I’m funny, and I’m well educated. I’m going to expect you to be smart, funny and able to write a grammatically correct sentence, as well.

If you have more than one drink daily you are not a “social drinker”. Social drinkers have a beverage or two when out to dinner on Saturday night or when having friends over for a party or BBQ. Maybe they have a glass of wine or beer when they get home from work in the evening.

The same is true of pot. I’m not completely 420 unfriendly…and for anyone who has pain I say do whatever works for you…but if you have no medical reason and you’re hitting the bong at 10am I’m not the right woman for you.

Have two nickels to rub together. I prefer a man who pays on a date. That said…we can go Dutch if you don’t have that kind of money but at a minimum you have to be able to pay for your own dinner. It’s really not cool for you to sit and watch me eat my dinner while you sip on a glass of water because you can’t even afford a cup of coffee. I don’t have much, but a man has to have at least as much as me, ‘cause without that parity no partnership is possible.

Have a driver’s license and a car. I’m not hauling your ass around town for the duration of our relationship. I expect you to be able to come and pick me up for a date. I expect to actually GO OUT ON DATES. I love to walk in the park; ride bikes, hike, etc. Every once in a while I also want to go out for dinner, see a movie, go to the theatre, hit a comedy open mike night, something (anything) other than walking and talking or sitting and talking.

I didn’t post a profile on a dating site because I’m looking for someone to have sex with. Hundreds of men want to have sex with me. I’ve been pursued by men of every age who tell me how sexy I am and how much they want to make love to me. Wanting to bed me doesn’t make you special. It’s just pheromones. Get a grip on yourself. Think with your big head for a change instead of your little one. But if we do get past the dating and actually get to this point, please be able to perform. If you have problems performing you are surely aware of that before we get to this stage of the relationship so deal with it before we go there. Man up!

What I’m looking for is a partner. Merriam-Webster defines it as: A person with whom one shares an intimate relationship; one member of a couple; one of two or more persons who play together in a game against an opposing team. In this instance the opposing team is “life” with all it brings us. It comes with family, friends, good food, fun times and great sex but it also includes hard work, flooded kitchens, flat tires, mortgage payments, cancer, and many other frustrations and challenges. Like all roller coaster rides it’s more fun when you have someone you can cling to who’s screaming just as loudly as you are when the car hits the peak and begins plummeting toward the next turn.

I’m too old for online dating

I can’t believe I’m single again. I’m too old to date. However, there isn’t much call for 59 year-old mail order brides so unless I want to be forever without male companionship (a viable option I’m thinking about) I will have to date again. The thought of going on more first dates makes me cry harder than all the things I miss about my last love.

Feeling I must carry on, I once again turned on my online dating site. A man wrote to me. He was attractive, and if his write-up was even partially true, one in a million. The one catch for me was, he was only 5’ 6” tall. I usually only date men who are six foot or taller. Short fit men make me feel as though I might roll over in bed and squash them. I just don’t want to take the chance of an accidental death. It’s bad enough at this age worrying if the excitement of sex will give them a heart attack.

Last night I went out for a drink with my girlfriend who is much younger than me. I was telling her about this and she said it’s just a date, go ahead and email the short guy. So I show her his profile, and after a brief read, she explains to me that the reason he sounds like a man that’s too good to be true is because he’s a transsexual. Apparently he eludes to this in two different places in his profile which I missed while focusing on his small stature. So the reason he sounded completely wonderful was because he used to be woman. It had been like reading my own profile!

Actually, this wouldn’t have been the first time I dated a transsexual. The first time there was no indication other than the lack of attraction on my part.   I remember after meeting him telling my friends he had a butt like a woman’s. I told him we could hang out as friends and it would never be anything more. It was much later after some nights out dancing that he told me the truth about his transition. I have no problem with anyone’s choices of sexuality. I just have no attraction either.  We have remained friends, and judging by his troubles with dating, it’s no different after transition than it is before.

Alas, I digress. The point here is I’m too old to be dating online anymore and not being able to read this profile correctly proved it to me. I can’t keep up with the new slang phrases that are supposed to alert me to what men really want. It’s like learning a foreign language.  I once thought I had it all figured out but this experience makes me realize the world has changed too much for me to keep up with it.

Sadly, there are a lot of things I truly enjoy about male companionship, including sexual intimacy. I realize I’m spending a lot more time in my yard this year: chopping, pruning, digging, planting, spreading mulch. Apparently I’m taking my sexual frustrations out on my landscape. It makes me wonder anew about my mother who never dated or remarried after my father died in his mid-fifties. Her garden plot was enormous and flowers bloomed everywhere on her property.   Sure wish she was here now so we could laugh about this together. And, since I’ll obviously be doing a lot more gardening these days, I could use some of her green thumb tips, as well.

The top 10 reasons I miss my Dog:(

10. There’s no one at home to force me to go outside and get some exercise.
9. She was a great icebreaker at parties.
8. There’s no one to warn me when someone’s coming.
7. It’s now extremely obvious that I talk to myself.
6. I never had to worry about service or repair men coming into my home.  If they got fresh she’d nip them on their ass.
5. I no longer have a socially acceptable method of meeting good-looking strangers on the street.
4. She was the best excuse for not going out with co-workers after work: “I have to go home and let my dog out.”
3. I no longer have a useful purpose for my growing collection of plastic bags.
2. I’ve lost my best excuse for why I can’t “sleep over”.
1. And the number one reason I miss my dog? Now when I go home to that glass of wine after work I really am drinking alone!

A Tale of Unfulfilled Potential

I was told so often as a young adult how much “potential” I had. I was pushed into the advanced classes in High School. I took master degree courses my first year at the University because I didn’t want to be bored. At age 20 I met with members of our Nation’s congress and the Israeli Knesset. At age 21 I actually sat in the President’s chair in the Oval Office as part of a special tour of the White House given for “Up and Coming Young Politicians”. I was the only one with the courage to take the seat when it was offered. I commented as I sat down, “It’s about time a woman sat here”. That was almost 30 years ago and still no woman has taken the chair.

I was meant to do something BIG with my life. I was meant to do something big, find a big partner to share it with, have wonderful children who would be healthy and happy and well brought up. That is what seemed to be expected of me. We should be getting ready now to meet our grown kids at our beach house in Bethany for a long weekend where their Dad would tell them how proud he was of them and how much he still adored his brilliant, beautiful wife after all these years.

Instead I live alone with my dog. Two failed marriages behind me. No particular successes to share. I have no kids, no beach house, and barely enough money to pay my bills. I work for a not for profit organization that does invaluable work that America pays lip service to but where most of our workers barely make above poverty level.

I don’t know when it happened, where it went downhill, when I stopped being one of the best and the brightest and just became another tale of unfulfilled potential. I wonder if I could go back to that one moment, that turning point, would I make a different decision. If I got a chance for a do over would I take a different turn that would have me writing the great American novel while raising wonderful children with a loving, supportive man who thinks the world of me?

Was it falling in love with the wrong man and then holding on too long? Was it making the wrong career moves? Geographical moves?

No matter, for there are no do overs. I’m a survivor but I don’t know how much more survivor I have in me. I have tried desperately to rise up from ever y set back. I have mourned the deaths of those I loved and carry them with me daily. I have done my best to move on from a 20 year relationship that felt  liked it was ruined in an instant. I told myself, as all my belongings went up in flames, that they were just things, not relationships, and relationships are all that really matters. I have survived breast cancer, I have cried my way through the shingles and the other ravages of aging and through it all I can’t help thinking, where did all that often spoken of potential go?

Was it ever really there? How did I fail to harness it? Is it too late at this age to dig deep and find some flailing potential to build on?

Advice to my Goddaughter on her 18th Birthday!

  • No matter how many people tell you the fashion rules don’t apply any more—don’t wear white after Labor Day.
  • If you think you are at the end of your rope — let go — give someone the opportunity to show their love and support by catching you.
  • Don’t forget how beautiful and strong you are. 
  • Don’t spend money you don’t have.  Save for what you want or you’ll become a slave to your debt.
  • Laugh every day.  At yourself, with others, at life’s little oddities – it will help you keep perspective.
  • Don’t stop dancing until the lights go out. 
  • If it’s not worth working hard for, it really is not worth having.
  • There almost nothing that can’t be fixed with duct tape or three-in-1 oil.  If one doesn’t work, try the other.
  • Men do not judge our bodies the way we do our own.  They’re just grateful we have them. 
  • You don’t have to look cool all the time.  Go ahead – do the chicken dance at weddings.
  • Trust your instincts.  If something doesn’t feel right you don’t have to understand exactly why at the time – just walk away from it.
  • Don’t Sext – Those photos and words can come back when you least expect them.
  • A broken heart will always mend with time and what you learn about yourself in the process will be worth it.
  • No one is thinking about you.  We’re all thinking about ourselves and thinking everyone else is thinking about us.  If you remember this it makes all the bad hair days easier.
  • Everyone fails.  It’s all about what you do next.
  • Don’t date men who call themselves Hawk, Spike or Steel.  Men with real names are more likely to be real men.
  • Floss daily, make sure your shoes go with your outfit, and just get out there and do!

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