Apr 232012
 

Charlotte had finally broken up with her boyfriend of four years. All her friends—including me—were relieved. “Bob” had been bad news. Now Charlotte was sitting in my kitchen, sipping a gin and tonic, and confessing that she was considering going back to him.

The mind has a funny way of spinning reality. I remembered my own breakup. Observing my mind-talk, I was surprised at how often my thoughts grew into tall stories. In one, my ex desperately missed me and wanted to get back together. In another he was actively dating and had totally forgotten about me. At times, I would even tell myself our breakup was only temporary. My girlfriend Kelli set me straight.

“You’ve been thinking that getting back together is impossible,” she said. “I’d like you to entertain the idea that it’s not.”

She continued. “Jump into the fantasy that you’re reunited and see how you feel.”

I took her advice, and afterwards I felt like I’d been sprayed with cold water. There was no going back. We had split for a reason, and that reason had not changed.

“Tell me what would be different if you two got back together,” I asked Charlotte. “What has changed?”

Charlotte thought a moment, “Nothing really. I just miss him.”

I totally understood.

“Missing him and getting back together are two different things,” I pointed out gently. “Imagine being back with Bob. Go ahead. Imagine it!”

She closed her eyes.

“OK,” I said. “You guys have been back together for five months, and you’re having dinner at your condo. How do you feel?”

I have a knot in my stomach,” she said.

“Do you still want to get back together?”

“No!” She laughed.

 

 

Mar 282012
 

“I’m worried about you,” my girlfriend began. Was an intervention getting ready to take place? What had I done? I’d only been telling her about last night’s date.

“When you started dating again, you said you wanted to date casually, that you didn’t want to get stuck on the search for ‘the one.’ It sounds to me like you’re searching. Which do you want?”

It was a fair question; so was my response: “Both.”

“Which one’s in the driver’s seat?” she probed. I laughed, “Both. Well, one drives while the other rides shotgun. Then they switch.

I guess it’s not an either-or proposition; it’s more both-and.” My friend Elizabeth likes to say, “Every date is a potential mate.” She’s joking, but a part of me sees the truth in what she’s saying. Another part of me wants to roll his eyes. I just want to date casually. I’m enjoying being single.

Do I know what I want? Not really. Am I sending out mixed signals? Probably. Am I worried about it? Not yet. I know given time, the smoke will clear and I’ll be able to see the horizon.

Nov 132011
 

After ninety minutes of “This planet is lining up with that planet in that house,” all I could remember was one sentence: “This stage of your life is about slaying dragons.” My friend Jim, a brilliant astrologer, was reviewing my natal chart.

Jim explained that I was being challenged to face my biggest fear, and it wasn’t going to be easy. As Bette Davis said in the classic movie All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Career was easy for me, Jim said, but relationships were not. My emotions could be somewhat frozen. No shit, Sherlock, I said silently to myself.

Since my marriage fourteen years ago, I haven’t been in a relationship that’s lasted more than three years. Looking back on these relationships, I realize that almost every one of my ex-partners complained about my lack of feeling.

Several years ago after I broke up with the first man I had lived with since my divorce, I plunged into a dark space. I turned to a therapist for help.

The therapist helped me see that I had a fear of being present. I was also afraid to face intense emotion, especially sadness. In order to defend my heart, I covered it in a hard shell. I learned that in order to free it, I would have to go to the place I fear most: my sorrow.

For the past year, I’ve tried a wide range of modalities to help open my heart including ecstatic dancing, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, talk therapy, and psychic healing, but it wasn’t until I met with my ex-partner two years after our breakup that something in me broke open. There’s a rabbinical saying that the only true open heart is a broken heart.

In that meeting, I became the man I longed for: I was present, vulnerable, and open- hearted. The anger and hurt dissipated, and the love I felt for this man flowed through me.

For months, my therapist has been telling me to welcome the sorrow. While I understood what he was suggesting, I couldn’t imagine actually welcoming anything as painful as sorrow.

I know sorrow has been my muse. Sorrow has helped me create some of my best paintings and write some of my most poignant pieces, but it’s still tough for me to welcome it. Yet when my ex-partner and I talked I allowed my pain to penetrate me—if only for a minute. By becoming vulnerable and undefended, I rediscovered the love that had been there all along.

While I’m a long way from slaying the dragon, I got a glimpse of what life would be like without this dragon in my life. I now have a felt-sense of the man I want to be. I know what it feels like to allow love to freely flow through me.

Sorrow still scares me—any intense emotions do—but a tiny crack has appeared in the wall of my resistance. If I can keep chiseling away, I have to believe it’s just a matter of time before the wall crumbles. The dragon will be slayed.

Oct 312011
 

Our date is at 7:00. As usual I am on time, and as usual I’m the first to arrive spoiling any chance of making a grand entrance. I take a seat at the bar. The bartender asks what I’d like to order. I order water. I don’t want to order a drink, just in case he doesn’t show up.

At 7:10, a man who looks somewhat like my date walks into the room. I’ve never seen him in person, only his pictures on the dating website. The photographs appear to belong to the same man only this man is a good bit heavier.

He has a warm smile, firm handshake, and he smells good. As he takes a seat, I steal a glance at his belly; it protrudes over his belt. Didn’t he write on his profile that he had an athletic build?

Don’t be so superficial, I chide myself. Give this guy a chance. I actually like stocky men. Stocky, maybe. But this guy has a belly, and his face is bloated.

Put looks aside. You two appear to have a lot in common.

We talk about our work, past relationships, and spirituality. I like him. Taking another glance at his belly I know I’ve lost the battle. The fantasy I’d built around our life together quickly dissolves like an Alka Seltzer hitting cold water. Chemistry is a funny thing. You either feel it, or you don’t. I don’t feel it.

I take a deep breath. At the very least, this guy could be a friend. I like that thought. Still, I am sad, and I’m disappointed. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I had really thought this man could be “the one.”

 

Oct 252011
 

My back was killing me. I had been standing for what seemed like hours. Roy, one my best friends, was celebrating his fifty-fifth birthday with a cocktail party in Manhattan, his hometown. One of his dear friends had loaned his chi-chi Columbus Circle apartment for the celebration.

I plopped down on what appeared to be a fifteen thousand dollar sofa to give my aching back a rest. An acquaintance, Richard, joined me; his back hurt too.

Within minutes, Richard and I were comparing notes on dating. In addition to having bad backs, we are both fifty-something single gay men. Richard lives in New York, though, and I live in Asheville, North Carolina.

“I could be dating a twenty-five-year-old right now,” he said, “but it’s impossible to find someone who’s close to my own age.”

I was shocked. To me, Manhattan seems like Mecca for gay men.

“Get out of here,” I challenged. “You’re attractive, successful, and you live in New York City. I would think you would have lots of options.”

“Not so,” he said. “For some reason, there aren’t many options in here, and most gay men my age want a younger man.”

Not me, I thought. I have no desire to be anyone’s daddy.

I remembered when I lived in Atlanta. Atlanta is considered the “Gateway to Gay” in the South.  Yet I had a similar problem; finding a date was tough. On the other hand, finding someone to have sex with was a walk in the park. (Sometimes literally—if you happened to be walking in Piedmont Park.)

Many singles—gay or straight, male or female—blame geography for their lack of dates. If I had a dime for every person in Asheville who complains about the tiny dating pool, I’d be a rich man.

If geography doesn’t dictate dates, what does? Could the self-help books be right? When you’re ready the right person shows up?

It happened that way for my Asheville friend Charles. After a particularly nasty breakup, he took a year off from dating. Four months ago, Charles met a great guy who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Recently his boyfriend landed a job in Asheville and is moving here. Charles is elated.

“You found the needle in a haystack,” I commented to Charles recently over cocktails.

“Or attracted it,” he offered.

Maybe we’re like magnets; we attract “the one” when we’re ready. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s more like playing the lottery.

Sep 182011
 

In his book The Eden Project, James Hollis writes about a wonderful greeting card a friend gave him. On the cover was pictured a woman holding a cup of coffee. The copy read: “I don’t need a man in my life to show me who I am, or to fill any empty voids. I am independent and strong. I don’t need anyone as an emotional crutch to get me through life. I am an island unto myself, providing all I  need for a happy, fulfilled life. I am at one with myself and universe.” Inside the card was the single line: “God, am I lonely!”

 

Sep 162011
 

Today marks the official end of my celibate summer. After yet another breakup last June, I swore off dating—and sex—for three months. For the past four years, I’ve been in a relationship, one for three years and the last relationship for one year; it was time for a break.

My friends didn’t think celibacy would last. “Celibate summer? You’ll be lucky to make it through celibate Saturday,” they teased.

Celibate summer wasn’t as hard as I (or they) thought. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent with my friends, especially my girlfriends. I’ve enjoyed this time to embrace my singleness.

Some friends still don’t understand. “I bet you have four guys lined up for today,” one suggested. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Today will be no different from yesterday. The last thing I want to do is embark on a “manic manhunt.”  I’ve been there, and I don’t like the feeling.

I won’t put up a profile on Match.com, SilverDaddies.com (Ugh. I guess I’m that age now.), or Manhunt.com. At least not right now. And you won’t find me hanging out in the bars. Most gay bars don’t get rolling until midnight, and I’m in bed by ten most nights.

The only thing that has changed is that I’m now open to dating, but I’m not sure how that’s going to happen. A potential date would have to parachute into my front yard and knock on my door to find me. Several friends have said not to be so quick to dismiss the possibility. I appreciate their optimism, but that’s not where I want to put my focus.

I want to be comfortable with “what is,” and right now I’m single. Most importantly, I’m happy. And isn’t that what really matters?