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.



Sep 212011

Several years ago, a friend introduced me to the Osho Zen Tarot deck. There are fifty-six cards in the deck, each with a beautiful illustration and poignant message. Often as a part of my morning meditation, I shuffle the cards, cut them, spread them out facedown, and pick one randomly.

This morning I picked “Aloneness.”  I often do. The message is a good one: “When you are lonely you are thinking of the other, you are missing the other. Loneliness is a negative state. You are feeling that it would have been better if the other was there – your friend, your wife, your mother, your beloved, your husband…. Loneliness is absence of the other. Aloneness is the presence of oneself. Aloneness is very positive.”

I am once again reminded that whether single or coupled, I am called to be “a light unto myself.”


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?


Sep 152011

“I should have seen it coming,” she began. My friend Cameron had been recently dumped by her boyfriend of three months. Cameron and I were sharing tapas at one of our favorite lunch spots downtown.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I said.

“But all the signs were there. We were arguing a lot, he’d become distant, and his friends were acting strange. The writing was on the wall.”

“Hindsight is twenty-twenty,” I said sympathetically.

“I’m proud of how I handled myself, though,” she offered.

“Oh?” I was glad she had stopped beating herself up.

“I handled the whole thing with grace. I listened to everything he had to say, told him I was sorry to hear it but appreciated his honesty, and wished him well. Then we hung up.”

“Hung up? He broke up with you over the phone?” I was appalled.

“I know that’s not kosher, but I’m glad he did,” she said. “That way, he couldn’t see my face and how I really felt.”

“And how did you feel?”

“Angry. More angry than sad. I was mad at myself for not breaking up with him first.”

“I get that.” I’d been there too.

“He was right; we weren’t a good match. We should have ended it a month ago.”

The next day, I thought about our conversation. The next time, I’m dumped I’m going to take a page out of Cameron’s book. I’ll listen carefully, thank him for his honesty, and wish him well. The less emotion shown the better.

Even if it’s been a long-term relationship, I’ll keep any drama to myself. I’ll avoid arguing, bargaining, lashing out, or crying. After all, there’s no reason to act like he’s destroyed me; he hasn’t. I will get through it, and one day I’ll find someone who loves me as much as I love him. I deserve that.

Cameron had shown me how to handle a breakup with grace.


Sep 142011

Here are three short videos on how to move on after a breakup:

Breakup Tip One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7WdYQsm6iU

Breakup Tip Two:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy3kJZUGYv0

Breakup Tip Three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q06sCQPQOM4


Jul 082011

My heart went out to Melissa. She was in pain.

“I can’t sleep,” she said. “My mind is racing, and no matter what I do, I can’t make it stop. My emotions are all over the place.”

Melissa and I were sipping Margaritas and munching on chips at our favorite neighborhood Mexican dive.

I totally understood. When I had my big break up two years ago, I tried to control and crush my crazy thoughts and roller-coaster feelings, but that only increased their charge. Instead, I found that by observing them with curiosity and without judgment, like clouds they gently floated by.

My therapist helped me with this sage advice:

“Ask yourself what’s not okay about this moment, then note your answer,” he began. “If it’s not okay, then think of your mind as a garden; your job is to pull out the weeds. An obsession? A weed. A fantasy? Another weed. A thought about the future? A memory of the past? Weeds. Keep pulling the weeds until one flower remains: this present moment.”

I saw how my mind worked—all the crazy stories I made up in my head. I noticed them when my ex and I were together, and I observed them now that we were apart. I learned to welcome them and use them as a kind of restart button to become present. When I caught myself in a fantasy or another form of “crazy thinking,” I could remember my therapist’s wise question, “What’s so bad about the present moment that you can’t be in it?”

I could also observe my emotions. Like my thoughts, I used them as a vehicle to become more present. When I felt sad, I asked if that sadness was based on a memory or future projection, or if it was what I was actually experiencing at that moment.

I learned that sensations are a clear pathway to the present. When I listen for the sounds around me, see my surroundings with what the Zen Buddhists call a “beginner’s mind,” and follow sensations in my body to track what I’m feeling, I sink deeper into what spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle calls “the power of now.”

I wanted to share these experiences with Melissa but caught myself. The timing wasn’t right; Melissa was still too raw. The best I could do for her now was to simply listen and empathize. “You must be exhausted,” I said.