Breaking back together.

I have a lot going on.  And when that happens, it’s hard to pinpoint a topic to blog about. I’m either too scattered, or trying to respect everyone’s privacy, including my own.  Privacy is a funny thing to a blogger, especially one who has written a memoir where she lets it all hang out anyway. Perhaps with memoir, we have the illusion of control (emphasis on ‘illusion’). We can reframe and shape our past as we see fit, and because it happened already, it feels less immediate than a blog post.

My memoir, about a Good Jewish Girl who marries a Christian, illustrates how I met my Christian husband and the obstacles along the way – including an eight month break up.

After dating for four months and falling in love, we mutually agreed to break up. Our split was amicable, and I moved on fairly easily, mistaking that ease for “we must not be meant-to-be.” Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong, but perhaps I needed to believe that then, in order to come back to him later. At the time, I was unaware that this ease I was experiencing was actually relief in disguise. Relief  that I had averted the scarier route of committing to him for love, and for the long haul, without the insurance of a checklist.

I found a blog post that I had written on the heels of our breakup, in April 2010, which illustrates my frame of mind (and kind of blows my mind too).

Looking back, things happened exactly as they should have. Our sweet, clean break up had a distinct purpose; the universe (okay, God) had been telling us that while we needed to meet and connect, that it wasn’t the right time to go the distance. We weren’t ready for one another; we weren’t ready for the gravity of the real thing. Not yet.

Looking back, our break up healed us. Without our breaking apart, we never would have come back together.

ANOTHER CUB BITES THE DUST – April 2010

I skipped a posting last week because I was sick, although in hindsight, that was probably a cover for the real reason. I think there was too much uncertainty roiling around in my subconscious, and I couldn’t work out what to tackle first. I also must have intuited that it was too early (and personal) to write about what was to come a few days later: a break up with my tall, young, sweet and Aidan-like goyfriend.

Most of my friends don’t know yet but the few that I’ve told reacted with the classic, “Whaattt?? What happened?!”  They were surprised. Things seemed to be going so well.

We all know that just because things look great on the outside, doesn’t always mean that they actually are.  Although to my boyfriend and I, on the inside, it was looking promising. We were going through the good relationship motions: checking in with one another, sleeping over, sharing stories, dining and wining together. When I was sick he bought me yellow tulips. The image of him standing by my bed, this huge guy clutching this tiny unbloomed bouquet makes my heart hurt.  I had given him a key to my apartment just a week before.

He even met the Fockersteins, for god (his and mine) sake!   And afterwards, my mother went out of her way to Google ‘Amazon’ and send me a book, signifying that my man and I had a future, entitled “Marrying a Jew, from a Christian perspective.” I freaked. My goyfriend was on his way over and I found myself hiding the book and its receipt like it was porn. I emailed Mom to tell her that if I needed more information on interfaith relationships, I knew how to Google too, and could do so when I was ready.

My point is, I wonder if the visible increase in such niceties indicates that there is something wrong under the surface? How many times have you heard women express great shock over a break up, specifically because the guy “texted me just the night before to say he wanted to spend his life with me!” or “but we just planned a vacation to Hawaii!” Are we actually more emphatic, more lovey-dovey to our significant other, just before we break up with them? Is it denial, or are we overcompensating, in the hopes of eradicating our doubts?

Looking back, I think some of this was going on with us. We were ignoring the elephant in the room for a while (no not the Christian one…a cute image though.)  A year ago, with my last boyfriend, I could go a long time blissfully ignoring things – ignoring my gut. But not anymore. At least there is a silver lining to this breakup. Amidst the heartache, at least I know that my gut and I have become best friends – the kind of friend I listen to, who doesn’t project her own agenda, baggage, or neurosis on me like some friends tend to do.

My dad said it best: “I see you don’t sit on the pot too long anymore.”

When I told Mom we broke up, she surprised me. Rather than reacting with her predictable “Heeeeee!! Mah karah?” (“What happened?” in Hebrew…Mom switches to Hebrew for important subjects), she listened.

And then in a soft patient voice she said, “Cougel, you will be okay. You’re strong and practical. You’ve been through a lot worse.”

How true, I realized. After the end of a fourteen-year marriage, the failure of a four-month relationship, no matter how in love I felt, doesn’t scare me.  I wonder if the loss of love hurts less with age and experience, or more, because the older we get, the greater our despair. Or perhaps the rate of our recovery correlates with the quality of the relationship itself, and how certain we are deep down that it just “wasn’t right.” Four days after my breakup, and judging by how I’m doing, I’m pretty certain that for me it was the latter.

It doesn’t mean I didn’t cry the day we broke up. After Mom and I hung up, I called her back to tell her one more thing: “By the way. I’m going to keep the book you sent me….for the next guy.”

Mom burst out laughing (I love that she can laugh at herself) and then I joined in. It felt good. Mom also knows there is some truth to my comment. The likelihood that my next boyfriend won’t be Jewish is no surprise, nor does it seem to freak my parents out anymore (Call it acceptance. Or learned helplessness. Either way, I’m glad).

The upside to all of this is that now I can start blogging more freely again, without worrying about respecting a boyfriend’s privacy (my own privacy, as evidenced by this blog, is fair game).  Although I doubt I will start online dating anytime soon, no matter how good the fodder is for my blog.

But when I do, you’ll know.

Ten Reasons (Not) To Get Back Together With Your Ex.

How many people do you know suffer through a break up (amicable or not), only to get back together with their exes? How many people do you know who have done that more than once?
(Raises hand).
Why?
1.     Habit:  A big fat vacuum exists after a break up. Something (someone) is missing, and you have to readjust to being on your own, without a partner to share things with.  This creates an acute yearning for that person which is easy to label as “it must have been love!.”
2.     Romanticizing the good: Over time and distance, the “bad things” recede and the good things take center stage in your mind, and you put the guy up on a pedestal.
3.     Limited options: Any new potential mate’s appeal wanes in comparison.
4.     Laziness: The idea of starting the get-to-know-you process all over again with someone new seems exhausting and dreadful. Not only do you have to span time with that new person, but you have to tell your stories all over again (or you can cheat by having them read your blog).
5.     Comfort: You ex knows your friends, is familiar with the fights you’ve had with your siblings or boss, and knows where your dog likes to be scratched.
6.     Jealousy: You hear he is dating, and the knowledge that he is focused on (or having sex with!) someone else other than you propels you into action. (see: Ego).
7.     Ego: He doesn’t contact you at all, and his Facebook statuses show him partying in bars and on boats. The realization that he might be over you hurts and is mistaken for an “in love” feeling.
8.     Love by association: You spend time with friends who say, “He was a great guy, and I was sad when you split,” sending you into a regret spiral.
9.     He comes back: Just when you think you’re over it, and start feeling good again, he somehow picks up on it and comes back into your life with compliments and promises (however well-meaning).
10. No single friends: Most of your friends happen to be in relationships or starting new ones, and it makes you miss being in a couple.
The list could probably continue past #10, but I thought I’d stop here, and start discussing the more hopeful and optimistic reasons some people get back together:
There is something left unexplored.
With time apart, both people have grown and truly come to appreciate the other.
The circumstances that drove them apart (a new job, long distance) change. 
They broke up in haste, over a fight, and get back together because it was stupid for them to split over boxers on the bathroom floor in the first place.
Some people need (and are addicted to) the drama of a break up, and use it to wake them up to their feelings.
Sometimes we get back together with the person to remind us why we broke up in the first place. Like #2 above, we forget. It’s human. And when you’re missing someone post break up, and you know they are experiencing the same feelings at the same time, it connects you. You share a common feeling with that person that no one else can understand.
So sometimes break ups don’t last, and people end up re-committing for the long haul. So I’m not at all saying that getting back together with an ex is a lost cause, and can’t lead to a long-term healthy relationship.
If you’re wondering whether I’m talking about myself in this post, the answer is, not really (or kinda). I’m looking back on my last two or three relationships post divorce, and in all of them, we got back together, however briefly, before breaking up again for that last and final time. Sometimes we need it for closure, and I know that for me, I needed to be convinced in my mind and heart that we tried everything – that we wrung the relationship dry – before I could truly move on.
So I guess if you’re contemplating getting back together with your ex, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Whatever that means to you.

Another cub bites the dust.

I skipped a posting last week because I was sick, although in hindsight, that was probably a cover for the real reason. I think there was too much uncertainty roiling around in my subconscious, and I couldn’t work out what to tackle first. I also must have intuited that it was too early (and personal) to write about what was to come a few days later: a break up with my tall, young, sweet and Aidan-like goyfriend.

Most of my friends don’t know yet but the few that I’ve told reacted with the classic, “Whaattt?? What happened?!”  They were surprised. Things seemed to be going so well.

We all know that just because things look great on the outside, doesn’t always mean that they actually are.  Although to my boyfriend and I, on the inside, it was looking promising. We were going through the good relationship motions: checking in with one another, sleeping over, sharing stories, dining and wining together. When I was sick he bought me yellow tulips. The image of him standing by my bed, this huge guy clutching this tiny unbloomed bouquet makes my heart hurt.  I had given him a key to my apartment just a week before. 

He even met the Fockersteins, for god (his and mine) sake!   And afterwards, my mother went out of her way to Google ‘Amazon’ and send me a book, signifying that my man and I had a future, entitled “Marrying a Jew, from a Christian perspective.” I freaked. My goyfriend was on his way over and I found myself hiding the book and its receipt like it was porn. I emailed Mom to tell her that if I needed more information on interfaith relationships, I knew how to Google too, and could do so when I was ready.

My point is, I wonder if the visible increase in such niceties indicates that there is something wrong under the surface? How many times have you heard women express great shock over a break up, specifically because the guy “texted me just the night before to say he wanted to spend his life with me!” or “but we just planned a vacation to Hawaii!” Are we actually more emphatic, more lovey-dovey to our significant other, just before we break up with them? Is it denial, or are we overcompensating, in the hopes of eradicating our doubts?

Looking back, I think some of this was going on with us. We were ignoring the elephant in the room for a while (no not the Christian one…a cute image though. And by the way, if you think I’m avoiding the real reason we broke up, you are correct. I’m not going to go anywhere near that in a public post, out of respect for him, and because even for a blogger, there are some things that are really no body’s business.)  A year ago, with my last boyfriend, I could go a long time blissfully ignoring things – ignoring my gut. But not anymore. At least there is a silver lining to this breakup. Amidst the heartache, at least I know that my gut and I have become best friends – the kind of friend I listen to, who doesn’t project her own agenda, baggage, or neurosis on me like some friends tend to do.

My dad said it best: “I see you don’t sit on the pot too long anymore.”

When I told Mom we broke up, she surprised me. Rather than reacting with her predictable “Heeeeee!! Mah karah?” (“What happened?” in Hebrew…Mom switches to Hebrew for important subjects), she listened. 

And then in a soft patient voice she said, “Cougel, you will be okay. You’re strong and practical. You’ve been through a lot worse.” 

How true, I realized. After the end of a fourteen-year marriage, followed by a three-year relationship with a guy I was envisioning marriage number two with, the failure of a four-month relationship, no matter how in love I felt, doesn’t scare me.  I wonder if the loss of love hurts less with age and experience, or more, because the older we get, the greater our despair. Or perhaps the rate of our recovery correlates with the quality of the relationship itself, and how certain we are deep down that it just “wasn’t right.” Four days after my breakup, and judging by how I’m doing, I’m pretty certain that for me it was the latter.

It doesn’t mean I didn’t cry the day we broke up. After Mom and I hung up, I called her back to tell her one more thing: “By the way. I’m going to keep the book you sent me….for the next guy.”

Mom burst out laughing (I love that she can laugh at herself) and then I joined in. It felt good. Mom also knows there is some truth to my comment. The likelihood that my next boyfriend won’t be Jewish is no surprise, nor does it seem to freak my parents out anymore (Call it acceptance. Or learned helplessness. Either way, I’m glad).

The upside to all of this is that now I can start blogging more freely again, without worrying about respecting a boyfriend’s privacy (my own privacy, as evidenced by this blog, is fair game).  Although I doubt I will start online dating anytime soon, no matter how good the fodder is for my blog.

But when I do, you’ll know.

What happens once you graduate divorce?

Have any of you gotten to that place, when you wake up one morning, and you realize, “I’m over it?”

I’m not talking about no longer texting an ex-boyfriend, or realizing that your heart has finally mended. I mean finally moving past the heavy mourning phase of your divorce. It takes time – a lot longer than you can possibly predict. There’s some myth which states that it takes a month of healing for every year you’ve been together. I was with my ex-husband for 14 years, but it took more than three to feel “normal,” to get to know myself, and to reach the end of the ‘what is my life going to look like now’ journey.  And then it took another year to quit smoking the nostalgia cigarette in order to feel creative and mine my grief for material (this blog not included).
It didn’t seem possible three years ago. I didn’t think I’d ever get to a place where I could talk about my past without saying “we” – where I had accumulated enough experiences that happened to me, rather than we.
It happens slowly, and yet you notice it suddenly, like:
1-    When you run into your ex, and instead of feeling nauseous and shaky, you feel okay.
2-    A mutual friend tells you that he’s reading your blog. Not just reading it, but “studying it.” You’re curious, but you don’t mind.
3-    You stop going to his Facebook page to see if he’s changed his profile picture (since you’re not friends you’re not privy to anything else). It’s like reopening the fridge to see if something new has appeared until you realize you’re not even hungry.
4-    You don’t feel the uncontrollable urge to talk about your marriage or “what happened to you” anymore.
5-    You enter into a new relationship where you don’t cry the first time you have sex.
6-    You enter into a new relationship where you’re not comparing the new guy to your ex, checking off the positive qualities he has that your ex didn’t. Or perhaps you’ve come so far that you realize they have some good things in common, too.
7-    You find out that your ex has a new house, a new wife, and a new baby. Six months ago it might have driven you to the brink of email bombing – but now suddenly, you are too busy making your own life worthwhile, and enjoying it, that you don’t care what is going on in his. Maybe you’re even happy for him.
8-    Your sister calls you on what would have been your tenth wedding anniversary, to see if you’re okay, when you don’t even know what day it is.
9-    He sends you an email out of the blue- when you haven’t spoken in almost two years, and while you experience a disconcerting jolt of anxiety, it doesn’t send you into a tizzy the way those emails used to. And even if you might consider writing back, you get too busy in your own life that the email gets buried in your inbox.
Life gets in the way. Your life.  A life that you’ve built all by yourself, from the ground up, and when it whisks you away – even rescues you from the lurking tidal wave of your past – I think it’s a good sign.
I went through a period where I actually felt a yearning for that dark place, and sometimes, I admit, I still do.  It’s disconcerting. In some strange way – looking back through the gauzy lens of nostalgia – I believe that I felt more raw and real and creative inside of that space than I feel in the bright light outside of it. But it’s probably a good thing.
Can you detect the moment when you realized you were over your ex and the life you left behind, and when you did, did it make you happy, sad, or both?

Thanksgiving: Where receiving can be as important as giving.

The abundance of Thanksgiving posts out there pre-Thursday turned off my writing switch. All the pertinent topics had been covered, ranging from the obvious gratitude articles to the difficult travel day posts. I posted a link to one I particularly liked called, “Can you be thankful for what you don’t have?” to my Facebook page because it inverted the way we normally think on Thanksgiving. On a regular day, when we see another person’s misfortune, it’s easy to tell ourselves, “I should be grateful. Thank goodness that didn’t happen to me, or someone I love.”  But does that really work? Perhaps such thinking is superficial. It rushes out of our heads as quickly as it rushes in. It sometimes makes us push aside legitimate grievances, out of guilt, and allows us to avoid dealing with our reoccurring issues. But only for a moment.
In the weeks preceding this holiday, I’ve been a mopey brat, and I haven’t liked it one bit. I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, despite all the tangible good things I could check off on a list. It bothered me. Because in the years since my divorce – where I was close to rock bottom – I’ve taken warm pride in discovering the joys of gratitude. Gratitude has come in the smallest and most random forms: a surprise phone call from a relative, connecting with a stranger, a perfectly formed sentence, the fact that my parents answer the phone because they can, and the ability to be present for a friend in need. But in the past few weeks, none of these things were working. Why?
Oh, break-up blues is an easy one, right? But how long is that card good for? My ex-cub and I broke up over two months ago. So what if I’m going to be “alone” for the holidays, when last year he and I spend Thanksgiving and Christmas together. So what if going home to NJ, where everyone is married with children underscores my “differentness.” So what if (per my last post) the dating scene looks bleak and I’m not getting any younger.  So what if I’m not feeling impassioned by my day job or my writing on the side job. At least I have a job where I work with people I adore. At least I wrote a novel. What more could I ask for?
All of the above is 100% true, yes. But does this kind of talking to yourself really work? Does it automatically lift your spirits, like a “snap the F out of it” switch was flipped?
For some people, it totally works, like for my father, and some men I know. When my sisters and I were little girls and we’d cry over a boy or missing our camp friends, my father used to say to us (and he still does), “Who died?”
That used to frustrate the hell out of me. “Why does someone have to die, Dad, for me to be sad? Don’t I have a right to be sad when things aren’t going my way?”
On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up to the sun shining (ok- well at least it wasn’t raining) and my dog licking my face. My older sister and her family were in the city for a Bat Mitzvah (on Thanksgiving?) and were picking me up to drive to my parents.  I had something to look forward to. Two hours of traffic, yes, but in a car filled with my nieces and nephew fighting over my Blackberry (I didn’t even know there were games on it) and iPad (the smudgy fingerprints after wards are worth it), playing with apps that my ex-cub had had the foresight to download (“for the kids”). I felt my gloom start to lift, although there was still a nagging ache. Then a friend of mine, who went through a divorce when I did, messaged me that she was feeling down. Her sincere email, on any other day, would be something I would hungrily indulge, where I’d give advice and talk about how I feel the same way. What are we doing with our lives? What is going to happen? We are in our late thirties and still processing these damn divorces? But after I got her email, it hit me. “No. No,” I replied. “Sorry, but I’m not going to feel sorry for you.” Or myself, I thought. “We have so much to be thankful for.” (I had to wrestle my Blackberry out of my niece’s hands to write this, but still). “You have to let the good stuff in,” I wrote. “But first you need to see it, in order to receive it. So get that dark shit out of the way and make room!” (Huh. Good stuff, Cougel, I thought to myself, before hitting ‘send.’) My girlfriend, rather than taking offense, thanked me. The light bulb went on, for both of us, and I was grateful for her message – a necessary mirror to my own unfounded self pity – and grateful to have her in my life.
My mother made a beautiful meal and decorated the table with brown leaves (it’s the thought that counts). She was pleased to see me eat seconds. And pleased to see that I’d put on some weight, “You don’t look sick anymore,” she said.  After dinner, we watched “The Godfather,” although watching my father laugh and gesticulate while reciting the lines is better than the movie. And then, since we were sitting around with newspapers and laptops, I decided to reinstate my J-date account. Maybe there’s something to be said for a dating site that attracts people from the same culture, whom can actually pay for the service. What a revelation!  I even let my mother sit next to me so we could look through all the profiles together. I expected her to say, “What’s wrong with him?” every time I dismissed someone, but this time, to my surprise, she nodded and said, “You know best, mamaleh.”  I even let her chime in on what photos I should include (she nixed the one where I was holding a martini glass in my hand).
I thought back on the post I had read a few days prior, “Can we be thankful for what we don’t have?” and to my pleasant surprise, I didn’t need to conjure up all the bad things that thankfully hadn’t happened to me – or list the tangible “good things” –  in order to be thankful for what was right in front of me.   

Defriending your ex, and why anti-social media can be healthy.

I’m sure there have been a gazillion blog posts and articles written about breaking up in today’s world of social media.  The medium which allows us instant contact with friends, potential partners, and the ones we are in relationships with, can become our worst enemy when we break up.   
My cub and I broke up two months ago today (I’ve been rounding up to four because that’s what it feels like, although not in a positive way). But because of Facebook, Twitter, and Ichat, it was more like a sprain or a fracture at best, rather than a clean break.  Those apps give us the illusion of contact and connection. They allow us to delude ourselves into believing that although we are no longer together in the real world, in the virtual one – and that includes are minds – we still are. Any new status update or tweet, no matter how lame, can make your heart flutter with its promise of a new clue into what your ex is up to. Or at least you know he is alive; going to work, the gym, drinking coffee…and lots of beer.
You want to believe that he’s drinking all that beer because he’s still trying to get over you; because the slightest inkling of him having recovered so quickly cuts deep. You hold your breath when you check his page, praying you’re not going to see something else, like a post from a female name you don’t recognize with lots of xoxoxo. (Or worse, as with a previous ex of mine, a picture of him with a baby…His!) So you scour newly posted photos of bar revelry for signs of the guy brooding in the background as his friends are having a blast. But then you see reoccurring photos of him with the same brunette. So you check out this girl’s profile page. If she’s young, without the sense (or baggage) that warrants the need for privacy, you’re lucky. You can see all her photos, and then decide for yourself if she’s even worthy of your sexy exy.  Hopefully, she’s not as attractive as you, which makes you feel better. For like a minute. Because you know full well that pictures, particularly the Facebook series, can’t convey personality, how flirty she might be, and how vulnerable your ex is to such attention.
I could be ashamed to admit that I’ve been guilty of the above, but shame is not the point. The point is, that engaging in such fruitless behavior, when you know in your gut that you need to move on, is completely counter productive to healing. It allows us to leave the wound open, because closing it signals harsh finality.
For weeks I considered defriending my ex-cub, knowing it was distracting me, misdirecting my energy, and at low points, really upsetting me. But I couldn’t do it. I knew that it would shock him, not just because it would seem abrupt in the face of our amicable split, but because it would signal to him that I had taken the final necessary step and that our relationship, at least in the form it had been in for over three years, was over.  I also knew that it would signal to him that I not only needed to move on, which he had always been aware of, but that I was finally ready to.  
A friend, when encouraging me to remove him, said, “Just say no!” and I laughed because it made me think of the drug slogan. But social media, at its most harmful, is when we use it to numb the pain of heartbreak and the pain of confronting reality.  We hang on, perpetuating the habit by impulsively checking in (in the form of stalking), and it seems benign, but its cumulative effects – like a drug – are toxic. It pollutes our clarity, heightens our yearning, and weakens our resolve. 
I had to cut myself off. Knowing that by doing so, I would be cutting him off too.  Breaking up is hard enough, but enabling one another to remain stuck by keeping the break up wound open is in my opinion even worse.
So I did it. I defriended him. Big step for Cougel. As I write this, I realize how silly it is that I’ve allowed a social media application to expand to such monstrous proportions in my romantic life, but I’d be dishonest if I were to diminish its role. I’m sure I’m not the only one either. Let’s call it like it is, right?
When I automatically got on Facebook the next morning, like I always do, and realized that I could no longer take a virtual stroll over to my ex, or scour the chat box to see if he was chattable, I laughed at the absurdity of it. What am I even doing here? Suddenly, Facebook felt pointless. But it also affirmed that by taking the step of removing him – a psychological obstacle to my growth – I had taken the step towards bettering myself.  So I moved my cursor up to that little “x” in the upper corner, clicked it, and closed the application.
How’s that for some closure?

The Jewish Cougar loses her cub...on the Jewish New Year.

Talk about timing. Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year – a high holy day about reflection and repentance – coincides with a significant break up. Is that a coincidence? No Jew would think so.

So timing is what I’m going to talk about here.
But let me back up.
About three months ago, I got back together with my boyfriend. We had been on and off for several years, and our first break up back in February marked the start of my blog. He is ten years younger than me, hence the whole Cougel thing, but for those of you that read my blog regularly, you know that I believe “Cougarness” is much more about attitude, self confidence, and maturity in a woman, than it is about hunting down young cubs.

Is it odd that I never blogged about he and I giving it another go? I meant to, but other interesting blog-worthy events conveniently occurred so I never got around to it. Looking back, I wonder if that was no coincidence either. Perhaps I didn’t know how to share the fact that I was no longer single and “dating” with my readers; perhaps I didn’t know how to balance my private life and public one. Maybe I didn’t want to invade my boyfriend’s privacy. Or, maybe deep down I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to last.
I had posts that I started, touting the benefits of dating a younger man, that now, well, I don’t know if I believe. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful things, but for me, there were just too many gaps – the difference in age and life experience being one of them – that we thought our love could bridge. But ultimately, like in every relationship, when that “in love” passionate feeling fades, it exposes the divide. I think we both realized that we didn’t have enough in common to bridge it.  It’s likely that we were never bridging it at all; we just stuck a big honkin band-aid over it.
Out of respect to him, I’m not going to get into detail here. But on the evening of Rosh Hashanah, he asked me a question that to him seemed benign, but to me signaled that his head is nowhere near where mine is. He looks at the world as someone in their late 20’s should, and my vantage is that of a divorced woman in her late 30’s.  It seems so obvious now that I guess we should have seen it all along.
Call it a “click” or a clarity cyclone sent from God on Rosh Hashanah, but in less than 24 hours, we went from being in a serious relationship with plans for our future, to being completely over. As in, kaput.  I feel like someone spun me around like a top. For the past few months – for the past year really – I was envisioning a certain kind of future, finally, after not having been able to for years (after my marriage fell apart). It felt good. I was building a nest again, big enough for two…maybe more. But in retrospect, it was made up of intangibles called hope, projection, and fantasy.
Am I okay? Oddly, yes. I mean, it hurts. But I’ve been through much worse. I’ve built up some serious recovery muscles, and I know that I will be fine. Divorce does that to you, in a good way. But mostly, at this point in my life, I refuse to give a relationship (no matter how happy I had been in it) where I invested my time – my precious time – uneccessary weeks of wallowing. While I agree it’s important to grieve and allow oneself to feel sad, in this case, for some reason – and it’s a power that feels bigger than me – I’m over self-pity.  Hey, depression? You can suck it.
Naturally, girlfriends and social opportunities came out of the wood-work. Maybe it’s just that time of year, or fashion week in NYC. But I got out there. Three nights in a row of drinking and partying, and I can feel the effects (as does my writing, so I hope you’re bearing with me on this one. Spell check I love you.)
A writer friend of mine took me out Friday night. Like me, she too had married her college boyfriend and split after 14 years together.  She had an idea: “Let’s go throw our sins into the east river. Let’s go do Tashlich!”  
What’s Tashlich, you ask? No, it’s not another kind of gooey Jewey noodle dish.  It’s part of the whole repentence thing.  That’s about all I knew when I agreed to go. (Mom, don’t be mad. My Jewish education was not a waste! My guilt degree has proven to be quite useful to you.)
So my friend and I bought a sweet challah at Dags and walked to the water.  I marveled at the view, the balmy weather and the fact that I was on the Upper East Side.

When she explained that the goal of Tashlich is to reflect upon the previous year’s sins and symbolically “cast them off” by throwing pieces of bread (each piece represents one sin) into a large, natural body of flowing water, at first I had no idea where to begin. Sins? I didn’t kill anyone. I hadn’t sent my exes hate bombs, or real ones for that matter. I didn’t intentionally screw someone over just for kicks. I think I’ve been respectful to my parents and I honor my neighbors (they are much easier to honor than my last).
And I was loving to – and honest with – my ex-boyfriend.  But had I been honest with myself?
First, we devoured half the challah. We were hungry, and didn’t think we had enough sins to require an entire loaf…evidenced by what I said next: “I can’t think of a single sin. Am I blind?”
And then it clicked.  I was going to start by casting off blindness.
Once we started, it was hard to stop. I thought back on the past year: my relationship with others, with the world, and with myself. And the lessons from my Rosh Hashanah break up began to dawn on me. What I needed to cast off was: Fear of making mistakes. Projecting my needs onto others. More fear (cuz that’s an easy one). Self doubt.

But mostly, I needed to repent for coercing the picture of what my future is “supposed to” look like onto someone else. 

This year, I need to learn how to let things grow and breathe – at their own pace.  Timing is indeed everything, and in this life, that’s all we have. My ex-boyfriend needed to develop on his timeline, not on mine. What’s that saying?  A cub is a cub is a cub. And no matter how much you push, he can’t turn into a bear overnight.

My question to you guys is: if I’m no longer dating cubs, can I still call myself Cougel? :- P

Signs. Are they real? Or do we just want them to be?

We hear it all the time. It’s a sign! The universe is talking to me! But how? By singing to us at bedtime, or as a little voice in our heads?  I don’t believe that the universe speaks to us all in one “universal” language that can be easily studied or decoded. It speaks to each of us personally, in different ways, and not with sounds or words.

But only if we choose to pay attention. When we are abruptly woken from our stubborn slumber and our ears and heart are suddenly trained to listen. I know it sounds hokey to some (I can hear you men snickering). “Universe” is a term my dad uses only when referring to an article he read in the NYT science section.

That’s not the universe I am referring to here. I’m talking about the one that intercepts us, that throws a lens onto our skewed perspective, that tests our resolve. The one that shows itself in countless tangible ways, and yet it is inside the intangible where its transformative meaning can be derived.

Like when you’re thinking about someone from your past with whom you have unresolved issues – an ex most likely – and then as you’re walking home alone, that person appears on the street, walking towards you. Does your heart race and pulse quicken? Or do you feel calm, knowing that you could handle whatever that encounter may bring? Whether you interact with this person or what is said at this point is irrelevant. Because the universe has already spoken. It happened in that moment where you stopped to consider how you feel.

For me, these signs have been abundant over the past several years. I’ve run into my ex-husband at what I call critical intervals, when I needed to pay attention to something that I was ignoring. Once, it was in a restaurant window in greenwhich village, when I was feeling lonely and nostalgic. I didn’t choose to keep walking; I chose to stop, and tap on the window. He turned, and then to my surprise, a girlfriend of mine – who I didn’t realize even knew him – ran out to confront me before he could, to explain why she was having dinner with him. This was a friend with whom I had been sensing a dull strain, where I would leave our outings feeling depleted, and yet I ignored it. This friend anxiously explained what she was doing there, but what she said didn’t stick. It couldn’t stick, because this moment, to me, wasn’t about explanation, or jealousy, or anger. It was about the universe kicking my sleeping subconscious awake, telling it – telling me- that this friendship was an unhealthy one, and that I needed to acknowledge it. It wasn’t actually about my ex at all; he was just the vehicle, one that I would definitely stop and take notice of. Sometimes, when the words on our signs are too tiny to read, the universe rewrites them. In big bold letters.

Some signs have come through Facebook (Yes, I’m invoking Facebook…take a moment to recover). But isn’t it inevitable that tangential contact with random people from our past, may suddenly crop its head up in defining moments? Like the time I had fearfully set a shaky foot on the path of reinvention, searching for my creative voice, and got a random message from a guy who had been in my Freshman dorm. He wrote that he saw a painting in Art Forum magazine that reminded him of a piece I had painted way back then, that inspired him. I didn’t remember it, but he did. And he, or the universe, in the moment I must have needed it most, made sure to remind me.

There are bigger ones of course – of divine intervention. A friend of mine’s father died recently. On the day of the funeral, her husband found out that his mother, who had been waiting for a new liver, after years of pain and despair, had miraculously found a donor.

A few years ago, shortly after moving back to NY, I was sitting on a bench in Madison Square Park on a sunday afternoon. It was not yet spring, and I was writing in my journal, feeling despondent, and brainstorming ideas for my book which had not yet been written. A butterfly suddenly appeared and flew back and forth along the long bench, as if it was searching for a place to sit. And then, out of all the other people or places, it chose me. It hovered over my open journal, and then settled onto it.  It stayed there for several minutes, comfortable in my lap. People were in awe, as was I. Although I still haven’t figured out the hidden meaning behind this.  Did the butterfly know I needed a pick me up? Or that I am obsessed with its species? Maybe it was flirting with me. Or, maybe it was just attracted to the bright white of my journal pages.

I was prompted to recall these auspicious encounters today because I’m in LA, where I used to live, and so I inevitably revisit my past.  And sometimes it visits me.  I ran into two former colleagues yesterday, whom I hadn’t seen since exactly three years ago to the day; the day the bottom of my life had dropped out. Since then, our lives have taken different paths. They are now married with children. And I am not. Again, it wasn’t as much about seeing them as it was about how I felt inside while speaking with them. This time, I didn’t listen to them wistfully, wishing for what they had. Instead, I listened to them with a fondness, an openness, and suddenly recognized that I’m okay… more than okay…to be in the exact place I am today.

So, are the signs real? Or are we trying to turn nothing, into something?

Does it matter?