Phone Booth

The people we are when we begin a relationship are not the ones we become within it.

I have, since I was a little girl, always thought of myself as somewhat of a superhero. I was an only child who wiled away Saturdays and summer vacations exploring the breadth, depth and width of my own imagination. Often with a pillow case tied around my neck, pretending to “fly” around the backyard.

My mother raised me with the instilled knowledge that I was capable of anything and everything.  She said that the only reason people don’t do amazing things is because they fail to believe they can.  And that I should never make that mistake myself.

To the young brain encased in that chaos of  white-blond ringlets, being able to do pretty much anything equaled having super powers.

Mum once bought me white patent leather go-go boots to wear with some hideous dress she was determined to put me in for one of the High Holidays and I promptly found a magic marker and attempted to color them black.

Because all the female superheros I knew of had black boots.

My reward was a pair of truly crappy looking boots and a vigorous spanking. For a woman with one good arm, let me tell you, she sure could dish out one hell of a punishment.

Anyway, back then in the realm of my own mind I was Super.  And now in my forty-something mind I am still.  I have Super Powers.  Sometimes I use them for good. Sometimes I don’t ; )

I have always thought of the men in my life as Phone Booths.  Remember how Clark Kent used to dash into the phone booth and Superman would come out?

Men are my Phone Booths.

Usually what happens is, a strong, feisty, blazingly empowered, open hearted woman full of verve and hope goes in and after time passes, a lesser, dimmer version of that woman steps out, tired, bewildered and nursing a broken heart.

Once or twice that strong, feisty, blazingly empowered, open hearted woman has gone in and the woman who emerged was a hollow, wounded, lost, broken soul.

Up until now, the Phone Booths have drained my power. I went in Super. I came out small.

Fortunately, the effects were never permanent and I was back to full power before too long. I did, however, come to be very leery of Phone Booths nonetheless.

This time though….this Phone Booth is different.

I went in a woman who guarded her heart the way one would cradle and protect a broken arm that had just come out of a cast.

I went in a woman who thought love was for other people now, not her.

I went in a woman who saw in neutral colors and who clung to symmetry and perfectionism as if they were armor.

I went in a woman who had begun to buy in to the notion that perhaps she was in fact not enough.

But this man is more than a mere Phone Booth; he is a Hero himself. Swooping down from the sky (literally) and saving lives with his strong,  steady hands. He may not have a cape, but he does have a sexy green flight suit.

And let’s face it, helicopter rotors and capes don’t really play well together anyway, so…

Seriously though, I am not the same woman who began this relationship. Not even close.

Perhaps in his safe, sure embrace I am able to shed the layers of street clothes that life has shucked upon my shoulders over the years and bare the glittering, hot pink “S” on my chest once and for all. Or perhaps it is his own Super Heroic nature that nurtures, and calls to, my own.

I am now a woman with a gleam in her eyes. Just like the one I had when I was tearing around my back yard with a pillow case tied around my neck and my arms outstretched like wings.

I am now a woman whose heart is so open and full of love that sometimes I’m overwhelmed with it to the point of tears.

I am now a woman who craves bright color and embraces the imperfect, the unfinished and the ever changing.

I am now a woman who will never EVER give so much as one synaptic firing to the thought that I am not enough again. Because I am. More than enough actually.

In this Phone Booth, I become Super Zoe.

Like I told you. He saves people.

He saved me.


Holy Shit, I Wrote a Poem

I used to write poetry.  Some of it was decent even. Got published. Got snaps at the local java houses.

Then I stopped.

Not sure why…just didn’t speak that way to the world anymore I guess. Or, it didn’t speak to me that way. Maybe that’s it.

People change, life changes. My truth comes out as prose these days.

But not this day.

It was there, swirling around in my post-alarm snoozing mind, like a blurry vision. When I tried to dismiss it, the words poked at me until I rose and fetched my pen.

Perhaps it came from the rain – this weather always makes me look inward (where things are not so grey), perhaps it was born from the chuckle I had yesterday when I pulled out my fuchsia umbrella and stuck it in my bag, just in case (because my new-found love of color still makes me grin and shake my head), or perhaps the consumptive thoughts of basking in sunshine with toes firmly burrowed into warm Mexican sand with my best friend (in a mere three days) drove  me to it.

Don’t know.   Don’t care.   Just wanted to share.

Hey, that rhymes…which is more than I can say for my poem ; )

Anyway, here it is. I’m not saying it’s any good, but it is from my soul:

i love you…


harder and stronger than i’ve dared or wanted to
love anything or anyone in all of my days


i love you with sharp intakes of breath, guttural moans
and rippling butterfly wings, far lower than my stomach


i love you like a coyote loves the moon,
or as the tide does; i couldn’t resist your pull if i wanted to


i love you with all i have, all that i am.
 my eyes shine with desire to love you as all i and we will yet become.


as you are now, today, without limit or condition
no matter what tomorrow brings, or next week, next year,
next lifetime…

i love you

September 26th

Today would have been my Mum’s 78th birthday.

As many of you know, she passed away from breast cancer (after keeping it at bay for an impressive forty-one years) in 2007.

I woke up, as I always do on this day, with her as my first thought and I was going to write this loving but no doubt tearful ode to her and her profound impact on my life. But it’s cold and rainy and bleak out, and I decided that she would much prefer I add some light to this day as opposed to just nourish the dark clouds.

So I’m going to tell you a story. The story of the very last conversation my mother and I had. Because it warms my heart. Hopefully it will warm yours as well.

She was in Hospice and I had been camped out with her in her room for the prior ten days. She had been spiraling down and I was, quite honestly, afraid to leave.

When I made the decision that I was going to stay with her 25/7 until the end, I asked her “Will my being here make it harder for you to go when the time comes?” She closed her eyes for a few moments and then said, “Perhaps…I don’t know. But let’s see.”

As it happens, she left this world the following day while I was in the community kitchen making myself some tea, so there’s the answer.

Anyway, my last conversation with my mother…

We had many discussions over the years on what happens after we die. Neither of us had really adhered to the Judeo-Christian ethic and both of us had very open minds when it came to global culture and belief systems. I tend toward the Agnostic with a bit of Eastern philosophy and Native American earthiness thrown in for good measure. Mum started out Jewish (as did I), somehow almost became a Catholic nun due to a torrid affair with a Priest (story for another day) and turned out an Atheist. Suffice to say, they were interesting discussions.

At one point when life was easy and she was healthy…and no doubt over a bottle of wine…during one such conversation, we had made a pact that whoever died first would, if indeed we carry on in some way after death, “haunt” the other – not in a scary way, but in a “hey guess what, there really IS an afterlife” kind of way, and we would do it in an unmistakable, undeniable manner that left absolutely zero doubt that it was us, and that we were somewhere watching over the other.

So, the conversation that day in Hospice began with my mother saying, rather out of the blue, “Well, I guess it’s going to be me doing the haunting.”

We both chuckled. What else could we do?

“Make it good,” I chimed in. “I mean, nothing subtle or polite, like you were in life. Be loud and unruly for once; make sure I know it’s you and not the wind, okay?”

She nodded, then dozed for a while. The humorous moment had come and gone.

I just sat there and watched her chest go up and down.

Eventually she opened her eyes and weakly patted the bed by her knees. I smiled and went to sit beside her. She took my hand. I looked down at it, frail and wrinkly and spotted with age, her paper-thin skin crinkled where my fingers intertwined with hers.

“It’s up to you to carry the torch now”, she said, and she somehow managed to look into my eyes with a momentary flare of strength and determination.

“I know,” I said. “I will.  Promise.”

“I know you will,” she whispered, “I know.” And her eyes fluttered closed again.

We sat there for several minutes like that. She would occasionally nod, pat my hand and mutter, “I know”.

My family came over from Russia in the early 1900’s. My grandfather, our patriarch, was born here in 1907, but his siblings were not. We are a tough, feisty, determined, stubborn, loud, emotive, take-no-shit kind of people who are intensely driven, sometimes to our detriment. In the typical old school European way, the men rule the roost. But in our family it was really the women who were the strong ones.

And man oh man, my mother and my aunt (who passed a year before and due to my mum being in and out of hospitals most of my life, had served as my second mother) were two of the strongest you’d ever want to meet. My aunt was a veritable juggernaut. My mother was a force of nature. If you knew either of them, you are nodding your head emphatically right now. These were the women who raised me.

Carry the torch.

Hers, my aunt’s, my grandmother’s…all of the women in my bloodline who came before.

Be strong yet always kind. Stand for what you believe yet keep an open mind. Speak your truth but always with respect.  Lead yet remain humble. Seek ever the high ground. Own every room you enter. Never forget your worth. Take nothing for granted.  Do not ever give up.  Live life on your own terms but always, always with honor and integrity.

The legacy of generations of stout, solid women with wide faces, wind blown cheeks, firm jawlines, penetrating eyes and colorful babushkas. Pointing with gnarled fingers.

At me.

I saw them, gathered around my mother’s bedside that day.

“All I ever wanted,” she had told me once, decades before from another hospital bed when she had thought the cancer was going to win, “was a daughter.”

When she dozed off and her grip released on my hand, I satisfied myself that she was breathing and went to make myself some Quietly Chamomile. When I came back, she had gone.

I opened the window so she could move on, lit a candle on the sill to show her the way, kissed her goodbye on the forehead and told her that I loved her and hoped to hear from her soon.

The room was silent. The starukha were gone.

It was just me now.  I took a deep breath and went to fetch the nurse.

That was five years ago now. Two weeks after her 73rd, and final, birthday.

So today, as I remember her, it is not with grief or sadness, for I am filled with thoughts of her life, not her death. I am making her immortal by sharing her with you. I am remembering her with a smile. With gratitude. With respect. With awe.

And with brightly burning torch firmly in hand.

The Present – Open It

Have you ever known people who live in the past? They circle around it, never straying too far, as if it had its own gravity to hold them in orbit. Clinging to it as though it were some sort of life jacket in a tumultuous sea.

I get it, I really do. The past is safe. It is far easier to look back and see all the good things than it is to look forward and not know what you’ll find. Like photos that are taken with that fuzzy, beautifying feature; the flaws are blurred out. Even if it wasn’t necessarily all that pleasant the past holds comfort because, like a movie that you’ve watched before, the roles are clearly defined and you know how it’s going to end.

But I would submit to you that, watched often enough, that movie becomes less and less engaging and exciting. Eventually, you might even want to turn it off.

Whether or not you’re brave enough to is another matter.

The present is risky, sure. You never know how it’s going to turn out…what kind of future it’s going to bring you to. And some people just flat out prefer churning the past over and over with its mundane, predictable rhythm to the in-your-face unknown nature of the present.

Whether or not they admit this, the past is a choice they make. And I am always amazed when these people become confused, angry and upset when the present grows weary of being forsaken or ignored and moves on without them.

I myself have personally been sacrificed on the altar of the past more than once in my life. Perhaps the present I represented and the future I held out my hand to offer was more of a feisty, challenging adventure than they were willing to embark on.

So be it.

The beautiful thing about life is that we all have the right to choose how we want to live ours. That goes for the ones who paddle around in the known quantity of the shallows and for those of us to close our eyes, take a deep breath and cannonball into the deep.

But don’t expect me to be there when the safety starts to feel stale and it becomes obvious why the past is in fact…well, you know.

Because I won’t be.

Nothing stays the same. Not even the precious past. Guess what – it no longer even exists. It is nothing but memory.

How sad to invest so heavily in a shadow when the bright, thrumming present veritably vibrating with potential, stands before you beckoning.

Could I choose the past? Heck yeah. I have memories of times when I was so happy and felt so loved that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Experiences. People. I could tell you stories that would makes your cheeks ache with laughter or your eyes well with tears. But I won’t.

I want new stories.

Life is a series of choices. I know which one I’m making.

Life is this moment…………we are this moment.

Love: Just Do it

Love and I…well, we have had a tumultuous relationship.

When I was young I was all about love; I was fearless – I loved everyone. My parents, my family, my little schoolmates, the people in my neighborhood. I imagined the world was full of only good things and that, if I was a caring, kind, loving little girl nothing but care, kindness, goodness and love would come back to me.

Sweet, but naive.

As I grew, I still loved. Only far, far more cautiously and there were many a time I refused to give myself over to love out of fear.

Fear of rejection, fear of pain, fear of humiliation, fear of loss of power, fear of loss, period. I mean, Nazareth wasn’t kidding – love does hurt. A lot of the time loving means ending up in pain one way or another.

Since my last divorce I have given a lot of thought to love. I always thought of it as something…a gift…that you sort of bestowed upon the person that you love. A feeling that was more about them than about you, really. Something that started within you, but that ended up this external part of yourself that was handed over to someone else, and you kind of had to trust that they would do right by it.

Which of course, few do.

I’ve had a small number of relationships since then and, while I felt varying degrees of something for the men I was with, I can’t say I loved any of them. To be honest I questioned whether or not that was because my gut knew they weren’t going to end up working out in the long run, because I was broken and could no longer love as I used to, or because I had come to a place in my life where I was subconsciously choosing not to put myself in line for any more hurt.

I have always said, you can’t un-learn things. Once you experience enough heartbreak, loss, devastation, etc you can’t regain that childlike innocence that allows you to just open your heart without hesitation and let the love pour out.

Or, I couldn’t anyway.

What I have come to realize as I discover love again for the first time in a very many years, is that love isn’t at all what I thought it was…

Love actually has nothing to do with it’s object and everything to do with it’s source.

Love isn’t a thing we fling out of ourselves, only to attach to another person in the hopes of some….I don’t know...result. It has nothing to do with action or behavior or circumstance. And it has nothing to do with fear either.

It is not about condition. All of that fear and expectation stuff is conditional. It treats love as though it were an “if/then” statement when really is is just the opposite.

The other night I told my boyfriend that I love him for the first time. I think he probably knew how I felt about him already…I’m not a very subtle person…but although I had felt the actual words pushing against my teeth for some time, I had been biting them back.

I’m not sure why exactly. I didn’t want to scare him perhaps, didn’t want it to somehow feel like an obligation,  I didn’t want to embarrass him, I didn’t know what I’d do if it, you know, didn’t go over well.

But as I lay there in the dark silence and felt it circling in my mouth, wanting to be made real in the speaking of it, I got to thinking…this isn’t dependent on him; isn’t dependent on anything really. It is purely and simply how I feel. And if a zillion years of therapy has taught me one thing it is that feelings aren’t right or wrong – they just are.

And you know what? I wanted him to know it. Plain and simple.

While it is a validating thing to be told by someone you are close to that they in fact love you –  and I certainly wanted him to feel that validation –  it was as important that I validate myself; that I accept the emotion by giving voice to it. Yes, heart, it is perfectly alright to feel what you are feeling.

Suddenly, swallowing it back seemed to me as though I was telling myself it was a thing to be hidden. And if you know me at all, you know I’m a cards on the table kind of girl. So why had this card been so different? I had no answer.

I realized it wasn’t as much about whether or not he was “ready to hear it”, as it was about the fact that I was ready to say it.

My mom always said to never, ever, EVER say the L word first. And that is a direct quote by the way, she was not a big proclaimer of love, it was always the L word. Toward the end of her life that changed, as it often does with people face to face with mortality, but her “rule” always stuck in my head. And amazingly enough I have abided by that rule.  I will say it back if I feel it, but I have never uttered it first.

Her message was that there is too much risk involved in saying it…at all, let alone first. Once you say you love someone, they can hurt you in all kinds of heinous ways. It’s like rolling over and exposing one’s soft pink underbelly and hoping that the bearing of teeth that results is a smile and not the show of fangs before evisceration.

No disrespect to my mother, but I don’t buy that line of reasoning anymore. Love is something entirely new to me now. It isn’t risk. It isn’t a means to an end. It’s not, “I love you. You love me too? Great. Phew, glad that’s over with, now let’s move on to X and Y and then blah, blah, blah, Happily Ever After”.

Love isn’t relationship, per say, it is relating. It is a verb not a noun. It moves; it is a continuum. It changes. It is not a thing of certainty…andwe want it so to be a thing of certainty and security in our society.

But there is no real security or predictability in life – everything is always in a state of flux or growth. Life flows. Love does too. Love isn’t possession or attachment or a condition or an end point…it’s freedom.

No conditions. Love me too, or don’t. That information is not going to alter what I feel.

My mum had her analogy about when you “just know” about a person being the one, remember that? Well, I have an analogy of my own for you too now I think:

Love is like breathing.

There is no, “should I take this breath?”, “what will happen if I exhale?”, “what if the air is cold and it hurts my lungs?”, “I hope I don’t look foolish breathing”, “is this the right time for me to breathe?”

You don’t think about it…there are no prerequisites for breathing, no conditions…you simply do it because it is a natural part of being alive.

Just like love. Love is an outpouring of your bliss, it is the opening of your heart. It is the sharing of the song of your very being! And sharing feels so joyful to us – and so we share.

Sharing for sharing’s sake and with no other motive. Not for any reason other than because it feels so damn good!

Exhale…bliss.  Inhale…joy.

Perhaps it isn’t love that is so different now; perhaps it is me. But either way I can say this, let go of the fear, quit over thinking it…if you love somebody tell them. Maybe they’ll look at you funny, maybe they’ll run screaming in the other direction, or maybe you’ll discover that they love you too.

Does it really matter? I submit that it does not. Love because you can’t not. Because loving is a gift you give yourself and to all the world, really. Love because you’re alive! Don’t worry about it. Just feel it.

And by all means ENJOY it.

Always Remember

This is going to be a weird, rambly one so get a glass of wine, sit down and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

About four months ago I got off Facebook. I simply had enough. I’m not hugely into social media anyway but one day I just hit event horizon with people who thought, “running to the store for tape” was worthy of announcing to the world, endless game invites, angry people trying to make passive aggressive statements via status updates and the like. So I deactivated myself and never looked back.

An interesting byproduct of this is now and then one of my friends will text me saying something along the lines of, “Hey why did you un-friend me?” or “Haven’t seen you post on FB for a while, are you okay?”. These almost always come from a guy because after all, when last we were on Facebook, Zoe’s status said “single”.

A brief text conversation will ensue that invariably ends up with them asking whether or not I’m with anyone and, when I say I am indeed dating someone **poof** their sudden interest in how I’m doing evaporates.

I tell you this as a mere preface to the real point of this post. Which really is coming very soon, promise.

Today I got one of these texts. This one went further than usual, past are you dating anyone to are you HAPPY dating that person. When I said yes and in fact went on to add that I am actually happier than I have been in quite some time (meaning “generally life-happy”, which was misunderstood to be “as a result of this new guy” happy), this was said…

“When it all crashes and burns, boy are you gonna be a hurtin’ unit.”

Not if…when.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, dick cheese.

Of course, the unspoken sentiment was something along the lines of, “boy are you gonna be hurting…and therefore one step closer to maybe giving me a shot even though normally you wouldn’t let me into your pants if I were the last man on earth.”

However, annoying the exchange was, dick cheese is technically not wrong, as all of my relationships to this point have in fact ended. This  got me to thinking and, although I hate to give him any credit for a salient point, I realized he was probably right.

If my boyfriend called me up tomorrow and said he was done, I would be completely obliterated. My humpty dumpty heart that I spent the last few years so carefully putting back together again would no doubt be pulverized into a a zillion indistinguishable pieces by such a thing.

But here’s the important thing to remember:

I’ve been obliteration before. Yet here I am.

Pulverized? Been there, done that, got the tee shirt. More than one if you’re keeping track.  I’m not.  It’s a waste of time & energy to tally heartbreak.

So yeah, dick cheese is right – I would totally be hurting. Hurting isn’t’ the end of the line though, because while I will readily admit that my fabulous, wonderful, handsome, studly, heroic rock star of a boyfriend certainly CONTRIBUTES to my happiness on a daily basis, he doesn’t cause it or control it.

I do that.

Yep, the real point of this post.  I know right?

Happiness…true happiness…comes from within.   Always.  And therefore it is entirely under our own control.  We are, all of us, living lives based on a series of choices that we’ve made, the roots of which are what we believe we deserve.

It is not what happens to us that makes us happy (or sad, as the case may be) it is how we interact mentally and emotionally with what happens. Perception, it has been said, is reality. I agree wholeheartedly with that. It is what we decide to think and  feel about what life brings us (or takes away) that determines our level of happiness. If we are convinced we are somehow unworthy of happiness then nothing and no one will “make us happy”. Not for long anyway.

It’s all up to us.

For me personally, I think all the recent color-loving, perky, upbeat cheeriness stems from two primary series of events and the subsequent growth resulting from each kind of reaching a crescendo together:

1. This may sound counter-intuitive, but coming out the other side of the dark tunnel of losing (one way or another) the three most important people in my life back to back – my husband to divorce, my mother and aunt to cancer – really did a lot to teach me what’s important in life & relationships and what is not.

Losing my husband taught me that even when they commit to you “till death do us part”, shit gonna happen. Maybe it’s shit you can fix…maybe it’s shit beyond your control, like the other person leaving. All you can really do is make the conscious choice yourself to love that person and give it your all each and every day because that’s who you are. You count your blessings for the days that it all works out and if the day should come where it no longer does, well, as long as you’ve stayed true to yourself and remain open to love…you’ll be just fine.

There was a time I honestly thought I would shrivel up and die without that man. And look…here I am, happier than ever. Far from dead, I happen to be in a relationship now in which I feel far more alive than I did back then. Go figure.

No human has the power to break you. Unless you bestow it upon them. Its far less about someone committing to you and far more about you committing to yourself.

Losing my mother & aunt taught me that life is short, precious and at the end of the day not in the least about anything physical or material whatsoever. The things that really matter are the intangibles. All the rest is just crap someone will have to sort through when you’re gone. You really can’t take it with you, so travel light.

My mom, god love her, was very much into her things. Growing up having an elegant home always took precedent to the feeling of a home. She had very expensive taste and was always determined to leave me in a position where I would never have to worry about money. Ironically,  it was because she was so materially focused and lived waaaaaay beyond her means, that I had to file bankruptcy to get through her estate expenses. She may not have left me a fancy house, a status branded car or a pile of jewelry as she had hoped, but what she DID leave me was one hell of a legacy of strength, independence, confidence and grace.

Treasures of far more value in my opinion. Like the MasterCard people say…priceless.

2. My no settling manifesto. At first I thought this was a small thing; just don’t settle. But it is far from small. By laying down the law that, no matter what, I positively will not settle for just any relationship ever ever again, what I actually did was reclaim a bunch of my power and give a major shot of rocket fuel to my self-esteem, without even realizing I had needed it.

By simply resolving not to settle, I essentially told myself…showed myself…that I value Zoe too much to allow her to be diminished. I essentially walked my own talk; you can tell yourself you think you’re fabulous all day long. You’ve got to take action to prove it. You’ve got to hold out for what you know you deserve.

If you can believe in yourself, treat yourself with love & respect and stand firm in the knowledge of your worth, everyone else in your life will follow suit.

And if they don’t, fuck ’em.

Don’t you worry, dick cheeses of the world, if my slice of tall dark and handsome decides I’m not for him, yeah, it’ll hurt like hell. But if you think that scares me, you’d be wrong.  You’re talking to a woman who fully believes that what you put into relationships is directly proportionate to what you get out, and who isn’t going to let the possibility of being hurt stop her from putting in everything she’s got.

So am I loving my bright colored Filofaxes, walking around in my Little Miss Sunshine shirt, humming pop songs and putting Hello Kitty stickers on stuff? Hells yeah, you better believe I am! And I’m humbled and grateful and ecstatic to be able to share all of that with an amazing guy. But rest assured, I’m still me. This is all coming from me.

Because I make my own happiness.  Every day. No matter what.

And so, my friends, can you.

Deep Thoughts on a Dreary Day

This piece was started some months ago when I was feeling down and lonely. It should be noted that I am neither of those things anymore, happily, but for some reason it keeps calling to me from the “Drafts” folder, wanting to be set free into the world.

Perhaps I shouldn’t publish it. It will probably turn out to be one of those posts that stir up a shitstorm and get me into some kind of trouble, but every time I think about deleting it once and for all, I simply can’t. I put too much of myself into it.

You’d think I’d learn about sharing deeply personal things on the internet. But I never do.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta write…


So, when I was four years old my mother and I came home from grocery shopping one day to find the front door of our house slightly ajar. Not open, mind you, but off the latch. Which it normally wasn’t.

My mother, holding the bag of groceries in her one good arm, pushed the door open with her foot. Apparently it didn’t dawn on her to be concerned that we had been burglarized, or that some miscreant may still be in the house.

The door swung open. Sunlight wafted in, illuminating the arc made by the now wide open door on the linoleum.

The kitchen was empty. The table, chairs and breakfront were gone. The light fixture hung awkwardly, centered over nothing.

It turns out, furniture wasn’t all that was gone.

Confused, I walked to the center of the sunspot, plunked down in the middle of the kitchen and stared at the void, wondering where we would eat supper. Hey, I was four.

My mother strode to the counter, placed the groceries upon it, surveyed the barren room for a few moments, looked down at me and said, “See that? Your father has left you”.

As the implications of those seven words sunk in, the four year old me began to wail.

Daddy was gone.

And he didn’t even say goodbye.

Not to me anyway. Forty-two years later, I’m still not 100% certain about the details of what went on between my father and mother prior to their divorce. Did she know he was leaving that morning? Did he just get out when he knew she wouldn’t be around to fight him about what he wanted to take? They have both told me their accounts regarding the demise of our family unit – and they are entirely different. So either they had wildly differing perspectives, or one of them lied.

A moot point really, because no matter what the facts were, at that moment on a sunny morning in 1970, a seed was planted into the fertile soil of my young brain that I’ve been working for decades to uproot:

Men leave.

I wish I could say that growing into an independent, intelligent woman with a decent amount of experience under her belt has taught me the folly of the  belief that sprouted that day, but life has only reinforced it.

One way or another, every man who has meant anything to me has left.

My father, the grandfather who raised me (dropping dead of a massive heart attack = leaving, to a teenager who had already been abandoned by the only other man in her life), two husbands, and every  serious boyfriend I have ever had, save two.

I’m from the old school camp that, if you love someone you stay and work things out.  So I don’t leave. Probably to my detriment in a lot of cases, but I have to know in my heart of hearts that I have done everything I could (within healthy, functional parameters of course) in order to find peace and move on appropriately. Once I do leave, should it come to that, I won’t ever go back…but it doesn’t happen often, and it never happens frivolously.

Given the example of my parents (and really the majority of my family…most of whom have at least one divorce on the books) I’m not entirely sure how I ended up in that camp.

Perhaps I saw what was going on around me growing up and was compelled to make the conscious decision that my life wasn’t going to turn out that way – which of course it did anyway – despite my best efforts.

I think I’m a pretty good significant other. There’s not much that riles me, I don’t play head games, I’m independent and self sufficient, I’m not a fighter or a yeller, I’ve never banished anyone to the couch,  I don’t want control over a man (his time, his money, who he hangs out with, etc), I don’t have a problem with sports, I’m at peace with porn/strip clubs/boys nights out/bachelor parties/female friends and I have a raging sex drive that leaves most of the men I’ve met in the dust, while at the same time being fiercely loyal and a serial monogamist.

It’s true, I don’t cook…but no one has ever left me stating my preference for take out as the reason.

The only relationship rules I have are these:  honesty, respect (which I am fully willing to earn) and fidelity.  And if you want out, just tell me rather than betraying me. Please with a cherry on top, no more betrayal.

That’s it. Not rocket science really.

Still they go. A lot of them cheat, which I find mind boggling given the fact that, unless I’m seriously ill, I have never rebuffed a partner. More than should, however, just vanish. Stop calling. Go away.

You know me, I love to conduct informal polls, so I asked the breadth of my female friends how many of their relationships ended because the guy just fell off the face of the earth. Not dates mind you…everyone expects a man to say “I’ll call you” after a date here or there and not do it…I’m talking ongoing relationships.

Most cited none. The highest number was two.

I’ve lost count.

One particularly memorable example was a guy I had dated all the previous winter. This is New England, so that’s about 5 months. He dropped me off one night, kissed me goodbye and said, “I love you…we’re going to have a great summer!”.

And he was never heard from again.

I was young (19). I thought he died. He must have, right? Who says they love you and then disappears?

Turns out, a lot of men do.

I ran into him 6 months later, in a bar, with another woman. I went up to him and said, “My god, you ARE alive!”  He had nothing to add.

So yeah, life experience has validated the conclusion my four year old brain came to, many times over.

The question haunting me all of my life has been this: Do men leave…or do they just leave me?

I asked my mother that once. She rolled her eyes and left the room. That was probably supposed to be an answer.

A high school boyfriend that I dated for like five minutes Senior year once told me I was unlovable.   He wanted to trade me in for my prettier cousin and I took issue with the fact that he was doing so on a trip we were all taking together. With her boyfriend there too. Whom I was supposed to agree to “swap” with.  This earned me the title of Unlovable.

Logically, I know he was just a dumb jock who was pouting because I wouldn’t roll over and let him treat me like something he’d scrape off his shoe, and he  said the first spiteful thing that came into his mind.

But every time someone leaves me, his words echo in my head. And I wonder if he was right.

What is it about me that drives men away? Am I too independent? Not enough of a damsel they can “rescue” or bunny rabbit they can chase? Am I too straight forward and low maintenance to seem worth being with?

Is it my penchant for the multiple orgasm?

Or do I, out of some subconscious need to perpetuate an unfortunate dynamic I witnessed in childhood, simply choose mean who are, one way or another, unavailable?

It’s true,  I will run screaming if I sense a guy is a Stage 5 Clinger, and that factors like long distances won’t stop me if I really like someone…well, and I did date that soldier who was about to deploy for a year…

Food for thought.

But I’ve also turned away from situations I knew would never lead to a committed relationship; the one who turned out to still be legally married the entire time we dated, the guy online who said in his profile he was divorced but confessed on our 2nd date to only be separated, the friend who kept hitting on me saying how good we’d be together when I knew he was an utter and complete player. I could go on an on.

So while I have certainly chosen poorly now and again, I’m not quite ready to subscribe entirely to the “I pick men who are unavailable” theory.

I honestly don’t know.

For a long time I was pretty hell bent on having a family. To “do it right” I suppose; to fix the world for that little four year old girl who went from wondering where she was going to eat supper to wracking her young brain to figure out what she did wrong that made her Daddy leave, by raising a child of my own.

That turned out not to be in the cards for me, and instead my path has been about learning  family isn’t necessarily DNA and that I have already raised a child…up off that devastating kitchen floor…and into a woman that I actually like.  A lot.

Still, all I have ever wanted is to have a man in my life that I knew – I KNEW – I mattered to.  Money, power, fast cars, trips abroad, shiny things…none of that means anything to me.

To love and be loved, that is my one simple goal. To become, as the rose became to the Little Prince, “unique in all the world.”  To matter.

Matter enough to be honest to, even when it’s hard. Matter enough to see past the quirks and flaws to the woman who loves with everything that she is. Matter enough to face the world together as true partners.  Matter enough to do what no other man has…

Matter enough to stay.

Day 4 #Happiness

In case you missed it, earlier today I started (and got caught up on) Oprah’s 30 Days of Happiness campaign. Check that out here.

Today was a happy day because I got a new Filofax in the mail. A Compact Finsbury in a beautiful yellow color (review post on that coming soon, promise. I may even try my hand at a video).

The color of the warm sun on a summer afternoon. A color that can’t help but make you smile when you look at it.

It arrived while I was at work and I thought all afternoon about how excited I am to go home and move into it. As I was contemplating how cool and fun it will be to use, I wondered which I would gravitate to more…this one or the raspberry Chameleon I started this compact journey with.

Mind you, I also have a brown Regency and a black Holborn that are new compacts, but those didn’t even make it into the gravitation thoughts.

And it dawned on me.

Color.  I am beginning to love color.

This is VERY new.

And it feels VERY good.

So today what makes me happy is the human capacity for change…and how much I’ve changed recently, into a brighter, sunnier girl : )

My Thoughts on Settling

I can sum them up in one word: DON’T

There. World’s shortest blog post.

Yeah, you wish!

Today one of my friends said, “Sometimes you’ve just gotta give up what you want and settle for what you can actually get”. She was talking about dating.

I think I must have had a look on my face somewhere between disgust and shock because before I could even answer, she went on to comment, “You’ve got it easy…you’re happy.”

Yeah, NOW I am.

But that was not always the case.

Settling. Sad to say, I have done it. I think as women we (the forty-somethings) were somewhat raised to do so in some regards, albeit misguidedly, by a generation of mothers who wanted gracious, lady-like,  “good girls” as daughters. Daughters who didn’t make waves, who could procure husbands, run households, and ultimately become mothers themselves.

When my own mother instilled in me that I should be “gracious at all costs” I’m pretty sure she didn’t actually mean at all costs. She didn’t mean to roll over, to be a doormat, to subjugate my own needs for the status quo. She just meant to stay under the radar, not complain, and do what nice girls do.  Like she had done all her life.

Growing up, whenever I rebelled or spoke up at inopportune times (which was pretty much always), I was met with this phrase: “Oh Zoe, you don’t want to be that kind of girl do you?” And although I wasn’t exactly sure what “that kind of girl” was, I knew from her distasteful tone that it was probably not a good thing to be.

As I came to discover in later years, however, turns out I was one.

I am one.

It took me a long time to  figure out and make peace with the fact that I could be both a poised, gracious lady and a strong woman who stood up for what was important to her all the while. I remember having a conversation with her, adult to adult, over martini’s one evening relating something or other I no longer recall  – that she didn’t find terribly ladylike – and her using the “that kind of girl” line on me. I said, “Mum…if my alternative is caving on what I believe in then yeah, I do want to be that kind of girl.”

She just sipped at her drink, nodded contemplatively and said, “I suppose you have a point there”. She knew; she had done her share of settling too.

I have settled for less than optimal relationships far too many times, and I have also had the deep abiding gut-knowledge that I was with someone who was merely settling for me.

I’m here to tell you, both sides of the settling coin suck.  Settling sells everyone involved short.

A curious thing happens when you settle – you put up this vibrational block to the universe,  so that what you really want can’t get to you.

Like attracts like. That’s not relationship blah blah, that’s physics. If you are occupied with a relationship that’s just meh (for whatever reason…to avoid being lonely, to pass time, to get a booty call now and then,  etc), you don’t allow yourself to be open so that the right relationship can find you.

I see people (both male & female) settling all around me. Unhappy. Unfulfilled. Restless. Keeping their options open. Giving away their power and all the while complaining about feeling powerless.

That is no way to live my friends. No way at all.

At the beginning of this year, I’d had enough. I decided that no matter what, there would be no more settling. Period. Even if it meant being alone for the remainder of my days, so be it.

I sat and wrote down (yes, in my Filofax) what qualities I wanted in a mate. Not frivolous things like physicality or status; deal-breakers. I also wrote down what I felt I had to offer as a partner. Turns out, it’s a lot.

Then I wrote down what I required from a relationship. Sort of like Maslow’s hierarchy of relationship needs. They were simple things, really. Simple but important. And I noted what I was willing to put in.

With my new determination to hold out for what I had outlined, bad date after bad date no longer left me feeling defeated and demoralized. I simply went on dates when I felt like it, stopped dating for a while when I didn’t, and stood firm in the knowledge that I would be perfectly fine as long as I stayed true to myself and what I knew I wanted. What I was capable of having.

Society may eschew the single, middle-aged woman as somehow damaged goods, but I was pretty hell bent that I would not be part of a couple again if it meant being in a relationship that left me wanting. Enough with the wanting already.

I’m sure I pissed some people off with my directness – both in turning down dates with those I knew right out of the gate weren’t going to be compatible, and by politely declining more date #2’s than I can count. But hey, my goal was never to stroke egos…it was to finally find what was right for me.

Happily, I did. It took four months (which really isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things) from the day I laid down the anti-settling law.

In a way it felt like taking a giant leap of faith, just like my favorite Tarot archetype, the Fool. He’s not a fool in that he’s a jester or idiot, rather he represents the spirit in search of experience. He is depicted at the edge of a precipice with an air of insouciance, ready to step off – open and spontaneous to whatever may come. Ready to take a leap of faith.

It’s not a leap hoping you’ll discover you can fly…or even that you will land safely; it is faith in yourself, that you can handle whatever comes to you on your journey.  Ever trusting that whatever experience you have will be of value to you.

The point being to take the journey. And make sure it’s your journey.

So here are, from personal experience, my  tips to begin walking the path of She Who Will Not Settle:

Love yourself first…believe in yourself and be absolutely certain that you are 100% worthy of holding out for what you really want.  You are, trust me on this.  Relationships don’t end because they fail; because you have somehow failed, they end because whatever that person came into your life to teach you (or you them) has been taught.  A string of bad dates don’t mean you’ll never fine someone, they refine you and give you the opportunity to figure out what you don’t want. Sometimes as important as figuring out what you do want. Stop focusing on finding “the one” who will complete you…that’s bs…you are the one;  complete yourself.

Love attracts love. Start with you.

Cultivate happiness in your life. Be grateful. Slow down and find beauty. Every day. What you feel is what you will radiate. Re-frame the things that get you down, look at them from new angles. Find a fresh perspective that will lift you up not bog you down. Feelings come from thoughts. So choose your thoughts wisely. Victims, drama queens (or kings) and Eeyores do not attract upbeat, positive people.

Happiness begets happiness.

Don’t be afraid to play the Fool. The tarot Fool. Give up your fear, open your heart, take the risk, make the leap. You will not regret it, I promise.

Don’t settle; don’t esteem yourself of such little value. Because, in case you didn’t know, you are unique and wondrous and so very, very precious.  I know that if you can find a way to believe that, and put that kind of energy out into the world, the right relationship will respond to your beacon and come to you.

How could it not?

I’m so glad I quit settling. The whole vibe of my relationship now is entirely different than any other before it. Because I’m coming into it from an entirely different place; a centered, truly authentic place. It’s not about being perfect (whatever that even means) or finding something/someone perfect…there is no growth in perfection.

It’s about challenging any negative beliefs you cling to about yourself, shedding your limitations…embracing, once and for all, every bit of who you are. And discovering that it’s someone loving and lovable.

Even if you’re that kind of girl ; )

Mama Always Said…

My mother was one helluva woman. I wish each and every one of you could have met her, I really do. Because once you met her, you never forgot her.

One way or another ; )

When I was growing up, she was struggling with cancer (the cancer that ultimately got her…but she only let it take her on her terms…and it took 40 years), she was running her own advertising business, and she was raising me alone.

She did all this, by the way, with only one functional arm.


So she was too busy with the serious matters of life to give me advice about boys, explain the birds and the bees, muse about falling in love. Stuff like that I had to learn about on my own as I went along.

I know what you’re thinking.  This explains a LOT.

Anyway, Mum always had fine taste and liked a well-appointed home. She enjoyed moving us around a lot; buying houses and redecorating them and then, when she got bored (and was healthy enough) selling them. I suppose this was her modicum of control in a world in which she had so little over her own body.

Often times, all of our furnishings would also be sold off, as they would not fit in with whatever new style she was applying to the new house.

But she had this once piece of art…a sculpture…that she always kept. And no matter where we lived, that statue’s place was the same, on her bedside table.

It was called “The Kiss” (not Rodin’s version) and it depicted a man, standing vertically, kissing  a woman swept off her feet, so that she was horizontal to him. They were only joined by the embrace of their arms, and their lips.

I’m probably not doing it justice with my description, but I’ve searched for a Google image of it and I am at a loss to find it, so you’ll have to use your imaginations.

One day when she was recovering from a round of chemo, I was hanging out with her watching a movie on her bed and I asked her about that sculpture. I was just starting to notice boys and I was curious…was this what it felt like when you fell in love?

She said it was.

I asked if she had ever felt like that when a man kissed her.

She said she had.

I, as yet un-kissed, got goosebumps and pressed her for more.

She was a lady and did not divulge (until she was dying…then I got the whole story…but that, my friends, is a post for another day).

It was at that moment she passed on to me her one and only bit of wisdom where the heart is concerned:

When you meet “the one” you will just know. You will know it with the same certainty that you know you have a nose on your face. There will be no doubt. No question.

And so began my own wait for the moment when I would “just know”.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that we have a single soul-mate; one person who completes us, one and one alone who we are meant to be with. My mother did, but I do not.

What I believe is that people come into our lives (as well as leave them) for a purpose far, far grander than “happily ever after”. They come and they go to teach us things; bring us what we need so that we may grow and evolve and one day perhaps complete ourselves.

Sometimes those gifts nurture us and feed us and we blossom into someone far more glorious for having known them. Other times we are refined as by fire, and at the time we just feel devastated and charred, but gradually we come to realize that in fact the chaff of us was all that was burned away, and now we are stronger.

There was one time in my life that I was kissed and felt as though I was the woman in the sculpture. It was the first time the man who was to become my 2nd husband kissed me.  I thought that meant I had found “the one”. I thought I “knew”.

And maybe I had…maybe he was. Then.  As I said, I don’t believe love is like Highlander – there can, in fact, be more than one over the course of a lifetime.

But here is what I do know: even if you “just know”, we are all still only human. Imperfect, fragile, free moral agents who are all works in progress, dealing with our own issues and walking our own unique paths. Even if you do find “the one”, you or they, or some external factor, or a combination of things, can screw it up and make it end.

I know this because, floaty kiss or no floaty kiss, hubby #2 and I are no longer together. He is somewhere married to another woman, happy and content. I am here living my life, also happy and content.

Truth be told, that feeling of levitation when someone kisses you is probably more about lust than it is about love. Sorry artists, musicians, poets… don’t mean to be a buzz kill, but I suspect a lot of pretty, exciting, breathtaking things are misinterpreted as love when they really have to do with regions a lot lower down than the heart.

Point is, I believe that, just like everything else in life, true love is a process. As we as individuals grow and change, so does what we look for in a mate. So does what we can offer as a mate. I think “just knowing” starts with self-knowing.

Love is not finite. Love is the beginning of the journey…the journey itself…and the destination.

At 46, that’s what the statue represents to me. Not some fairytale-esque magic kiss but rather the feeling that love, this love that you’ve found, is not possession or restriction or rules or dependency; it is the ultimate freedom.

One of the last things my mother said to me before she left this earth was, “It’s up to you now, to carry the torch”.

I knew what she meant…it’s difficult to quantify in a blog post, but it has to do with the light of the strength and spirit passed down from  woman to  woman in our lineage. To keep her alive by passing on her stories, just as she passed on to me the stories of those that came before her. To take generations of wisdom given by our family’s mothers to their daughters; which she made her own, and in turn to make it my own.

I think Mum was right. I think when we meet someone who is right for us, there is a deep, instinctual part of our hind brain that really does spark. Some je ne sais quoi that draws us to them like a magnet. But as much as I enjoy a good kiss, to me there is far more to the story.

All of that being said, what, then, does it mean to me to “just know”? I will hold that torch up proudly and tell you…

…For me it is this

Walking in the door, looking him in the eyes and feeling like I had known him forever. But still feeling my heart pound with the anticipation of meeting him for the very first time.

The absolute gut knowledge that I can be 100% who I am with him no matter what, quirks and all.

Feeling inherent trust. Which is a big deal because I am not what one would refer to as a trusting individual. Especially of things with penises.

Taking my profile off after 4 days of emails and texts because that thing in my cavewoman brain was sparking before I even laid eyes on him.

Knowing that I could give this man what is left of my poor, trembling, bruised heart…now more scar tissue than muscle…and he would cup it in his hands as though it were treasure, and make it all pink and new again.

The fact that I, who no longer sleeps, slumber like a baby safe and secure and impervious to anything bad, when I lay next to him. And when he curls up around me and I hear his breathing change as he drifts off, I know with absolute certainty the meaning of peace.

Being with him is as easy, comfortable and rejuvenating as being alone. And, if able to choose, in any given moment I would rather be with him than without him.

The kind of man he is inspires me to strive to be the best woman I can be.

His neck smells like home…

There isn’t one single thing about him I wish were any different than it is today. There are no “buts” (he’s a nice guy, but…I really like him, but…I could see a future together, but….none of that). I like everything that makes him, him.  Just as he is.

Saying goodbye to him, if it had a sound, would be that of pulling Velcro apart.

When I see him, heck, when I so much as think about him, I smile. The kind that starts by curling the lips and ends by lighting up the eyes.

His presence in my life has reminded me that I can feel, that I can hope, that life really is worth living, that the universe may take stuff away but it also gives us some pretty amazing things too and that I can, in fact, still love.

That I would, without a moment’s hesitation, take on the weight of the world if it meant taking if off of him. I would stand in the midst of the fire hand in hand with him. And I would, by sheer force of will, make it go out.

Because he isn’t merely the nose on my face (to use my mother’s analogy), he is my phone booth; when he came into my life I was but an ordinary woman. Now, because of him, I feel as though I have superpowers. I feel free.

I feel like I can fly.

Just like that woman in the statue….

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