Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

happiness

The Off Parent – Series: love, kids, divorce, humor, release, sex

when you lose everything, love comes into focus

when you lose everything, love comes into focusLet’s take a new approach. Let’s go after local resident and legend Adrian Grenier and see if we can give him another successful show. Let’s feature Austin, SXSW, ACL, Barton Springs, and Formula 1, all as part of what gives this show gravitas. It’s going to be a must-see on HBO (our first choice), because the heart behind the show is writer and single dad advocate, John McElhenney. (Me.)

How would a tv show bring about real change in the family law that gives dads the old 70/30 shaft and asks us to accept that moms should be given the house, the money, and the kids? That’s the way it was in the ’50s. But the states don’t want to give up the gravy train of child support collections. That’s what makes up 80% of most Attorney General’s budgets. And it’s paid for by the government. The states are incentivized to assign child support to one of the parents and then they make their money based on the “money” they have under management.

If you would like to be an early script reviewer or a pilot test group member, please reach out to me via email here: john.mcelhenney (at) gmail (dot) com.

Enjoy. Blessings.

 


a swarm of letters (a poem)

a swarm of letters
rustles in my head
pulls me up and out
coffee
dogs
kisses
symphony of birds
whistling their hearts out
in choruses that bring harmony to the world
and chaos of of stars
hiding just behind the dawn sky
summoning aspirational dreams
into sounds lining up in my head
and soft clicking of the keys
brushing up against your synapses
in an attempt at communication
love
mystery
desire
and the infinite feeling
of
home

6-26-22


live from nipple (a poem)

Love Lives Here

Love Lives Here

i found myself at home
at rest
and excited at the same time
i could not lose
in the arms of love
so i learned to rest
open
breathe and stretch
streaming now


and she was (a poem)

and she was (a poem)

and she was (a poem)

and she was in front of me
today
like every other day
and today
i stopped
to praise her beauty
i forget sometimes
and her smile
transformed my being
into something more light
her warm embrace
even as I could not see her eyes
summer’s warming zepher
as the sweat drips
she is with me
lifting me
from the inside
a mood of unusual size
blowing through my body
as we dance
on the beach
in the snowy woods above Taos
in the warm waters
of Oho Caliente
and she is always here
somedays
i forget to see

5/12/22


Learning About “I Need You” vs. “I Want You”

image: take my hand

image: take my handWe’ve all got needs. And when we were younger, and wanting children, we had needs that involved another person. And for many of us, that meant getting married so we could procreate and live happily ever after. As the story goes in this modern age, many of us find that “ever after” is not as long as we thought. As plans changed between one of the partners in the marriage, so went the change from “need” to “want.”

I believe my ex “wanted” something different for her life. She had gotten the need for children taken care of, and tried to remain a loving and committed wife, but much of that pretense was for the children. When the desire died for her, whatever the reason, she began to think about wants rather than needs.

And as adults restarting the world as singles, we have to make some clear distinctions between wants and needs. I think I slipped into my second marriage still needing to be healed from my first marriage. I overlooked signs that today would’ve been huge red flags. But I was in need of healing, I was in need of a child-bearing and willing partner. All of those things were instrumental in creating the rose-colored view that allowed me to fall in love with someone who was much less able to express emotions than I would’ve preferred.

We can’t change what happened, but we can learn from our past and try to evolve a bit in our next choices. And that for me has become a distinction between want and need.

“What’s important is, do we want to spend time together? Do we like being together? And then, for me, is this a possible relationship.”

As I have started dating or spending time with a new woman I am more conscious of that distinction. She has some wounding to get through before she’s ready to open up to the relationship idea. That’s okay, I tell her. I’m in no hurry.

And while I mean what I say, what I really am saying is that I WANT her but I don’t NEED her. I prefer to spend time with her than pursuing many of the other goals and aspirations in my life. I want a relationship.

“And if the relationship doesn’t have the potential to be long-term, I’m not really that interested,” I said to her, yesterday.

“That sounds pretty serious. How is that casual?”

I tried to clarify while treading love landmines and old hurts. “I am looking for a relationship. I desire to be “in relationship.” If you were to tell me you were really only interested in friendship, that would be okay, but I’d probably start dialing back some of the time I’m spending with you. I don’t really need any more “do something together” friends.”

She seemed a bit unconvinced.

“I don’t think we need to be together. I want to be together. We are pretty good at being alone. And we already have children, so that’s not an issue. What’s important is, do we want to spend time together? Do we like being together? And then, for me, is this a possible relationship.”

Again I am trying, learning, to parse out need from want. And sometimes I am aware that my needs are getting in the way of my clarity of mind. Lust, of course, is a powerful driver in relationships and coupling. And both of my marriages had a good deal of lusty passion early on. BOTH of them transformed into something less connected and more business-like.

I don’t need a business partner. There may be some advantages to being a married couple, financially, but the unraveling afterward, if things veer off course, is much too painful to repeat for tax advantages. No, what I want is a passionate partner who also wants to be with me.

I want to want her. I want her to want me. And it’s important that she can express that she wants me. And express what she wants.

We don’t need each other, we crave each other. But after the lustful beginning is burned off, there is a lot of just being together that needs to be engaging, honest, and emotional. I needed a wife, today I want a partner. I will keep trying to remember that the sexual chemistry, while critical to the survival of the relationship, has to be backed up by genuine joy and the ability to express it.

I’m ever hopeful.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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*post written April 2014

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image: take my hand, gisela giardino, creative commons usage


5 Early Warning Signs When Dating: Looking for Mr. or Ms. Lovejoy

OFF-e-lady

 

Conducting a rigorous self-examination to help determine my own readiness for dating.

___

Let’s talk about joy for a second. How do you recognize it? When you see a joyful person do you gravitate towards them? Certainly, we can spot the absence of joy a mile away. Steer clear of the hottie in the black dress with the angry eyes and enhanced frown. She’s packing heat of a variety we’re much too familiar with from our 11 years of marriage, six of them happy.

As a divorced adult, we have been freed of all (most) of those constraints. Now, instead of suffering through the bad times, we can just move on. When a few too many red flags come up early in a relationship, it’s OK, at this stage in our lives to just say, “Later. And good luck.”

When you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

The closer we get to our own innate joy (even when alone) the more we are able to recognize the same joy in others. And it’s a process—we don’t emerge from divorce happy and hopeful. We might think we are, we might hit the ground (dating sites) running, for example, but most likely the divorce process, the recovery from divorce, will take a number of years. I’m sorry to break that news to you if you’re just emerging from an unhappy marriage, but relationships, even starting out, take work. And when you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

♦◊♦

For me, it was indeed, several years before I was ready (am ready) to enter into a joyful relationship. Before that time, I was interested in a relationship, but I was not bringing a full and healthy person to the table, so to speak. I was showing up, smiling as much as possible, and telling my happy tales, but I wasn’t able to fake it ’til I made it. I just wasn’t very good at covering up the real emotions that were still wrestling within me. It’s OK. It was actually better for me NOT to get what I wanted. It was necessary for me to spend some time alone, to sort through my regrets and triumphs and decide from a balanced perspective, what I was looking for in “next.”

So, maybe by examining and sharing some of the joyful things I look for in a woman, I can better understand my motivations, and you can better understand the male sex impulse that is often troublesome and misguided. But first, let’s get one thing straight: I am not an apologist for men and their bad habits. I am a thinking and feeling man in search of my next relationship. I’m not clear on what exactly that means, and I am clear that I don’t know. But I do know what I will and will not tolerate in my search for Ms. Lovejoy.

Here are five signs I’ve identified that the man you are looking at is more of a fractured soul than he is letting on.

ONE: He’s too positive.

Everything is great! My kids are great! My ex is great! And my, you are great too! I’m so happy I could sing the Pharrell song all day long. I’m the most positive person most of my friends have ever met. I just radiate positive energy. “You can feel it, right?” Stand back from Mr. Yes. I’ve been this dude. And while I do profess to have a very positive and happy outlook on life, I know that I can overdo it. I once floundered in a lopsided dating experience, because I was so damn positive I was going to be able to shift it from the friend zone to something more intimate. I was wrong. But even the woman mentioned, “You’re one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.” Yeah sure, I thought, just kiss me then. We never really kissed. And after a few months, I woke up and smelled the coffee. She was not ready for any relationship beyond just holding hands and a sweet peck on the lips at the end of a snuggly evening. Fine, but that’s not what I was looking for. It took me a while to get beyond being so UP. But when I sense it in someone else now, I put up some more awareness filters and look to see if it’s covering up something that’s deeper and unresolved. For me, it wasn’t really about unresolved issues, but I did let a distant dating relationship go on for a long time, thinking my yes-mind was going to convince her to sleep with me. Nope. When the person is too happy, move along.

We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties.

TWO: He’s too accommodating.

“Oh sure, we can reschedule,” I texted her for the third time in a month. We’d not been able to work out the first “hello” date. Each time there was some event that came up. And all of them about an hour before we were scheduled to meet. I was accommodating even after the third, “I can’t meet this morning. Sorry.” But I was too accommodating perhaps, and denying that she was giving me all the signs she was not ready at all for a date. When it’s too easy to move the date, you might be looking at someone who’s desperate. Even though she was resetting and I was accommodating, I was ignoring my own over-accommodating tendencies. And I realize, just as I’m writing this, that she’s a disaster waiting to happen. If she’s reset three times, and within an hour of our meeting … Why do I think she’s going to be a different person in an actual relationship. Um … oops. I’m too accommodating sometimes. I need to move on from this one.

THREE: He’s too eager to listen.

“Women really want you to listen.” It’s advice you’re going to get from both men and women when you start dating again. And the premise is correct. Listening is something we’ve become less and less adept at over the years and with the increasing pace of life and technological interruptions. So slowing down and paying attention to what the other person is saying, IS important. But it can be overdone. When the listening is too animated, too connected, you need to gauge whether someone is being attentive for their own needs or as a strategy. I listened like a therapist. I listened to women complain about their marriages. I listened to them talk about how great their kids were. I even listened to their funny online dating stories. And I listened too much, and too long, when I should’ve ended the “going nowhere” date. But I didn’t. I was trained to listen to women. Almost as a technique to satisfy my marriage, a counseling recommendation, “Just listen. Quit trying to respond before you’ve heard what she’s saying.” Yes, that’s true in a relationship, but in dating, and early dating situations, you need to listen, but do it lightly. When I catch myself listening for overtones and hints, I try to stop. I try to just listen lightly, respond naturally, and just have a conversation. I am not a therapist. And when I listen hard, like I am a therapist, I am really just trying to get you to love me, or to trust me, or to sleep with me.

FOUR: He’s touchy-feely.

I’m a hugger and a toucher. It’s my love language. I express myself through touch. And I feel most loved when I’m being touched. So if I go in for the arm brush too early, be aware that I’m feeling you out for your touchy-feely level. And if I’m too touchy I might be showing my own emptiness or hunger. You might not be ready to be devoured. Are you responsive? Do you recoil when I touch you? (We’re talking first dates here, so either way, it’s OK, but it’s giving me a lot of information.) Do you touch me back? Do you lean into the touch? I can tell a lot from the first intentional touch on your shoulder. Sure, I am illustrating a point, but I’m trying to sense out your touchy-feely scale. Are you a 10 like me? Or does touch/hugging/kissing/sex come with deeper reservations? I admit this is a learned technique. And when I touch you, it IS casual, but I am looking for clues to how you will react later on. I’m not doing it in a creepy or manipulative way, but you need to know I’m doing it. And if you are a touchy-feely person as well, we’re going to hit it off wonderfully. If you’re touch-adverse, I’m guessing you’ll give off these clues fairly quickly.

FIVE:  He makes smoldering eye contact.

When I was in my early, and very passionate, months of trying to date, I tried to convey my seriousness and earnestness with my dark and smoldering eyes. I wasn’t trying to affect them. I was just peering out of my very emotional eyes and I wanted you to see and notice how sensitive I was. How deeply I felt things that you were saying. And how deeply I wanted to drink you in. That hunger is evident in the eyes. My pools of reflection were deep, and I thought I was showing my deep feeling. What I was doing was using my “honest feelings” as a way to hook you. I’m not sure how well it worked, but it didn’t ever really result in the date I was looking for. But I was deep, deep, I’m telling you. When you see an infinite and sensitive soul in your date, you might sit back a bit and see how desperate that searching feeling gets. Being a pussycat, I never pounced with this dark killer instinct, but I knew I was not 100% ready for what I might get had I leaped into the frenzy from this wounded place.

♦◊♦

What’s the Solution?

Now, most of these things are not tactics. They are simply how I am in real life, only exaggerated about 10X. I do have deep and sensitive eyes, but I shouldn’t really be lasering you with them on the first date. When I’m doing that I’m too hungry, I’m too aggressive, I am too enthusiastically in pursuit of you. And asking me to back off is going to give me the signal and information I’m looking for anyway. When the chemistry is right between us, it’s possible that these clues, or tells, are going to resonate between us. That’s happened a couple of times. And while none of them turned into the long-term relationship I am ultimately seeking, I learned a lot from every experience.

And really, that’s the message I want to get across. We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties. The world has changed quite a bit. And our expectations and what we will and will not tolerate have changed quite a bit as well. I am aware of my tendencies towards obsession or over-thinking. When I am free of these habits I am more confident that I am actually ready to try for a relationship again.

Be aware of your seeking patterns and when they are out of balance, or overblown, you might dial back your intensity a bit and examine what’s going on for you. In my case, when I find I’m hyper-extending any of my dating superpowers, I try and spend some time not dating, so I can recenter on my goals and needs. With a date in sight and the potential for sexual intimacy, I’m less able to make rational and self-centered decisions.

When I am clear, I can make rational and appropriate decisions. When the chemistry is ON but the warning signs are also shining bright, I can walk away from the temptation. I don’t want surface relationships. I want whole relationships. Or a single whole relationship, that’s my ultimate goal, one relationship. But I’ve got a long way to go before settling down. And I promise I won’t settle for less than awesome.

When you’re dating again after divorce you’ve got to remember to remain a bit more self-centered. You’re not in this next relationship to compromise. You’re in it for the win. Sure, we’re going to fail, we’re going to make mistakes. But knowing where we play games, or where we accentuate our own desires, the better we can adjust and get more real about what and who we want to be with next.

Sincerely,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest | @theoffparent

*written Aug, 2014

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image: bliss dance, rulenumberone2, creative commons usage


perched (a poem)

the beautiful people at whole foods

the beautiful people at whole foods

once again perched among the beautiful people
and organic zuchinni and body wash
everyone is here
a food party and fashion show
scuffed sneaks costing more than a month of groceries
it’s high time in mecca
wellness and beauty
wine and craft beers
have taken center stage here
and today
finally
i am not seeking more than a thrill
and a pint of ice cream
made of air, cream, and sugar
the gourmet in me
knows that mac and cheese
is fancy or particularly healthy
but here
snaking through the aisles
with the scent of sandalwood
chanel and cut citrus
following a whimsical idea
towards the grain-free breakfast cereals
and a moment arrives
awareness of my own boredom
there is nothing i need or desire
i am complete
satisfied
and loved
the view is interesting
yet holds no promise

4-18-22


Entering the Church of Kisses

[I really don’t want to write this post. I don’t want to go where I know it’s going. I’m sad. I’m conflicted. I’ve met someone, who’s SO CLOSE. I’ve also discovered that I have got a bias.]

A new awareness: Kissing maybe as addicting as sex. And though we have not taken any clothes off, GF 2.0 and I have moved quickly into something resembling intimacy via extended kissing time. I’m not sure I’m any more clear-headed than I was with GF 1.0 when we entered the bedroom with abandon on date number two. But when she’s misty-eyed and smiling at me and the oxytocin is flowing I’m not so sure that I’m making wise decisions.

She’s the one who “slowed down the runaway train” when she let me know, the first time at her house, that we would not be ripping out clothes off. I was relieved. I had been having similar thoughts just an hour before when we were in a massive kissing session in a park by the river. I’m not sure my process was the same, but my internal question was, “Do I want to do this?” I was tired. I had been up since 4 am on some creative jag, and I really wanted to go home and take a nap.

She suggested we go to her place, and take a nap, and then see where we might want to go from there. It was an exhilarating moment. And one I was not sure I was going to be able to control, once we got to a cool, dark, and private place. And as the kissing heated up in her wonderfully fluffy and inviting bed, she gave me the brakeman’s warning. I was happy to agree. I didn’t really want the momentum to propel us into sex to quickly, but my Pavlovian brain was revving up, and I knew the discipline would be difficult without her compliance. She took the lead. And the kissing got out of control for 30 minutes or so, safe in the knowledge that we had agree on not sexing it up.

It was wonderful. And the pause gave me some time to reflect, even filled with desire, on the goals I had for my next relationship. We had been talking around a lot of this information, thus far, during the afternoon.

I restated my relationship must haves: 1. able to express deep emotions; 2. comfortable with physical closeness; 3. sexual chemistry; and my new addition 4. adoration. We covered some, “What happened in your past relationships?” And “What went wrong in your marriage?” She had never been married.

And kissing her deeply on her bed, fully clothed, I was closer and closer to infatuation and lust that comes from newness, and the exhilaration of experiencing something new. Maybe, just maybe, coming closer to finding a next relationship.

BUT… something happened. Two things happened. And the pause, the delay at rushing into the sexual tunnel of love, might have saved us both a lot of heartache. (It’s not done, yet, I haven’t talked to her, but she’s on her way over here in an hour.)

The first awareness is the most uncomfortable. I am ashamed to admit it. In all that IS right with this woman, all the excitement, energy and good communication, I cannot get over her weight problem. My friend said, “Does she know she’s overweight?” Of course. She’s talked about control and just last night, in a kissing fest, she mentioned getting new jeans and being very happy with her new style.

But laying back on the bed, I was holding her feet, I couldn’t suppress my need to be elsewhere. I’m sorry. I’m guessing this will generate some ill will. And I’m sure she’s not going to be happy when I talk to her about not being ready to move on in our relationship. She will be gone. And again, I’ll be alone. And my church of kisses will collapse back into silences. But I know that’s where I need to be.

Girl #3 met me for coffee yesterday as well, and it was clear that I could make a case for her, she wasn’t that engaged or connected. She was a bit flighty. I think I recall this trait from when we knew each other 15 years ago. She was attractive to me. She fit many of my desires about intellect, fitness, and a full life of her own. But I couldn’t really penetrate her ditzy fog. It wasn’t that she was ditzy, but it seemed that she liked to play ditzy, as an excuse for forgetting something, or not wanting to explore some topic of conversation.

Back to my priestess of kisses. I cannot lead her any further down the road of excitement. She’s been sharing me with friends. And I would ALMOST rather give her some more time, but really I’m giving myself more time to NOT deal with it. The further we walk into the church of kissing the harder it is going to be to leave without a sacrifice.

So… PAIN PAIN PAIN, I’d rather do almost anything other than hurt someone.

OH, the other awareness that came from this journey down kissy-face lane.

WHAT IF, she had fallen physically within my range of comfort? What if the girl who was so delightful turned out to be a real possible “match?” Without kids of her own, she had very little to do other than want to be with me.

Am I ready for a devoted girlfriend who wants to spend endless time with me? Isn’t some of that what we are looking for?

But what about the nights I just wanted to read or get in bed early? What about the times I really just need to work… Even with GF 1.0 there was a bit of a struggle when I said, “I’m really busy, can we get together tomorrow instead?”

So how is that going to work? What if I got exactly what I was hoping for? The FOUR TRUE requirements, and she wanted to be with me. And then she REALLY wanted to be with me. What then?

My friend said, “She needs to have a rich life all her own. So she is not so dependent on your schedule and your activities.”

I floated the idea, “What if what I want is really just a lover?” But I know that is not the solution.

What I learned, yesterday as I was contemplating this woman who REALLY wants to be with me… was I actually have to define some of my desired time constraints as well. So you mean, even after all this, all this work to FIND SOMEONE, you also have to negotiate time and schedules?

And of course, the concept flashed across my mind, “It would be the end of The Off Parent.”

I laugh now. Hardly. But the focus and dance of this story would change dramatically.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

*written April 2013

Resources:


Losing Everything in Divorce; Learning to Carry On

OFF-home

Can a man survive without a home? Without a job? Without his family? Divorce often feels like the end of your life. And, of course, it is the end of life as you have known it up to that time. Post-divorce life is very different for everyone. And some of the life-threatening blows, may become less severe as time goes along, as water under the bridge continues to flow.

The first death-blow for me was losing my house. Of course, it was a lot more than a house. The house we created for our family was filled with our hopes and dreams. It was the physical manifestation of our plans as a couple with kids on the way. We bought the house for our future family. And everything we became in the years within the house was our family history BD. (before divorce) As a symbolic loss, a man’s house is very important. The money, the commitment, the work that went into buying and maintaining the house… it was the only home I knew for my family. Walking out, or being asked to leave, was the first life-threatening loss in a long series of future losses.

If I want to have a place to live, it requires a much higher salary base. As long as I have the BIG JOB I can have a place to live and pay my child support.

Can a man survive without a home? As a single dad with the Standard Possession Order, it is possible to survive for a while without a home. For me, I was able to find shelter at my sister’s house. I was homeless but I had shelter. I was even able to have my kids on my weekends. And we made it work. But it was not easy.

A few of the intangibles you lose when you lose your house goes beyond the material goods. Sure there are a lot of “things” that you lose, that you wouldn’t even know how to ask for, but there is so much more to the loss. For me, I lost my neighborhood, full of green belts and parks, and home to the tennis club where I played three times a week. The dream that we had created was working for me. And now it was lost.

Can a man survive without a job?

The second death blow. This one is tougher. With today’s economy, this struggle for solvency is much more difficult than I remember it ever being in the past. Of course, now I have an additional $1,500 a month in expenses, and that puts even more pressure on my employment. And, if I want to have a place to live, it requires a much higher salary base. As long as I have the BIG JOB I can have a place to live and pay my child support. But when things get even a bit tight, something will suffer.

As things went for me, I was lucky. In a few months of living with my sister, I got another BIG JOB and felt like I was off to the races of picking my life, as a man and father, back up. Of course, I want a home for my kids. And of course, I want my ex-wife to be able to afford the home I left. I want them both. And I am willing to work to support both dreams. So off I went, on my new job and I immediately set out to buy a new home for myself and my kids. It was a right of passage. I needed to establish another home. I needed a place for my things again.

And things were good for a few months. I got my home, I got my kids in my new home. We swam at the nearby lake, we jumped on the new trampoline, we became a family, a single-dad family, once again.

Today, I am without a home. I am without a job. And I am surviving on goodwill, guts, and hopefulness.

But things changed, and my employer changed their business model and eliminated my position altogether. And six months in, on my new mortgage, I was jobless again. And for a while, I was able to make ends meet by cashing in my retirement funds, and my savings. And I landed some contracts and some project work. And I made my payments and my mortgage as best as I could. And for the next year and a half, things lurched along with some sacrifices and some drama, but for the most part I was able to say on top of the money situation.

And things changed again.As my primary contract changed my billable hours, I saw that I would be late paying my ex-wife on the child support. I contacted her to let her know what was going on. And we were okay for the first month. However things did not get better with my work. And the loss of hours was not immediately replaced.

It was in the second month of my delay that my ex-wife began threatening to turn it all over to the Attorney General’s office. I asked her to reconsider. She pressed. We devolved into angry exchanges over email. We were both sure that we were right.

In the end, she did turn all of our financial details over to the AG’s office. She had some reason. She was doing the best she could for her family, I suppose, but it was very hard for me to reconcile her actions while continuing to cooperate on all the parenting tasks. We agreed that the money fight should not affect our parenting. And we did okay with that.

But when I lost my steady income, or it dropped to an amount lower than my survival rate, I did not have any backup funds, I had no safety net.

In the end, I was unable to replace the income loss from my main work contract. And I was unsuccessful at supplementing that income enough to get caught back up on my mortgage or my child support. And now with the AG’s office putting the credit screws on me, I was unable to refi or file for restructuring bankruptcy. I lost my house. Well, I got to sell my house, but it was not what I wanted.

So now, I’m homeless again. And I have this same choice to make. I can go for the BIG JOB and make enough money to have my own place and support their mom in keeping our old house. Or I can fight in the courts, for 50/50 parenting, what I wanted in the first place, and reduce my primary expenses by $1,5oo a month.

Today I am interviewing for the BIG JOB. And I am hopeful to return to full employment in the next few weeks. And I will begin making my child support payments as soon as that is possible. But today, I am without a home. I am without a job. And I am surviving on goodwill, guts, and hopefulness.

Sincerely

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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*written June 2014

As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.

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image: welcome, glassess eyes, creative commons usage


just for a second (a poem)

breathe

breathe

walk outside right now
stop stop stop the rush
of this day and moment
and go breathe a cloud in
take a pause to collect
the pieces of your soul
scattered out along the rush
of this work
this adventure
this life

you know
there is no other chance
this is the big show
you should not be waiting
for some sign
if you are
this poem is the sign you were waiting for
don’t wait
go outside
stop driving so hard and fast
open yourself to the softness of an afternoon’s heat
to the smell of the cedar
even as it makes your eyes water
give space for god
or your higher power
to catch up with you
don’t hurry on
don’t interrupt
just listen to a few good deep breaths
IN
and
slowwwwly
OUT
pause
repeat

this break brought to you by war
nearby deaths
tornadoes touching down next door
and all that is sacred in our lives
but ignored
escaped through entertainment
missed with resentments and anger
this break
is the beginning
the opening
for your change to happen
now
right now

in this second
with each word of a poem
you are opening to the pause
the great pause
the slow inhale and exhale
the modern recovery act
i am only here as a friend
a lover
a colleague
in every interaction i hope to encourage
champion
and cheer
for your success
as we both learn to slow it all down
this work/life balance destination
and do it now
do it even if we don’t feel it
do it because it will take effect
more powerfully than any antidepressant
more than sex, or chocolate, or money
the pause
the connection with another person
may be the most two vital practices on the earth

with these words, these strokes of keys on a laptop
i am joining with you
calling for your moment of connection
with your inner voice
your breathing
and your tuning in and dropping out
of the furious pace of your world
please pause
please take the breaks you need
please celebrate those around you
at every moment
and know that i am with you
in this journey to aim our hearts
closer to the beloved
i am here
you are there
we
are
in this most sacred
now

3-23-2022


How Do We Gain So Much Energy from Love? Agua y besos

aqua y besos

aqua y besosI can see how people become addicted to the rush of new relationships. There is a heady mix of lust, hunger, newness, and surprise that perks up your energy and hopefulness. And if we can stay on the positive side of it, we can use it to smash through some of the chains that might be binding us to our old relationships. Love heals all wounds, is a saying that you don’t fully understand until you are back in that gravitational pull of the heart.

The newness and novelty is not love, is it? The fresh new body, never discovered or explored is not where love lies, is it? What is in the air when we have begun to lose our despair and look out towards another person with that glow? What causes the glow? And if we could sustain it, like long-distance lovers, could we stay there in the honeymoon phase forever?

And the flip side, when did it start seeping out of our failed marriages? Do the mundane tasks of work, child-rearing, bill paying, maintenance, and chores, wear away the golden glow of our lovers? Is there something we could do now to avoid that letdown?

Sex seems so new when you’re with a new partner. There are different bodies, different styles, different smells, and frictions. Sex is wonderful. And sex can be… oops… just sex.

Probably the easiest thing to do would be to protect ourselves from it. Avoid it. Stay in the surface, the sex, the passion, and the fleeting thrill of the new relationship. Once divorced, we are released from the tether and toil of our past, it feels like it’s time to sow our wild oats. And I have a few friends that are truly at peace with sleeping with several partners a week. Until they hit upon one who actually begins to make them think about a future together. “She was great,” my friend said. “But she really started to need me, and I’m not ready for that.”

So, here we are, adults. We often have children and responsibilities from our previous relationships. And we are ready for a little adventure. Why not? We’ve certainly earned it.

Sex seems so new when you’re with a new partner. There are different bodies, different styles, different smells, and frictions. Sex is wonderful. And sex can be… oops… just sex. And after a few of those, I was not interested in “just sex” anymore.

When the mist of desire begins working its magic again, you learn how much you have missed really having that connection with someone. The thought of them makes you smile. The txt while they are away can make you feel connected. And suddenly, uh oh, you’re into it. You want more. You’re not ready for what’s next, you don’t care what’s next, you just want to keep the rush of warmth going.

Allow time with this other person to be part of what you look forward to, but don’t put all your hopes and dreams on them. Right now you have agua y besos, and there is no better place for you to be.

How can you open up to the risk of love if opening up to it means the possibility of losing it again? And it is the loss of this magical feeling that is the most painful. The contrast of what your heart is feeling now vs. what you were dealing with the last few years of your marriage. It’s almost enough to make you not want to go there.

But some of us are addicted. The romantic notion of love is real and alive. The hopefulness of a relationship that is durable and sustaining, is something we are prepared to strive for. Certainly, I am overthinking this, as I lean back into the casual joy of being with someone who is wild about me. And feeling those feelings again, of putting a life together that is open and vulnerable to another person.

Water and kisses are enough in the early stages of bliss. But in the long haul, you’ll need to find sustenance and shelter from the storms that are always on the horizon. Better to weather the hurricanes with a partner, you think, as long as that partner doesn’t betray me the way my previous partner did. And there’s the rub. You’ve got the old feelings of loss and anger. You’ve got these new feelings of heat and passion. And somewhere in the middle is the reality of life.

We can’t stay in the “agua y besos” phase forever. And would we really want to? I suppose the serial daters have an addiction to the new high. But I’ve never been able to sustain my passion when there was no more than just sexual attraction.

Feeling the hopefulness coursing through my veins again, I know that my reality is skewed and that taking it slowly is the best course of action. Too frequently we can get swept into decisions based on this wonderful glow. Perhaps that’s how our last relationship ended up in divorce. But not to strive, not to believe that it is possible…

Slow down. Take it easy. Stay in the present moment and enjoy this feeling. You don’t have to figure out the plans. Allow time with this other person to be part of what you look forward to, but don’t put all your hopes and dreams on them. That’s too big to hold. Right now you have aqua y besos, and there is no better place for you to be.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*written May 2014

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image: first kiss?, John Goodridge, creative commons usage


Unadulterated Love: What Is Joyful Sex?

OFF-joyfulsex

When you’ve felt the raw power of sexual joy there is never any going back to ‘blah.’

Sex is often a mixed up dance between two people. But sex begins with yourself. And ultimately, your sexual joy begins with your own relationship to something inside you. Sex, and sexual dysfunction, is 90% in your head. So when sex is off, either between you and yourself, or you and others, there is some examination that might need to take place. (I’m no doctor, and I have no understanding of E.D. or other medically related sexual issues.)

I can count on one hand the joyful sex partners I’ve had in my life. Some were even joyful with a side of obsession, and that’s not really good, but the sex was amazing.

You want joyful sex, you explore and ask for a joyful partner. And when the chemistry is ON you can imagine seeking ever deeper levels of connection with this partner.

If you agree with the idea that sex between committed partners is a critical part of a healthy relationship, you can begin your quest: first, to find the joyful sexual partner within yourself; second, to find another joyfully aware sexual partner to explore core sexual satisfaction.

I don’t mean to sound like a tantric sex practitioner, I’m not. (And when someone does claim to be, as Sting did a while back, I want to run the other way.) And I don’t really profess to understanding all the nuance of what goes into sexual chemistry (one of the great mysteries of life). But, what I do claim is my commitment to understanding my own sexual partnership goals and using those guidelines to frame part of my “nothing but 100%” commitment to finding my next relationship.

Ten tenants of my joyful sex hypothesis.

  • Much of what happens during sex is very personal (inside an individual’s mind)
  • There is a physical joy that comes from finding a connected and aware partner
  • Even the prospect of sex can awaken all kinds of wonderful chemical changes in the human body
  • Casual sex can contain elements of joy and bliss, but true joyful sex, in my definition, requires two committed partners
  • The discovery and unlocking of your partner’s sexual potential is a lifelong quest (otherwise monogamy would become boring and lead to infidelity)
  • Is is possible to get too interested and rapt in your partner’s sexual pleasure
  • When you are in the “flow” of sex you are experiencing a micro-nirvana
  • When sex deteriorates in a relationship it is an indication of deeper communication and commitment issues
  • The free play of joyful sex is as necessary as a good sleep, once you’ve experienced it, you crave it, and are somewhat restless and unsatisfied in life, without it
  • Sex is not everything, but it’s a lot

And I have a few ideas about how to discover your partner’s inner joy while having sex.

  • Always approach sex more as play than work or a goal-oriented task (the orgasm is cool, and fundamental, but it’s not always necessary for joyful sex).
  • Sex can be fast and furious (a quickie) or long an luxurious (afternoon delight: bath, massage, sex, nap).
  • One-sided sex is fine, and nice if you can get it. (This is one I’m still working on, how to just lay back and enjoy an event just for me.)
  • Sexual energy can be shut down or limited by stress, alcohol, drugs, hunger, exhaustion, worry about work, hyper-focus on the orgasm of either partner.
  • Every sexual encounter with another person is an opportunity to unlock some new pathways of sexual joy, both your partners’ and your own.
  • The more playful and unscripted sex can become, the more flexible and adaptable your relationship becomes.
  • Core sexual satisfaction soothes over all kinds of frustrations and disappointments in life and in your relationship. You still need to talk about any problems in your relationship, but when the sex is “worth it” you will be a better listener and be more committed to the necessary negotiations to keep the other aspects of your relationship healthy.

I don’t know that it is much more complicated than that. You want joyful sex, you explore and ask for a joyful partner. And when the chemistry is ON you can imagine seeking ever deeper levels of connection with this partner.

If you can find your way to playful sex you can find your way to the inner joy of sex that just might give you a longer life.

Even after 11 years of marriage and the duties of becoming parents to two lovely kids, I never lost my joyful appetite for my wife. Somewhere, she began to pull away and shut down her joyful sexual being. It was hard for both of us. But, as bad as it got, I still remembered and sought out the joyful sex I had imprinted between us. I was not willing to compromise, even if I was willing to delay and sublimate my desire while she “worked through some stuff.” When she didn’t return to our sexual bed for weeks, sometimes months at a time, I know there was more going on than sex.

What I understood even in the end of our relationship is my connection to her had been 100% strong and pure. And it did not diminish over time, until some other aspect of the relationship was failing.

As I move forward in my quest for another joyfully connected partner, I know the sexual chemistry is also a non-negotiable. And it’s really more of an attitude than a technique or prowess. If you can find your way to playful sex you can find your way to the inner joy of sex that just might give you a longer life. And a longer life with more joyful sex… well… that may be an enlightened path right there.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written Oct. 2014

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image: kiss, pedro ribeiro simões, creative commons usage


What Boomer Women Want In A Man – Huffington Post (My Response)

she is nearby - poetry

this is me creating, believing, soloAnn Brenoff  (a Senior Writer for the Huffington Post) wrote a very cool piece called Love Over 50: 20 Traits Boomer Women Want In Their Next Lover. And I was excited and intrigued by the introduction to the section (Post50) on the Huffington Post and the courageous woman who was going to *finally* give me some tips on what I was trying to figure out.

And while many of the traits are no-brainers, she has a casual and carefree list that feels inspired and somewhat guiding. My top favorites include:

  1. Knows “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” is a trick question.
  2. Baby talks to the dog when no one is home (the dog confirms it).
  3. Understands plumbing, both mine and the sink’s.
  4. Assumes he is meeting my plane at the airport.
  5. Always drives, always pays and never brings up doing either.

The list is well worth reading. But the fun really starts in the comments where the fireworks begin. (Quite a few of them regarding my personal lightning rod, #5 on my list above.) And then HuffPo published a well-respected man’s response. Ken Solin wrote this piece, Love Over 50: 20 Traits Boomer Men Want In Their Next Lover and the response came off as pretty lame. It was a response, rather than a real attempt at rejoining or answering Ann’s initial post. And according to his Redux post, it garnered over 1,000 comments.

But my problem with Mr. Solin’s list is the tone of the entire thing. I’m sure he was trying to be cute, and smart, and funny, like his female counter-puncher, but his language turned me off immediately. And while I went back to his list several times to try and understand how much was joking and how much was “good-old boy” lingo that really comes out of Mr. Solin’s mouth.

Here are the phrases that really soured my opinion of Mr. Solin’s expertise at voicing us “men’s” traits and qualities.

“A “juicy” honey…” “A sweetheart…” “An in-shape heartthrob…” “A sweetie…”

I couldn’t make it past his language. The part of  Ann Brenoff’s piece that was missing was the poetry. She left the traits raw and unsullied with these colloquialisms. The peak example is this masterfully ripe “trait” from Mr. Solin.

“A “juicy” honey, with a sexual edge, who knows that Boomer sex is less about piston-pounding and more about passion.”

Okay, so… While his point is good, a passionate lover rather than a wham-bam type, his twist is all wrong. Try calling a woman, at any age, a “‘juicy’ honey, with a sexual edge” and you’re about to get a slap or a drink tossed in your face as she waltz’s out the door. It’s so… So… It’s even too infuriating to describe how wrong this statement of male desire is.

Mr. Solin gives us a blanket disclaimer at the end of his list with, “I’m not suggesting that this is every guy’s wish list, just mine.”

And yes, Mr. Solin, in this article and list you come off as a dick.

The other juicy tidbit of wisdom from Mr. Solin is early on where he share’s this, “An in-shape heartthrob with exercise discipline. I have it, but still need an occasional push out the door.”

Well, Mr. Solin, glad to know your a fit and virile boomer man, but take the swagger out of your “honeys” and “sweeties” and come back to Earth where women would prefer to be called by their names. I mean, at least until the third or fourth date.

Mr. Solin has a nice redux where he opens up about his new relationship with a woman who fits his list: 20 Traits A Boomer Man Wants In A Boomer Woman: Redux and I’m happy for him.

To be fair, Mr. Solin is an excellent writer. A few of his posts have been seminal touch points for me along my journey. I even shared them occasionally with women who I had, or hoped, to date. These two in particular seem to catch Mr. Solin on his game.

Why Boomer Women Are Perfect For Boomer Men < about how our craving for younger, fitter mates might really be sabotaging our chances of happiness.

Dating Over 50: Going Slow Instead Of With The Flow < about how getting sexual too quickly can foul up our healthy relationship intuition.

I’m on this journey too. Perhaps my generational gap, I’m just barely a boomer, might be to blame for why I felt such a revulsion at Mr. Solin’s language in his list piece. I’ve done a few runs at making my own list. And I have been keeping my dick in my pants now for six months. I want the last ONE, not the next juicy honey.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*this post was written in Sept. 2013

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DATING METAPHOR: Two Tails Are Wagging or Neither Tail Is Wagging

the dating metaphor

OFF-bostons

From across a 100-foot divide I can tell if a woman is attractive to me. What? What am I looking at, at that distance? Like a dog, from behind, I can only be keying off her overall ratio (hip-waist), the cut and color of her hair, and what she’s wearing. How can those simple details be enough to get a rise out of me?

And when given more time, and more angles, but with about the same amount of information, how can I work myself up into a lather about a woman who I know nothing about?

And when the cutest woman in the world is sitting across from me, and has already asked it I wanted to kiss her (Here and Now) what is it that begins the turning away? A wag is just an initial blush of arousal. But without it, the arousal may never come. I do believe my metaphor about two dogs meeting in a park is quite accurate in assessing the “wag.”

The Dog Dating Metaphor

Two dogs meet in the park
a. either both tails are wagging
b. only one tail is wagging
c. neither tail is wagging

That’s it. It’s that simple. The quicker we can admit the wag or non-wag the quicker we can get to the next step. Relating. But without the WAG there’s no need to take the next step unless you are looking for a running buddy rather than a mate.

Taking the dog metaphor one step further, I believe we are born a certain type of dog. (I think I’m a Boston Terrier.) That’s how we look, how we behave, and it defines a lot about how attractive we are to other dogs. If you’re a poodle and you’re into Boston’s, we’re in business. If you think Boston’s are ugly, or simply don’t get your tail wagging, there’s not much else either of us can do about it. I’m a Boston: tenacious a bit on the muscular side, and very positive and boisterous.

So, seeing the woman with dark hair from 50 paces is very much like spotting one of my preferred breeds across an open field.

And when I get her to the table, even if she’s my type, and she’s interested, there’s got to be the next part: relating. Does she make my brain sizzle? Is our conversation equally balanced? Does she have more going on in her life than work and the gym? Is there a place to slot me in for some activities?

With the smiling woman, cute as a button, and run-obsessed, is there anything else? Is she working on anything extra? Does she have ambitions beyond having fun when she’s not running or working?

I wonder if I’m only going to be interested in artistic women. As a writer, I need someone else who shares a passion for creative expression. Another person who can appreciate the whim of the creative process can hear, “I’m really hitting stride on this project, can we skip tonight?” and not freak out. If the person doesn’t have that burning desire, what does this mean to them? Does it mean I’m not that interested in her? Does it mean that she is not a priority in my life?

But more than that, what is SHE bringing into the relationship? What passions and creative ideas can she bring into the relationship?

If there’s nothing there. The wag simply becomes a wag. “Wow, a very attractive woman.” Just like the woman at the top of the page. (Happily married, I’m sure < I project.) She is a woman with potential. She’s a breed and fit I like.

We are a lot more like animals than we think. By being closer to my animal instincts and listening to my internal Boston Terrier’s heart and compass, I am steering myself towards a partner with both WAG and SWAG.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Note: this post was written May 2013

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image: boston terrier, creative commons usage


pulled under (a poem)

pulled under (a poem)

pulled under (a poem)

she pressed back towards the surface
the ghosts had released their hold on her legs
once more i was trying to rescue and restore
this is a dangerous mode for any man
and failure would mean death or something worse
loneliness again
loss
hopeless romantic suicide
there is no “fix you” in love
between lovers
we need balance
higher/lower is a trap
and a lie
we are together for a reason
and the lessons we learn
will be important
if we can quiet our own panic
and listen
just to hold
space
for the beloved

healing that comes from being in love
and holding the line between us
as a sacred bond
and agreement
this is how we love
without losing our own
minds

2-16-22


Dating Lessons: Gentle Catch and Release

OFF-catch-release

You don’t want to hurt the people you’re dating, and when there’s not a match you want to be gentle with the let down.

I understand not being ready for a relationship. I understand taking your time getting to know someone.

A recent “potential” emailed me an hour ago that she was canceling our date on Saturday night and putting me in the friend zone. I kept the email because I wanted to be sure I understood her message. Here’s a phrase I’m hearing more frequently, “I like you, but I don’t see it developing into more than that.” Well, at least she let me know. We were really only three “hello dates” and one “I need to give you some feedback” in, so while I’m slightly saddened I’m more curious about the jump out of my boat.

I was asking myself similar questions, about this particular woman. Things like:

  • I like her but there’s no real spark
  • I wonder what she’s like when she’s excited
  • We’ve already had one “feedback” session
  • Wouldn’t something be sparking up by now

But two other moments passed yesterday that had me in the “wtf” zone in my own thinking, so I suppose she was telegraphing her information ahead of time, but needed an email to let me know. Fine.

There was a moment, as we were parting at the end of a third encounter (the one where I’d proposed the date for the weekend) and as I hugged her I noticed there was zero energy coming back from her. Normally there’s a slight buzz, a warm fuzzy, or some joy that comes from the act of hugging another person. As I walked to my car I wondered, “Hmm, that was a bit odd.” We were getting to know each other better, we seemed to be on track towards a date…

Later in the afternoon I grew more curious. I texted her the Unadulterated Love post from a few days ago, as she had asked me to share the link to this blog. So I did. But as I sent it, I started wondering what effect this bold talk about joyous sex might have on our trajectory. Certainly I could have sent her a link to the blog and not aimed her at the sex bits right away. But since we’d been talking in-person about the Love Languages and this was the post that linked to something else we’d been discussing I let it fly.

Later in the evening I sent a “how’s it going” text just to let her know I was thinking about her. And I followed up with

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 4.50.13 PM

Okay, so that’s officially flirting with a purpose. Especially since we’d talked repeatedly about my LL being touch. So I was asking her, so how to you plug into this wacky world of love languages. I guess the underlying question was, “and that hug this morning… Um… What’s that about?”

She responded about liking all the love languages and how they were related to situations. Um, what?

I tried to follow-up, “Most people gravitate towards one or two, but perhaps you haven’t dug into them fully. Or perhaps you are above them, kind of meta.”

She said it’d been 8 years or so since she’d looked at them.

Okay, so you’re embarking on an exploratory journey, and you’re getting to know someone. They pitch out Love Language = Touch or bust as their motto, and you… haven’t checked them out in 8 years? Okay, I’m starting to get a picture here.

I understand not being ready for a relationship. I understand taking your time getting to know someone. And I’m glad she did seek me out so we could have a few of these illuminating conversations in-person, but it’s clear to me she was NOT a touch-oriented person, and as I asked about her love language twice, that was enough to trigger the “not developing” email. I sure am glad I didn’t send her the poem. (easy surrender)

Easy release. And back into the pond for me.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*written in October 2014

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image: fish #3, tim regan, creative commons usage


Online Dating Undercover Revelations: OK Cupid (Pt. 1)

Online Dating: OK Cupid

I did something odd the other day. I paid to be an A-Lister on the free dating site OKCupid. And boy did I learn a few things that I’m now going to share with you. The first thing the A-list does for you on OKC is allow you to narrow your searches by a few more criteria.

a-list search criteria on ok cupid

and if we use the Attractiveness criteria we get this:

ok cupid attractiveness

Now I’m guessing this has to do with the star ratings that people have given the women over time. And my list dwindled dramatically when I uplifted my search to include 5-star women only. I wonder am I a four or five? Or three? Ack.  And the difference between 4+ and 5 was very little. And actually after you’ve done the work of eliminating the “no-ways” from your searches by hiding them, I came up with about 20 potential matches. And of those I had to eliminate half of them for being out-of-my-league or too-pretty to be “realistic.” (See All Types post)

And what about body-type criteria. Here’s my selection, if I used it.

ok cupid body-types

You’d have to wonder about a woman who ranked herself as “used up.” And “jacked” is even a bit cocky for me, and I’m cocky. And what’s the difference in self-awareness in a woman who claims to be Skinny vs. Thin vs. Fit. (Oh, I’d add Fit to my criteria.)

And one of the other criteria offers an interesting twist on the selection process. Let’s say you’re looking for someone who is okay with casual sex, well, you can search for women who’ve answered the casual sex question of your choice. How’s that for dialing it in?

searching for casual sex

And then there’s the stealth browsing mode that offers this screen when you visit someone’s profile.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 11.49.16 AM

that changes when you okay the visit

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 11.49.26 AM

I was wondering how I sent out so many hellos that got not only no response but not even a visit to my profile. It seems that women are much more selective about letting us know they visited. I know that’s where I start when I open OKC. And there has been very little action, even though I sent “hellos” to all 20 – 10 = 10 women who came up in my advanced search. And one woman actually responded at all. We’re meeting for a glass of wine tomorrow.

And that’s really it, that’s the point. Once you’ve secured the “date” let it go. Don’t spend too much energy or time scoping her out, or flirting via messages or texts. It’s often so much fantasy, that it’s waisted until you’ve met. Soooo many times I’ve generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest via message only to find there was ZERO chemistry. So leave your romantic aspirations until you’ve actually met. And when you get a “maybe” you should know it’s really a polite no. When it’s a yes, there shouldn’t be any hesitation at asking “What’s next?” If there’s resistance or apprehension, it’s a no. Move on.

The one thing I’ve come to understand about online dating is this. At least the women on the sites are claiming to be ready for a relationship. And if they’ve expressed some things that feel mutually exciting, cool. But meeting is an entirely different adventure. I exchanged a message with a woman who claimed it only took 4 minutes to know if there was chemistry. She was responding to something I wrote on my profile. And sure enough we’re going to grab our 4 minutes at the end of this weekend. “2 minutes for you and 2 minutes for me,” she said. I like her spunk.

So when you get the okay, let’s meet on X day at X time, give it a rest. Any thing else is too desperate. I’m not sure how it feels from the woman’s side, but anytime I’ve laid any more groundwork after the date was accepted, was wasted energy. Since I’ve had exactly THREE matches total in FOUR years since my divorce.

A friend asked me, “If you like relationships so much, why only three in four years?”

“I was getting my shit together first. I knew I wasn’t healthy and ready for a relationship. I wanted a rescue. And that’s not what I really need. I need a partner.”

Carry on, jump in and get your feet wet. And when she/he says yes, then go meet them. That’s when the sparks can fly. Everything before that is logistics and poetry.

Next, for Part 2, I’m going to dig into OK Cupid’s evaluation of my pictures and share their deep metrics on which pictures appeal to which age groups and types of women. All fun stuff. All fantasy.

New: Online Dating Undercover Revelations: OK Cupid (Pt. 2)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*this post was written May 2014

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Dating Time Out: Swiping Left or Right is Wearing Me Out

kissing a girl

OFF-glider

I’m done with the online forum for a minute. I’m back to rebuild, remodel, retool mode. I think I’ll even take my profiles down for a bit. I had a non-online date become a non-date via email yesterday and I sort of bummed me out. Not that she was an amazing fit, or that sparks were flying all around between us, no, it’s more the idea of dating that’s wearing me out.

I’ve got a new fitness program, that I’m committing to. I’ve got my next musical performance in early Dec. And plenty of kid duties and work duties between now and then. I think I’ll take them down and focus back on the project of building, becoming, and enjoying a better me. The “she” will have to follow.

I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself.

Would I date me, at the moment? I’m not sure. If I take the example from this week as a sample, I’d say yes, I would. The woman was within range on certain qualities, she was vibrant, engaging, intelligent. And on others (touchy-feely, love language understanding, physical closeness) she hadn’t shown any indications of how these things might come into play. And that’s where I knew we had a sticking point.

I know the woman I want to be with will light up when we’re together. In the same way, I light up and cheer at the sight of a new potential lover, the same way I still light up ever so slightly when I see one of my two previous girlfriends. I’m a “happy to see you” kind of person. I don’t need subtle, or introverted, or quiet. I can be quiet. I can enjoy quiet. But a lack of joy comes across to me like a dull color. I need shine and dancing.

I generate a lot of energy and joy in the world. And I’m clear that I tend to blow people off their center, especially if their center is not very well established. I will require a strong partner. Both previous marriages broke down in some ways as a response to my over-abundance of energy and creative drive. It became a competition thing. I didn’t think I was competing, but somehow the woman, both of my previous wives, did.

So I get that. I temper a bit when I’m meeting new people. I keep most of my peacock feathers tucked beneath my non-logo t-shirt. And still, I’m often the person who interrupts, jumps from subject to subject, and if I’m zoned or on a highly productive day, I might miss the person completely. Or I might miss a moment when I should’ve been quiet rather than engaged. When I should’ve had a non-response, rather than a delighted one. This last woman didn’t seem to be able to keep pace. More likely, she didn’t want to.

Again, that’s OH KAY. Really. I hear myself explaining my own type-a, driven, goal-setting, personality. But I’m not apologizing for it. I’m merely saying, this is the way I am. I hope you can keep up, and I’d really like it if you came on the ride.

Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Heading into November, my birthday month, I’ve got no one to cuddle up with. No problem. Not the way I’d want things, but there is a lot of stuff that’s not the way I’d choose it to be, at the moment. Still, I’m not unhappy about my withdrawal from online dating. It’s more of a refocus, again, back on myself and my empire building.

I have many rooms in my house. I am remodeling some. Others I have down, but I prefer to spend less and less time in them. While over here, in the writing and relationship wing, I am constructing an entirely new atrium. I’m done with settling for almost in an online profile. I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself. Each of the projects I am working on requires a certain amount of energy. The date this week was an opening of possibility. As she closed that door, I’m taking the message from the universe (too woo woo, again?) and getting back to my own basics.

Become who I would like to be with. Show my highest form of passion and creativity. Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Switching to glide for a bit.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written Oct, 2014

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image: Hang gliding over Makapuu Beach, peddhapati, creative commons usage

They’re begging me not to cancel my Match.com account.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.11 PM

But when I do, I get a nice message. Almost like an answer. 11/27/2014 will be my 52nd birthday. Gracias Match.com!

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.37 PM

And finally, the Tinder…

tinderdone


she could not be caught (a poem)

girl in paris

girl in paris

just as i remembered her
on the gay streets of paris
i was 19
she was 22
and spoke no english
we managed
in the morning
the eiffel tower visible
through the small steamy window
i had arrived
or
fulfilled a fantasy
and until this photograph emerged
from an old envelope of black and whites
she was no longer an obsession
yet the fires flared immediately
as if i was still a young man
she could not be caught
she said
men had tried
i was different
but wouldn’t slow her down for a second
of course
she was right
the next night
she didn’t show
even though i told her i was leaving
heading off to spain
and on to oxford
for my summer program
stratford and all that
the other photo of her
melted into dust in my wallet
after a few hot months
the next summer

1-17-22


The Self-Regulation of Poetry and Longing

OFF-songwriter

I understood something tonight for the first time. It came about after I wrote a post on depression and the artistic temperament for one of my other blogs. As I was explaining how my art is often a form of self-soothing, I cracked open a tiny window into my own current situation. I’m not depressed, but I am highly activated and in an artistic spurt. Tonight as yet another love poem (or poem of #desire, as I’ve come to call them) surfaced I caught a glimpse of myself, doing my thing. And I noticed the effect. The poem of longing seemed to relieve some of my sufferings. It gave me a lift even as I was expressing my dismay.

In touching the sadness in words I can begin to unlock and feel them in life.

By telling my story, even in poetry, I am giving voice and awareness to my inner voice, my inner pain. I don’t admit my sadness or loneliness much these days. I’m too busy, too creative, too “happy.” But tonight, something in the back story of the love poem signaled from my subconscious creative brain to my rational and self-assessing brain that there was a problem.

Again, it’s a poem. But as I look back on the two books of poems that have come out of this period of my life, I began to understand, tonight, that these were as much a narrative as my prose. When read in sequence, you can see the arc and trajectory of my heart out of darkness and into hopefulness. I even achieved several moments of “love.” Even when the relationship couldn’t hold the feeling, in the poems I captured a tiny sliver of the potential.

Women of potential. My muse.

And tonight, as I was writing this poem, about something as simple as noticing a woman’s dark shiny hair, I was also able to hear a bit of the ache that I long to medicate with a relationship. And barring that, a love poem.

In the act of desiring, in the writing of a romantic epistle, I am releasing some of the tension I feel. In touching the sadness in words I can begin to unlock and feel them in life. Again, I’m not sad, but I’m lonely. As creative and inspired as I am, my seeking is consistent and unanswered. I have learned patience. I have learned the language of love. I have taught myself to compose songs. And yet… I’m alone.

Another moment occurred this weekend that opens up a bit more of my thinking about relationships, and “what’s next” for me. I had taken a long Saturday afternoon to drive my daughter and two of her friends to the local outlet mall for her birthday. That afternoon, when I got home, alone, I was exhausted. After a quick nap, I arose and felt inspiration hit as I was trying to put down a song idea with my guitar and computer. An hour later I was one song richer, and again, slightly exhausted.

And at that very moment what I wanted was someone to share my song with.

It’s sort of romantic, and productive, all this being alone. But it’s not a condition I aspire to, it’s merely where I find myself at this moment.

I contemplated going out. There was a local band playing, and I knew the woman who books the club was newly single… But I was tired. Fulfilled somewhat with my creation. And still, aching for connection. So some of what I am longing for is simply being seen. Having someone to share my new book of poetry with. Or even a new poem. Sure, I’d like someone to come along who can trigger some of the “loving” sides of my poetry and songwriting, but I’ll settle for a confidant. Well, perhaps a cuddling confidant.

I know that I don’t want to become addicted to this state of longing. It’s sort of romantic, and productive, all this being alone. But it’s not a condition I aspire to, it’s merely where I find myself at this moment. And clearly, for a few moments more.

All is well. A new poem is written. A song released inspires yet another. My creative heart flows and flies.

And. Longs. For. Connection.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written in December, 2014

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image: the author, kristy duff wallace, creative commons usage


Strengthening Your Core Happiness Becomes More Important After a Breakup

OFF-openheart

The first “girlfriend” I had after divorce asked me early on in our dating experience, “What do you look like when you are happy?” She saw me struggling a bit with depression and sadness around my divorce and she genuinely wanted to know what my joy looked like. Perhaps so she could recognize it if it showed up, or to make sure she would still be in the mix when my happiness kicked off.

We’ve got a lot of programs to help strengthen your core abdominals, and therapy and philosophy to help us lift our hearts out of depression, but we are just learning about happiness. What makes people happy versus miserable. Guess what? It’s INSIDE YOU. It is not the other person. It’s not even your circumstances.

I know this sounds all woo woo, and looks a bit like a bumper sticker, but let me share a moment from an amazing book I’m reading. In this book, a woman has recently been told by her husband that he no longer loves her. It throws her world into a tailspin, BUT… She decides, has decided before it happens, NOT to let other’s or circumstances dictate her inner joy. She has just come back from a vacation retracing her college year abroad in Italy, where this moment happened for her. (She traveled with her daughter. Her husband and son stayed back in Montana.)

I was lying in bed that last day in Florence, looking at my daughter sleeping with her mouth open, listening to a dog bark on a balcony above the streets of Florence–the Vespas whizzing by, the polite exchanges of Buongiorno, the smell of coffee, and yes, exhaust, and something very old.

But I didn’t feel the panic I’d thought I would, knowing I had to leave all of it behind. The desperate need to go out in that world beyond the thick wooden shutters and our own tiny balcony just one more time alone–to feel twenty and charged. The frenzy to contact my old footprints, in a state of ravenous adventure. I didn’t need to be anywhere other than in my bed watching my daughter sleep.

In not quite a twenty-year-old’s voice, but not quite a forty-year-old’s either, I hear, quiet and with morning breath, It’s all here. It always was. — Laura Munson

Wow. For me, what that meant, that epiphany she had, was letting go of the need to jump up and accomplish, or jump up and adventure ahead into the world of the exciting, and instead to merely BE PRESENT. BE AWARE OF THE JOY. LISTEN. BREATHE.

I know it sounds kind of simple and zen, but the reality is quite simple. And I too have been studying how to get there, to achieve inner peace, even under extenuating and challenging circumstances. And while I am often NOT there, on occasion, when I can take the time to notice the simple joy of things, I CAN BE HAPPY. And it’s not about anyone else. Or the money in my bank account, or if my king-size bed is filled with two cats and a dog rather than a lover. MY INNER PEACE comes from stopping the rush to be/do/accomplish.

When you have kids, one of the most magical experiences is watching them sleep. There, just out of reach is your flesh and blood set off on a new mystical trajectory. And if things seemed hard or frightening, you could return to that quiet, that calm of their secure and loved slumber, and imagine the same nurturing for yourself. By loving them deeply, you learn to love yourself.

I want to give the ex this book. But why? Do I hope to fix her? To help her? Do I still wish her happiness? Or do I want to show her what an actualized woman did in the face of her husband’s struggles?

I won’t. I’ve learned that extending energy to others, when it has not been invited, is simply a waste of energy. I gave her a CD a year ago. (Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong) I had hoped to speak to her through some of the words of this music. Three weeks later, the CD was right where she had put it on the kitchen counter. I took it back. I could use it in my car.

She was not interested in hearing or feeling into what happened between us. What failed. She’s moved on, a bit too quickly, in my opinion, but that’s her struggle and her happiness that I can no longer take any part in.

The song, Time Spent In Los Angeles, talks about seeing “that special kind of sadness, that tragic set of charms.” And the moment that I was trying to capture and share was something about when I left my rock star dreams (during a pop-rock festival in Los Angeles) behind to become a more realistic husband.

But in my CORE HAPPINESS, I am playing music. And the man she met was fully actualized. I was playing in a band, playing live, and writing music. That’s the man she fell in love with. And then something changed. Kids. Money. Work. 9-11. But it changed in her, not in me.

I remained, remain, a musician and happy artist. And I am MOST happy when I’m creating music and poetry. Maybe music and poetry can bring on happiness, I don’t know. But I have not lost my joy at playing and writing, even if it’s for my kids and me alone.

And I won’t pass judgment on her at this point. Her core happiness is up to her to discover. And maybe it’s found with another relationship. Maybe there’s someone out there who “always” completes us. But I don’t think that’s where it’s found.

My joy is up to me. My core happiness comes from my own commitment to dig into it. And more importantly to give up on the outcome of the product and simply enjoy the process. Sure, I’d like everyone to enjoy one of my songs, someday. But the joy I experience at catching a moment just right (in song, poem, or even her in this confession) is mine alone. No amount of praise, fame, or money, or lack of those things can affect my inner satisfaction.

This is not an easy place to find in yourself. And from time to time we lose sight of what makes us most happy. But we must keep listening. We must keep stopping in the moment, when the happiness is strongest, and firming it in. Affirming, as Laura Munson did in Italy.

  • THIS RIGHT HERE.
  • THIS IS MY JOY.
  • BREATHE.
  • AND REMEMBER THIS, no matter what.
  • REMEMBER YOUR INNER JOY IS YOURS ALONE.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*this post was written on July, 2013.

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image: open heart, sebastian schrimpf, creative commons usage


The Yoga Girl Next Door; What Is An Erotic Ideal, And What Is Real?

What would you talk about with a yoga girl?

What would you talk about with a yoga girl?

 

There I was leaning into her new red Prius, talking about PR and yoga and her plans. It was as if I had put my head into a spaceship and was looking at some Penthouse forum photo of “the yoga girl next door.” But there was nothing going on. She was a next-door neighbor, and I was asking her about her work and her Prius.

I’m guessing she’s in the 20-years-younger range. Blonde. Stunning body in black tights. Raybans. Biggest smile you’ve ever seen. And what would I have done with her if she had been asking about coming over later? (She was not.)

I’ve been dating.

As I walked the long distance back to my car after the kiss, I was erect as a bar of iron, and wondering how — in my fkd up state — someone else could be attracted to me.

This is the first “relationship” I’ve been in since my divorce. The other two were both in the neighborhood of one week, and that’s not a relationship, that’s a fly-by. The first one was the woman who slept with pit bulls. The second one had the prettiest smile you have ever seen, but she lived 80 miles away.

So I wouldn’t say I’m experienced. In fact, I would say I’m a newbie in the department of dating. And dating as an adult who’s about to cross into my 50’s, I have to say, things are very different than when I was last on the market. I’m different. The women are different. I have two kids and a schedule that imposes some initial absence regardless of how fast I want to go in terms of hanging out together.

Sure, I’ve got an OK Cupid profile. (Tried Match and eHarmony.) But I haven’t been working it. And from the depths of my aloneness, I wasn’t in any mood to be imagining or looking for companionship. In fact, I was flat out deluded about how far fked up I was.

Enter attractive 54 year-old woman on OKC that says, “Hey, why didn’t you respond to my last email?”

If warning bells are going off it’s only because she is into ME too much. Or more than I have ever experienced. She was telling me I was “much more attractive” than my profile over our first drink together. And in the parking lot, as I walked her to her new convertible Mini, she held up before opening the car and half-kissed me. We still joke about who kissed who, but she HAD been dating a lot. And she was prone to “trying out the kiss” in the parking lot, even on the first date. I had not kissed any of my “dates.” You tell me…

And as I walked the long distance back to my car after the kiss, I was erect as a bar of iron, and wondering how — in my fkd up state — someone else could be attracted to me. Was that in itself a huge red flag?

OR… Did she see something in me that was solid and cute and funny, regardless of how I was feeling?

Three days later, we were kissing on my couch as a prelude to the trip upstairs, where she said as she was unbuttoning my pants, “You don’t know how long it’s been!”

Two months later… Well, I’ve driven the Mini quite a bit.

Am I looking for some erotic ideal that is more about masturbatory fantasy and trophy wives that parade around the nearby HEB in their yoga pants.

But there is something that I am not feeling, that I think I should. As we continue and she confirms repeatedly how much I fit her picture of a prime fit, I am not sure. I did not have the euphoria associated with passion. I don’t crave her. Her beautiful blue eyes and easy laugh are wonderful, but for some animal reason, I would not pick her out at a party as someone I wanted to get to know. She is attractive. She is a bit older than any of my previous relationships. She is completely crazy about me.

Am I out of my element? Am I looking for some erotic ideal that is more about masturbatory fantasy and trophy wives that parade around the nearby HEB in their yoga pants? (Don’t they have to work? Um… No, they don’t.)

So I have a woman who craves sex and time with me. She does not play games. She has told me from the beginning how delicious she thinks I am. She even told me, after a lengthy discussion about my previous relationship history, that she wanted to learn how to give me the best blow job ever. (WHAT?)

The yoga girl next door represents a college-age fantasy. I am not of college-age. She is thin, beautiful, and I would assume, somewhat spiritual, being a yoga instructor and all. But she and I have nothing in common. Would I find things about her that fascinate me? Would she cook me a meal, come over to my house, and leave me with leftovers? (like a tame Penthouse Forum post)

My experience, thus far in my life, says no. My experience, thus far in my life has never had someone so crazy about me. I feel almost guilty about not being able to return the level of excitement about her. I am trying. I am stretching. I am exploring everything with her, to see if the animal hotness grows. I mean, the truth is, I was depressed beyond measure. And NOTHING sounded good. I didn’t crave anything, not even ice cream. So how could I expect my senses to crave this available woman?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*This post was written on Nov 2012.

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the farther i fall (a poem)

snowy walk alone

 

snowy walk alone

in the blue sky
the hope for a season of love
in the snowy nights
and stormy days
ahead
optimism points to yes
to you
with me

1-4-22


she is aspiration (a poem)

she is

she is

she is stronger than i know
more beautiful than i’ve had a chance to discover
reaching for her lover
with grace and a smile
to light 1,001 nights
beyond where i’ve ever been
and she knows
i am beside her
every step of the way
even as the course corrections may be numerous
this flight plan
is one we’ve both been drawing on our own
praying for a copilot
for the heavy weather
as well as ice cream sundaes
rainbow fkn unicorns
we are
she is

1-1-22