When Being Single is Your Default Setting

A lot of people call me independent and strong.

And I’ve become those things out of necessity– like all people in these categories.

But the tough part is when someone wants me to let them in. I’ve been single so long, my first instinct is always to slam the door. Then I feel relief in my solitude.

And that’s because in my past I have loved, and been loved, deeply. I have high expectations for a relationship now because I refuse to settle for less than I enjoyed in the past. Once someone treats you really well, you can’t accept less.

I’ve dated the past few years– but nothing has gotten serious and exclusive. There’s always a part of myself that I hold back.

I’m great at protecting myself. No one is better at being single than I am!

But truly I want what everyone wants– to let down the gate. To relax. To be cherished. To have someone I can rely on, check in with, and be accountable to as well, every day.

Being in a relationship means letting go– giving someone the power to hurt you, but trusting them not to do it. Or maybe it means accepting that the very nature of love entails disappointment, because everyone is human. But deep down, you know it would be more of a disappointment to forfeit knowing THIS person. You accept the risk.

I trust my ability to judge compatibility and character.

The magical thing about love is that it keeps drawing you deeper. The curiosity about each other doesn’t end. The more you learn, the harder you fall. They surprise you when you don’t expect it, and when you need it most but were afraid to admit it. The more they open up about insecurities and their past, the more you understand and respect them for the journey they’ve taken on. The more you feel absolutely giddy to be CHOSEN by them.

Most of all, being in a relationship means trusting YOURSELF. Trusting that you chose the right partner, that you are both available and willing to invest in a future together. And it means accepting that you have power to hurt someone else, should issues come up that aren’t able to be resolved and you break-up. It means respecting your partner’s choice to take that risk of being hurt by you, even if you’re afraid. It means accepting that you can’t control the outcome or how long it might last– but that you both want to sign up for the adventure together, nonetheless.

And I’d rather be single than with the wrong man.

I no longer believe in “timing.”

Love is a conscious, repeated choice you make together. It has nothing to do with timing, and everything to do with devotion and compromise. A person who truly loves you will accept your faults and recognize that your positive qualities more than balance them out. They will see the light in you and want to help you shine brighter. They give you a sense of security, because you know you can rely on their feelings for you, despite whatever imperfections they may carry.

Recently I briefly dated someone, but we were exclusive from the first time we talked. He messaged me via online dating and had listed himself as “strictly monogamous,” which was a huge attraction for me after dealing with other ambivalent men prior. It felt great to not have to worry about him pursuing others, so I could just get to know him without any pressure or insecurity.

But dating him taught me that commitment doesn’t equal intimacy. You can be exclusive with someone you respect, without any major conflicts: but that closeness is either there or it’s not. I need a good banter. I need someone who makes me feel like a woman, but also treats me with dignity.

There was nothing “wrong” with him, or me. It just wasn’t there.

I felt comfortable with him, sure. We held hands and both liked PDA, which was great. It felt really good to have a man so proud to be seen with me, who liked to take pictures together and who said cute little things. But the more we got to know each other, the less we had to talk about. Our phone conversations were getting more strained.

Emotional, verbal intimacy is the most important thing for me. Without that, nothing else matters or will stand the test of time. A person’s body, job and circumstances will change. But their imagination, they way they think, the way they see and GET you– those things never change.

I felt we had both genuinely tried our best.

And after almost a month, I realized that we didn’t have enough between us to sustain a relationship– especially with radically different schedules and living circa 50 miles apart. Some people would say I’m really jumping the gun to make a decision to move on so fast. But truly, it’s about mutual respect. I wasn’t going to lead him on, so I set us both free. I’ve never been one to date someone just because I’m lonely, or because they want to take me out and I want a free dinner. If I choose to commit, or want to commit to someone, it’s only because I’m attracted by HIM. It’s not because I want something from him, but because I want to give something to him: my time, my affection, my promise of fidelity. I’m attracted by energy– something about that man draws me in and makes me want to spend time with him and be in his life. Usually I find myself very attracted by his words and the way he expresses himself. When I really like a man, I want to write down what he says often– I find him infinitely “quotable.” Everything I learn about him fascinates me, even the mundane. I want to note small details in my journal about what I learn about him, and write about our dates. I save things he gives me. I write poems. I’m a total sap.

More than anything, I develop a deep admiration for him and feel he inspires me to be my best self and to continually grow.

And though I felt sad to end it, I knew it was the only choice. We had a very civil break-up. We talked about what we would miss, what we could have done better and what we enjoyed about each other. And we haven’t talked since– both of us are looking for a serious relationship and respect each other’s need to move on. I haven’t cried since or felt bad about it, and I feel ACTUAL closure for the first time. But it was interesting that I got to know more about him and how he felt about me in that break-up conversation than I had the entire time we dated. What is it about having the pressure of a relationship relieved that frees us to be more honest about our feelings?

But ultimately, I feel good about it. I got to know someone, and we ended it peacefully and without a power struggle. That was a milestone for me– there was no egos clashing. He respected my feelings and agreed that it wasn’t happening for us. We don’t feel the need to hang on and be friends. It was nice to not feel insecure about my decision– to be supported in it.

I realized that although I do want a relationship, I’m not in a rush about it.

And who knows what’s next? But I feel good about my journey.

I’m going somewhere good.

Greek Dancing with Nico: My Favorite Little Boy

I’m Catholic, German and Irish, but I’ve got the soul of a Greek Orthodox woman! I’m loud, I’m a big hugger, I have big hair, and I LOVE DANCING. I love eating meat. I love PEOPLE. Before I was sober, my shot of choice was Metaxa– I loved the reactions on people’s faces when they tried it the first time.

I stopped by the Greek Fest in Joliet tonight, to see my friend Catt- who was working.
I saw her son, Nico, who is two and will be turning three next month, running amuck and joined him. We were in a pavilion and she was working the bar. Her husband, Vic, was watching him.

Nico is the most friendly little child I’ve ever met. He’s got curly light brown hair and pale skin and bright blue eyes with killer lashes. He just exudes love. And that’s because he has two parents who are very close to their families, Greek and Italian. They have a strong marriage– they are best friends. They talk all day long. They are a team. Nico is always with his family, getting plenty of cuddles and attention and supervision.

And WOW, does Nico like to move around! I tried to take pictures but gave up because he moves so fast every picture I took is blurry. I decided to forget about pictures and just enjoy keeping up with him.

I tell you, playing with kids is the best exercise imaginable. I worked tonight and I was tired, I didn’t think I’d stay long. But once I saw Nico, all my energy returned. We were inseparable.

First, we just ran back and forth, racing and yelling with our arms up. Then, we tried Greek dancing. We danced together, and with a little girl and her mom. I picked him up, and we kind of slow danced– he held his right arm out and grabbed mine. I just followed him wherever he went, but made sure he was safe.

He’s so confident!!

But my favorite part was when we just went off together and hung out on the grass. Catt and Vic let us because they trust me. They know I would never let anything happen to him, and when he’s with me, he’s safe. We didn’t go far– I stayed where they could see us. He wanted to sit down. So I convinced him it’d be better to sit down in the grass– over by a tree. And he just followed my lead, and it was such a natural interaction.

I’m trying to write before I forget the best parts!

But we laid in the grass and looked at the sky. I raised one leg, he raised his. We made a game out of it. I put up both my legs, then he did. He left one up, I did the same thing. We were just imitating each other.

Then we sat up, and I picked him up and we looked at the tree. I showed him the leaves, and he reached out and touched them. And he knew that his shirt was blue, and I asked him what color mine was ? Green. He knew that he’s a guy, and I’m a girl. He knew about the sky.

I was just in awe.

And then we got up and I started just crawling forward. And I growled, and he growled. He followed next to me, and he kept up with me!

And he had this little yellow toy, a tiny little man. Maybe an astronaut? I’m not sure what he was, but I noticed he was gone. I think I had referred to the toy as his “guy,” earlier– he has a great, quick, memory.

“Where’s your guy?” I said. And it was dark, but we went through the grass, retracing our steps. “My guy!”

And it wasn’t long before we passed a few benches and there the toy was, sitting on a bench. Nico picked him up and took him with him in his tiny hand.

I was so happy he hadn’t lost his little toy.

I told him we had to go back because I was tired and had to leave.

“No!” he said. He looked sad.

My heart felt bigger than the moon!

I picked him up and took him back to his dad, Vic. Nico was saying goodbye to the girls– all the girls wanted a kiss from Nico. They were friends of Catt’s, people who know the family and who were also volunteering. He stood above them all, tall– he knew his power. He kissed them and they all said goodbye.

Catt was finished, and they walked with me as a family to the parking lot.

An older woman was driving a golf cart just ahead of us.

Nico is so smart– he ran and jumped on the back ledge. He wasn’t afraid. Catt was right behind him and laughed at his ingenuity. The woman was driving slow, of course.

Nico saw a shortcut to walking, and he took it!

Vic was looking around for a moment, “Where’s Nico?” We pointed and Vic turned and saw his son right there and was amused at his confidence.

The woman slowed down and stopped, and Nico climbed over to the seat. Catt encouraged him, waving and smiling. The woman driving was positively charmed.

Nico does that– he just enchants people with his energy, his happiness, his physical affection.

We reached my car and I said goodbye to them all with hugs. They asked Nico to give me a kiss, and I squatted down, offering my cheek. Not pressuring him.

But Nico went out of his WAY to kiss me on the lips! It just fit into my heart.

“That’s the most romantic thing that’s happened to me in months!” I said.

And it’s true.

That’s why children are so pure. They have no agenda. They just LOVE you. They accept you, they notice your feelings, they’re in tune with what’s around them. They express themselves with their whole bodies.

God bless that little boy. I don’t see him often, but when I do, he runs to me. As if I’m family! He remembers me. He singles me out, when so many people wanna play with him. He’s sad when I need to leave. He’s just so easy to be with– my little buddy.

Catt and I have always been sisters, since we met. She’s three years younger than me, but we are both silly and loud and have a crazed imagination. That’s what bonds us— making up silly things together– we call it “Vision.” It’s always fun when we get together, and she’s always easy to talk to. She never tells anything I tell her. She’s sentimental. We both have dark hair and eyes– more than any of my other friends, people have often asked if we’re sisters.

And we are! But I have to say, Nico is the best “Vision” she’s ever come up with.

And because of him, I’ll sleep wonderful tonight. Because I ran hard, laughed, WROTE  and now I’m absolutely exhausted!

Falling in Love (Again) with Books

It’s been months since I gave in.

My obsession has always been a harmless one– books.

I made a conscious choice to go out more, interact more with people– to not hole up so much with books. And I’ve done that, and it’s been healing and needed. To stop recording everything compulsively in my journal, to not write so many poems. To forget about fiction.

At a certain point, life is easier if you forget about dreams. I’ve got a steady job, I’m happily rooted in my hometown. I work for a great company, which I’m proud to represent. My boss tells me often I’m doing great, and I can bond easily with my clients and they thank me often for helping them find exactly what they need.

But in other aspects, my life has become so routine that it just hurts. That’s a by-product of becoming a Thirtysomething, I know it’s not a unique predicament. Most of my friends feel that way as well, especially if they’re married with children. Of course, they feel privileged to have the opportunities and stability they’ve achieved– but everyone needs a creative outlet.

Everyone needs to save a little piece of themselves, untouched by obligation or family.

I substituted books for movies. And I’ll always love them! But I can feel myself losing my intelligence– my brain is stagnating. My vocabulary is diminishing. I’ve got to keep myself growing, especially since right now taking classes is not an option and I don’t know if it ever will be again. Most likely, no. I was fortunate to get an undergrad but my schedule and finances have not allowed for me to pursue grad school.

But recently, I dated a man from Chicago, Jonathan. And one of the main things that drew us together was a shared love of literature. However, it turned out we didn’t actually have that much in common. He loved critical essays and philosophy, I dig fiction. He was very sincere, and a writer himself. But he was intellectual, not emotional. It’s rare that I feel insecure when talking about literature or reading in general– that’s always been my getaway. My undergrad is in journalism. But I could tell he was struggling to connect with me and I got tired of missing his references. When he came to my apartment, he noticed a collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories and his eyes glowed. Looking up at me, he said, “This might be the best collection of short stories, EVER!” But I just felt like a fraud, because my friend’s mother loaned it to me since she’s a Catholic author. I hadn’t gotten into it yet. I smiled awkwardly, and thought he tried not to show it, there was clear disappointment.

Everyone’s got books they haven’t read– but it sucks when that’s the one your date zeroes in on with such excitement. Not one other book I had elicited a comment??

On our first date, he drove to Joliet and I took him to a local bookstore– which he loved. And I thought it was sweet that he bought me not one, but TWO books: “Middlesex,” by Jeffrey Eugenides, because I hadn’t read it and he wanted to get something. It didn’t look like my kind of novel but it was such a surprising and promising gesture, I accepted. And then I had wanted to get Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway,” for myself– a novel I’d been wanting to read for quite awhile, and he surprised me at the check-out counter by getting it for me.

But I tried getting into “Middlesex,” and I just can’t. I may try it again, but it’s not grabbing me. I’m currently reading “The Fault in Our Stars,” WAY late– because I just wanted something simple and emotional. Something that’s not complicated or literary– just a love story, because I liked the movie. And although I’m ambivalent about Augustus Waters, the more I read the more I’m loving Hazel Grace. Reading a book is a lot like a relationship. Everyone has a different reaction to each novel and its characters– but as more is revealed, you fall deeper into the lives of these characters. And it’s their flaws that makes you grateful they exist.

Next, I have something totally different lined up– “Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M.,” by Catherine Millet. Because who doesn’t love smut once in a while?

Right now, I’m not a monogamous reader. I’m flirting with several books- and they’re never jealous of the others. Only happy I return.

Last night, I stayed up late reading a book for the first time in months, it seems!

What an indulgence. I loved it so much, I’m doing it again tonight.

John Green and I have a thing, for sure.

But I’ll certainly have a date with Virginia Woolf.

And something curious is happening. My brain is cracking awake.

I’m daring to imagine. I’m beginning to Write again.

I love my friends, and my family is amazing.

But books make me happy. I’m a nerd, but not a snob. They’re legal and cheap.

And the more I read, the more ideas I get to Write.

Two Lions: A Short Story

By Amee Bohrer

*I wrote this several months ago. I’ve showed it to a few writer friends– and made a few small changes. Any feedback possible would be great– praise, questions, constructive criticism. Thank you. 

A female lion wandered alone, away from her Pride.

She was designated the hunter. Yet, something called to her beyond her prescribed role within the pack. She was not designed to kill. Knowing the Pride expected of her what she refused to do, she stalked into the wild to find solace. She alerted no one, and chose herself.

She did not wait for nightfall. Escape was chosen in the morning. The silence and the expansive space quieted her unrest, and she felt a peace. The journey was not a dangerous one—but lonely.

Following only by instinct, she meandered the plain. She was vulnerable, having left behind the cover of tall grass. She fell to rest when needed. Rolled in the mud, dashed to water to overcome thirst.

She did not eat. She did not hunt. Yet her strength increased with time.

Constantly, she passed by meals upon which she could have feasted.

After two months of traveling alone, she came upon an abundant field. A quarter mile away, a male lion strode to a water buffalo carcass.

Each step was powerful, his shoulders regal. Until he glanced back and saw that finally, he was alone.

His posture drooped. He hung his head. His mane was now patchy from relentless battles, ripped out except for a few bloody tufts. But he smelled her.

His neck snapped into position—his eyes intent.

She was watching in the tall grass, still. Not afraid.

She advanced on him, her head low and making eye contact. She permitted a low growl.

He dropped his eyes and settled into a submissive posture, wanting to honor her.

He tossed his head toward the buffalo carcass, and with his left paw tore the ripe abdomen open.

He looked toward her, and crept backwards a few feet. Waited. This was extraordinary for him– his appetite was raging. He was usually the first one to eat– he didn’t wait for anyone. And he ate until he was full– if others went hungry, that was their problem. He had become aggressive in this way after a lifetime of constant war. He was used to bigger males stealing what was his, even the females. He had learned to hunt in this way– though now he rarely fought unless absolutely threatened, or he had something to prove. But when he wanted something, he was used to getting it. He seemed passive to most, part of his strategy.

But she saw this danger in him– and respected it. But why such humility from a strange male? She registered his offer—a gift. The flesh sang in her nostrils. Suddenly famished, she licked her teeth. A crippling urge to feast.

Inhaling, she took three strides forward. And then darted left—away from this suspicious gift. Away from the male making an offering—who smelled familiar.

It had been years since she had felt anything like doubt. She was used to forging ahead alone. She was respected and well-liked in her Pride at home, but desperately wanted something more. She was different than her family. They were content, and she was itching for a challenge. She appeared very stoic to most, as she began spending more time alone with age. She had a low tolerance for politics. She appeared compliant. But she showed her ferocity only to those who knew her most. To everyone else, she was detached. Cold.

Conflicted, she stopped and glanced back. He was watching her.

He looked different than he would have, but the musk taunted her. It was covered up a bit– he was wounded. Could that be Asha? It was so unlikely– she had thought he was dead. She had grieved him.

The blood was still drying, but it covered up his full smell.  She couldn’t quite place who that male might be, but she wanted to go to him.-

Or attack him. She was tired of always winning. Sometimes she snarled at others, just looking for a worthy adversary. Even most males backed down from her–something about her intimidated them. It wasn’t her size– she was petite, even for a female.

It was her roar. She rarely had to defend herself physically– she was smart enough to evade trouble. But rarely, she would be overcome and would stand nearly paralyzed with energy. She was deaf in one ear, and compensated for this defect with a splendid roar– it was lower-pitched. Often, when others heard her in these moments, she was mistaken for a male.

She, too, was an Alpha. She longed to roar as loud as she was able.

A loud shot exploded nearby.

Frightened by this unidentifiable threat, she glanced directly at the male– and leaped. Dusk was falling.

In a nearby tree,  she took cover and settled into a restless sleep.

A Shout into the Void: the Bravery of Hazel and Gus

Just watched “The Fault in Our Stars.” Took myself out for a movie date.

And Hazel Grace just knocks me out. I understand how she feels.

The most difficult thing to do in this life is to be courageous enough to receive love.

There is no greater feat.

It takes me awhile to open myself up to a relationship. I need time to trust someone.

It’s easier to love someone else than to allow someone to love you– especially someone that YOU love, or might consider loving.

The intimacy is staggering. And when you’re fighting a common battle, you’re allied together and everything is more intense– it happens faster. The way these two openly adore each other restores your faith in humanity.

I love that this movie validates that YOUNG love is important. So many are dismissive of it. I was, at that age.

I love that Hazel’s parents have a strong marriage and love their daughter enough to allow her the greatest adventure although she is sick. They accept Gus and don’t try to stop their love affair. They recognize it as special. Early on, they’re concerned about the future for Gus, since her health is precarious.

I am happy to see that Hazel Grace embraces and manages her health with dignity. In meeting Gus, she sees a reason to strive beyond what she would have ever imagined previously. She climbs stairs. She carries her oxygen tank on her back. She stops to rest when needed– but she doesn’t avoid obstacles just because she might have trouble breathing.

She knows life is only this moment. She loves herself enough to accept challenges. Talk about tremendous.

As Hazel tells Gus in an effort to protect him from the future suffering of loving someone terminally ill, she is a “grenade.”

But don’t we ALL feel that way? Gus reassures her that loving her would be an adventure he can’t resist.

Her heart falls open. She allows him to love her. And slowly, she begins to trust enough to love him back.

You don’t need to have a serious health condition to understand the fear, the ambivalence, of this young couple.

They see each other at their darkest moments– they cling to one another for stability in a world where they feel out of control. When their bodies and the unpredictable nature of their cancer and disease dominates their lives and limits possibilities.

They refuse to accept a death sentence– in each other, they see a reason to live. They make it their missions to normalize the journey– to treat each other as any other boy and girl in love. They drink champagne. They spend time together. They revel in each other’s strength and energy. They even make love.

They see each other and reflect that beautiful image back until both of them believe it.

You see the way Gus changes Hazel. It’s truly a sacrificial, star-crossed affair. He succumbs to his body’s limitations– but her health improves and she goes on. She remembers. She treasures him.

Hazel is a heroine I will never forget. I haven’t yet read the book– but now I’m going to have to buy it. A friend recommended it to me a few years ago. I should have followed up back then. John Greene knows what he’s doing with these characters. I can’t wait to read it.

Spoiler alert! I adore that Hazel loves Gus enough to get ANGRY with him– to tell him that it’s arrogant of him to feel that he’s a failure because he hasn’t made some huge “impression” on the world professionally. Because his life matters to HER. Even if everyone else doesn’t love him, SHE does. And he has a responsibility to take care of himself and enjoy his life because she is not budging from his side. Her steadfast optimism is what saves Gus from giving into bitterness.

The Battle of Man and Tomato

Tomato: 1 John: 0

(That’s my father.)

We went to dinner tonight and he ordered a salad and he couldn’t get the cherry tomato with his fork.

One single cherry tomato remained.

And I was making fun of him, because he kept trying to pick it up and it was just rolling away.

“Just stab it,” I said.

He insisted that he could make it happen with his chosen utensil. “It’ll just slide away,” he said. I laughed at him.

“Just use your spoon,” I said. “Scoop it.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever run across a tomato I can’t eat with a fork.”  I wrote it down on the paper place mat, because I was already writing this blog in my head.

My Dad is so stubborn and it makes for wonderful blog fodder.

He is a very methodical man– he rarely varies his approach. He figures if it persists long enough, eventually it’ll work– and most of the time it does. He follows the rules and does everything the right way. And it’s worked for him in business and finances.

But he was no match for that errant tomato, slippery in viniagrette.

And I highly enjoyed pointing out the futility of his method.

He even picked up his knife and nudged the tomato onto the fork, and raised it to his mouth.

ALMOST made it– and then the tomato jumped ship.

Plop! Right in his lap.

I laughed shamelessly.

He picked it up and ate it– the old-fashioned way.

“Shoulda used a spoon,” I chided. And he started laughing too and acknowledged his defeat.

But that’s how much of a gentleman he is– and that’s what makes him an amazing father.

And hilarious.

The Secret Lemon Loaf

I pulled up in the Starbucks drive-thru and got my usual Iced Venti Passion Tea (no syrup.)

And a lemon loaf. I had a craving.

He told me my total and confirmed the order.

Then I hear a female voice say, “We’re out of lemon loaf.”

“The lemon loaf is gone,” he tells me.

I worked as a barista in my Twenties. I remember that this icy confection usually sold out in the morning. It pairs especially well with Sumatra blend– I gave a presentation on it when I was hired. It was part of my interview– choosing a pastry and a coffee blend to recommend to customers. My future boss was impressed with my initiative.

I was bummed. About to pull forward. And then she corrects herself, “I found it!”

The man in the drive-thru smiles– he looks young. Probably early 20’s.

“There’s a secret lemon loaf,” he tells me.

I cheer.

He hands me my drink. And then the lemon loaf.

“My secret lemon loaf,” I joke. He laughs.

I drive on.

And I learned a valuable lesson.

Always ask for what you want. Especially when it’s not an obvious possibility.

There just might be a secret lemon loaf at the right moment, for you.