A few months ago, my personal Yoda to whom I pay a sizable session fee just to listen to me prattle on for 50 minutes recommended that I make a list of my five deal makers and five deal breakers when it comes to a relationship. Clearly, he thinks I make bad choices. The must-haves and the must-not-haves. And because I pay a sizable session fee, I do what he says. I wrote my lists in my notebook of "Ridiculously Good Ideas" while taking a break from writing the last installment of my Trinity series, Rose of the Field this July.
The task took me a lot longer to complete than I had expected. At first, I tried to recall and draw upon every wonderful relationship I ever had and then every bad one. But I realized, the exercise was not about comparisons. If it was, and finding "Benjamin" was as easy as narrowing down the good and the bad of the past, then I would not spend so many nights hanging out with my cats, HGTV and wine. (*Recall: Benjamin is my future husband/love of my life/perfect match. I know, it's been a while since we've talked, dear readers. I've been distracted.)
As I wrote and scribbled and wrote and scribbled, I began to get frustrated because clearly the problem was me; I didn't know what I wanted. Certainly, the deal breakers were pretty easy, especially since I consider myself a somewhat shallow person at times. Roll your eyes all you want, but a lady has to have some standards. I mean (Mom, earmuffs or blindfold or whatever will prevent you from passing out at my next statement), if there's no chemistry - and I don't mean just witty repartee - I mean the naked kind (I warned you, Mom) - then, no deal. NO DEAL.
So that half of the exercise was easier, anyway. But I was fairly hung up on the 5 Deal Makers. Maybe part of my problem was I just don't know Paul Rudd that well (I kid, well, kind of. He has been my "hall pass" ever since Clueless came out.) Or maybe the more likely problem was that I was afraid to commit to requirements that normal humans could not fulfill. Me? Unreasonable? How could Benjamin exist if no real person could ever meet my standards?
So I started easy with the shallow bits - handsome, fit, quick to smile and laugh - and then I moved on to the emotional, mushy stuff - kind, romantic, thoughtful- this is the basics, right? Who doesn't want a handsome, romantic guy in their life? I knew I had to dig a little deeper and decide who "Benjamin" was going to be to me and I came up with this:
Deal Maker #3: He is someone who will sit with me under the stars, have a few beers with me and we will talk about anything and everything from our future plans to favorite authors to our hopes and dreams to the stuff that really scares us. And we will lose track of time, every time.
Deal Maker #4: He is someone I will trust and adore because I will know that he would rather fall off a cliff than treat me with anything but love and respect.
Deal Maker #5: He is my true partner in everything. My best friend, my truest love, my hero and my biggest fan. He is my family and he is my home. He is my counselor and my coach, my protector and my confidante.
Even though I came up with this list in mid-July, I didn't get a chance to share it with Yoda until the beginning of September, after Labor Day because of scheduling issues. He got a kick out of my Deal Breakers, for sure (I can be pretty witty and clever, even when I'm paying the bill). They were serious, but perhaps they had a hint of a sarcasm added.
And Yoda was particularly interested in my process for deciding upon these Deal Makers since they weren't the traditional ones - "loving, honest, patient, similar interests, etc..."
I explained that I decided that these were the things I wanted to be to someone else and so my chosen partner should be someone who is similar to me in that regard. "And that person, whoever he is, has to meet all 5 of these. Four out of five is not going to be good enough," Yoda told me (and just so you know, he's wise like Yoda but without the weird, backward sentence structure.) I agreed, mostly because my 50 minutes were up and I really had to use the bathroom after the Pomegranate tea I had been sipping on all session.
As I got into my car and thought about that last part, I suddenly understood what he meant: If Benjamin doesn't fulfill each element of this wishlist, he's not going to be Benjamin to me. He's not going to be "the One" because at some point, that compromise - maybe he isn't much of a talker, for example - is going to be the thing that causes a relationship rift. Hey, it's happened before. Now I get it!
And same thing with the Deal Breakers. Saying, "maybe I can live with that" isn't going to work. There really is no room to compromise. One of my Deal Breakers (after no sexual chemistry - sorry Mom. I do enjoy torturing you a little, though) is "doesn't want to do stuff I like to do." I could say that's ok, because we can do other stuff, but eventually a rift will be created because I know I cannot truly give up those activities that I enjoy without feeling some resentment.
Part of my fear initially with this whole exercise was I would try to mold the Deal Makers and Deal Breakers to fit a particular person in my life, to make that relationship make sense. But the good news is, I didn't do that. One of the reasons I have been neglecting my oversharing with y'all (and suddenly, I'm from the South) is I have been distracted checking off boxes on my Deal Maker/Deal Breaker list. All I'm going to say is, it's going exceptionally well so far. And I'm terrified.
This weekend contained some of the most breathtaking moments of my life and the views were amazing. One of the things we do when we come to a crossroad in life is try to, in the words of the musical Goddesses, The Indigo Girls, seek clarity. But the crazy thing is for those of us who have lived among chaos the majority of our lives, when everything starts to become clear, it scares the crap out of us. We don't know what to do - run, hide or melt into the thing we have longed for more than anything else. When everything finally begins to make sense nothing else - no past ghosts, prior bad moves, major screw ups - seems to matter.
What makes this clarity so frightening is that there's a sense of calm in the storm. For me, I understand chaos because even from the time I was a child, I learned to adapt to it. There is a level of comfort that a normal person perhaps couldn't understand, but a small number of us who have come from wild childhoods, nod our heads and say, "yup, I get that." If the choice was always ours, we would prefer to live in a simple, loving life. And really the choice is ours, but we are so used to giving up control, it takes us some time to remember that little fact as adults. We get to choose how we live our lives and with whom we do so.
And so, I went in seeking clarity. I'm closer to fine than I thought. And the scary part is, I've chosen to melt.
This weekend, I had an amazing view of the sunset, High Point monument (for those of you who didn't have Ms. Sanford for 4th grade - High Point Monument marks the highest point in New Jersey at 1803 feet above sea level), and the mountains. Someone was even setting off fireworks at one point as if the evenings weren't already amazing and romantic. There was wine and music and a fire in the fire pit. Conversation that was as serious as it was hilarious. And the randomness of the banter never stopped.
For a moment I sat alone, staring out over the fire sipping on a glass of wine, oblivious that mosquitos were chewing at my bare ankles. I lost my breath. I got that nervous feeling in my stomach like a flock of monarch butterflies were trapped in there. I even started to get a bit teary and verklempt. (I'm ridiculous - stop judging my emotions, dammit!)
This was what wonderful felt like. This was where I wanted to be, right in the pocket of this feeling, except it all got better. The conversation, the warm feeling of comfort. And it was scary for the same reasons it was wonderful, because it was just so perfect and honest.
I found myself all weekend making statements like, "I would love to do that with you" and "Yes WE'RE going to doing that/go there." Rational, level-headed Lauren's voice would be mumbling things in my head like "Who are you? Shut up! You sound like an idiot. Too soon, dummy! That's against the rules." Oh, and my rules. Broken. The rules I unofficially put in place to control my impulsiveness, broken. Not all of them; just enough of them to know I'm heading down a dangerous, albeit exciting path.
I stood a few months ago, not knowing which direction I should travel or which signal to follow. I stood waiting and waiting for the "walk" signal, but what I didn't realize was that I was attempting to travel in the wrong direction this whole time. All I needed to do was look to my right - that signal worked just fine and it wanted to lead me up the hill. A whole new direction. A whole new world, really.
This weekend, I looked to my right. The signal couldn't be more clear. The view couldn't be more stunning. And in the background of my over-active mind, I heard my summer mantra: "make a move, see the light. Make a move, roll the dice. Make a move, it'll be all right....Welcome to your life where you can live if you want to."
The magic of something new is beginning. I'm so happy. I'm terribly frightened. I'm nervous. I'm excited. All the things. And all the things I probably shouldn't say out loud quite yet (and another rule bites the dust). But at least if you see the cheesy smile, you'll know why. Don't ask, because I will be busy making a mix tape for Benjamin.