Barely squeezing into my favorite jeans after 3 days of non-stop eating over Christmas, I boarded a plane from Boston to Tampa to ring in the New Year with the guy who’s become my oh-so-significant other. In keeping with the French theme Bond, James, and I established last year (celebrating New Year’s Eve in Paris), we decided to take a road trip from Tampa to New Orleans for that ever-so-awesome midnight toast. We searched the net, booked a room somewhere in the French Quarter, signed up for a New Year’s Eve party in a private club overlooking the water — and after hosting a holiday themed dinner for friends in Florida, he and I headed off in his somewhat snazzy two-door Mercedes convertible (midnight blue, of course) with the top down. We were having fun.
With cash in our pockets and snacks in the car, off we drove, choosing the scenic route, listening more to the Steven Jobs biography on tape, than music — signaling the beginnings of a relationship that was settling down, defining itself in action and intellect. Not that the rest of it wasn’t silly fun — buying masks, listening to amazing jazz, watching spectacular fireworks (while frantically texting our kids) — and catching multicolored strands of beads tossed from second and third floor verandas on Bourbon Street afterwards with herds of partying people enjoying the warm southern night. But clearly we’re more of a couple now, more committed to each other, building a shared history and discovering what works and what doesn’t, as we mosey through our days together. Even though we live apart.
It was comfortable sitting next to him in the bucket seat; we felt comfortable together… grown-up teenagers. I was smiling, feeling so smart. I picked a really good guy who likes being in a quasi committed relationship with a slightly older woman with trust issues.
I can’t help it (the trust issues). It’s impossible to enter a new relationship at my old age with a blank slate. I know too much. But maybe I don’t know so much as I think I do — and perhaps that’s what keeps it real. Even though our relationship grew out of a friendship first, so by the time we added the sex part, we already knew each other’s secrets, B,J and I are very different people, with very different perceptions about so many things, and I’m realizing things aren’t always the way I think it is. Like how he’s more brains than brawn but the guy can really bowl.
I learned so much this past year, about communication, what it means to be in a relationship… Not only with men, but also with my women friends, my sister, my children — and their children. I’ve had harmony and discord with every one of them over the past year but when I find us in that puddle of conflict now, I know it’s good. There’s something in there I’m going to learn, about them, about me. It’s because I’m there, I’m in it – and if they’re there, they are too. It’s about being present. About listening. Not being afraid of being uncomfortable is the key to understanding — and understanding is the key to appreciating each other’s strengths and accepting the weaknesses as part of the overall package. Not easy. Emma struggles with that in her reconnecting with Vegas; Pailey isn’t even close enough in her process to know it’s coming –it’s only Karen and I who have spent a lot of hours breaking through to a bunch of “ah-ha moments” talking each other over and under those uphill, downhill steps in our relationships.
And so here we are, at the end of the year and the start of a new one, spooning with Bond, James, in a hotel room, seemingly falling into step with each other, finding a rhythm that’s “us.” It’s not perfect; I never imagined my “it” guy would be this guy … but here we are moving forward.
Of course, some people would say if I were really smart in the love department, I’d be ignoring all the psychobabble and be floating around the Caribbean about now, deciding which emerald necklace to wear with my couture cocktail dress — and not patching my life together with bits and pieces from various income sources because I made a high risk mid-life career change. Never mind my hip-hop exercise tapes, they’d sign me up for yoga classes at a nearby spa — and fill me in on the secrets to shopping at Bergdorf’s with somebody else’s credit card. But then I wouldn’t be me. And I wouldn’t be appreciating all the little things … Like the sun up and the top down … or the good-looking guy sitting next to me in the driver’s seat sporting a baseball cap. And the beginning of a new year.
NOTE TO SELF: Even a grandma can get lucky.