Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Changing my last name

I’ve always hated those questions that ask you to predict the future. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” I know that life throws so many variables at you that even a mathematician can’t solve it. I can honestly say that five years ago when I was filling out an e-Harmony personality profile, I didn’t see myself getting married tomorrow. In fact, I wasn’t doing the profile to find a mate or even a date. I was doing it to find out what the hell was wrong with me. Why was I single again at age 39?

I had been in and out of relationships. The longest had been a teenage infatuation that survived five years of on again/off again dating followed by eight years of marriage and three wonderful children. There were a lot of mistakes made on both our parts. No one person was to blame for the break-up. We just weren’t compatible. Shortly, thereafter, I took the leap again. I was struggling financially, going to college, and rearing three busy elementary age boys. This man promised me the world and told me he owned it. I took the bait, hook, line and sinker only to find out it was all a lie. Five years later, I found myself divorced again but this time I was over 300 miles from my family. I was alone with my three boys and on my own. I had a decent job and wasn’t struggling financially now but I was desperately lonely. Desperation makes you do things you know you shouldn’t do. The next fellow was easy on the eyes but hard on my heart. I knew from the moment I met him that it wouldn’t work. But, he was smooth and charming and I was clinging onto hope like a shipwreck survivor clutches a life ring. Three years later, he left me wishing I was dead and hurting emotionally like I had never hurt before in my entire life. The pain was unreal. My faith was destroyed.

So, I while I was trying to pull myself back together and mend the wounds that only time can heal, I saw the e-harmony ad for a free personality profile. I thought, “why not.” Maybe they will have insight into my flaws and I can fix what is wrong. I answered painfully honest and then soaked in the results. One observation hit the nail on the head.

“Because of your lenient and complacent nature, others with fewer scruples may take advantage of you. You could, perhaps, benefit from greater assertiveness.”

I knew deep in my soul that this was the root of the problems I had in relationships. The men I have always chosen talked a big talk about loving independent, strong women but in reality they felt threatened and retaliated by being controlling and demeaning.

I was determined to strengthen my resolve. I knew that if I was to ever have a happy, healthy relationship, I first needed to trust and believe in myself. I’m a survivor. Now, I was determined to thrive as well. I had accomplished quite a bit on my own. I needed to acknowledge my successes and not dwell on the failures. I was 39 years old. I had three great boys in High School. They were busy with friends and activities. They weren’t scholars but they weren’t criminals either. They were individuals and used their minds to make decisions. When raising them, my goal was to teach them how to think and how to make choices based on consequences and how to determine what the consequences would be. It was time to take my own advice.

At that point, my youngest son was starting high school. I made a choice that I would spend the next four years raising my sons and developing who I was. There wasn’t time for a man in my life and for the first time I decided I didn’t need or want one either. This was me time. I took to heart the advice I received in the e-harmony profile. It was something I already knew I just needed to see it in black and white.

So, I focused on me and ignored the matches e-harmony sent me. I’d browse through them for grins and giggles but never signed up or answered any. Then on June 21, 2004, one caught my attention. I was intrigued. The part that made me smile was his response to “what book did you read last”. His answer was “Harry Potter, so I could talk about it with my son.” I thought about the Harry Potter book I was currently reading with my boys and smiled. He didn’t live with his son. In fact, he wasn’t even in the United States. He lived over 600 miles and an ocean away from me. He was in the Bahamas and had been working in the islands for the past 11 years. We began communicating. I learned a lot from his questions and answers and must have statements. Shortly, thereafter we started e-mailing each other. One day we happened to be on-line at the same time and switched to chatting. This became my salvation. All day I looked forward to our evening chats. One night he asked if we could meet in person. He was coming into the U.S. to see his son and family and thought perhaps we could meet half-way between his home in South Florida and mine in North Florida. Orlando seemed like the perfect place for a first meet.

However, Mother Nature had other plans for Florida that hurricane season. In fact, four hurricanes that year caused us to cancel our plans. He was in the US more that year but hell and high water appeared and we couldn’t get together. He thought it might be a sign that we weren’t supposed to meet. I took the position that if someone was going to those great lengths to keep us apart then it might be to see if we have the resolve to fight for something. So, after months of tropical storms and hurricanes and dashed plans, I decided to take a chance and go to the Bahamas to meet him. I was turning 40 at the end of October and needed a break. After checking my sanity over with my mother, who encouraged me to go, I booked a room at a local hotel and took the leap. My mother’s advice was “you have to take risks in order to grow and move on to better things.” It was just for the weekend. The plan was to fly down on Friday afternoon and leave on Sunday. So, with butterflies in my stomach and a “what the hell are you doing” in my head, I stepped on the flight that would forever change my life. But, it wasn’t smooth sailing. I made it as far as Miami when they canceled my flight. Do I give up and go home or do I suck up my determination and keep on? I went for it. I arrived on a small island in the Bahamas on a Saturday afternoon. The sun was beating down and I was exhausted. A man I had never met waited on the other side of the fence for me. I couldn’t believe I had actually done this. I just flew 600 miles to an island for a first date. It was a fairy tale. It was like meeting up with an old friend you just haven’t seen in a great while. Twenty-four hours later, I was back on a plane heading home. As the plane ascended, I glanced down at the island. There coming from the clouds and highlighting the spot on the island where I had just been was the prettiest rainbow I had ever seen. Was it a sign?

Almost five years have gone by since that time. There were nightly phone calls, weekend trips and months and months of not seeing each other. We weathered storms and the debris that life throws at us. He broke his shoulder and needed surgery, my car was stolen and then my next car was wreck by one of my kids sneaking out on a midnight run. There were graduations and birthdays and holidays. There were the usual stresses of life and then the unusual stresses of a long distance relationship. We bonded with a friendship and trust I had never experienced before. He made those four years fly by.

Shortly, after I left the island for the first time and took in the beauty of that rainbow falling from the sky, I found this poem by B. G. Wetherby. It sums up our journey.

The storm is ending, the sun’s peeking out,

Your life will change without a doubt.

Beautiful rainbows will be everywhere,

Plenty of smiles, you’ll find them there.

You’ve passed through so much rain.

And you have endured so much pain.

You will heal, and you shall mend

As you draw nearer to the rainbow’s end.

At the rainbows end you will find

Love, acceptance, and peace of mind.

Life can be so simple there.

Worry free and without a care.

Something’s waiting on the other side.

Stay on the rainbow and enjoy the ride.

It won’t be gold on the other end,

You just might find a rainbow friend.

Your dreams will be culminating soon.

You will sing a new and happy tune.

So if you feel your life descend

You’re getting closer to the rainbow’s end.

Then suddenly, or so it seems, this past fall I found myself alone. My boys were no longer boys. They were young men who had lives of their own. Two of them became US Marines and the other went into the Air Force. There were scattered out around the world. I was alone for the first time in over 22 years. I had a job I loved, a house, a dog and a man I had promised to marry a year earlier. Only he was still over 600 miles and an ocean away. The question was how to reconcile this problem. What now? Fate stepped in and what might seem like a bad thing turned out to be a blessing. He was layed off from his job. After over 25 years with the same company, he found himself having to find new direction. So, our logistics problems were decided for us. He headed north back to the States.

We were both naturally scared. Although, we had been dating for over four years, two weeks was the longest stretch of time we had spent together. Would we still have the same bond day after day of being with each other? There are little things you find out about a person when you live with them that otherwise you would never know. Would we be able to work through those differences?

I have found it easier than I ever imagined. It just works between us without having to fight to make it work. Every day I am more aware of how amazing a person he is. Yes, there are adjustments and I know that there will always be challenges and storms to endure. But, this time I have an ally. I have someone who works with me and not against me. So, tomorrow I am changing my last name. We will elope in a simple ceremony. It will be just he and I. We have the blessings of our sons, our mothers, and our friends. We have each other. We will now build our lives together. It has been a long time in the making. And I have no doubt that our relationship will withstand the tests of time and the trials of life. We have been through so much together while being apart. Now, we will be together through all the tough times and through all the easy times. Two worlds have finally come together.