Hope(ful)

[You recently wrote me the first story anyone has ever written about me. You make me feel like the only girl in the room and on your mind, it both confuses and excites me– and it also inspired me to blog again, thank you. Happy Valentine’s Day week. -Mommy Shark]

I met you in the Fall. After our meeting, I followed up with the larger group, and you wrote a second follow-up email to mine, but this time just to me, after the traditional response cc-ing multiple of our colleagues on the first one. I sat there for a minute and pondered it, since you had to know I was way over my head with all of you in that meeting. You couldn’t have really believed I “did great” without my public safety team in the room.

Right?

I’m used to this, or I was in my “former” life, prior to my more recent life re-evaluation(s): questioning my knowledge, ability, intelligence, worth, likeability—esp. my loveability. I spent years questioning all of these things. I guess these feelings are still hard to shake even though so much has changed internally within me.

You didn’t wear a wedding ring and you were kind. Kindness confuses me and I always question peoples’ motive(s). I questioned yours. I wish you knew I’m not good at “this.”

The following few weeks, we corresponded over work via email and a second in-person meeting—and with each incident, I questioned if there was something more (?) You didn’t really lead on. Even in the midst of feeling my way through one hell of a heartbreak as a newly single mom with two very young kiddos, a demanding job, and a million logistical details swirling in my head at any given moment, I was still intrigued and perplexed by our exchanges– your emotional intelligence, your humanness. I even sent some of our correspondences to my trusted (forever honest) sources, my best friend of 25+ years and my “sister” (sister-in-law), who both agreed that they couldn’t tell either if you were even single, never mind interested.

Sigh… if this was real world dating, I wasn’t ready. Maybe swiping was easier.

Finally, on Halloween after you wished me well “trick-or-treating,” I decided to take a chance and sign my follow-up email “Julie AKA mommy shark.” As far as I knew, you didn’t know I had kids then, but your “trick-or-treating” line gave me the inclination that you may. From the outside, I just assume people think I’m a young researcher without much time for a personal life—where was the time (?) Sometimes I have no idea how I juggle being “mommy” and having any career (it’s so fucking hard and I’m constantly questioning whether I’m doing either “job” well, but I digress). Pressing send on that email made me more nervous than I thought I would be.

I had no time for dating. I wasn’t ready yet, right?

I had no idea. Does anyone?

Turns out you had two kids too, a bit older than mine, and you too, were amidst a divorce and your own heartbreak journey.

We joked about arranging a lunch or dinner “meeting.”  We had our first date in early December. I laugh about it now because it seemed like it was right out of a badly-produced Lifetime movie. After a longer than anticipated wait at a busy downtown Boston restaurant, we were sat at the coziest seats in the corner next to the window. The window was lined with Christmas holly décor and you could feel the cool weather outside penetrating the older window panes. We were even serenaded by vodka-selling carolers at dinner, something that made us both laugh.

Laughing—that was new, when was the last time I honestly did that (?) When was the last time I allowed myself to let go and feel that (?) I couldn’t even remember.

Dinner was fun, light-hearted, and easy (with surprisingly very minimal work talk)—exactly what I needed. Nearing the end of dinner, I left to use the ladies’ room, and I noticed your eyes watch me as I maneuvered through the restaurant back to you. It reminded me of a Miranda Lambert song that I listen to often, the only song on an entire heartbreaking album that holds promise of experiencing love again after a divorce.

I disappeared to get a drink—You still kept your eyes on me…” [Pushin’ Time, Weight of These Wings]

It’s been so long since I’ve felt loved, desired, appreciated. These feelings felt so foreign to me and in that moment, they took me by surprise. I forget sometimes that I’m not just a mom, a researcher, a conductor of the varying “hats” I wear throughout the week. I forget that I’m allowed to be more.

I’ve been so busy these past 18+ months and focusing on this new chapter in my and my kiddos’ lives, re-finding and loving myself first, the only dating I’ve dipped my toes in have been of the online dating app variety, the dreaded (godawful) swipe culture, where people treat potential partners as expendable– it was so refreshing to know men like you still exist. We both acknowledge how much is on our plates in our lives, careers, and healing journeys, so even if nothing materializes out of this, of us, I am so grateful for you for giving me hope that one day I could be loved again by you, or someone just like you. Today, I am hopeful.

After you settled up our dinner, you took my jacket that had been wrapped around my chair throughout dinner and held it up for me as I put my arms in. You wrapped me up and then looked at me to lead the way out. We walked and talked with our arms intertwined to the train station. Before setting down to my nightly routine back to my car—you kissed me softly, then kissed me again, this time more deeply—I finally had the answer to the question I had wondered about for months. You were interested in me too.

I didn’t know I could be kissed like that…” -Miranda

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