The Guy in the Parking Lot

????????????????????????????????????????Emerald green eyes with lashes to die for.  That’s all I noticed when I first laid my own baby blues on the guy in the parking lot of my apartment complex.  His eyes sparkled with an inner joy I had not seen since the last time I saw a picture of Santa Claus.

I finished loading my mountain bike into the back of my truck and politely said hello.

After that he began appearing whenever I was outside.  I told my daughter about this new “guy in the parking lot.”  I wondered if he was interested in me, but I was not interested in anyone, gorgeous eyes not withstanding.  I had sworn off men in general, and especially those that lived in my apartment complex.  “The Weatherman” had made me realize that dating men that knew when I was coming and going was a bad idea.

But the guy in the parking lot didn’t give up.  Even after I explained why I would not date him, he continued to seek me out.  He brought us homemade cookies at Christmas.  While he and his daughter were vacationing in Hawaii, he went into a store and bought me a bumper sticker about windsurfing for the bumper of my truck.  I was so surprised.  That evening I said to my daughter, “The guy in the parking lot thought about me when he was in Hawaii! Do you believe that?”  Still, I wasn’t interested.

As the months went by, the guy in the parking lot began to tell me little bits and pieces about his life.  His birth mother was a movie star and a model. She had given birth to him at seventeen and gave him up for adoption.  Soon after his birth, her face graced the cover of a dozen magazines.  He had traveled the world and was an artist with a camera.  He loved books.  We loved a lot of the same type of music.  Both of us were raised in Los Angeles.  We wondered if we had ever crossed paths and not known it.  Interesting…but still, I was not interested. He didn’t make me anxious.  I wasn’t sitting around on a Saturday with nothing to do, waiting for him to call me.  I didn’t feel the urge to stop my life for him.  Yawn.

We eventually began dating, and on one of the Saturday afternoons I wasn’t home waiting for him to call, I found myself perusing the self-help shelf at the local library.  I noticed the title of a book by Robin Norwood, “Women Who Love Too Much.”  I pulled it off the shelf and turned it over to read the back. Huh!  Maybe this is why I get so heartbroken over guys who don’t deserve so much as a backward glance.  I took it up to the check-out counter.

I devoured that book.  It was like reading a biography about myself.  I mentioned in my last post that I felt as if Norwood had set a private detective after me, documenting my escapades for her book on women like me…giving their hearts away hither and yon, or more like helter skelter. I read the last page, got up and looked in the mirror, studying myself, trying to remain upright while my brain turned upside down. I blushed.  Profusely.  Yep…I was that woman. Now what?

I guessed I was going to have to do some serious soul-searching about the man in the parking lot. Was I really willing to throw away a relationship that was built on trust, security, shared interests, and peace?  Did I really want one that was more familiar to what I was used to? You know, emotional chaos. What were my chances of ever meeting a guy like the man in the parking lot who wasn’t already taken by someone who was much smarter than me?  Could I actually commit my life to him? It was a lot to think over.  It took about a half hour. I dialed the phone.

“Tom? This is Linda.  Are you still interested in wanting to marry me? Because if you are, I am. Until death do us part.”

It’s been almost twenty years.  Once in awhile, Tom looks at me across the room, his gorgeous green eyes sparkling with laughter.  “I’m the guy in the parking lot!” he jokes.

“I know!” I answer.  And I look across the room back at him, and I feel so very, very blessed.

When You Love Too Much

Cover of "Women Who Love Too Much"

Cover of Women Who Love Too Much

Last week I wrote a post about the various and sundry relationships I had entered into with men who were all too wrong for me.  After writing that post, I thought of a core belief that has percolated in the back of my mind for many years.  The belief has been this:

The reason I had gotten into so many terrible relationships when I was younger  is because I was mentally ill.

But that belief got flipped on its backside during the editing process of Monikers.

As I reflected on the different relationships I had been in, as well as the symptoms of mental illness I had experienced over that decade, I realized that my belief about how it all came about was upside-down and backwards.  I now believe this:

The reason I became so seriously mentally ill is because of the relationships I had allowed myself to get into.

Wow.  I am still gaining insight into this issue, 35 years later.

You see, I had all the earmarks of someone who was born with certain emotional tendencies in the first place.  I was an anxious, shy child from the time I was born.  But the glowing coals and smoldering kindling of being a Nervous Nelly somehow got fanned into the flames of full-blown panic disorder and agoraphobia as well as major depression.  So what happened?

I. loved. too. much.

Really?  How can someone love too much?

Someone can love too much when that four letter word ~ L.o.v.e, is spelled with four very different letters ~ F. e. a. r.

I desperately loved my father.  In trying to win his love for me, I bought him expensive gifts, made him his favorite pies, and tried to hang out with him at his favorite bar.  I felt closer to him for a short time, but he still seemed to find it easy to move out of our childhood home without so much as a goodbye.  When he left I felt a lot of fear.

A child who has no security that their parents love them experiences fear because they believe there is no one there to guide them or keep them safe.  They start to look elsewhere to get that need for love and security met.

My own first relationship was with a man (I was fifteen and he was twenty) who physically looked a lot like the father I wanted to love me. I poured my heart into him thinking I would receive love in return. We married when I was sixteen and our firstborn son was born when I was seventeen.  The marriage lasted about a week and a half. So I had to look for someone else to fill the hole I had been left with.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

~Mother Teresa

Robin Norwood provides this insight in her book, “Women Who Love Too Much:”

“We are attracted to men who replicate for us the struggle we endured with our parents, when we tried to be good enough, loving enough, worthy enough, helpful enough, and smart enough to win the love, attention, and approval from those who could not give us what we needed, because of their own problems and preoccupations.”

I first read Robin’s book in 1992.  It was a mind-blower for me.  I felt as if she had sent a private detective to follow me around and document my relationships as I married, divorced, married again, and divorced again, and then dated the likes of “The Weatherman,” “Air Force Guy” and others. Her words forced me to look back over the littered path of the relationships in my own life and reflect on how I got into them in the first place. I asked myself what drew me to each man I either dated or lived with or married. Quite the revelation.

But still, after all these years, I thought what I had done, and what I had allowed to happen to me, was because I had become seriously mentally ill as a young teen after my first marriage fell apart. Now I understand that what caused me to become so seriously ill was how I was treated within relationships that I thought would bring love, trust, security, and peace, and instead brought me abuse, trauma, betrayal, and chaos.

Now, I am a psychotherapist in private practice.  I see women and teen girls all week long.  I see the same patterns in them that I saw in myself.  If I could do anything, I would open up their skulls and insert the insight I have gained about what constitutes a healthy choice in a life partner.

There’s a checklist in Robin’s book that lists characteristics of “women who love too much.”  I took the test, thinking back on who I was over twenty years ago before I met and married someone who truly does love me. Soon we will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.  Ahhh…authentic love…at last.

Anyway, I placed my check mark next to fifteen out of fifteen questions. I was a woman who used to love too much.  So, I brought the checklist to my teen girl’s group.  I asked the questions and had them check off a list of their own.  Most of the girls checked fifteen out of fifteen.  So we’re going to have a little book club.  It’s that important.

Has this been a problem in your life?  Have you, as a man looking for his woman or a woman looking for that perfect husband, found yourself looking back at littered, broken relationships?  Perhaps you are in a broken relationship right now. What drew you to that person?  What was “familiar” about them?   What felt “comfortable” to you?  That’s the key.  Something felt comfortable about that person, and it may be that something about them reminded you of a parent you desperately wanted to love you.  Only what was missing from your parent is also, sadly, missing from your latest love as well.

Please comment and let me know if this post resonated.  Let’s have a discussion!

Monikers

Mr. BunglesI was working at a job I loved and that made me feel good about myself.  After all, making other people’s teeth whiter was important work.  And I also had my first business card with my name on it. I got into the habit of leaving them on tables in restaurants or accidentally dropping one in the foyer as I left church.   I gave them out to strangers on the street or in the chip aisle at the supermarket.

My daughter had grown up, and was planning on moving out.  We untangled from each other like octopi backing out of a group hug.  We knew it was what was needed for both of us, but we didn’t want to let go.

My son was spending summers at his grandparent’s home in Los Angeles.  Suddenly I had time on my hands…too much time.

I didn’t know what to do with all that freedom.  After a lifetime of feeling encased in anxiety and grief, I had broken out of the cocoon and was flying on my own for the first time.  I tried to relive a childhood I had missed.  Every minute I wasn’t working I was playing on the beach or windsurfing at the lake.  One sunny morning I went out to the street to look northwest towards the beach.   I wanted to see if there was any telltale sign of fog.   There was.  That meant wind by 1:00 or 2:00 p.m.  I ran back into the apartment and dashed down the hallway, sliding into the bedroom I shared with my eighteen-year-old daughter. I shook her awake and yelled “Kowabunga!” She rolled her eyes and turned toward the wall in an attempt to get back to sleep. She had become the older, responsible one.

I was still the orphan looking for someone to love me.  There was a part of me that didn’t believe God would ever allow me to get into another relationship.  After all, I had blown three marriages.  But then I thought, maybe my definition of marriage is flawed.  I mean, I thought marriage meant that “two became one.”  I was pretty sure that didn’t mean I became one with the STD my husband shared with his latest girlfriend or that my eye became one with the end of his fist.  Still, I felt stupid; the type of woman people felt sorry for; kind of like a dimwit. Oh, that’s Linda, don’t mind her…she can’t help it.  She’s been…shhhh…don’t tell anybody…mentally ill for years now.

The guys I dated were all wrong for me.  I was like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to fill that missing piece with guys who just didn’t fit.

I was still giving men nicknames, just as I had in the 1970’s.  It hurt a little less to be dumped by “Wing Nut” than it did to be dumped by Scott, the man I had just given my heart to.

There was “the dentist.”  Seven years younger than I and a playboy with a fancy education from back east…not a good match for the likes of me.  Oh…and he had a pretty blond girlfriend stashed away in England part time.  Whenever her visa ran out in the States, she headed back across the pond for a spell and a spot of tea.  That’s when he would ask me out.  When she returned, he dated her; something he conveniently failed to mention.  I called him at home one day and there was her voice was on the answering machine.  “Hulloo…this is Lady Mary Elizabeth…”we’re” not home just now…yada yada yada.” Oh yeah…I got a million of ‘em.

After the dentist, I met “the pilot/surfer/IT geek.”  He bragged about his ability to do somersaults in the sky.  One day we rented a Cessna 170 and flew from San Luis Obispo to Fullerton Airport.  Soon into the flight I looked out the window and said, “There’s Lake Lopez.”

“That’s not Lake Lopez,” he said.  I looked again.  I had windsurfed that lake a hundred times.  I would recognize it upside down and backwards.

“Yeah, that’s Lake Lopez, alright.” I said.

The engine was so loud that I couldn’t hear the quick chatter between him and the air traffic controllers.  He avoided eye contact for the rest of the trip. I noticed the right half of his face twitching as we entered LAX airspace.  I just thought he had a tic.  When we finally cruised down the landing strip at Fullerton he broke out into sobs. Apparently he had almost flown us into the side of a mountain.  He climbed out of the cockpit and vomited onto the tarmac.  My children already didn’t like him very much. That pretty much cinched it.

That coupled with the cases of beer he consumed on a nightly basis worked to pull us apart.

And I can’t leave out “AJ the Weatherman.”  Most of the time I couldn’t remember what his real name was so I just called him “The Weatherman,” for short.  He reported all the latest weather patterns on the 7:00 o’clock and the 11:00 o’clock evening newscast for the local television network.  When he took me out on a date (rare) he wore his letterman jacket with the station call letters on the back.  This was to impress the cute cocktail waitresses so he could get us free drinks.  He also wanted to make sure I knew that all the cute cocktail waitresses thought he was hot stuff.  Apparently he didn’t see them roll their eyes as he headed over to his table.  I wasn’t impressed either.

I was right in the middle of breaking it off with him during our date on New Year’s Eve.  “No!” he yelled, almost spilling his Bud Light.  “I was willing to give up ever having children for you!”

Oh, and don’t let me forget to mention his stalking behavior.  I caught him hiding behind the potted plants on his deck balcony more than once after coming home from the 11:00 o’clock news report, lying in wait for me to arrive home.  The next day, as I left my apartment, his somewhat shrill “Hey!” would force me to look up towards his second floor patio.  Leaning on his patio railing was all 125 pounds of him, baby-oiled arms, hands properly protected by weight-lifting gloves, his smile looking like a Chihuahua ready to latch on to the mailman’s ankle.  “Oh, yeah, hi,” I answered.

“How’s it going?”

“Fine.”

“So, where were you last night?”  Subtlety was not his strong suit.

That coupled with the cases of beer he consumed on a nightly basis worked to pull us apart.

So, I decided it was better if I didn’t date men who lived at “Divorce Central” with my children and me.

By this time I was beginning to think I didn’t know how to pick men or something.  I mean, seriously. I was learning.  Really.  I just wasn’t a quick study.

So then, along came “the Air Force guy.”  He went to my church.  He dressed impeccably.  I was drawn to guys in Italian suits from the Mens Warehouse with $20 Rolex watches from Mexico who drove leased Mercedes Benz’ far beyond their budget.  Well, truth be told, I had never been drawn to guys like that.  I had been drawn to guys in dreadlocks with Jamaican accents, but that’s another story altogether. I’m all about experiencing all the world has to offer.

We began dating, and I found myself falling for him.  I had waited a little while this time before falling in love; at least two and a half weeks.  I couldn’t really figure out what it was about him that drew me in.  He wasn’t handsome.  He had a high voice, like a man pretending to sound like a woman.  If I called when he wasn’t home, I found myself cringing at the recording on his answering machine.  “Hi, this is Todd.”  He sounded like Robin Williams might sound on crack during one of his manic episodes.  But he drew me in.  And apparently he drew a lot of other women in too.  By the time he got done wringing out my self-esteem like a wet, dirty dishcloth, I knew something was seriously wrong with me.  I began to run the track at the high school after work in an attempt to outrun years of rejection and abandonment.

And then, along came “the guy in the parking lot.”