My Herb Farm on Fox Island

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-sunset-over-mount-rainier-image20197835Tom and I had been married for two years already. We had spent those first two years in the wild mountains of Montana, exploring ghost towns and abandoned gold mines, pressing wildflowers and learning to fly fish.  It was heaven on the weekends, but Tom’s new job was not going as well. He had been hired to come in and turn a small company around. None of his ideas went over well with the sales team and one morning he called, his voice hushed, his breathing quickened.

“Guess what I found on my desk this morning?” he asked. “A bumper sticker that says, “We don’t care how they do it in California.” That explained a lot about the opposition to his ideas.

After a year of struggling to win hearts and minds, and watching that little company go on “credit hold” more times than anyone should be comfortable with, he made the hard decision to swallow his pride and go back to the company he had left in California…only this time, he would be helping out the Seattle office.

I was excited about the move, especially after I took one look at our new town, Gig Harbor, Washington, a picturesque New England whaling town look-alike with a view of the sound, a harbor, and a view of Mount Rainier that was to die for.

Within a year we were ensconced in a reproduction Victorian farmhouse on five wooded acres on Fox Island, about 50 miles from Seattle. It had a “barn” like building that had been designed to hold a small plane, a chicken coop, and a goat the owner attempted to persuade us to keep as a lawnmower. We had never been farmers, and did not keep the goat, but I fell in love with the property. I immediately put in a formal herb garden and set up shop in the barn. I painted it, hung herbs from the rafters to dry, and set it up as a school for women who wanted to learn how to make wreaths and topiaries from dried flowers and herbs. I called it “Little Fox Farm ~ Herbs and Flowers.” I took classes in market gardening and watercolor painting. I jumped on the ferry and went up to Seattle to wholesalers, buying things for my business. Life was good and I was living on my own little piece of heaven.

Unfortunately for Tom, his drive of two hours up and back in the rain from Seattle to Fox Island (traffic and weather), was not his little piece of heaven at all. That was back in Montana and he was not a happy camper. One year later, when the company arbitrarily decided they wanted us to move to Bend, Oregon, we moved back to Montana to start our own business instead. Never again would Tom be under someone’s thumb. But life back in Montana would take a series of turns that would both horrify us and fill us with joy.  Stay tuned!

That Big Expanse of Sky Called Montana

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image15372074

Adventure had never been a part of my life. While some of my childhood friends had come home from trips to the World’s Fair or from far away mystery places like “back east” to see their grandparents, my only claim to fame was that we had stayed at the Motel Fresno (located in farming country in Fresno, California) six years in a row.  It was a halfway point between Los Angeles, where we lived, and Oakland, where my grandmother resided, so my parents and my grandmother met there each summer. And it had a great bar.  My parents could get pleasantly drunk while hanging out at the pool, watching us kids get blistery sunburns the first day out.

So, when Tom asked me to marry him and move to Montana, you can bet I was ready for an adventure. Tom described Montana to me the weeks before he left to start a new job there.

“It’s a land full of mountains, rivers, streams, and waterfalls.  And there’s animals, almost everywhere you look.  Bears and deer, antelope and elk, moose and mountain goats, everywhere! And the sky, well you can breathe in that huge expanse of sky all day long.” So I packed up my meager belongings and flew out to Montana that June.  And he was right about Montana. I’ve seen all those animals and more, sometimes all in one day. I’ve fly-fished those rivers and streams, watched eagles dive for fish on a sunny summer day, while wearing waders in the middle of a premier trout stream, and I’ve viewed some spectacular waterfalls.

Tom had bought a house for us on a street that sounded intriguing to me…Upper Miller Creek Road. He told me to always call it “Upper Miller Crick” if anyone wanted to know where I lived. Me, being me, refused, and I’ve said “creek” when I mean “creek,” for the last nineteen years, but I digress.

Tom and I were both a little skittish about getting married. We had only dated for eight months, and I knew less about Tom than he knew about me.  I only knew that I was going to commit the rest of my life to him unless one of four things happened, and he knew what those four things were. On his part, most of what he knew about me was the stuff I told him early on when I was trying to scare him away.

Tom and I were staying in a campground for a few days until the house closed and the inhabitants moved out, which was supposed to be on Wednesday of that week.  Since Tom had to travel about four hours north for his new job, it was up to me to take some of our things over to the new house and meet Tom there in a couple of days.  I got up early, grabbed a cup of coffee to tide me over, and headed over to my new home. When I arrived, I saw that boxes and furniture filled the two-car garage from floor to rafters, and people were running in and out of the house carrying lamps, boxes, and more pieces of furniture to a rental truck.

Disappointed, I drove past.  It was legally our house as of that day and it didn’t look like they were in any hurry to vacate.  I also noticed that the gorgeous ¾ acre bright green lawn was now yellow and parched. Apparently once it was sold they decided they wouldn’t bother spending any more money on water. My stomach dropped, thinking about Tom and what he would say about this. I had never seen him angry, but I figured there had to be a temper hidden down in there somewhere. All men get angry easily, right?

I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and I knew Tom would be calling me on the phone we had already hooked up in the new house. I was in a new town, two states away from my home, family, and friends. I did not know one soul there, and I felt frightened, alone, and intimidated. I could not go to that house until those people were gone.

So, several times during that long day I drove back up Upper Miller Creek Road to peek at my new home. Each time, people were still there, carrying boxes and furniture to the rental truck. I explored the town, and finally, I decided to kill some time by taking myself to the movies.

Once the movie let out, I climbed back up Upper Miller Creek Road one more time, unsure of what I would do if they were still there.  It was six o’clock at night now, getting dark, and I was sure Tom had been trying to call me all day.

As I rounded the last curve and saw the empty driveway, I let out let out a sigh of relief. I drove up my new driveway and ran up to the house, used my new key to turn the lock, and opened the door. I did a quick glance around but then headed straight to our new phone.  I saw the light was blinking on the phone telling me there were six messages. As I listened to each one, I heard Tom’s voice sounding more and more worried. The sixth message sounded frantic. “If I don’t hear from you in fifteen minutes or so I’m going to drive back to Missoula,” he said.

I dialed the phone with shaking fingers. I knew how angry he would be. Who wouldn’t be angry? I probably did something stupid. I deserved his wrath. I should have marched into “my” house and told those people to hurry up and leave! I should have demanded to use my phone and let Tom know what was going on. Of course he’ll be mad…and he should be. Leave it up to me to cause a problem.

“Hello Tom? What happened was…” I reiterated the story, hoping he wasn’t regretting trusting me with something that should have been so easy.

“Oh, I’m so sorry that happened,” he said. “You must have felt so worried that you couldn’t call me and tell me what was going on. How about if I come pick you up and you can stay up here with me. We’ll drive down to the new house together in a couple of days.”

It’s been almost nineteen years since that first day in my new home in Montana. Over and over again, Tom has proven himself to be that kind, gentle man who was willing to drive four hours to come get me just so I’d be more comfortable. He has taught me more about God’s unconditional love than anyone I have ever known. And he’s never ever done one of the four things. Ah, I can finally breathe, and that big expanse of sky is a great place to catch your breath.

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!