Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Love in the Time of Corona

This is not my typical blog post. I normally don’t talk about my love life anymore. Granted, that’s because I don’t have much of a love life. But sometimes, life throws you a curveball.. Or a corona-virus.. And the unexpected happens.

My last blog post ended with a cliff-hanger! After safely sheltering in Sarasota (my snowbird sweet-spot), I was preparing for a road trip back home to Colorado, to be taken with a man I’d never met!

I can understand why taking a 4-day road trip with a man who I’d only virtually met (from an online dating site, no less!) during a pandemic would raise some eyebrows.

First of all, there’s the question of why I was even on when I really hate online dating.  Here’s the answer: In my 17 years post-divorce, some of my best friends are guys who I originally met from online dating.  “Though romance is a nice fantasy,” I put on my profile, “friends with possibilities is much more likely.”

Once the lockdown began, the last thing on my mind was dating, and I was happy to have the excuse to not meet anyone because of the pandemic. In “normal” times, there’s always the annoying voice in my head pressuring me to “get out there,” but thanks to Corona, I was able to stay home, indulging my inner-nerd with virtual happy hours and Netflix.

However, Gregg charmed me with his wit and playful emails, and I admit, I’m a sucker for a skillful writer with a good sense of humor. I insisted that I was only interested in friendship, and Gregg agreed to be my “virtual man friend” rather than “boyfriend.” (We both thought “boyfriend” was a ridiculous term for people of our age, anyway!)

There were so many reasons we could not be in a romantic relationship…  We lived in different states, he was nowhere close to retiring, and there was a pandemic going on. We probably wouldn’t even be able to meet in real life! Gregg also hadn’t even dated since his divorce, one of the many “red flags” in my book.  And yes, I know I have plenty of my own red flags which I won’t mention, because I like to give the illusion that I’m perfect.

Once romance was off the table, it was a little easier to share all the stuff we normally wouldn’t put on a profile. Gregg bought my book, “The Laptop Dancer Diaries” (Oh dear, very embarrassing!) and he sent me and Becky CDs of music he’d written and had published in his younger days (Impressively talented! - Now that’s something he should share on his profile!) 

Becky and I listening to Gregg's music

Gregg teased me that I had a lot to learn about romance and I teased him that he had a lot to learn about technology… seriously, he couldn’t get his camera working on our first zoom call? Suspiciously “convenient”..  Luckily he figured it out or that would have been the final red flag! 

Gregg wanted to meet (take a socially distanced walk?) but I did not want a meeting to “assess chemistry.” I get that it’s important to do that, if you’re going to “date” but what’s the point of assessing chemistry if you know you’re not going to date? I hate that judgmental part of dating, and honestly, my chemicals are not reacting much to anyone these days. It was a relief to not worry about whether or not he was physically attracted to me, either.

There was one virtual call where I did dress up, though. I was taking part in the GISH Scavenger Hunt, and one of the missions was to dress to the nines and have a virtual kiss on a zoom video call! I quickly grabbed that mission and Gregg agreed to help me achieve the goal! He even sang one of his songs for me and I have to admit, the whole experience was sweet and endearing, romantic and nerdy all at the same time. Despite myself, I was starting to get hooked.

When it was getting close to the day I needed to drive home to Colorado, Gregg was frustrated that we might never meet. I told him if he were retired, maybe he could drive with me, and he surprised me then by saying he could get off work and help me drive home, if I wanted him to.

Though I had a lot of mixed feelings about this, I decided to take Gregg up on his generous offer. I’m a nervous driver and it’s about a 30-hour drive.  By this time, Gregg and I had talked for hours and he knew about my weird idiosyncrasies (he read my book, after all) and I trusted him completely. But this would mean stepping out of the “safety” of a virtual relationship. There was both the potential of being exposed to the coronavirus and even more worrisome for me, there were risks of the heart.

I am SO glad I said, ‘yes,’ to this offer.  Despite my typical overly-cautious self, especially with anything related to dating, I decided to live by the mantra I’m always touting: Seize the Day. (Actually almost a week!)  What would have been an extremely stressful, long, lonely, scary drive turned out to be one of the most enchanting adventures I’ve ever had.

I worried about the first meeting, not wanting there to be any awkward disappointment if we were different than imagined. I asked Gregg if we could wear costumes or masks and I’d video the “big reveal.” It turns out he looked Super HOT! (Who wouldn’t be in this getup?)

There was no awkwardness. Gregg looks better in person than on zoom calls. And we never ran out of things to talk about! We probably shared more in those four days of driving than we’ve ever shared with anyone else. I wouldn’t normally reveal all of my weirdnesses. But it was OK, because Gregg was sharing, too. (And, again, we’d already shared a lot back when we thought we’d never meet.) 

We’ve both been through a lot  -  deaths, heartbreaks, problems with health, finances, family, jobs, rejections, disappointments.  We talked about good stuff, too. Love, pride in our children, overcoming hardships.  We agreed that we each have lived a full, good life. A full life is going to come with “baggage,” but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. We’ve learned from all of those experiences.

Since we both like to write, we talked about co-writing a sequel to my book. It would be sort of a When Harry Met Sally in their 60’s,  post-divorce and in the midst of a pandemic. (I’m very hesitant about this because one embarrassing book is enough.)

Whether we write any more about it or not, though, it is the stuff of fairy tales and romcoms. Gregg drove almost the whole way without complaint. (He kind of insisted after he’d experienced a couple of hours of my driving..) This was such a relief since there was a lot of heavy rain which totally freaks me out, so he may have literally saved my life.

Entering Colorado!

He also brought wine, cheese, fruit, and music for our evening Happy Hours and one evening gave me a necklace with “Y” and Pi Symbol charms - another example of his thoughtful catering to my geeky personality. After we got to my house, he went out to get food and came back with roses.

Gregg’s sweet protection, his thoughtfulness, and his vulnerability opened up my heart after all. (He IS a master at romance!) Little by little, I realized that behind all of those red flags and barriers that I put up, we’re just two people who want to be loved. Life is short and I don’t want to spend what’s left of it protecting myself from heartbreak.

In the Epilogue of The Laptop Dancer Diaries I’d written in the last paragraph:

“Love like a child that’s never been hurt. Reach out your arms and give of your heart. Trust that whether it lasts for a minute or for a lifetime, it will be worth it.”

Totally worth it.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Something Good: My safe haven and my "Earth Angel" friend, Becky

About 3 months ago, I headed out from my home in Colorado to continue my "Snowbird Experiments" which included spending March and April in Sarasota, Florida.  Admittedly, this was an escape.. not just from the Colorado cold, but from some family problems I was having at home.

Never had I imagined that I'd be "hunkered down" with my new friend, Becky, during a "lockdown."  We'd just met last summer and I wouldn't really want anyone to feel stuck with me as a 24x7 visitor! And, let's face it, I'm very independent, so there aren't too many people who I can think of who I'd want to be sequestered with! But Becky turned out to be my own personal "Earth Angel" (Read on...)

Becky's townhouse became my new cozy home and Becky, her little dog, Jack, and gender-confused parrot, PacoPita, became my new little family. Becky's "zoom friends" became my "zoom friends" and mine became hers as we hosted virtual dance parties, birthday parties, and get togethers.

Becky and I have a lot in common..  an interest in language, communication, writing, and coaching. I was thrilled when Becky agreed to be my "guinea pig" for my "Agile in Every Day Life Experiments." 

Our 8 weeks of coaching one another on the goals we set each week worked out better than I could have imagined.  We each made great progress on our respective personal projects, learning, reflecting, and adapting over time.

But probably most helpful for me were the long walks we had, often around sunset. Becky is an awesome listener and a wise yogi.  She'd listen as I'd ramble on about my day, challenging me or commending me for my coaching of her. We both learned and grew as coaches and friends. 

During my time in Florida, I also met a new "virtual male friend," Gregg, who agreed to help me with the drive back to Colorado.  Yeah.. that's right, I'll be driving home with someone I never met face-to-face, and yeah, I've had a lot of anxiety about that, and yeah, Becky and I (and Gregg and I) have had way too many "therapy" sessions about this. But, in my overly-cautious way, I have gotten to know Gregg well enough that I trust him and feel grateful to him for helping me get back home.

I know this is one of those 'woo-woo' things to say, but I think that God sends me the right people at the right time of my life.  I read this book once called "Earth Angels" and I don't really remember what the book said... and I'm not talking about "literal angels"..  But I do thank God for putting certain people in my life at just the right time. In this case, I can't think of anyone else who could have helped to give me understanding without judgment, bring me joy, and help me grow during this confusing time of life.  

Being in the midst of beautiful surroundings, sunny days and breezy nights, sweet puppy dog snuggles, and a wise and loving friend - oh! And let's not forget a place where virtual parties are all the rage --  It's as though I've been living in my personal nerdy version of heaven. Is it any wonder why I think of Becky as an Earth Angel?

But while I've been thriving in this beautiful, secluded bubble, I know so many people are struggling, worrying about their businesses and their health or their families. So many people are mad..  mad at the government, mad at having to wear a mask, mad at people who don't wear masks, mad at people who don't stay home, mad at people who are mad at people (ok... I sort of fit into that last category.)

As I prepare to head out of this safe little haven, I'll try and not let the anger and judgment in the world get to me, but instead, embrace the wonderful acts of kindness I see. I'll keep my inspirational angel in my thoughts as I navigate the road back home and who knows, maybe Gregg will be my next Earth Angel.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Team Carpe Diem takes the GISH 2020 Challenge!

I love games and perhaps one of my favorite types of party games is the good old-fashioned scavenger hunt.  I discovered GISH in 2016 and played it first with a group of new friends I'd met in Minnesota.   Since then, I've been an avid fan of the game for its creativity, silliness, and wide range of bizarre challenges. 

The hunts are usually held in early August and a week long, but this year a mini-one-day GISH hunt was hosted, specifically geared to be a game which would "Connect, Inspire, and Support COVID Relief."  

One aspect of the hunt that I particularly enjoy is that your teammates can be all over the world and you need to collaborate.  Since one of my work-life interests was fostering teamwork, even when you're physically separated, GISH has always appealed to me.  This year, more than ever, it's helping to show that just because we're separated, it doesn't mean we can't connect and work together.

Teams are composed of 9-15 people, but you can get your friends to help (in fact, sometimes that's needed in order to accomplish a challenge.) Here's a sampling of the pictures and videos from some of the mini-hunt's 54 challenges that Team Carpe Diem accomplished:

#4 Let your pet do something she's not normally allowed to do. (This is Scotty's chicken sharing in his DQ sundae!)

#23 The Most Organized Refrigerator - "Wrap it in White" by Rebecca Burns, Inspired by Christo & Jean Claude

#25 Take a Nap (Jack got into the action with Becky on this one.)

#27 Photoshop yourself into a post card

#38 Animal sculpture out of toilet paper tubes

#40 Side-by-side drawing of your big toe next to photo of your big toe

#51 Make a Message of support for LGBTQ+ Community

#50 Paperclip Jewelry

#6 Romantic Virtual Date

#13 Friend to keep you company (like Wilson from Castaway)

#14 Frozen Dinner next to how it's marketed

#54. Haiku about Covid-19

#43 Paint a picture in the mirror of a celebrity with toothpaste. (Nancie paints Einstein!)

#15 Balance something on your chin for at least 20 seconds

Team Carpe Diem is in the midst of making a presentation and slideshow with all of our submissions, but I wanted to post enough so you could see the variety and types of things that were on the list.

What worked well
  • This was the first time that everyone on the team were friends and family of either me or Becky so we didn't have to try and coordinate with people we didn't know.
  • There's an option to play "for fun" (vs. "in it to win it") which I like so that there's no feelings of pressure to perform well.
  • It was great to do this with some friends who I hadn't talked to in awhile, like Shirley from San Francisco and Beth from Omaha.
  • I had a lot of fun, especially with some of the silly videos like trying to sing "Don't Stand So Close to Me" or creating a Zombie Movie or the Virtual Date
  • It's nice that Becky (who I'm in 'isolation' with) was such an active and funny participant!
  • Nice that so many of my friends and family participated.
What could have been better
  • Difficult and time-consuming to coordinate media and communication from so many different technology sources
  • My video-editing skills leave a lot to be desired.
  • I was especially frustrated with myself for messing up my video-recording of my virtual date!
  • We didn't have any families with kids on our team and there were quite a few items that required kids.