Saturday, March 28, 2020

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A few months ago, my therapist (started that a few months ago, too) suggested I consider opening my heart again.

It sounded like a terrible idea. Life as a single person who wasn't looking and was, in fact, pretty adamantly opposed to romantic connection sounded safe. I almost never get hurt when I am single. And I was just recovering from a bout of social anxiety and depression triggered by a supplement my naturopath had suggested. (I'm really not a naturopath person, but she's an excellent clinician and there's a huge lack of them in Mexico.)

But my ex-girlfriend from college was planning to visit. And she always provokes strong reactions in me. We had rekindled.... something... the previous spring when we had a torrid night together in Mexico City.

But the emotions she elicits confuse me, too. It's like trying to look directly at the sun. It's too intense. And we want such different things in life. She needs lots of time alone to write and paint and run, while I thrive on lots and lots of connection (though I need my downtime too). So I wasn't sure what to expect from her visit, and I was worried about feelings of grief when she left.

So Diana encouraged me to open my heart. To get on a dating app. Before Julia arrived. And I reluctantly agreed, because I trust Diana.

Julia's visit came and went. It was amazing to see her, and totally confusing too, in all the same ways. We decided not to have a physical relationship. It felt good to have those boundaries. Trusting my intuition -- that this relationship can't thrive as a romance -- and not listening to lust. After she left, I was very grateful about how things went.

And then I fell for someone totally inappropriate. Someone from our very small community here in Mexico. Someone who couldn't be more different than me -- Mexican, non-English speaking, working class and.... partnered.

I don't feel good about that. Didn't feel good about that.

I was caught off guard. And I know she knew what was going on. And acted as if she didn't mind. But it wasn't like we were openly communicating about it. And more to the point, it wasn't at all what I wanted.

So after two months, I ended it. With great sadness. For all that he was all wrong for me, it was a beautiful gift to feel love again after six years of being single. And he loved my kids. Which was a new and startlingly beautiful experience for me.

But I knew it was the only possible way.

After a month of grieving -- I was shocked by the depths of my sadness -- I started going on internet dates. I went on three dates. And then I met Sergio.

He said he knew in five minutes. I didn't. But he seemed nice, and I looked forward to going out again.

We met again a few days ago. Far from my home, after a scary experience in a car with another date.

I was nervous. When I spotted him, his face lit up with a smile. Mine too.

And my brain went completely empty. I had absolutely nothing to say. Nada.

Luckily, he didn't seem to notice. He was cheerfully chatty as he led me through the crowded streets of Centro to a romantic rooftop terrace restaurant.

He drew me out of my stupor with wonderfully romantic questions. I can't remember them now but I remember that I was charmed. We talked for hours. He was careful not to make any advances, trying to keep from scaring me. I finally took his hand and he stroked mine for ages.

After we finally left the restaurant, he led me on a romantic moonlit stroll to secret gardens scattered around Centro.

When it was time to go home to relieve the sitter, I refused his offer of a ride and hailed a cab. And drew him toward me for a kiss... what turned out to be the best first kiss of my life.

I want to share more of that story... but for now, nearly two months in, we are settling into a surprising partnership.

Despite my plans to wait six months to introduce him to my kids -- the best laid plans, eh? -- I only waited a few weeks. It seemed crazy to wait because what if the meeting was disastrous? Better to know sooner rather than later.

But it went better than I could have imagined. He fell in love with my kids and the feeling seemed mutual, at least with Amelie. Calliope is more cautious, as is her way, but is clearly relishing all the love and affection and especially, the roughhousing.

And now here we are, falling in love in the age of coronavirus. What an unexpected challenge for a new relationship. I am praying we can withstand the storm.

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