Monday, April 3, 2017

Removing Distractions

I've felt it lately. Well, I've felt a lot of new things lately. I've been lonely and frustrated. I've been inspired and fiercely determined. I've been really angry and resentful at times too. I've been exhausted. I haven't been my normal, "happy" self but that's okay, I'm happier in the fall anyway.

What I've felt most lately though is God's presence. And I don't think I've ever been more conscious of it until this season of my life. There's a higher power that's been ruffling feathers amidst my days and although He has quite the cheeky sense of humor, I appreciate it. God has been removing all of the distractions in my life. Of course, that's been a list of men that kept deterring my focus.

They've been crossed off for a multitude of reasons. I lost interest suddenly or they turned into a raging, rude egomaniac and made it easy for me to not give them a second thought. I woke up a few days ago with a simple yet rather large revelation for myself. I've given so much attention and focus to the fun I was having with these ... dudes ... that I never truly realized that I had only developed true, real feelings for one of them. That made it even easier to delete a few more numbers I had collected.

I'm more spiritual than I am religious. I'm private about my prayers. But I do like knowing that my faith is in something bigger and that something has a great sense of humor.

I gave myself a deadline. This time it was one to take seriously. I was tired of putting off writing about hard things because I knew it would take me to a dark place. But I did it. March was hell because I was quite literally drowning in my past. No one could understand my terrible mood. And these men that were popping in to chat, they couldn't handle my lows. Instead they wanted to be combative or rude when I just needed to be given some slack and left alone.

And so I was. That's when I finished it. I finished the books throughout the weeks that I silenced my phone and forgot about all of the players on the chessboard. It was a good lesson.

Then I met a man named Austin. Although he looked like a beefier, tattooed Bradley Cooper, his sweet talking wasn't bringing me to my knees. But I felt like he deserved a chance. He opened up about a lot of personal details, ones that I respected and sympathized with. I gave him a hell of a hard time though. I batted away his compliments and talks of the future. I was extremely skeptical. I told him that the same lines he used on previous women weren't ever going to work with me. I'd rather have something full of substance. He liked the small challenge. I didn't open my laptop the entire time though. Days went by and I was so distracted by this man who was bothering me more than impressing me that I didn't work once toward my end goal.

Sometimes I would sit silent during our phone calls not knowing how to respond to him. While he gushed, "I feel like we have a really deep connection. Our conversation is really great."

I replied, "Well, the conversation could be better," not realizing what a bitch I actually sounded like until the words ran out of my mouth like fiery diarrhea.

He laughed at me though and liked my angst. I liked that he kept trying.

But then he vanished. The last thing he texted me was, "When can I talkkkkk to youuuu?" or something of the sort.

He completely dropped off. I didn't text him throughout the next few days of silence. Honestly, I thought the only way he would have missed a phone call or a good morning text would be for some extreme reason like, I don't know, incarceration.

Until he resurfaced with a batch of messages that made no sense and had me barely replying. I had a feeling he had another woman up his sleeve the entire time. Low and behold, the day after he came up for air I find Mr. Austin tagged in a life event on my Facebook newsfeed. He's now in a relationship. And I just started laughing.

"Smooth move God. You're watching out for me," I thought.

I feel a bit sorry for the woman who seems completely smitten with a man whom days earlier sounded giddy talking about our deep connection. Actually, it completely sucks for her. I hope he doesn't screw her over. And I hope she likes extremely metrosexual men.
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Found In The History Books

His long hair fell around his face as he leaned over to hear me better. I was curled up in the corner of the love seat and I could tell he was waiting for me to offer up the space beside me. I could feel his breath hitting my bare shoulder, I didn't want that to end yet. He was ready to listen to my story. He wanted to know all the ins and outs of it and how I came to be like ... this.

He was creative himself. He was following his dreams and scattering kindness everywhere he went. He was on a plane every other day with his camera in tow. I envied that. I was so jealous that he had the freedom to go whenever he pleased. But what was truly attractive about him was his passion. It was tangible, like mine. And I felt drawn to him because of that similarity. Maybe, one day, he could help me show my story just as much as I've loved to tell it.

He stood tall. He had unique features too, ones that weren't found on the boy down the street but instead ones found in the history books. His ancestors go back to our roots here. Dark, almond eyes will always weaken me.

Eventually he did tire though. I patted the seat next to me signaling for him to come take it. And he did. It wasn't his cologne that was intoxicating though, it was just him. My entire body was being pulled towards his and I had to be firm in my movements. I couldn't allow the involuntary feelings to take over.

My laptop was open  and he was reading a chapter that I had unofficially titled "Everything but Sex." That was nerve-racking in and of itself. I heard light chuckles but I didn't get to see any of his expression. His face was too close to mine and if I turned just the slightest I knew that I wouldn't be able to resist him.

"Grace," his voice startled me.

And then I had no choice. I had to turn my head and face him. In cliché form, I could feel my heart beating a bit faster.

I squeaked out, "Yes?"

"There's a few things I would change or move around but it's solid. It's funny too, which I didn't anticipate," he explained.

He wouldn't break eye contact with me though which is why I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even think straight enough to conjure up a coherent sentence.

I sighed, "Yeah, I mean, I know it's not great."

He touched my hand then. And his hands were big. They weren't rough like I had expected them to be either.

"Is this weird," he asked.

I just shook my head no because I was trying not to pounce on him or simultaneously pass out. Then he leaned his head in a little and raised his eyebrows like he was asking me if it was okay. But instead of meeting him halfway I turned my head back around and scrolled through the manuscript.

"What did you think about this line," I asked.

Meanwhile, in my head, I was cursing myself and my nerves for ruining it all.

***

Weeks later after numerous phone calls and texts, I got to see him again. I had to go to an opening downtown for an event the old PR firm I had interned for invited me to. I was in talks for representation there so I figured it'd be best if I showed my face around. I had no idea he'd be there though. After I made my rounds, I found a quiet room to take a breath in.

I had been sitting there for several minutes when he walked in. His hair was parted in the middle but pulled back into a low ponytail. Dark jeans, boots and a charcoal, long-sleeve tee, he wasn't even close to the metrosexual zone I was so acquainted with but he was still sharp enough to hold his own in this type of setting.

He locked the door behind him and said, "I heard you were here."

I got up and walked over to be near him. I gave him a hug and then quickly backed off.

"Yeah, just winding down now. I was thinking about heading out," I answered.

He added another log to the fireplace and sat down near it. And I was just standing by the door still, like an anxious idiot.

He started humming a song. I wondered if he chose it on purpose or if it was just happenstance.

"Don't," I said.

He looked at me questioning, "What did I do?"

"I don't want to hear that song," I explained.

"Come sit down," he asked.

I walked over and sat across from him on one of the floor pillows. I took my shoes off and stretched out my legs a bit. And just as I did that he grabbed my ankle and dragged me over to him. It was a pretty slick move, I admit. The pillow slid right across the hardwood with ease.

Then we were face-to-face and that same feeling was coming over me. It was kind of similar to "fight or flight" but more like "pounce or pass out" again. 

"So," he started, breaking the silence, "can you not take hints or are you just not interested in me?"

I sat there a bit stunned. I honestly had no clue what to say. I'm the girl that talks too much and he was making me feel like I had completely lost my ability to speak the English language.

Finally I asked, "Is that a real question?"

But instead of answering me he kissed me. He didn't wait for me to meet him halfway or ask permission with his expression, he just did it. I didn't hold back either. Everything about him was warm. His kiss, his touch, it's like he just radiated more heat than the average, healthy human did.

He was safe. We didn't have to fight with our rhythm or who was where at what time. Instead, I allowed him to have full control and enjoyed myself. My jeans were unbuttoned. My jacket was back in the corner that I was sitting in before he came inside. I tugged on his shirt and he took it off in one swift motion. He was exactly how I had pictured him for so many months.

He kept tracing my collarbone and kissing my neck. I whispered for him to not be so careful. He didn't need much time to think about it. We were both fully undressed and ready within seconds. But before anything happened, he gazed for a bit. His hand was traveling from my chest down to my stomach. I needed that. I needed to feel like I could be admired.

His hands were alive. It wasn't that he was running them all over but instead he was fine tuning his movements. Eventually he laid down and flipped me over. My back was at his chest and I could feel him pressed up against me. He kept pulling me closer until he couldn't handle it anymore. I was about to add an entirely new experience to my resume.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Knock At The Door

"Let me see your tattoos."

I started to lift my hair up but he grabbed my hand to stop me.

"No, the new ones," he demanded.

He was sitting on my bed staring at me. There wasn't a lightness about him. He had left his sense of humor at the door. He was being serious again, and I could feel my nerves begin to take over.

I tugged on the top of my shirt a bit to reveal the one near my chest. And before I could say anything he was right in front of me touching it with his fingertips.

"It's not completely healed yet. It's still raised," he observed.

He grabbed the back of my neck and brought me closer. I felt like he was teasing me now. He was dusting off a boundary that I had placed between us years ago. He bent his head down near my ear and whispered, "Next."

I tried to roll up my sleeve but the fabric was too tight on my arms.

"Just take it off," he said.

I looked at him confused. He knew I was questioning what he wanted me to do. He grabbed the end of my sleeve and gave it a light pull.

"It's okay," he reassured.

I kept asking myself what was happening. I kept trying to suppress the urge to ask him out loud and ruin whatever he was trying to begin. But how I ended up on the floor of my bedroom in just a bra and boy shorts, in front of him, was completely unsettling. I wasn't fighting it though.

He wasn't saying much either. It's like he was trying to relay messages to me between his words. I didn't want to make assumptions. So I sat there with my arm out showing off my latest tattoo while he studied it.

My hair fell around my shoulders and I had taken off all of my makeup just moments before. I was self-conscious but curious. I wanted him back near my neck. It's all I kept thinking as he traced the lines of the arrow on my forearm. But I'd never admit that to him. The closer he would get to me the more my breath would catch and my stomach would take a tumble. Although, I wasn't running away from whatever this was without him being the one to leave this time. I'd stay and see it through.

He interrupted my thoughts and asked, "Is the tower Claire?"

I just nodded back too anxious to actually say anything out loud. His hand then traveled up and over to the straps resting on my shoulder. He pulled up on it as if he was telling me to stand up. I obeyed. He was sitting on the edge of the bed and guided me over by the waist placing me between his legs. I felt too tall and too big and a small part of me wanted to pick up my clothes and run away but I stayed. Because there was an even bigger part of me that wanted to know what would happen.

His hands were resting on my hips when he said, "These got bigger."

"Well, I had a baby, asshole."

"Not complaining. Just observing," he defended.

I felt more at ease now. With just that tiny bit of banter I felt more like I was supposed to with him. The silence was starting to eat me up.

I continued it and mocked him a bit, "That's not the only thing that got bigger."

He let out a laugh, "I noticed that too."

His eyes took a turn upwards. I was blushing and he knew it. Although he wasn't so tough anymore that I couldn't make his cheeks a bit pink. Which they were so I brought my hands up to his face.

"I still really like this face."

His eyebrows furrowed a bit, "I thought you loved this face?"

"I do," I agreed.

He pulled me closer then and turned me onto the bed. His body hung over me and I held my breath for a bit. My face grew hot as he stared down with intensity I hadn't seen on his face in all the years I had known him. Then he lowered his chest to mine and kissed me quickly.

"God damn," he shouted and turned his head to the side.

I noticed his eyes were shut and I asked, "What's wrong?"

His hands were holding himself off of me and I had a great view of his entirety. I was enjoying taking him all in. There was such a difference in the way I felt when he touched me. There was such a different energy that filled the space than from what I was used to. I liked it. I drank it up and waited for an answer.

"That should have happened already."

"Is that why you seem so frustrated," I questioned him some more.

He never answered me. Instead, he started kissing me again but with a ferocity that I had only dreamt of him having. His beard hadn't grown back yet but there was a bit of stubble on his face. I loved that he would growl or moan a bit when I'd touch him. There was reassurance that he wasn't regretting what was happening.

We fought a bit under the sheets. I'd be on top of him one minute making him sit up so I could wrap my legs around his waist. But then he would tire of me taking the reigns and he'd lay me down allowing me to feel everything he had to offer. I didn't know exactly what he wanted though and I was scared to cross a line. I had an internal struggle every time I would pull on his shorts or slip my hand inside. Before I knew it the rest of my clothes were on the floor.

He whispered, "Now I know what's underneath."

"Lucky you," I giggled back.

Then he was back to teasing me. His hands kept drifting down between my thighs. He'd separate my knees and brush his fingertips all the way down to where my panty line should have been.

I wasn't used to feeling wanted. I was used to just going through the motions. I was used to feeling insecure. But even when he couldn't say exactly what he wanted, the way he touched me or the way his eyes would move across my body had me wanting more. Was I finally getting my wish?

But then there was a knock at the door.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Microscope


We all pick ourselves apart. Whether out loud with friends or at home, alone, staring at ourselves in front of the mirror, it's a terrible habit that most of us can't quit. I certainly have a problem doing it. Granted, ever since having Claire, I'm much more conscious of what I say aloud. I'm doing it in my head all of the time though.

I'm extremely confident in most areas of my life. In my work. In my writing. In my friendships and relationships with my family. In little things too like being able to put together the perfect outfit for any occasion or holding my own in conversation. I'm really good at making most people giggle. But when it comes to love, my self-esteem is at an all time low. I've obviously pinpointed the culprit. I know where this comes from. You know where this comes from. In fact, there are some details that are still coming out as to why I feel certain ways when it comes to intimacy or just my physical appearance. I feel like I shouldn't be blamed for it though. I was in a decade-long relationship with someone that knew everything about me and decided I wasn't worth very much. And I know there are so many women and men that can relate to that feeling. It trickles down to every part of ourselves. And frankly, it fucking sucks. Even when a thought pops up that I know is completely irrational or nonsensical, it doesn't stop it from being very, very real for me.

I put myself under a microscope a lot. I find myself almost warning people who show interest in me of my flaws. It's like a subconscious form of self-sabotage that I've constructed. I don't do this to all of them though. It's only the ones that could be real. It's not the fun ones or the ones playing games. I spoon feed myself to those, knowing what the end result will be and allowing myself to get hurt by it. That's so dumb and, this too, is a habit so many of us have. We are too smart for that behavior.

I'm very in tune with my flaws. I can list them out for you quite quickly but that doesn't make me any less great. That doesn't mean someone who wants to take me out will be disappointed. I have to rewire myself. I don't want to find that confidence and base it on someone else's validation though. It's nice to have but I've got to hold strong to how I feel when I look at myself in the mirror. And, most days, I'm pretty amazed at myself too. Why do I constantly make men, men who want to date me in particular, question that? I don't know but I know that I have to be more aware of it. Having a sense of humor and making self-deprecating remarks within my writing that people can relate to is one thing, but assuming that a first date will end badly because of me is a terrible feeling. I know I'm not the only one either.

I like looking inward at myself though and putting down on paper what I see. Sometimes I learn more about myself. Sometimes I walk away liking myself a bit more. So I did it again. I put myself under a microscope but this time it wasn't with an attitude of disdain or hatred. Instead, it was just the facts.

I started with the easier of the two: the physical.

I stood in front of my mirror earlier in black panties and a black bralette. The back band cuts a bit into my sides but it keeps the girls high and it's far more comfortable than an actual bra to which I have a severe dislike for. I've been curvy since puberty hit. And by curvy I mean curvy with actual curves. I've been chubby and thin and all in between too but I've had curves through it all. Even more so now that I've birthed a child and am nearing 30. I started my period one morning when I was 12-years-old. I was in London, because why wouldn't Grace "becoming a woman" happen in a less dramatic way, with my family on our big, two-week European adventure when I woke up and screamed. I knew what it was, obviously. But I was also really pissed. I had to sit on a double-decker tour bus in the heat with a pad that was more like an actual, size 4 diaper than a "woman's napkin." It sucked. But I digress, since then my hips have been rather ... hippy. I like my hips though, no matter if I'm twenty pounds more or less they're rounded and look rather sexy in long, tight dresses which I frequent. I've got to remember that when I'm complaining about my legs.

I don't have the best legs. I never have. Even when they were cellulite-free, I always made the joke that when I stood up my knees would disappear. So, I don't wear shorts. Instead, I wear a lot of tight pants so the eyes can be on my hips and my not knee-less gams. My feet are thin. They can fit into any shoe and most of the time they don't even look like they belong to my body. I like them though, ya know, because I really love having the option to wear any shoe I want. The same goes with my hands. Long, thin fingers gave me the ability to throw an extra screwy screwball, so I like them too. And when I get around to painting my nails and wearing a few rings, they're not bad to look at either.

My hair is golden. Now I mean that in both a literal and metaphorical way. It's a strange, blonde shade that I've never dyed before because it's ever-changing all on its own. It's big and bouncy and if there's one thing about myself I can always count on it's that my hair will always do its job. When I smile there are small divots near my jawline that I've never loved. Although, I love them more now because my dad has them too.

I'm always really tense. So even the softest parts of my body always feel a bit hard. My shoulders are broad but they give me a bigger presence. I like that. Although, I do wish I could relax them more. I think I may get a tattoo back there one day. But so far I've marked myself in three places: my neck, my chest and my forearm. I love all three of those spots. Next up, I'll be tattooing my stomach, on the left, quite high up.

Inheriting wrinkles is funny. It's like a curse and a kiss from your family all at once. I don't have many wrinkles but the few I do have sit all in the same spot; above my nose, in between my eyes. I'm starting to get the same two that my mom has developed over the years, which come from her father. Did you know my grandfather looks like George Clooney? Yes, he sure does. And then the one directly above my nose that is subtly getting more and more apparent, that's from my dad. I've got to stop squinting.

I'm such a walking conundrum though. As I sit here writing all of this out, I'm completely confident in myself. I rarely get embarrassed. I'm goofy and a bit offbeat and rather awkward in tons of scenarios. But I'm also composed when I need to be. I'm confident enough to let anyone willing to look, read all of my most intimate thoughts, moments and memories. But when it comes to dating, I question myself. I question the men who are interested in me. Are you sure? Are you sure you want to take me out? That's such a dumb question though, because I'm great. Even the squishiest parts are great.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

On the Highlight Reel

If someone was to ask you what's on your highlight reel, what would it include? 

That first home run that flew over right field would be on mine. My first kiss with someone that I'd kiss again today even though the first time was a bit rough. Reading the personalized letter from Dr. Sachsman and the chills his words gave me after receiving a 100% on my senior thesis final. The moment I found out I was having a little girl. The heartbreak I experienced in 2016. Sprinting through the Chicago airport missing my flight home by three minutes. The highs and lows and a few in betweens would all be sprinkled throughout. 

What feels so good about my highlight reel is that it just got so much more colorful.

I've been needing to finish up this project of mine for a while. But it never felt finished. It didn't have an outline that I was completely confident in yet. Now it does. It loops around from February 5th to February 5th and in a perfect, Grace-filled dream world it stays that way all the way through my hypothetical publication. You'll read about the day. You'll read about the 9 years before but you'll finish with that run to gate F9 when I realized that the puzzle pieces to my life were meant to be put inside a book. These things are just too coincidental. I flew across the globe and met people who connected with my story. I sat next to a woman on an airplane from a completely different country and within the first hour of chatting realized that she is in the same position I was a year ago. That couldn't be just mere irony. That's fate. That's a kick in the ass to get this book done and take the leap.

Here's a few snippets inside the trip that ended it all.

***

Finally my bag came around the carousel. I grabbed it, unhooked the handle and quickly realized that one of the wheels had broken. I wasn't surprised. In fact I would have been more surprised if everything had gone smoothly from start to finish. 

I swung my camera bag back over my shoulder and then awkwardly tried to pull all the pieces of my hair out from under my strap. I lost a few as Christine, my middle seat buddy for the 14-hour flight, giggled at me and said goodbye. Once situated, I waddled over to customs, turned in my paper and went through the exit gate.

It was louder in there and if I didn't watch the floor too carefully I would tumble down the incline. But I was scanning the crowd trying to find her. Thankfully, she's tall. It wasn't her height that I noticed first though. It was that big, goofy grin. Then I noticed the sign, "Fleming. AKA Carrie Bradshaw. Welcome to Australia," she had scribbled inside a notebook last minute.

This was the same mysterious girl that commented on my crimped hair in middle school. We had never eaten lunch together. We had never had a class together. It wasn't until high school did we even become friends. It wasn't until I was 23 that we became best friends. But this woman, she grew up in the same small town with me, around the same people and the same ideas and the same societal norms pounded into our heads for as long as we could remember. And now we were together, living seventeen hours in the future from our families and over nine thousand miles away from our homes. It was a bizarre reflection. It was exciting.

She was bouncing up and down a bit but she couldn't go over the barrier. I hustled over to her. Once I passed the red line, we hugged and my emotions and sleepy eyes collapsed. She grabbed my bag and scooted me over to the coffee bar nearby. The sandwiches and pastries looked delicious. French breads stuffed with savory meat and cheeses. Cheesecake bites with all of the trimmings, everything looked artistic and yummy. But my stomach was still reeling from the salt-infused breakfast potatoes and odd omelet they had just served me on the plane. I skipped the treats and went with a bottle of water. She snagged me a butter croissant though, eventually I'd down that on the train ride home.

***

Our first mistake was eating a full breakfast before arriving at tea time. I had never had eggs benedict before so I decided to try it, making sure they made the bacon extra crispy. We both cleaned our plates and sipped on coffee and jungle juice - freshly pressed watermelon, date, pear and berry fruits. We didn't expect to be served three-tiers of desserts and lunch options directly after though. We were in it for the sparkling Australian wine and peach tea. But when in Rome ... or, Australia.

We were causing a scene. Everyone was poised and talking calmly in the corners of The Palace Tea Room. But the hostess decided to stick the two Americans in the center of it all with our cackling laughs and cheesy smiles. We tried nearly thirty times and with two different waiters to get good photos of us cheering to a clean slate and a new year. The angles were bad, the dresses were insulting our decent (yet distended from all of the food) figures and we were starting to sweat from all of the stares.


***

By the end of the afternoon I had shed a few tears over our wine and pastries. We had both gotten to hear out thoughts and worries the other one didn't necessarily want to have said out loud. But that conversation was something we needed. It also solidified our friendship even more, if me flying across the entire planet to see her didn't prove that then this moment definitely did. We can talk about the tough stuff. We can be honest with each other and know the other one isn't going to leave. There's security in our relationship and we walked to the movie theatre with a bubbling stomachache and an even stronger bond.

While I was living my worst nightmare in the very public, unisex bathroom at Events Cinema, she was in line grabbing us popcorn. Because continuously eating for six hours straight was on both of our bucket lists.

***

I stepped on something sharp. But all I could imagine was Claire yelling, "Mommy," from afar and just how quickly I wanted to have those little arms of hers wrap around my neck. I was going to make it. I didn't want to be stranded here smelling like an airplane toilet with a hole in my underwear for 180 more minutes. I was creeping up to 30 hours of travel at this point and I'd had enough. And now my throat was hurting because I couldn't run and breathe at the same time. Instead I was gasping for air at every turn yelling, "Excuse me," to all of nthe couples holding hands in front of me and blocking my way.  

I eventually found F9 only to be greeted with a Detroit departure. The gate they told me was wrong. But the plane pulling out of the F11 terminal was leaving. And Nashville was flashing on the gate's screen. I grabbed a man that looked like he may be working. He seemed professional enough. There was a logo or something on his black jacket.

"How do I get on that plane," I asked completely winded.

"You can't. It's as good as gone miss," he replied and promptly walked away.

I poured myself into a seat by a very large man that smelled like pipe tobacco and sobbed. I was overly emotional because I was overly tired. I allowed myself five minutes of tears before I marched to the restroom to brush my hair, brush my teeth and slap on some lipstick. I'd walk past the security guards defeated, even after their cheers, but at least looking a bit more put together. The blonde one was rather handsome.
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