(That title may be my only Neil Diamond reference in any blog I write. Ever.)
Today is the last day of August. While the date has very little significance on the average calendar, it has great meaning to me this year. It marks the end of the summer...for which I am truly ready.
The month of August, for me, was quite exciting. I celebrated my birthday...literally from the 1st through the 31st. (I'm drinking coffee from my "Birthday Girl" cup today, because I wasn't home on my actual birthday. And there may or may not be a birthday cupcake waiting for me on the kitchen counter.) I also took the vacation of a lifetime, thanks to the generosity and hospitality of several dear friends, to locations such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, and (almost) all points between. It was a truly fabulous ending to an otherwise less-than-pleasant summer.
Oddly enough, I thought this was going to be the greatest summer of my life. But, life pointed in my face and yelled, "HA!!" The jerk.
You see, exactly one week before Memorial Day, the unofficial official start of summer, I met....you guessed it....a man. But, not just any man. I met the man I had given up looking for; the man who would knock me off my feet; the man of my dreams; the man I didn't believe existed. He was "it". I was the happiest I had been in over ten years...perhaps in my entire life. He was perfect for me. Handsome, intelligent, kind, affectionate, gentle, playful...the list was endless.
The only real problem was the fact that he lived 1800 miles away, in Arizona, and was headed back that week. So, we had to stay in contact via technology...which we did faithfully. (Hmmm....interesting choice of words..."faithfully"....) He would greet me every morning, as soon as he woke up, with a text that made my heart sing. We would text throughout the day about everything from what we were eating for lunch to what song on the radio made us think of each other. We would talk on the phone every night before I went to sleep. And we prayed for each other every day. It was simple. It was easy. It was sweet. And I was falling in love.
We immediately started making plans for when we could see each other again. As it turned out, I had a trip scheduled for a conference in Nashville a few weeks later...and he had a work-related trip there which he was able to schedule for the same timeframe. (His job required him to travel all over the US.) The countdown began and we were so excited that we would see each other again in just a few weeks.
In the meantime, however, a series of events took place in my life that were much less wonderful. In fact, the night we met, I received word that a good friend of mine had passed away. The next day, the child of some of my dear friends was tragically killed in a bizarre accident. I was crushed to hear of both of these incidents. That week was an emotional see-saw. While I was grieving over the loss of these precious lives, this wonderful man in my life was courting me so beautifully that I couldn't help but be happy. He told me each day that he was keeping me in his prayers...especially on the day of both funerals. (I could only attend one, but my heart was with both families.) I thanked God for him every morning and every night.
The following Monday was Memorial Day. I had to work, so he kept me company by sending me lots of texts telling me how beautiful he thought I was and how much he wanted us to be together. He called me that night and I mentioned how much I loved it when he called me beautiful. I said something along the lines of, "I hope that doesn't make me sound vain." He laughed and replied, "Well, you *are* a little vain, don't you think?" I was surprised to hear him say that, and questioned why he thought it. But, he assured me that I was only a little bit vain...and that it kinda went with the job of being a DeeVah. I realized that he was probably right and laughed with him.
The next morning, I woke up with a searing pain just below my right ear. Within a couple of hours, I realized that the right side of my face was paralyzed. I had Bell's Palsy. Of course, I playfully blamed "him" for calling me vain, but it did knock me down several notches. For the next 3 weeks, I had no shred of vanity left in me. I looked like a circus freak. I couldn't eat or drink without food falling out of my mouth or my beverage running down my chin. I had one eye that wouldn't close all the way, so I had to wear an eye patch for several hours a day. I couldn't pronounce certain consonants very well, so my speech sounded like that of a drunken Elmer Fudd. I felt like a hideous monster.
But, every day, "he" would tell me I was beautiful.
The Bell's Palsy episode caused me to re-evaluate my lifestyle. The condition was brought on by stress. Nothing else. When I realized that I had allowed myself to be so overcome by the cares of life that it actually took a physical toll on me, I decided to do something about it. I had to let some things go. I took a break from several of my singing gigs (which were humiliating in my condition, anyhow!), I started getting up early each morning and taking some time to pray and meditate before taking on the day, and I really tried to focus on simplifying my life. I knew I didn't want the paralysis to last any longer than it had to...not just because I am so vain (which I realized was so true!), but also because I didn't want any permanent nerve damage. I was determined to beat it...and FAST! Also, I knew I would see "him" in just over three weeks, and I certainly did NOT want to look like Two-Face from Batman.
Thankfully, by the end of the third week, I had regained about 95% of my facial movement. In fact, most people said they couldn't even tell I had ever had Bell's Palsy. I could still see a little bit of drooping in my right eye...especially in photos. But, overall, I was fine. I did have a bit of puffiness in my face as a result of the steroids I had been taking, but I knew that wouldn't last. Still, I was a little nervous about seeing "him". I wanted to look like I did the night we met. He assured me, however, that he couldn't wait to see my face again...no matter what. My heart melted a little more and I fell a little harder for him.
Finally, our reunion in Nashville arrived. I was so very excited...so very sure that my life was about to change forever. And, boy was I right. I won't belabor the details, but the Reader's Digest version goes thusly: He was a philandering, lying, cheater who had been in a relationship with another woman for two years. (She called his cell repeatedly while we were together...the poor, oblivious soul.) And, as if that wasn't enough, I observed him texting at least seven other women during our time together. When I confronted him, all I got was, "I'm not involved with any of them the way I am with you. This is special." Ugh. My decision was painful but quite simple...I walked away from him. I called him out on it, told him that I respected myself far too much to be with a man who did not respect me enough to at least be discreet about his indiscretions, and I walked out. He didn't even attempt to stop me. It broke my heart in more ways than I can ever put into words...but, I had no choice.
Please, however, do not pat me on the back for being so strong. While he may have seen a strong-willed, self-respecting woman walk away from him, I came home and curled up into a ball on my couch and cried for weeks. Weeks, people. Not days...but, WEEKS! I felt as though I were dying. In fact, I had moments when I wished I were dying. Surely, that couldn't hurt as badly as what I was feeling. This was the first time in over ten years that I allowed myself to love someone so deeply. I was ready to be in love with him. I was ready to move to Arizona or wherever we decided to live. I was ready for my forever to begin. And, then, in a matter of moments, it all vanished. Everything I believed to be true was gone. As if it had never happened. It was like emotional whiplash. I grieved as though someone had died. I suppose, in essence, someone *had* died. The man I believed him to be was gone. It took me only a few hours to realize that he was not the same man who had been texting and calling me every single day for five weeks. I know...five weeks seems like nothing...but, it was a lifetime for me. Within a few brief moments, he showed himself to be a cruel, cold, self-absorbed man who didn't even feel the need to apologize to me, much less attempt to redeem himself or restore our relationship. I was devastated, and not just because the relationship was over. That was MY decision, not his. What crushed me was the complete lack of remorse that he showed. It was as though he said to himself, "Well, that was fun while it lasted. NEXT?"
I spent the next several weeks questioning myself. Isn't it strange that we allow someone else's bad behavior to make us wonder what we did to deserve it? But, that's exactly what I did. I also questioned my judgment. How could I have fallen so hard for someone so horrible? How did I not see that in him? Is he really that good at hiding it, or am I just that stupid? I heard someone on a TV show say, "I have never been so sure...and so wrong!" That's exactly how I felt. And I began to doubt that I will ever allow myself to trust my heart again.
I faced a few other personal struggles during that time, but I think I've been a Debbie Downer long enough, so let's move on to the happy ending. I did learn a few good things through the experiences of this dark, dreaded summer.
First of all, I trust God. Implicitly. Through each of the situations I have described here, God was clearly present. I may not have understood all (or any) of the outcomes, but I recognized his fingerprints on each of them. I watched God move in miraculous ways in the lives of my friends who lost their loved ones so tragically. I found a renewed peace and increased faith during my bout with Bell's Palsy. And, even though the relationship failed miserably, I placed it in God's hands from the very beginning. I can honestly say that I know I did nothing "wrong"...nothing to deserve the way I was treated. The end result was all due to someone else's bad decisions. And I am quite certain that God was just as displeased with the outcome as I. It wasn't God's fault, either. God did not let me down...not for a moment.
Secondly, I learned that I truly do have the most amazing friends and family in the universe. The support and love and encouragement that I received during the Bell's Palsy episode kept me from losing my mind. I cannot tell you how easy it would have been to sit and cry every day that I woke up and saw no change. Believe me, I wanted to. But, the people who loved me the most knew that I had to keep going...I had to beat it...I had to show Bell's Palsy who the DeeVah really was! Thank you for that.
Those same people recognized that I needed to do just the opposite after the break-up. I needed to cry. And I needed to cry hard. I needed to feel what I was feeling...just not for too long. Some sat and cried with me. Others just respected my need to be alone at times. But, all of them understood and allowed me to feel what I needed to feel. Yeah, he was a dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-face...but, I wasn't ready to hear anyone say that just yet. I still loved him. I didn't really want him back...because he was a dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-face...but I didn't hate him either. That's not how I roll. When I love someone, I love them forever. Those who know me best, know this about me. And they let me grieve.
THEN, however, they drug my cry-baby butt out of my house and made me enjoy life again. The entire month of August was just one big party...and it was all about ME! (Well, okay...not ALL about me...but a lot!) I heard myself laugh and sing again for the first time in several weeks. And, it felt really good.
Lastly, I learned that I am capable of being in love again...and, to be perfectly honest, I had given up on that notion. In fact, just a few weeks before I met "him" (you know...the dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-face), I told a friend that I had not been in love in 10 years and I really didn't believe I would ever be again. I know what I want in a relationship and I will not settle for less (obviously), and I simply did not think there was anyone out there who could meet up to my standards. Apparently, I was wrong. Sure, he turned out to be a bonehead, but there was a whole lot about him that was quite wonderful. I remember how I felt during those five, short weeks and, as much as it hurt when it ended, it was so incredibly beautiful while it lasted. I would be a liar if I said I never wanted to be in love again. Truthfully, right now, I have no interest in feeling that way any time soon. But, I know how sneaky life is...and I suppose it can point its finger in my face again whenever it wants and yell, "HA!!" So, bring it on. (Just, please, no more dumb, stupid, cheating, lying, jerk-faces, mkay?)
Be blessed, my friends. And remember...life may throw us a curveball now & then, but God is never taken off-guard.
~ Melanie (the DeeVah)
P.S. That birthday cupcake? FAIL! The excessive hot pink frosting not only stained EVERYTHING around it...including my favorite yellow monkey pjs...it tasted like medicine. And not the good kind. You realize what this means, don't you? It means I need to go buy another cupcake...from a different store...immediately.