Friday, May 6, 2016

A Day Without Me (Part One: The Backstory)

The Metaphor of my Life: Always stay to the right!
Forgive me BlogSpot, for I have sinned. It has been three years since my last post, and I am not a healthier person for it. I used to write because I rode. I used to write because I was inspired to write. I used to have people in my life that I wrote to inspire. In the last three years, I have not been riding, and even more tragic, I have not been inspired. The last time I was inspired to post anything was when I wrote a letter to my step daughter as she prepared to graduate from high school three springs ago. She is now wrapping up her sophomore year of college and her mother and I have been apart for the last four years.
The first of those years solo was spent reinventing myself. After being in two marriages totaling twenty plus years, it was time to rediscover who I was. Or more accurately, who I had become through these experiences. I soon discovered what I had always suspected: I am pretty boring. I settled into a fairly predictable routine of working and fatherhood. Served up with a side of good coffee and a long walk every Saturday morning. The kids and I created a solid, stable, and predictable life for ourselves. Every year around Father's Day and my birthday (the two weekends I am sure to have them), we'd go camping, or to the Wisconsin Dells, or Door County for a mini vacation. We start every Saturday together with a trip to the bakery for fresh donuts and swing by a coffee house for my 'day off mocha' before heading to the beach for a long decompressing walk on the beach. Life was becoming good again. But hardly anything blog-worthy was happening to me. Writing a blog is like making a movie: Who would want to watch a movie about a day in the life of John Q Public? But if something extraordinarily good or bad would happen to John, then people might take an interest. Enter online dating: the good and bad (mostly bad) that brought me back to the fold.
The very day I wrote to my step daughter, I received a pop-up ad from I thought to myself, "it's been a year. Maybe it's time?" I signed up for a three month membership. Online dating is like going on a job search for a job you might not even like. Your write some stuff about yourself that you hope will attract the right person (your resume). You add some pictures of yourself trying to look your coolest (I had never taken a selfie until this fiasco). Then you wait.... You read others' credentials and reach out to people you might be interested in. But for the most part, you just log on to watch what's left of your self esteem and dignity go down the drain. The first girl to reach out to me however, was very nice. She was together, cute, well spoken, smart, and fun to be around. We had similar experiences and got along really well. Our main difference was I had been single for a year and the ink was still drying on her divorce papers. She was just out there to 'meet a few people.' We casually saw each other for about six months. In that six months we never kissed, held hands, or split a check. It was by far the most expensive acquaintanceship I've ever had! In the end, she ended up dumping me just days after I had taken her out to dinner and a concert in Milwaukee for my birthday. She said, "well I can't date everybody." Implying that she had chosen to be with a different dude. "You can do that?" I thought to myself. I don't really think I have it in me to be a serial dater. For starters, I'm not that good with names. I could just see myself sitting across from my date: "Now are you the one with the two dogs, or the one who's son is in the Navy?" I just don't see that ending well for me. "Check please!?" After Match came a month on Zoosk where, in the first half hour, I became reconnected with a girl I used to know when we worked at the same hotel in Appleton twenty years earlier. We were together for a few months until the distance led us into a dead end. The same fate took it's toll on the only relationship I had in a subsequent stint on eHarmony. Online dating sort of sets you up to fail. I live in a small city with much larger cities 50 miles away to the north and to the south. That being the case, 90% of whom I am introduced to are at least an hour away. You are then matched with someone like you: decent job, single parent, and has a home and roots. Who in their right mind would give all that up for some random dude they met on the internet? Unless we're matched with someone down the block, we're doomed before we begin. Then a couple months ago, I got a text from that I'd get a free 24 hour trail to entice me back to their service. Great ploy: you meet someone and then the 24 hours is over and you have to rejoin to keep the game going. After getting a couple responses, I started chatting with someone about an hour west of me. At least it wasn't Green Bay or Milwaukee. We hit it off and exchanged numbers before my dime ran out. We met for a date less than a week later. Things took off from there. We clicked as a couple and saw each other often. Weeks went by and I realized feelings were coming to the surface that I hadn't allowed myself to feel in over a decade. Love was in the air. I could actually start to see a future with this person. We shared so many complimentary traits. Life was good and getting better.
Now, anyone who has been in love more than once can vouch for me here. The hardest step to make down the road of love is the transition from infatuation to actual love. Infatuation rocks. Nothing can touch infatuation. Infatuation is all the fun and emotion of falling in love without any of the reality. Our realities were now started to seep into the mix. We lost a lot of sleep by making trips to see each other even it was just for a few hours. Baggage started becoming an issue. Soon phrases like, "I'm not sure I can do this," started creeping into the conversations. I started to put out fires that I didn't know how they had started. We were still heading down the road of love, but the bumps were becoming more pronounced. A few months into it, we were done. I was shattered. Work sucked. Home sucked. Even the beach sucked. Oh yeah.... a broken heart sucks! I walked around in a daze for the next week. The pain was like a dark cloud that followed me everywhere, and I just couldn't shake it.
I had vacation time coming. I had requested some PTO so her and I could get away for a few days, but never cancelled it after our demise. I decided I would take the time for myself. I needed to get away and try to get out from under this cloud. As the days went by, I felt a little guilty for not working when I really didn't need the time off. But the closer I got to the time off, the more excited I got. My plan was to spend the day mountain biking some of favorite trails in Door County and then treat myself to a good meal before heading home. I had invited a friend to come with me, but was secretly grateful when he declined. Sunday wound down at work and Koval and I hung out at night. As he got ready for bed, I packed the Jeep and got my bike ready to rock-n-roll. I even went as far as to lay out my outfits for before, during, and after my ride. I slept good that night. It was nice to feel the anticipation of a new day, rather than the dread. Monday morning arrived as if it was made just for me. The sun was shining and temperature was on the rise. It would be a perfect day no matter what I did. I got dressed (in my pre-ride outfit) and took Koval to school. I then headed to get myself a mocha before going to the beach with Zooey. We took a nice long walk to get her satisfied before having to spend two hours in the Jeep. We returned to the house where I changed into my bike shorts and a t-shirt for the drive up. It was 9am. The exact time I had planned on hitting the road. The Jeep was packed, the dog was already curled up on the passenger seat, I grabbed my Nalgene of sun tea from the fridge, and was ready to roll. And then my phone buzzed.

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