This week I escaped the cold climate in Michigan and hopped on a plane to Orlando. I was attending a conference for work on Wednesday and Thursday and then I stayed over on Friday to visit my Mr. Big in his new apartment.
When I was packing for my trip I noticed that none of my summer clothes seemed to fit right. Everything was just a bit too tight. Despite my weekly visits to the gym, I have been gaining weight at about a 1/2 pound every few weeks since Christmas. Whenever I get on the scale, I promise myself that I will do better tomorrow. I know what I need to do to lose those extra five pounds, but sometimes I just don't feel like doing it.
The first few days of my trip were spent at the conference. It was a relatively small group of about 150 people. Generally when I am at these sorts of events, I like to maintain my anonymity. But I quickly realized that would not be happening this trip. It started when I reviewed the conference program and saw that one of my former clients from the State of Arkansas was presenting. Then I ran into another client from Tennessee. Finally, I saw two people who I used to work with in Indiana.
I also had a few inquiries from Match.com while I was on my trip. Three different guys sent me unsolicited e-mails. Usually, I am lucky to hear from one guy per week. All of their messages sounded sincere, but I wanted to wait until I could get to a computer before I made a decision on whether to write them back.
The photos on my Blackberry are the Internet equivalent of beer goggles. For example, one guy looked like Jimmy Fallon in his profile picture on my Blackberry, but when I saw him full size on the computer screen he looked more like Gilligan from the old TV show Gilligan's Island.
At the end of the conference, my Mr. Big came to pick me up. I was reminded how he can appear at ease in any situation. Even in the driveway of a 4 star hotel, standing next to his old Chevy and wearing a pair of shorts and a t-shirt that he bought at a garage sale. He was chatting away with one of the valet boys who proceeded to grab my luggage and put it in the car while my Mr. Big gave me a warm embrace. At last, it was time for the vacation portion of my trip to begin.
The next day, he was taking me to one of his favorite places in the city. It is called Bok Tower Gardens. While I was getting ready, I thought about what snacks I could bring for the car ride. All I had left in my suitcase was a packet of trail mix. When I walked into the kitchen, he was standing at the counter packing some snacks in a plastic bag. He brought some apples, fresh grapes and a pouch of cookies. As always, he read my mind.
About half way through the hour long car ride, I pulled out some grapes for us to share. And a few cookies too. When we finally arrived at the Tower, it was more beautiful than I had imagined. There were colorful flowers everywhere and a huge blue and white tile fountain in the middle of the visitor's center. We strolled hand in hand around the gardens admiring all of the various trees and plants, and pausing along the way so my Mr. Big could rest on a bench. Then we stopped for lunch in the cafe.
On the way out, we saw an old man and woman eating ice cream out of giant waffle cones. We decided to split one before we headed home. I picked my favorite flavor, mint chocolate chip. I rarely allow myself to indulge in real ice cream anymore. It was delicious. Sitting on a bench in the Florida sunshine and handing the cone back and forth with my Mr. Big was the perfect ending to the day.
Being in Florida felt like a glimpse into the future. I have always been afraid of getting old. I keep trying to hold myself together by eating healthy, coloring my hair and wearing trendy clothes. Down in Florida everyone is old. They wear pants with elastic waist bands and sensible shoes. They eat ice cream whenever they want, and no one ever worries about whether their hair is getting frizzy. They all seem really happy.
That night we decided to go to see a movie called The Vow which in retrospect, was probably not a great idea. It is a love story about a young married couple who are in a car accident. The wife loses her memory but of course, they find their way back to each other in the end. It was actually a good movie. But somehow it left me feeling empty inside. The people in the movie got their second chance, but where was mine? I hugged my Mr. Big and rested my head on his shoulder. Then I whispered "I miss you."
I like to think I live a relatively unencumbered life. But maybe I have more baggage than I care to admit. I have tried a million different ways to get over what happened with my Mr. Big and move on with my life. Sometimes I wonder if it is something you ever really get over. Especially when my Mr. Big at 50% of his previous capacity is still more fun to be around than most of these other guys at 100%.
When we got home, I changed into my pajamas and my Mr. Big settled into his bed. After he fell asleep I logged into Match.com to review the profiles of the guys who had e-mailed me during the week. As I scanned their photos looking for some hint of a connection, I realized that it was a futile effort. I was not going to fall in love with any of these average looking guys who had probably taken 2-3 days to get up the courage to even write me a note. How could they possibly know me like my Mr. Big and what are the chances they could ever get to know me that way?
I deleted their e-mails and blocked their profiles so they could not contact me again. Then I sifted through my inbox and looked at my e-mail history from the past two months, including the one guy I really liked who never called me after our first date. I hit the "Select All" button at the top of the page and hit "Delete." Then I turned off the computer and went to bed.
The next morning when I woke up, my Mr. Big was gone. He wanted to let me sleep so he went out to some garage sales. After I took my shower, I walked into the kitchen and sitting on the counter were all of my favorite snacks for the plane ride home. There were packs of gum, pretzels, Raisinets and a bag of baby carrots all stacked up neatly for me to select whatever I wanted to eat.
We had a few hours before my flight so we went for a drive. It was another beautiful sunny day, so we cranked up the radio and rolled down the windows. My Mr. Big took me on a tour of Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill golf course. They were setting up for a tournament in a few weeks, so we got to see the giant scoreboard on the 18th hole and the grandstands that they were building around the greens. We both shared that feeling of excitement and anticipation. Part of me wanted to stay there forever, but I knew it was time to go home.
Being with my Mr. Big is like putting on my favorite pair of sweat pants. It is so comfortable that sometimes you just want to sit on the couch and never get up. He doesn't care if I gain five pounds or let my hair turn gray. Our connection runs much deeper than that.
Since I turned 40, I have been struggling with a new dilemma in my life. Do I immerse myself in what is familiar and safe or keep moving forward to an undefined future? Many of my friends are married with kids and are happily living in the comfort zone. I spent the last few days living there too.
I am not sure if the comfort zone is the place I belong or whether it is holding me back from fulfilling my true destiny. What I do know is that being five pounds overweight and squeezing into my jeans is miserable. And I'm not ready to switch to the elastic waist bands just yet.