Tag Archives: Mr. Butterflies

a new chapter

I’m happy that in a few hours 2014 will be in the past. It has been one of the more difficult years of my life so far.

My marriage ended in August. It was and continues to be a profoundly sad and heartbreaking backdrop to a lot of other things that, on their own, would be cause for celebration.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what might have been, if things were different, if I was different – but they’re not, I’m not. Slowly, those thoughts are becoming less persistent and are being drowned out by feelings of gratitude. I have experienced real love. I was half of a truly wonderful marriage that just wasn’t meant to be – through no fault of his or mine. The way that Mr. Butterflies and I handled our separation, the way we continue to support one another is something I’m incredibly proud of.

Obviously, a new chapter in my life has begun.

And as usual, that leaves me wondering about my next move. Historically, moving to a new city has been my go-to solution for all of life’s challenges. When I’m not happy with my surroundings, I seek out new ones.

Professionally, it’s been the best year of my life. I co-authored a book, spoke at conferences around the world, and tripled the client base for a software solution we built to automate a methodology I designed. I’m growing my team and am confident about the direction our company is going. Imagine my delight when my boss told me he’d support me if I wanted to leave Toronto – that my job would come with me if I decided to go.

Suddenly my biggest problem was choosing where to go next: back to Amsterdam? San Francisco? Portland? Somewhere entirely new? I was paralyzed by the sheer volume of possibilities.

Life transitions tend to make me introspective, as I’m sure they do for most people. I asked myself why I was leaving, and what I needed to make me happy in a new city.  Mr. Butterflies lovingly suggested I consider whether I was running from something or toward something, and as sound as the advice was, I kind of hated the answer. So what if I was running from something? It’s what I do.

The other thing I do is make lists.

Reasons to stay in Toronto:

  • I have formed very important friendships that I couldn’t possibly live without. I’d be back often though…
  • I’ve been in Toronto for five years – that’s longer than any city since childhood. I’ve been here long enough to develop a routine.  It may sound silly, but if you’re even a little bit of a nomad like me you know how exhausting it can be to find a new hair salon, doctor, yoga studio, etc. With the very memorable exception of being convinced to get bangs (ugh, why did I listen?)- I’m happy with all of the above. I do miss proper cobb salads and unsweetened iced tea though…
  • I own a parka, two pairs of snow boots, and a heaping pile of scarves in every fabric/colour combination you can think of. I can’t think of any other major cities where I could continue to get as much out of the significant investment I’ve made in cold weather gear. Maybe Chicago though…

Reasons to leave Toronto:

  • It would be nice to be closer to friends and family in Oregon, or to go back to my expat life in Amsterdam. But then, I’m lucky enough to have a life that lets me see them more often than some of my friends who live just a few blocks away…
  • I need to get out of my comfort zone. I need to push myself to grow. But staying put seems like the most uncomfortable and challenging thing in the world sometimes…
  • It’s freezing cold here in the winter, and in the summer I get whatever the opposite of Seasonal Affective Disorder is, because it’s so hot and humid I am miserable and just want to stay indoors and whine. There are places with much nicer weather. But when I was in San Francisco I distinctly remember missing the seasons…

My simple list of pros and cons quickly turned into a Rubik’s cube. Or maybe a Venn diagram: every single rationale seemed to fit in the overlapping space as both an argument for staying and one for leaving.

I didn’t know if I should stay or go, I just wanted to be somewhere I could feel whole – somewhere I could silence the nagging feeling that my life is missing something. Sometimes traveling drowns out that feeling, other times it is yoga. Often I escape it when I’m laughing with my best friend, other times when I’m taking a bath and listening to Norah Jones.

Without a clear answer, I decided to give it some time. I say “I decided” like it was a conscious effort to just trust that the right path would reveal itself to me in time. But really, there was no trusting the universe, no patience, no certainty. It was a very uncomfortable few months. But as they tend to do, things worked out. The universe did indeed reveal the right path.

I’ve decided to stay here in Toronto, and to continue on the healing journey I started almost a decade ago. I founded the When You’re Ready Project, a community for survivors of sexual violence (including me) to share our stories and find strength in one another. The Project has a long term vision to create a sexual assault registry so that we can combat the problem using reliable information. I feel like everything before this led me here: my unfortunate experiences as a young woman, my choice of a career in a field focused on innovative uses of data and protecting the privacy of individuals, and making my way to Toronto which is the birthplace of many inspirational and like-minded movements and initiatives.

That nagging feeling is silenced for now, I know what I need to do and where I need to be. I’m about to take a bubble bath, listen to some Norah Jones, then get ready to spend the evening with a dear friend.

In a few hours I will say goodbye to 2014 and gladly ring in the new year feeling thankful for everything that has led me to where I am right now. Years ago, a very special friend shared this poem with me. I’ve carried it with me and read it often, and nothing seems more fitting.

The City by Constantine P. Cavafy

You said: “I’ll go to another country, go to another shore,
find another city better than this one.
Whatever I try to do is fated to turn out wrong
and my heart lies buried as though it were something dead.
How long can I let my mind moulder in this place?
Wherever I turn, wherever I happen to look,
I see the black ruins of my life, here,
where I’ve spent so many years, wasted them, destroyed them totally.”

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you. You will walk
the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods,
will turn gray in these same houses.
You will always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there is no ship for you, there is no road.
As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world. 







Mrs. Butterflies

When I log into the edge of my seat after several months without posting a blog entry I typically read through the last several posts and ask myself “what has happened since?” This time it is hard to answer, there are so many things. I’m not so narcissistic as to think you care about all the details but just enough to think you’ll be interested in the highlights.

A few weeks after we got back from Europe, Mr. Butterflies proposed. Everything about it was perfect and romantic and magical. And it started in motion a series of events that have gone by in a big blur of awesome.

We spent the first few weeks of our engagement getting used to the word “fiancé” (which is fun to say on a few different levels) and talking a thousand miles an hour about wedding plans. It has to be fun, and classy but not uptight. And there has to be good food and we’ll source it locally, and we want people to dance. And we’ll serve awesome beer. A short ceremony, with a little bit of humour – sentimental but not cheesy. The venue will be unique and interesting and somewhere that is special to us. It will be vintage meets rustic, and the perfect balance between masculine and feminine. I bought magazines and subscribed to blogs like Green Wedding Shoes and Style me Pretty and pored over the photos, bookmarking ideas. We made spreadsheets to compare venues and set recurring appointments to block off time to meet vendors. Recent brides are never shocked to hear that the fun of wedding planning began to wear off after a few weeks.

Fast forward through a few jaw-dropping realizations about the cost of a wedding in Toronto and the politics of formulating a guest list…hearing ourselves say aloud “we won’t be buying a house any time soon, we have to pay for the wedding” was the final straw. So we decided to do what made sense for us: split the wedding into two events.

We got married on a Saturday evening in the wine cellar of Splendido, one of Toronto’s nicer restaurants. There were only 13 guests, and I didn’t even buy new shoes. After dinner we met a few friends at a dive bar known for a great beer selection (The Rhino) and stopped for some late night falafel on the way back to our suite at the Gladstone Hotel. Sunday we nursed hangovers with Thai food and trashy TV and we were back to work on Monday.

Saturday we became husband and wife. I’ve already started going by Mrs. Butterflies and hoping the adrenaline rush I currently get from calling him ‘my husband’ never fades. Our ‘real’ wedding is this summer, and we’re inviting our friends and loved ones to share in that special day. We have the same aspirations for our wedding as before: It has to be fun, and classy but not uptight. And there has to be good food and we’ll source it locally, and we want people to dance. And we’ll serve awesome beer. Only maybe not classy. Advice from married friends tells us that seven months into our marriage will be an opportune time to reaffirm those promises we made.

People ask me if I feel any different as a married woman. Not yet. Being engaged felt different, and being married feels like an extension of that. I’ve started feeling like a ‘grown up’ for the first time. I developed a sense of invincibility as a teenager and held tight to it through my twenties. No matter what happens, I’ll figure it out. I’ll be okay. What’s the worst that could happen? But when I promised to spend my life with him I realized that the ‘with him’ is only one part of that promise. Taking care of him and taking care of myself are one in the same now.

Everything has taken on more meaning. Like what? Like how we LOVE Value Village. There is one in our neighbourhood and we often stop by multiple times a week. And now it is not just something to do, it is a thing. Our thing. One of our many things. A thing that someday we’ll look back and say, “Remember when we moved into our first place together and used to go to Value Village three times a week?” We’ll tell our kids about this and they’ll roll their eyes.

We use this logic to make ourselves feel better about the crappy place we’re renting right now. When the neighbours’ dogs are barking incessantly or their arguing keeps us up at night we think, “Someday this will be a memory” and it seems more funny than not. And this, I’m coming to realize, is the amazing thing about marriage. All those moments can be a thing if you let them be – for the best or for the worst. And as long as we stay on the same page we’ll either be happy together, sad together, or somewhere between things together.

Mr. Butterflies

I was in New York all week on business, probably a little less productive than usual as I was constantly refreshing my e-mail to see if he’d written.  He finally did and asked me out on Friday – we agreed to a more low-key night than the previous one and made plans to meet for dinner.  I love exchanging texts and e-mails when we’re apart.  What were butterflies like before electronic communication?

Cartoon: You have smoke signals

Tip: if you’re thinking about her, let her know.

No new shoes this time, and only a few minutes getting ready. I was surprisingly comfortable given this is my first third date in…well, I’d care not to say.   Our “low key” night started with a drink followed by dinner.  Mr. is from the Toronto area and likes to give me a history of the city as we walk around.  He realizes and gets shy but I like it and urge him to go on.  If he were too suave I’d be skeptical, I like his occasional awkwardness.

He took me to a comedy show that basically just made fun of Americans, we both found it hilarious.  Afterward we checked out a bluegrass band at the Silver Dollar.  I kept reminding him he had an early morning but he wanted to stay so we did.

I am excited to be excited about someone and in no rush to be anything but.

Mr. Sunday-afternoon-second-date

I thanked Mr. for the fun time on Friday and asked if he’d like to spend Sunday with me.  Part of me wondered how he’d feel about me asking him out, given he is relatively traditional and it is very soon.  I waited and waited and waited and finally he responded: yes.

He picked me up and we walked to lunch at a restaurant near my place.  Conversation flows so nicely.  I found myself telling him more than I normally would.  I told him about my neurotic obsession with  making lists and my love for cleaning.  I think (I hope) he thought it was cute – he smiled. Good enough.  He is either really polite or likes me too, I think both.  He talks about his parents a lot, very fondly.  I like that.  He is confident about his career.  I like that too.

We stopped at a bookstore on the way to the movie, he wanted to pick up a copy of Shantaram because I’d told him how much I love it and he wanted to read it so we could talk about it.  (Seriously?)  On the way from the bookstore to the movie, we held hands. (Seriously?)  He had evening plans with his family but walked me home anyway, another gentle kiss good night and a “hope to see you soon.”

Tip: don’t give up on Craig’s List.

Mr. (ninth-date-is-a) Charm

I couldn’t help but smile as I read Mr.’s e-mail.  He responded to everything I wrote with sarcastic and playful humour.  He read my post and instead of a generic or boring or creepy response he sent back a note that was actually pleasant to read.  Thank you, Craig.

Tip: Every girl wants to feel special.  Find a way to make that happen.

We traded e-mails for about a week before finally making plans to meet.  He asked me out for a Tuesday and told me to wear something classy.  I looked forward to the date all weekend and bought new shoes.  He canceled on Monday; I believed his excuse about having a medical appointment but he sent me a photo of the doctor’s office to prove his story.  We rescheduled for Friday.  Same deal – wear something classy…but now he added that I should be prepared to go someplace grimy afterward.

I hereby acknowledge that all of the above sounds a little creepy out of context and given my track record I should probably be a little more cautious.  But we’ve been writing back and forth and I don’t get any creepy vibes, in fact he’s funny and seemingly nice and somehow the conversation is not awkward despite unconventional beginnings.  That, or I’m broken down and exhausted from all this online dating.

Mr. met me at the subway station and we walked briskly to the martini bar at the top of a hotel.  He gave me a book called, “Worst Case Scenario Guide for Dating” with an inscription, “just in case this doesn’t work out” he joked.  Mr. is charming without being too smooth, and from what I can tell very sincere.  We shared stories about work, family and travel and he gave me some fun Toronto facts.  We have a lot in common.

We took a taxi to Grossman’s Tavern where a blues band called the Loose Wires covered blues songs.  I wonder what went through his mind when he saw my face.  There is no way he could have known how much I’d like a place like that.  Most girls wouldn’t.  “Grimy” was right, the best way I can describe it is that they took a bar out of my rural redneck town and dropped it right in the middle of Toronto.

The waitress tried her best to come across as cranky but failed miserably.  She was a sweet lady who I believe was trying to add to the charm of the venue.  The bathrooms (or washrooms as they call them here in Canada) were downright scary and someone sitting behind us (at our table, not in the washroom) was slurring words and crying.  We chatted with the band until the place closed.  We grabbed a taxi to my place and he walked me to the door and kissed me goodnight.

Tip: be old fashioned, not all women demand it but all women appreciate it.