20 Seconds of Courage


There is a certain smell in a used car sales office.  Men sit behind desks and look at screens and smile and shake their heads.  You sit on a chair and hope for a good deal for the money that took a year to save.  There are jokes and banter and assurances and before you know it, you’re $5,000 poorer and hoping the investment is wise.  Hoping it will get your son to school and back everyday for at least 5-6 years.  You hand your keys to your son after signing your name on the dotted line and take a picture as he gets into “his” car for the very first time.  And you are happy.

This last week has been very trying in that my son has pushed and pushed me to the point of telling his dad, my ex, that he needed to go live with him.  They made the most of it and under duress had to deal with the difficulties of dad living 60 miles away from two jobs, friends, and any life he’s ever known.  I wrote up a rental agreement today and my ex and I both presented it to my son before we bought him the car so he knew the expectations that were awaiting him if he were to come back home.

It was a very odd day for me.

I met Harry for a quick bite before he went to bed.  We talked about …”why me?”  We shared a meal and smiled and talked and did more settling in.  I told Harry that he was the guy as opposed to the several married men who are messaging me on Facebook, the high school guy, the mercenary guy, any other guy on the planet…because …Harry got me from the inside out.  He was willing to be by friend first.  And that made all the difference.  With Harry there was no pressure to kiss, to be physical in any way.  He just cared about me.  Not about getting something for himself.

And I’m driving home from this amazingly intimate conversation with my relatively new love and I come home to my “family”.  Waiting in the driveway and piling into my car as soon as I got home to arrive at the car lot with my money.  They only needed me because I had the cash.  And we sat and waited for almost two hours for them to complete a 10 min transaction.  Why it always takes that long, I will never know.

My daughter was tickling my son, my son was starry-eyed and listening to the credit guy talk about his daughter who played volleyball t kill time.  I looked at my ex sitting dutifully on the leather couch waiting for me to foot the bill on the entire venture.  The sales guy wafts in and says…”I’ve heard about you.” Looking at me, “You are the one they had to check with and make sure everything was in line with the budget.  You’re husband said…”  And then he started to stammer…”Well not your husband but ex-husband, well you know…”  And we all smiled and let him get through his misstep.

But lately my ex and I have been acting more like partners than at any time since 2007.  We are talking almost daily and making decisions in the interest of our children.  Hours of communication. Meeting to pass paperwork for school registration at midnight in parking lots.  Sitting in my livingroom shooting the breeze with my daughter, hoping the temperature in the air cools and the wait be short until my son is off work.

And lately it has seemed as if I could forget everything that has happened since 2007 and believe that our sitting around and laughing and talking was my life again.  The only life I knew since I was 16.  Only if I could suspend reality which I know I cannot.

My son bought a truck with an extra cab and jump seats.  My first date with my ex, I was 16 and we went for a drive with two friends.  An unplanned night out and for comfort I put my feet between the two front seats and right along side the stick used to shift the gears in the car.  His truck had an extra cab and it was like  déjà vu.  There I was again at 16 when my ex found my legs appealing, apparently, and his first touch was a light caress up and down my legs.  I sat in the back freaking out, wondering what I should do.  Nothing spoken, nothing else happened but it was a pretty sure sign that he liked me.

When he dropped us off at the end of the night my friend bailed cause she caught the vibe and entered her house where I was spending the night.  She left me alone with this ankle toucher.  And so I hugged the door, kept as far away as possible from him and said good night as quickly as I could and that was that.  We had stopped for ice cream that night.  And after we got together, we had our first kiss at the same ice cream shop.  He took me there 5 years later and proposed.

I was assaulted with those memories looking at that truck.  Now I’m 43 and he is 45 and we are disconnected in every way possible except for the love we have for our children.  And I am sad.  I’m sad for the loss of what could have been a very good story.

But tonight, determined to make a good night for myself, all alone, I  watched “We Bought A Zoo” and I was struck by the unending love the man had for his wife who died.  And I thought to myself, that is how I thought I was loved by my husband.  I was wrong.  Very wrong.  But that was in my head, that I was adored and loved and cherished. Reality was something very different.

I watched him drive away with my two kids to his home in the desert after we got home from the dealership and all I could think about was that I had to let it go.  I didn’t want to for a time… but it was not my choice.  And when I did, I realized that 20 seconds of courage could change everything.  Just like the movie said.

Why not courage over fear and bitterness?  Why not something new in the face of rejection?

Those 20 seconds when I entertained the notion of typing to Harry these words.  “Would you consider hanging out with me and playing some pool?”  I typed it and then erased it and then typed it again and thought about what if he ignored me, what if he said no, what if he said yes?  The second I hit that enter key it’s out there and up to him what happens next.  But something courageous in me one night caused me to reach out to this man who had been very polite and respectful and helpful and interested.  Something made me hit that enter key in my 20 seconds of courage.  And I did it.

I said on January 20, 2011:

  • Livvy:   maybe we can go sometime just to hang out and have some fun. I love it too (playing pool) and I miss it. You’re one of the only guys who hasn’t hit on me married or not on Facebook and I could really use a friend to hang with sometimes and I get sick of girls ;-P Does that sound ok?
  • Harry:  sounds perfect.. i would love to . and thank you for that compliment. from you it truly means something…

And so it began…because of my 20 seconds of courage.  And I know that everything is as it should be.  I’m okay with the loss, the pain, the dream that will never be that I had when I was 16.  Because I AM courageous.  I will treat that man who wronged me with kindness in the best interest of my kids.  I will LOVE again a man who deserves it.  I WILL act when I can muster that 20 seconds of courage and then live the consequence of that action.  And all of that makes everything ok, and makes me believe that what lies before me is better than the past.

2 responses to “20 Seconds of Courage

  1. I love your story! I also started dating my “beau” about a week after you sent your “20 seconds of courage” message. We have had very few blips and a lot of good between us. Hope springs eternal!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s