The Essence of Being Human

I Heart You

I received some disappointing news earlier today about something I had wanted very badly. It just so happened that a good friend of mine got the thing that I wanted. My first reaction was negative; I spouted off a rant on Facebook, growled a little at my desk, pouted and then took a walk around the block. At the end of my walk, a single word came to me: Ubuntu. Years ago, I read about this philosophy as it was explained by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

In other words, I was being a jerk. There isn’t some well of blessings that is about to run dry. There are enough good things to go around, and it’s important that we allow people to have their moments and to praise their accomplishments. And, equally as important, when our dreams seem to be scattering into the wind, we need to remind ourselves that everything we hope for is still in our hands. Nothing is ever lost.

Misadventures in International Dating

Disclaimer:  This will be a slightly different post that what my readers are used to, but I felt it was a story worth telling, plus it’s somewhat cathartic.

Living a stone’s throw from the Canadian border makes the Vancouver dating scene a viable option. Sure, there are a few raised eyebrows from CBSA officers at the Peace Arch Crossing when they ask me what my business is in Canada. Yes, I blush profusely on my return trip into Washington when chatting with the border guards about the same questions. But, I’m lured to Vancouver anyway and have experienced everything from a David Puddy wannabe in a Magic 8 Ball jacket (remember Seinfeld?), to being fed sushi from a guy who wanted to impress me with his chop-stick skills, to one perilous encounter in which a date was attacked by a raccoon in Stanley Park.

When Raccoons Attack...(captured on my camera phone)

This weekend I decided to make the trip again for a British-Canadian who promised me tea in the Kitsalano area at a place called Kit’s Coffee Company. My intuition was screaming at me this time as I waited in the border queue. But when the green light flashed, and I pulled forward to the CBSA officer, I decided to ignore it.

 “Take off your sunglasses, Ma’am. What is your name?”

Removing my sunglasses and handing over my passport I reply, “Jolene Hanson.”

 “What is the reason for your visit to Canada?”

 “Meeting a friend.”

 “How do you know this friend?”

 “Um…” I turn several shades of red. “The internet.”

 Raised eyebrow. “How long do you plan on staying?”

 “Well, if it goes well, until tomorrow. Haha.”  Wink, wink.

Silence.

I can’t explain I’m just kidding about that last part, and as the officer hands back my passport with a stern look I feel a tad naughty. I quickly get over it and drive away.

The drive into Vancouver was a relatively easy one. What my date did not warm me of however, was that on this particular Saturday a giant street fair in the Kitsalano neighborhood had blocked 4th Street and Kit’s Coffee Co. No problem. I’d park and walk.

And I walk, and walk, and walk uphill until I hit 4th and Yew Street. Sweating, but keeping my composure, I look around Kit’s for the wiry Brit. Nowhere to be seen, I send a courtesy text announcing my arrival.

18 minutes go by, and then my phone vibrates. “Just parking the car. 2 minutes.”

I’d like to point out here that I’m the one who had to drive over an hour to get to Vancouver and then walk 10 blocks, yet I managed to be exactly on time. And yet, more time passes, and the British man remains unseen. Finally, my phone vibrates again with a text. “I’m on the back patio.”

Okay…

I walk through Kit’s and spot him. Curiously, he’s sitting in the sunshine reading a newspaper with two empty coffee cups pushed to the edge of a small table.

“Julian?” A thin, 40-something man with the blondest eyebrows I’ve ever seen looks up. “Have you been here long?” I ask sarcastically, motioning towards the paper.

“Oh just a couple of minutes,” he says, folding it up.

And you decide to read a newspaper at a dirty table when you are 20 minutes late instead of looking for me, Jerk?

 “Can I get you a tea?” He asks, rising from the table and neglecting to apologize for the growing list of faux pas.

 “A latte would be fine,” I reply. I’m annoyed and hot, and have no interest in him at this point for being rude, but I set my purse down and get comfortable.

A fascinating article about the ubiquitous nano particles poisoning the planet distracts me once he’s out of sight, and I don’t realize 10 more minutes have passed. How long does it take to make a damn latte?

I can’t get a proper view of the front counter, so I pick up my purse and head inside.

No Julian.

I check the bathroom, scour the patio, and the mob of people in the street outside. No Julian.

Well, maybe he’s a time traveler and was sucked inconveniently and painfully into another century? I hate it when that happens.

Or, maybe he’s a villain, and I’m his arch-nemesis, whose mind was long ago erased of my super-hero exploits? But, he remembers me and my secret power to arrive places on time. Of course!

Or, maybe he’s Superman – a skinny Canadian version who rescues men on Davies Street from white leather and duty called?

The reality though, is that Julian had ditched me.

I’m not a hulking gorilla of a woman, but I’m no supermodel either. I’m just a normal person with awesome hair, so I chose not to take this personally. I knew another British guy who was rather skittish and frightened easily, so maybe my enormous personality simply overwhelmed him. Maybe he’s crying in the bushes because he’s ran out on yet another woman, and more than anything he wants to be a normal boy. Poor little guy. He probably still lives with his Mum and wishes he can grow up to be a fireman one day.

No. He’s just a maladjusted asshole who was probably pissed off that I’d ordered a coffee drink instead of tea.  

The border guard on the U.S. side didn’t seem very interested when I told him I’d been on a bad blind date. He simply handed back my passport and said, “Welcome home.”

Indeed. I love Canada, but Canada can come to me next time.

Oh yeah, I sent him a follow up text to thank him for the opportunity to make the lovely drive to Canada and get some exercise.  Or, something to that affect…

Viking Invasion of Ireland Part II

“You have to take risks.  We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”  – Paulo Coehlo

Booking a return trip to Cork, Ireland for a man was a huge risk.  Separated by 4,500 miles of land and ocean, anything was likely to happen between the mid-January booking and the late-March arrival.    While I dreamed of driving Irish coastlines and peering over cliffs, old castles, and his green eyes, my Cork man was getting to know a woman who’d unexpectedly entered his life. 

It’s a truth that borders a lie to say I’m happy for him.  It’s good that he met someone in his own country and that he’s happy.   But, that didn’t change the fact I had a non-refundable ticket to Cork, Ireland.    And since the only reason I was going was for my Garda, I began looking for alterative trips.

I will have a layover in Amsterdam, so I called the travel agency that sold me the non-refundable ticket and asked what would happen if I just disembarked in the Netherlands.   Unsympathetic to my situation, the phone specialist advised me in broken English that it’d be $400 to make any changes to the ticket because I’d bought it at such a super-reduced fair.  That was crap, and between his stupid broken English logic and refusal to punch me through to a supervisor, I became angry and slammed down the phone.  I called the airline directly, who advised there was nothing that could be done on their end since I bought the ticket through a third party.  

Frustrated and upset, I then called my friend Paul in Dublin.   Finally, a reassuring voice!  I remember staring out the window at work at the most amazing blue sky as we chatted about taking the train to Dublin and spending the week with him instead.   I felt like things would be okay.  Well, it turns out more recently that his girlfriend may also have an issue with us spending too much time together, so it seems like – aside from the Friday and Saturday of my trip – I’m on my own.  I cried most of the afternoon today.

I met my friend Kimberly at The Fountain this evening.  Kimberly is one of those rare women who is both beautiful and intelligent, and we had the most amazing conversation about everything from work to vacations to the homeless to clandestine meth labs.   We are both writers (one day I’ll pay good money to buy her books), and we discussed how these disappointments are really opportunities.  Now, it’s no guarantee that the earth will move and my life will change, or that I’ll meet the love of my life, but the fact of the matter is – these events are pushing me towards some other destiny.  It may be an exponentially more expensive destiny at this point, but this is a wonderful opportunity to be alone with my thoughts, meet new people, and explore parts of a country I’ve never seen before.  It’s all perspective.  

I’m going to fly to Ireland.  I’ll meet people, I’ll explore.  I’ll blog and drink good whiskey and drive on the wrong side of the road and pave a way through my disappointments that catapult me into a new level in my life.   I alone am responsible for my happiness, and by God I will not let these men ruin my trip.  

I am that person who does have to make risks.  I will expect nothing next Friday when I land in Cork.

And I will embrace the twists and turns and ride out the waves of destiny with a Jameson in my left hand and a pen in my right, a Viking girl with a small chip on her shoulder ready to invade Ireland a second time with no regrets.