The Game Changer

I’m mortified that it’s been nearly a year since I last wrote here. That’s not to say I haven’t opened WordPress and stared at the blank square for an hour or two here and there…but…well…you ever get annoyed of hearing yourself talk? Or, in this case, reading your own over-angsty musings?

When you’ve been blogging as long as I have, sometimes, erm, I mean…often you repeat yourself – especially when you’re me and never seem to learn your lesson. [Although a kinder spirit might offer instead that I’m a romantic optimist who isn’t afraid to take risks, so…we can go with that I guess.]

The truth is, amidst all the personal and professional wins [and losses] I’ve had this year and falling in love (don’t worry, we’re coming back to this), Los Angeles is not an easy place to exist as a complicated human with big feelings.

Aside from having endless buckets of cash, success in the entertainment industry is often built on talking about and showing how great you’re doing and all that you’re working on – with perfectly aligned, Clorox-white teeth, perfect skin and a hot bod. So if you’re having a rough day, are a little fleshy, have mental health challenges, haven’t worked in a while (or any combination thereof), you better come up with some grandiose answer for how [great] you’re doing and all you’ve accomplished in the last month. And I’m sad to say, I bought into this for a while, and maybe am grappling with having still bought into it a little – “it” being the toxic belief that I have to suffer alone and quietly….which brings me to the Game Changer.

Let’s rewind back to June. I found myself on Tinder and I swiped right on a cute guy who spoke 4 languages fluently and “Just moved to LA from DC.  Mainly looking to make friends and meet cool people.” Pretty safe-sounding with low pressure – sweet! Lucky for me, The Game Changer swiped right on me too….and his first message to me was as normal (for once) and healthy as his mini-bio seemed: “Hello, Chile Verde! *waving emoji*” And the text-conversation flowed as nicely and normally as it began.

No fetishizing?
No lewd comment?
No mansplaining or condescencion?
“Lol. He must be new here,” I thought.

Then. THEN. Before asking me out on a “pre-date” [you know – where you go have a coffee really quick before you decide if you’re up for committing more time and/or money on a proper date…like dinner or rollerskating or bowling or whatever]…this man scheduled a phone date with me. This man screened me……and you know what….I wasn’t mad about it. In fact, I loved it! It told me that he wasn’t interested in wasting either of our time and he wanted to make sure we got along and weren’t falsely advertising online. It also kind of felt like the days of adolescence when I’d spend hours “on the phone with a boy.”

Given that I moved into his apartment last month, I’d say our strong start continues to yield a strong run. I’m sure I’ll write more about some of the shenanigans that have happened between then and now [there are many], but I’m writing now because I want to share with you why this man is The Game Changer.

Before I launch into how great things are, I want to say that our relationship isn’t perfect, but it works for us. I know some of you who read this blog also follow me on Facebook or Instagram and I share a lot about our ridiculous puns or silly adventures – and there’s plenty of that happening, but I’m not going to say that TGC and I are free of conflict or misunderstanding or even hangry spells [most of which are mine]. However, he and I navigate those sticky patches as best [and honestly] as we know how…and knowing that at the end of the day, we’re doing our best, makes it all the better.

TGC changed the game because he has helped me raise my standards…and he challenges me. He knows still waters run deep and in between the abundance of kind supportive, cheerleading words, this man challenges the SH*T out of me by demanding my 100% authenticity.

Wanna know a secret? There are pieces of myself that I’m extremely stingy with…most of them pretty dark. I write often about having big feelings, but the truth is…they’re gargantuan. History has programmed my brain to believe that if I reveal these dark pieces, the receiver will run for the hills, blinded by the horror – never to return.

However, when I find myself in a puddle of boogers and tears, breathless from these gargantuan feelings, convinced that this is the time I will have killed “Us,” TGC hits me with, “What else you got?”

If this were a battle, I’d call him a worthy opponent…but he’s very much on my side…making him a worthwhile partner – and then some – changing the game [and me] for the better.

***

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Photo taken by TGC during one of our earlier dates

A few more light-hearted ways The Game Changer changed the game (this list is not exhaustive):
His pun-game is stellar.
His practical jokes are pretty solid. His regular jokes aren’t bad either.
He’s a true gentleman…mostly.
He speaks FOUR languages fluently. FOUR! [English, Arabic, French, Spanish]
We are in entirely the same industries – hospitality and entertainment.
I can’t remember the last day he didn’t tell me how beautiful and smart I am.

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Rough and Tinder

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A shot from a cloudy hike at Griffith Park with Christmas Gift

Some Christmas Gifts break and are not meant to be permanent. I have found myself at another milestone I wasn’t expecting so soon – a broken heart from a Los Angeles dating situation. I realize I was quite sad when Grant and I ended our romantic pursuits, but the majority of that story played out in Austin, Boston, Las Vegas and Google Hangouts. Today I had to run several errands in places that carry memories with the Christmas Gift. Ghosts of this flash romance are now peppered throughout Los Angeles – Griffith Observatory…a ramen place on the west side…the Will Rogers Beach…the Abbey…even the f*cking movie LaLa Land.

I know what you’re thinking. “Chile. Aren’t you being a little extra for a 22-day intrigue that had an expiration date?” Maybe. To be fair, we didn’t know about the expiration date until after he’d returned. But also – I am reminded of something Grant shared with me once – he said something to the effect that time is an unreliable unit of measurement. And I got to thinking: when you couple that with human perception…how an hour of a boring lecture feels remarkably longer than an hour of an enjoyable activity like eating…or exercising…or boning [Yeah, I said it. You’re welcome.]…f*ck time. There are arranged marriages that have lasted for decades…there are people who date for YEARS and fall apart shortly after “I do”…there are people who never get married and just stay together…and I know individuals who knew the instantly upon meeting someone that they’d met their person – some take a bit longer. Seriously, f*ck that noise about time.

“Okay, but who the hell opts in for a Long Distance Relationship (LDR)?”

Me. I do actually.

And I know largely it’s due to my upbringing. Check out this timeline of all the places I’ve lived from Birth until now.

7 years: El Paso, TX
1 year: St. Louis, MO
2 years: Dallas, TX
2.5 years: Bellevue, WA
4 years: Carrollton, TX
6 years: New York, NY (with summers/holidays in Dallas and Rochester, NY) and a semester in Dublin, Ireland
3 years: Austin, TX
5 weeks: São Paulo, Brazil
8 months: Nashville, TN
3 years: Austin, TX
6 months: Los Angeles, CA

I’m always far away from someone I care for dearly. Right now my mom, gramma, and aunt are 1500 miles away. My sister is 3800 miles away right now, but when she starts med school she’ll be 3000 miles away. Christmas Gift is 5000 miles away. Distance, although absolute, doesn’t mean much to me. Besides, the type of life I hope to build is one where I’m doing press conferences in London for a film I’m shooting in New York between VO studio sessions in Atlanta and Los Angeles. I will always remain physically far from people I love, but I trust that we will always return to each other’s orbits. I have friendships that have lasted decades, despite physical distance.

Moving around so much has made me adaptable, but averse to planting deep roots. It taught me to be deliberate with my communication and my time – to cherish the moments I have in the same room with the people I love – and to spend those moments ensuring they know how much they mean to me. And, if I’m gonna drop some weight on you, losing Madeline  locked in this lesson even tighter. She and I lived in the same city and even now I feel like I should have spent more time with her…but…I saw her the day before the accident and I got to tell her that I love her. For me, there’s never enough time or proximity, so….

Space and Time are no match for a stubborn, impatient, relentless, tenacious woman such as myself. However, the argument that did give me the courage to face the daunting task of letting go and grieving was a matter of returning to the work I promised to do last year…which is prioritizing myself. Remember? I am enough. I choose me.

Even before he returned to London, I watched the text messages get shorter…and less and less affectionate, a subtle change, but for a writer like me, the subtext was anything but….and after he’d been home, the messages were now also few and far between. Responsive, absolutely. Active, not a bit. Our final conversation was polite and brief. And I’m glad we didn’t go down “what if” road…you know…the…”well…IF xyz, then maybe we’d have a shot.” We aren’t in xyz. We’re in R-E-A-L-L-I-F-E and I shouldn’t ever need to build a case for someone to take a chance on me…with me. I’ve been around long enough to know that the people who want to stay and be present, stay and are present. I admit – I have so many questions and there are some things I’m embarrassingly resentful about, but I’ve done this many many many many many many many many times and I know better than to ask more questions or to remain angry for too long.

I put online dating on a hiatus because again, I am enough and I choose me. It was sucking up much of my energy (along with pining for someone across the Atlantic.) I remembered that I didn’t move to Los Angeles to find my person. I gave every comfort up and moved across the country to Los Angeles to tell stories and make art and become a cartoon and build my empire, my community. And wouldn’t you know it, but one deep breath after Christmas Gift and I ended our short, polite, resigned FaceTime call….just as I was about to feel the breathless sting of another disappointment, I got my second callback for a national commercial, a much more welcome milestone for someone who’s been here less than a year.

Even though I’m still reeling. I’m still hurting. I’m still disappointed. I’m still exorcising visceral memories of intimacy and levity…even though all those things are swirling through my body and spirit…I know it’s temporary. And I have an audition to prep for.

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Tinder Strikes Again

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Seen on my walk to yoga [a week before Christmas]

After a few weeks recovering from a bruised heart, I decided to get back in the online dating scene and try again – you know…get out there and meet people. That’s the name of the game in Los Angeles, after all.

The messages on OkCupid and Tinder have been…interesting….. I started posting the real gems on my Instagram because some of the stuff these folks think to say to me is positively wild! I’ve been on a few dates and even thought it was going somewhere with someone, but I was mistaken…which ended up being a blessing because shortly thereafter, I met my Christmas Gift.

On Christmas Eve while petsitting for Candy on the west side of town, I swiped right on someone tall, dark, handsome, a little geeky and very British. Later in the day, he swiped right and we started chatting. After he told me he had plans to watch a Muppet Christmas Carol that evening, I was smitten. I waited two whole days [TWO WHOLE DAYS!] for him to ask me out and we FINALLY met up the day after Christmas for a drink…then another drink….then dancing in West Hollywood…then In n Out burgers. He told me about growing up in Wales and working in London and his favorite Disney movies – aaaannnnnd how he was going back to London in a few weeks…*record scratch*

I know. My longtime readers are probably thinking, “Seriously, Chile?! Are you ever going to fall for someone who lives in the same city as you at least semi-permanently?!” Let’s flash back for a moment, shall we?

My relationship with Susan began when she was in Austin and I was in New York, then continued with her living in Philadelphia while I was still in New York and then ended when we moved to Austin together.

My relationship with Bea began when we were both in Austin, then continued after she had to go back to São Paulo and then ended when I moved to São Paulo.

My relationship with Stanley began when I was in Nashville and he was in Austin, continued when I moved to Austin, but ultimately ended when I decided I wanted to come to Los Angeles.

Grant and I were never really together, despite the chemistry, because we knew we could never build anything substantial because he’s in Boston and I’m in LA.

And here I am with my Christmas Gift…a Welshie Londoner who has shared a great deal with me in a short time…and is leaving in less than a week.

I know…right now is the good part, the part that’s influenced by the overproduction of dopamine and oxytocin.  Right now is the sweet, delicious, juicy part of falling for someone – where you can’t get enough of being near that person and you haven’t started hating their annoying habits because you can’t even identify them, as you are literally so f*cking high. You haven’t fought yet, not really. You haven’t been sick. You haven’t had to face juggling real obligations to other things and other people. You haven’t been hangry yet. You haven’t had sh*t hit the fan yet. I know what’s happening right now…..and I’m am enjoying it thoroughly because I don’t have to be sad yet.

I don’t know what happens next. [But do any of us…really?] He may be back, he may not. And even if the former is true, it may only be for another couple of weeks…or it may not be until several months have passed. We are sitting in the dark, holding onto each other tightly while we wait for the news of what the future holds – and that’s okay, at least for me. These recent crash courses in letting go…not holding onto the need for knowing what the next moment holds are a gift, really – difficult and at times painful, but a gift.

Although, we have no idea what happens next, it’d be a shame to spend these precious last few days fearfully or woefully. Instead, I’m thankful for the time I’ve been given to enjoy my Christmas Gift and I shall make sure to send him off covered in sunny LA kisses and cariño to fill his cold British heart.

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Celebrating my birthday/Christmas.

 

 

In Which I Tinderly Tuck My Tail Between My Legs and Own My Messiness

It just wouldn’t be the life of Chile Verde if I didn’t have to put my tail between my legs a bit. Thankfully, Pride’s never been a virtue I was very good at…but let me stop being cryptic.

The day after my last post, Grant reached out. [Because that’s how this always goes.]

But the thing is – if I hadn’t written the previous post, I wouldn’t have been able to respond to Grant with a healthy distance. I wouldn’t have had the compassion to be a good listener or receive the apology and olive branch I was offered.

So, like last week, I don’t know what the future holds for Grant and me, but unlike last week, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with the uncertainty because I chose to anchor within myself. I’m okay with uncertainty because no matter what happens with Grant or Stanley or whoever – I’m enough. I have enough.

Like last week, I still choose myself each day. Grant has chosen to continue sharing in that, in a way that invites me to keep anchoring within myself as we traverse a grey area. Unlike last week, black and white now seems like not quite the right answer for someone who made an honest mistake out of fear, who is a little less impulsive than I am and who has showed up for me, often in unexpected ways.

I may have deleted the app, but the first date continues…