Romance Scam: How It Happened to Me

I have never met someone who intended to hurt me since day 1 until Paul who I “met” on OkCupid early June this year. I have been actively using OkCupid for about three years as a forty something single woman looking for like minded men around my age and area. In the last couple of years, I was able to meet 15 local men but most of them did not go beyond the first date. I continued to be optimistic.

On July 7th, 2018, I received a message from Paul, 45, NYC. The message was normal and with substance – I look forward to having meaningful conversations with you – and that’s huge. I decided to respond. In his response, he was quick to ask me: “How is online dating going for you? and what are you looking for?” He was also quick to state clearly what he was looking for: “I’m looking for a woman who is ready for a serious long term relationship with commitment. Would like to take each day at a time to learn more about you. How long have you been single? I got divorced almost 4 years ago and I have a 15 yrs old boy that lives with me. I’m mentally and emotionally ready for something new.” I thought, great, a man who knew what he wanted and it was a real relationship.

Paul was not shy about sharing details about himself. “I’m originally from the Netherlands and I have been living in the US for almost 13 years. I have lived in CA and Seattle until few months ago before I moved to NY… I work as a Project Evaluator in disaster and aid management, I help to facilitate the distribution of relief and provide medical assistance to displaced people living in remote areas across the world. I’ve been doing it for 17 years, It can be very challenging and rewarding.” I thought he had a very admirable job. However, I made a mental note to asking him more about because I knew so little of disaster and emergency management in the world.

It turned out that I met him when his birthday was coming up. “Can we chat tomorrow? It is my birthday today and I’m having friends and family over at my place.” The next day, he let me know that, ” I had a lot of fun celebrating with family and friends. I cooked some of my favorite meal then invited them over for dinner. When is your birthday Moreover, I’m grateful to have a job that provides me with the opportunity to help those that are in need and knowing that there is more to do is what motivates me in other to do more. I decided to move to NY in other to leave some memories behind us and for my son to be closer to his grandparents. Have you always lived in NY?”

He soon suggested that we move off OkCupid while sharing a few more details about himself. “I liked Boston since my first visit couple of years ago and who knows maybe you might give me another reasons to come there. Smiles! Hope you get to see your parents. How old are they? My parents are deceased and I wish they were still here. Will you like to communicate through phone and text messaging? I think it is a more efficient way of interacting with one another.”

During the first month, we texted and messaged. He started checking in with good-morning and good-night texts. My friends were impressed and so was I.

On Monday night, July 23, Paul surprised and called me for the first time. We had an awkward pause for about 10 seconds then he started laughing and I felt at ease. I liked him a bit more that instance. I had told him that I only talked to my parents on the phone and no one else. He said that he wanted to be added to the list. I could feel that he was interested in me. That felt good. From that day one, we talked almost every day. Sometimes it was a quick call, other times longer. His calls and texts became part of my routine and day.

That week, Paul complained about a severe headache and had to see a doctor. The doctor suggested to him to take a scan and he did. He went back to the doctor a couple of days later and got his test results back. It was all normal! Meanwhile, I was sharing personal details with him as well. I told Paul about my full name, email, and website.

While I was taking to Paul almost every night, I wanted to know more about him. I Googled him several times based on what I knew: Paul Henriks, 347-667-2147, prhenriksjobs003@gmail.com, and found nothing at all. He had zero online presence. I told myself not to worry and continued to get to know him.

In addition to messages, I asked Paul for pictures wanting to know more about him. “So I can see what you are seeing!” I told him. Paul was able to send me photos of his family, the birthday party he went to, and from his camping trip. Finally, photos! I told him that I now knew that he was not a serial killer and was real. I sent him a few more my recent photos too and told him that I was breaking my rule of “no pictures before meeting in person.” He responded, “I am not going to kill you with pictures!” I told him about my schizophrenia. He said that he did not mind.

On Monday July 30, Paul happily told me that he had won the proposal that he has been working one. That was work for him for the next 18 to 20 months. He said he wanted to come and see me. I thought that was serious commitment to getting to know me. I was happy to hear that. He needed to wait to hear more about his work travel schedule this week, then he would let me know when he could meet.

Out of the blue, Paul deleted his profile on OKC. I did not expect that! Typically, this requires a conversation. But he just made his own decision. I asked him what he meant by that and he said that he wanted to focus on this. The next day, I disabled mine too. I felt that I was talking to someone who was kind and caring. I would also focus on this.

During one of our phone calls, Paul sounded a bit upset. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that he was expecting to travel for work sooner than he thought. He would only be able to visit me after his work trip. I thought that was okay and reassured him that was fine with me.

Paul emailed me his flight details and confirmations for traveling to Manila, Philippines for work. His return flight was from Manila to Boston. He did not book a flight leaving Boston to go back to New York. During this time, giving the time zone difference, we talked less regularly. But Paul continued to show an effort to keep in touch with me.

We lost communication for three days. Then I received the a few emails from Paul.

Email: Tuesday, August 14, 12:10 PM

Good morning babe,

How are you? I hope you had a good night sleep. I arrived Manila safely, although we experience a mid air turbulence and a  bumpy landing other than that it was fine. I had my first official meeting with the Directors today, It was short but It offered me an opportunity  to make a positive impression. I am looking forward to yet another meeting with the Directors tomorrow to discuss the details surrounding the execution of the project, project schedule and contract review/negotiations.

Moreover, It’s been almost 3 days since we last spoken, I must confess that I’m missing you more than I could ever imagine. You have become a special part of day and our conversation has brought me great joy and laughter.

I should be able to communicate with you through text or phone within the next 24 hours. I look forward to hearing your sweet voice.

You are always on my mind..

Email: Monday, August 20, 9:01PM

Good morning babe!

Hope you’re having a wonderful day. Sorry I couldn’t get to talk to you last before going to bed. I had two separate meetings with the Lawyers and the committee in charge of the legal process. We talked about the details surrounding the  signing of the contract and the financial aspect from the Budgeted Capital, Legal fees and Total Accrued Profit. At the end I agreed to pay 8% of my total profit as the legal fee in advance so the Directors and the committee in charge can grant the Lawyers the  legal capacity to represent me in all the legal proceedings regarding the signing of the contract that binds the project approval which is the final stage. I’ve written to my Bank to make provisions for the legal fee so we can proceed with the signing of the contract agreement.

Yesterday was the last meeting with the officials. Hopefully the whole contract agreement would be finalized by tomorrow morning. It is a public holiday here today, I’ll be spending most of today here at the apartment.

Talk to you before you go to bed.

Email: Tuesday, August 20, 8:52PM

Good Evening to you!

Hope you’ve had a good day at work. I didn’t have to wake up at 1am for the phone call appointment with the Bank. I received a email in response to my request for a short term loan of $110,000.00 in other to complete the payment for the legal fee. My short term loan request was denied but they were able to processed the transfer of $260,000.00 as part of the payment for the legal fee.  As a result of this disappointment I won’t be able to sign the contract agreement until the end of the week while I look into other options available for me to come up with the remainder of the legal fees which will take few days.

I’m having a meeting at 9am with the Directors  and the committee. I’m going to call you when I’m through with the meeting.

<end of email>

Paul had to extend his trip in Manila. He was not able to come to Boston as planned. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. However, I understood that work was important to him. I told myself to be supportive and patient.

For the rest of August, Paul worked on getting the funds he needed to pay the lawyers. He got additional 30k from his sister and Andre’s grandparents and 50k from credit cards. He was still short of 20k. Sam and a friend in CA could not give back the money he had loaned them earlier until next week. Paul is in a tough situation. He admitted that he had never bit on such a large project before and that this situation had never happened to him before. Friday was the deadline for the final negotiation. If he did not have money by then, he loses the whole project.

Meanwhile, different scenarios were running through my head. I had a session with my therapist Deborah. My gut told me not to help him by lending him money. Deborah agreed and said, stay out of it. We were both thinking this could be a scam! But I wanted to hope that I had met a good man. So I continued to hope for the best while promising Deborah that I would be careful and protect myself. I Googled “lending friends money” and the first article said, You do not have to lend anyone money.

Then over the weekend, Aug 30 to Sept 2, I did not hear from Paul at all. I thought that he might be traveling home to New York. He must be devastated. As far as I knew, he lost the project. I did the math in my head and the project was a couple of millions. It was not like him to not communicate at all. I missed hearing from him. I was also worrying for him.

Sunday night Sept 2, Paull finally texted. He was still in Manila and in the hospital. His severe headache was back. He only texted briefly. I still did not know what was going on other than where he was. He said we could talk later his night but he did not call. Somehow, the deadline for his contract got extended.

Tuesday night Sept 4. Paul texted again. This time I was calmer. He was still in the hospital. They kept him because he was not well enough to leave. He was getting better but still weak. His guide in Manila Nel has been in communication with his son Andre and brother-in-law Sam. He said he misses me and I feel better! I told myself that I needed to be patient while he sorted out his healthy. He was obviously under a lot of stress because of work and health. He again told me that he should be released from the hospital and that we could talk soon.

On Thursday Sept 6., Paul sent me this text:

Paul: I am not sure how you’re going to feel about this but I’m in a very difficult position regarding the whole legal agreement and I’m not sure if there is something you can do to assist me financially. I want to know if you could at least lend me about 10,000USD so as to be able to finalize the whole agreement. I’ll be able to pay back by the time you’re in NJ… thanks!”

Me: Paul, I just don’t know you well enough to just send you money. It’s a lot of money! Would you be able to send me more information? Let me take a look? How much are you short of?

Paul: I’m short of about 10,000usd (Ten Thousand US Dollars)

Me: At this point, I am not comfortable lending you money… I only have your phone number… I don’t even know your address… I am sorry.

Paul: Okay. I understand. You don’t have to be sorry.

Me: When is your new deadline?

Paul: Monday

Friday Sept 7, 7:45 AM, more text.

Me: Any luck on getting what you need?

Paul: No luck.

Me: Why would you have money later in a week or two but not right now? Also what about Sam, your friend in CA and other investment funds (that you told me about)? By the way, what is your address? Home address I mean.

Me: So does this mean that you are not going to get this project? What’s happening on Monday? I think this whole thing is a bit crazy! Especially that you are doing this all on your own and don’t have a company of people with you.

Me: [Sending Paul banks that offer short-term loans with 6.99 to 24.99 APR]

Me: How much money do you already have? Would these people really reject a selected (?best) candidate for 10K? Does not make any sense to me!

Paul: I am sorry but I won’t have asked you for help if I wasn’t going to lose out completely on this project. There wouldn’t be any reason for me to do what I did.

Sat Sep 8, 10:23AM

Me: It could be a scam. You could disappear. I have not idea. No way of knowing.

<End of text>

Throughout this whole experience, I was oscillating between trusting Paul and wanting to help him versus being cautious since I had never met the man. I thought the texts and phone calls brought us closer together but for me it was still missing something. I felt like I was in “something” but not quite. I was not completely emotionally and mentally invested in Paul yet. That was my luck. I had learned from previous online-dating dates that my imagination sometimes got ahead of myself. Texting and phone-call personalities could never represent 100% of someone’s true in-person personality. Keep initial texting short. Gotta meet the guy to really know what’s the real deal!

Short of meeting up, I tried different ways to validate Paul’s identity. I asked him for his full name. Then I Googled him and found nothing. It was hard to imagine someone with zero online presence. He claimed that he stopped using Facebook profile during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But what about LinkedIn? As an independent consulting working for himself, I would imagine that he would need a professional online presence. I also Googled his phone number and profession and found nothing.

Paul was perfect via text and phone calls though. He started his first message looking for a serious long-term relationship. Even I was wondering what he saw in me and my online profile that he was so sure. His good-morning and good-night texts were heart melting. He said and did all the right things from the start.

But quickly, the conversations turned to money matters. I knew better not to mix a-man-I-never-met with money matters. I did not understand the business arrangement that he was describing, as important as he seemed to think of it. I did not understand what he did for living, as much as it sounded nobel. Why would he not having anyone else but a stranger to ask for money? Why would he be so short of cash if he was able to bid on such a large project? Why was he not better prepared for his contract negotiation? He did not manage his business and money well. There was too much that I did not understand about him to feel comfortable with the situation.

When he started to talking about money, I thought to myself, oh my god, he might ask me for money. I saw three options. First, if I lend him money and he disappears, shame on me. Second, if I did not lend him money and he gets upset, then I could see his true colors and his priorities. Third, if I did not lend him money and we continued to speak then that would show his true color. Based on facts, not feelings, I thought the smart thing to do was to stay out of his business. No matter what the situation was, asking a stranger for money was a red flag in itself.

One week after Paul stopped talking to me, I shared this with my close friends. They validated my suspicion. We all agreed that this was a romantic scam. A very elaborate one! Paul Henriks probably did not exist. There might even be a team of people. This was their “work” and I was their “project.” This could happen to anyone! I look at the name, texts, emails, and photos on my phone and I still can’t believe it!

It’s Logical!

“It should always be remembered that the behavior of persons with schizophrenia is internally logical and rational: they do things for reasons that, given their disordered senses and thinking, makes sense to them!” -Torrey, E. Fuller. Surviving Schizophrenia. 1983. Page 49.

“The ideas I had about supernatural beings came to me the same way that my mathematical ideas did. So I took them seriously.” -John Forbes Nash Jr.

*~*~*~*~*

My friend J read a draft of my memoir. He was surprised that my story was not chaotic or filled with confusion. He made me want to tell my story even better, even more, to show that my experience did all made sense to me. I took very deliberate steps to make sense of what was happening to me and around me.

Let’s start with hearing my first voice Joe. For the 30 years of my life before that moment, I had trusted my ears without any problem. I have pretty good hearing. When I first heard Joe talking, I looked for where the talking was coming from, for someone, for speakers, or anything that might broadcast the voice. I did not understand how “he” was able to talk to me that way. So I continued to investigate. I thought that there might be some smart technology being used. I heard the man talking! That was real to me! I tried to understand what “he” wanted! That’s usually why someone talks to another person.

Another example is that my senses became super acute. I noticed so much more from my surroundings. You can relate to this. Someone coughs loudly in front of you and makes sure that you see her. We do this all the time! Could be for fun, for joke, for giving you a hint by saying something while coughing. Another example. Someone puts up a V sign with their fingers at a sport game. We all know that means victory! So, when I start noticing everything around me, it felt like they should mean something. More people were coughing around me, so I thought, is this a bad winter? I did not say to myself, why am I all of a sudden hearing more coughing. I just did. Everyone did. I wondered why! I tried to understand what they or that meant!

Is it really logical to say “I hear someone talking” or “so many people are coughing” then conclude that “I have schizophrenia?” Ironically, to me it felt more like taking a leap of faith later, when I was told to take a pill and not being told why and what it would fix.

My strategy of dealing with things that I don’t understand is to use my brain to logically break down and solve the problem. Similar to what Nash said, I was the same person when I triggered schizophrenia. I tried to solve schizophrenia with logic. I am glad other people’s experience and perspectives described in Surviving Schizophrenia echoed mine and why they don’t think they were crazy or mad either.

Instead of thinking that people with schizophrenia would typically behave abnormally, I suggest we think of it as people being presented with and experienced abnormal things first. These things could be visual, auditory, or sensory. Think of these as “external” stimuli, not internal! That’s the perspective I am asking you to have. Schizophrenics are just trying to make sense of it all like everyone else with life. Sometimes, to deal with things that don’t make sense, you might have to do something different or unusual. Having reactions are appropriate and expected human behaviors!

Really, it’s a broken brain in charge!

 

Being a Research Subject

Right before I was discharged from McLean hospital, I was asked to participate in a clinical study. I had never done that before and was very intrigued by it. It made me feel that I was doing something good, using something I uniquely had. I had a brain people were interested in. I felt useful.

A gray-haired doctor came to interview me about my schizophrenic experience for about two hours. We sat face to face in my room. He asked all kind of questions and I answered as best as I could. What was the first time I experienced an episode? How did I feel? What does living in a glass house mean? While I was talking, he took copious notes. I just kept talking. He did not stop me from going on and on. His expression welcomed it. He took time and went through his big binder flipping through each page, asking and writing.

Another young woman came to me after that while I was at the hospital and told me that there was a second test that involved taking MRI scans. I had never been in an MRI. I again happily agreed to take the test. The young woman who ran the study came to my room to take me to the MRI lab. She told me that it was hard to schedule a scan since so many people needed the scan time. I imagined that it would also be an expensive test. When I got to the lab, she explained me to what was going to be done. Then I lay in an MRI tube listening to different audio clips for a few hours while the machine took pictures of my brain and body. Sometimes, I was asked to answer questions by pressing buttons using my fingers. 

When I first participated in studies at McLean, I did not know what these studies were. I did not think to ask.  After I was discharged from the hospital, I decided that I wanted to continue to give something back. I was so grateful for the care that I received at McLean. So many people took such a good care of me. I was fortunate to benefit from modern medicine and science. I should do my part to help others. I could look for more opportunities to participate in more studies.

I got in touch with Mass General Hospital and Harvard University, in addition to McLean, participated in several more research studies. The studies ranged from logic tests, memory tests, (which I was very bad at,) simple questions and answers, MRI scans as I listen to sounds or watch images, brain wave scans, to keeping a social diary every day for a few weeks, to open-ended conversational interviews.

I became more comfortable as a research subject. I started asking researchers I met more questions, about their methods, and why they were doing what they were doing. I met a graduate student at Harvard who had a brother who had schizophrenia. She wanted to understand more of the world that her brother was in and to know if social interactions would help with schizophrenia. I met another student at MGH who was studying how schizophrenia affects cognitive abilities. I met another graduate student at McLean who wanted to know if looking at the brain wave patterns could help detect a psychotic episode.  

I asked researchers when they were planning to publish their studies. I wanted to know if there was any new breakthrough in the field of schizophrenia, especially if I was one of the data points. Often, the answers I got were always something like. “We are collecting the data first, which would take x years. Then we have to analyze the data and look for evidence. That will take some time. After that, we can decide if there are any findings that are significant.” It takes a lot of work to make a breakthrough. There are a lot of people working on making lives better for people like me. It’s not easy.

Not only did I gain a deep appreciation for McLean, I also met many others outside of McLean who are working on improving the lives of people with schizophrenia. Researchers and doctors were trying to find a way to identify schizophrenia through brain images and waves. During the first three months that I was lost in my thoughts early prevention might have stopped me from triggering a schizophrenic episode. There are cases of people who only experienced one psychotic episode in life. I could have been one of them. Other researchers focused on improving ways to live with schizophrenia, such as developing social support. If I had someone to talk to during that first three months, perhaps I would not have gotten stuck the way I did or avoided my hospital stay.

When I talked to my therapist Deborah about participating in studies, she asked me, “Why do you want to be a lab subject?” I told her that I wanted to do my small small part. That was the only thing I could do for others like me. She surprised me by reminding me to focus my time and energy on my own life first. I will, I promised. But I don’t mind being a data point; while I can, I’ll continue to participate in research.

Remember This On A Rainy Day

To me, I say to remember this on a rainy day.

Singleness. I fully embrace it. During weekends, I can get up at 8am or 11am. It takes me 10 minutes to get out of the house and I don’t have to wait or hurry. I just use the bathroom. I just eat, either out of my fridge or at a restaurant, at 4pm or 7pm. I get home when I get home. Everything at home is always where I remember it to be. I don’t have a TV or car and that’s okay by me. My home is simple and not cluttered which is just the way I like it. I have lots of time to work on interesting problems, read and sip tea, write and sip wine, take walks, travel, and hang out with friends! I am not responsible for little people 24/7 and are always amazed by my friends who are parents at how much effort and energy they have for their kiddos.

I can dance in the middle of my living room. I can sing along with my Spotify playlist. I can wear PJ all day. All not to be embarrassed. My home is my safe and private space, and more than enough space just for me.  I have absolute freedom and independent love in life. For that, I am thankful and grateful.

Dating is a great way to meet new people. Everyone is hopefully and scared at the same time. We all have a heart made of glass hoping to hand it to someone who won’t accidentally drop it on the floor. It’s truly an adventure.

Here is what I would like to say to the me with a man. Remember how full life was when I was single. I took advantage of singleness and did whatever I wanted. Even though I had not met you, I had a wonderful life surrounded by friends and family. I was taking steps everyday to learn and become who I am as a person. Now I am with you. I am hoping to learn about the life of two, love of two, and maybe with kiddos too.

Singleness and couple-ness are just two different journeys, each has its good and learnings. Don’t forget the life lessons from both journeys. Remember to always enjoy life no matter what.

Today’s top of mind.

Dating Books

Dating men can be like “dating” books!

Don’t judge a book by its cover? Well, I do. Firs impression matters. Are you glossy or matte? Are you a paperback or a hardcover? With a dust cover? Is it black-and-white or color? What is the title of the book? Do I want to open the book after seeing the cover?

Let’s say the cover passes the gut check. Awesome. I am now opening the book and excited to read the first sentence of the first chapter on the first page. The most common first message I received on online dating websites is “hi.” Imagine that in a book! The first sentence should probably be more than one word but not taking up the whole page either. Underwhelming and overwhelming are both undesirable. There is no rule to say what is a absolutely good first sentence. It could be a split-second decision or a longer and slower read. If what is written intrigues me, then I will probably decide to keep reading.

After reading a few more pages, I can pretty quickly know if there is chemistry between me and the book. Sometime, a book is easy to read, or interesting, or challenging, or impressive. Fiction and non-fiction are definitely two different reading experiences. And I know for sure that I don’t like short stories. I have tried many times and the outcome is the same no matter how great the book is. The poor book is not being read gathering dust in a corner and I hit myself in the head for buying it (again!)

There are times I just can’t get into a book even with a promising start. For whatever reason, there is no connection. I am reading the words but I am not getting anything out of it. In that case, I find that it’s good to put the book down and say I am going to pass on this one. I am in my forties. There is really no point reading every single book cover to cover. Who has that kind of time at my age?

For the times that I am unsure, I sometimes give it a longer try and read a few more pages or chapters. I either get pleasantly surprised or stop reading. I find that I am mostly right listening to my gut. But taking risk and being open is part of the adventure.

Spending time reading a book is a precious activity. To me, it’s quality time for myself. I am wiling to put everything aside and invest that time in a book. When I am in the middle of a good book, I am walking on air. Some book requires pacing and other I lose sleep over reading. Some stories are memorable!

I am always looking for the opportunity to be inspired, to learn and to see something new in this world.  Cozy up with a cup of tea and a good book on a Saturday night is amazing. Times goes by so fast when it’s good! Even though I have my share of unmatched books, I am for sure going to keep dating books!

Okay, I know men is so much more than books. But can you kind of go along with this for fun with a book nerd like me?!? <grin> I am also limiting my imagination to the first few dates before being exclusive. After the warming up period requires a whole different post! Lastly, the same holds true for me as well. I think about how I hold up as a book!

May everyone always enjoy your book happily! If you like reading.

 

A Dedication

He is as sweet as they come, she believes.

They are young, both with wide-open eyes, arms, and hearts. The sky is always blue; classes are always good for naps. He loves to show off his sports car; she loves to watch him showing it off. The meeting place can not be more perfect. They are partners in classes, constantly challenging each other. They discuss and debate about life and death, purpose and principle, happiness and goals. They spend their first summer roaming gorges, hiking forests, playing in the parks, and hanging out in a little town in upstate New York. He knows where to go: taking her to the quaint restaurants, the one-and-only lame mall in the neighborhood, and as many movies as the cinema plays.

He is as much of a gentleman as any college boy may strive to be. She knows that she has the eyes for goodness.

She thinks he is special, this incredible blend of east and west. He dislikes his past made of boarding school and various places in the world. She reminds him of how the journeys in the past built his character, a fine one that is. He looks for his root; she sees his core as solid as any rooted person may have. He treats her like a lady; she falls for that always.

He is ambitious to do something great. So is she.

All college years end and all collage kids grow up. He begins a new life chapter in the corporate world. In a pretty happening city, he makes new friends, keeps fit, and works his butt off. His higher education seems to have paid off. She starts her new life a few hundred days later, following his lead pretty closely. With a bit of luck, they find each other again in the same city and decide that it is a great thing to keep it up.

He is loyal, earnest, and studious. She is no less.

When solving a problems, he puts in his best. He becomes credible to his teams. She admires him and works harder. They are both career-minded people who determine to be proud of their work. They are surrounded with like-minded people and they keep moving upward.

He cares and she is touched.

She is deeply moved at how he takes care of her. The evidence is especially visible when she is sick. He always knows what to do, what drug to get, what food to buy, where to go, and who to call. He touches her many times with that tenderness. She is thankful.

He is a Peter Pan. Secretly she is too.

Their favorite movies are the Disney ones. He owns almost every one of them. (Let’s keep that under the covers!) He also catches all the actions and sci-fi’s; she loves the sappy romantic comedies. Regardless, they always watch together. A bit unusual, they fight to let the other to order food at the restaurant. They are both flexible and considerate in nature. Perhaps a bit too considerate …

If in this day and age the concept of marriage does not exist, they would be the perfect couple. They hardly fight. He makes jokes; she can’t stay mad at him. They enjoy each other’s company; they also allow for personal spaces. She likes to hang with her girlfriends; he picks up the boys and does whatever until the girls return. They are comfortable with each other. They are open with each other. They take care of each other in their own ways. They seem happy.

He is responsible and she is mature.

Things happen and everything is a blur. Basically, he knows what he wants and she knows what she does not want. They are inseparable. Their friends are inseparable with the this combo too. But perhaps a break is good for them even it is not good for anyone else. Their circle friends are sad. The boy and the girl remain civil; they become good friends.

He continues to search for what’s important in life. She does exactly that too.

At this turning point in their lives, they are both searching for the meaning in life. She believes that one can’t love another without defining oneself first. He looks to religion for answers. She wants to fill more philosophies in her head. He wants to know God’s will and finds the plan that’s for him.  She travels to see the world to explore possibilities. She is reshuffling her self; as is he.

He needs most a friend; she needs most her solitude.

She feels selfish to abandon a dear friend. She realizes that she is not capable of being a friend. Not right now. At a time of healing and soul searching, she must take care of herself first. He is the reason for healing and solitude. He is also the one who needs a friend the most.  She is torn between her affection for him and her own needs. She fails at the balancing act.

“Why” he asks. She can only smile.

How can she help him understand? You see, these two handle healing in the exactly opposite way.

She is constantly aware of her intrusion to the external world. She prefers not to talk to anyone when she is unhappy. She prefers never to think ill of anyone and be morally good. When she is confused, upset, or sad, she wants to fix it on her own. Perhaps she is just an introvert at heart. She is just built that way.

He is constantly looking for chances to interact with the external world. He prefers not to be unhappy and never think ill of anyone. He prefers to be a morally good person. When he is confused, upset, or sad, he wants to fix it. He helps his friends and that makes him happy. He stops being sad by just getting over it. He talks about his problems and solves them with his friends. He is just made that way.

She still sleeps the best – feels the safest – when he is around.

She does not want to be upset any more because of him. She feels that she lives in the past, does not want to feel that way, and wants the current chapter closed. She is aware that once again she is making a decision that will affect the both of them. She is very sad.

She needs some space and time for herself.

Long after their break up, she finally cries about that for the first time. Her body is reacting too slowly; the tears quietly fall from the corner of her eyes. Or maybe the brain is just faster than the heart. The sadness lingers not more than a couple of minutes. She hates being wimpy. Here her eyes are quietly wetting again.

No offense. She needs to be ok. It will take her so many years to “get over” it. She does not have the strength to be strong anymore. She does not have any answer, explanation, or theory anymore. She needs to be left alone for a while. She needs to take care of herself. Then she can come back and be his best friend again. Then she may be a friend for anyone. She needs to feel that she is ready…

This chapter is as beautiful as it comes between a boy and a girl. He is as sweet as they come, she still believes. No matter what happens, this boy and this girl will always know that they had loved each other dearly with all their hearts.

That’s a brainless predication and a fine closing note.

 

Selfish

When I was 36 and very single, I was hit by the narrowing of the time window to have my biological children. With any life problem I face, I turned to books and my friends.

I was glad to find Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids. The writers in this book talk about how there isn’t one way to life. There were different scenarios for women to not have their own kids. Some had decided not to have kids for various reasons, some ended up not having kids because time had passed, and then there were those who gave away babies.

My first thought was I am a woman living in a modern time. I could logically separate being single and being a mother. I decided to become a single mother. I charted my basal body temperature daily for a few months. I took folic acid when I remembered to. My primary care doctor recommended a reputable donor bank in New England. I reviewed numerous profiles and got what I needed. I tried it once and failed. For couples who try to get pregnant together, it is not necessary an easy path. For me, doing it alone and failed felt devastating. I realized that I did not want to get pregnant and become a mother alone, when I had control over this. So my journey to single motherhood ended abruptly and quickly.

Now, at age forty something, I feel that I am okay without my own biological kids. I had thought about it and did something about it even though I failed. I can’t say that I am noble and do not want to contribute to the global overpopulation problem. Now I just have a few personal reasons to pass on having kids. For someone whose brain does not react well to high stress, being a single mother is not a smart move. There is also the chance that I might pass on my schizophrenic genes. The desire to want a family and take care of someone is now replaced with deeper personal reflections. The right time had passed.

There are times when I see my married friends and thought that I could be considered selfish. I live my life, for the most part, for myself. So I try not to be selfish through other means. I live my life everyday with gratitude.

Once in a while, my girlfriends would say to me, I really hope I can sleep in late. Or I would love to take a walk or read a book. I know that having time to myself is in a way a privilege. Between them and me, there is no right or wong. It’s just two different lives.

Unlike fertility, dating has no biological timeline. If I want to, I can date until I am 90 years old. I can still have kids, just not biological. Dating opens up all kinds of possibilities. He could be divorced with kids. He could be open to adopting kids. Of course, he could be like me, being content without kids or does not want kids.

That is just it. Life accepts all kinds of paths. Like the shitty first draft when I start a writing project, I can only write down what my inspiration takes me. No assumptions. Like driving at night in the dark, even though I can only see as far as the headlight, I can still make it to my destination. My life may not follow the most common or expected path but it is unique in its own way. For this peaceful mind, I am grateful.