All posts by Dianea Kohl

The power of CHILDHOOD

       It still amazes me how much power our childhood has over us as adults. But even more so the mystery in saying to my French boyfriend this morning: “I wouldn’t change anything about my life.” (Now in my seventh decade.)

I love that I grew up in Ithaca, NY, left for ten years, and returned to live here. That I live in an 1840s house divided into four apartments, mine with a huge picture window viewing a long field, a large pond, and a wide forest behind where coyotes howl near midnight. (I have owned two homes previously.)

That I am a dancer still dancing 4-5 nights per week. That I work part-time and control my schedule so I can dash to Paris/Nogent once per month to be with my French boyfriend, Antoine. (In his third decade.)

Yet, one decision I made as I raised two beautiful daughters mostly as a single mom, I regret. Erin is 15 and Megan is 12 when we return from a month of traveling cross-country  – in a rusty 150,000 odometer van – to camp and hike in many National Parks with which I have a love affair.

A new boyfriend had been kicked out of his ex-girlfriend’s trailer with no viable living situation available. I wasn’t really wanting him to move in but felt sorry for him and also unconsciously probably was afraid to say no and lose him. When I told Erin; she cried and said NO! I called her dad who lived 30 miles away and he came to our home to talk with us. I can still visualize the red sofa in our living room, and hear her father say, “Your mom has a right to her happiness.” I am sad as I write that I couldn’t be there, empathetic enough for my daughter’s feelings and needs.

Even though I was a green (one year graduate) Marriage and Family Therapist at the time; I hadn’t grieved enough of my own childhood pain to put my child’s emotional needs first. Erin and I have been to therapy together (in the late 80s) and apologized; but it wasn’t until one of my primal therapy sessions (in the late 90s) that I connected with a past life where I saw myself kill Erin (my daughter then too), during the Crusades. As unbelievable as this sounds to many, it was that session that helped me accept Erin’s distrust of me; her present friendly distant relationship with me.

SMOKING kills feelings but not my tears

 

I was not aware that my dad was smoking in the basement while growing up, until I saw cigarette butts resting in the cellar wall as a late teenager. But it was smoking at his work desk when I was a freshman at Cornell that I felt both of our embarrassments – I think he apologized and I stood sadly silent.

He didn’t want to be a poor example to his three beloved children. My dad took good enough care of his diabetes by following his diet and injecting daily insulin. Still, he died of a sudden heart attack at age 60, so I could never say goodbye or tell him ‘I love you.’

I became angry at smoking. I wouldn’t let my third husband smoke in our house or around me and my two daughters. I separated from him because he wouldn’t quit when he said he would. (Others aspects of our relationship factored into our divorce.)

And, my fourth husband couldn’t quit either. When I returned from Omega, a personal growth weekend, I found an ashtray full of butts on the deck; Gregory not respecting my loving request (limit) which he had been respecting since we had started dating. Since he had promised to quit. I felt rage pounding in my chest. I ran downstairs to the garage, found the sledgehammer and began smashing the ashtray and its insane reminder of how cigarettes kill. I screamed and yelled: “I hate cigarettes! I hate that you killed my dear daddy!!”

Soon, Gregory appeared, to hold me in his arms while I sobbed.

MAKING LOVE with every age

 

Regretfully, I was a virgin when I married the first time, due to a strict religious upbringing. I don’t remember our first intercourse and yet loved giving birth to our two beautiful daughters.

Although still religious, I was rebellious and part of me was glad that he left us in order to be himself as gay. Then I could enjoy my sexual freedom, despite being a hypocrite to my church rule to make love only when married.

It was my fourth marriage that broke me open, like a coconut spilling out its milk. I cried and sobbed and raged until I could walk away with the gift of trusting myself, truly, for the first time! (This was 1998, and I had let go of my religious addiction in 1984, how apropos:)

It’s now 2018, having lived alone for 13 years, quite happily so, while enjoying making love with a few boyfriends. It was the first day of spring that chased my aloneness away by falling in love with Antoine, a Cornell graduate student, four decades younger than me.  He’d never kissed or made love until May 11th. With me. What a gift! “Amazing,” I still say often to myself and to him, after having lived together for two summer months, now having come full term to nine months of being boyfriend-girlfriend.

More amazing is the last day we spent together before he returned to his homeland in France on July 18th. Because we love hiking, especially to waterfalls, we’d planned to make love to the music of Moonshine Falls. As we placed our yellow blanket on the ground in a bed of Wild Geraniums, Antoine says: “Are you going to tell me your secret?” I’d said weeks previous that I didn’t want to keep any secrets from him, and wanted to tell him before he left, but it hadn’t crossed my mind that day. Tears became a fountain as I revealed my shame of having mercy-killed my so-loved pet kitty, Radiance. He could barely walk; was thin as pasta. Close to death as one can be, I believed.

Most amazing is that Antoine holds me close with eyes of love, of understanding, of acceptance. That we fly to one another monthly. That in my seventh decade I am not dried up. That my vagina and clitoris sing the praises of our bodies becoming passionately one, naturally, saying out loud, I AM IN LOVE with you!

being IN LOVE at any age

 

Like most couples who marry I wanted my first marriage to last “’til death do us part.”  It was not meant to be. Soon after giving birth to our two beautiful daughters, my husband claimed his gayness.

At first it was difficult to believe, yet unconsciously I’d been aware of some effeminate signals, and his admittance to experimenting once while in college. Harder to believe was my church’s advisement not to let our daughters have access to their homosexual dad.

Rebelliously, I did not go along with their unloving ‘christian’ beliefs; and went on to marry three more times.  Many acquaintances have questioned me as to whether I’d want to marry a fifth time.

Since 2005, I’ve lived alone; experienced a few short-lived boyfriends, and knew I couldn’t settle unless I fell IN love. Again. I was content to be alone, although I was open  and desirous to share my life with a man I could love deeply. Purely.

The first day of spring 2018, I met Antoine at a bar where he was playing darts and I was dancing swing. I got in his way! Then, I missed the bull’s eye due to dart ignorance.

Then, I invited him to dance, despite he obviously being much younger than me. He was a graduate student in chemical engineering at Cornell University and had never danced in his life. I was delighted that he picked up partner dancing quickly, and that we progressed to conversations of our other interests such as hiking to waterfalls.

Near a waterfall is where I initiated our first kiss, maybe a month later, while being in disbelief that he’d never been kissed before. We’re now in our seventh month of being boyfriend and girlfriend, having lived together easily for two months before Antoine left for his home in France in mid-July. I flew to visit him for two weeks in late August; celebrating our birthdays: his on the 28th, mine on the 30th.

Our families and friends are shocked that we are IN Love since I am four decades older. What is more unbelievable is that we now call each other husband and wife.

IS LOVE EVER EQUAL?

 

I love it when my boyfriend calls me “baby” and have wondered for years why we use that word especially while “making love.”  Remember the given “respect your elders” no matter what; yet they haven’t respected children with the often said, “children are to be seen and not heard?”

Presently, minorities are demanding equality whether they are people of color disenfranchised from the right to vote, or women getting equal pay for equal work that men do, or children not to be bullied by parents, teachers and therefore by other children.

For many years, it’s been acceptable for men to marry women much younger than themselves like my first husband’s grandma marrying a man 25 years younger than her, he 43 and she 18. I remember her telling me, “He was the love of my life!” She never remarried after he died in his 80s.

My boyfriend is forty plus years younger than me and its caused an incomprehension and fear with his understandably concerned parents: “Aren’t you blocking your future?”

Antoine and I met in a bar where he was playing darts and I was dancing east coast swing. I got in his way which prompted him to ask me if I wanted to play.

“I’ve never really played, but I’ll give it a whirl.”

After never hitting the bull’s eye, I ask if he’d like to dance.

“I’ve never danced in my life,” Antoine replies.

“Want to give it a try?”

Surprisingly, without any persuasion, he walks to the dance floor and learns to lead me with ease. I am amazed…as we both are, that we’ve fallen in love. Even more amazing is that he is 25, and I’ve been privileged to celebrate his virginity. Be the first girl he has kissed. ( He’d tried once with another girl but she didn’t let him.)

Whose to say we should be equal in age? We’ve talked openly about the inevitable leaving of me to find a younger partner.

But for now, nothing equals the IN LOVE relationship we’ve enjoyed for 6 months, which continues to become closer to a bull’s eye of truer and deeper love. After four marriages, he’s the best love I have ever known.

Can’t be a GUEST! anymore when it comes to love

 

Antoine and I are touristing Les Jardins d’Tuileries in Paris. Some Moon flowers are in bloom, others are tall white, ready to open. A bee lands on the tip and crawls into the still closed bloom as if it was invited. Like a virgin being slowly entered. I am amazed that the bee lounges there. Maybe it feels welcomed?

Like I do in Paris with my French boyfriend, Antoine. I live in America, and am a guest here for 2 weeks, despite my girlfriend status of four months now. We met as he was finishing his masters degree at Cornell University.

The day before I arrived he signed a lease for a room in a shared house located in a suburb of Paris called Nogent. Perfect timing.

Like while sitting on a bench within the view of the Arc d’Triomphe, each eating our salmon, tomato, lettuce baguette sandwiches. I ask, “Would you like the last bite?” He replies: “Don’t you want it?” I look into his deep brown eyes and say: “Notice what you just did. You didn’t answer my question.”

Antoine searches his acute awareness to say, “I’m being the pleaser again. I hate it.”

“Yes, I want you to answer my question. Please yourself!”

Antoine emphatically replies, “I need to please myself.”

“You are not my guest, you’re my boyfriend. I am offering you my last bite because I am full of love for you!”

What WEIGHT can you lose? with LOVE for self?

 

Since Antoine returned to his home in France six days ago (7/18/18), my heart has been weighted down with tears. I couldn’t have predicted how many thousands of droplets I’d cry, or SOBs (Shortnesses Of Breath?)

Unconsciously, our love began the first day of spring 2018, so unpredictably. Our ages are so widespread.

When I was in my late thirties, I began running marathons, eventually setting the goal of 36 marathons in 36 months, to achieve the women’s American record of consecutive marathons. Why, for goodness sake would I do something so crazy?

I’d ask myself that while jog-walking the last six miles of every 26.2 mile marathon. What my mind replied was: “You love the recognition.” From that ‘high’ of crowds applauding as I cross the finish line. The certificate in my hand. The red, white and blue ribbon around my neck with medal dangling.

Because I didn’t run for speed, only to finish, I rarely became injured. Yet, one injury forced me to take a six week break from training 30-40 miles per week. I substituted three days per week of swimming which did not deter my weight gain of ten pounds. I was disappointed; a bit appalled! My diet hadn’t changed. My defenses hadn’t either: my refusal to cry.

It wasn’t until my fourth marriage that I broke open to tears deeply buried. A waterfall experience. So unawares. After all, I had to be ‘strong’ as a single mom of two daughters. (They visited their dad every third weekend and two weeks in the summer.)

Ever since primal crying my weight has stayed the same 125 pounds.

Now, nearly 20 years later, I am waiting for What’sApp notifications from Antoine, six hours ahead of EST. For reassurance – to remove the weight off my heart of loss: of living together; of sleeping together; of making love.

 

Are we BEING BUSY too much?

 

My busi-ness is Psychotherapy of the Heart for over thirty years now; working on slowing down, to become more awARE of how to LOVE.

Dancing has become one of my loves, something I was not allowed to do growing up because I was busy attending the Bethel Grove Bible church 3-4 times a week: morning and evening services on Sunday, Wednesday night prayer meetings, and youth group some Saturdays.

My mother was a strict ‘born again’ christian who thought she could control her children (and husband) with rules that would keep us away from “worldly temptations.”

Dancing was one of them.

As some might say, “I was born to dance” or “It’s in my blood.” So, I danced jitterbug in fifth and sixth grades with Danny. But in seventh grade, dancing close to Fay Grover was tempting and my mind became very busy with guiltiness. I had to quit dancing.

In my twenties, I was becoming a ‘liberal’ christian as well as a hypocrite – learning to dance the hustle, which decades later is still a favorite. Having two young daughters didn’t deter my desire to dance at Nite Court, The North Forty, and Talk of the Town, all in Ithaca, NY. Mario became my hustle partner and lover. During my second and third marriages, my dancing took a detour to running 36 marathons in 36 months, a national record for women (in the 80s.) During which time I was in graduate school at Syracuse University, becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist.

I graduated from ‘church Sunday school’ in 1984 (left religion behind) and received my Masters degree in 1985. In 1986, I drove my daughters across our country for a month of camping and hiking in many National Parks – another love affair of mine.

By 1993, I was married a fourth time to soul mate Gregory. I was triggered into my childhood pain, a well deeper than I could be aware of, even being a psychotherapist. I shut down my private practice for the year 1996-7 in order to heal – to grieve – ending MY marriage and becoming more ME. By the 2000s, I’m living in a rented renovated chicken coop, when during one of my weekly primal sessions, where I witness my friend’s feelings for nearly an hour, and then she mine, that I focused on the guilt I was still busy carrying around about dancing 4-5 evenings per week.

Being raised in a church community where the focus is on serving/helping others; how could I not help but feel guilty about dancing precious-service-hours away?

While my eyes are closed, I see images of myself dancing as a prima ballerina in Paris. (To the Nutcracker Suite I learn later.) My ankle breaks and my career ends. I begin sobbing. Then, I shout “I AM a DANCER!”

My body is shakes with sobs that free me of my guilt.

 

 

Addendum: I am still dancing four nights a week – without guilt and with Joy – watching World of Dance weekly with Glee.

 

 

MOVING ON to a younger frenchman

 

MOVING ON

 

When I tell people I’ve been married four times, it’s common to hear: “Will you get married again?” I say, “I would if I fell in love again – but I am very particular.”

Some people say, “Don’t you have a bad taste in your mouth for marriage?” “No, I’ve evolved through them,” I reply. I’ve raged. I continue to cry. Now, love myself more and that’s no lie.

Since 2005, I’ve lived “by myself” while experiencing a couple 4-5 month long boyfriend-relationships. I’ve learned to enjoy my aloneness.

Until Antoine, a French graduate student at Cornell, cornered me at the dart board in Ithaca’s bar, The Range. I was there to dance, but a brief try at darts landed a bull’s eye at Antoine: “Do you want to dance?”

“I’ve  never danced before, but I’ll try,” he says with glancing eyes.

Surprise took over. He caught onto the East Coast Swing steps (jitterbug) easily. I don’t think I’ve ever met a man who presents with shy shoulders, yet is willing to try something so out of his comfort zone. Although he is decades younger than me, that doesn’t occur to me when I suggest he come to Lot 10 Wednesdays, where I can show him more dance steps, as a live band plays.

When I arrive at Lot 10, Antoine, 6′ 3″, dark wavy hair  and big brown eyes is slumped on the couch, a small smile arising. He likes learning new moves as we share more about ourselves. When I learn he likes to hike, I offer to show him waterfalls not so well known neighboring “Ithaca is Gorges.” The next weekend we are sitting next to three cascading waterfalls, where I learn that he has never kissed a girl, although he tried once and was rebuffed.

“What if I kissed you?” I say gingerly.

“I don’t know.”

I lean into his space and kiss him on the lips as if it is the most natural thing to do.

He makes it clear that he wishes for a relationship where you can go deeper: free to say anything. Surprise again. He’s not afraid of my tears; despite he has not cried since he left France, his family a few months earlier. He tells me he feels lost and is afraid not to know what is the “right thing” for him to do for his life.

Eventually, we’re hungry (for what?:) and spontaneously decide to find dinner at the Glenwood Pines. I’m amazed this 25 year old likes spending time with me…he’s so handsome, so smart, so my type…well almost.

He learns salsa with me.

We hike to more distant waterfalls as we become more intimate.

We track down burgundy and white Trillium fields.

We kiss romantically in the mist of Taughannock Falls.

We dance ballroom and after meeting the first day of spring 2018, are making love for his first time, on May 11th. One plus one.

Another surprise. He takes his time: long kissing, touching before entering me. Our relationship has evolved to a naturally grand openness, knowing we are making love.

I am a little embarrassed to expose my older less-elastic-skinned body as naked; although due to daily yoga I can boast a more flexible body than his:).

Another surprise. My two daughters and three granddaughters accept our relationships in all its beautiful uniqueness. My age does not matter to him. Yes, his family and mine are a bit cautious.

One more surprise. being beyond men-o-pause – I am juicy! We make love daily and wake up together. I can’t quit my amazement of how we are moving on to being more IN love. Despite knowing we will be heartbroken when we leave each other.

 

Are WOMEN and MEN REALLY that DIFFERENT?

 

Just the other day tears sprinkled my eyelids while hearing the song, Inseparable; my heart leaping with my mind thinking: me and daddy. I am his adopted daughter, from the day I was born. His name signed, sealed and delivered on my birth certificate.

As crazy as it sounds, he was more of a mother to me than my biological mother who also raised me with physical care. My dad bathed us, bottle-fed us, read bedtime stories to us, shined our shoes, played and gardened with us, Sunday hiked with us, made our swing set, club house, and  doll beds. Best of all, put us on his lap to drive our car up the driveway. Us being his three children. While I was in college, he wrote thoughtful weekly letters to me.

Dad is the nurturer…what a man is not supposed to be in the1950s and 60s. My mother was the organizer. Even respected John Gray, author of Men are From Mars, Women Are from Venus, (1992) portrays men and women far apart in the way we are as male and female. Not so in this 21st century.

As crazy as it sounds, I have regressed into some of my past lives during therapy sessions, crying as I image myself as daddy’s wife, or lover, or black son of my black father. Inseparable.

So, as I danced ballroom, latin, and argentine tango this past weekend at a hotel hidden in the natural beauty of the Catskill mountains; I find myself drawn to a man, there with his wife, occasionally dancing with her. Our eyes meet as I approach him and he meets me on the dance floor. Then, a wisp of a thought of daddy. Marty is very rhythmic and a creative leader.

Later, as crazy as it sounds, I wait to see if he’ll dance with his wife, then walk to his table and his wife looks up at me, “yes, you have my permission to dance with my husband.” I respond with a startled look, “I have to ask permission?” We laugh that nervous laughter which knows that is passé.

After our 4th, 5th, or 6th dance, alternating with other leaders, I ask Marty, “How long have you been married?”

“66 years,” he responds. After a joined smile, “Then you must be 86?”

“85.”

“Well you’re in great shape and I hope I will be as vibrant when I reach your age.”

I ask him how old he thinks I am and to please be honest! He hems and haws, then says 50. Higher, 60. Higher, 65. I tell him I am 71 and like to say how old I am so I can get used to it, be proud of it, as I feel as if I am in my 30s. I’m surprised to hear his reply:

laughing, “I could run away with you!”