Missed Connections

He stole my heart, but I had given it to him in cracked, broken condition.
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Long before Craigslist became the dungeon of online dating misfits, there was a little jewel of a section called "Missed Connections." It was a simple concept, the rules basic. Here's how it worked:

You play eye ping-pong with some handsome devil in the tofu egg salad section of Trader Joe's. Eyes linger. In 10 seconds, you have imagined your first date, first fight and the breakup that leaves you reeling for years. The harried homemaker wearing her house slippers bumps into you just then, squeezing in between your cart and the hummus, startling you back to reality. You intend to find his gaze again, but alas the tofu titan is gone. You regret not asking him if the tofu really does taste like egg. You berate yourself: another missed opportunity.

But then you remember your friend Craig and his little invention, "Missed Connections." Back at
your computer, you search the Missed Connections ads and hoping that perhaps you see one that reads "West LA Trader Joe's. Around 6 p.m." Shocked and somewhat horrified to have possibly been so obvious, you see it, click, and relish every word as you read his ad. "I saw you when I was picking up dinner at Trader Joe's. You have blond hair. Your smile is noteworthy."

My Missed Connection, however, wasn't that dignified. In fact, when I first clicked on the site and met "JonnyRock" just weeks after becoming a divorcee, I wasn't looking for anyone or anything in particular. I was bored. Lonely. And, most importantly, I was desperately numb. I didn't know what was missing or what kind of connection was really required to fill that emptiness inside after my divorce, but I knew it was something.

And, in the limited understanding I had of myself at that time, I believed I needed yet another man to fill the unfillable hole in my soul. Within weeks of meeting online we were in love, and within months I ignored the small voice inside that knew that he was ultimately just a better- looking version of my ex-husband. Alas, my picker had not been fixed. I chose to ignore the red flags. I became attached to the potential of him. I became fixated on the potential of our relationship. After all, this was my do-over. How could I yet again mess up another relationship? And so, I convinced myself that the hole in my soul had somehow finally been filled. The numbness felt gone, for sure, but in truth, it was simply masked: blanketed by his charm, the hypnotic smell of mint gum always on his breath, and the way our misfit fantasies had collided into an apocalyptic shifting of reality that left both of us always breathless and reeling.

He stole my heart, but I had given it to him in cracked, broken condition. I had not yet healed from my divorce. We spent 18 months together, and in that time my heart continued to break into tiny little pieces, one lie and disappointment at a time. Ultimately, what was was left of my heart was akin to puree. Mush. He stole my dreams of real love, but I let him direct and design them without question. Together we fell into the endless cycle of breakup and makeup, an abyss, the bottom.

For me, though, it was in this bottom and our ultimate breakup that I truly discovered the real missed connection. It wasn't a connection to him or even something missing from my past. What was missing was a connection to myself. And it was in this pitiful, unhappy ending -- this missed connection -- that I found what I had really been looking for that night online in November: a connection to myself.

Now, eight years later and in a relationship that is thriving, I know that in order to be the loving, powerful, feminine woman I have become, it's essential that I nurture that connection to myself. It makes me a better partner, mother to my three daughters, daughter and friend.