I can’t remember if I kissed him or if he kissed me. All I knew was that his lips were soft, his skin was warm, and he was holding my face in his hands. We were spinning. Not literally, but I honestly can’t remember how we were standing. If I was on his left or his right, or if we were facing my apartment building or turned away from it – because, as I remember it, the entire world was spinning around us and we were standing still, with his warm hands on my face and his soft lips kissing mine…for a long time but, yet, not nearly long enough. It was December and it was freezing. I didn’t have a jacket and I didn’t care. I could have stayed outside with him forever.
I met Aces at a Texas Hold ‘Em event that I was hosting for Singles in the Suburbs. He walked in to my apartment with my favorite bottle of wine. He was excited to play poker. I actually had my sights set on another that evening, Tony. As I was playing hostess and greeting everyone, I looked around and realized I neglected to save myself a seat. I saw Aces waving me in his direction. Then I saw Tony at the same table. Excellent!
Aces is very knowledgeable about poker. He asked who had never played before and proceeded to explain the rules of the game. This gave me more time to flirt with Tony. Throughout the night, Aces would bring me refills on my drink, he’d ask if I was hungry or needed anything from the kitchen, he engaged in small talk – but always about a one-off comment I had made earlier (showing he was actually listening). Still, I kept flirting with Tony. But the game at the table was starting to catch my attention. Aces kept it fast and engaging. He easily called my bluffs, knew when to fold, was quick to raise. I found myself staring into his (beautiful) brown eyes – to try to read him. I couldn’t. I couldn’t read him but he could read me. This made me competitive. I’m not a great poker player, but I like to win and, suddenly, I needed to prove to this guy that I could. The risk level for each hand increased. I was losing all of my money, but I kept right on playing. At some point, Tony got up to leave and I didn’t even notice. Hours passed. I was losing terribly. After I ran out of money, we even bet a home cooked dinner prepared by the loser for the winner. I lost. Around 5am, Aces was crowned the “Poker King” of the night. He had taken everyone’s money and it was time for him to go.
I made up some excuse about needing to get something from my car and followed him out. What happened next is a whirlwind in my mind. He hugged me, said he couldn’t wait for the dinner I had to cook for him…and then the world started spinning… and his lips touched mine, and his hands grabbed my face…and there we were…and time stood still. I walked back into my apartment grinning ear to ear. A few minutes later he texted me that he had made it home just fine, with all of my money safe and sound. My house was a mess, I was totally broke, and I didn’t care. In my world, I had just been dealt a great hand – for the first time, I had “pocket aces” and nothing could go wrong.
For the next 5 years, Aces and I played our hands. We took turns raising the stakes, the other always calling and re-raising. The rhythm of the game was perfect. Steady, calculated, but with enough risk to make it all exciting and fun. Aces and I kept putting more and more into the pot. Neither cared what we were putting on the line because both of us KNEW we had the winning hand. Not to say that we didn’t make some bad decisions along the way. We both made some bets and moves that we regret. But at the time, we didn’t really care – because in our minds, we had already won. The pot kept growing and then, I made the “bold” move. I went all in. After all, I had pocket aces – how could I lose?? I felt great. The probability of winning with pocket aces is incredibly high!!! But poker isn’t a game based on pure probability. Neither is life. That’s the problem. Even when you know that you are holding on to the best hand in your entire life – things don’t always work out.
Pocket aces give you a false sense of security. They make you feel invincible. But that’s when you get lazy. You have your hand, your winning hand, but then the flop comes, and the turn and then the river, but you still only have pocket aces. You ignore this though. POCKET ACES can’t be beat, it doesn’t matter which cards the other person is holding. Because you know you can’t lose, you stop caring how you play. You make bad bets and some terrible decisions. You don’t care because nothing beats pocket aces! But then, at the show-down, you find yourself totally defeated. And you are shocked. You had pocket aces, how on earth did you lose??
So there Aces and I were, out of chips. I took what I had left and put it all on the line. I was all-in. There was no more game to play. I was ready to cash in my winning hand.
I looked at Aces. Confident that he would go all-in too. Then, he made a surprising move. Aces folded. He had been bluffing all along. And I hadn’t been able to read him. With pocket aces, you either win a little or lose a lot. And I lost big.
On Thursday, Date #16 set for Friday, postponed. I had my “new normal” attitude of trusting things would work out. But when I woke up on Friday, it was a different ballgame. I had hit a wall. Meeting new people, participating in activities, mentally rehashing my past relationships, including the one with Aces, and evaluating my inner being on a daily basis, had me emotionally and physically exhausted. Friday at 3, when I still didn’t have a “substitute” date, I almost called it quits. I just wanted to go home and sleep. For days. My friend, Marlene, was going to have none of that. She reminded me of my goal and its purpose. She pointed out that I could either let life happen to me, on its terms – or I could take the reins and make life happen FOR me, on mine. In her book “You Lost Him at Hello“, Jess McCann says “Sitting at home and doing nothing may be easier, but it won’t get you what you want…[t]he more times you go out, the better your chances.” I had made a promise to myself by setting the goal for the 35/35 Project. If I can’t keep the promises I make to myself, how can I expect to A) keep them for others or B) have others respect me enough to keep them for me? So I took a deep breath and responded to Ted’s, (“Substitute Date #15”) email, saying that I would be more than happy to meet him for dinner at Paolo’s Ristorante at Reston Town Center.
The date with Ted could not have come at a better time. He is a highly motivated individual and a fabulous athlete. Hearing him talk about his dedication to his marathon training, and how he powers through even the longest of races, was very inspiring! He told me that he volunteered to be a “substitute date” because he didn’t want to see me fail in reaching my goal. He believes that the 35/35 Project is a truly worthwhile, ambitious goal – and he wanted to make sure I succeed. Hearing that this man, who does not know me, believes enough in me and what I am doing to alter his own plans, last minute even, to ensure my success…that helped me push right through that wall. He was inspiring but I was able to see that I am also inspiring others by the 35/35 Project. That it is important for me to see it through. More importantly, he showed me that I deserve to surround myself with people who respect me and my goals, who support me and who love me. And the only way that I will meet those people is if I get out there and find them. I want to make my life happen FOR me, not allow it to happen to me.
While it’s true that you can never lose what you don’t put into the pot – you also can’t win if you don’t gamble. My 35/35 Project is my ante. And I know one day, I will win it all.