Place Holders at the Table of Life

B used to call some of his girlfriends “Ms. Right-Now”. Other people like to call them FWB’s, or maybe “a little more than friends a little less than marriage”. I call them place holders. You know, like temp employees – there because you need them to do a job, need them to fill a space until a more qualified person comes along or as a test because they need to prove to you that they are good enough before you hire them. Sometimes they are there just because you are lonely and can’t stand it any more. Disposable people. I’m a temp friend for a few people in my life. I know it. When they find a relationship they will cut me out, after all I an nothing but place holder.

For some men, like B, you are applying for the position and they put you under scrutiny. It was finals every day. Every day for five years. Some men like JJ have wanted me to do a job. Teach them how to have a relationship so they can feel competent when “Mrs. Right” comes along. What if they are not getting what they think they want out of the class? Don’t worry there is not late with-drawl fee. Just stop showing up.

Then there are things we do in our lives that are place holders. I’ll stop…smoking, playing video games so much, gaining weight, drinking, etc….when the right person comes along. And it doesn’t have to be bad things. Maybe you are sailing, playing tennis, taking classes, going hiking with the guys, but they will fall far down on the priorities list, won’t they? Maybe you will wait to start something until you have the right person…learning to dance, learn to cook, travel, take long walks on the beach (oh, that one is my crazy favorite!). Someone actually sent me a message once telling me how wonderful our lives would be together and we would ride horses on the beach at sunset. I wonder how often he does that now.

Oh, people say, “things change…”. I say that if you need to state something that obvious you should be getting financial aid as a mentally handicapped person. This is like saying “people die” – what the fuck does that have to do with your ability to have a relationship? Would you treat someone as temporary because they will eventually die? The hard part of life, the angst, the fear, the emotional defenses, are manifestations of a fear of saying, “yes’ to your life right now.

Everyone in B’s life is temporary. Everyone is Ms./Mr. Right-Now; and he will climb to the top of a mountain only to find tears in his eyes, wondering why there is no love standing beside him. Wondering why he is still alone. I can hear my little student, JJ, repeating the words I once said to him to someone else, as if he has learned some special secret from me that I was not good enough to share with. He believes my job is done and it is time to go apply his lessons. But he has not learned, he will hear the words coming out of his mouth, “I need more…”

I listen to my friend often saying, “everything changes…of course I am going to put the ‘ideal’ person before you and everything else. Of course they will want me to cut you out of my life.” If it’s so inevitable, then why doesn’t he just do it now? Get it the fuck over with.

Long ago I would get a call almost every day at 4:30.”There is wind,” said the voice on the other end without introduction. We sailed out to Boston Harbor one day on a perfect Easterly. We sat on the dock watching the sunset and sailed back lazily in the cool-almost-summer evening. “I didn’t want to be anywhere else today than here with you,” B said to me. There was a weekend with JJ when his friend came to visit and we laid on the floor resting on each other; when we talked quietly and honestly to each other in bed; when my mother was upset that my phone died and he said, “you should give her my number in case that happens again.” This was commitment to now and the future now. This was real being. These were real days. These are the days you will remember when your temporary time in this world is over, and you will regret the ones you wasted waiting for your life to begin.

My food horoscope:

This week, you may be thinking about how to leave your boring old job behind so you can get started on a longstanding dream. Chicken tortilla soup is super quick and easy, with all the ingredients for a hearty and filling lunch or dinner. Serve with a square of jalapeño corn bread. Delicious!

Everything changes. Who will stand by you while it does? Who will stop dreaming of the day and be alive with you today? I think I’ll get started on my longstanding dream on my own. If anyone wants to join me, you know my number…

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 jalapenos, finely diced
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
  • 2 limes, juiced, plus wedges for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 (8-inch) flour tortilla, grilled, cut into thin strips
  • 1 avocado, pitted, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Monterrey cheese

In a large saucepan heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Once the onions have softened add the garlic and jalepenos and cook for another minute. Pour the chicken broth, tomatoes and beans into the pot and bring to a boil. Once at a boil lower heat to simmer and add your chicken breasts. Cook the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes. Once chicken is cooked remove from pot. When cool enough to handle shred it and set it aside. Add lime juice and fresh cilantro to the pot. In a serving bowl add a mound of shredded chicken. Ladle soup over chicken and top with a lime wedge, grilled tortilla strips, avocado slices and cheese.


I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.

Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

Joseph Campbell


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