Thursday, December 22, 2011

a simple thank you.

"See your relationships, even ones that have ended," she told me, "as having added to you, not as a loss."

So I'm thinking of this and I want to write a gratitude list as this year wraps up.

In random order, to those I have loved and appreciated since my marriage ended:

To the aqua-eyed boy:
The lessons you taught me were difficult but I understand so much more now.

To the artist:
Thank you for trying so hard to love me. You found me at a time when I was particularly vulnerable -- reeling from the loss of my marriage and aqua-eyed boy deporting to a war zone. You made me feel valued when I needed it most. Thank you for believing in me.

To the armchair philosopher:
Thank you for buying me a bed even when you knew we would never lie on it together. I hope you are happy and your new lady treats you well, your gentle heart deserves to be cherished.

To the dark-haired boy whose arms I fell into unexpectedly (aka: mr. epic makeout session):
You reminded me that when it *really* clicks, the joy is palpable. If nothing comes of our brief union but that tiny lesson, it will have been one of my most important reminders this year. Thank you for lifting me (both physically and metaphorically).

I'm also so appreciative of all the great friends that have made me laugh, listened when I was down, checked in when I was silent (even on Twitter!), sang-shouted on city streetcorners, and shared their own achingly intimate stories to help me not feel alone. You make me feel like the richest girl in the world.

To anyone I inadvertently hurt during this awkward time in my life, I am so sorry. Being in a terrible place does strange things to the heart. I appreciated your effort to reach me anyway, even the smallest acts of kindness mattered even when I was not in a place to reciprocate or respond. Thank you.

And to the universe for the many hardships, lessons and beauty impressed upon me over the years: it is such a wonderful life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

he was my first love

About 12 years ago, my old high school boyfriend called me. "I'm getting married in 3 weeks! It should have been to you. You were the one."

"You're just getting cold feet," I said.

No, he'd said. He wanted to call off the wedding and get back together. Unbeknownst to me at the time, he'd already met with my parents and talked to them, said he had a plan. He would get me a place to live, help me move back home and we could right the wrongs of our long-ago relationship.

He'd been my first love. We dated for 6 years, from 17-23 on & off. Then I found out he was seeing another girl when I thought we were exclusive. I don't remember how I found out. I think signs were there for a while but I didn't see them. The day I found out, I called him crying, scorched by the betrayal. "Me or her?" I asked in tears. "I can't decide!" he implored. "Then I'll decide for you!" I slammed the phone down and within two weeks I was dating the man I would marry. We moved in together within, I dunno, 6 months? I thought "Okay, I'm going to follow my head now because, well, fuck my heart. It doesn't know jack."

My then-new boyfriend (I'll refer to him as the engineer, as that's what he eventually became when he finished school) and I had a really tight friendship. He knew what happened before. He helped me heal.

I was shattered inside over that lost love, more than I allowed myself to acknowledge. He kept calling, wanting to talk, explain, get back together. I wouldn't have any of it. I didn't believe in second chances. I wanted to avoid drama, the kind of life where I couldn't trust my partner. Jesus, if he was cheating on me and we were that young, WTF would happen when we hit mid-life?

As I settled into my new relationship, my ex still called sometimes but I wouldn't let the conversation steer around to the "us" he tried to press. He made crazy excuses to see me. "I have a business idea but I have to tell you in person!" he'd say. "I'm not interested," I'd reply. "I have someone new now." "We need a web designer, will you make our website?" I turned down the job, uncomfortable about the implications of regular contact, plus it made my bf uncomfortable. I always told my new boyfriend about our calls -- being transparent is important to me. My heart still ached but I was healing.

Then six years later, my mom sent me an obituary she'd found in the paper. His father died. His dad, the one who welcomed me to their home so graciously, especially when I'd been so shy meeting my first love's parents. The father who offered me a place to live when my own home was filled with tumult. I didn't ever take them up on it but the gesture stuck. I loved his dad.

I called my ex to express sympathy. We hadn't talked in a long time -- years? I don't even remember -- but when he answered the phone I recognized his voice immediately and choked up, unable to get the words out. He immediately understood it was me, understood what I could not say, understood everything. That was the kind of bond we had.

That was the start of healing. Because for the first time I listened to what he had to say. I did it with respect for my new beau -- I am very good about not crossing lines -- but we had the talk we always needed.

When he called later, with cold feet, I wondered privately about getting back together. A part of me had never gotten over him. But I quickly extinguished the thought. I was very committed to the engineer. I encouraged my ex to either move forward with the wedding, or if he was that unsure, investigate why *without* me being the catalyst.

He married. I married. We stayed in touch briefly and sporadically during the following years, shifting into an almost sibling-like relationship, a closeness without words,  having grown up together.

When I left my husband, I didn't tell this old beau until almost a year later. "I didn't want to tell you right away because I didn't want you to think this was an 'in' to getting back together," I said, since it was something he still alluded to sometimes. But the shift into a deep friendship is a wonderful comfort. We root for each other's happiness. All that old stuff happened so long ago, it doesn't even matter anymore. Things are so easy now. If we don't talk for months, we just pick up where we left off. And sometimes he texts me Chuck Norris jokes.

I bring this up though for two reasons. One, the sense of perspective time has introduced. I need to remember that now. That one of the deepest loves of my life shifted into a place where there's no more pain is a very healing state. It's important to me to have a sense of peace with the past. I don't know that I'll ever get it with my soon-to-be ex-husband, but I hope for it anyway.

The other is that the dark-haired boy I am recently getting to know reminds me of this ex in the tiniest ways.

Monday, December 19, 2011

kidding, and not

Here's what I DON'T recommend: do not drive 450 miles in 24 hours, attend a family dinner in which you are scolded for not petting family member's dog long enough, and then drive to a movie to see a flick about a sex addict (Shame) with a sex addict ex who will shut down because I dunno, maybe the movie makes both of you feel too raw or because he knows you miss him and that feels weird.

Don't do all these things at once because when you feel rejected for the billionth time, it will suck JUST AS MUCH as it did the first million times.

You will still feel alone and shitty and stupid and that piled on top of EVERYTHING ELSE will crumble even your normally strong self.

I dreamt I was writing a novel. I titled it TRUTH. In all capital letters, just like that.

Awake, that seems like a terribly boring title, but in my dream it was shattering. There was some kind of groundbreaking revelation like  I'm not going to lie to myself anymore.

The truth: admit when it's not working.

It's so easy when you feel unloved to stop loving yourself as well. To feel like you don't deserve it. But that's when you need it the most.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

why I will suck as your girlfriend.

So, I went on a date tonight with a guy that was REALLY great but zero chemistry. So, if it comes up, how do I tell him? Rejection SUCKS. I really hate hurting people's feelings. It needs to be a FIT and not a feat. Plus, so much is subjective. Like, the things I think that make me suck as a girlfriend might be fine for someone, and the things that would make me an awesome girlfriend might drive someone else nuts.
For example:

Why I will suck as your girlfriend

  • I have a terrible sense of direction and if you thrust a map at me while we're passing an exit and exclaim "IS THIS THE ONE???" I will refuse to even GLANCE at it unless we pull over and I have enough time to figure it out. 0.03 milliseconds is not enough time.
  • I've got "back." (Pinch it if you don't believe me! Or, uh, actually, please don't.)
  • I like a lot of affection. If you text me "hi beautiful" I will melt inside and be especially lovey when I see you next.
  • I'm really sensitive and don't take criticism well. If you hate something about me, you'll have to be extra-diplomatic about voicing it. I'm not saying you have to LOVE, say, every errant nose hair, just be tactful. "YOU'RE FAT" is not going to be received well, even if true. Likewise with "YOU'RE STUPID" and "YOU SUCK" or even the literary distant relative "RELAX!" -- it's true that it's not what you say but how you say it.
  • That being said, I want honesty above all else whether or not the message is painful. If you're not into me anymore, tell me. If you don't, I will listen to what you don't say and break the fuck up because I'm big into actions speaking louder than words and I don't like passively waiting for the end.
  • I spend a long time getting ready in the morning: I need an hour to tame my mane and feel presentable.
  • I like to get dolled up. Yes, I wear makeup. (How MUCH is subjective: I think I wear a lot but most people don't even realize I have any on at all.)
  • I need to eat every 3 hours. If you can go 12 hours between meals and will look at me while I'm eating a pear like, "THAT'S why you're fat," then it's not going to work. I don't eat much, but I do eat often.
  • I won't really nag you about your food choices but I will notice and be secretly thrilled if you eat healthy. If you eat especially horribly, like nothing but fast food, it probably won't work long-term. I am pretty health-conscious.
  • I may nag you to stay in touch with your family IF you confess you wish you did and then I don't see you acting on it.
  • I might be difficult to read sometimes, usually because I'm not sure how to express what I'm feeling. I will hope you can understand me anyway. If you ask me what I'm thinking, I will try to tell you though it might make me tear up. I won't say everything is fine if it's not.
  • I will never be able to order quickly from a menu.
  • I do not have the kind of fancy red nails that look sexy gripping your cock. Sorry. Plain hands here. I paint them SOMEtimes but not that often because I can't deal with the maintenance.
  • I can be easily distracted.
  • I like time alone.
  • I hate foodshopping.
  • I hate to cook. I WILL, and I can even be good at it (sometimes), it just feels like a waste of time. (See "I hate foodshopping" above.) I'd rather be writing! :)
  • I'll want you to accept the struggles I've gone through and not judge me for them.
  • Strange things turn me off. If you don't take care of yourself that well, I'll notice.
  • I look especially AWFUL in the morning. If you need a trophy girl, I'm not it. I doll up IN SPITE of the hideousness, not to enhance it.
  • I am really busy. I will want to hang out sometimes while we are each doing our own thing. If I don't think we can do that, I will not want to hang out much.
  • I won't do your laundry. And no ironing. Shoot, I don't even iron my OWN clothes.
  • I have a weird family. Get togethers might be trying for you and I will hope you can try really hard to enjoy them anyway. I won't shove them down your throat but it would be so much less stressful for me if you looked like you were rolling with it.
  • I won't know enough pop culture references or enough about history. I was isolated growing up and didn't absorb what I should have. Now today am making up for lost time.

Why I will rock as your girlfriend

  • I will purr affectionately all around you when we're near. I probably won't be able to keep my hands off you.
  • When you're sick, I'll make you chicken soup and rub your back and be extra nurturing and doting.
  • I'll buy you presents sometimes just because I'm thinking about you, like a Newsweek if it has a story I think you'll find interesting or a teeshirt if I think it'll make you laugh.
  • I'll treat you out to dinner sometimes because I will enjoy making you feel special.
  • I am honest and will not lie to you.
  • I am faithful. My general rules: I won't date your friends if we break up, I won't talk bad about you even if I'm hurt, I don't stay mad or hold grudges so friends (once my broken heart heals) is cool. Because if I really care about you, I'm not going to stop just because the relationship is over. I will probably remain your biggest advocate, even if you never know how much I still silently root for you.
  • I will never snoop all up in your grill. I never have and never will read my man's email, look at his facebook while he's logged in, go through his drawers, look in diaries, look in wallets, look at bank statements, access phone, etc. and I expect the same back. I've been lucky to have very open relationships with a lot of trust this way. If I felt like I *wanted* to snoop (I never have), that would be a sign to me that something was going wrong with the trust aspect and thus we need to talk, not that I need to snoop. So yeah, I honor your privacy implicitly..
  • I don't nag about housework. I actually LIKE cleaning so I don't mind pulling more weight here. Maybe you could pull more weight and do more outside yard stuff since I hate that. Compromise is cool. But I will want you to have general neatness skills.
  • I'll be your best friend. Great love is enhanced by an even greater friendship.
  • I'm not a club girl but I am very social. I can talk to almost anyone about anything and have an awesome time.
  • I will probably like your friends and family. I'm easygoing and a people person and find the good in everyone.
  • I will want you to spend time however you enjoy. If it makes you happy, it'll make me happy.
  • I'll like exploring together.
  • I don't watch TV. In almost 17 years with my ex, I almost never touched the remote. You could put on whatever you want.
  • I'll keep your secrets forever and never tell anyone. Shoot, I'm still holding a secret my sis told me when I was NINE. I am open about me but ONLY me.
  • I can be madly silly.

Now see, any of these things might be dealbreakers to someone. See how subjective this is? People fit or they don't. (Or maybe a better way to phrase this is that they might, and so they see.) But so much has to fall together and it's so much less about their worthiness than my own odd makeup. I don't know how to convey this. "It's not you it's me" is so true and yet so cliche. This was only one date and yet I'm wracked with how to communicate this gently. And I have 2 other dates this week and a couple next week -- all these new people, we're all going to have to reject eachother at some point. How does everyone DO this?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

on being terrified of posting

"A lot of people will send me blog posts [where] they think it's really interesting because they're telling this high drama story but the truth is they've already worked all this out in their head. They've gone to therapy. It was interesting 10 years ago when they were IN therapy. Now, they're just like, you know, spitting it out on a page... If you're not like tormented about it, you're lying that you think that's interesting.... it was interesting to you when you were learning it. And if you're feeling scared,  this is a good test. If you're scared to post something that means you are not sure if it's right, That's the best one to post. If I'm not scared, if I'm not a little anxious to post something, then it's probably boring to me and it's going to be boring to everyone else." -- Penelope Trunk

I am *always* scared to post. Every single time. So, yay?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This is home now.

So I'm doing this exercise. You're supposed to go into the place that hurts and rest there.

I close my eyes and go into it. It's easy to do. I still remember what it felt like to wrap my arms around aqua-eyed boy, the sensation. Warm little bursts punctuated by achy little stabs. This is what it means to love someone you shouldn't.

And so I go into the ache and sit. It's like I'm in a windstorm, dust swirling around me, a roaring noise drowning out the sounds of everyday. The cacophony is overwhelming.

I sit inside this place and I put a little quiet bubble around me. Guess what. I'm not the storm, the storm is in me. Instead of running for cover like I normally do, I observe it curiously. There are flashes of memory.

The time he pulled me into his lap and sang "Joey" while tenderly brushing my hair.
Joey, baby, don't get crazy
Detours, fences... I get defensive.
I know you've heard it all before
So I don't say it anymore
I just stand by and let you fight your secret war.
He was the first one I tried to love after 17 years with my ex sank into the ground as if into a giant sinkhole and disappeared. I wandered then like I was on the moon, no oxygen, no water, only a dusty craterscape barren of anything nurturing to a life form. My earth disappeared and banished me in the process. It was like my ex's pain set a curse upon me. You don't deserve to thrive, I felt. There was day and night but little else.

This boy, the one with walls around his heart, was the first one to reach out. A soldier in the war of life with battle scars on his heart, skilled at recognizing the wounded. He was my trauma unit. He wrapped gauze around my heart and tried to stabilize me. I adored him for that.

The wind continued to howl. Some scenes with my ex. The terrible look in his eyes when he realized I was gone before the words were said. But it was too late. It didn't feel right anymore.

A house twists by, Wizard of Oz style, except it 's mine. Lifted and raised and dropped and broken. We let it go. It was no longer home.

I feel safe and protected in my little bubble. The storm can no longer lash at me. Around me it can howl but I'm settling within, cozy and warm. This is home now.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

from up here

Everything is completely different from the air. The world has a different perspective from 20,000 feet.

I'm in Florida now visiting a BFF. I lifted into the air a few days ago, just when my knotted mind was sifting through the insecurities I described in my previous post. I saw the houses and cars shrink away and I thought "look at all the tiny homes and all the drama that can go on inside one of those little rectangles. Goodness, how small everything is from up here."

Like the time I was lying next to the aqua-eyed boy while tiny knives stabbed at my heart, breathing him in and yet knowing I had to let it go or it'd destroy me. That time is so puny from here. Insignificance can be so comforting. This large beautiful world can swallow my worries. It really can.

Maybe this is how many imagine heaven, removed from the pains of lessons taught to our unwilling souls.

From here I can pretend I am looking down at that tiny girl whose arms were wrapped around the guy who couldn't love her and wrap my own around instead. The world is so much larger than you know, I want to say. It will be okay. The earth is big enough to hold a boy who will love you back. Don't punish yourself anymore sweetie. It's okay.