Hallmark Love

People often say holidays are the hardest after breakups (or losing loved ones, but that’s a different blog).  While together we establish traditions, and then everything changes.  This past Memorial Day was my first in 11 or 12 years not going down the shore (that’s Philly-ese for the beach or Jersey shore) and I instead spent the days participating in the many lacrosse activities commemorating the end of the season.  I found I didn’t really miss the former because I’d redirected my attention.  What’s different about Valentine’s Day is the emotion tied to the day.  This was also my first celebration in 12 years without a valentine.  It wasn’t quite as easy to redirect my attention from the red and pink, the hearts, the candy…the love.  This Valentine’s Day reminded me of what I was leaving behind.  

 

Today I crouched in the card aisle of CVS for far longer than necessary while I tried not to be too overwhelmed picking valentines for my family.  Most people smiled while they made their choices.  I held back tears.  The abundance of husband and wife cards on the shelves.  The hearts and kisses and word “love”.  I remembered the enjoyment of picking just the right card to let my man know how I felt.  It never even really mattered if he cared about those words as much as I did.  Somehow it was just important that I shared them.  Now it isn’t. 

There must not be that many (any?) people who send lovey-dovey thoughts to fathers, brothers, grandfathers.  Maybe it’s simply too hard to make the ideas and color scheme feel manly.  But here I am, making the grandest gestures for my family, my parents, and there’s no romance in that. 

At some point today, I told myself it was ok to feel shitty about this.  My birthday, Christmas, New Year’s were all tough, but this was the first actual expression of sadness.  All of those other days are about moving forward and/or appreciating what you have.  V-Day is all about love.  And mine is gone. 

Before you ever experience such feelings, rejection on this holiday is just longing.  You see other people happy and moony-eyed and wish you could be there too.  During is great.  It’s you in love and you wonder why more people don’t do this.  And then there’s the fall.  The reminder that you’re not in that club anymore.  The holiday instead becomes an attempt to avoid resentment towards who you used to be and what you used to have, not to mention those who still have it. 

The optimist in me believes this tide will turn.  I know deeply that one day it’ll get better.  But right now, I think I need to let the bad inside.  There’s no point in denying my own truth and no reason to pretend I don’t miss the fun of this silly holiday. 

The Amazing Universe

I spent my day watching just about 11 straight hours of lacrosse.  My feet hurt from standing the whole time and wearing two pairs of socks to stay warm.  I’m entirely exhausted after four hours of sleep and a full day in the elements.  My face is burnt by sun and wind.  And somehow my eyes are both glazed over and totally dry.  Yet, as I got back in my car and turned onto a tree-lined road with the evening sun illuminating the leaves, I couldn’t help but grin. I announced to the universe (at least the part that could hear me over the car radio) that “I have a pretty great job.”  I opened the moon roof, turned up the volume, and sang and danced along with every song that crossed the airwaves.  This was a good day.  I smiled my contented smile the entire hour home. 

A New Year

New Year’s Eve is frequently a time of reflection as we mark the changing of the calendar (new puppies, kittens, and beach scenes sure do bring excitement to people).  This one marked a number of big adjustments and I greeted midnight with a sense of fulfillment, and the day after with a bit of longing.  I didn’t even get that drunk!

 

2012 was an amazing year.  I set 4 New Year’s goals for myself (find a full-time job, get in shape, bake more bread, and publish some form of my children’s book) and accomplished 3.5 (nothing in print, but I’m counting a public reading of the book as partial success, because, well, they’re my goals).  I took ownership of my life by moving out of a bad emotional situation and becoming the person I always believed I was.  I rediscovered passion and found a bit of external reassurance that I’m beautiful (shallow yes, but somehow important all the same).  I’ve put myself out on limbs and stopped numbing myself.  I’ve even gotten to kiss my first new guy(s) in 10 years.

This New Year’s I feel totally calm.  I know the year ahead will only get better.  I trust in myself to keep exploring and making my life what I want it to be.  Bring it on 2013, I’m ready!

***

I can feel happiness.  I remember the sensation of happiness.  What happens to your skin, heart, head when the world makes sense for even the briefest of moments. 

But I miss love.  The piece of your soul held in place by another.  The way that dislodged part of you can become whole again.  Knowing the difference between a kiss and a good kiss, between being in someone’s presence and letting yourself go. 

I want the feeling of someone knowing my body again.  Of wanting someone and being wanted.  This longing buzz runs throughout me almost all the time.  And I think I’m afraid of acting out of desperation, so I hesitate.

How do I let the past go when it will always be the measuring stick for future relationships?  Once upon a time, that which has made me so miserable was my true love.  Do I have to hold onto this until someone else helps me keep that part of myself in place?  Because there’s a separate part of me that really just wants satisfaction.

Back to the Future

December 2012…ain’t love grand?

 

Having experienced a variety of suitors since becoming newly single, I had some level of optimism for the next date on my agenda since he’d been super chatty online and through text.  I wondered if I could be genuinely interested in spite of his being 13 years my senior and having three young kids.  Turns out, not so much, but for wholly separate reasons.

In person, this guy wasn’t quite as charming as his digital flirting implied.  He not only seemed less sure of himself, but struck me as not quite as interesting either.  Most of our conversation was about his kids and making the custody schedule work with his ex-wife.  While the first part could be endearing, the details of his son’s anxiety and OCD made it far less so.  He also told me he had often given up his “off” days from the kids when the ex came calling so she could go on a date with someone else.  This was all offered readily on our very first meeting.  Is he even over her?

What sealed the deal was the discussion about his work life, which bore too close a resemblance to a certain character I already know.  Here’s another guy who doesn’t know what he wants to do and leapfrogs from one hair-brained idea to the next because it might make sense.  He seemed to have so little knowledge of himself or how to feel successful, and I’m not looking for a project.  I’m also not looking to right myself after jumping ship with a clone of my own ex who’s older and already has kids.  It was odd to see what he (and we?) might have turned out like had I stayed for a few more years.  Tonight, I’m really thankful for my decision, even if it means more of these adventures ahead.

Perfection

Perfection is such a strange concept.  For my whole childhood, I felt held to this standard.  I had to get A’s, be on top, behave myself.  And so I not only practiced being perfect, I chastised myself for imperfections.  I felt let down when others showed theirs.  I grew frustrated when obstacles stood in the way of the path I felt I saw so clearly. 

Now I’m being told that nothing is perfect, that my expectations are too high.  That imperfect things happen and rather than get upset, I need to be ready with a back-up plan.  Was this myth of perfection a façade for childhood or has the entire philosophy changed? 

Wasn’t childhood supposed to be preparation for adulthood?  The chance to practice while the stakes were low?  Yet somehow I’m supposed to become someone different from whom I was always expected to be.  On the precipice of real opportunity, with a new job and a new life, why wouldn’t I want to try to be perfect? 

All I want to do is charge ahead.  This is the first part of my prize and I want to grab it.  I suppose I must learn the reality of patience without giving up on the idea of perfection. 

First Date

Months ago I started dating again.  Let’s just say it has been an adventure…

My first post-separation date was with some guy from JDate.  My closest friend told me I’d be entertained by the site, which should have been a flag about the whole process.  Online dating is supposed to be a better method than randomly going to bars and finding strange men, but a monthly fee doesn’t really mean people are less strange.

In truth, it wasn’t the worst date.  Nothing actually inappropriate happened even though he kept wanting to touch me – hold my hand, put an arm around my shoulder, etc.  And yet, he still just acted like an insecure child.  He seemed so practiced at trying to impress, though he never actually came across as impressive.  So happily shocked that I was different than the usual girls he dates, yet only prepared to interact with them.  Plus, he was just so Jewish.  The giant Hebrew tattoo, the large Star of David necklace, the persistent questioning to clarify my religion were all kind of annoying.

Why is it so hard to find a real man?  Someone who is strong, assertive, decisive, with an appreciation of a woman’s need for a gentle touch.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no wilting flower, but rape’s not really my thing.

So here I wait, hoping each IM or secret admirer match will turn into something.  It’s another weekend with no plans.  Another night my body desperately craves the touch of someone worthwhile.  I miss that connection, and I worry that I’m forgetting what it feels like to want a person and not just an idea.  Losing the muscle memory to know how to act on that feeling when it does come.

But I still don’t have any idea what I’m doing.  I lucked into love on a blind date after hooking up with a handful of guys.  Everything with him seemed so easy until it went terribly wrong.  It’s all new to me again now.

Funny how after taking so long to come to terms with all the negatives of the relationship that I’m only just honestly mourning the good parts.  The sensation of being pulled back to him for our first kiss, of cozying into his nook, of trusting each other’s hands and motives.  I took it for granted when we had it, but it’s been gone for a long time.  I miss it.  I need it.  And most importantly, I have to remember how it felt so I never lose sight of the fact that I’m worthy of finding it again.

Settling

A few more back-posts, written in my journal in a different time.  It’s been good to go back through some of the thoughts and feelings I experienced as reflection isn’t just something we do in the moment or immediately following said moment.  I’m almost caught up to real time, so please bear with these remaining entries as a way to share the progression of my story. 

I wrote this particular piece back in December.  

Two days until settlement, until the hardest part of this leg is over.  The house has always been a metaphor for our marriage – something that felt absolutely right, but never actually worked out for us.  It continues to play its part well.  Now it is just a shell and we have to leave to move forward.

For two years I felt more alone than I do now.  Holding onto my secret and trying to put the pieces back together even though they’d been shattered.  It all got to be too much.  But now, facing it, some of that loneliness has been replaced by pain.  I try not to fault myself for not seeing the growing signs and I make an effort to see the positives laid out before me in starting fresh.  Yet that can only be half the story, and it ignores the full truth.  That this was 10 years of my life and my first and only love, first and only lots of things.

It has been three months since I moved out, and I’m finding that hard to believe both for the speed and the crawl.  How much has changed and how little really does.  How it has felt to rediscover my own strength and joy.  How long I was able to tolerate so much hurt.  Even the dog seems different, calmer.  I can never decide if she appreciates the change or is just mirroring my adjusted energy.  Either way, I suppose it’s working out for both of us.

***

Now I’m sitting in the nearly empty structure that once held so much possibility, waiting for someone to come buy our furniture.  The heat hasn’t been on for days, so it’s cold and there’s barely a hum of the few appliances still plugged into the walls.

There’s some closure in selling off what once brought a sort of homey feeling to this place.  Taking minimal cash just to be rid of things.  Wondering if either of us feels any real value in them at all.

But it’s almost over.  Tomorrow they come for donations and on Friday I give up my key.  In a way it’s a relief.  I won’t have to go back inside anymore.

It’s Time

I’m taking a break from retracing previously journaled writing to share something that poured out of me while watching a lacrosse game last night.

Image

The time has really come to go. I can feel the shift in the air, in me. Walking around campus brings back so many memories and simultaneously feels like a time machine has escorted me back to try again.

I love watching them play. Being at Franklin Field with all these people cheering. Seeing the stairs I hated to run. The windows of the locker room where I first felt I’d made it to some special place. The field is different. The uniforms are too. There definitely weren’t as many Ivy Championship banners when I once stepped on this turf. In fact, I’m fairly certain there weren’t any. How far the team has come. How far I have.

But this is not my team now. I will always love the red & the blue, but I have a new mission. I need to leave this city. Need to make my own way without regretting the past or wondering what could have been. Did I waste my four years? At the time it didn’t seem that way, but now the feeling within me is entirely unsettled. Could I have met someone else? Gotten more involved with the team, the sorority, anything?  As I come back to something prior, what did I really accomplish here?

And that’s a horrible way to view four years. I’ve changed, my life has changed, and Penn is part of that. I wouldn’t be me without it. But I need to have some distance. Need to find myself again and rediscover the memories that are just mine. Maybe Georgia will help that happen. Maybe it won’t come until I’m secure in my new life. Being here makes me smile, but it makes my heart ache too. My soul is waiting for the next chapter and it’s time to turn the page.

P.S. After a great game, and a one goal win in OT, I couldn’t help but beam.  I will always feel at home on this campus and always feel pride for these teams.  Not to mention, I got to see an amazing trajectory of building something that reflects all your hard work.  Just because the journey isn’t easy doesn’t mean success isn’t possible. 

Auto-Pilot

Sometimes we move through the world doing what we’re supposed to because it seems so natural.  Or we do what we think we have to do in order to keep moving forward.  But that’s auto-pilot.  It’s an excuse to go unexamined while life happens.  It’s a way to ignore who we are and to avoid questions.  And when childhood is good, that all works out…seems to be just the way things are. 

Becoming an adult is never so simple.  We can follow, or mirror, or mimic that which we think is our path.  But those paths belong to others and we must instead forge ahead on our own.  There comes a time when auto-pilot drives you head on into a wall. 

This is the hardest thing I have ever encountered.  I am relieved, but terrified.  I see the possibilities, but hesitate at the change.  People talk about “the devil you know”, but the truth is that devil is us.  What we do reflects who we are.  Our words, our choices, our friends, our lovers, all of it is us.  Our projection on the world.  

I’ve always felt confident, but I don’t think I have any idea who I am.  What I want.  Because when I think about the life I’ve led, look into my own eyes staring back from old photos, I realize I’ve never known.  With each attempt, I listened to the doubters.  I felt swayed by reason and rationale, and I put the deepest parts of myself aside for that which others thought I was best suited. 

I love my family, tremendously.  But they are my roots, my past, and I cannot build for myself on them.  They will always support me, but they are not me.  I like being a jock, a writer, a dreamer, a thinker.  I like that I’m learning to own these parts of me, rather than mask them.  Of course my path will be hard, might never get me back to where I started.  But whose does?  I sold my soul for a life in the ‘burbs and found there was much more I sought. 

I don’t know where I’m going, but I don’t need to just now.  All I need to demand of myself is keeping an ear and eye open to my heart, and doing the best I can to follow it.  The world will come back to me in kind.  I can already feel it in my bones. 

Rhythms

You can gauge a lot about people by sitting and watching.  Their clothes tell the story they want, their gaits what they can’t hide.  Who we are travels down our spines and our legs and hips bear the message.  How world beaten some seem.  How others convey their calculations or pride. 

It’s no wonder the slow walk gets so much attention.  That a simple, languid glide expresses a type of confidence found deep within.  A lack of general concern or burden.  Slow walkers make the trouble.  Draw others in while noticing none of them. 

That’s not to say slow walkers are without doubts.  But those are perception doubts, not soul ones.  It makes me smile when I see it; finding a moment of relief in the sea of crazy washing by me. 

What really gets me is watching the rhythms.  How people move, the beat they follow.  To think that all of these people have sex…or want to.  How most have no idea about their own energy. 

The jazz on the speakers overhead reminds me of this and helps me wander all at the same time.  That the prescribed still contains a great deal of freedom.  That “The Way” is an onus if it is not multi-faceted.  Watching boy scouts and some-kind-of-wannabes, prima donnas and second-guessing-beauties.  Do people really believe they are who they project to be?  Do they know I can see their truth?  Can they see it?  Do they want to? 

It has been a week since I moved out.  Took ownership of my life and myself to walk back into the great unknown.  I am fully terrified, but in so many ways free.  And I know those parts are fighting to the death, I can feel it deep into my bones.  The type of exhaustion that can’t be mended by sleep; sleep won’t come.  The overwhelming tiredness that tells you that you can stand up to anything.  That in spite of yourself, you are strong.  That facing this battle, staring it in the face, is your strength.  We are all afraid, but we cannot be paralyzed.