There’s this lump in my throat, and sometimes as I’m walking home from work, I just start to ugly sob for half a second. Then I swallow, and keep walking, feet slapping against pavement, happy songs on the radio to balance me out enough to keep me from sitting down and staying there. What is this? What stage of grief? I am angry and sad and lonely and lonesome (which feel like two different things) and angry again and wistful and pragmatic and and I know that even if things were different, nothing would really change. I keep wondering if this is how my one-before-this-one ex felt about me – like his best friend had died, ripped away by the undertow in the middle of the darkest night, snatched from his grasp before he knew what was happening. And then I wonder if my now-ex feels about me the same way I feel about my one-before-this ex, and that line of thought nearly kills me each time it pops into my head. Because I find out anew every day that there is no one on my wavelength, and even though there are plenty of people who love me, whom I love, people who make me smile and people who tell me stories, and people who ask me about my life, there’s only one person I can share my imaginings with, and never have to wonder if the dreams sunk in correctly. There is precisely one person in the world with whom I have been completely myself, at all times, and now he is gone, and I am sinking inside myself so deeply and it’s dark in here, so dark. I know that I’m just tired. I haven’t slept in going on two days. I haven’t had a drink in a week. I haven’t had a hug in nearly a month. I haven’t spoken to another human being in my own house in months. I am turning 36 tomorrow, and there’s no one to slow dance with me in the kitchen, to kiss the small of my back, to listen to me talk about the shape of the moon in my heart, and understand exactly what I’m struggling to say. I don’t want to do this.
I’m too tired to put this in any particular order, so I’ll just jumble up a few facts here for your general amusement.
To begin with, I got a promotion! Or maybe a new job, or a little bit of both? I’m not entirely sure, to be honest, but the official offer letter was signed today, so I’m free to tell you about it. It’s within my same company, just at a different hotel. It’s a step above what I’ve been doing already, and I got a decent pay bump, with a chance for bonuses. I just got word that I’m supposed to start on the 20th, which gives me two weeks to get my affairs in order at this job before heading to my new office.
The thought of a new office is exciting, especially because at present, my desk is in the center of a large, open office, and all sorts of people pass through, usually interrupting me to ask questions that are completely unrelated to my job. On pay day, the housekeeping staff stop me every five minutes or so to get their checks (not my job). The Pepsi delivery guy needs me to sign off on his order (as does the liquor delivery guy, and the Staples delivery guy – also not my job). The beer delivery guys never seem to have any clue where they’re going, so for them I have to stop everything I’m doing and walk them to the other side of the hotel and guess at answers that I don’t know about beer placement, selections, etc. You guessed it, we have another employee to do that job, as well. If only anyone could be found whenever people come in with deliveries or questions. There’s a kind of magic to the office that ensures I will always be the only person available whenever any questions pop up or delivery people swing by.
If anyone is looking for anyone at all, they stop at my desk and ask me if I’ve seen so-and-so. If anyone is having a conversation about something trite, at a volume far too great for office conversation, you can bet it will be right in front of my desk, and usually right after I’ve taken an important phone call. Front desk get a confusing phone call? Routed to my desk, even when it’s something I have no clue how to answer.
All sorts of stuff gets left on my desk – piles of it, in fact. And all sorts of stuff gets taken off of my desk, too. I have one pen, and I have to hide it in my filing cabinet when I leave for the night, plus I use burgundy ink so that I can track the pen down if and when it does get taken. I have my own Swingline stapler that I purchased and brought to the office on my own, and it disappeared last week. People eat at my desk on the weekends, and leave their food grease. Pretty much the only positives of having this particular work space are that it’s solely mine – I don’t have to share with any other coworkers, which is not true of the other two desks in my part of the office – and that I know everything that happens in the office. Save for who stole my damn stapler, the bastard.
I’ve decided to keep my second job for now, though I’ve requested to bump it down to two days a week, and only on Friday night and Sunday morning. If they can’t accommodate that, I might have to quit. I’m hoping not to, since I’ll finally be making enough money to finish off paying off a few things, and I’d really love to do that this year. We’ll see. I’m not looking forward to keeping the same long days, but it’ll be OK for a little while.
Other than that, things are mostly OK. Not that exciting, but OK. I was invited to a multi-person birthday party tomorrow night to celebrate, among other people, me, but I decided not to go. Mostly because I wasn’t involved in the planning process at all, but also because I’m not friends with most of the people who will be there, and to be honest, I’d rather stay home with the cats than make any effort towards being friends with most of the people. I’ve known them for years, and am not ashamed to say that they’re not my tribe. And of the few people who will be going who ARE my tribe, one is my ex, and I miss him, and I don’t feel like putting myself through the wringer with heartsickness at my own damn birthday party. So that’s where we are with that.
I’ve also given up liquor, soda, and land animals/birds this month, but I’m not going to make a thing of it. Just going to go with it and see what happens.
Next up, I desperately need to build a working wardrobe for the next job. I’m going to need dressier clothing than I currently have, including suiting. I’m not looking forward to the trying-on process, but we do what we must.
Something good is in the works. There’s reason for me to feel optimistic, even excited. But at the moment I’m apprehensive and don’t really want to share too much information, lest I be disappointed again. If you have any time/love/energy to spare tomorrow (Wednesday) at 2pm CST, though, please send it my way.
I’ve also had a really good idea that I’m working on setting up between now and November 1st. A new blog, a new plan. It needs more detail, but the basic gist is this:
I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to turn my energy inward for awhile, focus just on loving myself, and all that entailed. Somewhere along the line, I found this really cool TED talk on marrying yourself, and I started reading up on that concept from people who have done it. Really liked it, so I’m doing it, too. I’m giving myself a timeline, at first, so it will be a little more like a handfasting than a traditional marriage. But I expect that it will end in forever 🙂
For the next year and a day (starting November 1st), I’m going to focus on my relationship with me. I don’t know if that means that I’ll stay single or not, just that I will dedicate myself to listening and loving my mind/body/life. I’ve still got some work to do on building a plan that I can stick to, but I do know that one thing I’m going to plan for is to do one thing that scares me every month. An adventure, something WAY out of my comfort zone (many things scare me, so I have to make a rule that I can’t just, say, go out to a bar by myself and call myself done for the month).
I’m also going to work at defining myself, and figuring out how to show the world who I am. My physical form does little to explain my true passions and personality, and it’s off-putting, even to me.
But first, I need to finish up this night shift, work tomorrow, then go home and get a good night’s sleep. Then there’s Wednesday afternoon, and after that, the world. Welcome to my new, bold life.
I’m almost 36. Are things changing? Have things changed? What’s different? How much closer am I to my goals? What are my goals? Why do I feel like I’m standing still? Why doesn’t the world make sense? How much longer before it starts to? Will it ever? I strongly doubt it. I sometimes despair of ever getting my shit together.
I feel so much older lately, these last few months. Maybe just this last month. When I suddenly had to face the fact that I’m here alone, I have no partner, just wrinkles and fat and too many cats, not a single pair of decent shoes, a pile of debts that refuses to budge, no matter how resolutely I pick up extra shifts and stop sleeping/eating/talking. I would like to give up now, please, if I may. I am tired. Bone tired. Soul tired.
To tell the truth, it’s the cats that keep me here. I wish I could say that it’s optimism, or faith, some form of belief that things will get better, that my life will mean something. But in the end, it’s as I suspect it is for many people: my children. Who will take care of them if I leave? So I stay. And that means roughly 19 years, or until our politicians get us all killed, whichever comes first. At the moment, I strongly suspect the latter.
Anyway, I’m old. Older. I still look young-ish. Not as young as a few years ago, but not as old as I could look for my age. I haven’t birthed any babies, and I’ve never smoked or spent a lot of time in the sun, so my skin is still in good shape. I’m swollen around the eyes lately, and if you look closely, you’ll see all of the grays in my otherwise brunette ‘do. Plus, there’s much more facial hair than ever before. I hate it. I do what I can, but it’s resilient. It’s wirey. It comes out of nowhere, a sudden chin hair, sprung out of a mole midafternoon. Well, I am a witch. What did I expect?
I want tattoos. I want to wear my inside on my outside, for people to see me as I am. But I’m afraid maybe they do. I fear I am wan, as a personality. That I am nearly nothing, and almost gone. I have never amounted to anything, and I doubt I ever will. I am so bored of all of this. People say things like “there’s so much living yet to do,” as though we should all know that means something good. For me, the future stretches on as either something filled with terror, pain and death, or else nothing – a winding, milquetoast road, paved with the quiet indignities of a long, lonely life.
I wish there were a way to opt out of this round. I just need a break. I need a long walk. I need a friend to hug me and tell me that this is all for something, that there’s a point to struggling on. If there is one, I don’t see it.
But maybe it’s just that the way forward has been buried up to its chin in platitudes, nearly drowned under the weight of all of that fake optimism everyone’s using to cover up their terror. Maybe I’ve just got to shovel everyone else’s bullshit away to see the truth underneath. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have more energy to attempt to be OK. One day closer to 36.
And who knows, maybe it’s 36 that makes all of this make sense. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
I just had a millisecond of clarity, so I’m going to try to record it while I have something in hand. Apologies if this makes little to no sense yet.
One of the things that I most love about vacationing on my own is that when I’m in a strange place with no friends or family around, I feel fully alone, isolated, and yet happy. I can fully embrace the fact that I have no support system, no protection, no idea of what’s going to happen next or how I might handle it. In the moment, while I’m feeling it, it surfaces as melancholy, maybe a little bit of wistfulness, the sad side of wanderlust. I walk around in shops alone, eat meals alone, go to bed alone, stare out of hotel windows alone, stumble through stilted foreign language conversations with cab drivers and servers alone. There are moments that propel themselves, and others that I have to fight through. I am fully participating in the experience, which honestly doesn’t always happen at home. For me, traveling is a practice in mindfulness.
Even though I’ve explained the emotion that accompanies this as melancholy, it is not sad. It twists my heart. It is unpleasant, in places. But it’s more like the beginning moments of riding a roller coaster, when you’re getting all strapped in and waiting for the ride. There’s this way that you go “Oh man, this is unpleasant,” and then the next moment you’re going, “well, that could have been worse,” and then you’re going, “wait, this is amazing!” (Except that’s not how I handle roller coasters, just how it looks like other people handle them. For me, a roller coaster is like, “this is unpleasant,” “omg, I can’t believe I thought *that* was unpleasant – this is seriously unpleasant,” “I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die, why am I doing this?” and “OK, that was actually kind of funny, in a weird, existential way – and look, I’m not dead!”)
Anyway, this all goes to say that I handle traveling on my own completely differently than living on my own. I tend to look at travel as an adventure, where I’m privileged to be exploring the world solo, and every new moment is an opportunity. It all feels like I’ve done it before, and I’m brushing up on a lesson that I’ve already learned in a life before this one. It only hurts, feels melancholic, because it reminds me of old pleasures. But I’m still open to the new ones, and travel never fails to bring me new ways of seeing that feel like old lessons I used to know. Maybe that’s also because I tend to go to places of great spiritual importance to me, who knows?
So tonight, I was sitting on the corner of the bed, looking at the floor, thinking that I need to get up in six hours and go to a job I hate. I never just sit on the side of the bed at home. I do that all the time in hotels and hostels and albergues. And that physicality is probably why I had just the tiniest flash of that same travel melancholy I get all the time when I’m away, doing what I actually want to be doing. For just a second, I thought, “maybe I should see going to work tomorrow as an opportunity for adventure, instead of a punishment.” And then it hit me – I’m still traveling.
This is just an extended stay at a destination that bores me, and that’s OK. There’s no reason that I can’t tap into the feeling I love about traveling, even here in this place that I call home for most of the year. There’s no reason not to turn this into an adventure. You can do anything that you imagine (within some amount of reason), wherever you are in the moment. I know that, because I’ve done it. I’ve been bad and good, in places new and places familiar. I can bring new energy to this place if I so will it, and I do. So I’ll invite the mystique into my existence here, in this hotel room of an apartment, into this mess of a life.
Who knows, maybe it will be funny, in a weird, existential way…
I’m still pretty angry, and for awhile now, that anger has been paired up with a heaping helping of shame. At first, I didn’t get it. Why shame? And for that matter, why anger, exactly? A calm, well-planned breakup with friendship intact shouldn’t elicit this level of “BURN IT DOWN!” that I’m constantly feeling. It’s been over a month. Shouldn’t I be getting on with my life?
But it’s started to hit me. I’ve known the entire time that I wasn’t angry AT anyone, exactly. I’m certainly not that angry at him, this last him. I love him deeply, and unconditionally. He’s irritated the shit out of me, yes. The thought of having to spend time in his presence in a non-girlfriend role makes me want to puke, yes. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m being forced to give up on him because he’s asking me to, yes. That last one is crazy, and I’m just rolling it around, rolling it around, rolling it around. Eventually it will wear down to a size where it fits in my head and starts to make some sort of sense, but right now it’s just going to sit here and be weird and pointless, the same as this breakup.
But back to the anger and shame. It’s hitting me that I’m angry for everything. My life. Everything that everyone has done to piss me off and I haven’t said a goddamn thing to any of them. Because I was raised to believe that any negative emotion felt as a result of the actions of other people is my burden to bear. You feel like it’s unfair? So what, life is unfair. Take a number. Turn the other cheek. Practice forgiveness. Don’t even bother complaining in the first place. Ignore the pain. Fight through the discomfort. Never, ever talk about the ways in which you’re failing at being a proper young lady with class and good breeding. Ladies don’t use curse words. Ladies don’t wear that kind of outfit (or that kind, or that kind, or that kind, either). Ladies don’t go out after dark or go anywhere alone or spend time with strange men (or familiar men – in fact, why is that man familiar, good heavens!).
You had a bad experience? It’s probably all your fault. You were wearing the wrong thing. You said the wrong thing. You didn’t put enough distance between the two of you. You should have been scoping your surroundings more efficiently. You shouldn’t have been there at all. Did you laugh, smile, speak, make eye contact, walk past him with a little too much sway? Are you showing any skin at all? Your makeup must have been too dark. Besides, he didn’t really mean to scare you with his scary/sleezy/downright rape-y behavior – that’s just how men are. And you’re just how women are. So shut up and move on. Stop trying to get attention.
And the non-rape-y stuff, the times they shut you down, make you explain yourself with smiley emojis, talk to you like you’re a toddler, shout at you because they want a discount on their invoice, repeatedly ignore you when it’s time for a promotion, deny your request for a raise and then give it to the guy who works half-days and spends his time building his fantasy football league… Well, they’ll listen to you one day when you’re older/smarter/prettier/have a different job title. If you start paying more attention to their sports discussions/TV shows/baby pictures they’ll think you’re a team player and you’ll get a promotion. If you’d just stop being so pushy. You probably whine too much. Or maybe you come across as bitchy when you ask for things. You could stand to wear more attractive things to the office. Dress for the job you want. But not too attractive, you know – don’t want to look like the office slut. Ugh……………….
All this goes to say that I’ve figured out that I’m not suddenly angry. I’m just suddenly experiencing all of the anger that I’ve tamped down over my lifetime. And I’m experiencing this shame for feeling angry, but I’m also angry about having been conditioned to feel the shame, so that’s a really interesting place to be.
So I think it might be helpful to say all of the things that I never got to. All of the things that I thought would be “nagging,” but really would have released some of my stress and probably helped to shape the lives of those men who have gone on to date other women (who are hopefully nagging them right now, as we speak).
- You wore too much cologne. Three direct sprays is TOO MUCH. I actually told you that it was too much one time, but then you sprayed another blast. To be funny? Really, you just looked like an asshole, and you STANK of cologne, and it wafted after you. People choked on that all day long in your office, I’m sure. I choked on it just getting near you. You sucked for not listening to me. You were so unbelievably rude, but you acted like you thought it was endearing or attractive. It wasn’t.
- Your hair products ruined my sheets. Sheets are really expensive, and that stuff isn’t coming out.
- You always left your trash behind. You told me that it was just because you’re absent minded, and I grew to believe that and find it endearing. But let’s be honest. You’re a grownup, and you knowingly made more work for me every time you brought some disposable item into my house. If you know that you’re prone to leave trash around, WORK ON IT. Same goes for washing your own damn dishes.
- You woke me up on Saturday morning – the day that I got to sleep in – and demanded that I get up and wash the dishes. You acted like my dad, except that my dad would NEVER make me get up early on a Saturday morning, because he loves me. Screw you. Seriously. I hope you marry a tyrant who pulls that kind of passive aggressive bullshit right back at ya.
- You vacuumed while I was sleeping, just because you had to stick to your schedule of self-perpetuating bullshit.
- You promised me that you’d always clean the bathtub, did it twice, then made me do it for the next 8 years.
- You had the body of a Roman god, had to do absolutely nothing to maintain it, and when you saw me working constantly to try to stay slim, you did nothing to help. That’s OK – it wasn’t your job to help. But it was your job to STOP BAKING SEVERAL CAKES PER WEEK that you wouldn’t eat. What kind of monster fills up a house with junk food when they know damn well that their girlfriend is a compulsive eater? The same kind who bathes in cologne, excels at all of their shared hobbies until she no longer finds joy in any of the things that used to amuse her, and lords his finances over her.
- Oh, yeah, that amazing little tidbit. When I was making 35k and loving my job, you told me that I didn’t make enough money and needed to quit. You tried to make it sound like you were concerned with me, but in actuality you were chiding me for my weakness, my inability to fit your definition of success. You harped on how little money I was making, and how there were plenty of jobs out there that paid more – I just needed to look harder. Yeah, I was struggling, but I was paying my half. You, meanwhile managed to put up 15k extra that you later tearfully told me was supposed to “go towards our wedding” as a surprise. Right.
- You bailed out of going to my best friend’s wedding. She’s a sister to me. I should have moved out that day, instead of wasting my time. I knew right then that you could never be the man for me, but instead I kept trying. Isn’t that the saddest shit ever? What kind of person loves herself so little that she’d choke on the disrespect rather than cutting ties and moving on? Ugh.
- I paid for your half of many joint activities our first years together, because I loved being with you and wanted to share experiences. It was a burden to me, and I resented it, but was mostly irritated with myself for not being gracious enough to just incur the debt. I loved you and wanted you to be with me, and if that meant paying for things when you couldn’t afford them, I told myself that I didn’t mind. But I did. And because I had taken the brunt of someone’s displeasure with me for not making enough money, I decided to never make it a big deal. I did my best to never even bring up the fact that my budget wasn’t meant for two. But then you found steady employment, and everything was looking up. And then you dumped me. It seems like more than a coincidence, but I’m sure I’m wrong. I’m sure the two had nothing to do with each other, other than the fact that our schedules no longer aligned in the least bit, so we grew apart. But it still stings. I’m still angry. I felt used at the beginning, and now at the end, I feel manipulated, which is worse. I wish you could have waited a little while. Taken care of me a little bit. Showed me that you treasured me in the way I treasured you. But you retreated once you had the chance to show yourself. It wasn’t even about money in the end, but it’s easiest to see this portion of the pattern. You knew you needed to pick up the slack, but you didn’t do it. You let everyone around you pay for you, take care of you, ensure that you aren’t too sad or uncomfortable. And at the time I thought that your hangdog air was all shame. And I’m sure that’s a part of it. But I know now that you enjoy feeling that shame. You get off on it. It’s a power play with yourself. It’s erotic, in its own weird way. So yeah, I’m angry at you for turning something as simple as going out to dinner into a lingering guilt trip, just to fulfill some strange need to constantly be wrong.
- You should have been honest with me from the beginning. You eventually told me that you’d “thought” you could be “normal.” You thought you could do this, be in an adult relationship, living by adult rules. But you knew what you were doing. You got me out of a bad place, and I will always be grateful to you for that, but you also lied to me. I gave you opportunities to come clean from the very start. I was honest with you, and expected honesty from you, but instead you wore a mask and then gradually fell apart on me. I had already loved you. I continued loving you. I will probably always love you. But you held out on me, and that hurt me. It hurt my life. You’re hurting my life right now.
That’s all I’ve got for the moment.
Granddaddy came to visit me the night before last, in a dream that felt like real life. I wish I could say with certainty that it was a visit from the man I so adored, rather than just wishful thinking and misfiring synapses, but I will always be a hopeful skeptic. It felt good, though, and gave me something to think on. So I’ll treat it as it felt – an important message, spoken by my long-dead grandfather, here on a soul-business trip.
We were driving to a wedding. I spent countless hours in the passenger seat of Granddaddy’s truck as a child, when he was alive, so we were back to places that suited us best. He was younger than I last remember him. He was in his late 60’s when he passed away. In the dream, he was around 50, his face still plump and a little shiny, his hair not quite thinned out, and still some black strands here and there. I was my present age. Neither of us remarked on the age differences, and I don’t think it even struck me as odd in the dream.
The wedding was being held at a church that was also a part-time warehouse and granary. Why I know this, I have no clue. We didn’t discuss it. But as the truck got closer to the building, I could clearly read the block letters on the side of the building, and the church was named “Gods Colors” (no apostrophe). I exclaimed, “Oh, I’ve been here before! I love this church!” He made a noncommittal grunt – a characteristic I’d forgotten – more on the positive side than negative, the kind of sound someone makes when they’re barely listening to you, but still want to appear polite.
Instead of stopping at the church, we rounded the corner and kept driving. On the right was a railroad depot, and ahead of us, the road changed from a country highway to a long, stately street, lined with straight, tall trees. The looked like birch trees, perhaps. As we drove towards this long line of tees, he looked over at me and said “You’ve always been so forgiving.” The subcontext was that I was forgiving to a fault, and he watched me being hurt as a result, and didn’t like it. But he wasn’t angry, or sad. He was studying me, and praising me, and it all came across in this simple sentence, and the way he looked at me, hands on the wheel, love in his eyes.
I don’t remember exactly how I responded. Something like, “I have to,” or “It’s my job.” We kept driving, and never reached the trees. Eventually I woke up.
Two things stand out to me from that dream: the church, and the message of forgiveness. Where was the apostrophe? Was the church to multiple gods? What are their colors? And was Granddaddy reminding me that I keep forgetting to forgive myself? I think so. I never see myself so clearly as when he shows up to look at me. In real life (and now sometimes in my dreams) he always looked at me with pure love. How to ever match that? But the truth is that it’s my job to do it. I’m the only one left to do that for myself. I deserve to see myself the way he saw me. I deserve to look upon myself with love and tenderness. I deserve to be forgiven.