breakup

Mulish

I’ve spent the better part of the week being momentarily grumpy over people telling me about me.

You deserve better. You should get a real job. You should go back to school. You should settle down. You deserve a good man. You would be a great mom. You should. You are. You. You. you.

Here’s the thing:

I decide who I am now.

Give it a minute to sink in. I had to. I looked at that statement and balked immediately on the idea of how selfish it is- how self serving. I’ve been told my entire life that relationships are about compromise. Meet them half way. Give of yourself to others. If you love someone, you do what is necessary to make it work. I’ve been working my entire life to be a better person, to be likeable, generous, and humble.

I sat on a couch on Saturday listening to someone earnestly break up with me (my first foray back into the dating world since my divorce). My knees were bent, legs folded under me with bare toes and a raw uncomfortable feeling welling in my chest. I notched my chin onto my palm and watched the shapes his mouth made when he couldn’t look me in the eye. The small divot of fabric over the dip of his collarbones shifted as he wet his lips, punctuating the faltering half prepared emotionally honest statement:

I’m not in a place where I can give you the kind of relationship you deserve.

I must have made some noise of distaste because he paused, brought short by the way my mouth twisted sideways on sour bitten back words. I thought for a moment about the last time someone told me I deserved better. It was a similar moment- sitting quietly curled on a couch as someone walked away.

My ex-husband moved out on Valentine’s day after a month of half heated arguments and new car payments. Everything he deemed worthwhile could be neatly packed into the dove gray Honda Fit.

I was leaning a shoulder against the porch rail; there wasn’t room for me.

He packed his records, his khaki pants, and his inability to compromise away as he told me I deserved a husband who could provide the kind of life that could afford a family. He gave me a hug, fingers digging into the doughy skin over the small of my back before squaring his jaw before driving away – complacent yogurt flavored happiness left me soft and mushy. The dogs were strewn around the living room the way we used to discard clothes. Now, the laundry was started once a day and his shirts never got softener.

J is a kind man, but selfish. L is a sweet earnest boy, but naive.

Neither of them knew me. Neither of them really tried. I was a convenience and an interest to be appreciated, enjoyed, and set aside.

Today I woke up and slipped on my shoes, unreasonably pleased that for the first time in my life my “skinny” jeans are too big. I’m not losing weight for any other reason than I’m happy. I’m not waking up in the morning for any other reason than I look forward to seeing what happens in my day.

I don’t kiss people I don’t want to any more. I don’t sleep with people because “no” seems like such a hard word to say when someone wants something from me. I don’t have to be anything but completely content with the state of my life as is.

I looked up at L, tilting my head and catching a glimpse of the black and white tiled kitchen out of the corner of my eye, only half paying attention to what he said next.

“I don’t see this going anywhere. I can’t be the kind of boyfriend you expect. I can’t be in the kind of relationship you deserve-”

“That’s great, however-” I remember how he looked at me for the first time then when I held up a hand to stop him. He really looked with soft brown eyes and a half scared breath. He saw me, that 35 year old woman who was leaning into the comfort of that brown couch. He saw the way my jaw went tight and I lifted from that core lace inside myself that knows when something is not quite right. I listen to that voice now. I respect it. I want to encourage it because that voice is the basis of my self worth: ignoring it says I can be ignored. I never raised my voice. I didn’t snap. If anything I smiled the words out like a sigh tasting of warm lazy sheet mornings. I spoke from a place of love, because no one loves me more than me. “You don’t know what I deserve. You don’t know what I expect. If this was about me in any way, then this would have been a conversation. This is about you. I’m sorry that I’m taking away your ability to feel like the good guy here, but please, leave me out of your excuses. You already left me out of the decision.”

I shrugged and pulled my sandals back on. I wasn’t going to argue. I can’t fight the way someone feels any more than I can fight the fact that it rains sometimes. I will admit to being annoyed that I’d shaved my legs and that my skin was soft to a touch that wouldn’t come. I was annoyed that something I had been enjoying on a moment by moment basis had been extrapolated out into the future and therefore to a place of uselessness. I was hurt, embarrassed, and horny- never a good combination.

What I wasn’t? Devastated. Overwrought. Depressed. Raging. Thrilled. Broken.

I gave him a hug at the door, his fingers pressing against the back of my neck and the curve of my ribcage before exhaling on his front porch- happiness burns spicy inside me and melts away the grayed layer of soft over my bones. I took a moment to rest my head against my steering wheel and just feel the loss of a small bit of something exciting and simple- the feel of a smile pressed against my temple or the touch of his forehead to the nape of my neck. I breathed in and told myself, the only person who has to live with me on a daily basis, what I deserved:

You deserve to live your life for you.

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Just enough rope to hang myself…

Okay, so for those of you who don’t actually know me, here’s a little story:

Once upon a time over starbucks, in a city not too far from here, a girl met a boy.

She’d been born in April, a sweet faced child with honey colored hair that darkened as she got older.  She laughed loudly and played with GI Joes.  She grew up happy in a small two bedroom brick house that squatted close to the ground.  She clambered up the spindly dogwood tree in her backyard to look in the kitchen window at her parents.  There were always dogs bounding through the grass and cats strewn lazily around the furniture.  She grew up happy and loved.

He’d been born in March.  He grew up in a huge two story house with a bay window that overlooked the river.  His family fought with firsts and harsh words.  He grew up sharp and angry.  He had the violence of love and the stillness of the picture perfect pretend.  He played hockey and learned to be shrewd.  His best friend was a lopsided beagle. He knew the words to every Beatles song, ever.

Years passed and they grew up different, but the same.  He learned to love, but flee.  She learned that love meant heartbreak and pain.  She learned the value of walls and burned bridges and made huge bonfires from her rage.  He learned that the safest place to be was alone.

They each were twisted.  They each learned to cut first.  They believed they were unworthy.

Years later, trying to become healthy and happy, they met in the dark, telling secrets among strangers.  They met in a room filled with love and sobriety.  He’d gotten there first, and she was still fumbling through her first year.  She didn’t notice him and he fled the room quickly to get away from her.

They met again when she was left by his friend.  He watched her drive off with dark eyes and waited.  She packed her exboyfriend’s things in a box and came to believe that it was for the best.

They met for the last time over a deck of cards and a pack of Camel lights.  The night was low and close under the branching tree that flowed up from the pavement to spread and reach toward the green starbucks canopy.  The table wobbled as they played.  She laughed and sparkled.  She danced and wrote words like a swelling thumping jazz song that he couldn’t get out of his head.  He had a wide smile and broad shoulders decked with a smokey voice that tasted like licorice.  She couldn’t stop thinking about him.

She tried to set him up with her best friend.  He was dangerous.  He had to be unavailable and the easiest way to turn him off was to place him with someone she could never betray.  It failed spectacularly.  She sat in the movie seat, eyes wide and glowing- hyper aware of his shoulder so close to hers- and believed that robots needed love too.  She bought the little Wall-E toy, and it reminded her of that night.  They ate, the three of them, her, her best friend, and the boy.  She watched her plan fail as they picked at each other awkwardly and talked to her all night.  She had planned that she would lean back in her chair and watch them fall in love.

But her plans never did work right.

He threw a party for her when she’d wrestled herself to nine months sober.  He cooked ribs and invited everyone to watch Zombie movies.  He had a knack for morbid irony. He left her bits of poetry stashed in small places in her purse, her books, her pockets.  They piled like puppies and shot pellet guns until dawn.  They managed to keep the fire between them light and friendly for exactly two days after that.

Then it was slick kisses and clutching fingers.  It was the feel of broad shoulders and hands against soft pale skin.  She shivered.  He growled.

The little girl woke up one day and realized she was in love.  The little boy had found someone who laughed as big as the sky and sparkled.

The story doesn’t end like they do in the movies, or the story books.  Those never talk about the little battles.  It never touches on the fact that she doesn’t like doing laundry.  It doesn’t talk about the nights when the sex becomes routine and bland.  It doesn’t talk about the jealousy and the self doubt.  They lie.  It never shows the end. It never shows the secrets kept to keep from hurting each other that destroyed the core.

It never shows the little girl opening presents that tell more truly than any word that he just did not know her.  It doesn’t show the moment when she feels her heart break while she fingers the cheap abalone shell earings shaped into silver hearts.  It doesn’t show the boy cry in front of her for the first time when he unwraps the Wii she thought he would love.  The packing, the pain, the Budget trucks and the mess left behind when love doesn’t last forever.  The story neglects the nasty text messages sent from a place of pain and fear.  It doesn’t include the letters and poems he wrote some other little girl that wasn’t her.

I miss the way you used to dance around the classroom.  I thought you were lucky to know me, but now I’m starting to realize how lucky I was to know you.  I’ll tell you one day.

The movies always panned away before the little girl found herself outside her apartment in a strange place screaming and unable to breathe as her world crashed down.  All of this is glossed over.

But the girl loved him.  He was beautiful, brilliant, and a good man.  He tried as hard as he could to keep her happy and punished himself when she wasn’t.  She wasn’t happy alot.  She’d uprooted her life and followed him instead of standing firm.  They’d both given too much and tried in all the wrong ways.  They’d lost track of the people they loved.  Not her for him, or him for her.  They’d lost track of how much they loved themselves.  She’d stopped dancing.  He’d stopped writing poetry.  She’d gotten complacent and it matched his.  Theirs was a romance of mistakes.

This is the love story of Meagn and Jacob.

**

He called me this morning and it was like a cloud moved out of my chest and wafted away.  I miss him.  He was my best friend.  He’s the one who held me when I cried over my grandmother passing.  He’s the one who leaned against me, a solid weight of trust.  But that’s broken and we’re awkward and trying to not let all that we shared end up just being another: “And then we never saw each other again.”  I know it’s dangerous.  I know I’m asking to be hurt all over again.

But I’m going to try.  I’m not going to try and get him BACK.  Well, that’s not true.  Shit.  I’m not going to actively pursue him, my heart is too fragile right now, but I’m going to let him back in.

We’re going to Disneyland on friday.  I just want to take a break from the craziness that is my life and run around like a hooligan.  I want to laugh with him again.  I’m selfish.  I’m weak.  I’m heartbroken and damn, I really do miss the sound of his voice.

But I’m not stupid.  I’m going into this honest.  I’m keeping my friends in the loop.  I’m not going to hide it from them expecting their stern disapproval and disappointment. I’m terrified right now, but I’m learning to just let go.

I’m not in control.  I’ve never been good at making plans.  I have to trust that the beautiful vibrating center of the world that keeps atoms in chaos without collision will keep me from shaking apart too.

Ode to my kitchen.

My kitchen smells like saffron rice and cooked chicken.  It has mustard yellow walls with metal signs tacked into place.  They proclaim that I serve Meteor Coffee and Rocket Pops, but they lie.  I have a shelf full of sweet tarts my mother sent me for Christmas that tell the world I’m totally Team Jacob. (Werewolves are so much hotter, can we say boys piled like puppies?) I have a bag of baby carrots, summer sausage, and sharp white vermont cheddar in my fridge.  There is also an avacado that thunks miserably about in my veggie drawer that I should probably throw away.  I bought a bottle of pomegranate-lemonade with the intention of giving up soda, but the empty box of Dr Pepper is more the truth.

I love my new kitchen.  It has possibilities.  I’ve never been in an argument while pitching empty pizza boxes.  I’ve never made a meal for someone other than myself.  It’s never been tarnished with anything but good memories.

Kitchens are a strange place.  It is where my parent’s marriage fell apart over broken dishes and screams on Easter.  It’s where I cried miserably over learning the multiplication tables.  It’s where I can take a breath when family moments are so heart stoppingly beautiful I might just shake apart. I learned to cook a turkey in my father’s purple rag painted kitchen that was always littered with wine bottles and step kids.  I cooked out of necessity when my mother went to that dark place after the divorce- filled with migraines and depression.  I have had refrigerators filled with nothing but beer, and others spoke of happy couples learning to make meals together and talk about their day.

My ex was a steak and potatoes guy.  He’d cook the meat while I chopped tomatoes and carrots for a salad.  We’d bustle around each other like some strange dance, rubbing shoulders, bumping hips, and exchanging sauce filled kisses.  He told me he wanted to marry me in that kitchen, the same place he told me it was over.  He’d stack empty soda cans in the sink instead of reaching the foot and a half to the trash can.  The coffee pot was always a mess, drinds flung to the far corners to sneak under the fridge and into the laundry room.  He’d smile that huge crackling smile of his and fling his fingers out while I did the dishes and tell me about how ridiculous the patrons (and staff) at his library were.

There are no traces of him in my new place.  He’s not lingering on the floor with his records or sprawled across the couch waiting for me to join him with popcorn.  There is no table hockey game waiting for us on the kitchen table.  There are no arguments about money and the sweet taste of welcome home kisses. It’s a new tableau. I cook chicken.  I microwave popcorn.  I do my own dishes and there are never soda’s in the sink.

It feels empty.  No, it feels pregnant with that sort of soap bubble fragility of loneliness.  It’s like if I turn around too fast I’ll realize I’m on my own.  If I cook steak he’ll just wander in wearing his boxers and a grin.  I don’t want him back.  It’s just the habit; the routine of our relationship that sneaks back in when I’m not looking.

I don’t want a man in my life right now.  I want to learn to be happy just being me.  I want to wake up and stretch like a kitty and smile just because I’m awake.  I want to finish school and get a job.  I need to be independent.  I need friends. (Wow, I’m kind of needy right now.)

I want a stranger to be able to come into my house and explore my kitchen and learn little things about me.  I want them to grin at the doodle board I have on my fridge that says “You shine” and understand that people love me.  To understand that I haven’t erased that message and put up a to do list because I need the reminder that sometimes, in the right light, I’m glorious.

Starting honest, that way I’ll finish honest.

I used to think my most embarrassing moment happened in the seventh grade.  Some girls had those moments when they had things stuck in their braces or smelled bad in gym class.  I was the girl who pissed her pants at a group birthday party while paddling serenely around a lake with the boy she thought was cute.  No really.  I peed myself in public while my friends crooned “Kiss the girl” from the Little Mermaid.  I was the girl who on her graduation from high school had people laughingly reminding her of that moment.  I remember jumping into the lake to try and hide my mortification, and the salty rough burn of my jeans on my thighs.  I remember that the boy never talked to me again.  Oh yea, it was spectacular.

And hard to beat.

But then a couple days before Christmas, on the eve of my divorce, my boyfriend broke up with me while I was making him dinner.  I had been so excited coming home from work that night.  I was all aglow with thoughts of wedding rings and what beautiful babies we’d make.  He had strong cheekbones and an aquiline nose with pretty blue eyes.  They’d have his cheekbones and my hair color and be the most beautiful babies ever.  They’d grow up to read a healthy mixture of comic books and Foucault.  They would be brilliant and rebellious- how could they not?  They’d be our kids: his and mine.  And it would fade into that soft dreamy focus of forever that only happens in movies and in my head.

So how could this be happening?  Spaghetti boiling, meat sauce simmering, and wooden spoon turning in endless circles as I could only take deep breaths as it all disappeared.

What was embarrassing was while I was planning baby showers and white dresses, he was thinking about how unhappy he was.  And I didn’t know it.  I had no idea.

When did I become the girl who had her dreams in her back pocket and a ten year plan, but no concept of what was happening in my life?  How could I get A’s on my interpretation of Shakespeare, but not see the guy I loved was miserable?

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was so wrong.  I’m more embarrassed and hurt than that seventh grader with piss puddling beneath her on that paddle boat.

So yea, that’s my story.  I’m thirty one and single.  This blog will be about what it’s like to wake up and realize I have a life I’ve been ignoring.  Embarrassing as it is, I’m going to try and be honest.