Right?

“It just takes time, right?”

G and I caught up this week for the first time in forever. Our love lives parallel in such interesting ways it’s almost uncanny, and when we do catch up, the conversations can be tough. We can’t pretend with each other; yeah, we’re both moving onwards and upwards with our lives, but there’s a rawness to everything, a tinge of regret for someone else’s choices and for thinking maybe this is the time it’s for Real. Last night we joked for a while about her queen petty skills and my latest crazy workout, but after a few minutes the conversation quieted somewhat. “Even if I did want to date him,” she told me about (a guy), “it wouldn’t be fair to him. I’m still not over (the ex), and I can’t really be with anyone till that happens.” I echoed her sentiments with half of my brain, because on a logical level I totally agree with her. The other half though? It’s a little more complicated.

What do you really do with love that’s gone from your life? Do you ever really get over an ex? Is it okay to move on at 75 percent instead of 100? There are always a lot of things on my mind but those occupy a bit more space lately. If I look back on the people I loved that way, mostly I appreciate them for their part in my story; I love the original two of them like you love a character from a novel but nothing more. I can’t remember the early days after our stories ended well enough to know how I was doing two months on, but I think I was doing better and worse than I’m doing now. Worse, because I never tried to reach out to the others to extend one more chance to be definitive, tell me to fuck off or tell me you miss me but stop pretending everything’s fine. And better, because I definitely know I’m exactly where I should be, and if that means moving on then so be it.

I suppose this is the part where I mention that there’s someone waiting for me. Someone kind and funny, and he understands my job and lifestyle and doesn’t push. He’s someone who is eager to support me and makes me feel sexy and wanted, and he’s waiting for me to say “okay.” Every time I see him my heart skips, he makes me laugh like I haven’t in a long time, but I can’t tell if that’s enough. Sometimes I want to say that word to him and other times I want to run, and I can’t find a balance between the two extremes, and he doesn’t seem to mind either one of my moods. And yet, other times I catch him staring at me when we’re on the subway or out to dinner like he’s studying me. “I am studying you,” he told me one day over takeout Thai on his couch, and he pushed a strand of purple hair from my forehead. “I want to know everything you’re hiding behind those big blue eyes.”

So here I am, literally living a dream, and there’s someone who wants to be there with me while I do it. And much as I’m not really wishing for things to go back to the way they were, I also don’t think I’m ready for them to change from where they are now. Right now I’m still okay being alone because part of me still hurts, and I’m also okay having someone that I can text and call after a long day knowing he’ll make me smile. I’m still navigating the early waters of this dream and I love all the changes but I need a break. Will I ever be at 100 percent? Do I even want to be at 100 percent? Will I ever get a definitive answer? Will I ever tell him “okay”? There are always a lot of things on my mind but those occupy a bit more space lately. It just takes time to figure them out.

Right?

Fast forward.

The story begins when I’m alone in a bathroom. I’m 15, and I’m at dinner with my family; we just finished eating and I’m staring at myself in the mirror. I ate fried chicken with some kind of greens and I can feel rage bubbling up in me, why would you eat that, I tell the mirror, aren’t you fat enough. I listen to a baby dragon inside me as it tempts me to get rid of it, get rid of it, get rid of it for the first time, and I walked out of the bathroom with a secret smile on my face. No one knows what just happened. No one would know what was happening for another two years, until no one could keep pretending it wasn’t happening anymore.

Fast forward and I’m in college but I’m in Argentina. I have a boyfriend and he’s nice to me, and I cling to him like he’s my whole life; he is my whole life during most of college. Never mind how I’ve cheated on him this whole trip; my first time apart from him in our two years of dating and all it takes for me to let someone kiss me is a compliment and then the threat that they might like someone else more. I’m ruled by insecurities, tell me you love me, tell me I’m pretty. I’ve gained so much weight I think I’m unrecognizable, and I hate it, so keep telling me I’m pretty, tell me I’m pretty, tell me you love me and I’ll let you take me home.

Fast forward and I’m alone. I’m in my apartment in New York City and I’m alone. When I moved to this city and when I moved to this apartment I wasn’t alone, but that all just changed. I’ve just gotten back here after leaving the Upper East Side and a pit stop to see N; M is out of town and N let me sit on their couch and stare at whatever sports game he had on to numb my feelings, but now I’m home and they’re all coming back. I’m alone. I’m really alone. And all of a sudden I’m on the floor and I’m screaming, I’m screaming into a pillow until my throat feels raw, as tears race down my face, my neck. “I’m sorry,” I keep sobbing, over and over. “I’m so sorry. I tried. I tried so hard. Oh god, this hurts. It hurts. It hurts. I’m sorry.”

Fast forward and I’m not alone in my apartment, but I am. Sometimes I’m not alone, but I am always alone. It’s one of those mornings where I’m waiting to be alone again, no I don’t want your number and don’t forget your shoes. I make a cup of coffee for just myself and sigh; there’s a moment after the door closes every time where I have to laugh at myself and who I’ve become over the last 24 months since screaming on the floor. She’s every kind of crazy, this person, but I love her in a way I’ve never loved a Self of mine. She’s stronger, I think, rolling out the worn-out yoga mat; she’s happier, I realize, as I stretch up to a backbend and open my heart. She’s ready to leave, this Self, she’s ready to take everything and start over as this person.

Fast forward and we’re all caught up. It’s almost the end of the year and the beginning of everything, the end of an era and the beginning of a new me. I don’t know where I am right now, having scheduled this blog post in advance so it would post today, like my own little fast forward to the future. My future as I’m writing it now is as blank as the rest of the future ahead of it. It was time to fast forward through all the things that shaped me in the past 12 years and let them go. It’s time to fast forward into this year, all of the wonderful milestones to look forward to, all of the changes and new beginnings and new people. It’s nice to rewind sometimes, relive who you were and how you got here, but I’m ready to press play again, and watch as the next story unfolds.

Perfect, then…

Last week on Thursday, I kept smiling. Despite having worked a full twelve hours, I’d texted my lovely friend M on the way out of the office to complain a little, and it turned out she was around the corner, so we met for some much-needed margaritas and maybe a tequila shot (or three) as well. The weekend ahead promised so many wonderful things: a yoga workshop in Central Park with M and my cousin, who I’d convinced to come in from Connecticut for the afternoon, followed by dinner at a different cousin’s restaurant in Nyack, and ending with a pit stop in FiDi to say hi to the rest of the group, as my partner-in-crime R, her Scot H, my fashionista C and N planned to spend the afternoon and evening on rooftops, drinking in summertime alongside Oyster Bay. I’d also promised D&D that I’d watch their dogs this weekend, so in between all of those wonderful things, I’d get to come home and snuggle with my favorite pug and pitbull, So as I took the last tequila shot on Thursday night and started the long trek back to Washington Heights much later than usual, I had this overwhelming feeling that life couldn’t get any better.

Last week on Friday, as I prepared to leave the office on the earlier side, I kept smiling. It had been a productive but simple day at the office, and I was just on my way out to meet my sorority big for a short walk along the High Line and then a long and leisurely dinner/happy hour at Montmartre, a cozy French bistro in Chelsea. The Supreme Court announcement led to a giddy elation that permeated the neighborhood streets, rainbow flags and songs about love every which way you looked, people gearing up for a pride weekend that celebrated so much more than they’d originally planned. As my big and I moved into our third hour of sitting in the backyard patio, munching on pickled vegetables and sharing a cool bottle of rosé, I had this overwhelming feeling that life couldn’t get any better.

On Saturday, I woke up early and met up with M to head to the Upper East Side, her to babysit for a few hours before our yoga class, and me to drop my things off at D&D’s and hang out with the pups for a few hours before it was yoga time. We rode the bus and chatted excitedly about dinner later that night in Nyack, and bounced in our seats at the chance to train with Superhuman Yogi. I felt my phone buzz twice, the rapid cadence of an incoming text, and checked my phone, assuming it was my cousin with travel plans or brother reminding me to take home the toy he and D had picked up for little miss a few weeks back.  Instead I saw a number that I didn’t recognize but I immediately knew who it was. Before I’d looked at the text, before I looked up the area code to confirm, I knew in the bottom of my heart that The Child had just sent me a text. After thinking all weekend that life couldn’t get any better, he had some fucking nerve sending me anything, especially seeing as today is exactly a year since he told me “I can’t.”

You can see why we call him "The Child" after that final response.

You can see why we call him “The Child” after that final response.

That’s our conversation. M and I debated hotly about what to say in response – should I take the opportunity to be a bitch and tell him to fuck off? Ignore it completely? Play dumb and just say “who is this?” In the end, I realized I just don’t care anymore. Maybe he thought about me for a split second this past weekend but I take that train every day, and I stopped thinking about him months ago. And as I crafted the perfect response to acknowledge I read the text, know who sent it and now want nothing to do with it ever again, I felt an eerie sense of calm. This text three months ago, six months ago, would have put me in an emotional tailspin. And all it did this weekend was make me angry for six minutes and then I didn’t think about it again until the next day, when I was scrolling through texts and noticed I’d forgotten to delete it. What a different place to be in from this time last year; what a different way to approach hearing from someone who used to hold a piece of my heart. What a great way to start a new week, a new month and a new season: surrounded by so much happiness and people I love, no longer preoccupied with the things that caused me so much pain in the past.

A Story, One Year Later

I was running late this morning, stepping on the subway around 8am instead of my usual no-later-than-7:45. At first I was slightly annoyed with myself, as it’s a busy time at work (so basically, business as usual) and I’d wanted to stop at Starbucks for a coffee before the line reached epic proportions, but all of my annoyance rapidly disappeared when I heard the familiar voice over the subway system wishing us all a good morning – my favorite conductor was back! I haven’t heard his voice since one random morning back in November, and before that, since…

It hit me at that moment that the last time he’d been narrating my morning schedule was just about one year ago, when everything in my life was different. I don’t mean the obvious things – less tattoos, longer hair, different job – but the thing that probably shaped my last year more than anything else. This time last year there was a story playing out in my life that had every hint of a happy ending, but instead. Well, let’s just say instead. I’ve never told this story in its entirety here, but it’s one of those stories I’ve wanted to tell for a long time, and now feels like a good moment to get the words out of my head once and for all.

It all started in mid-April of last year, when a red jacket caught the corner of my eye one day while waiting for my typical morning train, hoping I’d catch the one where the conductor wishes you a “beautiful morning.” It was an interesting jacket on what turned out to be a really cute guy, waiting on my subway platform. I entertained the brief funny thought of “what if I met someone on the subway?” and smiled to myself at the ridiculousness of such a notion before pulling out one of my many back issues of Vogue or Vanity Fair that I’d been working to catch up on, having let them pile up for probably four months. My favorite conductor was running things that morning, and in between his cheerful “Good mornings!” at each stop, I stole a few glances at the cute guy; my imagination took over with a few “what ifs” and “wouldn’t it be funnys,” and then he got off the train one stop before I did, and I went back to my magazine, prepared never to see him again, not like I’d recognize him if I did – after all, how many subway strangers do we encounter on a daily basis in this city?

I walked down the steps the next morning, trying not to trip over myself as I pulled out the Vogue and flipped to the dog-eared page to keep reading, when I looked up and saw a flash of a red sleeve in the corner of my eye as I walked to my normal standing spot on the train. “Strange coincidence,” I thought, looking at him quickly again and happily confirming that he was, in fact, still cute. I buried my nose back in the magazine and spent the next three weeks doing the exact same thing every morning. I would walk to the train, either see him immediately and try to strategically position myself “close but not obviously close” so that we’d stand near each other on the train, or get there first and stare down the train tunnel, hoping that when the train doors open he’d appear like he did sometimes, having arrived after me; always my nose was buried in a back issue and we never said a word or even looked at each other, or at least he never caught me staring, so I thought. One morning we were standing next to each other and I tripped into his arms on a jerky train movement, better than if I’d planned it. Embarrassed, I looked at him and apologized breathlessly, but he just smiled and went back to the game on his phone, so I was convinced this crazy crush I was rapidly developing was entirely in my head.

In early May last year, one of the cool spring mornings that turn into a hot afternoon, I realized I was out of magazines. Out! I went to start hunting for my Kindle or a book, but stopped myself after a minute. “Maybe,” I let myself think, “this is the morning he’ll say something.” I was too much of a chicken to make any sort of move, especially because I was still positive it was all in my head, but I let myself play into the “What If” like a teenager dreaming about the magical love story that we learn as adults only exists in Nicholas Sparks novels. I remember exactly what I was wearing that day: my favorite ankle boots that are just tall enough and an at-that-time new maxi dress that I knew looked fantastic. In my last minutes of “should I find a book or not” that morning, I was running a few minutes late, and came down the stairs just in time to see the train arriving; without any time to look for him I got myself to the nearest door and waited for it to open, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw The Child notice me at the door and quickly turned to hide his smile. “Holy shit,” I thought, walking into the train and somehow finding myself next to him, holding the same pole and feeling electric with a nervous energy, “this might not all be in my head.”

We rode the train in silence for the entire ride. He kept trying to catch my eye and smiling, and I was furiously biting my lip trying to suppress my own smile, unable to focus on solitaire on my phone, barely able to look anywhere except my own arm holding the subway pole. We finally pulled into his stop, and I saw him turn towards me, which was not the easiest way for him to get off the train. My heart started pounding, pounding, pounding like a warning, and I heard the buzz of the doors open. I finally looked over at him and he was staring right at me with a smile on his face. He started to walk past me out the door, when he stopped, put his hand on my shoulder, leaned into my ear and said “So I’ll see you tomorrow?” I laughed then, pure joy and relief and something I still can’t define, and told him “I’ll see you tomorrow.” That was it for the first day – we didn’t exchange names, or numbers, or anything other than those words.

I won’t get into the details of the next two months. I don’t want to relive the first two weeks where he said all the right words, how we were in constant contact, hungry to learn anything and everything about the other person as quickly as possible. I don’t want to think any more about our impromptu first date, a walk through the entire city one Tuesday night holding hands, and our first kiss on the corner of 17th and Broadway, or the twelve-hour date where he met my friends and my brother, and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have found him. I don’t want to relive the first time he said just three words to me and how things felt like they were perfect, perfect, things couldn’t get any better or feel any more right. I don’t want to remember how immediately everything changed one Friday night where I left work early to put on makeup and change out of my ripped jeans and he blew me off the whole weekend, 72 hours of silence without an explanation and never an apology. And more than anything I don’t want to think any more about every morning before that day on the subway where he’d put his arm around me and kiss me before walking off the train, and whisper in my ear “I’ll see you tomorrow?” every single time, even if we had plans later that night.

I hadn’t thought about him in months, having long deleted every trace of him from my life after he abruptly left Manhattan for good without saying a thing to me, until I walked onto the train this morning and saw a cute guy walking towards the same door. I had a brief moment of “What if” before cutting that thought short, reminding myself that I’ve done the subway thing and I’ve learned my lesson, to be sure. He ended up standing next to me that whole train ride, and I found that I couldn’t stop reminiscing about this time last year, the exact week before everything started going downhill. It’s true once you notice something that it’s everywhere; now that he’s been on my mind again, if briefly, I keep seeing things around the city that remind me of him, like his haircut I could pick out of a crowd with ease, or his glasses, and there was a moment while writing this post that I had a flashback to the look he would give me on the train when things were still wonderful. It’s the only time in my life anyone has ever looked at me that way and it took months to forget how that look made me feel.

I had a version of this story written in my drafts folder last spring, a complete draft, waiting for the perfect moment to share the Adorable Love Story for the Adorable New Couple, and everyone would get to experience my happiness at no longer being single in the city, and how cute that the girl with the NYC Skyline tattooed on her arm met a boy on the subway. Instead I had to slowly delete bits and pieces until there was nothing left, no trace of his promises anywhere, not in my phone, not in my blog, not in my life. I suppose it’s silly then, to put the good parts, the early story of Us out there now, but it felt important to get the words out of my head once and for all. Plus, I’ve come to realize that I don’t mind reminiscing about the good parts of what happened. It was a great story for a period of time, and in the end I came out a stronger person. He was the first in a trio of men in my life last year to say a lot of things without meaning a single one of them, and he is the one that really instigated my not wanting to date this year. But he also taught me to open myself up to the chance of love again, and instead of dwelling on what went wrong, one year later I want to remember that there are good things out there, if you just take a moment to look up.

Turkey Time!

Hooray for long weekends focused on food and sale shopping! I’m hunkering down in Connecticut with the rest of the family for a few days to rest and recharge on this snowy and cold Thanksgiving week. I’ll be back next week with holiday-themed everything until T tells me to stop (she’s very particular about how/when/where the holidays should be celebrated.

In the meantime, here’s a list of the top things I’m thankful for this year:

  • Surviving #eleven25. Check back next week for details!
  • Little miss and her terrible cuddling skills.
  • Salsa Sun Chips.
  • The new Taylor Swift album.
  • And the new videos too.
  • Sharpie pens. (Have you used them? You’d be thankful too).
  • PLDs. My life wouldn’t be half as fun if I didn’t make a mess of it on the reg.
  • WINE. Always wine. All of the wine.
  • The Nickname Posse. You betches make my life complicated and a million times better, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Family, and especially my Twinster, for being fully on board with my wearing a jumpsuit as her Maid of Honor next year.
  • This Chronicle. What an awesome time I’ve had writing this over the past nine months.

Until next week – Happy Turkey Genocide Day, all!

Waves

Things have been going really well lately. Like, surprisingly well. I’m busy at work which is keeping me engaged and occupied, I’ve been excelling more quickly than I’d anticipated in yoga practice, I’ve had some great time with my family and my friends, and I have some exciting events coming up in the next few weeks, like the shared birthday for my lovely friend M and my work buddy S, and Friendsgiving with the Nickname Posse. The holidays are my favorite time of year, between the food, the family, the time off of work, and of course, the food (I really like eating). I know life isn’t a straight trajectory, marred with surprises and the natural ebbs and flows that come with being emotional creatures, but I was feeling really good about the past few weeks. Up until about 10 last night, when the third straw in an already emotional day nearly put me over the edge.

My partner-in-crime R and my fashionista C probably know better than anyone that things tend to happen in waves, something they reminded me last night as I sat quietly in my apartment, trying to sort through the tangled mess that comes when confronted with life’s inevitabilities. And M made the point that these things tend to happen in threes, two very upsetting pieces of news, and an unwanted email; the first news was bad enough, the second was enough to be a bad wave, and the email was the final straw in unwanted information. I’ve been able to compose myself today, and with everything else on such an upswing for the first time in a very long time, I’m feeling like I know how to handle this particular situation. But it’s hard to have things finally going well, and then to have a wrench thrown in the middle, like a heckler in the punch line of your best performance.

Good things and bad things are a yin and yang that we can’t predict or control. Sometimes you’re on an upswing as simple as the person at Starbucks spelling your name correctly in the morning and finding free snacks in the work kitchen in the afternoon. Sometimes the bad things are as trivial as someone else getting to that subway seat before you do, followed by more dirt in your shower when you get home from work in the evening. Sometimes a text from an old friend will make you smile, and then in that same thought you’re wishing the text came from someone else. Life isn’t perfect any of the time: there’s good moments in the bad weeks, and bad hours in the good days. It’s so easy to seek out the bad in the good, the self-doubt and the second-guessing, but so infrequently do we try and find the good in the bad. I’m working on the latter today, reminding myself that I’ve seen miracles and those miracles gave us four years of borrowed time, and finding relief in an email that finally cuts all ties, removing all traces of his presence in my life so I never have to see him again.

I have a journal that I write in from time to time, a full-secret space where I can use names and talk about work and chronicle my life through my eyes, for my eyes. There was something I wrote just under a year ago, which was a pretty significant time, and the words came back to me last night while texting the girls. Out of context, it reads:

(Autumn, 2013): It moves, undulating like a wave. Up and down, back and forth. Gone and back again. It moves within me, rocking me back and forth on my heels, my toes. Throwing off my balance like a rag doll, all fluid and no bones. I feel like I’m wobbling on a precipice of happiness, depression, healthy and sick. One comes, the other follows. Happiness lurks as depression looms, then dominates loudly and large, bringing healthy with it until I can be healthy no more, when everything rises up again… Happiness is fleeting; it comes and goes as quickly as it came and went the last time. I suppose I’m on the bottom of the curve these days, but if I swing hard enough tomorrow perhaps I’ll land at the top.

I think about two weeks ago in the middle of the months-long funk, I pulled on what was holding me back and swung away from it with a fiery fervor, a Hail Mary, last-ditch, all-or-nothing effort to get myself back on top before this weekend, because this Saturday is going to be an emotional day. I’ve been mentally prepared for the feelings I know are going to surface on Saturday for a few weeks now, knowing it wouldn’t be a sad day, but more a day for deep reflection on how things change as quickly as the second hand of a clock. The waves this week are a blow to the upswing, calling me back to the chaotic ocean without promise of a raft, but the view from the top of the wave is too good to give up. I’m going to keep seeking that good in the bad, finding the small pockets of sunshine where I can and sharing them with the friends and family who need all the positive vibes I can send them right now. And I would ask, for anyone who has a few good vibrations of their own to spare, to send them out to people in your life that need them as much as my people need mine. Because now and then, we can all use a little push from the bottom of the wave.

A.K.A

*Quick aside: thanks to everyone who helped contribute to the post below. I had no idea we were all so creative!

Chick flicks and shows like Sex and the City are widely acknowledged to paint an idealistic picture of dating and single life, a fantasy world that includes a string of perfect or perfectly comedic dates, and plenty of time to rehash all the dirty details with your girlfriends in between. Prior to my current life as single LB, I always assumed these kinds of conversations and dating situations were horribly exaggerated. “After all,” I’d think, “do people really have the time and energy to date more than one person at a time? And does the main character really not see that the guy who keeps popping in and out of her life is treating her like shit?” Shockingly, in my almost-year living as a single girl in the city, I’ve found most of those assumptions are false: people really do meet on the subway, your friend’s ex really will write a song about their breakup, and through the power of texting, you really can rehash everything that happened on that date to your girlfriends at the end of the day.

My favorite assumption that’s been busted in the past year is the idea that women don’t actually assign “Mr. Big” style nicknames to the men in our dating lives. It seemed so silly to pre-single LB, that you’d bypass using someone’s name in favor of a ridiculous alias, like you can’t be bothered to get to know someone well enough to use his real name, when actually, it’s a really fun part of single life. The nicknames aren’t supposed to be dismissive or cruel, nor are they meant to indicate someone isn’t important enough to use his real name in conversation. In fact, it’s really the opposite. Assigning a nickname means this person will likely be discussed somewhat frequently, enough that it’d be too difficult to remember which friend was dating “Will” and which was dating “Tom,” but fairly easy to recall that someone went out with Overalls once last fall and someone else was seeing Cliff until he broke her heart. Aliases make tales from Single Life sound like you’re creating a chick flick from your life, since it’s much funnier to tell the story of Ponytail sending an unsolicited dick pic than to think a guy actually did that to you.

There’s no formula to assigning an alias, no word association game or method to devising one that sticks. Sometimes the names are as simple as his job, like The Banker and FDNY.  Sometimes they’re in reference to where you met, like Subway Boy and Williamsburg. Pretty frequently they’re just nonsense names, like Ham and Mr. Dimples. And every once in a while, it’s something terribly obvious, but more fun to use in silly conversations than his real name, like The Scot. Every alias is attached to a memory, a way to recall how you felt on a date that felt like a cheesy scene from a chick flick, sharing food across the table and laughing the whole time, totally alone in a crowded room. And usually, once a name sticks, it sticks forever; he could change jobs, or move apartments, but his alias remains, until he’s not just a date anymore or until you stop wondering if he’ll reach out. Pending anything really outlandish, the cardinal rule of date-aliases is that they don’t change.

This past weekend, a new code name was created for someone in my life who had been around frequently enough that he’d even made it to first name status in conversations with my girlfriends. What was once a cute nickname, something endearing and fun, tied to memories of 12-hour dates and all the right words, had to change to reflect his actual role in my life. What started as something sweet has turned into something sour, like a spoiled piece of fruit in the back of the fridge that you can’t bring yourself to deal with until it’s too far gone. He’s in my phone now as “DO NOT RESPOND,” an interim step before I delete him completely from my life, unwilling to give him yet another chance he doesn’t deserve. He’s in my conversations now as “The Child,” a reminder that I’ve grown past people refusing to take responsibility for their own actions. I’m sure in future conversations it will be amusing to rehash the stories of how a Child couldn’t even get it together enough to show up to something that he planned, preferring instead to hide behind the safety of a text message excuse and an escape to Brooklyn. After all, it’s much easier to pretend that the past few months were all just a movie, an exaggerated and cautionary tale of dating someone with a silly nickname, than to remember that it all really happened to me.

Tough Love

“No! That’s so selfish. You need to stand up for yourself, this is getting ridiculous.”
“I don’t even think that you should say anything to that”
“At the end of the day, you just have to ask yourself whether that would improve your life or not. And you’re the only one who knows that.”

I’m generally not one for being coddled. As much as I like to hear that I’m always right and obviously perfect, if someone disagrees with me or needs to give me cold dose of reality, I’d prefer they do so, rather than sit on something about which they feel strongly, or stay quiet when they think I’m walking into fire. Be it my work performance, my wardrobe choices, or my indecision related to retrieving missing accessories, I’m usually okay with someone eschewing the “everything is going to be okay” or “you’re always right” in lieu of the truth.

My Nickname Posse, my people, are the best at handing out reality face-palms when I get that dreamy look in my eyes, playing Chicken with the “what ifs” and “why nots.” My lovely friend M in particular is described by mama B (and herself) as a hyper-protective mama bear, having watched me go through so much in the past few years. She let it fly at me earlier this week while I was entangled in a sticky situation, reminding me again and again that I need to look out for myself and I can’t backtrack when I’ve come such a long distance in such a short period of time. To be honest, her words stung for a minute, so I ran to my partner-in-crime R and my fashionista C for different advice, hoping they would tell me that I was right and everything was okay. Instead, they echoed M almost exactly, giving me reality instead of fantasy when it comes to handling my own health and sanity. Stung slightly, my first instinct was to pull away from them, stop sharing my over-analytical thoughts as they unfold in the next few weeks, but the more I tried to convince myself that I know best, the more I realized I don’t.

Exactly a year ago at this moment, I was in the middle of the first break-up with my then-boyfriend, a decision that felt so impossible at the time, pushing me out of a comfort zone into unfamiliar territory of unplanned weekends and nights alone. I remember the first week felt like an eternity; I spent most of those nights buoyed by one of my friends and a lot of alcohol, sometimes crying, mostly trying to figure out what was going to happen, if we would be okay or if this was the forever end. I’ll never forget a night where M came over after a late work shift, nearly 11 p.m. on a weeknight, and held me as I rocked back and forth, wrapped in his tattered grey sweatshirt, sobbing that I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know what to do, I just didn’t know what to do. She let me cry until I couldn’t, listened to my “What Ifs” and “But Maybes” patiently, and when I finally lifted my head, she looked me square in the eye and said “You know I love you and will support any decision you make. But you were doing this when you guys were together, too. Shouldn’t that tell you what you need to do?”

Sometimes I wish I’d listened to her then, instead of spending the next three months trying to salvage something that was broken beyond repair. But I wasn’t ready for tough love at that point, at least not from her. I was holding on to the life I’d spent three years building in the city instead of looking forward to possibilities. And looking back, it’s okay that I wasn’t ready to give up that life when given that opportunity, but sometimes I look back again and I wish, I wish, I wish I had. So it’s strange now, a year later, to be in a very different place receiving very similar advice. I’m dancing around the same edge, holding on to the same idea that there’s something I can fix on my own, without taking the other parts of the equation into consideration; namely: I can’t daydream my way into a happy ending.

Tough love stings, it burns, and it wants you to pull away furiously from the person holding your hand, gently trying to lead you into an obvious realization that you can choose to be happy above all things. Tough love is like ripping a bandaid off what used to be a bad wound, so nervous that it’s too soon and then so relieved when it’s over.  I’m not saying I agree with the Nickname Posse all the time, or that they will always understand every aspect of the decisions that I make – after all, they may see me in the bad times, hysterically sobbing on my couch, but they don’t see me in the best times, enjoying sushi after a major score on $1 records, nestled in strong arms on my couch at 2 a.m. after the first I-maybe-love-you. In the end, decisions about my life will always be mine. But it will always be nice to know that the people that love me, love me enough to tell me “no” when I don’t want to hear it, tell me to “snap out of it” when I start to daydream about perfect, and tell me “I’ll always be there for you” when I need to hear it the most.

Shiny!

I was standing on the subway recently, trying to find a good spot to stare so I wouldn’t make awkward eye contact with anyone, when I noticed I wasn’t wearing a necklace. It wasn’t a big deal, obviously (I would hope that was obvious), but for a few months I’d been wearing this tarnished old Marc Jacobs pendant daily, something I’ve had since college. It’s just a tiny gold chain, perfect for everyday wear, and my mind wandered to why I’d taken it off in the first place. It wasn’t the gym the night before (because I hadn’t gone), or before taking a shower (because I hadn’t, thank god for maxi dresses, amirite?), and not before bed (because if I can’t remember to take my makeup off, expectations at remembering jewelry removal are nil). In fact, now that I was on a train-of-thought roll as I fixed my eyes on a funny Seamless ad, I hadn’t been wearing it for a while and had no idea where it was.

I’d like to reiterate that none of that is profound. My commute is 45 minutes, I’m finally caught up on all my back issues of Vogue and VF, and at that point I really had nothing else to do but think about nonsense. But it was funny not to be wearing a necklace that day because for years I always wore one. The very first thing my ex ever gave me was a beautiful silver Tiffany anchor necklace for my 22nd birthday, which I donned immediately and almost never took off. Over the years he added to my jewelry collection, more silver pieces perfect for everyday wear, and I wore them with pride every day we were together.

After we broke up I tucked them safely into a pouch in the back of my jewelry box, but not having a necklace or a ring felt very strange, since I’d been wearing the same ones for three plus years and they were pretty conspicuous in their absence at that point. Digging through a tangle of chains and charms I haven’t organized in an embarrassingly long time, I found the gold chain and a few old rings I’d forgotten I owned, and started wearing them daily, a way to get myself to stop subconsciously feeling for that light silver anchor or twist the phantom ring around my right finger. As the months went on, I noticed the rings and necklaces were a part of my everyday wear less and less, swapping the simple chain for a bold statement, keeping my arms bare of anything but my new gold watch.

I think for a long time, wearing the same jewelry everyday was like a security blanket, a small reminder of something that made me happy if things got a little stressful or crazy. I’ve been like that with jewelry for years, wearing the same bracelet every time I have a big presentation, wearing the same earrings every time I’ve interviewed for a job. The security and comfort of something ‘lucky’ or familiar is great, but it can backfire, raising anxiety on days you forget to attach the clasp before walking out the door for work. As the months have passed, it’s been very odd learning how to mix up accessories again, unaccustomed as I am to styling an outfit with a statement necklace or ring rather than just wearing the same things every day. But it’s also been really fun, like an adult version of Pretty Pretty Princess where even the black ring can be a good thing.

Fortunately for all of us, I’ve found another way to occupy my morning commute that doesn’t involve nonsense trains of thought related to what I’m wearing. But in case you were wondering, I did put the Marc Jacobs back on – just for today.

Alley-oop

When you drop a basketball onto a hard surface, the ball obviously doesn’t just hit the ground and start rolling, or bounce back to your grasp and stay there. The ball bounces once, then again a bit lower, and again, and again, until it starts rolling away from you, onto the next person or next location. I never gave this phenomenon much thought, because let’s be real, why would I, but it popped into my mind recently as an interesting allegory to other aspects in life. More specifically, it came up as I was thinking about everyone’s favorite post-relationship phase: the rebound.

I mean maybe not everywhere...

I mean maybe not everywhere…

For a long time, I assumed this phase was something tangible and noticeable, an actual relationship of sorts that can be defined as the official “Rebound” from a heartbreak. But rebounds are less concrete, happening in waves, much like the basketball bounces that get lower and lower. The first one is bigger than you’re expecting: it’s sooner than you thought possible and also more intense, pushing out memories of the broken relationship by forming new ones, first time you meet, first kiss, first sleepover. It’s seeing the person every weekend, twice per weekend, while thoughts of “what is this?” permeate your life, raising all sorts of questions: is this really happening? is this even real? But what goes up must come down, and eventually the rebound is just that: after the initial excitement of Someone New wears off, the flaws come out. Sure, he’s successful and smart, the views from his TriBeCa apartment are amazing and you get along really well. But it’s not the right thing and it never will be, and that’s okay. So you move on.

The next bounce is smaller and fades faster, fueled by great chemistry and hindered by timing. It carries through to the next few mini-bounces, hope goes up when you go on that date, laughing and joking and enjoying yourself the whole time, but back to bouncing when it’s another week, another week, another week where you just can’t seem to get the timing right. It might happen again, another bounce, another date, but eventually it’s time to take a step back and consider how much effort you want to put into something that maybe isn’t working out. It’s a rebound from the rebound: taking a step out of your comfort zone yet again, finding just a little more about yourself, and figuring out just a little more where you want the ball to roll next.

Personally, I think the rebound phase is important to the healing process, a way to lick the wounds from a broken relationship and learn about yourself and your needs so you can move on. It’s easy to forge an emotional connection with someone when you know all the wonderful things that come with a committed relationship, but it’s difficult to form any real attachment when half the time you’re comparing him to your ex, and the other half you’re trying to figure out what it is you really want. Rebounds make it easier to get used to the tangled world of dating as a 20-whatever, the emotional highs of a new connection, the lows when you realize there’s no expiration date on being single, and the confusing middle ground when you’re just not interested someone and you don’t know why.

Eventually the momentum fades and the ball stops rolling, no longer bouncing, bouncing, bouncing into the confusing world of the not-relationship. There’s a settled feeling as you wait in the wings, you cease craving the emotional connection you lost in the big break-up because you know what you want, deserve, and need for the next person that picks up the ball. Rebounds are that way to settle slowly into a single life, a way to confront what dissatisfied you about a previous relationship and walk away from it without becoming an emotional mess.

I don’t know if there’s a name for this next phase, the post-rebounding, where you’re waiting for someone special to surprise you, rather than looking for someone who will pay attention to you. Right now it’s nice to let events play out as they will – after all, once you’re done bouncing, you never know when it might happen that someone will pick up the ball again. It could take weeks; it could take months. It might even be sparked by something as simple and silly as a smile from a very cute stranger on your morning commute.