After my first post break-up kiss with a near stranger, I scurried home close to 1 a.m. on Saturday night, prepared to sleep in super late to catch up on lost shut-eye. You can guess my blighted hope when I got up, finally, after an hour or so of tossing and turning, around 8 a.m. Tired of wrestling with my thoughts and sheets, I decided to be productive and clean everything in my apartment I could reach.
After scrubbing the bathroom nearly from top to bottom, vacuuming my room with a nifty sucker for hardwood floors (who knew?), I showered in a hurry, dressed in a rush and headed out the door to meet R and M for brunch at one of our favorite places. Deciding the subway was too cramped and the weather was too nice to pass up, I decided to walk nearly 30 blocks in my fall wedges. But even the bright blue sky and cotton-like fresh air couldn’t lift me high enough to rise above the anger boiling inside of me.
I’ve tried – I really have. I’ve made lists of things I have to be happy about, I’ve declared my newly adopted Zen attitude toward my life to anyone who will listen. I’ve refrained from contacting Mr. P, I’ve tried to take a higher road instead of saying what it is I really feel. But all these efforts have kept me from…well, saying what I feel. Or really experiencing the motions, the stages, the terrible aftermath of a love that turned into a not-so-beautiful disaster (sorry, Kelly).
I didn’t fool my friends though. After a few sangrias and some bra shopping at Vickie’s, R settled into my apartment to escape an unexpected downpour. Proudly playing some empowering music, R sweetly looked at me and asked: “Aren’t you sad though, Linds? Aren’t you disappointed? It’s okay to cry about it. You don’t have to be so strong. We’ll all understand.” Then today, after book club with A, M and K, M asked about how I was dealing on the train back home.
My face flushed and I quickly gave a short speech that after second thought, sounded rather rehearsed and scripted: “There are good days and bad days, times where I’m alright and times where I’m not. But I’m fine, really.” She turned her head sideways and questioned me (she’s good at that): “But I think you’re sad because you think you should be, and then you’re ‘Zen’ because you think should be. The only thing you should be is how you feel – whatever that is.” Again, I brushed off her words as carelessly as I did R’s and changed the subject to hiring interns.
The truth is I don’t know how I feel. R’s right, I’m disappointed and M’s right too, I try to be mature and collected, not let it affect me too much, but that isn’t always what I personally express in privacy. Part of it is my own pride – I don’t want to let a heartache get under my skin because I envision Mr. P as actually fine and coping easier than I am. I see him finally having the freedom he seemed to so badly desire while we were together, when he would eye other women, and that’s what I imagine him doing just so: picking up chicks for the sake of picking up women, without any regard to how his heart feels. That is, if his heart is suffering at all in comparison to mine.
But it’s not a competition. I shouldn’t compare breaking up notes – especially when I can’t see his, considering we aren’t speaking. Rationally, I realize my ridiculousness, and I think that’s partly my problem: I understand that eventually I’ll feel less disposable and more dignified. I know that I’ll validate my own self-worth instead of wondering when he’s going to send the “I’m so sorry” email or I’ll run into him the same way I ran into Mr. Fire and he told me I was the one who got away. I know I’ll be moved on and happy, settled into my life – single or taken – and Mr. P will finally realize what he had, when at some point, he had me.
Then again – maybe he won’t. Our ending wasn’t what I expected, and there is no guarantee of the days, the months, the years to come. Relationships don’t always end with a pat on the back, a wish of good-luck and fortune and then placed on the shelf, categorized alphabetically. Two people don’t always feel the same way about one another, some feel different levels of love than most, and some people, sadly, don’t love themselves enough to ever give someone else the love he/she deserves. It’s a sad and awful truth, but one that so many lie to themselves about to be comforted. There may be another Lindsay to step into Mr. P’s life and be that same saving grace I was for nearly a year – but he may never value the place I held in a way that I think pays tribute to what we had. I can’t match our perceptions of the relationship we shared, and I shouldn’t need him to apologize to validate what I felt. Or to make the relationship, the love, seem as real in his eyes as it did in mine.
But I feel like I do. I want him to want me even though I don’t want him, just to feel wanted. That’s about as honest as I can put it into words. I could break out into song singing “Cry” by Faith Hill – but I do refuse to go that backwards into my Southern roots. At least for the time being, anyway.
Maybe it gets more difficult to suffer the older we get, or maybe we just choose to suffer in privacy. Maybe we still have those emotional outbursts that are unfounded and out of control, but we scream into our pillows instead of into the phone. Maybe instead of sending hate e-mail to exes, we send it to our friends so it’s read, but safe in their inbox where it can’t come back to hurt us again. Maybe we still eat far more calories than we burn, but it’s done carefully by nibbling at a single cookie at book club or accepting an offer of M&M’s at work from a co-worker. Maybe we still feel all those painful and tiring stages of releasing someone who once felt vital in the intricate design of our existence – but we don’t share them because it feels too personal to display such grief. Maybe we still harbor resentment and bitterness, but we know better than to let it get the best of us if we ever want to rise above.
But maybe we don’t really rise above much in terms of love. Maybe instead, that’s just called growing up and moving on because we realize there are so many more important things in life than the end of a relationship that was never meant to be, anyway.