The mirror that I get ready in front of each morning hangs on the back of my door, surrounded by things I love. Photos of people I know and those I aspire to be like, quotes from calendars four years old and fortune cookies that wished me well, notes from my friends and family, postcards from places I’ve never been — they all are taped and tucked in the edges of a cheap white-framed mirror that came with the first apartment I had in New York.
Maybe mementos are as much a part of my design scheme as the color purple, which captures my attention more than any other shade, for a reason I don’t understand (I hardly wear purple!). I like to be reminded of things that make my happy and as a writer, nothing touches me more than encouraging or engaging words of others, or photos that speak more than any blog could detail. One of the items that I’ve kept around since before college is a bookmark my dad gave me when he was sick and could only express himself through gifts — his own voice too weakened to speak. With a fuzzy beaded tassel and a rainbow in the background, it read the serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
It’s most well-known as the mantra of Alcoholics Anonymous, but the hope goes for anyone who is trying to overcome anything — where it be a dream passed by or a relationship gone dry. The latter for me, is the most difficult right now.
I hate still writing about him and I hate more that the emotions that invoke me the most to type on these pages are the ones I try to hide from everyone who knows me best. They are the hidden wounds I only let out at nighttime when I’m alone in my room, listening to my roommate play piano and sing with her adorable boyfriend, wishing that things could have just been different with Mr. P. Finally, I’m mature enough to realize that our demise had nothing to do with me and I don’t blame myself for the ending, nor do I want to return to a dysfunctional, one-sided relationship, but it’s my own thoughts-of-what-could-have-been that keep me awake at night and require under eye creme each morning.
Accepting that you can’t change another person, that you can’t love them enough to make them love you in return, that you can’t hold so tight that they see you as irreplaceable, that you can’t turn someone into a better version of themselves, no matter how many letters you write, emails you send, voicemails you leave or love you make with them — takes serenity. It requires constant mental reminders that you’re worth more, that lack-luster anything is just that – lacking of the beautiful luster that comes from a partnership worth the work. Letting go of someone who never latched on to you emotionally can make you feel like it was impossible for someone to fall in love with you, but that’s when that courage comes in. That’s when you have to be brave enough to realize that while this person wasn’t right for you, no matter how much you believed they could be, if history proves anything, it’s that once we love someone, we can always love someone else. It often gets better and stronger every time around.
But only if we are wise enough to realize the difference between what we can change and what we can’t. In every relationship, it’s the different between knowing you can only control yourself and your actions, not a guy’s decisions and his emotions. And if he isn’t giving you what you want or what you deserve, your only option is to walk away, even if that’s the hardest task of all.
Outside of my favorite pub in midtown east, a tad tipsy from cheap white wine and Blue Moon, I looked inside to see my favorite girls laughing and bundling up in their coats and scarves and then outside to the city that makes me feel at home, and though I was tempted to text the only man I’ve loved in New York, the frustration and the trouble that always comes from contacting him, kept me from pushing send.
Because these women always keep me laughing, these streets breathe new life into me, and I’m lucky enough to know the difference between the things that are good for me and the things that are bad. And since no one I care about would ever try to change me, I can’t expect to change someone I once (and let’s be honest, still do) cared for deeply, it’s not what is best for me or for him. But I can change myself and my perspective – simply by looking at all that I have around me. The serenity is there, if I’m brave enough to look for it.
And maybe someday, there will be a someone who will bring that same serenity, without having to change either of us, at all.