How I Became Best Friends with My (Then)-Boyfriend’s Ex

dater-diary-embed-my-ex-is-my-bffA month after I started my blog in 2010, I took the bus from JFK into the city. As I got on the bus in my Jessica Simpson slingbacks (ridiculous, I know), the driver took zero pity on me and took off. I went crashing with my bag and my floppy hat right into the aisle. I looked up and locked eyes with a blue-eyed hunk who simply asked, “You alright?” before helping me to my feet.

I didn’t know it then, but that was the day I met my very first New York love, Scott.

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Finding My Way Back to Me

Wrapped up in the warmth of moment you know doesn’t come around very often, I closed my eyes and listened to the gentle crashing of the waves.

My best friend was breathing deeply next to me, slowly falling into the slumber the comes so easy when you’ve spent the day absorbing the sun and the fun of a place that’s not your home and relishing in the whirlwind of a few days that came and went faster than either of us thought they would. I felt the sand blow up against my sunburnt calves and the subtle spray of the ocean barely touching my skin, and I exhaled the biggest breath I have in what feels like forever.

I opened my eyes and tried to count the seemingly endless stars above me – their tapestry fascinating me and reminding me of the Southern upbringing I’m continuously thankful for. Their flicker and gaze didn’t remind me of the city I love – in fact, I hadn’t missed much about New York in the last five days. My Mexican oasis with my dearest friend in Manhattan had arrived at the most serendipitous time and more than anything else, it got me away from the constant rush and pressure of a life that yes, I created, but also, I was exhausted of. As difficult as it is to look out from underneath my rose-colored glasses and to unravel the picturesque story I’ve depicted of my grand escape from North Carolina to find success in the Big Apple – the reality of my life isn’t always so, well, peachy.

Over the last few months, I’ve not only grown frustrated and tired, wondering – and worrying – that my day-to-day would always be unfulfilling and unoriginal. Taking the same subway to the same place and back to the same apartment, walking a pup for probably the thousandth time, going on yet another boring date that might result in a kiss I’ll be sorry I wasted lipstick on. While I’m one of the rare breeds who does enjoy the challenge and stress of my job – when last Thursday rolled around and M and I’s flight to Mexico was about to take flight – I took great pleasure in turning off my Blackberry.

But, laying there in that cabana bed at 9 at night, equally exhausted and entirely at ease, full of food that wasn’t great and drinks that were, I didn’t concentrate on those negative thoughts I have let consume my focus lately. I didn’t think about the mess of my apartment or my mind. Or my heart. I didn’t think about turning 25 in September and the fear that another two years will come and go without another love to call my own since Mr. P. I didn’t think of him either. I didn’t think of my lack of savings or idea of my next steps or my next changes or my next choices. I didn’t think of my constant need to boost my own confidence and stop comparing myself to other ladies. I didn’t think about being good enough or pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or resilient enough – or anything enough.

Instead, I felt my eyes well up with tears with so much thanks for everything I’ve been taking for granted.

For every last blessing I haven’t been counting, for every wish that I once had that has actually, truly and sometimes incredibly, has come true. For the best friends, like M, who remind me of the beauty in everything, and especially in patience. For the paychecks that make living in New York possible from a job – a career – that supports and encourages me. For the love of a little dog that keeps me warm at night and smiling on the street at 7 a.m., without makeup, without any care at all. For the love I’ve been lucky to experience — even if it has washed away like the tide in front of me, I do know that the tide always comes back. For the apartment that keeps me cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s not, and the friendly folks who make me cleaner than I really am. For this blog that lets me express everything I can never verbalize in any manner that makes sense. For the family who may be very far away, but never that far from my heart.

For this five-day escape that made me realize how much I needed to get away from the city…. and also from myself.

This vacation was what I needed, even if I didn’t expect it to be as luxurious or wonderful as it turned out to be. I had not only needed the company of someone who knows me, who forgives me, who reminds me to relax (and take more tequila shots) – but I had needed to let go of it all. I needed those waves – and those margaritas – to wash away my funk. To cleanse me of my selfish attitude, of my bitter thoughts, of my fears that have no place in the back or the front of my mind. I had needed the sun to warm my heart up again – to remind it of what it feels like to be free and though imperfect (and maybe a little scarred), still vibrant, still full of the love that makes me…. me. I had needed space to recognize the gifts I’ve been given, the people who make me whole, the hope that makes me feel alive.

And underneath that moonlight, talking about nothing at all, I felt that hope come back to me. I felt my faith rekindle and my soul bubble with happiness. As we walked away to our beautiful home-away-from-home (complete with an outdoor shower and Jacuzzi!), I said a little prayer to remember this tiny piece of time. To remember the release I can give myself, to remember how to let go of the bad and feel the good again. To remember to breathe.

Because even though vacations (sadly) can’t last forever and like all important things, moments pass and change, just like friendships, just like your hopes and dreams, just like the best (and strongest) of loves – if you’re able to let yourself learn and let go, then you’re able to do anything. If you’re able to find gratitude in everything and anything, then you can always be under that cascading drapery of stars, you can always hear the calm and sudden rush of the ocean, you can always feel the sun on your back, you can always feel the comfort of the people you love near you.

You can always find your way back to yourself, even if you’ve been missing for a long time.

Last Single Girl Standing

Waiting for my doorbell to ring the day after New Year’s, I anxiously anticipated the arrival of one of my dearest best friends, M. We were ordering cheap Chinese, exchanging Christmas presents and catching up about the 10-plus days we spent apart – something we never, ever do except during the holidays.

She’s a girl who is as much fun as she’s dependable and honest – always giving you the support you want with a side of healthy reality that you need. We’ve been through the trenches together, had a knockdown, drag-out, three-hour-long fight in my bathroom — telling each other what we really think — helped each other move and build furniture, pick the other one up when they couldn’t walk home (whoops) and brought pizza when a breakup was enough to break us. New York has always felt like home to me, but it wasn’t until I found my partner in crime – and for sharing margs and guac weekly – that I really felt like I could settle into my city. There’s something about having a best friend that lets you let down your guard and know that even if the guys suck, the job is tough or the tummies pooch – you have someone who will love you unconditionally, make sure you get over yourself and remember how great you are, too.

Maybe it’s my hidden jealous side that I try to keep at bay or just the fear of losing something that’s precious to me – but I was nervous about M coming over that night. I knew we’d have a great time because we always do – yet I also knew I was about to receive a piece of news that I didn’t quite want to hear. And not because it was bad news (it was in fact exciting and amazing) but because I knew it would change things.

You see, M has always been my single friend.

The gal who encouraged me to dance a little more, stay out a little longer, give that short guy a chance or walk out of a date if it was bad (and meet her for martinis after). The one who would let me analyze everything to death and talk it into the ground, and then match my stories with ones as terrible as my own. If not more awful at times. The one who was there to swap our silly dating troubles, edit each other’s online dating profiles and talk about how weird it’d be when one of us got a boyfriend.

And weird it is.

I haven’t met her new beau — we’ll call him Mr. Bear — but I’ve never seen her so bubbly and giggly, and yes, because it’s M, a little uncomfortable with the whole thing. Since I knew it was coming (something in my gut just told me so), when she arrived — grinning from ear to ear — I went for it head on:

Do you have a boyfriend? I quizzed directly. Coyly, she tucked her hair behind her ear and nodded, Yes, I have a boyfriend. He asked if it was for real — and it is!

A real relationship is exactly what she needed and though she’ll hate me for saying it on this blog – something she’s been wanting for a while. She’s flown solo for a long time – five years! – and I knew her bright, shining “one day” would come along sooner than later. I also knew it’d take a special guy who could be tender with her while also challenging her in the way that keeps her intrigued. When we were tipsy off of wine one time – we made predictions about the guy we’d date next: she said my guy would be one of those goofy, slightly nerdy, but handsome and tall and unbearably kind kind of guys. I said she wouldn’t like her guy right away (she didn’t care for Mr. Bear at first), but that his charm, his sweetness and the way they connected would bring them together. And make her eventually give in.

I like being right – but I can’t lie that when my suspicions of her new relationship were confirmed, I felt a little disappointed. Maybe disappointed isn’t the right word per se – maybe more like: Oh god! I’m the last single girl standing! What if she disappears into the couple nook and I don’t see her for months because she spends so much time with him? What if she changes from the outgoing, fun girl that makes me a better, more relaxed person into a girl I don’t even recognize? What if she starts doing double dates with all of our friends with boyfriends and I’m forever the third wheel?

What if I lose my best friend?!

But when I looked at her – blushing and probably a little nervous to tell me about her new beau –considering I’ve been in the market for one of my own for a while, too – I swallowed my pride. And instead of seeing my fears and the envy I felt boiling – I felt something different: happiness. This man has brought her something that I can’t, that I wouldn’t want to bring – and for the first time in a long time, she looked at ease. She looked like she was bursting with stories to tell, incredible new experiences to tell me about, romantic encounters that of course, she has to share with her best friend. (Especially a friend who loves love to a disturbing, addicted degree.) I saw in her what I miss feeling myself: hope. Anticipation. Excitement. Wishful thinking. Love.

And so, I stopped thinking about what I don’t have (yet) to be a great listener to someone who has always listened to me. Because though she’s my best friend, her relationship isn’t about me and the choices she makes because of it aren’t up to me, either – it’s a new unchartered territory for her to explore with someone she could one day really, truly care about. And while I may wish for something similar of my own, I more so wish for continued glee – and a very long honeymoon stage – for M and Mr. Bear.

So when do I get to meet him?? I asked, matching her smile and giving her a much-delayed hug.

I may be the last single gal standing of my group of gals – but I’m proud to stand by them. And – I guess — their boyfriends, too.