Happy After Him

Not everyone has the luxury of their exes going to Singapore and France for a year.

But I do.

It had been many months of silence between Mr. Possibility and I, when last Sunday I received an email at 9 a.m. I wasn’t yet awake when I read it for the first time, and it was only when I dreamt about Mr. P until noon, that I realized it was real, not something my hungover-self imagined.

The email was short and sweet, saying everything I’ve needed to hear since we broke up. It’s true that people can surprise you, and for the first time, maybe ever, Mr. P did just that. Before getting up to greet the day, I probably read those five paragraphs a dozen times — savoring the sincerity and feeling so happy that while it absolutley touched my heart…

… it didn’t break it. Instead of those old, familiar feelings of longing, I felt something else: closure.

It’s an odd word and odd thing to request of someone you used to be with, but it’s something we all wished we could have more of. Some of my friends don’t believe it’s important to make amends, others are convinced no story ever has an official end, that as long as we’re open to something — or rather, someone — then anything can come to be.

I think more along the lines of: tie-a-pretty-bow around everything and make sure everyone is happy with the outcome and has warm, loving feelings and memories from the time we spent together. I’m obviously the least realistic in my views about breakups, hence why most of them don’t stick for the first few months and why I usually end up disappointed — again and again — by someone who I broke up with for… well, continually disappointing me.

Shocking, right?

While I’ve dated other people and forgiven Mr. P — I never felt like he gave me the things, the words I needed to completely move on. It’s not his responsibility, I realize, it’s totally mine– but yet, I hoped one day, he’d come around and see things differently.

And just like that, with his passport ready to go, he did.

I spent a good portion of the day mulling over the email, trying to figure out if I should respond, opening myself up to a possible downward spiral of bad decisions or if I should just take the letter for what it’s worth and cherish it. I didn’t want to get back into a mess I worked so (incredibly!) hard to get myself out of. But on the other hand– I knew I’d regret it if something happened to him on his overseas educational excursion and I never thanked him or told him goodbye.

And so, standing on one foot, baking cupcakes and trying to get my senses about me, I called a number I wish I didn’t have memorized.

He left on Saturday and he won’t be back until next summer. With him goes a piece of my heart, just like pieces are still in North Carolina from past loves. I said a prayer to keep him safe while finds the person he’s been trying to find for nearly 32 years… and then I felt a tremendous weight lift off of me. I felt freedom.

The city is mine again. There are no opportunities to run into him, perhaps with a new girl he’s seeing, at some place we both happen to like. There is no late night drunken temptations to fight when loneliness wins over logic. There is no way to go backwards when the past is so far away, you can’t hop on the subway to see it. There is no need to wonder if it’s the end when the only thing ahead is tomorrow. There is no questioning what could have been or should have been or will be, when I can actually see our lives going in different directions. Him to faraway schools and places, me to the job I love and city that loves me.

Because I’m overly romantic for my own good, I went to Bryant Park — a place that holds so many memories between Mr. P and I. It’s the place we had out first date — which was meant to be a quick
coffee and turned into a six-hour conversation followed by Chinese food. It’s where he took me, six months after that day, when it was absolutely freezing and I only stopped complaining about wanting to go inside when he spun me around, dipped and kissed me and said: “It’s been six months today.” It’s the place we went ice skating and drank hot chocolate together, the place he laid his head in my lap in the grass while we both read our news source of choice and kissed me in between pages. It’s the place I always thought he’d propose, if our relationship ever grew to that, if he could ever open his heart wide enough to let me in.

For a long time, even nearly a year after we have been broken up, Bryant Park was a difficult place for me to go. It reminded me of the love that went wrong, the foolish mistake I made of hanging on for far too long. It reminded me of everything I loved and hated about Mr P, and how I was convinced our memories in this park meant far more to me than they ever did to him.

And those same feelings came rushing back when I set foot yesterday. But instead of being bittersweet, painful memories– they were happy ones. Loving ones. They were memories I shared with a man who made a big impact on my life, who showed me that I really can love unconditionally. They remind me of the smile I used to love to watch, and the intimate moments and conversations we shared in this NYC landmark. They reminded me of the very first love I found in this city, and made me excited about the next. They reminded me that I meant something to someone, something more than he ever let me know until recently. They reminded me that while only one love truly last forever, the ones before still have significance.

They reminded me of the man who is now far away, much like he always was in some way, that while he couldn’t be how he wanted or how I needed, he did love the best he could. He says he doesn’t read this blog anymore — he wanted to give me privacy to sort through my emotions how I do best — but if he happens to stumble across this one, I hope he knows I wish for him the same thing I’ve always wished for him: happiness. Because after a long time, after lots of wondering and pain, he’s finally help me find my happy after him.

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And Then I Met Him at Bryant Park

It’s too soon, I thought inching my way closer to Bryant Park. Why meet at this park, near this time of the year, when everyone is overflowing with warmth and rosy cheeks? It hasn’t been long enough for me to recover, why am I doing this?

I heard my heels against the pavement and felt my phone vibrating in my pocket — the emails could wait, it was time to face him. I made the decision to go here, I willingly agreed to be on time and bring my best self, and I needed a few moments before walking up the steps. You can do this. You were made to do this. You are beautiful and strong, there is no reason why you can’t smile when you see him. Breathe Lindsay, breathe, I encouraged myself as I turned my head, black-and-red umbrella in hand and caught a glimpse of him. I gasped as my heart sank and then exhaled when I felt the tension break.

He looks great. He looks happy and fresh, shining as brightly as a freshly-pressed suit from Bloomies. Is it possible he looks kinder? Did I never notice that sweetness in his eyes before? Goodness, after all this time, you’d think I would have. I approached him carefully, cursing myself for wearing heels on a rainy day when I just shelled out for a lovely pair of Michael Kors boots that would have been perfect — but I needed to look gorgeous on this night. I had to feel like a better version of myself, I needed to let the parts that weren’t fragile or mending highlight my energy. The first words were awkward and I found myself cautiously grinning, uncomfortable with my choice concerning this encounter. He was understanding of my hesitation and led me through the park gently, as pop-up store clerks greeted me with weary grins on this rainy night. Weather suitable for how I feel, I thought.

But he was different tonight and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Perhaps he was calmer or more collected, less frantic and more together. He was gracious to the tourist, but had the same attitude about him that I first fell in love with. We didn’t talk much as we walked, but rather we observed this park that we mutually adored — both for its beauty and for the memories it brings. For each of us, I think, the visions of those little tables and waving trees in summer and winter, fall and spring, are as brilliant as they are bittersweet, but that’s what relationships weather, seasons of change.

After some wandering through escalating water sprawled on the sidewalks, we decided to do something that’s usually only reserved for drunken nights or moments of complete convenience and hunger: walk through Times Square. Without much to say and wanting to keep the pace quiet through a crowded place, we listened to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as we explored. He was a gentleman and led me through the least trafficked areas while being genial with my umbrella as winds whipped between building tops. With him by my side, even in his silence, I felt relaxed and peaceful, and I wondered why I had been so distant for so long. I couldn’t fight the urge to tell him how sorry I was for being cruel and cold, for not answering calls or listening to my desires because I feared how I would feel afterwards. I confessed that I had often thought of him in those lonely, empty hours inside of my apartment with no roommates around, with no one close by, and that I couldn’t count how many times I nearly hopped the subway to surprise him.

He returned the sentiments – telling of times when he wondered where I was or when I’d return to him. He reminded me of the home we built, the time we spent and the relationship we put so much effort into fostering. We talked about the good times – at that glorious Bryant Park and at Rockefeller Center, on the Highline, walking around Chelsea and the Village and discovering neighborhoods that I’d never known. As he spoke, I started to feel guilty for my absence and for those doubting thoughts – had he really been that bad? Was it his fault? Maybe I had been a little too harsh in this situation. 

Before I could let my emotions get the best of me, I knew I needed to eat – only eating a salad and some cashews for 12-hours doesn’t do this gal’s body good. I offered to buy him pizza at the next 99 cent shop we passed and he gladly accepted the challenge of finding a no-name place in some corner of the wall of some street in the heart of Times Square. When we found it, I giggled at the cliché – here we were, making another impression on one another that neither would be able to forget. Maybe this was a bad idea after all, maybe it is too soon, I wondered as I waited on my mushroom-and-olive slice that definitely broke my new diet. I didn’t care though, I wanted to savor something I love, like pizza and of course, him.

As we walked under the umbrella, finishing our slices and approaching the train, I wondered if this was where the story would end. A brave, brief rendezvous with so much communication, though no one could hear it but us. I craved to be with him more, but my feet hurt and my heart was reluctant to continue an affair that I knew could be difficult to endure. I had allowed him to break my heart before, I had shunned him and been less than forgiving – would anything really change if I kept seeing him? Or maybe I’ve just been listening to all the wrong voices, all the wrong advice, and letting all the wrong people into the places and relationships I value the most.

And then, he wanted to walk me to my door. Considering that required a ride uptown, I questioned his motives. He promised not to come up because surely, he couldn’t – but he just wasn’t ready for the night to end. I was uncertain if the magic of the evening could continue past Central Park, but something inside begged me to take the chance. And so, we caught the train. We read New York magazine and he glowed at the several articles about himself – still arrogant, I thought. Approaching my stop, a warrior for the homeless entered the doors, offering warm food and crackers to those without raincoats or cheese-and-dough filled bellies, a meal for the evening. I thought it was kind until I heard him say he was homeless too, and then I found it inspiring. Without consideration, we gave change and admired the giving and concerned faces of those across from us. The splendor of the season reflected off of their faces and came out as pennies of hope from their pockets.

When the doors opened and we turned our faces up to greet raindrops, we found there were none. I put away my umbrella and walked as slowly as I could, though inside my toes were pinching in their soggy soles. There wasn’t much left to say as we stood in front of my doorway, except for promises to be made. I swore to not let anything come between us again and he swore to continue to give me evenings like this one. I promised to be more forgiving and allow him back into my life, even if I was afraid, and he promised he would always be there, no matter what happened. There was no kiss or hug, just a mutual sense of relief and that undesirable feeling of peace that only he can bring to my soul.

It really had been too long and yet, maybe it was too soon, I concluded as I pushed the 7th floor button. But really, I could never have let Mr. P come between me and him–my New York–for long. Cheap dollar pizza and Bryant Park? My first love has always been this place — and it was time to stop letting memories have anything to do with guys I’ve dated, and let them be about the man, the city, that first stole my heart. 

Lesson from Mr. Unavailable

Since I moved to the city, I haven’t exactly had the best luck in dating. Hence, part of why I’m writing this blog. I had this unrealistic notion that once I moved to my dream location, my dream guy would show up too.

Maybe a little idealistic of me? Yeah –I’ll admit that (it is after all, what recovery is about). My mother went as far to tell me I’d meet Prince Charming at JFK on March 14, when my plane landed in my new home.

Nice in theory –but the reality couldn’t have been further from the truth. However, the men I have met while I’ve been here the last six months have had a common theme.

They’ve all been completely unavailable.

Either literally –because they’ve had girlfriends or wives, or emotionally -because they just got out of a serious relationship or because they’re just not looking for a special someone at this time.

None of these guys have been particularly rude or nasty –they have all, in fact, been very kind and openly honest. They have poured out their hearts and their souls or spoken of their leading ladies in the highest of terms.

It’s been quite unfortunate that they have told me about their girlfriends or about the one-who-got-away when I first meet them, or over drinks or dinner, when at the time, I’m sure they are available. While that’s sucked –I’ve appreciated the fair warning.

Recently, because I made no rules for this 12-step program, I went on a “date.” It was a very simple meeting in Bryant Park with coffee –that ended up lasting close to four hours. He’s an attractive, successful, and ambitious guy. He’s full of simple humor and his sincerity is evident. He would be a catch in anyone’s terms and of course, he’s a New York native.

The course of our “hanging out” or whatever you would call it, consisted mainly of a discussion of his ex-girlfriend. I don’t know too much about her –but he’s completely in love with her. They had a disagreement which led to the end of their relationship, but in his eyes, she could be The One. She’s someone he could see forever with and he beats himself up over letting her go.

We talked a few hours about what grand gesture he should make to win her heart back –to get this beautiful lady who stole away his life at a banquet nearly a year ago to give him another chance. He talked about her favorite flower, silly-habits that belong just to her, and every woman that walked by who resembled her –his head shot around like he was seeing an angel walk on earth. He asked me for advice, apologized profusely for talking about this when we intentionally had met to see what could be between us, and wore his emotion on his sleeve.

Even just a few weeks ago, this date or hanging out or non-definition-meeting –would have rocked my heart. It would have made me feel bad about how I look and question what I’m worth. I would have gone home choking back tears on the subway and Rite Aid would have had one less box of chocolate on their dollar aisle.

This time, though, I went home hopeful.

And yes, it’s only been a week of my personal therapy, but last night, I was inspired. Hearing him talk about this woman, seeing the sincere pain in his eyes, and the longing still resonating in his face –gave me a glimpse of true love.

It was sad, but it was amazing to know that this kind of love is possible. That a man could love someone so sincerely, so profoundly, that he would fight for her. That he would think over the course of a month exactly what would persuade her to give him the opportunity to prove his love. That while he seems to be a self-confident, secure, and capable adult (who I would think is pretty good at this self-love thing) –was willing to let his heart be stolen away for someone who he considered more than worth the trouble.

I don’t know his ex-girlfriend and I doubt I ever will –but I’m happy for her. Instead of being jealous that someone doesn’t feel this way towards me, I think it’s incredible that they were both lucky enough to love in such a strong way. And, of course, I think it’s very sweet that he’s going to chase after her with a grand gesture (which for the record, will be quite romantic with a few of my suggestions).

I realized that his lack of interest in me had nothing to do with me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t pretty enough or intriguing enough to “woo” him into falling in love with me or creating the start of a possibility –it’s just that his heart is elsewhere. His heart isn’t up for grabs and it isn’t open to…well, opening.

And mine isn’t either. It’s not open. It’s not ready for a new relationship. It’s not ready for love. It’s not ready for establishing the foundation of a new romance or even a fling. It’s not the time and I don’t want it to be. I’m Ms. Unavailable.

I’ve been asking God for the last couple of days to help me to start believe it was possible for me to let go of these negative thoughts towards love, and to believe that a power bigger than mine could help erase all of my old habits.

That date was a sign.

It was a symbol that I can believe in a power higher than myself. I can believe that in time, my heart will open again, and I will be loved in a way that’s sincere and everlasting. But now, it’s time for me to concentrate on the love I have for myself. My heart can only be open to loving me right now. It’s not capable of letting someone else in on the relationship.

Facebook would probably define the relationship I’m developing with myself as “complicated” –but I think it’s just starting to grow.  I’m trying to start to believe things can change.

I believe I can do this. And I believe I’ll be helped.