Those Elusive Life Skills…and My Always Omniscient Mother

A few days before leaving for my recent trip home–this one for the primary purpose of spending time with my father, sister-in-law and niece, at the beach–I talked to my mother on the phone.

I ambled around my dirt-topped backyard as we spent twenty minutes or so catching up, and then told her I needed to go get dinner.

“Okay,” she said. “What time is your flight on Sunday?” And then: “Don’t forget to pack your bathing suit!”

I’m certain she could hear the sound of my eyes rolling through the phone.

“What?” I retorted. “Do you really think I’m twelve years old? Jesus, mother. How do you think I survive in the world?”

Let’s just hold onto that question for a moment as I ask you to imagine the way I felt when, sitting at my gate in the Albuquerque Sunport that Sunday morning, I ticked through the contents of my suitcase and realized that I had, indeed, forgotten to pack my swimsuit.

I’d like to think it a testament to the strength of our present relationship that my first thought (after: “Wow. Really???” and “Good lord, Elizabeth, are you fucking kidding me!?”) was to tell my mother: I was eager to share with her the laugh.

(And it is perhaps testament to the frequency of this sort of exchange between us that when I did get ahold of her and asked “Guess what I forgot?!” she laughed and said “It’s okay, we have plenty of cell phone chargers!”)

Why do I tell you this? A few reasons. One, it is my mother’s birthday today and I suspect that she’ll appreciate the nod to her all-knowing-ness–as she usually, quietly, does. Two, it’s mildly amusing, and when things happen to me that are mildly amusing I sometimes (you know, about weekly) like to share them. Three, to ask this question: how in god’s name do I survive in the world?

It’s been ten years, now, since I moved out of my parents house and went to college in a state few people I knew had been to. (Or, could remember: “Where are you again?” they’d ask. “Missouri?”) Since then–save a perfectly lovely three weeks at my parents house between stints in DC and New Mexico when I worked on grad school applications and took off my pajamas, maybe, twice–I’ve been living on my own.

I’ve lived alone. I’ve lived with roommates. I am the primary (though, thankfully, not the sole) caretaker to an energetic pitbull mix. In a year, hopefully, I will have a graduate degree.

But still: I struggle with the basics of life. (Seriously: it’s possible that I haven’t been to the dentist since the Clinton administration.)

Last week in New York I had coffee with a friend and former roommate from college: she recently finished her grad program and has spent a few months unemployed. Those months have been filled with the kind of life stuff–bills, IRS issues, doctors appointments–that are a constant challenge to balance with work.

“I don’t understand how anyone who has a job gets this stuff done!” she sighed to me over iced teas at a Park Slope coffee shop.

It reminded me of a conversation I once had with my brother R.

“What have you been up to?” I asked him.

“You know, the usual, life things,” he replied. There was a pause. “All that stuff that you put off and don’t deal with, that you do everything else but? Like bills and appointments? That’s the stuff I do every day.”

“Oh,” I said. “Right.”

Which is all to say that there are people, my brother apparently among them, for whom basic responsibilities are a manageable burden. And then there are people, people like me and A, for whom they are a persistent struggle.

But, baby steps: in NY, I borrowed bathing suits from my best friend and sister-in-law. Yesterday, I made an appointment to have my teeth cleaned in September. The pit mix is sometimes crabby and not the most reliably obedient, but she’s got a pretty good life.

I’m not always sure how I survive in the world, but–with the help of good friends, occasional handy dudes, and an always all-knowing mother–I do. And, I suppose, I will.

Happy birthday Mom.

On Neil Young, Not Panicking, and Not Knowing a Thing

I won’t tell you that it’s always important to listen to Neil Young.

Just, a lot of the time.

There’s something about the quality of his voice: it’s so urgently sincere–I can’t help but believe him just as urgently.

Another benefit of attending an out-of-town conference post-breakup is the opportunity to go for a long, solo drive and play your favorite road trip albums and sing along to them with as much volume and facial and vocal expression as you desire.

Personally, I feel that nothing tops Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers” for this purpose. But Neil Young’s “Zuma” is a pretty close second.

And so it happened that, last week, I drove to Taos and listened over and over again to the song “Lookin’ for a Love.”

If you’ve not heard the first verse in a while, allow me to remind you of the lyrics: they’re important.

I’ve been looking for a lover but I haven’t met her yet/She’ll be nothing like I pictured her to be/In her eyes I will discover/Another reason why I want to live and make the best of what I see.

I know, I’m a cliche: whatever stage of romantic ecstasy or despair you find yourself in, it often seems that each and every song you hear resonates with the singular specificity of a horoscope. Whatever: originality is overrated.

Anyhow, back to Neil. So here’s the thing I’ve been thinking about lately that made that lyric ring so, beautifully, true: the more people I date, the more relationships I experience, the less I feel as though I know what I’m looking for.

I thought it was supposed to the be opposite. It’s one of those platitudes people try to comfort you with when you’re broken-hearted: “At least you’ve learned,” they say, because god forbid you should just be sad for a few seconds, or months. “At least now you have a better idea of what you want and what you need.”

At least, except, not at all.

The last time someone asked me what the essential thing I look for in a partner is, I drew a blank. The only thing I could come up with was that they must adore me absolutely and unconditionally. (A requirement that is either extremely basic or extremely grandiose–I can’t tell which.)

In the moment, this made me feel terrible. I’ve written about this before–this idea of knowing, or not knowing, what you want. I write a fucking blog about relationships. For Christ’s sake, I’m going to turn thirty in less time than it takes some people to complete a graduate degree. And still: I can’t articulate what I want in a boyfriend?

But of course, I can. There are qualities–curiosity, humor, warmth, to name a few–that I’m pretty sure I require from everyone I care about.

But what seems more significant is the realization that–as Neil puts it–I have no idea what my next lover will look like. Or be like. How he will act or think.

In many ways D was far from the image I had of the type of guy I go for, and he turned out to be a great companion: someone who satisfied and intrigued me in ways I couldn’t have been predicted before I knew him. Same for the person I’m (slowly, cautiously) seeing now: he’s totally different from me and from my expectations of who I’d be compatible with. And turns out I completely enjoy my time with him.

I swear: this is not code for I’m-panicking-about-my-age-and-need-to-get-knocked-up-so-will-dare-to-date-anyone. (In all honesty, that’s a panic I might, sometimes, exaggerate: growing up in New York, I only recently learned that anyone gets married before thirty-five.)

And it’s not about lowering standards, or settling. It’s just about knowing that there are different sorts of people out there who I can connect with in different ways.

And that I have no idea what they’ll be like until I meet them.

On How Women are Like Wine, And My Urgent Greed for Female Wisdom

If, three and a half weeks after getting unexpectedly dumped, you have to go somewhere–let me suggest that a weeklong writers’ conference is not the worst place to wind up.

Not because you will likely feel inspired and write your heart out, though, probably, you will–and that matters.

And not because it will probably take you out of town, to someplace remote and green-ish and, most importantly, out of the element-in-which-your-heart-was-broken–though that, too, matters quite a bit.

More important than all these things is this: that, in all likelihood, you will find yourself surrounded by a large number of middle-aged women.

I’m aware, this demographic is not without its’ accompanying pitfalls.

Probably, you will encounter numerous questions in regard to decaffeinated beverages and the persistently problematic temperature of this or that room. You will hear a lot about lost husbands and multiple cancer struggles and feel as though you have experienced exactly nothing. You will see multiple pairs of unfortunately bejeweled flip-flops.

But you are about to turn twenty-eight: a birthday that feels much more significant (read: traumatic) than the last, and contemplating not whether but when you are supposed to start panicking because you would like to have children not long after thirty and have absolutely no idea where you will be raising them or with whom, to say nothing of what they will be called.

And it is important for you to stop considering panic and to remember that women–all of us–improve with age.

(Note: This may be true of men too, but let’s face it: they’re starting with less.)

On multiple occasions over the past few days, I have turned to the (older) woman next to me and felt the strong urge to ask her to adopt me as her daughter.

This is not at all to suggest any inadequacy on my the part of my mother: whose beauty and brilliance I appreciate now more than ever.

But in those moments when the opening of your hips (yoga) collides with the breaking of your heart (D), making you question the significance of just about everything–including manhood, literature and sex–you need all the wisdom you can get.

I feel greedy in my pursuit of elder female knowledge, like an aggressive shopper at the Union Square DSW during clearance: I want all the product I can cram  in the little time I’ve got. I want it in abundance. I want it immediately. And I want it in bright colors and interesting fabrics. (Just go with it.)

It’s not that the advice they’ve given me has been extraordinarily insightful. It’s that their delivery is so assured. As women get older, we grow into ourselves: we grow more and more comfortable with who we are and how we look, the things we can and cannot do.

And I kept hearing the same version of a story: single for twenty or thirty years. Four marriages. Heartbreak and loss. And then: happiness. It was only when they had truly grown into themselves, achieved their ultimate in confidence and strength, they said, that they were able to find an equal.

And so I stare at these women, awed by their poise and elegance, their agility with liquid eyeliner and strength in downward dog, and I try to tell myself that it wouldn’t be so bad: that if I wound up having to wait until I match their confidence and grace before I find a partner who is truly worthy, it wouldn’t be so terrible.

It’s hard to accept that you might not find the fantasy: that you might not follow the path you (and everyone else) always imagined. But you simply can’t predict how your life will play out.

And, sadly (for me), for all the generous wisdom and insight these older women provide, neither can they.

On Serial Monogamy, and Why It Ain’t For Me

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to be a serial monogamist.

I mean, I enjoy my independence. But I also enjoy having a boyfriend. You know, intimacy: it’s pretty fun.

But I haven’t not gone from one relationship to the next out of any sort of moral, practical objection. By choice, in other words. It simply hasn’t worked out that way.

(For the record, I did in fact meet a bassist named Marty within a week of breaking up with J–who also, incidentally, was a bassist: he took me to Blue Ribbon in Park Slope and told me I had him at steak tartare days before vanishing into the gray cobblestone landscape of Brooklyn Heights. That sucked.)

This admission does not mean that I’ve witheld judgment toward those who do engage in that illicit practice of serial monogamy. (Just that word, “serial”–as though dating a lot of people were somehow akin to killing them.)

“Ugh,” I scoff, as I watch one acquaintance or another hop straight from one person’s arms into those of the next. “God forbid they should be alone for five minutes. Everyone needs to be alone. It’s so important.”

But frankly, having been alone for the better part of my (now late) 20s, it’s not feeling so important any more. I think I’ve done my time.

So why, then, do I find myself–three weeks out of one relationship and one, lovely but clearly too intense week into the next–in a state of more-or-less panicked terror?

Surely, there are other, more concrete reasons that one shouldn’t immediately enter into a relationship quick on the heels of another. But what are they?

It’s not an easy question to objectively ponder within close proximity to a beautiful person who likes to take you to to dinner and tell you how gorgeous you look in very little clothing.

For a minute, I let that get to me: I thought I was doing fine. When I talked to M one night last week, and he inquired how I felt about this new thing coming so soon after my breakup with D, I told him I didn’t feel anything about it.

“It’s fine,” I assured him. “I can have emotional experiences toward two people at once. Have I mentioned how attractive he is?”

To some extent, that’s true: we all carry around different emotions, often simultaneously, toward different people and things in our lives. Just because you aren’t done loving one person doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of growing fond of someone else.

But emotions come in different quantities. And right now, I feel a lot of them: strongly. At times, they seem to swell up in my stomach and throat as though they’re going to come leaking out–in the form of coffee or seltzer or a frantic, screaming fit.

I remember spending the night with Marty, the bassist I met after J, only hours after I’d left Minnesota and him for good. I couldn’t sleep at all: there was a new Strokes album that had recently come out and I’d been listening to compulsively, and the whole night I lay there staring at the brown, unfamiliar ceiling as the record played in my head on repeat. I was so overwhelmed with emotion I could hardly move, or think.

I was feeling so much, I could hardly feel a thing.

And that, I guess, is the danger of moving too fast from one thing to another. It takes time to mourn someone: it takes time for the intensity of sadness and grief to wane, for there to be room for those new feelings of excitement and lust.

Perhaps other people are better equipped to handle all of this than I am. We all deal with things differently: emotions, perhaps, above all else. I could tell you that I won’t judge them for it, but you’d know I’d be lying.

On (Other People’s) Young Summer Love, and (Not) Keeping Hopes in Check

When I was a ten-year old at summer camp in New Hampshire, my social life was minimal. I had some moderate popularity with the girls in my bunk, but the boys, not so much.

(Except for one, a hopelessly nerdy kid from the Upper West Side named Gabe, who wrote me letters during the school year that may be the most romantic snail mail I have yet received.)

There was one girl, though, who all the boys liked. She had shiny, stick straight brown hair that parted in the middle, like Winnie from the Wonder Years, and fell to her shoulders–all untangled and effortless.

Eventually, she chose one boy–Diego–on whom to set her sights. And, in the storied tradition of those pre-teen summer-camp liasons, he asked her, next to some bush they’d probably poison themselves making out in a couple of summers later, to be his girlfriend.

That afternoon, laying quietly in the cabin during the after lunch rest period, I watched her sit on her bed and read. And, vividly, I remember thinking: “How could she possibly be so focused on that book? How could she possibly be thinking about anything besides having a boyfriend?”

I swelled with envy. Both notions were so foreign to me: that, to begin with, you could even be desirable enough for a boyfriend. And that, if you were, you could spend a single second not feeling ecstatic about it. I didn’t understand.

And, to be honest, I still don’t.

This is what I was thinking about last night as I lay awake, unable to sleep. I wasn’t sleeping for a lot of reasons: for one, I’m an insomniac with a minor addiction to nightly doses of Ambien or Nyquil. For another, it’s been not only an emotional few weeks (the fire is finally under control, or so the yoga teacher thinks), but a busy few, too: the conference I help plan starts on Sunday. Not to mention the fact that I anticipated having to get up at 4:45 this morning to drive my dear college friend A to the airport (after her restorative, blissful weekend visit)–a wake-up time that equals a surefire means of preventing meaningful rest.

But also, there was a boy to think about. (An admission that compels me to qualify: I have, within the last 72 hours, cried about D. I am not over it. Nor am I that girl who goes from one relationship to another in three weeks–I am the girl who winds up alone for years between serious entanglements. At least, I think I am that girl. My point is only this: don’t worry, I am as wary as you.)

And as I allowed thoughts of him to enter my sleepy head, I tried to remind myself of what S had said right when D dumped me: that the hardest part of breaking up with someone is parting, not so much with the person, but with the expectations you’d built for the relationship.

And I tried to tell myself that this problem could be minimized if you were to keep those expectations in check: if you were to shoo away those thoughts of what it might be like to be with someone new (or, in D’s case, someone less new) and pick up a novel instead.

And then I thought: just as I will never be able to feign genuine or artificial insanity to be more attractive to certain men, so I will never be able to protect my perpetually open heart by not thinking about someone I like.

Which, perhaps, may be alright in the end. The reality of relationships, after all, is hard. The fantasy? Now thats the fun part.

An Open Letter to God: Sometimes, You’re Really There For Me

Dear God,

There have been a lot of moments in my twenty-eight years in which I have not, at all, not one little bit, believed that you are looking out for me.

Such moments include:

–Speeding Tickets

–Reggie Miller, Game One, Eastern Conference Semifinals, 1995, Knicks vs. Pacers, last 14 seconds (I was in the last row of MSG, God. I was twelve. I cried.)

–My Perpetually Disappearing Pretty Pink Shirt (Since roughly 2004, this item, a favorite, has been lost, then, found, lost, then found, only to disappear again. Seriously, what is your beef?)

–One Week After My Fireman Boyfriend Dumps me, There Breaks Out, Right in His District, the Largest Wildfire in the State’s History (Tragic on account of many outcomes, including this one: my otherwise aloof yoga instructors are now compelled to direct me, daily, to “send love to those fighting the fire up there.” Just as I am attempting to stop doing exactly that. Geez.)

But then, on occasion, there have been those moments in which I have had cause to believe that, yes, you absolutely, positively, most certainly must have my back.

Such as:

–Frederico, Puerto Rican Surfer I met at Marx Cafe, Washington DC, circa 2006

–Sparkling Water, Ice Cold, From the Bottle, Maybe With Some Lemon

–The Dark Crunchy Stuff that Separates the Vanilla and Chocolate Layers of a Carvel Ice Cream Cake

–Lemon Curd

–The Extremely Hot Asian Man in My Bikram Yoga Class

In such moments, God, (particularly this last one, of which I am currently, obviously, most interested), I can really only imagine that you are sitting up there, in some sort of majestic, shimmering, air-conditioned lair, stroking your jawline in a non-evil fashion, and thinking to yourself: “Now let me see. What thing, what exact, precise thing, does Elizabeth need right now?”

And then, I imagine, you conjure exactly that thing–in this case, an obscenely attractive male with the potential capacity to both repair my Volkswagon and boost my fractured ego–and with a simple plop/poofing gesture of your right hand, depositing said person/thing behind me in my 9:00 am yoga class. And then, the following day, the 6:00 class. And the following, at 4:00.

“You don’t even need to move a muscle,” I imagine you thinking. (Well, except those required for Spine Twist, Standing Bow, Triangle Pose, Separate Leg Stretch, etc. You don’t need to move a muscle except those.) “Just leave it to me.”

And, as I’ve recently written on this very blog, I aim to please: politesse is my M.O.. And so I don’t ask questions. I merely accept what you have put before me, with gratitude:

I smile politely when he offers a damp handshake during a break from class, and assures me the exchange is “not at all awkward.” I am cool and nonchalant pocket the business card he offers in the parking lot, and  dutifully accept when he offers me a ride home.

And I go to sleep smiling.

Because in these moments, I trust that–in spite of those occasions on which you have allowed me to misplace precious items of clothing, get pulled over for speeding twenty-one miles over the limit, and have my heart painfully broken–I believe that you actually, truly, want to provide me with what I need. Sometimes.

And for that, I wanted to say thanks. And of course, go Knicks.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

On Alternative Break-Up Hypotheses, and the Perils of Sanity

When someone breaks up with you, usually, you more or less know why.

And, usually, it has something to do with that person not caring about you quite enough–a knowledge that can be difficult to bear while maintaining some shred of confidence.

Which leads one to formulate alternative explanations: explanations that don’t have quite the same potential to so formidably undermine one’s self-worth.

And so it is that, at this particular moment, I (a little bit arbitrarily) am choosing to believe that D broke up with me not because I am deficient in appearance, intelligence or charm (you know, general lovability), but because of this: because I am not crazy.

So, not exactly an original concept: women go for the ass holes, men go for the crazy.

But I thought we were getting past that. Perhaps, I just thought I was getting past it. And perhaps I thought that if I could get past it–I who have been drawn to not-nice, very bad, usually dysfunctional and self-destructive men since about the sixth grade, and then managed to date not one but two genuinely nice guys in the past few years (one being D, the other being a pre-blog labor lawyer from Michigan whom I met on the New York City subway)–if I could get past that cliched, immature hump, than surely anyone could.

But, in my entirely objective, one hundred percent clear-eyed opinion (it’s been over a week now!) I’m not sure that D has.

“Do you think it’s strange that we don’t fight?” he asked, during our first “relationship talk” about three months in.

“No,” I said, because I didn’t.

“Did you have fights in previous relationships?”

“Eventually,” I replied. I told him how, when I was with my ex, J, we hardly fought at all the first year–after which we fought a lot, because there were problems, and then we were unhappy, and kept fighting, and eventually–due to said fights and problems–we broke up.

“So, not really,” I said. (Now that I think about it that narrative is kind of untrue. The problems/fights started in the first year. Still, not a good model.)

D said it was unusual for him to have so little conflict in a relationship–a fact that came as quite a surprise to me, considering D’s personality: very easygoing, accommodating, not confrontational but not passive-agressive either.

In that conversation, and in others when it came up again, D said he liked the fact that he and I didn’t argue. But I didn’t totally believe him. If it didn’t kinda bother him, why would he keep bringing it up?

I could see how the extreme ease of the relationship diminished a certain x factor, a certain intensity. I wondered about that, and whether it would fulfill me in the long run. But so long as we maintained physical chemistry and enjoyed spending time together, I felt fine.

I will say, though, that when a certain ex met D and commented that he “thought I’d go for more of a challenge,” it struck a nerve.

“Relationships are always a challenge,” I told him. “Just because he actually likes me doesn’t mean it’ll always be easy: we have totally different backgrounds, totally different ways of thinking!”

Those differences are real–and had D and I stayed together I’m sure they would have presented real issues, real challenges.

But in our short time together, they didn’t. And I treated him the way I treat most people I care about who are not my mother: well. I tried to please him. I tried not to make things difficult.

And for this, I may have been punished.

Or so, at least, my friend A would say: “I feel like I’ve gotten shafted for not being crazy,” she told me over dinner the other night. “Men need the crazy girls to take care of, so they can, like, prove their manhood.”

I’m not sure if it’s the manhood factor of the excitement factor–the same desire for “a challenge” that drives us when we’re looking for lust more than long-term love.

And I don’t know if my relative sanity was really a factor in my breakup with D, or any of the other guys who’ve somehow decided they’re lives would be better off without me in them.

But I do know it’s not something I’m about to change.

I know a guy who used to say he’s “just enough of an ass hole to keep the ladies interested.” I can attest, firsthand, that this strategy is effective.

But I don’t think I could pull off the “just enough crazy” equivalent, even if I wanted to. They way I interact with people, in my non-pschotic, non-difficult, people-pleasing way, is pretty integral to who I am. And I want to be with someone who doesn’t just get that, but who chooses to love it.

Holding Onto What Was Good

You know how it is.

One minute, I feel strong and invincible and sexy: ready to join with Pippa Middleton in effortlessly conquering the male hearts of the world.

The next, I feel small and unwanted and vulnerable: rejected by the handsome, married passenger the row ahead of me on the airplane who I’m pretty sure never saw my face; rejected by the butch bikram yoga teacher who seems concerned with everyone’s alignment but mine.

I’m trying to focus on those former moments–the strong and heady ones–and less than a week post-breakup, there are more and more coming. But still, not quite enough.

So I’m trying to hold onto something S told me, one of the most important things I’ve heard in the last few days.

“You’ve gained so much in this relationship,” she said. “I don’t want to see you lose all that just because it’s over.”

She was referring to a few things–my ability to talk more openly with my mother, for example, and my sharpened focus on certain writing projects–but mostly she was talking about my confidence.

“You’ve just seemed so secure,” she told me. “When you were with him and when you were alone. Please don’t let go of that.”

I’m working on it. It turns out that holding onto the products of a relationship isn’t easy, though, once it’s over.

The small things can feel like the hardest.

Hours after the breakup, I wrote an email to D asking for my things back–dutifully heeding my friend M’s advice to do so “without saying anything about feelings.” The next day, he overnighted them.

Before I got the package, I anticipated how hard it would be–the steep emotional challenge of separating those items I’d kept at his house–a nightgown to sleep in and a sweater, because it was always cold–from the association of him, and from the association of hurt.

But I didn’t cry when I opened it. Instead, I put both things on. (The sweater over the nightgown–as N noted, they happen to pair well together.)

“I have to reclaim these clothes,” I announced to S and N as we stood, solemn-faced, at our kitchen counter.

And of course that’s just the beginning: there’s the sight of the salad tongs in my drawer that D’s mother sent him and he passed on to me. The thoughts of spending time alone this month in Taos, where I’d long imagined being–going to readings, running B, doing crosswords–with him. The sound of the Replacements songs that I put on his mix. (I’m not listening to it intentionally–I’m not that masochistic–but I have been putting on REM, my comfort music, compulsively, and the Replacements come right after in iTunes.)

I don’t know that I’ll ever shirk these associations completely. You never really do. (Though I suppose I should admit that until D, I associated the Replacements with someone else. Something about me and Paul Westerberg, go figure.)

So yeah, the sting will lessen. Someday I’ll be mostly nostalgic instead of mostly hurt. We had something lovely, that–when the anger and sadness wears–will be worth feeling warm and nostalgic for.

But in those moments when the mere sight of a stranger’s wedding ring makes me tear up (it happened, once, in an airport–travel makes me particularly fragile), it’s hard to imagine that time coming very soon.

When I talked to M, I briefly bemoaned the mental ache of returning to the single life.

“It really isn’t that bad,” he said, in that sincere tone I could almost believe. “And you have so much going on. Just keep doing your yoga, keep writing, just keep doing your thing.”

Not the most original advice, but important nonetheless. And so I do. I thank heaven for yoga and for cooking, for unbelievably loving friends and family, for the knowledge that I am committed to being serious about writing

Of course, I’d like to find someone else who makes me happy (and, apparently, mistype) before too long. But that’s one thing I can’t control, and therefore don’t want to think about, right now.

What I can think about are those things I can control: and at the moment that means working to put distance between D and the good things–from salad tongs to self-esteem–that he came with.

And in the meantime, watch out: me and Pippa are coming. Any day now.

How to Mend a Broken Heart: The Real Time Version

The day before before D broke up with me, I found myself reading this post on my friend Sarah’s blog–titled “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

(Sometimes, by the way, my womanly instincts are so trustworthy it scares me.)

Sarah is very smart and articulate, and she has lots of very smart and articulate readers who comment–making that post a true trove of wisdom and insight that I dare not rival.

However, I happen to have a broken–or at least severely ripped–heart at the moment. (Sorry to break this news–I’m as shocked as you.)

And already, I am thick into the realm of post-breakup copage. Not to suggest that I’m managing this with any superior sort of intelligence or grace, but, as of yet, I haven’t completely crumbled.

Here, my friends, is a loose list of what I’ve been doing–and what, perhaps, I might suggest for anyone whose heart is similarly, unexpectedly, broken:

(Note: Like most lists, this one is incomplete. I reserve the right to update it in future posts periodically–one thing I know about breakups is that they take more than three days to get over.)

1. Crying in public. Last week, my sister-in-law sent me a link to this essay , from the New York Times website, about the unique urban experience of public tears: both having and witnessing. She sent it to me because the writing is great, which it is. But the writer focuses on the fascination that public crying provokes–not the interaction or support. But when a hot young thing (female, but still) approached me, all red-eyed and wet-faced, in the yoga changing room (pre-class, before such signs could be taken for sweat), bearing a hug and kind words, I felt a sweet taste of much-needed comfort and warmth. Recommend. (Note: this incident did not, obviously, occur in New York–but it did happen to involve two New Yorkers. Discuss.)

2. Crying in private. You will not make friends, and you may scare your (quite easily spooked) mutt, but you must do it. A lot. She will get over it, and so, eventually, will you.

3. Eating fatty meats, and acting a little ridiculous. Hours after the incident, my two roommates and dear girlfriends, S and N, took me out for a plate of Korean BBQ. This has long been something of a tradition for S and me: whenever one of us feels any sort of vulnerable, we go out and stuff ourselves with grilled meat. It helps. Afterwards, S demanded to buy a round of “nasty” shots, and pair it with some “nasty” television. Not having a tv (or, really, the ability to produce said libation) we proceeded to the nearest bar, where we sabotaged our collective chances with the adorable bartender in order to demand that he turn on The Bachelorette. Despite the objections of the less attractive, less accommodating bar patrons, he complied. And thus, my romantic difficulties began to pale.

4. Sweating. Somehow, I managed to lose a boyfriend and a working car in the same week. Meaning, each morning, I have spent 90 minutes in severe heat, contorting my body into unreasonable and uncomfortable positions and, immediately afterwards, used same body to haul myself (along with my vintage-Schwinn-that-weights-almost-as-much-as-me), in slightly less severe heat, up the most obnoxious hill in Albuquerque. There’s nothing quite like anger to help pound those pedals.

5. Speaking of which, feeling angry. Ask anyone who’s been hurt (aka, anyone): the pain is easier to bear when there’s someone to blame. I adore D, and this isn’t his blog so I won’t get into the details of his decision (at least, not now), but I will say this: the man made a stupid choice. He had something good (me) that he could’ve held onto (at least for a while), and he let it go. For this, and only this, I feel furious. That, also, helps.

6. Drinking a lot of lattes, and, generally, doing exactly what I feel like. Normally, I get my “treat” drink, an Iced Decaf Soy Latte, approximately once a month. Now, I’m having at least two daily. I’ve worn the same shorts for three days. I haven’t washed my hair. Yesterday, I thought nothing of spending $7 for beer at a baseball game. Tomorrow, I’m going to buy myself an extremely overpriced sports bra. Hey, getting dumped is awesome!

7. Acting a little bit reckless. This was among the many pearls of wisdom that S has provided in the past few days. Immediately post-breakup, I felt the compelling urge to contact an ex. (Well,  more of a friend than an ex these days, but still: he’s someone with strong sway on my emotional state.) I wrote a text. I didn’t send it. “S is going to tell me not to,” I told N, as we took a walk around the neighborhood before S got home. But, walking to dinner, when I asked her, she didn’t. “I think this is a time when you can act a little bit reckless,” she said. “It’s kind of what you have to do.” Thrilled to receive her permission, I sent. He called. I felt better.

8. Talking to people who love me a lot, a lot. Especially those with goofy senses of humor.  My brother J was clearly very fond of D, but when I told him of the breakup, this is what he said: “Good riddance! I never liked that guy anyhow. I mean, he was from Texas. And so skinny!”

9. Thinking about why I’m really sad. Another of S’s gems was this: “Often, after a breakup, the loss we feel isn’t the relationship so much as the expectations we had for it.” So true. And if I’m really honest with myself, I’m more sad about losing the relationship than I am about losing D. And that says something. Something that leads, lastly, to this:

10. Telling myself things I need to hear. For example: D is a great guy. And I’m sure he could have made me happy. But I’m also sure that someone else can–and will–make me happier.

On Having a Moment, and Not Holding Too Tight

This afternoon, I had a moment.

You see, D was supposed to come down to see me tonight. Not for anything special, but, for various and boring reasons, the next 36 hours are just about the only window we’ve got together this week.

And at about 3:00 pm, the exact time that D had told me he’d plan on heading down, he called.

“Where are you?” I asked.

“In Santa Fe,” he said. “I was about to leave, but I just got a call from work. I need to go back. There’s a fire.”

(Don’t ask me why a fireman not on his shift has to go fight a fire when there are lots of other firemen who are on their shifts; unknown. You may, however, ask if this has anything to do with the Arizona/New Mexico wildfires being heavily (mis)reported in the national news: it doesn’t.)

Anyhow, I broke down. Like, sat at my desk and pretended to have sniffles as tears formed in my eyes.

Why did I do this? Out of fear that my boyfriend might injure himself or die in a fire? Out of concern for the safety of someone about whom I deeply care?

Unfortunately, it was nothing that rational.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not entirely sure why. But I do know that, for starters, it’s been a rough week. I’ve been feeling more fragile than usual. These past couple of days, I’ve craved D’s support and affection, and he hasn’t been here. I was looking forward to having him close.

But is that really something to cry about? I want D’s support, sure, but his arms are not the only place I can find it. I have no shortage of friends and family, far and near, to talk me down from various ledges of anxiety and insecurity and stress.

Sure, there’s nothing quite like the comfort of a romantic partner. But in that moment, staring at my computer screen, sniffling, and thinking of all the people I know who live states and continents away from their significant others, I felt the need to remind myself to take a step back.

Specifically, I felt the need to recall the advice of another guy I know with the initial D: this one among my closest DC friends who now lives in Boston (can we call him Boston D, for the moment?) and is very, very wise.

Early on in  my relationship with D, Boston D had cautioned me about keeping some distance: about not letting myself get too tightly wound up in something just because it was good. Or something. This afternoon, walking B in what felt like 100 degree heat to to the dry cleaner, I couldn’t really remember.

So I called him.

“Do you remember what advice it was that you gave me? Something about not letting things get too close, with D? You might have said it came from Oprah?”

“Um, I have no idea,” he replied. “Did it have to do with posture? I’m always talking about posture.”

“No,” I told him, recounting what I could. “It definitely was not about posture.”

“Sorry,” he said. “Can’t remember.”

Fortunately, after listening to his own romantic dilemmas, along with some fresh wisdom (“Go cuddle with someone tonight.” “See the Woody Allen movie.”), I realized that Boston D had dispensed his initial advice over Gchat.

Alas, I searched. And there it was:

“Just dont hold hold too tight,” he had written. “I mean, don’t squeeze the relationship. Let it breathe. I think when we have something we love we want to hold it super close and tight and sometimes its good to just release the pressure and let it exist on its own.”

Words that, to be honest, didn’t make total sense to me when I first read them, and aren’t entirely clear now. (For the record, he did punctuate them with this, overly modest, qualification: “Sorry, I can only come up with generic Oprah-esque language right now.”) But I do think there’s an insight there, and it’s one that, right now, is helping me get through.

Basically, that one person can’t be everything. They can be a lot of things, a lot of wonderful and important and invaluable things. But we need other people, too. We need other people for lots of reasons, including this one: as precious as partners might be, they simply can’t always be there when we want them to be. Whether we like it or not.