The Cynic

In these post-breakup days, I have had a lot of time to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been working, going to school, seeing friends, working out, Christmas shopping, playing the piano, and…well, good lord. You get the picture. But one of the strange things about these days is the amount of time that I’ve had to just THINK. For whatever reason, I just hadn’t had much time to do it. Or I’d been spending all of my thinking time thinking about the wrong things. I’d been wondering where I was going to work when my contract ran out. Wondering if a certain horrible group project would turn out OK. Wondering what the flying hell happened to my relationship. All of those things can tend to take up a lot of time, and most of them don’t end up with answers. Now that my brain is no longer in survival mode, it can get back to “leisure thinking.” Things like “what if, like energy, there’s a certain amount of fat in the world? A morbidly obese person dies, and 60 girls gain ten pounds? They blame their birth control, but really it’s because the weight needed to be redistributed as the fat person rotted. Fat IS stored energy, right?”

Seriously. I pondered that through an entire grocery trip.

In survival mode, everything just stops while your brain just tries to get through the day. I had nothing to say and nothing to write because there simply hadn’t been a thought in my head that wasn’t about what I did that day. Even my internal dialog had become plot summary. As a side note, I hate plot summary. Conversation should not be like a third grader’s book report. I only want to know what you did so that we can then move on to how you felt about it, how you hope it turns out, or how it fits into your master plan. The big picture.

Anyway, with all this quiet around me during holiday drives, commutes, workouts, etc., I felt my brain open up. It had time to think. To wonder about things. To think of things it wanted to do. To slow down and try to figure things out. I started to give some thought to the nature of love. Like, maybe my relationship fell apart because I just wouldn’t know a man that loved me if he walked up and shook my hand. Maybe I was just THAT cynical.

But no.

I knew that one friend loved me because he listened to me bitch about my job ALL the damn time. There were long stories detailing such riveting topics as paper jams and mail merges, and he listened to every single word of every single one, without interrupting me, acting bored or changing the topic. If memory serves, he would even reach over and mute the tv or pause the DVR so we could talk. That man loved me.

What happened to him? If I wanted to blame him, I’d say that he found a girlfriend and forgot about me. If I told the truth, I’d say I wasn’t that great a friend to him (he supported me, and I’d be like “thanks” and then miss important things like his college graduation) and he finally found a girl who would accept his love properly. I still owe him an apology, and he’s going to get it if I ever manage to track him down.

I knew that another friend loved me because he talked me down from 100 different ledges after a particularly gross breakup. I’d get going on some rant, and he would just stop me with “Amy, this person threw you away. Like trash. Via TEXT. Why are you spending all this time even thinking about him? He should be wiped from the Earth, along with your memory of him.”

He helped me through that breakup and when his breakup came, I legitimately tried. I listened to his understated story of being tossed aside by a girl he thought he would marry. I thought he was fine, because he seemed so calm. I knew that he loved me because I got a chance to beg. To say goodbye. To tell him I loved him. When he killed himself anyway, it changed me forever and I forgot how to be terrified of everything. That man loved me.

I know dad was kind of contractually obligated, but still. There must have been countless times that he gave something up for mom, sis and me. Countless times that he didn’t get to do what he wanted to do because we were the bigger picture. Countless things he couldn’t have because he was squirreling money away. Money that became part of the down payment on my house. My car. My eyes. This is the man that made a goth girl do a mock interview because “I think you’re cheating yourself out of 20 grand a year with that nose ring.” The man who looked at a disheveled 10 year old and made her “have some self respect and iron that shirt.” The man who kept asking “no, really, what ARE your goals?” until I figured out an answer. He loved me enough to not let me get away with anything. He loved me enough to tell me that I could do better until I did better.

I’m still a terribly cynical person. I will check your actions eight ways to Sunday to make sure they’re true. I do this to protect myself.

But, by God, I know when I am loved.
And I never, ever forget it.

Things Never Had, Part One (Salad Course)

Things Never Had is going to be a 2-part series, but this (the first part) is going to be broken up over 3 days so as not to make your brains bleed. Thus, I give you the salad course of the first meal.

Life is comprised of a lot of nouns. Many of those nouns are the things we have around us. Family, friends, pets, pillows, walls, shoes, food, car, shampoo: all nouns. All things that most of us have. They’re all concrete nouns, things we can see and touch. We can look at a person and say “she has these things. See? Because there they are.” She must have everything she needs. She is not starving or homeless or alone. When she needs to be hugged, there are plenty of people she can call. Everything seems cool on the surface because we surround ourselves with these very nice-looking concrete nouns. Concrete nouns to build walls around us. My life must be complete because I have a smart phone.

There were some things missing. Secret voids that no one could see because the missing nouns were abstract. No one can tell when you don’t have security around you. Safety around you. Love around you.

It sounds terribly disrespectful to say that I’ve never been in love. It makes it sound like I don’t love my parents, family, friends or pet. I do. But those kinds of love, while still love, are different. You don’t choose your family. You don’t have sex with your friends. Your pets are not your equals. You learn something about love from all of those groups. What you learn, when you learn it, is applied to being, as they say, in love.

“In love” is tricky. It’s two people attempting to function as equals, navigating the difficult waters of life mergers, starting with “I hope my friends like you” and “what do you want to watch?” and ending with “I will move across the country because you got a promotion” and “we will have to agree on how to raise these kids.” Love, I’m told, is terribly rewarding. It is also terribly scary. It is scary because someone has the power to hurt you. It is scarier because you have the power to hurt someone else. It is much less scary to focus on your career and say that you’re cool just hanging out with your friends. Not that I’d know anything about any of that.

(Come back tomorrow for the entree course, when we shall dine on meaty things and starches.)