Every year at this time, I sit down and take stock of the last year and the current state of my heart. Last year, I wrote to you of having finally met a man worth writing about. I sit now, still close enough to see that man in the rear view mirror, and the state of the heart depends on the day.
One day, it is content. It is among friends, the best job it’s ever had, leisure time, and the peace that comes from having no one to answer to. A single person is afforded a certain amount of selfishness. I get to wake up and be loud since no one has slept over. I don’t have to keep a stash of emergency frozen food that is actual food. (I can exist on yogurt, carrots and crab sticks, but one does not feed that to guests.) I don’t have to hang out with someone else’s group of friends. I don’t have to watch tv shows I didn’t choose. I can put my phone on vibrate, since it’s not my job to be a first line of defense on needed rides, bad days, forgotten items and the like. I get to do my own hobbies and spend time on my own things. I never have to take one for the team, because my team is just me. My team consists of one, and that is a much simpler operation. I get to go about my schedule only having to worry about being a good enough employee, friend, student and cat mother.
Other days, I just miss things. I miss how it was a year ago, when I wrote last year’s post. That post seems as though it was written about some other guy, some person I knew once who no longer exists. I miss every good time the two of us had. I miss the future I thought I was going to get. I was happy for a while. So happy. And then so very sad. I know I did the right thing in walking away, but it still hurts. You want to believe that if you just want it enough or stick it out a little longer, you can save everything. That everything will be fine and you will feel warm and safe again. Then you accept that you can’t save it, the baggage has piled too high and you only want to run. You leave, but something in you still just pulls and wishes for a time machine.
I tried some dating and decided that dating strangers is kind of silly. Instead, guys and I have been just hanging out. Slowly, one of them stopped being just my friend. But I’m scared as hell because I’m still The Walking Wounded and I don’t want to accidentally hurt anybody. I don’t want to get into anything I’m not ready to get into, and I don’t really want a boyfriend right now. I just DID the whole boyfriend thing, so I just want some time to be a selfish single person for a little bit. Besides, the last time I did this, it ended in all that crying. Someone touches me, and half of me says, “oh, this is nice,” and the other half pulls out lights and sirens and yells “oh my God, it’s happening again! Run! Run!” I don’t really know what to do and no one has any answers or a crystal ball. I have resolved to move slowly because I need time to wrap my head around this whole thing, and moving slowly never hurt anybody. I don’t have a thesis statement, but I enjoy hanging out with this person, and that’s reason enough to see where it goes.
Then there’s other part of me that says, “you know, maybe we’re just not cut out for all this.” Maybe it’s not that I haven’t met the right guy; maybe it’s that I’m not built for this. Relationships just wither me up, turning me into a big ball of tongue-biting and half-fulfillment, shouldering yet another yoke of responsibility and feeling like I can never live up to my own expectations of myself. It’s exhausting. After a while, I think back on my life as a single person and the question that had been getting answered with “no,” gets answered with “yes.” That question: “do you want your single life back?” Except in the last case. I never wanted my single life back. I just wanted to stop crying all the time, and I just wanted to get some decent sleep.
I have failed at being a friend to the man in the rear view mirror. I feel guilty about this failure, feeling like a horrible, fickle person for saying that I love someone and then walking away. Love is supposed to mean that you have that person’s back forever. Desertion is not how I like to roll, and it makes me feel like a hypocrite.
But it is hard to be a friend to an ex. It is even harder when strangers at the gym provide you with information that you didn’t want. Information that makes you feel nauseous and stupid. Information that makes it mandatory to walk away and not look back. While there are parts of me that will always love and never forget him, I have to walk away. Otherwise, I just end up staying sad and angry forever, and that will not do.
There are still so many questions that will never get answers. So much disrespect and insult I can’t overlook and hurt I can’t completely convey. I and am tempted to sift through all of that in some vain attempt to make it all make sense. Why this, why that, how can I avoid having it happen again? What did I do to make it happen at all? But you never get answers to everything. You will never make everything make sense. Maybe one day, years from now, I’ll run into him and my husband and I will have lunch with him and his wife. But now is the time for walking away.
When I told the ex that I loved him, I had planned to make an art piece in a shadow box to give to him. It would have been a Victorian lithograph of an anatomical heart, layered among foil, bits of CDs, sheet music, lace, a couple of satin ruffles and a tiny bit of cat hair. I would tell him it was my heart, and I would give it to him. I had fantasized that he would also make one, made of tubes and gears and possibly a small, working carburetor. Each of us would hang the other’s heart on the wall. One day the two hearts would hang side by side on the same wall in the same house.
The I Love Yous burned me from the inside and I had to get them out before I had time to make the art piece, so I wrote down the words but skipped the crafts. He had told me at the time that he had words for me too, but he never bothered to finish them. There were so many other ways for him to spend his time, and finishing words of love for me just didn’t rank highly enough.
Things went to hell. The heart piece never got made.
After the breakup, I found the forgotten, empty shadow box while looking for tape to wrap Christmas presents. When I remembered the box’s intended use, it seemed a hundred years removed, like something that happened to someone else a long time ago. The nebulous idea of being in love enough to make an art piece to celebrate it was like something I thought had happened to me, but was really in a movie that was on while I was falling asleep.
And so the state of the heart, as it pertains to romantic things, is as that box is. It is made of tough metal and delicate glass. It is half-forgotten and stored away. It is piled among a thousand special, beloved things, but it is not filled. It is waiting to be filled by the right things, very special things, when they come along.
It will keep.