State of the Heart Address 2012

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.

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.

Tomorrow The Green Grass

“I’m thinking grilled shrimp. But wait! There are deep fried gator sliders! God, ever since I went back to eating meat, it takes me 15 minutes just to order in a restaurant.”

I am sitting across from an old friend, trying to do what you’d think would be easy: I’m trying to sit down and figure out what I want. It’s easier said than done. I look at this menu, look at her and realize that few things are really that simple.

All you have to do is sit down, decide what you want and then go after it. Life isn’t like being a vegetarian in a restaurant, where all you have to choose from is salad or french fries. Life is like being Anthony Bourdain: you could have the steak, the fish or you could just have the chef cook up whatever’s living under the fridge. The menu doesn’t have pictures, and you don’t know what the portions are like. How are you supposed to just sit down, figure out what you want and order it? What if it comes and it’s nothing like you thought it would be? Buyer’s remorse on a plate of gator sliders is a lot different from buyer’s remorse on a career. A spouse. A family.

She chose differently than I did. Though we are the same age, my friend has chosen a husband, kids and a very different career than mine. I chose a career, a cat and a life where I come home to a house of near silence. Though neither of us wishes to swap lives, there are certainly days when we would both like to swap for a couple of hours. After those two hours, I would say “I just need some quiet,” and she would say “I’m bored and miss my family,” but the impulse is still there.

I look at her life and think “look at these people on her team, look at the life they can make together. She does not have to go on awkward first dates and her house is not like a library. She and her husband can lean on each other, and her kids need her.” I’m sure there’s some little part of her that looks at my life and thinks “she can talk on the phone without anyone yelling ‘mommy!’ She can go out dancing, nobody asks her what’s for dinner after she’s worked a long day, and nobody ever pukes on her.”

Universal truth: it is nice to not be puked on.

The thing about choosing a life is that it really is possible to change your mind. You can choose the career for a while, and then choose the family. You don’t always have to choose correctly the first time (though I don’t recommend un-choosing your children), but everything you do is a kind of choice.

Indecision is still a decision, it’s just really lazy. It is you saying, “I choose to not eat.” I would rather make a decision and then change my mind than just not care, and lord knows I’ve changed my mind a few times. Go on, ask me about my college credits.

I have friends who are thinking of changing their direction. I have friends who love their direction. I have friends who forgot to choose. Though my friend and I may think for a minute or two that the grass is greener on the other side, we are both ultimately content with what we’ve chosen. One day I may choose something else, but that doesn’t mean that what I have is somehow unacceptable. It’s like choosing between shrimp and gator: there’s no wrong choice, but there might be a better one.

In the great restaurant of life, you may regret having ordered gator sliders. You may sit and wonder if the shrimp might have been better. But if you don’t choose something, you definitely lose. You sit there and starve.

I ended up picking the grilled shrimp. They were delicious. But I’m getting the gator sliders next time.

Things Never Had, Part One (Dessert)

(And so, the conclusion of part one.)

I sat myself down one day. I stopped mindlessly dating. I started dating with a mission.

What ensued was a string of guys I really should have run from. Not abusive, horrible guys; just guys whose heads weren’t in the game. Guys who didn’t like me much. Guys with better things to do. Guys focused on work, or booze, or bands or any number of things that guys can be focused on. I understand that; I was those guys for years. In their defense, I really am “a lot of look,” as Tim Gunn would say. It takes a special person to tolerate my special brand of crazy, my over-analysis of everything, my neurotic fear of things that are decades from happening, and my habit of endlessly bitching about my hair/foot size/skin/whatever. Couple that with the fact that the Neurotic Crazy Town Amy doll comes packaged with a Siamese cat, a posse of protective, scary friends and a mom who doesn’t mess around, and that’s a lot for any guy to handle.

Then, the universe (and one friend who will never let me forget it) delivered to me someone who is my type physically, mentally and sexually. Someone who has a bizarre habit of staying stuff I was just about to say. Someone who practically volunteered to meet Scary Mother. Someone who was willing to go see Jane Eyre. Someone who has voluntarily talked about his feelings on more than one occasion. Someone who isn’t afraid to take the piss out of me. People kept telling me that I seemed happy and glowy. I was in denial for a long time. Then, more realizations:

1. In his arms, I have felt perfectly safe, comfortable and understood.
2. I have looked at him and seen a long-term future that doesn’t freak me out.
3. He knows how to handle and wrangle my brand of crazy.
4. He is not one to give up easily.

I wasn’t using the L word because I feared that it wouldn’t be returned.
I wasn’t using the L word because I wanted to make sure I meant it.
I wasn’t using the L word because of one other thing we’ll discuss later.

I almost used it once before, with someone else, then felt like it would have been a misuse. Wild horses, rhinos and guns couldn’t make me have anything to do with him now, but I still hope for his eventual happiness. I just also hope that I have nothing whatsoever to do with it, as he could never have made me happy. Sometimes we love people who don’t love us back. It happens. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust ourselves or our definitions of love; it just means we should find someone else and love them longer and better.

With that said, I’m afraid my current mister is doomed.
He did this to himself, after all.

So there it is.
I have fallen in love.

Hell has frozen.

Things Never Had, Part One (Entree)

(And so, having discussed the shortcomings of devoting one’s life to one’s career and the scary nature of love, we return to discuss fear and adjustment.)

One day, you realize that you let someone into your life. Someone has made it past the guard dogs, barbed wire fence and security cameras. Someone has charmed the guard dogs, cut the barbed wire fence with an angle grinder and shot out the camera lenses. Someone has coerced you out of your fortress. Someone has talked you down from your tower. You want to run screaming, but there’s this voice in your head saying, “No. This is The Guy. Do not run this time. Do not run.”

I have let someone into my rib cage.
He has taken my heart somewhere.
I can only hope it is in a climate-controlled safety deposit box of some sort.

I have spent 33 years learning what I was supposed to learn in order to get here. It took a long time because I was busy learning a bunch of other stuff. Love was the hardest because there were no books. No college major. No papers written and returned with red ink. I had to be self-taught and I kept slacking because I didn’t know what to do. I can code you some nice HTML, but I don’t know any rules on PDA or what to say to let someone know you really like them without freaking them out. I don’t know how to say things that are unpleasant when I fear hurting someone else’s feelings. I don’t know how to meet his parents or friends or siblings or any of that. I don’t know how to have a decent day when that person says I hurt his feelings, however accidentally. It’s like there’s an entire volume in the Encyclopedia Britannica of life that nobody bothered to mail to me. It’s the “M” volume: men, mathematics and Megadeth. I don’t understand any of those.

Also, I was scared.

I was scared that, if I told him I loved him, his conquest would be over. The mission would be complete and there would be nothing left for him to do but become completely bored with me and treat me more and more like some old piece of furniture. I was scared that he would change my life so completely that I wouldn’t recognize it anymore. I was scared that he would change his mind. He would find some little stupid thing about me that he didn’t like and then not be able to tune it out. It would grow bigger and bigger until he couldn’t stand to be around me. I was scared of a future that wasn’t completely up to me. Best case scenario, I was scared that I wouldn’t die first and I would lose my mind. My friends would find me sitting on the floor of my closet clutching a whore sandal and drooling on myself. Then, I realized some things.

1. When my dad went first, my mom didn’t lose her mind.

She’s probably in Kentucky somewhere thinking that her job as my mom is done. That there’s nothing else she can possibly teach me. This is incorrect; one of the most important things she ever did as my role model was keep going. She spent years watching him wither away slowly. She was there when they pronounced him. She kept going. She went to Zumba and walked her little dog.

2. Living your life behind a thick wall of concrete nouns is no way to live.

At some point, everybody has to focus on their career. Everybody has to get the plane off the ground. Then, one day, you look at your life and wonder if that’s all there is, just a life of answering emails and hoping to make more money. Forty more years of being on an unstoppable treadmill, working and working just to get one more outfit or a slightly nicer car. Shortly thereafter, you realize that there is either something more to life or you should go shoot yourself. The only thing scarier than the possibility of having your heart broken is the possibility that you are so safely walled up that no one can find your heart to break it.

3. I am harder to kill than previously thought.

I was scared that someone would break my heart and I would lose my mind. I would end up catatonic, unable to do anything but sit perfectly still and try to figure out what the hell had happened. I would find some horrible way to blame and punish myself. Then I realized that my own brain had been trying unsuccessfully to kill me for a little over 20 years. The only person’s brain that I trusted, the brain who knew me better than anybody, the brain inside my own head, had been manipulating and fucking with me for more than 20 years and hadn’t won. I had told it to sit down and shut up. I was ten feet tall and bulletproof and didn’t even know.

(Come back tomorrow for dessert.)

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.)

Slice Open a Vein or Shut the Fuck Up

“Going pretty slow in there, huh?”
“Well, yes and no.”

Readers, I am well aware of the fact that I haven’t said boo to you since May 4th. Matter of fact, I didn’t say much before then and, if memory serves, that last post was about my cat. People hate when you write about your cat. Slice open a vein or shut the fuck up.

I’d love to slice a vein open for you, but I’m not sure I could find one right now. Life at present isn’t without its fair share of little stupid torments. I still wish I were capable of having a real conversation with my mother. I’m still not sure that some choices I’ve made were the right ones. I still wonder where I’m going to find money to buy myself a new roof.

Hell, there were bigger, scarier torments. I can’t tell you about those because they happened at work and the walls have ears. Or they happened in my social life, in which case that’s none of your business until I decide it’s your business.

Actually, let’s discuss that.

I do have some policies left. One of those policies is that, while it’s perfectly fine for me to tell you all of my secrets, other people’s secrets (even those of which other people just have joint custody) are off limits. Thing is, my life has become so intertwined with someone else’s that I’m never quite sure what to tell you anymore. Also, I’m frequently so busy that I don’t have time to stop and think about what I would tell you. I have no idea what could possibly interest you at this point. (Frankly, I need to stop worrying about that. No offense, but I’ve never been here for you. I’ve been here for me, and some of you just drop in sometimes.)

I am currently busily trying to familiarize myself with 100 alien territories all at once. I’m groping around in relationship land, having no idea what the hell I’m doing, being a little weirded out by it, and deciding to continue on anyway. With each little baby step, I look at my feet and realize how much it would hurt to end up back at the foot of the stairs. To fall back to the foot of the stairs. My God, the bones you can break that way.

“This life. I don’t recognize this life. I don’t know what to do with it.”

“Do you want your old life back?”

“Well, no.”

The whole thing makes me feel like every character ever played by Matthew McConaughey. Every movie where he plays some confirmed bachelor who meets The Girl (usually played by someone who’s pretty but still accessible, like Sandra Bullock or Jennifer Aniston) and doesn’t know what to do with himself. She puts an air freshener in his Single Man Porsche. She keeps spare pajamas at his house. She knows her way around his kitchen, meets his friends and knows where his dog likes to be scratched. He gets all weirded out and does something stupid 40 minutes before the end of the movie, just so the two of them can make up 10 minutes before the end of the movie. Only I’d like to avoid that whole “do something stupid” part.

I don’t have any answers.
I’m just running around trying not to hurt anybody.

All I’ve learned thus far is that the most important thing you can do is trust yourself and the person next to you. I’m not very good at trusting myself, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Rest assured, I’ve been working on some words that I’ve been leading up to for 33 years. They’re taking their pretty time getting written because I’m being terribly careful with them.

When it’s time, you’ll see them.
Til then, bear with me.
There could be more blogs about my cat.

Little Boxes, Day Four: The Ghost, The Machine

I have to admit, I don’t feel good about this one. It never feels particularly good to walk up to someone you cared for and stab them in the face. However, there are some words here that need to be said and need to be heard. For anyone about to tell me what a heinous bitch I am, I say this: think of all the gory details I’m not including. Anyone who knows the story well enough to voice an opinion would know those, and would thank me for not putting them here. I care enough to grab you, shake you and yell in your face. It’s just not always pleasant.


Dear Sir,

Most people don’t get a second chance with me. You got a third one and you squandered it. In my stupidly idealistic way, I had hoped that more than a year in the tutelage of someone much nicer than I would have changed you into a better person than the one I’d known before. I had hoped that you’d learned by example. I really felt like you were making an effort. I was also making an effort, trying to watch my tone and be more of a team player, to prove that I have definitely changed. I have a pack of friends who are slowly turning me into a better person because I am trying to take advantage of their abilities to lead by example.

Those are the same friends who were telling me to run.
Run fast.
Run far.

They remember what happened last time, the way you dropped me cold, giving little reason. The way everything changed from good to bad overnight. The way I learned that someone can look at me as you did and then lop me off like an infected limb. It was unbelievably cold. It took three years before I was even really willing to let you prove you’d changed, and what did you do? You lopped me off again. Just disappeared, resurfacing next to someone else and creating a situation you can’t possibly have fully thought out.

I cannot fathom how one human can treat another human this way.

Had things continued well for a few more weeks, I would have sat my friends down and said “I know he’s done wrong in the past, but I think he’s really trying and I really wish that you’d give him a clean slate.” I was going to ask them to give you a shot. I was willing to clean away all of the hurt that you doled out all those times, all of the passive-aggression, all of the self-centered behavior and all of the little things mumbled and then never repeated at an audible level.

I was hoping you would win them over. I was hoping you would win me over. I was hoping you would prove yourself, prove that you had decided to grow up as many of your friends have, giving me reason to welcome you back into my life and bed. I wanted to come home to those arms, but only if those arms belonged to a man this time. No one made a mark like you did. All you had to do was prove that you were willing to do the work. In the meantime, I was content to be your friend and move slowly.

Instead, you found someone who wouldn’t ask so much of you. You found a quick fix. You treated the symptom and not the disease. You have cured loneliness for a while; you have not cured the behavior that causes the loneliness. I have lost the guy who made a mark on me, but you are doomed to a lifetime of being miserable. I point this out in hopes that you will change, not for me (you have lost me for the last time), but for you. So far, misery is one of the few things to which you’ve committed enough for it to be considered a long-term goal.

You have asked why you have trouble keeping friends, and I suspect that this quick-fix mentality is why. Your treatment of others is completely dependent on your mood at any given time, and completely motivated by self-interest. At any moment, without warning, you may lose your patience and say things that can never be unsaid. The other person walks away forever and you are left wondering why.

People who only care for people because of self-interest are doomed to be surrounded by people driven by self-interest, because other people will have nothing to do with them. Until you understand this, you are doomed to be surrounded by people like yourself: friends who will leave you as soon as you have nothing they need or want. A circle of people patching up their empty lives with quick fixes.

I had thought for a while that you’d had this realization. That you had decided to do the work that it takes to reap the benefits of better friendships. However, learning and evolving is not pleasurable or quick. Adults realize that things of value take time and work. You tend to give things a month or two and then give up when your efforts don’t pay off quickly enough.

I liked you enough to give you two more chances than most people get. I sincerely wanted you to live up to your potential. I wanted nothing more than for you to decide to work hard enough to become what I know you could be. I wanted you to prove that you wanted me enough to work to get me. You just wanted someone – anyone – to want you, so you could prove that your recent breakup didn’t prove you to be flawed, undesirable. “Someone still wants me! This breakup means nothing!” You weren’t interested in evolution. You were interested in validation. “Self-Esteem Band-Aid Vagina” is not on my driver’s license or passport, so that must not be my name.

You were given a chance to prove yourself changed and evolved, or at least open to change and evolution. Instead, you have proven yourself soulless, self-centered, impulsive and immature. Harsh words, but those are also apparently words that no one has ever cared about you enough to say. You need to hear them; those words are the adjectives keeping you from getting what you really want. Whiskey works for a while, but deciding to be better is what takes away the loneliness. Deciding to be better is what will surround you with better, more rewarding friendships and relationships. Decide to be better.


Little Boxes, Day Two: Norse Mythology

The last six months have been difficult ones without much comeuppance for the people who have hurt me. Many of these people have been guys. In fact, the drama got so bad that I swore off (until 2011) any kind of activity that wouldn’t be approved by a Sunday school teacher. The idea was this: if any guys decided to walk away without warning, it would hurt less. For the record, I was right. It did hurt less. Even if most of why he walked away was because I wouldn’t get naked.

What about the others? They show up, they fuck up, they get deleted. There’s either not enough of a relationship happening to bother with closure or there’s too much anger at the time to be coherent. I’m cleaning out some little boxes of hard feelings and writing some letters. I thought you might want to come along. Why? Because people like drama, rumor mills need rumor facts, and sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is tell someone the truth. We all just find it easier to walk away, but that doesn’t do any good. Haven’t you ever wanted to call a potential employer and find out why you didn’t get the job? They’re always too nice to tell you. You just keep making the same mistakes.

This week, I care enough to tell you the truth. I take ownership of some blame. I let go of some little boxes.


Dear Sir:

I think the only thing that kept me from saying truly horrible things about you is that I know I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. You were a derailed train and I was a misplaced jogger. I wandered off and ended up directly in your path. It was a mistake.

You were a swirling mass of pain. You pretended to be okay long enough to reel me in, but then our time together degenerated into nothing but booze and misunderstandings. I kept trying to be understood and kept failing. Runaway trains do not speak English. You couldn’t hear me trying to explain things to you because we have two different meanings for the same word. I kept yelling “hammer” and you kept handing me a socket wrench.

You said weird things, made me feel crazy, manipulated me and indicted me for crimes actually committed by your ex. All of that wasn’t even what made me angry. What made me angry was that I worried about you. I worried that you weren’t okay. I worried that the swirling eddy of pain was going to suck you down. I lost sleep. My back hurt all the time. I was never hungry. My teeth hurt all the time from being ground down whenever I was able to successfully drug myself enough to sleep. We were all scared that you were going to end up killing yourself and there was nothing we could do.

What made me angry was, for all of that concern, you had no discernible concern for me or anyone else. I was going through Hell at work and you didn’t care. You wouldn’t listen. The world was slowly snapping me in half and you didn’t have more than 10 seconds to spare before interrupting me. I couldn’t help you and you couldn’t stop cutting little slices out of me. By the time you’d left, I was calling hotlines just so I could say horrible things and only a stranger would know. The only alternative was to remove you and walk away.

I didn’t write you off and walk away as quickly as I should have because I was trying to at least remain friends. Part of me was doing so because I legitimately wanted to be your friend; part of me was just doing it to keep life non-dramatic for mutual friends. Trying to keep life pleasant and non-weird. Even now, I know that we’ll eventually end up sitting across from each other at some dinner or seeing each other at some party. We’ll have to know how to be nice. I just had to get you back across the moat where you could no longer hurt me. I had to not care about anything you said. I eventually got there.

I don’t hate you and I’m not mad at you because I understand that thing about the runaway train. You may think I magically turned your friends against you. Even if I had that kind of power (and I do not), I wouldn’t have done that. With proper apologies, we’d all welcome you home. With proper apologies.


Little Boxes, Day One: “Dude, Where’s My Retribution?”

If there is one phrase that I’ve gotten really damn sick of uttering to people in the last six months, it’s this one:

“Dude, I wouldn’t do that to you.”

In other words, somebody does something semi fucked-up to you and, when the other person doesn’t understand why you’re angry with them, you explain how they made you feel and have to point out that you wouldn’t have done something like that to them. Please note that I used the phrase semi fucked up. Truly, deeply fucked up actions result in immediate and permanent deletion. Sometimes you just say, “there is nothing good that can come from having this person in my life” and move along.

I’m sick of people treating me like my feelings don’t matter and then just having to walk away from the whole thing. I mean, what’s the alternative? Write them a well thought-out email about how they hurt my feelings? Well, we’ve already established that said person doesn’t really care about my feelings; what would be the point of letting them know they hurt me? Maybe I could could write something down about how much I hate them? Well, all that accomplishes is releasing more shit into the world and opening up myself to a possible reply from that person which would probably just make things worse. I guess you can always beat the hell out of somebody, but that’s also bad karma and a good way to end up in jail.

What’s a girl to do? If the problem can’t be worked out or the crime is really heinous, I usually just walk away. I thought this was a pretty effective, simple and dignified way to handle things. As it turns out, it just boxes up the problems. Seals them up with packing tape and then they just sit there. You want to ignore them, but there are your feelings, all boxed up and still just as they were when you put them there. Maybe a little skinnier and paler, but there they are. The other person gets to go on, and you end up with all these damn boxes.

There’s no retribution.
There should be.

The person who hurt you is never made to answer for what they did. You get to lie there metaphorically bleeding and they just get to walk away like nothing happened and keep behaving in whatever fucked-up way they choose. They’ll hurt more people and then, when people start to catch on to them, they’ll just move to a new city and start over. Like serial killers.

Usually, I just have to comfort myself with, “the life that he/she is headed for with that kind of behavior is far, far worse than anything I can deal out.” It’s true, but it’s cold comfort when all you really want is five minutes and a pair of steel-toed boots.

For example, when a pack of douchebags laid me off six days before I was supposed to close on my house, I wanted to key their cars so badly. SO. BADLY. Instead, I thought “the way you operate is going to bite you in the ass eventually, and that’d be way better.” I left their cars alone. That business eventually ended up having to cut 70% of its staff. What’s left of the company is a laughable shadow of what it could have been.

I’ll admit that, because I am a flawed person, I really enjoy the fact that everyone in town is slowly realizing that those guys are douchebags. However, the little box of anger is still there. It’s not like keying their cars or beating them up would get rid of the box of anger. I could focus on how I ended up doing just fine without them. I could remind myself that everybody else from the company got laid off later, in the middle of the recession. But nothing makes the box go away.

Have we all become so afraid of consequences that we’re afraid to call people out on their bad behavior? Is there no come-uppance anymore? Is everyone content to just become sort of passive-aggressive? Or is just walking away the more mature, adult thing to do?

No, really. I’m asking. I need answers.