That’s what I get for writing quickly and while tired. I was – brace yourselves – eager to get a bit of work done before I grew too sleepy last night. I didn’t finish the project until today – was scattered between reading and writing, working and watching television. I’m strangely off lately. Not unhappy, necessarily. Not depressed or unable to cope. Almost jittery though. I had to change outfits 10 times yesterday morning. I limited myself to trying on two shirts this morning, then realized I couldn’t make myself wear the second one and changed one last time. I forget what I’m about to do next when my focus slips from the task at hand. I’m writing a lot of lists and notes and am multi-tasking relatively well. I just feel a bit strange. Unsettled is perhaps a good descriptor.
I’m not dating, though I appreciate the interest should I begin to do so. I am emailing a couple of men, both of whom seem lovely without being overly compelling. I would meet either of them for coffee and suggested it to one. He responded in the affirmative but his failure to set a date perhaps speaks more to the negative. Which is OK – I find I’m ready to try, but not desperate to do so.
I have not heard from Client, though Dr. Counselor informed me that he thought I was “worth a call.”
“OK.” I responded easily after I gave him a strange look. Therapy was weird yesterday. It left me feeling unsettled. At one point, I found myself holding my breath against sobs while looking at the clock. Even I – therapy newcomer that I am – realize that completely breaking down when there isn’t time to pull together again is hardly the smartest move. Given that I decided to start my week dealing with mental health, I find I resist getting too emotional. So I was presenting my stable side. Happy and polite, I began by asking about his weekend, made sympathetic sounds when he noted he was dealing with some sinus issues. We moved through a quick discussion of my progress at work. He noted that I’ve been spending time with Friend lately.
“It’s good.” I said, smiling as I remembered my befuddlement with lobster tails. “It’s mushy.” I had said, poking at it with my fork and watching as it slipped into my bowl of lemon butter. I frowned as I fished it out, placing it on my tongue and trying to force myself to be sophisticated enough to enjoy it. Soft, I decided, and wrinkled my nose. Then I reached for more shrimp.
“It is good that you have her.” Dr. Counselor noted, and I refocused to nod my agreement.
“I’m not so lonely anymore.” I admitted. “I tend to stick close to one person. I had one good friend growing up - Mandy. At various times though undergrad, I’d have a favorite of my girls and cling to her. Then in grad school there was M. We’d be in class together, then go to our separate labs, then meet up for dinner. Study together or watch TV or sit and talk. And I was happy – I had someone who knew and loved me, wanted to hear my stories and I knew all about her too. Prayed over her problems, cheered her successes, provided a place to sleep on the rare occasion she’d had a tiff with her boyfriend. She left, and Carrie and I became inseparable. Then after she left, there was Ryan. I moved south and was all alone for the first extended period in my life. So when Peter came along, I clung. I so badly needed a friend and given the slightest chance to turn him into something more, I pounced. You’ll notice I didn’t even allow for the possibility of an end until Friend came along. Having someone around who could ease the loneliness… I like that.”
He nodded and smiled and I allowed a moment to feel gratitude that people had shown up when I needed them. Each of them provided support and laughter – kept me company. That’s important.
Then I explained that I was eager for a relationship because it’s what I do anyway – there’s just not always a romantic component. But I do miss it – being physically close, feeling all tingly and warm, those moments where it’s more than words – curling up in silence and enjoying each other.
So there are the boys online. There’s Client. “Hope! Possibilities!” Dr. Counselor cheered and I offered a weak smile. “What are you feeling as we talk about this? The end of what you hoped would be your great love, the oncoming potential – what are you thinking?”
I opened my mouth, then closed it. Looked at the wall to my right, then checked the clock on my left. Shrugged.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen for me.” I offered. Then I expounded. “You don’t know this is part of God’s plan.” I argued after he made some statement. “I also want to be fabulously wealthy so I never have to work. I hardly think that’s God’s plan just because I’d like it to be so. There’s no guarantee that just because I’d like to love someone means that I get to.” Then later, “You can’t have it both ways. If there’s someone out there for me, then I’ll find him. I shouldn’t have to lose weight or spend countless hours in coffee shops making sure to display my empty ring finger to any man who passes by. It’s not me – it doesn’t feel appealing or natural – so I hardly think it’s necessary.”
Frustrated that I continued to shoot him down, he asked, “So what’s the point of dating?”
“When I fail – end up alone – I want to be able to say I tried. Tell my little stories and explain that I made an effort and am lonely regardless.”
“Well, then, you’ll get your stories but lack a man. Self-fulfilling prophecy.”
I paused for the first time. Considered. Nodded. “I know.”
We left it so that I’m to pray about it. But I’m still wrapped up in God and the lizard and remain sad over how that all went. I need to find room to hope – to truly move on and be open.
But it doesn’t really make sense to me.
“You can forget all that!” Dr. Counselor admonished when I started to complain about my grad school experiences again – how I was disappointed and overwhelmed at the end and was reminded by my final paper acceptance. “It’s over. Your work is published! Forget it and move on to the next thing!”
I wanted to correct him. It’s not over if I still remember! If I still know I was wronged. I was hurt and sad and confused. I have stories about that! Lots of them. In fact, I think it’d be good to spend more time hearing those stories than to collect material for new anecdotes.
Likewise, the book is coming along really well. I know – change is hard, clinging to the past, same story on a different day. It’s just that I like writing it – love making up pieces to fill in the gaps. Adore that stray chapters have become various sections. I’ll reach the point where I just need to connect them. I’m still at the stage where I’m building stories, selecting characters, writing what feels right at the time. Last weekend it was Winnie – that hurt. The one before was happy times with Peter – I ached with missing him and many times talked myself out of sending email to which he wouldn’t respond. I didn’t even start composing a message though – I wanted to, but resisted the desire. Progress. This weekend I wrote a bit of Charlie – I happily followed the impulse to contact him since I realized it’s been a little while since we’ve talked.
I’ve noticed that Peter’s been on my mind more over the last few days. I really think that I’m bothered that I can’t even have him as a casual acquaintance. If a new chapter develops for a story he’d known, I don’t get to tell him. If I think of a question he could answer, I can’t ask. Google usually knows too, which makes me think it’s not so much about the knowledge. It’s about connecting with someone I truly appreciated. I guess I’ve integrated the pieces of my heart that used to belong to him. Those that belonged to Ryan and Mandy and all those other people I used to love and no longer have any expectation of seeing. They’re all just soaked back into the whole in some weird way.
Yet a tiny sliver remains – one that, for a moment, wished ever so hard that Mandy was well when I looked at what she’d written in my 7th grade yearbook. “I remember.” I murmured softly, tracing my fingers over the words written her loopy and ornate script. “I see poltergeist in my screen.” I said, then told Mom how Mandy would say that when we wrote papers on the new computers in our English classroom. I recall the face she’d make – attempting scary but hovering just this side of hysterical giggles. How she’d wiggle her fingers. Not only her voice but her tone when she’d deliver the oft-used line - I could picture it vividly. And those memories - the good stuff – surfaced with painful intensity. But it was good – I loved her and I miss her and that’s a good thing. A worthy way to spend time between wincing over bad glasses in 4th grade and wishing I’d known how pretty I was before I started high school rather than obsessing that I wasn’t more popular.
I had a dream the other night. I was told that Grandma had cancer though there was part of me that knew she’d been gone since I was in high school. I know a little about what I’d do if told I needed an oncologist so I told Mom what steps I thought should be taken immediately. I wanted to see test results, functional imaging, details of the diagnosis. As I was demanding the required information, someone - a stranger - started to go over the costs to society in treating diseases. Tax money devoted to research, Medicare, and now people wanted universal health care? She just thought it was ridiculous.
I don’t know who this woman was but I began yelling at her – aware that I was causing a scene in what appeared to be a large ballroom (I don’t know why I was in a ballroom, but apparently dinner would be served soon for some function) as I railed against the injustice. Research was important! “Which would be obvious if you weren’t such a small-minded selfish moron!” Then I said something like, “What kind of bitch doesn’t want the elderly to receive medical attention? I hope you burn in hell!” Which might have been a slight overreaction, but I was so enraged. I wanted her to suffer. When I woke up, I was still angry. Then I realized I hadn’t gone to see Grandma at all in my dream. So focused on making sure people knew I’d be offended and demanding information that I didn’t really need, I failed to do the one thing I thought was most important. I didn’t get to hear her voice in my dream or reach for her hand. I lost track of the priority and I was left wondering how often I let that happen.
In the absence of boredom after winter break, Peter and those people associated with him have stopped reading me. The space has given me room to consider what’s important. This has led to writing my book with painful honesty. Sometimes I don't look so good. Other times I'm downright adorable. As far as quality goes…well, you know. I do find myself reading sections sometimes rather than writing more. I wondered the other day if the goal is writing it or reading it after I’m done. Given that I don’t tend to write anytime other than weekends, it might be some time before I can offer an answer.
What do we know now? I’m still figuring it out. For me, the past needs some room. It just does. I miss people who are gone and this is the first time I find I can’t make an effort to just say hello. Which is sad. At some point, however, the past needs to scoot back to make room for the present. The evaluation of goals and priorities, the focus on the positive – being with people I enjoy, hoping for the arrival of more – while understanding it’s not really my job to educate the world. Because if it were, we’re all screwed. I barely know what I’m doing, let alone what the ideal method might be. Even my retrospective analysis of the past year or so is in desperate need of more chapters and rewrites of what already exists.
Regardless, when I date, you’ll hear about it. And when I finish the book, I’ll let you know that too.