Tag Archives: relationships

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.

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On The Mythical Boyfriend, and the “Best Part” of Having One

The other day, I had a long overdue Skype date with my good friend A—the one who I was close with in DC and who, after quitting her job over a year ago, has been hopping all over the US, Southeast Asia, and now Europe.

(Sidenote: I “hear”—both literally and philosophically—those complaints about the “alphabet soup” in my last post. Forgive me for now: the initial system isn’t ideal, but I haven’t got anything better. Open to suggestions!)

A few short emails aside, it’d been a long time since we’d really caught up: I’d missed her call when she’d tried to reach me, about five months ago, before leaving her for her latest jaunt—I was on my first date with D.

“So,” she said. “What’s your favorite part about having a boyfriend?”

This caught me off guard: pretty sure no one, as yet, has asked me this particular question.

But if anyone were to ask it, it would certainly be A. This is how we talk. Like me, she’s spent most of her life without a boyfriend, save one epic live-in relationship whose rise and fall I intimately witnessed.

Several months into the “rise” of that situation, A would frequently turn to me, interrupting herself from work or exercise or unrelated topic of conversation, flare her big green eyes wide and say, voice completely flat, “I cannot believe I have a boyfriend.”

“I know,” I’d say. “It’s amazing!”

“It is amazing,” she’d reply. “It is just so strange to use that word!”

In other words, we use the word “boyfriend” as though referring to some sort of mythic or exotic species– because to us, they have been. Like Gila Monsters or wild parrots: oft talked about, occasionally spotted, rarely materializing for long.

When she asked the question—what my “favorite part” is—I stumbled through a scattered list of seemingly reasonable replies.

“It’s nice to have an intimate confidant,” I said. “And someone to cuddle with. And someone to just chill and watch movies with.” I paused. “And he cooks!”

All of which is true. But in our post-Skype email exchange, A answered the question herself: “You seem so happy and relaxed,” she wrote. “I think boyfriends are amazing for us as women. They calm us down so much!”

How’s that for anti-feminist? But bear with me. And A.

Certainly, relationships bring their share of anxiety and stress. My stubborn sleeping problems haven’t disappeared, for example. And as I’ve written, things, generally, are as they were before.

But it’s true: there is a way in which I am more relaxed then I was when I was single.

When you aren’t with someone and you’d like to be, there’s a sort of weight that bears down on you. A sense of obligation, a pressure, a sense that you always ought to be making an effort to meet someone.

At times, I found online dating a good solution for that: I could tell myself that I was “making an effort” while still staying home with popcorn and Tina Fey most Saturday nights.

But even then, I felt it. And don’t get me wrong, I am a social person. I like being around people, I like to go out—sometimes, not too often, and rarely past midnight (sorry, I’m over twenty-five and an insomniac). But I don’t like to feel like I have to. And when I was single, I often felt like I had to.

I don’t mean to imply this is true for everyone, because I know it’s not. But I always remember the Friday afternoon a few years back when, post-show, I wandered around my workplace surveying colleagues about whether I should bus it from DC to New York for the weekend just to attend a friend’s birthday party.

“Go!” One of them demanded. “You should always go to parties! You might meet your husband!”

(For the record, I did go, and—so far as I know—did not meet my husband. Or anyone else, so far as I can remember, particularly interesting. But at least I won’t have to wonder…or something.)

You see what I mean. There’s a persistent stress: a feeling that you should always be trying, that you should always be looking.

Obviously, being in a relationship doesn’t mean I’ve stopped looking forever—D and I are far from that level of certainty or commitment.

But it does mean I’ve stopped looking for now. And that, it turns out, is a very relaxing thing.

 

 

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On Feeling Like A Fraud, And Our East Coast Adventure!

During the New York stop of D’s and my nine-day, four-city Extreme East Coast Adventure, we landed for a couple of nights at my brother,  sister-in-law and niece’s Park Slope brownstone.

The day before, D had met a few of my numerous New York relatives—mother, one grandmother, one brother—but not yet F, my sister-in-law. (I feel obliged to note that, for her, this title seems distinctly weak: I have known F since she was seventeen and I was five: throughout my childhood she took to regularly supervising my backyard birthday parties—from kimonos to tie-dyes, bless her then-teenage heart.)

And that afternoon–considering F’s lifetime of childcare, it was the least I could do–D and I picked up S, my seven-year-old niece, from elementary school–and, by way of a chaotic playground on 7th Avenue and a slightly calmer stop for Italian Icies on 5th (rainbow for the kid, lemon for us), brought her home.

A little while later, D was downstairs starting a load of laundry when F walked in the house, home from an afternoon pedicure up the block.

She looked down to see S and I sprawled on the hardwood living room floor with sharpies and construction paper, books and scissors, glue sticks and stickers–but no D.

“Where is he!?” she stage-whispered, still only partway through the door.

“Huh?” I looked up, reluctant to distract from my intense focus on the startingly Herculean task S had just charged me with: drawing a cat.

“The boyfriend! I haven’t seen him and I don’t believe he exists!”

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On a New (ish) Relationship and Things (Not) To Think About

As anticipated, my new-but-now-longer-than-three-month relationship no longer shimmers with the gloss of perfection–same for D, the person I’m in it with.

Don’t misunderstand: both things–he and the relationship–continue to be the source of many things happy, as things that aren’t flawless often do. I still get giddy about seeing him and feel extremely fortunate to have him, and us.

But we seem to have entered this sort of in-between sphere: the relationship is no longer brand new, and yet–it’s coming on four months now–it’s not exactly a thing of profound length. We’re not quite in the honeymoon stage anymore, that time when you just can’t stop thinking of the person and want to be with them all the time and believe them more or less perfect. Okay, maybe a little bit.

Anyhow. There’s a baseline commitment–breaking news, internet: in a few weeks, I’m taking the boy home to meet the family!–but no talk of anything significantly longer term.

In other words: we’ve yet to discuss the fact that in about twelve months, godwilling, I will be done with my MFA and don’t know where I’ll want to go (you know me and my persistent, unresolved New York-or-not-New-York angst), while his career (read: pension) means he’s not going to leave New Mexico for the next nineteen years.

As he put it when I, sort of accidentally, brought up the point a few weeks ago: that’s a conversation for another time.

What time, though, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know when you move from the short term commitment we currently occupy, of meeting the family and going to weddings and making plans for months ahead, to the kind that necessitates that conversation. The talk about whether-this-is-possibly-forever-or-not.

I’m certainly not anxious to get there. As I’ve been realizing, the territory is entirely unfamiliar.

There were a lot of strange things about my first and only long term love. Most notably, that, when we started dating, he was thirty-five and I was nineteen.

That particular strange thing generated a lot of other strange things: namely that, in my head and I’m pretty sure in his, the possibility of permanence never took up much space.

Sure, there were moments. One, in particular, that I always think of–spending time one summer with my friend K, an older woman who is now my ex’s girlfriend (also, a conversation for another time) by the pool at her St. Paul country club. We sometimes saw Garrison Keillor there, striding by in long maroon trunks and a serious scowl.

We also saw, reliably, a lot of little kids. And a lot of young mothers with those kids: playing and policing the floating landscape of bright yellow butterfly wings, purple floating rafts and bendy foam noodles.

Growing up in New York City, the squad I saw parenting was an aging one. I thought thirty-five was young to have kids. But since then I’ve been drawn to the idea, at least, of being a young parent. And in that moment I remember thinking: I should just do it. Marry the guy I’m with. Have babies now. Play in the pool with the rafts and the moms and call it a day.

And then the moment passed. I returned to my normal way of thinking: that I was far too young and inexperienced to even consider settling down. That sooner or later I’d have to pursue opportunities, professional and otherwise, outside Minnesota. That my first real relationship would not be my last.

A way of thinking that, I now realize, was something of a luxury. It allowed me to enjoy the relationship, the person and my time with him, for what it was. Never–or, perhaps, rarely–did questions about longevity loom in the back of my mind. I was able to appreciate the present without the constant distraction of the future.

Now, I have no such luxury. Now, as I fall for someone in an increasingly serious way, I can’t help but let thoughts of what might be, accompany–and sometimes, I fear, interrupt–those of what is.

I hate this. Four months is a short time. Possible flaws and issues have only just begun to surface, and I’m sure they will continue. They always do. The question isn’t how close things are, or us together, is to perfect, but whether it’s the right thing–let’s be honest, whether it’s a good-enough thing (Jesus, have I lost all my romanticism?)–for me and for him.

And that, there’s no doubt, is a question for another time.

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Some Thoughts on (Possible) Love

Hello, everyone. I’m sorry it’s been a while, but I have two excuses.

One, I just decided to start a big writing project that will require a strong exercise of discipline, and I am not very good at exercising discipline at all, and if I am ever going to exercise discipline successfully, I can only concentrate said discipline on one thing.

Two, for the first time since I started blogging, I am in a relationship. A real relationship. As in there is a person who I can introduce as “my boyfriend” without panicking that he will race immediately from the room/board the next available flight to Panama/think that I’m crazy.

(I was fairly sure that this was the case, but, for the record, did wait for D to initiate the gesture by introducing me as “his girlfriend” before I began to reciprocate. I hear Panama is lovely this time of year.)

Now, as I’ve told you, at the outset D made the very thoughtful gesture of offering not to keep reading my blog. (I don’t mean to classify it as heroic for someone to deny themselves the pleasure of my writing–though he does like reading it–but, well, you get my drift.)

What I have not told you is that I promptly sabotaged his generosity by informing him that there would be some posts he could read–thereby putting myself in the awkward position of having to determine whether each entry is or isn’t “D-friendly.”

(For reasons that may be no more complicated than ego, I have an oddly fierce desire for people–like my parents, and now boyfriend–for whom reading my blog is a distinctly perilous endeavor, to read it anyhow.)

But I digress. The point is that D, thanks to my ego/idiocy, may or may not be reading this. And so I hesitate to write, well, anything. But especially this.

What I lack in discipline, though, I make up for in fecklessness. So here we go.

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Knowing What Matters, Sooner or Later

There’s a particular memory I always associate with the collision of music and romance.

Back in St. Paul I knew a guy who was the singer in a local rock band that played out a lot. He and his bandmates were all various, aggressive shades of cute, scruffy and jaded.

For a short time he dated a friend of mine, and as I recall it didn’t end particularly well. A while after that I ran into him at some show at the Turf Club or Big V’s, the two divey venues on either side of Snelling Avenue between which our crowd alternated evenings, and he told me that he was dating someone new–someone he’d met through work.

“I like her a lot,” he announced, beaming. “And it’s crazy. She doesn’t know anything about music.”

I looked at him, trying to discern why this declaration satisfied him so.

“I mean, she has no idea what bands are cool or trendy or whatever. It’s so awesome. I’ve realized it totally doesn’t matter.”

For him, it was a revelation: as though he’d spent his whole life thinking that taste in music and other such trivialities were of primary importance, when really there were other things–like values, maybe, or sex–that could render people compatible.

I don’t think I ever thought shared taste in music the only thing that mattered–or even mattered that much. But still, I always recall this conversation when I start dating someone and conversation turns to “favorite bands.”

“Oh geez,” I think. “Why should I care if we both like Cat Power? Just because you also love Paul Westerberg–that doesn’t mean we’re meant to be.”

Forgive me: in truth, I do think that because you also love Paul Westerberg, we probably are meant to be. (It’s that line from the David Brooks article I wrote about a while back–we all have an inflated sense of our uniqueness.)

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