On No Meaning No

18 October, 2010

Dear Jon Favreau-ish type that tried to pick me up – and take me home – tonight at that bar in DUMBO:

Chatting me up ‘politely’ for ten minutes before telling me that my lips are so nice, I *must* be a good kisser (yes, it’s true, but that is neither here nor there), and then trying to delve deep into personal romantic & sexual histories does NOT give you the right to f’ing mope when I repeatedly but politely turn down your rather disgusting “I would just need an hour to show you the reckoning” proposition.

Further, if I tell you I’m not going to engage in any such reckoning, do you not realize that:
a) the more you use your “one hour” line, the more you destroy your chances of said encounter ever (in a million years) happening?!
b) it would have behooved you to leave it alone after, say, the 4th time you brought it up and the 4th time I turned you down.
c) girls do not lie about just up and going to Abu Dhabi for a week. Mostly because it’s too outrageous. If I tell you that I need to go home and pack for my flight that’s in less than 20 hours, you’d best respect and believe that.

So quit yer whining and forlorn cigarette-suckage, and, may I put this mildly: go take yourself home.

x

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Where anecdotes go to die

6 October, 2010

Now there’s a wall between us; something there’s been lost
I took too much for granted; got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on an uneventful morn:
“Come in,” she said,
“I’ll give you shelter from the storm”

Not that I needed to, but I was able to close out my 20s with a final cross-off the Life Experience List: that silly thing called a “real relationship,” start to finish. At this rate, I’m due for a 6-month relationship which will end right before I turn 60.

Now, not supposing that my experience has been anything typical (for if it was, I’m quitting this dating game right now), but I can certainly appreciate the path of getting-over-it that must be fairly common. There’s frustration and confusion (if you’re me, anyhow), there’s being upset, there’s being angry, there’s being utterly exhausted from being upset and angry. And then, with some mental and emotional stretching and coaxing, there’s a deep breath of air and you look around and realize that you’ve returned to something that resembles normalcy—wherein “normalcy” is whatever your life was like before the other person was a part of it.

But then you’re faced with the challenge of functioning like that “normal” person again—a challenging task no matter what, made worse when suddenly, strange, pesky moments of memory drift into your consciousness, like a subtle but unmistakably familiar aroma, reminders of everything that was, and everything that you must move on from.

That’s a sad part about the end of the relationship.

Once you get past the icky feelings, once you learn that you can swallow the hurt enough to move on, there’s a lingering bittersweetness, that in the right light can seem almost wistful. And for a glorious nanosecond, the warm fuzzies of the relationship return, as you hear a certain song, pass a spot of a memorable date, or remember a ridiculous inside joke. That’s the fleeting sweetness; because in the next moment, the bitter sweeps in with something like the sharp pinch of a mosquito bite. It’s acute, targeted, and even though you know the mosquito’s gone, you know its effects are not.

So now you have a host of these itchy little ‘bites,’ not quite memories, but not quite disposable. They’re things that made the relationship unique and intimate, made you smile throughout the day and your time apart. They’ve become tiny moments that are unavoidable. (If we used to laugh at a certain phrase that my boss used, who do I laugh with the next time he says it?) Sometimes, they’re moments that we need to address, for ourselves, to force our way through them enough times that we become desensitized to their sentimentality. (There are too many songs on the relationship playlist for me to start associating them all with that wonky break-up… And so I refuse to stop listening, no matter how many times we may have fallen asleep to them.) (Songs are really tough; the soundtrack to a good time can easily become the soundtrack to a maudlin montage of memories that beckons forth a depressed nostalgia.)

I’ve never been one for any kind of ultimate finality—for as much as I am a fan of cleansing, the thought of burning items associated with someone else makes me sad. (This is probably why I still have a small shopping bag filled with candy and tea that I had intended to give to Mr. Is-No-More sitting by my front door… Truth is, when I really need to get rid of someone or something, I much prefer to bury over burn.) But these anecdotal moments that have me caught up lately are intangible and powerful; they’re in the air, vapors that are immune to permanent destruction. Yet once they work their way inside, they coalesce and conjure up very real memories, which then play out in my mind like a collage of romantic comedies, poignant and affecting, misty watercolored memories that are easier to indulge in than to fight.

But like most drugs, the indulgent high is followed by an empty low. For, really, all of these little moments wind up meaning precious little. No matter how bitter or sweet, they lead you to the same place: that’s all over, and you’re alone.

And I’ve begun to think that that’s why there’s something that feels good about clinging to these moments when they appear. In some cyclical equation that I’m trying to wrap my head around, these hints of memories of the relationship are the best distraction from the relationship itself. It’s not living in the past; it’s just learning how to not be tormented by it. It’s like that mosquito bite that appears in late autumn—it may not be pleasant, but the thought of summertime is sweet. It’s still jarring when a new little ‘bite’ pops up, like when I heard an old favorite song on the radio the other day, and remembered serenading him with it in the back of a cab while confusing all the lyrics. The memory began to make me sad, but I’m learning how to handle it. I smile. I sigh. I remember. I miss what was.

I move on.

x

On Relativity

1 October, 2010

3 days til 30

A man can’t know where he is on the earth except in relation to the moon or a star. Astronomy comes first; land maps follow because of it. Just the opposite of what you’d expect. If you think about it long enough, it will turn your brain inside-out. A here exists only in relation to a there, not the other way around. There’s this only because there’s that; if we don’t look up, we’ll never know what’s down. Think of it, boy. We find ourselves only by looking to what we’re not. You can’t put your feet on the ground until you’ve touched the sky.  (Moon Palace, Paul Auster)

I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out the appropriate angle for a blog entry about this past week; something in my signature-style of vague if underhanded life lesson that’s disguising some deeper inner turmoil.

In trying to deal with that turmoil, I’ve also spent the past week immersed in a book; perhaps not the most amazing book, but an engaging story with a fast-paced writing style that allows for complete distraction. For that, Paul Auster, I am eternally grateful.

So there’s all this stuff going on in my life right now, and I’ve chosen to include “turning 30” as part of that stuff, because it feels, for some reason, like something to tackle, something that, come Monday morning, I can check off. I have no trepidation about this milestone, I’m simply excited for the next chapter. Yet, in matters that have nothing to do with my age, the past seven days have been fraught with an anchorless emotional anxiety that’s brought many questions and yielded precious few answers (the only answer so far, in fact, has been: Yes, you will get through this).

When I came across the afore-quoted passage in the book, suddenly everything before me was brought into a sharper perspective. I could read each sentence a hundred times over and be equally touched by its accuracy and simplicity each time. My brain was, indeed, beginning to turn itself inside-out. And I found that while my emotional burden was hardly lifted, it was no longer isolated, it was in a context now that brought comfort, too.

Because if we continue the thinking that Mr. Auster began, wouldn’t it be true that there is only happiness because we’ve known sadness, and, inversely, only sadness because we’ve known happiness? As Joni said, “you don’t know what you got til it’s gone;” we only have people and things to miss because we’ve had people and things. Even Tennyson says so. From here, my brain continues: we can only grow from an experience if it’s been profound enough to mark us, profound enough for us to care. Which means that without experience, we do not grow, we do not change. We can own our scars because they are proof of our humanity, of our progression. And that is the most positive spin I could possibly hope to put on this week-of-shittiness, because it says, simply: It was all worth it.

In the larger picture, too, the quote is no less relevant. For as my 30th year rapidly approaches, I am trying (probably too hard) to take stock of who I am, where I am and what I want. These questions exist every day, of course, but on birthdays, I actually try to articulate answers for them. And what gets me about the book’s quote is that this Theory of Relativity (for that is what it is), applies not only to the world around me; Earth to Moon, here to there, but it applies to me to me. I am, now, relative to myself, then.  What Auster writes is true, it’s been the axiom for the past twenty years of my life: “We find ourselves only by looking to what we’re not.” “What we’re not” can certainly apply to how we define ourselves by reacting to others, but, as I’m only now truly starting to understand, it can also mean “what we are no longer.” We can define ourselves in the present by looking at who we were in the past. We are not only amalgamations of our experiences, but we are reshaped by them, parts of ourselves are discarded, or eaten away, or re-molded to reveal an entirely new form, one that bears resemblance to previous forms, but is wholly unique.

And, in looking at things this way, both my recent emotional hiccup and my larger “Who Am I?” issues are addressed: Experience must sometimes break us down so we can rebuild ourselves, strengthened for the next time. We remember what’s passed as emotional and functional: memories, already tinged with bittersweetness, are also lessons, sometimes cautionary tales, sometimes exemplary models. They become notes for our playbooks, what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve for next time. We can look back to last week, last month, ten years ago or twenty-seven years ago (which is about where my memory kicks in). We can even reinterpret previous interpretations of the past. When I was 20, I reacted to my teenage years very differently than I do now. I am shaped by those teenage years, but also by the shape of myself at 20. We are glorious monsters of pastiche.

Every day of the past informs the present. Because of that, we can walk confidently on the ground knowing that our fingers have grazed the sky. We have looked down, and thus can safely look upwards again, knowing what exists in both the depths and the heights of ourselves. We can heal ourselves; we know that the present hurts only because the past didn’t. We can look forward because we know what’s behind us. We are here because we have been there. We are now, because we have been then.