oh, honey. all fire but no flame. in over your head and hiding under an argument, flailing and fragile and trying to forgive yourself for knowing better but saying yes anyway. mad at everyone else for a choice they told you not to make. soon you’ll see the difference between what he gives and what he’s taking. soon you’ll feel the difference between who’s just barely bending and who’s breaking.
I wake up every day where I always said I wanted to be and still I wonder if he’ll ever love me like I think I need him to or if I’ll ever again feel as proud as I did telling people I was moving to New York.
He cooks and cleans and walks our dogs in the morning so that I can get that extra 15 minutes of sleep I swear I need to be happy and I spend my time talking myself out of doing what I love most for the fear of finding out that I could get everything I’ve ever wanted out of life and still not be happy; terrified to find out with certainty what I’ve always known to be true: I don’t know how to be happy.
So I am starting my 28th year of life trying to be positive, reminding myself daily how lucky I am just to be breathing, no matter how shallow the breath. I am starting my 28th year by climbing out of a big, dark, freezing, pool of depression and I’m sitting here, clothes still drenched in sadness, and I am trying. I’m walking on sunny sides of streets, I’m drinking more water, I’m brushing my hair at least half of the week and I’m crying during the second to last song at Soulcycle because it’s the only healthy release I know.
I am trying – to kick, push, or even doggy-paddle my way to the other side of this.
A year ago I wrote, “Standing on the corner of Greenpoint Ave., I looked up at him and thought, I am not worthy. I am less than.”
But time has passed and my hair has grown back down to my hips and we both live in Manhattan, together, and he admits standing in our kitchen that he is not worthy and while he cries I close my eyes and tell myself, You are not too much as a result of his being too little.
I’ve been here before, in this position. It varies, it evolves, but I’m always here: an emotional fetal position. Crippled by the idea that the men I love could ever betray my trust with girls I’ve spent my entire life trying to stand apart from.
I don’t know a rush like the one I get speeding down west side highway in a yellow cab with the windows rolled down. I smell salt and beer and loneliness lingering in a heavy summer air; all familiar and comforting reminders from my past that I haven’t stood still all this time. I’m no longer stuck or searching for a sense of self in boys or bottles or hiding in the distance between my present and future. I am whole. I am home.
The thing about New York is the experience. And if you’re not out experiencing the food, or the people, or the sights, then you’re alone with yourself. Probably the version of yourself you hoped to leave in your hometown, hoping you’d start over in the city that dreams are made of. But in New York, dreams don’t just come fleeting in the night. In New York dreams are on billboards and in the people passing you on sixth ave at 8:45 every morning. In New York, dreams become realities every minute of every day. But not in your tiny apartment or your routine subway schedules. Dreams are in the adventure, in taking a different avenue home after work, in happy hours your rent makes it hard to afford. But I promise you need it.You need that overpriced glass of wine and laughs with friends you’ve only just met. I promise that you need to see the city at night and taste the freshness in the air after 8pm on a weekday. I swear it gets you through the never ending loneliness. I promise there is a waiter, or a cab driver, or a drunk man on the street who will tell you something about life you didn’t know before that moment, that moment that you would’ve missed had you got lost in the routine of letting your life pass you by.
A couple of weeks ago I attended Kathleen’s bachelorette party in the Finger Lakes and up until that Sunday night I had no idea what I would stand up here and say. But as we sat around a bonfire that overlooked Seneca Lake I watched burning embers while Kathleen shuffled Taking Back Sunday, Death Cab for Cutie and Dashboard Confessional; songs that we began to sing in loud whispers, afraid we might disturb our neighbors and get kicked out of our house the same as the bachelor party. And as we sang with grand hand gestures I started to look at the houses on the other side of the lake and I looked at my best friend drunk off wine and love and she was laughing. She’s so good at laughing, I’ve seen her laugh thousands of times, but never like this, with grace in her heart and flowers in her hair. So free. THIS, I thought, THIS is what I wish Kathleen and Andrew a lifetime of: belly laughs and hearts this full. Love that frees your heart of all the heavy stuff, but still keeps you rooted to the realities of morning breath and trivial disagreements about whose turn it is to take the dog out. Because love really isn’t about the big things, like moving in together or wedding proposals. Love is in all the moments that led you there, in how you two can’t agree on who kissed who first in Billy’s living room in Florida, or in the way Kathleen says Andrew with a hard ‘A’, no emphasis on the drew, or the way Andrew says Kathleen, drawing it out slow, savoring her name like his favorite flavor of ice cream, It’s waking up next to each other every morning, crusty-eyed and groggy, and knowing you want to continue to do so every day for the rest of your lives. Today alone does not define your love, it’s all the yesterdays, it’s today, and it’s in every day going forward. Though rooted to the earth, may the love you share make each of you feel as if you can touch the sky.
I think the hardest part is accepting that he’d never love me the way I needed him to. He’d never understand my definition of loyalty. He wouldn’t ever identify with the way I feel when I hear Manchester Orchestra or Kate Nash or Sarah Kay poems. If I offered him a threesome he’d glow at the thought. He wouldn’t turn it down because I alone was enough for him. I’ve never been enough for him. He’d admit, “Your words, not mine.” He wouldn’t push on the rare occasion I needed to pull because what is he if not in control? He’d drool with his friends over body types exact opposite of mine but swear I was all he wanted. I’ve never been what he wanted. He’d say I love you and he’d convince himself he meant it but only because this was the first time he felt something. And when you go from feeling nothing to feeling something you want that something to have a name, but love isn’t something. Love is everything. I gave him everything. He gave me something.