November is almost over, Love…
Shall we dance for that? This isn’t going to be one of those letters where I have little tiny details to gently walk us into it. We’re going in headfirst and it’s a bit of a cesspool.
This week was hard. And long. But today is Sunday and we get to start over.
A week ago I finished publishing a three part longread called Coming Undone that told the story of some hard parts from my past. What I didn’t mention was why I decided to publish then — right before Thanksgiving, right in the midst of all my happy Just-Moved-To-Nashville moments.
Three. Three big slivers of broken. Three parts to the story. Three years. Thanksgiving Day was exactly three years since I left my marriage. There’s an alarm in my phone that says Independence Day.
Do you find that uncouth and disrespectful? I’m still healing so I find it soothes my soul.
I celebrated with toasted cheese and crispy potatoes. (Also, can we agreed that there is a BIG difference between grilled cheese and toasted cheese?) I spent the day alone. I cleaned house and made a video of it so my friends and family could see where I live now, proudly showing them my new space. There were pieces of me that felt shame it wasn’t more but then I remembered the day I left. In my right hand was one small suitcase and the left hand held a box with my three prized possessions; a galaxy Christmas ball by Rodarte from my mother, a tiny Eiffel Tower statue from Paris, and an alabaster cast of the goddess, Nike, brought back from Greece many years ago from my brother.
We have come a long way. This is my life, still unfolding.
I don’t quite know how to say this next part. I imagine a one day with you on the bed here next to me, propped up reading a book and reaching a toe over to nudge mine — just a gentle whisper of an action to remind me that you’re in it with me. It gives me the courage to keep talking.
I’m coming to realize how my marriage changed me. Once upon a time it was easy for me to be with people.
I absorbed their energy and reflected it back at them. I could walk into a room, start at the front and work my way all the way through to the back. By the end, I’d know everyone’s names and who they should meet and how they should be connected — and I’d already have begun introducing them to each other.
And then, I was alone. For long, long, long periods of time, I was alone. And it started feeling safer to be alone. When I was with people, I had to act like everything was okay and really nothing was. For a long time being alone became better. When I finally started to heal, I didn’t know how to be around people anymore. I’d become so self aware that my flaws were the heaviest burden I walked with. They glared back at me from the eyes of every person I spoke to.
I could feel them thinking about the imperfections of my body or face or words. It had been drilled into me that my pieces weren’t okay; they would never be okay — they were ugly.
I knew I was getting it wrong, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it right. So, I hid.
I wanted to connect with real humans in real life, but it never seemed to work. Their disappointment in me was palpable. And I didn’t understand. I was finally being myself. Therapy was teaching me how to remove the mask and be me — flaws and all.
But, us humans, we can be fantastic and other times we can really suck. So, sometimes what I believe about myself is reiterated.
Since moving to Nashville, I’ve been putting myself out there and having people over and going out for coffee and drinks and some of it has been PAINFUL. And, baby, I don’t know how to do it better. But I keep pushing because I want to get it right. I want to learn.
Friday night I went out with a couple of women. As you know, I drink bourbon and scotch. I limit myself to two. That’s my rule. Somehow I ended up having four. I think you can guess where this story is leading. Me on the floor. More than once. Try three times. It’s hard walking in six inch heels when you’re 5’1 and have drank a scotch and three bourbons straight up. Embarrassed doesn’t describe my feelings. I don’t get drunk, but I was. Three times in my life when I’ve been drunk and that was one of them. I have a five inch bright purple bruise on my ass from falling down in the middle of some Midtown joint to prove it.
I felt such horror at myself for the lack of control. How could I have gotten it so wrong?
What followed yesterday’s early morning self-flagellation was another reiteration of my flaws. I met up with someone who believed they were speaking graciously in their offer of friendship but their words felt like sharp, poisoned arrows entering swiftly into wounds already there. I knew the intentions were good, but I haven’t felt so small sitting across from another human in a while.
It made me think about how I engage with those around me and how important the words I use to draw them close are. I know I’ve been hiding. I know I’m overly intense. I know I’m still carrying some of the pain of my past with me; it takes a while to heal from that shit, yo. But I want to make sure that I’m not projecting my pain onto another.
After that conversation, I was supposed to go buy a bed. But I didn’t. I went home, cried, and hid. Because old habits are comfortable and hard to break. Seriously. I took a hot shower (because that’s what I do when I’m emotionally distraught), put on multiple layers of p.j.’s, piled on the blankets, and darkness descended.
Because it will. It will sneak in when it finds a crack. And here I’d been alone (of my own choosing) most of the week, re-grieving (and celebrating) the end of The Pain, and kicking my own ass for not being better — being FURTHER.
Because the hardest judge of me is me.
But I don’t give in to the pain. I don’t give into the darkness. I’ve fought judgement and desperation and being alone before. So, here’s the thing, darling, I’m working on me and how I see myself. It’s an ongoing process, learning to love yourself again after your beliefs about who you are have been systematically destroyed.
When you have been isolated and alone, it is easy to feel desperate for others to love you. This is a battle I’m winning. I have my people. Some are far away, but a couple are right here. What will be will be. I’ll open my arms and heart and home to those who may come. There aren’t walls, but there will be some boundaries. We won’t do it perfectly, but I’d rather us do it with intention.
I think it’s so important for me for people to feel loved because I know what it’s like to be unloved.
And I’m trying to learn how to give myself grace. I expect others to do the same for themselves. I told a friend today, “I’m so proud of you for how much you’re feeling. It tells me you’re going to heal well. You’re leaning into all those feels instead of hiding from them and that lets me know you’re going to walk out the other side stronger and more whole. It sucks right now and there’s no way around it, only through. And you’re doing that — walking through it. I’m going to keep standing over here yelling, “keep walking,” because I believe so hard in your other side days.”
Other side days. I have a lot of those. And I’ll keep having more. My weeks are full of them. It’s okay if I don’t get it right every time. That’s a mantra I need to probably tattoo on my other arm.
You don’t have to get it right every time. I wonder when I’ll finally believe that for myself.
It became clear in my conversation yesterday that some people don’t understand my actions sometimes or why I’ve dated so much or why I write to you. They believe I’m just crude and on a man hunt and don’t think I can be whole on my own. I was going to give an explanation here for my actions but then I realized there will always be someone to judge the story you tell, regardless of the words you use.
So, no explanations, just the truths of someone pursuing healthy relationships and falling down a hella lot while doing it. I’m messy. I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m always going to be a bit messy. Messy isn’t bad, Melissa. (I need to write this in bold letters on my walls and my heart) Messy isn’t bad. Messy means you are living.
And as for you, and these letters, darling man, I write to you because you exist and I want you to know I feel you. It’s that simple.
P.S. If you’re reading this, love you already. Mean it. P.P.S. If you’re reading this, do you wear socks to bed? Also, what kind of socks? (I like stealing socks from whoever I live with). P.P.P.S. Also, do you have cold feet? I do, sometimes. Well, when I’m not wearing stolen socks. P.P.P.P.S. Miss you. Ready to steal your socks.