I’ve spent much of the past 12 hours trying to sleep/sleeping fitfully/having bad dreams or crying/holding back tears. The remainder has consisted of trying to pretend I’m strong when I’m falling apart inside; attempting to convince myself that my life hasn’t been a complete waste of effort; and arguing with airline employees that I deserve a higher-fare seat than the one I paid for and need to get out of here much sooner than seats are “available” because I’m tired of completely overstaying my welcome in a city after I unexpectedly foisted myself on it to begin with. I’m convinced my host has come to hate me about as much as I hate carrots. Which is a lot.
I don’t have a lot waiting for me back in NYC but it’s more than what I pretended was here. I came on a lark, because some boy I’d had a crush on for a long time and who I thought was 1,000% out of my league finally said I was pretty and it felt good to be wanted. Besides, my son could use me in the same city for a minute. And it felt pretty damn good, from when I landed at his doorstep early in the morning. We’ve known each other for a decade but never really talked; it had never occurred to me that we might have something in common other than that we both liked the look of the other’s faces. So we talked and laughed and fucked and the night we danced at the relocated New Wave night of the old club that we’d both went to for forever was the most fun I’ve had in longer than I want to remember. It turns out I like to forget a lot of things, though. Like how all the things I do without thinking them through are the ones that throw me off-kilter. And how you can put a million letters behind my name but I’ll still be a lost kid whose parents didn’t give two shits about her and doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing, not today or next week.
There’s a guy back in NYC. We dated for a while, until he wanted something more than what I could give him. That was fine with me. I’ve stopped trying to be everything to everyone; I just want to be one person‘s everything, except I’m pretty sure that ship sailed when Jack keeled over of a heart attack. Or maybe when he relapsed the fifth or sixth time. Maybe it sailed when I fell in love with a low-bottom drunk. Anyhow. This guy back in NYC keeps saying he wants to pick me up at the airport, that I can stay at his place for a few days, that the pictures I’m posting on Facebook make him miss me, that I’m beautiful.
That’s great. I’m flattered. Except this is the beginning to so many stories. And other than the NYC part and the “we dated for a while” part, it’s pretty much why I’m stuck in Chicago. Another “except”: I thought it would be different. And this is also what makes me an idiot.
I don’t know anymore what men want me to say when they tell me I’m beautiful. I’ve learned to just say, “thank you.” Because “this is what every man says who wants to break my heart and I would rather not listen, so do you mind if I cover my ears and hum a saintly tune?” doesn’t quite make sense. I’m moody and sensitive, not psychotic.
I wish for once that someone would ask me what my favorite song was when I was nine or what it was like to be a little girl in Texas (non-sarcastically) or what I loved most about my dad. I wish someone would notice my freckles or my chipped tooth instead of my eyes, which I know are stunning because I’ve heard it since I was old enough to understand. But no one wants to know the answers to any of those other questions. No one even wants to ask them. People like to offer compliments, issue statements, make all kinds of assumptions about the sort of person I must be based on the things I have done and the places I’ve been. No one realizes they see what I’ve allowed. The people who ask the questions are the ones who get the real prizes that everyone else seems to think are on the surface of things. I just wonder why it isn’t more obvious that I’m sitting here, really quite calmly, wondering when the person will come along who wants to ask those questions.
Am I wrong or did it seem easier when I was younger? Were men more interested in what I had lurking in my imagination then, or am I misremembering? I know I was crazier and completely off my hinges and thoroughly not to be trusted. Maybe they asked all those questions to know just how deep of a hole they’d be digging, so they knew how strong they’d have to be to climb out. It was so easy, getting them to get to know me. The men who know the way my mother forced me to style my hair, the places my father took me fishing at 4am, the word I misspelled at the state spelling championship in fourth grade: I am sure there are people who could write encyclopedias of my experiences without even remembering my name, knowing only that I was that whirlwind of a girl they spent a few weeks with, that one summer, in that one year, all that time ago.
Uncle Eddie called just now. We surmised that I must have PMS, which rears its head often enough that I’m always jotting down notes that I need to download a period reminder app despite my hysterectomy two years ago. There’s no other explanation why I should feel weepy and weak and bereft while among friends and in circumstances under which I have no control. When my son was stuck in NYC due to the snow in January and he was angry at me, I asked him if he thought I controlled the weather or flight schedules or the size of planes. But here I am angry at myself that I don’t control the same things, taking it out on other people, extrapolating the whole thing to mean my life is a failure and no one will ever love me.
So I flew here for a boy because he said I was cute and I thought he was, too, more or less. The fact that I could have found the same thing in Brooklyn doesn’t escape me. It wouldn’t have had the same outcome, most likely, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the excitement factor or that it would have made for a lackluster story. And it has nothing to do with someone asking or not asking what my favorite books were when I was 11. Does that matter? Not really. No one cares who I was when I was 11 except for me. They only care who I am when I’m 43 (and mostly that I don’t act like I’m still 11, which is sometimes difficult, given that I was raised by parents who were at times only a few steps more civilized than wolves).
I got a book when I got sober that was an adult child’s guide to what was “normal” in life. I wish I could say I don’t need it anymore. I also wish they had a guide to what being an adult is supposed to feel like. I saw a movie yesterday in which a retired guy said you never stop feeling like you’re 19 and that no one ever tells you that when you’re an adult you never stop feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing.
I don’t know what to do with this information other than to feel both supremely ripped off and entirely liberated. If I’m never supposed to know what I’m doing, I guess I haven’t screwed up too badly. Of course, this doesn’t explain why a lot of other people my age have retirement accounts and own houses while I don’t know what I’ll be doing next week, but I also (mostly) like to think I’m happier than (a lot of) those people and would definitely both kick their asses in a cage match and way outlive them in a zombie apocalypse. Or a regular apocalypse. If Divergent were real, I’d totally be in the Dauntless faction. Maybe Divergent, or perhaps I’m giving myself too much credit there. Point being: I’ve screwed things up as many times as I’ve succeeded and I’m doing a bang-up job today of beating myself up for it. Uncle Eddie tells me I need to lay off of it already, and I guess he would know. He knows all my secrets and where the bodies are buried.
So. The things I don’t want to admit to myself.
Oh, they are aplenty but also few: a therapist once told me that there is nothing for me to uncover inside myself that I do not already know.
I take leaps of faith, and then I falter, forgetting that faith is a practice, not an exercise of perfect technique.
I want other people to reassure me I’ve made the right choices, when I already know that I have. The universe doesn’t drop me when I’ve come so far.
I want to be loved, when I already know there is an abundance of love available to me if I just stop getting in my own way, stop being so afraid.
I’m looking for joy by being sad. I need to stop being sad. This is a choice and it is not made through self-pity.
Grace. Grace is real, and it always finds me.