I do this every time

I’ve always been a binge writer. I get into the swing of things and write like my life depends on it (which, in some ways, it does) for a while. Then I hit a block that has nothing to do with inspiration or imagination, and everything to do with self-consciousness.

When I hit that point, writing feels narcissistic. I write about myself; I get embarrassed about dwelling on my life, as though I’ve done anything profound enough to write about. (I do  know that this is a bullshit attitude, I’m just breaking my pattern down.)

I don’t feel this way about other people’s work. I love getting a glimpse into another person’s life. When I feel it about myself always makes me stop and try to focus on something more noble. I start writing more on Cowbird because it is dedicated to life experiences, large and small; it provides the perfect cover. I work on short fiction, poetry, a novel; noble, acceptable forms of literature far enough removed to keep me from feeling self-indulgent.

But really, why bother with the pretense? All writing is about life, about feeling alive. David Foster Wallace said fiction is about what it’s like to be a fucking human being. Talking, writing, communicating; it’s all about understanding ourselves and (if we’re lucky) each other. Writing is about what it is to live as a human being. Why not stick to the source?

Human interaction is the thing that gives our lives meaning. I get that. I write to understand myself, and I hope the things I write help other people do the same. Maybe that’s self-indulgent, or self-centered, but so is life. How can you understand life if you don’t think about it, process it, record it?

This is a long way of saying that I see that block looming. I feel selfish and self-indulgent for spending so much time writing about my life. This time I’m going to push through.

I want to write love letters to my girls right now, and a few of my boys, too. All the people who have come out of the woodwork and made me believe that I am so much more than I knew. All the people who have held out a hand to me, and helped me piece myself together.

J who is magic, who opened her arms, heart, and home to me without question or hesitation. Who opened a bottle of red as I arrived with my suitcase, and another when that ran out, and wished me goodnight as we drifted off to sleep on that first night on my own, making sure I knew I would never truly be on my own.

M who has known me longer than anyone and loved the best and worst of me. Who dropped everything to take my calls and gently but firmly assessed the unhappiness refused to admit. Who made me believe I was strong enough to do right by myself, who trusted me and helped me trust myself. Who pulled me deep into her fray and taught me how to have fun again.

C, who sees me inside and out.

A, whose independence and strength are more of an inspiration than she will likely ever know.

J (two) who breezed through town for seven short hours and took me straight back to neverland.

S, who was simply glad to have me back.

J (three) who makes me want to give back some of the tenderness I’ve been shown, and who kissed me with an open innocence that made me blush like when we were kids. Who is beautiful in the moonlight; who remembers.

M who is sweet and forward and doesn’t need to be anything more.

R who is brazen and forward and would love to be something more.

S and M and B and J (four) and J (five) and M (two) and R (two) and so many others. All this time I’ve loved them, but I never thought to notice that they loved me right back.

wearing it well

I have never been a pretty girl. Or if I have I never knew it.

My whole life, I have defined myself by being something other than pretty. I have always had stunningly beautiful friends, and I considered it my role to bring something else to the table, to work with what I had rather than try to become something I was not. I would call myself the the funny friend or the charming one, mostly. I considered myself something of a mascot; everybody loves the mascot, but nobody takes them home. I still wanted to be considered beautiful, but I made peace with myself and got to a point where I felt pretty happy with charming. I didn’t think I had it in me to be a heartbreaker anyway.

Since I’ve been single and gained a shred of confidence, I’ve been treated like a pretty girl. A funny, charming, pretty girl. This is the first time, at least that I’ve been aware of, and it’s a very strange experience. My mother insists it was always this way, but my memory is very different. I’ve always maintained romantic connections, but they were friends. I was rarely with someone, and I always saw myself as the rebuffed pursuer, not an object of anybody’s affection.

That’s changed; I don’t know when or how.  A lot has changed. So much of what I thought was true of myself just plain isn’t. I’m still figuring out what to do with it all.

alone is not lonely

Because I like to think of myself as an overachiever, I started dating last month. I’ve been on my own for four months now — a whole third of a year. Might as well get my feet wet…

Bad idea.

I never thought that having a good time with another person could make me feel lonely. I should have thought about it, considering that the loneliest I’ve ever felt was in the company of someone else, but I didn’t. I figured dating would be all fun and cocktails and flirting. And it is, kind of, except it’s more than that. It’s also expectations and chemistry and the upsetting combination of good rapport and zero sexual chemistry. Fantastic evenings would be overshadowed by someone standing too close, or trying to pin down a second date before the end of the first. I am not a platonic person, generally, and I’ve never felt so little desire for people whose company I’ve very much enjoyed.

This is a very new development.

Ultimately, trying to connect with people made me understand how happy I am on my own. Enjoying my friends, making new ones, letting someone buy me a drink without feeling the need to pay it back with my number (or more), enjoying a little arrangement with someone sweet and fun without trying to make it more than it is. I’m still going out here and there, but the intention is different. I don’t need (or want) more than to enjoy that evening, that moment.

It’s about time.

the ball is rolling again

Until it came down, I didn’t realize just how far up my guard has been. Spoiler alert: very.

My childhood home is one of the few places I think it could have come down, and that’s where I went over the weekend. To stand in the river until my feet ached with cold, to ask my mother to sit with me until I fell asleep. (She stayed all night.) To admit that I was tired of proving that I’m okay, that I’m holding strong, and to decide to knock that shit off. I’m strong enough for myself, thanks. Believe me or don’t.

Unexpectedly had the chance to be a good friend, and managed it. I’ve taken so very much since October; it felt amazing to give a little back, to know that I finally have something to give back for the first time in almost a year.

rites of passage

I try to maintain the illusion of grace. It doesn’t always (often?) work, but I do try. This weekend I didn’t succeed quite as well as I’d have liked.

Saturday was the first wedding I’ve attended as a single adult. Ever. I confided in another single girl on the shuttle to the ceremony. She had never attended a wedding with anyone else and had some good tips for those awkward moments I didn’t know to expect: how to bow out when a fast song changes to a slow song, how to decline when someone else’s husband offers you a pity dance. I listened, but truthfully I was so excited about the wedding, so happy for my friends who are in love and certain of what they’re doing (which I was not), that I didn’t really consider the ways I ought to modify my typical, coupled behavior.

                     Getting my own wedding party started. (Photo by Gloria Nunez.)

I drank too much. I mean, who doesn’t drink too much at weddings? (I always drink too much at weddings.) But, I am used to having someone there who will make sure I get home safe and don’t make a spectacle. Not this time.

During the reception I began catching up with other old friends who I hadn’t seen recently, certainly not since all the changes of the last year. That’s where I got a little out of hand.

Most people are genuinely shocked about the breakup, and sad. We seemed like a loving, stable couple; for a long time, we were. Telling someone makes me feel a lot of things. Guilt, disappointment, and defiance, for starters. Why defiance? Because I feel compelled to prove that I’m okay, that I did right by myself. The little chip on my shoulder burns, and I have. To. Show. Them.

I didn’t realize I was doing it until I woke up in my hotel room at five in the morning, wearing my party dress, with a dead phone and no idea how I’d gotten home. The last thing I remembered was being fully present and lucid on the dance floor. I dragged out of bed, put on my coat, and did the walk of shame to my truck to juice my phone back up (I always, always forget a wall charger).

I laid down across the bench seat, closed my eyes, and hoped I hadn’t done anything to ruin such a sweet evening. No messages, no missed calls on the ticker; good signs. I sent a text to a friend asking if I owed her thanks for getting me to bed, knowing I’d have to suffer through a few hours of uncertainty for her to wake up. I went back up to my room to rest as well as I could, and hope I didn’t remember anything because there was nothing to remember.

Thankfully, there wasn’t. At nine my friend let me know that I’d danced hard but appropriately all evening and headed straight for my room when the shuttle dropped us at the hotel. Aside from a few suggestive comments to my girlfriends, I at least looked like I kept it together; a three on a 1-10 scale of shame.

Not so graceful, but I suppose I managed.