Friday, January 30, 2009

further engagements, fragments of our selves

I received an email Wednesday night from the former boyfriend I sometimes mention here, telling me that he recently got engaged to the woman he's been with for the two years since we parted ways. It was a sweet letter in its way, in that he wanted to be sure that I heard the news directly from him first, before they start spreading the word to various mutual friends and acquaintances, and for this I am grateful. But I am feeling a bit brokenhearted all the same, despite all the time that's passed. It's hard to move on completely from a person when part of you is still halfway in love with him, still missing the part of yourself that he took with him when he left.

It's been a strange week. Last Friday I had dinner with two friends, two old friends whom I thought knew me well. I've been a bit unhappy with them recently, for various reasons, and I had thought we were going to discuss those reasons, see what we might do to alleviate them. It turns out, however, that they had their own agenda, and sat me down, all serious-like, to discuss their concerns about my life, my happiness, my job, my drinking, my home, my lack of dating, my decision to end therapy soon, etc. It took me by surprise, to say the least, and while I know in my head that it came out of a reservoir of affection, it also felt patronizing, slightly condescending, and largely misguided.

I left their apartment that night somewhat stunned, and walked to the train, and found myself wondering at the ways people read or misread each other, and wondering at the connection, or disconnection, that these readings have to reality. Am I so different around these two friends than I am around all others that they honestly believe what they were saying? Could they possibly know my state of mind more thoroughly than my brother, my mother, my Jill, my Lauren, my Nick, my Arielle, my Sarah, my self? Or is their inability to accept my hurt and unhappiness with them so very strong that they had to shift the paradigm completely?

It was hard to find a center in all of this, a self rooted to the ground, and I felt, on that trip home, somehow untethered.

(This was not helped by the nasty cold I've been fighting since Inauguration Day. Yes, I lay the blame at the feet of our new illustrious leader, after standing out in the cold for an hour, toes frozen, ears numbed, to hear him botch the oath).

I spent much of the weekend in a cold-induced haze, drinking cup after cup of tea, popping vitamin C and Nyquil, venturing out only for a trip to the grocery store for chicken soup and a short walk up to Fort Tryon Park with friend Freddy and Bella the boxer.

I went to work on Monday and told Erica my tale of woe, the story of my surreal Friday night with two men I thought knew me well, and she, full of righteous rage, sputtered and shrilled, "What's wrong with them??" And I found myself again in her indignation.

Wednesday, I left work with Erica and we walked across campus towards the subway, umbrellas held high in the drizzling rain, glistening and splintering and refracting in the Christmas lights along college walk, and we were laughing, joking about something, and my boots (what Arielle refers to as my "sexy boots," such as they are) were clunking pleasingly on the pavement, our coats swinging open in the breeze funneling up 116th Street from the river. I felt tall and strong and bright and it occurred to me, in that walk, that this is what happiness is, or can be; that there was true joy caught in this moment, in the sparkling lights, in the rain all luminescent, in our laughter rising out of us and up into the darkening sky.

I got home to find the letter from the old boyfriend (yes, we have come full circle now), and I lost my breath, and I felt my heart, my soul, momentarily freezing up inside me. But then I called Lauren, and later Arielle called me, and later yet, getting on towards midnight, I called my mother, who let me cry into the phone to her, and who understood what I meant when I said that even as I felt my heart breaking, I also felt a weight lifted, a certain sense of freedom.

As my friend Jean Marie recently wrote in response to a query about how she's doing:

"things seem to be improving here
there can be ups and downs, so i am not rejoicing
but at the moment, i'm in an upswing"

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