Twitter is, among other things, a forum for people who think that they have the ultimate definition of life, love, and friendship. Most of those tweets make me sigh and shake my head. Every once in a while, one resonates.
This tweet, which somebody RT’d, is one of them: “The best way to see who your real friends are? Lose your job, lose your BF, lose yourself[…]and see who’s left standing beside you.” — @Ms_Moneypenny_.
In 2010 I lost my job. I lost my girlfriend. And over the course of the next two years I lost myself. And you know who stood by me? My friends. ALL of them.
For two years of unemployment and being constantly on the edge of losing everything, my friends showed me consistent and unfailing generosity with not so much as a hint that they expected anything in return. Loans (of not insignificant amounts) were forgiven, dinners and drinks purchased, groceries subsidized, shifts at clubs found and arranged for me, computers, Scotch, and other necessities and luxuries crowdsourced. My best friend has covered my rent more than once. The very computer on which I am writing this post, and which I use at work, was purchased with money donated by my friends. I posted a link on FB to a guitar I desperately wanted and couldn’t afford, so my cousin made me one.
For two years of decreasing belief in my ability to find gainful employment and eventually get my shit together, my friends have sent me leads, passed on my resume, and expressed repeatedly their belief that I would find a good job, one that I deserve. Even when I wanted to give up, they wouldn’t let me. And their faith made it impossible to give up.
For two years of anxiety, stress, depression, and decreasing buffers from my anger and frustration at my situation, my friends have provided advice, love, patience and comfort. They’ve endured my increasing negativity and what I am sure amounted to quite a bit of self-involvement. They’ve helped me work through various issues with regard to relationships, work stress, money stress and just generally trying to make it through.
For two years of failing to find a healthy, steady relationship (of any sort) with a woman who cares for and respects me, my friends have been encouraging, supportive, and satisfyingly outraged and confused whenever a woman decides not to keep me around.
For two years, I have been at my worst and not a single friend of mine has given up on me. On the contrary, their love, support, and faith in me has been nothing less than stunning and humbling.
For two years my friends helped carry me in so many ways without once showing fatigue, frustration, or a desire to drop me and have done.
I know who my friends are. And you know what? My friends are fucking magnificent.
Last night, C. and I came home from the memorial party for Donovan, fell into bed, and wrapped ourselves around each other, seeking warmth, comfort, affection, love. I lay there, forcing myself to be in the moment for as long as I could, and focused on appreciating how absolutely perfect it was: her head resting on my shoulder, my arms wrapped around her, our legs tangled together—like we were puzzle pieces that had been snapped into place.
She eventually slept, and I did everything I could to memorize how wonderful she felt in that moment.
Memorials exist as things or events that help us remember. Monuments, sculptures, benches, trees, parties. They are how we attempt to honor those who have left us behind, how we create ways to maintain a connection with people we can no longer see, hear, or touch. Simultaneously, death reminds us that we live and are surrounded by the living and that we must remember to connect with the people around us, to not take them for granted.
But often the moments we most want to remember are the ones we are least able to capture.
The past couple of weeks has also reminded me how random and stupid life—and death—can be and as much as I want to, I can never assume that such a moment will happen again. That reminder is terrifying; it has made me face how vulnerable we all are when we allow ourselves to love our friends, our families, our boyfriends/girlfriends/partners/lovers/husbands/wives. It has made me face all the ways in which we cannot protect the ones we love. We just have to let them go and hope they come back to us safe, whole, with the smiles, laughter, hugs, and voices we adore. We have to let them go with our blessings every day, and be grateful when they think to let us know they are okay. And we have to do it like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Most of the time, I can, and do. Right now, it’s incredibly difficult for me, and it will be until the rawness from and hyperawareness of this fades with time.
I kissed C. goodbye this afternoon and sent her off to her cousin’s, and I did it with a smile. But I would be lying if I said there was no part of me that wanted to hold her tight for hours longer, days longer, possibly just forever. It’s just not a part of me to which I wish to succumb. As we all learned from the ever-amusing Strictly Ballroom, “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.” But acknowledging the fear is as necessary, sometimes, as acknowledging the grief that it follows.
Eleven years ago, there was a person who believed in love more than anything else in the world. More than anything. Love mattered more than anything, and this person was willing to do anything to fight for it, earn it, hold it, nurture it and protect it.
Eleven years ago a fantastically silly movie arrived in theaters, and it was like it was tailor-made for this person. Because it put love on a pedestal and for 127 minutes the audience got to fall in love with love, and adore love, and worship love, and just fucking love love. Above all things, love.
Eleven years ago, this person—let’s call this person “Whiskeypants” for the sake of brevity and clarity—knew what love was. Whiskeypants knew all the facts about love. And how it worked. And how it was supposed to go. The more impatient among you may be tempted to suggest that Whiskeypants was an idiot, and that would be fair, but the more generous and tolerant may be thinking that maaaaybe this Whiskeypants person just had a lot to learn. A lot. A LOT to learn. Maybe. (Hint: YES. OMFG. A LOT.)
And as time passed, Whiskeypants did, in fact, learn. A lot. Fucked up. A lot. Loved a lot. Lost a lot. Lost more.
But never once lost faith in love. Until.
There’s always an “until” in these stories.
I watched Moulin Rouge last night for the first time in…I don’t know. I don’t know how long it has been. And I found myself mourning that person with the enduring, unshakable faith in love and all it had to offer. And I don’t mean any kind of gentle, “awww, what the hell happened to my younger idealistic idiot self” mourning. I mean tears-running-down-my-face-wtf-happened-to-that-essential-core-belief-in-love kind of mourning.
In the last few years I let that Whiskeypants slip away, and I never went looking.
Tonight I pinpointed that moment when I let it happen. That moment when love—my faith in it, my belief in it—stopped being a factor. The moment when that part of me just…separated and went its own way.
And I…I just let it happen.
Eleven years ago I stepped out of a movie theater, blinked my eyes against the sunlight and a world that seemed bleached of color. I felt stunned, I felt vindicated. I was pretty sure that getting on my bicycle and riding home was just going to be fucking impossible, so I went into the pub across the street, closed my eyes, nursed a beer, and loved love.
Eleven years ago I had a lot of necessary and painful lessons and experiences ahead of me. But losing that essential part of me, that love of love, should never have been one of them.
I never went looking.
I’m looking, now.
One of the things I am realizing now that I have begun dating again is that, while my head is in much better shape than it was a year ago, my heart is still pretty badly wounded. I recently described it as being held together with nails and bubble gum and random crap off the street, and I should probably have included duct tape and string. Seriously, you could totally list my heart on Etsy, and it would probably show up on Regretsy within hours. Upcycled heart, vintage nails, found objects, bubblegum that has only been chewed by hungry underprivileged children in Detroit. A perfect accent for your office or nursery!
I thought about that for a while, yesterday, while I was trying not to doze off during the slower parts of a mock trial (for which I was a mock juror). And I realized, I can’t really offer this to anybody. Not like this. It’s all in pieces, and the gum is kinda gross, and there’s the issue of tetanus, and is the duct tape a little grimy? And what is that?
So what to do with this damn thing? Will somebody really want it, as is? If I take all this crap out of it, will it hold together on its own with a little help and a little encouragement? I kinda can’t tell anymore. I know this thing still works (I listened closely and it’s still ticking), and theoretically it’s still good. But I’ve been hurt so much and so often that I can’t really convince myself that I am going to have any other experience, and I’m running out of things to hold this heart together short of encasing the whole goddamn thing in resin. At which point, it would definitely feature on Regretsy.
Also, fuck that noise. What’s the point of having a heart at that point?
Lately, I’ve been absolutely loving Florence + The Machine’s Shake It Out, which I have been informed is about a hangover, but which I interpret more personally as a call to let go of the shitty past and start anew (also, there’s no shaking anything when I have a hangover, unless it’s the bottle of Excedrin to see how much I have left, and maybe that’s what she’s really talking about, there). That is, of course, easier said than done, but still a worthy goal. The line that strikes me hardest is, “And I am done with this graceless heart/So tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart.” I have no idea how to do that, or if I should, but it sounds ideal.
Maybe it’s time to rewatch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Good lord, I’m wordy. All that when I could have just said, I’m scared. I’m scared, vulnerable, and every step forward requires a deep breath and determination. But I am moving forward.
I’m finished with running away.