I’m a borderline serial dater. It started in college, once my fear that if I dated someone, they would fall in love and propose immediately went away. (I grew up very religious and saw that happen a LOT so don’t judge me, please.) Of course, that isn’t to say I haven’t had a few meaningful relationships peppered in between a lot of casual dating or companioning (a term I coined for when you aren’t dating someone romantically per se, but you make a good match for social events and other “plus-one” types of things so you just “companion” for awhile – dating sans romance).
(after the month has passed, you can detach the calendar and voila! a lovely print!)
Because of this, I have a lot of theoretical exes. In my younger years, I would just refer to anyone I had dated as an “ex” and not think twice about it because typically we didn’t remain friends exactly, but acquaintance seemed too formal and detached considering our history. So “ex” it was until yesterday. I was talking to a dear friend (who is in a serious, committed relationship but still holds wonderful advice for a dating nomad such as myself) and talking about past relationships. I mentioned something about being single for awhile, figuring out these next moves in my life without taking into account anyone else or how my actions would affect their lives (or vice versa). And then out came the little lightbulb : “The next person I am with deserves me, not the ex-girlfriend of __fill in the blank__.” I have long referred to myself or others in terms of past relationships. Referencing someone only as So-and-so’s ex-boyfriend, the guy that you-know-who dated last summer, etc. When did I become so focused on these titles? When did being someone’s ex suddenly have this mysterious power than no one on the other side possessed? After my lightbulb moment, Dear Friend had a some wise words, as she typically does: “Those experiences with past lovers are important, they make you who you are, but they are over, and what matters is the future, it is the only thing you can change, and it is the only direction to go…the future is what will make you happy.”
(a graphic designer I went to college with – although had I stumbled across these on my own, I would have posted anyways!)
So that’s going to be my New Year’s resolution. I don’t know that I have ever really made a serious NYE resolution before so this is new territory for me. This doesn’t mean I forget about the things I learned in past relationships. Sometimes men DO propose marriage to you after an entirely too short amount of time (you can say no!). Sometimes men hurt you, physically or psychologically (but they are NOT the majority, they are pieces of trash). Sometimes men hurt you, emotionally (but the good ones will do it with a kind heart and from a loving place). Sometimes men are the best friends in the world (and it’s perfectly okay to keep them as just that).
(pocket sized monthly calendars so you can look très chic when you need to check the date instead of très boring by using your phone)
So I’m going to buy a new calendar, delete some phone numbers I don’t need anymore and start the new year as Abby, maybe a little wiser but no one’s ex-girlfriend.
(ps. It’s a good thing I head down to New Orleans next week for work though. There are a few voodoo dolls I might pick up to use during the last few weeks of 2010) 🙂
(Wouldn’t this be so pretty wallpapering a hallway bathroom?)
When I was in elementary school, we would have an autumn carnival every year. There was a game that was a favorite of all the students but dreaded by the parents: the goldfish ping pong game. I’m sure it had an exciting, kid-friendly name but I just remember it by its utilitarian title. The basic idea was that they would fill up a bunch of clear, disposable punch cups with water and every few cups, in they would plop a small, feeder goldfish.
Looking back, I suppose the idea of the game was to teach kids hand-eye coordination. Or to give them a head start on their beer pong skills. I’m not really sure but either way, the goldfish to no goldfish ratio was so high that as long as you tried more than two or three times, you were bound to hit a goldfish cup at least once. Actually, I’m pretty sure that even if you didn’t hit a goldfish cup, after a few tries they would just give you one anyways in an effort to prevent any meltdowns from disappointed (if not uncoordinated) children.
The year I was in fourth or fifth grade, a lot of kids on our cul-de-sac wanted to play the goldfish game, but none of the parents wanted to keep the fish. Somehow our house became the official goldfish orphanage and in came bags and bags of defenseless little fish. Before I knew it, fifty-two goldfish inhabited a large, thirty gallon tank we had borrowed from some neighbors.
Slowly but surely they all died off. Feeder goldfish, at around 7¢ a pop (this was circa 1995, remember) are not meant to survive for very long. But I remember thinking that I was so blessed. Fifty-two goldfish. No one I knew had that many fish. No one I knew had fifty-two anything! Sometimes I look back and wonder how silly I was to think fifty-two goldfish were such a large treasure, $3.64 worth of glorified live bait. Now it just makes me laugh and makes me want to stock up on some of those poor little guys and give them a chance at a pardoned, albeit still brief life.
I’m not really sure how you start a story like this one. There isn’t a great defining moment that kicked off the year, no New Year’s Eve finale that ended with all my hopes and dreams coming true. In fact, I spent it watching someone I had loved for a very long time look upon me with indifference and insincerity. But that was only a few moments at the beginning of a very long year in which a lot of things were questioned, a lot of people were lost and a lot of myself was chipped away into someone different.
Soon after my anti-climatic New Year’s Eve that ended one delusional idea but brought on a host of others, I decided that I was going to focus on becoming a new woman. A woman who had come out of a damaging relationship stronger and would use what she had learned to never make that mistake again. That idea soon waivered, only to find that being alone was not in fact as easy as I had imagined and not having the support of someone close to you, even someone that was insecure and possessive, was difficult and not something I was sure I wanted to do. The silence of coming back to an empty house felt so much louder than coming back to an unhappy home.
And then my small, ordinary world got the news that not only was my grandmother sick, but her husband, my paternal grandfather, was as well. My grandmother had been fighting respiratory illness for a few weeks at this point and my family was evaluating my grandfather’s living situation when he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with advanced melanoma that had spread to his brain. Skin cancer that had crept its way into his head and was taking over, causing him to lose certain functions and inevitably, lose everything. The doctors said he had about a month to live so we hopped on a plane to Texas and proceeded to say goodbye to someone who had no idea they were dying. My past experiences with death had been fairly easy compared to this. Alzheimer’s, AIDS, car accidents. All situations where saying goodbye was long and drawn out or simply not even an option. But here I was, sitting with a man that I had known my entire life as someone who loved me unconditionally, and suddenly I had to find a way to tell him how much I loved and cherished him without letting him know that he could go at any day. What was harder was that the family had decided not to tell my ailing grandmother with hope that she would still fight if she thought all was how it should be. But knowing my grandmother, I think she knew something was wrong. All of a sudden, three grandchildren show up out of the blue and my grandfather is nowhere to be found, much less mentioned. Soon after we left town, my grandfather passed away, quickly and hopefully without pain. It took another six months for my grandmother to go, drifting between getting better and going back to the immobilized version of what was a long and vibrant life. We buried her in the summer heat and after the funeral, as I sat in her favorite rocking chair, I noticed that her trusty Rolodex, the keeper of all her beloveds’ numbers and addresses, was turned to me.
In six short months I had gone from being consumed over the crushing failures of an adolescent heart to the realization that the cornerstones of which my life had been built were suddenly missing. There were no longer ready answers to questions of my ancestry or memories that were missing a critical part but were stuck on the tip of my tongue. Suddenly we were divvying up jewelry and tools and looking for that one size of canning jar that made exactly the right version of vanilla milkshake. It was if I was taking each of my childhood memories and slicing them up into pieces, evenly distributing them out as if I couldn’t keep them all to myself anymore.
After the whirlwind of the funeral, my life became a whirlwind of its own. My boyfriend at the time moved away for graduate school, I quit my job in a haste that could only be explained as trepidation and at twenty-three, with two dogs in tow, I moved back home with my parents.