There’s a saying broken-hearted sports fans use frequently, “there’s always next year.”
It’s supposed to offer comfort to fellow fans, or to themselves.
A friend used the saying on his Facebook wall yesterday, and upon seeing it, I paused, and thought, no there isn’t.
There isn’t always a next year. Or a next day. There wasn’t for the victims at Newtown, or all the victims of gun violence this year. There wasn’t for my friend’s sister, who died a year ago.
And so, as I walked home from a third annual Christmas gift exchange dinner with a good friend, I started thinking about how often we take the years ahead for granted, the idea that we have more time.
I have big dreams, and I think about my future and I am filled with a sense of security and happiness, even if I’m not always secure and happy right now. But I think that sense comes from the assumption that I will have the time to make my dreams become reality. But, what if I don’t?
This year I made an effort to say the things I didn’t want to leave unsaid. I removed myself from situations where I was being hurt. I tried to fight for others, even if I didn’t always win. I followed my gut instinct, mostly, and the times when I didn’t led to decisions I regretted.
But I wished for things to be different, a lot. I spent a lot of time pushing for change, and not enough time appreciating the life I lead now.
I’m going to go into the holidays appreciating (almost) every moment I have with my family. Because there isn’t always a next Christmas, and on behalf of everyone who won’t be able to celebrate this one, I’m going to try to spend 2013 remembering that.
There’s this moment at the end of a great love, when someone declares it’s over, or both people realize it can’t go on any longer. It’s a moment both people dread. It can be months of dreading, or days, but at the time you can’t imagine the dread will be worse than that moment, so you keep on dreading.
And then you can’t take anymore. The end is hanging there in front of you and it begins to take over everything in your life. You can’t be in the same room as the person without the weight of the decision bearing down on your shoulders through to your lungs.
So you say the words. And then the moment happens. You can’t let each other go. The words hang there in the air.
You don’t know what to do next. Because when one of you gets up and leaves, it means it’s really done.
Eventually the one who has to leave heads towards a door. And you stand there, staring at each other, maybe holding each other. You say good-bye, and you wish the words “good” and “bye” could take five minutes to say instead of two seconds. You exchange a kiss, maybe on the lips, or just on the cheek. And you watch the person you love walk away or you walk away from the one you love.
Soon after someone will tell you it will be alright. But it’s not true. You know that, or you don’t, either way, it’s not alright, and it won’t be alright, not for a long time.
I haven’t thought about that moment in a long time. It’s not something I like to go back to. But lately a handful of friends are going through all that comes before and after that moment.
One is enduring the painful days that follow, when texting each other becomes the one remaining line of communication and represents the last gasps of hope. Another just found out the person she loved started dating someone new. Now she endures a punch in the gut every time she thinks of him kissing his new love.
And the amazing thing is, as I revisit my own past while giving any advice I can think of and offering any comfort I can, I realize I’m through. I made it to “alright.” I have some things I need to figure out, but none of them have do with that particular good-bye to that particular great love. The memory of that moment, the pain of it, is gone now. And if I think of him and his now not-so-new love, it passes through me. I can turn it off.
I didn’t always do it well or do it right. But I made it. And that moment, the awful one, feels very far away. So I can tell the truth when I look at my friends and say that some day it will be alright, even if they won’t believe me. And I can tell them it takes time, and know that it’s true. And when they make mistakes, I will convince them to forgive themselves and keep going. I can tell the ones who haven’t had that moment yet, but need to, that it will be painful and awful and all the bad things they imagine it will be. But it will be better than living with dread. Because you can’t figure out what comes next, how big your life can be, until you endure that moment.
The men of the U.K. resurfaced a part of me that had been missing for a long time.
Within the span of three days this month, I met a Swiss-Greek entrepreneur, a South African urban geographer, and a rugby-playing Kiwi.
The entrepreneur gave me hope, and ideas, over a delicious cup of espresso on the top floor of a book shop in Piccadelly Circus.
While we wandered the streets of London, the geographer asked me questions about what’s next that no one else had asked.
The Kiwi held my hand for most of 24 hours, kissed me in front of Edinburgh Castle, and reminded me that I was worthy of being wooed by a handsome, amazing person.
And they all saw through to the lady who believed she was capable of achieving anything.
I got the wind knocked out of me a few times the last five years. And it made me start to doubt the girl with all that spirit inside of her. But in Europe, I found that part of me again, and I knew she was back for good the day after I returned to the U.S., when she hadn’t gone away.
I walked into my therapist’s office the day before Thanksgiving, and for the first time in two years, I didn’t have anything to talk through. My family is healthy and happy. My friends are going through big life changes, but not the bad kind. They are having babies, and meeting their life partners, and thriving as adults. And they all love me and support me, and have started to understand that it’s okay for me to dream big again.
I knew I needed to leave and go somewhere far from home to find some answers. I told myself that when I booked an expensive plane ticket at the start of fall. It was the best money I spent all year. It may turn out be the best money I spent in the last five.
I am grateful to those three worldly gents who helped me find this feeling again. And I love that it wasn’t because any of them had anything to do with finding a boyfriend. It was about me, remembering that girl who showed up in D.C. seven years ago ready to redefine herself, ready to take on the world.
Taken in various locations around Maniwa and Okayama Prefecture in Japan between 2008-2011 this brilliant series of photographs captures the wild frenzy of gold fireflies as they mate after thunderstorms during the June to July rainy season. Shot using a slow shutter speed, the neon green and yellow contrails seem almost digitally imposed on the scenic landscapes, but I assure you these are real.
I need to go wherever this is.
Today, at Anita’s Mexican restaurant in Leesburg, Virginia, four of us crowded around an iPhone 5 and watched a crystal clear live feed of a man jumping out of a capsule 24 miles above the Earth. We sat there, palms sweaty and slightly nauseous, as Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the sound barrier with just gravity on his side.
Later this evening, I was finishing up a run when I noticed a crowd on the opposite side of the street outside the local grocery store. I slowed down, took out my headphones, and looked up to see a young man playing a violin on the second-story ledge of a rowhouse. On a brilliant Sunday October evening, all different types of people decided to sit for a few minutes and take in the sweet sound of a man and his instrument crafting a lovely tune.
Some days we put up the blinders and go through the motions. And then a day like today happens, where one man’s feat caused millions of people to hold their breath at the very same moment. Or a guy and his violin become a neighborhood concert in the middle of a city where many people have never met the person living next door.
Humans are capable of amazing things, big and small. I think it’s important to remember the impact each of us can have if we pause the daily routine and, even for only a moment, do something magical.
Tomorrow it will be two years.
And as I spend this week helping a friend who’s long-term boyfriend just broke her heart, I can’t help but think back to that day when I quietly uttered the words, “I’m done.”
My friend, in all her heartbroken glory, isn’t ready to hear it, but this is what I will tell her when she is.
1. Move. Change scenery. Even if it’s just two miles down the street. Go to a place where you aren’t surrounded by the memories of the two of you. Don’t eat at the Thai restaurant that was your go-to. Leave the bar you spent every Saturday (or Sunday) behind.
2. Forgive yourself. You will fuck up a lot. You will say things you wish you hadn’t. You will drop people because it hurts too much to keep in touch. You will go home with people you shouldn’t just to remember how to feel something, and you will wake up feeling like a worthless, waste of a person. Forgive yourself. Sins come with true heartbreak. If you bog yourself down in guilt, it will take you longer to move on.
3. Fall hard and fast for the person who makes you forget, even if it doesn’t last. Those weeks and months where you get to forget how much you miss what you lost will be a heavenly respite. Don’t waste them. Enjoy every minute.
4. Drop him. Don’t stay in touch. My biggest mistake was attempting to still be a part of his life, and have him be in mine. He isn’t mine anymore. He wasn’t the moment he walked out my door two years ago. I wish I had realized that sooner.
5. He loved you. He didn’t stick around, for whatever the reason. But don’t waste time convincing yourself he didn’t care as much. He cared. He just wasn’t the person that will hold your hand until the end. He wasn’t built to be the man in the rocking chair next to you. Someone is. Just not him. But don’t doubt his love. That’s creating pointless pain.
6. He will move on. And when you find out, it will make you physically ill. You will throw up, and cry, and scream, and then throw up again. If you truly loved him, and I know you did, you will be sent spiraling by this news. All I can say is every time you think of him with someone else, let the moment pass. Don’t pause on the thought too long. Absorb the hit, and then go about your day. That’s all you can do.
7. Find your rock. A friend, or family member. The one you can call at 2 am or 11 pm, or whatever the hour. Find your center. The one who will gut check you, and start a new hobby (or two) with you. Find your getaway car driver. The person who will drop everything and meet you in Pittsburgh (or some other place) for the weekend. Don’t turn down the hands that reach out. Your friends and family will never mean more to you.
8. Be a rock. Be a center. Be a getaway car driver. Do all these things so you don’t become consumed by your own sadness. Provide yourself perspective whenever possible.
9. Escape. Travel to every friend and family member you always promised you’d visit and never did. Experience new places. Drive away as often as you need to.
10. Accept that you may always love him. Say good-bye to his family. Let yourself be sad when you need a moment. Don’t feel bad when, two years later, you remember what it felt like when he smiled at you. Let yourself be angry at him for so easily walking away from this big of a love. Recognize that this won’t be the end of your life story. Let this make you stronger.
11. Say good-bye. And mean it.
The Ohio State University marching band’s video game show is the best thing on the Internet today.
I saw this live from the rowdy student section. I love my alma mater Emerson (and their viral Lady Gaga lip synch), but this was a pretty phenomenal show. As the person who fell down and busted her leg attempting to jump on someone’s back that same day, I am endlessly impressed with the band’s coordination.
I’m a 30-year-old with a friendship necklace.
I’ve loved so big and so hard that it shredded me into a thousand tiny pieces. And not for a moment do I regret loving that person as much as I did.
But I have to admit, the older I get, the more I realize the relationships that have mattered most, outside my immediate family, have been a handful of friendships.
A bad thing happened to me last week.
But then a few things came up.
The first was a 31-year-old father of two with a brain tumor. It’s not cancerous, but it’s large and on the part of his brain that controls his speech. He can’t be left alone because he can have a seizure at any moment. Last Thursday he went into the hospital with kidney failure because his body is having trouble fighting off anything that’s not the tumor.
The second was two different girlfriends who are having trouble with the men in their life, the kind of trouble I used to have, when I had a boyfriend. I remember the anxiety that came from hearing, “I’m not sure.” Suddenly I was very grateful to be on my own and not dealing with any rendtion of that speech.
And finally, Sunday morning, I got a call from a friend who recently moved away. She asked if I was in DC, and when I said yes, she said she was, too. On Thursday the two-year boyfriend of her closest childhood friend had jumped off a freeway overpass and died.
Later Sunday night I had an amazing night shooting hand guns (my first time) and eating delicious food in Virginia with two close friends.
And so, after perspective and a dose of old-fashioned fun, the bad thing that happened seemed far away and not-so-bad.
Before we left for the arms range, my friend handed me a gift—a beautiful, delicate gold necklace by one of our favorite jewelry designers. She had the same one, and now we, a 30 and 35-year old, have matching necklaces.
I wore the necklace Monday, on what could have been a tough day. It turned out to be a very good day. And at the end, I joked it was friendship power.
I have my health, a job, and a great apartment. And I have a friend in this city who gave me a necklace and a card with the quote, “I made you a kite so you would have to look up.”
I have a best friend on each coast who I trust would quite literally do anything for me. And I have other friends spread around the country (and in other countries) that would, as one said, “throw me into a wheelbarrow and push me” if I needed it.
And the thing about it is that no man I’ve dated has done that. It’s not an insult, and I don’t regret a single relationship I’ve been in. But none of them have loved me like that. Not a single one has made me a kite.
Some day, maybe, I will find a guy that loves me that much. But I think I’m okay right now with the amazing ladies in my life, who take turns making me a kite on a regular basis.
After the last few years, I don’t know why I am still amazed at people’s responses when bad stuff happens. Every time I find myself so deep I can’t see light, all these hands reach down and pull me out.
I don’t take it for granted. I am so grateful for every person who bought me a drink, gave me a hug, sent me flowers, or stood next to me while I had to smile and fake it these last few days.
I’ve been told I’m scrappy. That I’m not a wimp. I’ve heard I’m better than what’s happened.
Whether or not any of that’s true, I’ll tell you what I’m not. I’m not a despicable person. I’m not a liar. And most of all, I’m not alone.
My friend texted me tonight and said, “You will get past this and be awesome again.”
I think she’s right, if only because she, and many others, will make sure I have no other choice.