heartbreak holiday

i’m currently sipping crown & coke, eating Thanksgiving leftovers, watching a chick flick with my sister. and i’m happy. i really am.

but there’s still that uncomfortable ache, that grapefruit-sized knot in the pit of my stomach. and i toy with the idea of texting the ex.

several years ago, when the ex and i were still just friends, i did something to hurt his feelings. we didn’t talk for several weeks. not until the night before Thanksgiving. i had decided to stay in and watch Christmas movies. i was near the end of watching Little Women when he text to see if i would wanted some extra sweet potato casserole he’d just made. he wanted to bring me a peace offering.

this year, the night before Thanksgiving involved getting out late from work, an argument with my sister, and prepping for my own sweet potato casserole.

i cried as i peeled each one.

there’s something about the holidays, the memories we wrap around the simplest of activities. the way moving forward pulls us bak and back and ties us to days we can’t get back. watching the parade reminded me of carefree Thanksgiving mornings at my grandma’s, roasting turkey of the first Thanksgiving my friends and i shared together, and peeling sweet potatoes of a sweet man who loved me before i loved him.

this holiday was beautiful, don’t get me wrong. i was pleasantly surprised to spend a quiet afternoon with my mom’s family on Thanksgiving, followed by time with my dad’s family on Friday. there was lots of good food, contagious laughter, fun crafts, youtube video-sharing.

the absence of old traditions made room for new.

which was good, it really was. but still, i miss the old.

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breaking up is hard to do….

there’s no easy way to end a 2 1/2 year relationship.

still, i woke about a week ago, the morning after a hard fight, and somehow i knew. that’s where we were heading.

the fight was nothing special, nothing more than had been fought about many times before. but, as i came soon realize, it was a symptom of bigger problems.

i met B a year before we started dating. he was a regular at the coffee shop where I served as a barista, and had just returned from a trip to Spain. he travelled alone, partying on the beaches and running with the bulls. i could tell he liked me immediately. i invited him for tea on my porch and he wooed me with coffee and conversation at the gallery where i worked. he was a friend to me, but nothing more.

it was nearly a year before my heart started to change. my dad was very ill and in the hospital, and B reached out to me, offered to take me to dinner. i knew if i went to him, i could let my guard down and be held. but still, i held out for another couple months. finally, i knew i was in all the way and told him i would like to start dating.

we did immediately.

i moved in about 5 months later and we began to explore new territory. we were entertained by playing fetch with the cat and enjoyed playing Yahtzee. we had tickle wars and told each other stories about our days. he tolerated me moving (and re-moving and re-moving) the furniture until it felt just right. and i tolerated his incessant sharing of random trivia and any other kind of special knowledge he had.

and every morning i would be greeted with a sweet “good morning beautiful.”

we went through many seasons together. seasons as a couple, and seasons of ourselves. we began to explore different facets of ourselves–he started a business and bought a duplex to renovate and eventually rent, and i made a couple different job changes, eventually daring to start exploring yoga and natural health. everynight we shared stories about our day, and everyday we grew and changed. and not always in the same ways.

still, our love grew and deepened and i found myself making concessions about my future. perhaps this was simply how relationships were; you had choices in life and every choice meant something else you willingly gave up. and i would. because i deeply loved him. and he deeply loved me. we were in foreign territory.

still, that fight a week ago began to shake things up. i spent the weekend with a sense of impending doom, that we were in the throws of breaking up. nothing was “wrong”, really, at least not overtly. we had just traveled to a friend’s wedding the weekend before and we was an incredibly helpful and giving person, encouraging me and preparing food for us and my friends, driving and lending his car. we hiked and laughed and snuggled at night. i felt truly blessed to have him by my side. but something had shifted and, while i couldn’t name any reason why, i knew we were nearing the end.

finally, i broached the subject Sunday night and the only thing i could come up with to describe what was happening was this:

“i think we’re at the end of our road together.”

i expected anger, defensiveness, arguments. instead, he nodded and all my reserves broke. the tears that had been coming for a couple days came flooding forward. he was agreeing with me. we were acknowledging that the differences were too great, that there were pieces of the puzzle that just didn’t fit. and never would. we loved each other dearly, but we were breaking up.

i saw tears well up in his eyes and he moved forward to hold me. we wept and told jokes and laughed, and wept some more. it is the strangest thing, being able to share everything with a partner, even the grief of the end.

as the week began, i made a game plan for moving out. i would get a storage unit, secure a place to stay for a bit until i could find a suitable apartment, then i would live by myself for awhile. try to rest, recouperate, begin again.

by Tuesday, my plan had me in fits and i began to wonder if we’d made the right decision, was it too late to change our minds, was i forcing something because i was scared of moving forward, and so on. i was staying at the house until i could finish moving, and when i got home he was there. he was gentle and soft, and i found myself being held by him, wondering outloud if we were doing the right thing. like the sensible partner he always was, he reminded me of the differences of our paths, the things he wanted and didn’t want, the things i desperately did.

i stayed with him that night, and the other 2 that followed. as we went to bed last night, my last in the house, he pulled me close and, to my surprise, began to cry. it was our last night together.

“how long did you spend wanting to date me,” i asked. “and how long did i spend wanting to marry you. and look at where we are.”

“i’m so sorry it didn’t work out,” was all he could reply.

these are the things i’ll miss. the little moments before we went to bed or when we woke up in the morning. the sweet, quiet moments that only the people in the relationship can know or understand. the moments that know one else is privy to, where you feel completely understood by another human being, where you feel connected beyond explanation.

i look at the pictures of our earlier todays together, the bright, fresh love in our eyes. idealistic love that hoped beyond hope that love could conquer all. and i look at the love he have now, so powerful and strong that it could set the other free.

this morning, he helped me pack up the last little bits of things and hugged me good-bye, just like we have done for the last 2 1/2 years. no, there’s no easy way to end a relationship of that length and width and depth, but there was something very special about this one. no anger, no hatred. just love, all the way up to the end.

and for that i am grateful.

“‘all you need is love” is a lie ’cause
we had enough and we still said good-bye
now we’re tired, battered fighters

and it stings when it’s nobody’s fault
’cause there’s nothing to blame at the drop of your name
it’s only the air you took, and the breath you left….
    {split screen sadness by john mayer}

the eve of the eve.

IMG_3897

“to a better year.”

this was me a year ago, at a New Year’s Eve party my friend and i hosted.  in front of the lens of the photobooth, we danced, and wrote posters and celebrated the end.  and the beginning.

my biggest desire: a better year.

so here i sit on the eve of the eve of the end of this year i hoped would be “better,” and have to admit that it was in so many ways.  hard but good.  stinking of death but robust with life.  i entered this year a broken (and broke!) wreck, and am walking out of it at peace with my ever-healing mess.

this year saw a few different guys who laid claim to my heart, a devastating separation from a good friend, a bike accident, the long-anticipated Superbowl come and gone, goodbye to an old dream and hello to a new job, a sickness that made me afraid i might ultimately lose my father, yoga and 12-step groups, dating and falling in love, reconciliation and renewed friendship.

whew.  that’s a mouthful.

still, with all this (and so much more), i sit in a state of slight disbelief that this year is nearly over. as remarkable as this year has been, it’s end is approaching with very little fanfare.  i will rise tomorrow, and go to work, and check emails and eat lunch.  and apart from spending the evening party hopping from one hopping party to another, it will look just like any other day.

i think this is why it’s been hard for me to reflect on the year.  i’ve been trying, though without much effort, to think of what my new year should focus on, what is the burning desire i want to see fulfilled?  what is my “to a better year” for 2013?

i still do not have a clear answer, but the word “contentment” floats lazily and peacefully to the surface.  i cannot yet tell if this is my desire or where i find myself or if its something i should try to center on.  but still, it sits on the edge of my mind and lingers, like the smell of lotion after a bath.

here are some other words that i’d like to focus on during this coming year:

cook.
whole and wholesome meals.  for fun and for serious.  even when i don’t want to.  especially when i don’t want to.

practice.
patience.  hospitality.  yoga.  learning to let go.  grace for myself.  sitting still. observance of the gifts of the seasons (rest and reflection in the winter, preparation and planting in the spring, growth and giant living in the summer, harvest and ending in the fall).

find.
that place where my strengths and passions intersect.  endurance.  healing.

tend.
myself.  my home.  a garden.  the yard.  a peaceful space. those pesky finances.

celebrate.
victories, big and small.  my 30th birthday!

love.
myself.  my sweet B.  those around me.  wildly.  fully.  in risky ways.  all those quiet and subtle places only i am privy to.  even when it’s hard.

so, here’s to 2013, and all the unknown wonders and experiences it has to offer!

the sanctity of marriage

“we finally got it figured out that
we had truly missed the boat.”
– modest mouse

i met a couple the other night at a birthday party who are not married but living together.  this is not uncommon amongst people my age, but still the voices of the more conservative/religious folks in my life came into my head.  voices that scold, and tsk tsk, and complain about how young people these days just aren’t honoring the sanctity of marriage.

as B and i prepare to move in together (or rather, as i prepare to move into his place) i have had to wrestle with those same voices.  voices from my family, some friends, my past, and even from myself.

voices that somehow nearly always miss the boat.

arguments are constantly flying around about the “sanctity of marriage,” which nearly always refers to marriage solely between a man and a woman, and stresses that couples wait until marriage to “consumate,” if you will, the relationship.  i grew up in the Christian church and this pressure was everywhere.  in our language, our teachings, our mode of operation.  we were taught to pray for our spouses as teenagers, to make lists of qualities we want in a spouse, to hope and wait (and wait and wait and wait).

now, don’t get me wrong, i’m not against marriage by any stretch.  in fact, that was one of the conditions of B and i moving in together, that the option of marriage would at least be within sight.  we are very open about discussing it, and it is a constant topic of conversation, even if only in jest, around our house.

i just think we’re missing the boat.

with all of our concern with who’s marrying who, and when they get married, or if they get married, etc. etc…we forget to be concerned with the health of the actual relationship.  we forget that marriage is actually supposed to be an expression of that relationship, a next step in the journey.  not a destination.

it’s supposed to be a manifestation of the deep love and committment a couple share and a bound that can remind them to stay together over time.  not just a rubber band that holds them together, pressing them together even when they don’t want to be.

every relationship has a different journey, just as the people in that relationship have unique paths to walk.  for B and i, living together is another way of discerning if marriage is the right route for our relationship.  we’ve both been in serious relationships, have had our hearts broken, have come from dysfunctional/broken families.  we need a bit of extra time and space to figure out if this relationship is important enough to us both to merit such a strong committment.  when i broke the news to my dad, he questioned my decision and i answered simply that this is the next step for us.

without the pressure to be married before doing other “stuff,” i/we can more fully focus on growing in love with one another.  we are learning to communicate, to encourage, to serve one another through trying and hard times.  i fed him after his surgery and he’s made me dinner after exhausting days.  he’s practicing being a vegetarian with me and even packed my lunch to ensure i don’t starve at work.  i’m learning to hold him tenderly even when i feel scared about things from my past.  we are learning to love in both practice and emotion.

“sanctity” simply refers to the sacredness of a thing and i can think of nothing more sacred than two people who love each other in this way.

commitment phobe.

although the thought of commitment sends me into anxiety spasms, i’ve never been actually afraid of it.  on the contrary, i’ve dived head-first into many pools of commitment, time after time.  the trouble has not been that i’ve had a hard time committing, but that i’ve committed whole-heartedly, body and soul, to the wrong things and people.

i should back that up…not always the wrong people or things, as in there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with them as people or projects, but moreso wrong that i gave so fully of who i was to them.  wrong that i found my identity, my life’s purpose in them.

afterall, our lives are shifting sands.  no one person, place or thing can be fully what we are about.

B. and I are moving steadily forward as I prepare to move in with him in January.  our conversations have  begun to center around household finances and buying furniture and other futurey-type subject matter, i’ve begun to realize that “things are getting real,” as B. likes to say.

not that things weren’t real before.  they’ve been real for me since day 1 (of dating anyway; i think they’ve been “real” for B. for much longer).  i’ve known this is the man for me since we made it official.  he fits me well and is everything i’ve tried to force every previous situation to be.

but still, shopping for a dresser together can get really real.  all of a sudden.

as i shared some of my anxieties with a friend last night, she had a curious perspective.  like me, she grew up in a very conservative environment, youth group and the like, with fairly narrow views on how a relationship should look.  we both struggle with reconciling our present selves with those old harsh voices.

“these relationships are a tangible reminder of just how different we are from how we were then,” she observed.  that struck me and i quickly realized how true it is.  i have changed so much in the last 10 plus years since, grown in many areas.  for the most part, i feel very comfortable with those choices.  except in the area of relationships, where i battle time and time again with what the old me would think and do, often finding that i don’t know what’s absolutely “right” anymore; i can only know what’s right for.

so it seems that some of my anxiety is not only because of how i’ve been hurt and/or disappointed in the past.  but also because choosing this relationship, and all that it entails, is a confirmation that my life is not at all what i thought it would be.

and yet, overwhelmingly, so much more. perhaps, one day, the joy of it all will not threaten to suffocate me under its weight.

in-between.

i’m in the weird in-between.

in-between a girlfriend, and the labels that lay beyond.  in-between a temporary house-guest and full-time roommate.  in-between an entry level associate and a potential promotion.  in-between the dysfunctional individual of days past and the healthy person of my future.

B. had hernia surgery on Monday this week and, coming off a very (VERY) full weekend, i found myself easily and quickly exhausted.  beyond belief.  i even went to bed on Tuesday and found myself in tears.  in was incredibly hard to go to balance working with aiding in the recovery of my love.  i arranged for people we both knew to be with him, but that did not satisfy me.  i wanted to be home, to help him get his medications and take care of the house, continually finding myself between both work and home.

a strange sort of anxiety fell over me today and it became impossible to shut my mind down.  i deeply appreciate this relationship and am satisfied, overall, with where we are.  but occasionally, the old voices, the ones that “instructed” me while growing up about what a relationship “should” look like and how a “relationship” should go, creep up and do battle with my current reality.

the result: a conflicted me, caught between the old ideals of a naive teenager and the present choices of an experienced adult.

“don’t judge,” said a friend, as i poured out my anxieties.  “just enjoy where you are.  don’t assign judgment or you’ll have to endure the anxiety.”  with those words, a great wave of relief came over me and i was able to again look at my situation with grace and acceptance again.

this eve, as B. and i discussed how i would assimilate into his house, our expectations and desires and plans came pouring out.

“becoming a couple is hard,” i noted, and his agreement reminded me of one the things i appreciate so much about our relationship: we can talk through these hard(er) issues and B. doesn’t take offense.  he comforts and reaffirms me, and i know, ultimately, i can count on him in between the now and then.

just another manic monday.

actually, it’s quite the opposite here.

the house is quiet, except the low hum of 90’s punk rock coming from B.’s computer as he works an editing project.

the dishes are done except for a couple mugs filled with “sleepybear tea,” as B. calls it.

my feet are tucked up under B. and i am warm and cozy, reading a book.

then a text from a friend, asking randomly, “were you attracted to B. before you started dating him?”  the question strikes me as funny, and i want to answer, “yes, and no.  and yes.  and definitely no.”  i look at B., intensely focused on his work, and have to smile at the journey we’ve had so far.

we became friends, or at least met, one day at the coffee shop, shortly after he’d returned from a visit to Spain.  he was sharing pictures with my coworker and i casually interjected myself into the conversation.  that was the beginning for him, but not for me.  for me, it would be still be many moons before i fell for this man.

we continued to meet occasionally here and there, seeing each other at the coffee shop and neighborhood events.  occasionally i would invite him to a backyard bonfire, and he would bring me a coffee and pastry to share during late nights at the gallery.  he was a good friend.

but that’s all i would let it be.  even when my sis insisted i date him (“B.’s a good guy!” she would argue), i shook my head.  “no, no, no.  he’s just a friend.”

(cue a little Biz Markie…. “so you say he’s just a friend.”)

ok, enough of that….

what happened on that evening in July i can only describe as divine, for it was like a cloud had been lifted.  a veil had been pulled back from the windows of my eyes.

B. text to ask if i wanted to play tennis.  it was the first night in over a month where the heat subsided a bit, and a light breeze was blowing.  he was serving, calling the scores in a British accent as he enjoyed doing, and a thought went through my mind.  a quiet, simple thought sailed through like a whisper on the breeze.

“i could do this for the rest of my life.”

that was the beginning of a new and different type of relationship for us, as i quickly realized my feelings ran much deeper than even i could have expected.  we began dating and found such happiness in being together.  B. used to wonder why things didn’t happen sooner, but i have to say that was divine as well.

i was in a much different place when B. and i met, and even as we continued to be friends.  the change didn’t happen, in fact, until i began to love myself.

in the spring, in the midst of a crazy relationship type situation, a friend quietly reminded me, “Christie…you don’t have to do this.  if you want to marry someone who can be a rock to you, that’s ok.”  that was the catalyst, the place where something changed.  i had not, up until that point, given myself permission to have a healthy, loving relationship.

over the following months, i resolved that i had had enough pain in this area.  if a relationship could not be loving, supportive, gracious and gentle, i wanted nothing to do with it.

then the lights came on and there was B.  this wonderful man who fit all my qualifications (and more!) and had been doing so under my nose for nearly a year.

was i attracted?  yes, i must have been, though i never knew it or understood why.  regardless, things worked out in the time they should have.  and not a minute sooner (or later).

so, on this quiet Monday evening, i find myself thankful for so many things, for sharing tea and stories about the weather.  for little kisses here and there.  for playing fetch with the cat.  for love and this special place in the journey we find ourselves, as our story continues to evolve.