Sunday, September 19, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

My old friend insomnia is visiting me again. This happens every so often. I'm hoping this won't be a regular occurence, but I figure it's a good opportunity to sit here in the dark, listen to the sounds of the traffic below on Haddon Ave., and check in with myself. It's been over 6 months since I've done this, and since this blog was created so that I'd have some accountability for the changes I wanted to make in my life, that's no good. Although, part of the reason I haven't blogged is because I've been busy making changes. So that is good.

It was a long, snowy, sick winter, and a long, hot, hectic summer. I'm so happy now to be able to sit here in my writing/yoga room and feel the fall chill in the breeze coming thru the window next to me. July was filled with my car dying (R.I.P., 2002 Lancer), buying a new car, said new car getting rear-ended and being in the shop for two weeks, and the ceiling of my apartment falling in. Let's choose not to focus on July, except to say that it brought about the possibility of change. I can sit here in my yoga/writing room now, because I actually have a yoga/writing room, because the caving in of my ceiling allowed me to get out of my lease in Palmyra and move to a 2 bedroom place in Collingswood. I now have more space, natural light, a proper kitchen, hardwood floors, and walkability -- meaning I can walk places. Or ride my bike. It's freaking awesome. It also puts me next door to Yogawood, where I completed my teacher training in May (woot, woot -- check that off the 33Y list!). Actually, check moving out of Palmyra off the 33Y list as well! I can now walk to my good friend Sharon's house, which is also pretty freaking awesome. We discovered the first week I was here that we could drink wine at each other's places and not have to worry about driving home.

I would post pics of the new place, but I believe my camera is in the bedroom, where my boyfriend is currently asleep, and I don't think he'd appreciate being woken up at 4:30 in the morning so that I can share pics of my apartment with the four or so people who will probably actually read this blog. :-)

I'm so grateful to be here. I have so much in my life for which to be thankful. Not the least of which is that I just realized my camera is sitting right next to me, so, pics of the new place:

Okay, so the formatting on those got all jacked up, and I'm not in the mood to figure out how to fix it, but you get the idea. This place is awesome. And I'm so grateful that I get to be the one to live in it.

I'm grateful for a lot of things. I'm grateful that I can look out my window right now and see a tree instead of a parking lot, that I get to spend this time in solitude and reflection, that I have my health and a functioning brain and body that allow me to sit here and type these words. I'm grateful for the cats that made their way into the above pics -- for their companionship and unconditional love. And I'm grateful for the person sleeping in the next room.

Matt resurfaced in my life back in February, after we had met at a writer's workshop a few years back, gone on a couple of dates, and lost touch. I credit my being anthologized with putting my name back into his brain (we were published by the same small press, so he was on the mailing list for a reading I did last winter), and I credit facebook for putting us back in touch, since that's how he ultimately found me. Facebook. Who knew?

Matt is funny and warm and smart and sincere. He challenges me and encourages me to do the things that make me happy and the things that make me me. Like moving. Like pursuing a new job. Like taking a much needed vacation. Like writing. I don't know where this relationship will end up, or how long I'll be lucky enough to have him in my life, but I'm so grateful that he's here now.

I feel truly blessed. And when things get difficult, as they always will in life, I have to remind myself of all of these blessings.
And now I feel blessed that my eyelids are getting heavier, these words are getting blurrier, and I can go crawl into my bed and fall asleep, hopefully not to wake up until the Sunday morning sun is shining thru my window.
Gratefully yours,

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Signs, signs, everywhere signs...

I think the universe tells us shit. And maybe whether or not we end up happy or miserable depends on how much attention we pay to what the universe is trying to tell us. Lately, I've been paying attention. And the universe has had a lot to say.

I started paying attention back at Christmastime. I was having a particulary down week, which is not typical for me lately. A lot of it had to do with dating nonsense, and exacerbating that was the fact that yoga teacher training was demanding an increasingly insane amount of my time, and I wasn't finding balance in my life to do other things that needed to be done. On a particulary bleak Sunday evening, I found myself in tears, on the phone with my friend, Kiersten who proceeded to explain to me that she thought I should try meditation, and that she had been meditating a lot and it was really helping her.

Here's the thing about being down. Sometimes, it's easier to stay that way. And sometimes, we don't want to hear the things we need to hear to be brought back up and keep trying. On this particular Sunday night, I didn't want to hear it. And I proceeded to give Kiersten every possible excuse why meditation wouldn't work. Undeterred, she started talking about a book she was reading about passage meditation, and how you can just pick a particular prayer of any denomination that means something to you, and say it over and over to yourself. At this point, I got a little freaked and told her I'd been doing that with the Prayer of St. Francis every day, because even though I'm not really a practicing Catholic anymore, that prayer has always resonated with me and brought me an inordinate amount of comfort. There was silence on the phone for a moment, and then Kiersten said, "Coll, that's the exact prayer the author recommends starting with." Okay, universe. I'm paying attention.

Another way I go about keeping myself down is ignoring the fact that I should be writing more. There's always something "more important" to be doing -- bills to be paid, emails to be answered, asana sequences to be compiled, books to be read, episodes of "Jersey Shore" to be watched (horrific, but I actually did watch that show). Although I write far more now than I have in the past few years, I never prioritize writing as much as I should. And I always find myself wondering, if I devoted even half as much time to actually writing as I do to avoiding writing or thinking about writing, how much more successful could I be? What am I so afraid of?

The answer to that is easy. Failure. I'm afraid of being exposed as a fluke, a flash in the pan, a one hit wonder -- pick your cliche. But how will I ever know what I am capable of if I don't try? And if I really had no talent, would I have been published three times already?

The universe answered me by smacking me in the face. Hard. I got a facebook message from a complete stranger who had seen me read at the launch party for The Best of Philadelphia Stories 2. She was asking me to be the featured reader for an event she is having in the summer, and offered me a "modest honorarium." I'm pretty sure that means money. To read my shit. Someone wants to pay me to read stuff I wrote to some people in a coffee shop. That's no joke. I take it as the universe trying to tell me that I have as much shot as anybody to parlay writing into a career, if I put forth the effort to make it happen.

In yoga teacher training, we are reading the Bhaghavad Gita. In it, Krishna tells Arjuna that he must fulfill his dharma, or purpose. The Gita teaches us that we all have a purpose, and that the only way to truly know God (or enlightenment, or fulfillment, or our true Self, or whatever concept works for your 21st century mind), is to fulfill our dharma, and to do work and detach from the rewards of that work. I believe my dharma to be to help others, to write, to practice yoga, and to pay attention. I think it's time to start doing the work.

To that end, I have some writing to do.

All the world is
All I am
The black of the blackest ocean
And that tear in your hand
All the world is
Danglin' for me, darlin'
You don't know the power that you have
With that tear in your hand

--Tori Amos, "Tear in Your Hand"

Paying attention,


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Colleen Baranich: God's hacky sack

I stole that title from a line I once heard on the Drew Carey Show. So now I have given credit where it's due. In the interest of asteya (non-stealing), one of the many yamas my yoga teacher training is shedding light upon, I feel it necessary to give credit where it's due. Even if asteya was last week's yama.

This week's yama is brahmacarya, or chastity. Whoa. That's a big one, right? And there are some hardcore yogic texts out there that take it to mean what it means. Chastity. Totally and completely. Lucky for me, I am not being instructed by Pattabhi Jois. Beth and Lisa, my lovely and wonderful instructors, have decided that for our purposes it means not engaging in any interaction that is sexual in nature (now this can be anything from flirting to doing the deed) that is not mutually uplifting. Word. I am so down with that. And being as I am kind of operating under a universe-imposed brahmacarya anyways, I didn't think I'd have to give this one much thought. But I forgot that the universe will kick you when you're down just for the fuck of it. The universe can be a bitch like that. So. I was wrong.

Here's my brahmacarya situation. I met a dude at a snuggy pub crawl with whom I have been spending some time over the past couple of weeks. There's mutual flirtation and it's been mutually uplifting, and being that I'm spread thinner than parchment paper with all my other commitments right now, that has totally been enough for me at the moment. So. Check it. I had a reading coming up today at the Big Blue Marble. Pub Crawl Guy (as he will henceforth be known) lives in Philly and is into literature and such, so I shot him a text on Friday night and told him about the reading and asked him if he would like to go. I also said if he wasn't into it, it was totally cool. About ten minutes later I get a text back saying "of course I'll go!!!!!" and then another one asking if we could hang out before or after the reading. So this had me pretty stoked cuz it's not too often I find hot guys in my age bracket (yes, PCG is hot) who are into the same shit as I am.

Saturday morning rolls around, and I wake up sick as all hell and find that the cold with which I have been sparring all week has hit me where I live and absconded with my voice. This sucks an unheard of amount of ass for two reasons: 1) I have yoga teacher training all day on Saturdays, and it often involves talking and 2) I have the reading coming up at Big Blue Marble. But, as yoga has taught me, none of us are unique in our suffering, and I decide I am gonna solider through this. I go to yoga class and make it through teacher training, and all the wonderful souls in my teacher training class do not even give me dirty looks or try to inch their mats away when I am coughing my head off like I should have been in a TB ward. One of them is even kind enough to stay and help me clean up the 16 ounces of scalding hot tea I spill all over the Wawa check out counter during a break from class, instead of running away in embarassment because half the population of Collingswood is staring at me trying to use paper towels to sop up the dripping remnants of Lemon Lift from the impulse buy racks of candy and gum. Serves them right for putting that shit there to tempt people in the first place and props to Katie for not leaving me alone in that situation.

Fast forward to the end of my yoga training day and I'm feeling physically like hell but mentally and emotionally buoyed, and I get home and call PCG to finalize plans for the next day. I tell him I'm sick but still gonna make a go of it and that at this point it sounds worse than it is and he says my barely there voice sounds kinda sexy and I joke that I sound like Kathleen Turner. And when he doesn't laugh at that joke, I figure maybe the three years my junior that he is really are like dog years and he doesn't know who Kathleen Turner is. Oh well. Knowledge of Kathleen Turner is not a requirement to date me. And I am still feeling pretty stoked. Until I go into the bathroom mirror and see that my eyes are totally hangover bloodshot and oozing and I realize that I now have pink eye on top of the cold that has infiltrated my chest, cochlea, and sinus cavity and robbed me of my precious pipes. I go to sleep and wake up several times throughout the night due to either lack of adequate oxygen intake or unbearable eye burning or both.

When this morning rolls around, I decide to say eff you pink eye, and eff you sinus infection, and eff you what I think is now a left ear infection, and eff you green stuff that I am now coughing up, cuz I have a reading and plans with PCG, and I will not be defeated. I shower and make myself as presentable as I can possibly make myself without the option of a) wearing eye make-up and b) using a white marker to color in my eyes and make me look like I haven't been on a 10 day bender or a crazy crying jag or both. In the midst of all this, I realize that my usually corpse cold skin is weirdly hot yet I am shaking with the chills and upon taking my temperature, I realize I am now also running a low grade fever (which, because I am normally so corpse cold, consists of actually having a body temperature of 98.6). I consider for a moment calling the editor at Philadelphia Stories and PCG and just canceling the whole thing. But then I think, "Goddammit, if it weren't for the fact that I get called out on the mat every time I take a sick day at work, I would have been able to stay in bed on Friday and get the rest that I needed to fight this thing off, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let it ruin my weekend now." I decided to mount up and make the trek to Mt Airy. I figure my germs will not be a threat to PCG or the other peeps at the bookstore as long as I don't rub my eyes and touch anything.

I am halfway across the Tac-Pal Bridge and proud as hell of myself for taking my probable ebola virus like a champ when my phone rings. I dig it out of my purse and see that it is PCG. I figure he needs directions. When I pick up, he asks if I am on my way and I say that I am and then he says, "Would you hate me forever if I backed out?" Those are nine little words that no self respecting sick, single girl who just dragged her sick, single ass out of bed to fulfill a commitment cares to hear. But I keep an open mind and tell him it depends on the reason, to which I receive this reply, "I was drinking with my buddies last night and we ended up tailgating, and I didn't get in until almost four in the morning, and I just wouldn't be much fun." Fail.

There was a time when I was so self destructive and self hating that I would have let him off the hook. There was a time when I would have made excuses for him and accepted his offer to come and see me read in New Jersey next week instead. There was a time. That time is not now. Now, I know about brahmacarya, and I know that this relationship -- using the term loosely -- just became not uplifting for me. So here I am on the bridge and bleary eyed and spiking a fever and I tell PCG that had I known he was gonna bail, perhaps I wouldn't have dragged my sick ass out to fulfill my obligation of meeting up with him. To which he replied that if I sounded terrible and maybe it was for the best, at which point I told him that maybe more than 20 minutes notice to cancel plans he's known about for two days would have been nice. My tone was icy. My demeanor was impenetrable. And I am sure that when I told him I was going to get off the phone because I was driving, he knew he fucked up. Whether he cared or not is something I can't know, but he knew he fucked up.

That scenario marks PCG's exit from the stage of my life. It's not like we were hot and heavy and shopping for china patterns, but I figure when a grown dude can't give me the courtesy of being responsible enough not to get shit faced with his buddies and blow off plans with me because of the resultant hangover, it's time to kick him to the curb. I'm proud that I love myself enough to do that.

Here's the part I'm not so proud of: I am still hurt. In fact, I was so hurt, that I pulled into the Rite Aid parking lot and cried for ten minutes. Here's what a lot of people don't realize: it's not too easy to be single, and take care of yourself, and be the one responsible for everything, and be sick, and be fairly sure the infection in your left ear is now affecting your ability to hear out of it, and look like a leper secondary to oozing eyeballs, and be fairly certain you can actually hear your polycystic ovaries dying at night, and be stood up. It is a bit much. Enough, in fact, to make you forget everything you are learning in yoga teacher training about everyone being united in their experiences of sukha and duhkha and start to think that you really are just fucking alone.

The truth is, no matter how independent we are and no matter how self-sufficient we are, I think deep down, there is no one who doesn't ultimately want someone to look into their eyes and tell them that they are worth caring about. That they are worth sacrifice. That they are loved. Even if those eyes happen to look like this:

Brahmacarya is a hell of a lot easier to abide by when you aren't dealing with the hell that is being single in America in the new millenium.
Asato Ma Sat Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor-Ma Amritam Gamaya
(Lead me from the unreal to the Real
From darkness to Light
From mortality to Immortality)
Oozing brahmacarya (among other more unpleasant things),

Sunday, November 8, 2009

checking in with 33Y

It's been awhile since I posted. The running, sorry to say, has fallen by the wayside. I think my body is not built for it. Maybe it's the fibromyalgia -- not sure -- but it was causing me some pretty significant pain -- and not the good kind. I can run for a long time on a treadmill, but the pavement is not a friend to my joints. But at least it got me conscious of the fact that I need to do more cardio.

So I haven't blogged in awhile partly because I've been pretty busy with yoga teacher training at Yogawood in Collingswood, NJ. (Yogawood RULES, by the way, and they have a second location coming in Riverton, NJ, which is oh-so-close to me! Check it out: Obtaining my yoga instructor certification was one of the things on my 33Y list, so I got to thinking that now might be a good time to check in with progress, especially considering that we are only four months from my 32nd birthday (gulp). Without further ado, I give you 33Y: Progress Thus Far:

1) I will write every day, for at least a half an hour. Wow, how much I have NOT been doing this?????????? I don't know why, having been published a few times now, I still will not give myself license to devote time to this. I need to work harder!

2) I will submit work for publication at least 1-2x per month. Partial progress has been made here. I have submitted work. But not at the rate that I said I wanted to. Have to work harder at this one, too.

3) I will sleep in my bed instead of falling asleep on the sofa with the television on. FAIL. What is my aversion to sleeping in my bed?????????? I think it has to do with that lonely feeling of going to bed alone night after night. I need to get past that. My bed is seriously the most comfortable bed on the planet! And I'd probably be less crabby if I actually got a good night's sleep.

4) I will turn the television OFF. This I actually have accomplished. I've been pretty good about not turning on the television unless there is something on that I specifically want to watch. I could be even better about it, but it's a process. Music is definitely a better option for background noise. For sure.

5) I will earn my yoga instructor's certification. In progress. Hopefully to be completed by May. :-)

6) I will move to (or at least begin the process of moving to) a place with culture (i.e. I will no longer be a constant slave to my car, and I will be able to do things OUTSIDE instead of being stuck in my balcony-less apartment that overlooks a parking lot, and I will be surrounded by more than strip malls and divided highways, which I am convinced are polluting my soul.) I have been investigating places of interest. Northern Liberties ranks pretty high. I've also been going through drawers and closets and getting rid of as much stuff as possible so that a potential move will be less stressful. Of course, this new Yogawood opening near my place is making me reconsider wanting to move to the city. I need to pay close attention to what the universe is trying to tell me here.

7) I will organize my life and become more disciplined.
a) I will pay bills on time. With the exception of the Comcast bill, I have been doing this. And let's face it. Comcast sucks. It has to be said.
b) I will put shit away. Things have been finding their proper places with more promptness than usual around my place. Weeding out unused, un-needed "stuff" will help to further accomplish this goal. There is still a ton of stuff that doesn't have a "place."
c) I will stop letting laundry pile up. I have seen the bottom of my hamper on more than one occasion. :-)
d) I will exercise at least 4x per week, with at least 2 of those times being yoga. Well, the yoga part has been accomplished. Still need to get more cardio.
e) I will meditate every day, preferably twice a day. I have been SHAMEFULLY lax in even ATTEMPTING this! Why are human beings so reluctant to be still?

8) I will allow myself to be human, i.e. I will no longer mentally kick the shit out of myself for every mistake that I make, but instead understand that there are no mistakes, only opportunities to learn. I'm working on it. Ahimsa. That is a yoga concept that embodies this goal. There will probably be more on ahimsa in upcoming posts.

9) I will stop holding on to useless anger. Wow. How difficult is THIS? What am I afraid will happen if I allow myself to not be angry anymore?

10) I will be the change I want to see in the world. You know, yesterday morning I woke up freshly back from a fabulous vacation only to find that my car wouldn't start, which was going to make me late for yoga teacher training and a class that I couldn't make up. I'm not gonna lie. I got frustrated and annoyed and I definitely had that "why me" attitude for a bit. But after making some calls and summoning AAA (which is probably the best thing EVER..."Sooner or later, you'll break down and call Triple A"), I took stock of what I had. I had a dead car battery, which AAA was able to change for me on the spot so I could avoid a tow. I had my friend Sharon, who offered me use of her car for the day (which made me want to add "learn to drive stick" to my 33Y list). I had my friend Kiersten who offered to come over to NJ to drive me to teacher training. I had my parents' friends Jim and Mary who recommended a good local mechanic should I need it. I had my dad who called the STS near me to find out if they had weekend hours. I even had an ex-boyfriend who texted me options for places to take my car if I needed a tow. And I had a new friend at Yogawood who lives near me and offered to pick me up if that ever happened again.

Pre 33Y, I would have chosen to see that car not starting obstacle as a chance to dwell on all the negatives: having to pay money I don't have for a new battery, not having a husband or boyfriend to depend on, being late for class...we can always find a way to make things negative, can't we? I choose now to view it as a opportunity to have my eyes opened to all the blessings I take for granted every day, because here's the goods: we are not special. Yoga teacher training has taught me that we are all one, and that our experiences are everyone's experiences. My car not starting doesn't make me special. It doesn't make me singled out by the universe. My sucky morning is everyone's sucky morning. And if we choose to stop identify with our small individual selves and instead accept ourselves as part of one great Self, the suffering (the duhkha) becomes no greater than the happiness (the sukha), because they are one and the same. They both eventually end, and we are left with nothing but the Self.

Loka Samasta Sukino Bhavantu
Shan'ti Shan'ti Shan'ti

(May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may our thoughts, words, and actions somehow contribute to that happiness and freedom. Peace, peace, perfect peace.)

(Not me, you.)


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"She's so high, high above me; she's so lovely..."

I am not sure why I title all my posts with song titles or lyrics. I think I missed my calling as a singer/songwriter. Of course, I can't sing. So there's that.

Anyway, those lyrics are in my head, because I'm on a runner's high right now. And I had to write this blog to thank all of my friends who are runners -- you know who you are -- for inspiring me to push myself and run.

Here's the thing with me and running. I have always hated it. My favorite thing to say when asked if I run was, "Only if someone's chasing me." It hurt my knees. It hurt my shins. It made anything in my stomach slosh around and find it's way back to my esophagus. It hurt my freaking teeth. I had always accepted that I'd never be a runner.

Then something happened. Well, a lot of things happened. I hit my thirties. My metabolism slowed down. My mid section started to take up more room. None of this made me happy. Then I took a really awesome inversion workshop with a really amazing instructor (shout out to John Vitarelli -- take his class at Yogawood -- he rules!), and I realized that part of the reason I have trouble with inversions is that I have poor core strength. And part of the reason I have poor core strength is that I have some excess belly fat. And part of the reason for that is that I totally do not do enough cardio. Cuz it's boring. And I hate it.

So. The goal then became: find cardio that is fun. So in the summer, there was tennis, but the trouble with that is you need a partner. I thought about joining a league, but that costs money. I have no money. And then there was biking. I bought a bike. But to get super serious about biking enough that I could drop a few pounds, I'd have to have a better bike that I could race and stuff. And there are really no hills in South Jersey, and biking is not that hard with no hills. So then it was back to cardio at the gym. Elliptical. Boring. And my body is used to it. And for some reason, with all of those activities (with the exception of tennis, which involves what?...running), my heart rate never seems to elevate enough. My heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature have always been on the low side. I guess I'm a metabolic underachiever.

A few weeks ago, I was at my parent's house, and I was going to go to their basement to use the treadmill, but it was so nice outside, I decided to throw on my mp3 player and walk outside. But again, I cannot seem to walk fast enough to really get my heart rate up to the point the I feel like I'm working. So I started to run. And I almost died. I was alternating running and walking and all the while cursing the pavement, my feet, my body, the hot sun, the people out running who didn't look like they were going to die. I lasted about 20 minutes. The next day, my shins hurt so badly that I could barely walk.

I consulted my runner friends. Was this normal? Or was my body seriously just not designed for running? My wise, wise friends pointed out that maybe after pretty much a lifetime of not running unless it involved chasing a ball or being chased by a predator, throwing myself full force into a run without even wearing the proper shoes was not the most well thought out idea. And then it occured to me...that is how I had always approached running. I had always expected myself to be able to run full force for miles, even if I hadn't run in years. Or ever, really. I let my ego get in the way of my progress.

Armed with this newfound sage wisdom, I printed a training program from I invested in a decent pair of shoes and a decent sports bra. (This is another reason running started to look's relatively cheap. All you need are decent shoes and, if you're like me and God gave with both hands in the boob department, a bra that will keep you from knocking yourself unconscious.)

The next day, I hit the pavement again. The first phase of the program was pretty simple. Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes. And I did it. And the next day, my shins didn't hurt. Much. I am still on that phase of the program. I can't follow it as strictly as I'd like, because yoga training takes up too many of the days. So it will take me longer than the 8 weeks the program is designed for to reach the ultimate goal -- running 2 miles in roughly 30 minutes.

I may never reach that goal. Time will tell. But I am proud of myself. I'm proud of myself for trying something that I never thought I could do. I'm proud that I'm challenging myself. And I doubt I would ever have done it without such wonderful, inspirational friends. To all my runner friends -- Jamie, Sharon, Dave, Bethy -- you inspire me. The light in me salutes the light in you!

Namaste. Peace. Love. Cardio.


Monday, September 28, 2009

"On Love, In Sadness"

"Little things you said and did are part of me, come out from time to time. Probably no one I know now would notice. I never thought so much could change." -- Ben Folds, "Sentimental Guy"

There are things I still carry around with me. That I miss you the most when it rains, and my mind drifts back to when we used to lie in your bed and watch the sky change colors during a storm. That it still feels like taking a punch to the gut every time I see you. That I trusted you more than I ever trusted anyone in my life, and I don't know if I'll ever really get over how much you hurt me. That there have been other break ups before and after you, but that for some cosmic reason I can only hope to someday understand, it is the memory of our relationship that is like pouring salt in a fresh wound.

I am trying not to care. I am trying to realize that it was never going to work. And I do realize that. When I see you, I am trying to see the REAL you -- the insecure, immature man child that you are -- instead of the potential that I always saw in you. I don't want you back. I just want not to hurt anymore. Or at least, not to see you anymore, which I think is really what causes me to hurt in the first place. When you weren't around, I wasn't feeling this way. Or at least I wasn't paying attention to it. This sounds mean, huh? I don't mean for it to. I don't want bad things for you. Wishing bad things on someone else is a waste of energy. And I think honestly it only comes back to us in the form of bad karma.

Maybe it's the time of year. It's harder to be alone when the nights get colder. Or maybe it's because "Dexter" premiered last night, and we always used to watch it together, on your sofa under the afghan with the giant holes in it, after you dropped the baby back off at her mother's house. Or maybe it's seeing your comments on our mutual friends' facebook pages -- a recent photo of you and Addi, so big now I don't know that I'd recognize her. Maybe it's because my brother is getting married on Saturday, and I have to go the wedding alone and read a poem, preferably that I've written. Last time I read a poem at a wedding, you were my date. Seems like a thousand years ago now. Apparently, I am now the poet laureate of wedding ceremonies.

Maybe it's because even though there are many amazing things happening in my life right now, they seem somehow diminshed without someone special to share them with. And it seems unfair that you seem to be always attached to someone, while I seem to be always alone. I shouldn't compare; I know. (Every time I type a semi-colon, by the way, I remember how you used to laugh at me for using them in texts and online chatting.) Anyway, it shouldn't matter what you're doing or who you're with. And I guess it doesn't, really. Except that it does. It matters because I still hurt, and you look at me as though you don't know me, and I feel foolish, and I feel stupid, and I feel used, and I hurt like hell. And I am angry with myself for still allowing it to hurt this much.

I know I shouldn't dwell on negative shit. I know I have a lot of really good things going for me. But sometimes, it just hurts like a motherfucker, and everywhere I look, everyone seems to need something from me -- my friends, my family, my patients -- and I am drained and tired and sick to death of forcing smiles ("surface smiles," I think you used to call them), and I just fee like I don't have a damn thing left to give to anybody. Sometimes, I find myself drinking margaritas with a friend after a night of speed dating hell that was not my idea where I was reunited with a freak from my past who apparently is an obsessed fan and can quote my work to me verbatim, and I find myself telling my friend, "You know, the irony becomes less funny when it's your life, and you feel like it's all just a big cosmic joke." And sometimes -- more often than not -- I find the conversation turning to you, and I find in spite of myself that the tears are stinging my eyes and the lump is rising in my throat, and I am excusing myself to the rest room where I can break down in peace. And sometimes, in the rest room, I find something random and ridiculous like side by side toilets in a single stall bathroom...

...and I think, "Goddamn, he would find this funny." And the hurt that comes with that thought is so exquisite that I can feel it burning from my stomach to the back of my throat, threatening to take me down.

But I refuse to be taken down. I'll write a story about these goddamn toilets. And maybe about you. And maybe about the burning, exquisite hurt that follows a love whose potential went unrealized. And maybe someday, there will be someone for me whose greatest legacy in my life won't be the pain left by his absence, but the pain alleviated by his presence.

Until then, I have words. And I have a spirit. And I will not be broken.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Still fighting it...

Driving home from work today, I was hit with a melancholy mood. It was more than the rain. It was more than just the perpetual state of gray South Jersey always seems to be surrounded by. It was more than the end of a long day at the end of long week in which patients vomited on me twice. It was the song playing on my car stereo.

As I felt tears sting my eyes and wondered why, I became suddenly conscious that I was singing along to Ben Folds' "Gracie," perhaps one of the most touching father-to-daughter songs ever written. The reason it was making me sad was that when I was still in communication with my ex-boyfriend, I told him to listen to it, because it reminded me of him and his daughter, Addison.

Now it always reminds me of them.

I don't really miss my ex much anymore. We had some good times, but just as many bad times, and whether it was bad timing or an age difference or just crappy circumstances, we weren't right for each other. I can pretty much honestly say I'm over all the hurt and the ugly stuff that went down at the end of that relationship and choose to remember the good times fondly and try not to dwell on the negative crap. It barely even feels like getting punched in the gut anymore when I run into him at work. (Oh yes, we work at the same place. Probably not the smartest choice of places to find a boyfriend, but you live and learn.)

You live and learn, and eventually you hurt less, you miss the person less, you face your broken heart, and you get over it. But you don't get over a child. I'm learning that. Addi was only about 6 months old when I started dating Alex, and I had huge reservations about getting involved with someone with a child, especially a baby. Would I resent her? Would I get tired of spending most of my time taking care of someone else's kid? Would she get in the way of our spending time together? It never occured to me that I would fall madly in love with her and view her as the most important part of my life. That never occured to me. It just happened. It happened the first time I saw her. As an adult, I have never really been a make-a-big-fuss-over-babies person. And I never really believed in love at first sight. Until Addi.

Over the three months that I dated Alex, Addi and I formed a bond unlike anything I've ever experienced with another person. When she allowed me to hold her the first time I met her, even though she was in her "stranger shy" stage at the time, I melted. And the more time I spent with her, the more I melted. I felt so priviledged to watch her growing, to care for her, to feed her, bathe her, make her laugh. Making Addison laugh could make an entire day worthwhile. I had never been so entirely filled with joy, but at the same time, I had never been so completely terrified. I didn't know how I could handle it if I lost her. After all, she wasn't my child, as much as I couldn't have loved her more if she were.

For months after the relationship ended, I dreamt of Addi every night. I looked at pictures of her all the time. I imagined what she would be doing at whatever age she was at. Was she walking yet? Saying her first words? Feeding herself? Occasionally, Alex would send pictures -- Addi on her christening day, Addi on Santa's lap, Addi wearing a shirt I bought for her that read My Dad Rocks. He meant well, but I eventually had to tell him to stop, because it hurt too much. When he offered to send me pictures of her first birthday party, I declined.

At first, I was really angry and upset. After all, I loved her more than I've ever loved another human being, and chances are, she'll never know I existed. At most, she may come across a picture of the two of us one day and ask who I was and get the reply, "Daddy's friend." I dwelled on this, and it tore me apart. I had decided during our relationship that it was meant to be, because I wasn't sure I could even have children or if I wanted them. But Addi had made me realize how much I did want them, and maybe if I couldn't have children, I was meant to be with someone who did. I never fancied myself to be her mother; she has a wonderful mother. But I felt blessed every day that I got to be part of her life. When that priviledge was taken away, I was angry. It seemed like nothing meant anything. It seemed like it had all been for nothing, and all I was left with was pain.

Today, driving home, listening to that song, and thinking how I used to sing "Still Fighting It" -- another Ben Folds song, ironically -- to Addison when she cried, I realized I have been looking at it all wrong. Being in Addi's life was a blessing, even if I did hurt and will always hurt on some level for losing her. Because it doesn't matter if she never knows who I was. It matters that I knew her, that I remember her. Because she changed my life. Addison opened my heart, softened me, made me realize that I could be selfless, made me see the joy in small things, and showed me a capacity for love that I never knew I possessed. And that is what matters.

So, if by chance, Addi, when you are a teenager and surfing the internet, you stumble upon this blog: Thank you. I will always love you, even if you don't know who I am.

"There will always be a part of me that nobody else is ever gonna see but you and me, my little girl." Ben Folds, "Gracie"