Subtle as a windowpane

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ani the past few days. It makes me nostalgic for college, reminds me of past heartaches which were far worse than this, and also provides a little soothing balm to the still tender wound you’ve added. Granted, I don’t feel as consumed as I did the first day and, although I definitely do not like it, not hearing from you for more than three days has put some distance between me and my raw emotion. The thoughts are still swirling though. I have to wonder if yours are too or if, similarly, the lack of contact has allowed you the distance to realize you want more of it; distance, not me. I hope not but I also realize that it’s not up to me. Instead of rambling here though, I have been able to distill my thoughts into smaller, salient points. We know I love a bulleted list.

Why I’m angry:

  • You pulled the plug too fast. I didn’t even get a chance to see how I really felt about you or if you would get annoying.
  • If you decide that I’m worth it, worth giving a relationship with me a fair shot, you have made it far more serious than it should be. The carefree, by default, has been snatched.
  • Likewise, although it didn’t worry me before, now I will have an insecurity about other women. Jealousy is not beneath me but it isn’t where I like to hang out.
  • I was really fucking enjoying things the way they were!

Why I’m disappointed:

  • By your own words, you think I’m pretty amazing and like spending time with me too. I’m disappointed that this either isn’t true, you think you can do better, or isn’t a strong enough pull for you to try.
  • It seems like sex was as good for you as it was me. Again, either that isn’t true, you think you can do better, or it isn’t a strong enough pull to make you want to try.
  • I was really fucking enjoying things the way they were!

Why I’m sad:

  • Queue vulnerability — I got caught up in being happy and didn’t do a good job protecting myself from catching feelings. What’s sad though is that I would even have to do that with a man. Sadder still that I’d have to do it with a good man.
  • I cannot tell if you are just a nice guy or a good guy. They are different. The latter is unacceptably rare, the former is just a master of disguise.
  • At least a dozen times in the past three days, I’ve wanted to tell you something funny or an observation and I didn’t feel like I could. Because as much as you’ve said it’s not goodbye and we can still talk and blah,blah,blah, you’re the one that made this wave. You get to ride it and I just have to fight the undertow.
  • I really want to be able to just rewind to before that “serious” talk and watch it play out if it hadn’t happened. But that isn’t possible.
  • I was really fucking enjoying things the way they were!

So, I wait.

Music for the Mood: Anticipate – Ani DiFranco

Letter to a John

You made me feel like I was rather amazing all along and I really loved that. I was thankful to you for it and it turned me on more than you could know. To have that mirror shatter is … well … hard to put back together without always seeing little cracks.

I do not want to spend another night lying awake feeling myself barely drift toward sleep only to be jarred awake, again and again, by the realization that you’ve decided it’s over before it even really started and be left to abide the gut wrenching ache and confusion that follows. Or we’ve decided? It’s mutual only to the extent that, in order to keep my dignity, I only have one choice.

You’ve only given me one choice and I wasn’t prepared to have to make it yet. It wasn’t even on my radar, John. It might have been there, niggling, that very first morning when you asked for my number as you left or the next evening when you came over before practice but it disappeared pretty much the moment we sat down to dinner in Baltimore, which was only three days later. That was such a great dinner, a great night, all around. It felt like a fucking rom com.

It’s just so early John; too early for definitions, even. I resent that I didn’t get to even glimpse what it could be because you made sure I knew that this particular cute & fuzzy caterpillar of a relationship was never going to be the butterfly I literally ache with want to feel flying around. I have longed for a pretty one to take flight for so long but with so little evidence of its existence that I catch myself wondering if I’m actually expecting a unicorn to fly out of the proverbial chrysalis instead.

I’ve felt that way for a few years now but you, mister, allowed me to dream about it in color again … but, like most good dreams, you wake up before you get to see the real stuff, the stuff you hope is at the end, the stuff you squeeze your eyes shut so hard in order to try to get back to, to see the end, before your conscious wakes up too. It’s hard for me right now to say whether I wish I knew upfront that you don’t give a shit about how carefree it could be to fly around like that and, in fact, that you’re not even interested in crawling inside the cocoon with me in the first place. Because to know that up front? We’d have missed out on the past few weeks that I, for one, really fucking enjoyed. On every level.

So yeah, I’m getting these swirling thoughts out of my head so that nervous energy can be released. Would you believe I reread our entire text history? An entire month of texts. That’s how this letter started. I actually read through them all twice. Once as a masochist who wanted to remember all the details and smile even though it hurt. And then again with a skeptical eye, trying to figure out where I got the wrong impression. But I really couldn’t find the evidence. Which is supremely frustrating.

I desperately want to be allowed to make a different choice here, John. More accurately, I want you to make a different one, have a different perspective, a different desire … or all of them at once. But, as I told you, and as I am very proud to know about myself, I am not the kind of woman who wants to try to change someone. I know this because shades of this very situation have presented themselves across the different tapestries of my life and, although they weave together to form an interesting and colorful collective, I have yet to be able to appreciate the beauty. I can’t get far enough away to see it as more than a mess.

On one hand, I cannot fault you for not wanting to be in a relationship with me. I woke up with you in my bed after taking you home from a bar exactly one month to the day before you expressly laid it all out for me – and while inside me, I might add. You said “Can we be serious for a minute?” The audacity of that conversation, at that moment, while we were in that state … should disgust me or infuriate me or insult me. Maybe someday it will. For now though, it’s a little entertaining given who and how we were together (for what seems like too fleeting a moment), and it seemed more normal than say, sitting on the couch and having one of us say “we need to talk.” The content felt premature to me but don’t those conversations always?

From almost the very beginning, I felt comfortable with you. We shared a lot about ourselves, we were both astonishingly honest, vulnerable, brazen even. It certainly made me feel closer to you faster than I’ve maybe ever felt with a man. And I reveled in it. It was refreshing! Maybe, like many other maybes that have gone through my mind since you left here last night, that was something I should have been more cautious about, something that should have drawn my retracted but well fortified guard back up, been skeptical of. But I love the feeling of abandon, of going all in, of feeling as much as I can possibly feel in the moment because I know too well that (the good ones especially) do not last indefinitely.

Many times over the past month I was blissfully unaware, so enjoyably giddy, actually thanking g/God for allowing you to cross my path and pinching myself that finally a good man seemed to appreciate me for all of the things about me that I appreciate. Someone moderately attractive, kind, considerate, smart and intuitive. An athlete and a smile-inducing smart ass who could match me and didn’t shy away from it. And a man who did and said the small, little things that no one actually wants to ask for, maybe don’t even know that they want or how to ask, but that make you feel like you’re just as exquisitely awesome as, in your soul, you have always thought you might, just maybe … be. 

I loved being wrapped in that feeling and having no compunction about indulging in it. And, if I’m being honest, I liked the surprise of it. That you came out of nowhere. I wasn’t looking for you, I wasn’t expecting a connection, it just happened.

What is hardest for me to process is that there were certainly times where I recognized and even articulated that this was something that kind of inexplicably but awesomely developed from a drunken night at a bar. But every time I had the glimmer of a doubt in my head that I was getting more “in” than you were or that this was just sex to you, there were nearly immediate confirmations that I was overthinking and you were right there with me. You reminded me that you weren’t drunk that night. You knew what you wanted. You never treated me like a fuck buddy. Never indicated that you were only interested in me for sex and when I joked about it, you’d put it right down and prove me ridiculous. Or maybe that’s how you treat fuck buddies? If so, your fuck buddies are lucky but don’t think for a moment that they think they are only that, in their heads anyway.

That very first morning though, I shared how I recently blew an obscene amount of money on a matchmaker and, just two weeks ago, how I was still talking to and looking forward to meeting a guy from a dating site that had seemed so promising. I was clear from the jump that I wanted something of substance. I recognize it’s possible that you feel you were similarly clear that you did not. You have mentioned other women, still live the roommate life (which I find patently absurd at this age) , said more than once that “I know myself” and “I’m selfish with my time” and “I like to do me, what I want to do, when I want.” I have never been needy or demanding with a man though and probably go too far too avoid it now – possibly to my detriment, as seems to be the case here.

So, while I heard these things, ruminated on them and filed them away, I guess I thought that maybe you’d just never been with someone who wasn’t those things and found the experience of it easy and refreshing, as you were for me, rather than constricting and something you should continue to actively avoid. I think I didn’t grasp (and still don’t) the depth to which you’ve experienced commitment, what the word even means to you (because it really is different to everyone) and especially why you are so resistant, almost afraid, to even attempt it with someone who, for all intents and purposes, was really fucking easy to just “be” with … especially in the fledgling stages of a new relationship.

So that, I guess, is the crux of my confusion and, if I’m being honest, frustration and hurt as well. 

I know by your own admission, in our rather robust conversation on the subject (in the midst of you breaking up with me before we were even dating?), that I was not alone in feeling that this little sprout of a relationship was more than a little awesome. It was easy. It was effortless. It was so much fun! You said these things. Those are your words. There was no discernible pressure, no premature expectation, and no resemblance of relationships we’d had before. It felt like friendship, it still feels like friendship and I don’t want to lose that, but with sexual chemistry that, for me at least, was never more than a half second from my mind at any point in the day or night. But especially the mornings.

I will not and cannot understand why you would choose to walk away from that for the sole reason that you want to be able to talk to and explore other people. I mean, I guess that’s the reason? You never really said and I can’t think of any other plausible or rational reason. It’s so early, John! You must really not be that into me because, excuse my language, how the fuck do you know, NOW, that you would even want to be with someone else at some point? Do you know now, already?

That’s the only explanation I can wrap my head around, a month in. That there’s already someone else tickling your senses of possibility and they must be really something. That girl who works at the gym? The girl you said your coworker was trying to set you up with? Someone else?

I’ve never been so happy, so early, exploring someone new but, admittedly, I was also ready to dive in and see where it would go. I don’t have anyone else on the periphery that I feel like you’re taking me away from or precluding me from getting to know. And I’m not opposed to talking to multiple people or you doing the same. I just don’t sleep with multiple people at once and, honestly, it’s too much for me to keep straight if I get to know multiple people beyond the surface at once. We’ve been sleeping together now, regularly, for a month, so I suppose that point is moot.

It is rare for me to have such a connection with so little time and effort and endless pros&cons-ing though. I guess I need to accept that your experience with meeting quality women must be very different than mine meeting quality men. I rarely, if ever, meet men that I am attracted to, period, full stop. But then also like as people so much that I can’t wait to get to know more about them? Especially from the jump. I mean, that was weird for you too, right? That was what you said. Repeatedly.

I didn’t get tired of talking with you, no matter how banal or deep, and I could’ve spent every day with you just as easily as the every few days thing we had going. I could’ve loved more but was really enjoying less. It was sweeter that way and left me craving the next text, the next touch, the next laugh, the next fuck. It wasn’t boring but it also never had a chance to get there, for me anyway. I couldn’t even see it coming on the foreseeable horizon though and that excited me, maybe more than it should have.

I silently wondered more than once what would happen when you grew tired of this “peach” of yours but, again, almost as soon as I’d allow the thought to cross my mind, you’d say or do something to reassure me that I was just projecting past lovers onto you and I’d feel guilty about it because that wasn’t fair to everything you’d shown yourself to be. I really don’t think I’m wrong here. I didn’t imagine it. You treated me like you cared about me. I have enough experience to know how frustratingly rare that feeling is.

Last night, right after you left, and while I was still effectively in shock, you texted and said “Should things change I hope we can reconnect.” It was supremely offensive to me in the moment because, although I can admit now that I don’t know exactly what those words meant to you, it effectively said to me that you aren’t ready to “settle” for me yet. That you want to go out there and meet your coworker’s friend, some other chick at a bar that you met and/or wherever you meet these other great women, fuck around for a while, and are fully prepared to risk that you may ultimately realize you were a fucking moron because none of them have the same combination of ingredients of what you chose to walk away from, what you already have/had and cut off too fast. It also said, should that be the unfortunate result, you’d hope to reconnect with me because, at the end of your exploration and conquests, I would be a good place to come back to, to settle for. Because I’ve said I’m not willing to do casual, you want to move on to your next conquest. I don’t really know how else to interpret it but I welcome your perspective, of course. Clarity on anything swirling through my head these past 24 hours would be welcome.

I might be way off base or being unfair or mean purely from a place of hurt. And that’s plausible. But there is some truth there. I know this because I’ve done it. I’ve done that very thing to nice guys I thought of as friends, great guys I wasn’t that attracted to, amazing guys that tried to get to know me at time when I just so happened to think I had a chance with someone better. It happened more times than my pride wants me to admit and, in every single case, I didn’t recognize it until so much later, years later in some cases. Too much later though, in every case. 

They are all sliding doors moments for me. I have had sliding doors moments in my career too but relationships, for me, carry more weight. They are what I think about when I wonder why I cannot find a man who wants more than to just fuck me. I always wonder if I would have had a different experience if I’d just “settled” at the time for one of those guys.

Somewhere along the line and, maybe because I came so late into the sexual world, I became this woman that guys are (sadly?) amazed by because I love sex. I’m always ready, I genuinely enjoy figuring out how to make it better with my partner, and I seem to have something magical going on below, which most of the handful of men I’ve been with want like an addict wants crack. I say sadly because I think most women have many if not all of those sex-positive qualities but they either don’t vocalize them or aren’t in touch with them.

Yet all of those qualities that I view as strengths and sexual awareness, also seem to make men think that I am equipped to only be their sex toy. I have tried time and again to hold out on sex until there’s an established relationship but there are two problems with that, 1) as I’ve lamented, I do not meet many guys that I am interested in and 2) it sure as shit isn’t fair that I have to abstain from my own sexual gratification just so some guy, who otherwise has potential, doesn’t immediately rely solely on his fuckboy id. It could also be argued that his id would eventually override his superego regardless but I have no evidence, so far, to the contrary. And I went and fucked this one up by drunkenly fucking you from day dot so, again, maybe what I actually regret is that it happened at all. Period.

Last night you alluded to the fact that you never really get beyond “this point,” where I assume this point is the point after which a relationship either ramps up or ends? I don’t get to that point as fast and, aside from meeting you in a bar and taking you home that same night, it’s also why I was so happily enjoying the ride with no real thought to what happens tomorrow or the next day … because I didn’t see a step (or a cliff) on the path ahead yet and it was refreshing as anything! So we differ there and it makes me sad because you’re missing out on so much of the fun along the way, before things get serious and real, real.

You also alluded (so quietly) that you’re afraid of something and didn’t feel comfortable telling me. Maybe you don’t even know exactly what it is yourself yet? I appreciate and respect that. It makes me sad, of course, because I am nothing if not a listener and an empath. I like working through complex things with people, especially people I care about, and I’ve worked through enough of my own ish to prove it. In fact, you said that I’m comfortable in my own skin, it’s attractive. and you respect me for it. I don’t know how accurate that is but I paid $60K for a masters degree that ought to have been in “self actualization.” Every assignment, paper, presentation and discussion I had for those three years seemed intentionally meant to strip you bare so you could recognize and process all your ugly, all your demons, all your limitations so you could effectively help others. That’s not to say I don’t still have some shit that I’ve never quite figured out or that hasn’t morphed and compounded with life events and experience since, but I’m fairly in touch with who I am. More than most people, I guess. I am proud of the awareness, the ability to dig deep and unpack.

Comfortable in that multi-faceted skin though? Depends on the context, like most things of the heart and soul. I think you are similar but I guess I could be wrong about that too. Am I?

So, now I’m way too deep in the ethos. I don’t know how to get out or if I really want to. This space of wondering and wandering is more comfortable than the one of disbelief and abject sadness that I have sat in for the past 26 hours or so. Most of these things, deep or not, never even crossed my fucking mind until you pulled the ejection handle last night. I do not want this to be over. I do not want to lose you or your texts or your physical presence from my life. I have vacillated all day between refusing to accept your decision completely .to. just accepting that I don’t want to lose whatever this is even if that means I’m willingly entering into another indeterminable DP-situation .to. allowing you a length of time to go out and sow your oats or whatever the fuck it is you think you need to do before we can figure out if you still believe that desire for “something” is more compelling than exploring how far the “sure thing” can go .to. just sucking it the fuck up and cutting off all communication so that the faster I start going through the hell of heartache, the faster I can get out of it and start healing … again.

But I don’t really think any of those options are up to me, in the end.

In the end, I like you. If you had asked me last week or even yesterday, I doubt I could have recognized how much because I don’t put too much stock in the giddy days. I enjoy them. I let them consume me because they never last as long as Hollywood has taught us they will. And I try not to think too much about when they might run out or what will/won’t happen when they do. I wish so much that you would just run for your life with me for as long as it lasts, as long as anyone knows any relationship will last before it’s over.

But you seem so sure, so early, for reasons and experiences unknown to me, that you will want to be with women other than me later on, but before we even try. Because I’ve experienced the ugly side of that and the emotional repercussions and insidious doubt that come along with it, I wouldn’t want to always be wondering, “Should I be worried? Is she a threat? Am I not good enough? Why? What the fuck is wrong with me that I’m not enough?” when you are not with me or when I don’t hear from you for a couple days.

I am proud to say that those thoughts never crossed my mind over the past month and that isn’t something I would have always been secure enough to do or feel in a new relationship. But now, if I am being honest, I have thought all of those exact thoughts last night & today and it feels absolutely and completely horrible.

You made me feel like I was rather amazing all along and I really loved that. I was thankful to you for it and it turned me on more than you could know. To have that mirror shatter is … well … hard to put back together without always seeing little cracks.

I don’t know how to end this letter. I don’t want to. There is comfort in sharing the stream of consciousness. Even if it isn’t really shared. I also don’t know how to keep the lines of communication open without making it hard for one or both of us. I know my limits but I don’t know yours. It so easy to talk to you that it is crazy easy just to refuse to accept that last night even happened. For right this moment, that’s exactly what I want to do.

Maybe it was the Fanta?

Music for the Mood: Both Hands – Ani DiFranco

Here we go … Getting real

I get it. Honestly, I do. I’m not living in the worst neighborhood, I am healthy, I own a home, and I have an amazing family and, most times, amazing friends. I am privileged. I have more blessings than I deserve. I fully and completely understand why my strife does not compare relative to that around the world, a few miles across the river or even just a breath away, sitting across from me in my office. It does not, however, change the way I feel deep, deep down and, some days, even on the surface. Today is one of the latter.

Today was my last day at a high school where I have shed literal blood, sweat and tears over the past four years. I have been a high school counselor for 12 years and, while I have received the highest “teacher” rating every year of those 12 years, have worked my ass off to earn it and, even beyond the paper, am pretty fucking fantastic in that role, live & breathe it as my primary identity, I find myself without a job after next Tuesday. I was excessed as part of the budget next year.

Our current principal cut many positions, including one of four counselors. Because my kids graduated he said, “it would be least disruptive to the student body” if I were the one to go. Even though I am the only one of the four who lives within the city of DC (allegedly worth “preference” points, am 3rd in seniority, sponsor multiple extracurricular activities, and am the NCAA person for the entirety of DC Public Schools). It makes no sense.

I made today my last day because 1) my kids are gone 2) the school is empty and unwelcoming without them 3) the only things I have left to do rely on central office and they are profoundly incompetent 4) I do not have a job in this school system next year so there is no reason to save my 11 days of leave for 6 remaining days of my current contract 5) walking into that building now makes me want to fall to my knees every morning, and 6) fuck the principal of that school. He made this decision. I do not kiss ass. It’s anathema to me. Plenty of people do and they have their jobs. Maybe they are better than me after all.

I am a school counselor in the very soul of me; you cannot separate me from that role even outside of the building, especially now, twelve years later. I have loved, loved, loved getting to know thousands of young people over these years in education, including two amazing graduating classes (the most recent of which was three days ago, this past Saturday). I simply yet profoundly don’t know what to do next.

I find myself rudderless and more than a bit flabbergasted at the notion that I cannot sit indefinitely in this fugue state. A huge part of me does not want to stay in education. I don’t know how to give any less of myself but that’s what it takes to make a difference for these kids. If I give less, it’s not fair to the kids. If I keep giving this much, it’s not fair to me. It obviously doesn’t behoove me to continue to give — no one has my back but me. That’s now painfully, painfully clear.

I am devastated to lose my job. I wanted the personnel committee, who included people I considered personal and professional allies, to take a stand against a truly terrible and vindictive woman who holds a sickening degree of perceived power over students, parents and fellow colleagues alike. But she keeps her job as a counselor and, because I had the bad luck of having seniors this year, I was the one cut? I don’t understand it at all.

I did my best. I gave everything. It wasn’t enough.

So what do I do now?

Tiger Lily Vegas

What does it all mean?

Tiger Lily Vegas was the name of a cat. In college, maybe senior or super senior year (victory lap), my small and beloved group of guy friends and I illegally had a cat in the dorms for a few, gloriously scandalous weeks. Considering virtually everything was against the rules at our tiny, conservative, Christian college, this was a very big deal.

I wanted to name her Tigerlily. Natalie Merchant was my muse at the time, I think. The guys wanted to name her Vegas (we were unabashedly into the movie Swingers then). “You’re so money baby and you don’t even know it.” Maybe we should have named her Double Down. Anyway, we compromised on Lily Vegas and, after a number of adventures and learning what it was really like to have a cat, illegally or not, in a confined space, we got caught. Probably the smell although, I don’t remember those lesser details now, fifteen years later. Lily Vegas lived out her days on my family’s farm, having babies, killing rodents and living the life fantastic until a car squashed her. I’m not a cat person, or even a pet person, but I had an affinity for Lily Vegas, for what she represented, the memories, the subversion.

I have so many memories and stories like this in my head, upstaged in volume only by thoughts. I like to write but rarely do it, except in the occasional, introspective, wordy and admittedly obnoxious social media post about whatever is rankling or inspiring at that moment. After college, I had a blog and it was cathartic and I met great “friends” there, a few of whom I am still connected with through social media. Some days, especially when I’m walking the 2.5 miles to or from work and my mind wanders or I’m lying in bed unable to sleep, I think about how I wish I had someone to turn to and talk about all these random things. So here we go. Buckle up.