Broken hearts are things to be avoided, or so the conventional wisdom goes. We don't want to be hurt, to have to pick up the shattered pieces of a life or love we so desperately cling to. But doesn't that drive to avoid pain just make us callous? Cruel? Cynical users of the people around us?It was the Ides of April, which means it was about two weeks after the whole job and her loss thing happened. I think I thought that since I had a grip on that concept I could avoid what would inevitably come next. I think I thought I could avoid the part where everything hurts. It’s weird. I know for a fact that a year was far too long for me to mourn losing her. On some level, though, it was never about her. Yeah, I missed her, but I still mostly missed what she represented far more. And it wasn’t even that association I made between her and god. It was about safety. It took me forever to get out to college. I had a ready excuse every time the idea came up in that I didn’t have the money. It was true enough, I guess. But when I finally decided I had to go to college it wasn’t because I’d amassed a huge amount of savings. I took out loans, I found a part-time job, I scraped by. I chose Western Illinois not because it was the best school available, but because I knew I could afford it. This was my reality. College was a scary investment of time and money. I didn’t go until I knew I absolutely had to. Then I finished school, moved back home, and went back to the same shitty job I hated that I’d been doing before and during my time at Western. It was safe. I knew I’d get a paycheck that wasn’t enough to get me anywhere but was enough to allow me to screw around and have fun. I met her the summer before my last semester. I suspected she wasn’t going to stick around, wasn’t going to be what I’d hoped she’d be, by the middle of that semester. I knew it beyond a shadow of a doubt the January after I graduated. But I stuck around, trying to convince her that I was the one she wanted, trying to convince myself that she was still the one I wanted. It was easier than going out in to the world and finding someone new, someone worthwhile, having to learn all about a new person. It was easier, in some ways, to be rejected just a little bit every day by someone I knew would reject me than to possibly be rejected a lot by someone who I still thought would be great. I dug my toes in, I fought. I tried to stick with her. I did it for all the wrong reasons. She was long gone a year and a half before I finally let go. She didn’t give a shit about me for at least the last six months we were talking. In truth, I think I was okay with that. The thing that freaked me out was the idea that I had to start again, that I had to find something within myself that was valuable and I had to expose it to the possible rejection and ridicule that comes with the territory of trying to find someone new, someone worthwhile. I think I decided last April that I could avoid all that simply by being aware of the fact that it existed. I’m kind of an arrogant fool like that, but at least I’m a consistent arrogant fool. I do that all the time. Then, like now, I look back, say, “Wow, I knew this all along,” shake my head and (probably) decide to learn from what happened. I thought that I could avoid my broken heart just by being aware of the fact that hurt is an inevitable part of life. I thought I could stay safe. I think I managed to visit and re-visit all the stages of grief, sometimes in fun and exciting ways and new and different orders. Still, I’ve gradually learned to take risks. Last October I finally moved out of my parents’ house. It came with the same fears that accompanied all the attempts to get to university. “What if I lose my job, can’t pay the bills, lose everything I’ve tried so hard to build?” Eventually I had to admit that all those things could happen, but that it didn’t seem likely and risking something was better than never growing up. When I moved, though, I pretty much hid in my new home. I still wasn’t ready to go out and meet new people. I certainly wasn’t ready to go find someone new. One risk at a time, I guess. She’s not coming back to keep me from ever having to take a real risk or make a final decision. If she did, I’d probably politely ask her to leave, anyway. There’s no point in living the life I lived during those last months with her. And as the poet said, no man is an island. I can’t hide in my room forever, just as I couldn’t stay in my parents’ house my whole life. I have a hard time seeing myself married, I always have. I don’t know what that looks like, can’t conceptualize it. I don’t know what it would mean to make that decision to stay together for rich or poor, in sickness and health, for better or worse. I’ve always thought that my failure of imagination meant I’d end up avoiding that messy entanglement entirely. But there’s one thing I understand. See, I’ve always seen marriage as a long succession of car trips. I’ve always been able to understand exactly what it would be like to get in to the car with someone and go somewhere. So maybe I’ve been backwards in all my attempts to figure it out. Maybe I actually do know exactly what I’m looking for. Maybe it’s not about who I can find to be with, but who I can find to go with. I think I always took the fairly conventional view of things. My theoretical beloved was a list of pros and cons, a collection of qualities I loved, qualities I put up with, and things I begrudgingly dealt with. My role in the relationship was to bring something to the table, make myself worth something to her, give her something she couldn’t get anywhere else. I don’t think I’d actually enjoy dating a grocery list. I don’t think I’d be able to get a priest or justice of the peace to bless a marriage between me and a vending machine filled with relationship clichés. In general I like to think I’m fully capable of graciously admitting when I’ve been wrong. On this one I honestly hope that I have been wrong. Now that I’m tired of hiding, tired of being risk-averse, I want to try something new. Rather than meet someone and ask, “What can you give me, what can I give you?” I want to say, “Where can we go?” I want to find a beautiful disaster. I want to shoot out all the lights. I’ve been waiting too long for them to turn green.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Will you be my Mary Magdalene, would you be my American dream Will you mix your perfume up, from diesel fumes and gasoline Be my sweet insurgence, load the magazine Let's shoot out the lights tonight we've been waiting too long for them to turn green Now, take the wheel, the highway's clear I got the throttle, now baby you steer Let’s squeeze every drop out of this machine The coffee, the diesel, the methamphetamines 'Til this Goddamn rig can't run no faster Baby ain't we a beautiful disaster? --RCPM, “Beautiful Disaster” I think I’ve come full circle. April of last year I began the Loco to Stay Sane posts. In the third one I wrote this: