Alert readers will notice my attempts to keep Cleopatra firmly under pseudonym have developed some cracks. Since I’ve figured out how to avoid the curse of the rebound (and since she doesn’t mind, I’ve used her picture, and everyone who knows us knows about us anyway), I’ll tell you her real name: Becky.
How is that I, mere bookseller, unpublished (well, unpaid for the few times my words have seen print) writer, nearsighted, halfbred, recently separated from a ten-year marriage and sixteen-year relationship, avid reader and Seinfeld fan, how is it I managed to uncover the secret when so many before me have tried and failed?
Some folks are good at making money. Some are good at making friends. I’m lucky in love. What’re ya gonna do?
I supposed you’d like to know the secret. Well, tough. I’m saving it for my guest column in O.
Just kidding! I flew back from Thanksgiving vacation on a Tuesday. I landed at noon and Becky was waiting. We’re in the beginning stage where separation is torture; I’ve never been glad to leave my family and head home to Miami after Thanksgiving, but knowing she was picking me up filled me with joy. We whiled away a day or so before work. I kissed her goodbye on Wednesday night. She had Thursday off; I wouldn’t even get to see her at work.
The emptiness where my family had been hit like a lead sack over my heart. The realization that I would spend the day without Becky didn’t help. I missed my friends. That night I biked home in the dark, got to the Treehouse, and moped. Slope shouldered, bottom lip pooched, frowning down at my stupid book I didn’t feel like reading, sniffing through dumb CDs I didn’t feel like hearing and boring DVDs I didn’t feel like watching, sighing at luggage and laundry I didn’t feel like putting away or washing, turning my phone on and off to make sure it was working.
A few martinis and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and I could have had a good old Self Pity Party.
Thursday morning, I didn’t hit the snooze on my alarm. I got up at five am and wrote for over four hours. I did my job at Books & Books. I posted on this here blog. I biked to the grocery store and loaded my backpack with goodies for the week. Once home, I made Jamaican Jerk Chicken with asparagus on the side for dinner (waaay over-spiced, but I chowed it down with relish despite the sweat on my brow), as well as a double-batch of my award-winning chili for the week (I lost the award-winning recipe which I thought would be my legacy to the world, but I’m getting closer to re-creating it with each attempt). After dinner, I settled in to read. “Mystic River” hit me just right.
Somewhere in the middle of making chili and preparing dinner, I realized Becky and I had texted, but not one of those marathon back-and-forth torture sessions where all I can do is lay there and wish she was next to me. Just a text here and there to keep the romance alive. I was enjoying my day, thinking my thinks, examining my life, doing things I enjoy doing, not simply wishing I had Cleopatra’s company.
I realized I didn’t need to worry about my new relationship combusting, about rushing things, about breaking my heart in a rebound. Writing, not staying over-long at work, cooking, reading, these were the things I enjoyed about single life. Between bouts of misery, I had periods of productive solitude. I need to enjoy Becky’s company without revolving my life around her. I need to keep evolving as a person instead of putting all of myself into a relationship.
A simple insight, but powerful for me.
Having Becky has also given me the courage to look back at my marriage with both eyes clear and open, rather than blurred by tears. I see now how stagnant Andi and I had become as people. Yes, we enjoyed each-other’s company in a way our friends envied, and yes, we shared a lot of love, and yes, we had many good years. But what about our lives, our personal goals? What about us as individuals?
A friend of mine reminded me about a past post, “Sharing,” how our lives began moving forward when we fell apart. It often seems to be the way of things. My sister sent me this great quote from Tobias Wolff; “We are made to persist. That’s how we find out who we are.” It’s not grief and anger over my failed marriage I need to worry about suppressing, it’s my own development.
Before Becky and I even discussed this, she brought the truth of it home. Our bodies entwined like apes on the branches of a tree, basking in each-other’s warmth and scent, my alarm beeping at a ghastly hour of the morning, she kicked me out of bed.
“I don’t want to be the reason you don’t write,” she said.
I’m still struggling to find the balance between snuggling time and work time, between loving another and loving myself, but she’s supporting me the whole way.
It’s one of those things that feels like it’s always been there when you first discover it. The things you own end up owning you? Duh. No matter where you go, you can’t escape yourself? Of course. If you’re no good to yourself, you’re no good in a relationship. Ah-hah!
Simple, sure. But it’s allowed me to relax into us.