Several years ago a man I thought I was going to spend my life with (oh, hope and belief, how cute and uninformed you are, in all of your hope and believiness!) made me a mix cd for Valentine's day. He was a pop music geek and a romantic who worked diligently not to be one - he was a lot like me in those ways, come to think of it - so like all people with that combo going for them it all comes out in the tracks.
Some guys I'd been involved with even tangentially over the years (i.e., had crushes on or vice versa all the way to verging-on-to finally-becoming boyfriend) had much darker taste, such that when a tape came out of that it involved inscrutable alt-rock tunes that had no meaning other than the fact that we'd heard the song together once and it was SERIOUSLY RAD, or he thought I got his nihilistic view of the world even if I didn't share it and that was cool so he slapped some 8-minute prog mess on there. I got a Metallica mix once, which, if not warm and fuzzy, I have to admit was kind of hardcore, in a good way.
But this was a very different relationship, and this cd was different. It was sweet and thoughtful and a little sexy even (really, hi, to see us you'd never guess, but anyway it was like that sometimes, actually a lot of the time then, hahaha, anyway, I'm totally blushing right now.) It was produced with a billion times more care than your average thing of any kind because that is how he produced things, dear little earnest man. He was a musician and music is very closely woven through my day-to-day, and so it was through ours. He is still (aggravatingly) responsible for the five or so sweetest material things anyone has ever done for me, and this was like number three maybe.
I listened to the cd in my car and I actually SQUEEE'd out loud, and said, "Oh, I love you too" although he was not there, because I am a dork. And I also cried. I am so not a "squee'er", especially not all in caps, although I am indeed a crier. I was touched and relieved and all kinds of things, I mean, I knew that this person loved me a really lot but here was some kind of tangible evidence. IN SONG. How awesome was that?
When you feel about music like I feel about music, as an emotional marker and cultural indicator and just, well, it's hard to explain, it was just very awesome.
He put a song on the cd called "Someone" by the Rembrandts (yes, the band responsible for the Friends theme song. Have to pay the bills somehow. Not all of us have a trust fund...except their kids now, probably.) I had never heard it before, which was typical. Champion of underdogs and the underappreciated that he was, he had a habit of finding the one song by the band that no one else liked (and in some cases believed to be incredibly lame) as proof that they were, in fact, genius and although on many occasions I thought he was so, so sadly wrong in this case I have to admit that it kind of worked for me.
It is the most pathetically sappy pitiful song, and the fact that he closed out this cd with it touched me.
So I made it our song in my head, although I didn't tell him. Proof of my crazy, perhaps, but it just didn't come up, like a lot of other things that just...didn't come up. We didn't have "a song", not really, unless you count "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch." (because I guess I'm just not that much of a lady.) We didn't dance. We talked about music all the time (allthetimeallthetimeeveryminuteweweren'teatingorsmoochingorathemovies) and listened to it together constantly but not in this "Oh listen baby they're playing our song" kind of way. There was a random Lou Rawls tune (because we were really 55 and not 20-something?) which verges on not-terribly-happy, so I don't like to think about that. In the aftermath of our relationship there was another song I identified with (again: super pathetic), and the only one he ever wrote about me was about that eventual end, which, wow, that sounds kind of terrible now, but then again I didn't write stories or poetry about him either. We were all kinds of busy being in the trenches together on a variety of levels, way more serious about everything individually and together than a newly dating couple should have been and it really didn't leave much time for assigning symbols or dreamily picking out songs or even writing them for that matter, although I wish now looking back - looking back sucks, don't do it - that we had tried to do more of that kind of thing instead of all that trenches stuff. It gets so serious so fast. The fun goes away when you need it the most. And so.
****Have fun. That's my only advice, which you should take seriously given that every relationship I've ever been in has failed miserably. No really. I have a lot of learning experiences from whence to draw my wisdom here. Pick someone who you think is cute whose basic annoying traits you can forgive who likes to have fun with you and doesn't tell lies, rage at you, hate your family or criticize your work or basic belief systems, who makes you laugh (super important, because it's harder to want to punch someone in the face so much who you think is hilarious) who you like to talk to and also to listen to (key point. Please see 1997-1999 in my personal history for proof) and who calls you out on your more ridiculous bullshit without making you feel like a fool, and you will live happily, if a little combatively on occasion, but that's okay cause who needs boring lockstep eh?, ever after. Mazel tov, may the road rise to meet you, etc., there you go - and that was free.****
Anyway, this gross song went like this:
No, I'm kidding. That was Christopher Cross, who will never be responsible for "my song" with anyone, although I do love "Never Be the Same", and I apologize to all of you "Longer" people. Except oops, that was Dan Fogelberg, who I'm fond of so I'm sorry I went there. Poor Dan.
Anyway, this is really it.
If you don't watch it (which I really can't blame you for and it may in fact be advisable that you don't) it kinda goes "Someone to love me the way that you do, someone who needs me the way I need you, someone to show me the way that is true, blahblahblah and on and on about how much this person is so happy that this other person is someone who will do all of these fabulous things and after all this TIME thank GOD IT WAS THAT PERSON because that person ROCKS and everything and everyone else SUCKS."
And there's this other horrible part about having no one left to turn to and the world falling down and not being able to face the morning and how this SOMEONE just fixed that right up too. And then the singer incongruously and rather rudely screams out COMEONCOMEONCOMEONYEAAAAAHHHHHHH like he's being beaten to death just as he realizes how FREAKING LUCKY he is, and wouldn't that be a bitch?
Taken altogether I thought that was a great choice for a unilaterally chosen "our song," which makes the "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch" thing make a whole lot more sense.
I hate this song now and it makes me cringe for reasons far less musically judgmental than it might have then. I lost the cd (on purpose, probably) a long time ago but for the last eight years I believed in some version of that squee and all that stuff I believed because I could not stop believing and not just because Steve Perry would find me and kill me if I did. I just couldn't stop. It didn't make any sense and it was also unfair because hey, if you feel so terrible about something and you're a fairly decent citizen of the world who regularly swerves to avoid hitting squirrels and who puts the grocery carts back in the cart corral it only makes sense that it would stop, right? That you would stop FEELING BAD? Because feeling bad sucks! Feeling bad isn't good!
Right???? It only makes sense that your usually-not-incompetent brain would be able to overcome what can only be determined to be a chemical mess, that the switch that flipped would shut down if indeed you were wrong in the first place? That one day you'd get it? That because you are a relatively logical person on a decent day that the evidence would begin to add up?
And it also makes sense (although I don't ask for much, really) that the universe might throw ANOTHER SOMEONE (although not as miserable as this poor, singing soul, please) in your path within that time frame who would figuratively kick the previous someone's ass on multiple levels and make him a non-sequitur. A blip even.
This did not happen. Hello, thanks for playing. And I was not a wallflower all this time. Quite the opposite. I am never still, constantly all the time with the go go go and the being with the people and the going to the places. I have been as open to meeting people without taking the horrifying step of joining a kickball team as it is possible to be in this area.
Now. As much as I believe in independence and being a whole human being and not just an appendage to another person in a "relationship" - and I totally check out in this area - it made this chapter of my life really difficult. It made me very unkind towards myself. It made me jealous of friends and family and complete strangers whose someones stuck with them when mine did not (translation on a bad self-pity day: who found them compelling enough to stay with. Who did not want to be without them.) It made me irrationally angry at people who would minimize what I saw as a terrible blow, even as I grew sick of myself because I knew it wasn't that bad in the overall scheme of things and stopped talking about it with much of anyone for a long time because really, what difference did it make?
As this summer wended into fall, I couldn't stand it anymore. I was tired from this year. I had things to do and I needed all of my brain to do it. I was wrapping up a graduate program. I had places to go and things to do. My old situations were not serving me any longer. Everyone else involved had moved on. More to the point, I started to think boys were cute again. So in a last-ditch attempt to excise this out of my body and mind like a tumor, I went for it. I approached the topic directly with the only person who could really help me, in a strange twist on High Fidelity that involved only one person, not five, who was unfortunately not John Cusack.
It was weird and awkward and uncomfortable and painful. I randomly ended up where he lived and that turned out to be helpful. I made my delusional side listen to things I didn't want to hear because I knew it was essential for long-term survival. I saw him as a friend and someone who regardless I care about so profoundly, which is just true although hardly anyone understands that.
And it has been really hard. I've been very unhappy for a number of weeks now, absolutely on purpose. It's been like a vaccination, going back to this someone for antibodies against old, weird belief systems that aren't serving me anymore.
I did it to wake up, and you know, it turns out that I'm alternately really awesome at and really suck at it. I do truth really well, and that's what I've done. Removing denial, forcibly, is like emotional brain surgery and it turns out it's pretty intense. So I've felt lonely like I haven't allowed myself to feel for years, because as long as I lived in a fantasy land I never had to. I was in a between-time for so long, and now on the other side of this? MiserableLand. All the layers are gone and this lonely is inside, like Liz so eloquently says. It's in spite of being surrounded by people more often than not, except when my body or my mind or my heart gets too tired and I have to hermit myself away for awhile.
This season it sunk in that the someone in that old song is gone, on both sides. I am not the girl who identified with the song and he is not the boy it was about or even who sang it. As ready as I've been for so long to move past that, I had to come to understand that there was something I needed there and that's why I kept it. There was something that I relied on in what happened to me and who I became in that relationship to shape my world view and even though it wasn't working anymore I wasn't ready to let go of it yet. As ready as I was to have someone else fill in both of those blanks, I was afraid it would never happen and so I stayed stuck.
It turn out I have to walk through a lot of fear at this age, I'm finding, to be hopeful and to trust again, as well as to accept that what happened didn't fit my idea of how my life was going to be and that's got to be okay. I have to deal with my worry that whomever I opt to let into my life now, or whomever randomly shows up, is not going to make me even marginally "squee," and worse than not knowing what songs I like (which I know sounds crazy but you have to know me to know what this really means) won't really care what they are anyway. I fear not being comprehended or comprehending, which was so fundamental to my evangelical belief in this old situation, and is so essential to any choice I make to include any other person in my life. I worry about my insistence on insisting that I'm okay on my own, no matter how hard it is, because my insistence can often look a lot like bitchy and that's not what it is at all, 90 percent of the time.
Through the worry I move forward. My fall of whatever this has been has opened up to more hope than I've felt in a long time. I know I did the right thing by telling the truth, by finally owning what I felt so I could move through it and put it away. And it's amazing, the things that are coming to me, the way life is circling around to put me in touch with an overwhelming amount of love and support when I really really need it - or maybe now that I'm opening up to it. I can feel the tide turning, even though some days are still pretty hard, because I am myself, let's be honest.
And you know, there's an important election tomorrow. In some ways this is all cycling through perfectly, because an anger and sense of frustration that started seething eight years ago just may come to an end and that seems appropriate for now.
Meanwhile, I read stories that give me hope, and can feel genuine happiness for people who have made it through as well to a place where another person naturally fits into their lives and doesn't have to be forced in, because when all is said and done they can't. My awesome friend Kristy walked a tough path in matters of the heart and in other ways, moved to California and in that reinvention found happiness with a person who did the same. What she writes in that post, save for some of the details, reflect some of the same hopes I have for partnership, should it ever happen for me for real. Scott's words about Erin do the same. (and their photos don't do such a shabby job, either. Beautiful.)
You can't rush it, these stories say. You have to let go of the past, make decent friends with who you are and the kind of person you want to be for someone else, and maybe if you're lucky it'll happen.
There just isn't one someone, I guess. There wasn't for me when I thought there was, it's as simple as that, and hopefully after all of this I can scrounge up the courage to give it a shot if it ever seems like it might be so again. I'm thinking I probably can, but I'm going to try not to think about it for awhile.