Yeah, yeah, I get it. I haven’t written to you in a long time! HI, HOW ARE YOU? I’m doing fine, as fine as I could ever be doing these days. It’s hard to give a short answer to this question when you’ve been going through a lot. You want to touch on every single bullet point on your list of recent Things I’ve Gone Through. Don’t feel bad about it! These events were impactful and you made it through. You’re feeling stronger because of the list of recent Things You Have Gone Through, or maybe you’re not. Feeling sour after a draining life event is pretty damn normal, and you’re never less than a human being if you have a difficult time processing something, whether it takes you a bit longer than someone else to process it, or if you need more than the amount of Very Necessary time to decompress after a tough situation people consider to be “normal.”
Lately, I’ve had a lot of time to become acquainted with the idea of decompression after monumental situations, and need to process the results of my hectic schedule over the past few weeks, and the massive amounts of feelings I’ve felt.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned what it’s like to realize I have made emotional progress in life, and how I’ve realized it is OKAY to experience human feelings in a culture that forces us to push our feelings to the side, and pretend we are FINE when, in fact, we are anything but fine.
I think I spent the entirety of 2017 in a bubble. I left my beloved university and its radio station and then went through the break up of my first long-term relationship. I felt like Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day on a daily basis. I would only alternate my daily music choice, but only between Ryan Adams’ most depressing records, and pretty much every Daniel Johnston album. Some things last a long time.
I know I am getting better because I’ve acknowledged it verbally to myself, but I only recently began to realize my life’s progress through recent events. I’ve spent so much time and invested so much care in improving my mental health over the last year, but I’ve recently realized there’s more work to be done, and it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge this is okay!
After much consideration, I decided to see my ex for the first time since we broke up almost two years ago. We’re friends, so I thought it would be a completely platonic-void-of-feelings-and-a-way-to-channel-my-progress-into-action meeting. I met him at a coffee shop and on my way, I kept thinking thoughts along the line of “I AM STRONG AND BEING STRONG MEANS BEING VOID OF FEELINGS.” Of course, this way of thinking is dangerous and just plain wrong.
As soon as I saw him after walking into the room, I was shocked at how immediately I transformed back into the version of myself I was when we were together. I liked some aspects of who I was back then, but I’ve made some very important changes and adjustments in my life since, and at that moment, they were gone. My ex has a habit of talking out of the side of his mouth when he’s extremely nervous, and it used to drive me mad. I immediately slipped into my old controlling habits and silently begged him to stop. It’s a nervous habit and something out of his control; he’s a person! People have individual quirks and unique qualities that define them! If the quirk or habit isn’t hurting anyone, it’s none of your business or role to “fix” or change it.
The current version of myself was also pretty horrified by how easy it was for me to want to instantly take care of him again as he was filling me in on his life. I immediately forgot the courtesy of allowing personal space; my body language reflected actions completely different from my intentions. Losing all concept of personal space and everything I’ve ever known about consent, was embarrassing and out of character for me and it became obvious I was undoing a lot of my personal growth and many of the “people rules” I had learned since then.
Despite all of the nerves and my thoughts blaring quips like “stop! Don’t say this! It’s inappropriate to let him know he has attractive calves!” we had a great time. In hindsight, I am thankful and excited to realize we’re able to hang out together and enjoy record shopping with the same rapport we always had, but it’s also different and more comfortable, like a comforting t-shirt you refuse to throw out because you sleep so comfortably in it. My childhood Spice Girls t-shirt knows what I’m talking about.
Having an insane amount of fun hanging out with him without having to analyze every single move we were making at the moment, picking apart every word which tumbled out of my mouth, and earnestly wondering what would happen between us, were all signs of personal growth I had undergone, and I thought I had every aspect of this world in the palm of my tiny little hand. He insisted on driving me home and I spent the entire ride silently praising myself for acknowledging parts of me had moved on from him. I no longer dreamed of fitting all of my personal hopes and dreams in between making sure he threw away his chewed straws from Starbucks.
The party of acknowledging my emotional growth was short lived though, and the reminder I am a human being with feelings came crashing down quickly. Proof of my status of being a Proud Emotional Human comes with mentioning how much of a Frequent Crier I was during the two years we were in a long distance relationship. When he and I would spend the day together once a month, it was imperative I set aside time in my schedule to cry; it was just as important as brushing my teeth. Like clockwork, I started to cry when he pulled into my driveway. I honestly couldn’t tell if he knew I was crying; he had the impressive ability to ignore my designated two hours of leaky faucet crying. He really wouldn’t be a good repairman.
Somewhere down the line, I learned I had to start building metaphorical walls around my emotions and deal with them very privately, away from anyone else, because the other person’s reaction to my emotions was far more important than the person going through the emotions. Learning how to be open to the idea of acknowledging the existence of my emotions and comprehending how necessary and healthy it is to realize I can’t be a wall and that I’m very much a human, has been the biggest lesson I’ve ever had to learn. I don’t know why I’m so hesitant to acknowledge it is okay to not have all aspects of my life compartmentalized and “together” for the purpose of appearing to have it all. I’ve come a long way, baby, but I’m not a Virginia Slim.
My best friend Ashley is my right arm. Sometimes she’s my right foot too. I need her to get through life. Since we were in middle school, I’ve admired her ability to be strong and resilient through every life situation she tackles; she’s the biggest inspiration in my life! Even the biggest inspirations have a fear of the unknown and need some guidance in understanding the importance of being a human when faced with difficult decisions.
Our weekly Tuesday dinners aren’t as animated or emotionally exhausting as the Friday night dinners from the Gilmore Girls that we’ve both been extremely influenced by, but they’re just as cathartic as an episode of our favorite show. Last Tuesday, we reunited after three whole weeks, and both had a lot to discuss. Ashley’s on the cusp of figuring out what to do with the next phase of her life, and she is feeling weighed down by the process of choosing her path for the process of logistics versus what she, a HUMAN, feels is best for her.
When we’ve made plans and built our current versions of our lives, we tend not to think about how these are the CURRENT versions of our lives; not knowing exactly what we want out of life down to the finalized minute detail and allowing ourselves to change our minds and move on in order to discover the progress we have made as individuals and the progress we will continue to make in the future, is fully part of the human experience and a vital part of our existence in this life.
I recently revealed a deeply kept secret about my life to someone special, (I KNOW. I KNOW. IT’S A CORNBALL TERM), and he turned to me and said, “I understand you a bit better.” Not only did his proclamation make my insides melt, it brought me to the extremely important notion that understanding who we are as people, and learning to identify the tools we need to progress in life, is an endless stream of trial and error, but we’ve got to take that ride on the road to somewhere.