Someone Who I Used to Know

Holy fuck, I think I had a breakthrough.

I saw a ghost today at the climbing gym—no, it wasn’t an actual ghost, of a climber who had fallen to their death. I thought I saw someone I used to know. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t her.

While I haven’t seen or spoken to this person in almost five years, I do think about her from time to time. But immediately upon seeing her look-a-like, I flashed back to our last actual conversation. And it reminded me of the importance of letting go and moving on. It reminded me that you have to listen to what other people are saying and just accept it.

I do hope this is a milestone for me when it comes to the “grieving” process, but I’m not convinced it’s over. I still have a long way to go toward coming to terms with my lost relationship and moving on, but I’d like to think I made some progress today.

It’s always easier to give advice than it is to take it. But today, today I had the opportunity to take my own advice. And while I can understand and respect the point of view, it’s still hard as hell to accept.

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Let’s Talk About Sex

The other weekend, I was pressured by multiple women in my family to share the age I lost my virginity. They were playing a game of 20 questions and I’d sat down unknowingly. This was not a group I’d choose to tell all to.

When they first asked, as an “initiation” question, I said I’d rather not say. To encourage me, they all eagerly went around announcing their answers. It was back to me. “I’d rather not say,” I told them again.

It’s a safe place, I was assured. It didn’t feel very safe.

We won’t judge you, they explained. I didn’t care if they did.

We told you ours. I didn’t ask.

It wasn’t my age. It was the story. And what they didn’t know was that I’d lost a lot more than my virginity at that age.

But this isn’t about that story, it’s about five women in my family making me feel pressured into sharing.

Today, women are able to enjoy sex and acknowledge it publicly. We’re no longer forced to feel ashamed of our sexuality. And while we’re still fighting sexism and inequality, we’ve made broad strides.

I’d like to think that’s where this pressure was coming from, the false promise of a supportive group of women. But when my discomfort was dismissed for their entertainment, they lost all credibility.

We need to do better

I recently watched Mindy Kaling’s commencement address to the Dartmouth class of 2018 and was both inspired and ashamed. Toward the end of her speech, Kaling speaks directly to the women in the graduating class and encourages them to lift each other up.

We need to do a better job of supporting each other.

And she is so spot on.

I know I need to do a better job of supporting all the women in my lifeprofessionally and personally. My inability to do so has distanced me from family, my best friend and colleagues. It’s inhibited me emotionally and paused me professionally.

While acknowledging this shortcoming is easy, it will take a lot of effort to do. It will take forgiving myself for past mistakes, saying goodbye to a friendship I long for, letting go of the past and looking toward the future, and allowing myself to feel inspired and vulnerable. It means starting over, feeling better and moving on.

I’m not sure how I got here from when I started this draft last week, but I’m glad I did. And I’m ready to start trying.

The Way Things Change

Moving on is hard, and sometimes damn near impossible. For the better part of the past year, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit obsessing over a lost friendship. Funny isn’t it, we always think romantic relationships are the hardest to end. Now, this isn’t the first friendship I’ve had come to a close, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. However, it’s the only one that ended in an explosive argument. And — at the time — I didn’t realize it was actually the end. I thought she’d admit wrongdoing, apologize, or at least forgive and forget. But none of that happened.

The more time that passed without one of those things happening, the angrier I got and the further I distanced myself from the relationship. Looking back, I realize how that probably just made it easier for her to pull further and further away. In the end, by the time I was ready to acknowledge my wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness, it was too late. By that time, she’d moved past our friendship and was ready to not turn back. Oh my god how that hurts.

Perhaps the hardest part of accepting the fact that “your person” is no longer there for you to turn to is not even having the chance to say goodbye. Not even getting a big “Fuck you, I’m done,” and instead receiving radio silence after a phone call, text message and email. For some reason, as much as that response sounds painful, it seems better than this. Better than a lack of closure. Especially knowing I could have prevented things from going this far.

So, I try to look for the good in things. Lessons learned, frustrations ceased. But in the end, none of that matters. Nothing can replace the person you could laugh with, cry with, bicker with. So it seems the only thing to do is become better. Recognize how to better deal with situations and react to emotions, even if it’s too late to fix what’s been broken.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

It has been a long time since I read a book I enjoyed as much as “Wild,” by Cheryl Strayed. For the last year or so, I’ve been on a non-fiction kick, reading about economics, exploring the science of food and diving into the senses of a dog. But even before that, I really don’t recall the last time I connected to a novel as much as I did “Wild”—maybe in high school when I read Megan McCafferty’s series following my sweet Jessica Darling through her teenage trials and triumphs.

wild

Not only is “Wild” well written, but I found many points of connection with Cheryl (the novel’s author and main character). That’s not to say we’ve shared all the same experiences:

  • She struggled with drug addiction
  • She lost her mother at the young age of 23
  • She divorced her sweetheart and best friend
  • She hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, solo no less

But, then there are the similarities:

  • We’re both writers
  • We both grew up without a fathers
  • We were both raised by a magnificent mother
  • We’ve both accomplished things we’d never thought ourselves possible of

But beyond the obvious, easy-to-point-out aspects of our lives that make us similar, there’s just something about Cheryl that makes me feel a connection to her. Maybe that’s what makes her such a talented writer, being able to invoke such an overwhelming emotional connection as I absorb the pages of her writing.

There’s no doubt that Cheryl’s and my life are far from parallel. Our struggles that led us to similar places differ greatly: Physical versus emotional. However, I think we’ve both fought with the other’s struggle. But I’ve found that pain, no matter how inflicted, tends to evoke similar responses in people. There’s the fight or flight response, both on impact and after the pain has struck, once it’s time to actually deal with it.

So, let me get to the point of all this. The reason why I’m bothering to draw all of these comparisons. For the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been embarking on physical feats I never thought possible of myself. And along the way, I’ve had many people ask me why. A lot of friends and family have given me quizzical looks when I explained to them what my next obstacle to overcome would be. And I’ve come to the realization that most don’t understand. Well, there’s one section in “Wild” that, for me, perfectly explained what I’d been wanting to say:

This—the hardest thing I’d ever done.

I stopped in my tracks when that thought came into my mind, that hiking the PCT was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Immediately, I amended the thought. Watching my mother die and having to live without her, that was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Leaving Paul and destroying our marriage and life as I knew it for the simple and inexplicable reason that I felt I had to—that had been hard as well. But hiking the PCT was hard in a different way. In a way that made the other hardest things the tiniest bit less hard. It was strange but true. And perhaps I’d known it in some way from the very beginning. Perhaps the impulse to purchase the PCT guidebook months before had been a primal grab for a cure, for the thread of my life that had been severed.

I could feel it unspooling behind me—the old thread I’d lost, the new one I was spinning—while I hiked that morning, the snowy peaks of the High Sierras coming into occasional view.

 

Today was a Sad Day

I’m not sure just why, but today was a sad day. It loomed over me on my morning walk. The air was crisp, not as humid as it had been. The sky was fresh blue, but there was something lurking in the distance.

As the day went on, these suspicions were confirmed. A reminder of a court hearing appeared on my Newsfeed – I wished them well (this has been left intentionally vague). Later, the follow up for that hearing’s sentencing was delivered to me via text, and my eyes welled. I was left with so many questions. But there was one thing that mattered the most:

I feel more at peace.

In this life, we are touched by so many. Those who are close to us, related by blood. Those who we pick up along the way, the ones who feel like they were meant to be in your bloodline. But then there are the ones we never meet, the ones whose stories we read, the ones whose lives never directly cross our paths. And yet, somehow, our lives can still be touched by theirs.

To the family who lost their sister, their mother, their daughter too soon: You are in my thoughts.

I Guess That’s How The Future’s Done

Do you ever hold on to things and you’re not sure quite why? I have knick knacks that make up a well-told history, but really have no meaning. Some may hold some sentimental memories, but there’s no real value in any of it. And no, I’m not talking hoarder-style. I do have a lot of belongings, but the majority of it is clothing and books.

However, there are some things I’ve held on to past their time of need. Some date back years, while other only weeks. For instance, I have a framed photo of my best friend from high school and I on the shelf in my living room. We haven’t spoken since early in college, but I keep that picture on display. I’m not sure why, I just never thought to replace it.

I have a piece of loose leaf paper I once received folded eight times from a stranger when getting off of the bus at my college campus. After a bad day – of which I don’t remember the cause today – I read inspirational words on that paper. When I looked up to see who had turned my day around, I saw no one. It didn’t change my life, but the words written in blue ink have remained tacked to my cork board since.

Every single spare button that’s come attached to a sweater, jacket, shirt or blazer I’ve purchased are bunched together in a small sack. I doubt I’ll ever do anything with one of them, and many are from clothing that’s long gone. Still, I keep them on hand.

I have Beanie Babies, remember those? Not the entire collection from my childhood – those are boxed up somewhere in the basement at my parents’ house. I have four, all of which I believe I’ve obtained since leaving for college, and – if I remember correctly – were given to me by my mom. There’s a pink sock monkey, his name is Poet. The other three are a pig (of course), a giraffe and a bear. Every time I have to find a place to put them, I wonder why they’re still around or how Maize hasn’t de-stuffed them, but still … I keep them.

Yet, in spite of all the things I keep without knowing why, there are other things that must go. Eventually, once treasured cards get tossed in the trash. The now rarely printed photograph gets replaced. Things break, they fall apart, and lose their necessity. Other things, are harder to throw away, but simply need to go so you can let go. Tonight, I did just that.

A bag full of damaged property that held nothing but poor memories was taken out to the alley and shoved into an overflowing garbage bin. The musty smell that had been hidden in a storage room for months was finally removed. The only belong worth saving had been recovered – yes I know the exact date – on November 25, 2012. It was a ring I had adored and feared was destroyed beyond repair. But lo and behold, the first time I ventured into that bag of nightmares, it was found.

I’m not sure why we hold on to faded memories, in our mind’s eye or with physical objects, but we do. What’s in the past is just that, passed. And perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but it does.