Tag Archives: loneliness

archived heartbreak

i never delete anything from gmail. every single message i’ve sent or received since i opened my account in april, 2005 is archived and searchable.

scary, but also convenient: being able to search tens of thousands of messages comes in handy more often than i’d have thought. i’ve been able to find travel reservations, usernames and passwords, the chronology of events, even the specific date i went somewhere or did something.

tonight, working on updating my resume, i wanted to find out when i got each of my promotions at my old job. i figured i could just search my gmail for each of my job titles and find the oldest message, assuming i’d sent an excited email to my parents or friends upon receiving each promotion. sure enough, i found those gleeful, timestamped emails! but my search also turned up email threads with ex-boyfriends from the same period as the promotions. and in addition to exciting job news, those threads contained embarrassing, scrambling pleas; painful evidence of flailing relationships; pitiful last-ditch attempts to prevent everything from crumbling. just briefly glancing at them brought awful, visceral feelings from when they were written — knotted stomach, pounding heart, short, quick breaths. such a strong effect, even so many years later.

hidden in my gmail account are reminders of times i don’t look back on too fondly. but still, the nostalgic packrat in me can’t quite bring myself to delete them. maybe on some level, it’s comforting to be able to look back at the dysfunctional ways i communicated with and related to others — to prove i got through it, to show i’m making progress, and to confirm i don’t ever want to go back.

—–
“i held you in the coldest days, i held you in the coldest ways, i never know what to start to pick up and change.” – raa

growing away

I learned today about the death of a man who directly and indirectly made my undergraduate experience what it was. I heard the news via email from my former boyfriend and then from my former professor. When I turned to Facebook for more information, I was surprised to find an effective use of social media in the pretty wonderful memorial there, a gathering of reminisces and anecdotes and jokes and ways Doc touched so many people. The UHC really is a beautiful legacy that he leaves, and I’m so glad I was able to experience it.

The strangest part of hearing this news and thinking about Doc’s life is that there’s no one here in my San Francisco life to really commiserate with about it — no one who knows what I’m talking about. For all anyone knows, I’m making it up. And as soon as I started thinking about Doc and Pitt and the UHC, reading people’s stories and memories, my own memories flooded. Getting stuck in the Cathedral elevator. Nestea bottles that wouldn’t break. In over my head about the Russian Revolution. Reading Elliot lyrics on the roof of the 14th floor. Oven rack kleptomaniac. Roadie for a PittArts blues guitar lesson. What the Honors College needs is sluts; more sluts. Wine tasting drunkenness and Mexican dinner. For tonight, you are in my hair and in my eyes. Unfashionably late to dinner with esteemed English Department faculty. The pack of tards. Ah, ah, ah, are fa-jai-tas on the menu? I don’t want to explain these things; I want you to know.

I wanted to talk with someone who had been there, who knew the references, knew the backstory. It’s weird to have a whole chunk of your life feel so yours and yours alone, especially so formative a chunk. It’s probably the way a lot of people feel about college, but I think a lot of people keep in contact with more college friends than I do. I moved away, I broke ties, I lost touch with the people who shared these memories.

I’m not alone; I know that. I have amazing people in my life, and some of them have probably heard me reminisce enough to know at least a little of the context. But that feeling of being alone in your memories, alone in your past experiences — it’s is a strange one.

I’m glad for each memory and story, though, and I wouldn’t have had them without Doc. Thanks, Doc.

—–
“You will remember the kisses, real or imagined; / You will remember the faces that were before you, and the words exchanged; / You will remember the minute crowded with meaning, the moment of pain, the aimless hour; / You will remember the cities, and the plains, and the mountains, and the sea, / . . . / These are the things that will return to you, / To mingle with the days and nights, with the sound of motors and the sun’s warmth, / With fatigue and desire, / As you work, and sleep, and talk, and laugh, and die.” -Kenneth Fearing

lessons

My first semester of graduate school is almost over. As of today, three of my six classes are complete; I still have one paper and two exams to finish in the next week or so, but this is decidedly manageable.

After some sort of physiological and emotional breakdown this morning in my cohort seminar, I realized that I have dealt with an immense learning curve this semester. Nearly everything I am currently doing and even thinking about on a day-to-day basis is completely different from what I was doing and thinking about on a day-to-day basis six months ago. I have acquired a lot of new skills and exercised a lot of new muscles during these months. When I really think about it and look at it comprehensively, it’s quite overwhelming. But I’m pretty proud to be here.

My internship this semester is at an outpatient clinic that treats patients with chronic, debilitating diseases. I’m not writing about it here mostly for reasons of confidentiality — the stories of the people I have met are more than incredible, but I don’t think I can share them here without providing more detail than would be appropriate. Let it suffice to say that I am learning as much about social work as I am about the beauty and resilience of the human spirit, even in the face of the most dreadful adversity.

I think the most important thing I’ve realized thus far, the common thread through the various experiences, is that we all just want to feel like we’re not alone.

There are many times in this work when there is nothing I or any social worker can say or do to make the situation better. I can’t cure a disease; I can’t magically heal a family that has lost its father; I don’t have much to offer parents whose child will die an untimely death. In these instances, the only thing I can do is sit with the grief and the people it is affecting. I can make sure they are not alone in that grief. I can be present. Insignificant as it may seem, it does makes a difference — a small one at first, but it’s one that grows into the ability to cope.

The capacity and, I believe, tendency we have to raise barns together, to care for one another and to be cared for: This is what makes us human. It is essential to us. It is the only thing that will get us through. And it gives me such a profound sense of hope. We shall not walk alone.

—–
“take my hand, we’re gonna go where we can shine.” -david gray

bootstrapping

I managed to work myself into quite a state this afternoon.

Last night, I said goodbye to two of my closest and dearest friends in San Francisco. Today, they drove to Portland with all of their worldly possessions in a 26-foot Penske truck. They’re going to do and be great things up there, and this is an exciting next step for them, but I am really, really sad to see them go. They have been a lot to me in the last few years, and I quite literally don’t know where I’d be without their friendship, love, and support. I know this doesn’t mean The End, but it does mean the end of an important and life-shaping era of our lives.

After their official sendoff at church, a bunch of us went to their empty apartment and sat in a circle in what had been their dining room with a bottle of champagne. We passed the bottle around, everyone taking turns sharing a memory we’ve had together and then taking a swig. We reminded each other of some pretty great times — laughs, booze, struggles, triumphs, tears, togetherness. It was a good send-off, I’d say, well-deserved and quite suitable for these two most wonderful people.

But today, as I thought about my own future, my doubts and my insecurities and my selfish worries got the better of me. Despite my best attempts to rationally convince myself that my life is not bad — that it is, in fact, good and blessed — that old desperation took hold. I felt lonely and pitiful and lost. I wanted someone to make me feel better, but I knew the only person who could, and should, snap me out of it was me.

So, I made a bad afternoon into a good night.  I blew off steam with sixty minutes of turbo-kickboxing class. I flailed with vigor; I flailed like I’ve never flailed before. I punched, I kicked, I grunted, and I think I sweat about three gallons. I listened to an oldie-but-goodie episode of This American Life while I ate a dinner of sliced fresh baguette, sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh mozzarella, a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. And I topped it all off by watching Mean Girls.

Yes, I managed to work myself into quite a state this afternoon. But more importantly, I managed to work myself out of it. There are things I can do that make me happy. There are people that I love, but ultimately, no one can do for me what I can do for me. And I can do this. Life goes on. We’re all going to be okay.

—–
“I’m not tired, I’m alive, and I’m wondering how to stay that way. Cause I was young once; I could be young again. . .and I’ll never sleep again.” -Birds & Batteries

Independence

Here’s what is getting me through this breakup: (1) doing things that I really enjoy doing but that I have not done very much during the time that I have been in a relationship and (2) doing things with friends that I previously thought I could only enjoy doing with a boyfriend.

Let me clarify:

(1) I am not in any way resentful of the time I have spent in relationships. I do not feel in any way that I have been pushed or tricked into “giving up” things I enjoyed doing for the sake of the relationship(s). But it is just a fact that when you (okay, maybe this needs clarification, too, so for now I will say I instead of you) — when I am in a relationship, there are always certain things that I would somewhat like to do, but if the other person doesn’t like to do them, it isn’t a dealbreaker for me. I’m flexible, and at the end of the day, what’s most important to me is companionship, no matter the form.

But still, when I am alone and making decisions for myself and myself only, there are things I like to do. Recently, as I have been remembering what it is to be single and independent, I have found a lot of enjoyment in those things. Biking instead of taking the bus or train. Biking around just for fun. Really, just biking. Heading out to a show at 10pm instead of going home and going to bed. Doing random things with friends, even if it’s a gamble as to whether or not the activity is going to be hugely fun. Not caring what time it is or what the plan is or what else I need to do and just going with the flow. Um, hello, blogging.

Again, I’m not saying that relationships have forced me to not do things I like to do. However, I know that I have often made the choice to fret over how another person is feeling and allow that to influence my own decisions. When I am committed to someone, I put him first — even when he doesn’t ask me to and maybe would even prefer that I didn’t.

(2) There are many things that, in my head, I see myself ideally doing with a significant other. “Date” things: brunches, walks, neighborhood wanderings, other outings. But really, the majority of the things I have, in the past, enjoyed doing with a significant other, I can also enjoy doing with friends. A revelation that many people have already realized, I know, but it really hit me this weekend. I don’t have to mope around and feel sorry for myself that I don’t get to do X and Y things because I don’t have a boyfriend to do them with. Of course, there are certain exceptions here. . .but on the whole, this is true.

Tonight, I ate sausages and drank delicious Czech beer and had three hours of great conversation with a friend I don’t see often enough. We talked about how to find the balance between allowing yourself to be influenced and molded and changed by a relationship, while also retaining your independence and your identity. Both have value, and I think both are essential, but this is something I have yet to do successfully. I’m getting better — I have done this increasingly well in each of the relationships I’ve been in. But I’m not there yet.

I think part of the difficulty for me is that I am committed and loyal and serious. But I’m also very trusting of my intuition. In all honesty, I won’t spend more than an hour with you, one-on-one, if you aren’t someone I see myself having a real, meaningful friendship and connection with. And even moreso for relationships — as much as I want to dismiss the whole “you know when you know” thing, I do know. I haven’t gone on more than one date with anyone I couldn’t see myself with long term. It’s crazy, arguably — but I feel like if I’m not invested as much as I can be invested in something or someone, it isn’t worth being a part of in the first place. I don’t know how to not be committed, how to not give of myself fully. I was spoiled by a long relationship where I was loved that way in return, but in the past year and a half, I have (painfully) learned that this is not how everyone operates.

But really, I don’t think this is something I should change. I don’t advocate anyone living a guarded life. The fact that this is how I operate, emotionally, means that I may get hurt more often and more deeply than the average person; I have learned this. But I’d take that any day over half-assing any relationship or friendship.

So, I’m not sure where that leaves me. I keep trying, I guess, to find the healthy balance. I remember whose house I live in. And until then, I lean on my friends, and I trust myself to learn more about who I am and what I need.

—–
“Every day is a struggle, from the trough to the crest. Waves keep crashing forever, and only death brings us rest. Sometimes we drift on a current; sometimes we wrestle the rip. If I’m not waving but drowning, promise to not lose your grip. And we will fight against the tide, going under side by side. And if our lungs give out, we will breathe without, and heaven’s gates will open wide. . .” – Or, the Whale

Community

For some reason, I have always thought of myself as a loner, self-identified as an introvert. I’m not quite sure where I came up with that, but I’m realizing lately that it’s not at all true.

Perhaps it was because I’m an only child, and I spent a fair amount of time playing by myself as a kid. I wasn’t the most social teenager, and I did need my at-home time, away from my friends — but even then, I wasn’t by myself. I spent the majority of my time from birth to age 18 with my parents; we always have been and still are extremely close, a team of three. They’re my best friends.

In college, I had my first taste of living in a larger community. The freshman UHC floor put all of my pals within bedroom-door-knocking distance, and I spent every minute with them — there was always someone who wanted to hang out. My summer in San Francisco was hyper-community — I was never alone, even sleeping each night in a room with 3 to 4 other girls, and spending every waking hour talking, working, praying, and otherwise connecting intensely with the people around me. I continued to live with roommates after that, and even had another very community-intensive summer working in LA; but I think more monumentally, I entered into a relationship and developed a very strong emotional connection with another person. That was a new kind of community, but it’s one that I’ve realized is basically the most important one to me — the community formed with a partner.

I have this urge to share my life, all the details, mundane as they may be. Perhaps I’ve just been conditioned to be like this, and now I expect it; I still talk with my parents almost every day to give and receive updates. But I don’t like keeping things to myself; I want perspective, opinions, advice, thoughts. I want to include people in my life, and I want to be included in other people’s lives. I want to feel connected, needed, involved.

And now I find myself living alone, not as any part of community. And I also find myself “single,” not part of any one strong emotional partnership. And thus, I’m finding it challenging to navigate the landscape of my various friendships, disperse my need to connect, and still find that sense of community that I crave. I worry that I get too clingy or invest too much in friendships that aren’t ready for it. I don’t like feeling this way, being in this place. I know I need this time to be on my own, to introspect and figure certain things out, but I miss feeling connected.

——
“She says wake up, it’s no use pretending; I’ll keep stealing, breathing her. Birds are leaving over autumn’s ending; one of us will die inside these arms.” – Iron and Wine

Perspective

Tonight, I feel trite and melancholy and self-pitying and lonely and uninspired.

There are terrible things going on in the world. Tens of thousands of people are dead in Myanmar; and hundreds of thousands of people’s lives are forever changed, devastated. There are terrible things happening in this City; homes of families and kids are being raided by ICE agents. And I’m sitting here, being mopey. I have no real reason, at least no reason from any perspective other than my own. And yet.

There you have it. Tomorrow is a new day, hopefully one with a bit more perspective.

——
“I don’t mind restrictions, or if you’re blacking out the friction. It’s just an escape; it’s overrated, anyway.” – Death Cab