Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

When the phone rang on Wednesday morning, the black screen lighting up with my mother’s name and number, I had convinced myself that the biopsy had confirmed breast cancer. I was so sure that I had already mentally imagined an emotionally tortuous future where I nursed her through her last days, weakened from chemo and failed surgery, confessing how much she loved me as she slipped from life.

I know, it was a morbid fantasy, the kind that the mind spins when faced with such a shock. And my fantasy revealed that deep down I still hungered for some sort of meaningful, compassionate, and emotionally authentic relationship with my mother even though I had long since resigned myself to the status quo.

But when I answered the phone with a sharp intake of breath only to hear her say, “It’s not cancer!”, I was surprised and confused by my mixed emotions.

Yes, I was relieved. I congratulated her on the good news. I said something like, “You have a new lease on life.” I mean, isn’t that what a cancer scare is supposed to do? Make you reflect on your mortality and vow to celebrate life?

There was a clear pause. “Oh, I wasn’t going anywhere,” she dismissively replied. “You fight this sort of thing.”

It’s hard to convey this disconnect I heard in her voice and the sense of anger I immediately felt that at this moment in time, this event wasn’t more meaningful. I almost wanted the results to be positive so that she would start taking better care of herself, as fucked up as that sounds.

Life. It’s complicated. Complicated emotions. Never black and white. I feel like I was just in a hit and run where no one was hurt and there wasn’t even a scratch on the cars. And I was a little bit mad at her — mad at her for not having cancer! Daughter of the year award! But then, of course, I was relieved and it was as though someone flipped the channel back and said, “Now back to our regularly scheduled programming!”

So what’s the takeaway? What’s my epiphany if my mom isn’t having one herself? I think the big lesson that it shouldn’t take a cancer scare to try and have the meaningful, compassionate, and emotionally authentic relationship I’ve secretly been wanting all along.

The Void

I’ve been having a lot of thoughts lately. Big, soul searching thoughts. In many ways it wasn’t until K moved out in early December that I was able to move on, to grieve, and go through an emotional process that was otherwise delayed.

I’m not going to lie — it’s been tough. Just when I begin to think I’m gaining on new ground, I cycle back into the grief that claws at my heart and forces me to take a hard look at reality. Who am I? What do I want? Where am I going. Just your normal existential crap.

Bear with me, reader. As much as it pains me to wallow, wallow I must. For now. Continue reading

Expansion

K moved out on December 5th. In many ways I was ready for it, tired of the in between and her growing pile of boxes. In other ways I was surprised by the amount of emotion I felt, at times overwhelming, when I had so naively thought I had moved on. My therapist likened it to repeatedly visiting a terminal patient in the hospital. It is only when the patient dies after months of waiting that you can finally grieve. Ready as I was to move on, there was a shock in coming home that evening and feeling her void like a punch in the gut. My loss was no longer abstract. And I felt a tangible sense of emptiness.

In the days afterward I struggled to fill the space, buying a new rug and moving this here and that there, but the expansion felt strange. I went to parties that I may have not gone to before and met new people outside of my social circle. My outward steps were shaky like that of a toddler. Then again, all of these feelings are rather normal. Just as it’s normal to feel down this time of year, my recent separation all the more acute. Continue reading

The Accidental Polyamorist

As I trace back the events of the last couple of months, it’s hard to remember when it exactly happened, when my relationship with Ms. K started to unravel.

Was it during a recent vacation when she, yet again, proposed the idea of an open relationship? Was it when I said yes after years of saying no? Was the seed planted months or even years before, born of restlessness and the arguably difficult task that some find it to remain monogamous? Or was it there all along, tucked in the knowledge that long term commitment probably wasn’t something that K was cut out for?

I don’t know.

I can, however, point my finger to a conversation with K this past February. She had innocently announced that she was going to purchase Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships from Amazon. With that she had hoped we would both read it and have an honest talk on whether an open relationship was right for us. It was a very passive-aggressive approach to an old subject that occasionally bubbled up. But K, knowing me well, had played to my rational side this time.

I read Opening Up, an enthusiastic if not academic selling of partnered non-monogamy, figuring I would give K that much, even if my enthusiasm didn’t match that of the author’s. I’m not saying that an open relationship can’t work, but even sex positive Tristan Taormino would agree that they can be a landmine. And if anything, to do them well, one has to be at a graduate level when it comes to relating, boundaries, trust, communication, and maturity. Were K and I even capable of that level? Continue reading

Healing

It wasn’t my intention to take a break from blogging, but around the time of February and March I didn’t really feel like I had much more to say, which is a shame because I had been regularly writing since 2004. My life was settling down post move and I had entered an almost hermetic phase full of introspection and self reflection — the kind that doesn’t make for the best writing. In addition to thinking a lot about career goals and starting a new blog and twitter account to support some of my freelance work, I was having big thoughts about life, death, and the sort of psychic baggage I’ve been carrying around.

Again, not the sort of self involved, pretentious prattle anyone wants to read about. Continue reading

"You’re what happens when two substances collide . . ."

Our bodies have pretty much healed, but I think my emotions may still be recovering from the jolt. I’ve been caught between the feeling of “Wow, I can’t believe we walked away from that” to the morbid appreciation of the fact that had any of the variables been different during the crash, we would have been staring down a much bleaker fate.

Emotions run heavy after these sort of things, my friend Leslie reminded me. (Shameless plug for her latest Huffington Post article.) While this may be an observation of the obvious, it should be said. Yeah, deep emotions. Life and death emotions dislodged during impact. That stark realization that it only takes one event to completely undo life.

My world still feels a little bit like a snow globe, but it could be so much worse.

"There is something freeing in putting it into words. Sometimes that is enough."

In the midst of last week’s psychic turbulence, I managed to release something that had been pent up inside me. Or maybe I integrated something that had been disconnected. I feel better I think; I can move on. Hooray for that.

I guess I never really explained how my Christmas went and how I managed to appease my mother yet keep my own precious sanity. I took the 8 am train out of Penn Station on Christmas morning and arrived at my parents’ house before noon. By the evening of the 26th I was back in New York and nursing a sick girlfriend back to health. I’m sure my mother wasn’t too pleased by my in-and-out visit, but it’s about as much as I can stand before I get jittery and yearn for the comforts of home.

"Spread happiness — this tiny symbolic semantical grain of happiness."

I’ve been reflecting a lot on Life and Relationships as the great wheel of life transition from one era to another. Yeah, big “L” life, big “R” relationships. An anonymous reader from Belgium has equated this to whining, but I see it more as being sentimental and contemplative with a good ol’ dash of kvetching. Oh yeah, and I’m apparently not funny anymore. What are you going to do? My apologies, Belgium. Life isn’t always funny. And as the world teeters on the abyss, I dare say I’m not the only one taking the time to be contemplative. (Tip of the hat to Keith Olbermann for making what the British call a cracking good speech against Proposition 8.)

And before you think I’m getting too serious on you all, LOOK! PUPPIES!! A LIVE PUPPY WEBCAM!!!

"The fundamentals of my life are still strong."

What does it mean to turn 30? I have 35 days and counting to contemplate this idea further. One thing I’ve noticed is that my energy is more focused, calmer. Some of the flamboyance of my past seems conspicuously absent. Gone are the feather boas, alcohol binges, late night drunken taxi rides home, inappropriate crushes, crippling hangovers, and periodic displays of exhibitionism. (I guess that makes for boring blog reading.)

Over the last two years I went through a chrysalis of crisis — precisely what my Saturn Return portended. I withdrew from a lot of my friends* and from life, retreating to somewhere within so I could figure out some of the more nagging questions of my existence. I went into therapy and had epiphanies about my relationship with my mother and how that shaped my emotional thinking. And the person that emerged from this chrysalis was someone different — not greatly though, but different enough that I feel it when I try to awkwardly connect to my old life.

Maybe this is what they call growing up?

I don’t know . . . I think I’m looking forward to this whole turning 30 lark. My 20s kind of blew and I’m getting excited about the promise of a fresh decade — one where I hope I’ll make fewer stupid mistakes. And after the seismic rumblings of the last two years, I’m looking forward to increased maturity, stability, and security.

Apart from a few recently discovered gray hairs, I think another sign that I must be getting older is that I’m leaning towards a small(er) and moderately restrained birthday party — a marked departure from previous decadent birthdays. Wow, I must really be getting older. It’s bad enough that I now get hungover after a three margaritas.

* To any of my friends reading, apologies for dropping off the radar and from going from social butterfly to social hermit. Life threw a lot at me and it took me a while to process it all.

"Happy new year."

Until last week I hadn’t had my hair cut in thirteen months. Its length had become heavy and dead, hanging in tendrils down past my collar bone. In a way my hair came to represent the deep financial stress of the last year, the austerity, and the withdrawal.

But with the move last month there was an obvious shift towards a new chapter and with that shift my hair felt increasingly claustrophobic. So I made an appointment at a Park Slope salon where my hairdresser relieved me of layers and inches and burdens. As the hair fell around my chair, something of my old self began to emerge.

Ms. K also got a much needed haircut from the same hairdresser, which she claims gave us identical haircuts. I don’t think our hair is that noticeably similar. Either way the cut looks really cute on her and when we met for date night dinner last week she looked like a knock-out and I fell in love with her all over again.

In other hair news, Ms. K found my long dreaded first gray hair. Now beings the slow decline . . .