I’m a Lover & a Fighter

You can’t leave love without being a willing participant.

When men have broken up with me in the past, it’s not like the love just stopped that same day. I always loved until I was forced to move forward.

I have spent so many years lamenting over lost love and puzzling (wildly) over why they always leave.

I think I finally have my answer: It’s not that I just wasn’t good enough or what they wanted. I just had the balls to love harder.

I had this bathrobe that was a total comfort item. My step-grandmother had given it to me for Christmas when I was in my early 20s. It was the perfect level of fuzziness, and I would often wear it to bed or even out on my deck, in lieu of a jacket, when I was cold. This glorious, pink and white plaid robe lived with me in three different apartments over more than 10 years. By the end, it was thread-bare and a continuous joke among my closest friends and boyfriend at the time. I had worn the butt of it so thin that you could see through it! I didn’t care. I knew it wasn’t as warm as it used to be, but when I put it on, I felt safe.

I probably held onto that bathrobe far longer than I should have. When I finally did decide to let go and move on, I clipped a tiny piece of the belt off, so I could sleep with it if I ever felt lonely. That belt scrap came to Ireland with me a couple months later and dabbed the tears of joy and nostalgia that I experienced visiting the birthplace of my Nana, while tucked away in a bunk bed in a hostel in Dublin.

I am obstinate. I am reticent to let go of something I have loved so much. Something I spent so much of my energy adoring. This is much like my love for humans. Not always to my benefit, because there were times when I was too naive or afraid to let go. I was a little too tolerant of abuse. Then, there were the times I just loved and fought a little harder than they did.

In a world where you can just buy another bathrobe if the old one is getting ragged, everything loses its preciousness.

I recognize and cherish the precious moments in life. If that means I must get out my needle and thread and do a little patchwork, so be it. If that means I may be left behind because someone else couldn’t put in that drive and energy that so naturally occurs to me, then, so be it.

I’ll be the one who stays and fights. One day, instead of being the girl who was pitied for always being left, I will be loved the way I love, because he chose to stay and fight, too.

Tat Tvam Asi (Sanskrit: You are that)

There’s never an appropriate time to say goodbye. I had to just decide and then do it. All while knowing that it would be the last moments I’d ever be able to cradle him and look into his eyes.

On the day he got sick, he had to be rushed into emergency surgery, because it came out of nowhere. He made it through surgery and would need to be monitored for the next two days at the 24-hour clinic to ensure he was healing properly.

It quickly morphed into the type of stress that leaves pit stains and leads your thoughts to dark places when you’re supposed to be doing other things.

I visited him at the clinic, and he was becoming very ill. He tried to jump out of the cage to be with me. It shattered my heart. I spent so much time telling him how beautiful his little, pink nose was, how I was eternally grateful for the gift of his life and what happiness it had brought me. Then, it was time for the inevitable.

I think about him every day; his little box is on my shelf, and recently, I purchased a stainless-steel necklace I could put some of his ashes in. It never feels like enough to just think about him every day or wear him near my heart.

His last days are forever extant in my mind, and it haunts me the way not having closure does. I feel the same kind of sadness over lost items that were lost too soon—like a favorite headband I dropped in the woods when I was drunk as a freshman in college. Or, a set of yoga blocks I bawled hysterically over when my mischievous baby clawed them. They were a gift from my sister, and the pristine concept of them were now battered and destroyed.

But it’s not like that at all. Those are just things.

It’s more like the time I told my mom I didn’t want to go to church with her. She’d often go without the rest of the family, and I would sometimes accompany her. I told her no, and then spent the entire time, until she returned, in the driveway crying, because I lost the opportunity to be with my mother—I may have hurt her feelings.

It’s like the time when I was thirteen and I threw a piece of pizza at my sister’s head while we were arguing and then immediately burst into tears because I could never take it back.

It’s like the dozen times I didn’t reach out to old friends and just let them slip away.

It’s like the loss of my best friend, after choosing a boy, who decided he didn’t want me anyway, instead of her.

Those things are irreparable. They can’t be rewound or edited. They are what they are.

You want to protect those you cherish. Everyone always tells me that he felt so loved and had a good life, but on the day he first got sick, I pushed him off the bed really hard. I didn’t know he was sick. He was pestering me for food, and he was a total nuisance. Sometimes, I had to be forceful about getting him off the bed, and I shoved him roughly. I could have ruptured his bladder. I feel so much overwhelming guilt about that moment. His momma was supposed to protect him, and, instead, I may have hurt him.

I can never undo that moment.

For the past three years, I have held my baby’s ashes each night for the near week of hell he went through before he passed away.

I’ve made a promise to him and to myself that I would keep him by my side me during the days I couldn’t be with him at the clinic. So, since Monday, I have slept with his box in my bed. I have the necklace of his ashes around my neck. He will never have to be alone on these five days ever again.

He’s not here. Truth is, he is resting eternally, and he is okay. I am the one who is not okay.

Along with the necklace of his remains, I am wearing a necklace today with the Sanskrit phrase “Tat Tvam Asi,” which means “You are that.” I see others in myself and myself in others. Maybe this is my urge to protect him postmortem, because, in actuality, I’m really protecting myself.

No mother always does the right thing or can keep pain away from her baby. Yet, like the little girl crying in her driveway for a moment that will never come back, I clasp and cradle his remains, because I made a promise.

Dysphoria

The heartbreaking ease of going to sleep with tear drops blanketing my face is like a familiar song. Although I feel so alone in those moments, I know every verse, every note.

I’ve hummed it my entire life.

This has been the longest breakup. He broke up with me July 8th, and it is only today, September 26th, that I wake up no longer having to worry about the old apartment, the storage unit, or any of that. Of course, there are still a couple loose ends to tie up, but it is so close to being final.

I have been telling myself for months that things will be better once it is all done and I am no longer breathing in the air of purgatory—stale, tepid, and apathetic. I also knew that once all the pieces were put away and our lives were once again separate and unknowing that I would feel the panic of isolation, erasure, impermanence.

Both are true.

So, I am left in a wind-swept tunnel, clear of the physical presence of him, but every molecule in the air is vibrating with the verse I sing myself to sleep with.

I will slowly forget the words, and new words will fill that space. The song will never be gone, but it’s nice to get it out of my head for just a while, if I can.

Chemical Cocktail, Please

His hand is outstretched with an ornament in his palm; he says, “Do you want to hang this one?”

A week ago, Bryan and I put up the Christmas tree in my living room.

With the new Gilmore Girls Series playing in the background, we spread all of the ornaments across the floor and began to hang.

It was a home-made ornament from my co-worker Heather with one of my favorite photos of Zen and me on it: I’m in my thread-bare bathrobe, snuggling him in a deep embrace while smiling.

me-and-zen

I immediately broke out into tears. Big alligator tears.

I don’t know if it was that I was completely taken by surprise or that it was the beginning of the week where my hormones get all wacky thanks to my silent passenger, PMDD. It probably was a combination of the two, but I was a tiny ball on my living room rug, crying hard while apologizing through snotty wails.

Losing Zen a month before Christmas last year was such a whirlwind that I had erased from my memory that I ever received that ornament. And unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one. After I recovered myself, we continued to hang ornaments, and minutes later, Bryan finds another customized Zen ornament that my sister had made. Another one I had forgotten about. He hands it to me, and once again, I am on the floor, tears streaming down my face.

I have always been “highly sensitive” and “overly emotional” since I was a child. In the past few years, it has intensified. Recently, I’ve discovered I have what is labeled as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, where my hormones go hay-wire for approximately a week to a week and a half each month, usually during ovulation.

So, it makes me wonder, was I really that distraught over my deceased cat or was it just my crazy hormones acting up?

Knowing that I have a hormone imbalance and being able to regulate it with birth control and natural remedies, such as exercise, dietary changes, and herbal supplements, has basically saved me from losing my mind and firing off at people with no self-control. Yet, it has also enabled me to use it as a crutch or an excuse when I do act ‘roided up on emotions.

That bothers me, sometimes.

Some of the magic of life’s moments are blanched when I have the knowledge that a specific combination of neurochemicals and hormones are having a rager in my body and that’s the reason why something makes me wistful, depressed, nostalgic, deeply affected, or impassioned. Things like my libido and emotional acuity can be altered with the application of a pill each day.

However, I cannot deny that PMDD is a real thing and I can actually see the signs of it now that I know what it is. It’s not just a made-up crutch with which I scapegoat my behaviors. I’ll come home from work and have that “I just want to go to bed now” feeling that I used to attribute to laziness and always gave myself a hard time about, but I know now that it is the onset of PMDD. Knowing that helps me get through it and actually motivates me to go to yoga, start cleaning the apartment, or make dinner. These subtle signs always happen during a specific time of the month, providing some proof that the chemical cocktail is coursing through my body.

Crying over Zen was unexpected and real. It may have been heightened by my levels of hormones in that moment, but I love and miss him fiercely.

I refuse to let the knowledge that we’re all varying mixtures of chemicals ruin the incredible luster that is cherishing a lost one, smiling because a memory with an old partner feels painfully beautiful, or hurting because my heart is breaking. It might not always be a fun feeling, but it’s me.

It’s always been me.

Forever Heart

For a few more hours, it is your birthday. I don’t know what you’re doing to celebrate or who you spent it with. I didn’t ask.

I couldn’t.

Knowing that yesterday you saw my hand-writing in purple Sharpie on the package I mailed you, that your hands opened the card and held the letter–imagining you feeling the soft plushness of your gift as you gave it a gentle squeeze–it’s the closest I’ve felt to you since we last saw each other and shared those three sacred words.

I’ve lost something immense.

When I really think about what I’m letting go of, I can’t handle it. But I also never really had you, either. Yes, I may have had your words of devotion, your insatiable kisses, your loyalty, in a sense, and we shared a deep intimacy; however, you were never my boyfriend, I never met your sister, you didn’t tell your friends about how this amazing girl stole your heart. No vacations were spent together. No mundane moments. No walking up and down aisles of a grocery store looking for the right kind of mustard, or asking each other where we left our keys. We never spent an entire Sunday afternoon lying on the couch watching cartoons.

That’s what I lost: The chance to ever experience more than a handful of sultry, passion-soaked hours together. I missed out on the every day. On being yours–and not in the possessive, derogatory sense–in the this girl only had eyes for you and wanted you to be proud to hold her entire heart sense.

Even though I didn’t get to wake up next to your sweet-smelling bed-head and drowsy eyes more than a few times, and even though I have no idea what you’ve been doing these past months or what thoughts gather in your brain moments before they trail off into slumber, I feel so much love for you on this day.

I’d like to think I know you in a way that no one else does, and I don’t need to know how many reps you did at the gym, what you are wearing, or what the last errand you ran was to know this.

I may have missed out on so much of your life, and perhaps, I was cheated of the experience of being immersed in your world as your girlfriend, but one thing I haven’t been kept from is your heart.

Just knowing your day has been wonderful, without any other details, fills me, because when two hearts have the connection ours do, that is never lost.

I can no longer ask you how you are doing and I can’t tell you how I feel delirious on opiates whenever we speak or touch, because if I can’t have your open, vulnerable love and commitment, then I can’t know how you are.

Just knowing you are out there is enough. Maybe it will be different someday.

I feel warm with the satisfaction that my words and my gift touched you last night, and today is yours–just for the very special you.

If I can no longer tell you those things, then I’ll just let you know, from time to time, here.

Transitioning from being in love with you to just loving you is hard. Stubborn and persistent memories douse me in a perfume of belonging and fixation, and my selfish sorrow of your erasure thrashes at my body so violently sometimes that I have to force the thoughts out before I am weather-wrecked and broken.

Yet, it is also just so very seamless to love you in any capacity, because you’ve bared yourself to me. I might feel gratitude on this day because you were torn from warm comfort and exposed to the unyielding swinging axe that is the very nature of this life. It is an unforgiving place at times, but the day you entered my world, my heart was forever changed.

Disintegrating

I am sitting on my couch, alone in my living room, thinking about all of the people I care about and how I haven’t seen most of them in so long that I can’t remember their voices or how they smell.

My heart is breaking into a million pieces.

It might be my overly active hormones at play, but it is still real just the same.

My chest aches and my lower lashes feel the kiss of tear drops, because I miss these people. But it is more than that. I am proud of them. Real damn proud.

I think about acquaintance friends with whom I haven’t visited in many years—how they are married now or having kids. I can watch them through the filtered screen of social media. I see their lives growing and changing.

My old best friend from grade school is a successful fashion consultant with her own company in NYC. I was just visiting her website and admiring how professionally and elegantly done it was. My old best friend has accomplished so much. I can hardly believe the magnificence of humans, sometimes.

The first man I said “I love you” to recently got engaged.

Everyone’s lives are just branching out like a well-mannered fractal into outer space. These lovely branches curving and splitting, and my heart just wants to burst with genuine excitement and joy in the happiness that is others’.

I don’t know if my mind is searching out these longing memories tonight because my hormones are peaking for a window of time due to PMDD, or because I’ve experienced loss so near in the past.

I might not have another Tuesday night with my best female friend. Tuesday was our day. She’d come over with beer or wine and we’d sit and talk or watch a girly movie. There’s been a rift between us, and I haven’t even had the chance to explain myself or talk to her, because she has protectively boarded up her emotional walls and shut me off like water lines in the middle of winter, so the pipes don’t burst.

I said goodbye to a man I have loved fiercely and passionately for over a year. I don’t know if I’ll ever smell his hair again or try hopelessly to get him to open his eyes wide enough to stare into mine for more than two or three seconds.

And he—this man—has accomplished so much. I haven’t been able to be there for any of it, but I’ve cheered from the sidelines and been supportive from the other end of the phone. I’ve pushed him to fight for what he loves, and I’ve lost everything I could have ever had with him to the gamble of his potential success, hanging out there in the future like an amorphous, looming question mark.

I want to take this palpitating heart of mine and shred it up into tiny fibers. Little thread-like viscera. I want to connect myself physically to all of those people who have ever mattered to me. The friends I haven’t forgotten. Loved beings who have amazed me all this time.

Yet… I can’t.

I can’t, and that’s why it’s paining me. To have to stay whole when I want to be a part of everyone. To have to continue to live my own life when my memories dredge up nostalgic yearning to be close to others. To walk my own path, knowing I could never see any of these people ever again. And that I would just have to be okay with that.

Who can always just be okay with that?

Not even the strongest person is truly at peace with the reality that something they love so much might never be close enough to them again that they can just reach out and touch it; embrace it; breathe in the essence of it, whether it be their voice, their graceful demeanor, their smile, their laugh, or just the comfort that is silently acknowledged between two people when they are relieved to be in another’s presence.

And since I am only little Amanda and possess no tool set to cope with this massive sense of loss—this deprivation of familiarity—I wrap up into myself in the fetal position in my bed and cry. I write. I love everything and everyone I can while I can. I hug tightly, say I love you genuinely, and kiss like I’m nominated to win an award for it.

My body is the glue that holds me together, while my thoughts and tears scatter across time.

Not all of these people, or even most of them, probably know how much I hold love for them still in my heart.

One knew. He told me so. I whimpered to him through desperate, emotion-laden declarations that for so long I was afraid to tell him how much I loved him. Right then, he cut me off and said, “You didn’t have to say it. I knew.”

There’s a calming feeling that comes with the knowledge of his heart knowing my heart so intimately all this time without me ever having to verbally confirm that what we felt was real.

For those I’ve lost or not seen, and may never see again, if they could know my love is expansive and unyielding in its many forms, then I am connected to each, instead of my fear of disintegrating into a pile of ash, like every time the one I love steps out my front door.

Name Ten People

Overly emotional doesn’t even begin to describe me.

No, I am the Casablanca of feelings.

I am the girl who says prayers for roadkill, puts insects in plastic cups and releases them outside, rather than squish them, and can’t watch the news because it will ruin her day.

Most days are fairly rote: I wake up, go to work, see friends, exercise, eat, sleep. But not all days transition like an endless loop of the movie Groundhog Day.

Some days, you wake up and see your newsfeed on facebook and find that a friend from your childhood has passed away in a car crash. Or, you learn one of your best friend’s family members was just diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve lost a lot of friends in the past few years. Some of them were people I hadn’t seen in years and some were closer friends. Since, I have felt like this seemingly solid and functioning world around me is more like a spider web, succumbing to a heavy gust of wind and splintering apart. Or the floorboards beneath my feet are breaking away and disappearing with each footstep like some glitch in the Matrix.

I have an unnerving restlessness and fear dwelling inside me.

I have been told by others that my unnecessary falderal is unproductive. It’s irrational to worry and think that everyone you care about could suddenly disappear at any given moment.

But couldn’t they?

The same person who told me that almost died a year or two before I met him. He had to have brain surgery. Just recently, he gave me another scare by telling me he had some tests done. I had no idea that was even going on, and while I sat there completely distraught on the other end of the phone, his calm, emotionless words popped up on the screen, reassuring me there was nothing to worry about.

I don’t think he has any true concept of a) how much I worry about things and b) how much he means to me.

Later that afternoon, I had told one of my good friends that I was “idiotically” upset over the fact that something horrible could have happened to this person I care so much about and I wouldn’t have even known. My friend then told me to name ten people I knew and something that had happened in their life recently. Um, okay…

After successfully listing ten people and events, my friend says, “See? Look how many lives you are connected to in a meaningful way. You might feel disconnected at the moment from that one person, but you are connected to so many.”

I got his point, but the fear part of my brain goes, “Oh, great. Just ten more people who would greatly affect me if they suddenly meet their fate.”

Deep down I know my friend is right. Feeling connected and creating intimacy with others in meaningful ways is kind of the bread and butter of existing. Without it, our days are rote and, indeed, void of tragedy, but the enjoyment that comes from reaching far into another’s heart and learning about what they yearn for and care about is more rewarding than never stepping a foot outside our emotional barriers.

The only solution I can come up with to assuage some of the fear of losing those I love is to ensure I tell them all the time what they mean to me. It won’t keep them out of harm’s way, but it will fill their hearts with love, which is the whole reason why we’re even here at all.