Sweet 16

I remember being sixteen years old, tightly stuffed into a friend’s basement in Worcester, MA, feeling higher and happier than a child chasing a trail of pearlescent bubbles.

It was New Year’s Eve, 1999.

I was there with my sister, mutual friends, and the boy with whom I was completely infatuated from the first moment I saw him that summer. I wore black vinyl pants and remember my crush saying to me on the ride to Worcester, “I can see myself in your pants. No, really. It’s not a pickup line. I can see myself in your pants.”

He braided me an aluminum foil bracelet as we stood by ourselves in the kitchen, tucked away in a corner, where we rubbed noses and giggled about how Eskimos and gnomes kiss.

I remember hanging out in one of my friend’s van outside listening to DMX and Dr Dre. I vaguely recall our friends’ band playing that evening in the tiny basement. I also remember eating peanuts while chewing gum, and realizing as my gum dissolved and slid down my throat, that that’s why people use peanut butter to get gum out of girls’ hair. Epiphany. I was hopped up on illegal substances and the world was my oyster.

As the ball was on its descent into the year Y-2-K, we all joked about how the internet would shut down, chaos would ensue, and the beginning of the end would follow thereafter.

None of that happened, of course, but when the countdown reached zero, I grabbed the boy and kissed him so sweetly. It was my first New Year’s kiss and I was on ecstasy.

Very early on the morning of New Year’s Day, I went back to the boy’s house and he laboriously peeled the black vinyl pants off my sweaty body. I lay in the boy’s bed, while he tried to do sexy things to me and I was coming down. I was tired, and it just wasn’t working. Frustrated and selfish, he broke up with me; I was mostly naked in his bed and trapped at his home without a ride.

Later that morning, forgetting what he had done only hours earlier, he in naive slumber, curled his arm tightly around my waist and pulled me in to snuggle. I just lay there and cried silently.

Happy New Year.

That boy became the man with whom I reunited seven years later and almost married.

Now, sixteen years after that emotional bumper car ride, I am sitting here in my favorite, thread-bare bathrobe in my cozy apartment. I am thinking about how many dull years have passed. How many of them I spent being a normal, young adult with a relatively stable existence. How many of them I spent with that same boy, and how many I have spent without him since we split. How so many of those years since we broke up were anything but stable or dull. How grateful I am to be where I am sitting today.

One thing that has always been consistent in all of my teen and adult years is my struggle with love. Oh, I find love, I just can’t keep love. The last three New Year’s Eves have been spent with friends, doling out hugs and cheek pecks at the ball drop.

Four years ago, I experienced something akin to my sixteenth year. I told the new guy I was dating since J and I broke up that I loved him for the first time. On New Year’s Day. It wasn’t planned. I wasn’t trying to be romantic by choosing a special day; it had just been six months together and fifteen years total since I had known him, and it came out of my mouth as we lay in my bed after drinking several mimosas and fondling each other. He reacted poorly. Understatement. His reaction was the worst reaction anyone could possibly have to being told they are loved by their girlfriend.

First, he laughed nervously. Really hard. Then, he pulled me in for a hug and swayed us back and forth for an extremely uncomfortable amount of time. It felt like three decades. We both silently shared a cigarette on my porch, and then, abruptly, he told me he had to go.

My New Year’s track record is excellent.

This year I feel good, though. I’ve been taking a lot of time to focus on organizing my life and my home. I have been writing a lot. I don’t really go out or drink very often at all and am in bed by 10 or 11 each night. I cherish my girl cat and lavish in all this extra time I have to be near her because I am not out getting messed up. I am yet again reconnecting with me, my favorite person to hang out with.

I cannot predict how the year will progress nor do I really want to. There are a couple of projects in the works that will keep me focused on my hobby and love for writing and editing, and I am finally loving my body and taking care of her needs.

Coming from the girl who always has put others before her, I am no longer content to be that person who lies there, quietly stifling her tears, while men abandon her right as a human to have her own fears, feelings, and thoughts.

And while I may be romancing someone currently who makes me swoon, blush, or feel dizzy, he is not the center of my world–he is just a very lovely and enticing piece of it. I like my life and I damn well should. It is mine after all. No one else’s. I live it for me and those who come into it, like my friends, family, or this romance, are all just enhancements and embellishments to the steadily polished bowl I’ve been working on for nearly thirty-three years.

I used to repeat the mantra, “I am happy; I am healthy; I am wealthy; I am wise.”

I think as I move into this new year of 2016, I am going to focus on the simple sweetness.

There’s a calm radiating throughout my being, because I’ve been chasing the metaphorical dragon for years and am finally ready to be me. To be the girl renewed from years of bad relationships and abuse; to be the girl strengthened against giving herself to men just to feel wanted; to be the woman who is comfortable in her new shape but still yearns to feel healthy in body, mind, and spirit. But mostly, to be Amanda, the person I know most intimately.

Amanda loves to read. She loves cleaning. Her home is an homage to the things she cherishes most: her cats, her friends, and music. She is nostalgic and loves to read her old journals (and then immediately shred them upon completion). She is sappy and enjoys eating popcorn by herself while watching comedy romances. She puts herself to sleep each night by petting her cat and listening to science documentaries. She writes in a gratitude journal. She requires time to herself every day to feel whole. She loves writing and making music more than she loves most things, and she gives her heart freely and generously to the people who mean the most to her. She does this not because she has to, not out of guilt, fear, or obligation, but because when Amanda feels like Amanda, she is a resonating channel of love.

From what I know of Amanda, she is sweet. She is kind, caring, and sweet. She’s snarky, sarcastic, whiny, and selfish, too, but no one likes a perfectly polished bowl, now, do they?

May I only hope that 2016 simply holds that presence of free love, if nothing else. It might just be the sweetest sixteen I’ve had yet.

It Is Ours

The thing that makes love so great is not that it’s beautiful. It’s not that it makes us a better person. It isn’t even that feeling love makes us seem less alone in this world.

It is that it is ours.

Of course, we all know that sharing a moment with another human, complete with passion and adoration is beautiful. It more often than not inspires us to achieve greater things within ourselves. Having the companionship of another soul that complements ours helps alleviate the mundanity and hardship of everything we encounter every day: tough and trying days at work, hours running errands or scrubbing our toilet bowls. Paying bills. Choosing 401ks. Moving into a new home. Grieving a loss. Giving birth. Long car rides. Sitting at home with a television show or playing a board game.

Here’s the thing–all of that might be a hundred percent true, but that’s not what makes love so great. What makes love so magnificent and shiny, so unparalleled and desirable, is that it belongs to us. We are experiencing it. Ourselves. Together.

There are few factors in our existence that are greater than the driving, motivating force of what love does to us.

Love is way more than romantic words spilled between two people. It exceeds the actions we display and perform for others to show our affection and dedication. Lyrics and melodies of songs might move us to tears, but even they fall short. Commitment to our friends, family, and loved ones shows love. The ability to forgive and see a person for who they truly are without fault shows love.

But love is also so very relative. That’s what makes it so appealing.

Suddenly, a person who is seen as ordinary to others is extraordinary to us. Other people might see them as exceptional or amazing, but never quite in the way that a person who is swayed by love does. Suddenly, everything about them is a novel waiting to be unraveled. It might be the way their hair falls on their face, the pitch of their voice as they say certain words to us and only us, or the events in their life we know have crucified them–those crippling memories that have often kept them fearful and closed off to us–we learn to love those, too. And why? Because that’s love. It’s not rational. Not logical. No true calculations for how it works, when, and why.

It happens in that moment when we realize that the way they touch our collarbone makes our skin crawl with anticipation. It occurs when we only melt when they tell us we are beautiful. We spend minutes physically dizzy, thoughts spinning, trying to make sense of reality again. We smile just because we know they exist, and we smile harder knowing they smile because we exist, too.

Despite the thoughts and opinions of others, no one can take this away from us.

The world is seen through rose-colored glasses because of love, but we notice that it is never the same each time it is experienced. That is what makes love so great. It is never a repeated episode of something we’ve felt before. Each time, we swear it is the greatest, most unique thing we’ve ever felt, and it’s not because we’re idiots, it’s because it’s true.

I have tried forever to understand why humans put themselves in the blinding, gambling “trust” of love, and it’s not because we just continue to have hope that the “right one” for us is out there; it isn’t because we forget what heartache feels like. Most of us are starkly aware of betrayal and pain. Of situations which we thought we couldn’t overcome. But then that person comes along at the perfect time, saying the most perfect thing, touching us in the most incredibly perfect way, and we’re rapt. That’s just the beginning.

Over time, they continue to bare themselves to us. We share things with each other that only two people who are intimate do; we giggle in heated moments of lust when bodies don’t accommodate our wants, and we heave in extreme passion at the pure excitement and enjoyment the other is having, because theirs is ours.

Most of what I’ve ever read about love is how to make it work, how it doesn’t work, or what real love is. I could write about that, because I think I know at least a few things about love, but it has dawned on me that the epitome of what we all want when it comes to love is that personal experience. That “us” feeling. Those moments, those memories, that can never be shared between two others. Only us.

It is the wave we ride on that spawns great poetry, body-shuddering love songs, and most importantly, it is the intoxicating dance that enables us to feel as though we are taking part in something special. There may be millions of people across the globe feeling this love thing, but amazingly, love doesn’t care–it only cares that we feel it.

In that way, love is so rare and beautiful.

I have written for years about what it really means to love, and how I feel love can be achieved unconditionally. None of that matters, because when it comes to actual romantic love, what matters is what two people feel. The true beauty of what we all crave with love is that it transforms us. It makes us softer, sweeter, more optimistic. It adds spice and meaning to the menial. It leaves a sedative melody humming through our body before bed, and it gives us sparks on our heels and thoughts as we move about our day. We feel this not because everyone can have it, but because we, ourselves, in this very moment, have it.

It is ours.

The Truth Is:

You are so beautiful. So. Fucking. Beautiful.

I wish I had been more aware when we met. Maybe you would have really given us a chance. You seemed less jaded, more silly, less worn, had fewer battle scars from the wear and tear of city life and its gravity pushing in on you from all angles.

When we met, compassion poured from you. At first, I thought you weren’t interested at all. Of course. A good-looking guy–why would he want me? And then, you turned towards me and asked me about myself. We didn’t stop talking for a couple of hours. We talked so much about so many things that everyone who came outside to smoke went in, and when we returned, frozen from the cold, and continued talking, my ex gazed out the window perturbed.

That was day one.

We wrote each other emails pen-pal style about our lives, about questions we had for each other, and about deeper things. I was going through some really heavy stuff during this time and slacked off on talking for a while…You were my little secret, because no one we were with that night could know that we had become good friends.

Our bond was formed immediately after that first day, because I believed you when you told me your side of things; I had empathy. You said that I was a better person than the people we were with that night, and you just knew upon meeting me. You never gave up on me, even though I was difficult to reach at times.

You came to visit on a couple of occasions; you tried to put the “moves” on me. I rejected your advances, although the lady at the restaurant took down our name as the “really attractive couple” while we were waiting to be seated.

You remembered everything I’d ever told you. You even remembered, a year later, the name of the fruity drink we ordered at Meadow on a dinner date.

I don’t. Admittedly. That whole time we were friends was a frenzied, horrific mess in my head. My heart was splintered and worn, and my thoughts often drifted off to other places or I was too busy getting trashed with my friends so I could subdue heartache.

I remember chatting with you on Facebook Messenger when I found out that my flight back from Cleveland was canceled due to bad weather. I don’t recall what we said to another.

I had every opportunity to ask you more about your life. You had ample time to provide it. When we finally spoke again this January, you told me you missed our emails–could we email like we used to? I told you yes, of course.

I remember when you had finally given me your phone number, because you were going to visit family in California and wouldn’t be near a computer. I texted you one snowy afternoon, while in the living room watching “Spring Breakers” (ironically starring James Franco, the very man who has you by the balls, working like a horse, at his Studio). We went back and forth for a while, but what we talked about? I don’t know, sadly. I bet you might.

Now I remember everything. From the smell of your skin to the freckles on your chest. The pale shade of your hands and the geometric shapes adorning your knuckles. Your sleepy voice. Your silly voice. Your seductive voice. I remember details about your life you’ve shared and the dates of all your performances I never got to see. You are so busy that you forget things I’ve told you. Your pretty head so rife with lines, with places you have to be, with things you need to accomplish, that you have room for nothing else.

So unfortunate that we had to reunite when everything you’ve wanted in your career is beginning to fall into place. There’s no room for me at all.

But there was. For a time.

For a time, you made every effort you could to come see me. We rapaciously texted each other throughout the day and sleepily talked on the phone late at night. I tortured you while you were at work with thoughts about what I wanted to do to you when I saw you next, and you made me accidentally spill an entire glass of water on my desk at work when you sent me a photo of your post-workout abs.

It was much more than that, of course. Finally, we had both found someone we could trust. Someone we couldn’t get enough of. Another soul that filled ours with the effects of opium every time we talked or thought about the other.

It was magical.

When we were together, it was hard not to want to be continually touching. We giggled and did silly psychology tests and surveys together. We played out fantasies. We lazed on the couch, holding hands, watching tv shows. We went out on dinner dates. We groggily went out to breakfast the following mornings. I made you coffee that was sickeningly sweet–the way you like it.

I missed you so fiercely while we were apart, and it was nearly too much for me. So many months began to slip by without a visit, because you were about to be homeless or were completely immersed in a thousand duties and rehearsals.

It was hard. Really fucking hard. But I thought we were doing a damn good job of making the best of it. Of talking when we could. Of keeping the romance and spark lit. I was thoroughly impressed with us. Any time my voice changed from effervescent to sultry, you nearly had to sit down because of my affect on you. We were beating the odds, because of both of our hard work and communication.

Then, I dunno, you started to recoil a bit. Becoming more busy, you realized you hadn’t told me I was beautiful in days. The tiredness in your voice was apparent when we spoke, and I felt you pushing me away when I asked about your dad or when I accidentally interchanged the words “seeing each other” for “dating each other”. You reassured me this had nothing to do with your feelings.

You, afraid of disappointing me, were hesitant to set dates for when we might see each other, because twice you had to cancel our tentative plans.

It was becoming painful not seeing you.

Then…I saw you. You! Gorgeous, beautiful you.

We reunited at Penn Station a little after noon. We saw each other from several yards away and you quickened your pace, and I, standing in a red dress, dropped my bags as you came towards me. Just like in the movies, we kissed, we embraced, we kissed some more. Then, hand-in-hand, we got on the subway.

On the subway, we kissed, we held hands, we kissed some more. It was nothing short of incredible to finally touch you again. And at your apartment, we spent many hours alone together doing what you expect two lovers to do when they haven’t seen each other in months. Then, we blissfully lazed around naked, playing video games, being goofy, and taking pictures.

We walked to the water’s edge in Williamsburg, clasping hands. We ate pizza; we had ice cream. And then, you had to take me to Manhattan to see my friend. I thought that I would get to spend the next night and all of the following day with you, but as luck would have it, rehearsals and studio got in the way.

I know you can’t help it–the responsibility you have is huge, but my heart sank. I was finally in the city and I couldn’t wake next to you.

Over breakfast on my last day in the city I told you I couldn’t do this anymore.

It hurts to like you so much. It hurts not having you, too. There is no winning, here.

We spent the rest of the day like we were in love. We walked on a flower-covered bridge. We sat on a bench in front of the water. We made-out and didn’t care who was watching. We told each other how beautiful the other’s eyes were. How the sunlight plays on them and lights them up…and in that tender moment, your voice got weak. We closed in and kissed again, arms wrapped around each other tightly.

My train was delayed and you had to leave. I didn’t want to let you go. We had been standing in front of the train schedule for twenty minutes, my head buried in your chest. Tears began to fall onto your shirt–you said it was a good look and you didn’t mind. You told me not to cry. I told you how could I not when nothing compares? And after kissing goodbye at least a dozen times, you walked away towards the subway. Right before you entered the tunnel, you turned to look at me and waved.

Then you were gone.

I was alone in a massive current of people, moving in different directions to their destinations. Mine was, first, the bathroom to cry, then, outside to smoke, and finally, inside to head home without you.

You always say to me that things went the way they did and they couldn’t have gone any other way. The way they went is the way they had to go.

This time you didn’t have to let me go. You could have brought me back to your room, late at night, so we could enjoy each other. You could remember why you like me so much–how I am not like other girls…or even other people. How I have traced the scruff on your handsome face and sent you surprise cards in the mail to brighten your day. How I was supportive and understanding to you during one of your toughest points this summer and never gave up. How nothing could fill the void of missing me or how nothing will ever compare in this lifetime.

You could have remembered those things and not let me go.

You said I am much braver than you for opening my heart again and again. The truth is: the bravest thing I’ve done was tell you that my heart hurts and I can’t continue. Nothing in me wanted to say those words, but I’ve been waiting for ten years for a love like this, and if you’re just going to fade away, I can’t take the heartache. Not after baring myself to you.

I have to get back on the subway and get off at the next stop, wandering around lost in a city of people who are not you.

Tu me manques.

Destined for “Almost”

My quiet, slightly messy apartment on a Saturday afternoon looks like a picture of mild chaos. Nothing is really disorderly, but there are way too many empty bottles in the kitchen from nights and nights of drinking, the carpet is coated in debris and cat hair, and my bathroom counter is scattered with the careless rushing of half-assed morning preparations.

I’m “this close” to getting the things I want: returning all of the bottles and having a clean place to cook; dismantling the computer desk–but first, to find places for all of the things on the desk…

I’m “this close” to going back to the gym. What’s my excuse now? I’m done with my writing apprenticeship; I have the time. I’m “this close” to writing a new song on guitar. I just need my muse.

Do we all tend to live in a place between chaos and order? Is that what makes us thrive, ultimately?

When things are too good, it’s boring. When life is a mess, we break down. But when the sine-wave of ups and downs form to create a rolling pattern of predictability, we find reprieve.

We need just enough chaos to keep us moving.

If that’s the case, then why do I feel like I can never catch up? Why is my mind pummeled by inhibiting thoughts of “never enough”?

I took on a writing apprenticeship to hone my skills in editing and writing. This is the first time I have felt inspired to write since it ended a week ago. I applied to continue with the program as a teaching assistant and was not chosen; I contacted them about being a volunteer editor and heard nothing. I need to keep trying–but my initial reaction is: Why am I not being heard?

This is my calling…or so I thought.

Everything in life that I have ever wanted I have wanted so ferociously.

A thousand pages of script written manically with sweat dripping off my brow; My soul being pulled through my mouth thread by thread until a pile of invisible karma lay in my palms, as I present it to my lover; The pounding of musical notes and harmonies reverberating into the cosmos… Everything I do is with utmost passion.

And yet it never quite seems to do. Everything just sort of slips through my hands at one point or another.

I have learned to let go so well that I’ve reached Zen Buddhist Monk status by now.

All of these things haunt me to a degree, still, as I am only human. Is it possible to be both a respected writer and musician? Do I have what it takes? Am I lovable enough to be worth committing to?

The most painful aspect of all of this wondering is that I am really scared that I am just not destined to have the things I want. I don’t want much, really. I want my words to be heard, I want to be a good friend and thought of respectfully, and most of all, I really want to be loved. I want to be loved so much that they cannot imagine a life without my presence. I want to be that precious to somebody.

I always put others first and not myself. I negate the things for which I long in order to compromise or give happiness to others. And it seems, in life, that others are totally fine with this.

Totally.

I am told I am so special. I am told so many other things than that, too, and yet I feel I’m not enough. And I know, truthfully, that I am not enough.

I am almost enough.

Flipping the Switch

I have been lost in an endless sea; treading water in an unknown ocean. Three years ago, my soul mate walked out our apartment door–our home. It was the most selfless thing he’s ever done.

In his absence, I have learned to love myself and to embrace the things with which I feel impassioned. I started going outside more. I made new friends and reconnected with old. I played the guitar every day and improved my singing. I wrote incessantly like a madwoman, exorcising all of the years of latent agony which had caked up inside the walls of my heart and mind.

Simply, I began to live again.

In my beautiful rediscovery of self, I couldn’t help but get lost in a new lover’s strikingly breath-taking eyes. The intensity of passion I felt when staring at him was something I had not experienced in so long that I had completely forgotten what it felt like to burn with vivacity at that level. I became addicted.

Then, I lost myself.

For over two years, on and off, I talked about him. Breathed him. Dreamed him. My biggest concern was his happiness. I wanted nothing more than to look into those eyes forever. I fell in love.

Falling in love and losing yourself is like swimming out to the middle of a vast, open body of water. It’s overwhelmingly astonishing until you realize that you have no idea how to get home. You can’t even tell in which direction you should start swimming.

Eventually, you get tired and sink.

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I have been really unhappy for a long time. You can be an unhappy person but still have moments of happiness. That’s how I would describe myself for the last two and a half years: As someone who was devastatingly incomplete but found happiness where she could.

Six months ago, a kindred spirit began to help me mend. He allowed me to express my deepest fears and the whole of my pain without trying to win my romantic love. This was a first for me. During this time, I began to examine myself in a new light. Instead of burying my pain or accepting my fate, I implored and urged my issues, anxieties, and fears to bravely surface and reveal themselves.

Finally, I began to heal.

It was probably two months after I started to recover that I reconnected with a friend I had met in late 2013. Now, when people use the term “drop-dead gorgeous” to describe a person, this is him. Sure, I was always attracted to him; I was very aware of the instant connection we formed the night we met, which grew over time. I was just so deeply submersed in cloudy, murky water I couldn’t see beyond that which was immediately present.

Very shortly after we reconnected, a dear friend of mine suddenly passed away. He, to me, was the embodiment of what it means to accept others and love unconditionally. I don’t think I ever heard him speak a negative word. About anyone. About anything. I am inspired with increasing intensity since his passing to spread love’s message with my actions and words. My handsome and compassionate friend proved himself to be much more than that during this stressful, painful time with his supporting words and the way he carefully handled my heart and my emotions.

I didn’t want to have feelings for someone new, nor was I totally ready for it. However, I had realized something in the time that passed since we reconnected: I had faith. I felt healthier. Maybe everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to form this bond now, because, now, I am finally able to see and appreciate the beauty of someone who doesn’t want to take advantage of me and actually cares about my happiness.

Little by little, I felt the pain of the past disengage like rotting driftwood and leave me.

However, this is not a love story. At least, not the kind you might be thinking.

I no longer believe it is healthy or okay to put all of yourself into someone else’s life, love, and happiness. In doing so for years, I completely forgot self-love and care. What about my goals and aspirations? I had none to speak of for a long time.

My kindred spirit friend asked me awhile back to write a list of goals, both personal and what I wanted in a partner. I did this exercise and began to see that this amazing man with whom I had reconnected fulfilled my “partner” list. Great. But what about my personal goals? One of my major goals is creating a plan. A life plan. I have always loved writing and want nothing more than to make somewhat of a career out of it.

As the days went by, I felt depressed. Stagnant.

Then, one day in late May I came across an article that was written for an online journal, which I have been reading for years. Their focus is on mindful living, whether it be through spirituality, loving the environment, pursuing wellness and healthy relationships, or practicing yoga. They believe in and promote anything that encourages and brings forth a better you and a better community. At the bottom of the article, there it was: a link to an online journaling/editing/writing apprenticeship. The deadline was the next day.

Without a second thought, I filled out the application.

Within the week, I received an email response congratulating me on my acceptance into the three-month-long program. I am a week and a half in, and I feel like a switch has been flipped.

In accordance with the Universe, I feel aligned. I feel happy.

Finally having a purpose again, especially one that is my biggest passion, I am excited every day to wake up. I don’t miss the man I don’t get to see often with quite the intensity and desperation as I have in the past months, because I am loving the time I am spending with myself.

This is the first step in my plan. I am doing it. I made it happen.

I single-handedly created my own destiny and my own happiness. No one else did it for me. No one else ever could.

All it took was the nudging from a kindred spirit, the inspiration of a passionate, tender man, and my own desire to be happy again.

I have not felt this way in years. I never want to swim in the ocean again. Burying my toes in the grainy shores of gratitude, rootedness, and self-fulfilling pleasure, I am writing my own story in the sand.