Monday, August 27, 2012

I Have to Let Go

Ugh, I have been ruminating since my last encounter with RJ and the note in the card he gave to me. He told me to wait to read it, probably so that he wouldn't have to deal with whatever fallout of emotions that may have come with it. I still don't know what to make of the time we spent in the coffee shop just before I drove out of town. I am sad and angry and relieved and disappointed.

A friend came to visit me the evening before I left Pittsburgh to give me a gift and note. It was very sweet, but what meant more to me was that she was checking in on how I was feeling. Her visit was so well timed. I just came home from dinner with another dear friend and my emotions were running high and brimming at the surface. I didn't know what to do with them. She asked me how I was feeling, and she was just so supportive and sweet. I told her how I was both excited and scared, thankful for the opportunity that was ahead and knowing that I will miss my friends in Pittsburgh.

My friend asked me if I had seen RJ. I told her no. She asked if I was planning on seeing him or if I wanted to see him.   This was a conversation that I had with two other friends and I felt lost in trying to figure out what to do.  I told her that I felt like he was hurt by my news of moving to Florida. It was a lot for me to take in and I still hadn't processed it all. Perhaps if we had more time, if we had another month, then it would have been easier. She asked me what I wanted. I told her that I did want to see RJ again before I left, but that I didn't know what I would say to him. I wouldn't want to meet with him and have it be yucky with mixed emotions and end poorly, especially since our last encounters had gone relatively well. Again, I just felt like I would just be sitting there and not knowing what to say.  My friend said there was my answer. If I didn't have anything to say to him, that was okay. We hugged and I so appreciated her asking. RJ meant so much to me. I knew it would be difficult to leave Pittsburgh having lost someone in my life who I loved and thought was a great match. I felt better about not trying to force a moment and just letting things be.

Then RJ called me the next day just as the last of my stuff was being loaded onto the truck. He asked me when I was leaving and I told him as soon as everything was packed up. He seemed surprised. I guess I figured he was calling to see if it all fit and that he could officially let someone move into the apartment. Instead, RJ asked if we could meet. He was smart in realizing that coming to the apartment with my family there would not be a good idea. I suggested that we meet somewhere like a coffee shop and he liked that idea. I think his surprise was in that he called just in time and he almost missed the window of opportunity by ten minutes.

I was glad that RJ called me for one last visit before I left Pittsburgh. I did not want to be the one to ask. We met at Starbucks. RJ was sitting at a small round table by the window by the street. The sun washed over him with a blend of natural light and shadows within the shop that lent a familiar feel. It felt like home. It was reminiscent of his home without actually being in the space. The last time I was there was to clear out my belongings. His hair was just the right amount of messy. I paused and stood from a slight distance as he was writing in the card. He looked up and I asked him if he needed me to walk around the block to give him a minute to finish. He said no and scribbled the last of his words and sealed the envelope. RJ gave me the card as I sat down, but told me to open it later. He asked me if I wanted some tea and then got it for me.

When RJ returned, he seemed to have trouble looking at me and faced his body slightly away from me. I had to laugh a bit to myself because he was looking at me puzzled as I saw the wheels turning when he commented that there was something different about me. Wait for it...wait for it... RJ finally said that he thought my hair looked a little different. It is funny how guys can get so thrown by that kind of change. It's like they know something is different, but scramble to figure it out.  Part of me was pleased because it seemed to mark distance and time apart from when we were together. It was almost a statement from me that I was moving on with my life. But that is somewhat of a front that I keep telling myself so that maybe I'll believe it, too. Then, I looked at RJ and noticed what was different about him.  He looked like he had gained weight.  It made me feel sad. There was no satisfaction in it.  Sometimes people seem to make unflattering comments if their ex gains weight like it kind of makes them feel better, but it just made me feel sad. I felt sad because it probably meant that he wasn't really taking care of himself. It was unattractive to see the decline.

RJ carried most of the conversation, and he seemed to boast of his success. I wasn't sure if he was sharing because he felt like it was a safe time to do so because I now finally had a job and he wouldn't be rubbing it in or if he was over compensating in that we both have good things in our lives to be happy about. It was almost like he was trying to say it is all okay because if we each had good things in our careers, then somehow it would be easier to walk away. RJ was more attractive when he had less. And I felt he was missing the point. In trying to make it seem like it all worked out for each of us separately, it felt like he was trying to indirectly justify himself for breaking up with me. I felt like he was trying to make himself feel better, and sort of trying to make me feel better.  When he mentioned his parents and how much they wondered about me and how I was doing, I wanted to gouge out my eyeballs.  These were the people who told their son that they thought he should break up with me, and he did.  I wanted to tell him off. I was frustrated that he could not have the faith to stay strong in our separate times of struggle so that we could share together in the good times ahead. I didn't feel like celebrating our separate good fortunes.

But I tried to keep an open mind and take in what was most likely my last time with him. As he continued, I kind of started tuning him out in what he was saying.  We both seemed to relax a bit and faced each other and made more eye contact.  I noticed RJ's bare neck--the shape and contours of the muscles and smoothness of his skin compared to his stubble on his face. Again, his unshaven face was just the right amount. Looking at his neck I thought of the times when I snuggled up to him and could smell his cologne or when I was close to him and would kiss his neck as we made love. The sunlight in the coffee shop was just as it was in his bedroom. I missed that cozy space that felt like was a world of our own. Fleeting thoughts of memories missed passed in my mind. But this was not the neck of the RJ that I met and fell in love.

At one point, our time seemed to edge on emotional. RJ had been doing most of the talking. So, I thanked him for asking me to get together because I wanted to see him, but I just didn't know what to say. I still didn't know what to say. RJ got a little glossy eyed and changed the subject, noting that he didn't want to cry in public. I later realized that I had been feeling rather numb, but trying to grasp at my emotions just below the surface. I wanted to be more in touch with my emotions at that moment, but it was too soon.

When we finished our drinks, RJ offered to walk me to the corner. It was odd to walk with him down the sidewalk to the corner that we parted on so many other occasions, once with a memorable kiss. We hugged, but it felt partly rushed and empty--not allowing room for the emotions to come to the surface. I turned to go my way and tried not to look back, pretty certain that he would not be looking back at me. As I began to jaywalk and cross the street, I looked over my shoulder for traffic and noticed RJ had done the same on his side of the street. Without realizing it, we were mirroring each other's footsteps and it broke my heart. So very close, so very close to finding real love. It makes me feel so sad that he could not see it, that he could not be strong enough and that I could not be brave enough.

I waited to open RJ's card until I had a quiet moment to myself. I was worried about what he wrote inside wondering if there would be some awful twist. But RJ's card and note were of sentiments of wishing me well. His handwriting was more controlled and consistent, seeming reflective of him getting more of his life together. He seemed to want to do the right thing, but by doing so, only made it hurt more.  He said how special I am and that he wishes for all the happiness for me. His words are almost unfair.  It made me feel like I was not good enough for him in someway.  If I was so very special, why did he let me go? Why could he not pull it together when we were couple? How was it that he just didn't feel that it fit with me when I felt it with him?


That is the question that looms and haunts me.  I have to find a way to let him go. I have to find a way to let go of all of the disappointment of what could have been. It troubles me because it shakes my confidence within myself to trust what is real or what is made up. I thought what we had was worth holding onto. How could I have been so wrong? How will I be able to tell the truth in the future?

But maybe this is what I needed.  Maybe I needed this moment to realize that RJ did not fully appreciate me or the unconditional love that I had for him.  He did not see the building strength in me that opened me up to love him even more.  RJ needs to grow up, make his own decisions in life and let go of his past hurts because it sets limits.  I saw some of my obstacles and did my emotional homework of confronting them to be able to move through them.  Freedom and strength are on the other side of forgiveness.  That is mine to keep.  I deserve someone who appreciates me, all of me without trying to change me, and is not so willing to let me go while keeping appropriate emotional boundaries as two separate people who come together to share a life together.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Orlando Came Calling

As it turns out, the universe was listening.  I have a job!  It is so great to be able to say that.  I have a job at a new hospital in Orlando as a Child Life Specialist.  It is an amazing opportunity and I am so grateful.  It is exactly the type of position that was the focus of my master's degree. 

At first I was told that they found someone with hospital work experience, but that they wanted to hold onto my resume since they anticipated growth.  Hence the previous posts of disappointment.  I had such a good feeling and had been so hopeful.  So, when I got the call for the offer a few weeks later, it was quite a surprise.  As a matter of fact, when I returned after my second interview, I went shoe shopping to find something to go with my dress for a friend's wedding and found a cute pair of wedge heels.  They were a maybe for a match with the dress, and I ended up deciding on another pair.  But, the shoes were such a good price, and the braided jute accents just said Florida all over them.  I remember thinking to myself, "I don't need two new pairs of shoes, but maybe I should keep them.  They are just so right for Florida."  I took it as a sign that Orlando was calling me.  When I got the initial news, I thought, "No, not the Florida shoes!  I don't want to return the Florida shoes!"  My disappointment in kind of having to return the shoes seemed to reflect just how much I really wanted the job and felt it was right on so many levels.

So, even if all did not unfold as neatly as I may have liked, it is still crazy good that I got the offer and I will be going.  As I said, it is a brand new hospital and everyone is new.  There is a lot of good, positive energy and I cannot wait to begin.  With everything being so new, there is an element of not fully knowing what to expect. 

My friend, Pete, asked me a couple of days ago, "Are you scared? I mean, to move some place totally new and all by yourself?" He said that he thought that I was brave because he has only lived in the same city his whole life and cannot imagine being anywhere else. My friend, Melissa, kind of shared the same sentiment, but in a totally different context in that she is jealous that I have lived in so many different places and highlighted it being a great opportunity.  My knee jerk reaction is, "Yeah, I've done this before."  I will not be totally alone either.  I have cousins and aunts who live in Orlando.  However, if I stop and think about it, I start to wonder what I have really gotten myself into with this new position and move?

The closest that I can come to describing it is that it is like going away for college.  You think you have an idea, but there is so much yet to be discovered and so much that is unanswered.  It is kind of like going in blind, and it is all of what you make of it.  The same could be said for when I went to study in Spain for a semester in college.  I took those risks for me and they worked out well.  I just have to have faith in myself and remind myself that God has a plan for me.  He is leading me somewhere and while it may be challenging at times, I have to trust and believe I am exactly where I need to be right now.  The whole experience of moving to a new city and restarting my career in some place new in of itself is a grand opportunity to really start fresh.  It is exhilarating and scary and hopeful.

I'd almost say it's like restarting my life, but I've been living a new life for quite some time since the infertility and divorce. And I am proud that I have been making a life for myself while rebuilding, going to grad school and searching for a steady full-time job. I have found a pretty good balance of living life in the moment while going with a plan with some fluidity. In the good kind of way, I think this chapter in my life has well illustrated the old adage, "Life is what happens while you are busy planning it."

It's been a whirlwind--or as my hairdresser told me--a cyclone!  During the past three weeks, the offer was made, I accepted the position (with a bit of thinking time to be sure I wasn't being totally rash), began calling/emailing/facebooking to share the news, flew down to Florida to find an apartment, signed a lease, have been packing, made moving arrangements, packed some more, went to a wedding, and have been squeezing in as many good-byes to my Pittsburgh friends and Cleveland friends and family.  I have had hardly a moment to think about it.  Sometimes there are fleeting thoughts and then it is back to work.

I have experienced excitement about moving to Orlando.  And I know that I will miss Pittsburgh, too.  I have made some wonderful, supportive friends here.  I have made memories and will always have a connection to this city.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am happy that I was able to make living in this city my own experience--to really take it back and own it.  There may be some sad things here, but I think the good things far out number them and have greater power.  I have felt a lot of love here.  And I did it when when my whole other life was falling apart.  I invested in myself and those around me who cared.  So, if I can make it in a strange place in the midst of heartbreak and crisis, I can certainly make friends and a home in a new place, as well.  Pray for me and wish me well!  I have felt the love here with my circle of friends on-line and I thank you for allowing me to share my journey with you!

Another funny note--When I went to Orlando for my second interview, I stayed in a hotel next to the one that I stayed in with some of the BBC ladies on that first gathering three and a half years ago!  When I met the ladies there, I never imagined really returning there.  I took that as another sign that I was supposed to be in Florida.  Funny how life works sometimes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Falling From Cloud Nine

My life is changing at warp speed and I barely have time to process it all.  I feel like I am treading water in a river of rapids--trying to stay afloat while paying attention to all of what is happening around me.  The damn has broken.  All of my efforts to transform my life are quickly falling into place.  But before I share those details that are in the progress of taking shape, I need to take a step back and reflect.

A few weeks ago, I was approaching that old familiar, uncomfortable territory of change.  My post-graduate summer internship with a non-profit organization was coming to an end, and I was preparing to return to my part-time behavioral health position.  My hope was to keep my old job with minimal commitment until the end of the summer in the hopes that one of my recent interviews would result in a more permanent full-time position.  I felt like my life was up in the air, and I was very frustrated that eight months of job searching had not yielded my desired result.  I kept reminding myself not to give up hope and trust that things would just work themselves out, just as they have in the my recent past.  For the past six years, I feel I have continued to cycle back to a place of total uncertainty and nearing the breaking point when suddenly something popped into the picture at just the right time.  So, I was at this place yet again while being accompanied by additional raised emotional turmoil.  I recognized these feelings of distress and I was waiting for myself to become aware of the root cause.  Sometimes it is awoken by a sensation, a song or an epiphany.  This time it was a moment strolling down a sidewalk.

My parents, sister and her boyfriend were in town visiting me.  We enjoyed some of the art scene, downtown and paths along the river.  My family wanted to enjoy some good Italian food, after all I have been living in Pittsburgh's Little Italy.  The restaurant I figured that would be most reasonably priced while also having great food also happens to have a bar that my ex-boyfriend frequents.  I was hesitant and I had not stepped inside the establishment since the break-up.  But my family really wanted to go.  There are two doors, one in the front and one on the side.  So, I figured we could use the side entrance and if he was there, he would be in the front and probably would hardly notice each other.  What were the chances?  Strangely, we had not run into each other living a few blocks apart for nearly seven months.

So, who did I see walking up the sidewalk at the exact same time as me?  RJ.  He was about to turn to enter the front entrance and I was about to step in the side door.  Had either one left seconds earlier or later, we would not have met at that moment.  All of the other scenarios that could have prevented this moment ran through my head.  If only...if only we went there first instead of the beer emporium, if only I kept my shoes on when running back into the house, if only I had not paused to run back to recheck that I had locked my back door...if only.  Really?  Really?  Did I really have to run into him at that exact moment?  This is precisely what I had been avoiding because I didn't know how I would react or feel.

I felt like time and movement slowed as the air in my lungs seemed nonexistent.  Then quickly, I became aware and took a deep breath.  He seemed to experience similar surprise, shot a hand up and waved from a distance.  I  waved back.  And as time seemed to resume to life speed, we continued along our separate paths into the restaurant.  It all happened within seconds, but seamless.

Later, I saw a text from RJ.  He said he was sorry because he wasn't sure how to handle the situation.  He wanted to say hello, but also did not want to make an awkward scene.  I texted saying I wasn't sure what to do either.  I felt his wave was appropriate and if he had come to say hello, that would have been fine.

The day after an encounter with RJ usually results in unsettling feelings, like aftershocks from an earthquake.  It is because it hurts to see him knowing that he doesn't want me in his life in the way I had once hoped.  While on some distant levels I miss him, I've done a lot to move forward.  I have accepted that we are not to be together and it is best to move on.  I realized that all of the recent inner turmoil was the emotional work of letting go of the dreams I had with him.  The loss is the hope of moving into a house together like we started to talk about before I left for my summer internship in Columbus last year.  The loss is the hope of marrying RJ.  He was a man that I loved so deeply after all that I had been through with my ex-husband.  It was an experience that was almost unimmaginable, but it felt so right.  Where did it all go?  And had life continued along that other dreamed road, at this point this summer we would have been in that house, free from my grad school commitments to have more freedom in our life choices and planning our next adventure.

It is a double-edge sword.  The losses are sad.  I do not want a relationship with RJ anymore.  But from previous experience, this experience of the loss of the dream just means that I am almost at the end.  It is the last major hurdle in processing the end of our relationship.  And soon I will be more free, more complete and capable of deciding if I am ready to give of my heart again.  The strength is rebuilding and I am on my way.

A few more songs.  However, I've never really been one to say that I'll close myself off to love.  But I will be stronger and hopefully smarter.

Of course, that is not the end of the story as life is not stagnet and continues to roll along.  About a week later, RJ and I were talking on the phone about an unrelated matter.  He brought up the chance meeting and shared that he was bothered about if he handled things well for several days after.  What does it mean?  So, I'm not the only one who feels those residual ripples.  I guess what I take from it is that what RJ and I shared was special and meaningful.  It is a very different experience from my prior long-term relationship in that at least RJ values the time we spent together to some degree and that he respects me as a person in some way.  It has softened my heart in understanding how some people may actually be able to have reasonable conversations or friendships after the romantic relationship has ended.