The Ice Queen

Bilder von der Polarstern-Expidition ARK XXVII-3 in die zentrale ArktisA couple weeks ago, mom fell and fractured her rib. I was out of town when this happened, so you can imagine my surprise when I came home and saw her walking very rigidly and slowly down the stairs. She finally told me what happened and I wave of guilt came over me. Of course I couldn’t prevent this fall, of course it wasn’t my fault that she didn’t say anything, but I still couldn’t help but feel that way. The minute she told me, I did everything I could to minimize her movement. I reheated her food for her, helped her put her heating pads on, did chores around the house, just anything and everything to make her feel more comfortable.

The next day, I worked from home and my brother, Jr, also came by with my sister in law and their dog to see how she was doing. In all honesty, we really didn’t do much for her. She was able to get around pretty well and the pain meds were starting to kick in. I think the very act of her children being around her, surrounding her with love and support, was enough to give her another kind of healing.

Seeing mom in so fragile a state, it humanized her in a way that I hadn’t seen in a long time. In the last few months, she’s been very vocal about how she doesn’t like how I maintain my relationship with David. She’s under the impression that I spend so much time with him that I’ve lost sight of my priorities. Those exchanges bring out something very ugly in her, and the things that come out of her mouth can be very scathing. But in mom’s current condition of frailty, it’s somehow softened her. She saw how concerned I was, and how I was willing to drop everything for her. She saw and was reminded that no matter what, family will always be first in my eyes.

This past Sunday at church, both she and I were called into spontaneous service. They pulled me from the crowd because they needed another singer, and before Mass, mom was asked to administer the wine for Eucharist because they were short of people. She and I both came to church thinking we would sit together, but we ended up serving instead. I usually never take wine because I honestly think it’s gross, but, it was my mom administering it, so I wanted to support her. (I hope I don’t contract herpes.)

In any case, this whole thing made me smile. Mom and I are so different, but in a lot of ways, I will always be my mother’s daughter. We both seek to serve God by our gifts and help in any way we can. I know they say that you can’t change people, but I have hope for my mom. I know she’s a good person and just needs to learn to communicate better. Last week when I told her I was going up to San Francisco for the weekend to be with David, I was bracing myself for her judgment. Instead she said, “Drive carefully, it’s raining.”

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One Day, One Year

one_dayAnd just like clockwork, Cristern stayed true to his promise: He texted me on the eve of the 1 year anniversary of when we broke up. He was texting to ask if we could meet. Some context: Around this time last year, I had become obsessed with the book and film, One Day. The novel tells the story of two main characters who fall in and out of love throughout the years; through marriage, divorce, children, the two remain friends and stay in touch. And no matter where they were in their respective lives, married, single, on the other side of the world, or right across town, they made a pact that once a year on July 15th, they would somehow get together and meet. September 27th was me and Cristern’s One Day.

The night of my breakup, Cristern made me the very first promise he ever made in our 3.5+ year relationship. He promised that in one year, he would contact me. I believe my reaction to this proposition was, “You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kiddin me. You get romantic on me NOW?’ I asked him what was supposed to happen on this supposed One Day and he said we’d meet and ya know… see how things would go. Bullshit. I wasn’t going to plan my life around a desperation move. This was a ploy so that he could always keep me as an option. Well I certainly refuse to be anyone’s option.

When I received the text, I looked at it for a moment to let it soak in. I was baffled but also not surprised. Baffled, because he still had the audacity to contact me after all the shit he pulled, but also not surprised because he’s been playing the part of a bleeding martyr. To his credit, the text was very nonchalant (or at least trying to be):

“I don’t know if you remember but we wanted to meet up after a year. Well that day is tomorrow. Still wanna meet?”

I have to laugh when I read it. It kinda gives off that hey ya, I’m a cool guy and I totally got this. When in reality, it actually reads more like a coward coming back with his tail between his legs. I felt sorry for him. Clearly, nothing had changed. But I have to give him kudos – how was a text like that supposed to read without sounding too desperate? I don’t even know how I would begin to write something like that. Oh wait, I would NEVER do that because I don’t believe in tethering someone to such a stupid and selfish promise.

When we initially broke up, and then when I got together with David, there was always a part of me that said I would meet up with him. Mostly, just to be kind and get my books back. But then I took a step back and thought long and hard about the real function of that day. That day was for him- not me.  It was a status check to evaluate whether or not I was dateable in his eyes. It was to see if I had changed and had gotten better.

Sorry buddy, I’m still the same- and I kinda like it that way.

I am of course human and do feel bad about not replying. But really, who would I be helping if I did that? He needs to move on and no one can help him on that journey. He has to own it and want it.

I believe in prayer and believe that any good thought is like energy and it can travel anywhere and reach the person you’re praying for. That night before I went to bed, I prayed to him and for him: “I hope you forgive me, like I forgive you.”

There is nothing left to say after that. Maybe one day he’ll understand.

The Art of Letting Go

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In the midst of the silence of every breakup, one person will always find a reason to break that silence. Mine came in the form of a letter. A few days after I had stealthily dropped off Cris’ things in a box in front of his house, I received a letter in the mail. Somehow when I got it, I wasn’t surprised. Putting together that box was hard for me, I could only imagine what it was like for him. I took a moment and a deep breath before opening it.

He began by saying how the sight of his things had greatly affected him, so much so that he wanted to begin communicating again through letters. He of course said that it was up to me whether or not I wanted that to happen. Cris always had a knack for writing letters. Through the course of our relationship, he’d write me these cute love letters, decorated with tickets stubs of movies we’d seen, fortune cookie messages, any little knick-knack that was part of our time together. As our relationship grew harder, the letters became less frequent. I had to beg him to write me more. I should’ve known that we were slowly dying and there was nothing he or I could do about it. And now through this letter, I could see what he was doing. He was trying and my heart ached. Where was this overflow of emotion when we were together?

He went on to describe how he’d imagine looking at my smile, or looking into my eyes, hear my laugh or even daydream about how I’d react to something. He even went so far as to compile a list of songs that were special to him and our relationship and think of a way to give it to me. This was too much. It was an awful thing to read and realize that he was in effect, torturing himself with the memory of me. He bore the tremendous guilt of breaking my heart and he had to live with that. The way he was dealing with it was not healthy and he was clearly not trying to move on at all.

He went on to describe our last night together in vivid detail. How much I cried, the prolonged goodbye, how I grabbed onto his shirt while we hugged as I desperately tried to hang onto his shirt and simultaneously try to let go. He marveled at how hard I was trying to be strong and admitted that whenever he thought of that night, it would always bring him to tears.

I can’t remember much else of the letter, other than the fact that I knew that there was no way I could re-establish contact. The person who wrote the letter was not a healthy individual. If anything, this was a selfish attempt at trying to bring me back into his life, regain control, and perhaps see if there was a chance at rebuilding our relationship.

As I read it, I realized that this was someone who didn’t care for me at all. He knew the letter would hurt me, but he did it anyway and for his own selfish gain.

I took a couple days to reply. The more I thought about it, the more I felt sorry for him. He may have broken up with me the same way John had, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t a stranger to the guilt he was feeling. In the months leading up to our breakup, I knew that our relationship was failing and still I hung on, even though he’d expressed a handful of times that he wanted to let go. I felt the guilt of hanging onto him and shaming someone who clearly didn’t love me.

I searched my heart and although I was hurt, there would always be a part of me that would care for him. I knew that the best thing I could do for him was to free him of that guilt and misery. I replied back to his letter with this simple note:

“Cristern, please stop. It’s not time for us. Your friend, Virginette. P.s. I forgive you.”

A few days later, on April Fool’s Day, I woke up to a bunch of trash on my car. There were candy wrappers all over the hood of my car. The night before I had heard voices outside, but figured it was the neighbors talking. I examined the candy wrappers and realized they were Hi-Chews, his favorite candy.

I remember that day clearly and how angry I was. I knew what he was doing- he was inciting me to react. He was hoping my anger would be so great that I’d break my silence. I was seething with rage and came very close to actually doing that. But if I did that, I knew that he would win. He’d have the satisfaction that a child only knows when they’ve gotten what they’ve wanted after throwing a fit. Did I want a child or a man in my life?

Looking at the trash on my car, I realized that he would never grow up. He couldn’t see that I was trying to help him and he reacted so childishly. That act alone let me know that he wasn’t capable of maturing into the kind of person I’d always hoped he could be. In hindsight, that was always the problem, Cris was just always a child. He had aspirations of making it big but lacked drive to do the hard work. He was always playing.. with his toy trucks, his friends, and ultimately with his life. Was it any wonder why I was so frustrated with him and showed so much resentment? In everything he was doing it was clear that he didn’t want me in his life. Being with me would have to mean getting his act together, and he simply wasn’t ready or willing to do that.

I remember a few weeks before my breakup, I was so desperate to keep my relationship together that I went to visit a family friend who’s a priest. I sat alone in a beautiful church for a long time before I met with him and contemplated how I would keep from crying while I told my story. I told him that every day I had grown so desperate for help, that I would get down on my knees at night and in the morning to plead with God to make my relationship work. I could see pity in his eyes and he asked me to kneel at the pew and tell him what I saw. I told him that I saw the altar and the cross. Then he asked me to stand up and asked me again what I saw. Apart from the altar, I told him that I saw the tabernacle, the statues of the saints, candles, the lectern and flowers all around. He smiled and said that life was exactly like that.

Life’s sorrows can bring us to our knees, so much so that it obscures our view. If we take a moment to stand up, we’re able to see the opportunity and the wonderful gift that God is giving to us in that moment. He gently told me that he hoped things would work out with my boyfriend, but to remember to stand up to see what else God was giving to me. I look back on that time and I realize that God was giving me a chance to see what my life could be like.

Next month will make it a year since my breakup. I think about how far I’d come and all the amazing things that have happened to me since then: the jump in my career, the opportunity to be part of a writer’s conference, a growing and healthy love of self and finally, my new partner in crime- the wonderful man who’s privileged to be in my life now. I know that none of these things wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the courage to let go, let God, and open up to life’s possibilities.

The One That Got Away

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There’s nothing like the memory of a first love. And nothing makes it more memorable and heartbreaking when you have to watch that person walk away.

The other day I went to Starbucks to write and saw two prom couples taking photos. The girls were all decked out in long glittery formal wear. One wore pink and all the ruffles enveloped her – like a tiny bee lost in labyrinth of blossoms. The other wore blue, a mermaid out of water, shining radiantly with sparkles in her hair, like seawater glistening on her crown.

They looked so young and excited for the night ahead.  I couldn’t help but smile and think about that simple and innocent time in my life. When I think of high school, I think of Jay.

All love stories are the same. We were friends.

Jay and I met at a leadership camp the summer before our senior year. The camp was only a weeklong but we both made a lasting impression on one another. A month later after camp ended he had broken his arm in a horrific car accident and was unable to make the camp beach reunion. A week later, I drove out to the East Bay to visit him and bring him In-n-Out and show him pictures of the event and tell him everything he missed. We became fast friends.

In those early days, I would call him in tears at the thought of leaving home to go to college. He would confide in me about the development of his father’s illness. He’d accompany me to dances when I didn’t have a date. He’d ask me to come over to help him to look after his baby sister. We had to be friends because that’s all we could be. He was with someone else. When we were together, we laughed and experienced so much joy. But we both struggled with the definition of our relationship. We both felt it. After we’d see one another, he would go home and put on a face for his girl, while I got down on my knees and put my face in my hands. It was hard to be in love with your best friend.

Homecoming came around and I had no date for the dance and in his usual way, Jay came to the rescue. When he got me back to my house after the dance, he had the arduous task of helping me take down the countless pins in my hair. We sat on the floor of my room, stifling our giggles in the wee hours of the morning while he plucked my hair and counted each one. When he finished, I shook my head, closed my eyes and ran my fingers slowly through my hair. I opened my eyes and he leaned in deep and kissed me.

He broke my heart not too soon after that, professing undying love to his girlfriend and denying any involvement with me. What followed in the decade after was a stop-and-start fledgling relationship. At some point in all those years, I let go of my past disappointment and anger for what happened, and concentrated on one thing – being his friend; and that friendship has been the most fulfilling and bittersweet of all.

In my anxiety about moving forward in what could be my new relationship, I had to look back to my past, and look for advice from Jay, the one person who probably knew me the best. He confided in me about the complicated particulars of his relationship and how he would be going next level and asking his girlfriend to marry him.

I was happy for him but couldn’t help but think- had we missed our chance?

For a long time, I felt there was nothing to mourn. Though Jay and I never had the opportunity to be in a tried and true relationship, I treasured the fragile friendship that we did have. With my dad and grandma in the hospital and his father passing away, we have been each other’s sanity checks and shoulder to cry on.

After all we’d been through, would it soon be time to say goodbye?

I sit back and look at it as logically as I can. We would be horrific as a couple, so much so that it makes me chuckle just thinking about it. I think our relationship would be awful and amazing, vindictive and forgiving, volatile and serene, thoughtless and deeply loving, all at the same time. And at the end of it, we will have amnesia of every negative thing and only remember one thing- our friendship.

Perhaps we were lovers in a past life and that’s why our friendship has survived 13 years in this life. And just as he’s growing up and finding love and happiness, so am I. I think we’ve been here for one another to help each other on this never-ending journey. Soon, we’ll both have to walk away.  My heart will break a little and maybe his will too. I will look back on that time with fondness and I hope he will do the same.