“The story is always better than your ability to write it.” — Robin McKinley
Anything else is always something better.
It’s been one of those “life in order” weekends.
Back from two months on the road. Dealing with nearly an entire wardrobe that no longer fits me thanks to The Year of Health. Which led to a complete re-organization of my house. That instigated a top-to-bottom cleaning (which in truth won’t be done until mid-week). And ended with a series of little fixes – purchasing a chair for my upstairs office, hanging the rest of my pictures – that I’d let fall by the wayside this year.
All wrapped around my decision that it’s time to Get Busy Living, which means back to the dating game.
There were little births and deaths that happened, the melancholy changing of the past into the future. The little goodbyes to parts of myself that needed to go, yet still remind me that no matter how many more days I string together with my sobriety, I won’t ever outrun some of the sadness of life. That is just part of deal.
Never show surprise, never lose your cool.
I’m shocked by how often I am surprised by my emotions.
When I drank, I was pretty good at keeping those vicious little beasties subdued within me. I was one of those mean, razor-witted drunks who made sure that the verbal lashings kept people at a distance. I’ll never be able to adequately explain this to someone who isn’t an addict in any way beyond basic superficialities, but those lashings served to both protect my from myself and further isolate me in ways that encouraged the cruelness.
When I first got sober, those emotions – 15 years of them – came pouring back, overwhelming me and sending me to the brink of suicide. When you quit drinking, life – it turns out – doesn’t get better. You just get sober.
I floundered around with my emotions, trying to control these un-controllable things that battered me like a ship tossed in gale force winds. I was smashed against the relentless waves. I didn’t know how to react or what to make of them.
Frankly, I was baffled that how any of you humans functioned at all.
And that’s a big reason why I decided to take time away from dating. I couldn’t handle the emotional overload. All of the things I had done drunk – the dating, the sex, the relationships – were in some ways muted and tempered. I didn’t feel out of self-preservation.
But try as I might, as I got sober and more in control of my emotions I suddenly found myself thrust into this rather confusing world. While I’ve rarely been without a girlfriend – or some near facsimile – for most of my adult life, what I’ve experienced in the last 2 years and 3 months has been so unlike anything before.
There is no such thing as too much.
One of the mantras I carry with me is this: I’ll never get so jaded that I won’t make a fool out of myself over a woman.
I love Love. Always have. Life is big. An adventure. It’s meant to be embraced with everything that we have.
Inevitable, though, we fail along the way. And we collect those failures. We carry with us the baggage from Times Before and present those to strangers in our future. We do this, I think, without thinking. Unconsciously. We temper and mute and quell the things inside us because of what happened before. Maybe this is distinctly human. Evolutionarily, I can see how this would benefit the individual.
But I rage against that fear inside me every day. I fail – just like everyone – but I work very hard to keep that conscious thought: never get so jaded.
The alternative, it seems, is to miss life. And I’ve missed so much of it already. Maybe that’s why I continue to make a fool of myself, happily (mostly). I just imagine myself as the last embers begin to fade trying to recall the memories one last time. I want those memories to be filled with smiles. With chances taken. With epic failures. With great love.
I forget that not everyone is like me. That reckless abandon isn’t coded into the DNA.
I have to consciously remind myself of this when things crash and burn so epically.
Bury the dead, they stink up the place.
The worst part of my sobriety and equally the worst part of dating is that inevitably relationships end.
Some ends were inevitable. The Muse and I parted ways roughly 10 months ago – after 17 years of on-again, off-again. It was devastatingly difficult, but the right thing to do. The damage we’d wrecked on each other inflicted wounds too deep.
But there are echoes there still. Moments in the day when I think of her and smile. Surely those times are bittersweet, but they still have a sweetness.
Other ends were necessary. The last conversation I had with Writer Girl, a few years ago, was not good. There was a singular anger underneath our talk. We had tried to force something that wasn’t there many years ago, and the residual-ness of that became toxic. There was little good to be had.
With those, the sadness is replaced a sense of relief that we have each pulled away and found our way through the world. Now, there is just the left-overs of what was – at one time very long ago – love.
The hardest ones, though, are the ones that creep up now. In my sobriety. As I am feeling again. As I begin to dip my toe back into the pool. The newness of it, the raw hope and euphoria of possibilities and hope. It’s intoxicating in ways I never knew existed, really.
Most of these relationships (all of them – if we’re lucky – but one) are meant to crash. To flash out. Sometimes epically. Sometimes quietly. But always they crash.
Maybe there will be a day when I can survive those crashes with those people, where I can walk past them and allow the pain to wash over and past me. Where we can be friends and laugh about when we dated. I know people who do this. They amaze me.
I am not yet able to manage my emotions in that way. To both make a fool of myself and then turn around and act as though it didn’t mean anything. (Which isn’t to imply that my friends who can, do. I think they may just be more evolved than me.)
I am just not that man yet.
As for the rest of Coughlin’s Laws, ignore them. The guy was always full of shit.
I suspect this will all change in the coming months. I’ve given up the belief that I know how it’s all going to shake out. I only know that it will.
And that I’ll continue to make a fool out of myself.