Wednesday, December 14, 2005

No One Here Gets Out Alive...except me. And I'm going to the beach.

Last night I had a conversation with a close friend who, it was hard not to notice, has stopped using Robert's name. When she mentions him at all, she calls him, ahem, "the R-person."

"I'm just fed up with him," she said. "You are not getting any younger. YOUR LIFE IS PASSING YOU BY. And it's in his best interest to keep you unrooted, unemployed, just...available for him."
"But," I asked, "what's wrong with using his name?"
"I hate the way you say it with so much affection. He doesn't deserve it."

She's not the only close friend who feels this way and I have to wonder what I could have done to prevent this. The "R-person"? Should I have kept the dubious engagement story to myself? If I had, I think it would have eaten away at me; I wouldn't have been able to joke about it and the joking about is what makes it sufferable. In hindsight, I guess it would have been wise for me not to discuss certain aspects of our relationship but it's those very aspects of the relationship -- the distance, the loneliness, the time gaps between reunions, the pervasive feeling that I am leading two different lives -- that were eating at me. These things have been heavy on my heart and I think it would have felt dishonest, certainly disingenuous, not to have shared my feelings with the people to whom I am closest. I gather that some of those people are now fed up with the entire situation -- that one day I am in love, the next day I am still in love but unhappy, the next day I am out of the country -- and so I'm trying to think about how to handle this differently. One of the purposes of this blog, in fact, was to write freely about this relationship without talking someone's ear off, without being afraid of being judged as a weak or obsessed person. I feel, aside of the half-in, half-out part of my relationship over the past few months, like the real struggle is about finding a balance between my love life and the rest of my life without the aforementioned result of feeling like I have two different personalities.

I got off the phone last night and then Liz called from Atlanta and I asked her if she ever feels like her "life is passing her by." She said, "Oh, lord, well, when I was 23 and I'd been living in Rome for two years, my father used to tell me all the time that I was an old maid and that I was drying up."
"Did that bother you?" I asked.
"Hell to the no!" she said. "Please. Just because he and my mother got married when they were baaaarely twenty-two does not mean I was supposed to spend my twenties changing diapers."
"It just seems so frightening," I said, "the thought that we're just getting older every day. I feel exactly the way I did when I was sixteen, with more cleavage and the only groceries I sack are my own. Thank you, God, that I'm not still sacking groceries at Compton's. Two hours there and I swear I could actually feel my life passing me by."
"I know, right?" said Liz. "Some days I wake up convinced that I'm going to win the Quiz Bowl championship and then I remember that it's not 1997 anymore."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Of course."
"What," I said, "am I supposed to be waiting for with Robert? I have this idea that I'll give the relationship a finite amount of time and then, if I haven't gotten what I need, I'll move on...But I don't know what it is that I'm waiting for. I thought it was engagement."
She sighed. "I think it's commitment," she said. "You just want to have a plan to be together in a real way."
"We talk about plans all the time," I said.
"I know you do, I know," she said. "But there is a difference between talking and acting on it. My fear for you is that you are going to stay with Robert, making plans, until you're 29 or thirty and nothing will have changed. It will be harder to start over at that point than it would be now."

In my dream, Robert stopped speaking to me and I spent an entire day chasing him around, through crooked streets, calling and calling his name. Ugh. I woke up at 5 and took a shower, put on my silk bathrobe and came back to bed to reread my 18-page paper on mothers and daughters ("No One Here Gets Out Alive") and tried to stay warm. It is fourteen degrees, not including the wind chill factor, and I've been wearing my sleeping bag coat around in public, zipped up to cover my mouth. On the way to the car, I dropped off 24 pounds of laundry and the woman who works there told me to be careful because a flasher has been lurking in between the cars. I've been flashed enough times now -- on the subway, in Italy, at the grocery store in Brooklyn -- that I've committed to my future response. Instead of almost crying and running away, I am going to laugh. I might even laugh and point.

I am back in the school library. The girl next to me just swallowed Adderall with her coffee and I looked at her prescription bottle and said, 'Does that really do anything?" And she said, "Ohmygodyes. It makes you feel like vacuuming and finally, like, dealing with shit."

The last academic paper I will ever write. I am pleased as punch.


Anonymous suz said...

"hell to the no?" i love that.

12:15 PM  
Blogger Urban Barbara said...

keep blogging about Robert. don't hold back. write what you feel not what your friends say...except if it helps you clarify your feelings

then, later, read your own words. it will become clear to you.

2:54 PM  
Anonymous camille said...

So I was thinking about our conversation about Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking and what it might mean to write about/through grief...I just started reading David Eggers A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and something else came to mind...Grief as spectacle....grief as something separate from you..something to be poked and prodded and laughed at. Not sure if this is a good way of dealing with things but it is a way.
Anyway interesting to think about in light of this blog and well any blog, really!

Oh and I agree with Liz, talking about a plan and actually bringing something to fruition is night and day.


P.S. He wrote me an email. The most heartbreaking email, but it brought clarity. See? I was right! Disappointment doesn't have to be a part of my life.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous fly. said...

hey. maybe i am jumping on the bandwagon of some of your friends by giving you advice -- and they at least know you whereas i only read you. but what you seem to be getting from them (and that you are questioning or thinking about, because you write about it here) is this "way things should be" and that they are clear on how things should be for you. and yes, you "should" be happy, but shouldnt that be a priority over having to get a specific something from your relationship with robert? i don't think age matters very much, but i will say this anyway - 25-!? is very young. why need you be engaged to him to have a successful relationship, and more importantly, fulfilling life? can't you keep trying to make your life the way you want it to be -- add the things/people/experiences/
that enrich you? you will have to do these things with or without robert, in order for life not to "pass you by".
sorry, i've been thinking about this post for a few days.
me too, was in a long distance (at times trickily defined) relationship for a few years and kept hearing from certain well-meaning friends what i needed. some of it was insightful but i often felt limited by their visions.
i hope you keep writing. good luck.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Alyce said...


Where did you go? Is everything alright?

Sending good vibes in to the ether in the hope that they find you safe and warm and too happy to post.

1:25 PM  

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