Monthly Archives: July 2016

De-Friend Your Ex After a Breakup

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SOs come and go, but me and Yankee Candle are forever.

I wrote Collection of Flaws about my last big breakup and it occurred to me that I actually don’t write a lot about breakups here. The reason for that is because I’m generally over it. Heartbreak isn’t really where my heart is these days; I’m busy being deliriously happy (I’m finding being single agrees with me to a scary degree). But I thought I’d write a little about my breakups in general and my process for getting past them.

I’ve heard a lot of people say things like “never trust someone who isn’t friends with their exes” like this is some kind of pearl of wisdom. People, I am not friends with either one of my serious exes. A few more casual relationships, sure; but not anyone who meant anything big to me. It is just not how I’m built. It doesn’t make me an untrustworthy person. It’s okay if you’re not friends with your ex.

And actually, I think that there’s a certain amount of pressure to be friends with your ex that can be harmful. I’ve definitely felt before like choosing not to be friends is equated to a big public statement about how much you hate that person, or maybe how vitriolic the breakup was (whether that’s true or not). It leaves you open to judgment.

But sometimes no one was abusive or cheated or ran over anyone’s dog or stole anyone’s bank account and moved to Mexico. Sometimes nobody was A Terrible Person and the breakup wasn’t particularly angry. Sometimes the reason you can’t be friends is because it just hurts too much–until it doesn’t hurt anymore, but you’ve grown so far apart that you wouldn’t really want to be friends anyway.

I’ve had two really big, serious relationships (so far). The details were different, but the way the breakups unfolded were weirdly similar. They went like this:

  1. Ex and I decide to be amicable. We swear we’ll stay friends. We talk wistfully about getting back together someday.
  2. We keep talking for a while; maybe we try getting back together. Drama ensues.
  3. My ex stops talking to me at some point. It sucks but I give him his space.
  4. I find out through Facebook that he met someone else.
  5. I defriend, unfollow, delete his phone number from my phone, delete pictures and love letters from my computer, throw out everything he ever gave me or that reminds me of him, and go full scorched-earth.
  6. We never talk again in any meaningful way.

The moral of the story…I guess there are a lot of morals. But a big one for me is that maybe it’s crucial for me to despise this person so I can stop loving them. And the only way that happens is seeing they’re dating someone else.

I’m not really ready to let go–I don’t actually believe it’s over–until that happens.

I don’t like being prescriptive in my advice to friends. What’s right for me isn’t necessarily what’s right for you blah de blah blah. I’ve done my fair share of backsliding, I completely understand it and I never judge a friend for doing it with an ex. The pull is strong.

But I’ve also seen what happens when my friends backslide; it’s happened to me too. And it does. Not. Work. I’ve realized that the best way I can be on my own side in this process is by believing it’s over when it’s over, and behaving accordingly.

There are things I miss about my exes, but I don’t miss those relationships. I’m realizing slowly how incredibly happy I am on my own. One thing I’m realizing is that in both my serious relationships, the people I was with didn’t want to talk about the future too much with me because they didn’t want to get married. They weren’t all-in. I guess I wasn’t either, if I’m being totally honest with myself. Talking about serious future plans was scary for everyone, because we’d have to be truthful about whether we were going to be IN those futures with each other.

In the two years since I left my last serious relationship, I’ve had a lot of space and time to think of my future–the one that could include a significant other, but doesn’t rely on one. I don’t know if I’ll wind up in another relationship, but I’m all in on my own life plans in a way no boyfriend has ever been before with me. It’s really exciting.

The thing about breaking off all contact with an ex is that nobody will do this until they are ready, and when they are, nothing will stop them. But my opinion is, go scorched-earth. It’s the only way. Maybe you’ll get over this person while still texting them funny emoji poems and stalking their Instagram and being Totally Platonic Friends with them while secretly crying every time they hint they might be dating someone else. But it will take a long time and it’ll only hurt you. This is no way to live. Just rip off the band-aid.

At this point, I could probably hang with my least recent ex and get a beer. I actually wouldn’t mind catching up. I don’t feel that way about the most recent one yet, but I imagine I might someday. I think being friends is a thing that happens naturally, only when the previous relationship is completely dead, and it can’t be forced.

The great thing about breakups is that you realize you don’t have to put up with that person’s sh*t anymore. You’re free to think about what you want for your future–without anyone else’s plans or limits getting in the way. And you’re free to learn how to make yourself happy. It’s the best, most freeing thing–especially if you’ve been in and out of relationships since your teen years, like I was.

Breakups suck, but it’s better on the other side. Trust me.

My Relationship With Running

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Me after running my first marathon.

My relationship with running used to revolve around my relationships with men.

When I was in my early 20s, I had a boyfriend who wanted me to run with him. I was not a runner. I had sports I loved—skiing and horseback riding, hiking and swimming—but I wasn’t into team sports or anything really physically grueling. Or maybe the sports I loved were physically grueling, but I didn’t see them that way because I loved them. But running just felt like pure misery, and I had no interest in making myself miserable.

He didn’t just want me to run with him–he wanted me to be the one pushing him. I thought he wanted to be dating someone much more athletic than I was at the time–maybe someone who was the top scorer in field hockey and the fastest freestyler on the swim team and ruled at gym volleyball. None of those things were me. I don’t hate people who were good at team sports, of course, but at the time I hated the person I thought he wanted me to be, because I felt so much pressure to be that.   And when we went running I hated every step.

Later, I had a different boyfriend. We’d been dating a while when he suggested going on a run together. At the time I’d been going to the gym for about a year, taking yoga and pilates and spin and martial arts, trying to settle on a sport that would sustain me. I wanted to be more active. I wanted to keep my jean size. I told him I’d run with him, but not to pressure me—I’d probably be slow, and I didn’t like to be pushed. I said he should just go ahead of me and we’d meet up at the end.

It was beautiful, that run. We were on a beach, and the sky and the sea were just endless. I turned on my music and started running and breathing in time with the ocean waves and just lost myself. By the time I looked up—miles later—I’d left him far behind.

I left that boyfriend behind for real a few years later, but I kept running. In the several years since I started, I’ve run two half-marathons, one marathon, and countless 5K’s. Running is my moving meditation. It’s the place where I feel most powerful and most at peace.  I love the toned, sculpted legs it gives me and the way I feel like I’m on springs just walking down the street. I love how my endurance makes other sports almost effortless—like rock climbing or horseback riding. I never get tired.

Last year, though, I got a headache. It lasted for four months continuously, and later became debilitating neck pain. It’s too much to get into here, but you can find the start of that series here. It was hell. I don’t know exactly what caused it still, but as I recover, it becomes more and more clear to me that running has something to do with it. These days, when my neck hurts, it’s usually because I went running the day before.

I know what I have to do. Stop running. Not forever—but for longer than I want to. I need to let my neck heal, do a lot of yoga, and build up my strength. I’m almost all the way better but still delicate, and yoga is what brought me through that particular health crisis. I know it’s what my body needs.

But letting go of running is so hard. While I was visiting my parents in Gettysburg, I had the most beautiful run. I went down a country road, discovered an old pre-Civil War graveyard, and daydreamed about novels I have in the works. I went past fields full of cows and old stone farmhouses and roads lined with daylilies. I wanted to go for hours.

I don’t want to break up with running. Stopping for a length of time brings up all my fears. That my endurance will die, and I won’t want to pick it back up again. That I’ll gain weight (yeah, I know it should all be about health, but for me it isn’t). I’ve let go of so many things in the past few months, mainly to heal my neck and devote myself to my novels. This was the one thing I wanted to hang onto.

But the stakes to this are high. The headache absolutely ruined my life. I would do anything to keep that from happening to me again. Now my body is asking me to give up running, and I hate it. But I have to do it.

This week, all I’ve done is yoga. So far so good on the neck. I miss running right down to my bones. But last night I took a two-hour walk to the Williamsburg Bridge and back. I listened to my running music and daydreamed about my plot. I didn’t get the high I get when I run—but for now, it will do.

Summer Shenanigans

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Obligatory cannon ride.

I’m from Vermont originally, and I think that’s why I love summer so much. Our summers are generally mild, and those 98-degree, sticking-to-your-seat, God-I’ll-die-if-I-can’t-go-swimming-right-now days are few and far between. They are precious. They are to be enjoyed.

In New York, summers are hot. I don’t know if it’s the pavement or something about convection or what. But I love it. Where most New Yorkers are complaining about the sweaty subways and diving into any store that has air conditioning, I am scantily clad and happy. I love the heat. I even love the humidity. Bring it on.

So what have I been up to, besides sweating all over the place? First, I’ve been throwing myself into my romance novel with renewed abandon. I’m writing a historical (ish?) romance set at the end of the Roman Empire. I’m obsessed with it in a way I haven’t been in a long time, and I’m going nuts with all the thoughts I have lately about writing romance and what works and what doesn’t. I’ll be writing more about that here.

I’ve been getting my poetry chapbook ready for publication and planning my launch party. In addition, I’ve been writing poetry in little pieces. A second chapbook is starting to look possible.

Finally, I’ve been traveling. I went to see my parents at Gettysburg for a long weekend around the first of July, and then almost immediately went to Florida with a friend to pick up a 1981 Westfalia. Seeing as how I know how to drive stick and all (I consider this one of my superpowers, along with scary grammar skills and making a perfectly balanced dipping sauce for Vietnamese summer rolls).

My hero in the romance I’m writing is Alaric I, the famous Visigothic general. I’ve been thinking a lot about how you see a landscape differently if you have to use that landscape to stay alive—and keep your soldiers alive. High ground is important. Stay away from narrow ravines. You’ve got nothing if you don’t have a baggage train. Gettysburg was a great canvas on which to paint a battle; it really had a lot of clear examples of terrain used to best and worst advantage.

(For example, in Pickett’s Charge, the terrain the rebels ran up was very slightly uphill, culminating in a stone wall right under the cannons that funneled the troops into a deadly point. Looking at the terrain—and with the benefit of hindsight—it’s easy to see why it was so disastrous).

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Me and the Wheelness.

Florida was beautiful after that. There was so much amazing seafood—the oysters abounded. I spent time by the pool and the beach. I wrote my romance novel and taught my friend to drive stick. We lay awake at night and traded secrets and dreams. I even got some poolside yoga in.

Now I’m back in Bushwick, trying to get back into a rhythm. I’ve got another trip planned for the beginning of August, and it already feels too close. I’m trying to take things one day at a time and not feel overwhelmed. There’s always too much to do and it’s a lie that summer days are long. They’re never long enough.