Tag Archives: #midlifecrisis

Cliché in the city

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She is in the big city, alone. She finds a popular bar on 7th Ave, one with a crush of young people just off work and ordering Bud Light in bottles. She lays claim to one bar stool, because there is always one solitary bar stool available in a crowd, even in the busiest of bars. This is a universal truth. Some folks think the world shuts out single people, but she actually believes it reserves spaces for them, single spaces that groups are reluctant to fill. 

She orders a Stella and a burger. The Australian tourists next to her are watching the Billy Joel concert on the TV above them. John Mayer is playing guitar, his eyes closed. The bartender takes care of her, with a charming Irish accent and one eye constantly scanning the crowd, anticipating the next order, collecting payment, trying not to drip beer on her sleeve. Thanks, he says with a practiced grin, over and over again, money exchanging hands over her shoulder. Excuse me, his customers apologize to her, as if they are interrupting.

She’s here because she can’t be alone in her hotel room. It’s the silence and the spaces that unnerve her. It’s knowing that Drew is out there somewhere, between the posts, behind the friends they have in common, beyond her barricade, but not unreachable.

Maybe it’s knowing she’s getting too old to be this cliché. Maybe it’s that she’s reached the age at which she feels invisible to anyone who doesn’t know her, who didn’t once truly know her.

This must get easier at some point. 

She gets up quietly, smiles at the bartender, and heads back to the hotel.

photo credit: ek2014

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Tremors

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The hotel room was dark when she returned from dinner, and for a moment she stood still, to see what it felt like to be alone and quiet. It came immediately, as always, sadness rolling over her like the fog she had watched from 10,000 feet a day earlier, great drifts of cottony cover, settling heavily over the coastal mountains.

Her eyes adjusted to the dim light. She kicked off her shoes and turned on the TV, flipping through the channels, immune to the news and the drama. What she wanted was an unconditional conversation with Drew. In lieu of that, a good cry. Instead, she opted for a beer and M&Ms from the front desk. She went to bed with her contacts in, face unwashed, clothes dropped carelessly on the chair, pajamas in her suitcase, ignored.

At 3:20am, the world began to roll. In her dream, she was floating on waves, the rhythm insistent and unrelenting, forcing her to relinquish power, to relax her grip, to give in to something larger than herself. But the groaning building woke her, its protest low and mechanical. She gripped the sheets as the bed undulated, and in the darkness, she felt as if she were in the hull of a boat, adrift in large waves, insignificant and powerless. After a moment, the waves rolled away, moving on, the undulation getting softer and softer until it was gone. The hotel walls were once again quiet.

Wide awake, heart pounding, she thought about a tsunami. She wondered if more waves were coming. She wondered if her sorrow might be tangible, strong enough to liquify the earth and roll her away.

photo credit: http://farm9.static.flickr.com/

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Teaching love

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What is she teaching them? What will they grow up to believe about love and happiness?

On one hand, they never see her kissing their dad. They never see her touch him voluntarily, and sometimes they notice that she has a hard time maintaining eye contact with him. They see that she can be patient and kind. But they also see that she can be tense and distant. Selfish even. Lately, her oldest daughter pauses on pictures of them together, studying the photographs and wanting her to look at them too. The puzzle pieces don’t all fit together, but she does not say the words aloud.

On the other hand, both parents are there. The girls have a home they know and love, and they never fear that they will go without a meal, or a parent to tuck them in at night. Someone is always coming home. Everything looks the way it looks at other people’s houses. Their parents sleep in the same room, they share the money, and they both do the household chores. They are united, usually, in decisions that involve them and sometimes they do seem to like each other. They still take trips together, and they still go out with their friends. On the surface, it all looks normal. So maybe it is.

But the girls are smart. Maybe smarter than she is. Do they understand longing and regret? Do they know what it means to be restless? Does staying teach them resilience and commitment and partnership? How will they learn about passion?

More and more, she wonders what she is teaching herself about love.

 

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All due respect

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The weight of his hand disturbs her sleep. She rolls over, out of his reach, and his hand slips off. She is in her subconscious mind now, floating up from a deeper place. Not entirely comfortable on her side, she is near the edge of the bed, but she lays still and maintains an even breathing pattern, hoping he won’t reach again, hoping she’ll slip back into a forgiving slumber. It’s better if they don’t talk about it. She has nothing new to say.

You never let me touch you anymore, Jake will say a few days later. It’s true. And she knows it goes against the Gottman-esque science about marriage stability and the Huffington Post-promoted philosophies about maintaining intimacy, currently in vogue. She just doesn’t want to pretend. The more space she creates, the more distance she gets, the stronger she feels. All due respect to science.

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The reality of silence

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Silence is heavy, and not quiet at all. At rare moments, when she is home on her own, almost afraid to breathe for fear of breaking the spell, there is a welcome stillness. But it is not silent. There is a tinny buzz in her ears, and the ticking of the clock is the heartbeat of a house that creaks and groans, as if stretching cramped limbs. The sound of a descending airplane is overhead, the crunch of tires on loose gravel is in the alley, a child is calling from a backyard somewhere down the street. The rain taps the window and dances on the roof, rivulets finding their way into the bathroom upstairs, steadily dripping onto the marmoleum floor. When it stops, the birds are so cheerful, she wishes she could join them, landing lightly on the branch outside her window, simultaneously eyeing the earth and the sky.

There is a steady stream of chatter in her head, a radio channel she wishes she could turn off. She tries not to think of Drew, she tries not to think of Jake. Nothing seems right, everything is off balance, the road ahead looks empty and grey, like the sky. How not to curl up into a ball and close her eyes, tuning the world out, keeping everyone at bay? How not to give in to the uncertainty and lose her drive, her determination to live fully, to live better? This is the anti-depressant zone, where she can choose to numb herself and force her body and mind to level out, the way her friends do with their knock-off, covered-by-insurance-if-you’re-willing-to-accept-the-diagnosis drugs. Or its the place where she gives up, where she gives in to the pain and despair that make her feel alive and alone, alert and yet emotionally unavailable, where she makes herself small on the couch and watches the rain fall, tucking the stillness in around her like a quilt.

The silence is welcome. But she doesn’t know what to do with it.

Photo credit: redbubble.com

 

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.