Archive | July 2012

Greeting Cards from Exes


Last week I decided to sort through a box labeled “Special Cards.” I’m trying to whittle down my belongings to what I need, things that matter. For years I’ve thrown every greeting card in that box and it’s unlikely I need them all.

I brought the box up from the basement and started reading through the cards. Some were special, from Ivy, Ryan, or relatives.  There were also a whole bunch from exes. If the current Me received those cards, I would have walked away. Reading between the lines were commitment issues and fear of intimacy.

There was a Valentine’s Day card from one particular guy. On the outside it said, “I lo-, I lo-” and on the inside, “I like you a lot.” I read it and wondered why he even put the love idea out there. Why not just buy me a card that said, “You’re special.” It reminded me of the time we later went engagement ring shopping. We drove there together and he picked one out that was much larger that I had expected. I was thrilled of course because it was a lovely ring and this proposal was a long time coming. I’d told people we were going out that night, for that very reason. Ivy’s daycare lady kept her a couple of extra hours for the occasion. But at the store he told the man he wasn’t ready to buy one after all. I found out later he’d snuck out and bought it to put away for when HE was ready. In those months that lapsed until he gave it to me though I was hurt, unnecessarily, kind of like with the card. “I lo-, I lo-…I like you.” The whole relationship followed that pattern, of dangling the love carrot only to withdraw it.

There were cards from two serious boyfriends I had after him, and I laughed (in a sad way) when I read them. Every card, somewhere in the body, had “sorry” printed in apologetic cursive. Another thing I noticed was for the holiday cards, from both men, they read, “I hope next (Valentine’s Day, Christmas, etc) year we’re still together.” Okay fine, we weren’t still together, but looking back, the fact that all the cards had apologies and foreshadowed a potential break up should have been big red flags.  I know people make mistakes and hurt each other, but shouldn’t apologies be a rarity and not the norm? There were no, “Just because I love you,” cards in the box. What was I thinking?

I remember being in relationships over the years and standing in the card section, struggling to find a card that said what I needed it to. “I don’t want to be here,” “Trying to extricate myself from…” “Can we start over? Alone?” Buying cards is a lot easier now. I actually pick them up quite often to send to Ryan because I love that I can go in the romance section and pick up any one and the mushy sentiments ring true.

By the way, I threw away all the cards except the ones from Ivy, Ryan and family. Like my new life, this box contains nothing but happiness and hope.

-Carly G.

Learning to Walk Again

ImageI’m on a JetBlue airplane on the way home from California, after spending several days with Ryan. Each time I visit, it gets harder to leave.  This trip out was our fifth time seeing each other. We talked about that this weekend, how it’s funny we’ve really only had five dates, yet we feel like we’ve always been together. Or always should have been.

Of course each date lasts several days, so that helps. And there are those hours-long phone calls every single night for eight straight months. There would be volumes of emails and texts, if you were to compile them all in one place. Each word and minute has sparked a new facet of connection, forged another level of closeness.

This trip he took me to Disneyland. I’ve been to Disney World a few times. None of the trips were all that fun as I was constantly arguing with my ex-partner. Even though Ivy was with me and it’s supposedly the most fun place on earth, I was so rigid and resentful and cranky, it wasn’t fun for me. In my defense, being yelled at for not doing my nails, or for not being all decked out in heels like Peg Bundy for our five A.M. flights tended to set those past trips off on a bad start. Plus honestly who doesn’t want to buy special treats from the bakeries on Main Street? Look but don’t touch is not a good motto for the Disney theme parks. 

So here was Ryan setting out to show me the correct way to enjoy “his” Disney. The thing that’s remarkable about Ryan, or rather how I am with Ryan, is that I see everything through different eyes than I have with anyone else. Maybe it’s because I know he has my back so I can relax and enjoy his company, or because he encourages my sense of whimsy. Whatever the reason, things are always nice.

As we drove to the park, I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to get there. And once we walked in, all the rides called to me. I couldn’t wait to drink it all in, to experience this “fun” that everyone else gets out of the Disney parks. I know a bunch of adults without children, or with children who have grown, who spend what I used to think was a disproportionate amount of time in Orlando or Anaheim. But now I get it. Finally. It is the most fun place on earth. How did I miss that?

As I was walking through Toontown I texted Ivy and told her we simply had to come back here for Christmas vacation. I told her I was having FUN. She surely knows what a coup that is.  “There’s not much of your childhood left,” I typed to her. That reality is an albatross around my neck. Soon she will be grown. How sad if she never gets to experience the light hearted me I am when I’m around Ryan.

I feel badly I’ve been uptight for so long, but things just turned out that way. Being a single mother for most of the last sixteen years made it tough to let go and just relax and be giddy. I tried, really I did. But being both parents and hence compensating, and juggling bills, and trying to do everything differently for her than I ever had, trying and failing to find her a good father figure . . . well, I don’t know if there’s any way I could have relaxed before now given my circumstances.

But it’s not too late now. Sometimes when I’m with Ryan, I feel like someone who is recovering from a major car accident or stroke and just learning to walk all over again, or recognize the feel of an orange or the name of a song. “And now take another step forward,” he says. “I’m here for you.” This Carly is so much stronger on my feet, so much more grateful for each new (or revisited) sight and sound and sensation.

Having someone to lean on, trusting he will hold me up if I falter as I’m finding my way, makes all the difference in rediscovery and in life.

Baby steps to happiness.

-Carly G.