Walks beside me/Walks on by

The New York Times' Sunday Styles section has recently started a column called Modern Love, in which writers of various stripes share their tales of relationships gone awry. (There have been a few hopeful-esque entries so far, but the scales definitely seem to be tipping more in the other direction; it is, perhaps, a counterweight to the shouting streams of joy waiting a few pages back among the wedding announcements.)

If the columns so far are any indication, modern love is something of a big old mess--not always a hopeless mess, to be sure, but a sticky, muddled, uncertain mess just the same. From the sound of it, we all have the potential anytime soon to fall into some giant pool of heartache, heartbreak, infidelity, ambiguity, truth stretching, fear, loss, sadness, guilt, and confusion. Like we were always told as children, it seems best not to run on the deck of this pool; you don't want to slip and go unintentionally splashing in.

But while the columns share a view of love as anything but glamorous and rosy and un-fraught, they also allow at least a few hints of something better, of the possibility that somewhere in that pool the water gets calm and easier to float in, that sooner or later someone throws you a life vest or you manage to pull yourself over to the side so that even if you do start to go under, you won't be down there for good.

And I guess I have to believe that, because I've known the good parts of love, and because it seems unfathomable that that entire Olympic-size pool could be such a treacherous mess, and because I know I'm still a strong swimmer when I need to be, even if my techniques are rusty.

So although I'm flailing a bit now, shivering and tired and feeling my throat burn from all the water I've swallowed, I'm trying to keep my eyes focused on the lip of the pool. And at some point, I'll be able to make my way toward it, and then pull myself onto it, where I can dry off and warm up and wait for the waters to calm.


Of Breakup Babe, Dire Straits, and the Undead

I'd be much happier if I could get my thoughts to line up and take a number, then come forward when that number is called, just like you do when getting ice cream at Mitchell's on a busy day. As it is, though, they're a gigantic jumble, random snippets of things popping up at inopportune times, too many disparate thoughts and ideas and words to let me get anything down straight. It's a pain in the ass.

I don't know what phase this is, but for the past few days, whenever the realization of the breakup creeps into my mind (which is to say, painfully often), I can only think, "Now, huh. Wait a minute. That can't be right." The overwhelming emotion of the week isn't sadness or shock or anger but utter perplexion. This analogy will surely make no sense, but these days it feels like G. and I were both walking down the same long hallway, and he stepped out of it before I knew what was happening. So I'm still walking, confused and half convinced I'm dreaming things or making them up, achingly searching for the door that will let me out, too.

And that's the sucky thing: you can't just will a door to appear, which is to say that well-established trajectories aren't easy to change. For better or worse, love and hope aren't killable; you need to wait for them to die on their own. I don't know what to do with the desire that they go quickly. It seems foreign and awful to me.

Battling for attention with the hundreds of thoughts in my head these days are snippets of countless songs, and I don't know what to do with them, either. (Maybe I should re-read High Fidelity, though I don't think I could stand the upbeat ending just yet.) The song that's been the most persistent (though I haven't actually listened to it) is Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet"--or, more precisely, the Indigo Girls' raw and aching cover of it. There are so many layers of meaning and memory to that damn song; why can't I get them--and it--out of my mind? Even a day of quiet would do wonders. (One day we're gonna realize/it was just that the time was wrong.)

Finally, because it's sadly true that I'm better at dealing with my own emotional messes when I can read about others', I was intrigued by the mention of Breakup Babe on the Blogger main page today, so I clicked over to her site.

Damn if her words aren't some of the smartest, funniest, most awfully and painfully honest on the subject of relationships (and their variously messy demises) I've ever read. (Of course, her book deal with Random House and the legion of fans linked to her blog mean I'm by no means the first or the only to think so.) There are any number of things she's written that I could post here to try to explain my own emotional furball, but I think it's more appropriate to let her words stand on their own in their original context and to simply say, Yes, that's it exactly.

It's back to BB for me, then, to escape my own tangle of thoughts in someone else's.