today, january 2015

Today I took my co-worker to the ER. Her name is Teresa and I don’t think she knows that I have a blog. I don’t think she would mind me using her name, and her story. But just in case, I’ll keep her story short.

Teresa went to the ER because her arm and neck were swollen. Teresa also has cancer. Any ailment, no matter how small, holds a different significance when your body is weaker than normal. So I drove her to the ER. I waited with her while they took her blood and an EKG. Her blood pressure is normal. She’s not allergic to anything. Medical history? Well, the cancer thing. I learned more about her in that 30 minutes than most people ever learn about their close friends.

I left when her daughter arrived. “She’s my work daughter,” Teresa explained to the nurse when the nurse wondered who the hell I was. I’d never thought of it that way. But, yes, statistically, I had to be that. I’m the youngest person in my office. I didn’t know what to think of the swelling neck…it was my boss who, concerned, ordered Teresa to the ER.

My co-worker did have a blood clot today. I just learned this. She was given blood thinners.

I walked out of the hospital today and I cried. I knew, the minute that I stepped foot in the waiting room, that I would have to cry later. There, I was collecting the heaviness of strangers. Every sadness that had nothing to do with me seeped deep into my pores. I joked with a woman I worked with in a way that you should never joke with anyone. The last time I was in an emergency room…

I thought “I don’t like hospitals,” as I took deep breaths, eyes averted once the blood drawing and heart monitoring began. Then I thought that maybe I was just a huge asshole. No one likes hospitals. Jesus. I felt young and naive and helpless and my co-worker, calmly explaining her symptoms, was so far away. How could anyone be that brave?

Today I was concerned, mainly, with what I was going to eat for lunch. I was worried about making it to my yoga class. I hoped that I could pick up my new computer this evening.

What do I say? Live life to the fullest? Count your blessings? God, I don’t even know. All I know is that today, for five full minutes, I cried into my hands in my car on a 70 degree day in Charleston, SC. I don’t want my temporary sadness to stand for the real life struggle of my strong and brave co-worker.

So I’ll wait. I will watch her live as she has been living. Work as she has been working. We will talk about her daughter’s classes and her sister’s big house. As calmly as she speaks to the nurse she will speak to me, explaining that, yes, we do file that document, and no, we don’t usually scan that one.

Life is what happens after you cry in your car. Life is not deciding what to do with yourself, but figuring out how to tell everyone you love that you love them. Do that. Do that right now. Call your mother or your father or a friend you barely know. Tell them: “I love you.”

I love you. I mean it. I love you.

in defense of something like love

I recently read one of those articles that’s actually not an article but just a list of numbered action items that, if acted upon, are supposed to make you feel good about yourself. I don’t particularly mind these listicles–often they’re the only thing I’m willing to skim over. This particular list was chock full of love tips for 2015. If #3 says “be happy in the new year,” I’ll take it. Happiness? Sweet, sure, yeah, let’s do it. If #7 lets me know that I should “date myself,” I’ll take it at face value. Love myself, love being single, cool, cool, cool.

I don’t usually write about my love life because I don’t usually give a shit about other peoples’ love lives. Really, what is there to say? “I’m currently in love.” No one cares. “I’m having fun and dating.” No one cares. “I’m not dating right now because I don’t want to be in a relationship.” A) bullshit. B) no one cares.

I can be cynical and I can be a mess. After a romantic flop I’ll cry to my friends and I’ll cry into my wine and I’ll text my mother that I really need her to tell me that I’m going to be okay.  I’ll use excuses… “I had a boyfriend for a long time, I don’t know how to date.” Or, often, “there’s something wrong with him.” Even more often, “What’s wrong with me?”

I think I want to write about love (the romantic kind–with dates and kisses and heartbreak, etc.) because everyone else is writing about it all wrong. They make lists about it! They’re telling you who to love, and when, and how…how to forget love, how to love yourself, how to find love in something else.

So, I ask: what’s wrong with love for love’s sake?

Here’s the thing: we all want to be wanted. After this basic desire, it gets a little more nuanced. Some people want relationships. Some people want a string of one night stands. Or two nights? Or maybe just “I don’t want to date right now.” Even being “exclusive” takes on a new meaning depending on who you’re talking to. Or sleeping with.

My last romantic failure was a case of too much too fast too soon. I imagine that happens a lot when you meet someone and like him and he likes you and maybe you both give those feelings more weight than they deserve. Or maybe I shouldn’t take boys home when I’m drunk.

I flip flop between how I want to fling myself into a crowded bar (or wherever it is that you go when you want to feel wanted. Really, there must be better places). We walk in and we stand there and we hesitate; “Who am I tonight?”

#2– girls’ night! buy drinks for your friends and forget all about trying to “hook up” with anyone!!

#5–put yourself out there this weekend! say hi to a stranger (or three!!!!)

Real life: take too many tequila shots, talk to a much older man who touches your butt in a not so subtle way, remove shoes, sprint home, eat leftover stir fry, fall asleep on your couch.

How did you meet? We ask our coupled up friends. We try to recreate those scenarios. Online. At work. Through friends. After too many tequila shots.

Then weeks go by where we don’t even think (not really, anyway) about those moments of hesitation at those doors of bars, coffee shops, grocery stores. We get busy or sick or our parents visit and not having any kind of significant other becomes kind of convenient.

For a few weeks we don’t think about slamming our bodies, our singular selves, into another person.

Everyone knows she can survive on her own. Do the girls’ night thing. Buck up and talk to a stranger. But we want, we really want, to slam ourselves. Boom. We don’t want a relationship. We don’t want one night. We don’t want anything nearly that specific. We just want that moment of impact.

Maybe then I’m not talking about love. At least not love in the way most people think about it. The “love” that’s heavy and powerful and hurts like hell if used improperly (and often, it is). Or maybe it is love. Maybe we’re thinking about love all wrong. It doesn’t need lists. It needs moments. The boom–don’t you just want the boom?

It’s the eye contact with someone on the street (one, two, three seconds). It’s hands finding each other, then, clasping, across the bed. It’s being pushed, quickly, carefully, against the wall of somewhere you’ve never been, by someone you barely know.

The moment of impact.

No matter how temporary, these moments do not fade. If they do, then you’re thinking about the wrong kind of moments. Come on, you have one. You may have a lot. One of mine? The tap on my shoulder in Trig class, tenth grade. I can close my eyes and feel that and if that’s not love, then what do I call it? For me, then, it went. fucking. boom. Call it what you want. I’m calling it love.

At this point in my life, where everything’s complicated and dating can mean anything from real live dates (thank you for dinner) to 2 am texts (where are you right now) to I miss you (and you and you and even you)…I want to cling to one thing. Yeah, yeah, I’ll date myself. I’ll do the list stuff. Girls’ night. Strangers. All of that.

But lists are so practical. Where’s the romance? Yes, no matter what happens to me, no matter how many romantic flops I endure, I still want the romance. I. want. the. impact. And you should too. Because, really, that’s not asking too much. I can’t tell you what to do once you’ve held hands for longer than two minutes. I can’t tell you where to go after riding someone’s hips up a wall. Post eye contact? I can’t even offer a conversation starter. But I can tell you this: if that moment isn’t love, in its purest form, then love isn’t any good for anyone.

If love is an impact, then we’ve all loved. We can all love again. Be impractical for a second or a day or a few months. Feel something and let it feel you back. And like all moments, let it pass. Breathe it in and keep moving. Maybe someone will come with you. Maybe not. Those lists will let you know how to be with whoever it is you think you need to be with. Just don’t forget, sometimes, to catch your breath at the touch of a stranger (or your long time love). Explode every once in a while. Love for just a second. Who knows? Maybe that second will last a lot longer than you ever expected.