January 14, 2011
On a daily basis, about fifty questions speed through my brain so quickly I barely have time to recognize I’m even mentally asking them.
I think about these things almost always. My subconscious has become so clogged with questions that it’s started solving the puzzles and riddles while I’m asleep. My dreams have recently featured math quizzes from junior high, where I had a minute to solve as many multiplication problems as I could before my teacher would come by and snatch the paper off my desk.
I hated those quizzes.
I hate what those quizzes stand for within my dreams, the idea that I’m running out of time and am still short on answers.
I also hate that in my dreams 8 + 10 equals 19 instead of 18. Every time, without fail. It’s obnoxious.
* * *
Of these fifty or so questions floating around my head, there are three in particular that I find myself asking over and over again:
Am I happy?
Am I holding myself back from experiences because the past has taught me the tearing sound coming from my chest is actually my heart reacting poorly to the juvenile stupidity of the men I’ve dated?
Have I made myself a promise in response to those experiences or have I imprisoned myself in the promise of non-experience?
(I kind of like that last one. It sounds much nicer on paper than it does when its ricocheting off the inside of my skull. On paper it’s flowery; in my head it pings, zings, and zooms with the echoing precision of a rubber ball.)
And all of these questions, these life questions disguised as math problems (because even though I’m poor at math and intimate relationships, I still know the basic underlying construct of both is simply 1 + 1 = 2), have a common theme covering them in even more psychological muck: How does one accept that the life she’s chosen for herself may not be the life she’s meant to lead or, even still, the life she wants to lead?
* * *
It started with the idea of a hiatus.
I’d take six months – from May to November – and I’d figure out what I wanted from my next romantic adventure. I’d spend the time question my own life goals, talking to my married and engaged friends to see what they’d done right (or wrong) in their lives, and at the end I’d have a better idea of where I wanted to be.
Six months turned into seven. I wasn’t ready to go back out into the pirahna infested dating pool. I wasn’t a hundred percent certain of what I wanted, of how to achieve it. I told Jilly I’d stick with it through December and re-evaluate in January.
I decided somewhere along the way that maybe I’d just wait until things with my career settled down, that maybe it would be easier to date when I felt more stable within my own life. Like waiting to invite people over to your new house until you’ve unpacked all the boxes and put things away – because it’s easier to share comfort than it is to share chaos.
And within all that, something changed. I noticed it only occasionally at first, this nagging ache in my chest when I’d read about couples or watch The Office and see the way Jim and Pam interacted or when I’d be home visiting family and catch my parents smiling at each other. It felt like my stomach growling from hunger, but it came from higher up, near my heart.
I began to feel…like I wanted that.
(Emotions are like math quizzes – they pop up on you, unannounced, and demand your unwavering attention for at least a minute before leaving you in the fetal position with the nagging feeling of having been steamrolled.)
* * *
Am I happy? Most of the time. Some days are better than others, which is probably how most of the world lives.
Am I holding myself back from experiences because the past has taught me the tearing sound coming from my chest is actually my heart reacting poorly to the juvenile stupidity of the men I’ve dated? Abso-fucking-lutely. It’s a truth that I know about myself and one I don’t try to hide from anyone. A relative told me recently that I should get back on the horse. I told her I’d shot the horse and sold it to the glue factory. I should have remembered she was a vegan…and easily offended.
Have I made myself a promise in response to those experiences or have I imprisoned myself in the promise of non-experience? I’m petrified to date again, to the point where social experiences are somewhat daunting. I’m a terrible flirt (not that I flirt constantly, which is terrible, but instead that I’m terrible at flirting) and I make a somewhat awful first impression because the “nice” part of my brain shuts down and the “sarcastic” part takes over when I meet new people. And as much as a guy might say he likes a witty girl in glasses, the blonde with cleavage instead of brains and 20/20 vision three barstools over is going to catch his eye first. It’s just odds…and Darwinian theory…with a few Marie Claire fashion tips thrown in for good measure.
* * *
There’s a final question I sometimes ask myself, one that I save for very special days because it’s a very special question. You might even ask yourself it on occasion.
How much chocolate and alcohol can I imbibe in before someone throws a ‘holic’ on the end of either word and throws me an intervention?