Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday
Cutting me right to the marrow was something he excelled at. Five months ago he disappeared like the first frosted breath of December. Mr. Studied Cool no longer wished to handle Ms. Highly Flammable (his terms). I was over him, had nearly forgotten him, forgotten that he ghosted me after an intense, volatile nine month romance. I was getting dressed for a First Friday concert at the Barnes Museum featuring the bossa nova jazz band Minas. I picked up my phone and saw his text:
She came in through the bathroom window
Protected by a silver spoon
But now she sucks her thumb and wanders
By the banks of her own lagoon.
The lyrics from a Beatles song landed like a Mike Tyson uppercut to my poise, confidence and self-esteem. I gasped, my stomach hurt, my vasomotor system ran amok. My knees wobbled. The words delivered the intended blow, provoking guilt, regret, self-recrimination and self-hatred. I had a 90 day coin from my NA group, attended yoga class three evenings a week, and was seeing a therapist. I wondered in that moment if the scaffolding of my new life would hold, could support me when a storm hit. I felt nauseous and went outside to sit by the pool, breathing rapidly and erratically, struggling to regain my equilibrium.
Cutting people to the marrow was something my ex did well. Other skills were more challenging: being intimate, showing vulnerability, remaining open and honest, demonstrating transparency about how he earned his money. He was a proud and talented liar. My mind demanded action, but if I called a friend the conversation would be a litany of his vices: selfish, self-centered, a fear-filled charlatan hiding behind his cool-guy persona, always jumpy, always looking to get out as soon as he got in, superficial, shallow, a vain con artist who was not capable of real connection. I already knew these things. I wanted to know about me. Why did a texted verse of Beatles lyrics disturb my calm and disrupt my peace?
I thought to contact my therapist but I was too vested in presenting myself as someone getting it together, not someone who crumbled when my ex evoked my past. My “unmade bed,” the therapist called it, insisting that I examine my dark well of past miseries for clues about my unsteadiness in the present. There was so much misery. My ego was a tiny raft that floated on a sea of poisonous messages that nearly drowned me before I was wise enough to realize how damaged and wicked the messengers were. I have boundary issues because I was taught that I had no boundaries. They proved it to me. People hurt me, touched me, slapped me, shamed me and my response was always the same: asking myself what I did to deserve it and then isolating myself further, trusting myself less.
That was then, this is now, my therapist says. I’m giving birth to a brand new me. I’m going to triumph over my past struggles. I’m going to sit right down and write myself a letter whenever I feel jammed up. I’m going to sit down, as Kendrick Lamar reminds me, and be humble. Be humble and accept I don’t have to change anyone but me. I ran through my therapist’s “homework” suggestion for this week: no violent fantasies, no violent fantasies, no violent fantasies. Violent fantasies make us sick, she insists. Still…
My friend Trina arrived.
“What are you doing, sunshine? The doors open at 6. Why you sitting out here by the pool with curlers in your hair?”
“I’m in a funk. I got a text from Jon.”
“Knocked me off balance.”
“Don’t be pathetic. Thought you were done with that fool.”
“So did I.”
“You’re better than that. Remember I told you I want you to take me to a Tarot card reader for my birthday?”
“Thought you wanted that expensive skin cream?”
“Yeah, that too. But, no, sit back down a minute. Now all I want is for you to block that loser. Delete his contact info and permanently block him. Think they charge you $15. That’s my birthday present this year. Ditch that emotionally crippled permanent adolescent once and for all.”
“Done. Happy birthday… Why do I get like this?”
“Ever hear that song about the frog who sometimes dreams he’s a king? You’re a queen who sometimes dreams she’s a frog. Know your worth. Who else is beautiful in curlers? Just you. Let’s go get ready…”