Hello, Past. You’re Looking Well.

One of the most incredible things about the journey of life is how often it takes you full circle.

I mean, we’ve all been there: running into the past in some form is not highly uncommon. On the contrary. It happens pretty damn often.

Well, today was one such occasion. I’ll say I ‘ran’ into the chap that I was dating a few months back, but really, it was no surprise. We had been in touch; I knew he was going to be where I was going to be; and, though this would be the first time we saw each other since our mutual break-up, I knew that we are both secure enough in ourselves to make, at the very least, cordial conversation.

There’s a twist in the story, though. It wasn’t like I was visiting our old stomping grounds while out with some friends. No. Rather, I was going to be with my son; the very same little human that was never introduced during our dating relationship. After everything was said and done, he was finally going to meet my son. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “Fancy that.” Ironic? Maybe a little. And I had no idea what to expect.

Arguably, the best part of life is the surprises it presents you with. My confrontation with the recent past was better than I could have ever anticipated. It was comfortable, familiar, and not one bit awkward. In fact, I even remember thinking that he looked really good. Why shouldn’t he? He’s still the same person, in many ways, that I was attracted to when it all first began. The coolest part, though, is that he is the first man of my past with which I feel comfortable sustaining contact or a friendship. While we were talking, I realized that, when I told him I was happy for him, I legitimately was. And when he mentioned that we should catch up over food, I was actually ready and willing. Not because I was looking for something that may or may not still be there. Not at all. We know we aren’t it. But, he’s still someone that brings a certain element of joy to our interactions, and why not invest in people who have that ability?

The same goes for a girl friend I knew in high school. We lost touch thereafter, and during a dark part of my life, I wrote her off and figured I would never hear from her again. But, during a time of transition, I wagered my odds and reached out to her. My God, am I glad that I did! Not only did I find out we were in similar situations at the time, but I also realized that she was both the same awesome girl I had known as well as being someone older and wiser and a hell of a lot of fun. Without taking the risk and seeing her, though, I would’ve never known that. Now, here we are going on a girls weekend tomorrow. And I couldn’t be more grateful to have her friendship.

So, I dunno, chaps. Sometimes the past should stay the hell where it is. And sometimes it should come around for another round of hellos. I never know who has what to offer until I confront the person, I guess. But I do believe that taking the chance is worth it every time. At least I will know what is on offer, one way or the other. And, more often than not, I am moved by the power of fate, destiny if you will, bringing people back as permanent, or even temporary, fixtures in my life. The fact is that every person I meet is very much a part of getting me where I am going. And these meetings, my dears, are an incredibly powerful happening, indeed.

 

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Business Finished: Part II

It began when I stopped answering his messages, stopped calling him back when I saw he had phoned. It wasn’t that he didn’t bring color to my life in a way that I certainly enjoyed and maybe even needed; it wasn’t that at all. In fact, for the longest time, I didn’t know what it was. I was joyful to see him, and I missed him when I was away. Actually, there was not a negative thing to name in our relationship. It was a beautiful, gracious, and jovial connection; and it was more than love really. It was likely once in a lifetime. And I knew if it ever ended, it would destroy everything I had. It would shatter me. I would be nothing. And right now, I was everything. While the stone in me continued to roll along, and I went about my writing just as I always had, sometimes he accompanied me, others not. He had his own work, after all, and he was bloody brilliant in it and for it.
I came to the conclusion that, as heartbreaking as it would be, I would need to walk away on my own terms; tell him goodbye before anything had the chance to start slowly dismantling, decaying, turning to rubbish before my eyes. I just wouldn’t be able to stand it, should it come to that. 
At this point, I had given him another year of my life. A year, for me, was a partial eternity. Finally, to reach a point of clarity, I booked myself a trip to Athens, and had cried myself swollen among the ruins. I sat in a place where no bumbling tourist would ever stumble into the mess that I was, but from where I sat, I had the most heartbreaking view of what I thought could become of my life if I kept things as they were: ruins of a civilization that had once been the most functional and mighty in the world. 

After hours of sobbing, sniffling, and overall abuse and soul-scourging, I had emptied myself of all water within my body, and had replenished myself with ouzo and various other strong local drinks. I therefore spent many hours within the peace of a black-out, lived off of ibuprofen, and flew back to Berlin several days later. 
Three worse for the gin, which I had drunk at a bar close to our place, I clambered into the apartment and had practically fallen into Marius like a boulder plowing its way down a steep slope. 

“I’m sorry,” I had said. “I’m just so fucking sorry.” 

I looked into his eyes, hoping he would grasp my meaning. He just smiled and kissed my forehead, complementing me on my deepened skin tone and remarking how glad he was to have me home. 

“Marius.” I was shaking my head. 

There was an unnatural rushing in my ears. 

He stopped. The world stopped. My heart stopped. 

And I don’t think it began again until I had closed the door behind me one final time, hailed a cab from the main street behind the apartment, and boarded the plane to London. Then it began again, excrutiatingly slowly, but there it was. 
To sever the connection of two souls is more than science can ever explain. Its more than open-heart surgery, more than pulling the plug on a life-support machine, and more than having your worst nightmare realized. It feels like all of that, but is really so much more. The finality of the good-bye is a razor sharp blazing knife ripping through the flesh. Its the stolen breath that refuses to return for what seems like hours. Its the rain that drowns you when the tears refuse to come. Its the emptiness that will never be filled. 

It is all that I am. 
He cried before my eyes, asking me why, demanding answers that my thick and slow tongue couldn’t produce. “You’re not even giving it a chance Mira,” he had repeated over and over again. “I just don’t understand. We’re so much more than you’re letting us be.” He was right of course. How could I ever tell him that though? How could I tell him that I would rather sacrifice a part of my soul then risk its utter destruction? In a thousand and one ways, I was a coward. 

A bloody fucking coward. 
He became angry and stood up, wiping his face and nose. “That’s why you haven’t been, I don’t know, writing me when you’re away, or calling me. That’s why you’ve been absent. You were planning this; you just hadn’t found it pertinent to let me in on it.” 

I said nothing. In a way, he was right again. 

“You’ve been it Mira. For the last long bit of time in my life, it was you. Even when I didn’t even fucking realize it. I’ve been wanting nothing more for so many years. And there you were one day. And now, you can’t fucking risk it anymore?” He was shaking his head and covering his face with his hands. 

“Holy Christ,” he whispered. He was breathing audibly, looking out through the wall of windows where, outside, the sunshine mocked me. 
 An ambulance rolled by on the main street. The door downstairs slammed shut. Dust fell and was heard by no one. 
A strange parallel sense of calm settled over the room as he turned back to face me. “I won’t try to change your mind. That would not be right. And frankly, I never want to have to convince you to be with me. Your choice is your own, and I want no part in it.” He paused for what seemed like hours. “I just wish I could understand. I’d give anything to have a glimpse into that mind of yours. You kill me Mira. Truly, you kill me.” 
Leaving the truth of his words to hang in the air and finally reach me, he went into the kitchen. He came back with a generous glass of clear liquid, a solitary ice cube bobbing on the surface. “It will be my curse to love you for the rest of my natural life. But someday, I will find peace from it.” He paused. “I think,” he paused again and looked into his glass, “I think I can handle your honesty, and I’ll be a better person for it. Somehow. Someday. But, God and Jesus in Heaven, this hurts. It fucking kills.” He shook his head once, and sighed. Then, very gently, he set the glass onto the counter and took deliberate steps towards me until we were an intimate distance apart. He was looking at the floor. “I’ll miss you. And your perfect friendship. And I’ll only ever want happiness for you.” He leaned in and kissed my cheek so very gently. I think I could’ve died on the spot, if it wasn’t for my unnatural willpower to stay on my feet. Then, he laid his hand gently on my cheek and smiled smally, blue eyes melting into mine. 

“Goodbye Mira.” 
By the time I came to myself, the glass had disappeared from the counter, there was a small ‘click’ from somewhere behind me, and he was gone. Forever and a day, he was gone. 
As is known in psychology when one is in shock, I went through the next few hours in a mechanical state, packing my things, addressing boxes, and loading my suitcases. My mind told me I was leaving a hotel after a trip had come to an end. 

What a metaphor; this trip spanning over a decade was now over. What would come of my life now that this chapter had ended, this presence had left me? I zipped the bag shut. I helped myself to a glass of vodka and was still drinking industriously when the shipping service had come to collect my things. I practically had to close one eye to see the line for my signature on the receipt. 
It took me days to recover, weeks really. I had known that he would likely never in this lifetime want another thing to do with me after all of this, but I hadn’t been able to calculate the damage that it would inflict upon me after it had come to pass. I was having a monster of a time coping. And that’s an understatement. 
“I’ve been in London for three weeks, Mum. I’ve been….out. With people I haven’t seen in years, drinking, dancing, smoking. Trying to forget my fucking miserable life for a just one moment. I’ve been staying with friends, couch surfing, getting a hotel room, whatever I can to avoid being alone in my flat. I can’t do it; I can’t face it yet. I’ve completely obliterated my sense of peace. And I’ve lost someone who was worth more than his weight in gold to me. I highly doubt I will find anyone who understands me like he does. Did. Oh God.” She put her head in her hands. I thought she might cry, but instead, she looked up at me with zombie eyes. “I look like walking hell because I haven’t slept in weeks. I haven’t written anything at all. I tried yesterday, and it was absolutely the most miserable writing anyone could have ever produced. Like in the history of writing, though.” She swallowed and shook her head. “I don’t even feel like a person anymore. I feel—“ She breathed out her nose. “I feel horrible. I feel like I betrayed him. I did betray him. I treated him in a way that he never ever deserved. He was always honest with me; always kind, always an ear for me to speak into. I was such an arse.” 

She was so full of her own misery, I didn’t feel compelled to inject any more. 

“I mean, I think I’ll come back from it. God, I can only hope. But I know for a fact that there will come many a day where I’ll want to speak with him, to share with him like we always did. I’ll want to see his smile, and never will be able to.” 

There was the shimmer of tears in her eyes now. 

“He was so clear about his wish for things. He gave me his final goodbye. And he’ll move on. I know he will. He’s such a brilliant human being. My favorite person to ever exist.”

 The tears fell now, landing thick and heavy against the light color of her jeans. 

“God, he will move on, and he’ll find peace. I hope I am able to do the same.” She looked down, and the tears fell freely. I reached out a hand and clasped hers. 

“Mira, you’re a writer. And a brilliant one at that. If nothing else, at some point you’ll find catharsis through that.”

And, against my nature, I stood up, straightened my trousers, and walked to the cabinet. Pulling out the bottle of bourbon and two glasses, I settled back in to have a drink with my daughter; my complicated, beautiful, sometimes idiotic and entirely nonsensical, artistic free-spirit of a daughter. 

Business Finished: Part 1

                                                                     Business Finished
“Do you happen to have anything a bit stronger Mum?” She made a face at the cup of tea I had placed before her. 

“Darling, it’s barely the afternoon. My tea is very strong. Drink it. You’ll feel much better,” I replied, settling into the chair across from hers. 

She was staring out the window, watching the rain fall. The lamps were lit, though the grey of the day did its best to snuff out the glow of the bulbs. 

“So, why are you here?” I asked, sipping my tea tentatively. 

She just looked at me, blinking. 

I waited. 

She rolled her eyes. “I dunno, Mum. Cause I’m back in London, and I thought you’d like a chat,” she finally replied a bit saltily. 

“I’m aware that you’re back in London. I signed for the packages that arrived at your flat. I do believe I asked you why, and not if you’re here.” I leaned back in my chair and crossed my ankles. 

She was flustered, appearing to me as if she would cry at any moment. And she said nothing. 

“I don’t understand you Mira,” I said finally. 

She squeezed her eyes shut and breathed out. “Mum, I don’t mean to rude, but I may need to go out for a pack of fags if you don’t stop grilling me.” 

“That would be a poor life choice, darling,” I remarked, raising an eyebrow. 

She shook her head and looked away. 

I leaned forward. “You said you’re here for a chat.” 

Her head snapped back toward me and she was glaring. “I did say that. A chat—not a bloody browbeating.” 

“My dear, I just don’t understand what in Heaven or on Earth would have moved you to leave Berlin. You gave no notice that there was trouble with Marius. In fact, you gave no notice at all that you were coming to London. I spoke with you on the phone not more than five days ago. Forgive me, but I’m absolutely confused by your presence here.” 

She sighed and reached for her cup of tea. “I know you have whiskey in the cabinet,” she muttered. 

“If that will help you, then by all means.” I gestured to the sideboard where the liquor was stored. Immeadiatly, she sprang to her feet and began to rummage, bottles clinking together as she searched for her poison of choice. Uncorking the bottle of bourbon, she dumped a heavy tot into her cup, the contents sloshing over the sides and down onto the saucer. I breathed deeply and said nothing. 

“I’m still going for fags later,” she said after she had re-stowed the bottle and taken her place on the chair again. “That’s much better,” she added, taking an unladylike slurp of her concoction. 

“Oh for Christ’s sake Mira,” I said, a bit incredulous at this point. “Pull yourself together and come off it.” I was already tired of the nonsense. “I take it you’ve made a monstrous mistake.” It was speculation, but I was nearly completely certain it was the truth— even if she wasn’t. 

“You don’t know that,” she replied quietly. 

“Quite right I do. You love Marius. You’ve reconnected after all these years. You were meant to. And yet, here you sit, swigging spiked tea and banging on about having a smoke.” I lifted a shoulder, daring her to contradict me. 

She didn’t. She stayed quiet, as did I, and we drank our tea. 

“I couldn’t take the chance on him, Mum. Not again,” she finally said. 

“Now what, should I suppose, is that meant to mean?” I asked. 

She leaned forward. “Look, if I tell you everything, will you reserve your judgement til I’ve had about six more of these?” she asked impatiently.

“I’d appreciate the honesty, yes.” 

And so it began. 

The Passage of Time

It is perpetually remarkable to me how the passage of time knows no slowness; yesterday, there was snow on the ground, and many of us were wishing for a new beginning and a better year in 2017. Today, it is summertime in the Windy City, and half of 2017 has run its course. And I sit here and think, “Well, that went fast.”

In another life, perhaps, I would be on the tail-end of my Euro-Excursion; the three week trip I planned last December that would’ve started me in Berlin to visit good friends, seen me through a solo trip to Scotland, and ended in Greece, basking or burning on the shores of the Aegean in the company of a dear friend. Thanks to my new job, the trip was not one I could take, but I can’t find any remorse because I am incredibly happy and grateful to be where I am. I know that, in the big picture, there will be other opportunities for travel. Right now, though, I have to take advantage of other opportunities as they present themselves.

This weekend, for example, has been one of a lot of light and a lot of love. Friday evening was the finale to a year of mentoring an incredible young woman from Lebanon. I took her to a sushi dinner, we went shopping, and ended the evening with a pile of custard to eat. What is most remarkable about my time with her is that, though she is sixteen years old, she has the wisdom and grace that most adults strive to find. I am continually astounded by her astute remarks and beliefs about life. In fact, if I were ever to have a daughter, I would hope that she would turn out to be like this girl: a beautiful and enlightened, intuitive and gracious student of the world. It moved me deep within when she expressed how much I had helped her during her year on exchange, and that my advice had had the power to tweak her perspective. All I could ever desire is having the ability to reach someone with my words. And, apparently, I had done just that. Wow, such an honor. What she maybe didn’t realize, though, was how much she had helped me during the last year. It was symbiotic really; I mentored her, and she most certainly did the same for me. And I cannot thank the universe enough for sending her into my life. I will miss her physical presence terribly, but I am tremendously grateful to have had the time to share with her and look forward to staying connected in the future.

As I went into Saturday, I was rather wary and unsure about where the day would take  me. I was jointly attending my son’s preschool picnic with my ex, and time with him is truthfully never an occasion I look very much forward to. However, I was determined to spend as much time as possible getting to know the other parents and building new relationships with like-minded people. Et viola, that is exactly what I did. Though he was present and part of some of the conversations, I focused my energy on putting my best face forward, fully embracing the moments in which I could potentially make a new friend, or learn something from the other parents. It went better than I ever could have expected, and I walked away from the gathering with a sense of hope and gratitude for the exchanges that I had been able to be a part of.

Thirty minutes later, I was parallel parking in front of a cute building on a quiet street in Pilsen, Chicago. One of my best friends had recently moved into an apartment there, and I was going to see it for the first time. As the breeze sailed in through the windows of her charming and spacious apartment, we sat on the couch and talked about life and all its facets, while sipping a cold beer. I mean, honestly, does it get any better than that? An Uber ride later and we were on the North Side, pushing through the garden gate of a friend of hers to drink more beer and socialize while the sounds and smells of Division Fest provided entertainment on the other side of the fence. For the second time that day, I felt extremely welcome by the other attendees, and I was able to meet a lot of really awesome people. The motif of the day, I realized, was that meeting new people and having meaningful exchanges bring incredible value to a day, hour, or moment.

As we walked through the festival, hanging on to each other so we wouldn’t be swallowed and separated by the crowd, I found myself smiling at strangers and they smiled in return. I noticed in detail the smells from the food vendors, and picked up on tidbits of conversation as we passed by other groups of festival-goers. It was incredible to be so present in the moment.

While in the line for Döner Kebap and curry fries (where I also found Club Mate!), we mused about the quandaries presented when dating a total stranger. It was a group conversation of both men and women, and it was as funny as it was informative to trade ideas and stories about such things with others who were seeking the same things as we were: namely, food, companionship, a laugh, advice, and connection with other humans.

Back at hers, after the sun had set, we sat on the back deck and drank red wine mixed with soda. The antennae of the Willis Tower glowed in the near distance, and we continued our more private conversations from earlier in the day. It was still remarkably perfect weather, and we were able to lose track of time as we laughed, conversed, and listened to music. Though it was late and I had been up early, the powerful feeling of rejuvenation prevailed, eliminating the feeling of exhaustion that seems to be present quite often on weeknights.

Times like these show me how incredibly fortunate I am. I am very much aware that my life is nowhere near perfect, and there are many instances that cause me stress overload where I need to remind myself to take a few deep breaths in order to save the situation. However, there are also so many beautiful moments that are so full of happiness and light, that hanging on to the energy from these is powerful enough to keep me afloat during the times when I feel like the dark rabbit hole is threatening to pull me back in. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to maintain a healthy mind, other times, letting go and being effortless is all I need to do.

As time goes on, though, I make a habit of reminding myself that there are so many reasons to be happy. Even if a day sees plenty of blockers, there is at least one moment that can be flooded with happiness or gratitude. And that one, single, solitary, moment makes all the difference.

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