I’m trying to hold on to a new idea. A new behavior.
It’s like trying to hold on to lightning bugs.
It’s like riding a bike for the first time without training wheels and turning around to see if mom is still holding on.
I have a photograph of myself on a pink two-wheeler. I’m wearing a t-shirt that says A-Jerx. (There was a whole series of these – gum and trading cards too –a play on words of household brands with artwork leaning towards the grotesque.) My hair is in pig tails.
I remember leaning side to side, riding in an S-shape pattern trying to steely myself. Shaky. But most definitely upright.
Until I turn around. My mother is several feet behind me, standing in the driveway. She is no longer holding on. I am delighted. I am doing this thing.
And then I’m down on the ground. I don’t yet know how to keep my balance looking anywhere but forward. (Do I even now? In all things…not just biking.)
I feel like that now. Excited by self-awareness and the practice of new behaviors – seemingly without effort. And yet a little uncertain at the same time.
I spent the day with my friend Pam on Saturday. It began with gelato, moved into thrifting, dinner and ended with a stealth run to Trader Joes. All told we were together for probably six or so hours. And I could have kept going.
We never run out of things to talk about. And we giggle, constantly. When I am with her I feel like I am at a perpetual Bar Mitzvah party at Tam O’Shanter Country Club circa 1982.
Except for when we are baring our souls. Speaking the words we only whisper to ourselves in the dark. And being met with love and compassion, always.
I told her so on Saturday night when she was dropping me off.
We were giggling about the cute boy at Trader Joes. The one I chatted with for 20 minutes in front of the canned beans. The one I gave my number to a couple of weeks ago. Who sweetly explained that he hadn’t called because things were “complicated.”
While he and I were talking, she posted on Facebook that she was watching a “love connection.” So she was surprised that he didn’t ask me out. That we spoke for that long. That he seemed completely unaware that anyone else was in the store besides us. That the chemistry, to her perspective, was palpable. And yet, nothing.
She asked what I thought I might do about it.
“Nothing,” I replied.
He has my number. He knows I’m interested. And his landlord is a friend of mine. He knows where to find me. “It’s like you taught me,” I said. “I don’t ever again want to be a dog begging for a bone.”
It was, as they say, a moment. A spiritual awakening.
I also told her I decided to not contact an old flame when I head to Detroit later this month. He’d been dancing around in my head for weeks. And yet I hadn’t contacted him. Suddenly I knew why.
I “played the tape.” I realized that, best case scenario…even if I did see him,even if it was like it used to be, that I would be trading my serenity for a passport stamp at Crazy.
I had learned I’m not the kind of girl who can casually physically connect, then say, “That was fun. I’ll see you next time I’m in Detroit.” That I get attached. That I want more. Deserve more. That my life is here, in Chicago. Looking forward.
I told her, and here’s the kicker, I only want to date someone who I have as much fun with as I do her.
She smiled. I knew what she was thinking. What she has said to me so many times, “You are growing.”
I felt chuffed. That great British slang my ex-mother-in-law used to use, that roughly translates to “pleased with myself.” I felt like I had “licked this problem. This old way of being.”
And then this morning I felt differently.
I saw Mr. Detroit on Facebook. I immediately thought how nice it would be to catch up on nearly 20 years. Just coffee…riiiight.
GRRR!! I thought I “had it,” I told my friend, Lynn.
I told her how I felt like it slipped right through my fingers. Like the lightning bugs – which half the time I cannot even believe are real, they are so magical.
I remembered all the times I thought “I got this,” in Weight Watchers. And all the times I gained my weight back. And then some. I wondered what was different this time. How it was that I had maintained a 35-pound weight loss for 11-plus years. Through three cross-country moves, getting sober, finding my birthparents, getting divorced, and burying a birthparent.
The only answer I could come up with is that I just kept practicing the behaviors. When they were new. And when they weren’t so new. Even when I didn’t feel like it.
I kept weighing and measuring. Writing down my food. Moving my body. Making better choices. Most of the time. I haven’t been perfect. Thank goodness that wasn’t demanded of me.
It isn’t demanded of me with Mr. Detroit. Or Mr. Trader Joes either. I can, and will, have these thoughts…these suggested detours to Crazy. But I’m no longer a slave to them. I can notice them, perhaps name them, and…not react to them. I can do different. And keep on doing different until different becomes the new normal.
Until it’s like riding a bike. Which today I can do AND look over my shoulder. Even take my hands off the handlebars, and stay upright. No longer on the ground wondering what the hell happened.