I have a sentence stuck in my head. Like a pop song you hear in a gas station late at night, not realizing you've heard it and then unable to get it out of your head. I am not her anymore, is the sentence that's been singing in my head. I am not her anymore. The only response I can manage when people are perplexed by my apprehension for returning to Los Angeles. "Why don't you want to go back to LA? LA is so lovely." And she is lovely, so lovely. But a return to LA feels like a backwards step in the midst of a passionate moving forward. I feel a momentum that has been building in me. A self-propelling trajectory towards space unknown but worth exploring. LA is something I know. I'm not ready to surrender the freedom of my unknowing. And while LA is full of so many things that I love, and so many things that I have loved, I am not her anymore.
And who was she? And who is the me that is no longer her? She ordered her entire world around a reality that no longer exists. A love that was once one thing and now is something else. Love transformed. I am still learning what it means. He is not "mine" anymore. And I am not his. He. Me. No longer we. He is still sleeping in the bed we bought together. But we have surrendered the label implying oneness. The flawed math equation we've all been shown in all the books and movies: 1+1=1. While they taught us so young that 1+1=2. The earliest of lessons. The simplest of facts. And so begins the grand struggle. The confusing contradiction. I am learning to rectify the discrepancy of what I think I want and what actually feels good having. I want union, but not at the expense of my liberty. I want romance, but I don't want to be locked in a tower until it comes.
With work, and patience, and forgiveness, the union I once shared with him has now grown into a beautiful friendship. There is still tremendous love and a deep sense of caring. But partnership and all its bonds, its obligations, all its hopes and plans and expectations, those are gone. I am not her anymore. She expected so many things. She hoped for so much. She was always painfully disappointed. He always felt he was falling short. An agonizing push and pull. Never enough rest. Never enough letting go. Always fighting to find a way to make 1+1=1, when I knew the truth. I don't want to be anything but me until I can figure out how to hold enough space for her in a we. And I don't want to make anyone feel small in the shadow of my great expectations. And I don't want to abandon the expectations I have for myself in helping someone else achieve their own.
So here I am, living with this eternal math problem to solve: 1=1, when sometimes it can feel like 1=0. I like this homework I have given myself. I like being here. I am exactly where I want to be. I couldn't be there, being her anymore. She had lost too much of herself. So here I am, exploring, discovering, finding. getting rid of the things that no longer serve me. Delighting in the rediscovery of things cherished but abandoned. Realizing some hard truths, and celebrating some really lovely ones as well. Trying to be someone I'd want to be with, whether or not that person comes.
Through this process, I have been "putting myself out there". And over the past few months I have managed to feel things for a few he's not hims. New boys and men to fall for and watch myself in that falling. Watching the terror spread across my face. Watching me frantically search for the rip cord only to realize I'm completely naked.
I am afraid of being hurt, because I am still hurting.
My fear is scary, and quite frankly, not very attractive. And so they walk (or run) away, while I sit with that familiar feeling. A reminder of a wound I am always healing. After falling for one of them, he sat down with me on a park bench and told me I was "too hectic", "too dramatic", and that what I needed to do was "chill" or no dude would be able to stand me. He didn't know the hurt of his careless words. Or maybe he did. Something strangers sometimes fail to remember when they meet you is that you've lived your whole life up to that moment without knowing they exist. All the you before them. And they are just learning the you of this moment. A sound bite from the symphony of your years. How can we possibly know all the life lived? The loves. The loss. The ancient wounds and forever hopes. All the effort. All the bravery. All the shame. How can we really understand how hard someone is trying? I am trying so hard to tend to this tender heart.
Lately I have been having strange chest pains. The kind that in my more vulnerable moments I worry is a definite sign of a heart condition and impending death. A solitary death in a foreign bed. Yes, I can be dramatic. Being alive and not knowing when you won't be anymore is the most dramatic thing I can possibly imagine. Excuse me for happening to live in a state where I am choosing to acknowledge that existential tension. I let that boy on the bench make me feel silly for the intensity of my feelings. Apparently that's what I wanted, what I needed. I agreed to meet him in his "break-up park". And yes, I walked away feeling like a dummy. But, with a few days, a lot of meditation, and good talks with wise friends, I was able to return to my truth: that he doesn't know me. He only knows how it made him feel to try and know me. I don't need to give myself up to someone else's lack of understanding. And maybe I was just the mirror that showed him his own hectic heart. Easier to point fingers than to sit with yourself.
And that's what all of this is, what it's always been, and what I hope it will always be—just learning the truth of our hearts through loving. Trying to love. Failing to love. Going on awkward dates. Having unexpected weekend flings. Going out hoping and meeting no one. Finding the love of a lifetime. All this opening and closing and opening again. Swapping fluids and shedding tears. Watching yourself fall and fail and lose and find. Finding yourself always on the other end of whatever journey you gather the courage to take. Finding yourself and falling in love. Leaving space. Letting 1+1=2.
When I land in Los Angeles in a couple of days, after hectically hurtling through space at hundreds of miles per hour, I will land to feel the chill of standing still. Even if only while I wait for my luggage. And then I'll walk out of LAX and get in a car that will merge onto the 105 East to the 110 North. And traffic allowing, I'll be flying along the freeway, looking at this lovely city that has been my home for so long, and that now, may just be a place I am visiting on my way to finding the me that is no longer she.