Saturday, February 14, 2015

A day for old news

Jackie / Flickr
Happy Valentine's Day.

If you're looking for a little humor and fun, read my "The ghosts of Valentine's past" post from 2012.

If you'd rather experience the revelation I had on this Valentine's Day (2015), stay tuned. You're in for a treat.

I have spent the last few years of my life making terrible choice after terrible choice, and it took a long time and a great deal of sadness to realize it. I dated the wrong people, I got caught up in relationships that meant little to me, I had trouble letting go. My heart dictated my actions, rather than my head. And as we know, the heart doesn't always have the firmest grasp of reality.

Today, I had the uniquely painful pleasure of encountering a photo that served as a blast from the past, despite being decidedly present. It was like a simultaneous blow to the gut and a punch in the old cranium. You may have guessed it, I saw a picture of my ex with his new girlfriend.

This ex is old news. He broke up with me months ago and it was hard for about a minute. The mourning period was short, but the self-esteem loss was penetrating. As anyone who has been broken up with knows all too well, the feeling of rejection is more powerful than logic. For some reason, when you lose someone, your heart decides to care about that person more than you ever thought possible. Suddenly you think "maybe I did love him?", even though when you were together, he made you feel like poking your eyeballs out with an ice pick.

Too many times in my few years of being a dating-girl, I've found myself falling for the wrong people, losing them, and never feeling the relief that I know I should. The loss of a significant other should be grieved, but then it should transition into positivity, freedom, even excitement.

Instead of embracing the promise of new opportunities, I've looked to the past as a shelter. I hid myself in memories and burrowed so deep into my cave of past relationships that I stopped seeing my follow-up relationships for what they were, good or bad.

When I found myself dating someone new, the relationship became clouded by previous experiences. Nothing measured up, nothing was satisfactory. My heart was always looking backwards.

Some of my longest relationships have been with people I didn't actually care very much about. While I hoped to eventually feel a burning passion for them, it simply wasn't there from the start. Jaded by previous breakups, I saw new relationships as numbing agents.

While a relationship should be a stimulant, they were suppressants.

This Valentine's Day is the first in a while that I've been fully single. Last year, I was seeing someone (sort of). The year before, I'd been broken up with a week and a half before the holiday and was deep into my mourning period. In 2012, the wounds were still fresh from another breakup. This year, I finally realize that being alone is better than being with someone who may not be the right person anyway.

The number one rule in dating should be to save your love and enthusiasm for the right people. I want to build up my love until it bursts from my heart and allows me to fully engulf the person on the receiving end of it. Why bother with someone who can only make me feel so-so, when I know I have the capacity to feel so much more?

To my mind, Valentine's Day is really about being with the people who accept you and believe in you unconditionally. The exes of my past did not offer me that, so who cares? They're old news.

Yet by being careful and pursuing quality, I'm promising myself to have only good news to tell next Valentine's Day, and every Valentine's Day after that.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Saving you

Seven years ago, I got a phone call from my mom. I missed it. It went to voicemail.

When I listened to it, she was asking to see me. There was sadness in her voice. She was lonely. We'd been apart for a long time. She had a stroke a few years earlier and could no longer take care of me. Our time together went from daily to weekly at most. 

She left me that voicemail, and the next day she died.

It stayed in my phone for a long time. I never deleted it. Eventually the phone stopped working and all of its content, including the message, was lost. The last time I'd ever hear the voice of my mother during her lifetime, disappeared into the void of a dead Sidekick.

Recently, I was listening to the NPR TED Radio Hour podcast, an episode called Keeping Secrets. In the first segment of the episode, Frank Warren spoke about his project PostSecret, an online community where people send their secrets written on artful postcards to Warren who then curates and publishes contributions to the website. During his TED Talks, Warren read the following secret:

"When people I love leave voicemails on my phone, I always save them in case they die tomorrow and I have no other way of hearing their voice ever again." (Frank Warren / PostSecret)

As I listened to this secret read aloud, I discovered something about myself. I then began to melt into a pool of my own tears.

My mom's passing came so suddenly that her voicemail felt like a mummified version of her final moments. I kept it like a warm blanket on a cold day - a protectant from the terrible road ahead. If it stayed on the phone, it was like nothing had happened.

But as we all must do with most things, I had to let go of the message.

Then today, the thought of that voicemail hit me like a ton of bricks. Not just because I'd lost it, but because I realized that like the person who wrote the secret, and like many others, I never delete my voicemails.

And it's not because I'm lazy, or because there are important notices held within.

A few months ago I noticed my phone's voicemail was about to reach capacity. As I looked at the list of saved messages, I first deleted the ones that were from businesses. Then I removed the ones from distant acquaintances. But I couldn't convince myself to dispose of some and it occurred to me today just why that is.

Because I don't want to lose the voicemail sarcophagi of the people I love.

But by doing this, I have rendered myself unable to properly live in the present.

My present is like a ticking clock, swallowed up by the past and future. Each tick is a reminder that another second has passed and that less time remains.

I don't want to live this way, to base my happiness on the things I cannot change. But the fear of loss is so all-consuming, that saving everything is like a child's pacifier, a temporary fix.

In the years since my mom passed, I've been able to let go of the lost voicemail. I've found her in other places - home movies, old greeting cards, little trinkets she gave me. And rather than remind me of my loss, they remind me of her life.

So maybe these final voicemails aren't the right way to go about things. Though we may find solace in their keeping, the important memories are held in the moments we lived with our loved ones, not the moments we spent worrying about them and trying desperately to save them.

These days, I take a lot of videos and photos of my family. I look back regularly through my iPhone camera roll and enjoy the memories, even if they happened just days before.

There really is no time like the present to appreciate the people you have around you. And that method of saving is, in my opinion, very worth doing.