I wanted to talk about this down the line. When it was neat and tidy. A story of where I used to be and how I made it through as opposed to a story of where I am and how I struggle. But the point here is to be real. The point is to encourage you to be able to talk about your dark parts so you can bring them to the light. The point is to encourage everyone to talk about our collective dark parts. So we stop putting on a fucking show. So we stop feeling alone and different and less and afraid. To tear down the picture-perfect-social media façade so we have an equal playing field and stop competing with each other with things none of us actually has anyway.
We have a tendency to talk about things once they are pretty or at least prettier. But for us to all heal, for us to address the things that are true to us, the things that make us human and unique and special, we need to be able to talk about them as they are. Not as we wished they were.
So here is a whole lot of shit about the thing that feels the least pretty in my life: my relationships with men.
Unpolished. Unabridged. A story that continues to evolve and unfold as I continue to evolve and unfold. It's rambling and long and I don't know how it will end or if there will be a lesson. But I'm almost certain it will make someone feel less alone.
It's that time of year again. The time of year where I think I see my ex-boyfriend - the short dark-haired Jewish-Italian one that blew a hole in my heart big enough to require a nightly bottle of wine to fill it - everywhere. It happened last year, too. And the year before that. Exactly at this time. It's not because I still love him or am in love with him. He's married now, it's been years, other romances have passed in between. But there he is. In Peets. On the bus. In the grocery store. In LA. In San Francisco. Once in San Mateo, too. One thousand doppelgangers that upon closer inspection distantly resemble him, but surely are him on the first take. When it happens there's no feeling there at all. It's more like seeing a ghost that you're used to seeing. One that no longer surprises you or stirs anything. "Ohh, you again." Tonight a friend said "sometimes your subconscious just works overtime. Do you really need an explanation?" Yes. I do. Because for me, there are no mistakes and EVERYTHING is a lesson. It's not about him. But it certainly is something about me. His father and my grandfather died this time of year, right before the relationship died. I sometimes think it is one of them reminding me of something that I can't quite remember.
The last serious relationship I was in ended some months after it began, but then trailed on for years in the form of an every-other-month hook-up. I loved him. Was deeply in love with him. He was as big as me and we were powerful in the same places and weak in the same places and we would slay each other with words and hate and minutes later tumble into laughter. Or not. He was better at the slaying, my heart too close to the surface, too exposed, to escape. He could send me into a weeklong depression in a matter of minutes. We were incredibly fucked up but it was the kind of fucked up that made sense to me. He made sense to me. He still makes sense to me. The last time we had sex was the last night I ever drank. I slipped away that morning, charging towards a new life. I was so sick of men and the confusion that surrounded them and my PATHETICISM (I don't care if it's a word or not) in their presence. Andy Warhol said "I am always running into strong women who are looking for weak men to dominate them," and I'm certain he wrote that about me. "Here, take this power, it's too much for me to handle. Also, save me. Okay?" I knew that morning I needed to take him and the rest of the men out of the equation. I knew I needed to walk this path alone. I knew that I could only pay attention to one person. I knew they would fuck it up for me.
I didn't date for the first year of my sobriety. I didn't have sex, I didn't even kiss a man, nor did I fantasize a man or love or anything of that nature. I "fell in love" with my best guy friend in July. But that was level-confusion and I've edited it out of my past. There was something simplistic and clean and beautiful of this time without men. This Year of Holly. Men just fell off. And they weren't missed. I was all consumed in falling in love with me. I recently read this article a friend passed me and it made me feel like I had made a really good decision.
In March of this year, I began a seedy affair with a stranger. I found him, and made sure he found me, and we have danced this charming, mysterious, sexually-charged, all-consuming, severely toxic dance ever since. As I was separating myself from the company I had helped build and the job that had defined the exact first half of my 30s, he came in like a big shot of morphine, spinning my world upside down and inside out so that I couldn't/didn't quite notice the pain of loss that accompanies such transitional events. Not more than 48 hours into our courtship, I told him that I had him figured out, told him that I was unavailable, told him that we'd never date. I tried to take it back so many times thereafter. But these things can't be taken back, plus, the me at 48 hours in - however immaturely she communicated it - was right. Since those first 48 hours, we've texted or emailed approximately five trillion characters, exchanged approximately one hundred dirty pictures, and engaged in approximately fifteen hours of life-ruining sex.
To say we are dysfunctional is to say that Hitler was kind of bad. We are fucked. The things I have said to this man, the things he has said to me, the indifference for one another's feelings and life and boundaries and hearts - is shocking. Is devastating. We are cruel. What is even more confounding? The most toxic relationship of my life is happening NOW. Now being the only part in my history where I feel whole and where I have a sense of self love and purpose. This time in my life where I finally understand why nuns become nuns and what it means to live for God. The only part in my 35 year history where I'm - to a great extent - at peace. But he's my only remaining drama, and he's my last vice. The vestige of a life that once revolved around cigarettes and alcohol and bars and debauchery. He tastes like cigarettes and alcohol and bars and debauchery. My last addiction. Debatably as - if not more - unhealthy than the chemical ones.
I used to be that girl that wanted only to be married and have children. I wanted five of them, in fact. A rich husband. Five kids. I was sure this was my trajectory. When the Jewish-Italian opted out of our relationship, I opted out of the married with kids dream. I opted for the career dream. When I stopped drinking, I opted for the yogi-health dream. And when I quit my job to start Hip Sobriety, I opted for the Martin Luther King, Jr. dream. Social justice only, thank you. But the big sexy bearded man, the new lease on life, and the copious amounts of yoga broke my heart open. Broke it all the way back to 1985, a big, soft, naive, open ball of love. Sometime around July, I found myself about every 28 days falling on the ground in sobs, asking God why he gave me such a big heart and no one to share it with.
A few months ago, as I cycled through this Charlotte-esque shit show like clockwork, I found myself in conversation with one of my coaches. "Where IS HE ?! I'm so tired of waiting. I'm so fucking tired of being alone. I want him now." She measured her response. "You're still figuring out who you are. You still don't see the magnificent Holly that you ARE. She's in there, but she's buried. And if you go out now and find a man for this incarnation of yourself…you're going to call in a man you'll inevitably outgrow. Wait until you know who you are. Wait until you know what you want. Otherwise, you're cheating you. And him."
So I waited. For four months. And then a month ago, I decided I was ready. I put myself up on the internets, and a flood of men came crashing in. All of them wrong. All of them the kind of men that are perfect for women who want to be taken care of and receive a lot of text messages. This gave me a panic attack last week. Zoe was right. I'm still growing. And until I step into my big girl shoes, until I am the kind of girl I want my future partner to be attracted to, I am NOT ready to date.
I see this as progress. 9 months ago, I attracted an emotionally unbalanced man that sent me a lot pictures of his dick. And now I'm attracting the kind of guys who cook me food and want to bring me soup. The kind that pay too much attention to me. And when I'm moved through this still raw state, when I have done the work in the area of man relationships that I have done throughout the rest of my being, when it doesn't distract from the work that I so desperately care to do in this world above all else, when I want it not to complete me but rather to elevate me, THEN. Then I will be ready.
Until then, I'm extending the Year of Holly indefinitely. My dream is still my Martin Luther King, Jr. dream. And that big heart that God gave me? It's for me and the world. He'll just have to wait.