Monday, August 24, 2009

Spinster, Interrupted

Lately I’ve been feeling free of my usual cynicism and have been passing days, weeks even, in a content mood. This month actually marks the one-year anniversary of my “independence” as it was last August that I moved out of my ex-fiance’s house and spent my first night in the new apartment.

I’ll never forget the feelings I had when I stood atop the stairs before my new home, cradling a box filled with books, spatulas and picture frames in the crook of my arm while I fumbled with my keys to unlock the door for the first time. I entered my apartment and was greeted by a large glass bong on the kitchen counter that was left behind by the former tenants.

I immediately started sobbing.

The drug paraphernalia triggered the unease in my system that I had been trying desperately to bury with thoughts of my future and moving on. I’ve never been into drugs, and seeing this instrument in the first scene of my new life conjured up images of the ex-boyfriend I dated before I got engaged. Ours was an abusive, unhealthy relationship wherein marijuana frequently took center stage (he was the feature act, I was the audience) and I couldn’t help but wonder as I set down my things, “Will I once again be faced with a parade of losers and jerks as I trade in my engagement ring for the single life?” I suddenly felt like Sandra Dee in a Rizzo world. The promise of security and stability was gone, and in its place was this clear glass omen of disaster.

That would be the first of many times I would sob alone in my apartment. For a while it seemed to occur on a regular basis at least once a week. It didn’t help that my wedding dress was being stored in one of the closets, still untailored (and never tried on) zipped in its bag like a corpse in the darkness. A quick visit to the closet to retrieve a new Swiffer pad could easily end up causing that week’s meltdown.

But things got better over time. Six months went by and I had settled into my new digs and a routine that involved spending time with friends and having fun. I read books, I tried new recipes. I watched foreign films and ate hummus.

My family remained supportive, giving my personal life a sense of calm despite the rocky road I was traveling, and I was getting consistently good feedback at work. Things weren’t bad at all. Now a full year later, I really feel like I’ve come out of the rebound phase and am fully reclaiming the happy, positive me.

With so much of my self-identity tied up in triathlon and training, I started to slump back into a state of depression in the spring when I realized that getting over my broken engagement took its toll on my body. I wasn’t as fit as in years past and the “fun” part of my new lifestyle had me drinking and eating a bit more than usual. Despite the fact that I was performing in my races with about five extra pounds in tow, I ended up doing great in the events that mattered to me. Since my last race in July, I’ve ridden the high of my awesome finish right into August where more good things have started to happen.

Something cosmic seems to be taking place within me where finally everything is falling into place. My new relationship has been challenging me in healthy ways, causing me to let go of some of the anger and stress I’ve been carrying around, and breaking down walls between us that I don’t think I’ve ever been able to remove in relationships past.

My ex-fiance is also dating someone new and it seems that we’ve both managed to move past our own failed story into something that is better for us. I met her briefly while in Lake Placid to volunteer for Ironman this year, and for a split second I thought of how awkward it was to see him in that context.

Lake Placid is saturated with my hopes and dreams. Three years ago it was the place I slept alone in my car the night before I registered for my first Ironman, while my ex returned to Syracuse to work the next morning. Last year it was the place where I completed my first Ironman while at the same time my relationship was falling apart. This year it was the place I came with the new man in my life to sign up for Ironman next year. And now my ex-fiance who never had any interest in participating in an Ironman event ever before was there holding hands with a woman who looks as though she stepped out of an LL Bean catalog. The mental assessment occurred in less than a minute and was as refreshing as the first sip of a cold beer on a scorching day. It appeared we were both moving on and happy.

The tough thing about breaking up with someone you don’t hate in a small town is that you will likely run into them a lot when the relationship is over – this is even more true when you’re involved in something like triathlon which shrinks the community down to an even smaller size. To see my ex moving on with his life, and for him to see me moving on with mine felt healthy and provided a sort of closure that I needed to really pull away from that period of my life.

My job has continued to go well and I feel that I’m where I’m meant to be, despite the fact I never saw myself working in new business development for an advertising agency. We're moving into a brand new building in December that will be designed with all the contemporary flare you’d imagine an advertising agency to have – like the way they portray creative places to look in movies and TV shows. In my fantasy of the new office, I think of Amanda and Mark from Ugly Betty visiting my cube to scold me for my choice of shoes (likely the pink Crocs that nobody seems to enjoy but me).

I’ve been given a lot more responsibility and am excited to take on new challenges. And I feel that my personal relationship is giving me more responsibilities also. Being with someone that you are able to have an even exchange of emotion with causes you to be more accountable with each other. I know that in my new relationship my emotions will be taken seriously – and that means that I take his more seriously also. Emotions are no longer chalked up to “drama” and random fits of boredom, but are regarded as delicate conversations that should be paid attention to.

I’ve found myself growing stronger in my relationships with friends. When I started my new job two years ago, I was given a “buddy” to help me get acclimated to the organization. In our first meeting, I discovered she was a former beauty pageant queen, cheerleader and sorority girl. Those might be the top three types of women that I detest the most. My “buddy” is now one of my closest, most treasured friends. I’ve made many friends this year that live off the beaten path when it comes to what women our age “should” be doing at this point in our lives.
It’s like the show Lost – we were all on a plane minding our own business until it crashed and we’ve grown our own community with a lifestyle that we’re comfortable with, not be to sabotaged by the way “the others” live, who are content with suburbia environs, raising families and celebrating life as per societal norms.

With my new friends, I seldom have time to stop and think about the status of my life as a mom or a wife. It feels okay to nurture plants instead of children, to own an expensive bike rather than an expensive ring. To invest my time in making my spin class inspiring rather than matching table linens to floral arrangements at a wedding reception.

Part of my struggle in the past was trying to save relationships with people that I’ve grown apart from. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that failed friendships with some people are nobody’s fault. I don’t begrudge my married friends for starting families and enjoying the life we all thought we’d be living one day when we were in third grade. My path went in another direction from all of that and it’s hard to make plans and have conversations with someone that is never in sync with you. It’s especially hard when you realize that people won’t even try – I am the one that isn’t connecting the dots in the “when I grow up” playbook we all memorized in grade school, so it often feels like I am responsible for thinking of ways we can best relate to one another from our different lifestyles.

I’ve let it go.

It feels great to be realigned with people that I can identify with – both in person and in the blog world where I have connected with many fellow spinsters who chase the cursor across the screen with similar thoughts to my own. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who feels like giving our society a big middle finger for continuing to promote celebrations only for women who have married or are having children.

Sometimes I feel guilty maintaining a blog about being a spinster while I’ve begun to enjoy a more serious relationship that is helping to carry me further away from my anger and bitterness and back into a place where I am happy and feel whole.
But being a spinster, for me, was never about the act of being in a relationship or not. It’s about married versus unmarried, traditional versus unconventional. It’s about women following their hearts and passions into places that make sense to them rather than to society. It’s about celebrating successes and milestones in the context of every woman’s life – not just the ones who are becoming a “Mrs” or a mom.

One year ago I was all too aware of what a let-down I was to society. Barraged by the “you’re still young” comments and patted on the back with the “maybe next times,” and ignored by some of the people I thought I was close to as my “ almost married” life started to unravel.

Today my body aches from starting back up with strength training. It is the only pain I am aware of at the moment. There is a peace inside of me that has been absent for a long time.

My weekends are packed with plans to visit friends, see museums, try new restaurants and explore new places with my boyfriend. I don’t have to time worry about what I “should” be doing.

As days go by, my life continues to be full in so many ways and things aren’t as bad as they once seemed, and I’m not crazy because of how I choose to live my life. As for the namesake of this post, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

Was I ever crazy? Maybe. Or maybe life is... Crazy isn't being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It's you or me amplified.

-Girl, Interrupted

1 comment:

Clever Elsie said...

Terrific post! I'm happy to hear you're no longer haunted by the specter of that white dress in the closet and have moved on in your personal life, friendships, career, and hobbies.

I hope you'll keep blogging whether or not you're in a relationship. You seem to be one of those people who understands what it means to be an individual, with or without a partner, and that's a rare and special kind of awareness.