the visit begins

I got up at an ungodly hour to get to the airport this morning.  It was worth it, however,  to get to Home State. 

It’s late, and I’m typing on a phone, so I’ll save the deep thoughts for another time. Suffice it to say the following:

I was a little nervous to see TA again. I got over it – insert sly grin – but there were a few stomach flip-flops when I got off the plane. He’s pretty easy to be with, however, so I enjoyed the few hours we had this afternoon.  

He dropped me off to meet some girlfriends on his way to get the kids. They were late – as always – but it was so good to see them once we settled in with our drinks and cheeseboard. Cool Friend joined us after work, so the fun was extended through dinner and beyond. Then CF and I headed back to her house for chocolate and catching up. Tomorrow we have most of the day together before an evening out with the men. 

This made me smile: A few hours after he dropped me off, TA texted to say it was killing him to know I was so close by and he wasn’t with me. You know, it’s really nice to be wanted. 

some sort of resolution 

I’m not going to claim that I always make the best choices when it comes to relationships.  So, I’ll agree with the sentiment that’s been offered by several people that I shouldn’t bother contacting TB again, that he’s wasted too many opportunities to deserve another one, that there’s no good outcome in inviting him to the concert at this point.

But I can’t quite do it.

I meant it when I said, some time ago, that TB is special.  He just is.  Even as clearly clueless as he is, I can’t find it in me to cut all ties and walk off.  Yes, he’s inconsiderate; yes, he’s overly dramatic; yes, he’s way too old to be so immature. But I still care about the idiot.

So, we have talked this week.  The upshot?  I wanted him to know that I wasn’t just going to stop caring about him; we’re friends, first and foremost, and that wasn’t going to disappear just because I was frustrated over his actions. He wanted me to know that he values our friendship, he’s enjoyed getting to know me and he doesn’t know how to show me just how great he thinks I am.

Now, understand that this doesn’t excuse anything.  I’m fully aware that he doesn’t have the capacity to deal with me, for whatever reason he may or may not offer.  I could try to explain what I think is going on in his head but, really, it doesn’t matter.  I’m also fully aware that this little fling has been flung.  It was great fun when it was fun but frustrating more often than it should have been.  Now, it’s quite clear that we were coming at this from two very different perspectives, and ne’er the twain shall meet.

Still, I couldn’t just leave things the way they were.  I meant what I said a month ago: he’s special to me, I care about him, and I want good things for him.  Clearing the air was important to me, because of that.  And so, now, we can walk away.  I want good memories when I think back to my brief time with TB, and I think I’ve managed that.  It will indeed be somewhat bittersweet to go to the concert without him but I’ll focus on the positive: he introduced me to some great music, we had fun while it lasted – and he really was hot.

midseason slump

I’m tired.  I have no idea why, really, because I’m getting plenty of sleep.  I’m not physically tired, actually, even though I’m happy to sleep.  Maybe my brain is tired.  Or hibernating.  Is that a thing?

Winter isn’t helping.  I’m tired of having to put on multiple bulky layers whenever I leave the house.  I’m tired of trying to keep up with gloves and scarves and coats.  I’m tired of not being able to wear the things in my closet because I need to slog through slush and snow and ice to get anywhere.  [I’m going to be at a professional meeting next week, for which I just bought this dress (in navy) and this dress (in black), and I need to wear them!]

I’m not getting a lot of deep-thinking work done, although I do contemplate doing it.  Mostly, I’m reading ahead for the semester, answering emails and grading.  I’ve had a lot of student meetings, too, with three students writing theses this semester.  I may not be writing but it sure feels like I am, with all the feedback I’m giving these days.

I’m very ready to get away.  Spring break is a few weeks away but, happily, I’m going to Home State this weekend for some much-needed time with Cool Friend.  And don’t worry, TA will be around, too.

and then there was one

Not that this will be a surprise to anyone but it’s quite safe to say that I’m down to one man these days.  In the scheme of life, that’s likely a much better situation.  Still, it’s a little disappointing.

The plan was that TB would drive down yesterday for dinner and a movie out and about.  When he went radio silent in the middle of the week, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  I didn’t say anything, though, just continued as usual and waited to see if he’d man up.  My snarky side (re)asserted itself yesterday morning, however, when I inquired as to whether he was still alive.  A somewhat general conversation ensued until I finally asked if there was anything he needed to tell me – no, I don’t make things easy – and he admitted that he couldn’t make it.

I’ll give him a little credit: he knows he f* up.  That’s as far as it goes, though; he’s too old to act so clueless about human interaction.  As I tried to make clear to him, it isn’t that he cancels, it’s that he’s so inconsiderate about letting me know (yes, I used that exact word).  And the mea culpas and martyred exclamations of how I deserve better don’t fly with me.  If you know you’re doing something wrong, stop doing it.  Really, it’s that simple.

While I was exceedingly irritated and annoyed yesterday, I’m not exactly angry at him.  Sad, I suppose, that he’s so immature or clueless or self-involved or disinterested or whatever it is.  Perhaps it is an age thing: if you don’t like your life (as he has told me several times), and you have an opportunity to improve it in some way, why wouldn’t you take it?

So, where are we going forward?  Nowhere.  We talked a bit yesterday before he disappeared from the conversation again, and my guess is that’s how it ends.  I’m betting he won’t contact me again – from feelings of guilt or relief, I don’t know; we might see each other at a distance at the next conference but I wouldn’t count on that, either.  Maybe he’ll surprise me; maybe he’ll reach out again in the next few weeks.

I’m not trying to excise him from my life; despite his ridiculous behavior, I do still care about him.  So, maybe I’ll let him know that and step back into the woodwork so I can feel a little better about it all.  Things end with a whimper, not a bang, after all, and I knew there would be an ending.

One interesting point: We have tickets to a concert at the end of next month (they’re in my possession, so technically I have tickets, but you get the point). It’s a band he introduced me to; I got the tickets for his birthday; he absolutely loves them.  I asked him yesterday about whether he was simply expecting to see me next month at the concert, without any interaction before that, and he said that he planned to go, he certainly wanted to see me there but he didn’t know that he deserved the ticket.  Well, he doesn’t, but that’s a rather petty way to think about it.  So, what do I do?  Send it to him and let him do as he wishes?  Sell it?  Invite him again and use it as a chance to say goodbye if he accepts?  None of my friends will go, since it’s not their type of music.  I could go alone; I’ll survive and I do want to see them.  I could possibly offer it to one of my grad students; she’s a music person, even if she isn’t familiar with the band.

And if this isn’t proof that men just complicate EVERYTHING, I don’t know what is.  I’m really starting to pine for my solitary yet happy state of last semester, before the two gentlemen entered the picture and messed with my equilibrium.  I like men, and I have more than enjoyed feeling alive again (ahem), but it makes life so much more complicated when someone else is involved, however much, in the happy part of it.  Agghh!

five

Five is the magic number today.  Why, you ask?  Because today, I have officially made my five years.  I can now say that I’m cancer-free and feel like I mean it.  Once I finish my current scrip in 14 days, I’m off the tamoxifen, seeing my oncologist every six months and down to yearly mammograms.  Those facts alone are reason to celebrate.

I was actually surprised by how happy I was at the oncologist’s office.  My appointment today was really just a formality.  We had already discussed when I would finish with the meds; I’ve been keeping a very close eye on the calendar regarding my five year mark.  Still, it was a moment, an important moment, to be able to feel like I’ve turned the corner on something I’m ready to leave behind.

It’s been a long five years.  The cancer wasn’t the only reason; three back surgeries, finding the right medicinal cocktail, the beginning, long-distanced and end of a relationship, tenure and promotion, finding my academic footing, dealing with my niece’s mental issues, accepting my mother’s increasing mental decline – navigating any of that would have been difficult enough but having breast cancer undergirding all of it added that extra element of awful, somehow.

I realize that today is largely symbolic.  I’m not silly enough to believe that life will suddenly be nothing but sunshine and rainbows now just because I made it to my five years without another recurrence.  But I am happy enough to believe that I’ve stepped over a metaphorical dividing line between then and now.  And I’m very much looking forward to moving onward from that line.

righting the ship

The good thing about my crazy episodes is that they pass quickly.  I slept about eight hours last night; I woke to sunshine (and frigid temperatures); I worked at my dining room table for most of the day.  In short, it was a perfectly normal day, without histrionics, flights of fancy or trips down the rabbit hole.

Since I think better through my fingers, I sent TA an email this afternoon.  And I said pretty much what I said in my post last night: Forgive the crazy but sometimes it slips out, what we have going on right now is fine for the moment, and can we please just rewind and forget the last few days.  You know the guy’s alright when he responds with: Well-said: it’s a deal.

[Can I blame hormones?  And I’m not offering that as a cop-out.  I have some pretty serious fluctuations, between the effects of the tamoxifen and the irregularity of my periods. When the two cross, it’s deadly, and yet it takes me a few days to realize what’s happening when I get squirrely, break out, feel like I weigh 200 pounds and eat peanut butter with a spoon.  Seriously, I haven’t had to deal with this much of a hormonal imbalance since adolescence. Oh, menopause, you may be the death of me…or those around me.]

Whatever may or may not have caused this flare of crazy, the result is a clear reminder that I don’t want to be this person again.  I don’t want any man, near or far, to determine how I feel about my life; I don’t want to measure my life in terms of who I’m with or without; I don’t want to lose my autonomy in determining my own happiness. I’m in a good place, dammit, and I am going to stay here!

I do mean that.  Personally, I am so much stronger than I was even a year ago.  I’m nearing the end of my breast cancer drug regimen, which means I’ll cross the five year mark soon and feel like I can metaphorically move on. I’ve regained my confidence that I am attractive, and I’m making an effort to like what I see in the mirror, from fun clothes to trips to the gym. I’m returning to my social self, making an effort to call and email faraway friends, going out with those close by; the party I threw last month was a huge step in establishing that I’m the person I want to be again.

Professionally, things are starting to fall into place, too.  I was on fire in the classroom last semester; my evaluations were the best they’ve ever been and I enjoyed every minute I was teaching.  I feel more comfortable in my place here at the university, as if people see me as someone worth listening to now.  On a larger scale, I stepped up into an important professional role and solidified my abilities with a few lesser ones; so far, I think I’ve managed them all fairly well.  I wrote a damn good piece in one of those roles that was picked up on a national scale, which was a huge thrill.  Being awarded the fellowship this semester was also huge, not only because it’s so cool but because it’s given me the push to apply for another fellowship.

Despite all this goodness, I do want to leave here.  As I try to solidify what I want out of life, I know that a new location is at the top. Professionally, I probably wouldn’t mind staying here; personally, I know I need to be elsewhere.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll have a chance to leave, of course, so I’m glad that this is a good place for me professionally.  I do hope that my newly established confidence can translate into opportunities to go elsewhere, though.  Starting over would be tough, no doubt about it, but I also think it would be a very good thing for me (especially if I was somewhere warmer!).

this is on me

I don’t need to worry about the men in my life messing up anything; I can do that just fine on my own, thanks.  What is wrong with me?

Part of my funk yesterday was me thinking much too much about things that don’t need thinking about. Which is what I do.  Which is what I should not do.  I’m not even sure I can make sense of the convolutions in my brain yesterday and a good bit of today but it goes something like this:

I don’t mind being alone when I’m in charge of being alone.  Last semester was pretty good, actually, in my single state. I made an effort to get myself into a much better place after SG and I split, and it worked: I got there.  I was doing things I enjoyed doing; I was going out with my friends; I was focused on myself. Meeting TB again after all these years was an extension of that.  When I pushed him to tell me why he had reconnected with me, it was because I deserved an answer; when I kissed him, it was because I wanted to do just that.  The first crack happened once I got back to PRU.  I wanted to see TB again, I did and suddenly I didn’t enjoy my single state as much as I had.

Then Christmas came and I met TA.  When I kissed him, it was because I wanted to; when we kept talking once I returned to PRU, I wanted to do that, too.  Flying back to Home State for our weekend was purely by choice, and I loved it.  The next crack occurred at the end of our weekend, though.  Once I got back to CF’s house, I could admit to her what I really didn’t want to admit to myself: I could see myself in a relationship with this guy. I managed to tamp that down, come back here and get into the swing of the semester.  I wasn’t as content as I had been but I was doing okay. I found a good place with TB; I had good conversations with TA; I was focusing on the here and now.

Only I wasn’t, as much as I wanted to.  My mind just doesn’t work that way, dammit.  I want to be someone who lives in the moment, and I can do it for short stretches of time, but then my natural self reasserts itself and messes everything up.  I can’t help but look at the months, the years, in front of me. It’s not that I’m a planner so much as that I want to have some sense of where I’m going; what happens along the way, what happens once I get there, wherever there is, that can all be a surprise, but I need to see the path in front of me.

The path I was seeing this weekend wasn’t a good one. I like TA, we’re compatible in so many ways, we have fun.  I can see that he’s a good man, the kind of man you can build a life with. I can see wanting a relationship with him AND I DON’T WANT THAT.  I don’t want a long-distance relationship; I don’t want to miss someone at the end of the day; I don’t want to feel alone as I go about my life here.  Both sides of that coin are so ridiculous: we barely know each other, he hasn’t asked anything of me, and he is perfectly fine with the way things are going right now.  And I should be!  What’s not to like?

It’s like I try to ruin my own life.  I mean, seriously.  What the f* is wrong with me?  I don’t want to settle down with anyone right now.  I would be perfectly open to going out with people here, if such men were to present themselves.  TB and I are doing fine; we’re planning to get together next weekend, as a matter of fact, and we have a date next month because we’re going to a concert.  Frankly, I can see us managing to see each once a month until we just naturally drift off in opposite directions.  All in all, I’d say that’s a pretty good conclusion to that long story of missed opportunity and crossed signals.

TA and I were doing fine, too.  We’re on that same monthly schedule right now.  I’m going to Home State at the end of this month; he’s planning to visit next month; and I’ll be in Home State again in April for a weekend with my college girlfriends that I can extend to spend some time with him.  Then we’re into summer and schedules are completely open.  We communicate every day, and it’s an enjoyable part of my day; I look forward to talking to him, whatever we have to say to each other.

But here I am, creating issues where none exist.  I was in a pure funk last night when we talked; there was just too much going on in my head.  Even I could hear the flat affect in my voice, try as I might to cover it.  He’s not an idiot and clearly knew all was not well; all I could say was that I was working through some things.  So tonight, we talked and, once again, I had to go the honesty route and tell him that I was struggling with the idea of a long-distance relationship when they had gone so horribly wrong for me in the past.

Now here is a bit of an interesting piece to the puzzle.  He was quick to reassure me that we’re not in a relationship, that he is happy to have me in his life in whatever capacity I’m willing to offer, that if I decide that this is all over he will be grateful for the opportunity to have spent time with me.  He’s mentioned more than once that I’ve given him hope that there are indeed cool, sexy, intelligent, funny women over 40 out there, and he thanked me again for that tonight.  So, he’s really good at this casual thing; obviously, I’m not.

Because here’s me, having a freak-out because I’m afraid I’m going to get serious about the guy, and here’s TA, having no such freak-out because he’s content with whatever happens.  He means it but I’m not sure I quite believe his nonchalance – oh, he’d be fine if we went our separate ways, we’re all adults here – because I also hear what he says and read what he writes.  His text today, for example: “I want to see you again. I want to talk to you again.  In person.  Everything else is secondary.”  Okay, really, this does not sound like a guy who would be happy to wander off into the sunset.

I just want to bang my head on the desk right now.  I want him to want me as much as I don’t. I want to be involved with him as much as I don’t.  Regardless of all that, though, here I am and there he is, and that isn’t going to change for years.  Years.  And that shouldn’t even be a consideration!

Here’s how we left it: He said I should call him once I’d had some time to think, whether it was a day or a week.  He hopes I don’t want to walk away but he understands if I do.  And I don’t know what I want.  I want to erase my histrionics.  I want to hit the rewind button.  I want to stop sabotaging myself when I actually have the opportunity to just enjoy my life.  None of those things are really possibilities, however, thanks to my craziness.

I’m going to bed.  And I’m going to hope that a decent night’s sleep will provide some clarity on what I do next.