Continued from Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen.
Previously: You know how some people use drinking or drugs or retail therapy to cope with something? I used moose. Many, many moose. I call it "Moose Therapy." And oh yeah - things with Cassidy had ended permanently in January 2005, right? Wrong. They really, really ended permanently the following July. After many, many moose and two mating skunks.
My "final" conversation with Cassidy was over and I was no longer trapped in my car by mating skunks. I guess you could say I was freed, in several ways. I called my mom or sister, or both, that same night and tried to talk through shocked, throat-closing conditions. And they listened heartily. I woke up the next morning, the day after my birthday, certainly feeling like death warmed over. I went into work and received a positive email from my mom later that day:
"The longer the day goes on, the more I realize that he ended your conversation with I Love You and said he'll be nauseous and crazy for a few weeks...and then the "check up" texts...well, there's a man that's not over you. Live fully as you can and Lindsay and I won't give up on him waking up...."
I was glad that there were two people out there not giving up, or at least not right away. I had totally given up. They weren't there to hear the certainty in his voice that I wasn't what he wanted. I did not hear a single clue of a man still in love with me, or even thinking at all about me. I remembered too well and in vivid color how our relationship had been. It had a soundtrack and a list of fulfilled dreams. Chemistry and wishing impossible things. It wasn't just that we had both given up; it was that I never wanted to talk to him again. Not like that, not with that voice of his, not feeling like the ridiculous 25-year-old idiot who had let him go and never gotten him back. I imagined what his life was like with his girlfriend and I imagined it had everything ours didn't. Mainly, reality and stability. Geography. Two-sided love. I learned fast to stop visualizing her.
What surprised me is that starting on July 26th, I did not sink to a new low. Oh no, I had already done that for months: First was extreme numbness. Then extreme sadness. Then a glimmer of hope. Then the extremity of sadness. And it lingered. And I lived and laughed and fooled around, but I never felt any better after six months. This created a last minute fever pitch of courage and determination to get him back. And then, a crashing halt with his rejection. My sister used to say that only marriage was a dealbreaker and that anything less than that was an opportunity with him.
I did not see it that way after July 25th. It was a finale to an overwhelming and ultimately crushing love story.
Things began to change.
I had made a new friend over the summer. Nora. We became close, fast, after taking in a Stevie Nicks/Don Henley concert together and both crying (for different reasons) during "Heart Of The Matter." A few days after my birthday she took me to my first Yankees game because she had season tickets. It was a tight game but Matsui won it at the end and I was wearing my Matsui shirt. We all just exploded in our seats. There was one dark moment when they played Star Wars theme music and I got really, really sad for a minute. The darkness did not last. After the game we went out for ice cream and then back to her place for a wild party she and her roommates were throwing. I partied until at least 3:00 am and went home. It struck me on my way home that I had had a full day without being sad. I had had actual fun. It was different from the all of the times I only tried to have fun, but felt darkness. This was a full 12 hours of fun and lightness. It was not like living in a nightmare.
This day was followed by other good days. Instead of sinking further into depression like I initially thought would happen after my phone call with Cassidy, I stepped out of a depression. It was not perfect. At all.
It was just that I could have fun again, however brief or for however long. I would still be absolutely pummeled by music. A lot. "Boys of Summer" by Don Henley can still make me cry - end of summer, end of love, empty beaches. There is a huge reason that spring is not my favorite season, despite the beauty of fall. Fall is a bit scary.
In August, R and I became close friends again. We meant too much to each other to have no kind of relationship. We went up to the White Mountains again and had our first moose together in broad daylight. It was my first New Hampshire moose and I got close enough to hear him breathe (DON'T EVER DO THAT):
We took the driving road all the way to the top of Mount Washington. It was a clear day and you could see several states. There was a family up there - a mother that looked like me, a hippie-looking father and a son and daughter. I watched them for a long time, wondering what my future husband would be like. It seemed worlds away from how I felt at newly 25, but it didn't seem...impossible. I knew I'd love again, of course.
In mid-August I went to the wedding of one of my oldest friends. My parents drove and since we had a large car, we carpooled to Long Island with another family. The daughter was just about my age and her parents had known my parents forever. They were actually responsible for setting my parents up, which is pretty cool. The father turned to me at one point and we had this conversation:
"There is someone I want to set you up with, if you're open to it. He's a good family friend."
"Umm..I've never been set up before. What's he like?"
"Well, he's very good-looking. And a musician."
I laughed at that vague but tempting description, and put the idea in the back of my head. For now.
My little sister was living with me for the end of August. She had just graduated from Rutgers and we had decided to live together because roommates are scary, boyfriends are scarier, and we had lived together as kids for 13 years with no major issues. It was so nice to have someone to come home to and see in the morning. She brightened me and my home up. My year-long lease at the gloomy apartment was up on September 1st and I did not renew it. My sister and I searched a few apartments complexes and eventually settled on a two-story townhouse in North Brunswick. It may have been cookie cutter but it was brand new and light and sunny and no one had ever lived there before us. No lingering ghosts.
I was so sick of lingering ghosts.
I had a TV in my bedroom as well as a master bathroom with dual vanity. Many friends helped us move in and it took very little time to get adjusted to this upgrade. I don't know how I lasted a year in the other place. For weeks I would fall asleep every night watching my sister's "Sex And The City" DVDs from start to finish. It was another part of my healing process - something to look forward to and believe in, night after night. Those characters all found great love.
I got ever closer with my friend, Nora, and she introduced me to her high school group of friends and suddenly some became my close friends and I had this intelligent, fun, clean-cut group of people to hang out with. So many upgrades at once. I felt better every day. There were guys around, sure, but nothing serious. I hadn't so much as kissed someone for several months and I was actually liking being single. I've always thought it's important to be in a good place on your own, before you can be in a good place with someone else. Although I couldn't fathom having any sort of real feelings for anyone else, I was not interested in wasting anyone's time. Particularly, my own. It was a healthy single life...or close to it.
Meanwhile, another interesting relationship was starting that fall.
I started getting close to Ruth, Cassidy's mom. It happened so naturally over a short amount of time. As I wrote about before, I had called her in June to tell her she was in my heart. I had called in July, shortly before I called Cassidy, to somewhat ask her for her blessings to try to win him back. She then wrote me on my birthday. By September, we had said "I love you" to each other. She invited me and my mom to meet her up in western Mass. I had hesitations, of course, because that is the first place I "landed" with Cassidy and not only would it bring up intense memories, I remembered that her house was covered in beautiful past and present pictures of Cassidy. We decided to accept her invitation. I was apprehensive and excited. In some ways, I had moved far on and I had happy days and laughter and I didn't dream about him as much. Yet, he wasn't around. I knew nothing about him. It was a dark mystery that I didn't have to face anymore. I didn't want to.
We left for our road trip in mid October. I drove, seeing familiar sights. It took longer to get there than I remembered, despite leaving from Jersey and not from somewhere in the Hamptons. We got "Vanilla Spice" coffee from Dunkin Donuts on the way and it tasted so much like fall and New England and love, that to this day I sigh if I'm lucky enough to find it somewhere. We arrived at nightfall and into Ruth and Ernie's warm arms. We sat around the fire and talked about the strangeness of being there. Before meeting Ernie, my mom and I used to joke that he must think we're the weirdest people on earth - going to meet my ex-boyfriend's family at the place he first took me. We straight out asked him and he said, "I don't think it's weird at all!" That was the second I fell in love with Ernie like I had Ruth. They symbolized strong love to me. We bonded a lot at different times over the next day or two. Sometimes I was one on one with Ernie, my mom with Ruth. Sometimes the reverse. Sometimes it was all four of us. I fell in love with their dog, Eva too. I could not stop taking pictures of her:
I only broke, once. When I finally had the guts to really look at the photos on the walls and in the guest room we were staying in. Baby Cassidy. Childhood Cassidy. Young Adult Cassidy. Handsome Man Cassidy. Ruth took a picture of me after I looked at pictures and you can see the tears in my eyes:
When we left I waited until we got to the Conway town limits before I pulled over and cried and cried. It was a lot to take in - it was sad. So sad. It was magical. So magical. I felt the pull of western Mass so heartily. I felt miserable but I felt happy. I felt like we had unearthed something so beautiful from the shambles of a broken relationship. Something had survived the rubble. Something had been born. We all felt hurt by the rift but we had managed to build our own relationship, despite the pain and the strange taboo of wanting to be close, despite the breakup.
I wrote two letters after that trip. One was casual, and prophetic, to a guy friend:
"So yes, I want to live in a Vermont or Western Massachusetts college
town, so that I can stay in fashion, have a nightlife, and yet still
have so much nature and moooooose at my fingertips.
Consider me signed up!"
And to Ruth:
Every significant road trip I go on adopts a theme song. I never intend for this to happen, but sometimes it just stems from hours and days on the road with a song like "Copacabana" being stuck in my head. (This happened to me on a nine day road trip with my aunt through Canada, and she still hasn't forgiven me)
Oftentimes, it's a song I slipped onto a road mix as filler, and it goes under the radar through most of the trip, until I realize the significance at the end or after coming home.
For our visit, the theme song was "Mandolin Rain," by Bruce Hornsby.
When you emailed my mom and I the day after we got home, I was at work on a conference call, and I was put on hold with "Mandolin Rain" as my hold music within two minutes of reading your email.
Just five minutes ago, when these thoughts to you took hold and propelled me to want to write you back, "Mandolin Rain" came on the radio. This is a song I have gone ten years without hearing.
Also, I have a friend who grew up in New Brunswick, Canada, and recently hiked there everyday for a month, and did not see a moose once. They may be out there, but truly, it is luck or magic to find one this time of year, she says.
It's these things and everything else that surrounds us that give me the same reaction of lying on a couch and shrugging my shoulders as to making sense of these things.
You see, what happened to me because of Cassidy, and (ex's name), and that dreadful winter I had last year, filled me with a melancholy I could not have thought possible. This melancholy took over a place I used to fill with much confidence, belief in magic, dreams, invincibility...and more.
And yes, I have been taking care of myself lately.
I knew our visit would be big, but truth is, it was much more. More than expected and imagined. What I'm starting to get from all this is that the visit, and the way you and Ernie love each other and Eva, the songs that come on the radio at the right time, the way Ernie left out bird nametags for our towels, the way I myself chase Cody around the house the way you chase Eva, how my mom was so happy about maple cream that you had sent, I just believe that these are the things that are fighting the melancholy and filling me back with all the things I want to hold on to.
So, thank you."
I can't describe the feeling better than I did above six and a half years ago. I have never looked at autumn the same since that October weekend, and I doubt I ever will. In the days after our trip, I felt such peace to have achieved something great through something I considered terrible. It was another piece of the puzzle to my healing. Another surprise piece. I would have thought it would make me feel worse to go there, but no, it only made me better.
I started to get restless to travel again. Not only because it made me feel more whole and healthy to see new places, but because another November was coming. I really hate November and the November the year before this one had been the worst of my life. Halloween came and this time, due to awesome new friends, I had the energy to dress up like a Disney princess with them and go to a party. This fall was already so different from fall 2004. Sometime in October, the family friends I had gone to that wedding in Long Island in August asked me if they could forward my information to the guy they wanted to set me up with. I honestly didn't read into it very much but I did give them permission. He wrote to me and I wrote back. He was very interesting. I was a flake. The time between our emails kept increasing. I'd reply to his emails a week later, sometimes two weeks, and then I'd get back in the program and write more often. He was very understanding and even said that it sounded like I had a lot on my plate and that he was sure he'd hear from me...at some point?
I had another bad Thanksgiving. It was again not at our home and was with neighbors. My uncle visited and he did not feel well and needed acupuncture. The day we took him, I had one of my strongest relapses since January. It was a cold and gloomy day and I missed Cassidy with a ferocity. I had heard Led Zeppelin's "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" and Phil Collins "I Wish It Would Rain Down." Both were crying trigger songs. The day was cold and dark. It was a bad day in a bad holiday weekend. I knew I'd have days like this for Cassidy, maybe always, but I hoped not.
R and I were close friends during all this time. Our friendship was very solidified after he found a loving home for my old cat, Bella. I could not take her with me to my new townhouse. It might not have been the best idea in retrospect, given our history, but we found a flight deal we could not resist to San Diego in mid December - $159 round trip! All I mostly thought about was my trip to the west coast. I was working on Sundays at Bath & Body Works to save money for the trip. I never took it too seriously but it was fun. The guy I had been nearly set up with, despite our flaky emails, worked at the mall too. Let's call him "D" too. He played professional piano at the same mall I worked at and I went to introduce himself one day. He played Coldplay's "Clocks". A week or so later he visited me on my shift, wearing the tux he had to wear to play. I was oddly flustered and kept dropping things and hitting my head on shelves. Later that day my friend told me he had played Green Day's, "Wake Me Up When September Comes" on piano during his shift. She worked at the same place as him. I was intrigued now. More than intrigued. It was somehow the combination of the tux and him playing that song that hit me in the heart.
Later that night I replied to one of his emails: "I have to go to San Diego on Tuesday morning, and then I'll be gone just under a week. Would you like to go to lunch/dinner/something after that? The something could be used for anything bizarre and creative - even making vulgar snow sculptures is ok by me."
A trip to San Diego with one guy, and a tentative date with another. What was I playing at here and did I know what I was doing?
Well, maybe. I often do..