And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears
And love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears
Get over your hill and see what you find there
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair
Mumford & Sons, After the Storm
I guess I’m just not ready for prime time. It was just a quick stop at the local neighborhood bar on the way home from work to unwind a bit.
This almost-dive bar is well known for its crusty, eccentric patrons (most of them old-timers who know the bartenders by name), cheap but stiff drinks, and pretty decent pub grub. I used to go in there fairly regularly myself, at least once every couple weeks, usually on a Thursday. I know there is almost always someone to chat up in there with no pressure. It’s a relaxed and easy environment.
On this occasion, rum and mixer was the $3 drink special so I pulled up one of their unbelievably uncomfortable bar stools next to “George,” a friend I have talked to on a number of occasions, and ordered a rum and ginger. We chatted amiably and later “Mike” sat down on my other side and we talked a little. He is someone I haven’t met before, but he says he comes pretty regularly, too.
When I had a second drink, George figured out that a) he wasn’t going to get my full attention b) I was not going to change my mind and come to the bar on Sunday to watch football with him so he could explain the game to me even if he did buy my second drink and c) he works the early shift, so he went home.
Mike and I continued to banter about a little bit of nothing, our conversation covering a number of topics including the best dessert places in Louisville. Our conclusions: Pie Kitchen and Sweet Surrender are both great, but too expensive. Blizzards are much cheaper, always awesome and there is even a DQ close to the bar. But we didn’t go next door and get a Blizzard.
So then of course, the conversation turned to relationship status and I told him I had broken up with my ex in September. I was taken a little off guard when Mike Immediately asked me if I missed my ex. At first I wasn’t sure how honestly to respond. But as usual, I was open and frank and said, yes I do miss him. He asked, why didn’t I just talk to him, then? I told him that just missing someone, just loving them was not enough; that the relationship had been toxic.
When Mike opened that conversational door, though, my intention certainly was not to come barging through it like a bull in a china shop. I could hear my brain screaming, “Shut up, shut up, just change the subject, for God’s sake,” but Mike was interested, or at least pretended to be. So I found myself recounting the good, the bad and the ugly in detail. Suddenly, I was mortified to realize I was crying as I recalled the relationship’s beauty and promise in the beginning, and the indifference and loneliness in the end.
When I finally did shut up, I am sure Mike was now thinking, ‘Wow, I really didn’t want to know all that.’ I quickly let him off the hook by making my excuses and getting my tab. I smiled, and said take care. He wanted to give me a hug and that was nice, just to feel the childlike comfort of being folded in someone’s arms for a moment. At least I wasn’t still crying as I left the bar. He said he would see me again sometime.
As I was leaving, I felt like an imbecile for what had just unfolded. I had allowed my emotions to take control and conduct the train, and I felt like all I could do was watch helplessly and ride it out. I truly thought I was past that, pouring all my feelings in the lap of an unsuspecting stranger.
Driving home, I tried to just put the embarrassing incident out of my mind. After all, Mike was flirty and kind, and at the bar he had told me someone would come along to make me forget all about my ex. When he said that, something in me wanted to rush to defend my feelings. I wanted to say that the man I had loved was special and would not be so easily erased from my heart; that it hadn’t been just a fling. Oh, whoops, I’m supposed to be getting past this, not setting up a shrine to him inside my heart.
I still do want to call him every day, but the fierceness of that desire is waning a little, bit by bit. Whenever I do consider texting or calling, I feel like the devil is on my one shoulder, aka My Broken Heart. On the other shoulder is my angel, aka Self Respect. Every day they duke it out, but so far the angel is winning through sheer stamina. I hope it lasts.
I am not going to beat myself up about what happened. I am just not ready for prime time. Yet.
I do know that tiny step by tiny step, I am evolving. I am learning who I am and how not to sell myself short or settle for anything less than I deserve.
I am emerging from the shelter post-storm. As the sun breaks through a massive bank of clouds, I shield my eyes as I walk up the hill. I am smelling that just-washed musky freshness that permeates the earth and sky after the storm has passed. How welcome is that feeling of renewal, that clean heart, that umpteenth chance. After the storm.