Friday, July 27, 2012

Love letter to an old friend...

When I met you, we were so very young. Still in middle school, trying to be clever and sophisticated beyond our years...succeeding rarely, failing miserably the majority of the time. There were three of us and for the life of me I can't remember who met who first or where or why. We became inseparable. We would walk and explore, lay on our backs and stare at the sky, dream and play. There came a time when I would become shy and tongue-tied whenever you were around. It was awkward and what I know now is that you were my first love. You weren't my first hand holding or my first kiss or my first date, but you were certainly my first big lesson about how issues of the heart can complicate the purest, most lovely of convoluted loving someone can be if you allow it to be baggage we never asked for as a child can screw things up completely.

My family had just relocated to that small southern town where you were living. I had decided to reinvent myself for this particular move, the third in as many years. To me, this reinvention was a chance to stop caring. To be more cavalier and less "sensitive" which was a word the grown-ups paired with an eye roll every time my feelings were hurt and I cried. There would be no more tears for the new Tara. I even considered changing my name.

The new Tara had an entire summer to define this reinvention before 8th grade would begin. Somewhere in the meeting of my new friends, I was lucky enough to meet you. You were captivating. I remember thinking how beautiful you were. My eyes would trace the outline of your features...your thick lashes...the emerging angle of your jaw...your lips. Sometimes you would catch me. The old Tara would have blushed under her freckles. The new, less sensitive Tara would just slowly look away as if she hadn't been caught doing anything out of the ordinary. I could tell when this confused you and I could tell when this hurt your feelings, this cavalier attitude of mine. Those times, I would continue whatever it was I was doing and stifle a whole herd of feelings threatening to run amok. I was concerned about your feelings...ashamed of myself for confusing or hurting you...and even more ashamed for being proud that I could pull off cavalier. That shame made me scared that my reinvention was failing...and angry at you for being an in-my-face reminder of what it's like to be sensitive. I wanted so badly to not feel those things. The timing of my self reinvention was bad news for our friendship and worse news for those little shoots of feelings trying to find sunlight.

There were three of and you and him. He never made me feel that little flutter in my belly the way looking at you did...but he also never evoked any of those other feelings above. He was bland...without your thick lashes or love of reading. He was from a stable home where he was treated well, no need to reinvent wicked step-monster like you or I. He was never accused of being sensitive and actually, he had cavalier down pat. I pretended he was my first love, showering him with all of the adoration I had built up in my enormous pre-teen heart for you. I watched it break your heart and I hated myself for it. You pushed me and challenged my feelings for him and at one point you even tried to make me choose between the two of you. You could see the answer in my eyes and withdrew the ultimatum. What you couldn't see was that although I certainly would have chosen him, it was only because it was the easy and safe choice that would keep me from having to discard my reinvention. My heart was full of you.

We were 12...then we were 13...then you left. You moved away and when you did, you taught me a lesson that almost 30 years later I am still in awe of. You found a way to deal with the hurt and when you moved away, you stayed in touch. You wrote letters to me that were full of stories both real and fiction, poems and drawings and lengthy detailed accounts of what a day in your life was like in your new surroundings. You taught me what grace looks like and what unconditional love feels like. You taught me by example that loving someone does not mean that they have to have a title or role or that you have to have ownership in some way. You taught me that I could be imperfect, wrong and even borderline cruel but that even then there was something worth redemption within me...that I was still worth loving.

He faded into nothingness and 30 years later it is you...your letters, tied up with string that have made another eight moves with me. When I sat down today determined to write a love letter, there was no doubt who it would be addressed to. I was the luckiest girl ever to be loved by you.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Birthday Love Letter

Today is your birthday. Most of the year I can avoid thinking about you with just a little effort. It's either gotten easier with time or I've gotten better with practice. July 5th is the toughest one for me. There have been five July 5ths since we stopped waking up together. Yes, I have been counting.

You were the last thought I had before drifting off to sleep last night. That explains how I woke up this morning...moving my head gingerly on the pillow to avoid waking the sleeping giant of a hangover but moving my bottom in a deliberate wiggle to ensure waking another giant. I was confused for a split second when my eyelids parted and the sunlight didn't feel like shards of glass entering my skull and when my wiggle didn't result in a kiss on the back of my shoulder and a whole other metaphor that I'm going to leave entirely up to the imagination and memory. There was a split second of grief that I wasn't waking up with you, to you...but that split second was followed by seconds, moments, hours of my grateful heart celebrating your existence all day long.

You were my best friend and my most passionate love, but we were a and I. We were struggles and confusion and conflict and tortured, twisted, torn loyalties. We were white-hot and that kind of heat is a gift that we were ill equipped to handle. But there is no room for those kind of thoughts on this day, I won't be celebrating US in my mind and heart. I will be celebrating YOU. I will be rejoicing that this day marks the beginning of the existence of a unique, energetic, intelligent, imaginative, curious human being with boundless energy and charisma. I will be playing club music and remembering what it felt like to move in sync with you on the dance floor. I will be making Thai Lettuce Wraps and remembering the joy you took from presenting new dishes. I will be hiking and taking you with me in my mind's eye...blazing the trail ahead of me and keeping my way free of danger. I will be celebrating your you-ness in a bazillion little ways, keeping that version of you alive.

I will imagine you blowing out your candles and wonder if there is a small wish in your heart that we had reined in our greed when we had the chance so that this complete isolation from one another hadn't become so necessary.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Love Letter #1

Today these words came to me: "Don't forget the people who got you here, it's easy to lose sight of gratitude in the melee."

Six months ago, I didn't know that my life was lacking the presence of one lovely. There were a LOT of things I didn't know six months ago, actually...and many of the things I've learned came from you, my newest lovely.

You are political, where my political stance is to use my voice to vote only...and make a political stance by not making any further political stance. I continue to vote with my feet and my choices and you continue to vote with your words and your voice and your time. You are the political yin to my yang. You change systems while I protect the individuals hoping those systems improve.

You understand gray areas and know that although boundaries keep things safe, the gray areas are where the real magic happens. You taught me that although there are parts of my life that dictate clear and precise boundaries, I should question them on a regular basis and sometimes even turn a blind eye if the situation calls for a long tall ladder against a ridiculous one. You laughed out loud at me when I learned that the sky doesn't fall and the earth keeps spinning when rules get bent or broken. Even then, you patiently let me chew my nails to the quick until I finally got it.

There were a series of moments when I doubted my ability to even cope. You planted me on your couch, handed me a pillow and a blanket, shared your precious ewok with me and played movies back to back until the edges of my new reality didn't seem so dark and menacing. You shone a light into a darkness that I was pretending didn't exist...and you did it with love and smiles. You pulled strings and pulled rank and let me think out loud without judgement. Is there any better definition of unconditional love?

You seem to have been placed in my life to open my eyes.

I hope you know this about yourself: You are lovely. You are fierce and feminine and full of rays of sunshine. Your energy is contagious and the way you love is inspiring. Your generosity of spirit is humbling and a great example of how to live out loud.

I'm so glad to have you as a lovely in my life.