When I left New York, I cried on the AirTrain to JFK. This is extremely uncharacteristic of me, I loathe crying in front of people. It was also immediately after incessantly bobbing my head to a Santigold remix on my ipod so passengers sitting around me must have thought I was extremely bipolar or at least severely premenstrual. The crying wasn’t out of sadness though, and it wasn’t audible sobbing, but I let tears stream freely under my sunglasses and down my cheeks as I waited to be dropped off at the JetBlue terminal.
I cried for a monumental sense of relief. I cried out of total emotional liberation.
5 years ago I was on the same train, I was flying in to New York to see a boyfriend who had just moved away to go to school. I was nervous, afraid, and head over heels in love. It was a week of pure naive 20 year-old bliss. We divided our time exclusively between fantastic food and staying horizontal in his Brooklyn loft bedroom that boasted no windows so time didn’t exist; it was a regular Vegas casino of coitus. The trip began a chain of events that put me under the placid haze of long-term commitment and complete devotion for 3 years. He moved back to Seattle and I quickly learned the values of compromise, complacency, and codependency; perhaps a little too well. It eventually ended up spawning a knee-jerk reaction from him; after living together, traveling around the world, and raising an evil kitten to cathood between us, he got restless, boxed in, and frightened. We were 22 and living lives twice our age, so he fled our eerily contented life in Seattle and went back to New York sighting school, work, and overall life goals as the main reason; it’s not you, it’s me.
With no ties severed but no promises to keep them intact, I was derailed. It was more of a blow to my ego than anything else.
“How could you choose anything over me?’
“It’s not about you, Tayler.”
“Bullshit, it’s not.”
In hindsight, his was a natural honest reaction that I am grateful he had the gall to make. I was too immature and too narcissistic to put it in perspective, but in my defense, no one wants to be left alone
I made the defensive decision to move back to Los Angeles with a sort of “I’ll show you who’s out to achieve their life goals” credo. The next two years were spent in a neurotic spin-out of desperate attempts at self-justification for all the wrong reasons. I just wanted so badly to be over it. To put the whole thing behind me. To go bed without thinking of excuses for reasons to call him, write him, fly to New York to see him. I drank, I smoked, I chopped off all my hair, I dated smug self-centered Angelino men who treated me like I owed them for their time. I searched for some form of relief through self-deprecating, self-sabotaging acts of conscious masochism with the logic that hurting myself more, will numb the pain I was already feeling. You know, like when you welcome a blister on your foot if only to distract you from your headache.
They were dark times. I threw myself into work, writing, improv, performing, partying, anything to let him and everyone else know that I was “doing fine.” “Staying really busy, onwards and upwards!” Distraction, distraction, distraction! But the fruits of my labor only further displayed my desperation. A vast majority of the ‘art’ I was churning out was just the poisonous byproduct of the toxic waste that I was willingly ingesting.
It wasn’t until the “eureka” moment of this past summer when the fog finally cleared and I realized I was completely miserable with the life I had created for myself on a false and desperate foundation. It was no longer about getting over him, I had now grown accustomed to the pattern of self abuse. It had turned commonplace. I had brainwashed myself into thinking that I deserved every bit of the misery I was creating.
The events of the next few months are what led me here (which is currently a coach bus en route to Milwaukee). I quit my job, moved out of my fantastic apartment, said goodbye to the few legitimate and wonderful friends I had, and snuck out of the city. I went in search of the self I had lost somewhere in the foothills of Hollywood. Or perhaps, I never took her there to begin with.
Sure enough, somewhere between the nights spent sleeping on deflated air mattresses in stranger’s basements, laying in parks with my luggage and a dead phone wondering where the hell I was. Between meeting up with long lost friends, and making new ones, between staying in hostels 14 to a room, foreign boys on southern river docks, walking endless city streets and making wrong turns, I found her again. I found me again. In music halls, and nightclubs, and backyards, and rooftops, and outdoor movies. In taco stands, and corn cobs, and brisket, and hangover breakfasts. In thunderstorms and humidity and sunshine and…oh hell, you get the picture. I was back, I free, I WAS HAPPY. And it was for real this time.
So when I stopped in New York, I decided it was time to test the authenticity of my newfound sense of self. Maybe a bit of the masochism was still intact but it was the only way I would know for sure that my feelings were legitimate. I would meet him for a drink. Just a drink, it was just a drink. Besides, he was my best friend for over 4 years, I missed him.
He was alone in the corner of a dark bar reading Vonnegut when I walked in. I couldn’t determine if it was premeditated or perfectly exemplary. He looked exactly the same. I decided the best way to forego the awkward introduction was to throw my purse five feet across the way and directly into his face (for those of you devout readers; yes, it was the giant vagina purse). It scared the shit out of him and I was satisfied. I was determined to make this light. We’re talking about a man who’s seen me pee, it was going to be easy. We were old friends and that’s the only side I wanted to see right now.
We talked for hours. It felt good. It felt great. It felt comfortable and familiar while altogether new. We were different people. I was a different person. I had hatched from my cocoon of self-torment with an arsenal of newfound self-respect and personal confidence. I was eager to tell him about my life and just as eager to hear about his. We danced gracefully but honestly around conversation, timing each careful but genuine step around any mention of past heartache or drama. We talked about the failed lovers we’d taken after each other and laughed at the follies and missteps that had led us both to be content with out current status of being ‘independent and single.’
We found ourselves splitting a bottle of wine at a French bar somewhere around 1am on the Lower East Side. Blissfully drunk and monumentally relieved, we got to the part of the evening where we stood on the street corner and talked about going home, but didn’t actually do anything about it. “This is ridiculous,” I thought “He’s held my hair back while I puked, watched me trip and fall on my face, seen my most unflattering angles and ugliest moods, he’s practically family” Family that, in my wine soaked state of mind, I just wanted to kiss. You know, just to see if I was really OK. It was for the sake of science, for the sake of psychology.
So I took one for the team and kissed him, or maybe he kissed me. I don’t remember. But there was a distinct moment where I realized I had the choice to tip over the tower of blocks I had built and go back to Desperate Tayler lying in pieces on the floor or take this for what it was: a fine reunion of two people who have strong mutual love for each other but no desire to take it any further than a random night of drunken catch-ups. It felt good. It felt empowering. And most importantly it felt mutual.
I’m a drunk dialer, a drunk texter, a drunk talker. When I drink, I feel an overwhelming urge to tell people things that I know I wouldn’t ever tell them sober. I know this isn’t an unusual trait, its quite a common side effect of almost everyone who has ever consumed alcohol. But one difference is that I seldom regret the things I say or, at least remember saying.
Somewhere in my stupor I remember saying “Hey, you know I’m gonna love you no matter what.” This is a dangerously loaded statement and without the proper prologue could make me look like I was still pining for a relationship that was long since dead. But I didn’t feel scared when I said it, I wasn’t worried that it would be taken the wrong way. I didn’t feel needy and I wasn’t afraid that my subconscious would speak up and scream “What the hell are we doing back here again?!”
It was honest, it was true and there wasn’t anything more that I wanted from him. I didn’t need him to say it back to affirm how I felt. There was no longer any gaping hole, in fact, there wasn’t any room at all to fit any sort of return of affection. I had filled in the cavity with beautiful and righteous independence, strong self-respect and a new level head (despite my current blood alcohol content) that was chock full of perspective. I knew I had finally let go because I was openly and honestly able to whole heartedly love him and want nothing more in return.
And when I said goodbye to him, I didn’t wonder when I’d see him again. I didn’t hope it would be soon. I didn’t ride away thinking of ways we could run into each other again. I knew he would stay in my life in some capacity, I wanted him to, for sure. But I didn’t want anything more than a “Hey how are you?” every blue moon, maybe a Christmas card, a drink when we happened to be in each others respective cities.
High fives, she’s not only over it, she’s found true peace and understanding! This girl is unstoppable!
So back to the JFK train, and the mascara running down my face. This is when it hit me. I remembered where I was 5 years ago and I compared it to where I am now. Lightyears, it was lightyears away. In “Letters To A Young Poet,” Rilke explains his philosophy that you should savor your misery and loneliness to better understand your suffering when you come out the other side. To personally examine every aspect of your depression because it will essentially turn into the steps that will lead you out of the dark place you’ve gone and into acceptance and understanding. To be patient with your emotional evolution because it is a process and a journey like anything else. In my darkest hours I remember reading this and thinking it was complete bullshit. That only the weak needed time to heal, the strong could simply soldier on, throw themselves into something else and leave the pain behind. Not true, young sad Tayler!
It was on this train that I finally realized I was out of it. I was leaving New York with no other thoughts than how excited I was to get to New Orleans and how the bagel I ate that morning was so delicious (seriously, best ever). I wasn’t pining, I wasn’t scheming, I wasn’t yearning, I didn’t need anything My heart filled with relief, I was overwhelmed with strength and empathy; excitement and liberation.
So I cried. Shoot me, I got girly and emotional and happy and I cried. And it felt good and I didn’t care who saw me, I was proud of the tears. If ever there were a time when white doves could’ve flown out of my ribcage, they would have been then. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately considering the small confined space in the traincar I was sharing with strangers, they did not. But my heart grew ten sizes that day because it had the room and the time and the newfound strength and permissions to give and receive love freely, honestly, and with the greatest of ease.
So the question now is:
WHO WANTS IN ON THIS?!