I don’t remember the last time I sat around moping because it was Valentine’s Day. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it was probably the last time someone made me help pick out flowers or a present for someone else and said something like, “Now which do you like best? If it were you getting this, what would you want?” because you know it’s got that underlying implication: “Wow, that sucks that no one is doing anything for you because no one loves you, but would you just mind pretending for a few minutes?” You know, basically rubbing salt in a wound (perhaps after peeling back most of your skin) before slowly dipping you into acid. BUT… even that hasn’t really happened in a while (the assistant shopper part… not the salt and acid thing).
Last week I was sitting at my computer. It was somewhere around 2 a.m., and I’d been looking at that stupid blinking cursor for about an hour, but I just couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be writing. I was starting to get really tired and I asked myself, “Why does this have to be so hard sometimes?” Even as I asked it, I knew the answer. Nothing worth having is ever easy and sometimes it takes a LONG time. And then, in a feat of meta-awesomeness, I directed my thoughts at my own brain.
“And you. Why do you pull me in with all of these great ideas and make me feel like I’ve got something to work with before inexplicably turning on me and making me feel like I can’t do anything to please you?”
This went on for a little while longer whilst I wrote absolutely nothing. Just before I fell asleep, I scribbled “writing is a relationship” on a Post-It note and left it next to my computer. I fell asleep wondering what people would do if I changed my Facebook relationship status to say that I’m “in a relationship and it’s complicated.” They’d obviously ask, “With whom?” …because they all use proper grammar. “With writing,” I’d reply. Naturally, they would all assume that I’d really lost it this time. Even more so than when I created a Facebook account for my dogs.
But in a way — many ways, really — it’s true. In the past few weeks, I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of time with my writing. We laugh, we cry, we fight, and then we smooth things out and keep going.
And really, it’s kind of been one of those great love stories over which people who are way girlier than I am go berserk. Or maybe it’s just kind of creepy. Lucky for you, kind of creepy is more my style. And a-go!
We met a long time ago and were “just friends” for a while (you know the “just” … it’s full of peeled skin, salt, and acid). I really wanted to pursue it and find out what happened, but my writing was like, “You’re still pretty young. I’m not sure you’re ready for this kind of commitment. I just don’t think we’re at the same place in life right now.”
“I think you’re crazy,” I replied. “This is a great idea.”
“You’re only nine. You still think Saturday morning cartoons and Sweet Valley High books are a great idea. I’m sorry, but I don’t think so. I hope we can still be friends.”
Extract all teeth. Empty a salt shaker into the open sockets. Ouch. AND you look ridiculous now.
(Important Aside: In case you’re wondering, yes. I read the SVH series when I was 9. Do not judge my parents for this. They bought me the Sweet Valley middle school series books, which I started reading in kindergarten. I can’t imagine what my teachers thought. I checked the SVH books out of the library until about 4th or 5th grade. Then I just bought them.)
Anyway, we stayed friends, but it got weird for a while. A few years later, though, things seemed to be getting better again.
“Things are different now,” I told Writing.
“We shall see,” Writing answered.
We took it slowly, but for most of sixth grade, we were absolutely inseparable. I can’t really speak for Writing, but I liked the attention we were getting as a single entity.
Junior High was really tough, though. I had the brooding part down. So much so, in fact, that I quit caring about everything. Writing stayed in my orbit — we each knew what the other was up to — but we weren’t nearly as close. Sad, really. The years passed, and just as Writing thought I was lost forever, there I was again. When I rang the doorbell and asked if we could please go back to the way things were, it was dark and cold and pouring down rain. My hair was soaked. It was all very dramatic.
“Things can’t stay the way they are right now,” I cried. “We’re not meant to be static. This can’t be all for nothing. We have to move forward!”
Writing sighed. “I just don’t know if it’s a good idea.”
“I can prove it to you,” I said. And from within my black sweatshirt jacket, I produced a small tablet. “Look how serious I am this time. I’ve become a poet!”
When one is so full of angst, there is simply no other choice.
Writing took the tablet, looked at it, and said nothing. I backed away, feeling defeated.
It seemed as though it would never work out. Everything seemed to be perfect — it just wouldn’t line up.
And then Writing started paying more attention to me. I’d even go as far as to say that Writing pursued me, even if just a little bit, via a guidance counselor who suggested I attend a summer writing workshop at this place called Susquehanna University.
I applied and was accepted to the workshop and Writing and I became inseparable again because there was a fresh new aspect to our relationship (all the things I learned at writing camp).
This lasted for years, in fact, and I dare say that Writing and I were quite the “will-they-or-won’t-they?” duo.
One Saturday night in my last year of college, there was nothing else to do. Writing and I had some beers because everyone knows that serious authors must consume alcohol. We were just hanging out, trying to think of something to do. All of a sudden, I looked up at Writing, who looked back at me with a strange expression. Writing leaned in. I leaned in. It was about damn time.
And then Writing burped in my face and fell over laughing about it.
“That’s it!” I jumped up, pointing at the door. My face must have been horribly flushed. “This is going nowhere. AGAIN! I really thought I was getting the hang of this, but now I realize you were just leading me on.”
Every good love story has a drunken fight scene, clearly.
So Writing peaced out. I called a few days later and said that I thought we should keep our relationship strictly professional from then on. And so it was for four years.
Writing and I are in a pretty good place now, although we certainly have our share of disagreements. It’s give and take. It’s putting forth effort, even when we don’t necessarily feel like it. It’s listening and respecting each other and being willing to keep going forward. As long as we’re laughing (or at least smiling), the fun is there. I still worry that Writing will humiliate me or leave me high and dry again. It’s totally confusing at times and I want to bang my head against a brick wall. We take each other for granted and sometimes it still feels like it’s going nowhere. But then Writing surprises me with an interesting twist or something else totally unexpected that keeps me in it. It’s the most serious we’ve ever been, perhaps because it’s the perfect balance of comfort and newness or surprise.
Some people will say that there’s such a thing as “too late” but I refuse to believe in it. It took the better part of 20 years to get to this point. I could have settled into a lethargic state of contentment with Writing and just settled for the stagnancy of our relationship (which is really sad and maybe the worst case scenario). I could have thrown in the towel numerous times and just walked away. By this point, a lot of people would have. But I didn’t because I’m not a lot of people. And I’d do it all over again because the companionship I’ve found that has stuck by me now even when things have gotten really rough has been completely worth it. To me, anyway, that’s what really matters.