"40 Love Letters" performed by Jeananne Verlee at NYC Urbana Finals Slam at the Bowery Poetry Club. May 2010
17 hour car ride driven on minimal sleep, with my mother, two dogs, and two teenagers as company. Traffic was a mother. I smell, my ass is still asleep from so much sitting, and I definitely ate too much turkey jerky. Any previous bitching about the yuppie struggle that defines my life in dc is retracted.
That being said, I would without a doubt make this trip all over again if asked.
My sisters are hilarious and my mother is wonderful, not a one of them minded that I talk to myself frequently while I drive, that I hum aggressively and off key when frustrated with traffic. They endured listening to Fall Out Boy for an hour, and we all sang along to Beyonce at the top of our lungs. I farted as often and as loudly I wanted, without reservation. They are easily the best company I could want on such a stressful journey.
And now I am finally resting in my grandfathers house, the embodiment of unconditional love and warmth, and quite literally a shrine of his paternal pride. Pictures of myself and my cousins line the walls of his home highlighting our collective greatest hits. Baby photos, birthdays, graduations, weddings. It puts me in awe that my memory is held in such high esteem from a human that I have such limited contact with.
This is my reset. I am built on the unconditional love and support of my family. They are my ballast; they make up a significant part of my core, my inner strength. With that, there truly is never a need to balk at the challenges presented to me in my life. I feel as though this is the first time in a long time that my heart has felt so balanced. My family brings the best out of me. I am humbled by it, and am so blessed and so grateful for that.
I love the holidays.
It’s been close to two months since we’ve spoken to each other and your face is still one of the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning and one of the last before I go to sleep.
It could be bc I’m still in love with you. I think. I guess I could just be obsessing over the stability you provided in my life. Maybe that is what I’m freaking out about three months after our break up (two months since we’ve talked). But right now I’m 85% sure that isn’t it. I miss the way your brain works and hearing your thoughts and asking your opinion; you never give a half-assed response. I miss your quirks, and your laugh, and the way you look at me when you’re confused or confounded bc I’ve said something so perversely obtuse or ridiculous or astounding to you that you seem to appreciate me even more for it. I miss our inside jokes. I am realizing that I am starting to forget some of them, and that makes me incredibly upset. I miss your kisses in the mornings and I miss your stubble and how it felt on my skin. I miss walking into your living room and seeing you shining your shoes for work or packing for drill, or debating the ethics of the NSA’s secret courts with your roommates. I miss how staunchly patriotic you are and how I never had to question how you felt about Snowden or even Jane Fonda that one time she hung out with the Vietcong back in the day (She may have been great in Monster-in-Law with JLo - and that may have forsaken her sins with me - but I know you still hold tepid distaste for her; thats cool). I miss teasing you for how much you like frozen yogurt. I still love frozen yogurt. I’d totally eat frozen yogurt with you in the wintery 32 degree weather; happily scooping into a bowl of FroYo and chocolate chips so big that goliath would envy us. I miss disagreeing with you and challenging you and being challenged by you. Even now, months after, I still think that you make me a better person bc you created a new perspective of thinking about things and setting goals for myself and meeting them above target. I miss hangout out with your friends and seeing how much they love you, just as much as I love you, and having that really cool, oddly not intense connection with them that “hey, we both really fucking love this kid bc he’s the best, so yeah we’re cool with each other now too.”
The physical space your body took up next to me when we hung out was existent and all, but that isn’t what kept me company or made me feel secure. It was you. Okay so maybe I’m more like 95% sure that I’m still in love with you.
Of course, my instinct is to call and tell you, in excruciating detail, that the thought of you
sends me into a manic tailspin leaves me with overwhelmingly mixed emotion and I miss you terribly. I’m really hesitant to actually tell this to you, for a number of reasons, which I will now list.
1. My friends have advised me against it. Maybe not the best reason, but also they know me better than I know myself some days, and the last few
days months have been pretty…. difficult (for reasons other than you, god don’t be so selfish) and I haven’t exactly had opportunity to be my carefree, fun loving single self. So far, my time in singledom has been über shitastic, and their worry is that my need to reach out to you comes from a desire to hibernate in something familiar. A valid concern. Also, they think you need to take your head out of your ass and be the one to reach out to me. Their words, not mine! Maybe they have a point to both of those ends.
2. I feel that this is a selfish move on my part in reaching out bc it sets an expectation on you that you should respond. You don’t have to bc if you have moved on it is truly unfair to dredge all of this drama back up for my sake. But you probably should respond. Bc I’m selfish and emotionally delicate and also maniacally manipulative and not responding to me would be torture and I would do my best to make you feel incredibly guilty. This may also result in me showing up at your front door in Petworth, standing in the pouring rain (its more dramatic), quoting Notting Hill… “I’m just a girl, standing in front a boy, asking him to love her…” Damn Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant for their brilliant rom com endings. Also Petworth is like the Baby Gap of ghetto, so I would hope you would let me in if only out of concern for my safety.
3. If you respond and you say that you’re not interested and you are over me - or worse, that you’re happily dating someone else who can deliver on the loyalty and commitment that I failed to give to you and our relationship… I suppose that would be worse than the torture of no response. I might die. Sure, I’d have a much greater reason to move on, what with you essentially killing my hopes for life long joy and happiness with you. But still, ouch. That’s a wholly terrifying thought.
4. If you said “Yes! I’ve been waiting for you to reach out to me, I feel the same way, let’s get back together!” then there’s also a chance I would immediately want to retreat into my hovel of an apartment and not come out until you went away again. Bc whoa do I miss you; but am I emotionally ready to make myself available to you (or anyone but especially to you bc you deserve the best)? Better judgement (my greatest enemy on most days) tells me no, no Gaby, no way in hell are you prepared to make yourself available to any living thing. Not a cat, not a dog, certainly not to a man, no matter how amazing he is. No. No. Don’t even entertain the thought. You don’t have the willpower to say no to a fifth cookie after dinner, and now you’re saying you want to jump back into bed with commitment?!? (Too late, that fifth cookie was delish and yes despite sound reason and logic, I want you back in my life). #yolo
5. You feel exactly the same way that I do; i.e. You’re also still in love with me but just as confused and unsure and terrified of what you want. So we both profess our love for each other but we’re no further than we were back in September bc you still don’t 100% trust me and I still am sort of psychotic and not 100% emotionally available I guess (?)
So, I’ll hold onto this note for myself to read over whenever my thoughts about you feel especially overwhelming. Perhaps I’ll even add on to it. Bc I’m a human and it is always easier to call out the flaws and weaknesses that drive me nuts about myself than to praise myself for my strengths.
What a shame that it takes months of “soul searching” (my hippy jive-talk) to find one infinitesimal thing about myself that I like and feel secure enough about not to question (most days).
I am actively building a life for myself, alone, that I am happy with. I don’t enjoy being consumed by thoughts of you and I’m tired of trying to “wait it out” til I wake up one day and you’re not on my mind. So yeah, in theory I’m moving on. The first couple months have been a lesson in not drowning, but I’d like to think that I’ve done a good job thus far in getting a feel for the current and strengthening my swim stroke. You know, more than anyone else, how I feel about life jackets.
Lesson: When you’re facing a giant wave, there a couple choices to be made. Stand against the wave, either from defiance or ignorance, and get the shit knocked out of you when it (inevitably) crashes into you. Or accept that this particular wave appears to be fairly large and fairly powerful and potentially physically harmful and learn how to dive through it to the other side.
Everyone at one point or another stands in defiance of the big waves
The smaller waves hit humbly against our bodies; kissing our shins, washing past our ankles, lapping in pools beside our feet before retreating into the sand underneath our soles. Unhurried in rhythm and undeviating in routine, gentle waves foster a comfort in their constancy. But inoculated with the calming grace of smaller waves, in the face of larger waves we miscalculate the strength of our own inner ballast.
Shocked and disoriented, you find yourself tumbling in the trough. Humbled and humiliated at the loss of control over your limbs, your body becomes subject to the violent toss and turn of the water. The gritty taste of sand in your mouth and the briny burn in your throat and nostrils after you are washed up and spit out of a big wave is the reward for your conceit.
But when you dive just below the surface, the roar of the wave becomes dulled by the loud hush of pressure against your eardrums. As the wave crests and crashes above your head, your body remains the anchor keeping you just beyond the chaos. The water surges in swirled fits through your hair, hugging around your torso, in-between the spaces of your fingers and toes with so much force that it briefly feels tangible. And just as quickly as it emerged, the wave dissipates and the subtle pounding strengthens in your chest. Your lungs are reminding you to kick up to the surface to take in a big breathe of air so you can dive again before the next big wave rolls in.
And there is always a next wave.
Gaby: I started to write about your dog – about how you need to ask forgiveness from her for misjudging your own situation, then forgive yourself for doing so. But I stopped because I thought more about you.
There are people in this world who are born with gifts others don’t have. You are one of those people. I could see it and feel it in you since you were born. Your mother has it too by the way. You have some mission in this world, some task to carry out. It may be saving a village or it may be bringing joy into the lives around you just by who you are. It’s like the old Mission Impossible opening: “This is your job if you care to accept it.” The only difference for those born with a sense of self that others don’t have is you don’t really have a choice of whether to accept it. It is here.
Now here’s the rub. We with special gifts have some hard growing lessons along the way. Sometimes we lose confidence in our gift or become afraid of it. Sometimes we attempt to tamp down our expectations of ourselves with men or alcohol or just shutting down. We can get very hurt and we can hurt others. Usually the universe gives us lots of time between learning experiences so that we can feel the pain we need to feel, absorb the knowing we need to absorb about ourselves and our limitations, and finally move on deeper and stronger. Unfortunately, you seem to be on double speed. You created pain in the breakup with Evan, and you created pain with Cecelia, and you didn’t have time in between to absorb and move on. You just got the pain.
Please know you will come out on the other side of this a stronger, deeper self. You do need to feel the pain and fully see how you created it. Then you need to accept that each of us is made up of dark and light, good and bad, weak and strong; and accept that the weak side is part of you as is the strong side. Don’t reject it. Just know you are a whole being and accept your weaknesses. In time you also will again celebrate your strengths.
I want you to really hear this next bit. When you were 10 years old and we were flying to Florida to visit my mother and father, you asked “Nana, what do you think happens to you when you die?” I answered that I wasn’t sure I know and asked what you thought. You said something close to “I think we are here to learn things we have to learn. When we die, we come back again, to learn what else we need to learn. When we’ve learned it all, we don’t have to come back anymore. We are pure spirit.”
Then you said to me “Nana, I’m almost there.”
Gaby, I say to you now “You’re almost there.”
Come back to yourself and appreciate who you are, with all the strengths and all the weakness. You are special in this world.
I love you Gaby - all of you.