Friday, January 15, 2016

Wide Open Spaces


The first time I had a panic attack I was in a barn in Missouri. Like a real barn. Not some barn a hipster from Brooklyn has her wedding in with globe lights and wildflowers and recovered wood tables and no bra. An actual barn. I was 25. I was wearing red peep toe shoes. They still had the sticky Marshall's price tag on them and I felt really badly about that. But I was in a barn and a big brown horse was staring at me. I panicked because how do you get out of that situation? First, the horse needs to stop staring at you. Then you have to get out of an actual barn. How do you make that happen? Are you on a farm? Do farms have addresses? Should you call your dad? How the hell would he find you? Where the HELL are you? You're in the actual state of Missouri with a tall, really good looking guy who is SO wrong for you and his mother, the owner of the horse, who yesterday bought you a set of polka dotted bowls at a craft fair, so now you feel like the devil because you want to get away from her (and her son) and it's the actual worst and a horse is STARING AT YOUR FACE judging you. That horse knows what you're thinking and he does NOT like you.

I pretended to have heat exhaustion which, honestly, wasn't too much of a stretch since it was over 90 (70) degrees. I got into a pick-up truck with the tall, really good looking guy who was SO wrong for me and he pretended his stomach was upset so his family wouldn't know I was losing my shit. His stepfather drove us back to their house where I paced around the living room shaking and wringing my hands and telling him over and over again that I was totally and completely fine. I wished he'd go away, and that made me feel worse and panic more. 

I really really didn't want to go to Missouri. The tall, really good looking guy who was SO wrong for me had invited me to come home with him and meet his family about a month prior to this panic attack - three weeks into dating him. I'd lied and said I couldn't afford it. So he went ahead and bought me a plane ticket and surprised me with it. I felt like a horrible person for not wanting to go. I didn't want to fly. I didn't think we were right for each other. I didn't want to be away from my job and all that came along with it at that time. But this was what girls got excited about. A boy likes you. He wants you to meet his family. You should go. So I went. I bought a bathing suit because his family had a pool. I bought a cover-up. NO! That was five years later when I went to Illinois with another guy who was wrong for me. No cover-up. Just a bathing suit. I was thinner then, I guess. Cover-up never entered my mind. 

ANYWAY. It wasn't all bad. In fact, there was one night in Missouri where I remember feeling no panic at all. It's one of my most favorite memories. It was my third night there and we were all in the backyard playing board games - so much togetherness, right? Barn. Games. Neighbors coming over to play the games. Enough already. Anyway, once the board games died down, I ended up in a lounge chair with the tall, really good looking guy who was SO wrong for me. We were facing away from the rest of the group just sort of looking at the yard and sky and, as nauseating as this sounds, I'll never forget the view. Ever. It was the biggest, most breathtaking, spectacular, orange-est sky I've ever seen. It was HUGE. Limitless. I didn't know you could take a breath as deep as the breath I took looking at that sky. I felt like I could get up out of the lounge chair, start walking, and go right over the edge of that sky and fall into it and be totally fine forever and ever. It was a complete and total absence of anxiety. Something I hadn't felt in a long time and have felt only a few times since. I remember wishing that I could stay there and ignore all the shit taking up space in the rest of my head and heart and be a nice, normal backyard board game-playing person who didn't mind temperatures over 70 degrees and liked to look at the sky with her tall boyfriend. I'd make the Dixie Chick's "Wide Open Spaces" my theme song and buy jean shorts and sit in the sun and learn to drive. I'd have done almost anything to hold onto that sky and that moment where this tall, good looking guy who was SO wrong for me was SO right for me. 

Two days later I came back to Boston. A week and a half after that, the tall, good looking guy who was SO wrong for me "accidentally" found himself in my email and saw a message I'd sent to my mother where I said he was annoying me and I wanted him to leave me alone so I could watch Law & Order: SVU in peace at the end of my day. We broke up a week after that. Shrug.

While I was in Missouri, his mother who bought me a set of polka dotted bowls introduced me to a really sweet red haired girl who was coming to Boston for a summer ballet program and asked me to take this girl under my wing. That really sweet red haired girl is now married to the tall good looking guy who was SO wrong for me. They run a ballet school in Missouri together. AND I'M BITTER AND ALONE AND COLD IN NEW ENGLAND WITH AN OBESE CAT AS MY ONLY COMPANION. No. I'm kidding. Well actually, that's kind of true. I am. But I like it. I like it just as much as they probably like what they're doing. 

I'm thankful for that tall, good looking guy who was SO wrong for me and who hacked my email and read the snark I sent to my mother about him. He gave me one of my most favorite memories with that sky. I thought of him three months ago when I was in Provincetown by myself looking at the ocean and the sky (pictured above) and feeling totally content. I closed my eyes and took a really deep breath and there he was. Not in a creepy way. I'd never call him or reach out or try to bust up his marriage to the sweet red head, I just took a minute to remember the good stuff he brought my way and then I let him go. 

I've always been a person who wants to burn shit down when it ends. I don't want to remember you, think about you, acknowledge you, or believe you ever existed. Go away. You didn't last forever, you probably hurt me, so now you don't exist. I want to knock that off. I think it's important as we move through life and relationships to remember that just because it didn't end in forever, it doesn't mean we shouldn't keep a little piece of it. Over the years I've subconsciously collected the special ones, despite the things they did or I did that resulted in a parting of ways. I'm thankful to them for the things they said that made me laugh, the people they introduced me to, and the wide open spaces that helped me breathe.


4 comments:

  1. OH sweetie. SWEETIE. We are going to connect in about a million ways. Are you a hugger? No? Well, I'm going to hug the living SHIT out of you when I meet you, but I promise I will stop before panic sets in. Also, expect me to have at least one moment of anxiety while in Boston. I have anxiety and it hits at the worst times (traveling always triggers it). You are awesome.

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    1. Oh I'm a BIG hugger. There will be hugging, no doubt.

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