About two weeks ago I got a message from an Ex, a guy I dated in my mid-20’s. It was short…’Hey Lyndsey, can you call me? There’s something I want to talk to you about. Nothing Serious. BTW nice pictures of the ocean!’ –end message-
Now in your 20’s you may assume that and ex is calling you to tell you that they never told you about their spring break in Cabo and you should go to your Doctor, to you know, check things out. Or, that again, in Cabo, they saw someone they think you might be friends with, and by saw, they mean slept with, and they wanted you to hear it from them, you know, before it got weird.
Now, in your 30’s….well I cant really say. The only ex I have here is Paul, and we haven’t seen each other since the day we broke up. There was the time I thought I saw him on his motorcycle in stopped traffic and proceeded to duck (yes really) under the steering wheel, in a total panic, thus forgetting that I was still responsible for operating my car. A nice little honk from behind brought me back, and I was able to keep it moving.
I remember seeing a guy I dated in my 20’s, kinda seriously, 3-weeks later holding hands with this girl AT THE MALL. Now unless forced, I don’t go to the mall, but there I was shopping away at J.Crew to get some new business clothes, and BAM. I didn’t just set the clothes down and exit calmly. I threw them, threw them, in the air, and ran out. It was the combination of the mall, and too many pant options, and orange julius’s…I ran. I’m grateful for online shopping. If you’re wondering if they saw me, the answer is yes. It’s very hard to miss a pile of clothes flying up in the air, and then a small 4 foot 11 figure sprinting away, arms pumping like Jackie Joyner Kersee.
It’s funny, the reactions we have to seeing our ex’s.
Now I did see Paul’s mom a few months back. She reached out to me to let me know she’d be visiting, and would I like to have breakfast? I love his mom. She’s fiery, and opinionated, and sweet all at once. She gardens, and goes antiquing, and knows a lot of answers to things. Also, I so admired how much she loved her kids so outwardly. For the first time since we broke up, I reached out to Paul. He was sweet and kind and told me to go for it, that she’d love to see me. I asked about 7 more times just to make sure. 7 more times, he said yes.
There was a moment in this where I wondered if Paul and I would get back together. That his Mom was the olive branch.
I called my handful of girlfriends before this…in more ways than one they told me I was being an idiot and this was a terrible idea.
‘But,’ I thought…
‘But,’ maybe….I cautiously said out loud.
‘Okay’, they said, ‘call me after’. Knowing that once I’ve made up my mind. It’s done.
Yeah, so the only olives that day were the ones in my martini that I wished I was drinking. Because, sometimes alcohol is very helpful.
The first thing she says to me when I go give her a big hug…Paul is FURIOUS with me for having breakfast with you. Literally, the first thing. I lean into the counter to order coffee and eggs, and then some juice, and you know, some ice water, light ice, and then proceed to make my omelet order super specific….not to be an asshole, but to buy myself a few breaths of what to say to next that wasn’t related to hollandaise sauce. I felt blindsided: He told me he was fine….he told me to go for it…he said she would love it….
‘Oh?’ I said.
But really, what did I expect? My girlfriends were right. Dammit. This was a bad idea.
We had a nice breakfast, we caught up, we laughed. She gave me a beautiful gift of these white linen dishtowels she had drawn flowers on with their Latin names. She gave me some dog treats for Moose. And she gave me soap, cause she loves to give soap.
Because she doesn’t have a tremendous filter, the one thing she told me that did hurt, was Paul asked her why did we have to see each other, we had only met a handful of times, how meaningful could it be….I’m paraphrasing…but that was the gist.
This one stung because she did matter to me. And when I thought I was going to marry him, these handful of times I got to spend with his Mom, felt like we were building something.
‘Oh’, I said, when she told me that. ‘Oh’.
When I hugged her goodbye, I realized I really wouldn’t ever see her again….even though she said we should do this again. I guess it would be weird to hug someone and say well, best of luck to you. But I think we all know when it’s time to hit the gong.
I have wondered why I said yes to that breakfast. What did I still need to know? Over tacos and marg’s just days before, my girlfriends and I leaned in close, and wondered out-loud, if we’d get back together. As the marg’s flowed, so did the grandeur of what this all could mean, what a story this would be, and we’d tell this story at our barn wedding in the Fall of dream-ville, mason jars and white lights, honeymooning after via unicorn rides, spending 3 long weeks in the city of, when pigs fly, having bullshit appetizers for breakfast each morning with a piping hot cup of, you go girl.
A group of women over tacos, margaritas and long work-weeks, can reeeeealy really do some damage to future expectations.
And so, cut to 2-weeks ago when I get this message from an ex from 8-years ago.
I wrote back.
Hi! Nice to hear from you! It’d be great to talk to you! but I must admit, your message is a little vauge! Can you offer some context?!
And yes. I did include that many exclamation points, cause I like to make strange situations even stranger with enthusiasm.
He says. ‘Sure. There’s something I want to apologize for.’
And then I start wracking my brain, going over as many days as I can remember of our time together. There was literally nothing about him and I that ever felt incomplete.
We met when I was 26 and he was 24. He was a 3rd year med student, and I was a pharmaceutical sales rep. A pediatrician (where he was rounding, and I was peddling) set us up. We hit it off right away. He’s handsome, smart, kind, and could make me laugh easily.
When we ended it wasn’t hurtful, eventful, or monumental. His schedule got crazy, he was focusing on getting into the best residency program, I had just found yoga, and was totally fine dating yoga and hanging out with all my new friends wearing mala’s.
Now when I got his first message and I ruled out all the Cabo scenarios. I thought, what the heck does he want to talk about?
Does he know I’m in medical device now and saw me running around the hospital (I knew he was in California but I didn’t know where)
Does he want to know if he’s the reason I’m dating a woman now?
And then when he said he wanted to apologize for something. I really got confused.
We talked yesterday. We played phone tag a bit before then. And I’ll admit, haphazardly on my end. Every time I’d call him back, I’d will him not to answer. I was afraid of what he would say. I didn’t want any apologies that would hurt.
We had such a nice conversation. We picked up right where we left off. Conversation with he and I, was always easy.
I smiled at the questions he asked…he remembered the most random details of my life, from the time we were together….
Hey, did you ever get your graduate thesis through your committee at penn state?
How’s your friend with the dog, you know that dog…what was her name…Dolce?
Do you still snort when you laugh?
How old is your niece now, she must be like a teenager?
Is your mom still wild and crazy?
He asked a question, I asked a question. It was very much like playing an extremely leisurely game of tennis at the ol’ neighborhood park.
I asked him what type of medicine he was practicing now.
He said none.
I snorted/laughed in surprise (suuuuuch a bad habit I have).
WHAT? (honest reaction)
Yeah, so I finished residency about a month ago in anesthesia, and I don’t want to do this for a living, so I’m not.
Wow, I yelled! WOW! (I couldn’t think of anything else to say in that moment)
He explained it so calmly, so certainly, he was able to see his life play out in the 3-years of residency, and the years of course before that as well….it wasn’t a life he wanted.
He went on to say that he’d rather make a good salary doing something he loved (goals for business ownership), and be able to dictate more about his schedule, and how he spent his time, than make a ton of money and have no say in any of that for a few decades.
I was so blown away. How very brave.
And I said to him.
This is so brave of you. And I meant every word.
When I walked away from my PhD program, when I walked from 6 figures to a giant pay-cut, when I walked from that job and into Kenya, when I walked from NY for a life unknown in CA….I mean, it doesn’t come without question. But the bigger question of what if I DIDN’T….has always always moved me towards what I know to be true.
I started wondering how he was going to pay back his student loans, and getting all worried for him. But let me tell you, someone who’s just made a major life choice like that, does not need another financial advisor. They just need to be heard.
So I listened.
And I listened some more.
And, as we rounded the hour mark on our convo, I still had no idea where the apology was, and was even more confused about it.
And so he says to me, like a person who has just made a major life choice, and is now realizing that what we have above any currency is connection. He says to me, I’m sorry, cause I just completely lost touch with you, and so many people who were important to me…I lost friendships, and connections, and important people, and I want you to know you were and are important to me, and I’m sorry I didn’t show you that.
Man, was that honest.
And geez, what integrity.
It was one of the most heartfelt apologies for something I have ever received. And reminded me that connection truly is everything.
I said to him, that wasn’t my experience of us at all, that he got busy, and I went another way, but that I never looked at us or our time together as one he was responsible for maintaining.
There wasn’t anything weird about it, no advances, no trying to get back together.
It was a man saying, to a girl he used to date, I’m sorry, I totally lost touch with you.
My guess is he was also moved to reach out to say hey, me too. My blog has become a bit of a confessional in that way, a truth-telling forum, a failure-diary, a big-love, confession, a I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-I’m-doing-but-will-keep-on-trying, account.
I am fortunate to get people who reach out to me often who want to tell me the truth too. It’s beautiful, and it’s why I’ll keep writing.
I was talking to my friend Nina yesterday, and told her what happened. She and I were both margarita/taco guessing what this conversation might be about a week ago, though long-distance, she lives in Chicago.
Well geez, she said, that’s refreshing.
And it really was. There was no clothes flying, mall sprinting. There was no ducking under my steering wheel in moving traffic. There was no facebook stalking. There was no half-truths.
So…what I guess I’ll end with is if you are digging into the ex-files, you really, really gotta ask yourself why. And then the next question is, for the person on the other end, will this take them backwards? Or will it take them forwards. If the answer is forward…go for it. If this answer is backwards, or youre not sure, write a letter and then burn it, or bury it, or flush it down the toilet. Read it out loud to your girlfriends over wine and vision boards. It’s too reckless to reach out to those we once loved if it’s self-serving. I’ve been on both the receiving and giving end of that. Not just with partners…but with co-workers….friends. Is what I have to say just for me? For my conscious? Okay then, best to burn the letter.
Oh, and as far as my thought that maybe he wanted to know if he’s got any reason to do with my (picture girl girl emoji here)…it didn’t come up.
Yet again, just my ego and insecurity thinking it’s going to come up.
As for she and I, yep, were still holding hands into September. When I told you she was sweet and kind, and so so smart…every time I see her, I cant believe how much this is true. I think about her all the time, and even drove away with the gas pump still in my car a few weeks back. (it all worked out, it just kinda dislodged and was just like swaying side to side when I looked in the rear view to see (what the hell that noise was) All good, But yeah its that absentminded, falling for someone, state of mind when you walk into walls and stuff. Also, guys, I mean she legitlely looks at any given moment in time that she’s just walked off the beach volleyball court. I’m gonna brag for a moment, she has oblique’s, which I don’t think I’ve ever had in my life, and am pretty sure only shirtless Abercrombie models and pro-athletes have. I thought they were a myth.
But all jokes aside…neither she nor I are in any big hurry to define what we are. There are no status changes. No declarations. It just feels easy. She’s nervous, I’m nervous. She’s happy. I’m happy. She was gone for the past 2-weeks on a trip…and when she showed up on my front porch this week fresh off her flight, it mine as well have been Oprah giving me a car. I was that happy to see her.
(side note: that Oprah thing happened in 2004, will something that epic ever happen again? To this day, it makes me smile thinking about how I was watching this on TV crying tears of joy for these people) (I’ve included some audience reactions to show you what it was like when the babe arrived on my front porch).
YOU get a girlfriend! YOU get a girlfriend!
I mean…not yet. But I’m just so cool with it. Feeling so free. Ps. Boobs? Boobs are so awesome. On that gay note, signing off.
Careful with those Ex-Files guys.