Declarations. They’re kind of like this: powerful, grounding – and supremely inconvenient. They come from a place of strength sometimes, from that area inside of you that forces you to declare that you know better. But sometimes they slink back inside of you when you inhale with a sudden start and they settle into a location that might be in close proximity to your stomach because that’s where you begin to feel an odd sort of fluttering.
Declarations, I have found, are much like resolutions. They are made with the best of intentions. They are only made sometimes. And like a resolution and just about every pair of gloves I have ever owned in my entire life, I forget about them until they go so far missing that I can hardly remember what it was I declared in the first place.
I will not eat anything with more of a fat content than this fistful of soil in my hands.
I will not ever go to sleep without washing my face.
I will let everybody who matters to me always know how much gratitude I have because each one exists within my life.
I will remove everybody from my mind who has ever hurt me like I was created with not only an emotional resolve, but with that carpet cleanser that’s called Resolve that can wash the bad things away without leaving a scent or a stain.
I will be a more available friend.
I will be a more patient daughter.
I will push myself to change when doing the same thing time and time again leads to the same questionable results.
I will recognize once again that I am not someone who has ever believed in reincarnation, so this is my only life and I have to fight to get everything I want.
Those declarations? I’ve made them all. I felt a power inside of me when I made each one, and there was something very authentic about that power that actually made my skin feel hot to the touch. It was my brain and my heart and that storage place in my stomach working in some kind of glorious tandem and the inner workings somehow reached my facial features and it all caused me to smile. I’d go to bed on the evening where some of those declarations were exclaimed to the heavens and I’d settle against my mountain of firm pillows and I’d pull the covers tightly around me and I’d move onto my side and pull my legs into the weird yoga tree position I oddly sleep in and I’d shut my eyes and welcome the newfound certainties that would never ever leave me.
I was on the phone recently with a really good friend. I hadn’t spoken to him in a while and that’s why I didn’t know that recently his wife left him and he was trying to hold it all together, trying to rebuild his world at a time he’d probably never felt more weary. He told me the story slowly and it got sadder as each second passed by and I was on the other line, so many literal miles away from him, and I could feel my head shaking back and forth in what I think was wonderment at how one person could damage another so completely. And I shared the parts of my life with him that he had missed during the time when we were lost to one another, and I tried to be comforting in my blunt manner and to let him know that the cause of his pain was not one that was self-inflicted.
“I tried to be a really good husband,” he told me. That was a declaration he had made for himself, for his wife, for their life that was to be spent together, and – if I know that guy as well as I think I do – he had been a very good husband. But sometimes one person’s selflessness is not enough.
“How are you doing?” he asked me then, and I think maybe he just needed to take a breath after telling me his whole miserable tale and he knew if I talked, he could recompose himself. And so I told him how I was and I don’t remember everything I said, but I do know that I definitely uttered these sentences: “I’m just fine. Tonight I am really more than okay. And all I can hope and plan for is that tomorrow I will be okay, too. I’m going for some kind of continued streak of being fine and I feel strong enough right now that I believe it’s going to happen.”
It did happen. I am just fine. I hope that he will be fine too. But I also know that neither of us will ever be satisfied with fine.
Just a few days ago, I had a brief talk with a man I work with. He’s a very good guy – sweet, bright, reliable – and we found ourselves sitting together in a way that normally doesn’t happen and I asked him about his summer plans and he looked as lost as I sometimes feel, but his feeling of being lost was written across his face like a tragic poem and I try to keep my pain hidden. He and his wife just separated, he told me. He moved out. He figured she’d come to her senses, but he didn’t know if he was prepared to hang on until that moment happened.
I told him I was sorry for what he was going through. I nodded when he told me he was a mess. I looked closely at his face and tried to see if I could see the tremors of the strength he would need to wake up in the morning and all I could see was this almost visceral cloudiness. I remembered when he had first met that girl and how happy and settled he looked then. I wondered what she thought she saw when she looked at his face the night she told him it was over.
I need to be single for once. That was a declaration I made to myself somewhere around the age of twenty-five. I’d been in two four-year relationships in a row. I’d been introduced as someone’s girlfriend more often than I’d been introduced by my own name.
By the time I decided it was the right moment to tell my boyfriend that we needed to break up, I’d worked through the pain of it all and had some time to imagine myself away from his side and out of his bed and standing there on my own. I was somewhat impatient with the rushing and crushing emotions that ran through his body and out of his mouth and out of his eyes when I finally told him my new truth. I was unkind in how I dealt with it and all I can say is that I was young then and I didn’t have a lot of practice in hurting people and I was fully embracing being selfish and, while I rarely think about that guy I once loved anymore, I do think very frequently about how I needlessly caused a good person pain. I should not have stayed with him – but I could have explained myself better and been less inconvenienced by his sorrow. He deserved my compassion. He’d earned it.
We all declare things – to ourselves and to one another – and maybe we shouldn’t, but that’s a silly thought. I guess we just have to make declarations we feel we can keep.
I will not tell a guy I don’t know exceedingly well to look at my blog or to read my book. He should learn about me in degrees – and that degree should never be at the bullet speed of ten thousand.
There was one time I declared that I thought I was in love with someone when I wasn’t sure because the love felt differently than it ever had before. Still, I had to say it. The words were running through my head and making me dizzy and I was afraid that if I didn’t release the words into the chilly air, that I’d end up saying it accidentally, like the time when I was twenty-two and really drunk and I was lying on the floor of the bedroom of a guy who was kind of my boyfriend but we hadn’t made that distinction yet. He was playing with my long hair in the way I love where he’d pull his fingers through it from the top of my scalp all the way to the ends and he was doing it in this kind of perfect rhythm and I rarely drank – and I certainly never drank as much as I did that night – and I could feel this build up of something strong in my heart, but I knew he wasn’t ready to hear it and besides, I wanted him to say it first. So I chose to ignore the words jumbling their way into a coherent but scary sentence in my mind and I opened my mouth to ask him if he was lying on top of the remote but the words that actually came out of my mouth were, “I love you.”
There’s only a few times it should be allowed, but shouldn’t we all be born with some kind of reset button where we can rewind time? I’m all for regulations; we should maybe only get five resets for our entire lives, but if we’re born with fingernails that need to be cut and hair that needs to be waxed and teeth that often need to be bedazzled with braces during the years when we’re already the ugliest we’ll ever be, can’t that reset button be part of the body too?
That guy took it well. He kissed me and said the same thing back to me less than forty-eight hours later and when he said it, all I could do was nod because his declaration scared the shit out of me. But that other guy I wasn’t sure I loved? I said it to him too – while he was sleeping next to me. And as soon as the words escaped my lips, I was profoundly grateful that he hadn’t heard them and I guess that sort of counts as a reset experience.
I will not read into the songs that randomly come on the radio. I will not see their appearance as messages loaded down with subtext. I will not let that one line from that one song make me rethink something I have already decided I have come to terms with. I will force myself to realize that these songs and their order were programmed not by some karmic deity, but by a human being who doesn’t know me and has no stake in sending me the kind of wisdom that I sometimes believe comes from song lyrics.
Driving home yesterday, I heard three songs in a row that began to mean something significant during a time in my life where I felt what I can only describe as newness. I smiled when the first song came on. I laughed when the second song followed. But when the third song that once scored a different era of my life blasted from my radio next, I muttered aloud, “Seriously?” and I considered what I was supposed to take away from that moment where a trifecta of symbolic communication began to flood over me.
And that was when I declared that I would not take anything away from that moment – and I didn’t. I just sang along with the words and tried not to think about anything that was once real.
Still, I know that declaration – just like all those other declarations – are fleeting. They exist to make something that’s confounding into something explainable. They exist to bring a sense of calm into a mind that sometimes whirls too quickly. They exist to provide answers when I haven’t even sometimes asked the proper questions.
They exist to eventually be broken.