Not that long ago, I almost gave up on love.
The relationship that nearly took me out of the game for good wasn't even a very long one. It was only a few months, but this guy was everything I thought I wanted. The attraction was immediate, the chemistry intense, and the connection real. We were good together.
Then it fell apart. The details don't matter, but the upshot is that we were looking for different things. So I walked away, and he let me. And that was that.
Except that "that" threw me into some sort of out-of-body tailspin (complete with a few weepy, semi-psycho phones call to him...yikes). I've lived through a divorce, for goodness sake--the mother of all break ups--and the ending of another far more meaningful two-year relationship. This one, though, really kicked the crap out of me.
The Friday it first went down, all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a pint of mint chocolate chip and cry it out, but I couldn't, because I needed to host a sleepover for IndieBabe's best friend Annabel who had recently moved out of the city, complete with lanyards and eight rounds of Twister. I had to keep going--with a smile--even though my heart felt splintered and my eyes were raw and stinging. At one point I escaped to the bathroom to sob for exactly six minutes, exiting brightly with the fakest Mary Poppins-esque, "Who wants s'mores!?" you've ever heard.
The rest of that weekend, I'm ashamed to admit, I phoned it in. So much so that by Sunday afternoon IndieBabe actually asked if we could do something other than watch TV. Worse, I was short with her. This is the darkest part of being an IndieMom: when our single life drama threatens to eclipse our better parenting instincts. We want to be supermom and always put on a brave face for our kids, but sometimes, the best we can do is be real.
Eventually, she asked why I seemed sad, and I knew I couldn't hide it anymore. So I put it in the only terms I could think of that a seven year-old could relate to: I told her that a very good friend of mine moved away. She got it. In her inimitably soulful way, she gave me a hug and said, "Do you want to know what I did to feel better when Annabel moved away?"
Um, yeah...I really did, actually.
"Well," she said, pausing for effect (we love a good drama moment over here), "At first I got sad, but then I played a lot with my other friends and that made me happy. And then after a while I knew that Annabel was always in my heart and I was ok."
Well, there you have it. I took IndieBabe's advice, beat the BFF tom toms, and in a matter of minutes, my girlfriends came through like some warrior babe battalion. They called from every end of the country, emailed, took me for pedicures, gave me astonishingly insightful advice. God bless Samantha, who spent all 35 minutes of a snowy cab ride to Brooklyn on the phone tough loving me (and the cab driver who piped in, "Tell your friend she's better off without him."). And Wendy, who gave me one of the best I-can't-breathe laughs of my life telling me about the lengths she still goes to avoid running into the dude who broke her heart when we were in college.
IndieBabe was right. It helped, and within a couple of weeks, I was back to myself. Minus one thing: I was D-O-N-E with dating. No more. I couldn't go through this again. It was just too damn hard. I had a responsibility to protect my heart, because that same heart needed to care for IndieBabe's precious being. I needed to be a good role model...to be strong...to be fierce.
But then I remembered that fierce also means fearless, and there is no greater fearlessness than the one we have to practice when it comes to opening our hearts. If there is anything I want my little girl to learn from me about relationships, it's to never, ever give up on love. She doesn't need me to martyr myself for her sake. Just the opposite. I want to show her that love can be beautiful, inspiring, and yes, sometimes messy and painful, but it's still worth fighting for. If I'm her role model, then you bet your ass I'm going to show her what's possible. So I took a deep breath, ditched the "woe is me" tattered sweats, shimmied back into my skinny jeans, and started again.
And then, as these things do, someone appeared out of the blue. Crazy cliché, but a boy who grew up down the street from me found me on Facebook. Turns out he'd become a damn fine grown up. He called to see if we could get together after revealing I was his grade school puppy love crush (complete with a memory of my long bangs hanging down in my eyes and my nose buried in a Judy Blume book). And just like that, the little tingle inside that I thought was permanently extinguished sparked back to life.
So off I go again, hopefully a little wiser. Wish me luck.
Follow Debra Goldstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/TheIndieMom