Sunday, September 9, 2018

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Consequences

I'm parked at the cemetery. "Consequences" by Camila Cabello has been running on a loop, unintentionally, for the last fifteen minutes. Something about the words triggered a very raw, emotional reaction. It smells like coffee. My purse, my keyboard, even my hair, it all tends to hold onto the aroma long after I've left my cozy nook. 

I shit the bed. Recently, someone taught me the less-than-eloquent phrase of "shitting the bed," which is perfect in this context. I shit the bed with my choice of life partner, that part is obvious. And for a while after the paperwork was finalized, my thought process about it was skewed. In my head, that was it. I had my shot at marriage. I would never have that kind of love again. No one would ever choose me - they already did and threw me back. The idea that someone else could was unbelievable, scary, daunting, anxiety-inducing even. The loss I was having felt like a death. Until I had to actually deal with death. 

Now, I know there's a possibility that it could happen. Someone could choose me. Someones have chosen me since, and I them, as least for a moment in time. And for one reason or another, I'm sitting in this car, writing all of this down, and thinking about this song. There really are consequences to loving someone, because one way or another it's going to end. Relationships all end. Whether they end in death, argument, silence, when you invest yourself into someone else, there's a consequence to that. The harshest reality of all though is all of those people you love will eventually die, before you or after you. That permanence is heartbreaking. 

I was always scared of this happening. So much so that I was 27-years-old with tears in my eyes saying to my on-the-way-to-becoming ex-husband, "But you're the one that's supposed to be with me if something happens to Mom or Dad."

Through tears he responded, "I can't be that person. I never could have been." 

I can remember being worried about dying as a young child. I was labeled as "gifted" throughout my 2nd-grade year and most of the time that translated into "weird" or "eccentric," as most of my closest friends now describe me. And as I've learned from my gifted peers and friends, there's a healthy amount of us that struggle with worrisome thoughts, especially when it's an "unknown" or something that cannot 100% be explained with proven data or conversation. Death was one of those things for me. Sure, I've had my faith, but being presented with my brother and father in front of me with a body that doesn't "work" anymore offered up unexplainable feelings and questions.

My experiences with death and breakups are now so closely intertwined. A very compact two years left me with mountains I didn't ever wish to climb. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined having to suit up and start the trek so young, so quickly, and feeling so extremely on my own either. I'm purposefully putting myself in front of new obstacles. They're uncomfortable and scary as well. But the good kind. They're the kind where you grow and develop and in the end you may have sweat and cried a lot, but you come out a far better person in the end. 

Has any of this deterred me from diving into new relationships - of any kind? No. Have those consequences made me second guess my vulnerability to others? No. My friends think I'm a little insane. I'm certainly more cautious than I ever have been before. I try to be smarter. But, I'm still giving people the benefit of the doubt even with the tinge of bitterness that has started to come off of my tongue.

These consequences are what scare a lot of people inside of relationships. The inevitable hurt at the end is what makes them run, or leave before being left, or worse, act like a complete asshole because the effort involved isn’t worth the inevitable-ness of it all. And that’s why I’m the insane one. I will take the hurt anyday for the moments of connection or having someone who cares on the receiving line of your life. That’s really the beauty of it all at the end of the day. That I felt so deeply about such a variety of people that when it ended, I hurt. If it wasn’t so beautiful, it wouldn’t have hurt so badly to lose them. 
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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Sincerely

To the Renaissance Nashville Hotel Family,

I was four years old when I walked into your hotel for the first time. The name outside read Stouffer’s and there were ashtrays in the lobby, filled with sand that had been stamped with the fancy “S” logo. My dad had come to help out, and I was privileged enough to create a home away from home inside its walls.

Mr. John Fleming was my father. A hotel manager by day and a goofy, grinning daddy by night – that’s how his closet was separated too; beautiful suits on one hand and then, on the other, hundreds of white tube socks, vacation shirts, and sweatpants that he wore on his morning trip to grab a newspaper and coffee on the weekends.

Nervous and always on my best behavior, I wanted to make him proud every chance I got to visit you all. I didn’t want to embarrass him. He loved the men and women he worked with, and I wanted to make sure that I made a good first impression, second impression, a lasting impression still to this day because that’s what he did. But now, mostly, I want to make an impression that says, “She is appreciative.”

Dad gave me so much at home. Together with my mom, they offered a life to me that so many people don’t get the opportunity to have. From the intangibles to a room full of everything I could have dreamt of, my siblings and I had it all. Now after sharing such an emotional experience together, I know how much he gave to all of you too.

At the funeral, everyone kept thanking us for sharing Dad with them. What’s amazing is I never felt like I was “sharing” him. He worked long hours, and he would occasionally travel, but he still made everyone in his life feel special. I was never gipped of time with my Dad while he was here. Instead, I gained better insight and advice from him because of the team he had built at the Renaissance – which was all of you. I must confess, though I’m terribly angry that I do feel my time was cut short with him for one reason that keeps swirling around in my head. In fact, it’s how I began the letter I wrote to him – the one I tucked under his sleeve on March 9th, 2018, hoping that he’s able to receive snail mail in heaven.

“I wasn’t done learning from you Daddy,” I printed out on paper from an old journal. I bet a lot of you feel the same way.

Dad, Mom, Nick, and Donna had already traveled and lived around the country before I was even a blip on the radar. I didn’t get to experience living in Mobile, hunkered down at the Riverview during the hurricane, or watching Dad make his mark on The Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C. Instead, I was given the gift of making Nashville my hometown. I never felt like I missed out on anything that came before 1989 though, no matter how many times Nick or Donna wanted to remind me that I was late to the Fleming party. And that’s because of how Dad’s team made my family feel every time we stepped inside the lobby of the Renaissance, settled on 611 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tennessee.

The chocolate eggs and bunnies showcased near the elevators at Easter, the Kids’ CafĂ© parties that I tried really hard to be excellent at face-painting for (so many children asked me to give them a reindeer and they’d walk away with a very sad cat on their cheek instead), the renovations, the Mother’s Day brunches, there are so many of my childhood and milestone memories locked away in that hotel. I turned 21 there and had my first appletini. And most recently, my high school class and I celebrated our 10-year reunion there – with details so perfect and food so delicious.

As soon as we walked away from Austin and Bell on March 10th, 2018, I felt the need to do what I always do when I’m feeling things that I don’t quite understand. I write. That memory of those ashtrays kept coming to mind, and I knew that no matter how this letter or gobbledygook ran out on paper that I needed to get it to all of you. It’s the best way I know how to say, “Thank you.”

Thank you for being a part of my Dad’s life. Thank you for being a part of my family’s life. Thank you for being a part of my own life. But mostly, thank you for loving my father and thank you for providing a home away from home for him for the past 25 years. He wanted to get back to you. He was sad that he felt like the chance had been taken from him with the latest diagnosis but going back to work, in his words, “wasn’t being taken off the table just yet.” I need you all to know that he wanted to get back to it. He wanted to shake your hands and goof around and be your leader – if only for a little bit longer – and finish his career on his own accord.

Again, thank you for loving my father. And thank you for showing it in a way that he deserved because he deserved it all.

Sincerely and with so much love,

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Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Clean Slated Summer

Have you ever seen a beetle on its back? Its legs are moving frantically in all directions trying to get back on the ground to scurry away and survive the moment's trauma. Sometimes you put it out of its misery. Sometimes you'll see someone kneel down and use their index finger to flip it over and let it run free. Other times you see its struggle and keep moving past it.

I felt like one of those glossy insects fighting to stay afloat plenty of times within the last two years. And I had people from all nooks of my life pass me by or use their index finger to turn me over. Others just tried to squash me silent. When you're alone and quiet, you see everyone and everything with so much more clarity than you did when you were living under a shiny mask.

I'm turned over now. And my mask came off over 104+ weeks ago. I've learned a lot of lessons since I was 27. One being, you can't plan life. Everyone will have opinions on how you should be living it. Everyone had opinions on how I should handle the divorce. Everyone has opinions on how I should parent Claire. Everyone has opinions on how I should handle grief, and everyone has opinions on how I should have/had/be handling newer, worse heartbreak.

But I cannot make everyone happy. I can make myself happy though. I can make myself excited for life every day. I can become fulfilled in more than someone else's happiness. And if I'm that kind of woman; a woman who is confident in herself, acts on her sense of adventure, and has the courage to use her emotions as strength, that's what Claire will learn. She'll be proud of her mom one day.

I get caught up in sentiment. A calendar date. A name. A note written on a napkin. A song. A symbol. I put meaning to inanimate objects or untouchables. It sticks with me.

November 16. July 17. March 5. December 17. January 19. March 17. February 5. April 12.

These dates give me whiplash.

Obviously, this isn't a trait that only I have, it's all part of being human. A smell, a touch, a photograph ... it can take someone back to the best, the worst and all kinds of memories. But I'd venture to say that I get a bit deeper. I can lock myself inside of it and never budge.

I love James Bay. He used to be on repeat. But now, I can't stomach his voice. It takes me right back. I'm sitting in my Jetta with Chaos and The Calm on repeat, driving to spin class and completely drowned in feelings that I couldn't pinpoint or explain yet. I was still crying in corners and under the covers. I wasn't okay. I was composed and that album was my safety. It helped me sort through the worst, the toughest and the saddest of thoughts and emotions. I prayed to never feel that way again not knowing that it would only get worse. And no matter how much I love James Bay, he's erased now. Because I can't stomach him.

But now, when I hear Garth Brooks, I get weak. I get weak because the last time I saw my brother alive was at his concert. And they played his song at his funeral. And I spent the weeks following his passing listening to his greatest hits CD on replay trying to forgive myself for not doing something else for Nick. 

And that trickles over to a lot of other things as well. I don't want to be stuck on anything or anyone anymore. I'm heading out to Chicago this week to start a summer full of adventure and a clean slate. It includes sentiments that don't matter because they pull me down. It includes bad thoughts about myself. That clean slate includes men too. Relationship jumping isn't healthy. And although the man I thought I loved started anew before I told him to pack his things, at least I know who I am. I know what I want. I know how to get it. And I'm not scared of it.

I love being a sentimental person. It speaks a lot about what's important to me and, even more importantly, who is important to me. But I'm not going to let the bad feelings drown me or have me lying on my back anymore like those beetles that come out in the spring. I don't want anyone looking at me while my arms and legs are trying to hold steady. I welcome them to look at me with a magnifying glass though. I welcome everyone to see the imperfections. I welcome everyone to see the mess ups and the screw-ups and bedroom transgressions. Because all of that is real.
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Monday, May 21, 2018

He's Back

I surprised him. It was around eight in the morning. He was bright-eyed and I was still a little glossy. He thrives in the morning and I can't coherently do much until around noon. He was running errands and I came up behind him. 

"Haven't seen you in a while," I whispered in his ear. 

I felt the stubble on his face. I was on the very tip of my toes and could barely reach high enough to cover his blue eyes but I felt his cheeks move. He was smiling. And when he finally turned around I realized how genuine that smile was. 
 ... 

I wanted to grab a drink before we took the drive home. He waited for me outside and I got a lemonade because I knew it was his favorite. He just sat there and stared while I stood in line. 

I had only kissed him once since the new year rolled in. I skipped out the doors and started pulling him by the waist of his pants toward me. I startled him a bit and he laughed. 

He was trying to grow out a beard and he was a little sloppy. Nevertheless, I was still incredibly attracted to him. And he was still hiding his sweetness. He was years younger than I but he tried desperately to act older, wiser, and more nonchalant than his maturity level spoke for him. But I didn't care. He was fun. And I respected the fact that I scared him. What I respected more was the fact that he didn't run from the fear. 
 ... 

We were walking when a man across the street yelled in my direction. 

"Hey! Hey, sweetie," he continued. 

I didn't necessarily know that he was yelling at me but his voice made me uncomfortable so I didn't turn my head. 

"Hey! Meghan Trainor," he yelled again. 

That's when I knew it was for me. And that's when he grabbed my hand and tugged on me to go faster. 

I started laughing, "What's wrong?" 

"I don't like it," he replied. 

"Like what," I asked, "that wasn't a big deal. People say I look like her all of the time." 

He looked down at me and said, "You didn't see the way he was looking at you. I didn't like it." 

"Well, you don't really have any say in the matter. Whether you're still holding my hand or not, I'm not yours," I explained and pulled away from him. 

"You like reminding people of that," he scoffed and turned to walk away. 

 I could feel my cheeks redden, "No, I don't," I said while I scurried to catch up.
 ...

I loved the way his hand felt on my lower back. He'd guide me up the front porch steps or out the door with its steadiness. But sometimes it felt wrong because I knew we could never be anything more than these short moments. I was living for them though.

My head found its way onto his chest everytime the lights went out. The texts he would send me asking me to not ever fly alone again. But once he was indulged, just a bit, he'd turn it off. He'd go back to the games and not caring. I knew better though. I knew better from day one with him. It was all fun and games but there was some emotions sliding in from left field that I was uncovering at the same time that I was throwing dirt on the pile to cover it up. 

I couldn't have feelings for him. No matter how black his hair was or how blue his eyes were. No matter how tall he was or how peeking at that one tattoo of his brought me back to that first night together. No matter how much we liked to talk about our dreams and decipher their meanings. There was nothing about us that would ever fit. And I was completely okay with that. I accepted that when we first met. I just hadn't accepted the fact that I would eventually develop some sort of actual care for him.

 ...

I climbed into his lap and faced him. My legs wrapped around his back and my head rested on his shoulder. 

"Look at me you idiot," he said.

I popped my head up quickly, "Excuse me?"

My attitude spiked and I unlocked my legs to try and get up.

"Don't move," he demanded.

"Well, what's your problem," I asked.

He rolled his eyes, "Nothing Grace. Sometimes you just need to be called an idiot to keep yourself in check. You just aren't as observant with yourself as you are with other people."

I looked back at him confused all the while I felt his rough hands find their way up the back of my sweatshirt.

"No matter who I end up with, she will never have those eyes or that crease in her bottom lip and I will always want her to," he said.

My stomach dropped. There were so many ways I could deconstruct that sentence. There were so many different ways I could process it. Instead, I responded in the worst of ways.

"Yeah, they all say that about my eyes," I said as I took a turn rolling my own.

He was silent. I could tell he was mad.

"Grace," he began, "you ruin all moments. It's not even that you can ruin just one moment, you literally ruin every moment." 

I replied quickly, "I know." 

I felt the tears coming. And I was nauseated. And I really wanted to jump up from his lap and run into the bathroom and turn the lights off and hide in the tub. 

"I'm going to try this again," he continued, "No matter who I end up with. I'm going to end up with someone else because by the time I am able to settle down you will have found someone worthy of you and your daughter. I'm hoping you have another child by then. But no matter who it is, she won't ever have those eyes that every man that's kissed you loves so much. She won't have that sexy crease in her lower lip. I will want her to. I will think about you from time to time and I will wish she had those two things."

I sighed.

"Don't ruin it," he said.

So I just stared at him instead. I didn't know what to say because every thought that came to mind was incredibly inappropriate. 
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