There are men who keep popping up in your life after you’re over them. They are often sweet, beautiful tragedies who are waiting for the day you'll run back into their arms. We often find ourselves over these men because we've either evolved past them, or we've just grown tired of them. We still care deeply about these individuals. We tell them we can be friends with them, but that we have no intentions of being romantic with them again. They keep trying.
Photo by Jim Alden.>
Then there are men who are ripped out of your life by circumstance -- in my case, these are the men who shipped off to another country, thrown in jail, or suffering from a traumatic brain injury. After countless days of suffering, we eventually get over them because we have no choice. We may never see them again, and we accept that possibility. The universe intervened, and said directly to us: "you are not supposed to be with this person." The truth is -- in most cases -- they were poison from the start.
Then there are the other men -- the men you still haven't evolved past or grown tired of. They're the furthest thing from poison imaginable, and their brains are fully in tact. They share your zip code, industry, and circle of friends, and their presence is a flashing orb of unresolve in your life. They barely made it out of the relationship you shared alive. Perhaps they're still in recovery, and they're afraid you're never satiated. Maybe you're not. Maybe this is a lesson you still have to learn. The question is, what do you do in the meantime? What do you do when the man you're still in love with keeps popping up? You want to run, but you want to revel. You want to kick his ass, but you want to kiss him. You're not the kind of friends who can make small talk. There's never the time or place to have The Talk. So ... what do you do in the meantime?
I saw Carey when I was on assignment in New York City a few weeks ago. He and a few of his colleagues were competing in a hacker and inventor challenge I covered for the show I work on. We corresponded via e-mail and text the week leading up to the trip. He suggested we get together with our group of friends when the contest was done. This was a big deal for us, as we've communicated electronically for the last eight months regularly, but not seen each other for more than a few minutes at a time since we broke up.
Overall, I think I managed to keep it together.
If you have yet to resolve matters of the heart with someone who changed your life, and you don't know what to do in the meantime, here are some things you can do to help you keep your wits about you.1. Be three steps ahead of him.
The streets of New York were steaming. The crowd was colorful and hustling. I sent Carey a text to let him know I was arriving on site with my camera operator. I approached his area, where he and three of our mutual friends were welding, sawing and hacking away.
"Psst," I uttered while poking my head under the awning, covering the men from the 98-degree sun burning down on Manhattan.
Carey’s partner Eddie looked up and smiled. "Hey, babe!" he exclaimed. "Glad you made it."
I looked at Carey looking at me, his eyes popping out of his head. He looked like he had seen a ghost, a friendly lovely ghost, but a ghost nonetheless. His eyes sparkled in surprise, curiosity and possibly embarrassment. He approached me later, trying to mask his discomfort, and asked me what I thought of the robot his team just built. We talked for a few minutes before I left for my next shoot. (I could have sworn he looked me up and down a few times.)2. Be yourself and have fun watching him squirm.
The next day, I returned with my camera operator for the closing ceremony of the competition. I was talking with his team when he walked over, excited and not knowing at all what to say.
"So we made it!" he said. "We finished."
"Congratulations!" I said. "How do you feel?"
"Well, you look GREAT!" I responded somewhat sarcastically.
"I mean, you all look very sexy in your uniforms."
We stared into each other's eyes for a deep, long minute.
"You, ah -- you look really beautiful," he said. "I ah -- I um ... yeah, I ..." he bumbled.
Our friend Dennis intervened and started talking about their uniforms. Carey took that as his cue and walked away. I cannot express in words how uncomfortable he looked. If I didn't have the need to protect his identity and my own, I would share the footage. Yes, I have the entire scene recorded on video.3. Never let him see you sweat.
Carey is a bit of a lady's man. He’s social, funny and engaging. He'll talk to anyone and everyone. He's always the last to leave the party. After the ceremony, we all went to a bar across the street. While on the rooftop enjoying the Manhattan skyline, Carey and I talked with a man and a woman we both know from Los Angeles. It was just like old times. We were a stunning power couple. At first, the four of us conversed about technology, business, and how to have a positive social impact. And then, we squared off in twos.
We sectioned off later and mingled with the crowd individually. The thing is, we were no longer an item, and it didn't seem appropriate for us to act like one the entire night.
At some point during the evening, I saw Carey sitting at the bar eating, surrounded by two brunettes hanging on his every word. (As I mentioned earlier, it was just like old times.) I felt my defenses begin to rise.
"No no no! This can’t happen!" I internally screamed to myself. "I cannot and will not be jealous. Jealousy is what got me in this mess in the first place."
I got one more drink and talked with a few of the teams. People were beginning to get tipsy and much looser with their emotions. It was time to exit stage left.
I found my way over to Carey to say goodbye.
"I'm going to hop on the train back to my hotel," I said.
"My flight leaves in a few hours. I need to get some rest."
"Let me get you a cab."
"She can just take the subway," said one of the brunettes. "People in New York do it all the time."
"She’s from L.A.," Carey replied, like no further explanation was necessary.
"I used to live in New York, Carey. I'll be fine."
He insisted he walk me outside to get me a cab.
"You're sure you're all right to go back?" he asked.
"I'm sure the cab driver will get me back to the hotel safely," I said I as ducked inside the taxi.
I rolled down the window and looked at him.
"I don't know what else to say right now," he said softly.
"Another time. See you back in L.A."4. Trust.
Sure, I would have liked for something to have happened -- a real conversation to say the very least. But I have to trust that someday we'll have one and many more.
Sure, there are many moments I wish I could just get him out of my system for good. I've told myself repeatedly that I must be some kind of universal moron for not being over this man by now. I've dated other people. I've read books on healing and how to call in my true soul mate. I've seen a hypnotherapist. (The hypnotherapy and the reading have actually helped a great deal.) But Carey is still very stuck to my heart.
So I have to trust that there's a reason we broke up, a reason he's still in my life, and reason I have yet to know the answers. And I have to trust that I'm a pretty damn great catch. I'm loving and kind and thoughtful and smart. I forgot about those factors months ago, but they're at the forefront my mind and being now, and I'm not about to let them out of my sight.
I trust that everything is as it should be. I trust that I'll find love again, and I'm walking three steps closer to the mystery. I hope you are too.