A word about getting back together with your ex

So here’s some gossip-worthy news, if you haven’t put two and two together yet: Taylor and I (yes, the boyfriend I was with for just shy of four years, then broke up with, then spent six months learning who I was without) are back together.

I’ll start by saying that I hate that terminology – the way you might characterize a sitcom romance. “They’re back together” like it’s just another ordinary day at the park, like it’s equally as temporary of a situation as the one that preceded it. “Back together” the same way that some wayward friend is “back in rehab” or “back to old habits.” More, even, than its temporal qualities – I hate that it implies regression. Why not “forward together” or “beginning anew”?

I’ll stop there – but suffice it to say that this hasn’t felt much like being “back” to anything.

It started in May. I was hesitant, the way that only a broken heart can be. Pessimistic and cynical, I treated the whole thing like a bubble about to pop. “This is nice,” I thought. “This will be nice for awhile. And when it all comes crashing down, well – at least I’ll know that I’ve gotten through it before, so I can do it again.” I traipsed through this new affair like a minefield. Sooner or later (and that inevitability weighed on me at every turn) this would have to end, and end badly.

In the meantime, though, I accepted love back into my life the way a recovering addict might entertain the idea of just one more heady dose of the good stuff: Yes, I’ll regret this later. I’ll be worse off afterward than I was before. But right now, right at this moment – isn’t it nice? Isn’t this delirious ecstasy absolutely, incontrovertibly worth it?

Because it was. It was better than I even let myself admit.

I feel I can best describe this sensation by likening it to an unfortunate stereotypically female trait of mine. Growing up, my mom always used the same car mechanic: a shop owned by a friendly pair of guys who were, coincidentally, both named Dave. My mom always took her car in to the Daves, and – when I got old enough – referred me to them as well.

Being only 16 at the time, and a typical girl when it came to cars, their garage was like the Starship Enterprise to me. How was it, that when I described a problem to them (with all the eloquent precision of: “Um… it goes ‘ee-err-ee-err’ when I first start it”), they were able to hoist my car up toward the rafters, dive elbows-deep into its greasy underbelly, make a few tweaks here and there and just fix it? The interworkings of my Toyota were as unfamiliar to me as the infinitesimal anatomy of a human brain cell, or the exorbitant vastness of the universe. I would stare at them, astonished, as they wiped their hands with a blue rag and told me I was all set.

It had all the makings of sorcery.

Which is why to this day, I still imagine auto shops to be a magical place where you bring broken things of all shapes and sizes to be tweaked, tinkered with, and tuned up – then returned to you in their best possible form. Things that otherwise would be doomed to remain unfixed forever can surely be mended at the hands of an adept mechanic.

This is what it felt like to be back in my relationship. Like I hadn’t actually ever left it – just placed it in the capable hands of some wizard at a relationship-fixing garage for awhile, letting the Daves do their work. And unbeknownst to me, my love life was undergoing heavy diagnostics. The engine was being polished, oil changed, brake pads replaced.

And when it was returned to me, it was like my beat-up old jalopy was back in the brightly-lit showroom of the dealership all those years ago. Its freshly-waxed paint gleamed and winked at me almost smugly – like, “What? You didn’t think I was still capable of this?”

It was, truly, even better than new, because it still bore all my favorite memories – the drive-ins, the road trips, the mistakes made and lessons learned. Everything we’d been through together had made it stronger, and the time apart made it invincible.

And it wasn’t the Daves I had to thank for this, of course; it was Taylor himself. He’d lifted the hood of that old clunker and brought out the toolbox – tuning and tightening what had become loose over the years, giving some much-needed TLC to parts that had rusted over from neglect.

At the risk of deviating too far from the metaphor (off the comfortable path of analogy and into the perilous jungle of factual testimony), Taylor had undergone a transformation and reinvested in ways I hadn’t thought possible… and without my involvement, no less.

Needless to say, coming back was like returning home and falling in love with a whole new person all at the same time.

Likewise, I’d gone through something of a personal upheaval myself. Small and lost in a new city, alone for the first time in my life, I’d faced truths about myself I can’t say I would have unearthed in a hundred years otherwise. I’d filled my life with enriching new experiences, animated new characters, and desires I hadn’t dared to voice before (like “I think I’d like to learn to play the guitar”). Questions about love, God, writing, life, and the human experience littered my journals in disorganized but impassioned scribbles. I was forced to face the question, with increasing urgency: “Who are you, Susie?” (The answer to which, you’d have to agree, would undoubtedly inform the success of any future relationship – romantic or otherwise.)

We were being simultaneously tweaked and tuned up, he and I –¬† and when we climbed back into that car, the engine purred.

I knew how this sounded. I’d been on the receiving end of this conversation before, and I knew what it was like. Sure things are better now, of course they are. It’s completely logical to think that people change, and two tumultuous souls can just split up for six months and come back to the world’s best relationship. Things are perfect, life is great, nothing could ever go wrong… call me when you wake up.

It was, frankly, too good to be true. Anyone listening would be doing so with jaded ears. Hell, if I were my own friend, I would be listening with jaded ears.

My friends were there, after all. They saw the hurt. They’ve heard these claims before. Like the addict trying to convince the world that after dozens and dozens of false alarms she is finally off the stuff for good (“really, this time, you guys!”) – the world shakes its head sadly, pats her on the knee and says sadly, “Sure, honey.” I heard my own initial skepticism echoed in my friends’ voices, and I didn’t blame them one bit.

But can you blame me, then, for being timid about sharing the news? I tiptoed around this conversation with my friends and family with such delicacy that it was months before the majority of them even knew. We gallivanted around Portland like convicted criminals, wearing hoods and sunglasses and peeking around corners for anyone who might recognize us. I waited until the last possible second to admit to myself – and, shortly thereafter, the world – that this could maybe possibly actually be real.

I made my final announcement in (characteristically) the most immature way possible – by posting a photo on social media with no explanation whatsoever, other than the hashtag “#bringontheinquisition.” Comments and texts flooded, and I answered their probing curiosities with as much grace as I could muster. I was honest when I conceded “You’re right, it is crazy. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe this is all a glorious hallucination, and I will wake up any minute.”

But it’s been five months now, and I haven’t woken up yet. Things are more wonderful than they ever have been, and I’ve stopped expecting the bubble to pop.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no delusions of perfection. I know that – like anything worth having in this life – love takes work. My love will not always be this glimmering display of glossy paint and a purring engine. It will take periodic check-ups and oil changes. The tires may need to be replaced.

But maybe the difference is in the acknowledgement that one broken carburetor isn’t enough to trash the whole car. Maybe it’s understanding that it takes two to tango, you get out what you put in, and the machine is only as valuable as the work you invest into it. Maybe it’s the recognition that it’s evolved from a junker to a rolls-royce… and that’s something worth protecting.

But in any case, this is me telling the world that – yes…

Taylor and I are back together.

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Turns out age 26 is actually the greatest

I’m sorry. I’m going to disappoint you all. I’m not going to talk about a single thing I said I would in my last post.

Because the fact is, I’m frankly incapable of talking about (or thinking about, or reading about, or dreaming about) anything other than what I’m about to tell you.

…You guys. I’m going to Europe.

No need to adjust the settings on your computer monitor, folks, you read that right. Exactly six months from right this moment, I will be traveling to London, Paris, and Rome with the greatest man who ever walked the Planet Earth.

On my 26th birthday last week, while I was busy having a quarterlife crisis – lamenting my lost years and wondering when the heck I’m going to get around to being an adult – Taylor was preparing to give me the greatest gift a human being can give another: a plane ticket, a binder full of hotels and attractions, and four travel books detailing the different European hubs we’ll be making our way to in April… forcing every other boyfriend, from here on out, to live in this gift’s perpetual shadow. Taylor makes even Ryan Gosling look like a common street corner scrub. (Upon hearing the news, a friend of mine even exclaimed, “What the hell? My husband got me pajama pants for my birthday.”)

I unwrapped my gift with tentative enthusiasm, then genuine confusion, followed by utter disbelief. As realization set in and my eyes bulged out of their sockets – I leafed through the travel binder carefully, timidly, afraid that if I turned a page too quickly or jostled the giftbag in my lap the whole fragile thing would crumble. “No,” I said. “No. No. TAYLOR!”

He told me, giddily, that we would be leaving in exactly six months to the day – my half-birthday, in fact – and that we would be seeing the most beautiful and romantic sites the continent had to offer. (Including, forgive my dweebiness – PLATFORM NINE AND THREE QUARTERS AND THE BEATLES MUSEUM)

Tears followed, along with a breathless call to my mom. Taylor ushered me through the rest of my birthday celebration – including sunset cocktails and dinner Portland’s nicest rooftop restaurant overlooking the city – and it was all I could do not to babble to every stranger I met about our plans. Everyone from our Uber driver to the hostess who sat us at our table inducted him into the Boyfriend Hall of Fame.

So, for some background: I’ve been to Europe before, with my high school vocal ensemble. It was an honor, to be selected to travel halfway across the world and sing hymns as old as the buildings we occupied – hearing our voices reverberate around high-ceilinged domes, walls lined with frescoes, itching in our long choir robes.

However, I was 16 – and with all my best friends and a handful of really cute boys. And admittedly (and perhaps characteristically), we were much more consumed with the tapestry of young love stories being woven around us than the thousands of years of history beneath our feet. We scampered past timeless works of art without pause, whispered to each other as our tourguide pointed out monumental statues, peeked around the corners of architectural masterpieces to giggle at the sight of our crushes.

I even remember, jetlagged and sorely uninterested, actually falling asleep at the pulpit of a grand Spanish cathedral… because why should I care about some historic Catholic Church – with its breathtaking ceilings and intricate stained glass windows – when, like, Stephanie and Gabe were totally holding hands under the table of that last cafe?

Youth is wasted on the young.

Not to mention – even if I’d had a more mature grasp of the setting around me… we ventured to the parts of Europe that (at the risk of sounding like a spoiled American brat) I might not have sought out of my own accord. Poland was gorgeous, to be sure – but seeing the mountains of shoes and eyeglasses of victims strewn about Auschwitz, and the horrifying chambers¬† – labeled on one side “Able-Bodied Men” and on the other “Women and Children” weighed heavy on my young heart.

An earth-shattering experience, no doubt about it… but it didn’t jive well with the Lizzie McGuire version of a European vacation I’d come to expect.

Needless to say I’ve been itching to return, from the moment my feet landed back on American soil a decade ago.

But Europe – Europe – that’s the stuff of miracles, isn’t it? Boarding an airplane, crossing an ocean, and landing on a foreign shore… replicating in reverse the journey our ancestors made generations ago… entering a continent with such rich history and culture, buildings that are more than 300 years old?! It was a dream, sure – but the kind of dream that only presents itself once or twice in a lifetime. I thought would come true again maybe for my honeymoon, or as a faraway work assignment from some yet unidentified future employer… or maybe in retirement, when I would think up the idea in a lace nightgown while sipping tea.

But for my TWENTY-SIXTH BIRTHDAY?! Not in a million years.

I’ve been asking everyone I can think of – from my neighbors, to my entire extended family to the FedEx guy – what recommendations they have. With only 11 days to make it through 3 (possibly 4, we’re mulling over Edinburgh) cities, I need all the advice I can get.

My travel books are dogeared, torn, folded, crossed out, and scribbled all over. I’ve got a jetlag-avoiding Melatonin regimen from one friend, a packing guide from another, a language-learning app from a third, and a long list of attractions, museums, and restaurants. Taylor and I have an entire movie marathon – from Eurotrip to French Kiss – to get through by April, and all of my friends and family are tired of hearing me talk about this.

So I pose it to you, faithful readers: What should we do, where should we go, what can’t we miss?

And also: AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!

Don’t call it a comeback

It’s been so long, I don’t even know where to start.

Part of me is even timid about typing these first few words, because I imagine you all out there with pitchforks and torches – ready to take to the streets and call for my head. Because how dare I just disappear for months on end and then pick right back up where I left off like not a day has passed? The gall – the wretched, appalling nerve of it!

Or worse: There’s no one out there. Not a soul noticed my absence, the internet has carried on unfettered, another blog bites the dust, and the wheels on the bus go round and round.

Whatever the case, I am sorry. My last blog post was – GASP – over seven months ago. The things this world has seen since I last wrote! How far we’ve come, how much has transpired!

Some brief highlights, since the last time my fingers graced this keyboard: Caitlyn was still Bruce, and Ben & Jen were still together. The world had not yet been struck dumb by the maddening viral sensation known as the dress (#whiteandgoldforever), and the possibility of parallel universes as proven by the Berenst#in Bears. Donald Trump had not yet given every comedian in the world liquid gold joke fodder for months to come… which is a shame, because both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were still on Comedy Central. Portland was a comfortable, breezy 70 degrees (not this current mid-autumn sauna absurdity), and my tummy was a little bit smaller ’round the middle (miss you, Pure Barre!).

It’s been so long, in fact, that I can scarcely remember how to do it. Did I usually ramble like this? (Yes.) Did it always take this long to piece together sentences? (Most likely.) Was I always draped in a blanket like a five-year-old playing superhero? (Yes, but now with wine.) How did I ever decide what to write about? In looking at my blog for inspiration, I’m pathetically unable to identify any kind of theme or pattern. Why was I sometimes funny, sometimes sad, sometimes instructive, poetic, or ridiculous? What was that thing where I did a Throwback Thursday feature for a hot second… and then just let it taper off like a Raiders fan’s dignity?

My fingers feel like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz when he rusts up – I need to take an oil can to my wrists to even remember what my muscles are supposed to do.

But a lot has gone down since I last said hello to the world, and I feel an obligation to my followers to keep you in-the-know. (I’ll also take this moment to give a shoutout to those followers – hello Mom, Dad, and kidnap victim I keep chained in the basement!)

As such, with any luck you can expect the following posts in coming days:

  • The Bearded Ryan sequel (the saga continues!)
  • My inevitable quarterlife crisis when I turn 26 in two days (I thought I was freaking out last year. Now I’m very definitely in my late 20s and I’m already hyperventilating about it.)
  • I got promoted! So you get to hear me drone on more about how much I love my job and my coworkers are so great and I’m so happy and blah blah blah Susie we get it.
  • I am also no longer alone (hubba, hubba), have spent my life’s savings on vacations this year (Denver and Dallas and Seattle, oh my!), and went WHITE WATER RIVER RAFTING IN CLASS 5 RAPIDS NBD EVERYBODY.

So here’s hoping my blog continues to be interesting (actually let’s manage our expectations – here’s hoping I can just keep it current).

Thanks for reading, y’all, and hope to see you again soon!