I work in a historic area of Kansas City known as the West Bottoms. More specifically I work in a converted office building that is over 100 years old — The Livestock Exchange Building. It’s chock full of character and characters. On the first floor there is a once-famous steak house called the Golden Ox; still well-known for its steaks, but also it’s fabulous bartenders and heavy pours, the Ox is frequented by the building tenants as a happy hour hangout. In our lobby the Ox has a little lunch counter called The Hub. The quality and service has had some highs and lows over the past several years, but it is currently experiencing a wave of popularity with consistently palatable offerings so it’s a place I frequent on my lunch hours. The current managers post the daily special, including a picture, on the Hub’s Facebook page so I tend to make checking the special a part of my morning routine as I plan out my day. Imagine my sheer joy when, on day two without my graphic designer (henceforth known as Post-Thowepacalypse), my fog of depression was permeated by one of my all-time FAVORITE daily specials – NACHOS!!! Continue reading
I have wanted to write this post for three weeks, to the day. For two weeks, to the day, I’ve had the green-light to go ahead and write it. Every time I try, I just can’t. I’ll wake up at 3 in the morning with a mind filled full of the right words, one step closer to figuring out what I want to say, how I want to approach putting my feelings into thoughts and then those thoughts into words… But, somewhere in the process I get overwhelmed, tear up and choose not to face it. Not yet.
I’ve cried every day for three weeks. Some days more often than others, some cries deeper and longer, but every day I’ve tried to squeeze the hurt up through my body and out of my eyes. And it’s hard. I handle hurt and loss and heartbreak through music. I make playlists of the songs I relate to in the situation, the songs that make me feel less alone and more like I will survive… maybe even come out stronger on the other side. I listen to the songs over and over, obsessively on repeat, until they come on and I’ve somehow managed to squeeze out every ounce of feeling they once produced, and become numb. That’s my catharsis. That’s how I heal.
But, how do you handle a heartbreak that isn’t romantic? How do you relate to songs that no one has written? It’s no secret I’m not very good at relationships. Any relationship really. I’m just actually pretty awful at it. The people who love me have long ago given up on my being an equal partner in our friendship, our communication. I am selfish. I am often one-sided. And I am lucky that I have so many people who love me for who I am and accept how I’m able to connect. Unfortunately the side effect of this is that I tend to take people for granted. I tend to expect them to always be there for me. My whole life I am the one who leaves. I leave home, I move away, I change careers… I go. Rarely am I left. So, when it happens… I struggle.
Friends, good friends, they hold on. They learn my quirks and they put up with my disconnectedness and they accept me on my terms. I’ve learned to let friends go, because the real ones are never really gone.
Three weeks ago my “work husband”, for lack of a better term, pulled me aside and made good on a promise we’d made each other nearly seven years ago. At the time we were newly hired co-workers and were pretty unhappy in our current circumstance, we’d bonded and learned to rely on and trust each other. We made a deal that if either of us were ever looking, seriously looking and interviewing, for other jobs we’d let the other know. Three weeks ago he pulled me aside and told me he was about to be offered another job, one he would be taking. Two weeks ago he gave me his resignation letter. Suffice it to say it wasn’t the merriest of Christmases, nor the happiest of New Years. And now I sit here with three days left. Three days. How do you fit seven years into three days?
I’m so proud of him for leaving. He outgrew us long ago. He is so talented. So creative. So humble and patient and smart. He deserves so much more than we can give him, than I can give him. He has taught me to be a better person. He has taken all the crazy ideas in my head, translated them, put them on paper and created something out of nothing on a daily basis. He makes me want to be better at my job. Better at living. Better at being.
His affection, respect and allegiance have always been conditional. He is not my friend. We do not hang out outside of work. But he is my better half, professionally speaking. He calms me down when I let all the anger and frustration and hurt build up and overflow. He reels me in when I get caught up in the propaganda and playbills. He centers me. Well, the best I can be centered. He helps me focus and he lets me shine. I’ve sucked him dry for so long, it’s his turn to be center stage. To be built up to great heights. To be pushed to not only succeed, but to truly leave his mark. It’s his turn.
And I’m broken-hearted. I feel like a piece of me has crumbled and all that’s left is a hole in a spot I never knew existed. A spot, like so many, I’ve taken for granted.
He was 23 when I met him. In the last seven years, I have seen him grow from a focused young man, into an experienced, mature man. I helped him write out questions to ask his future wife when they were getting to know each other and talking on the phone at night. I was with him on his first business trip, with his very first taxi ride. I helped him pick songs for his reception when he got married. I listened to his triumphs and struggles at becoming a first time home-owner, dog-parent, small business-owner. (SIDEBAR: I didn’t always listen very well, one of my favorite quotes he’s ever said to me is “You are an APOCALYPTICALLY bad listener!” Fair.) Every dream I ever had for myself, I got to watch unfold for him. And it was so well deserved. Every success, every triumph, every dream come true. For seven years I lived vicariously through him, and never once told him how impressed I was that he didn’t sit back and wait for “Happily Ever After”, he actively pursued it.
For seven years I drove him nuts. I disappointed him professionally and personally. And yet, for seven years he stood in the shadows with the weight of the spotlight on his shoulders as he worked to help me shine. AND, he made my coffee every day. I mean, that’s definitely something I’m going to miss.
So, for three weeks, I’ve cried every day. I’ve tried to figure out who I’m going to be without the best part of me cheering me on and encouraging me and pushing me to be better. I never expected him to stay forever, but… it wasn’t until he was leaving that I realized I always thought I’d go with him. I always thought we’d be working together forever.
Starting next Monday I’ll be making my own coffee each morning. I’ll be keeping my too-liberal thoughts about politics, religion and social issues to myself. I’ll rely on my brother Robert and friend Mike for new music I should be checking out, even though they’re too busy and rarely send me songs anymore. I’ll wear bright green to work and no one will sarcastically comment “Happy St. Patty’s Day” no matter what time of year it is. I’ll go out to lunch and eat the whole thing and be miserable all afternoon because I won’t have him to remind me to save half. I’ll take longer to get my ideas out of my head. And the patience and communication he’s been trying to teach me for seven years will finally be put to the test when I hire a new designer to work with.
My brother tells me that I need to look at this as a positive thing. As a chance to stand on my own and be the better person I’ve been working toward. But right now, all I feel is the tsunami of emotion and the hopelessness of being left behind to pick up the pieces. And then I think of him moving on to something worthy of his talents, to finding a better professional half who builds him up, instead of just draining him of his worth, and I smile. I could never give him what he’s given me, but I can let him go and hope he finds it somewhere else.
In the meantime, I guess I can learn to make a mean cuppa Joe. Wish me luck. I’d say good luck to him, but he doesn’t need it. He has talent and drive and I know he’ll be successful.
XOXO – Awkward “Work-Divorcee” Jean
PS — If by chance you have some song suggestions for me, let me know. I did start a playlist, but so far I only have six songs… that’s some serious repetition my friends.