Embarrassment — The Juice of Life

Would you rather listen than read the post? Perfect, let me tell you the story. Click the play button below and it will be as if you and I are sitting across from one another, hanging out, over a cup of coffee.

Most of us have had mornings in our lives when the light streams in along with the alcohol soaked snippets that come relentlessly careening into our mind’s eye from the previous night’s (mis)adventures. Flickering in sharp, quick moments almost like an old school home movie that has a break in the film. Repeating itself until you’re sick with the wondering of exactly what happened. WORST.

I haven’t had one of those mornings in years, but when I did, the process would repeat over a matter of hours (usually days) until enough time passed that the sting dulls to an embarrassed half smile that passes over my face in a flash.

And if you haven’t had one of these mornings, my hat is off to you, friend. But let me give you a bit of background and tell you about one of these significant moments in my life.

A number of years ago, I was dating this total dream boat of a guy — we were together for about 3.5 years. Let’s call him Jack. Just because Jack and I eventually broke up, doesn’t mean our relationship wasn’t a success. Totally was. As the first significant relationship after my marriage, it gave me an opportunity to mend my broken heart, trust the good intentions of men, and also fulfill a promise to myself to not repeat all the stupid shit I had done previously. No small feat I assure you!

When asked by friends after we broke up what happened, I truthfully replied, “He’s a good guy, but not my good guy.”

A solid human being, he and I have remained on excellent terms all these years later, even after discussing the below events.

Jack and I never argued. Ever. Except about one thing that would eventually became our only reoccurring disagreement. His approach to the relationship with his cousin — let’s call her Anne. Born six months apart, I heard both of them tell others that they were super tight, and more like siblings, than cousins. Which I was totally down with. I expected them to hang out, you know, on a regular basis. But they didn’t — not really. Which I didn’t understand based on the super tight talk. And they didn’t talk on the phone all that much, either. But, when she would call to arrange a dinner, or want to hang out he would drop everything (cancel plans) and make it happen. After a few last minute cancellations I got decidedly less easy going.

But the part we used to really argue about was my not being invited to hang out and Jack’s handling of the situation. A couples dinner or gathering would be invite only for Jack. Party or a group event? Jaaaaaaack. And Jack would go. Explaining to me that he and Anne were just going to hang out 1:1. But then it would come out later there were lots of people there. Looking back now, and even then in the moment, I knew it wasn’t specifically about me. It was a power dynamic in their relationship. Anne wanting to feel number one in Jack’s life and Jack going along with it. Likely a common theme in the Anne and Jack status quo well before I was on the scene.

About three years into our relationship, Anne was getting married down in Cabo San Lucas, in an exclusive resort.  Invited as well, Jack and I arrived a few days before the wedding for the pre-events and I am not going to lie, I was totally ill at ease. I can remember not knowing how to act or be. Having become a hot button issue, I knew better than to say anything to Jack about it. Plus, as soon as I opened my mouth I would have felt like a whiny, naggy girlfriend. I spared myself.

On the day of the wedding rehearsal there was a ladies pedicure dealio arranged by the bride. Not just for bridesmaids, I still remember looking over and seeing virtually every other woman getting up from the pool area, walking ten foot over and joining this luxurious pedicure I wasn’t invited to. I’m half laughing, half grimacing over the memory.

Playing on my own insecurities within myself and amplifying them, I allowed this to do.me.in.

Ugh, you guys. Keep in mind, I had no friends at the wedding. Sure I knew people, but no friends. This is well before the time you just fire up your iphone and Whatsapp your girlfriends asking for support. And wifi at hotels wasn’t a thing. Add to this, I couldn’t go collect myself in our room because we were sharing with two of Jack’s frat brothers from college. Uh-huh I know. Short of going to find some moments to myself in the lobby bathroom, I just had to deal.

Barely fighting off an ugly cry and trying to keep my voice steady, I asked Jack if he wanted to go snorkeling. I figured if I was going to lose it I may as well do it in the ocean. Jack didn’t notice anything amiss and being a sporty kind of guy, readily agreed to join me. Having not been in the ocean since before my husband had died in a scuba diving accident, I was surprised by how calm I felt while strapping on my mask. Greedily plunging my face into the water, the sounds of the colorful fish scraping algae from the coral and the small clicks and pops of the reef soothed me. This was my world. With hundreds of dives under my belt the water loosened me up. I splayed my arms and legs out letting the water push me to and fro. I still can vividly recall those moments.

Sad and feeling trapped above the waterline, floating and letting my mind wander, beneath the waves.

Nine years later, I haven’t been snorkeling or diving since.

Worn out from paddling around, I emerged from the water feeling a bit more calm and more like myself. Later that day we dressed and walked out onto the lawn for the wedding rehearsal party. Keep in mind, this pedicure thing is sitting like a bomb within me. Because it wasn’t about that, it was just the ignition for everything lying underneath. My stuff, mine and Jack’s stuff, all the things.  This is the part that gets a little fuzzy. Bear with me.

Jack is down on the beach with the rest of the wedding party and I was probably chatting with people while they did that. I most definitely was having drinks while they did that. And I was not absolutely not eating while they did that. I got real drunk, real fast. Add to that I most likely hadn’t drank any water all day unless you count the few mouthfuls of salt water that backfired into my mouth from the snorkel. All the makings of a big ole drunken episode.

The next memory I have is sitting down with Jack’s whole family for dinner. I remember feeling super unsteady and had trouble getting my fork, up to my mouth. Motor skills, zero. I think I was sitting down by Anne’s dad, who is one of the nicest humans, truly he is. But really, I can’t remember. BUT, they may have sat me by him so he could monitor me. Ohhhh man, this is just occurring to me. Maybe they entrusted him to look after me. I’m grimacing. I’m sure Jack was seated near me or by me, but no real recollection of this right now. The next fuzzy memory I have is me crying, crying you guys, to Anne and her sister about god knows what. Probably a whole lot of truth mixed in with vodka and a bunch of insecurity. And I’m 100% sure the #pedicuregate was talked about. I have a flash of a moment of us standing in the frat hotel room with tears streaming down my face. The tears may have been about Jack. Again, not sure.

And then, sleep. Really drunk sleep that’s anything but restful. Waking up in the middle of the night with a dry mouth and pounding headache which was the best part, because now in marches the half memories and snippets of dumbassery. SO much of the night, gone.

Total black out, no recollection which is the worst part, isn’t it? I would way rather know than to fill in the blanks myself.

The next morning is the morning of the wedding. I wake up with Jack laying beside me. I have no idea what the temperature of his response is going to be. However, I have my first clue when I manage to peel open one of my eyes and look at him and he narrows his and then turns over. Ummmmm, not good. I can’t remember exactly how it went down that morning but I do remember something along the lines of him saying, “You mean last night how you ruined my cousins rehearsal dinner event?”

My tears flowed easily. No shortage there.

I closed my eyes and checked in with myself: Hey self, Robyn, this feels bad, I know. But it’s ok and you’re a good person. You didn’t mean to have a full on crying, drunken, messy breakdown in front of Jack’s whole family. And now, all you have to do is put your head down and get through the next few days and you’re about to be out of this situation. 

I didn’t want to admit I didn’t remember. Somehow that felt worse, even more irresponsible. I cried a bit in the morning, sat by the pool during the day, and attended the wedding. I clapped when I was supposed to and well wished when appropriate. I even managed to dance with Jack and toasted to the happy couple while chugging water in between. In short, I was doing all I could to keep a low profile.

I was chagrined and felt all alone.

Jack had no idea how impactful this was for me. The silly pedicure, the drunken crying fit, and his lack of empathy and support afterwards. He didn’t know until we broke up 6 months later and we were able to discuss it, effectively. Before then, the words didn’t quite land because we were stuck in our pattern of how we communicated about Anne. A lose-lose for both of us.

The breakup and the wedding incident were not directly related, only insomuch that it highlighted his unwillingness to push back and include me. Not that I expected him to make some sort of declaration in Cabo, but events leading up to Mexico absolutely contributed to the whole mess.

After the wedding, a couple of days later, I practically ran onto the plane to get myself out of there. Jack and I were still having heated exchanges in the airport. I somehow have this half memory of his words landing in my heart while I was propelled up by an escalator. Maybe back in Seattle at the airport? I’m not sure. While I had apologized to Anne in person, it was her wedding day and I didn’t want to make it an additional thing for her to have to deal with. So I got home and wrote her a letter and apologized again. Formally.

Of course before writing the letter the VERY first thing I did upon landing was pick up the phone and call my girlfriends. A firm believer in telling it like it is, I confessed I couldn’t remember much of anything but some crying and general despair. I had my hand over my face during the recounting, as if to ward off the redness coloring my cheeks. Finding bits of themselves in my experience, their responses were laced with love and heavily infused with: “Oh shiiiiiit dude. Then silence …Shit.”

Anne wrote me back in an email, thanking me for my letter, and suggested “I get on the same page with Jack because it sounded to her like we weren’t.” Aaarghhhh. Again, hahaha this is so bad because she can remember exactly what I said, but I had NO recollection. Blah.

I’ve been sitting here at my kitchen table typing this out for a couple of hours. I’ve oscillated between laughing, putting my hand on my forehead with remembered embarrassment, and shrugging my shoulders. Nine years later recounting this I see Robyn so clearly. She did the best she could. So did Jack. Shoot, Anne did too. That’s what we’re all doing here, in life, the best we can. And then we get all drunky, ugly cry to our version of Anne, and move on with our lives.

Next time you have a moment like this. Not a blackout, well maybe a blackout. The point is next time you’re faced with something similar, remember me and these words, “You did the best you could.” Or you don’t have to take my word for it, as Maya Angelou is famous for saying, “When you know better, you do better.”

And really, that’s all we can ask of ourselves. Learn, use what you’ve learned, and try again. It’s endless, the ebb and flow of life that plays out in these situations. It reminds me of the water I sought refuge in that day. Submerge yourself, take a breather and then get back in the flow — understanding you’re stronger for it.

Ciao for Now!