Continuing.

I once wrote a letter. It contained my deepest thoughts and feelings about you… and I never sent it. I wanted to, trust me, but ultimately, it’s now tucked into my journal—the pages torn from being carried around for so long—and it’s going to stay there, invisibly so.

I think I wrote it wrong. I think I was right to leave you be, but again, I was wrong to believe that letter could change something. I’m not sure what it was; that you’d finally understand why I was so hurt, that you’d empathize and feel for me, or that I’d convince you to love me.

But I couldn’t do that to you. Deep down I knew the truth—even if I couldn’t live with it. Even if they were the most powerful words I’ve written, I knew they wouldn’t move you. Maybe that’s why I stopped writing—if I couldn’t make you feel, I couldn’t make anyone feel.

Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for people to not talk after a breakup. We rely so heavily on a partner to be there, and then one day they’re not. Even when we are restricted from communication we seek that rush from our ex’s name popping up on our phones—even when we claim we don’t. We want their attention, their love, and we want their time to be our time once again, but with one slip up, we crave more.

That’s the tip of the iceberg of my fears in reaching out to you. If I told you I didn’t spend hours upon hours thinking of the right words to say leading up to that day, I’d be lying. However, that day, somehow, the words poured out of my fingertips. Completely different ones than you’d find in that letter, but ones that felt right. As always, things were so easy when it came to you.

They weren’t romantic and they didn’t plead or explain more than you needed to know, but they were honest. They told you what was going on, explaining that it wasn’t an option for me to reach out—that I couldn’t be more grateful for you to exist because of who you are and what you did for me.

I had no fear in your response—unknowing that I’d ever get one. I didn’t need one because I knew the words did nothing but good for you and me. I felt good, but I have never felt so great to read the reply. I felt pardoned of a crime I spent sentenced to for one year; a crime you now wrote that I never committed.

I tortured myself for that year. Countless time was spent wondering what I did, how things ended in that way, and how imperfect I really was, but you said it wasn’t me or anything I did. Things just had to be that way because they did and I believe you now because I’m unable to write a different reality.

On the phone we once talked for hours about space as a metaphor for relationships. I told you how gravity is my favorite force because it’s infinite. Everything is pulled towards everything, but sometimes other variables get in the way of two objects meeting.

I told you then that if you were a shooting star (which you are), that all of the objects you pass are attracted to you, as you are of them. Sometimes you’ll pass an object and feel such a strong pull that you’ll loop into it’s orbit. Sometimes you’ll pass an object and never see it again.

Life has moments that must be appreciated in the now because we’re unaware of so many of our orbits. If they’re lasting, then we must appreciate the objects that pull us so. If they’re fleeting, then that short time was an infinity among itself.

You thanked me for being who I am and helping you to see who you are. Our two-text interaction was the capstone to everything we lived—the months of sleepless excitement, the days of butterflies throughout our bodies, the hours of video chat dates—all timing down to two texts.

Just as you and I continue on, so will the words you find here. They’ll describe new eyes, serendipitous moments, and other adventures of the heart, but our gravity will always be there, shaping and moving us, even invisibly so.

How to Manipulate Anyone into Loving You

I say this all the time: I am so grateful for the people who surround me. When I’m with these people I feel justified, challenged, and loved. The comfort that comes with finding those who match what you are looking for in lifelong friends is like finding a dozen soulmates you can be yourself with, endlessly.

So, how did this happen? I’ll get into it, but fortunately for me, it runs in my blood. My greatest credible example comes from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, in which my great-grandfather’s business model is featured.

Business men are learning that it pays to be friendly to strikers. For example, when two thousand five hundred employees in the White Motor Company’s plant struck for higher wages and a union shop, Robert F. Black, the president [my great-grandfather], didn’t wax wroth and condemn, and threaten and talk of tyranny and Communists. He actually praised the strikers. He published an advertisement in the Cleveland papers, complimenting them on “the peaceful way in which they laid down their tools.” Finding the strike pickets idle, he bought them a couple of dozen baseball bats and gloves and invited them to play ball on vacant lots. For those who preferred bowling, he rented a bowling alley.

This friendliness on President Black’s part did what friendliness always does: it begot friendliness. So the strikers borrowed brooms, shovels, and rubbish carts, and began picking up matches, papers, cigarette stubs, and cigar butts around the factory. Imagine it! Imagine strikers tidying up the factory grounds while battling for higher wages and recognition of the union. Such an event had never been heard of before in the long, tempestuous history of American labor wars. That strike ended with a compromise settlement within a week—ended without any ill feeling or rancor.

Carnegie, D. (1940). How to win friends and influence people. New York: Pocket Books.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act, which allowed employees to form unions and petition for their rights. This meant that all good business leaders should have been preparing for walk-outs. Black was not president of the White Motor Company until 1935, the year the company’s strike began, but by that time there had been hundreds of strikes in the U.S. for him to learn from.

Being the heart of The Great Depression, the guy could have ruined the lives of those strikers. He could have used his power to hire new employees at the same wage as the strikers. He could have moved on, leaving all 2,500 workers to unemployment, and yet, he didn’t.

Black understood that his best move was to learn from the mistakes of other companies in order to stay afloat. From a human to human level, what was the greatest concern for the strikers? Well, what better way to learn than to ask them himself?

Providing activities for his employees allowed Black to step in and talk to the strikers in their environment. He got to understand their needs and kept his employees’ minds off of their struggles while resolving the real issues at hand. His tactics were authentic and real and effective.

Maybe Robert F. Black knew it’d cost him more to train 2,500 new men and gave his strikers baseball bats so they would stick around. Maybe they would even feel guilty that they’re enjoying themselves while their families became closer to starving with every passing day. It’s possible… but I don’t believe coercion was Black’s tactic. I believe he wanted to be a good person and get what he wanted.

Black was accommodating for his employees; he created carpool programs, learned people’s names, allowed anyone to enter his office, and opened the workplace for women to take their husband’s positions once deployed in WWII. He was approachable, he cared, and he retired as a beloved President.

Be it nature or nurture, I understand why my great-grandfather did what he did. I believe it was incredibly brilliant from a business perspective to end the strike as early as possible, but on a human level, the guy aligned his actions with how he understood his strikers wanted to be treated.

Now, my word choice in the title of this piece is purposefully problematic. Manipulation is the use of control over another person to influence change in their favor. This means a manipulator understands what brings a person to act, and uses that as leverage to get what they want. It is a dangerous, dangerous word that leads to the despair of at least one person, and the inauthentic satisfaction of another.

It’s hard to see manipulation when you’re in the middle of it, be it from one side or the other. When you want something, you want it, and that may be a blinding goal to some, especially when the manipulator sees their manipulation affirmed in action.

I often take a step back to see the course of my actions and ensure that what I am asking of others doesn’t cross their desires. I think it’s something everyone should do because it’s so easy these days to make others feel the way that we want them to feel, not the way they would otherwise feel (especially to the people we know and care about most).

I am easily manipulated in romantic relationships. I know I am, and I often allow it to happen because I want others to be happy. What I am learning more though, is that giving people what you believe they want is not giving people what they want, especially if you don’t get what you put into your relationship; friendship or otherwise.

To get back to the big picture, how can one manipulate another into loving them? From one side, or the other, you can’t. You can only be your authentic self and allow whatever comes into your life to be the real thing. There are no shortcuts, but you can be a good person who levels with others in order to understand their circumstances.

I believe that’s how I managed to scrap together the best people in the world. My friends are the glue to my universe, and I try my best to let them know I feel that way. I didn’t have the quality of friends growing up as I do now. They were hard years with sprinkles of good, but were years I learned how friends shouldn’t treat others.

As I understand myself more, I see the goodness in others that I strive to have myself. There’s a quote that goes, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” As I grow, I’m beginning to see how true that is of every quality I want in myself, and how acting by example keeps me in the lives of those I refuse to lose.

Maybe that’s how my great-grandfather felt about his employees. Maybe his circumstances didn’t limit his ability to learn from others. After all, the actions of Black’s employees were as significant a movement as Black’s efforts to settle the strike.

Aches.

It was an old ache. An old, rumbling, roaring noise of an ache. The kind of war-wound type of ache you only know exists if you live through the pain and it’s slight recovery from the living hell of your life to the feeling that lingers and acts up when the weather does.

You were that ache. You left me different and there’s no denying it, and I wish you hadn’t, but you did.

Like the thunder of a summer storm, I felt the pain shuttering throughout my body. It started in the cavity of my chest and burned slowly to my throat, to my knees, and out to my extremities.

I watched my body decay to my feelings for you and acknowledged my embarrassment to myself when I admitted it resurfaced. I missed you, and there was nothing I could do to fix this old wound without gashing it wide open.

And that’s where I stand now. Wounded, but living. Living, but aching.

Drugs and Love

Why do we subject ourselves to lesser versions of love than the one we deserve?

When I say this, I mean, why do we openly refuse what our gut tells us and instead, accept the lies our heart bleeds out? The question is confusing and comes with endless variables per each person’s situation, but the answer is the same across the board: We need comfort in who we are.

We seek out “a person” to be our go-to—the one we tell everything and anything to—who would never leave us. Humans are social creatures that need our emotions justified outside of our heads and the person you choose to be that “one” often does exactly that for you. In fact, the crave we have in being with our romantic partners can be very similar to using a drug.

Whether you are someone who needs help tying your shoes or knows the best move for every situation, there’s give and take in each of your relationships that often makes you feel like you’ve invested who you are in someone else. That person who compliments your needs and personality has become part of your identity, in the eyes of you, them, and, often, others.

If that relationship becomes threatened internally or externally, one or both partners resort to a defensive mode that can be exhausting or motivating. Whichever style, the way in which both partners react can tell more about a relationship than any moment that happened during times of little to no stress. It is this time that each partner can choose to sacrifice and invest part of themselves to better the situation, or take from the situation, or do nothing.

No response is inherently correct, depending on what caused this defensive mode to trigger, however, I’ve noticed a particularly unhealthy pattern between my friends’ and my own relationships that needs to be addressed.

The negotiation for control can be a huge benefit in a relationship. I know that I can be pretty malleable when it comes to control—preferring to pay for drinks, but being utterly passive about picking a place to patron—and I believe that’s the case for many people. When you’re in a relationship you understand what your significant other enjoys and dislikes in the negotiation for control.

This is an amazing thing humans pick up on, as it can lead to one person inherently stepping up for certain things they enjoy, and backing down for others, leading to the happiness of the unit. However, that knowledge can lead to an abuse of power in the hands of a partner whose intentions are not aligned with the best interest of a relationship.

We date people who know us more in depth than a lot of our friends, even if our relationship is newer than our friendships. It’s important to break down our walls, but we do so at an invite-only vulnerable state that takes quality time to build (I emphasize “quality” because with lesbians these days, that can be days). That invite has no return address, and sadly, sometimes you don’t know the recipient as much as you think you do.

I believe this is why we’re reluctant to take action on our friends’ advice. There’s no way our friends know our partners like we do. We communicate the highs and lows to them, but not all the small things that really built the relationship into what it is. So how can our friends’ suggestions be better moves than what we think?

I once dated someone who never really wanted me, but sought my attention. She knew what words to use to keep me and would give me just enough breadcrumbs to survive, but I was never really satisfied. Despite my friends’ warnings, I stayed because I thought that when I got the whole loaf I’d feast on happiness. That day didn’t come. Due to something unrelated to my dissatisfaction in the relationship I broke up with her—an action I never wanted to take after all of my efforts to make things work. I felt like I lost time and half of my heart, but after a lot of healing I realized that living off of scraps is no way to live at all.

I’ve also been one to know what to say to keep someone around. Without truly bad intentions, I’ve lived through the motions of a relationship that would lead to happy days and okay days. Frankly, I don’t think it was a conscious effort, and my friends knew I wasn’t sincerely happy. I just didn’t want to be alone again, so instead, I said what I knew to say to keep the relationship going. I used the knowledge of who my person was and what she needed to satisfy enough, until it wasn’t enough.

It’s not easy to admit, but I believe we all go through moments like that. They’re messed up, I know. But it wasn’t until after the relationships were over that I realized I was happier; my fear of being alone wasn’t shielded by my relationship at all.

Being single isn’t easy 100% of the time. Like I stated earlier, humans are social creatures who seek out companionship for a reason. We need it, but we don’t need to be stuck where we’re not progressing.

Studies show that relationship breakups lead to the same brain responses of drug addicts going through withdrawal. This is serious stuff, and we know what heartbreak feels like, which is why we don’t want to go through it at any cost. The healing process takes, god knows how much time, and we lose part of the identity that we had with our significant other. Frankly, it sucks, but that is not to say that holding on is an easier method than finding someone who you are generally happier to be with and if your relationship is meant to end it’s going to end at some point.

Life is too short to settle, to fight, and to contemplate how our lives would be different if our relationships were different. I’m not saying all relationships are perfect all the time, they’re not. Some take work—individually and as a couple—but work to change anyone or anyone’s heart about you doesn’t stick for good. So maybe our hearts are trying to prevent us from hurting in the present, but it’s our gut instincts (and our friends) that knows if that effort is even worth it.

Green.

Green are the eyes cast back at me
like ones in my reflection,
but lighter,
and darker
around the center.

Brunette is the hair I grasp
just as before,
but not any as soft,
nor any I palm and lift with her head
so gracefully

As I do,
a smile so contagious
comes across your face,
and a farce remains on mine
until you break me

With those eyes
and that hair
and that smile,
I smile.

Silence

Ambient sound is so loud. Wherever I went in college I was followed by this unplaceable, yet greatly present something. From the clap of excitement the moment my parents’ car door opened on move-in day freshman year, to our collective roar during the cap toss at commencement, there was no moment I stopped to recognize silence. For other reasons, it continued for years after college as well.

I had fun, and there were times I was stopped in my tracks during those four years, but it was never in a way that made me rethink silence. Even on nights I’d stay in and watch my apartment door close to muffled laughs as my friends left for the bar, there was some kind of noise. Maybe it was a pregame continuing next door, students outside speaking low, or even the building humming, I had noise all around me.

It might be something only I think about, but when I was a kid I remember jumping in the pool and hearing distorted sound waves through the water. It was new, and foreign, and something about it was attractive. I’d swim from pool-end to pool-end listening to the low frequencies and wondering what caused them. To hear a jumbled flush and recognize it was someone jumping in… it was like learning another language.

I wasn’t obsessed, but I enjoyed the newness of it. I’d be happily reminded of its existence when I unintentionally submerged both ears under the showerhead – reminding me of warmer, care-free times, but nothing… nothing prepared me to the moment it all went noiseless.

It lasted for maybe two seconds, but after countless years of noise, the moment you made my world quiet was unforgettable. This was the first moment of silence I’ve felt in… I can’t tell you how long.

The earth stood still, but the memory is combined with this image of you in my head. You were invincible—bounding in front strangers and coming to a stop in front of me, beaming. I blame my tired efforts to make you find me in a crowd, and yet, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I, stupid me, was iffy about the date and you hushed hundreds of people for two full seconds. The silence you fostered became my new language.

And now that moment plays on repeat – the whole night, actually. I can’t explain why. Maybe it was the confidence you had to take my hand at the bar, or arm in the street, but it warmed me in a neglected spot. The sound was there when it happened, but thinking back, it’s just me looking at you. Your fingers bound in mine, or the tightness between us as we walked on that cold night.

It was all silent, roaring in color.

The Letter.

Possibly one of the most paramount realizations a person can make is to continually recognize who they have been in life. For you and me, this might mean acknowledging your faults and merits, what experiences forged you, understanding why you liked, loved, tolerated, or hated another. We become who we are because of who we have been.

None of us live easy lives. I have stresses that keep me up at night, but I am cursed, and fortunate as hell, that the greatest in the forefront of my head is love.

This sounds stupid, and that’s because life is often stupid. Similar to some who concern themselves with making money, or experiencing as much of the world as possible, I find myself searching for that once in a lifetime, makes you weak all over, endless love. The trouble is, if I think it’s in one place, I’ll tirelessly see it through. Love is a learning experience.

I am fortunate to have loved. Hindsight can grant anyone the ability to comment on their past with, “Well, that was stupid…” but as long as that progressed you along, it couldn’t have been too stupid.

This leads to the interesting part. A glimpse into the deepest part of me; the letter I sent to a woman I loved. I don’t feel the same now, but I had never accurately described my feelings so fittingly in a given moment before. My ex granted me permission to share this. I think I appreciate most that despite not being in each other’s lives anymore, we continue to respect how much we grew in our time together.

Nevertheless, this is what I felt and this is what helped me become who I am.

“To that woman, 14 months ago-

I’ve been told at first impression I’m hard to read. I believe it, not because my book is closed—it’s wide open. It’s the small font that deceives. I don’t display my thoughts on billboards, however, the more a person reads in, the more massive the details on my pages grow. Larger and larger, until I burst from the ink and into the sky. All things I know and feel, written by six Angels sweeping clouded calligraphy in their wakes above.

See, I was that high in love. A book on the brink of the stratosphere. You depleted my fuel and now I am in mayday. No parachute you bestow may grace my fall. I must plunge to Earth and shatter; shedding my chapters across the land. I can only hope those who love me are those who collect me, for I cannot do it alone, but must not do it with you.

It was easier to let go when you weren’t here, and I write this when you are still an ocean away. I can’t be your friend right now. If you recall, when we moved to “friends” from “whatever more we were” the first time, I was upset, you were upset, I got jealous when you dated, and you got jealous when I did. I don’t know how your brain works; how you love me, but won’t love me enough to be with me. However, I know we’re creatures of habit, and I will shatter more than I can fathom when you choose to date other people. Maybe you will when I do too, but mine will be worse, and I know this because despite the hell you’ve placed me in, I would choose you at any time of my life because I love you. It’s that easy for me. But I need to be wanted as more than how you want me, despite whatever love you offer. To me, love is simple because it’s love. It’s not meant to be overthought, nor does it have to make sense. You fall into it, and you feel it, and that’s what you give each other. It’s not a phase, it’s almost never perfect, and sometimes it’s fucking hard, but if at the end you can say you love and were loved back… that’s worth the pain existence has to offer.

As I think of them now, this is not a letter to remind you of all the things we’d planned to do and state how terrible you are for abandoning me with empty promises. They were all the things that would have thrown us deeper into life together, and if we were not meant to be, I’m happy to think of them as reserves in my system. The last remaining parts of me and memories I did not give to you.

I’ve always thought that love and kindness are things you can infinitely give. I have with you. I listened, I cared, and with that, I reminded you what it means to live. Like a fledgling, I’ve pushed you out of the nest so you may fly and now with your wings spread you no longer need me to live. Only, I’m drained and without you there is no way for me to feel full, and that’s my lesson in all of this: loving does not guarantee the love you desire in return.

My brain is still playing every move over again, wondering if there is a way to resolve all this, but you can’t be soft with me. You can’t let me hold on to something that’ll only hurt me. I hate wanting you, but someone out there can love me, and you have to let me find her. As much as I don’t want to give you this letter, as much as I want to wake up with you every morning for every foreseeable morning there is… I must.

I’m sorry you can’t love me the way I need you to. It would have been too good. Better than I’ve ever experienced. I will always have a place for you in my heart.

Endlessly,

Amanda”

This letter remains the most fluid description of my head onto paper. I remember the strokes of pen to paper writing this. I also remember growing past the pain. I moved on, then fell back, got stuck in a few places, but persisted. I’m stronger for sending this letter and living through the consequences of its wake. This is all a journey, and even if something feels childish, maybe it was. Maybe that’s what you needed to feel for a better you tomorrow.