Today after we dropped off your brother at school, we grabbed a coffee and you looked around with your giant eyes. You focused on a young woman next to us that looked like she may have had an awful day. Her hair looked like mine, but she was in work clothes and her eyes were puffy. There wasn’t a speck of make up on her face, which lead me to believe she had just finished crying (tears really are the only thing that takes off ALL of your mascara — unrelated, but important to know.). Your baby babbles and contagious delight finally won her over. She leaned over, grabbed your leg, and said with a deep breath, “I needed that smile, girlfriend.”
She gave me a brief description of what was going on. She just moved in with her boyfriend of three years and had just received the news that he had been cheating on her with an old friend of hers. Her boyfriend had told her a few hours prior to her hand meeting your perfect little thigh, and she was meeting a friend at the coffee shop to figure out what on Earth she was going to do.
I gave her a side hug, and reassured her that she was better off finding out about it now, rather than years later. She said she knew, and she and I both knew that what I was saying was complete bullshit. Not that it wasn’t true, but that doesn’t do a thing to ease the sting of the heartbreak. Retrospective thinking doesn’t happen in the eye of something — it happens years later, when you are sitting in a coffee shop with your bright-eyed blessing and you overhear a woman crying over a man who would likely never do the same for her.
The truth of the matter is, sometimes there aren’t any words. And even more than that, sometimes, you’re the villain.
Sometimes someone’s heartbreak is the collateral damage of you getting what you deserve. Or you getting your shit together. Or you finally speaking your truth.
Whichever way you spin it, and for whatever your reason, there is going to come a time when you are the villain, and I promise being that will bother you more than anyone hurting you.
When your dad and I met, he was engaged. Whenever he and I were around each other, our chemistry was pretty obvious. We flirted every moment we could, and I did what I could to be close to him. (In my defense, the only way I know how to flirt is to viciously make fun of someone, so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds).
A few years later, they were no longer together, but he was dating someone I knew relatively well. We’d grown up in the same place. She and I weren’t friends, we weren’t enemies, but most importantly, we weren’t strangers.
One night, your dad decided to meet up with our friend group. I was excited to see him, but at the time, I was dating a fireman who adored me, and I knew your dad was seeing someone.
When he walked into the bar, I razzed him about his hat, and a few hours later, it fell off when he kissed me for the first time.
One of the sweet fireman’s friends was at the bar. He immediately called his good friend, and when he confronted me, my initial reaction was to deny it. He believed me, or he didn’t; either way, he was not ready to let me go. So, he let it rest.
A few days or maybe weeks later, your dad broke up with his girlfriend. He also lied about the reason.
This part is important, Li — no one likes being the villain, but the bad guy is always better than the liar. Keep that close and practice it as best you can.
The woman he hurt in the process eventually found out he and I were together. She wrote some terrible things about me on a social media site a few times. The sweet fireman wrote me a letter explaining how he couldn’t believe I lied as often as I did, and he couldn’t believe he’d cared about someone as dishonest as me.
I never responded to her hurtful comments, and I couldn’t face the accusations in the letter that I deserved to read. I kept my head down and I took the hits. I had no excuse for the hurt I helped cause. And really, I still don’t.
I’d like to say those were the only two people we hurt during that time, but they weren’t. In fact, they were likely the least important.
Your dad and I hurt a few people in the construction of our life, especially when we were writing the blue prints. A lot of people felt betrayed and shocked. And all of it was wholeheartedly on us.
But as I sit here listening to your quick exhales as you nap, hanging your brother’s latest art project on the wall — I know I’d poison any apple all over again to get me to you two.
I’d like to say that these last seven years have embedded some wisdom in me, and that I would have done it all a little more gracefully, a little more truthfully; but I really don’t know if that is true.
My point is, Li, someone will break your heart. In fact, so many people will. When it happens, you are going to want to attack their character and swear they are heartless, and I’ll let you do that for a day or two. But after your fury settles, I hope you remember that many good, concrete things happen at the expense of someone else. Life is short, but it’s also long, and the role you play in your story is going to be completely different than the one you play in everyone else’s.
So, when you are heartbroken at a coffee shop waiting for me to get there, I hope you know that whatever is breaking you now was never meant for you anyway. I hope you have the empathy needed to help you look at the situation from a different perspective, even your nemesis’.
And, lastly, I hope you are the villain every once in a while.
Never leave something on the table that should be yours because you don’t want to darken someone’s opinion of you. Don’t intentionally be a snake, but when opportunity is chasing your conscience, listen to yourself.
Take the promotion, speak your mind, tell the truth, apologize when you are wrong.
And kiss the guy in the bar when your face is on fire and your heart is pulsating your entire body.
You’ll know when something is worth risking doing the wrong thing. Listen to your gut, and if everything blows up in your face, I’ll have the coffee on, and we will get through it.