Girls Night In

the blog for single, over-40 women

Dreaming Outside the Box

on July 31, 2015

Over the last weekend, I put together my own double-feature: Emma (the one with Gwyneth Paltrow) and Clueless, which, by the way, came out twenty years ago this week. And, if you didn’t know, Clueless is a contemporary version of the classic Jane Austen novel.

Anyway, both movies—and the book, if I remember correctly—contain a scene where one of the characters decides to get rid of the little keepsakes she hung on to in memory of the man who broke her heart. And I have to admit … it’s nice to know I’m not the only who does silly things like that.

Keepsakes - GNI 7.31.15Some of it I still have, including a journal where I wrote about dates and crushes, on and off, from August 1981 to July 1988. It contains letters and notes, poetry and pictures, a movie ticket stub and even a deflated balloon. But I didn’t just keep memories; I kept hope.

* A small, plain cardboard box sits in my garage. Filled with various items from years gone by, it’s the box that travels from one storage room to another every time I move. A couple of years ago I finally went through it, trying to decide what should stay and what should go. Which memories should I treasure and which should I forget?

It’s not just a question about the box. And I’ve probably kept more than I should have.

That old box, you see, contains remnants of my shattered, hopeful heart. Somewhere near the bottom is a faded “I love you” card I bought several decades ago, certain I would one day give it to my guy. The inside sentiment—“And to think we almost never met”—becomes more poignant and ironic with each passing year.

Poems I wrote expressing my hopes, frustrations, fears, and longings are collected in a folder. The box even contains a few pictures of wedding dresses I saved during a time when I believed meeting someone, falling in love and getting married would be the natural progression of my life and it could happen at any moment so I should be prepared. I thought it would be healthy evidence of positive thinking if I planned ahead. Hey, I knew women who bought their wedding dress before they even met the guy! Why couldn’t I hang on to a few pictures?

So many dreams, all packed away in a beat-up, well-traveled cardboard box. Abandoned … but not forgotten. Much like my heart. I got a point where I needed to not think about what I desired, where I had to at least try to ignore the ache. Not planning, not hoping, not cutting out pictures or penning romantic sonnets about candles and chocolate hearts and the caress of fingers across my skin.

I pushed my heart into its own little box, taped it shut and put it in its place. It was better that way. I could not swim in grief on a daily basis. Too many years had passed, and things just weren’t the same. Continuing to hope for “someday” seemed so pointless.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll deal with the box, but for now the dreams are right where they need to be.

So what about you? Do you hold onto keepsakes as reminders of lost loves? Or have you collected any pieces of hope for the future relationship you dream of?

* Part of this article was excerpted from my book, Spinstered: Surviving Singleness After 40.

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