Last night, I was tossing and turning, fighting an increasingly more frequent 3 a.m. sugar jones. I was trying to talk myself out of going into the freezer for some Halo Top Pancakes and Waffles ice cream, which is maybe my favorite thing in the world right now. And to distract myself from the thought of that delicious stuff, I picked up my IPad and began to peruse the latest news. One headline caught my eye and jolted me into full-awake: “Matt Lauer still sending notes to ‘Today’ Producers, report says.” Oh God.
Apparently, Lauer had been sending notes to his former producers containing his opinions and critiques about segments the Today show was airing. These unsolicited comments were not “warmly received” by the Today staff, according to the report. Of course I knew that Lauer had been let go by the Today show and I knew why. That’s disturbing enough in and of itself. But the fact that he was still sending notes to his former producers was just, well…..sad and pathetic. And as I read the article, it began to sink in: I was the romantic relationship equivalent of Matt Lauer.
The abrupt and regrettable ending of a very intimate relationship had been plaguing me for the last 12 months. It was a relationship I had high hopes for, and I’d been deeply in love. At almost 50, I had experienced the ending of other relationships before of course, and had moved through the process reasonably well. But for some reason this particular ending was harder to accept. I couldn’t move on somehow. It felt like I had an emotional tire stuck in a muddy ditch; the harder I tried to get past it, to get out of the ditch, the deeper I seemed to dig myself in, spinning mud and messy gunk up everywhere in the process. And what resulted from this inability to move on was a string of emails sent, unsolicited, to my former lover over the course of the last year. First, they were pleasant and reasonable requests to meet and maybe achieve some healthy closure. But as the months went on with absolutely no response, they became angry, indignant reprimands; then defeated musings, and finally pathetic, pitiful pleadings for a response; even a cruel one. And when I finally ran out of my own words a few months ago, I simply sent poetry. I’d happen upon a poem that spoke to me or reminded me of him and I’d copy and paste it into an email, then hit SEND. Neruda, Sandburg, Keats, Atwood….they all became my own personal messengers, their words so succinctly expressing what I could not say anymore with my own tired vocabulary. By this time, I knew that he was either not reading what I was sending or that he had simply blocked from his email account. And yet, somehow it felt cathartic and oddly satisfying to send him a simple poem, even if it was going into some digital black hole, never to be read at all.
Intellectually I knew this was a bad idea all along. My friends challenged me to think about why I would keep sending things to someone who clearly didn’t want to hear from me. And I thought about it. I realized that his complete shut out brought up serious abandonment issues leftover from a severely distant father. I knew this intellectually, but I hadn’t yet woken up to the reality of this in my heart. And that is the place for me where life lessons must be truly learned. So when I read about Matt Lauer and his unsolicited comments to his former producers, I finally got the lesson. I saw myself clearly at last; saw what I was doing with all the miserable emails sent over the past 12 months. I saw how pathetic they were and how they showed an appalling lack of respect not only for myself but just as importantly for the recipient, whom I had once loved. A mirror was suddenly held up to a part of me that I had doggedly held on to and defended as justified somehow. And it took a random Fox News story read at 3 in the morning to help me see that my emails were just as sad and pathetic as Matt Lauer’s notes. Even more so, in fact, because of their intimate nature, their frequency, and their stubborn duration. Acceptance came, finally. Acceptance that what once was, is now over. The sadness remains but there is not the constant looking back which has so often been the direction of my gaze this past year. I am beginning to focus on looking forward now.
So I thank you, Matt Lauer, for being the accidental dispatcher of a beautiful message that contained a great life lesson. Choosing to focus on regret, trying to control others, and wallowing in what could have been are dangerous propositions for me because I can get lost in them and never find my way back out. But there are too many beautiful potentials blossoming in the present and the future that I will likely miss by staying there. And even though it took me a full year to really learn the lesson, I’m nevertheless so grateful that I did. Maybe Matt Lauer will eventually too.