What Is Better Than Self Esteem?

If you are one who struggles with self esteem issues, take comfort — you are in a very large cohort. Achievements and success will always only take us so far in life — for better or worse, maybe, but…


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My ex-boyfriend is a poet.

25 days after he broke up with me, he sent me his latest oeuvre. As is his style, there was no explanation, no context, no reader’s guide. I was on the phone with my best friend in Seattle, who had been coaching me through the breakup — wiping my tears and listening to my rambling, and occasionally doling out some cold, harsh doses of reality — when the text came through.

I glanced at my phone and saw a series of numbers. I had deleted my poet ex-boyfriend’s number from my phone in a feeble attempt to prevent myself from contacting him. But without even really “reading” the number, I knew who it was. I swiped the screen and saw the link. It stared at me, tantalizing, begging me to open it and begin the most assuredly futile exercise of dissecting each and every line of text, hoping to decipher the ~message from my own personal Sphinx. I skimmed it a few times, just laying the groundwork for later when I’d don my Indiana Jones hat and begin the real digging. (Or, as I told my friend on the phone, I’d pick up my magnifying glass like Nancy Fuckin’ Drew.)

“A lone aching bellow from a blue collar fuckup…” it began.

This was the second consecutive poem he sent me involving a “fuckup.” My first clue! Call off the Hardy Boys, because Nancy Drew has got this — he feels like a fuckup because he regrets breaking up with me. It’s only a matter of time until he shows up at the (new) apartment (that he doesn’t even have the address to) to beg for my pardon. Reader — it’s been nine days and the above has not occurred. Of course it hasn’t.

The tear-wiping, reality-doling friend asked me to commit to waiting three days — 72 hours! — to respond. I gave her my word, but I said, “After three days, what would I even say?”

“Exactly,” she responded.

“But I predict that in 3 days — Saturday, 9:28 p.m. — he will contact you again.” We bet a manicure on it.

I owe her a manicure.

The text came in, early in the morning, as all his most potent ones do. He must only allow himself time in his schedule to think of me between the hours of 7 and 10 a.m., which is fitting, as that is the time in my schedule where I’ve allotted my morning cry — in bed, in the shower, into my bowl of cereal, on the bus, on the sidewalk behind my oversized Chanel sunglasses.

“Do we hate [Law Firm A] or [Law Firm B]?”

That was it — Act II to the lone aching bellow. A question, apropos of absolutely nothing that he absolutely knew the answer to.

“The ball is so in your court right now,” the same friend said after she called me to make sure I had not responded (too late).

But I don’t want the ball, or the court. I don’t want an opponent. I wanted a partner, a team mate and, of course, I still do. So I took the absolutely most minimal measure of control that I could in this situation. I asked my poet ex-boyfriend for “space.”

“I can’t expend any more emotional energy dissecting your poetry or even a one-line text, hoping to divine the message I so badly desire to hear — that you still want me. If you do, you know where to find me. But if you don’t, then let me deal with that painful reality on my own.”

“Message received,” said the fuckup.

It’s been 6 days. I’ve just read that poem for the 10th time.

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