Seeing an ex in public

Yesterday I had an odd experience that really put to the test some things that I’ve posted about recently on this blog. As some of you may know, I’m in the midst of a clinical rotation at a primary care clinic. Our building is one of the newer ones in a rather low-income neighborhood, and we pride ourselves on offering a wide variety of services to the community by partnering with other organizations and institutions. Case in point: in the evenings, we loan our clinic out to the National College of Natural Medicine, where students (under supervision) provide free or low-cost services to people. Most of the providers in our clinic are gone by that time, but the nurses still stick around for a couple of hours after the NCNM takes over. A new term started last week.

So imagine my surprise when I think I see an ex among the natural medicine students. And not just any ex. Some of you may remember a post I wrote awhile back entitled, “A year of lackluster dating.” And, lo and behold, the girl I saw on the list was someone from that post. Specifically:

Girl #2: Younger than me, but quite professionally successful. We met on a dating website. Attractive, intelligent, in great shape. We had a ton of stuff in common. We dated off an on because she had big time commitment issues until finally she moved out of town and we stopped seeing each other.

It seemed almost impossible to me, because when last we were seeing each other, she was an architect and a horse trainer–about as far removed from medicine as one can get. Until of course I remembered that there’s a former architect in my own nursing cohort, and that my previous career in advertising was also pretty far removed from the medical world. And it had been over a year since we’d last seen each other, and lord knows that a lot can change in a year’s time.

But no big deal, right? I’ve got this whole Vulcan thing down pat! I control my emotions, they don’t control me. Curiously, though, I found my reaction was less this…


And more this…


So what happened to all that hard work I did to get this whole “feelings” thing under control? If it had been anyone on that list other than girl #2, this would probably be a much different post. But go back and read the description of that girl. Of the six girls on that list, my relationship with girl #2 was the only one that didn’t have any sense of closure to it. As the description indicates, all of the right ingredients were there but I got jerked around until things abruptly faded into obscurity. So what did I end up doing?

Well, like any normal male in this situation, I naturally hid in my office.

Luckily one of my fellow nurses is super awesome, and volunteered to try and find out if it actually was her. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to get close enough to read her ID badge. But she’s promised to do her best to get to the bottom of this and verify whether or not it actually is her. If it was her, she either didn’t recognize me or see me, didn’t care enough to say anything, or also felt surprised and awkward about it. Not that any of this should even matter. I’m an adult, and I’m reasonable, mature, and intelligent. There’s no logical reason why this should bug me or phase me in any way. It’s done, over, and in the past.

But it does phase me. It brings back old feelings and all sorts of other baggage that I’ve been trying to excise from my life. It’s putting to the test the kind of hardcore stoicism that I’ve been so carefully crafting all year. Best case scenario, it isn’t her, just someone who shares her likeness. Worst case scenario it is her, and all of the barriers and mechanisms I’ve put up lately aren’t nearly as strong as I thought they were. Perhaps that’s what I’m most upset about, losing all sense of control. So often in relationships, there’s an element of control that is missing, and this causes a lot of fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety. Emotions. Complicating things again.


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