What Bugs You

— Elizabeth Dello Russo —

It’s 10:40 pm on a Monday night at The Roxy, and I’ve caught myself mid-smile, creating a memory. You know those moments—the ones that create an almost visceral, primal feeling that stirs your guts around, twisting and turning them so you don’t know if you are going to break down and cry, burst into a sudden fit of laugher, or just vomit all over the unsuspecting drunk hipster in front of you. 

This “memory moment” took years to form. It was a culmination of years of confusion, anger, drunken tears, and sobering clarity. It was a moment that I never thought would ever be possible: I am friends with my ex and I am truly happy for him. 

* * *

I met Bug within the first few months of moving to Los Angeles, while I was grabbing a smoke outside of the Bronson Bar on Sunset Blvd. He handed me a flyer. Despite my many attempts to ignore this persistent solicitor, I eventually submitted. I still remember what he was wearing with remarkable clarity. I knew I was a complete goner. I had fallen in love. I even threw an impromptu after party at my apartment just to make sure I would get his number. Needless to say, I was successful. 

Within three months of meeting, he moved in. Three months later, we got our own place. We were inseparable: wild, crazy, and madly in love. We were also dirt poor, but we supported each other in every way we could and scraped by to continue living in our own little world. It was blissful and perfect. Unfortunately, this very young love burned so brightly that it began to suffocate us, and we began to self-destruct. After many failed attempts to patch things back up, “take a break,” or just be friends, we severed ties for good. He ended up moving out, and I remained in our empty home.

I’ve been through break ups before. I even had my heart broken once or twice, but nothing could compare to the loss I felt when he left. I could hear his voice lingering in the apartment. His phantom spirit would wake me up at night. I would wake up punching the wall, screaming, sweating, and crying. Soon, I swore off sleeping in the bedroom all together. I lost my voice, literally and metaphorically—my drive and ambition completely vanish. Bug was my everything—my best friend, my lover, my family. All of “my” friends were “our” friends. It became difficult to even seen them. So I stopped. I needed to start again, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know who I was anymore. 

After month and months of “getting over it” and making fun, yet terrible life choices, I decided it was time to move on. I downsized and sold “our” stuff. I found a new apartment, a new job, and got back in touch with the things that made me happy. Slowly, things started to change for the better. My social circle started to expand. I was meeting new people. I felt a new sense of purpose and confidence like I’ve never experienced before. However, every now and again I would feel an overwhelming sense of anger. The mere thought of Bug, or the mention of his name, and I would see red. 

In order to keep my negative patterns at bay and keep my positive energy flowing, I began doing this “thing.” Whenever I began to feel mad or frustrated or hurt of just down right furious, I would meditate and I would envision Bug happy. Not just happy, but blissfully happy, euphoric, living out his dreams. I fill in every detail of this vision: where he was, what he was doing, who he was with, sometimes even what he was wearing. This visual meditation would help me release my anger and by the time I completed this exercise, I would find myself smiling. 

Bug’s meditation went something like this: 

He is smiling. 

He is wearing his favorite CLASH vintage T-shirt (he always felt the most comfortable in it). 

He is playing the drums. 

He is in a great band, and they are truly amazing. 

He is playing in front of thousands of people. The crowd is loving every second of the set.

He is KILLING IT! Just KILLING IT! 

He is so blissfully Happy. 

Now as I color in the details I would naturally find myself smiling, at least SOMETIMES. 

Sometimes I would actually find myself more irritated. “Well that’s not fair—Why does he get what he wants? What about me?” 

Well, exactly—“WHAT ABOUT ME?” So, I would put myself in the meditation. Again, going through the steps, building the vision. I would get to the final, “And he is blissfully happy.” Now where am I? The answer was always the same:

I am sitting and watching the show. 

I am alone. 

I am unhappy. 

My justification as to why I was unhappy in this meditation was also always the same, 

“I am unhappy because this is not my dream; it is his. I must now move on and create my dream for myself; my happiness.” Stress released. Anger gone. I move on with my life a little happier then I was before. 

Last winter, right before the holidays, I received word that a dear friend had passed away in tragic car accident. It was a friend I hadn’t seen in sometime. He was a very talented DJ and an LA gypsy spirit. He was also on the postcard that Bug handed me on the night we met. Thousands of old memories flooded back to me. I couldn’t see straight. All I could think about was Bug. Was he okay? Would I run into him at the memorial service? Was he with him when it happened? I had to contact him. 

Thank God for modern social media. I found a way to message Bug, send my condolences, and see if he was okay. I also apologized for any of the hurt or confusion or stress I may have caused him during our separation. This one message opened up a great dialogue. We were able to communicate like never before. We were able to finally say all the things we never had been able to and apologize and make amends. A very wonderful thing began to occur: our love matured. 

Bug was a paramount figure in my life and in my spiritual and personal transformation. I tried ignoring him, tried hating him, but that never worked. We came to the conclusion that we consider each other our soul mate, our dear friend, and our family, and that we would continue to support each other through life while maintaining own separate paths. This has been incredibly comforting. He is my mirror. Through his eyes, I can see my beauty as well as my faults, and it helps guide me and keep me balanced. Although our relationship was never strong enough to support both of our dreams when we were together, that very relationship has proven to be an amazing foundation and support system for the journey we’ve chosen to take separately. The truth I found in my continuing friendship with Bug is this: Love never dies. It never goes away. It only grows. And if you let it flow and not fight it, but let it guide you, it will transform you and you will grow into the person you were destined to be. This realization brought me the acceptance and peace that I had been searching for. 

* * *

It’s 10:40 pm on a Monday night at The Roxy and I’ve caught myself mid-smile, creating a memory. Only this isn’t a new memory; I know this one. 

I see my dear friend.

He is smiling. 

He is playing the drums. 

He is in a great band and they are truly amazing. 

He is playing in front of hundreds of people, and the show is being broadcast to millions.

He is KILLING IT! Just KILLING IT! Finding the pocket. Nothing flashy. 

Just rhythmically perfect.

He is blissfully Happy.

Then I realize: 

I am smiling. 

I was sharing this happy moment with friends.

I was genuinely happy for my friend. 

I am genuinely happy with and for myself.

After the show, I see my friend. He is taking pictures and signing autographs. We share a quick hug, and he runs behind the merch counter to sign yet more shirts and posters and tickets. Again I find myself smiling. I shoot him a smile, wave goodbye and move forward with my life.

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