In all its glory

Sometimes I stand bowlegged when I hoop. It's normal.

Sometimes I stand bowlegged when I hoop. It’s normal.

This has quite possibly been one of the longest work weeks in the history of work weeks. And I used to work 12 days in a row, so that’s actually pretty impressive. Today is (finally!) my evaluation at the financial firm. After 90 days, they’re supposed to give you an evaluation to bring you on as a permanent member and a raise, I believe, usually comes with that. We were all so busy during tax season and the aftermath that it was put off an extra month but it is today! My boss told me it is going to be the evaluation of the century. I’m so pumped. Fingers crossed for a big raise! And last night, I finally mastered leg hooping. This sounds silly but hooping is just one of those hobbies I have that makes me feel good, no matter what’s going on. And it’s a lot easier on the joints than running.

So, after continuing to fight with feelings of anger and resentment, I gave up the fight last night. When I picked up my things last week from my ex, he forgot a few things. Not super important things but things I wanted, plus money (not much) from the beach trip we planned that he’s currently on with his ex. Well, whatever she is. I feel weird saying “wife” because a wife isn’t someone you break up with and get back together with time and time again. Either way, I reached out and tried to confirm a day for me to get those things – he had said after he got back from the trip – and I received nothing. No response. I texted in the evening to basically say “I am literally asking for an ‘okay/not okay’ response here,” and nothing. So, at the end of the night, I told him to just keep it. This isn’t worth the fight anymore. If he wants to diminish me, he can. It shouldn’t, and doesn’t, mean that I am actually diminished. Part of me wants to still fight, because for all my acceptance and working through the steps of grief blathering, I do still love him. Of course I do, love isn’t fickle as all that. I asked a friend when I would stop hoping that things would eventually work out and she said, “When you fully accept what he did to you, that you never deserved any of it, and him using anything you did to excuse his feelings wasn’t right.” I’m not sure if that’s how it will work, because I can completely embrace that what has happened was none of my doing and that the only thing I need to change is my tendency to see men with baggage as attractive. The only thing I wish I had done differently, not that it would have made a difference, is voicing my unhappiness with her boundary issues a long time ago. I was afraid to step on toes because I recognized that I was ‘the girlfriend’ and exes have a possessiveness about them that even when they don’t want the other anymore, they don’t want anyone else to have them either. And it wasn’t brought up all that often, she was rarely mentioned, because she wasn’t important. But, anyway, I need to stop psychoanalyzing all of it because it won’t help me. Bad habits.

Eventually the anger will fade away completely, I will forgive him, and these will be entries about someone, rather than the one. At least I hope the last part will be true. It’s not easy for me to love, having someone hang himself the day after telling you for the first time will do that to you, and feeling that strongly about anyone scares the living shit out of me. It’s probably why I sought out sex-based relationships that put next to zero emphasis on actual love for years. It’s why I messed up the relationship I did have being unfaithful back when I first started college, and why it took celibacy and A LOT of self-focus to find myself again. I read old DeviantART (OMG I KNOW RIGHT) entries from when I was 17-19 and they were terrifying! I quite literally said this: “if i could drink forever, i probably would, because there’s something about that buzz after the disgusting carbonated pisswater that makes me so calm, so together, so “what i want to be” that i want to keep doing it until i’m dizzy, flying all over the deck and laughing.”

I was SEVENTEEN when I wrote that. And I am truly blessed that I am no longer there. My mind is no longer there. It took a really long time to get there, but it was and always will be so worth it. I also saw all of the toxic awfulness that was my on-again-off-again pseudo-relationship with a man who I now, finally, can consider a friend. Six years of back and forth, sex and screaming, drugs and threats. And I wrote about it, and used NAMES. Even then I wrote “I used to think the sun rose and set on him,” until he and I got into a screaming

My co-worker wrote "Super cool to the max!" along the side.

My co-worker wrote “Super cool to the max!” along the side.

battle wherein he threatened to kill me and I threatened to go to the cops. My life used to BE that! And the other night, he and I had an incredibly long conversation about addiction and loving yourself. And it was healthy, good, and productive. I am thankful that we could achieve that. It made me sad when I had made my amends with him back in January, apologizing for all I contributed to negatively, and telling him I couldn’t be a part of his life anymore. I had also written on the site about how hurt I was that he kept dating other

people but sleeping with me and wondering what was wrong with me, why I wasn’t good enough (back in 2009). Picture reading this while sitting at your desk at work. My eyes were doing this dart-y, “what the fuuuuck” thing where I had so much incredulity and so little ability to express it aloud. Again, I am so lucky and thankful that through all of this, past all of it, I learned to love myself and that I was valuable, and he and I finally came to this happy place of friendship. Also, I need to delete my DeviantART. That shit is embarrassing. It’s like Xanga with more emotions…which is possible.

Dexter the Grievance Eater.

Dexter the Grievance Eater.

I ran across this picture of what we would do in the “Positive Affirmation” group that I ran back at the rehab. I only did it a few times because there was always some asshole who had to write inappropriate things on other people’s papers because…misery loves company I guess but I found it and it made me smile. It’s easily over two years old but still, having a group of people who I barely know and act as an authority to (well, attempted to anyway) say such kind things still makes me warm in the tummy area. I enjoyed participating because it felt just as good to give that many compliments as it did to receive them! You know, I’m still struggling with the whole concept of a higher power because I was raised in an agnostic/atheist home and for most of my life, haven’t really invested much into something specific out there. The spectrum has ranged from praying every day to willfully proclaiming that there is no god. At the end of the day, I just don’t know if there is something or someone out there, but it feels like there is. And whatever it is doesn’t need a name or anything like that from me, all I know is that when I talk to it/him/her/whatever, I feel more at peace than I did before. But tangent aside, I am starting to really believe that this higher power, call it god, does put things into your life when you need them sometimes. I went to bed last night a weird mix of emotions and woke up still feeling weird – seeing it, reading the compliments of people I barely knew and never saw again, made me feel really good. Especially the “demi-goddess” affirmation. Like, yes, exactly. I am. Thank you.

While I don’t miss my old job because it was emotionally exhausting, not the career path I wanted to continue down, and horrible pay for a lot of work, I do miss some of the aspects of it. Getting to know people, helping them, seeing human nature at its most raw always kept me…well entertained at least. But in helping others, I learned a lot about myself and gained a lot of confidence I hadn’t had before. I do miss my co-workers though, we always had a blast. And were always mature. I never had a coworker put on a bra and pretend it was a gun holster and I don’t have a video of it on my phone or anything.

I keep feeling tempted to apologize for waxing poetic so frequently about the goings on of my emotional state in regards to my (past) relationship, but I keep remembering what a sweet friend (and former co-worker!) told me last year when I was down in the dumps: “Have you been writing? You always seem like you’re happier when you’re writing. I think it’s really good for you. Don’t worry what anyone thinks. Don’t regret it. You’re entitled to your feelings and the only reason someone would be angry with you is because they caused them and feel guilty.”

I still wear the necklace he bought me for Valentine’s day. Not because I’m sitting over here pining, but because it’s become familiar and comfortable; I have a tendency to grab for it when I’m thinking. It’s better than biting my nails. My friend told me to take it off and I ended quoting the movie, ironically, “The Other Woman” (which he and I went to see after we got back together the first time). Leslie Mann’s character asks Cameron Diaz when she’ll be ready to take off her wedding ring (okay, obviously BIG difference there – it’s just a necklace) and she says that one day, over time, it will just become a piece of metal and the memories attached will fade. And then she’ll be ready to take it off and won’t think about it. And then, annoyingly, like two minutes later she throws it into the ocean in a fit of faux-feminist glory but still. The quote was meaningful. Then I read this article about being the other woman, which I was not in the beginning but somehow ended up in the end, and one thing stuck out so much: “A man who strings you along for days, months, even years? A man who makes you doubt yourself and makes you feel like it’s reasonable to ask you to “wait” for your love to begin? Girl, that ain’t love. Yes, love is patient, but it’s also kind. It’s NOT kind — in fact, it’s downright cruel — to let you put your life on hold until it’s convenient for him to start reciprocating (and don’t hold your breath for that, either).”

He honored my request to not be strung along, and for that I really am grateful. He didn’t expect me to wait for him, and again, for that I’m really grateful. In his clumsy, messed up way, he does care and doesn’t want to hurt me intentionally. Like I said, maybe one day, but not today. And not anytime soon. And until that day does (or doesn’t) come, I have to be the most important person in my life. And that’s what I’m going to keep trying to do.

– a.

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Hanging out of windows and other normal goings-on

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been scared of heights. When I was probably 7 or 8, my family hiked somewhere in Ohio to the top of an overlook and my little brother jokingly pretended to push me. Nothing like a dizzying scare of a couple hundred foot drop to make you feel alive, right? When my family went to Spain in 2009, I had one of the more epic panic attacks I’ve ever had heading from Barcelona to Málaga when the plane hit a rough spot and we had severe turbulence. I remember trying to breathe and also control my bowels at the same time for a solid 10 minutes. It was weird, the 12-16 hour flight over the Atlantic ocean hadn’t freaked me out, but the one hour flight over land ruined my life momentarily. Even now, crawling to the top of that first hill on roller coasters makes my stomach twist – I love roller coasters though.

hiking8

American Heights overlooking Harper’s Ferry

Sometime in mid-high school, probably junior year, I started hanging out of one of the windows in my bedroom whenever I wanted to clear my head at night. I also used it to illicitly smoke cigarettes because I was a cool 16-year-old, you know, and all that. But for some reason, leaning out the window, breathing in the night air, and watching the world from a different angle calmed me and gave me a different perspective. I’m sure there are plenty of Myspace pictures of it somewhere. You know, those artsy photos you took of yourself before they were called “selfies” and I hated people? I hadn’t thought about that until last night, when at 1 a.m., I found myself leaning out the same window, emptying my head. I had been laying in bed, unable to slow down my thoughts (anyone who ever suffers from occasional insomnia or racing thoughts/anxiety probably gets this), and I didn’t know how to solve it. It was too late to call someone, plus it wasn’t specific to any particular conversational subject, I was already laying down with lights off so I really didn’t want to get up and try to run it out, and I need to actually work on my occasional sleeplessness. Usually I’m out within a few minutes of laying down, and if I’m not, meditation helps. But last night it felt like the meditation speaker was just droning on and on and, not for the first time, I out loud told the recording to “go shut the fuck up”, which is probably not very nice. Or meditative. So, I opened my window, played a song that was stuck in my head, and just breathed.

My bedroom is on the second floor, you see, so draping my arms over the side of the window and looking out doesn’t shove my nose into the bushes (that’s what she said) or anything. As scared of heights as I am, being able to look down when I’m up high makes me feel different. I wanted to write about this afterward last night, knowing it probably makes no sense. What I’ve read about meditation and finding your serenity tells me that things work differently for everyone. Sometimes finding your peace isn’t as simple as just closing your eyes – sometimes it is.

Annapolis Rock in MD

Annapolis Rock in MD

The more I thought about it, the more I realized how often I like to be high. Not in the “pass me that blunt man” sort of way, certainly not anymore anyway, but in the very literal, visceral way of being able to look out and down on everything. That sounds super pretentious but it’s not how it’s meant. I feel very small, very insignificant, when I’m looking out on mountains and valleys with trees that are no bigger than my pinkie nail. And somehow, feeling small makes everything make more sense. Most of my friends know how hyperactive I am – like an energizer bunny who just fell into a bag of cocaine and then went to a rave hyperactive – at times and over the last two years I’ve really found that hiking slows me down. I’ve written about it before, but the first time I hiked in years (I hated it as a kid, bugs are the enemy), I was an out of breath, sweat-stained, “dear god hand me a bag of chips and also a couch” mess. Well, I’ve lost 25 pounds since graduating from college (I KNOW RIGHT WHAT THE HELL), greatly improved my diet and sleeping patterns, and really fallen in love with running and hiking. Trail running is one of my favorite things to do, even though it kills my knees and I can’t very often. Something about being completely alone in nature, pushing myself while also enjoying myself, makes me feel most like myself. After getting lost (AGAIN) at Sugarloaf Mtn in Maryland and accidentally hiking 4 miles before hitting the summit again, I plopped down on a rock and just looked out. There was one other man there, an older guy with a moustache that could rock the world, doing the exact same thing. After a few minutes, he caught my eye and gave me this “yeah, you too?” head nod, which I reciprocated, and we went back to just looking, feeling, and not thinking. Or at least I did, maybe he was plotting his wife’s death I’m not really sure, but I’d like to think he was doing the same as me.

American Heights by Harpers Ferry

Appalachian Trail

Running is hard for me due to lower back and hip problems, hopefully which will be resolved sooner rather than later thanks to my parents practically forcing me to go get tests done. After about two miles, my hip hurts so bad that I have to stop and stretch it. Even hiking will flair it up, though stopping to stretch on a trail gives me a view. Last year, when I was dealing with rejection and sadness, I tried to quite literally run away from it. It helped, but 45 minutes is only 45 minutes and sometimes I need to spend an entire afternoon losing myself. Hiking gives me that. I started writing this with the intention of talking about the weird paradox of my hatred of heights and the necessity of feeling high (again, not via substance) to find inner peace. I’m not kidding about my fear, sitting in the top row of movie theaters has made me uncomfortable. I was taken to a Phillies game last month and was near hyperventilation for the first half hour, and then anytime I actually focused on the game.

So, in a complete set of contrasts, heights make my stomach flip and make me feel all too mortal and that’s bad…but also good. Because sometimes I need to humanize myself, center myself, and let myself just be for a while. I’ve always been very in my own head, wanting to over-analyze everything to better understand it (that Psych degree makes sense now, doesn’t it?), not feeling satisfied without answers. I saw a comic wherein a psychologist is interviewing someone and says, “Ever fantasize about about locking 100 babies in a plain white room at birth and then returning after 10 years to see what they’re like?” The interviewee responds, “No! Dear God no!” and below it reads, “I could tell immediately that he wasn’t cut out for developmental psych research.” I couldn’t help but laugh when I read it because I’ve wondered countless times what would happen if humans were taken completely out of society from that age – would it be all Lord of the Flies or Brave New World? Little known fact, I was Sam in a local acting class’s production of the former mentioned story. Yes, it was supposed to be an all male cast. No, you will never find an all male cast of teenagers willing to take acting classes and no, it made no sense.

In PA...honestly I forget where. By one of the lakes.

In PA…honestly I forget where. By one of the lakes.

But, anyway, it helps. No matter what mood I’m in, standing on an overlook, staring down at the world will always make me feel alive. It’s not totally out there I suppose; for about 10 years I had every intention of becoming an astronaut. I mean, for real. I was going to space. I still wonder if I should’ve kept that goal, but then I sit in the last row of a movie theater and think, “Mmm…probably for the best.”

I love that something that scares me also inspires me.

– a.

 

Breathing through it

The unexpected response from my last post has left my overwhelmed with gratitude – I have amazing, truly amazing, friends. One of the comments left on my blog page (Meg Mac) had me near tears. I don’t know what I did to deserve such kindness and caring from others, but I’m blessed to receive it. I wrote that for me to finally get my feelings down. To accept the pain, instead of running from it. It’s not easy, I have ups and downs and I’m embarrassed by it because I pride myself on being a strong, independent person. So to feel so much because of one person makes me feel very powerless. It’s hard. Especially when I don’t know, at the end of the day, if the other person is able to just forget everything. That makes me feel even more powerless, you know?

On Saturday, I impulsively went with a friend to get a tattoo at this place I’d never been before in my college town. Ever since I was probably 19, I wanted a tattoo on my ribs. I knew it was one of the more painful places to get one, I knew it could be more expensive (the one on my neck, $60 I believe, would have been $200 on my ribs!), I knew that I would see it all of the time. The choice changed over the years from a quote, to a dove, to a phoenix, to a phoenix and a dove, to a phoenix, a dove, and a quote (okay, now I’m kidding), to a list of other various things that never stuck. But the last few months I’ve been very sure I wanted one there and knew I wanted something that related to spirituality and balance. I ended up laying, shirt off in all of my semi-sheer running pants glory, with a young guy gouging into my skin for 45 minutes. And holy hell, did it hurt. I have multiple tattoos and piercings, I’m no newcomer to the pain, but when that needle hit the underside of “the goods”, it took all of the breathing exercises I knew to not tense up or move. Darlanna, my friend who’d gone with and already received her inked gifts, resorted to one-finger petting my shoulder. Apparently my face is not as stoic as I assume when facing acute pain.

But anyway, I had been laying there, wondering where on the 1-10 How Peeved Am I Scale my parents were going to land for this tattoo, and trying to follow what another friend had suggested during rib tattoos – breathing with the artist. It involves deep inhalations while the needle isn’t in your skin (that line made me cringe, not going to lie), and as he was tattooing, exhaling very slowly and steadily so as to not move too much too quickly. The last thing I wanted from my surprise excursion was a shaky kindergarten scribble decorating my side for the rest of my life. It wasn’t easy, there was a good looking guy stabbing me with an ink-filled needle and loud, raucous music eliminating my ability to focus. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the raucous music. I downloaded it when I got home, but when you’re trying to reach a state of zen, any state or sub-state of zen, it’s rather impossible with sliding guitars in the background. I digress.

Doing that, trying to breathe with and through the pain rather than clenching my body and curling further into the fetal position (or falling to the floor, which I felt like doing for a few minutes there), helped immensely. I read an article about how people are only taught to breathe when facing great pain – like women in labor – but the benefits of breathing exercises are innumerable. Yoga and meditation first helped me understand that, though I can openly admit I still struggle with it and find myself holding my breath when expecting pain. I breathed and then it was over and I was filled with lightness (also known as endorphins) and was ecstatic. Thinking about it last night, I realized that the experience had other real world applications.

I woke up this morning in a bad place. It’s Tuesday, I stayed up entirely too late watching Gilmore Girls (Team Jess forever and all that), I still have to peel my ribs off of the sheets because I have a tattoo healing and apparently I like sleeping on it, and I’m sad. Not devastatingly sad, not world-ending sad, not oh-god-hide-the-butter-knives sad…just sad. And hopefully, as today goes on, that’ll pass and I’ll distract myself with more important things and feelings, but right now I feel heavy. Not literally heavy, mind you, I’ve lost almost 20 pounds since the break up. Not healthy, no, but do I look awesome? Yes. I’ll accept it as positive collateral damage. Does that exist? I need more sleep.

If you ever want to make yourself very aware of the passing of time, troll your own Facebook. Look at what you’ve said. It’s like the world’s most public diary, for some more than others. I try not to post too many emotional things to Facebook (Twitter, etc etc) because…well, it’s not everyone’s business. Some people like posting shit about how miserable they are, how badly they were hurt, and so on but I really try not to. I usually end up regretting things I’ve shared in moments of strong emotion. But, anyway, I looked back and saw way too much that made me sadder. I have that tendency, to fully accept an emotion I drag myself more deeply into it so that I can really feel it. There’s a slight possibility I’m a masochist. But there was this status I had posted about being taken care of when I was sick and a comment from him saying that he loved me and would always take care of me. Fuck, that hurt. And then I promptly wanted to kick myself because all I was doing was twisting the knife. Of course he said that, and probably meant it, but he doesn’t now and it is not fucking healthy to wish anything otherwise.

I spoke with a friend last night on the phone at length, first about the over-medication of our generation (um, because for real you guys, it should be talked about), but then about part of what I had written. I went on and on because I have a tendency to do that when highly caffeinated but I also said things important for me to let sink in: I am right in how I feel. It is okay for me to be conflicted, angry, hurt, lonely, and sad. It’s okay to not be sure what the right choice is. It’s okay to miss him. It’s okay to wonder. And there’s nothing wrong with playing out the millions of conversations (most of them involving yelling) I would have liked to have had. But, though those feelings are perfectly okay and I should let myself feel them, I need to play the reel all the way through and acknowledge that for all he’s said, even last week, it is not right, okay, fair, or acceptable to let someone put me in a one-sided relationship. I deserve far more respect than to be told all of these things I want to hear and not have the actions reciprocate. You want to keep me in your life? Okay. Answer the goddamn phone when I text you, not when I get angry about it. I am not, nor will I let myself be, someone who stays hidden in the background of someone else’s life. It would be doing a disservice not only to myself, but to him, to let him believe that it is okay to hold onto someone without actually being willing to be an active part of their life. Relationships, no matter what kind, are a two-way street. I know his past is littered with people, especially the woman he’s with right now, who have let him believe that it’s okay to treat someone like that and they’ll just come back and push down and try to forget everything. I can’t do that to him, or myself.

I keep trying to tense up, like I normally do, to this pain. I keep trying to block it out, or ignore it, when it does come and pretend like I can shed that kind of love like a winter coat. But to forget that the same winter coat kept me warm when it was cold outside it to damn myself to repeat the same mistakes. I’m like the kid who curls over and tries to let the dodge ball hit my shoulder instead of my head when I should be reaching out and attempting to catch it. I am no less accepting than I was the other night of anything, but I am also trying to be more aware of myself. Accepting pain doesn’t mean not feeling it. It means taking that deep breath and exhaling slowly and feeling it, all of it. I can compare it to anyone’s break up I want to try to make myself feel guilty, but that won’t make the pain less. Trying to shame myself for hurting won’t solve the hurt. Then I’ve just added shame to the hurt and oh wow, can you say downward spiral?

Every day I miss him. Every day, at least once, something happens and it reminds me of him or makes me want to reach out. I have never ever felt this way, and it’s weird, because I compared my post to the last post I wrote regaling that last time someone dumped me, so to speak, which was exactly a year before. Like same week and everything, how’s that for shit luck? But, I compared it and found almost stunning similarities in my mindset. I reassured myself last year that I shouldn’t want to be with someone that doesn’t respect me. And that’s difficult, because he did respect me…until he didn’t. So it’s okay to miss him, it’s okay to want to talk to him and wonder if he has thought about me or if he is as conflicted about it all as he’s said, but it’s not okay to pretend like I’m in any state of being to forgive and accept what he’s done. That would be impulsive, codependent, toxic, and cruel (to me). To act like all of this isn’t effecting me would be a lie. To continue to put myself in a position wherein I feel like someone’s second choice, whether I am or not (let’s face it, he made me that), is cruel. If he really can’t live without me, if he is as messed up over all of this as he’s said, he’s just as capable of picking up the phone and telling me the things he sees that made him think of me.

Today, my tattoo is still tender, scabbed, and healing. My mom poked it, because sometimes she thinks things are a good idea that are just not, and it still hurt intensely. The rest of me feels very similarly, but I think the most important word is the last one: Healing. It is healing, I am healing. I am still tender, hurt, confused, and sad. I am very, very sad. But, I am healing.

 

A Story, of sorts.

This is an airing of dirty laundry, I suppose. But rather than spend the next however many weeks making subtle daggers on Facebook or posting leading quotes on Instagram, I figured it would be best for me to get my feelings down and out. If you read this, I’ll assume you wanted to. If you didn’t, then simply don’t read it.

I fell in love with an addict in recovery. At his best, he was honest, charming, trustworthy, kind, funny, sweet, endearing, charismatic, emotional, heartfelt, optimistic, and down to earth. I was so lucky as to see that for the majority of our relationship. At his worst, he was sneaky, unfaithful, dishonest, disrespectful, thoughtless, depressed, and impulsive. I saw and recognized these flaws, and loved him anyway. Some who read this know him, many don’t. I fell in love with a man separated from a high school sweetheart, who had two beautiful children, and a laundry list of baggage from that relationship that I acknowledged, and trusted him to work through. Not for me, mind you, but for himself. Nobody deserves to carry that heavy a load.

From the day that I saw him again, I knew that he had a spark in his eye for me. I was fully aware of it and chose to ignore it to the best of my ability. I downplayed the flattery, ignored the flirtation, and fully believed that as his life moved forward, he and I would likely never speak again. But he persisted and found me online and reached out and I found myself falling. I was on my phone all day, laughing those serious stomach-clenching, face-turns-purple laughs that are often times hard to come by with people you don’t know all that well. I started accepting his flirtation and I flirted back. We talked until 4 a.m. those first few nights, never running out of things to say. We watched movies from our beds and laughed about them, making jokes about the hair gel budget for the Percy Jackson movies and the abomination that became City of Bones (seriously, what the fuck you guys?). I had ideas of us grabbing coffee and getting to know each other slowly and maybe letting it blossom into something. I forgot the impulsivity of addicts. We met, hiked, and he kissed me at the summit in quite possibly the most romantic way possible. We spent the rest of the night together, giggling and touching like two kids in high school. I imagine that’s probably what’s going on now, with her.

Within a week or so, he had me calling him because he wanted to tell me that he loved me. It’s crazy, it’s way too soon, I don’t even understand how this is happening or how I feel this way – that kind of “I love you.” And though I didn’t say it back at the time, regardless of my feelings, it was there. I had loved him the first night that I spent at his house, watching him run around cooking for me. I loved him when he lay down next to me after sleeping with me, uttering comments about how he’d never experienced anything like this before. I loved him with all of my stupid, stupid heart.

Our relationship progressed and everything was…I mean, it was perfect. I laughed with him all of the time, had the most amazing sex life a 24-year-old could dream of, and was awestruck with gratefulness that I had finally found someone who could be so wonderful to me. When we argued, we argued with purpose. When he was down, I was there to lift him up or at least stay on the phone with him until he lifted himself up. When I was down, he reassured me and helped me to see another perspective. He told me I was beautiful almost every day. He told me I was the last woman he ever wanted to sleep with, that he wanted to marry me, that he had never felt this way about another human being. He called me his soul mate. And I believed him. I still do, to an extent.

I met his children, earlier than I would have liked due to the brevity of the relationship, but I trusted him and I fell in love with them. The two sweetest, most amazing children. He held his daughter and me in his arms and called us his two favorite girls in the world. He almost cried when he saw me holding his daughter, dancing with her and kissing her cheek. I almost cried when his son told me he loved me. I loved them fully, without condition or explanation.

And then something unexpected happened. And it shook our relationship, made everything very serious very fast. He supported me, to the best of his ability, through it. But I think something during that broke the pedestal he put me on. We were both very human. One night, we argued horribly and I had ended up enunciating that I was not his ex. And he hung up on me. Then called me back. And we talked about it, because that’s what people in healthy relationships do. But I had to say it, because I’m not. I am a confrontational, upfront, honest person who will tell someone exactly how I feel and I have always been this way. She, from what I have been told and what I observed during their regular (she saved them for the weekends when she knew he was with me) screaming matches on the phone, is far more passive aggressive. So when he would accuse me of not meaning what I said, I took offense. I realized, and he acknowledged, that the relationship he had with her was all he knew of relationships and he was still learning that not all relationships are like that. People aren’t always snide or cruel during arguments.

But then, she wanted to talk to him about the kids. I encouraged it; after all, I fully believe two people can co-parent and be adults about it. They were going to meet somewhere in public and talk. They didn’t. And while I was at a work function, he slept with her. The woman he had done nothing but bad mouth for the last six months. The woman who had tried to keep his kids from him, who had turned his mother against him, who had done nothing but belittle any accomplishments he had made. Who, while I fully believe that she loves him in her own way, told him that she hoped I got pregnant and stalked my Instagram, and watched his house as I left one day. The woman who made him scream “CUNT” in the hallway and I had to follow him outside and peel out of him what was wrong, before he and I ever got involved. And then he spent Easter weekend with me like nothing had happened.

He slept with her again and finally told me about it two days later. I gave him credit, most people hide it for far longer. Almost relapsing will do that to you, I guess. That night, I raced down to his house and held him. And the next day, he broke up with me. After a slew of excuses, he used his infidelity as ammunition to make me hate him. And I was broken. What had happened? Only a week and a half ago, this was the man who drove and hour and a half down to take care of me when I was sick with the stomach flu on a work night. The man who even that past weekend told me I would make a wonderful stepmother. A woman sitting in the car next to me at a stoplight saw me crying on the phone with him. She stared and I just didn’t care, because my life was turned upside down.

Few know my story, who I was and who I am today. He didn’t even really know. If he had met my friends from college, they could’ve told him all of the changes I made being with him. I spent my weekends changing diapers and watching Pokemon, for Chrissake. The latter wasn’t as out of the ordinary, but still. For the first time in my adult life, I had truly known what it meant to be in love with someone else. As shocking as I found that, I accepted it. As surprising as it was to hear a man tell me he wanted to marry me and sing song what my married name would be, I accepted it. And I believed it. My happiness had shined out of me like a homing beacon. It was ripped away from me.

While I laid on my friend’s couch sobbing that night, he laid in bed with her posting Facebook statuses about butterflies and deleting any acknowledgement of our relationship from social media. God forbid should they acknowledge that he had loved another woman, right? I tried to make sense of what the actual hell had just happened because everyone was blindsided. Everyone. I thought of the last time he broke up with another woman to go back to her, the last time they separated, and wondered if maybe she wasn’t so crazy as to throw things at him. The next day, I gathered all of my things from his house and gave him back everything while he worked. I cleaned the dishes in his sink and put a load of laundry in his washing machine because, well, I reasoned that it was the decent thing to do. I’m still not sure why. I broke down crying in his living room seeing everything we had built in piles. His roommate’s dog came over and laid on me and licked my face while I gathered myself. I went home and texted him a goodbye that night.

The next day, he asked me to call him and told me that he still loved me, that hadn’t changed, that he may be making the biggest mistake of his life, that he was sick over what he did, and a barrage of all of the things that I wanted to hear. He started calling me my nickname and asked me to come up to an event with him. He told me she hadn’t changed, he had no idea what he was thinking. He asked me to see a movie with him, asked if I would spend the night. I obliged, the optimistic idiot that I am. And it was perfect, because of course it was. He ran to me in the rain and kissed me and held me so tightly I couldn’t breathe for a moment and it was glorious. I was shining again. We said we had a lot to work through, a lot of honesty needed to come back into our relationship, and we spent the night like we had never lost each other in the first place. He asked me if I was excited about the beach trip we had planned with his friends over the past few months, that was due to happen…today actually. I held onto him tightly and said that of course I was.

By Sunday morning, he was moody again. Conflicted, pushing down his feelings and trying to generalize everything. Said he needed to work through his emotions. And then he said he had to go start this mysterious new second job but no, he didn’t want me to drive him. When I suggested that I would wait around for him, he looked alarmed. “Here?” he asked, gesturing at his house. I shrugged noncommittally, because I had friends in town I could visit. Before I could even sit down to lunch with said friends, I received a flurry of texts explaining that he was going to Hershey Park with his ex, whom he had said he broke things off and who didn’t want to talk to him, because his son wanted him to go. He said he wouldn’t stay long and it was for his son. I asked about his job and he said he was already off. I told him it made me uncomfortable, but I wanted to rebuild trust so I trusted him, and I wanted him to make his son happy. He made me wait until she dropped him off to come back over to his house, like a mistress. We ended up arguing that night, horribly. I cried in the fetal position, finally saying what I hadn’t wanted to: That he devastated me. That I had trusted him, implicitly, and he violated it. He shattered it. And then made a joke about the infidelity after spending the afternoon with her. That he should, for once, put himself in my shoes.

The next morning, he needed time to think. That Wednesday, he asked me to come down because he needed me to hold him. I intended for it to be a night where we hashed things out because he said what likely caused his infidelity were resentments about a choice I had made. When I got there, it was clear sex was his first choice and then afterward said he didn’t want to talk about anything, he just wanted to have a good night. Like someone can just push aside all of those thoughts and feelings for the time being with no regard to them. I had told a friend on the phone the day before that I had a feeling he hadn’t actually told his ex he didn’t want to be with her, and my friend said, “Alyssa, what have I always said about your intuition?” I swallowed dryly and replied, “It’s right.” So I asked him, point blank if he had after he tried to dodge me hearing him call to his kids to say goodnight. He said that yes, he had told her he didn’t want to try to make things work and he didn’t want to be with her. He had said this on Friday, but what I had started noticing were his actions didn’t follow his words. And I believed him, because I wanted to trust him.

That Saturday morning, he broke up with me again. On Facebook. And when I tried to call him to figure out what the hell had happened, he refused to answer. It broke his heart hearing my voice, it killed him to do this. He needed to focus on himself. Little did I know, he had spent the night before with her. I had laid at home, anxiously wondering why he didn’t want to talk to me again, while he was sleeping next to her.

I found out Sunday for sure. And since then, I have been back and forth with everything. My heart keeps telling me to hold out because “look at what we had!” and “he says he still wants you in his life!” and “he says it makes him sick to his stomach to not have you in his life!” and every other various thing he had said to me. Meanwhile, he’s still sleeping next to her and she has no idea that this is going on.

I recollected my things this past week and during the conversation, he painted a picture of wondering. He wondered if their failed marriage had been entirely his fault (of course it hadn’t). He told me all of these things that reassured me what a good person he was, and that he did care about me.

And then he took her on our vacation. And I spent the entire day on and off seething, depressed, confused, and powerless. I felt so completely disrespected. And I’m not sure when it happened, but somewhere along the lines, I realized something.

I was in a relationship with an addict in recovery.

He had every opportunity to make different choices, every opportunity to be honest, every opportunity to show me even the smallest amount of respect and time and time again, his actions spoke completely differently than his words. Time and time again he continued to sneak, lie, and hide things so that everything would be “easier”. He masked his lies as not wanting to hurt me. He blamed others for me finding out about his bullshit relationship changes instead of blaming himself for posting things to social media, or better yet, doing them when he knew they would hurt me and supposedly didn’t want to. He wanted me to stay in his life but didn’t want to make any effort to give me a reason to stay. He consistently, and without fail, tried to replace me with her. Because it was easier. It was easier than admitting to her that he was conflicted and needed to be alone, easier than admitting to me that he didn’t end things with her because he wanted the best of both worlds without having to deal with the wars within them. He wanted the relationship he had with me, with her. I will never know why. And it’s not worth me losing my self-worth over finding it out. He lied to the woman he is supposedly trying to make things work with and still likely is because it’s “easier” that way. I can’t hate her for that, it’s not her fault.

I will also never know who he was telling the truth to, in the end. Was his confusion and soul-wrenching pain genuine or was he bullshitting to make things easier? I will never know. I told a friend tonight that wishing away your past, that pushing it away, will never make it go away. And that is especially true in this case. None of us will ever be able to truly forget that he and I were in love, that we had made plans mostly laid by him, that he had told her he didn’t love her anymore.

That doesn’t mean that I should spend my days waiting and trying to figure it all out. I deserve far more than the way I’ve been treated, but beating a dead horse will not bring it back to life and it certainly won’t answer any of my questions. Hoping that the honest man I knew comes back will not bring him back and I cannot love him into anything. That no matter how sweet, kind, wonderful, silly, handsome, and honest he was to me – he cheated, lied, and disrespected more than enough to make up for it over the last month. And I can’t deny it anymore. I can’t pretend like he didn’t, or like I’m okay with any of it, or that it will go away if I show him enough love or support. And that if he wanted to be with me, he would be with me. Nothing is stopping him. That if he is miserable, it is nobody’s fault but his own. It is not my job to keep him happy, it never was, and it certainly isn’t now.

Anger doesn’t help. Anger causes me to blame people, myself especially. It is useless because no matter how angry I am, things are the way they are and I cannot change them. They are out of my control. And the only way to take back control is to eliminate what’s making me angry. In this case, it’s him.

I tried bargaining with myself, even with him. Told him that I would stay in his life if he rethought his decisions. I told myself that if I didn’t contact him, he would contact me. Told myself that if he did come back, I would make him wait months until he hit a year of sobriety. Bargaining puts me back into the sick cycle of wanting and not having and wondering. I begged God for him to forgive me (HA!) for my choices, for him to see me. Bargaining is painful. And pointless.

I’ve been depressed. I cried every day, at first, though now not so much. I didn’t eat. I felt worthless; why would he cheat? With her? Why would he hurt me like that, after going on for ages about how he would never do something like that to me? Why Why Why until my head felt like it was exploding. Depression stunted my ability at work, encouraged my codependence, made the genuine things he said and the bullshit meld into believability, and made me question what was wrong with me. He cheated, he lied, he failed as a faithful, honest person and I felt like there was something wrong with ME? WHAT?

So, at last, I’m reaching acceptance. I cannot change what happened, I cannot go back to the way it was. He did irreparable damage to something wonderful because he. is. an. addict. And addicts struggle, intrinsically, with instant gratification, self-worth, control, and impulsive decision making. One in recovery usually makes a daily effort to work on all of those. He may be now, I don’t know, but he certainly wasn’t. And, like I said, I cannot love him into understanding what he did, I cannot support him into wanting to love himself first, and I cannot make him see what everyone else is – that he made a huge mistake. And I cannot wait around to see if he figures it out. Because that won’t help him, sure, but most importantly, it won’t help me. Banging my head off of a wall won’t end his headache. He disrespected me over and over again, apologizing but continuing to do it. And maybe she can ignore it and pretend like he doesn’t do it (to both of their detriment!), but I can’t. And I love him, and myself, too much to encourage that kind of mindset. He wants to live the life he pictured for himself at 18. Maybe it will work out in his favor; some relationships that begin with lies and cheating end well, I guess. But it is not my job to make sure he does anymore. It is not my job to worry about him. It is not my job to love him, or encourage him, or hold him when he is sad. And it was wrong of him to use me as that, even as he was telling her that he wanted to make things work. But being angry at him for it will not make me feel better.

I deserved the openness and honesty I saw in him before I ever loved him. I deserved the respect he showed up until the day he impulsively decided to sleep with her “because they were getting along.” I deserved him to look me in the goddamn eye when he broke up with me, rather than Facebook messaging me after a date night with her. But I didn’t get those things. And sitting here waiting for god to knock some sense into him will likely only leave me more angry, sad, and hopeless.

For better or worse, I have to love him enough to let him go and make the mistakes he wants to. I can still pray for him, but I need to let him go. Because no matter what he said to me, he took all of those things back when he slept with another woman, regardless of their history.

I am posting this, though not on Facebook, because others who are going through a break up should read this. Take peace in the fact that eventually it will get better. It’s not better for me yet, but it isn’t as bad as it was and I have faith that it will be. Because whoever you are, you deserve someone who will be honest with you. Always, not just when it’s convenient. You need to know how valuable you are. You know that he made the world’s biggest mistake and even if he doesn’t, that doesn’t matter. Someone being unfaithful makes them less of a woman or man, not you.

So, if you read this and you are the man I spoke of, I want you to know: I’m not angry anymore. But I will not be a party to any more of your inability to live an honest life. Because I love you too much. I am moving on with my life. Maybe one day things will be different, but they are not, and I am not going to wait for you to realize anything else. I deserved the man you were, not the man you are right now. Remember the story of the wolves? Try to remember which one you’re feeding. And again, unlike her, I love you enough to let you go. I am finished. This is finished.

-a.

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