When I was part of a couple, my idea of the future included a plan of moving in together, eventually to North Carolina. I’d find a job making more money, and maybe I’d go back to school. I didn’t know what would really happen, or what it would look like, but I had all these ideas about what the future held, and I felt safe. I felt safe knowing I had a partner to walk through it with together, a supportive person by my side. That’s all changed now, and I have no idea what the future holds, and no partner by my side. I have to walk through it alone.
This time I don’t want to find a partner. As hard as this feels like it will be, I want to get my shit together before I get involved with someone else.
I suppose I could take this time to look at the positive: I’ll have more free time. More time to spend building friendships, more time to study, to write, to focus on some kind of career. To go to church, do community service, go to Buddhist meditation, work out, go to support group meetings. I have only myself to focus on. No need to worry about what someone else is doing for dinner, or the weekend, or the holidays.
Balance is one thing I’ve always struggled with. When I had a partner I felt I had little time to do these other things because I preferred to spend that time with him. How other people have careers, relationships, and kids on top of that, I have no idea. I have time for only one out of those three.
I had hoped I’d be able to find myself while in a relationship with someone else, that we’d spend all this time together for a year or so before settling down to focus more time on ourselves, but with the knowledge that we’d be there for each other. I’m disappointed that this doesn’t get to be my story.
In my blog the other day I’d written about how my therapist suggested that I can find another man who doesn’t have a mental illness, implying that she believes there’s something wrong with that or that those with mental illness cannot be in relationships. But I don’t think that. It just takes more work that some of us, both the mentally ill and their partners, cannot or will not do. For anyone who hasn’t had this experience, for me it was about more than just the mood swings, but what the mood swings produced. If he wanted to stay in bed depressed for a week, that would be one thing. It would make me sad for him, and I’d want him to be happy, but I’d be okay and do my own thing. But he didn’t just do that. He became cold and distant, like a different person. He’d lash out at me and refuse to speak to me. He’d say he hated relationships and should be single. He felt like the world, including me, was against him. When times were good and he felt exuberant, he made promises he later forgot. I believed, and still do believe, the good parts. I believe he wanted to keep those promises, and I know he loves me and wants that life for us. But right now he just cannot do it, and maybe he never will. For him I think it’s about having been damaged so badly in childhood that he needs more growth before he can move forward. I believe he can do it if he puts in the work, but it doesn’t look like I get to be his partner during or after that. Maybe he can’t do it, and maybe he won’t put in the work. I don’t know. I really don’t know anything for sure.
A few weeks ago a man came into the store asking for help with some supplements, and during our conversation he said that I looked familiar. I’d noticed too, but hadn’t said anything, because I see people from the rooms at work all the time, and some of them wish to remain anonymous. But then he remembered it was from online dating, which must’ve been from over two years ago. We’d never met in person because after a few phone conversations he’d said something creepy about his interest (swinging), so I told him I wasn’t looking for that and never talked to him again.
Last night he came into the store again, and I realized he’s been shopping there for a long time and I’d never noticed before. He’s a good-looking man, and for a few dark moments I entertained the notion of eventually dating this man. Maybe he would take care of me.
In a corner of my mind I’d been feeling sorry for myself because it snowed yesterday, and there’s no one in my life to check up on me to make sure I’m safe. My family doesn’t live here so they didn’t know I was at work and afraid I’d be trapped, or worse, that I’d later get stuck on the road. It’s up to me to buy windshield de-icer, shovel snow from around my car, and make the decision to stay or leave work. Not that none of these decisions or actions were mine before, but just that I wouldn’t be getting any texts from my ex asking if I was okay, nor would I be getting any phone calls from my mom making sure I had all the supplies I need.
My co-worker, who I’ll call Barbara, was there, and we discussed what to do. She and I have grown closer over the past several months, and she reminds me of someone my mom would like. Barbara is a 60-year-old divorcee who lives with her daughter and autistic grandson. Her life is colored with a troubled relationship with the daughter and a lack of her own personal space. She was worried about driving because she had a long way to drive on back roads that probably wouldn’t be well-plowed. As a single mother of grown daughters who sound to me very selfish and inconsiderate, she doesn’t have anyone to check up on her. She’s been on her own for most of her life.
We’re each on our own in different ways. Each time it’s snowed like that, even when I was married, my husband at the time didn’t call with concern about my safety. I’m a grown woman and he assumed I could take care of myself. And I can.
So this idea that this creepy man from my past could take care of me was a moment of desperation in which I felt lonely and afraid of an unknown future that I will ultimately die alone in a nursing home. But the thing is, to be with some creepy dude in our house and to die there, I’d be alone there too. Maybe even more alone, because we can feel alone in our relationships. I felt more alone than ever in my first marriage.
The other thought that occurred to me was that there I was feeling sad that no one was concerned about me, when I have a friend who was disowned by her parents a couple of years ago, who’s single and poor, and with no one but herself to care for her. Who calls her when it snows? And it occurred to me just now as I was writing this, that I could reach out to Barbara to make sure she was safe. How about my friend Beth, who lives alone, a widow and cancer survivor, who has no family here either? Probably no one calls her when it snows either. But I can be that person. I can reach out to my friends and make sure they’re okay. And now that I think about it, my boss/friend texted me later to make sure I’d gotten home okay, and had also texted me to tell me she’d made it to work okay. So yes, we’re on our own, but we have each other, I can think of ways to be there for my friends, even if it’s just to say I care. And no, I do not have to become dependent on some creepy dude who’s not looking for real love and friendship but rather empty pleasures. And no, I do not have to go to sugardaddy.com as was disturbingly suggested by my acupuncturist’s assistant, because I am not a victim.
I am a survivor. A fighter. And I will get through this.