Keep On Keepin’ On

I used to think I had to go off by myself and get my shit together before I could get into a relationship. People told me I could do that while in a relationship but I didn’t believe them. Then I finally learned, through my relationship with my ex-boyfriend, that growth happens through relationships. Growth does not happen when I go off on an island by myself. All that happens there is solitude, which can be peaceful at times and lonely at others, but if I’m completely alone with no relationships then there’s nothing to work on. Then I can just do what I want, and who cares? If I want to grow, I must have relationships, and with relationships inevitably come hardships. It’s through those hardships that we have a real opportunity to grow.

When it comes to romantic relationships, the honeymoon period doesn’t last forever. Hopefully something deeper develops in its place. I know that only from observation; usually I leave soon after the honeymoon period is over. I’d hoped that in this past relationship that wouldn’t happen, but he made the decision for us and there’s nothing I can do about it. He’s still uncertain about whether or not he wants to get back together, and his indecisiveness and uncertainty is absolutely maddening for me. With each day that passes without an answer from him, the stronger my loss of faith grows. I just want an answer!

But that’s not really true. I don’t want us to break up. What I want is for him to come back to me, to say he knows this is the right decision, to say he wants to stay together and work through this. This experience has been incredibly humbling. The feeling of rejection kills my pride. How many times have I rejected others without so much as a teardrop in my eye? Sure, I felt guilty, but guilt is nothing compared to the pain of rejection, of feeling so unloved, unaccepted, unworthy, not good enough. It makes me want to find another man, and let him see that plenty of others out there want me, and he missed out because he couldn’t commit, and doesn’t he feel sorry now? But I know I won’t do that, because I don’t want to, and it would delay my healing process. If he doesn’t want to get back together, I need to spend this time as a single woman, working on my friendships and my career. I could have worked on my friendships and career while in a relationship with him, and he can do the same for himself, but that’s beside the point. I don’t get a choice in the matter. You can’t make someone else love you. He says he loves me, but it sure doesn’t feel that way to me. If he loved me he wouldn’t abandon me four months after my mom, who I loved more than anyone in the world, died suddenly of a stroke, and now there is not a single living soul on this earth who will ever love me as much as she did.

My ex-boyfriend says he feels he needs this time alone to focus on his own mental health, which he’d neglected throughout our relationship. I’m thinking, What about MY mental health? What about what you’re doing to me right now, right after Mom died? How would YOU feel if one of your kids died, and I broke up with you four months afterwards?

Instead I wrote some of what I’ve written in these paragraphs in an email to him, about how I too used to think I had to be alone to get my shit together, and his reply? That it’s a beautifully written email. Maybe if you read my blog and had an interest in who I am as a person you’d already know that, I wanted to scream at him. But then, that’s not entirely true either. I know he’s interested in me—or was—and it’s not like I read his boring textbooks—though I will say I read many parts of them! I did!

What I’d forgotten was that I did the same thing to my first husband. He had a troubled relationship with his dad, who died suddenly, and then a short time later was Father’s Day, and it was either on that day or soon after that he discovered I had cheated on him. I had fallen for another man and had no interest in trying to work it out with the first husband. Then I married the second guy, and eventually left him. Now he’s getting married to someone else. Two men I’d briefly dated after him are also engaged to be married, and I’m thinking, How did they have time to fall in love and make a commitment? Forgetting I did exactly that myself.

Feeling like I got what I deserved does not serve me. The reality is that people hurt each other even when they don’t want to, and we have to learn to forgive each other if we want to move on.

Love is more than a feeling–it’s an action. It’s a choice. Infatuation doesn’t last forever. Eventually life becomes routine, boring sometimes. When someone realizes their relationship isn’t working out, they don’t get to pick the right timing for that. Sure, we can stay with someone out of a sense of obligation, but if our heart isn’t in it, then it’s not being true to ourselves or to the other person.

I believe that people are meant to have partners. I personally do not want to go through life alone. I would like someone by my side as I grow older. Of course there are no guarantees, and even if I got married tomorrow I know it wouldn’t mean I’d be with that person forever. I would love to find a man who wants to be in a relationship, willing to work together through the hard times. The constant doubt and insecurity that it won’t work out becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I can’t take it anymore, in any aspect of my life—not just with relationships. You pick something and you do it.

I know someone who prefers to be single. She lives alone, she doesn’t talk to the few friends she has very often, and she hates her job. Maybe that’s her preference, and it’s great for her because she never has to deal with anyone else’s shit, ever. But it’s also a very lonely life. She’d tell you she’s fine, but it’s clear to me that she’s depressed. Ironically she tells me she can see that I am depressed, that maybe I’ve been depressed all my life, which may be true, but felt like judgment. She told me of how she’d created a sign as a child that read, “Keep on keepin’ on!” It felt to me like she was bragging about her own innate resilience over mine. And though I know my feelings are more about me than her, it doesn’t make my feelings less valid. And her lifestyle is her choice. I don’t have to live that life. I have a lot going for me. I am smart, strong, and capable—not that she doesn’t have these things too, but I often forget these things about myself, and there are lots of other people who don’t have that. So I will continue to try to find gratitude in my life and I’ll do everything I can to improve my life, no matter how dark it gets at times. And it’s pretty fucking dark right now.

Night before last I had a dream in which I found the perfect dress and then before I could buy it, before I could even try it on, it was lost. I couldn’t find it anywhere. It was that feeling of complete and utter loss of something you didn’t even have yet, a glimmer of hope you’d clung to, dashed, how you’d thought, this is it, and then poof! Vanished. Gone.

Then last night I dreamt I found a bunch of jewelry, mostly rings and wedding bands, none of which belonged to me, and then realizing my own earrings were in this pile of jewelry. I was standing in muck, about to wash a pile of dirty dishes, my new shoes filthy from the grime, and then thinking, Maybe the dirt will come out in the wash. Maybe it will be okay. Maybe I’m standing in muck right now, but I’ll be cleansed from all these feelings of anger, hurt, frustration, and resentment eventually. I’ll be okay. A glimmer of hope. Keep on keepin’ on.

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