Post-Traumatic Growth

My Foundations of Health and Wellness class focuses on self-care, specifically how to incorporate more fun and laughter in life. The idea is to learn balance, so that, as future nutritionists and health coaches, we can guide others in doing the same for themselves. The assignment was to spend time every day for a week playing a game or engaging in some kind of playful activity, and it was actually quite difficult to do. I must confess I didn’t do it every day. And I realized that I don’t have enough fun in my life.

Our professor who I call Joy gave us this video to watch, the long and short versions are below. This is Jane McGonigal from her TED Talk called “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life:”

Here’s the long version—it’s about 20 minutes long, so if you don’t have time, skip to the short version where she talks about post-traumatic growth:

I like what she says about post-traumatic growth. It reminds me of one of the daily meditations in The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie, in which she writes that if we are currently going through a difficult period in our life, know that something wonderful is just around the corner. This is an affirmation I repeat to myself throughout the day when I’m feeling down. McGonigal talks about feeling three positive emotions for every one negative emotion every hour. When those worries about future failure creep in, replace them with positive affirmations that something wonderful is blooming from this pain. I can acknowledge that right now is painful, but I can be grateful even for the pain, because from pain blossoms growth. Think of this time as the tight bud of a rose, just about to blossom open. Keep watering the seeds of positivity.

All this time I’ve been clinging to an idea of stability that I long for, a future in which my boyfriend and I grow together, learn to communicate better, move in together, and live in harmony. In the meantime I’m getting used to being without him, living life on my own, spending more time with friends, roommates, and co-workers. Spending more time alone, and less time obsessively checking my phone to see if he’s texted or emailed. Bits of phrases my therapist has said echo in my mind: “In three months you’ll have moved on…” “He’s going to miss his opportunity…” “You can meet someone else with his good qualities, but without the negatives.”

Three months? Really? She thinks I’ll be over him that soon? But when I think about it, I realize it has only been two weeks since he decided on this separation that I agreed to, and a month since he broke up with me. And already I’m beginning to let go. Just a tiny bit, and I still have hope of getting back together, but the thoughts are there. The thought that maybe God is doing for me what I cannot do for myself. That maybe this relationship is not good for me. The thought that I could meet someone like him but without his baggage.

My mother died on August 21st. That was less than six months ago. When it first happened, I thought I would never stop feeling so devastated. I cried so hard my entire head hurt for days. I spent days staring into space. I spent nights staring at the sky. And now, less than six months later, I am adjusting to life. I am totally on my own now. I probably do still think about her every day, but not the same way I did in the beginning. It’s weird to think it was less than six months ago, and I’m… well, I’m moving on with my life.

It’s the same with my ex-boyfriend, except that I’m beginning to think of the positives of not being with him. I cannot deny that the pain of rejection is there, and the question of why. Why am I not good enough for him. Why can’t he see how good we are together. Why does he prefer to be single over being in a loving relationship with someone willing to put up with his bullshit. Here I am, saying that I’m willing to learn to accept him for who he is, and do whatever I have to do to make this work, and let me tell you, that’s not easy to do for someone like me, nor is it easy for anyone to do with someone like him. It’s probably not easy for anyone, but with our issues? It’s a lot of work. But here’s the thing. Maybe it doesn’t have to take so much work. Of course, all relationships take work, but I can’t be the only one doing it. I can’t be the only one fighting for the relationship.

I want to correct something I wrote in my last blog post, about him making promises he doesn’t keep. That’s not true. He hasn’t made any promises, but he’d casually mentioned commitment a couple of times, and I clung to those ideas as truth. A few times he’d said, “Please don’t leave me.” My interpretation was, “I won’t leave you.” But that’s not what he said. What he said was, Don’t leave me, but I can do whatever the eff I want. Okay, maybe not that last part, but he may as well have, because he broke up with me several times over the year and a half we were together.

Recently he had a job interview for a position in North Carolina, and he texted me to say he doubts he’ll take it if he gets it. When I asked why, his reply was that it was less pay and he couldn’t realistically live off lower pay with the debt and bills he has. He did not say, Because I want to stay here with you and try to work this out. I had said that to him though. I’d told him I hoped he wouldn’t take the job because I hoped he’d stay in Maryland so we could work out our relationship. His reply? “I know, babe.” I know, babe. He did not say, I feel the same way. When he was originally planning to move to North Carolina, I thought it was because both of our families live there, and we could be closer to them. But when I’d asked him why he’d wanted to move there, he said, Because family comes first and I want to be closer to my kids. He did not say, Because both of our families live there and we can be closer to them. He did not say, Because family comes first, and you’re also part of my family. Sometimes the truth can rip your heart right out of your chest, but you have to face it.

And it’s not that I’m not good enough for him, though that’s what my perception tells me he feels. It’s more about timing and his own issues. It’s unfortunate for him. Both of his kids will be grown and off to college in four years, and then he’ll see them maybe a few times a year, like most other parents. He’s choosing a life of loneliness over someone willing to go to any length to commit to a relationship with him. Any length, including being ignored and shut out repeatedly for varying lengths of time, which is what happened in the year and a half we dated. But guess what? That’s one of those things I can’t do anymore. Being ignored is the most painful thing anyone can do to me. It touches a deep-rooted button that sprouted in childhood, and I refuse to be ignored any longer.

Ideally, both things happen. I no longer put up with his distant behavior, and we get back together anyway. Ideally, he respects me for no longer allowing myself to be his doormat.

Here’s a Spotify playlist that I created, which I listen to every day for strength and courage:

“Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
“I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor
“Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
“Can’t Cry Anymore” by Sheryl Crow
“No” by Meghan Trainor
“My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) by En Vogue

Not all of the lyrics apply, but they empower me nonetheless. Of course I still love this man, and I don’t think he’s a bad person, nor do I believe he’s trying to hurt me. He’s a beautiful person. But I’m beginning to see that maybe this won’t work. I still hope we can get through this together, but mostly I hope to grow in a positive direction, whatever that means. Maybe it means going our separate ways. And if so, I can move on and have a good life, regardless.

I’ll leave you with my anthem by Gloria Gaynor on repeat (newer video version here):

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