the ones that get away
Before I start writing, I wanted to point out that I absolutely know that my last post was the exact example of what I do when I’m surrounded by the moat. That even though I decided to get my needs met, I did it with a sense of righteous anger. My inner 14 year old was alive and well, suddenly understanding she actually had a choice about suffering. But when I wrote that, of course, I didn’t really see that happening or that I had set it up as me against the evil corporate employer against me taking care of myself. When, in reality, it was no big deal to ask for the time off. My employer has never really bawked at that. It’s totally been me setting it up that way because that same part of me doesn’t feel like she’s entitled to that day off.
In any case, I noticed that this morning and kind of laughed.
So, now, I’m going to probably write about what I’m intending to write about. And I say probably because I have literally written this blog entry 3-4 times in the last several days. It was mostly part of a larger entry that was meant to update on a lot of things in my life…including work–which I was super angry and frustrated about. Things have changed and I’m realizing that anger was displaced and also about some of the stuff I talked about last night–which is why I probably hesitated to post it. When angry me takes over, I know it’s not shareable. At least not in that form.
Today’s entry is just going to be about a small piece of the original thing I wrote, mostly because I feel like it’s not raw and maybe is worth sharing now. We’ll see if I post it.
In my late teens/early 20s, I was pretty damn cynical about love. In every other way, I was this dyed-in-the-wool optimist. But love? Oh, I had all the judgments. And the funny thing about it was that I am–absolutely–a hopeless romantic. But, back then, my feelings were blockaded. Like Fort Knox. I remember so clearly judging those people who had let the loves of their lives slip through their fingers. It was fun to watch in theaters or read about in my bedroom, but it made zero sense to me that anyone who loved anyone else would be that reckless. I was a bit naive, I guess.
I took a course back when I was 17/18 about Love, Sex, and Gender. It was taught by a really awesome anthropologist for the Freshman Seminar, earmarked for Honors students. I loved that class. But I found myself looking down my nose, often, at “American love.” How gauche. We studied all these cultures, and the big project was all these writings about our understanding of love. I presented it as a bed made of velvet and fake flowers with hearts drawn in poster paint. And inside, each section featured greeting cards with quotations about romantic love. And then my bitter, judgmental ramblings. I got an A because it was pretty impressive, and despite my bitterness, I could write and back my shit up.
Years later, though, I sincerely wondered–at the age of 18, how the Hell was I ALREADY so damn bitter about love? What happened?
Of course, I knew. It was my parents. They happened. I learned from a young age that love was this tragic, soul-crushing entity. I wanted no part of it–vowing to die a spinster with my 12 cats. Embracing the no man, no kids way of being.
I didn’t even want to date.
The year before The Year of the Cyclone, I randomly met a guy with a funny laugh who said something really dumb to me the very first time he ever said anything to me. And a few weeks later, we were engaged. It was the very first time I ever let anyone see or know me. He knew me better than my Mama who absolutely knew most everything about me–except the shit that hurt. The shit I couldn’t say.
And for whatever reason, he didn’t run. At least, not at first.
He stayed and helped me carry my shit–wanted to carry my shit–convinced me to let him. Convinced me he wasn’t going anywhere. So, I let him.
And then my life fell apart and that awful year happened. And I lost everything, but found everything too.
But it’s been years since I spoke to him, and I doubt we will ever have another conversation. That’s his choice, and I’ve made peace with the fact that he doesn’t need me–that he never did. That–for him–our relationship was about him being the hero. And when that got hard, and when heroing was not an easy task–when I couldn’t bathe him in adoration? Well, he left.
I don’t blame him. I wanted to leave too.
And honestly, now–I’m glad he did. Glad we never got married. Glad we have no contact. Because he just wasn’t mine. Though that sweet part of my heart thought he was for a very long time. Time has a way of shedding light on such things.
When I usually talk about my love life, I say I’ve had two “great” loves. I think that’s mostly because of how intense the relationships were and how long they lasted. One came a few years later and went longer–farther–than any I’d had before. I really believed this relationship was it for me. The thing was–and I honestly never really thought about this until recently–those loves were tainted by death. So, it’s really hard to know what was about that love and what was about that grief I was dealing with. Death has a way of turning up the volume on all things. It’s still weird for me to think that the second love happened just a few short years after my Mama’s death–which were, really, the hardest years of my life. It was a time when who I was changed so drastically that I truly think no relationship would have survived it. And I think that’s a lot of what happened for both of us.
I guess, up until recently, I really believed that those two relationships were my standards for love.
But they weren’t mine.
After the last one ended–after I gave up on being his friend–after I consciously decided to stop calling him–
to stop trying to be anything at all to him–
there was a real turn in my dating life. Basically, it was like I was in that corner–surrounded by the moat. I had been blindsided by it. There was a lot that was wrong about that relationship that I was in denial about, but the separation really brought it to light. I’ll absolutely admit I needed to hate him, and so I did.
I didn’t mourn that relationship like I had the first one. While I was the one who disappeared on him, he never came looking for me. And that was fine. Probably best–actually–because I needed to not be around anything him. Instead of letting go and wishing him well, though, I found myself filled with anger about the time I wasted with him. That served as fuel for pushing me forward–for changing what I didn’t like–and truthfully, without it, I wouldn’t have gotten through the next couple of years. They were very hard on me–not because of love–but because the Universe had some lessons for me. But it meant our relationship, or lack thereof, became–for me–a sort of Cold War. Because it’s very hard to fully disconnect online. Even if you block everything, you’ll suddenly see shit you don’t want to see. Or hear about things. It’s just the reality of our world. Unless you actively work to minimize that–and that–in and of itself–keeps it alive.
A few months after my ex and I stopped speaking, I met someone–who I actually knew through his writing. I’d befriended him long before and had admired his work–knew of him–and was always a bit intimidated by him. The first time I met him, I was convinced he hated me. Shocked he ever called again. Flabberghasted when he made advances toward me. I was so confused. But that was a good thing because it made me remember the person I had been before that other relationship. And I realized that–in the time we were together–for whatever reason–I’d really changed. I wasn’t being me–at all. I was some lesser version–a person I didn’t really know or like. So, I worked on that for a while.
And then a couple months later, I met someone on a dating site. I was about to give up, but then his picture showed up in the feed.
I clicked on his photo because I liked his face. His smirk. I messaged him because he wrote about his parents–because he shared real things about his relationship with them. Because he wanted what I wanted. He was different. And unapologetic about it. In that sea of human bullshit, he gave me a piece of his heart without ever knowing me.
After a few messages back and forth, there was chemistry–an undeniable curiosity. He was fun to talk to, but an old soul. And we just bounced off one another. We quickly took to Twitter and spent an entire day chatting when we should have been working. Finding all these commonalities. And then we talked, and he was even better.
I think we both fell hard for each other. I brought out a side of him that wasn’t easy for him to share. He was known for being a funny smart-ass who was too cool for school. But I brought out a vulnerability. He told me once that I made him feel safe. On really tough days, he’d call and I was the one rescuing him. He let me be strong. But he supported me too–something none of my exes had ever allowed. While they had been vulnerable, there was always a limit to their trust in me. They needed me to be the fucked up one. And in the end, that’s how they left me. In the end, I could never be more than the girl they pitied. But with him, I was an equal. A best friend. His safe haven.
And I loved him for it. In a few months, my love for him–honestly–negated those other relationships.
But that time in my life–as I mentioned–was a bit fucked up. I was still limping along after Mama’s death. I was maimed by my TFA experience and still trying to figure out my professional life. I had been laid off and gone through lots of financial problems–which terrified me and brought up many childhood issues he couldn’t remotely understand as a man who grew up in privilege. I was getting shit back on track, but I was also working for the school I graduated from and was dealing a lot with the past again. I was struggling with weight a lot and couldn’t have those conversations with him because I was full of shame to be in a place where I just never thought I’d be again. And that past relationship really injected some mistrust in me. And I shut down on him a lot–something that terrified him–something that he told me he couldn’t handle. And like magic–I stopped. I heard him, and though it was not something I consciously did, it just stopped being a thing.
In any case, that relationship was a beautiful, lovely, brief thing that I’ve always cherished. But I regret it too because it ended mostly because of me. Because of who I couldn’t be. As great as we were, there was a part of me I withheld. And it caught up to us. The break-up was probably my most painful, and being who I was, I shut him out–did not even try to be friends–never spoke to him again. Actively erased him from my life because I was so ashamed and hurt by the whole thing. And I’ve always regretted that. I’ve always wished I could say something to him–make it better–but I never have tried. It’s the one relationship that I’ve never tried to clean up.
I don’t think he hates me, but I know I really really hurt him. And that really sucks.
For years since, I’ve somewhat wondered what has caused this drought of love for me. I think, after I finally heard from that 2nd great love, when I was involved with someone–I mistakenly got this idea that I just would never find another him. Mostly because the man I was with at the time was just completely not mine, and that note from my ex cemented it. Because–as hurt as I was by all that happened with him–I absolutely knew this other person would never hurt me like that. It wasn’t even possible because–while I loved him somewhat–it was not rooted in anything substantial. And I had been thinking of quitting that relationship, but kept giving him chances–kept stating and restating needs. He brought out the lesser version of me. So, I ended it right after. And I remember explaining to him and him not understanding–and that being more fuel for it being the right decision. Years later, we tried again–and I regretted it. I still kind of hate him. But not really–because he just never should have been anything to me.
I keep trying to find love, though it’s been half-hearted. Especially out here. But I decided to go back to that site where I found that guy once–because if it could happen then–it could happen again. But I didn’t go on much. Didn’t write much of a profile. I got a nice message from a guy I wasn’t interested in. He was sweet–a nice guy. And I wasn’t going to respond because why lead him on? But a friend told me I should date–just for practice. And it made sense–so I responded. Sure enough, he really didn’t have a lot to say. He was pretty boring, and there was no spark. Even being a friend was a long shot. But I tried. And there were major red flags. Like he didn’t want to talk on the phone–but gave me his phone number. That’s my one real dealbreaker. I won’t meet anyone without talking on the phone first. This after the lying married person, and also voice is a big deal to me. It really is. He also texted way too much and said pretty much nothing. So, while I tried to be polite–it was just very clear that I was not going to meet this dude. I had no interest.
The night he shared his phone number–after two emails (red flag)–I just happened to log on to the site and looked at my matches. And that’s when I saw him. Or rather–I saw a familiar smirk– but it was a bit of a close-up–so I wasn’t sure it was him. I had a bit of a panic attack because a) he lived in San Jose; b) we were a 95% match; and c) being the night owl he is, he was online. Crap. Could he see me?
Now, granted, I look somewhat different now. I went incognito and clicked–and yep–totally him. He had always been gifted with photography, and he looked even better now. Stronger, happier. And living five miles away. And single, apparently. Last I heard, he was in a long-term, significant relationship.
I read his profile and he was everything he was before–but more–even more compatible with me. More funny. More vulnerable. Saying exactly what he wanted, and it’s exactly what I want.
And that’s when I knew–knew with this shitty certainty–that he was the one I compared everyone to…not that other ex. They paled compared to him. He was the one that got away–the one I kinda mourned–because we had something really special. Shit.
And that’s when I shut down my profile and stopped responding to that guy who I was wasting time with.
I told a friend, and she said I should message him. That it was some sign that we belonged together. God, no.
I have this policy since the Canadian that I don’t go back. I’m open to friendship with exes, but I will never go after someone I once loved–no matter what. I always had that policy and I let it slide that one time only to regret it. Besides, we weren’t together long enough to really know how things would have been. Things were good with the others for a while–sometimes even a long while. But I don’t want to inject myself into his happy life. He deserves more than that. I had my chance and fucked it up.
But—thinking about that Iyanla thing–he wasn’t exactly my physical wishlist–but close. But that relationship–other than the freakouts–was exactly what I want. And that’s a good standard to have. Because it was a loving, inspiring thing that gave me hope when I really had given up on love.
For now, after the guy I stopped responding to got scary–I’m good with not dating and just focusing on liking myself and my life again. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t date a random guy I met somewhere, but I don’t have this need to advertise. At least not on that site.