Because I cannot write or talk about anything else, I’m going to tell you what happened.
I have spent my life firmly believing that I can only be loved conditionally. I have chosen man after man who loved me, sure, but who also needed me in very concrete, logistical, and often financial ways. I told myself that I was helping them because I loved them, but the truth is I was also helping them so that I could keep them. Because if all I have to give someone is me, that’s clearly not going to be enough.
And then I fell in love. I know you probably don’t believe me; that’s okay. I wouldn’t believe me, either. But I was in love, so much so that it poured out of me in waves. I told everyone, because I had to. I told the Internet, even though I knew better. It felt like I’d been awake for years, and was finally, finally allowed to sleep.
It felt like I finally had a reason for everything that happened; something I could point to and say This is why.
It felt so good.
I talked to my therapist about this at length, of course. I told her how I had this knee-jerk desire to send him posts I’d written on various topics, so we could skip ahead towards understanding each other better. I’m better at writing about things than I am at talking – I always have been – and I didn’t want to mess anything up with inelegant words. Stop, she said. Do not do that. Let him learn about you from you; not from your tidy little gift boxes of stories.
And so I made a decision: For perhaps the very first time in my life, I would come out of the gate, very simply, as myself. I would not perform. Because I didn’t want to do that anymore, and because I believed that with this man, I could finally, finally stop acting.
I did it. I stopped.
And he left me.
So suddenly, and so cruelly, that it felt very literally – viscerally – like I’d been hit in the face.
On one day, there were mutual professions of true love, concrete plans for the future, just as it had been practically from the moment we met. We knew we were acting crazy; we laughed at ourselves for how hard and fast we’d fallen. We also just knew.
On the next, I’m sitting in my living room writing about couches, and I get a series of texts.
His ex-wife asked for him back. He’s going to give it a try, just to see if it can work. He doesn’t think it will. He loves me. He doesn’t love her. It’s too complicated for him to explain any more fully; I need to trust him.
Hours later, we talk on the phone, for two minutes. He says he has made his decision. A 7.1 earthquake hits at the moment I hang up, which makes for a lovely metaphor: The earth rolling under my feet, as I wonder whether what I’m feeling is even real.
More texts. More promises that he loves me; he just has to see; he’s so scared he’ll find out he was wrong, and it’ll be too late; I’ll be gone.
It’s Saturday night, and I’m woken up by a phone call. He has to tell me something important.
He’s been lying. He’s not going back to his ex. He just doesn’t love me. He’s been lying.
He “does this sometimes.”
I am terrified to write about this, of course. I know what’s coming: You’re so stupid. You weren’t really in love. You’re almost forty years old, how could you act like this?
You. You. You.
So let me save you the trouble: I am embarrassed, and humbled in a way that I don’t know I’ve ever been. I know that I did nothing “wrong.” I know it’s “not about me.” I know that the way this man treated me was far, far beyond the scope of how human beings should treat other human beings. But I also know that I played a role in this, because of course I did.
I created chaos, once again. I distracted myself, once again. I ran full-speed towards the beautiful feelings so that I could put as much distance as possible between myself and the bad ones.
I also want him back. Isn’t that awful? I want him to come to me crying, begging, with some crazy explanation – a gun was being held to his head, perhaps. I want this to make sense.
I live in LA now, which means that I hear the words “the universe is trying to tell you something” more than I’d like. But god damn if I didn’t get the message this time. And here is what the universe is telling me – in the most crushing way possible, because apparently that’s how I need to hear it if it’s going to get through.
I have to stop running. I have to sit in my ugly, sad, shameful feelings, and I have to pick them apart, bit by bit, so I can see what’s inside. I have to learn how to be with myself, by myself. I simply have to stop looking for solutions to sadness – to loneliness, to fear – that aren’t right there in my own little brain and body and heart.
I’ve said all this before; I know I have. I’m embarrassed to be saying these things again. I know that I may not even get it right this time; this lesson is not being learned as neatly as I’d like it to be.
But here it is. Here I am. Broken, and putting the pieces back together. All by myself. Again.
One more thing.
When I got that first text – the one that hit me in the face – here is what I did. I picked up the phone and called Francesca. I walked straight out the door with her talking to me, telling me to breathe, and straight over to my neighbor Margo’s house. I told her I needed to stay there, and she said, “stay.”
Later that night – after the earthquake – Margo and me and her three daughters curled up together on the couch. I don’t remember what we watched. I remember her youngest gave me a beaded necklace – one I’m wearing still – and that we made friendship bracelets from rainbow string.
On that couch, with those women, I was held.
I am not alone. I am loved. I am lucky.
I have said all this before; I am ashamed I can so easily forget my own words. And so I’ll say them again, and again, and again, and then, one day, I will believe that they’re true.
Wolf is the Brayshnikov of Modesto writes:
Can you imagine?
“Since we went out a couple of times, I am going to send you links to the top-100 posts on my blog. I hope you enjoy reading about bathroom tiles, frozen pizza and my ex-husband.”
She is so far gone.
Update: Jason Ziemianski, the beau who did the dumping, gave a Tedx talk on … wait for it … The Secret to Staying Married:
Ziemianski also manages something called How to Tickle a Robot, whatever the hell that is, and has several pictures of his partially clothed children on Facebook. In addition, Ziemianski founded a teenage feminist group, which he notes on his résumé.
Keep aiming for the stars, Jordo!