I read somewhere once that it takes 1/3 of the amount of time you were with someone to get over them after a break up. And so far in my life, that has been true to form. My first long-term boyfriend and I were together for almost four years and long after the sting of separation ended, I was plagued by these dreams of him every night for almost a year and a half. Even after I was dating other people and no longer thinking about him during my conscious, waking hours. At night, it was a different story, like clockwork, these bizarre dreams, somewhere between unrealistic fantasy and nightmare would play out. Like scenes of him packing all my clothes and throwing them out the window, or in a fire, or in a chest to be locked forever. Or flushing all my jewelry down the toilet, or cutting my hair when I wasn’t looking. All these strange composites of small events where I felt really violated or like my “identifiers” were being sloughed off and taken away from me. Night after night after night after night. Some long, some short splices, some repeats. Eventually, it felt like the dreams were becoming more of something I had to deal with and process more than the actual ending of the relationship. After consulting my closest friends and even praying aloud that the dreams would end, one day, they just…did. And that was that.
Now, of course, in retrospect, I understand things on a much deeper level and realize that the dreams were a larger metaphor from my unconscious about my feelings of having so much of my identity, my dreams, my goals, my friends, my memories tied to that relationship and feeling equally confused about redefining myself as a single girl in college in a new city with an entirely new group of friends and passions. Paired with the foreclosure of my childhood home, it seemed that all that used to identify me (quite literally) no longer existed. It was, at once, powerful and terrifying. It was so easy to cling onto toxic things instead of reinventing myself from such a vulnerable, open spot. As with most things, and the passing of time as life’s ultimate salve, it’s so clear that it had to happen that way. When I think of him now, as a happily married man to a beautiful woman who shares so many of his interests, it’s a richer layer of gratefulness. Not only because it was becoming a rotten relationship from my stern need to not let things organically change and grow while being hurt as we became two different people, but because he is happy. It’s one of those things that seems completely impossible in the fresh moments of a break-up, but I truly do wish him well and am happy that our paths crossed (and ended) because I understand now the lessons I was supposed to learn from that. It’s a small, simple calmness that I hope to transfer to other parts of my life that need closure and healing.
Still again, I am suffering from post-break up trauma. Though I understand that relationships ending (especially long ones with lots of floor-plans and future-planning in the works) is not a simple one-way street. I understand fully I was the catalyst for many of those arguments and the quick crumble of my last relationship.
In a lot of ways, I was embarrassed about being broken up with. I had to return to Charlotte, tell my family, my friends, my co-workers, everyone about the end of this long-drawn-out story they had all been baited on and hoping (to my face, at least) for the best possible outcome. Coupled with being bed-ridden from extremely inflamed kidneys and a blood infection, I felt like my body and my life were rebelling against me. My cling to hope was that if I could be less sick, less worried, less upset, things would settle back into normal. In retrospect, normal wasn’t as it seemed. Again, time (that damn time, doesn’t abide by my need for hasty answers) has shown me the truer nature of the relationship. I had fallen in love with a man who lied to me about his money issues and let the weight of that facade crush him. I was as dedicated to loving and growing his presented self as he was to maintaining that image for me. Later, it was revealed, he was constantly in fear that he was failing me and our relationship. Thinking on those revelations is still like an acidic sting, because I felt blindsided by his enormous wave of grief and self-hatred. I thought we had been growing this thing together, nurturing an in-progress work that required equal parts tender love and direction. I realize now, we were both honoring a third entity, a mirage of our projected selves: the him he wanted to be and the me that needed him to not just become, but already BE this thing I had been led to believe was truth. As with all lies, they come to light. I felt confused, betrayed and abandoned.
Potentially one of the most hurtful chapters of understanding and growing from this experience was allowing myself to feel and grieve and not repress or hate the feelings that were coming from the deepest parts of my psyche. The repeated mantra of maybe if I was “less sick”, “less worried”, “less upset”, maintained my desire for my life to regain a sense of normalcy. I resented myself for feeling any way that would potentially make someone not want to be around me. So, in a sense, I was presenting a facade. (Damn full-circle irony, life, you bitch! But I gotta have some humor and laugh at it all).
Of course, this obvious continuation of a destructive pattern revealed itself later when trying to understand why my current (very good) relationship was suffering from my emotional double-presentation. I was suppressing emotions for fearing of showing myself in any less than a pleasant light until they bubbled up and over THEN feeling completely ashamed for having the negative emotions at all. It was a inward spiral of self-blame. It made the smallest frustration erupt into an on-going battle with myself on both fronts and leaving my love to suffer the casualties. It was hard for him to follow and even harder for me to explain. Only as I began to write and allow myself to process (without my own critique or deletion) the pain and fear I was still harboring from being in a vulnerable place was it clearly revealed that, I, too, had been presenting a fraudulent version of myself. A version that didn’t feel stress or worry or pain or fear or loss. And instead of ricocheting back and forth between maintaining a sometimes false outer beam of light and imploding from letting the emotions fill, I realize I am somewhere, perpetually (dare I say, comfortably) on the spectrum of emotion.
That small things make me cry, like traffic lights taking too long and when people who don’t know me that well give me good hugs. And big things, too, like that I’ll probably always be trying to repair my parents’ relationships with each other and with me, and that in this important stage of my career, feeling stunted and confused and directionless is a giant part of understanding myself as an artist. That when I allow myself to feel the emotions, I become less like a mine field and more like the ocean, wide and free, breaking and calm. Understanding on a deeper level that I am a living, breathing thing, that requires my own approval in order to grow.
I say all of that to say this: I haven’t written anything directed to be shared because one of my last blog posts was used against me as a reason for ending that aforementioned relationship. I wrote it riding home on the train from Raleigh and it was the next to last time I ever saw him. I was raw and open and comforted by my own observations on life’s funny patterns, layers, and metaphors. I guess it was read as an immaturity. But from a person who harbors a facade for, what they believe, is for the security of themselves and others, maybe being open and raw is bad. And though I loved that post and those words and they brought me great relief, I also began to resent them.
So, here I am, apologizing to my words and myself. For knowing now that a man was waiting to meet me in a year’s time who loves my unmasked fullness and has taught me that feeling my emotions when I feel them allows room for better things. That there is no shame in healing. That I am lighter and brighter and ever-expansive. That love is all-encompassing and embracing. That there doesn’t have to be a “catch”. That we can just be. Together. Through all life’s sticky, glorious hurdles. Here’s to writing, and feeling, not only because it’s necessary or that I want to recant on that particularly dark time in my life, but because as with all things I can contribute, I know someone needs to hear this:
You’re worth your own time, your own healing. Run your own bath water and make yourself something glorious to eat. Treat yourself as you would treat your own son or daughter, because inside all of us is our inner-child needing love and attention. Wave at dogs and cry because nature documentaries are sad sometimes. Become deeply interested in something. Do whatever the hell it is that you’re really good at doing. Do something else that you suck at doing until you’re moderately okay at doing it. Know that people appreciate your presence, your breath, your contribution. Understand the light and dark parts of yourself and acknowledge both. Say “thank you” to the past you and “I’m ready” to the future you. Know that you never really get over anything but rather gain a deeper knowledge of it as you continue to interact with pain your whole life through. Realize this isn’t as terribly tiring as it sounds. Realize, too, that hating yourself and encapsulating yourself is a lot harder than eating some fruit, or taking a kick-boxing class or reading outside in the sun. That people often make crutches of their pain and grow very fond of complaining and dwelling and becoming one with their vapidness. Realize that you don’t have to be one of those people.
Love and light (and sadness and heartbreak and every other morsel of human-“being”) to you and yours. Here’s to new chapters.