I’ve fought too often for relationships to last. For one more time together to get it right. I’ve fought with, I’ve fought for and, mainly, I’ve fought against myself. My intuitive side. The side that’s bidding in my favor. That’s pushing hard for growth. What I’ve been fighting, of course, was never what it appeared to be a fight for. It was never a fight over something that was present in my life or belonged to me. It was never a fight over the feelings I had and which I was so afraid I’d lose. Perhaps that’s why it was often excruciating.
Because the fight has always been over the absence of something. Over what I wasn’t feeling.
Over the feelings I had already lost. My fight came from this, from the sadness in just what wasn’t there, from the heartache for all that was missing. I can now be honest about this. Now that I’m over it. I can be transparent about the way I have loved. Now that I’m not dependent on love in a way that is frightened and pained.
I can be so transparent that it is almost cruel. Here’s the truth. I’ve been afraid, usually, of loneliness, of becoming empty without intimacy, empty without having one person whom a mutual commitment to share myself deeply with has been promised. I’ve feared what once happened to me when I was without love, a friend and confidant. What happened to me when I was without romance, without a person with whom I could be emotionally daring. I’ve been afraid of the trauma which came from losing those experiences. The depression I fell into. The deprivation that seeped into my days, my years.
The misery that became an entire period of my life. This is why I’ve latched on to romantic partners.
This is why I have fallen into love. So I could guard myself against the trauma of my past,
against my own paralysis and spiraling down. I sought out commitment, a partner who would “be there” for me, who in many ways had to be there for me or at least was expected to. The harm was I became dependent on this person’s presence in my life. How? Because I didn’t feel comfortable in the world without them. Because I would wait to “live,” to really even feel alive until they were around and at my side. The person I was waiting for was always a boyfriend and, ironically, always a long-distance boyfriend.
But waiting for a single person to arrive was one of my worst mistakes. Because the comfort I felt was always an illusion. You see, any aliveness I gained through a boyfriend was impossible to sustain. It was also an enormous expectation to put on a person. It was selfish and unfair. Using my boyfriend as an emotional bodyguard feels insincere just writing it but it is the truth. The truth is no boyfriend could ever protect me long enough, could ever guard against the pain that went so deep. And experiencing that reality—the reality that no one could provide for me like I needed to provide for me—left me with something more than sadness. It created a panic in me. A hopeless and hysterical dependency. I cried more around the men I loved than, God, I don’t even know. But they know. They have to know.
The men I loved had to know that I was sad, that something was seriously wrong, that something essential was missing. Severely, blatantly missing. But because my relationships were always long-distance, I often leaned on the idea that what was missing was them. And it was easy for my boyfriends to think so too, to believe I was crying because they were gone or always close to leaving me. Not true. My love was conditional. My enjoyment, circumstantial.
I was a sad girl looking to be made happy, looking to be, well, saved.
I wanted out of love the promise that I’d be carried into the world, protected, and never alone. That maybe I had to make myself happy and that not doing so was the trouble was never an option I let myself consider. That was the trouble. The trouble was in everything I was avoiding. I was avoiding being responsible for myself. But, then, you have to understand that seeing things as they really were and as they needed to be was tremendously complicated. I mean, how could I possibly even approach such a concept when I had already fallen out of touch with myself, with who I was and what I needed at the very core? It’s hard to look at problems and be resourceful when you are a problem.
It just felt like a mountain I could never scale. When I think back on myself I remember how impossible I felt, how hopeless and strained I was for love. I had convinced myself that if I lost my boyfriend, I would digress and crumble. I would lose my potential, my future. I would have no one to be in conversation with. I’d lose my sanity. Myself. Without any one to confide in, I’d lose my voice all over again. I’d become again what I was terrified of being. A woman who had lost her capacity for sensitivity, for understanding, for disagreement and realization and experience. A woman entirely on her own. Invisible. Forgettable. Forgotten.
I was petrified of that. Petrified of losing access to what I honored most: emotional intimacy, insight, connection, and personal growth. This sounds ironic, I know. How could I have been achieving growth, let alone insight, through a medium wound up in so much denial, desperation, and dependence? I guess I didn’t really see that part of it then either. Evidently, the irony was a lot to miss. What I didn’t catch onto was that, because I was in such denial, the only way I actually ever managed to grow was by facilitating a boyfriend’s growth—the understanding of his own life and the clarifying of his own dreams. You see, by focusing so deeply on a boyfriend or on fixing the relationship between us, I was continuously robbing myself of my own needs and evolution.
I was using my boyfriend and our relationship and the “issues” embedded in both to distract myself from myself and the scale of my own issues. Now that I can see this for what it was, I’m recognizing why my feelings weren’t changing and why my life was never progressing. Basically, I’m coming to understand why I wasn’t getting any better or becoming any less afraid either.
I was stuck. I was stuck because I kept repeating myself. I kept doing the only thing I knew to do.
To reach out for a boyfriend. To make a pattern out of long-distance relationships and serial dating, of not letting go and not focusing on myself.
Back then, I just wouldn’t let myself do it. I wouldn’t let myself discover whether I had even an ounce of power to look after myself. An ounce of power to see that the trauma of my past didn’t have to control my destiny, let alone the reality of the day. The saddest most debilitating part was I didn’t believe I could teach myself or learn my way into strength. So, consequentially, I couldn’t see the end of my pain and co-dependency. I couldn’t see through all the tears. I couldn’t see the reality I had created for myself or the potential I had to overcome it. And that’s because I had my back turned away from it the entire time. I never faced in the direction that could really ever even offer me anything new, that could challenge and uplift me.
Today, I am not in a relationship and this is a big deal. It’s been a year and a half since I broke up with my fifth long-distance boyfriend, and I have never been so single, so grounded, and so in love. These days I am allowing opportunities as well as people to come into my life and leave my life as they may, as maybe even they “should.” I’ve been trusting in their duration, that people come and bare their purpose, and to not fight them on that. To not fight them or my own feelings that suggest that I must, at least for now, let go. More than anything, I’ve been trusting in the timing of my life.
And, as a result, I’ve been able to recover from my impulse toward latching, of staying fearful and blind, oblivious to my feelings and what I know is hurting and holding me back. As I let life happen, I’m finding that what I’m also allowing for is life to simply play itself out. Now that I’m not trying to desperately control and convince myself of anything, I’m seeing that life does change, that days do build on themselves and create a grander reality. I’m understanding that feelings do come and go—and because they transform, they enable us to expand. But for us to expand, we must allow our feelings to transform.
This, of course, goes against the nature of how I was living my life. Now every time I let go, I open myself to the unpredictable. And, you know what? The unpredictable has, so far, never let me down. What I mean is the unpredictable has often been exactly what I need. It’s always been worth being open to. I see now that once we let go of one thing, something else truly does come into our lives and by being available to welcome it, our lives are able to advance. Opening myself to the chances I would have otherwise missed before feels like a miracle. A blessing. I’m convinced that this is the way to live. At least, this is the more rewarding way.
You have to let go and let in.
You have to let life be. This is the only way growth works. The single way we evolve. That’s the formula: Let life in, let life go, let life be. The order doesn’t necessarily matter, only the principles do. What’s becoming clear to me now is that freedom is contingent on one’s capacity to take care of themselves. To be with themselves.
That is freedom. Freedom is the ability to feel alive and cared for when you are alone. Freedom grows with our capacity to live our life less and less fearfully, to live our life without waiting until someone else shows up to accompany us as we tread the waters and tiptoe into the world. Freedom is no longer tiptoeing. Freedom is finding our own rhythm to dance through life with. What this change has given me is peace of mind and faith which, combined, gives me a great sense of presence and optimism. Mind you, none of this means I’ve lost my capacity to cry. I still cry a lot but rarely because things are bad. And never because I’m stuck. Never because I’m breaking down.
These days, I cry because life fascinates me and moves my heart. Because I appreciate all that has gotten me here. Yes, even the pain. In fact, especially the pain. I appreciate the pain because it has been the catalyst for all my strength today. It has generated this wisdom of mine that empowers me through life. And you know what I’ve noticed? Pain is how we become relatable to others. This is so important to me. The kinship. The camaraderie. The contact with people which I have always been so starved for. Guess what? I am able to receive it now. I don’t know why I was ever limiting myself to one person to take in all this with. Why I would ever wait for someone else to arrive when I have the universe exploding with life and lessons and love all on the other side of my apartment door. That’s what brings me to tears.
I cry because now that I’m open to life, life is able to touch me.
And that makes everything feel so honest. This feels unreal. Today I can say I finally feel honest, especially about the relationship I have with myself. This is really what all of this culminates to, this lesson right here: By letting go of my old storyline, by letting go of my compulsion to latch and depend significantly on others, I’ve been able to release myself into a life where my choices, my mindset, my relationships, and my moments all feel honest. That’s why I’m happier. This is also why I’m not so afraid anymore. Because I’m living honestly with myself and through honesty I’m able to finally take care of me, too.