I don’t deserve any better.
Of course I do!
No. No, I really don’t.
Swimming against a current, that’s what it is. Even if the water seems calm, there is a deadly pull, just a few feet under the surface. It calls out to me, calls out my bluff, as I get in, teeth gritted. Look at you, ugly girl. No one else will ever want you. Why do you resist it? I have to remind myself to breathe and count my strokes.
There are no good ones left. And even if there were, they wouldn’t want you. You’re too embarrassing to be around. You’re too proud. Nobody would work so hard.
I would. I would.
And so I do. I keep on swimming, walking, running. I keep on showing up. I keep on hoping that the deep will stop calling for me, that the well of cynicism in my soul will dry up. That I would be able to stand one day, tall and proud, and say the things that I want without fear or embarrassment.
I want somebody to dream with.
I want the romance, the dancing in the kitchen, the silly texts, the unquestioned adoration. I want courtship. I want understanding. I want the respect and the trust and the corny stuff that pop songs are made of. I want to tell the person that is out there for me: I know you exist, and I’m so excited to meet you!
You’re embarrassing. How humiliating is that? They might as well get a fucking dog, it would probably look better than you.
I wonder where I went wrong in the past. Why I kept breaking my heart over and over again. Surely it’s not just chance…
Yes, yes, definitely. You should call everyone you crushed on. Ask for feedback. Hear them out and don’t say anything other than ‘thank you’. They’ll know.
Put. The. Phone. Down.
Enough. Let’s say they were on board, let’s say they gave you genuine feedback. So what? What difference would that make now? And do I seriously want to ask some of those people for their opinions? My instincts are screaming – the tide is pulling me in.
There’s something to be said about listening to an instinct that says, nothing good will come out of this. You know this. You’ve been there before. All these times when I tried to reason with someone unreasonable, all these times when I tried to be vulnerable and honest, and was met with mockery and scorn. I know this place. I’ve been in this place.
I don’t want to be there again.
Breathe. Breathe. Count the strokes. See how far you’ve come.
As I’m trying to pull away from another self-destructive spiral, another deadly tide, a thought floats to the surface, clear as a bell. I have no place in my life for people I do not respect.
It’s the heart of the issue. I can’t be with someone I do not respect, so why would I make room in my life for those who do not respect me? I can be civil. I can be pleasant even. But respect is not something that you can rustle up for the sake of polite company. Respect is hard-earned and easily lost. Respect is a rock.
They say that you cannot love someone without respecting them but quite frankly, that’s not true. Love – poor, battered love, romantic love, the cheap hearts and singing Valentines and the endless competition – is indiscriminate and broad and generous and endlessly kind. Love is beautiful. Love can exist without air or reciprocation.
Love is easily taken advantage of, and love doesn’t mind, because simply existing is enough for it.
Respect – not so much. Respect is either felt or it is either there, or it is gone. Respect is the hard-eyed stare, the feel of cold water down your throat after a night out, the scream of the wind as you drive away. Respect is an apology, given without self-justification or expectation of forgiveness. Respect is taking the hard road because it is right, not because of impression management.
Respect grounds love.
I want to be with someone that I respect.
The tide is silent. I’ve reached the end of my journey today. I look back as ripples start forming on the surface, but it’s benign, a response to my presence instead of an indication of a bigger, more sinister predator. I watch the light play against them, marveling at how far I’ve managed to swim.
Then I take a breath and get out of the water.