Well it finally happened. After two years of radio silence, yesterday I got a text from Lane. I will describe my reactions in order:
Oh, his daughter texted me (for some reason my phone combined his photo with her number so for two years every time she texted me, it came with a photo of him. I tried, unsuccessfully, to change this but, nope, his face appeared every single time she texted.)
I glanced further at the text and realized that it was not from her.
My stomach did belly flops.
I felt a little sick.
I was scared to read it.
I was angry that he texted.
I was worried something happened.
Then I just sat there with that weird feeling I get sometimes when something happens that was unexpected and it feels like my heart and body need to catch up to my brain.
I then ignored it for a couple of hours. Afraid of what it might say, and equally afraid of what it would not say.
All of that over a stupid text message from a man that doesn’t even know me anymore. I am almost a completely different person than I was two years ago.
I was slammed at work so I ignored the text for a few hours.
Then finally felt ready to read it.
It was no big deal.
He was thanking me for being kind to his daughter and giving her a job.
That was all.
I was happy that he still had manners. I have been good to his daughter. But that has nothing to do with him. She has always been clear that she wants a relationship with me regardless of the status of my relationship with her dad. I have always been clear that I love both of his kids and while I always tried to give them an out, she has always remained connected to me. I am super grateful that she is a part of that union that I was able to keep.
I did not respond.
I sat with this new reality for awhile.
Turned it over in my mind.
Who did I want to be?
Did I want to be the one that didn’t respond?
What did that communicate?
Did I want to just be polite and say thank you?
Common decency dictates that I at least say “you are welcome."
To date, I have not responded and I don’t think I will.
Here is why...
I have always been polite. Going out of my way to make all people and even some animals comfortable. I am the kind of person that says thank you to the automated check out computer voice at Target. It isn’t because I am that weird (although maybe it is). It is because I am a nice person, politeness ingrained in my being. Say please, say thank you, write a thank you note, send a card when someone is down or having a hard time. This was how I was raised but it was also just my way in the world.
I see others and their pain and separateness and there has always been a part of me that felt the need to connect to them. Be it with a social politeness, comforting a stranger in public who is crying or injured. I am the person that turns the purse into the police station that I find in the bathroom. I, in general, do the right thing for the right reason: it is the polite thing to do.
But this hard core wiring in me has caused me harm over the years. Allowing social convention to cause me to act in ways that while being polite, were less than honest. I over did the care taking for your feelings often at the expense of my own. I made sure you were ok, while throwing my own feelings under the proverbial bus.
I was at this same place when I saw him a couple of months ago. I wanted to be the bigger person. I wanted to walk over, take charge of the awkward situation and say hi. But that is what a polite person does. And while I am still a polite person, I will not throw myself under anyone’s bus anymore. Politeness my own downfall for way too long.
When I saw him in the restaurant that day, I realized that the way things were left between us did not really warrant a cool but friendly greeting. He broke my heart into a million pieces, without even a conversation, just stopped talking to me. That is not polite and still an affront. If I am honest, I am still angry that I allowed someone to treat me this way, especially since this person professed to love me. So misguided for too long about what love is and isn't.
When he texted yesterday and I was caught in an avalanche of feelings, I was in the same place again. Feeling like I should be polite. But, like before, it was tinged with this self protective feeling that was absent before. Politeness being less important than taking care of myself. That felt much better than forcing myself to smile when I felt like crying.
I realized that I am no longer the person that values your well being over my own. I am not going to go with social convention and do the right thing, if that right thing is going to cause me a great deal of pain.
Here is the truth: I do not want to encourage his participation in my life. He left. It took me a long time to accept that. Never being able to rectify his words of love with his behavior that was something far less than loving. It has taken me years. He clearly ok with his exit. No apology necessary on his front. He hasn’t seemed to care at all about how I felt, how broken my heart, how injured my feelings.
Why should I care about being polite?
I loved this man with all that I had. He didn’t want it and he left. It has taken me a long time to get over this. A long time to heal that wound.
Why would I allow a nice but severely delinquent thank you text to drag me back into his dominion?
I thought it through...
My options tumbling around in my head...
I respond nicely “you are welcome” thus inviting an opportunity for him to keep the dialogue going. Two things would happen...
1. He further responds and then we are talking. He has a girlfriend. We are not friends. We are not close. We have no current relationship only a past that has haunted me for way too long. There is no way this version of the story ends well for me.
2. He doesn’t ever respond again. I am again ignored and left. Re-opening the wound that I have worked so hard to close. Stitching it back together again, mostly ripped apart by my own feelings and desires.
I do not know if his text message sent yesterday was an impulse, calculated or a careless thought that seemed like a good idea in the moment. For me it was a time bomb sent via text message that would only end up injuring me.
What I realized as the day wore on, was that I felt responsible for taking care of myself. That I was in charge of protecting myself. I was in charge of protecting my heart. Defending it against this tiny but potent invasion.
My thoughts changed when I realized this. I becoming aware that my life was not up for grabs. He can’t just throw a casual thank you text at me and expect me to open wide the doors to my life. I did not want further communication with him. So far in my life it has only ended badly for me.
Then it hit me. I actually fucking care about me! I am the most important thing in my own life. Not social convention, an ex-lover’s feelings, or the strong desire to do the right thing!
This thought was revolutionary!
I felt like the woman in the song I Will Survive.
Lane hardly coming back to me but feeling the buoyancy of not being the same “chained up little person still in love with you”
And in that moment I realized that I was the center of my own life. That I was responsible for the manner in which I allowed others to treat me. I was not some hapless victim of circumstance. I was, in fact, an active participant in my own suffering.
And in that realization, I knew that I was free. I knew that even though I will always love him. Never being capable of not wishing him well and feeling a strong desire for him to have a good life. I realized that he was not welcome in my life anymore. I would not grant him access to my heart, not even through a tiny, insignificant text message. That is how much I have come to love myself. Capable now of defending myself against my own worst enemy: me.
I became painfully aware that it was never him or anyone that broke my heart. It was me signing up again and again and again for less than what I deserved. Settling for crumbs when I was starving for a meal.
I would love to say that this new ground I stand upon feels solid and foundational. But it is more like a sandy shore, being moved beneath my feet with every influx of wave. I am going to need to readjust my footing periodically, the land beneath subject to shifting beneath my weight.
Regardless, feeling that I am now healed in some fundamental way. Not about him. He was never really the point. I see this now. He just the messenger sent wrapped in heartbreak to get my attention. Giving me all that I have ever wanted and then taking his leave in such a way as to deepen the blow so much that I could not cast it aside or pretend it didn’t hurt.
I could see that I needed my heart to be broken into sharp and tiny shards. I needed the last two years to gather up the minuscule remnants, cutting myself frequently and bleeding more times than was likely healthy. Returning to the place where I made him responsible for my salvation, knowing always that he was not worthy or capable of providing it.
I am not in love with him anymore. His love requiring a fundamental betrayal of myself. Caring for his needs more than my own. While this new feeling felt tenuous and paltry, a flimsy reed but that reed having deep, strong roots that would hold me in the watery cascade.
And I finally was able to let go. Of him. Of needing him to come back. Of the love I felt for him. The desire for him to have been THE ONE. Of the loving history I tried to re-write to match with my painful reality.
With honest but brutal clarity I saw this most wretched truth - he loved him, not me. He always had his own back. His own well-being paramount. But this love he left for himself a defense, a fortress that I could never penetrate.
And this text message sent yesterday new evidence that nothing had changed. He felt completely fine with sending a missile into my life. Completely unaware of how this would impact me. Not knowing that I would feel his impact in my flesh. He completely spared how hard it has been for me this last two years. Loving someone so much that you are willing to settle for so much less.
I deleted the text. The entire thread that I have kept all these years. All the messages of love and longing between us gone. I did not do it with hate, or anger or apathy. I just let go of the flimsy reed that has allowed me to hang on this long. He was not the love of my life. He was a very important teacher, one sent to teach me how to love myself.
I am floating down the river now, sun shining. Me naked in the water. Smiling. Sun beating down on my flesh as I move past the eddy where my heart was lodged for so long. I lay motionless in the gently moving waters, confident in my ability to swim should the need arise. But knowing now that I am free to float. Appreciating the sun’s gentle kiss, the water’s ardent caress. Feeling alone, but connected to the energy of it all.
As I round the bend, I look back at the small pool that has contained my life for the past four years. I marvel at how small it is. How tiny the space that I wanted so desperately to make my whole life. I see the beauty of the space, the lovely calm it provided. The sheltering trees on the banks. And suddenly I am returned to my body and I realize that I am larger, no longer capable of being contained in a pool so small. I give the eddy one more thoughtful glance before it becomes obscured from view. I send out all the love that remains in my heart for it. And I turn my focus back to my body. I feel the heat of the sun on me. The freshness of the water, I lie my head back into the silky water and look up at the sky. I feel ok. I feel fine. I feel free. I float on, having no agenda or idea where the water will take me next. Will I drown in some other tiny pool? Will I get washed out to sea? Will I be thrown onto the shore in some tumultuous torrent?
Maybe...but whatever comes next. It is mine. I say to myself over and over and over again.
I am the prize
I AM the prize
I am THE prize
I am the PRIZE
I AM THE MOTHERFUCKING PRIZE.
And I realize that all that love was always meant for me. I pull it tightly towards my chest. Brining it home.
Then I return to my lazy floating posture...free floating finally.