I don't know if this is going to be painful to read but is was painful to write.
It is 3 am and I did not sleep well. I had a hard day trying to figure out the right thing to do.
Yesterday was my ex-boyfriend’s son’s birthday. He was 20. I wrestled with what to do - reach out or not? Seems this has been a long standing struggle for me...
In the instant case, I wanted to let the kid know that I still think about him, love him and care. The fact that he doesn’t reach out to me immaterial. I wanted to be the person that cares not what the other person does - but does the right thing for the right reason.
I didn’t do that. I let all my feelings of shame, guilt and fear prevent me from doing the kind and loving thing. I didn’t reach out because he hasn’t reached out to me. I didn’t send a card because I didn’t want to inject myself into the home that houses a new partner for his dad. I didn’t text or call because I didn’t want to be perceived as the crazy ex-girlfriend that can’t let go.
The simple truth is that I am fine not having a relationship with him. I get it. Weird to still communicate with your dad’s ex. However, we weathered a stormy and hard time once upon a time. And I wanted him to know that when I said that I would always be here as a safe haven. I meant it.
There is no rule book or law that governs what to do with the kids that are caught up in their parents dating aftermath. Are the adults supposed to lead? How? Do we continue a relationship with our previous partner’s kids long after the partnership ended? What if the ex objected? What if the ex’s new partner objected? Are the kids supposed to lead?
I am at a total loss. All day yesterday I grappled with reaching out and all day long I couldn’t do it. I kept coming back to the fact that if he really wanted me in his life, then he would reach out to me. But I am the adult. I am the one that is supposed to know what to do here. I am the one that should have better answers. But I don’t.
I do not get relationships. I really don’t. I do not get how to be close and love someone then be done with them. Yet I have done this my entire life. Begin and end. Repeatedly. When I was younger there were no children caught in the dating demise. Mine or others. But now it is more complicated.
What I wanted for these kids was to communicate that I love them. Like my own. I cared and still do care about their well-being. I am absent from their lives because that seems easier for all...not because I don’t love them. I do not reach out because I do not want to make their present lives and new relationships weird or uncomfortable.
This brings me back to the place that I have been a great deal in my life. Having a heart full of love and a head full of fear. In some ways, I feel like I have spent my life walking the earth just trying to find a place I can put this love. Someone to give it to that wants it, respects it and desires it. Why has this been so hard?
This brings up a lot of feelings of lack for me. I am not a good relationship keeper. I am good at ending things and then never speaking to the person again. I have done this with family relationships, friendships and intimate partners. I am very good at leaving and never being heard from again.
And while having a good exit strategy is a manner to deal with life...it does not address what to do with all the emotions that have come unmoored from their objects. What the fuck do I do with that?
Historically, I just found someone new to lavish attention and love upon. Most of the time, the people I chose were wholly unworthy, unavailable, or uninterested. A lot of the time I got a new pet. I can own that my love of animals is directly related to my inability to engage with people on a deeper level. Animals do not reject; they accept your affection and love and give it back ten fold. Animals are much safer.
Since instituting the man ban, I have come to see more clearly my relationshiping and its ugly under belly. I have not begun relationships with the idea that I have something to offer and receive. Instead, it was this compulsive, gap filling (sometimes literally) consumption that was largely disconnected from the person with whom I was having the relationship. This might be one explanation as to why I am not a relationship sustainer. I am not friends with my exs. I am not close to a lot of people from my past. There are other explanations for this besides that I suck at relationshiping. But they pale in comparison.
Why is it that when I leave, people I am involve with are so keen to let me go? Is that healthy? Is hanging on unhealthy? Why can’t I figure this out? Why did his birthday yesterday mess me up so much?
I am a decider above all else. I have a mind that categorizes stuff all the time, usually into likes and dislikes. I am not a fence sitter generally. I know what to do and am usually pretty sure about my course of action...not overly concerned with whether or not I am making the wrong choice. But yesterday I could not find my way. I could not find the place where the path was clear to me. The path was painful, hard and uncertain.
I did not reach out. I did not text, call or send a card. I wanted to. I wanted to let him know that I respect the distance but that I do still care. I love him from a distance. And I always will. Now how the fuck can I communicate that if I bridge the distance?
In the end, I hope he had a great day. I hope he was surrounded by friends and family and that he felt loved. I hope his parents got along and didn’t fight or put him in the middle. I hope he has someone special that cared about making the day all about him. These are the things that I wish for this kid who is really no longer a kid. I stayed away because I care about his well being and I did not want to intrude. I did the thing that I thought was best for him, not me.
What I am left with is saddness and grief. I feel so hollowed out by my own inability to truly connect with others. I feel lost as to how to navigate relationships. Thus the year off with no dating. I think forever I thought I was fine. I thought the years of past abuse and childhood issues were well addressed and put to rest. But, I can see all too clearly they are not. I am not capable of being who I want to be in relations. I thought that I brought this one person to them but now I can see that I bring a lot of dysfunction. So much that I feel incapable of having any right now. I am struck at how much and for how long I thought I was fine. I would have told you I was great at relationships. I would not realize for decades that I am not great at them at all.
Yesterday’s struggle was an important one for me because it showed me where I am stuck...right at the place where I am more concerned with optics than intention. I didn’t reach out because I was afraid of being misperceived or judged. Love did not prevail because my ego was blocking all entry. And for once, I saw what it was for what it was.
All is not lost though, I can see that I am growing if only in my understanding of all my broken parts. I can only hope that being wiling to sit in this painful place grants me greater access to my own heart and in turn the hearts of others. That by being willing to sit with and own the dysfunction, I can come to love myself on a new and deeper level. My true desire is to do this so that I can be free to love without strings or conditions or fear. I can go for the love and not care if I am hurt or loved in return. I can love even when circumstances lead someone away from me and I can spend my time not just doubting*.
*This line is a paraphrase of song lyric - What is Love? by Howard Jones 1993