You know when you stop learning lessons? When you’re dead.
You know when you stop repeating the same mistakes? I don’t know.
I’m asking because I really want to know.
In the year of our lord 2007, I was in the midst of divorce and pregnant for that extra fun layer to add all kinds of complications to an already complicated situation. Suffice it to say, I was not doing so hot mentally. My depression and desperation escalated to the point where I was encouraged to seek out therapy.
Her name was Judy, and she was tall, blonde and beautiful. As in, the type how can I say this delicately…more alternative girls like myself tend to hate on sight. Judy was probably in her forties, and had the hair of Lady Godiva. She wore a sleeveless black dress and looked like she was more ready for a New York fashion show than to counsel the pregnant girl in front of her wearing maternity jeans and crocs.
My story came tumbling out, and Judy listened attentively. After I was done, she crossed her legs and leaned forward. Resting her hand upon her chin with her elbow on her knee, she said, “He’s not going to change.”
Apparently I had not told her everything she needed to know to understand him like I did. I continued, “But he’s just really temporarily terrified of becoming a father, I think, because of the abuse history in his own family. That’s why he’s behaving this way.”
She shook her head.
“And it’s partially my fault. I caused insecure feelings when I admitted to him that I was becoming close to a male coworker.”
She continued shaking her head.
“Then a psychiatrist put him on two different kinds of medication, and I think that really changed him.”
Judy stared at me kindly. “It’s not because of the medication that he’s acting this way. This is who he is. There are certain things you need to understand about him, about men, about life in general. You’re young, you’re pretty, you’re smart. You are going to become a mother. It’s time to consider yourself, and what’s ahead for you instead of what’s behind with him. Since you like to read, let me tell you about a book.”
Judy then recommended a self-help book to me, and I read it diligently. It was what I needed to know, and suddenly, I understood. I understood the mistakes I had made previously in not only this relationship, but others. I learned the art of putting myself first.
For the last almost decade, I’ve been coasting along. Sure, I’ve had my share of relationship ups and downs, but nothing as painful and gutting as the divorce. At least, nothing until now.
I could go on with rehashing the eighteen year on and off love affair, but I won’t. It would just remind me of the loss. Instead, I’ll quote my mother. “I have never liked you with anyone but him. You two belong together, and go together just so naturally; not only when you were kids, but now.”
She was right. When you know, you know. That’s why I fought so hard to keep him. That’s why this hurts so much. After my last email to him that was also my last blog, I felt better for the first time in weeks. It seems candy-coating my words or trying to look aloof to him, or not showing my pain publicly on the level I felt was crippling. Once I said what I wanted to, I started to somehow heal by myself.
I didn’t expect to hear from him, I had specifically asked him not to comment. Surprisingly, he did. In the midst of the storm last night, a text message popped up on my phone. It essentially said, “I read your email. I understand you’re going through pain, and so am I. The fact that I hurt you weighs heavily on me, I never wanted to do that. I think of you at times, and I have no excuses or comments to help you understand all of this. I’m processing a lot, and it’s a slow process. I’m sorry. I’ll email you back when I can.”
Damn it! I immediately burst into tears. I had asked him not to respond to me for this very reason. He “thinks of me at times”?! This man-not even a month ago-thought of me constantly (by his own admission). He discussed proposing to me, and we were talking children. He’d email me back when he could?! For two months we talked through messages all day, every day. We then would talk for hours each night on the phone. I didn’t understand any of this. Again. Was it because…of…..had I done this? What was he thinking, right now? Did he feel sorry for me? I did not want his damn pity! Was our love even real? He was talking to me like I was some kind of stranger. Why? Is this a part of his therapy? What if…?
And then. Enough.
Earlier yesterday, when I went to Jennifer Weiner’s book reading, she discussed a particularly painful breakup that inspired her first novel. She said for months she obsessed over every nuance of their relationship, and would do drive-bys past his house. This was especially pathetic, she said, because he lived two hours away. Then one day, “Something inside of me rose up and said, clearly and firmly, Enough.”
I was there. Enough.
Hands trembling, I texted him back.
“No. No need for a return email. If you ever loved me, do not try to contact me again.”
I hit send, and began to ponder the ramifications of what I had just done.
My phone went off. “MESSAGE SENDING FAILED. TRY AGAIN?”
Was this the hand of God? Was I supposed to reconsider the stance I was taking? Was it fate?
“No,” I said out loud. “It’s reception during a frigging thunderstorm, Jane.” I hit resend. This time, the message sent.
He does love me; I do know this. So he will not contact me again. If not permanently, it will take a long time before he does. But I cannot even think about any of that. He has become poison to me. As long as there was a window with a crack of an opening, I would pry it open and keep coming back.
I knew I’d have to pretend the person I loved is dead. In a way, he is. When I speak to him, it is like speaking to someone else, even in writing. The reassuring man who was ready to make mountains move to be with me is gone. I don’t understand this new one, or what happened. But it’s no longer for me to try and understand and torture myself in the process. Thanks to the self-help book I read ten years ago, I learned how to put myself first, and I’m not looking back. Not any more.
Today, I’m okay. I’ve got something big on the horizon, and that’s been demanding my attention. I’m thankful for that. I cannot decide if it’s better to know this kind of love and lose it, or to not have it at all. I do know that when it’s not so excruciating to recall, I have memories with him to hold that are nothing short of magical.
We were in love.
But as Meatloaf says, “Baby, sometimes love just ain’t enough.”