I Was Just As Bad

[some adult language]

I remember it clearly: me, sitting in our old apartment bedroom by the desk; he was on the bed, facing me. The lights were out, but it was afternoon. We were arguing.

J pointedly says to me, “I had all the money saved, but then you acted the way you did, and now the money has been spent.”

In hearing these words, I burst into frantic tears–he was talking about the money for my engagement ring.

That was probably about five or six years ago. Some things you will never forget.

To what he was referring (with my behavior) was something completely fabricated, because J had paranoia issues and was very manipulative with his words out of fear of abandonment. He thought that the next door neighbor and I were bumpin’ uglies, when I was not even remotely interested, nor had I ever been. I only had eyes for J. But because it was so real to him and he felt the magnitude of the indignant righteousness, all of the money put aside to keep his promise to me went to drugs and cigarettes. Maybe a toy for himself or some magazines. I don’t know what he did with his money.

That man knew how to bite hard. The term “mind bullets” accurately fits how he would fight, because he was scathing and unforgiving in his choice of words. But to say that we argued would be misleading. I never fought back.

As part of my healing process over the past three years, I have divulged a lot about his and my relationship that, previously, I kept a secret. I’ve needed to in order to accept that it happened and to realize that I was taken advantage of emotionally. However, I am no saint. Not perfect or all-knowing when it comes to relationships, in the slightest. Part of the reason for our failure was my fault.

I never fought back. I never stood up for myself. I let him whip me over and over with his nastiness and sat there silently, tears leaking from my eyes. Some days, after the pain had been too much and I no longer felt it, I shrugged at him with a straight face and walked out of the room.

I was inactive.

Part of it was because I felt as though no matter what I said, he would twist my words. I felt manipulated. That’s true. Yet, most of it was fear of losing him. What did I have to lose? I was naive and didn’t recognize that I had already lost my integrity and sense of worth. Without excusing him for his behavior, I see the magnetic attraction to someone abusing something that is cowering in the corner. That’s how it works. I never asked for it to begin, but I allowed it to continue.

Sure, I could play the victim role, especially since I experienced emotional abuse from multiple partners–some of the things that have happened in the past year, alone, are enough to garner sympathetic hugs from listeners. Screw that, though, because no one ever gains forward momentum or breaks out of the cycle by the mere recognition of victimhood.

I am an active party in my life.

Shortly after the breakup, J called, harassing and hurting me. Every time I tried to speak up, he would cut me off. I yelled into the phone, “SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” His response was one of glee: “Finally! I have been waiting years for you to say that to me. Good girl. Good for standing up for yourself. You tell me to shut the fuck up. Do it.”

What? Yeah, that’s right. Not that it was ever okay to begin with that he was controlling my emotions, but he respected me the moment I gave it back to him. Things were different after that day.

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I finally had a voice. I finally had nothing to lose.

Unfortunately, I had to lose everything with J to find my strength to stand up for myself to him. Sometimes, that’s how a lesson is learned. I was no longer afraid of him, because he wasn’t mine.

Since then, I have the integrity to fight back. I never play dirty, but I communicate, and sometimes, fervently or with anger. I express what I need to, and I don’t worry about the other person pushing me away, because if they do, then that is a demon within themselves. It says nothing about me as an individual.

To gain this personal responsibility, I had to accept that I was part of the problem. I contributed to my own abuse by letting a man destroy my happiness and mental state for five and a half years. I could have left at any point; I could have stood up for myself. I didn’t.

I may not have asked to be abused, but I have a voice and two legs. I can speak up and get out whenever I need to.

Flipping the Switch

I have been lost in an endless sea; treading water in an unknown ocean. Three years ago, my soul mate walked out our apartment door–our home. It was the most selfless thing he’s ever done.

In his absence, I have learned to love myself and to embrace the things with which I feel impassioned. I started going outside more. I made new friends and reconnected with old. I played the guitar every day and improved my singing. I wrote incessantly like a madwoman, exorcising all of the years of latent agony which had caked up inside the walls of my heart and mind.

Simply, I began to live again.

In my beautiful rediscovery of self, I couldn’t help but get lost in a new lover’s strikingly breath-taking eyes. The intensity of passion I felt when staring at him was something I had not experienced in so long that I had completely forgotten what it felt like to burn with vivacity at that level. I became addicted.

Then, I lost myself.

For over two years, on and off, I talked about him. Breathed him. Dreamed him. My biggest concern was his happiness. I wanted nothing more than to look into those eyes forever. I fell in love.

Falling in love and losing yourself is like swimming out to the middle of a vast, open body of water. It’s overwhelmingly astonishing until you realize that you have no idea how to get home. You can’t even tell in which direction you should start swimming.

Eventually, you get tired and sink.

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I have been really unhappy for a long time. You can be an unhappy person but still have moments of happiness. That’s how I would describe myself for the last two and a half years: As someone who was devastatingly incomplete but found happiness where she could.

Six months ago, a kindred spirit began to help me mend. He allowed me to express my deepest fears and the whole of my pain without trying to win my romantic love. This was a first for me. During this time, I began to examine myself in a new light. Instead of burying my pain or accepting my fate, I implored and urged my issues, anxieties, and fears to bravely surface and reveal themselves.

Finally, I began to heal.

It was probably two months after I started to recover that I reconnected with a friend I had met in late 2013. Now, when people use the term “drop-dead gorgeous” to describe a person, this is him. Sure, I was always attracted to him; I was very aware of the instant connection we formed the night we met, which grew over time. I was just so deeply submersed in cloudy, murky water I couldn’t see beyond that which was immediately present.

Very shortly after we reconnected, a dear friend of mine suddenly passed away. He, to me, was the embodiment of what it means to accept others and love unconditionally. I don’t think I ever heard him speak a negative word. About anyone. About anything. I am inspired with increasing intensity since his passing to spread love’s message with my actions and words. My handsome and compassionate friend proved himself to be much more than that during this stressful, painful time with his supporting words and the way he carefully handled my heart and my emotions.

I didn’t want to have feelings for someone new, nor was I totally ready for it. However, I had realized something in the time that passed since we reconnected: I had faith. I felt healthier. Maybe everything happens for a reason, and I was meant to form this bond now, because, now, I am finally able to see and appreciate the beauty of someone who doesn’t want to take advantage of me and actually cares about my happiness.

Little by little, I felt the pain of the past disengage like rotting driftwood and leave me.

However, this is not a love story. At least, not the kind you might be thinking.

I no longer believe it is healthy or okay to put all of yourself into someone else’s life, love, and happiness. In doing so for years, I completely forgot self-love and care. What about my goals and aspirations? I had none to speak of for a long time.

My kindred spirit friend asked me awhile back to write a list of goals, both personal and what I wanted in a partner. I did this exercise and began to see that this amazing man with whom I had reconnected fulfilled my “partner” list. Great. But what about my personal goals? One of my major goals is creating a plan. A life plan. I have always loved writing and want nothing more than to make somewhat of a career out of it.

As the days went by, I felt depressed. Stagnant.

Then, one day in late May I came across an article that was written for an online journal, which I have been reading for years. Their focus is on mindful living, whether it be through spirituality, loving the environment, pursuing wellness and healthy relationships, or practicing yoga. They believe in and promote anything that encourages and brings forth a better you and a better community. At the bottom of the article, there it was: a link to an online journaling/editing/writing apprenticeship. The deadline was the next day.

Without a second thought, I filled out the application.

Within the week, I received an email response congratulating me on my acceptance into the three-month-long program. I am a week and a half in, and I feel like a switch has been flipped.

In accordance with the Universe, I feel aligned. I feel happy.

Finally having a purpose again, especially one that is my biggest passion, I am excited every day to wake up. I don’t miss the man I don’t get to see often with quite the intensity and desperation as I have in the past months, because I am loving the time I am spending with myself.

This is the first step in my plan. I am doing it. I made it happen.

I single-handedly created my own destiny and my own happiness. No one else did it for me. No one else ever could.

All it took was the nudging from a kindred spirit, the inspiration of a passionate, tender man, and my own desire to be happy again.

I have not felt this way in years. I never want to swim in the ocean again. Burying my toes in the grainy shores of gratitude, rootedness, and self-fulfilling pleasure, I am writing my own story in the sand.