Birthdays, to me, have always been a time for resolutions. Not the kind where you say oh, well, this year I’m going to go on a diet and lose ten pounds (not that I need to lose ten pounds). No, these resolutions are more serious. Last year I wanted to get my finances in order. I wanted to get my life to some semblance of respectability so that I could be ready when thirty hit me. And my resolution for thirty? Well, I’ll get to that in a minute.
Decades, though, are special. By my rule book, not only do you get to make a resolution, but you get to do a housecleaning. Not just a physical house cleaning (though I did do that), but also the kind where you really take stock of your life: where you’re at, where you’re going, where you want to be by the time the next decade rolls around. You figure out what works, what doesn’t work, what you need more of, what you need less of. And then you not only resolve to do it, but you really make an effort to make it happen. Essentially, the beginning of one decade is the investment as you build up to the next. No regrets, as they say.
Not really a lot of cleaning left to do. Not in the grand scheme of things, anyway. Professionally things are great. Personally things are also pretty good. Granted, I could use some new furniture here or there. I’ll be working on that. But it’s not a pressing issue. Not like I’m sleeping on the floor or anything. My finances are in order – at least in as much order as they possibly can be, with all the student loans hanging over my head.
And as part of the resolution I made last year to get my ducks in a row, I got out there, and I started dating again – the first time I’d really tried since I’d gotten a divorce. I met this guy. We were happy. For awhile.
He was everything my ex wasn’t – college educated, blond, blue-eyed, successful and not a gambler, closer to me in age, had his temper in check, a nerd, had brothers and sisters (where my ex had been an only child), worked regular hours, and was writer, like me. We connected on so many levels. And it worked in the beginning. Chalk it up the honeymoon phase if you will, but for awhile there, I really started to think maybe I’d done something right this time. I cooked for him, did his laundry every Sunday, and I was happy with that. We wrote together, watched stupid stuff on TV. Everything was funny to us and we’d spend hours and, soon after, days enjoying life and each other.
But then the other foot, as they say, hit the ground. He’d never been in love before. His relationship experience was limited. I knew what I’d read – I knew that if he’d gone thirty-two years and had never legitimately been in love that my chances of being the one he’d make the exception for were slimmer. When in February he told me he was not “sold” on the relationship, I became confused. Asking him what that meant, he clarified that he meant he wasn’t sure that he was in it for the long term. I didn’t know how to react. In ten years, I had never been exclusive with someone who didn’t know whether or not he even wanted to be there. But I held on, despite the growing insecurities that kept building as a result of the revelation. He’d come around, I argued. Three months wasn’t that much time at all in the grand scheme of things.
And I’m not the easiest person to live with, though I am trying to fix that. I’m accident prone, I got UTI’s almost every other month at the beginning. I tend to be more pessimistic as a general rule, though that is a trait I’ve sincerely been trying to change since I made the resolution to do so last year. Worst of all, I tend to fall victim to my own insecurity. His revelation in February didn’t help that. I’m sure it showed, though I tried to keep it in check. When, two months later, he still hadn’t gotten there, I started to break. I started wondering what was wrong with me. I started to feel inadequate. And when he finally said he’d gotten there, it had taken him so long that I didn’t believe him – I thought he said it simply to pacify me.
“Sold,” I quickly realized, didn’t equal love. At least not to him. And so we trudged on, I kept waiting for it, and I told him I loved him three months later while trying to get over an overdose of medicine that I’d been given for the UTI of the month (and for the record, the last UTI I had) as I begged him to stop freaking out over the fact that I was sick yet again. Besides, the constant UTI’s were not completely my fault. It takes two to tango, so to speak. He told me then that he didn’t love me. That was fine, I thought. It had only been six months. There was still plenty of time. And I’m picky about saying that to people, too.
Except, he never did. Time continued to pass. By September I got antsy about it. By October, when we were talking about going to his friends’ weddings he’d been invited to, I was becoming impatient. Why did he never say it? What was wrong with me? How could he expect me to go celebrate love with him when he didn’t even love me? What had I done to deserve this?
At the revelation that he was possibly going to be on vacation with his brother over Valentines Day (that holiday is a big, big deal to me) instead of here with me, I was livid. I got upset. I overreacted. It was everything he DIDN’T want in a reaction. We were at Halloween Horror Nights. It was a trip he’d taken for me. He didn’t want to be there. And by the end of the night, he was drunk. I knew he was going to get drunk and I hadn’t cared – usually he was fun to be around when he was like that. Less reserved, less controlled, and always in a fun way. But not that night. That night he got angry. And not just about the trip, but about everything. All my faults, everything I hadn’t given him, everything I WASN’T doing. I felt two inches tall. But I chalked it up to the alcohol. And I let it go. Or I tried to.
But when he told me one night that he’d had fun but didn’t think he was going to be able to fall in love with me, and then repeated it a couple of days later over dinner, and, in the same breath, told me he was not joining me for Thanksgiving after all like we’d planned, I sat there, thinking, “What am I supposed to do with this?” The answer was, I didn’t know. Stronger women than myself would have walked out ages ago – when he said he wasn’t sold or when he told me he’d leave me if my MRI scans revealed I had MS. They didn’t (and he didn’t leave – not then), and I suppose it was the little bit of idealism left that kept me holding on. But the feelings of inadequacy kept growing. The confidence I used to have kept fading and fading as the fear of getting sick, the stress over trying to make him love me when he didn’t, made my immune system collapse again and again – first with stress-related vision problems and most recently with the flu. It was too much, he said. He didn’t want to be with a woman who was sick all the time. Couldn’t he realize that the stress of all of this was MAKING me sick? I’d argue back.
And so, because I was still so angry over what he’d said in Orlando, because I was still so angry that I felt so inadequate, I snapped. I screamed at him. I ripped up the Super Orange drawing he had valued so much that I’d given him (though in my defense I didn’t realize he liked it that much). I said things that were so uncalled for that I made him feel an inch tall. I made him cry. I wasn’t and am not proud of this. I should have just walked out the door. I wish now that I had, so that at least I wouldn’t have to regret the things I said. But I didn’t. And we said we’d keep trying.
We tried to make my birthday great. I stayed there Friday, we went to a wedding rehearsal and dinner on Saturday (he was to be in the ceremony). And we tried to make Saturday night fun. But then we started talking. And I started telling him all the things he’d said to me in Orlando, even though I’d sworn to myself I wouldn’t ever repeat them. I don’t know what made me do that – I guess they were just there, and they needed to get out. But knowing what he’d said hurt him worse.
I drafted this blog two days after that. After he went to the wedding feeling horrible. And I sat here writing this wondering which part of the housecleaning process he’d fall into. Would he go in the bin? Or would I keep him? My conclusion was that this could be fixed. I’d repaired much worse before. I’d hold on to this until it got fixed or until it ended. 3.0, the last relic of my twenties, could remain into my thirties. But with that, I resolved that if he stayed, I was no longer going to feel inadequate. I was no longer going to let him or anyone else, make me FEEL inadequate.
That decision was not for me to make. Last night, as soon as I got home from work, when I called to get the final verdict on the Thanksgiving trip, he ended it. Not because he didn’t want me, he said, but because he thought that ultimately, because of our recent shouting matches, that we were not good for each other. I argued valiantly. Any lawyer would have been proud of my discourse. But in the end, it wasn’t enough. Not this time. The housecleaning completed itself with his arrival at my house to pick up the things he had left here and to drop off the few remaining things I had at his house. I had put his things by the door, I hugged him one last time, kissed him on the cheek, and said goodbye. I got the solution I asked for, the solution to get out of the relationship Limbo I’d been living in – even if it wasn’t the solution that I wanted. I loved him. Much of that had died after Orlando but there was still a little left. And I still love him. That won’t ever change. But it will get easier. In time.
So I’m three days into thirty. I’m literally back at square one. In my apartment, with all of my things, single again. And I hurt. Badly. But that’s the funny thing about housecleaning – you hate it while you’re doing it. It’s not pleasant. It can be downright painful. But when it’s over, suddenly you have room for something else. Something bigger, maybe. Better, perhaps, than what you had before. And so I’ll wait. This time not for a solution. I have the solution I’ve been looking for for the last six months. This time I’ll wait for what comes next. With a clean house and the knowledge that I’ve gained from this last year.
It’s a new year now. A new decade. A new era. Time to start over. And now, for whatever it’s worth, regardless of how painful it has been to get here, I actually can.