Some people say we shouldn’t run away from our problems. That we should face them head on, fix them, and move forward with what knowledge we’ve obtained from the solutions we’ve found. I’m all for fixing things that are broken but sometimes things get so bad that I find myself with a desperate NEED to get away. And I’ve been that way forever – it’s just that, for the most part, when I feel that way I usually don’t have the means, or the time, to get away. The housecleaning debacle from last week, though, was different. Call it fate, call it luck, call it whatever you want to call it, but when 3.0 and I severed our connection, we severed it on the eve of my departure to my hometown for Thanksgiving. And it really could not have fallen at a better time.
Because I needed to run away. I needed to pack up my suitcase, leave 3.0 and everything he’d ever meant to me behind, and come home to heal, to be reminded that there are people – literally a whole town of people – that love me even if he didn’t find himself able to. Don’t get me wrong. Tampa is great. After things ended I found myself inundated with support, messages from friends, phone calls, and encouragement from both my local network and my larger network of friends. I had no idea so many people even cared. And although I made many plans to get together with people who are eager to distract me from my loss, I still needed to get away. To leave everything behind, get some fresh air, and regroup so that I could come home and breathe a little more freely.
So, although I was hurting and although I didn’t really have the strength to do much of anything, much less do the laundry and pack my things and get everything ready to go, I started getting things together anyway. The one bump in the road came when I went to print my boarding pass. His name was still attached to it. Of course it was. I’d purchased them both at the same time and they had the same confirmation number. I could have made him eat the cost. I could have simply “forgotten” that he could get a credit for the plane ticket he was no longer using to get to Louisville and back to Tampa from Nashville. But that would be mean. And while maybe he deserved a little bit of meanness, it was also the holidays. And I truly believe that karma would have kicked my ass otherwise. So I sent him a text, letting him know that if he called Southwest he could get a credit for his tickets that he could use to go somewhere else. And I wished him a happy Thanksgiving despite everything that had happened. I hoped, and I believed, that he would probably use the credit to get himself to Atlanta to be with his family. I had kind of heard the wistfulness in his voice the last few weeks anyway as he’d talked about it. I didn’t know whether he’d taken care of it or not, I was afraid to go looking, but when I got the boarding information at the airport the next day before I boarded the plane his name was no longer there. It hurt to see mine on that pass alone, but on the other hand, it would have hurt worse to have had to answer for his absence when they were calling for people that had not yet boarded. And so I wished him well and sighed a little with relief as my plane pulled out of Tampa, willing myself not to look downtown in the general direction of his condo where so much of our drama had transpired.
I was a very frail woman when I boarded the plane that morning. I hadn’t eaten in days, I had slept a total of nine hours since things had ended that Monday. I had literally no energy as I sat there, reading my Walking Dead book and dozing fitfully, my head resting on the window. I’m sure I looked pale and I’m sure my eyes had bags under them. I didn’t even hear the flight attendant ask me if I wanted something to drink – the man next to me had to tap me out of my reverie. I didn’t cry – for the first time in three days, I didn’t shed a tear. Exhaustion hadn’t exactly made me indifferent, but it had made me incapable of showing anything but exhaustion. As I flew over Georgia, I thought of him and his family, and I wondered if he’d be there later that day. As I flew over Tennessee and I saw the mountains below me, I remembered the disaster our trip to Knoxville had been – the month everything had started to go wrong. And I’m sure that, if I could have cried, I would have. I just didn’t have the strength anymore. And I tried to distract myself as best I could anyway. Lucid moments not spent remembering 3.0 were invested in thoughts of what I’d do when my plane hit the ground, were spent thinking of the fun that 2.0 and I had had the night before. And then the plane landed, and it hit the ground, and I was home. Without him.
It felt strange getting off the plane and walking into the airport – an airport I had not seen in two years. I even had to remind myself of how to get out of there. But I don’t know if it was just the familiarity of the place, the fact that the sun was actually shining (despite the fact that the pilot had said it wouldn’t be), or the fact that I was doing this thing on my own and just for me, but 30 minutes after I landed, after I’d had a nice conversation with the rental car guy and had gotten my car, I felt a little better. I was still tired, but I was actually smiling. I was going shopping. And I was somewhere where 3.0 had never existed, had never even seen.
As the days passed, things got easier. I had fled Tampa, determined to heal. And I did. That isn’t to say that I didn’t think of him. Healing and recovery is never an instantaneous process. Scars break open, you still bleed a little, and with every break – even a minor one – you get set back a little bit while things close up. I remained stoic during those times, not letting it show and if I thought it was going to, I’d step out, gather myself together, and get back to doing what I had been doing before. My consolation during that time? That no matter how badly it felt, I wasn’t as depressed about it as I had been with Buttface. And it wasn’t as painful as the split from Jake had been. There was closure to this. It was finished. And unlike the other two, 3.0 had never said he loved me. I had always been acutely aware of that. I left Tampa to heal, and I did heal – somewhat. It still hurts. I acknowledge that it will still hurt for awhile, albeit less and less every day. But I gained ground there, and I have enough strength now to at least try to move on and, most importantly, to tell the little nagging voices in the back of my head to shut up and let me do this, that whatever ultimately happens will happen.
And so, Thanksgiving went well. I saw some people I hadn’t seen in a long time, I spent some quality time with the folks, and I went on, pretending at first that nothing had ever happened but then opening up about it as I was catching up with people. Some of them had known he was supposed to be there. Others hadn’t had any idea. But it was as I’d told him before I left, as I was trying to convince him to go with me, to really get to know me the way he needed to before he could make a fair decision about where he and I were going – this trip was not about him. It had never been about him. That was the part that made it so attractive to me when I was trying to convince him to go. That was the part, now, that made the trip so possible. The people there were there for me, they knew me, they wanted to see me. And whether he came with me or whether he did not was inconsequential to them. It had always been like that and will always be like that – at least until someone else takes the time to cultivate relationships with them, and until someone thinks it’s important enough to “integrate” as he called it. That can’t be one-sided.
As I reintegrated with the people that had known me all my life, as I went individually to all the places I used to know and all the places I’d lived, I started to realize that in the grand scheme of things, I’d lost much more than this before at earlier points of my life. Losing Jake had been devastating. The depression had lasted for months. Losing Buttface was equally as debilitating. I had mourned longer, and harder, and more inconsolably for both of them than I had for 3.0. “Why?” I’d asked. But I knew why. It was because more had passed between myself and those two than had ever passed between 3.0 and me. When it had ended with them, I had lost more, much more, than I had lost here. It hurt that 3.0 could not love me. It hurt that he ended it. It pissed me off royally that he hadn’t had the balls to end it in person. But in the grand scheme of things, I’d lost someone I cared about who couldn’t or wouldn’t care about me the same way I cared about him, I’d lost someone to do things with on the weekends. And those things are easily replaceable. The things that matter when you’re with someone: loving them, committing to them, wanting them the way they want you – I gave those things freely but I didn’t and still don’t know if I’d ever received them in return – not even at the beginning (or if they were there, it never felt that way. In that way, he had lost so much more than I had, whether he realized that or not.
And so, by the time vacation was over, I was better. Not completely better, but I had healed enough to be able to keep walking. I have no idea what will happen next. I don’t have any plans beyond those that I made before I left and the hope that some of my friends from the North will be down to visit soon. I put up the old OKC profile, I’ve been talking to people there. And while I felt obscenely guilty an hour after posting it, as the days have passed, that guilt has faded and I’m beginning to have fun with it. Do I wish 3.0 and I could work it out? Of course. I’ll wish that for awhile. But I can’t put my life on hold, waiting for him to figure it out. I did that once, and that wasn’t my way then. It certainly isn’t my way now. The woman that will get off the plane in the Tampa airport will be a markedly different person than the one that left. As my friend Mary wrote in the birthday card she gave me the day I landed, it really is the “dawning of a new era.” And what I do with it now is completely up to me.