Tag Archives: 3.0

The L Word

First, to make things clear:  I do not have a problem with having, or showing, emotional love.  When I feel it, I have no qualms about and make no issue of displaying that, whether it be through random acts of kindness, generosity, PDA, etc.  I am not afraid of the emotion in and of itself.  The word, though, and in particular, the verbal EXPRESSION of the word?  Now that’s fucking scary.

I don’t think I always thought it was scary.  Like, pre-marriage, expressing it was… well… if not habitual or normal, just something that was done when I felt that way, confident that HE (whoever that recipient was at the time) felt that way also, and never fearful that the admission would ever be used against me or not reciprocated, or that the word meant to me what it meant to him.

But then, after the divorce, I fell into a string of… well… less than successful relationships with men who either misused the word or who couldn’t say it at all.  First there was Buttface, who had been saying it for the better part of ten years.  And who, once his divorce was filed for, moved up from Florida to, ostensibly, be closer to me (this is what he told me, at least, at first).  And then who suddenly, without explanation, without reason (at least as far as I could see) stopped saying it.  Now, I’ll take proper credit for not simply asking him why, and for sticking around for the better part of two years after, trying to “figure it out” when I could have moved on.  But once I realized, after all that time, that he wasn’t going to say it again, that he wasn’t going to tell me what had changed his mind, and, most importantly, that he was now dating (at thirty-one), a seventeen year old from Oklahoma, I cut my losses.  Oh, I got revenge in the end… of course… it was both warranted and necessary to the overall healing process (and of course when his cat took a shit all over the bed about a year later because the toilet-training efforts weren’t going to plan, I was pretty happy about that too). But, revenge or not, I began to realize that it was entirely possible to use that word, seem to mean it, then drop it like a really bad habit (by the way, that’s the worst comparison ever – if it’s a “habit,” that means it is not easy to break, but whatever).

Still, once I was over that, I chalked it up to bad luck, bad judgment, whatever, and decided to learn from the experience: if I was with a man who seemed to suddenly change, I would simply not tolerate it anymore, not waste as much time (god, NEVER as much time), and I would leave.  Or if I was with a man who simply would drag things out, string me along, and never progress, again, I’d leave. But, of course, I didn’t really think something worth having would be that hard to procure.  After all, I had had no problems pre-divorce.  Of course, I had been younger then, my boyfriends had also been younger (and probably less jaded), and I failed to take that into consideration.

Anyway.  After Buttface came 3.0.  THIS guy, I’m convinced, simply wasn’t capable of feeling the emotion. I loved him, or at least I am pretty sure I did (though considering the minimal amount of time it took me to get OVER him, maybe I was just in love with the idea that he was pretty well off and had a nice condo in the nicest area of Tampa), but when I said it, not only did he not reciprocate, but he used the phrase, “I’m not sold.” Or simply just told me he wasn’t there yet.  Now, if that wasn’t bad enough, once he knew how I felt, he used it against me.  If I did something he didn’t like, if I did something he couldn’t tolerate, he’d say that he was… oh… 95 percent there, but then I did that, and it knocked it down to 92.  Yes.  He was a weirdo.  But I’m dedicated.  (And that’s not always the best thing… especially when the guys I’m dedicated to are not as dedicated to me.) So I stayed.  Or at least I tried.  But when it came down to holiday time, and I didn’t want to take someone home who could not feel for me what I was able to feel for him, and I CERTAINLY didn’t want to stick around for several years, wasting MORE time on another Buttface.  So I gave him the ultimatum.  And he thought about it for a few days.  And then it finally ended when he called and said, “I just don’t think I’m going to be able to fall in love with you, hon.” When he came over to get his stuff, he was crying.  I was not crying.  Not because I did not want to, but because I had decided that he did not deserve to see it.  And I wanted to keep my dignity.  Dignity preserved.  Mission accomplished.  But I still began to wonder whether some of this was my fault, if I had lost my mojo or something, or was somehow just not doing this correctly anymore.

Moving on.

Then there was Botboy.  Botboy used the word first.  After the first vodka shipment I’d sent him.  And because, at least in my experience, alcohol is a truth serum, I believed him.  But Botboy was as jaded as I am.  I don’t think he didn’t mean it… I don’t think he intended to come home, get his stuff, and leave.  I do wonder, sometimes, if he used the fact that I loved him to his advantage to procure supplies, snacks, etc.  Especially when he bragged to me much later about how he’d used other women for this or that.  Still, I think he did love me in the only way that he knew how or was capable of – the only way he’d ever been able to love anyone before. If that were the case, he wouldn’t have been able to give me what I was looking for, and looking back on it, I know that now. But at the end of the day, whether he meant it or not then is not the point.  The point is that I DID fall for him, I DID love him, and he SEVERELY hurt me when he left.  So much so that I told myself that, moving forward, never again would I say it first, never again would I repeat it unless the man said it to me while sober, and I had SEEN the reflection of his words in his actions.

It was a year after that before I considered dating anyone else– and that was Ormsby.

And so that’s where we were… I moved back to Kentucky, into Ormsby’s apartment.  And neither he, nor I, had ever used the word with each other before. I sometimes think he was as afraid of it as I was.  I can’t tell you how many times the word was on the tip of my tongue and I didn’t say it, not only out of fear of what might happen, but also out of stubbornness.  I had said I was not going to say it first, I meant it, and for once this was a rule I was absolutely not going to break.

Except I did.  In December, a week before Christmas, when I finally found my figurative balls, and just said it.

And apparently he’d known how I felt since July.  Even before I knew how I felt.

And with that information?  He’d done absolutely NOTHING.  I mean… nothing in that he didn’t use it against me.  He didn’t give me percentage comparisons to live up to.  He didn’t start using it only suddenly stop with no explanation, and best of all, he didn’t stand me up, break his promises, or make me wonder where I stood (much).  And even when I realized it (and I can’t even tell you when that was, exactly), I still didn’t say it.  Not in July.  Not in August when we started dating.  Not in September and October when he was in Florida for work.  Not even in November when we made it Facebook official and moved in together (yes, we do everything backward).

But when I said it, he said it back.

And that’s when the curse was broken.  Because I knew he meant it.  Not because of the way he said it, not because he was drunk (he wasn’t), but because of the things he’d done up to that point that illustrated it long before those words were ever uttered.  I didn’t have to doubt, I didn’t have to question it, I just knew it.  And whatever had happened in the past that made me wonder if all of this was just “me”, or if I was as unlovable as the Darren Hayes song I listened to over and over again during the 3.0 days, it didn’t matter anymore.  Because I knew it wasn’t true.

Housecleaning Take Deux, Part Trois: Myself

It’s funny.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks writing my blogs well before the day they were due to be posted, knowing what I wanted them to say.  This week I procrastinated – partially because I’ve been busy, mostly because things have been changing at a rapid pace and I’m trying desperately to keep up.

Housecleaning is a funny business, especially when you are experiencing a period of transition.  Some things happen because you plan for them to happen.  Some things happen because you realize that something has to be done in order to get things moving.  And yet some other things happen because they have to happen – whether you want them to or not.  And this is the case with the Botboy.  He has effectively made his exit, both physically and virtually, from my life.  I can’t say that this was entirely unanticipated.  I half expected something of this caliber to happen when he came home, picked up his stuff, and became absent.  Physically, he is away for work again.  That much I know because of what he told me.  Virtually, he’s  deleted me from his Gchat list and made no contact before he left, despite his confirmation to the contrary.  As I’ve said, I am not surprised.  And because this began to fall apart in May, I’ve had over a month to deal with the emotional repercussions of most of it.  I’d even thought about deleting him from Gchat myself so that I didn’t have to keep looking at him and tearing myself apart over and over again about what was lost, but I didn’t have the strength to do it.  He did what I could not.  It is funny… even at the end of things, we were still on the same page.  At any rate, I accept that this is what needs to happen, at least for the time being, and I’ve let it go.  It is all I can do, the best I can do, for him and for me.  And so, knowing that, at least when sober, I was able to hold my head up and keep walking.

I walked to Gatsby.  It’s Gatsby that has been keeping me entertained through the majority of this – with the parties, and the dinners, and the silly movies, and the crazy board games and racquetball matches.  Thanks to Gatsby, I started doing the things I’d stopped doing when Botboy was a part of my life – drinking, smoking, staying up until all hours having a good time.  I was eating out more, skimping on the healthy eating habits I’d adopted, too, in order to get myself prepared for Botboy’s arrival.  After all, Botboy wasn’t here.  I missed him, but he wasn’t here.  And Gatsby was FUN.  It was always a party there, always a reason to get drunk, to go swimming, to wander around downtown half conscious.  The alcohol made the voices shut up for awhile so I could just be myself.  And I could forget, at least most of the time, the pain of the last month.

And that’s what it was all about, anyway.  Forgetting.  Forgetting that he’d hurt me, forgetting that he’d made all of these promises and then, in one fell swoop, had broken them all – and continued to break even the new ones.  I could forget that he was ever NOT the selfish asshole he’d become since his return to the States and I could tell myself I’d moved on.  I could tell myself that – but then I’d realize I was lying.  Because in that state, somewhere halfway between sober and drunk, the pain would come and I’d lose myself.  I’d begin to think, to cry, to get angry.  I’d drink more because it was the one thing he didn’t want me to do – I’d drink to lash out at him.  I’d smoke my eCig because I just didn’t care anymore.  I’d go downtown and have a hookah because he’d told me he stopped that too.  I’d do all of these things to spite him.  He wasn’t here… what did it matter anymore?

But then, I guess, the carnival ride stopped.  Gatsby began to remind me, in his drunkenness, why we’d broken up to begin with.  If I cried over Botboy, Gatsby, rather than consoling me, would tell me he was worthless, that I was an idiot for caring, that I should have listened to him to begin with and not gotten involved.  And I’d get angry – angry because I knew what Botboy could be when he wanted to be, angry because Gatsby had no right to talk about someone I cared for that much with that kind of attitude, and mostly because he was being rougher on me than my own father was being.  Where my father was just concerned that I was holding up alright, Gatsby was kicking me when I was down, and I had enough of it.  When hanging out with Gatsby became more drama-filled than fun, and when I began to realize that I was in the same downward spiral that I often got into, I realized that something had to change.

Since the world began to collapse around my ears, I’d wandered Tampa searching for answers.  Talking to my friends, listening to the voices in my head, talking to psychics, counselors, anything to try to get my head back on my shoulders, to find some answers, to make some sense out of what happened to me.  Everyone, it seems, had an opinion and, funnily, it was the counselor that predicted the complete break first.  It happened just a few days later.  The thing is, I also realized that in that month, the voices that were so very loud during this whole ordeal, since the beginning, since December, they’d changed.  When sober they’d tell me things once in awhile but most of what they said was convoluted.  If I was drinking, they’d stop talking altogether.  My dreams became stronger – even on sleeping medicine they would communicate with me.  And in some ways they were more trustworthy – I suppose, perhaps, because they didn’t have my own inclinations to argue with them.  But when drunk, those dreams became nightmares.  Horrible, horrible nightmares that were, by far, the worst I have ever had.

But in some ways, this search was good.  I got some answers.  But, more than that, in that search, I began to figure out a few things about myself.  Namely that I am not as crazy as I thought I was.  Hypnosis sessions with the counselors I’ve seen have yielded visions that are, perhaps, more vivid than many of my dreams and I’m beginning to understand that, whatever has happened, has happened for a reason.  I am here for a reason.  I think I understand what that reason is now, and so I’m beginning to adjust things so that I can meet that purpose.  It’s when I am taking these steps, when I am meeting with these counselors and with others that are like minded, that I am happiest these days.  Meditations bring me peace, they give me this light that I have never seen before, and I am learning to channel it so that it can help others.  Combined with those individuals, there is an energy unlike anything I have ever felt before.  The voices are loud again, but now, in those sessions, they have faces.  And their advice is solid.  My dreams are talking to me again – sometimes telling me what to do, sometimes just giving me pictures that keep me going when things seem to become very, very dark.

I thought, for awhile, that I had failed – especially when the purpose I felt I had seemed to vanish in front of me.  And I wondered… if one is put here for a specific purpose, and one fails to achieve that purpose, then what happens next?  But then, my friend Chuck asked me a question: do you feel like you failed?  The answer is no.  I don’t.  “You’d know it if you had,” he replied.  And he’s right.  The voices said that at the same time that he did.  I have not failed.  Things simply aren’t happening the way that I thought they would happen – because they are not supposed to happen that way.  The time is not right.  Time is a linear thing – it is something that man uses in attempt to harness something he cannot control.  I am not ready to achieve my purpose yet, I do not yet have the technology, but I am learning.  I am growing.  And I am becoming stronger.

I’ve stopped drinking and smoking again, but this time it is for me.  Because I know I cannot do the work I came here to do if I continue to poison myself.  This time I do it for my own benefit.  I felt differently today… like things are beginning again.  I do not know, not entirely anyway, what is coming.  I can’t predict everything because so much of life is left up to free will and the choices that we all make.  But I do know that the housecleaning is done.  I have the epiphany that I sought.  Things are beginning again, the canvas is blank but the paints are brighter than they ever were.  And what I paint on that canvas now is entirely up to me.

Housecleaning Take Deux, Part Deux – The Trifecta

They say that when you are dating, you usually best find someone to be with when you aren’t looking for anyone at all.  I never believed that before – with the invention of online dating, you can, if you choose, be presented with option after option and play the “numbers game” so to speak until you find someone acceptable.  It’s more about statistics than luck when you’re working with personals sites, and I’ve always found that I meet more people that way than I do in real life.  When your code is not to shit where you eat, and when you do not like the bar and club scene, or otherwise do much that would put you “out there”, online dating is really the only alternative.

That said, though, I am not looking.  If you read “Open Letter”, you know why and, for the time being, I am trying to put myself in order.  And so I have been throwing myself into work, into my writing, into some of my new projects, being with my friends and pursuing some new tactics to strengthen some of my other talents.  Focusing on “me” for awhile while I wait for Bot to get himself together.  It will make me better prepared to be who I need to be for whatever comes along.

And the funny thing is, all the times before when I wasn’t looking, no one materialized.  Considering I am waiting for someone for the time being, I assumed that this strategy would be sufficient to employ while I took a break.  It seems, this time, that I was wrong.

It started with work.  It seems, anymore, it always starts with work.  Part of my job is to acclimate new employees with the system that they are being hired to support or to develop.  And a couple of weeks ago, I was given two new employees to work with.  They were cool, these two kept me laughing through the majority of the day and made the orientation part of my job much easier.  One suggested taking a trip to Coral Castle which intrigued the more exploratory side of my personality.  I agreed to consider it, we exchanged phone numbers.  I didn’t think anything more about it.

I didn’t think anything about it, either, when he asked if I wanted to have dinner with him that Friday night.  I agreed to meet him… after all, the place we were going to was on my way and I had no reason not to.  He’d wanted to do more – a movie, perhaps, and some other things, but dinner was sufficient.  After all, I had other plans and I didn’t know him very well.  So I met him for dinner, with the full intention of paying for it my own meal, the way that I normally do.  And dinner was good… the food was fantastic, the conversation was kept light and unserious.  But when the meal was over a couple of hours later, he insisted on footing the bill.  I didn’t like feeling obligated, but there was not a whole lot that I could do beyond:

“You should know I do not shit where I eat.”

“Neither do I.  I need a job, and I am staying where I am.  At least until my desire to date you exceeds my desire to make money there.”

I was mortified when I left.  I’d been conned into a date.  I felt dirty – as if I were cheating, even though I knew I had done nothing at all.  This was not going to happen again, I assured myself.  I wasn’t at fault, here.  Nothing happened beyond the dinner and while I had enjoyed myself, the energy here was contradictory to my own.  As the events unfolded with The Groper and I got my office, I realized that now, with all of this swirling around me, I had to be even more careful.  I have not gone out with him anymore, and I won’t – partially because I do not want to deal with the work drama and mostly because he continues to try to date me.  He texts, I do not answer.  I cannot stop him from talking to me at work, but I keep things cordial and distant.  And when he enters my office, I am careful to stay on the other side of the room.  Appearances are important there, but even moreso, I do not like feeling obligated to someone I have no interest in.

And then there is Gatsby.  Called Gatsby because this is a man who has everything – everything but what he really wants.  We’d dated before.  The relationship had lasted for a little while, and then it had ended, ultimately, because things were too unstable to continue on as they were.  We remained friends afterward, however, and I got invited to go to a pool party at his condo complex one evening.  I showed up and, with some of his other friends, we had a party.  There was alcohol.  I drank… more than a little.

People began to leave, and still, I kept drinking, until it was just Gatsby and myself left behind.  He offered to let me have the spare room that evening and because I was in no condition to drive, I agreed.  We went for a walk that night – hit up last call at one of the bars downtown.

Alcohol, for me, is a truth serum.  It exaggerates the mood that I’m in and makes me introspective.  Downtown that night, drunk, I told Gatsby I needed to be alone for a moment and I walked away to perch on a concrete block in the park.  I sat there, looking up at the moon, thinking about all that had happened and I began to cry – partially because of what had happened with the guy at work, partially because I was sitting downtown, drunk, when I had made a decision to stop drinking, partially because all I wanted was The Botboy and it did not look as if I were going to be able to have him.  It was an awful feeling, and I hate to cry, and so, after shedding a tear or two, I rose and walked back to Gatsby who was waiting for me, awkwardly, on the sidewalk.  I would have been fine, really, had he not asked if something was wrong and I started up all over again.  He hugged me, walked me back to his house, and I went to bed in the spare room.  At five the next morning, I paid dearly for the alcohol consumption – I was very, very sick – and swore never to drink again.

Gatsby and I hung out more that week.  I felt guilty for crying on him like that, though he said it was okay, that he was glad to see that I was human, and the following weekend he told me that he thought he was falling for me again.  I didn’t know what to say.  We were friends.  I didn’t want to lose that.  But I knew it wouldn’t work, either.  There was too much baggage from before – his friends don’t like me, and while it would be a smart match – the package is there, after all, there would be too much climbing, too much repairing, and it would not be the way to begin a relationship.  I explained this to him.  I hurt him, though I tried desperately not to.

And anyway, in the case of both Gatsby and Work Guy, it would be hardly fair to start something when my heart still belongs to Botboy.  So clearly does it belong to him – enough so that I can uncharacteristically break down on the sidewalk in the middle of Downtown Tampa over it.  And it doesn’t make any sense – he’d been incommunicado again.  He was gone, or so I thought.

And then he wasn’t.  We went out.  We had a good time, he told me he wasn’t looking for anyone else, and, yet again, I decided to wait.  Because what else could I really do?  I cannot move forward – not in good conscience, with more than half of myself waiting for him to come back.  It would not be fair to whoever I chose to try to move forward with.

I promised to wait until the end of the summer.  Botboy and I make plans to see each other, he calls, he is like his old self again – lucid (for Botboy), funny, fun.  And then he disappears, no word of confirmation or acknowledgement that we had these conversations, we go from daily messages to sporadic communication again, barely a sentence.  I extend myself because he extends himself and then he runs away.

It is a vicious cycle.  Especially for someone who demands reliability.  I do, always, exactly what I say I’m going to do when I am going to do it.  I was brought up to be this way.  I demand it out of my friends.  Bot, it seems, may be incapable of being reliable.  It’s funny – he always was a few months ago.  Now?  I have a different Bot.  And yet he is still a part of this Trifecta.

He is the only one that matters, really, because he is the only one that I want.  Though wanting it, and waiting for it, is tiresome.  And he acknowledges that – as much as he can, as he asks why I want him despite all of his imperfections.  My answer?  I want him BECAUSE of his imperfections and because I know what he can be.  But I am forever worried that I will fuck it up, though I know that whatever is supposed to happen will happen and that when things do not go the way I want them to, it’s not due to my own lack of effort or my own unmaking.  For once, I am blameless.

While chasing all of these other hobbies, I saw the psychic again.  Because he was right about all of the other things the first time.  And afterward, I went to the island to think about it all.  I always have a choice.  That’s the beauty of free will, readings tell you what will happen if you stay the course, but you always have the option to move right or left.  I know what my choice is.  I began it in December.   I made it again, unconsciously, a couple of weeks ago, when I started the Housecleaning process and began to ward off the interest from the other admirers.  I redoubled that decision yesterday – I know what the consequences will be, and I accept them.

I clean house because it is not fair to me or to the others to keep them around when nothing can happen.  If I can be friends with them with nothing more expected, great.  If I cannot, then they have to go.  I wait for the Bot because this is not done.  No one believes that it’s done… not my friends, not my counselors, not my own inner voices.  It’s all about free will, and not just mine but his too – the will to wait, the will to walk, the will to work on things, the will to make them happen, the will to remember where we were and why we chose this.

Things are not as settled here as I would like, but at least there are no interferences.  The Bot may not here completely right now, and I am not with him the way I would like to be.  But I wait anyway, because I believe I am supposed to.  And while I wait, I work on the final piece of this Housecleaning project:

Myself.

To be Continued.

Family Affair

It’s February 2008.  My then husband and I are sleeping in his parents’ basement, he on one couch, I on another.  Things aren’t great between us… separation has been brought up several times, divorce a few others.  For the time being, because of where we are, a truce has been implemented.  We visited his parents a LOT.  He was very close to his mother – calling her just to chat, calling her when he needed home repairs done, calling her when he got a flat tire and needed someone to fix it (she lived two hours away and told him to call a tow truck – same as I did, but he listened to her while he never listened to me).  I had gotten tired of it… her nagging, her telling me that I was not taking care of her “baby” correctly.  Who was I to feed him food with condiments on it?  Who was I to paint the walls green?

But I put up with it.  For his sake.  And because doing otherwise would cause an argument – a screaming, fit-throwing, object flinging, wall punching argument.  I’d had enough but for the time being had no other options, nowhere else to go.  So I stayed put.  And anyway we were in counseling.  We were “working on it”.  Right?  Uh.  Yeah.  She’d gone to work that night, to the post office, she wouldn’t be home until 3 a.m.  And when that time came, I could hear the garage door above me open.  I tried to go to sleep as the floor creaked above my head, sleep didn’t come.  He wasn’t asleep either, I knew, half laying, half sitting on the other sofa, listening for her.  I made no movement.  I didn’t want him to know I was awake.  The door to the basement creaked open, the dog ran downstairs followed by his mother who was whispering loudly for her to come back upstairs.

I didn’t say anything.  I just continued to remain still, my eyes closed.  The dog jumped on me, licked my face, I didn’t budge, and I could hear his mother walking down the stairs after her.  My ex, recognizing his mother, whispered something to her… I opened my eyes a crack to see what was going on and I could barely believe what I saw.  It was sickening.  There they were, the dog jumping between the couch and her legs, chatting amiably, as if it were the middle of the day, and he’s lying there, completely uncovered, wearing nothing but his tighty-whities and with his morning wood just hanging out there, making no move to cover it, not acknowledging it.  And what’s worse, even, was that she was standing there continuing the conversation as if there was nothing out of the ordinary.

But it WAS out of the ordinary.  This was not ordinary at all!  This was… this was… beyond anything I’d seen before – this was… Norman Bates creepy.  I can’t say that this is what made me decide to leave him… many factors played into that.  But I think I realized that night that there was something more abnormal about this degree of closeness that I’d failed to see.  And I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.

I can laugh about it now… now that it’s all well behind me, but after the divorce was final and when I decided to start dating again, I remembered that.  I remembered the years of disapproval I’d been through, I remembered the explaining I’d had to do to tell her why I wanted to go back to college (that was a fighting point too), I remembered the mommy-boner, I remembered how she’d get upset if I told her I wanted to go to dinner with my own husband and she was not invited, and I vowed that that would never happen again.  I was extreme about it, making a list of all the things I wanted (and didn’t want) in another human being.  A good family relationship was important… but not so good that you wanted to fuck your mother.  Jeez that’s awful to even think about.

I was optimistic at first.  I mean how many men out there, in their late twenties and early thirties can honestly say they let their mothers dictate their lives?  You’d be surprised.  More of them than ever, it seemed.  The dates I went on were more than once interrupted by mothers calling their sons, even if their sons didn’t live at home anymore (and even when they did – seriously, you’re thirty-two… grow a pair), to ask when they were going to be home and if they were alright.  Because, you know.  All 115 pounds of me can be so very intimidating.  Needless to say, I didn’t answer my phone when they called for a second date.  It was all I could do to ask if they were going to get grounded if they stayed out past curfew.  It was entertaining for a second to feel like I was sixteen again… but then I remembered all the bad things about being sixteen and I decided.. yeah… I was going to pass.

Then I met 3.0.  He seemed to have it together: his place, his job, his own life.  Sure he admitted that his condo, which was immaculately decorated, had been done by his mother but I let that one go.  A lot of bachelors have no taste and his place was aesthetically pleasing.  She didn’t have her own bedroom there, at any rate, and if that’s as far as the interference went, I was okay with that.  I didn’t say much either when he would chat with her or spend time with her when she needed something.  All of those things are normal.  She wasn’t intruding on our relationship, she never said much, and she tried to be friendly, which I appreciated.  And anyway, my standards are low then… as Buttface so eloquently put it, this was a step up no matter how I looked at it.  3.0 wasn’t walking around in front of his mother with a boner.

It was just that, as things got more serious and as our talks turned to the future, I began to realize just how much 3.0 really did idolize his mother.  And if that wasn’t enough, I began to understand too how much he really looked up to his twin brother.  If you’ve never dated a twin it’s an eye-opening experience.  You expect them to be close.  But I don’t think you can really understand HOW close.  I never could.  I managed to mitigate it for the most part.  His brother lived somewhere else, and we never saw him.  But when his brother decided that he didn’t like me, fuck, that put the whole relationship in jeopardy.  When his brother decided he wanted to go on a trip with 3.0, and it happened to be a holiday, I was left in the cold.  That was hard… it was annoying… it was frustrating… and it was worse to have none of it acknowledged when I voiced it, but I dealt with it.  I don’t argue anymore.  Not since the divorce, it’s not worth it.  I just take as much as I can take and when I can’t take anymore, I leave.  I hadn’t reached my breaking point yet.  I soon would, but hadn’t yet.

I reached it, though, on the balcony one evening, as we sat, talking.  Our talks turned to marriage and I remember hearing 3.0 tell me that no matter who he married, she would always come third in his life.  His mother came first, then his twin.  I was shocked.  I didn’t know what to do with that.  A normal person would have left.  I SHOULD have left.  That’s not how a marriage works, and if marriage was what I wanted and if this was going to be all wrong, I was wasting my time.  My marriage had failed, but I knew enough to know that for a marriage to work, you have to have your priorities straight… when you marry, your spouse comes first.  That’s the rule.  That’s how it works.  And it cannot be one-sided.

I tried hard to ignore what he said… I couldn’t.  I mitigated the thought of living in a loveless marriage with the fact that I wouldn’t have to work anymore, I could have the kids I wanted, I could live in this posh condo, and I could be free to work on my projects as I liked.  It was a business contract, I reasoned.  I’d give him what he wanted, he’d give me what I wanted, I didn’t need love in the middle of all that.  It was just a paper we’d sign, everything would be fine, I’d live happily ever after with my white picket fence and my cookie business.  What did I need with some silly emotion, anyway?  And yet that nagging voice in the back of my head knew that this is NOT how that is supposed to work.  And even if he ever did manage to bring himself to love me, did I want to be loved by someone that would always place me third in the hierarchy?  Waiting for his mother to die so I could be Number Two?  Always bested by his brother?  Having to compete for his affection?  The answer, despite all the perks, was and is still absolutely not.

As I’ve said before, I am jaded.  I have been through a lot, I have seen a lot, and it seems like it’s never been easy on me.  I don’t expect it to be.  That said, I don’t know what’s wrong with this generation of men.  I’ve either met all of the wrong ones that have all of the mommy issues, or it’s a widespread problem with this generation.  And if it’s not a mommy issue, or at least not directly a mommy issue, it’s an inappropriate closeness with one or more siblings – if your girlfriend, fiancé, wife, etc. has to wonder if she is always going to have to compete with one or more of your family members for your affection, it’s not a good sign.  Period.

Family is important.  No matter where you are, you’re always going to feel some loyalty to them.  As a teacher once said many years ago, home is where they always have to take you in, no matter what you’ve done.  I believe that.    And while I don’t always agree with everything my family says and everything they do, I love them dearly.  And in the beginning of my relationships, the priorities don’t change.  But when the degree of seriousness shifts, the priorities shift as well.  As they should.  Because, I’m beginning to realize, if they don’t, then that person isn’t ready.  Maybe he has his own place, maybe he has a job, maybe he has his shit together, but for all that’s worth, he may as well still be living in his parents’ basement, waiting for the impending family dinner bell to ring, comforted by the familiar and afraid to branch out into something new.

And I don’t have time for that.

Comparison

Life is made up of comparisons.  Whether we like it or not, sometimes the larger part of our likes and dislikes come with experience – we like the steak at this restaurant better than that restaurant.  We like red better than purple.  We like the heel on that shoe better than the heel on that other shoe over there.  If life is a game of experience-gaining, then we take our likes and dislikes, apply them to the here and now, and move forward based on the collective sum of our experiences.  Whether we want to freely admit it or not, it is human nature to take the yardstick of past experience and us it to measure our current situation– gauging whether what we have now is better or equal to what we had before.  Because if it isn’t better, then what we have derived from what we have learned helps us to determine that it isn’t going to work.  If we go to the other restaurant, we won’t like the steak as much.  We’ll end up with a purple shirt even though we HATE purple.  Our feet will be uncomfortable because that heel we didn’t particularly love is pushing our foot up at an odd angle and causing our toes to pinch.  Comparisons are how we function.

And whether we like it or not, we do tend to compare everything – not just the mundane stuff like food, shoes, and colors.  We compare our satisfaction in our workplaces, we compare our weekends to that of our friends.  We compare years – “this year is better than last year but it isn’t as awesome as five years ago.”  We compare weeks, days, everything.  Yes, comparison is a way of life.  It’s how we evaluate our experiences – where we’re at, where we’re going, where we want to be.  And perhaps most of all, no matter how hard we try not to, no matter how adamantly we say we are not going to, because this is what we know how to do, we compare our relationships as well.

And I’m as guilty of it as anyone else.  Take 1.0 for example.  That relationship was a long distance relationship.  My first in college, and while not my first long distance relationship, certainly the one with the most distance.  He was a good guy, but so very far away.  New York City seemed like the end of the world and the limited time that we got to spend together, while fantastic, was simply not enough.  Compile that with the fact that he was shorter than I was, he could not keep it up, and his Jewish family would never see me as anything more than a Shiksa and I knew, after a couple of months, that we were doomed.  It ended – I was determined that no, no matter what I did, I was not going to make comparisons between this one and the next one.  Whenever the next one came along.

Then I met the Professor.  I’ll tell you, I tried.  I tried REALLY hard not to draw comparisons.   I’d love to say I didn’t.  I really would.  Maybe consciously I didn’t.  But subconsciously?  The Professor was everything 1.0 hadn’t been – tall (VERY tall), blond, closer in distance (though still not local – I’d had local at this point, local hadn’t worked out very well, I couldn’t deal with the clinginess (more comparions?)) and definitely had no problems in the bedroom.  Granted we never did much outside of the bedroom.  But it was, truthfully, the extension of the proverbial honeymoon phase.  He was close enough so that we could see each other a few times a week and far enough away so that we didn’t see each other all the time and the newness factor didn’t wear off.  And the sex was good.  I didn’t go to bed frustrated.  And yet, at the time, the emotion didn’t seem to be there.  I found out years later, actually a decade later, that it had been – he’d just had trouble expressing it.  But while all of the physicality was good, I wasn’t getting (or at least I thought I wasn’t getting) the emotion that I needed – that I’d gotten from 1.0.

WASN’T THERE MIDDLE GROUND SOMEWHERE?!

Then I met Mr. Ex.  He was local, he wasn’t clingy.  He had a job.  He was, after awhile, financially stable.  There were some bedroom issues – actually “some” would be an understatement.  But, I was in it for the long haul.  And you know, you’re supposed to deal with those things – it was my job to be sympathetic, right?  We worked on the bedroom issues.  We never fixed the bedroom issues.  And by saying never fixed, I mean it got to the point that I was giving hour long hand jobs because he could not get off any other way.  Even after those valiant efforts, even then he couldn’t get off, and would end up crying about it and blaming me which did not do a bloody THING for my self-confidence, let alone my libido.  Then there was his temper.  Which I won’t detail here.  There’s an earlier blog about that if you’re reading this and you’re curious.

And I gotta say – by about year four, it was becoming very, very difficult NOT to make a comparison to someone.  ANYONE.  I’d visit my friends, they seemed to have a better relationship than I did.  They actually LIKED each other.  The ones that talked about it were definitely having sex more frequently than I was – BETTER sex, sex where their partners weren’t placing blame, shattering self-confidence, crying late at night.  They weren’t dodging flying soda cans or trying to patch holes in the walls or attempting to put doors back on hinges from where they’d been torn off.  God I tried everything not to compare – I cut ties with these happy people, I stopped talking to other people I saw myself dangerously beginning to want to BE with, I threw myself into school and put a façade up that said I was satisfied while on the inside I was seething that my first wedding anniversary present had been a vibrator.  I’d like to say the efforts toward fixing things, not comparing, not giving myself the opportunity to compare, worked – but as we all know, since I am now divorced, it didn’t.  I compared.  When I compared I realized that what I had, in comparison to the way things really probably should be, wasn’t working.  I got out.  Comparison saved my sanity – and the last half of my twenties.

I spent the next year and a half recuperating.  I was in Ohio, as I’ve written.  I was regaining myself, I was rebuilding self-confidence, I was using someone else to help me do that.  I’m not saying it was perfect, I got emotionally involved and I shouldn’t have.  But I did what I needed to do.  By the time I was really ready to get my ass back out there, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the impotence of my ex -husband was absolutely NOT my fault.    I got out there, I dated, I had my mental checklist.  Where did I get that, you ask?  Comparisons, of course.  Yes, it’s ridiculous.  But after what I’d been through, I wasn’t settling for less.

I found someone else.  On paper, he looked good.  He had a good job, made very excellent money.  He was ready to settle down, he had no bedroom issues.  He had a condo in the nicest area of town – in a gated community, with a security guard.  That checklist?  Yeah…he’d have fit every last one of them.  The kicker?  He didn’t have a threshold for emotion.  He could not love.  He could not get sold.  And looking back now at the stuff I’d write occasionally then, I was blind.  I was unhappy, and I knew I was unhappy, but I was so blinded by all the pretty stuff he had that I forgot to look at the stuff that he didn’t.  I tried to tell myself that I could live without the emotion.  I tried to tell myself that the fact that I wouldn’t have to work anymore, that I could live in that pretty little condo in that nice area of town, would be enough.  I lied to myself.  But it was a good reminder.  It kicked my ass back into gear – it reconfirmed what I knew a decade ago – I need emotion.  I don’t need someone to tell me they adore me every second of every day – but I need to know there is SOMETHING there.  He measured up in every way but that one – and it was a big shortcoming.  And, after it had all ended and the dust had settled, I told my friend Mary that I’d decided that I’d rather be with a man who had nothing and yet actually loved me than with a man who had everything but was incapable of loving.  That conclusion came from a comparison, too.

I know this sounds like a big rant.  It’s not intended to be.  The point here is that if I had not been through all of these relationships – some of them worse than others – then I’d still have absolutely no idea of where I want to end up.  Knowing where I want to end up requires comparison.

As dirty as it is, as horrible as it sounds, without comparison, there is no direction.  Without comparison, we’d enter every situation as virgins, our eyes wide open, running into the same brick walls, tripping over the same hurdles, getting caught up in the same impossible situations.  Without comparison we’d never learn.  We’d never know that an 8.5 boot fits us better than an 8 or a 9.  We’d never understand that we like pork bacon better than we like turkey bacon – and even more importantly, why we prefer one to the other.  And as far as relationships are concerned, we’d never quite figure out what we need – we’d be either lucky enough to stumble into something perfect without any effort or we’d end up flailing about, never learning from past mistakes.  Learning takes comparison.

Some of us are lucky enough to figure it out the first time – some of us figure it out after two or three tries.  Others, I’d say the majority of us, really, are not so lucky.  We’re not flailing about – we’re experimenting.  We’re trying things on.  We’re seeing what works.  We’re figuring out from all of these failed, horrible experiences what we can live with in a relationship, and more importantly, what we really need from a relationship to be ridiculously happy.  And if that means we have to take a well-earmarked yardstick and hold it carefully, though discreetly, up to the object of our affections to make absolutely sure that person measures up, then so be it.  Once we find what we are looking for, and as a result of the trial and effort, perhaps the comparison can result in appreciation.

Sold

It’s been a wild week.  Beginning with last weekend, which I spent absolutely and utterly alone doing whatever I wanted to do when I wanted to do it, I set out to write this blog about being alone and okay.  And you know what, I was.  It was great being able to do my own thing and to get up when I wanted, eat what I wanted, make the food I wanted.  And I met someone over the weekend that piqued my interest.  A lot.  We hit it off… it was a connection that I have not had with anyone in a very, very long time.  If ever.

I think we texted pretty much nonstop after that for five days, off and on.  I was happy.  I could see this going somewhere.  At the onset, I knew that what I was looking at was not what I’d just left.  In both bad ways and in good ways.  Let’s start with the good – the guy was good looking (in fact he looked like the first boy I’d fallen for years and years ago), slightly taller than me, and clearly very smart.  He was kind, you could tell.  And because he was a Christian, I knew that he’d have morals and standards that he’d live his life by.  I knew that it’d be different than what I was used to, but different is really, honestly, what I need.

Let’s think about what I just come from.  I had been in a relationship with a man who, on the outside, and on paper, looked perfect.  Perfect condo in one of the nicer areas of town, perfect job, good income, and right from the beginning he made it clear to me that he was more than comfortable thanks to the inheritance he’d received from his father.  I remember the first night I’d stayed over, poking at his mattress that was clearly memory foam and realizing that this was the Tempur Pedic mattress that I’d always wanted and was never able to have.  If this worked, I thought, laying there later, then I’d hit the boyfriend jackpot.

But it wasn’t all that it seemed.  Things were great.  Awesome even on many fronts.  He didn’t get angry, it seemed.  He had a good relationship with his mother.  And the first time we disagreed, his solution to making it okay was to play a game where we said positive things about each other until we ran out of things to say.  And neither of us ran out.  There were red flags, sure, like the fact that when talking about his mother he’d say he really “liked” her instead of “loved” her – when I asked him about this he brushed me off, saying that I knew what he meant.  I guessed I did.  I wondered if he had issues with love, but it was still early and I didn’t want to rush him.

Then we went on vacation for Valentine’s Day to St. Augustine.  And we spent a day, really more like two, seeing the town, looking at the historical things.  It was a fun trip.  And as it had been almost two months since we’d started seeing each other, I was beginning to get attached.  I knew it, I felt it.  And I told him.  His response?  “I’m almost there, hon.  But I’m just not sold yet.  I’m like 90 percent there.”  It ruined the weekend.  It honestly did.  Sold?  What did that mean?  I had had many boyfriends – none of them had ever said that to me before.  And I spent the rest of the next week or two talking to my friends, many of them men, asking them what “sold” meant.  None of them could tell me.  And one even asked why he was in a relationship with me if he wasn’t even sold yet.  I admit, I couldn’t answer the question.  And the question made sense.  But I was determined.  I didn’t want to lose him, I liked him, I was going to do what it took to make it work, to make him sold.  So I redoubled my efforts.

Fast forward two months later, and he’s still not sold.  We’re going to a wedding in Tennessee.  I had agreed to go, thinking that he would be sold by then and I was disappointed that he wasn’t.  I hadn’t wanted to go if he was not.  That meant he was still on the fence.  That meant that all of the effort I’d have to put in to go up there and make it okay would be wasted – and after all, by the time April had rolled around, by his count we’d been seeing each other six months.  By my count, five.  But no matter how I looked at it, it had been long enough.  He should have been sold by then.  I broached the topic in Tennessee, expressing my displeasure at being there with him not being sold.  And miraculously, he assured me that he was.  But even then I wasn’t sure if he was saying that because he meant it or just to pacify me.  And I was soon to find that sold didn’t equal love – I don’t know that I’d ever expected it to equal love.  But it clearly did not.  And as the weekend we spent there went from bad to worse, some of it my fault, some of it due to his oversight on the lodging situation, I realized that going there at all had been a grave mistake.  It had set us back.

And we never seemed to recover.  For the next six months, things got worse and worse, more and more out of hand.  I kept waiting for him to tell me loved me, he never did.  And finally it ended.  The ending is recorded in a earlier post.  I’d said I loved him (and I did), he hadn’t been able to say it back.  I was devastated, but I realized that after a year, if he could not love me, then he never would.  And the more I’ve been reading lately about Aspergers, the more I am convinced that he has a mild form of it – if he can’t say he loves his own mother, then how can he say he loves his girlfriend?

So, when it ended and when I’d healed, I kept looking.  This time I was determined to watch for those early clues – someone who says they really “like” their mother but cannot say they love their mother probably would not be a good fit for me.  I need to pay attention to those red flags. So I set out again, dating.  Broderick was nice, and he met that criteria, but there was no chemistry.  And the chemistry is so important – especially in the beginning.  I could have been friends with him.  I could not have ever loved him.  I knew it as well as I knew that 3.0 never loved me.  And that’s what happens, sometimes, when you date, so I moved on.

Then I met the new guy.  Christian, we’ll call him.  Nice guy, as I’ve said.  And within the first twenty four hours he told me (as part of a conversation) that he loved his parents.  He didn’t seem robotic or emotionally unavailable.  That check mark was easy to give.  But that’s where the similarities between he and 3.0 ended.  Where 3.0 had been settled, successful, Christian was in the middle of a huge transition.  His life was in serious flux.  He’d quit his job to go back to school.  He was living with his parents (at thirty-two).  He was trying desperately to find a job he could do that would mesh with his school schedule which would have him, he said, temporarily working in a restaurant.  On the outset this worried me.  I am thirty years old.  I have a seriously awesome job.  I am comfortable, settled, successful.  Granted, I was not always like this, but I’m here now and I don’t want to leave it.  And truthfully it’s what I’m looking for in someone else.

But, assured that Christian was looking for a job – that he did not WANT to spend his days sitting in his parents’ house, gaming away, that he was trying to move into an apartment here in Tampa, I decided to give it a chance.  And we started talking.  I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a long time, if ever, since I’ve had this kind of connection with someone.  A week later (and it’s his fault that this wasn’t posted in time) and we’re still texting from about the time we get up to the time I pass out in bed.  I don’t tell him everything – I can know you for years and talk to you daily and you still would know only what I want you to know about me – but still, it passes the time.  It makes the days go faster.  And it’s something to get excited about during a long day of work when it’s more of the same routine, over and over.

We went out on Friday night for the first “actual” date.  I’d wanted to see The Hobbit since it had been released and he said he’d wanted to see it too, so we decided that after I got off work, we’d do that. He picked me up at my apartment promptly at seven, I got into his nice, toasty car (it’s been cold down here lately) and we went to the movie theater to check on the times.  It wasn’t coming on until late, we had a lot of time to kill.  And as there were plenty of places to eat nearby, we settled on a steakhouse.  I did something unorthodox and bought dinner.  It’s not something I usually do – but as he did not have a job, I felt bad taking anything more from him than the price of the movie tickets.  And anyway, I’m not hurting for cash anymore –  I can afford to pay it forward a little.  Occasionally.  I don’t and will not make this a habit.

The night went well, though.  We went to dinner, talked, there were silences, but they were not awkward silences.  Just comfortable ones spent sitting in the heated part of his car as I showed him the area where I lived and pointed out some of the places where he might apply for work while he tries to get finished with school.  And the movie was fantastic.  After a night of handholding in the theater and a hug at my door, I was literally glowing.  Two days later, I am still glowing.

And yet, still, there lies the problem.  I am not sold.  A year later, after I was told this myself from a guy I had been sold on, I finally understand what this means.  I like the guy, he’s fun to be around and he’s a really good guy, but he has a lot of circumstances that will make this difficult.  Getting texts from a thirty-two year old man complaining about life with his parents flashes me back to adolescence.  Having his mother call on a date to ask when he’s going to get home are yet another reminder that he has no independence.  The drama of the transition and the drama of the finances and his comment that his mother does not like any of his sister-in-laws remind me of the early period of my relationship with the ex that I did marry.  And the reminder that he does not get along with his brothers and sisters makes me wonder what kind of stability and drama there would be waiting for me if I did decide to get serious about this.  I finally understand where 3.0 was – not that my drama ever has been comparable to this – but to 3.0, it must have seemed that way.

So what am I doing about it?  I am still not sure.  There’s too much of a connection here to ignore it.  I won’t be exclusive.  That I have already made abundantly clear.  There will be no exclusivity until the job thing is cleaned up and he doesn’t live at home anymore.  But the time frame – the time frame I don’t know.  Three months seems too generous.  A couple of weeks, especially given the holidays, doesn’t seem long enough.  Like everything else, I’m riding this out.  I am still talking to the others I was talking to before – I am not changing a thing.  Patience is not one of my better virtues but I also know that my gut never lies and my gut is confused at the moment.  When it reaches a conclusion, I’ll have to trust that I’ll know what to do.  And until then, I guess, there is the cosmic humor of finally learning, after nearly a year, what it means to be “sold”.  I don’t want to go back, I don’t want a do-over because 3.0 was not right for me and I wasn’t happy there.  But if I could revisit that girl in the St. Augustine shower for a minute and enlighten her, I totally would.

The Friend Factor

I’ve been out with Broderick twice now.  Once to the coffee shop, once to dinner.  He’s a nice guy, and when we have a lot to talk about, there’s a lot to talk about.  The silences, though, are awkward and although I can chalk that up to just not knowing each other very well, there is something else that nags at me as I considered the prospect of seeing him again.  When I asked him, last Thursday, what he was doing last weekend, his answer was, “I don’t know.  Probably nothing.  I really need to make new friends, mine have all moved away.”  Sirens, red flags, bells, whatever you want to call them, went off.  For a couple of reasons.  As I’ve said before, I’m an independent woman.  I like to do my own thing sometimes, I like my alone time.  No, I NEED my alone time.  To write, to watch TV, to play World of Warcraft, to do… well… whatever I feel like doing.  I don’t need a lot of it, but I do need some of it.  And, particularly lately, especially when I’m writing, I need that alone time to be uninterrupted with text messages.  And it hasn’t been.

My worry was that if this went further, that things would begin to get out of hand rather quickly.  I’ve seen it before.  I was married to it before.  I married a man (Mr. Ex) who had difficulties connecting with other people he wasn’t one hundred percent comfortable with.  He had a couple of friends – people he’d known since high school – that lived far from him then and who he never saw.  He was reluctant to reach out and meet anyone else, and spent his evenings at home, watching television, playing solitary online poker, or otherwise doing things with me.  In my younger days, I didn’t have the experience to realize that this was a problem.  I let myself become immersed in his world, and drowned myself in the relationship.

Now, I’m not the most sociable person in the world.  I don’t have a million people in my phone book and my Facebook friends list is not ginormous.  But I have people in my life that I’d call close friends now.  And back in those days, I was a much more sociable individual than he seemed to ever have been.  I’d spent my first year in college making all kinds of friends, doing all kinds of things with them.  But when I met Mr. Ex, all of that ended – some of that was due to the fact that I had moved off campus and wasn’t nearby anymore – more of it was because I felt bad (whether he made me feel bad or not) for leaving him alone when I was out having a good time, because when I came back, more often than not, I’d find that he’d gotten lonely or hadn’t found anything good on television or had played too much online poker and had no money left (and was now frantically trying to make it all back – which never succeeded).  And so, one by one, the friends I’d made in college fell off the grid.  They moved away, had their own lives, did their own things.  Of course I was doing my thing too, but as the relationship and later the marriage grew sour, I felt more and more isolated.  When it finally ended, nine years later, I found myself utterly alone in Louisville.

I promised myself, as I sat in my apartment in that solitary city, that I would not let this happen again.  If I dated, one of the requirements for finding someone else would be that he had his own network of friends that he did things with, that he hung out with, or that he could at least talk to when he needed them.  After all, this shouldn’t be that difficult to find.  Most people have at least a handful of friends and I wasn’t looking for a large social network complete with three-hundred plus Facebook friends.  And I dated.  I found people who met those requirements, and while things didn’t work with those people for other reasons, I figured that at least on that front I was doing something right.

When I met 3.0, I was aware that he was more sociable than myself.  I knew that his network of friends was going to be larger than mine, and I was okay with it.  After all, it meant meeting new people, and I’d done all that before.  The seemingly constant house full of people made it difficult after we’d just gotten exclusive, to feel as if I really had gotten to know him at all, but I argued that it couldn’t be something that lasted forever – after all, his brother was in town and was staying there.  People were there to see his brother, and once the holidays were over and his brother had gone back to Tennessee, things would settle down.  And at first, once the new year had rolled around and he’d gotten back from his vacation, that’s the way it seemed.  We spent our weekends together, watching movies, going out, doing things.  We did some things with his friends, even still, but there was never anything so pressing that we felt like we HAD to go to and there was still plenty of alone time, plenty of time for me to get to know him the way I felt I needed to, to really gauge whether the premature decision to become exclusive was really the wisest one.  At the end of the first month, I felt like it had been.

After a month or two, though, the social conflicts began to pop up.  3.0 wanted to hang out with his friends.  And in and of itself, that was not a problem.  As I’ve said, I like my alone time.  I NEED my alone time.  But the amount of time that I have during the week to be with someone is limited and so weekends are important to the overall health of the relationship.  The overall growth of it.  Even if it had been for a couple of hours, this would not have been a problem.  What became a problem was that it was for the entire day on Sundays, and every Sunday, non-cancelable, uncompromisable.  When told that we could “talk” about it, talking about it involved me asking him to do every other weekend and him telling me that was not a fair compromise and that it would be every week or not at all.  And it made him angry that I’d even asked.  I wasn’t happy, but I liked him, and I didn’t want him to be angry at me, and so I dealt with it.  I backed down.

I learned to fill my Sundays with chores – laundry, cooking.  And what time wasn’t spent doing that was spent playing World of Warcraft or otherwise mindlessly watching television.  And that was fine.  I got used to it.  I stopped caring, and even started enjoying the extra time off to do errands or visit people, or just be lazy.  It still bothered me that 3.0 would wake up, have breakfast with me, but any time we may have been able to spend lazing around together would always be cut short by this commitment to a Youtube show that never got off the ground – a second job, essentially.  But I tried to be supportive.  And, at least at first, I still got my Saturdays – those were still days that were spent doing something that we both, at least, enjoyed.

Even now, looking back, though, I can see the downward spiral.  Saturdays began to get compromised – lunches with his mother, friends staying at his house, making plans to hang out with people seemed never-ending sometimes.  We were together, and that was fine, but as the year wore on and he expressed first that he was not sold and later that he could not love me, I grew more and more frustrated with this.  I felt intimidated.  I felt like he was hiding behind these social situations so that he didn’t have to even try or, because I didn’t have much in common with most of his friends, so that he could have things to bring up to me later to tell me that I needed to improve on, to reiterate how inadequate I really was.

And the weddings were the worst.  Not being a fan of those to begin with, it seemed that invitations came in one right after the other.  It was my duty to go, and it was hard to watch couple after couple declare their love for each other when 3.0 hadn’t even so much as indicated that he felt that way – and was indeed expressing that he wasn’t sure he’d ever get there.  But for the people he was closest to and had the most interaction with, I didn’t have a problem accompanying him anyway.  And yet, 3.0 seemed, to be unable to draw the line.  When it came to things like weddings, he went to all of them, indiscriminately, whether he’d talked to the person just last week or if it had been a year ago, whether he knew the person well or not.  My explanation that wedding invitations are sent out as announcements – not necessarily as “real” invitations fell on deaf ears – he’d consult with his friends, his social thermometer, to see what would be acceptable.  And whatever they said, that’s what went.  If I didn’t like it, I didn’t have to go.  Except that if I didn’t go, it was an issue.  And if I did go, my silence (because I didn’t know those people, because I was uncomfortable, or because he had failed to make the proper arrangements ahead of time to ensure that I didn’t have to compromise, at least, my desire for a clean place to sleep) became an issue too.  I could not win.

I began to realize, then, that perhaps there is such a thing as having too many friends.  A social network so large that it becomes unnavigable.   Intimidating, even, to someone who is on the outskirts of it and who, at many times, had been disapproved of by the same group of friends.  There’s getting to know people, but then there’s also having a circle intimate enough so that you at least begin to get to know them on a more personal level.  And yet maybe it wasn’t the circle to begin with.  Maybe the “incompatibility” didn’t rest in the fact that his social circle was larger than mine, but maybe it lay in the way we handled it.  Rather than supporting me, encouraging me, and standing behind me when I didn’t feel the most comfortable or the most confident, perhaps there should have been more reassuring pats on the back, more time spent holding my hand and less time spent circling the room, leaving me to my own devices at the awkward wedding tables.  After all, aren’t couples a team?  Aren’t they supposed to be there for each other?  Isn’t that what they do?

Even after all of this, I still think friends are important, vitally important, to the success of a relationship.  So important that Broderick’s lack thereof sent up some serious red flags – enough to make me back away and rethink seeing him again.  I never want to be put in a situation where I have to feel as if I’m the “only one” someone else has.  That’s a lot of pressure to put on a person who is so independent.  On the flip side, though, the last thing I need is to be made to feel inadequate because I can’t fit in with a certain crowd or because I’m quieter or because maybe I simply would rather be doing something else.  Because, as I’ve said on numerous occasions since this split, I am not inadequate, I am not doing anything wrong, I am who I am and that’s all I can ever hope to be.

And I believe that I’ll find what I’m looking for – eventually: a middle ground.  A situation where there is a social network to compliment the relationship I’m in, but a social network that doesn’t strain the relationship to the point of breaking.  Isn’t that what the friend factor is all about, anyway?  Having people who build you up, rather than tear you down?  Who don’t ask from you more than you should ever need to give?  And isn’t, in essence, a relationship simply a deeper level of friendship in the first place?  Who says you should give up the friends you have for it, but on the other hand, who says you should allow your social network to stampede over the relationship in the first place?  It’s about priorities and compromise.  But even more, it’s about one supplementing the other, making it better, making the whole person more complete.

Here We Go Again

It’s been two weeks since my birthday, and since the breakup.  I’ve been working diligently on getting things back in order – buying groceries to restock my pantry since I hadn’t needed to over the last year, replacing things that I’d left at his place and didn’t want him to return (for the singular reason that he bought them for me when things were good and I didn’t want the reminder).  I’ve spent my time catching up with old friends, sometimes being the sympathetic ear they needed – and incidentally I’ve found that the fastest way to make yourself feel better is to help someone else out.  I’ve also spent a large amount of time familiarizing myself with the DVR setup on my cable.  Anything to distract myself, since the quiet times are the hardest.  And since I’m unequivocally good at entertaining myself, distraction hasn’t been difficult .

But the fact remains: to say I’ve fully recovered, I have to get back out there.  And I hate dating.  Being a woman, you’d expect the opposite – free meals, good conversation, a good excuse (sometimes) to play dress-up.  But being independent it’s difficult to let someone buy me a meal, I’m not much for dressing up, and often the conversation on a date feels like a more casual job interview.  And certainly a less definitive one.  With a job, I know what I’m there for.  I come away from a date, at least usually, no clearer about what this person wanted from me than I was when I went into it.  And no matter how well (or not well) the date went, there’s the agonizing after-party effects.  Will he call?  What will I say if he does?  If he doesn’t, why?  Did I say something wrong?  Was my mascara smeared?  Lipstick on my teeth?  And I’ve already noticed a distinct difference in the amount of interest I get as a thirty year old woman – which declines even more the minute I tell them I’m divorced (even though the marriage itself didn’t last that long and I don’t even think about it anymore).  Yes, dating this time may be an uphill battle.

To top it all off, it’s been nearly a year since I last went on a “real” date.  The kind where you didn’t have any real idea of where anything was going, you weren’t in a relationship, and you didn’t have the security of knowing that since you were in a relationship you could just as easily end the evening by sitting on the couch in flannel pants, vegging out to potato chips, and watching some crazy thing on the TV rather than some awkward moment spent at your front door, trying to determine whether or not you were about to get kissed.  I remember the rules, but I don’t know which of them apply to this new situation.  In my twenties, it didn’t matter that I was divorced (or seemed to matter less), unsettled, in transition.  Now that I’m thirty, even though I still look like a twenty-something, that divorce combined with my age often becomes more or less a dealbreaker – even from men who are also in their thirties.  Those days of vegging out on the couch in my flannel pants with someone… I’m worried they’re gone forever but am attempting to remain optimistic.

It’s the optimism that had me sitting in a Starbucks on Sunday, writing this post.  An earlier entry divulged that I reactivated my OKC profile – albeit to less pomp and circumstance than I had when I activated it last year.  I’m chalking that up to being thirty and also to posting fewer photos of myself scantily clad in a swimsuit.  One of the first to message me was someone I’d been talking to last year, but hadn’t met.  We talked a little, he asked me if I wanted to meet, I said sure, and there I was – an hour early, so I could blog – waiting for him.  The confirmation text came in an hour ahead of time, I responded.  Here we go.

This would have been simpler, though, had I not logged on to OKC Saturday night.  When I posted the profile this time, I’d gone to great lengths to protect myself.  Since that’s where 3.0 and I had met, it was only natural that he would go back to it as well.  Eventually.  It was a gamble to put myself back up there at all, but I was betting on having more time.  And I thought that if I created a completely new profile, I’d be safe.  That if he put his back up, I’d be none the wiser about it, we’d travel in our circles, one of us would hook up, that’d be the end of it.  I lost that gamble.  Call it shitty luck, call it fate, call it history repeating itself, but the exact same situation presented itself to me when I logged in.  There he was, in my recent activity feed, reactivating his profile, adding new pictures.  And because I am a masochist, I clicked on it.  And then whatever recovery progress I’d made was done, over, gone. I’d been holding it together so well for the last two weeks, and then that dissipated.  I was reduced, for a second, to tears.  And I cried about the same amount of tears I’d produced when it actually ended.  That’s a lot for me.  I hastily made myself stop, hid his profile, made sure he would never appear in that feed again – that is the last thing you want when you’re trying to move on.  And I tried to forget, but I couldn’t.  But god did I try –I watched TV, called some friends, did some laundry and cleaning, even thought about putting together a hookah but realized that I didn’t need to use my vices to forget it.  The pain would still be there when all of that was over and done with anyway.

The next morning, per the advice of my friends, I shut him down.  I didn’t block him, and I won’t block him.  But I hid his Facebook statuses from myself – all of his posts, everything.  I debated on whether to block him altogether, but decided against it.  For the moment, he hadn’t done anything to warrant that – he wasn’t trying to contact me, wasn’t trying to be in my way.  But as some of my stuff is still at his house, I needed to leave those lines open.  For the time being, not having any idea of who he’s with or what he’s doing seemed to be the most advisable path to take.  If I need to shut things down more, the option is always there to do that.

Even still, though, I realized the second his profile came across my feed that that discovery would make this first date particularly difficult.  It would have been difficult anyway, the first date after a breakup (no matter how long it’s been) usually is because you realize that you’re going from the luxury of the full disclosure that comes with a relationship to the awkwardness of meeting someone new.  But that understandable awkwardness combined with the hurt I was feeling was a challenge I was unsure I had the stomach for.  But the plans were there, they’d been made, and they were probably a year coming.  And so I kept them.  Partially because I don’t break dates and partially because I felt that this person might actually be a fit.  If I could bring myself to acceptance and a better outlook within 17 hours, that is.

A little about him: he’s 31, and a second grade teacher.  He grew up in Clearwater but has a house here in Tampa.  We live in the same area of town and both have cats.  He designs and manages the website for his elementary school and also does the technical education for the other teachers – a task he says can be as difficult as the job I have with the insurance agents.  When we talked last year there were plenty of levels to connect on – when we talk this year, we find the same.  I guess it doesn’t hurt that my family is full of teachers – that’s actually a career I sort of understand.  And he sort of looks like Matthew Broderick.  To that end, in any future posts (if there’s anything to post about), I’ll be calling him Broderick.  Until I think of something better.

I sat there, in that Starbucks, waiting for him and wondering why I was even doing this.  Broderick is a nice guy, and yet I felt like I was cheating, even though there is no longer anyone to cheat on, and despite the fact that I have been having conversations and chats with 2.0 that I would never have had with anyone while in my prior relationship.  3.0 is still so prominently in my mind that even though I’ve come to terms with the fact that the reasons why things ended were, for the moment anyway, too large to deal with within the confines of the relationship itself.  Ultimately, though, I do not want to be alone – I am not a woman that defines herself by the man she is with, and I don’t need a man to be happy, but I can’t ignore the fact that a relationship is one of those “nice to have” things that I really don’t want to do without for the rest of my life if I can possibly help it.  The only solution to this is to get back out there.  And sooner rather than later, as the clock on my availability seems to be ticking – who knew that your thirties could be “no man’s land” (literally)?

I pride myself on my acting abilities.  And I am a firm believer in the “fake it till you make it” concept.  This is not the hardest thing I have ever had to do, not by far.  But this singular blip of drama in the last few years of a relative drama-free existence is still a challenge.  I know that half the battle to being okay is to convince myself that I AM okay, to get back out there, pretend that it’s all a non-issue, and it will eventually BE okay.  The “fake it till you make it” concept might not have worked in my previous relationship when I was walking around, coping by pretending that he’d already told me he loved me when he hadn’t (and never did) – I didn’t take into consideration the fact that there was another person’s emotions involved in the overall success of the concept in that situation – but in this phase of the game, in this era, the only factor I can control is myself.  Fortunately, when it comes to the dating game where everything else is so fickle and unstable, I am the only factor that really matters.

And surprisingly it went well.  Like we thought, we did hit it off on so many levels.  We agreed that we should do it again, but I am stifling my “jump the gun” nature and will wait for his texts.  Maybe he’ll call, maybe he won’t.  But no matter what happens, this date has already done a couple of things for me.  First, it made me realize that I really can do this.  I can meet someone else, I can have coffee with them, and I can find things to talk about.  I can smile, I can laugh, I can joke around, and I can spend an hour and a half meeting someone new and not thinking about what I could have or could not have had.  Secondly, because we did hit it off so well, I realized that the end of 3.0 is certainly not the end of everything.  It’s not easy to find that connection, especially not now with so many black marks against me, but I can get along with other people.  There is a chance.  And like so many other things with this decade, I do not know what the future will bring.  But I do know that no matter what it throws at me, I’ll be okay.

Recovery

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.

Housecleaning

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.