Not Enough

He is going to leave. This thing that never got off the ground is going to end. I spent so many hours this spring agonizing over this, and he was all the time going to leave.

I need to find my center again. I wasn’t ready. All fall I wasn’t ready. When we went out at Christmas I wasn’t ready. When we went out in February I wasn’t ready. End of March was terrible, and I tried and tried to get over him in April. It worked, I was done, I was ok, we were chill, and then he came back and pulled me back in, just to tell me he is going to leave??? What the hell is going on in his head?

I need to know that he didn’t mean to mess with my head. I don’t even know if he realized that. Maybe he does now? He hasn’t texted me to play at all since we talked. He said, good to hear that, and then stopped communicating.

I need to make this decision. It is no longer good enough for me. I am so fucking weak though, if he texted me again I would be right back in it. How can I make myself strong enough to cut it off after I spent a whole year learning to be patient and accept the slow pace and keep myself open? How do you balance that?

How do you balance that – keeping yourself open to whatever happens, while also taking care of yourself? I don’t want to close myself off, but I can’t live with being hurt all the time. Maybe I need to ask myself why it hurts. What weight of expectations, projections, am I putting on this that don’t need to be there? Some part of me still believes that I can move the needle with my mind. I still haven’t given up control.

But, then again, how do I live like that and also tell someone honestly what I need in a relationship? This is so hard.

Yesterday was odd – I spent the morning just agonizing, in physical pain, for several hours, and then suddenly, magically, it lifted. The sense of relief felt literally magical. That is the part I need to learn to do deliberately. I can recognize it now as my old habit – my misery, the flashes of jealousy and envy and anger and just flat out pain – why pain? When it happens, I feel unloved, abandoned, alone, worthless, jealous. But why? When I know it’s ok? I forget during those hours. It’s ok to be rejected. He is great, he is not ready, he is not right for me now. Not enough for me. I don’t need the control, I need to just be able to see how it doesn’t work.

I think that is the next conversation. I need to tell him I know that. That he is great, that I like him, that he is not enough. I am scared to walk away knowing it might never come back together.

 

Turning off my heads-up display

So it seems that my sort-of, not-really, it’s-complicated relationship has ended. And the boy in question made it worse by still not owning up to any of his feelings or behavior. He spent almost a year texting me pretty much daily, taking me on dates, inviting me to his house, and repeatedly (three times?) telling me everything was ok when I tried to back away and give him an out.

I’m sad – I really care about him, and I was starting to entertain fantasies of some sort of future. I’m going to miss him – we are pretty compatible, and I enjoyed spending time with him and talking to him and I loved our multiple inside jokes. I’m hurt that he is behaving badly. I expected more from him, and I’m pissed that he is being an emotional coward in this situation.

But also, my pride is hurt. I don’t want to be rejected, I don’t like it. I want to be wanted. I am resisting the urge to call him up and plead my case – no, really, I’m great! Here are 50 reasons why you should be with me and I will argue with you until you give up and stay! I’m simultaneously holding myself back from torching all that remains of our connection in a fiery ball of pique and spite. I want to tell him, in all the most precise and unkind ways I can conjure, about his issues and his failures, to ensure that he is hurting just as badly as I am right now.

But instead I am writing here.

And this situation, again, I have to remind myself over and over, is of my own making. I wasn’t ready (still am not!) for a full-blown relationship. I was ok with this long, drawn-out, tenuous connection. I could practice my new opening-up-appropriately skills with him, learn to ask for what I need, learn to tell him when my feelings had been hurt. My friend and my therapist asked me several times this year how long this would be acceptable, this not-relationship, and each time I thought about it and understood that it was still ok with me, each time.

This time though, we had an in-person conversation, and I said many of the same things I said in emails and texts with him over these past months, and this time – I was expecting more. Not some kind of declaration of love, but maybe one of like? Or at least the desire to see where this would go? Or an acknowledgement of what we have, even if it’s not traditional. But he wasn’t able to give me that.

I’ve been working so hard on myself this year, and I deserve to be with someone who is able to open up to me. He is not ready, and may never be. He is buried in children, activities, work, and I know you can skim along on that for years, never looking up long enough to see whether you are happy, or lacking something. He never slows down.

And this time, for me, that is not enough.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I used to change lightning fast! I loved it, my head spinning with the blinding changes I went through as a teen and in my early twenties. I would learn something new; a new philosophy or some information about the world that would instantly and radically alter my beliefs, my values, and my perception of experience. I remember telling a friend that I felt like an entirely new person every six months or so. It was exhilarating and disorienting.

This pace of change slowed down as I hit my mid-twenties – I was an entirely new person maybe every year or two – and then, in my thirties, I thought it had largely stopped. I figured I was the person I am going to be. In my early forties I changed when I got divorced; I am no longer the person I was in that marriage, but it took years and long agonizing hours of introspection. I grew up into a functional adult (for the most part) – raising my children also changed me but there was barely time to pause, let alone reflect on who I was and why I was here.

But this spring it happened again. I changed, subtly shifted myself, in an instant. I didn’t think it could still happen, and I am still mildly amazed.

Much of the therapy I did this year centered on opening up to people. I was a hot emotional mess of an over-sharer in my twenties, but then when I married, my ex-husband was so cold and so contemptuous that I closed myself off. I stopped letting everyone in. I stopped letting anyone in. I closed all the doors and over-functioned, taking care of my children and my job and the kids and parents at my volunteering place, and I didn’t let anyone see inside me at all.

I tried to let my ex-boyfriend in, but I was so used to concealing myself, my wants and needs, that our relationship skimmed along on the surf, neither of us willing to let the other look into the depths. And when that became not enough for either one of us, we looked at each other and realized how far away we were from each other, and we didn’t survive the differences. Even worse, on my part, once I saw the relationship falling, I activated my defenses built in my marriage – it was so easy for me to close up again.

So the first, biggest, and turns out pretty much the only order of therapy business was to get me to try and open up to people. My amazing therapist gave me homework – talk to one friend about one struggle I am having. That sort of thing. And I tried, and tried, and it sort of worked, to a degree. But there was still something wrong, it wasn’t enough, still a sense of unease. It wasn’t until May, when I was lying in bed reading on my phone one early morning, unable to sleep, that a sentence on Twitter of all places shifted my world. It said, referring to something else entirely, embrace the uncertainty. And suddenly, in an instant, I changed. The page turned.

My entire life I prided myself on being black or white, shit or get off the pot, you’re on the bus or you’re off the bus. I saw people who lived in the shadowy in-between as weak. Commit or leave, I didn’t see the problem. But I was, am, so fundamentally wrong. I have been embracing this wrong idea my whole life.

I feel like a baby walking around again. The whole point IS the uncertainty. It took me almost five goddamn decades to see this clearly. It has changed everything. I don’t have to fight the uncertainty anymore, charging ahead blindly to the end of the race where, what, who knows what, is waiting for me – security, finality, I don’t even know what I thought would be there?

Not put up with the uncertainty, not deny or muffle the uncertainty, but embrace it. Swim in the uncertainty, open up to the ocean and swim.

So now the new work begins.

Lonely

Parenting teenagers is a lonely business. I have time in the summer, much more time than I usually get in the school year, and yet I spend most of my time alone. I am lonely in this season. My teenagers want me around to make food and drive them places, but much of the time (and currently) they are shut in their rooms. I want to make plans with them, but they refuse to go. I will not drag them hiking or travelling – my daughter especially is an expert at ruining vacations when she does not want to be there.

I’m a little at loose ends myself these days. I think I need a hobby. To say this in the context of my life sounds laughable in the extreme, because I had a hobby. I loved it passionately, and it took over my life, and it has become my work and my career and is no longer my hobby. This is good in a way, I am able to be deeply invested in the work that I do, and it is a huge privilege to be able to make my living doing this thing that I love, but … now I need a hobby.

I have done many, many things in my life, and I’m not sure that I want to take any of them back up as a hobby. Martial arts? Done that. Knitting/sewing/crafting? Yup. Yoga? Check. Hiking? Well … it’s something I love and still do, but it’s not a hobby. I need something that will engage my mind … wow, I think that’s it. I am bored. Bored of parenting, bored of my job, bored of my life. I am boring right now. Ugh.

I spent this last year paring down – fewer commitments, fewer acquaintances; I practiced saying no a lot. But the frantic running around kept me too busy to think. I have a lot of time to think right now, which is good, right? Except not – and I am bored.

Bored has historically been dangerous for me. I tend to run when I’m bored, or blow up my life in pyrotechnic fashion, and then run. I can’t run now, I am too tied to this place, and my kids, and my job. I don’t want to blow up my life, I am finally in a place I love, with some good friends around me, and I have learned so much about myself over the last year. I am trying to be open, to be vulnerable, to listen to myself and my anxieties and my terror of being alone, being left. The only way out is through.

Which all means I’m going to have to deal with it and find myself a hobby.

 

A year of me

I’ve been working for almost a year now on this project of me. I swore to myself when I got out of my last relationship that I would stay single for at least a year, and I (sort of, largely, it’s complicated) have. I got myself a therapist, and I’ve actually listened to her and have done so many hard and necessary things this year.

I went to therapy not in crisis. It was a weird experience, deciding what to talk about instead of just head-down dealing with the latest misery. I recognized that I desperately need some adjustments to the way I operate in relationships. We did the kind of relationship work I had read about and dismissed as too difficult in the past, and it had been, up until now, too difficult. But being not in crisis, and not in (sort of, it’s complicated) a relationship, turned out to be the ideal time to try and change.

All sorts of cliches and metaphors come up – I made myself an emotional chrysalis, I carved myself out from the stone prison of my defenses, I finally nurtured that goddamn inner child of mine – but however I put it, it’s all good.

And the sort of, not really, it’s complicated, relationship I am in has been the avenue for a bunch of the work I needed to do. Reaching out instead of withdrawing when I feel hurt, calming my anxiety and talking myself down instead of lashing out when I feel neglected, and learning to forgive, when appropriate, both him and myself.

It’s so hard for me to forgive! I had no idea I was even holding on to all these slights, current and in the distant past. I’ve been working on forgiveness with my friends as well; I’m amazed at the layers of shell I’ve spit out around myself. I thought I was easy-going, chill, all good, but it turns out that I get stuck, replaying the slights over and over, for years. And instead of forgiveness, or confrontation, I just make the air between us ever so slightly chillier, so that the feelings can’t get through, and the connection, the real, true connection, is lost. I am angry with myself for doing this, not even realizing I was doing this, to myself and my friends and my relationships. I honestly don’t know how to have an emotionally open relationship. So I’m practicing, with friends, with my not-relationship.

And figuring out what I need. What do I need? Who knows? I am so annoyed that I fell into the middle-aged woman trap of doing everything for everyone else to such an extent that she loses herself completely, but fuck, here I am. So part of this year has been to slow down, start saying no, let others take over, and ask myself, what do I want?

I want to live near the water. I want meaningful work. I want to continue my projects to the extent that they do not compromise my life anymore. I want to reach out to a circle of friends that I connect with deeply, and know that they are there. I want to stay myself in a relationship.