My ex-boyfriend (Don’t Answer, his given name) (not my ex-husband) from thirteen years ago sent me an email yesterday, subject line: Star Trek, content: “Remember when we used to get stoned and watch Star Trek? Those were the good ole days ☺ I miss them-and you….” I didn’t respond. That wasn’t the first email, text or even phone call of that kind I’d received from him over years. However, they have intensified in content and frequency, assumingly since the dissolution of my marriage to Jack. I guess he hasn’t heard the full story, as he mentioned to a mutual friend that he thought I’d gotten divorced because my husband cheated on me. Our friend remained quiet, although she knew the truth-my husband was faithful. (There was a time when I wished with tightly pressed eyes for Jack to stray, as it seemed like the only safe exit out of my marriage without suffering any guilt. I basically tried forcing him into it without ever saying a word, but he always remained true. I probably would’ve felt guilty then too, I’m prone to it. )
I’ve received numerous, remorseful and random communications from Don’t Answer, the name I assigned his number on my caller ID, most of them professing his love for me and recalling all the mistakes he’d made. In a sick way, (sick because now he’s the one suffering-not very compassionate of me, I know, but it’s the truth) I enjoy his lonely attempts at reuniting with me but I also feel sorry for him and his inability to embrace reality. Whenever I see his name appear my skin crawls with Amazon night-insects as I shift back to the immature, insecure and naïve girl that resides under layers of time and self -realization.
On the same day, I was filling out an “about you” questionnaire/profile for an organized, group travel vacation that Susan and I are taking in May. It asked my relationship status-simple enough to push my insecure button. The pull down menu only allowed the following answers: single, dating, in a relationship, domestic partner, or married. I was stumped because I didn’t know which one to choose, although we’ve been dating 16 months. I decided to check my girlfriend’s status to see which one she’d picked, thinking my answer should be comparable to hers. (I’m not sure why I couldn’t just answer for myself, but I didn’t want to be presumptuous.) I discovered that she’d skipped that question and a few others entirely, feeling hurt, and rejected, I decided to ignore it as well. Later that day I sent her half joking, but all the same, an accusing text asking why she didn’t answer the question. Apparently, she wasn’t aware that she’d by- passed a few, as she was preoccupied during the process. I understood, dropped the topic, and went about my day. Unbeknownst to me, she went back and filled out the form, clicking “in a relationship” as her relationship status.
That evening, during dinner, she interviewed me about my reaction to the email from Don’t Answer. I’d told her about it, and how hearing from him reminded me of how much I hated myself when I was with him. She wanted to know how I punished myself by being in a relationship with him. She was inquisitive about the depths of my “straight” psyche in relation to him because he had so much control over me. As she asked me, (when I look back now-today) I felt myself detaching once again, from my words as I tried unsuccessfully to explain. She was honest with me when she told me she felt like I was only giving her bits and pieces, and that it seemed like I was withholding information. I mixed words with concepts as I tried to understand, but failed to communicate because I couldn’t find the emotions, or rather I couldn’t face them, and that inability temporarily choked out the opportunity for love. It was shame that clenched tightly around my throat, grabbed my tongue and closed in around us. I was afraid and embarrassed for her to completely know how disrespectful I was towards myself during that time, I was fearful of disappointing her or worse, losing her love. In my state of discomfort and need to connect with her, I told her I would write about it in hopes to reveal my distant nature to her. She agreed.
We changed the subject, finished dinner and went home to relax in the solitude of our day. We were reading the messages on our group vacation board when I noticed that she’d filled in the relationship status portion of her profile. I was ripe with uncertainty and bruised by my “issues” from the day’s events-sinking lower I fired off my deadliest weapon, my questioning. I felt ashamed for being insecure, and threatened by my own thoughts. I let my fears engulf us like a wicked desire. I felt ridiculous for thinking maybe I should pick “domestic partner” as my status when she had only checked “in a relationship,” and I was intent on defending the semantics. I mused to myself quietly how she was the scared one, with the hot burned lesson keeping her hands mitted but I was really just terrified that she would abandon me because of who I once was, and who I still am at my worst. She said I get nine steps ahead and push too hard. (I’ve heard that before, and not from just her.)
Our words volleyed until she played with a softness that resonated the cracks of my tarnished soul, I tried turning out the lights but I couldn’t ignore it, she had already reached me. She asked me if I felt her love, and if I could see it in her actions towards my kids. I knew she was right but I was fighting for and looking for a reason for her not to love me. Why? I guess it’s because I felt disgusted at the memory of myself for signing up for a role in the horror of a past relationship, and for getting lost in the words and ignoring the facts, and for getting caught in my archaic loop of unworthiness.
Although I’ve aged and changed since my sentence with Don’t Answer agonizingly came to a long end, there’s still a part of me that recognizes and relates to that person inside me. I know that I still have the ability to fall back on old patterned behaviors, however now they manifest in much healthier ways. Thankfully, I have the ability to hold my insecurities instead of letting them get the best of me. I feel discomfort knowing I enabled someone to treat me so poorly, but I’m also empathetic, as I know I just didn’t have enough awareness, or self worth to know better. I love and trust myself, and have for the most part, come to terms with the pieces of me I’m fearlessly willing myself to share. (It’s my theory that we can never outrun ourselves, and that we must face who we are, forgive ourselves of the things that make us ashamed, and move forward, building more trust and self acceptance. We all have the ability to be more vulnerable which feels counter intuitive, and it requires courage, yet it is the only thing that will ever free us, and I shall be free.)
I was in an adolescent relationship with him that, from the get go, was sublime with disrespect and dysfunction. We first met when I was fifteen on the front porch of a private school in Atlanta, Ga. I didn’t go to school there but knew of him from friends from camp. It was the spring of 89’, and I was wearing a clover green leprechaun hat because it was March 17, St. Patrick’s day, and I was tripping hard on LSD. I was with five other kids and we’d stopped by the school to pick up the sixth. (I remember feeling jealous and in awe of the kids who went to private school. I was wild with wonderment at their mysterious lives and wanted so badly to be “them.”) We were headed to Philly, stocked with liquid acid dropped sugar cubes for our road trip, our rage against authority, our attempt at overthrowing our perceived, miserable lives. (One of the girls was pregnant and the couple didn’t want to tell their parents, they decided that running away was the better solution. I was gullible and bored; and in search of anything other than life with my mother, but that day I looked just like her.) To be continued.