I couldn’t bring myself to focus on Dana for more than about 20 minutes, and didn’t want to take the time to come back and post what I’d written in them. Today, things look better.
my dear, I have nothing to say.
my heart burns
like the evening sky.
– Sanober Khan
The keenest sorrow is to recognize ourselves as the sole cause of all our adversities.
Dana and I rushed our decision to get married by quite a bit, but not because we were fools that wanted to rush in. For us, it was completely rational. We’d been best friends for three and a half years, and in this new iteration of our relationship, we decided that we wanted to be a family. It had so much less to do with romance and more to do with wanting no one to be able to say that we couldn’t visit each other in the hospital, that we couldn’t make life decision for each other if one of us got hurt, and even this was rational, because everyone in our biological family was at least a 2-3 hour flight away. For Dana’s parents, it was a lot more than that. DC to Portland is not an easy trip. We each wanted family that was right there. As I have said before, it seemed like the most natural thing I’d ever done in my life, because I knew what contract I was signing. I knew I was agreeing to take care of my best friend for the rest of her life, God willing and the creek don’t rise.
And, well, it did.
Today would have been our eighth anniversary, and my heart is absolutely bleeding out. I have gone over and over all the things I did to push Dana away instead of bringing her closer, and it’s a rare form of torture, all the feelings that plague me. Of course it takes two to tango, but I’m not focusing on that. I am focusing on me, and the things I don’t want to do wrong in my next relationship, God willing that it happens. Because of all the mistakes I made with Dana, I am very gunshy about being in romantic relationship with anyone. I hide in solitude for a reason. I am very capable of hurting someone without meaning it, or popping off in anger and trying to hurt someone as badly as they’ve hurt me. It’s a wrong-headed way of going through life, and I want no part of it anymore.
I kick myself for ever telling Dana anything about my relationship with Argo. Just anything. Because as Diana Gabaldon wrote in the first Outlander novel, “secrecy deserves honesty, but always respect.” I went off on a tangent in which the relationship couldn’t sustain, and I thought that Dana knew that down deep, that I had a lot of shit to own and move past, but my fidelity and actions belonged to her. Instead, it turned into a fight of gigantic proportions and blew us apart with one bomb after another, including the completely ridiculous assumption that Argo was struggling with the same feelings as me. I knew for a fact that she wasn’t, but I trusted Dana to the ends of the earth, and there was a nagging feeling within me that she might be right. If I’d kept the relationship with Argo on the downlow, I could have worked all that shit out in solitude, and it wouldn’t have given Dana so much ammunition to use against me when we fought. The reality is that I couldn’t know all of Argo. I could only know the face she presented to me through e-mail. So “love” was relative. I loved the idea of her way more than I loved the reality, because I didn’t know what it was.
That idea should have lived in my head, but I had never kept anything from Dana and when I let her into this part of my life, it was a fucking disaster. Just crying and moping all the time because I did not know how to navigate living in the cloud and on the ground at the same time. I chose the ground because I could see it. Living in the cloud was allowing my crops to wither, and I reached into my own heart and pulled out the piece that belonged to Argo, and it was the first time I’d ever done such a thing. Have you ever broken your own heart? It is so much worse than when someone else does it. I cut off all contact, because I realized that energy that was supposed to be Dana’s was going toward Argo at an alarming rate, because I felt she understood a side of me that no one else did. The truth is that Dana understood that part of me, too, but she was less vocal about it. I thought we were hand fasted into a truly shitty club, but as I strayed further and further away from her emotionally, I realized that we were; she just didn’t want to talk about it, or minimized it in a way that Argo never did. Because Argo understood me, I tried so hard to cut off contact and I never could. I wasn’t strong enough, and I’m still not. There’s a hole in my heart with both of them as I accept all the things that have gone down over the last two or three years…. all the things that are clearly mine to own in the ending of this relationship that have nothing to do with Dana and only my wrong-headed actions and reactions.
I should have realized that protecting Dana from my relationship with Argo was more important than rocking the stability of our relationship. I should have realized that even though Dana and I were married, that didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to have my own friends, my own conversations, simply my own, period. We didn’t have to come as a package deal in all things. I say this because now the “love feelings” Argo created in me with her life raft of enormous proportions are now a distant memory, and would have become so whether I was married or not. The love I felt for Argo never meant to me that I was out the door with Dana, only a problem I needed to resolve, because my conversations with Argo allowed me to be a better partner to Dana, as well. Argo wasn’t interested in hearing about those love feelings, because they scared her. But what she would talk about with me is all the ways I was being a jackass in my relationship with Dana, and it helped immensely. I began to focus on the ways that Argo cared about me in a deep friendship sort of way, and when Dana couldn’t see that, I pushed Argo away with such vitriol that I will never forget the way I behaved, and I’ve said I’m sorry a million times over, but that “I’m sorry” cannot come with empty words. They don’t mean anything unless my behavior changes to match it.
I cannot help but think that it might have happened with Dana as well, that an “I’m sorry” with changed behavior might have saved our relationship so that today would have actually been our eighth anniversary instead of me looking at it as a day of remembrance.
I am choosing to focus on all the laughter we had together in order to dig myself out of the mess I made on the way out. There were so many years where we made each other double over, laughing so hard no sound could come out. Those are the memories I want to take with me, because if I focus on everything that went wrong, this day will not bring me peace, which I have striven to create in myself.
I have said before that I want to walk humbly and hope that grace prevails, but grace does not mean contact with Dana. Grace means peace within myself over all that happened so I can bless and release it into the universe and have the universe call it good. For extremely personal reasons, I cannot let Dana into my life again, but I can remember all the joy she brought into my life. I could see that my life was running off the rails and my exit was necessary. All I will say is that I will not let Dana off the hook for her abusive behavior any more than I will let myself. It was great right up until it wasn’t, and we were fighting against each other instead of taking care of each other like we’d done previously.
I am sure that my treatment of her family didn’t help, but they put me into a corner and I lashed out butt-good. I should have realized that Dana didn’t need protecting, but I thought she did, and I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. Maybe now, not so much, but at the same time, I cannot go back and undo anything. I can only say for myself that I thought I was being the protector and advocate, when in reality I was just filled with rage at how Dana was being treated. I let that rage out, when I should have gone into my nothing box and tried to say the same thing with calmer words. But by that point, there were no calmer words. I’d said all the calm words I could think of and it didn’t get the point across, and when that happened, I lost it.
The good thing that came out of it was that Dana bonded with her family even closer, because now they had a common enemy. I don’t like that I was the enemy, but I do like that whatever it was that I said got through and they didn’t treat Dana the way they had previously. Sometimes boiling rage can be a good thing if used properly, but it wasn’t, clearly. It just created one more crack in our foundation, but for the record, at least Dana’s family realized that I needed her as much as she needed me and they couldn’t divide and conquer…. or could they?
It is something I will always ponder, but at the same time, it goes in the memory box just like all the other ways in which Dana’s presence and absence affect my life. One thing I have learned is that I am stronger than I thought I was, because this thermonuclear war of a breakup didn’t break me. It only reinforced the fact that I was right. The relationship was great for me in some ways, and awful in others, and in the end, the awful won out and I rebounded from it alone in my grief, rather than trying to cover it up with partying, other relationships, and the things people generally do when they’re too sad to function.
I’ve sat in my pain and worked it the fuck out, because again, changed behavior is the key to saying you’re sorry. I look back on the moments in which I raged and just cringe that I let my anger boil over in the first place…. and forgive myself because through all of my hospitalization and therapy I realized I did not have the tools to deal with anger and I needed to develop them. These emotional tools did not come overnight, because deep-seeded rage had been bubbling since I was a teenager and I let it out in the most inappropriate of ways.
I wish that Dana could know the person that I am instead of the person that I was, but that is not to be. What is to be is a peace and grace that passes all understanding, because I have prayed my way through the fucking mess. Sitting in it was the right thing to do, because I don’t think I’ll ever be capable of moving backward…. something that would have been imminent had I not recognized my own destruction and dealt with it.
Back in the day, I thought of both Argo and Dana as my rocks and my redeemers. That’s the part I take with me, instead of all the anger. They were my world, in the best sense of the word, but now I am, and I am enough.
Learning to rely on myself and my own intuition cost me months of self-reflection, but it was worth it. Because today was just a regular day, filled with a few memories and a celebratory Valentine’s Day heart filled with Twix. Now there’s a plastic heart that sits on my desk, and I know what it represents. Sweet freedom. Literally.