Yesterday was hard for me, because I remembered what it was like to have a person… someone who didn’t mind getting my tears on their shirt. My mind wandered back to the tree on SE 37th around the corner from SE Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon where Dana and I first professed our love for each other and the flash bang moment we went from best friends to engaged. By the time we kissed, those feelings had been stirring for years under the surface, and my heart exploded. I am certain that moment made me human, because it was the first relationship I sought in which I felt equal. There was no power dynamic that made me feel small. In fact, I walked taller, my heart beating outside of my chest, truly knowing the feeling of loving someone more than myself.
It has been ages since I’ve thought parting was a mistake, and I still don’t think it is. There are just these startling moments of clarity in all that we gave up. Ultimately, though, we realized that we wanted different things out of life. I wanted to be a warrior woman, to lead people into the battles toward social justice. Dana knew I would get there, and didn’t want that life for herself. It is an extraordinarily kind assessment, because I never thought that our relationship would end with me crying on the floor, my face bruised less than my ego.
I also never thought that our relationship would end over a crush that got out of hand, the part that is entirely on me… and yet, I didn’t think it would be a dealbreaker over time, because I was obviously working every day to resolve it. If Dana had stuck around a little longer, she would have seen it with her own eyes, and I’m glad that if she’s ever curious, she can go into the “backblog” and read my journey forward… that my feelings for Argo never took away from that deep and lasting feeling that she was the woman actually meant for me, and anything that Argo and I said to each other was in our own space, my heart growing larger to give both of them room to breathe.
Alternatively, I knew there was never going to be a day in which I could love Argo without being IN love with her that Dana wouldn’t have still been threatened by it and the fights in which she used Argo for her own purposes to disengage would never be over. If she’d taken a step back, she would have realized that being married doesn’t render anyone blind, and that I would have understood better than anyone else if it happened to her. I just wanted to be the primary person in her life, not the only one.
To her credit, she did try. At first, her words were “when it comes to Argo, I am not threatened. I know I have more than proved my worth.” Nothing could have been more true. Nothing. It was a sad and depressing day when that feeling broke. I wish she’d held onto it, lived in it, because I never thought Argo took anything away from her. If anything, my renewed sense of wanting to live life to the fullest helped my passion for Dana, too. The dopamine rush of new relationship with Argo (it happens with relationships of all kinds, not just romantic) helped me to see my own self-worth, and how much love I had for everything. The colors in my world brightened all the way around, and I lived in the saturation.
Plus, the relationships couldn’t have been more disparate in their execution. Argo would never be the person I relied on to give me hugs and kisses when shit went sideways… sometimes because she was frightened by the intensity having a chord between us created, and because of our physical distance. It is to her credit that she tried, because the thought of losing me was hard for her, too, in her separate but equal ways… probably the only example of “separate but equal” being undeniably true.
Her love and support sustained me through some very difficult times, and what I take away from our unusual kinship is that I did the same thing for her. When I look back at our journey with fresh eyes, I can see it. All of it. Her pain and promises to me in one deep breath. Everything that I EffedUBAR is my own deep pain. I am not capable of forgiving myself completely, at least right now. I am sure that one day it will come, but today is not that day.
The redemption in all of this is knowing that she shares responsibility with me over where we are now, and I don’t have to own it all, just my large percentage… because what is true is that even if the end of a relationship is only five percent yours, you still have to own your part, no matter how small. In my case, it’s definitely not as small as that. I am only saying that owning whatever part you played stops the feeling that something happened to you… that your participation matters, and the cliché that it takes two to tango is a thing.
When we fought, it was all the emotional guns on the table, and in my shame, I’d give anything to go back and take them off… because in those moments, she deserved so much more from me than she got, because I was threatened at hearing truth that cut me. Instead of stepping back and trying to understand and love more, I launched my own emotional grenades.
More than one friend has told me that if I stop writing about it, it will stop feeling like “death by a thousand cuts,” and I only have one response to it. In order to change the future, I have to understand the past. This is not the type person I want to be and not the type relationship I ever want to create with anyone else. I have to call myself out on the carpet because people don’t change fully when someone else needs them to do it. It puts a Band-Aid over their behavior so that things only look like they’ve changed when the person that hurt them is still in there.
True change comes from excavation, an excoriation of your own demons. “Death by a thousand cuts” has to be accurate, not from their knives, but from yours. I don’t want to emerge as the same person, and through looking back at the mistakes I made, it is happening.
The blessing is the development of coping mechanisms for threat and rage, two things that erupted my fight-or-flight so that it was too big for love and empathy to shine through. The fistfight with Dana only made the PTSD from my emotional abuse compound exponentially and it is mine to own that shit rolled downhill. I might have come by it honestly, but I didn’t have to emotionally move there and unpack.
Physically moving made it seem like I was making this grand gesture to save my friendship with Argo, when the truth was that I moved here to give myself room to leave Dana behind, because it was what she said she wanted and I couldn’t abide by it when she lived ten minutes away. If we had stayed in the same city, I would have been plagued by the thought that I needed to FIX ALL THE THINGS, putting time and love into a situation where it wasn’t wanted or needed… for either of us. You can’t bounce back from physical violence, and as time has gone by, I’ve realized that you shouldn’t. It encourages living in fear, walking on eggshells so you (hopefully) won’t get hit again.
I would have moved anywhere I got a job, but DC made the most sense because I am a Virgo, tied to land and setting in an enormous way. I’d already owned DC as home, the place that felt right and good because I am comfortable in my own skin here. I know within myself that I am versatile enough to make anywhere home, and that if I’d gotten a job in a city that was foreign to me, it wouldn’t have taken long to settle in. However, I have been in love with DC since I was eight, and I already had friends here to catch me in my grief, as well as family with whom I wanted ties to grow stronger… not to mention the fact that Pri Diddy is someone who I view as family, a tie stronger than blood because I chose it.
There is safety and security in being single with a lot of friends, because I am responsible for every choice that I make in my life without having to consider what it will do to my family. In time, I will take on that responsibility, but I am not ready for it yet, and don’t know how long it will take before I am.
If I had a guesstimation, it would be when the cuts have healed and scar tissue starts to make me stronger than I was before. It is already happening, but the process is not complete… it’s a journey, not a moment.
“Snap out of it” is not a thing. There is a snap when you realize you need to put one foot down, but change comes from within when one foot is consistently in front of the other.
Walking will give me the strength to run. I believe in running. I hear it works miracles.