Teaching Me

It’s starting to set in that the relationship with my beautiful girl, my SuperGrover, my whatever term of endearment I’m thinking of that day is really gone. Traditionally, by the time I’ve made the decision that she’s really gone, that’s the moment I get an e-mail and the cycle starts up. Now, I’m left alone with my reality and I can’t decide whether it’s better or worse. That’s because she was my real friend and a figment of my imagination the whole entire time. She has lived in my head for three different cities, numerous sets of friends, and so much to talk about besides the things I never should have said. Now I just feel like I’m losing my mind, literally.

At nine years, she was a reflex. I had to change her e-mail address to my phone so that I knew I could still use that reflex, she just wouldn’t actually receive any of the e-mails. Funny how I set that up a month before all this happened because I knew it was what I wanted and tried to keep fixing everything, anyway. I don’t think I even really wanted it for me. I think I thought it would be easier on all of us if we were a foursome, the way we would have been had I not opened my big mouth.

But what I have to sift through now is regret, because I don’t think I’ve ever done the wrong thing for me except telling her that I wanted her, because she knows I loved her long before that. I didn’t leave Dana behind because of this relationship, and I didn’t leave Houston because of it, either. It made me feel guilty for living in DC in the past and thinking of it as my home, because no one else thought that. I cried the entire plane ride here, because I was walking into the belly of the beast. I was being vulnerable because I had to put physical distance between Dana and me, because after the physical fight, I was scared of her.

You’d have to understand context here. When I started feeling those butterfly feelings, I knew my relationship with Dana wouldn’t last much longer, because I’d already broken up with her for something else. We reconciled, unfortunately, and I only say that because the emotional swings got worse until I ended up on the floor with a bruised eye socket. So, to say I did anything because of my beautiful girl is just nonsense. By the time I got to Washington, I was done.

I wanted to apologize, and again, it made our relationship go up and down with me never knowing what was going to happen from one day to the next. In retrospect, if things were going to change, they would have long before now. The hardest part is not missing her, but missing my safe space, where I was both talking and listening. After it began to be only me that was talking, I felt like she was keeping me under her thumb, afraid of what I could do to her as a writer. I was asking her to think about what she was doing to me because she’s a writer.

It was never important to her to go back and clean up a mess, so I just began ignoring it because it was easier not to tell her things that hurt me and just let them slide. When I didn’t, I could count on being body slammed into the ground. She said so many times that she wished she’d never said anything, never met me that I believed it with my whole heart, and tried constantly to ask her questions that would reveal both her anger and her hesitation.

It being over was when she said she disagreed with a lot of what I’d written, and didn’t want to tell me why. That’s when I decided that what she was really saying was that she was ready to move on and I was asking her to let me go. It didn’t feel fair for my emotions to be that large and for her to blame everything on timing, as if there was going to be an alternate future in which she was willing to disagree with me without going nuclear every single time. She took all of the affection out of her tone, as if I was going to forget for one second of a single day that she wasn’t interested. As if I wasn’t paying attention to her and intentionally trying to gut her with an axe. I’m sure it feels that way if you don’t know how to navigate conflict, or you do and your way of doing it is you’re a hammer and everyone else is a nail.

I can’t think of a time in the past seven or eight years where our relationship didn’t heat and cool like April in DC. The day I arrived, there was snow on the ground, and it was almost May.

I know now that I wished for too much, and the only one keeping me company is me. That’s because I go back and read what I’ve already read to make sure that I know reaching out is a bad idea, because I’ll have time go by and regret the way I acted and apologize. Alternatively, she’ll forget we had a fight and reach out without resolving the last fight, so the triggers keep multiplying because only I’m talking about what they are. Telling someone that they’re creating the narrative that they’re a victim is easy when you’ve never created a narrative of your own. If someone feels victimized by what I’ve done, and she has every right to her feelings if it’s true, it would help if they just said that.

Because I certainly have no problem with taking responsibility for everything I’ve done and left undone. I cut my own heart out with a knife because I was tired of feeling like there was this seething anger in her that she wouldn’t tell me about, she just alternated between being loving and furious about everything else under the sun, things that were covering up our real issues when we were both hurt and afraid of what the other would do.

Because I really was the bad guy here, I have problems starting new relationships because I don’t want to hurt anyone else. I see the ways I’ve participated in our mutually assured destruction and I don’t want to be that for or to anyone else. I didn’t even want to be that for her the moment I realized the horror of what I’d caused. I made someone else feel fear, and I didn’t care that she made me feel fear, too, until I’d apologized for my actions so many times it basically became a form letter.

I couldn’t undo what I’d wrought, and yet, neither of us pulled up. We got in a tailspin and trying to right it was futile. Just the worst thing I’ve ever done because it didn’t allow me to move on. I just beat myself up, all day, every day. I told myself that I was doing better, that we were mending our connection, and then a fight would start out of nowhere.

So, in the end, I wish she had asked herself if she was really going to change, or if I was going to be stuck apologizing for everything, forever… and been honest about the answer, telling me before it took me eight years to figure it out on my own. Nobody is that busy.

Which is what I remind myself as I read my own words without ever going back to hers. I still have everything, but I keep it for sentimental value. I can’t look at it yet, but I know I will hate myself if I delete everything. Perhaps it would give me a new start, but I’d rather just archive them so I don’t have to look at them until I’m ready.

My stuff is probably already gone, because she’s deleted everything else in recent memory. I used to think I made a difference in her life, and now I feel like a burden to her…. that I am only the person she keeps in her sights to make sure I can’t hurt her, when I was out of my mind to do it in the first place.

But like I’ve said before, if it hadn’t been this, it would have been something else…. because conflict resolution doesn’t change with relationships. It’s based on how your first family dealt with it and how you learned to deal with conflict in the first place. It is not a comfort, it is reality that this relationship would have gone the same way with a different monster conflict because we didn’t just have the one.

I wasn’t asking her to take responsibility for my actions. I was asking her to take responsibility for hers. But then it was that I was asking too much and I needed to find other friends, because who cares what she thinks?

And still nothing is resolved. I’m finding closure on my own…. and finally, I have enough reading material to tell me that I’m doing the right thing and heading away from feeling like a failure a hundred percent of the time.

Today, though, I’m crying like a butt hurt little girl. Tomorrow, everything will look better. That doesn’t make it easier right now.

I am teaching me, and it’s okay to be in 101 this semester.


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