Love is (I am)Old and
Love is (I am)
Twisting open and
A new room.
Love is (I am)Old and
Love is (I am)
Twisting open and
A new room.
Form the words
First in your mind
Bring them forward
And say it.
Stop victimizing yourself
Take your power back
Stand up for yourself
I need you to say it
I need you to pull the I from
under the guilt.
Take the Am from
all the calamity
That has taken over your life.
Remove the A from the shame
That you have perpetuated.
take the Victim back from all those who were left
in your wake.
Transform that into survivor.
You deserve to heal.
We all deserve peace
Yeah. Okay. So things were falling apart. Distance had been established between who we once were and who we wanted to be. Who we were in the moment was not able to be clearly defined. But I like answers when I have questions. Sometimes, I don’t like the answers I receive and I work to bend the truth into something more comfortable. I want to hold on to hope in the biggest of struggles. This is who I am. Holding onto hope is good. Unless, of course, it comes with the weight of self-delusion.
Relationships take work. I am willing to work and rework and get shit done. I tried to close the gap. Build a bridge and reinstate contact. But I cannot make someone else be ready to meet me on that bridge. I cannot change another person’s world view. I can only hope to share mine and hope that they either see my position, and if they don’t, then they aren’t for me.
Don’t mistake this for only wanting to be around people who are like me. As much as I like to see my views shift another’s perspective, I like to see another’s perspective shift mine. This is the catalyst of growth.
My own views were rapidly shifting. Maybe it was all the yoga. Maybe it was all the literature. Maybe it was just me growing up. But I was in this relationship that I very much wanted to be in. I was in this relationship that had become boring, and the connection was being lost. I often felt alienated from my partner. I could feel her drifting away from me, but I was watching her drift away from herself, too. It was sad and it was difficult. It wasn’t my battle to fight.
My battle was determining how to get things back on track. I ruminated over solutions. I presented problems, and asked for her input.
“I think this is just what it’s like to be in a long term relationship,” was her answer.
“If this is what you think a long term relationship is supposed to be like, I don’t want that,” I was trying.
“Look it up, Lesbian bed death is an actual thing,” she said.
So, we don’t have sex anymore because of this thing you read about called lesbian bed death, which must certainly be true, but everything I’ve said about my struggles with imposter syndrome in graduate school is just me making shit up, and being stuck in my head. So, it was totally reasonable for her to say, “Have you talked to a professional about this imposter syndrome? You can’t just diagnose yourself with something based on something you read on the internet.”
I wasn’t diagnosing myself from web md. I wasn’t searching for a “condition” to make sense of my circumstances. I was trying to explain to my partner that this journey I was on was difficult in more ways than just my time invested. That my mental health was suffering and I needed help. But I turned the focus away from myself after her continual dismissals.
But I still tried to make the most of our situation together. I needed more closeness. I had never been good at asking for it. My fear of rejection kept me tethered to a mediocre existence. If I don’t ask, the answer will never be no. It turns out-the same is true if I think-If I don’t ask the answer will always be no.
So, I tried to start asking. And when those answers were no, I felt less of a sense of rejection, and more of a sense that I just wasn’t going to be able to get what I needed from this person. I still cling hard to the hope that it would change. That I would make it through. It didn’t work.
So, when I left in November of 2015, and she quickly became sexually linked to her ex-girlfriend, I really wanted to internalize this as though I was sexually undesirable or that I was lacking in some way. But something happened.
For some reason, I knew the problem wasn’t me. I may not be sexually aggressive, but I am quite sexually charged and willing. I know it’s something I need and crave for the closeness it brings.
The “lesbian bed death” wasn’t a me thing. And it wasn’t even linked to the other struggles I was having and experiencing. It was her. The more I needed emotional connection on any level-the more she withdrew.
But, for her, sexual relations with her ex or any person she could woo into the sheets kept her emotionally distant from me, and herself.
Sometimes, I feel like I carry the weight of the 50+ women she has used and manipulated for her own selfish gains and sexual gratification. But I don’t need to carry all that weight. I need to learn to unburden myself from the weight I carry from the moment I realized that I was just another one of them. That I accepted mediocre contact in a sexual relationship. That my desire for intimacy was consistently denied.
I always thought it was my insecurity I was carrying into the bedroom. That she intimidated me, or something. That my inability to be open was all my fault.
When I think about some of my other lovers-I can recognize that was not the case. It wasn’t me. My therapist tried to get me to recognize this for years. I couldn’t see it. I carried around the shame that I couldn’t be the kind of lover she wanted. Even though we were together for 8 years. Her need to fill the void with sexual exploits at the first sign of trouble had nothing to do with me. My inability to do the same had nothing to do with her. My inability to fully open to her was my heart telling me that I needed to protect myself. My heart was telling me that this person did not truly value me. Likely not because they didn’t want to, but because they couldn’t.
I wasn’t listening to my heart. I wasn’t listening to my body. It didn’t matter how many times I felt more alone after a sexual encounter with her. I still felt defective. These were not my defects. That overwhelming sense of loneliness that often led me to cry as she drifted off to sleep was my heart telling me something wasn’t right. It was telling me to run, and yet I stayed paralyzed by my own fear. Thinking that there was something wrong with me I needed to fix.
So, eventually, we just stopped having sex. We would fill our days with mindless tasks. And I still longed for that connection, yet I had no idea how to actually get it. It seemed like we had it sometimes. But more often than not-it felt like two bodies coming together, and that was never going to be enough for me. It had been this way for so long, I had no idea why I felt this way with her. I had no idea what the shift was in my mind.
To be clear. There are many different kinds of sex, and I know that. The same set of lovers can engage in different kinds of sex at different times. Sometimes even shifting dynamics in the same encounter. The important thing is that the two are on the same page about it. I felt more like she was in the library, checking out, while I trying to buy all my favorite stories to keep on the shelf.
This is NOT what a long term relationship is supposed to look or feel like. I’m sorry that I even entertained that thought for a moment. I’m sad that I believed this was some kind of normal. I’m sad that I believed this had anything to do with me. I’m sad that I couldn’t see it sooner.
I deserve to be with someone who truly values me. Mind, body, and spirit. I deserve to be with someone who means it when they say they love me, and who is willing to put in the work to show that love. Because I do. And I deserve to receive the same respect that I give. I deserve to be in a space where loneliness comes and loneliness goes, but not where it is just compounded. I deserve to have great sex to compliment a pretty good relationship. I deserve a partner who wants to meet me on that bridge, and maybe even fuck me there just because. And then walk with me home where we can fall slowly through the process of knowing and believing that while people may not be homes-they certainly can be a space of belonging. I deserve this kind of loving. And I won’t settle for any less.
“For once, I just want you to choose me!”
“I choose you every day,” I fired back, eyes full of tears and hands full of tremble.
Projection is tricky. Sure, this was coming out of a fight. One where I was admitting to doing something shady and secretive. Where I had made a friend, a particular friend of which she did not approve. Let’s just be honest, she didn’t approve of any of my friends.
Sure, we had “her friends.” The friends who, after our splitting in 2012 she made it explicitly clear which ones I was and was not allowed to have contact.
But this friend-she said- “You’re inviting the devil in.” But I needed clarity for my own conscience. Sure, this was the woman she dated while we were separated. But it was more than that. I needed to have contact with this woman to allow my own soul to rest. It took a few rounds before I was finally truly able to put it all to rest.
She said, “You’re searching for something. I think you need a little introspection here.” She wasn’t wrong. But neither was I. The more she resisted, the more I thought there was a truth that might be uncovered that might reveal her as the fraud she really was. That’s not exactly how it went down. Not at first, anyway.
I know there was a piece of her that understood. Because months later she acknowledged that it had nothing to do with her. And I had tried to tell her that from the start. Sure, it was exasperated by her actions. Most of this came from my own issues with self-worth, self-judgment, and self-criticism. I felt less than against this woman. I needed to know that she was not the monster I made her out to be. And I needed to let her know that she was not the monster I made her out to be. And I needed to show that I was not as horrible as the part I had been playing. It still took some time.
Secrets and lies breed secrets and lies.
I told her about my intentions. I told her I wanted to be this woman’s friend. She didn’t approve. She said she didn’t want to hear anything else about it. So, I didn’t talk about it anymore. She was angry because she said I asked for things, but it didn’t matter what her response was; ultimately, I was going to do whatever I wanted.
Even my mother told me to find a different friend. I didn’t understand. I longed to be around people with common interests. Poets and weirdos. Artists with a hunger that only artists know. I wanted to build respect out of a space I had destroyed. I wanted a fucking friend. I couldn’t understand why that had to be so closely mediated by anyone other than myself. I felt completely powerless. So, I pursued the friendship in secret.
When it took an unexpected turn, I cut off contact. I remember saying, “You’re not wrong, but this isn’t right.”
I wrote my lover a note. I had to wrap my own mind around the betrayal that I had created, and come to terms with it on my own. I shoved the note in my desk drawer-waiting for a better opportunity. Sometimes, people just want to be caught so they don’t have to face their misdeeds directly. Maybe that’s what I was doing.
I put this note in my desk-and right into the only drawer that she ever accessed. I really didn’t even think about it. I woke up the next morning with my drafted letter along with a note from her reading: “Great. Just another lie that I need to be okay with.”
Let’s be honest, here. I have lied. That, to my recollection was lie number two. The first one I apologized for profusely. I took the easy way out of a complicated situation. I had learned a little something along the way. This was not like that. First, I was told to remain silent. Which I tried to oblige. Second, I was left feeling as though I had zero control over my choices, and like any angry teen-I rebelled and reacted against the forces that be.
I had every intention of telling her. In the meantime-I deleted all traces of contact between myself and this person. Guilty conscience, I suppose.
I told her that I fucked up. I faced that guilt with a rapid heart beat and trembling hands. I admitted I made a mistake. I apologized. I faced my human parts. And I meant it. It was a learning opportunity. I knew that. And I meant it.
She was right, though. I was searching for something. And I did find it. I needed somewhere to go to be heard. I needed someone that understood me. I needed to be around a person who could hold space for my confusion. I wish that could have been my partner, but it wasn’t. And that wasn’t enough to make me leave.
I struggled with this. One of my dearest friends told me-“Don’t leave the 80 for the 20.” My faith in my relationship was suddenly restored. I knew that I could rework my vulnerability into my relationship. I knew I chose her.
So, when she said, “For once, I just want you to choose me!” I heard, “You only think of yourself.” Which was completely untrue. In fact, it was so far from the truth it was the polar opposite of the truth. More often than not, when I made a choice that sought to contribute solely to my personal growth-I was met with this fierce opposition from her. Although she could, would, and did do whatever the hell she wanted. Befriended whoever she wanted. Kept secrets whenever she wanted. Forged relationships in secret whenever she wanted. Made plans that she didn’t tell me anything about with people she would later fuck when our SHIT would hit the fan. Or, when she would throw it in the fan just to have an escape route whenever she was feeling a little too tied down by my need to advance the relationship from one space to another.
I did choose her every day. I don’t know why she couldn’t see that. Our relationship began when I chose her over another woman who I was completely and totally infatuated with. I chose her because I thought we could build the kind of life I wanted. I looked at her and saw the potential for a family, and a quiet life.
I chose her for a potential I’m now not certain she actually possessed. I kept choosing her. If I didn’t then what is the logic of being out of the relationship in 2011, 2012, and 2013- just to ALWAYS end up back in it?
I didn’t choose this other woman over her. No, I chose to explore something I needed to explore and she hated the idea. And everyone around me exercised their perceived right to tell me I was playing with fire. Despite the fact that all of these people had been closely linked to this person at some point in their recent history. I wasn’t buying the projection. I wanted my own freedom to choose who and what and why I had different relationships in my life.
Maybe I’m really bad at making choices. Maybe I’m really bad at reading people. Maybe I didn’t know what I needed. I can admit, still, that I fucked up. I needed to. Without it-I wouldn’t have been able to see how clearly my autonomy was being stifled. Or how clearly my former partner did not want to face her own shit. None of it had anything to do with her until it did.
A year and a half later-she, too contacted this woman. According to her, she wanted to tell her that she was sorry because she “had no business pursuing anything with her.” Who knows what she actually said to her. I sure don’t believe anything that comes out of her mouth anymore.
That need for me to choose her was a projection. One I couldn’t quite see beyond my guilt and knowing that I had let her down, and hurt her. My remorse overpowered my ability to see clearly that what she was asking for was the one thing she wasn’t able to give me. Sure, she chose me. Out of loneliness, fear and comfort. And I chose her for many of the same reasons. I chose her because I loved her, or I thought I did. As time went on I started to notice that many times when I was saying “yes” to her I was clearly saying “no” to me.
And now, with her out of the picture and my final understanding that if I were to reconcile all the weight that I carry in my heart it was her who had to go-I am finally able to choose someone other than her. I can finally choose me. And that is beautiful.
My atrophied heart
still whispers in the dark
Hold me close
Put your hand over my mouth
Tell me all your secrets
I’ll lock them deep inside
The closet of my mind
The skeletons have turned to dust
Settling around our bed
A boneyard of grief
Exploded under the pressure
I swear it looks like glitter
Glass blown to smithereens
Stomped to a fine powder
A party for one
“I would be willing to marry you, if that was something you needed for this relationship to work.”
“Excuse me? WHAT?”
We were on a date. The first one we had been on in quite some time. I had taken the night off work at my restaurant job because I had a conference presentation scheduled for the next morning. I was nervous. Standing in front of a room of scholars to present one’s own ideas is intimidating to say the least.
We had gone to one of our favorite spots. I didn’t make a reservation because I didn’t think it would be that difficult to get searing for a party of two.
We waited for nearly two hours. The duration of the wait was extended by the weight of the silence that had been building between us. I was nervous for the presentation, but I was also scared of the direction our relationship was heading. I guess, I didn’t know what I wanted or what she wanted or where we even were. I had been trying to bring up the discomfort that had become our existence with each other. She didn’t seem to feel the same kind of discomfort. I felt our connection waning, and I didn’t know how to get it back. I needed something, but I wasn’t sure if she had it to give. I wasn’t sure how to ask for it. I wasn’t sure how to put it into words. I just knew something wasn’t quite right.
After our really long wait, and the tossing around of ideas of where else we might go to satisfy our need for food-“No, I do not want to eat from a hot dog food truck. That does not appeal to me in any kind of way,” I said.
The host took us to our table. I looked at the art hanging on the wall. It was a lonely picture. Blues and yellows. A woman sitting in a chair. It was titled: “These Two Needed to Have a Serious Talk.”
The universe is so fucking cute.
I felt so heavy. So helpless. So empty of any ability to express or make sense of anything I was feeling. I dropped my stuff and went to the bathroom. When I returned, that’s when she said it.
“I would be willing to marry you if that is something you need for this relationship to work.”
I’ll never forget it. The way she presented this marriage proposal as a solution to the weight of our co-existence. This is not the kind of shock I was expecting to come from a marriage proposal.
Her and I held strongly opposed views of marriage. When we first got together at 21 and 22 years old we agreed-marriage was a feeble institution and the consistent political fighting about whether or not gays should have the right to marry turned us both off from the idea that it was something we would ever need in order to feel complete in our relationship. I remember that conversation. We were driving to my parents house.
Deep in the rebellion that defined my late teens and early twenties-i didn’t want labels or constriction. I didn’t want anniversaries or celebrations. I thought gifts were a cop-out. (I actually do still believe gifts are a sort of cop-out) I thought this made me freer. I was wrong. This was fear.
Both of our histories had determined that marriage was a kind of trap, and often not healthy. My parents divorced right around my first birthday. I didn’t want to be like them. My mom and her current husband were both in their third marriage. I didn’t want to be like them. Her parents had been married her whole life. Despite the toxicity of their relationship-they found a way to make it work. Her father stayed in the basement while her mother ruled the upper level. There’s was more of a business partnership than one ruled by loving affection. She didn’t want to be like them. In that moment-we agreed, at least, about who and what we did not want this relationship to become.
As time went on, my views about marriage changed. We argued about it a lot. She would say, “I’m committed to you.” I guess I was supposed to believe that. But I wanted an anniversary. I wanted a day that belonged to the celebration of our love and commitment. I wanted a pretty dress, and to write marriage vows, and to have my picture taken with the love of my life under a willow tree. I wanted to stand in front of a group of the people I care about with the person I care about the most and say-“This is my love. This is my life. This is my promise to always be here with you. No matter what. I choose you.”
We fought about it a lot. And after our separation in 2013-I asked, first, if she would want to get married. More importantly, “What are you going to do about your father when we get married?”
“He can choose to come, or not come. That’s on him.”
I felt a sense of relief, and a measured sense of growth. I felt like we were on the same page again. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
It was almost two years later, and after a whole lot of moving around the topic without settling on a determined structure or arrangement to be made. We piled up excuses about why this isn’t the right time, or when would be the right time, or how we would afford it.
“I would be willing to marry you if that was something you needed for this relationship to work.”
It still stings every time I think about it.
Had she not heard me, ever? Had she not listened to the ways my world view had shifted? Had she not listened to herself when she said that she didn’t want a business-like marriage? Was she just trying to appease me? Did she even WANT this, or to be with me?
“Excuse me? WHAT? This is not how I expected this to go down. I don’t get it. You always said you didn’t want a relationship like your parents. Something that is reduced to an arrangement made out of necessity. That is exactly what you’re asking me here. If that is how you see this, then I don’t want anything to do with it.”
I could see it in her face that she knew she screwed up the words. That I was disappointed. And that she was internalizing this. I don’t know how long she had prepared this offer in her mind or how much she might have thought she just totally blew it. She did totally blow it. And I totally blew up.
I had grown tired of making excuses for her. We still needed to make it through this dinner. We still had a second date night destination to get to. And I still had the looming anxiety of my 8 a.m. scholarly presentation ahead of me.
I was hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. I reacted to her offer in the only way I knew how.
We had been discussing marriage about a year before that. We looked at rings. We talked about the ones I liked and why I liked them. We had it narrowed down to a couple of perfect prospects. I was never going to be the one that proposed marriage to her because I knew it was my view that had changed. I was waiting for her to be ready. I understood that her fear of commitment was real. We even talked about her brother, and how he and his wife were together for 11 years before they got married. We joked that it was part of their make-up. I needed her to come to me. I needed her to make that choice for herself. I thought we were on our way to uncovering that space in her. The place where she could finally feel safe to be gay and to be loved.
Then she got sick. When the steroid that she was put on cost nearly $3000 after her insurance’s contribution- I shelved the whole idea. Sometimes life happens, and we have to adjust. I was totally okay with it. I was okay with all of it. I was not okay with this proposal. It felt like a simultaneous dismissal and invitation. I just couldn’t make sense of it.
We made it through the rest of our date. It was awkward, and the tensions were high. I think she knew that she had hurt me, and I don’t think she had intended that to be the case. I couldn’t find the words to express all of my mounting frustrations.
We went home and went to bed. The next morning she went to work. I went to present my paper. I never heard anything from her. No good luck. Nothing. No support whatsoever. Perhaps my searching for that was selfish. Perhaps not everyone understands the true value of a kind word in challenging times. Perhaps she was too distraught and preoccupied with the weight of the night before. The date that took place, in my mind, specifically because I took the night off work so that I could present this work at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning.
After I finished-I called her.
“Hey, what’s up?” She said.
“Oh. Nothing. I just finished presenting my paper.”
I was met with silence. I fought back my tears of disappointment, and mounting feelings of shame that she didn’t remember.
I was tired of making excuses for her. I still couldn’t understand that my needs were not being met in the way I needed them to be. I just kept accepting these crumbs. Even if I were able to articulate the way these transactions were hurting me-it didn’t matter. I couldn’t wrap my mind around why I gave so much and received so little in return. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t seem to be important to her. It seemed like I wasn’t on her mind at all. Maybe I was wrong. I just felt so lonely and so invisible. I cried, alone in the bathroom on campus. I just wanted someone to be proud of me. But not just anyone. I needed it to be her.
Friends and family members alike helped me rationalize this intense two days.
“You can’t expect her to be interested in the all the things you’re interested in. Not everything that is important to you will be important to her.”
I thought I understood. She never apologized for forgetting about me. I just kept moving. Trying to forget how much it hurt me.
Eventually I realized that I didn’t need her to be interested in the same things I was interested in. I needed her to be interested in ME.
The day I told her she was just like my abuser I thought she was going to rage on me. I prepared for the worst. I couldn’t get my words together. I crouched down because I wasn’t sure if my legs could withstand the weight of my words. I anticipated the bullets of “fuck you,” and “how dare you?”
She knew how much I hated him. How much resentment I had, and had been working through to be okay with him. She never outwardly defended him, but she knew it was important that I make my peace with him. In those moments, she was supportive.
I stumbled over my words for a few minutes. I tried to remember to breathe. Finally, I just ripped off the bandaid.
“Oh. I’ve known that for years. I could never understand why you wanted to be with me when you hated him so much.”
My mouth dropped. That was not the disaster I was prepared to face. How did she know, and I didn’t? How did she KNOW and not leave or desire to change in any sort of way? How did I let this happen?
Well, I didn’t let this happen. I simply couldn’t see it. It’s one of those wild psychological phenomena. I never thought I would do it to myself. I thought I was SMARTER than that. The subconscious knows nothing of intellect. Our old karmic wounds do not know until they come to light.
When she said, “I know that you were a kid, and everything and no kid deserves to be treated like that, but everything you’ve ever told me about him-I agreed with him.”
My head was spinning. Did she even listen to any of what I went through? Does she REALLY think it’s okay to say and do those kinds of things to another human being?
Actually, yes. She must. She’s the same.
Although it took a huge amount of courage and strength for me to face this truth with her-that was not the final end to our saga. One might think that would be enough. But there was still something in me that thought if SHE could love me the way I needed to be loved, then everything would be magically transformed.
That is not how that works.
Sometimes, I’m repulsed by the fact that I was with her for 8 years. Apparently seeking the approval of the one person I had tried to escape for the larger portion of my whole life. But this is how trauma works. When I think about this one moment I still ache in all my sore spots.
If I would have known better, I would have done better.
I finally do.