I was told a story when I was young. I was told that fairytales are real, that people can fall in love at first sight, and that they can stay together for 50 years. I was told that no matter what, everything could be figured out. I was told that as long as my partner was my friend, that is what mattered. I saw this story in front of me. And then, as I got older, I saw different stories. I saw parents who used to love each other and now spoke through lawyers and used their children as pawns to spite each other. I saw it in black and white; you either stay together forever or you end lives together in misery (and probably never loved each other in the first place).
And then I lived the first (or so I thought) – and then lived the second (without kids). But no one told me the story of people falling in love, continuing to love each other, and still not being able to work it out. No one told me that love isn’t enough sometimes. Maybe it’s never enough. Maybe love is just what begins the story and then it takes a number of other much harder things to continue happily. I was never told the other side. I was never taught the story of working things out. They just..magically…did? I didn’t know the orchestration behind any of it. I thought love was the glue that holds people together – people who still love each other.
On the other hand, a story I know well – one I’ve learned over the years – is staying together while one or both people quietly drift away. For example, despite my parents still being together after 40 years, I still don’t think they see each other – and maybe never have. My dad has drifted into his head. I don’t think it’s that he doesn’t love her. He just really doesn’t know how to see. My mom has drifted to replacing the love she thought she had with needing others to fill the holes in her heart. My mom doesn’t really know how to listen. I don’t think they ever knew. Now, they live together, remain together, maybe even love each other. But where are they – either of them?
Since D, I’ve been determined not to be a part of that – to feel a part of me is dying inside a relationship, to feel I am living in a shell that continues to move around with another shell. And yet…I still continue to be. My love remains; theirs does too, it seems. But we hit a roadblock. One or both of us begins to hide. And there is no going back. It’s an unending spiral until the end of us. It is as though there was never an “us” to begin with. I try to stay still while I feel them drifting. I try to let them go and drift and hope they come back to me without clinging or running towards them. Over time, that hope begins to die and the hope I have for us in totality dies with it. Slowly, I drift away too. Slowly, it all falls apart. It isn’t until it’s over that there is appreciation. Things are repaired. We go back to loving and being safe, distanced physically and emotionally close again – just not *too* close.
The cycle repeats. I do not repeat my parents’ relationship in longevity, only in the content of it. I have only known the shells of humans, lonely in a relationship that looks perfect from the outside.
Is it just that I choose this – someone who will repeat this pattern with me? Or do I create an unending situation of withdrawal in others?
I have said I am broken countless times and maybe that is just my excuse, my way of saying “I won’t change” – and so I don’t. I “try” – but is it something you can try at? It seems I refuse to learn.
Maybe I have always known what I wanted or needed – in my heart. It’s my brain that constantly convinces me that I don’t know – because what I want or need may not be something I can have or even *want* to have. Some things feel so good, it’s hard to acknowledge it is exactly the poison that is killing you. When you’ve indulged in only chocolate, it’s also hard to imagine wanting to choose or being content with carrots. I cannot accept what is before me until it is too late. I have damaged and poisoned that thing beyond repair. When you have broken pottery into enough pieces, there is no gluing it back together with gold – or anything else.
I have yet again chosen wrongly, it seems – the human to be with, the behaviors I’ve engaged in, the path I sought with the wrong motivations. I just keep eating the chocolate. Because it feels good…until it doesn’t. And even when I see it, it’s still hard to give up the chocolate. It’s still hard to walk by it at the grocery store and not pick up one…just one…just for a nibble, a taste, a reminder. And then the addiction comes into my life again. The cycle. The heartache. The reminder of the pain that haunts me. The shell.
This is why I don’t see a way out. It’s like watching countless parallel universes play out in front of me every day, but almost every single one ends in the same place. Maybe in one, I choose the carrot…but is it really as filling as even a moment, a taste of the chocolate? Long-term, sure. But right now? Right here? Is there love in both? Sometimes, it still feels worth it for even just a moment. These days, though, it feels like the wiser choice may be to choose neither and starve entirely.