Note to self.

When he posts those kind of pictures –yes those ones— the kind you asked him not to, he is the person you were afraid he could be.

When he tells you to forget him and find someone new, only to punish you for weeks and weeks and months and months when you try to follow his advice, to relieve yourself of the heartache and ashes and rubble he has left behind, he is the person you hoped he was not.

When you are suffering and cannot leave your bed, researching lethal dosages of household medication, and he will not come — when you put down your best friend’s dog and are choking on your tears and you beg for him, but he refuses, he is not the person you loved.

When you plead for him to call you for some reason – any reason- except to feel your lips wrapped around his dick, and he resents you, gaslights you, he is poison.

He is not who you believe he might be.

He is not who you’re sure he could be.

There is nothing to read between the lines of,  “Are we ever going to get another guy?” and days of silence.

He is not your fantasy.

He is only what he does.

 

 

Shedding Skin

I am no stranger to evolution. My life is one that has often left me with no option but to adapt quickly to rapidly changing circumstances. I have twisted, bent, stretched, and squeezed myself into scenarios, places, and people before I was ready or it was comfortable. And I have wiggled, climbed, and torn myself out of these same tight spots when the need grew strong. I learned early that there are many spaces in which I cannot fit. Again and again I watched people wait to ease into some sort of conformity.  I looked on in dismay as they prayed that their very selves would shrink so that they may require less room. I saw them hope that the keyholes they were locked into would grow an inch so that they may breathe more deeply. But I know this for certain: the rocks and metal of this life will never soften and give you more room. If that is the kind of adaptation for which you are holding your breath you will surely suffocate.

Having learned this, I decided to evolve differently. I spent my childhood catching bugs. I watched caterpillar after caterpillar molt, take refuge in itself, and grow into something new. I watched my pet lizard rub against rocks and peel back an old skin of which it no longer had any use. I found snakeskin in the woods by my uncle’s house, discarded for something better-suited. I knew that molting was a requirement for survival. I feared stagnancy and understood well that nature does not tolerate it.

I imagine that as I have grown I have left old skins scattered around the state: on the front steps of my childhood home, on the floor of my ex-boyfriend’s bedroom, and even in the ocean. There are cast-off parts of me on the streets of Tel Aviv and on the beaches of the Mediterranean. Sometimes, people somehow get cemented to our current self and later they get shed too. I imagine that my mother, huddled alone in the den of instability and illness she has dug, is still clutching at my old skins, unable to grasp my core as I sloughed them off.

This molting, this evolution, is an uncomfortable business. More often than not I come out feeling bruised and vulnerable and raw. Still, I am keenly aware of its necessity. I have spent the last month peeling off pieces of dead skin. This has been a difficult round.

Miguel is gone.

There are pieces of him everywhere. Although he has distanced himself by thousands of miles, in his wake he has left an elaborate system of tripwires and landmines. My entire life is booby-trapped. I am only now finding all the splinters he left under my skin that would sting and ache for days on end but of which I could just never seem to find the source. I stopped opening closests because too many times I was surprised by clothes he had left behind. I stumbled upon an old love letter and recoiled as though I had been hit.

After these times I took showers that were too hot and clawed at my body, trying desperately to shed my skin so that I could start anew. Instead I felt like I was choking on it.

I washed my sheets last week. They had sat unwashed in the bottom of my laundry basket for nearly a month, even as I dragged my other clothes down the street to the laundromat. Finally, in an episode of shame and disgust, I loaded them into my friend’s washing machine one night. The relief was immediate. Those sheets, filled with so much sweat and cum and tears, had been heaped in the corner of room tainting my air. I had lain on them for a week after he left, miserable and repulsed, but unable to replace them.

In my friend’s apartment, I stood for a moment and watched them spin around in that soapy water, listening to the mechanical whir that somehow gave me such solace. I exhaled slowly, realizing that in washing Miguel out of my sheets he was being rinsed from my life. Nothing smells like him anymore. I can barely believe his face is real.

I walked to the bathroom and stepped into the shower. I did not cry. When I undressed I left my clothes scattered. And with them, I know I left many old pieces of me lying on that floor.

Panic Button

(11/14)

Months ago I planned to write an entry regarding a conversation I had with an old friend over beer. True to form, I never got around to it when the memory was fresh. Soon after, I lost the inspiration to write about it at all and then I forgot the conversation altogether. Eventually I remembered our talk and the significance I felt had gone along with it. Aa happens though, the exact words slipped my mind and it no longer seemed worthwhile or even possible to put it on paper. Today I was surprised to find that the words we exchanged somehow seem relevant once moreand I am compelled to describe what I remember.

I often sought counsel from this particular friend and it was not out of the ordinary to find us seated at the local brewery, as we were on this early summer night. He sipped a lager, faster, as always, than I drank my own rum and coke. He listened intently as I spoke. Today, as with most days, I was lamenting the two broken relationships that consistently absorbed me: that with my mother and that with my ex-boyfriend. Both were toxic in their own right and both consumed me emotionally.

For years I had experienced them this way. My separate relationships with them wore me down until one day I found that I had begun responding differently. At this point I can’t be sure of the exact nature of the change I had noticed and was describing, but I know that I was surprised by the difference in my behavior when dealing with these two. The change was significant and involuntary. I was certain that my new reactions and methods of coping in my problematic relationships were pure adaptation after years of concession. Perhaps they were also due in part to a series of introspective epiphanies I had had in the recent few months, left to settle with my remaining inability to fully let go of the destructivepeople in my life. Instead of severing contact, I found new ways to suffer the relationships. Survival instincts for the weak, maybe.

My friend looked at me through his serious light blue eyes. “This isn’t a reaction,” he said, “this is what you are now.”

I don’t doubt the truth in his statement. It is always said that our experiences shape us. This is elementary. But the ways in which my relationships–my experiences with these people–were molding me? Somehow that had slipped through my grasp. For years I had been evolving in ways that were directly related to my interactions with my mother and my boyfriend. Often, my developments were a reflection of the damage that was being done. How had this fallen out of my sight so completely?

In any case, I have grown through the past few years into who I am now: twisted, knotted, and scarred in places, but functioning and healthy. Sometimes, though, I find evidence of the difficult relationships I weathered when I am faced with certain situations. The ways in which I find myself reacting to things seem to be out if nowhere if I do not examine them.

This came to light recently, as I lazily wandered the streets of Tel Aviv, colder than I remember them, back to the familar embrace of that same old Israeli boy I can’t keep off my mind. Things have progressed.

I can’t remember any recent time in my life that I have smiled so immediately upon waking up. I don’t remember loving a pair of hands as I do his. I cannot remember being able to lose track of time looking in someone’s eyes, wrapped up in each other and our bliss. I find that I’m willing to relax: to breathe more easily.

But I have too many layers. Not far from my serene contentedness is an unsteady dam of fear.I am able to acknowledge its existence, pending certain conditions and company. I do not find that I am capable or even aware of how to resolve this piece of myself, but for the most part I can manage it. I can smother it and chokingly admit to it when I must. Sometimes, though, it seeps out on its own and I am shown that the usually solid footing I have on my desires and feelings is as weak and unsure as it’s ever been. These experiences have been brief but jarring.

So, I am in Israel. It is lovely. Things have progressed. The problem, of course, is that I must leave it again. And before then, this green-eyed boy and I will sit down and have A Talk. My previous relationship has left me accustomed to the rise and fall of hopefulness and the inevitable crushing disappointment that follows. I do not know exactly where our talk will lead, but I am bracing myself for the pain I feel certain it will cause. Preemptively, and maybe unfairly, I am sure this boy will hurt me. This is why, no matter how close I am, I cannot quite allow myself to feel safe in his strong embrace, half asleep and nestled warmly in his bed.

Sometimes I panic. I feel too secure or too blissful or I feel as though I can exhale and be okay. Sometimes we get too close to having that looming talk that I’m sure will cost me the content that my avoidance allows me. Sometimes I feel too deeply and something inside me hits some sort of emergency break; a panic button. My normally strong affections shut off and when I think of him everything inside me feels a bit silent. It is always temporary, of course. Seeing him makes the numbness dissipate like blood rushing back to my fingertips. The experience leaves me feeling off balance and confused. I’ve chalked it up to a defense mechanism: my mind has created a way of avoiding potential pain by convincing me I hold no emotional stock in certain relationships. Clever.

It’s hard not to be somewhat resentful, honestly. I can trace this newfound tool of self-preservation–albeit one that is unwanted–almost directly back to my ex-boyfriend. I can’t help but feel like my current situation would be less stressful if I hadn’t endured these tumultuous relationships for so long. Considering things with this boy presents challenges if its own: an ocean and a half; a financial burden; and an underlying sense of urgency complete with a ticking clock. I could do without the addition of some deeply sown issues of which I now have to constantly be aware. I could do without the now-necessary introspection and calculation. I could do without the moments of happiness and deep affection being followed closely by that frightened sense of foreboding, fast and heavy in its arrival.

For a while I thought things like this were just strange new reactions. But my friend is right: this is who I am now. This is what I’ve become.

11/9

I’m in the airport.

I have 45 minutes until I board the plane that will take me again to the place I tried to put to rest in my heart: my beloved Tel Aviv. I am writing as I sit in my terminal and sip red wine. I am happy. This feels right.

A few hours ago I was in a different frame of mind. I was frantically sending text messages to my friends as I wiped tears from my eyes. This trip seemed absurd to me. I was supposed to have come to terms with being home. I was supposed to have let Israel go for a while. But I’ve learned again and again that I will never be able to anticipate my feelings. As much as I tried to convince myself that I would be okay staying in Massachusetts, the more my heart rebelled. So it goes.

So, I’ve been home for two and a half months and I have not yet forgotten that sweet Israeli city and the boy I’ve come to adore. I don’t know how these things are supposed to work. But I can truthfully say that there hasn’t yet been a day that’s passed that I have not found myself longing to go back. I have felt for months that I should be in Tel Aviv. Even still, earlier today I became caught in the idea that going back was crazy and inevitably destructive. As it turns out, all hearts are fickle.

It was never truly an option in my mind not to go, if course. Everything was in order: I had worked relentlessly for two months and covered three weeks’ worth of shifts; I had a ride to the airport in just a few hours; I spent the previous night out with my closest friends. Once my plane landed some 6000 miles from home, a boy planned to pick me up at the airport and bring me back to his house. I had felt secure in all this and jittery with anticipation. I woke up this morning and sent a text to the boy I’m so fond of, expressing my excitement. Even so, an hour later fear had overtaken me and I was crying to my best friend.

This trip, I think, requires me to nake sone choices. Frankly, I’m feeling utterly unequipped. My life is fuller than it used to be. I find myself deeply attached to people and places on opposite sides of the world, and the realisation hurts in a strange way. I am preemptively miserable at the thought of leaving Israel while I simultaneously anticipate discovering homesickness. What did I get myself into?

Six years later

“The ongoing life of exes is an odd landscape.”

People change. Pretty constantly. We are always evolving in our values and our truths, beliefs, and receptions. The feelings that are caught in our throat and heavy in our chest are never as everlasting as we think them to be; within a month or a week or a year they have dissipated. Given a year, we will never be the same people we once were. Even so, in the present, we are unwavering in the knowledge of what it means to be ourselves. We are essentially blind to our own evolution.

Today I found out that my ex-boyfriend got married.

Six years ago he had sworn that he would never do such a thing. I’m a bit hazy on the details of his reasoning now, but I remember clearly his resentment.  Then again, he also condemned anyone who partook in any variety of drugs or alcohol, and I understand that he’s reversed both his opinions and his participation there as well.  Six years later you may as well not know somebody.

But that’s just it: all we ever have of any relationship is a snapshot. What we knew about someone six years ago is almost entirely irrelevant. One day there will be a chance encounter in a grocery store and in that you’ll realize that you’re strangers who happen to have a past.  It goes the other way too, of course: sometimes people could evolve into someone astoundingly attractive or interesting to you. The point is that what we know about people expires. Always.

Tough

“I get it. You’re tough now. I get it,” he snapped as he abruptly sat up.

I was moving that day and had asked him to collect the last few of his belongings that I had been stowing away in my closet for the previous six months. I was behind schedule in the packing I needed to complete and I was anxious for him to take his things and his leave. I craved the space in my room and the ability to return to my increasingly frantic and haphazard filling of boxes. He seemed unaware of this.

This was the first time he had been in my room in two months. He strode into my bedroom with the confidence of someone who had spent a great deal of time there. He seemed clueless to the nature of his visit and immediately lay down on my bed, which was at the time only a mattress on the floor. Although my furniture was taken apart and leaning against the wall and there were boxes strewn around the room, all varying in the amount they were filled, he appeared disinterested in my move. The only time he addressed it was when he double checked that I was moving only to a neighboring town and not out of the country.

So there we were: he, lying stretched out on my mattress, looking as comfortable as if it were his own bed. I was sitting up, a full arm’s length away from his body, his chest heaving gently in his contentedness. My shoulders remained tense and eventually our staccato small talk redirected to the nature of our relationship.

“Maybe it’s partly my fault,” I told him, “maybe this is all part of a learned behavior. I loved you deeply. I clung to you. And because of that I allowed you to behave horribly without consequence. So maybe this would’ve been okay then. But it’s not okay now.”

“You’re tough now. I get it,” he spat.  I held his gaze steadily but I did not respond. “I’ll just get what I came for then.”

He stood suddenly and forcefully as he grabbed his backpack. Two fast steps brought him to my doorway, where he paused, only half-facing me, waiting for my protest. Eventually, he spoke. Eventually, he left.

So, I guess I’m tough now. And try as I might, I cannot find the reason for such disdain. I imagine life is easier when there’s someone there for you relentlessly who craves your attention and does not set boundaries. What a lovely luxury that must be, even if you find reason to lie to your friends about it. But I got a bit bored of being someone’s secret and the knowledge that it is just one more thing keeping me stuck in the quicksand of Western Mass. So, I’ve let go of a lot. I weathered a lot. I found a lot. And now I guess I’m tough.

PTSD of the heart

For no real reason, other than maybe my distaste for unpacking boxes and getting organized, I sat around and read through all the emails I had sent since I opened my Gmail account in 2006. If you’ve ever done this before, then you’re already aware that this is usually a mistake. I’m aware too, but I am also weak to the fascination and horror that envelopes me when I read old letters. Who is this person that wrote these words? The events they reference are only a vague memory. And the words themselves? They could have come from anyone. I identify with almost nothing. I can read back 3, 4, 5 years. Sometimes more. I see the rise and fall of distinct relationships. The ways in which I am currently intertwined with people and their lives seems entirely unrelated to our previous correspondences. Why are there so many excruciating emails of clinging and terror when in just a few short years none of it is even really relevant anymore? The only thing I have in common with the person who penned these letters is the arrogance with which I often write and the physical body I possess. (And if you want to get right down to it, that’s not even entirely true.)

Here’s something that reading these emails confirmed for me: my feelings in terms of love and romance are flat out fucked. I had a conversation with a close friend the other day where I expressed my frustrations with my previous romantic relationship. (And while it was a serious relationship for a long time, I’m gonna go ahead and use the word romantic pretty lightly here.) As I’ve mentioned before, (surprise! we’re talking about “John” here. See  https://lustyglutton.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/ex-boyfriend-franz-ferdinand/ for further reading) I spent a few agonizing years being woefully codependent and crossing my fingers that this shit relationship would work itself out. Not that I was passive, to be clear. I tried every single thing I could think of to make it work. I’ve become a pretty introspective person as I’ve grown up, so I spent a lot of time examining the things I did wrong in this relationship. The problem with this was that when I tried to adjust my behavior and take responsibility for things I ended up throwing myself under the bus a little bit. I owned up to more than was really mine and my ex was never big enough rectify that. Or probably even recognize it, actually. Reading these emails forced me to see that again. I’ve begun to realize that I experienced such emotional turmoil for so long that I’ve been rendered nearly incapable of sorting out and naming the things I feel. I have never had this problem. Ever. It’s like PTSD of the heart or some shit.

I told my friend that I felt as though I no longer had any idea what it felt like to be in love. “You’ll know when you are,” she told me. No! No, no, no. I loved someone for years and years and my love for him became twisted with fear and resentment and bitterness. The love I felt for him made me feel nauseous and gave me waves of anxiety that made me feel short of breath. It was laden with tension and neediness and jealousy, but when I dug deep I could still find my genuine hope for his well-being and success, even if it did not involve me. A few of these issues were simply ones that I brought to the table from the start. A lot of them, though, I’m coming to realize were only the result of being in a broken relationship that satisfied neither of us. Maybe not quite that simple. A lot of  my issues arose from being with somebody who constantly told me he did not want me–in both his words and his negligence–but kept a firm grasp on my wrist. I was weak and inexperienced enough to mistake his hold for a secret caress and as such I set myself up for a very long and painful two and a half years.

“You’ll know when you are.” That’s a thing that people get to say when they haven’t been in a relationship like that. I think really, really hard about it, but when I reflect on the feelings I had for John, I just can’t isolate a memory of feeling in love with him purely. There’s no muscle memory for it. I believe that it existed initially, but that was a long time ago. I cannot recall how it feels to love someone without also feeling anxious. I cannot separate it from jealousy or neediness or codependency.  I did know when I was in love. But the last love I felt was mutilated and impure. I’m afraid that my previous relationship has damaged me to the point that I cannot recognize certain emotions for what they are in either myself or other people.

My little sister used to throw “the L word” around really casually. The second she started dating someone when she was in 8th grade she told him she loved him. It drove me absolutely crazy. But I think it’s just a thing that teenagers do. After a few hours of reading my old emails, I came across a few from the beginning of my relationship with John. Just a couple of weeks into our relationship we were writing to each other between classes to express our love for one another. I was 17 years old. Could I have really fallen that hard and fast? Or is it because I was only 17 that I was genuinely able to do so? I honestly have no idea. I am so different from the girl who wrote those emails. Maybe I am jaded and damaged now. Mostly I’m just not that girl.

I’m also not the girl who wrote the emails a year ago pleading for the phone call promised and then neglected by an ex-boyfriend. Or maybe the confirmation of a weeks-old plan. When she received no response, which was often, she’d take to writing a new email that cited her frustration with his careless and negligent attitude. Soon after, there would be an email full of apologies, self-condemnations, and promises of changed behavior. God, that makes me feel sort of ill. I am not her.

What a strange personal history. Old emails are far more telling than any blog could ever be.