On Love and Redacted
“In the morning I’ll be with you
But it will be a different kind
I’ll be holding all the tickets
And you’ll be owning all the fines”
365 days sounds like half of the title of a terrible book.
“365 Days to Dental Health”
“365 Days to Find God”
“365 Days to a Better You”
You know, the kinds of books you’d find in a section called “Personal Growth” where Harry Burns stares at Sally before they fall madly in love.
In reality, 365 days is just a year. Approximately the amount of time I gave myself to get my shit together.
And here we are.
365 days later, collecting my shit into neat little piles of regular human existence so that I can throw out the trash, donate some wisdom to Goodwill and feel a bit more like I have space inside myself to give and receive love.
The past 365 days have been better than I could have predicted. In 365 days I have traveled by train, car, bus and plane to Dallas, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, DC, Baltimore, and somewhere in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods. Twice. In the past 365 days I have painted my kitchen cabinets, cross-stitched rap lyrics, drank countless beers on patios, won 1 and 1/2 games of trivia, and watched two of my best friends get married. I have grown a garden, made out in a canoe, gone to concerts and bought an expensive bra, just for me. In 365 days I have acquired three nephews, two roommates, a step-dog and a handful of new friends. I have booked plane tickets, booked it out of bad dates, and read too many books. I have fallen asleep on the couch with my nieces, fallen down a flight of stairs, and fallen in love.
365 days and I have zero (plus one) regrets.
About 229 days ago, I wrote a letter to redacted and never sent it. I wrote it because I was angry and broken hearted and jealous. I actually almost sent it a few times; when I found out where he lived, when I got his change of address form unexpectedly (6 months after he’d moved out), when I had to pay my property taxes with a credit card because he never paid me back like we had talked about, when I’d watch too many RomComs or had a bottle of wine for dinner…but something always stopped me.
Possibly it’s because it’s poorly written and emotional. Possibly because it’s long and probably wouldn’t be taken seriously. But most likely because it’s vindictive and mean, and while I know how to load those emotions into the chamber, I rarely find the courage to fire them at my target. I debated a long while what to do with this letter. Send it? Throw it away? Email it? Burn it? Bury it? Staple it to a flaming bag of shit and ding dong ditch him? I couldn’t decide, because frankly I was terrified of it.
Then about a month ago, someone asked me why I never wrote about “personal things” on my blog.
“You’re a fucking ass.” I told them. (Which isn’t true, but let’s pretend it sounded like that to set the stage.)
They then proceeded to tell me that it is, in fact, true. “You write about how you feel, and you write about what makes life funny, but you never just tell the truth,” they told me.
So after thinking, and drinking, and walking, and thinking I decided to tell the truth.
And send the letter.
At the same time.
Fair warning, if you’d rather not see me in that light, if you’d rather imagine me kind and sweet, walking softly with a big stick, then you should stop here. Because the only thing I regret is not saying the things that should have been said, and I didn’t say those things because I never wanted to regret pushing him away. I never wanted to regret being callous. But to hell with regrets? Right?
Sometime in March, 2015
Dear redacted ,
I should preface this with the fact that I know it’s pretty normal for me to write you long emails and texts with lots of feels as I try to wrap my mind around something we aren’t talking about. And it’s pretty normal for you to never write me back, so I understand that this letter will probably be read and tucked away under a pile of things you mean to do/read/change. I also understand that after this, there might not be anything left to write again anyway.
I understand that I can say a million words, but it won’t change a thing.
We are who we are.
I write, you wander.
Before you read on, I need you to know that I am fine. I read, I sleep, I function. It turns out I’m just fine on my own. I would almost say, “I don’t know what I was even afraid of”, except that I do know. It’s the realization that it’s not that you didn’t want to spend the rest of your life with someone, it’s that you didn’t want to spend the rest of your life with me. Which of course, creates the elusive question, what’s wrong with me?
I told you once in an email, “I respect your honesty that you cannot give me what I need. But it takes two people to fight and I am almost out of dignity. Without my dignity I don’t know what I am fighting for. I’m sorry.”
You told me you couldn’t promise me anything.
I told you I would love you anyway.
You told me you couldn’t promise the same.
I told you I would love you anyway.
And so we went, back and forth until it came to a head, me standing awkwardly with just a fraction of dignity left, and you with a hickey from a stripper on your neck because, as you so eloquently put it, “… sometimes being well fed and happy is enough. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I find other things to distract me, and sometimes those other things aren’t you. Sometimes those things hurt you.”
So why wasn’t I enough? What’s wrong with me?
I went looking for the answer. I looked back at all the things I had saved. Emails, texts, voicemails, letters, cards. Weirdly watching myself grow from a 21 year old girl to an adult with a job and a car payment, through fights and apologies, confessions and promises until I found my answer. Through everything, through the whole mess, I never said anything.
Well, not anything of substance anyway.
When we broke up, when you cheated on me, when you quit your job, when you quit school, when you quit being an adult. When you told me you were just “lost”, when you lied to me, when you stumbled home smelling of liquor, when you left me alone at home in a panic, when you gave up, when you ignored me, when you took the long way home with a girl that wasn’t me…I never said anything. I maybe told you that I was hurt, or cautioned you that I wouldn’t wait forever, but I never told you what I should have.
I never told you that I think you’re a fucking idiot.
I never told you to be a god damn man and keep your god damn pants on for the woman who loves you. I never threatened to leave. I never looked for revenge. I never told you that I don’t think anyone will ever treat you with the same amount of respect and consideration that I did. I never told you that out in the big world you can’t wait to be a part of are a bunch of trashy, bitchy women, waiting to tell you to be home by 9 who will never understand why you would want to go to Guatemala and farm coffee, or start a cooperative in an abandoned lot. Women who expect rings on their fingers, and a short leash around your neck and a promise of children with a father home on Sunday nights. I never told you that I was the best thing you could possibly dream of getting. And I never told you that you are a fucking idiot for giving it up.
In a way, I think I did you an injustice. I let you believe that women will love you when you treat them as an option.
I wanted so badly to believe that you leaving me was part of something bigger than us. I wanted to believe that you leaving me actually was the hardest thing you ever had to do, not just the most inconvenient. I wanted to think that it wasn’t just me, that I was perfect but you were destined for more important things than simply loving a girl in Ohio. I clung to the idea that you leaving was about more than the fact that I came from a family with 401ks, or that I couldn’t talk for hours with you about the way it feels to take redacted or that I was redacted and you were redacted .
I wanted to think that you leaving was part of this great big thing that would make you breaking my heart and tearing apart our families worth it. That you leaving would create a spark in the universe that would change the course of someone, or a lot of someones, lives.
I wanted to believe that in the end we wouldn’t just be a guy and a girl who shared a home for 5 years.
That I wouldn’t just be the girl that sometimes visits redacte and you wouldn’t just be that ex that owes me money. But I’m having a hard time seeing that anymore. I’m having a hard time seeing anything but a guy scared to leave and a girl too scared to let him.
And that, it turns out, is what was wrong with me. No matter what you did I allowed you to continue to pull and cut and twist our lives in any direction you wanted. I listened to you tell me that you were weak, lost, confused. I arranged my afternoons, my paycheck, my vacations around what I thought would make you happy. I held you up on a pedestal when you quit your job to go to school. I took in, with great patience, that you had feelings for someone else. I allowed you to confide in me that it scared you that you might need more than me. I accepted your explanation of your return to restaurant life as a sacrifice for your future, for me, your mother and for your daughter. I did all these things as an act of faith, in an attempt to show you how to create your own happiness. In an attempt to show you how magnificent sharing a life could be.
In the end, regardless of what I did, or didn’t show you, I myself did learn one thing: To accept what you’ve been trying to tell me all along. What’s hidden in all those “I’ll be late tonight” texts and un-returned emails. It’s in the various excuses for leaving and lying; there are so many people in this world who want me more than you do.
And you knew that.
You knew since we were in Mexico. You knew when I bought the house and we argued about the color of the fireplace mantle and you apologized and promised to be the greatest man and father. You knew when I brought home Bernie. You knew when we argued about you quitting school. You knew when I offered to help support you so you didn’t have to work at a restaurant. You knew when you wouldn’t let me bake your daughter a birthday cake. You even knew when you chose to text the other woman in your life on the night that you had decided would be our last night together.
In the end, you left life with me to keep peddling through the same bullshit you’ve always been in, but without me. Because when you can’t see past your own disillusionment and unhappiness, having Mary isn’t worth the reciprocation it would take to make her happy too. Especially when a warm body will stroke your ego just fine. So of course I wasn’t surprised when, redacted , the great lone wander with lofty aspirations of “figuring himself out”, found someone new to spend his free time with. Someone new to distract him from the great things he is going to do with his life. Someone new to hide behind. What’s even better is that with this new life you don’t have the the guilt of my roof over your mother, my arms around your daughter, my dreams invested in yours…you get to have your cake and continue to hide from the shit that is “preventing you” from realizing your dreams too. You get to wallow in the cards you were dealt without the guilt of 5 years weighing down on you and your uncertainty.
I’m rarely mean, or callous…at least I try not to be, but I didn’t hold on so long, circling around your dreams to watch them go down the drain without saying a word. I have bit my tongue for so long, possibly because I thought you might recognize how compliant I was with your non-commitment and that some how my compliance would make you love me.
I see now how impractical that was.
To look back on all of this, and know that in the end all you really wanted was to shed responsibility, is hard. And although I am humiliated, I do not regret it, the time I spent. I refuse to regret such a large portion of my life, but I have learned from it.
And I have learned, redacted , that you are a fucking idiot.
You once said that you couldn’t bear to let me love you more, and now I realize that that wasn’t some grand romantic statement. It was just simply another version of you telling me you knew. You knew that you phone was worth more to you than me. You knew that a woman who loved your family wasn’t as exciting as leaning over a couple beers at the bar with a girl from a different part of town. You knew that dreaming about a life you could have, was better than enjoying then life you had.
You knew that even if you got your shit together and finally made it to Guatemala, that you didn’t want me to go with you. You knew that there were so many people in the world who want me more than you.
I let you think women will love you because you’re smart and different, and never taught you that men that are smart, and different, are respectful to women.
I’m at a precipice, now, redacted . One direction is the world that I created in order to retain value in the time I spent with you– the world in which you become something bigger than you were ever able to be with me. A revolutionary, a father, a man who leads with his heart and his great big brain. A man who I will tell people with great pride and sentimentality “I spent some of the best years of my life with that man.”
The other is a world in which I accept with great humiliation and sadness that there isn’t a man who wants to be a part of something bigger, there is just a man.
You get to decide the rest of your life, redacted . And for a short moment, with excitement and pride, I watched you relish that, taking care of the blessings that were handed to you. You made a huge mistake letting that girl, redacted , a girl with the right words and the wrong home address, climb into your car and break the foundation of what you were trying to create for yourself.
You made another mistake not leaving me then.
And an even bigger mistake leaving me now.
You should really get your shit together before you drag more people through your mess.
You’re better than that.
I wouldn’t have tried so hard to make you love me if you weren’t.
With no regrets,