November 19, 2016

La veille

When I was a kid, I was terrified of dying. It's perhaps the most irrational of fears - it's entirely unavoidable, so why lose sleep over something so completely out of your control? But I would. I'd stay up late, crying quietly, worrying about when it would happen, what it would feel like, what would happen next.

It makes sense. I was a deeply introverted kid to begin with, and so much of who I am today has been defined by experiencing (and growing through) losses back then. The losses in my waking life were overwhelming, and the worst possible thing I could imagine was the inevitable state where that loneliness and grief were permanent and out of my control.

I still have fears, but with age has come at least a little wisdom, and I know how to recognize when I am irrationally panicking and when I need to step back and be gentler with myself. These days, I'm surprisingly really calm about getting older. Just as I don't mind my stretchmarks left after the many sizes and shapes my body has taken, I don't fear the eventual creping of my skin and graying of my hair. I love my body and my life, regardless of the struggles and in spite of the challenges. I love it so much that I am fighting every day to make sure it is its healthiest and best.

I'm pre-writing this post, since we're traveling to the Midwest today. But when it goes live: this day, today - it is the last day of my 20s.

I've gone back and forth a bit between excitement and odd anxiety about turning 30 - with the anxiety really only induced when I realized I'd be spending the day with my ex-husband and his family. It's not the age that's worrying me, but just the idea of spending a big day with someone who heavily influenced much of the decade I'm leaving, and whose impact will certainly affect how I approach my next ten years.

I am finally now in a good place mentally, where I can actively pursue weight loss and where my relationship with food feels healthy. I eat what I crave, in healthy portions, and I don't cry or worry about food decisions. I am getting active again, I am enjoying being outside with my son, and I'm hoping to get back into the running hobby I loved so much a few years ago.

But when he's around, I'm a mess. It's a weird, confusing mess, that's really all there is to say. There's confusion and anxiety and even with the closure of the divorce paperwork, there's still a lot unresolved in my heart. We rarely spoke about anything serious during the marriage, so there hasn't been much discussion after the fact either. I wrote about it a while ago, on my other blog, but honestly, what I would love so much is to hold him, to cry, and to grieve together. To mourn this loss with the only person who knows this situation precisely as I do.

It's an impossible wish. It's exactly what I need, but it's not his nature at all. It's not just that he's not emotional - but he doesn't hurt the same way I do, so he won't heal the same way either. And it's not a loss to him. It wasn't a loving marriage, it was a business deal - it was paperwork, it was something that got him health insurance and got him out of his hotel night shift gig. He mourns the simplicity of having a partner to help - but doesn't mourn that the partner he lost was me.

It's something I recognized long before the final decision to separate - that feeling of being completely replaceable. One of the more painful experiences was when we would try having sex - I would always communicate yes, I like that - no, I don't like that but he never remembered. I would have to remind him every single time no, don't do that, that hurts - he could tell you exactly what counties in South Carolina prefer mustard to vinegar barbecue sauce, but he couldn't remember how his wife liked to be touched.

"Couldn't" is the wrong word. It's not that he wasn't able to remember, it's just that I wasn't a priority.

I was less important than barbecue sauce.

I could be anyone, I remember thinking one night, laying in bed next to him. I would beg him to say good night to me, to say good morning, to touch me in simple ways - a hand on my back, fingers in my hair. Just please, interact with me, make contact with me.

I'm a pretty simple person. I didn't think I was asking much when I asked him to connect with me. But it was more than he could offer - or more, at least, than he wanted to.

For his birthday a few years ago, we went to a restaurant he'd been dying to try - it was more than we could afford on one salary, but I budgeted and made it work. We ate, we went down to the beach, and we enjoyed a walk together as a family with almost-one-year-old Noah in tow. It wasn't fancy, but it felt nice to be together and to be celebrating.

In the middle of that night, I caught him texting a girl he knew back in Chicago, talking about regret and wishing things had gone differently with her.

I can't do anything right, I thought. Even when I think I'm doing something nice, it's never going to be enough. I'll never be enough.

I had my own regrets about past relationships, too - I just didn't act on them. I knew it wasn't a good situation, but I swallowed it up and let it go for what I believed was the greater good. It's arguably poor advice, but I tried to throw myself fully into believing "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."

Five years ago, I spent my birthday with someone I cared deeply for, and who cared for me in return.

There's a man in California, married to someone else now, who thought I was beautiful and respected my journey. He stood up for me, he believed in me. We adventured together. He brought me out of my shell at a time when everything in the world felt entirely new to me.

Five years later, my heart is still heavy, wishing I'd done things differently, only now understanding how naïve I was and how little I understood about adult relationships. It was a hard year for me - having just lost 150 pounds, having just moved to a brand new state, having just started a brand new job - and navigating real relationships for the first time was deeply challenging.

Funny how much it sounds like what eventually happened with my now ex-husband: a relationship perhaps doomed by not receiving enough attention in a time of excessive and overwhelming transitions.

History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.

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