Oct 21, 2014

Navigating The Titanic

Forenote: I have sat down to write this blog so many times over the last year. And in the past few months, I've wanted to write it even more. But lately I feel like I'm having this same conversation so many times with so many different people- and that typically is a sign that I need to write it, whether it be because maybe someone, somewhere needs to hear it or I need to get it off my chest, I will never know. Honestly, I hope it's an even mix. But what I'd like you to know is this- I don't write these posts to force my opinions on people or for attention/sympathy- I just write them because for me there is a certain peace in "glass house living", and a certain beauty in being able to write out my most vulnerable moments in an attempt that maybe even just one person will relate to it. And that being said... here it goes. Judge away if you must-

Navigating The Titanic

I have lived a "fairy tale" romance.

Once upon a time (lol!), we met in a bar (be it a very, very classy one). I was out with the girls- he was a waiter at the restaurant above the bar we were at. He came down to say hey to a friend he knew from college, and despite the table being filled with lovely ladies, he walked right up, smiled and made eye contact with each of us. He had this natural confidence about him that gravitated me towards him. He never seemed nervous, never seemed uncomfortable, surrounded by all of us- he was right at home there at our table, telling us about his band and his hobbies. Even though he was a self-proclaimed "nerd" and a drummer, he was smart, poised, and appeared to have his life together. I could hear my mind going through my mental list of wants- "check, check, and check!" We convinced him to go to out with us for a bit and when he left for band practice we exchanged numbers.

While the physical attraction brought us together, we both accepted it wouldn't keep us together seriously. I've heard 2 real schools of thoughts on people finding love- some meet the person they end up with and it's instant, effortless and they see eye to eye on everything- but some people (and I'm going to say most of the people I know, honestly) fall in love in slower ways as their relationships take more time and effort to build upon. Ours was definitely the second type.

We were complete opposites in most ways. He was brilliant and studious, I am still overly emotional and occasionally reckless. He was poised, liked to drink things like "fine" Scotch, and could tell you more details about the taste of wine then you would ever want to know. I personally am more of a fruity drink or beer type girl, don't have a poised bone in my entire body as I'm constantly just a giant ball of awkwardness, and spend a great deal of time with my metaphorical foot in my mouth. I was more patient with people, he wasn't good at reading people's emotions or social cues. He was great at talking, I was better at listening. He was cranky, I was upbeat.

At first, it created a rift- and over time it gave us balance.

What we did have in common in the beginning was that we liked to have fun and we both started out with a fierce determination to figure it out. Honestly, I still have no clue what inspired that in us other than that initial attraction, but somehow we both set out to find a way to make it work. We did the best we could in a weird situation- he was living in Springfield, I was still back home in Lebanon. It meant a lot of weekends on the road- I'd head over to Springfield first thing on Saturday morning or he'd head to Lebanon when he got off work (usually after midnight). And a lot of time that meant he'd get to my house and walk in to find me passed out on the couch, defeated by exhaustion before he ever even got there (usually with a Hallmark channel Christmas movie still playing on the tv despite the time of year- something I received endless taunting about). But we understood that even the smallest bit of time together was precious and vital for making our vision into a reality- so we'd use every bit of daylight on Sunday or we'd call each other out of the blue during the week (even though we both HATED talking on the phone) and eventually we built exactly the relationship I'd always wanted-

We became best friends. We fought from time to time, as all couples do (and, okay, fine- sometimes it was over stupid stuff like who got to sing "LIKE YOUR UNDER SEDAAATIIONNNNN!" when rocking out to Time Warp in the car) but we put in a lot of effort just to let the other person know we cared- he showed up outside of my house (an hour away from his) one night with no notice whatsoever, he brought me roses, and sat through more than his fair share of musicals- I learned to play Magic The Gathering, bought him hilarious gifts that only he could appreciate, spent 2-3 hours in a shoe store any time he needed new shoes, and tried to give him space and hang out quietly when he needed to do homework during our times together. Over time we became each others biggest fan- I tried to be an active supporter of his education/ career pursuits; on multiple occasions he'd tell me about how he had read the funniest thing that day just to realize mid story that it was something I WROTE.

And eventually, we decided to take the plunge and move in together. Just from past experience, I had sworn that I wouldn't move in with a guy until we were sure we were headed for marriage. We obviously weren't engaged but we had every intention of taking that path. We found our apartment together, bought furniture together, and created a comfy little life of our own. If you had told me at that point that it wouldn't have worked out, I probably would have laughed in your face. We had talked about it so many times, we had our relationship figured out to a science finally- we had learned about each other to the point where we knew each other inside and out. I could accurately predict his actions about 90% of the time (which also meant no one ever wanted to play us in any kind of charades- what is up with that?!)

Here's the thing about fairy tales- the books never go past the "happily ever after" part. The characters fight to figure out their relationship, and then just get together and the rest is assumedly history. I've decided that we put our own spin on "happily ever after", that because it's implied we assume they live perfect lives and perfect relationships after the story ends. But as I've got older and I've realized "happily ever after" is more of a state of mind then a life path. "Happily ever after" just means you make up your mind to figure it out, come what may- you choose to find joy in your life, your struggles, and your victories.

It's a terrible thing to trust someone and have your trust betrayed, to wake up for work and find your house empty.  And when I got the call at 2:30 that next afternoon, hearing the details of where he had spent his night-  I knew in my heart that, for me, the trust and relationship we worked so hard to build was so quickly broke beyond any hope of repair. Overnight I was forced to rethink my plan for the future, scramble to plan to pay more bills (we had split rent, furniture, groceries, etc.), and deal with the emotional toll of it all.

I'm going to be honest with you, I'm not good at communicating my feelings- regardless how hard I try and I am a strong believer in "fake it until you make it" where happiness is concerned. Life is hard sometimes- but you force a smile, you shake it off, you get up every morning- and before you know it just that simple act of putting one foot in front of the other leads you right into the next big, beautiful adventure. I kept a lot of my struggle with this private- telling really just one or two people the full story and immediately making sure I followed it with "eh, it wouldn't have worked out anyways. It's all for the best". Because in a lot of ways, I felt stupid. Stupid that I had trusted this person, stupid that I still felt heartache for what we lost despite my anger, and stupid that I hadn't seen some sign, somewhere.  I struggled with this for a really, really long time- until I choked it down enough to numb it and let it lie dormant inside me- not aware of the pull it was having on my decisions and the way I was living my life.

But here's why I tell you this-

A few months ago, I struggled with this feeling of stupidity and distrust in a massive way (much to my surprise- I had numbed it so well I had thought it had completely gone away!) I stood on the ledge of trying to go forward and trust someone new or back off the cliff and go the safe route out. And every time I'd try to jump, my feet would stop and I'd stand there frozen mid pounce- balanced on my tip toes. Luckily, I have a fierce determination and belief that you have to do the things that scare you- because most of the time that's where the best adventures and life rewards come from.

Since I'm better at writing my most vulnerable thoughts instead of speaking them, only a small handful of people really knew my thought process during this but I'm sure they will all agree that I made up my mind on how to proceed just to immediately change my decision so many times that I probably gave them all mental whiplash. Id decide to go for it, just to shy away, then make up my mind again-

And then I realized this:

There is NO SHAME in this story. There is no shame in my past, just as I've tried to never let there be before. There is beauty in being able to trust someone. There is grace in being able to focus on the great qualities in the people that surround you. There is courage in taking that dive. And if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. Even when it ends in the worst of worst ways, the shame is not yours (or in this case- mine). And what a shame it would have been to have missed out on all of those good memories, to never have learned to open myself up to another person, and to never have known all that happiness. Despite everything, I am not looking back on that time with any regrets. The great moments and memories, the things I learned about myself from going through that, are a vital part of the person I am today. And above all else? I learned that I am stronger than I look. Was it tough? Yes. Oh, gosh, yes. It was tough, terrifying, painful, and completely disappointing- but I'm still standing here, I'm still surrounded with people who love me, I'm still blessed in a hundred ways, and it made way for newer experiences, newer lessons, a different kind of happiness.

It wasn't an easy journey by any means. I can't map it out for anyone or give instructions. I can just remind you that life goes on and holding on to pain, resentment, doubt- it's all poisonous. It takes strength and courage, yes, but find a way to move past your demons. Because the biggest thrill is taking the dive off the edge, hurling into the "water" below, with no idea where you will end up, but finally being aware enough of your own strength to know that it doesn't matter what lies in front of you- you will figure it out.

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