Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Value of a Heart

I tend to trust people until I learn that I can’t. I’m not sure that’s the smartest and safest way to be, but it’s who I am. It gets more complicated when I learn I can’t trust someone, not because they aren’t a good person, but because they are so bogged down in their ‘stuff’ that they can’t be trusted.

I dated someone a few months ago that I considered a good friend. Overall things were wonderful and we had a great time. However, I never really felt that he felt the same about me as I did about him, so I held back a bit. Or I thought I did. When he left, as was part of the plan all along, we agreed to be friends and to stay in touch with a “maybe someday” kind of promise. I was ok with that and for some reason felt that it was truth. We stayed in touch fairly regularly and it felt right.

Then I called one day and heard everything I hoped I wouldn’t hear: he had found someone, he was really serious about her and planning to stay nearby to see if she was someone he might want to plan a life with. All of the “sort of” promises he shared with me. Then he cancelled our vacation plans as he didn’t think she would approve. When I asked if he was ok with never seeing me again, as we don’t live near each other, he said, “well maybe someday when I’m in Arizona, or I dunno, maybe when you’re dating someone we could meet up the four of us.”

Seriously one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. Why ever would we want to do that??

This was the same thing I heard from another guy—a guy I was great friends with for several years. We traveled the world together, saw each other weekly and were in almost daily contact. He and I never dated, but when he told me his girlfriend (that he never said a word about) was moving in, he said, “we need to find you a man so we can continue to hang out together.”

Those words were the deafening roar of a friendship ending. I never really talked to him again.

So now, I hear this again, only it’s a different guy, and one that I considered a really good friend and also someone that I finally admitted to myself after he left, that I was in love with. One week after I had to let my cat go so I was flailing around in my grief. To be fair, I opened the conversation, however, that didn’t make it any less painful. My heart broke into tiny little pieces that night. I had partly been preparing for this, but when it actually happened, it hurt so much more than I expected it to.

I spent the next few days crying my eyes out, then I decided I needed to move on. I have had my heart broken before—not a pleasant thing, but the price of love when it doesn’t work as I hope. I started making plans again and getting back to my life with my friends. I even went on a date or two, half-heartedly, perhaps, but wanting to get back to my life and to feeling alive again. There was nothing I could do about the situation, so better to let it go and move on. I thought I’d like to stay friends with him in time. I was starting to feel ok again.

Then three weeks later, I get a message that he’s been thinking a lot about me, that he owes me an apology and is so sorry. When I asked why, he said that he now realizes what he had with me and that he was an idiot to let me go. He realized he just got scared, panicked and ran to what doesn’t work for him but feels comfortable.

I had no idea what to say, so that’s what I said.

He then asked if I’d still go on vacation with him. Well, the Universe intervened, as I had just booked a trip, ironically, the one I was going to do with him, a week before. I was going to go solo but someone I know was interested in going, so I was excited to go with her.

Two days passed without comment, then I wrote, “Now what?” And my response was, “What do you mean? Now I continue living my life.”

I had spent two days with my mind racing of ‘what ifs’ and thinking that maybe there was a chance. And instead, he apparently thought that without any conversation, he would just pop back up in my life again, joining me on vacation and slide right on in as if nothing had happened and nothing had changed.

But it has changed.

I know the cost of a broken heart—at least, I know what it has cost me. Entry isn’t simply showing up, but truly and honestly being there with a whole heart. It’s not just acknowledging failings and poor choices, it’s also making honest amends. Being there in a way that I need, and not that he needs.

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I hope he feels better for his heart-felt confession. I now understand that it was all about him and little to do with me. He felt badly for his behavior and for hurting me and wanted to apologize to feel better. I appreciate that as I truly believe he meant it. I forgive.

What I won’t do is open the door to my heart again for someone who can’t be bothered to treat it gently, and is so caught up in his stuff that he fails to see what his confession did to me. They were the words I wanted to hear so badly weeks ago, but in my dream, it was followed up with action. In reality, the only action it’s followed up by is his doing more thinking about his failure. He may live halfway across the country for now, but there are ways that he could be present if he chose to.

And now I know—he does not choose to.

And now I know—I won’t either.

My “maybe someday” is when he can step up and show me the man I believe he is. Until then, I will move on with my life because I know it’s best for me. The price of a heart goes up even more the second time around.

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What Makes Us Stronger

A few days after I lost my cat, a friend wrote something to me that really has stayed with me. She said:

“You are in my thoughts and prayers. Take it easy on yourself, grief is not logical or linear….do what you need to do to cope and don’t worry about what you “should” be doing or whether you “should” be “over” losing him!!! I love you.”

Every day since, several times a day, I have read this message and think about it. I think about how they were exactly the words I needed to hear at the time, because I was feeling like the waves of grief should be rolling back. I was feeling like I should get back to my life and doing the things important to me. I was even feeling like I should devote my energy to my dogs, who need me.

Should should should

The word “should” keeps creeping into my life.

I was bundled up in my feelings of obligation, of feeling a need to be perfect and of being strong instead of just working through my grief–instead of taking care of me. I was doing what I do when facing a challenge that I don’t know how to handle: I compartmentalize. I cut off the feelings that I struggle to manage and instead focus on something else. Maybe if I look strong on the outside, I’ll feel that way on the inside. But since I’m not dealing with my feelings and simply putting them aside, all I feel is numb. And vulnerable. And weak.

I have a tendency to crawl in my cave of sorts when I’m upset. I think part of it is that I don’t want to inflict myself on others. Who wants to be the one that drones on and on about her dead cat? And who would want to listen to that? I also feel very vulnerable reaching out to people for support, for love and for help. So, away I go.

Confession time

I’m going to call myself out on this because not talking about it makes it more powerful. I’m cringing at the thought of people reading this, but if it helps even one other person, then it’s worth it. And by not sharing this with anyone, it makes it so much larger and more powerful.

It starts off simple enough—I can’t sleep as I wake early in the morning thinking, but after a few days, that becomes habit and my gigantic busy brain is busy at work every night around 3 am circling over and over. I lose my appetite, I feel isolated and the sadness takes hold. I grasp desperately for some semblance of control, some way to take control over the rush of feelings that I have. I feel like I’m spiraling down a whirlpool and have no way to fight back the waves of depression and sadness.

My search for control leads me to stop eating. I shouldn’t want to eat when I’m this upset, and I may not be able to control many things in my life, but this is something I can control. I ignore the rumbling in my stomach, my faintness and lack of energy and eat the minimum to sustain me. What makes it worse, is that I begin to realize what I’m doing, dislike it, and instead of focusing on how I can make myself feel better by being kind to myself, I begin the harsh judgment of how I know better than this, how I can do better and that maybe this is all I deserve. Instead of sharing my feelings of powerlessness at this moment, I turn them onto something I can control. At first it’s not conscious, but then it becomes a game of control. I learned there is a word for it: restrict. I start to consciously restrict, because I may not be able to control the situation that caused me to spiral, but I can control my eating.

Deep down I know that starving myself won’t bring my cat back, nor will it make me feel better. It becomes a game—a twisted one to see just how far I can go, how much I can exert complete self-control over eating. It’s not so difficult to ignore the pangs of hunger when your brain is cycling with self-doubt and grief. I start with a furious bout of self-judgement, though I know that’s not fair to myself nor an effective way to stop the cycle I have started. I give myself a physical reason for the hollowness I feel.

Then when that’s not enough, I move onto over-exercising and use what little energy I have to punish my already tortured body, while the feelings of powerlessness, isolation and sadness continue to grow, fueled by my behavior. Fueled by people noticing that I have lost weight and telling me I look wonderful. It becomes my little secret that I don’t share with anyone, nor do I usually readily admit to myself. It’s embarrassing and I’m ashamed that in my quest for control, I have lost it. I struggle knowing that this isn’t good for me, yet have a strange sense of pride about how far I’ve taken it on occasion. Is it strange to brag about losing 30 pounds in a month? I suppose it is, and it’s certainly not healthy. Eventually a small part of my brain realizes that I’ve taken it too far: I’m hurting myself and I finally stop.

My shame always led me to not want to talk about this, though I’m learning that not talking about it makes it stronger. I’m not perfect, and I don’t need or want to be. This is a part of me, just like my brown eyes and freckles. I look in the mirror and hope someday to face myself without judgement, without criticism and with love. Sometimes I’m there, and other times, I’m still a work-in-progress.