Thursday, November 29, 2018

Optimism--or--What the Hell Was I Thinking?

Why do I seek out the attention of people who can never and will never be present for me?

Why is feeling unsettled both comfortable and excruciating?

Rhetorical questions: I know the answer. It's long and complicated. Yet here I am, again.

I love to be hopeful. I have been hopeful for years. I have given people I love incredible amounts of leeway. I was told by a therapist once to see these people as rubber bands; they stretch and return (maybe). I always want to see the best in people I love. I forever want to imagine my friends being their happiest selves and also sharing their joys and sadnesses with me.

Recently I have counseled friends around me, stuck in their grooves, wanting things that will never happen; they are chasing ghost relationships. I see what they are doing, and I gently remind them not to put energy into things that cannot change. At the same time, I know that I do it, too.

The terrible truth is that I see things that aren't there. I ignore the uneasiness in my gut and tell myself this time will be different. I end up in murky pools of self-loathing because I desperately want to perceive things just so. I also think I pursue people who give me crumbs, feed me half-truths, and lead me along to suit themselves because their inconstancy is weirdly seductive. What they tell me is true, but only up to a point. When I press them about what they mean, they generally evade my questions or dissemble. I know that they aren't telling me the truth, but I look past that and accept whatever partial shiny bits I like.

The most painful thing is that these situations are all very predictable. I am 49. I have been here many times. I could be a contender in the Olympics of reading narcissistic people.

I know that in all honesty, I set myself up. I blame myself harshly for this, but what I should do--and am doing--is to change my behavior. That's all I can do. The reality is that these are people who aren't meant to be in my life. I am finally accepting that. I have slowly cut them out, one by one, until there was one left, one dogged remainder. And now that is over. I am both hurt and relieved.

I remember long ago, when I first met my husband. I was heartsore and bruised. I had been with a man who didn't make me a priority. Just didn't. He loved me, but I wasn't even in the top three important things in his life, or if I was, I didn't feel it. I said so again and again. Finally we broke up, which was for the better, although I have always missed his wit and intelligence.

Anyway, not long after that I met my husband. He is steadfast, if nothing else. He always shows up. I remember maybe three weeks into dating, one long ago July, he asked me to go on a rafting trip with him that following September. I thought, "What? How can you be certain you still want to be with me seven weeks from now?" I asked my friends what to do, and if this was normal. They said it was, if we liked each other. I had no experience of this, really, because I had always been with men who were incredibly emotionally absent and selfish and barely thought past the next day.

So my now-husband called every day. He made room for me in his life. Really made room. He has issues, big ones, like being Prussian and throwing me under the bus with his mother, on top of many other things I don't wish to catalogue in public (I am not perfect, so I am not finger pointing here). But I could count on him, and 21 years later, he may drive me insane, but he still shows up. He doesn't make excuses; things will happen or they won't happen, but he is always upfront about it. Our relationship is messy on many levels, but he is reliable. That matters to me. That isn't to say there aren't huge holes in my life. There are. That said, no matter how much we fight, no matter how awful it gets, he is present--at least to talk when I am vulnerable.

All this to say that last night, I felt like Charlie Brown with Lucy, when when she pulls away the football. That's exactly it: people don't change. It's incredibly hard for me to trust people; it's hard for me to accept I am not a priority when I care about them, but c'est la vie. It's hard for me to be put away in a box, but if I am, that means it is truly time to close the door. When someone says, "Got to go, bye, see ya later!" and they don't come back, take them at their word. The first time. And don't go after them.

Part of my willingness to go after people who clearly don't make me a priority has to be related to being left at the hospital that one time. It sucks having to be the one to love myself enough to mend that, but that's the plan.

I think again to dear Charles Trenet and "Que reste-t-il de nos amours." Sometimes things should remain memories. I can't bear anymore souvenirs qui me poursuit sans cesse.

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