The Race to the Bottom

Who can move on the fastest? Who is more miserable? Who is better at pretending they are okay and well-adjusted? Which one of us can still look at the world with the same refreshing optimism?

Off the heels of a break-up, I feel like this is the unspoken competition that couples embark on. Which one of us can sweep our relationship under the rug best? It is a sad commentary on the way people view emotions and the depth of our time with someone. A series of beautiful memories are reduced to a thing we should quickly get rid of, because who wants to be the last one wallowing?

When I was younger, I felt no shame in being transparent with my feelings–elation, sadness, joy. When I was sad, I spoke brazenly about how much my heart hurt on whatever form of social media was available at the time (ie: Xanga, facebook before it was widely used). I posted lyrics or quotes that un-subtly hinted at my pain, or shared songs that outlined my heartbreak. I was unafraid of how I would be perceived and relieved to let out my emotions. I was young and naive.

Then I grew up, as did the avenues of social media, and I realized how pouring out your hurt is perceived as weakness and pitiful. I realized that in today’s swipe-left, swipe-right, attention deficit society, dwelling on our emotional injuries is seen as abnormal and irrational. Moving on is seen as a positive, self-affirming action. It means you know your worth, and recognize your value.

So I did what most people did: hid all remnants of me and you and never once hinted at the pain I was going through. No sad lyrics, or provocative quotes, no mention of you, or us. Everything calculated to ensure that no one could construe that anything was wrong, that I gave you a second thought, or that you still lingered in my dreams.  And it sucks.

But here is the thing that no body knows…Our relationship is something I never wanted to pretend didn’t happen, to be swept under the rug, to be forgotten. It happened, it was the happiest I’d ever been in my life and it makes me sick to my stomach to act otherwise. My love for you was never some flippant decision, and my heart was never something freely distributed.

What I Wish I Knew

I grew up with a very naive view of life and relationships. My parents had the best intentions and they were both upstanding people with good values. However, I will also admit that they over-imparted their philosophies on their children, to a fault. Morality was so deeply embedded in our upbringing that it often gave little room for anything else; there was seldom a gray area. While most of their convictions were well-intentioned and steered me in a positive direction, they lacked empathy when it came to humanistic relationships, most specifically love.

I was often taught to see the world in black and white. Perhaps the most damaging of these however, was the belief that we were all destined to meet our soulmate. Though I neither refute nor accept the idea, the way this belief was delivered to me had me convinced for the majority of my life that love was clear-cut and predetermined.

I grew up fully believing that the love of my life would one day materialize in front of me and I would just know. It would be straight forward, easy and guaranteed. This ideology distorted my perception since I was a child, and ultimately set me up for failure when it came to relationships and men in general.

For the better part of my teenage years into adulthood, I often found myself infatuated with different men and each time, I was convinced that the butterflies meant that we were destined to be together, that it was love, that if he could only just see… This manifested itself over and over again until my late twenties, despite each failed unrequited attempt. The heartbreaks were unbearable, because why didn’t things work out if I felt so much “love” for someone? I truly believed that just because I felt these intense feelings, it must have been mutual, they must have been the one meant for me.

These past heartbreaks gradually showed me what I wished my parents would have told me: love is not just a thing. Love is an action that exists between two people, not just one. It is not love if it is one-sided, and love is not butterflies and daydreams. Love is not forced or guaranteed, but a privilege. It is not handed to us on a silver platter, it requires work and attention; it ebbs and flows. It is living and breathing, and it feeds off of how we treat our partner. The little things we do and say to each other, the respect we hold for one another, the choices that we make daily to continue investing in the relationship–these are the sustenance love needs to survive and thrive.

Meaning in the Arbitrary

The key to everything in life, I’ve realized, is to accept that it is arbitrary. No matter how we wish to romanticize it with talks of fate, destiny and meant-to-be’s, the only truth is that for every reason, there are even more unexplainable’s. There is no invisible guiding hand that pushes us down one path or the other. We just retrospectively justify that we are supposed to be where we are.

It gives us an ignorant solace, because it is too difficult to accept that every string of events is nothing more than orderly chaos or chance. I believe in the opposite. It is easier to accept the most destitute situations by realizing that there is no “greater plan.” Things happen just because, so stop weaving together a fantasy to pacify our fears and insecurities.

There is no point in obsessing over what could have been or what was. There are no signs from the universe, clairvoyant premonitions or foretelling dreams–just random incidences that we piece together in hopes of giving life meaning.

No Turning Back

There comes a point where you stop crying, not because it hurts less, but because it has become exhausting. The thought of shedding tears makes you feel physically tired and know that it doesn’t change a damn thing. There comes a point of no return, when it is easier to keep walking than to turn around and remember the devastation.

We are here now because choices were made, things were said, and they cannot be taken back. In fact, these decisions and words have overrun my mind, and it becomes increasingly difficult for me to remember why I was so heartbroken. There comes a point where I cannot subject myself to feeling miserable anymore.

I keep walking, and the further away I get, the harder it is to come back. I don’t believe there is any turning back, even though the pain is still tender. I’ve decided to bury that pain into the depths of the past, so that every time it tries to surface, I redirect.

This is the way life goes, and I was foolish to believe things would have turned out any differently. I was foolish to believe in positive outcomes, that for once in my life, I could have it all. Even in the thick of happiness, I was unable to fully experience it or accept it because it all felt like a dream, too good to be reality.

Love Grows

Before you, I felt like I was always on my own. I never knew what it meant to be cared for, or how it felt to be part of something more than just myself. I had siblings, and loving parents but always felt that I could never fully depend on them at an intrinsic level. I learned my own lessons, faced my own problems and solved them alone. Everything was from my own creation and my own destruction.

I drove by the South Lake Union loop the other day and remembered how the summer leading up to meeting you, I used to run the entire 6.5 mile circuit. I pushed myself harder and harder yet I found myself wondering what I was thinking back then. Where was I running to? It makes me sad to realize that I ran with purpose but no destination; conviction but no meaning…so obliviously, heart achingly alone in this world, and to the fact that my perception of life would change when I met you.

When you came into my life, for the first time ever I felt that I belonged. I felt loved and cared for. I mattered to someone. I felt like I could run the entire length of the Earth, and know that you would be waiting for me when I returned. I felt like I had a place, a home in this world. It was calm and peaceful…Is this what love feels like?

Sometimes, I feel that I was tricked, that you roped me into this relationship and promised me things I would never have. Love, completeness, security, forever. I was uncertain at first, but felt that you were genuine and real with me. I wonder if you were also just tricking yourself. I don’t believe that you are a bad person, or that you planned this with malice, it just spiraled too quickly and you wanted to believe it, so did I.

But in the end, I found myself in love with you. I loved you… I really truly did. I didn’t know it at first, but love is a gradual thing and it is unlike anything I ever prepared myself for. It is not what they tell you in the stories or movies or love songs. It is so much more complex. It is the residuals after the sparks die out. It is having a home to come back to, having someone listen to your theories and philosophies, having someone make you coffee in the morning or rub your stomach when it’s upset. It is all these little seeds that plant themselves in our soul and sprout into trees that flourish with giant blossoms.

Love grows where you water it, and in this moment, I have decided to stop feeding my delusions. Love was, but cannot sustain itself with only water and no sunlight, or sunlight and no air. Love needs us both, not just one.

A Life Worth Sharing

I have learned that though some things, like the tranquility of a summer hike or the vastness of the Grand Canyons, can be enjoyed alone; most experiences are more fulfilling with the person I love. Sunny days make me miss him the most, but so do drizzly days nestled indoors watching the television, or things as mundane as going to the grocery store.

It’s funny how something as boring and tedious as grocery shopping became little adventures; it was never just a chore. Everyday felt special with him, even if it was just coming home after a day of work, popping a frozen pizza in the oven and watching the latest Marvel series on Netflix together. Waiting to hear his footsteps on the steps outside my apartment never became ordinary.

I always question whether people who believe they are better off alone truly mean it. Some people are perfectly content living out their lives solo with perhaps a dog or cat as companionship. But I wonder, as humans, do any of us actually believe that happiness can be found in a life not shared?