I can’t explain why I compare, contrast and categorize life events in the way that I do; grammatically that is. What I can tell you, with declarative certainty, is that verb tenses brought me to the clichéd but absolutely true realization that you should live your life in the present.
As is the case with most couples at the outset of a relationship, Jim and I were surprise revelations, adrenaline pumping physical contact and a myriad of promises aimed at eternity.
Daily life unfolded in a future tense of expectation opportunity and possibility. Projecting, thrusting, propelling ever forward, ever faster.
We industriously planned our future when we hadn’t even built a solid foundation yet in the present. All these imaginings of future versions of the two of us had nothing to do with the two of us then. But, we were oblivious.
Enthusiasm and a desire to succeed were our driving forces. And so, we carefully crafted our life in accordance to the likes and approval rating reflected back upon us through the eyes of all those occupying the square meters of our life.
To family and friends we were the perfect match. One’s bread to the other’s butter, one’s cream to the other’s coffee.
Being together increased our prestige and cache. It must be as everyone said, a perfect match; an example to be followed, inspirational. It had to be based on legitimization by numbers.
Until one day, 18 months after this mega love affair had begun, sitting together on a park bench, under an invigorating early spring sun, amid frothy laughter and chatter, it happened. Rather than the lightness of being I should have been experiencing on such a sun soaked glorious day, I went dark. Noises became muted, sharp colors drained, my heart beat raced and my bangs were soaked in sweat. Surroundings swayed. Jim was far away and oddly unrecognizable although seated right next to me on the park bench. Not Jim solid and familiar but a random blurred version of a guy reading a newspaper.
I went from hot to cold and began to tremble. I have to get away was the only recurring thought on my mind. I mumbled some excuse, to which Jim, without taking his eyes away from the article he was reading, grunted acknowledgement and got the hell away from there as fast as I could. Once I had rounded the corner, and Jim could no longer see me, I broke into a run. Maybe I figured I could outrun the horrible sensation. Obviously, I was wrong.
That first panic attack I was able to put to rest by filing it under work stress related causes. There is no one blinder than the one who doesn’t want to see.
But in the months that followed, I found myself crying in the bathroom during a lunch date and tearing up while sitting at the bar waiting for Jim to return with our drinks.
We would be out for dinner or go to the movies and I started imagining what it would be like to be with other men. Not sexually at first, but just as a new couple. For example, what would the elegant guy at the end of the bar say to peak my interest on our first date? Would we walk arm in arm in the park at the weekends or share breakfast in bed till late reading the newspaper and planning our lazy day ahead? Or what about the studious fashionably nerdy guy? Would we visit museums and go to art exhibits or spend hours in bookshops and vacation in Europe in the summer?
This was prime grade A wishful thinking about being anywhere else but where I actually was. Had I been, at the time, unconsciously or sneakily consciously manifesting our demise? I must have mentally cheated on Jim a dozen times dreaming of another life with another guy by my side.
In hindsight, I was refuting the future we had set in motion for ourselves. I didn’t want it, didn’t feel it and yet was being, in my mind, inexorably dragged towards this life I no longer envisioned as wonderful but as asphyxiating and downright wrong for me.
Paradoxically everyone outside of my head still looked up to us and dropped hints about an imminent engagement.
In the end what pushed me over the edge was a surprise appearance at school one day. Jim had thought it would be nice to show up unannounced and spend the rest of the afternoon together. Turns out I had made plans with colleagues for that afternoon. My level of annoyance and irritation when he turned up shocked even me. Where was all this hostility and resentment coming from? Of course I knew where it was coming from, from feeling cornered; physically, mentally and emotionally cornered into being something I was not, being somewhere I didn’t want to be and with someone I didn’t want to be with.
They (whoever they are) say knowledge is power, but in actual fact you need to be ready to actively apply the knowledge towards tangible results, otherwise it is just a lot of inert information. Being the weakling I was back then, I chose the” not going anywhere” option.
From that day forward our life became what all other unrealistic dreams were compared and contrasted to. Naturally, in so doing, all that surfaced were defects and disappointments within our current life. Reality didn’t stand a chance against this newly developed idyllic vision of what I wanted with a vengeance and didn’t have with a certainty.
The archeological dig that follows a breakup.
A movie should be made on the subject, or a college credit assigned, of the perverse torture that is the post relationship autopsy.
Please clarify for me, why after years of noncommittal behavior does one find macabre delight in punishing themself by keeping the rawness, pain, shame alive through the process of, a way too late in the game, introspection.
Now I am not suggesting that a bit of empathetic soul searching or responsible admission and thus ownership of guilt isn’t a healthy and even necessary next step towards the healing process, but for how long?
All the energy spent trying to make sense of things after the mega implosion of a relationship might have been far more beneficial during the first signs of burnt toast after all.
And so it was that during our post breakup period the past subjunctive fiercely entered my life. If only I were…, what if I had…, what if he had…ad nauseam.
But enough about me.
I am sure, dear readers, that you are all probably wondering, what Jim was doing throughout this period of emotional turmoil. The answer is ridiculously simple. He was doing nothing.
He pretended nothing was wrong, ignored my mood swings, came up with justifications for all the devastation in our life and stoically marched on. So committed was he, in his heart and in his perfectionist ways to the story of us, that he dug in ever harder fueled by visions of triumphantly making it through by pure willpower alone.
Never had I hated him more.
And so we entered a Cold War. Jim was out to prove he was right and I was out to prove he was wrong. Neither one would let go of the bone. Neither one would back down. Neither one was going to be the bad guy, the loser, the “blamee.”
No matter what the romance novelists and dreamers out there say, one cannot love enough for two. One sided love is just that – one sided. And at that point in time I was categorically absolutely 100% no longer in love with Jim.
So who is worse? The coward who knows something has gone terribly wrong but doesn’t want to accept it, so looks the other way, or the coward who knows something has gone terribly wrong but doesn’t want to be the bad guy and so makes life a living hell in the hope that the other will capitulate.
Saving an ideal or saving face? .
Suffice to say, that both our approaches left no chance of even maintaining a civil friendship in the end. Such toxicity, such havoc! Total derailment of all you once were convinced you believed in. But, also such liberation, such learning.
I haven’t given up hope. But expectations and illusions or just plain taking things for granted has been reshaped for me. Now I want to live in the present, love in the present and feel sure in the present about my choices and feelings.
Of course I still have dreams and goals but they are rooted in what I do and how I live now. No more pretending or inventing a make believe existence expected by society or desired and confirmed by others. No more lieing to yourself and definitely no more head in the sand.
If I adhere, as closely and realistically as I can, to this manner of living, then I have a fighting chance for a happily ever after future instead of the other way around.