The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt. (Thomas Merton)
On a Friday afternoon, sticky from heat that fans don’t alleviate, my head aching from the crying, I realize that forgiving someone isn’t quite the same as pretending the pain never happened. I feel guilty that I’m not prepared to stop remembering, among other things, how alone he left me, how deep my despair grew, how his absence when I needed him left me calculating how much beer and how many Ativan I would need to end everything.
On the one hand, I’m trying to be honest. I need to hear what you have to say, he says. I’m going to feel bad whether you tell me or not. And he’s right, but all talking does is make me feel more confused and addled, less self-confident and stable. I’m supposed to be better than that, I tell myself. If I’ve forgiven him, why does it still hurt so much? And I’m trying to be that better person, but I don’t know how to do that without entering into something that feels like an unbearable combination of a panic attack, heartbreak, and being stabbed repeatedly in the stomach. It is the feeling of fear, of holding back from sharing everything because I know he’ll get scared and leave again if I do, and if that’s not the epitome of irony, what is?
Days like these, I grow smaller, curl into myself, can’t remember why I ever tried to do anything different. This is what happens when I hide from my pain and push it deep down, try to pretend it never existed, because that’s the only way I could stop figuring out about the Ativan and beer. It was always there, though, a nugget waiting to explode, and now it has, and I am lost, again.
I don’t want this but I don’t know what I want. I want to tell him everything but am afraid to hear myself speak what seems unspeakable. I want to be cradled and coddled as much as I want to do damage. I want to be the object of passion, not the kind of lovemaking and first kisses, but that which makes people do things even though they’re scared and feel stupid at the prospect of failure. I want someone to do something so I don’t feel so raw. I want to be loved.