dating, fear, lessons, men, relationships

on wishing I hadn’t

Forgive me if this is disjointed. I’m writing in between reviewing tax returns at work, where people seem to think it’s either strange or wonderful that I’m a creative person who happens to be a numbers whiz. This irritates me, even though it shouldn’t, because I don’t want to be good at this.

But I digress. (See? Disjointed.)

***

Remember this?

I hope you don’t regret coming out here.

In my last post I didn’t know if I did or didn’t, but now I do. Regret it, I mean.

If it had just been the amount of time it was supposed to be, it might have been okay. Four nights, a little more than four days: a reasonable amount of time to not get comfortable, to not get used to his cat snuggling up into the crook of my legs while writing or reading, to not get attached, to not get out of the habit of sleeping alone.

But the weather had to muck it all up. Fucking snow. Fucking Chicago. I should have known that city could and would turn on me on a dime. It always has and it always will.

***

I won’t blame anyone but myself. I was the one who made the first move. I was the one who asked all the wrong and scary questions. I was the one who tested the waters beyond friendship and then plunged in, head first, saying with a coy smile, “Come in, the water’s fine, and I won’t bite…unless you ask.” I was the one who took the gamble, knowing in the far recesses of my mind that there was a very real chance I could lose something that mattered to me. I spun the roulette wheel anyhow, and I did it with my eyes wide open.

***

I want to be clear:

  1. I did not fall in love during my trip.
  2. I was not finagling for a boyfriend.
  3. I do not want to be tied down.
  4. I have grown used to my independence.
  5. The thought of living with someone (as in cohabiting) sends me into panic mode.
  6. I don’t like having to answer to anyone.
  7. I have things I want to do in the near & far future upon which I will absolutely not compromise.
  8. I’m not an albatross; preventing someone else from finding their way in the world isn’t my thing.

But that’s pretty negative, isn’t it? Of course it is. It’s a list of all the things I don’t want. It’s a list of all the things that I use to push people away, to use as an enormous banner I wave to say,

Hey, look, I don’t need what you think I need. I’m not asking for what you think. I don’t want what other people might want.”

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want (or need) things at all, and sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) I’m afraid that what’s above is interpreted to mean that I don’t need anything.

To be sure, my ideal relationship situation wavers between wanting separate apartments and wanting hundreds of miles between me and my lover. But, also: The idea of watching someone and having someone watch me, even if it’s from a distance, is one that resounds with me deeply.

I also believe in romance, and I know things like that don’t just happen in the movies because I had it in real life. There are kisses like that and there are meet-cutes and there is banter and there are faces that light up when people enter the room and there is definitely the feeling that each person is convinced they got the better end of the deal. And I want that kind of romance—again.

When it comes to my adventures, I may not want to compromise on where I’m going, but I never said I had to go alone. In fact, for at least some of the experiences, it would be rather nice to have someone with me.

And I want to be loved. I want to be appreciated. I want to be wanted, to not be the one to make the first kisses or initiate sex all of the time. I want to be adored, but in a wabi-sabi kind of way: for my flaws as much as for my strengths.

I want to linger in bed. I want to wake up being stared at and laugh out of embarrassment. I want my back rubbed ever so lightly, almost as an afterthought, a habit grown as much out of love as a deep sense of gratitude (I’ve lucked out!) that I’m still there, next to him, at least in that moment. Because moments don’t last forever; people need their freedom and they have responsibilities and sometimes you just never see them again.

***

I could tell you what I offer in return, but I would hope people know by now that I’ve learned to love people thoroughly and with as much care and compassion and kindness I can muster. I am generous to a fault, and I have the tendency to think about other people before I think about myself; I’m still learning to put my own oxygen mask on first. But I am also the first to admit I am not perfect (far from it), and I try to apologize for my mistakes as soon as I realize them; however, I am sometimes stubborn and it takes me a while. I know loving me isn’t an easy enterprise. I can be insecure and suspicious because of the things men did to me when I was young, and even with therapy it’s hard to erase all of that from your lizard brain. I’ve got issues, but I take ownership of them; I’ll tell you they are mine and all I need is a hug from you to be able to climb my own mountains, fight my own battles. I don’t try to fix people and I neither need nor want people to fix me.

I have a lifetime of proof that I’m trying to be a better person and 12 years of written evidence (hello, you’re reading it!) to back that up. I’m as open of a book as you’ll ever get, and I’ll answer any question asked of me (albeit with tact and kindness), even if it means you might hate me for it. Even if it means you might leave. Because I’ve survived the worst kind of leaving, and no man is worth not being able to be who I am.

But whatever. This isn’t about that.

***

In Chicago, when I was there beyond the time I was supposed to be there, beyond the four days and four nights during which I definitely (okay, probably) would not have gotten used to or comfortable with anyone or anything, I started feeling as though it had been a mistake. And it was for all of the reasons above, all of the reasons for what I want and what I don’t want.

***

I had an idea a day or two later, and it went over, as they say, like a lead balloon. I didn’t mention it again after our somewhat strained conversation.

***

It all started when he said he hoped I would stay in touch after I went back to NYC, because he’d had “a great time” with me. The way he said it, his tone of voice, his relaxed posture, whether he intended it that way or not, referred to the time we’d spent together as (essentially) a 4-day, 972-mile booty call. I measured my words carefully and said that the same reasons he’d want me to stay in touch would make it painful for me to do so.

***

My idea.

I’m going to be a digital nomad soon, as a writer. For the first few months of this I’ll be staying with friends. My first stop will be in New Haven. I floated (not for long; remember: lead balloon) the notion that I could come back to Chicago, to his place, for a month, maybe six weeks, to write and just to see what might happen. That I felt at peace there, that I thought he was someone who could be good for me (and I for him). I thought I was being pretty clear that I wasn’t asking for anything much.

A month.

Maybe.

Just to see.

Might.

But I guess I was. He didn’t know how long he’d be in Chicago (earlier in the week he said he’d be gone by December; my timeline was the month of May, maybe through the first week of June). He had plans of his own to do things (I didn’t mention taking him anywhere). He couldn’t give me much (I wasn’t asking for much). He didn’t know that he wanted a relationship (was I asking for one?). Everyone he’d ever gotten close to had hurt him or he’d lost (uh, I’m the queen of that feeling).

So I let it go, after a bit. Why try to convince someone to let me into their life? Like I said, I want to be wanted.

***

The next few days were horrible. I kept it mostly to myself, but I did write a lot and go to a lot of meetings and spent a lot of time out with friends. And suddenly he was pushing me away, though he kept insisting he wasn’t. Maybe he wasn’t. Maybe I was imagining that during his sleep he was pushing me out of bed practically onto the floor, startling me awake (which I never mentioned to him, out of embarrassment). Maybe it was only a coincidence that all of a sudden his roommate was watching TV with us and he stopped cuddling with me on the couch. Maybe staying at work hours late, drinking with his roommate, who will be in Chicago 100% of the time and wouldn’t be flying back to NYC in a few days was just a thing. I could have imagined it all. But it sure did seem like it all happened after that idea sank to the ground in front of my eyes.

***

The last two nights I was there he almost seemed back to the way he was in the beginning, right when I’d made the decision to stay in a hostel on Wednesday. I’d even packed up my things while he was at work and wrote him a note, telling him how sad and unhappy I was, how sorry I was that I’d made such a horrible mistake. But then I remembered I’d promised him I’d buy almond milk and a pizza for dinner, and it seemed like the adult thing to do to keep my promise. So I unpacked and tore up the note (burned it, actually) and went to have coffee with my friend Amber. When I went to buy the almond milk a guy in the grocery store told me I was beautiful and asked me out. I don’t know why that happens, why men think I’m beautiful when I’m angry or sad.

***

But the last two nights were better. The last night the sex was so intense I had a severe asthma attack that had me in urgent care when I returned to NYC. He seemed like he’d actually miss me. And when I found myself trying to sleep, alone, I just couldn’t. I missed him. I missed his cats. I missed feeling his body next to mine. I missed watching Shameless with him. I wanted him, and not only physically.

I wanted him to want to give us a chance. I wanted him to want me enough to want that chance. It pissed me off that he didn’t. 

So when I got his text—I’m already missing you—I had no idea how to interpret that. (I actually thought he’d meant it for someone else, and I told him so. He said I was silly, he hadn’t, I grew more confused.)

***

What I do know is that I can’t do this. I can’t keep texting him like this. I can’t get texts from him (I’m already missing you), or, when I tell him he should read my blog post (the last one) and all he can say is that he doesn’t hate it, I don’t know what that means.

I’m too old for ambiguity.

I’m too old to wait to see if someone wants to give me a fucking chance.

I floated the idea and he shot it down.

It doesn’t matter why.

I can beat myself up. I can tell myself that it’s because I’m fucked up or too fat or too complicated or not pretty enough. I can say it’s because he hates me or he hated the sex or he hated having me there.

It doesn’t matter why.

I floated the idea. I can say he misinterpreted me, but I’m also done explaining myself twelve different ways in the hope that the next way will be the time someone finally understands what I’m saying. People either get me or they don’t. If they don’t, I’ve got to move on.

I’m not even fucking attached to this person. I’m attached to an idea of spending of time with him to see what might happen. And I’m hurt that he doesn’t want to give me that chance. I’m sad and hurt and angry that he doesn’t want that AND that he either can’t or won’t see how sending me a text message saying he misses me would be really painful.

Don’t say you miss me if you don’t want to give me a fucking chance. I mean, seriously.

***

So I’m in the space that is the emotional equivalent of packing up my stuff, leaving a note, and staying in a hostel.

I guess this is the note.

Disjointed. I warned you.

Also, I’m hurting. I didn’t expect to be, but I should have known.

And, yes, I regret it with all of my heart.

It’s the biggest mistake of 2017, and I certainly hope I don’t make any bigger blunders. Gah.

***

It’s not his fault. He’s doing his thing. I’m not an albatross, and I won’t be in the future.

That doesn’t mean this hasn’t hurt me.

That doesn’t mean he gets to text me like we’re pals.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. And by that I don’t mean he’s getting punished for his behavior.

I mean that we are both getting punished by mine; this is the nature of regret, of wishing I hadn’t jumped into the deep end after all. Because, as it turns out, the water wasn’t fine after all; it was teeming with sharks and I should have seen them. I should have seen and counted each and every one.

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