When we’re missing, people look for us. It’s the entire philosophy behind playing it cool. When someone is gone, we imagine the best for them, and the worst for us. Oftentimes, our imaginations are crueler than reality. We’ll whine to our friends, using words like “depressed” and “miss” interchanged with “sooooo much!” Then they’ll sling an “if it’s meant to be” your way because that’s what friends do… remind us that life exists beyond our own tortured selves.
“Meant to be” lets us be lazy; it eases anxiety because we stop fearing regrets. We stop believing we had ownership; we could have done something to change the outcome. It’s lazier than a man who sits to pee.
You have to live life with unanswered questions; there isn’t always a why. People pant rectangular sentences, rounding them off with “there’s a reason for everything.” Doors slam; windows open suddenly, and “meant to be” flies in and sticks like marmalade on the sill of your life. Advisers chant it flippantly, as if speaking of a break-up or a lay-off. They don’t attempt the clichés in the face of a child who suffered, fighting cancer, only to die. People want to wrap lessons around things and tie them with ribbons of hope. "It will make you stronger." Do you honestly believe that child died to teach you a lesson? We tell ourselves things, convince ourselves, to make sense of the senseless. We feel better when we have concrete answers to grip, even if they’re the "wrong" ones. They’re ours, something to hold onto, like a ledge.
I’d rather be single than in the type of relationship where I’m home alone, looking at the clock, glancing at the phone, wondering where he is and imagining the worst. I hate that I’m her, that inane girl pacing near a phone, completely unglued. I despise who I become when I’m in relationships; it’s why I sabotage them. When I’m faced with his distance, aloof behavior and unresponsiveness to my expressed needs, I don’t chase him. I sprint from “us” like an animal just released from a trap. At the first hint of being rejected, I amputate my feelings with the tourniquet I made from the sleeve I wear my heart on. If I kill it, I’ll do it humanely, before the enemy has his chance. I know the why; it’s not unanswered, but it’s still a ledge I use to help myself up.
I hate my insecurity more than the taste of fennel or the smell of canned tuna. I despise my stomach for tightening with the mere mention of the phrase “bachelor party.” I become sick over “take some space.” I abhor that I become the lightest sleeper, turning, hoping the buzz of the television is the buzz of my vibrating cell phone… that the steps in the hallway are his, not the neighbor upstairs. I hate that I awake too early, stricken with anxiety; worried he won’t choose me when it’s hard.
I worried the man who kissed I love yous into my mouth wouldn’t mean it when it mattered. He believed it when it was easy and convenient, when I was smooth and pretty, in silk and air conditioning. But he wouldn’t mean it if it meant taking sides, giving things up, being selfless. Sacrifice. He wouldn’t mean it when he was drunk with his “she’s just a friend now,” when it meant my career, when it meant less money, less freedom, less choice.
In being burned, I learned to hate the faith I’ve had in words, in promises, when he’s said it with tears in his eyes, staring at me in the middle of the night. I flinch now when someone makes me believe because believing makes me vulnerable, open to blessings and bashings. So now, I ignore the words and promises, knowing what we choose to do with our time and lives is all that matters. Tell me one thing and show me another, and I’ll show you the door.
I’m embarrassed by how controlling I was, how I punished his behavior by becoming aloof. I’m terrified I haven’t changed because the feelings, their intensity, are just the same, repeating in me now, pathological synapses all because of some romantic spark. He stayed out late without me, by choice. And I said it was fine, sent a text wishing him goodnight. “Have fun” I threw in without ever meaning it. I’m selfish, and love should be selfless. It’s hard to love anyone when you’re even the slightest bit insecure. I’ll always be the slightest bit insecure. I don’t know how to talk myself out of it.
I narrow my eyes into a ferocious stare, hating that my first instinct is to punish instead of understand, to blame instead of listen. I’m on the offensive, holding a weapon made of galvanized fear. “Oh, I didn’t think you’d want to go because you were out so late. I was sure you’d be too tired, so I asked a girlfriend to go.” If I were really mad, a guy would go in his place. There. Take that. Passive aggressive this. It’s a weapon I’m frightened to relinquish, but by keeping it, I can be assured it’s only target will be me.
When the instinct seems strongest, I shut my big analytical trap. That’s the difference, now. The desire to execute my passive aggressive behavior is very real, but by not honoring that instinct, I’m changing outcomes. I’m helping to provide a situation where my partner won’t end up hiding things of which he knows I will disprove. He won’t worry that he’ll be punished, and therefore, maybe he’ll be honest.
It’s no small task for me. It’s much easier to be alone. But that’s avoidance, and avoidance is psych 102. So I’ll continue feeling the ache and worry, but I’ll wade through it without acting on impulse. I won’t persecute. Instead, I’ll know that this change I’m trying to own is "meant to be." I’m open, full of hope, taking in a deep breath, and exhaling slowly, letting the worry melt off my neck. It’s more than a start. It’s an answer.