joy luck

I’ve seen pictures of them together, where half of the “them” changes as I sift through the box.  The she’s change.  His past is there.  Old girlfriends, caught in a kiss.  It makes me feel anxious and empty, like I’m a name on a list, worried I’ll be in the box one day, a saved past he’ll hide beneath a bed.  No one extraordinary. 

I have a box like his, filled with letters and photographs, napkins with ideas and I remembers.  It only has something to do with him in as far as where I’ve needed to be to get to him.  But how many times, maybe, did I feel that way too, about the he’s in my box?  Thought I’d been with everyone before him to make me ready for us?  I have.  Even the extraordinary ones are in my past for a reason. 

I still can’t help but feel temporary.  My intellect knows this isn’t true.  But it feels true.  I worry I can’t love him the way someone else would.  I love him so much; I want to give him the best, but what if it’s not me who can do that?  What if I’m not the one who can make that happen for him?  I feel like leaving with all my things because I can’t give him the best life imaginable.  I worry my love isn’t good enough, that I’m too self-absorbed, too self.  Why?  Why don’t I know my own worth?  Why am I sitting here crying on his sofa?  I know how much he loves me… but then I see photos, business cards of other women, and I somehow worry that I’m doing him a disservice.  That I’m keeping him from joy instead of believing that I could actually be his joy.  What’s wrong with me? 

I’m sad.  Why?  Because I don’t feel good enough for him.  Why?  Cause I don’t know how to show him how much I love him.  Why?  Because I’m stressed over work and maybe there’s someone else who won’t want to run away.  I don’t want to run away to punish him.  I want to do it to punish myself because I don’t feel like I deserve him.  I’ve suffered for so long, and now I have someone I love, and I’m scared because I don’t want to ruin things.  I don’t want to be without him, and I don’t know how to give anymore.  It used to be all I did, and for so long I’ve made it about me, that maybe now I won’t be as good as others would be to him.  And I want him to have the best.  I don’t know how to give him what he deserves.  I hate when I say something wrong and it upsets him.  It makes me feel like I can’t do anything right.  Eggshells.  I hate, most of all, that I don’t know my worth, that I actually believe his love is worth more.  Why do I feel so joy luck today?



  1. Stephanie dear, pour yourself a cup of hot tea and relax. I think you've got the first day of 30 blues.

    Perhaps you're over-analyzing things – live for the day – he's with you, not with them. And frankly, you're a wonderful person, with or without him.

    Have a happy weekend.

  2. "Love is a child of freedom, never that of domination." – Erich Fromm

    I just went through this emotion. It's almost theraputic to see that the same thoughts that have been in my mind are considered in yours.

    I hope your love frees you from feeling like you're dominated by the need to change and be something you aren't. Or to run.

    You deserve love. This extraordinary person is lucky to have someone who looks within.

    No matter how many hours it keeps you looking through boxes and wiping tears.

    Stephanie Klein can do it!

    Thanks for sharing your world…

  3. I completely related to these feelings…a few months ago, I found myself lying on my couch, thinking about my boyfriend at the time, and tears just running down my face because of the stress of trying to be good for him. I wanted the same things as you – I wanted to make sure that I was the best one for him, that I didn't do anything to ruin it or hurt him. But the hardest thing was letting him in and being vunerable to those feelings.

    But I think that, more than anything, the fact that you are concerned about being the best for him shows that you ARE. That's what true, unselfish love looks like. Do you understand how lucky he is to have someone love him like that? Not a lot of people get to experience that, and some aren't capable of love like that. But when you get it, you can never really lose, no matter what happens.

  4. an ex of mine said he felt the same way about me when he left. that he felt he was holding me back. that I deservd more. it crushed me. it's my call to decide what I want. at the time what I wanted was him. but my ex's insecurities didn't give me the choice. he was too afraid of me someday agreeing with his insecurities to see what might happen if he believed in my believing in him. (did that make any sense?)

    I'm not one to usually spout out advice on comments, but try to believe that he believes in you for a reason. it's your call as to whether he's the one you want to be with. and his call as to whether you're the one for him. try not to make up his mind for him. I know it's scary. but love can be. and it can survive the insecurities and uncertainties, if we let it.

  5. Does anything make you happy? You're sad when you don't have anyone to share your life with; you're sad now that you do, because you're afraid that your love isn't enough?! The world is full of cancer and AIDS and destruction and poverty and suffering. I doubt that anyone is sitting on a couch in Biloxi crying because they're afraid their boyfriend is going to leave them because they don't love him enough. If you would stop navel-gazing long enough, you could look around you and see this. Stop going through the box from his past that's hidden under his bed. It's under the bed, cover with cobwebs for a reason.

  6. I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and today is not the first time that I feel that someone has crawled into my brain, pulled out my deepest, darkest thoughts and shared them with the world. But today is the first day that I started to cry, realizing that I'm not the only one struggling with these insecurities. It's amazing how you can have so many wonderful, caring people in your life, yet still feel alone and insecure when it comes to love. I always thought that when you fell in love, those feelings would melt away. Not so much the case. So thank you — thank you for your bravery, thank you for saying what I'm thinking, thank you for letting me know I'm not alone.

    I wish you love, joy and peace.

  7. I had the same feelings about a month ago. I was moving, needed to clean out boxes. They were full of photos, cards, momentos of things that seemed so good, yet ended so awful. Why did I keep them? I asked myself.
    So in a cleansing process, I sent the guys back their stuff, it was a pic of something or anything, I sent it back to them. So they would remember one last time, that woman named Jen who made them happy for little moments in their little lives! Somehow I felt justified! Didn't hear much of a response. I am sure some of their wives didn't enjoy it, but we were before them!
    Just wanted to let you know you aren't alone!

  8. I have a "her".. The Surge dated "her" for 4 years. She has a website that I find myself trolling now and again. As she's British, their relationship was long distance, so I've found dozens of old emails from him to her and vice versa.. I see what he typed to her.. recognize things that he's now said to me.. and it makes me wonder.. The internet, my husbands "box under the bed". It allows me such a weird window into my husbands ex-girlfriend. I also discovered her on myspace so it's all very strange. I find myself logging on every now and again.. Like driving past a bad car wreck.. Don't wanna look, but at the last second you do.

  9. I wouldn't want to be with someone who thought they couldn't love me enough. This attitdue could ruin a happy, functional relationship. Hope your outlook improves.

  10. I swear by my life, and by my love of it, that I will never live for another man, or ask another man to live for me.

  11. It's all good. It's a commitment thing. It's scary and you doubt your own worth and you worry and you fret and you realize that if you don't stop you're going to blow this amazing thing that you have.

    It starts when we're kids …

    You'll get through it. Try not to worry. Remember what Douglas Adams would say, "Don't Panic".

  12. Maybe it's the melancholy in me today, but, I too am often a person who spends time wondering if I'm good enough for either another person, a job, whatever. I think at some point everyone has these feelings and that they're completely normal. So don't beat yourself up over it, just go with it.

  13. i did the same thing when i was finally with the right person. everyone has those moments, and they are ok. you deserve everything you have, and he does too. take a deep breath, and know that he probably feels the same way sometimes. you have plenty to give, and deserve to be given the same.

  14. The difficult part of love is being selfish enough,
    Is having the blind persistence
    To upset an existence
    Just for your own sake.
    What cheek it must take.

    And then the unselfish side-
    How can you be satisfied,
    Putting someone else first
    So that you come off worst?
    My life is for me.
    As well ignore gravity.

    Still, vicious or virtuous,
    Love suits most of us.
    Only the bleeder found
    Selfish this wrong way round
    Is ever wholly rebuffed,
    And he can get stuffed.

    –Philip Larkin

    If I could figure out that last bit about the bleeder, I'm pretty sure this would be my favorite poem of all time. Anyone have any thoughts on that last bit? I AM SENOR NUMBUTS

  15. I know my husband and I have no doubts about each other at this point in our lives. Hopefully that will never change but people change and life changes and so you never know what lies ahead do you? I guess that would take all the fun out of it.

  16. You are such a contradiction. On one hand you are truly talented and a wonderful writer-but on the other you are whiney and unsatisfiable. Ask yourself this, Stephanie: Do you even want to be happy or are you merely in love with the process of pain and self doubt? You live this life filled with fabulous food, men, clothes-the best Manhattan has to offer, and yet nothing fulfills you. It merely entertains. I truly empathize with all the pain you have gone through…but come on enough is enough. Your writing, which once seemed so raw and thought provoking, is beginning to sound whiney and self-absorbed- not to mention redundant. How many times can I read about how much you hate yourself and still respect the you- let alone admire/like you? Stephanie, you are thirty now. Try acting like it!

  17. You cry because you love your friends so much. You cry because you can't love your boyfriend enough. You come off as an emotional basket case. And it seems like you might be testing Phil in some way; if he sticks with you after reading these sort of posts, he must really like you, right?

  18. Stephanie, it's amazing really, to read your post today because I too (like many others apparently!) have been thinking similar things of late. Maybe it helps to know that it's not only you ladies who go through this angst — that guys also feel the pangs of wondering if we're good enough, worrying that we might mess things up. I bet your guy feels a lot of these things, too, whether he shares it with you or not.

    The fact that you're worried is a good thing, I think, as long as you're not worried TOO much. I had a previous relationship where things were just a little too intense — with a knot of anxiety in my stomach that never went away, I lost like 20 pounds and feared I would lose more when she mercifully broke it off.

    The intention to not screw up is the flipside of wanting to take care of yourself so that you can be the best partner to your guy. Being newly 30 and in the grips of the first breezes of autumn is bound to exacerbate your melancholy. Cuddle up in those blankets, drink a lot of hot chocolate and stop reading his former hers stuff! I do that kind of thing too, even as I know I'm putting salt in the wound. Step away from the shoe box!

  19. Go to Hallmark and buy him a card or better yet, make him one….it's a little cheesy, but at the same time very endearing. It's the little things that we do that show how much we love some one.

    And you're definitely worth it, Chica, look at all you've been through and accomplished, how many awesome friends you have, and your wonderful family. Don't edit yourself just because he gets upset by something you say, that's his problem, not yours. IF what you said wasn't nice and you didn't mean it, then apologize, but if you two truly love each other, there shouldn't be any eggshells.

  20. You know, it amazes me that some people expect this blog to entertain them, as if I'm writing it to delight them. I'm not. This blog is a record I keep. Sometimes I whine. I do it here because I can. I know all I have to be grateful for, all that I'm blessed with, but I'm still entitled to whine and feel sorry for myself. It will pass. It always does. Then I'll be back to posting about pressed sandwiches, the rain, and my dog… because that's what I do.

  21. You mind can produce negative thoughts which causes negative responses. I know. I do it all the time.

    In a way, we are actually 'hating ourselves' by simply putting a bad thought in our head.

    "I'm not good enough."

    If you tell that to yourself 'too' many times, you will start to believe it; your body will believe it as well, and eventually, you're entire system will shut down. Depression will sink in, and then your self-esteem will dwindle down to nothing.

    Why do we self-hate most of the time? He probably loves you more than you think. Do you feel as though he is going to abandon you?

    I am sure he reads your posts—or—-maybe this is a writing exercise? (not sure) But if this is 'real'—then talk to him. Show him this post. It's absolutely beautiful, and sad at the same time.

    Remember, if we don't love ourselves enough, we're not going to be able to love someone else fully.

    Hang in there. :)

  22. I guess you know you've really "made it" when everyone feels the need to dissect your every post. Everyone, no matter who, sometimes feels down, wonders about their significant other's ex-lovers, feels self hatred, strives to be better, has days of pure joy and love.. and this blog is a well rounded account of the vast emotions ALL human beings experience.. I really loved this post and I think every woman (and most men) on the planet can relate.

  23. Watch out, you think it long enough it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You spend so much time agonizing over if your good enough for him (or her in my case) you finally break the thing apart. So you become not good enough for anybody and wind up sitting at home alone because you are afraid you will screw up somebody's life. Whoa – what an ego trip that is.

  24. I was there when my husband and I just started dating… I hear you… but honestly, it sounds like you need to get outside yourself for a while–go for a walk, go do something nice for a stranger, just get outside of your head. Men are usually a lot more straightforward than we women give them credit for. Enjoy them and don't overthink your relationship.
    Btw, I have never been compelled to comment before.

  25. I've been so stressed out lately with everything – and woke from a dream crying the other morning – overworked – overtired – long involved in-depth conversations with the boyfriend – it can get to be too much. And then the self doubt creeps in – and it can all be so overwhelming. Take a deep breath – take some time for yourself – and know that you're 'enough' for him – but what's more important is being enough for yourself.

    Baby steps.

  26. Look at everyone support and/or criticize! It's a thing of beauty and you must know, Stephanie, that you have struck an emotional chord!

    I loved 30. And I TOTALLY question love when it comes my way. It's all good.

  27. Ever wonder if maybe he feels the exact same way? Maybe you are too good for him, maybe he's scared because he doesn’t want to ruin things, maybe all your MIDs worry him?

    I bet if you asked, if you talk and share, you'll find that there is nothing to worry about. Accept the love!

  28. Keep on rolling, girl you got this one. You're the girl looking in the box. Not the girl in the box.

  29. "This blog is a record I keep." Fair enough, but if you truly didn't want the feedback you would keep it private. Why not save it to the hard drive, keep it personal? You don't, because knowing that people are reading is an integral part of the process of writing for you. People are not going to read you, however, if you don't entertain them. You need to entertain them, keep them reading. Why not accept the constructive criticism without making the facile argument that this is some sort of paradoxical private diary?

  30. I see your point noisette but I don't agree the argument of this being a diary is paradoxical.

    A blog(like this one)is personal in nature. I think people confuse it for a soap opera or reality tv sometimes and because they have the ability to comment, use it to say "tell us more about XXX to keep us interested" or whatever programming they want to ingest. I believe that was her point not "don't give me constructive criticism".

    I also see someone having one of those days and writing about it.

    I read your blog as well for political thoughts. there's a place in my day for both. I'm thankful for that.

  31. It amazes me how self-righteous you become when your feedback becomes less than enthusiastic. You began to blog in order to be published and to have people"read (your) stuff." You are a great marketer and an amazing selfpromoter. Let's call a spade a spade here. You are a literary reality star. You do it well, but let's not pretend you do this for yourself. You do it for the attention.

  32. Yet another great post Stef. Ig the haters. They are so miserable that they can not be honest with themselves about their feelings. I think it is awesome that you are bold enough to put it all out there. Can't wait to read more.

  33. I get the feeling you're trying way too hard and overanalyzing again. I can't use the "R" word, but just let things happen naturally and don't force. BTW, do you ever talk to him about this? There now, just what you wanted, some unsolicited advice.

  34. Wow, i don't understand where people get off on (negitivly)criticizing another persons feelings…gees-us people, come on. She's a human being with completely valid emotions. Just because you may have never experienced anything similar, don't damn us that do. If you don't care for it, don't read it.
    Stephanie-I so hear you, cuz I've been there. I had a lot of anxiety too, especially since it was my first 'totally in love' relationship. A LONG time ago I even stopped reading Cosmo because of all the ridiculous articles about guys who cheat, how to tell, and their stories about how they do it…it would only put stupid ideas in my head.
    Just realize that he is not with the exes because it didn't work out for some reason. Sometimes keeping little mementos are just a way to recognize that something 'used' to exist. I have a gift from my ex that still hangs on my wall; it was a cool gift, but it doesn't remind me of him. I'm sure Phil maybe thinks about your past relationships too. If you haven't already, maybe the two of you can just take a little time to talk about the exes, and then just let it go and move on. I understand your emotions, I hope they pass soon.

  35. Stephanie, Stephanie, Stephanie-OK, let me preface this by saying that I don't know you from Adam(or Eve, as the case may be). But if it's any idication of how who you are, on a whim and to pass on a few amusing(or at least, I thought so) anecdotes about my Grandmother, bugs, and mosquitos, I e-mailed your man the other day. He doesn't know me from Adam. But he took the time out of his day to send me back a quick little response to my e-mail. He took the time, Stephanie-he took the time. It is because he is a caring person, period.

    He is obviously thoughtful and caring-I looked through the photos of your birthday party, and your body language shows that you both show care and love so much.

    I will say this-Stephanie, as somebody who doesn't know you but considers your words "friends", you are worth it. Anybody who takes the time to worry means that you just care so much that you don't want to f–k something so good up. But here's a hint with us guys-don't question that part of yourself. We are with you not out of desperation(especially with somebody who seems to really care and give as much as you seem)-we are there because you give us what we need, and we sincerely hope that we give you what you need. Love and Aceptance are 2 way streets, and trust me, we don't stick around when there is a traffic jam.

    And if I know you, which I think I do but I don't, it's all green lights from my toyota's driver's seat.

    And from this guys POV, for someone who has as much going for her as you, I'll bet Phil does the same thing sometimes. Men do it too, we just hide it a little better.

    This too shall pass-"Be yourself, no matter what they say". Take care, and that whole Hallmark thing-do it!

  36. I really hate to say it, but I think you probably *are* temporary. In all of the photos of you and Phil together, the body language is so revealing… You leaning into him, looking eager, him leaning away, appearing cold and distant. And that's worrying.

    I think you should trust your instincts on this – some of the darkest thoughts we have contain the most truth.

  37. To your fears, "Am I good enough for him?" I would add, "Is he good enough for me?"

  38. i 've felt it.i've seen that box.and when I left i took all my photos and the things that could put in thw same box,all together with the other regret.i wish i could be a part of his greece.

  39. Procrast, you are INDEED senor numbnuts. What a quirky piece you've posted, and thanks for doing so, too. I've been witness to many whom have lived just this poem in former relationships – it is quite real and true to the point; which, IMHO is meant to describe the ultimate effect of opposite extremes in pairings… those MOST selfish often have the tendency to attract those MOST self-sacrificing (yes, the 'bleeders' – they are willing to figuratively have their hearts pierced by another). As the selfish-natured ones never seem to deem their behavior inappropriate or be desirous of improving it, these other poor blokes trying to influence them (er, virtuously rebuff them) are otherwise often canned (and/or 'stuffed') in the long run. There is no changing this type arrangement in either case, as each are incapable of properly perceived introspection, and therefore become as viciously defensive as pit-bulls in their strongly-held belief that such selfishness or lack thereof, is intrinsically tied to their very survival. Again, the word of the day, as it so often is: must be BALANCE.

    Stephanie, as for you hon – I would encourage the consideration that these swings may be tied into what could be thought of as a bipolar-type chemistry, as so often happens with hormonal swings of estrogen surges and deficiencies. Please do not take offense with this non-medical assessment. It's neutrally designed to help you key into why your mood pendulum is often so widely-spaced, as well as your tendency towards temporary self-doubt and anxiety. Many of our world's most famous and talented artists swung dramatically in this manner – it actually fostered a deepened creativity for them.

    BCP's are notorious for having this effect on some women, by the way, as they keep estrogen levels artifically low. Give Phil and yourself a huge hug and a welcome break from such difficulties – and additionally ask your lovely Mom, whom appears quite practical as well as worldly – whether she agrees that bringing these more extreme moods into balance would be warranted. Everyone has a uniquely-cued chemical pathway, and while I'm not condoning pharmacological intervention of any sort, there are effective nutritional strategies that tone down mood swings without numbing you out. You may wish to become acquainted with them as this can be surprisingly effective at quelling the more painful aspects of connecting to these emotions while experiencing LIFE'S surges and deficiencies. Just a suggestion, of course, to be taken for what it's worth to you… hang in dearie, as you already do.

  40. Women in Belgium go through the same things. It's not about being perfect, it's about being less perfect and loving it. The things you must cherish are the little flaws because that makes the person their true self. Good luck!

  41. thats so weird. I'm in Spain visiting my parents, and I just got out MY box of memories, letters, photos, scribbled notes from my past

  42. Hi, Stephanie,
    I want to preface this by saying that I have read all of your postings from the past year and a half and am immensely grateful to have discovered such a well of wise and funny and bitingly honest stories and insights.
    I spent the summer living in London, where my boyfriend of 2 years lives, and there was a period of two days in which I sat, crouched on the floor of the laundry room, rooting through pictures of "them". It is a frightening feeling, seeing other women's bodies in the nook of his arm, him at his most comfortable, both of them smiling, or on vacation in cities and places where the two of us have been.
    My reaction ran the gamut from profound jealousy to anger to understanding to fear that what he had with one of these women in particular was a better fit that what we have together. It's irrational, I know, but it's real.
    The truth is that the connection that you and Philip have is something he has (I'm guessing) never quite had before. Or you. Part of being upset, at least for me, was a tiny stab of fear of the truth: that this is the best. That part of what makes it so good and true is the fact that you both put all your cards on the table, spread them out, admit, "This was my life until now."

    Thank you for your site.

  43. Hey Steph,
    The "It's not you, it's me" response is rarely used to empower your significant other to search for greener grass. Be honest. Is it really him? Just some thoughts to ponder.

  44. Well, i think you don't have to afraid of missing him. Of course fear in love is not bad sometimes, but its up to us to overcome the problems. Just don't rush the things and be patient. Have a look outside your window and smell the rain…a big breath and all be fine.

  45. I just want to thank so many of you for your kind thoughts and emails. Even the ones that are hard for me to read. I feel much better today. Phil is more than my dream; he's my reality, even when sometimes I tend to create my own. It happens. Thank you.

  46. Stephanie, so glad to hear that you're feeling better today. Phil seems like a nice guy, and you're more than good enough for him. We all have moments of feeling less-than-worthy, but if he felt that you weren't what he wanted, you'd be in the box too.

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