I started taking walks when this all started. Found myself so ridiculously happy that the energy had to be spent before I could go to work. I found walking for 20 minutes through my mildly hilly neighborhood wasn’t as torturous as I feared. In fact, with all my hopes and fantasies, the trip was nearly joyous. I would move around and make plans. As days passed, I found it felt wrong not to walk in the mornings. It was instituted as a habit and I’d take time to take care of myself – lose some weight so I could feel attractive and ready to meet him without reservation – and I could think about him. I thought about him nearly constantly some days – he was just so spectacular and made me so happy, so I wanted him to have more room in my head. I spent less time in touch with family and friends because I was eager to dote on him. And when I did talk to them - especially my friends - it was often about him.
I walked for over an hour this morning – it’s misery now. Well, the thinking is. The walking is fine. That’s just something I do – part of life here. I wake up and walk before work. Always. It’s a thing. And so did he become part of my daily life though we’d never met. I remembered funny things to tell him. Read books I thought he’d like so we could discuss them. I very much wanted to be sophisticated and intellectual, but soon relaxed into being me because he seemed so charmed and fascinated by who I was. By my capacity for love, joy and hope. And, sort of like my trips around the neighborhood, that capacity grew and became normal. He mattered to me more than I could have imagined anyone would have. I didn’t think I’d make a good girlfriend, honestly. I haven’t been in the past. But I would have been for him – found time, energy, patience, love and was so eager to hand it over that I found myself bouncing in anticipation of hearing from him.
In the midst of this excitement, I was rising in the middle of the night to check my email because he might have written before going to bed. Going back to sleep, secure in his attention and affection, only to wake early the next morning so I could reply before he got out of bed. It was addictive, honestly, and I hooked myself as quickly and completely as I could manage it. He was funny, articulate and delightful to read. And I loved who I could be with him – sometimes insecure and sad, though he could easily lift me out of it. Sometimes confident and sexy, which was new for me in a way that was scary but special. It was amazing and right. I was happy in a way that I hadn't been before. Ever.
So things were good, right? Really, really good. And we both started emailing someone – the same person. I asked if he'd read her blog because I sometimes had no idea what she was trying to say. He understood though, and upon learning that, I congratulated myself on my choice of online crushes. Wasn't he smart and deep and wonderful? She sent email that was quite critical of something I'd said, and hurt my feelings once. But he took care of it when I told him, explained away her reasoning and made me all better. I was in touch with her for … I don’t know, about a month? And near the end, she warned me. Talked of transitional relationships. When people are in pain, they lash out, she explained. Hurt others unintentionally, handle the next relationship badly. She saw that happening for him – he was exceptionally bright, funny and self-aware. And when he hurt someone, he’d certainly regret it because I was right. He was very sweet and wonderful. But he would hurt someone, she promised. He had to in order to move on.
“Don’t let it be you.” She said. “I know you want more and you’re eager, but don’t meet him. And if you have to meet him, do not have sex with him. Really don’t let yourself do that.”
She had points, as did my friends who were starting to grow concerned that we weren’t transitioning into a telephone relationship. We had, in fact, lacked the email contact that I so enjoyed in the beginning. Yes, I agreed, it was bad, but I would fix it. Just wait. I have a plan. Sure, I told my online friend, I see your point. Perhaps some people handle themselves badly after a bad breakup. But not him. He’s different. He knows me, cares about me, *like* likes me. He won’t hurt me. He couldn’t. So while I appreciated the advice, I told her she might be right, but I was ignoring it.
Then I talked to him about it. Said I didn’t want to be a future regret. Should we should stop and allow this to be a lovely memory? I was scared. (At least I think I said that – I’m still not able to read his words right now.) He agreed, actually. Said he needed some time to work through some personal issues, very much did not want to hurt someone as loving and open as I was. So he needed time and if I wasn’t able to give him that time, he understood. He’d wish me well and I could move on.
And I was crushed. I wanted him to be ready. I’d waited so long until now, why did I have to continue to watch time pass without moving forward with someone I loved? But. Love isn’t like that, I lectured myself. You have to put someone else’s needs above your own – not always, but sometimes. And when I understand those needs, respect those feelings, I can honor them by waiting awhile. It’s not like I was going to get over him quickly anyway, and being in pain with him in my life seemed better than the pain without the guy. So I hung on.
I wrote a pained blog entry – I was just so sad. Found myself crying in the bathroom at work, barely pulling myself together to get through the day. But he happened to read it and said Don’t Be Sad. For whatever would happen between us wasn’t happening right now – we’d figure it out later. And, bad or good, it just wasn’t determined yet. And, as far as news goes, inconclusive is more hopeful than ‘no way in hell.’ So I let myself hope and wait and continued to write email – sometimes bright and happy, other times teasing him into offering a reply, others offering support and comfort, others telling him that I was hurting. This was hard. Maybe we should stop.
I decided, by the way, not to meet him. He seemed reluctant, then when he agreed, I found myself surprisingly hesitant. Told him that it didn’t seem right. I wanted to meet him but I wanted it to be special – not a rushed meeting when he wasn’t ready. It seemed like it wasn't the right time, though I was quite disappointed. He agreed easily, tried to comfort me when I was hurting afterward, and said that moving slowly was a good thing. Something about if we were right, then it was annoying but not harmful. And if we were wrong… well, that.
But we weren’t wrong, I insisted to myself and my friends. Talked endlessly to M, Rachel, Carrie, even Elle. Told my mom. Violet. Yes, it was hard for now, but I saw it like this. I cared about him – deeply and sincerely – and wanted to wait for him. I would always wonder what would have been and didn’t think I had any chance of finding someone better. I wanted him – this one – to meet my family, see my house, share my life. No, he wasn’t there yet. He was honest about that. But this wouldn’t happen for no reason! The world isn’t like that! He couldn’t have appeared in my life exactly the way I wanted him to, be even more than I imagined he could be, and then just disappear! I refused to believe it, accept it. And so we went on.
We barely emailed – I tried desperately and sadly to keep myself from contacting him and failed more often than not. I was likely obsessed to some degree. I just wanted it so badly, thought that I could force it into what I needed it to be. But when he admitted he was in love with another women – actually two other women – I said I understood. Thought that was wonderful and special and deserved to be honored. He should pursue that. Find happiness. Because I knew few people who deserved it more. But he explained – his heart wasn’t closed because of those loves, he said, and I decided that meant it was open to me. He concluded that email with “Write still. Please.” And I did. And I would. Hoping, but coming to understand the futility of that feeling.
This summer was rough. I was sad about him – was slowly informing my heart that the guy was great but the timing was awful. We had something special but I had to get ready to let him go. But I needed him – needed someone – to help me after bad things started to happen. I didn’t get the grant, I told him. It was OK, but disappointing. No response. I was depressed, I wrote. Starting to feel listless and despondent. I was a bit worried about myself. Nothing. My friend died and I was miserable over it. Here he offered something, but it was distant. Blatantly forced because he wasn’t feeling much for me. He was going out of town, after all, didn’t have email, couldn’t help. Be well, though. Take care of myself.
I decided – even I have to shake my head here – that it was some kind of test. If I could take care of myself, prove that I was strong and capable, perhaps then he’d love me. Decide I wasn’t too much work after all and I’d somehow get him back. So I told him – wrote proudly that I was doing better. I wanted to take care of my heart and feelings because I was good at it. I was fine. No worries, OK?
He said I was amazing. Strong, capable and loving. I felt things to a strong degree and that was beautiful. The compassion and pain came with a sweetness and joy that made life worth living. And I was so relieved because maybe we were turning around. Then, in July, maybe I could get him back. Things were looking better in his life and perhaps as some pain receded, there would be room for me. It was going to be better. I wasn’t willing to give up – it wasn’t that painful. And he obviously still had hope.
This is the key point, the argument that silenced my friends.
“He cares about me. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but he does care about me. He wouldn’t hurt me purposely – I’m absolutely sure about that. I wouldn’t fixate on someone like that! I’m older now, smarter, ready for this. So when the time comes when he knows for certain that he’s out – it’s never going to work – he’ll tell me. I know he will. And until then, I just have to decide whether I can deal with the pain. And when there’s the slimmest chance of a payoff – getting to keep him – then I’m OK. I’ll be fine.”
I delivered it with great passion and they nodded carefully, quietly urged me not to get hurt, and, I think, settled in to wait with me for the inevitable end. It was coming, of course. There was more pain and confusion and conversations about what to do. I wasn’t doing well with it – thought about him too much, wasn’t quite able to reconcile the him-in-my-head with the man who might not care so much. But the fantasies, I mourned. I loved thinking about him – how it would be if he’d visit, what we’d do, where we could go eat, all the places we’d visit and things we’d explore. And I could visit him too! It works for some people, after all. Why not me? Maybe we could write a few letters – I’d never seen his handwriting though he’d seen mine. Talk on the phone, start moving forward.
And so, at the continued inquiries of my friends, I started nodding. “I know.” I said. “I’m not doing well. Soon. I’ll end it soon.”
For it turns out that like anything in life, as my capacity for a good thing grows - as I was able to love more deeply and selflessly, so does my ability to mourn the loss of that love - that person - to a degree I had previously considered impossible. I made more room for him than I dreamed I could. Much more than he asked for or wanted, but I tried to insist he take it. I was so ready. So sure he was right. The fall from that was sure to be spectacular – as the rest of the experience was. Intense. New. Surprising.
Not yet though. I said that - to myself, to him, to friends - many times. I'm not ready. Things could change. He could care again. I didn't want to lose him. Not yet.
There's not much more to tell, though I've certainly left out a lot of details. There's just the end left to go and I can't make myself write it out. Not yet.