Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Give it Time

As an early 30 something year old woman, I’m no stranger to dating, relationships and breakups.  And while it may be cliche, this timeless adage remains true: time heals all things. The words of this saying rained heavy and true for me recently.

It was over the summer, and I found myself spring cleaning; in the summer. Go figure. As I was going through drawers and cabinets in this seasonal purge, I stumbled on something; something I buried deep in the depths of my room. It was something I forgot I even had, and it was something that held so much hurt. It was a necklace an ex boyfriend gave me a couple of years ago. Something so small, held so much meaning, and once brought me so much joy; and yet conversely in the aftermath and shambles of the sudden and dramatic breakup, caused me deep and immense pain.

For a while, I kept the necklace out on my dresser where all my other jewelry sat. It posed both as a symbol of false hope, and a dagger of pain of what once was. Admittingly, I allowed this symbol to sit on my dresser and remind me of the hurt for far too long.  At some point, I went through a purge of the relationship: I threw away the love notes, and deleted all the text messages and pictures we had together. But that necklace - it remained. I shoved it in shoe box that sat in the back of my cabinet closet. For a while, I forgot about it. And as it does, life went on.

Months after the breakup, I still found myself heartbroken, and struggling to allow myself to feel or even love again. No man I went out with once or twice even came close to the pedestal I held my ex on. I built up that metaphoric wall, and I cut men off left and right. I would rip men apart if they even so slightly offended me. As current jargon goes: I became a bit of a savage. It was a pattern (if I’m honest) I was in denial of.  And as much as I’m embarrassed to admit it, this common thought ran through my head: “how will I ever find another man that comes close to him?” Hopelessness and severe heartbreak was the cloud that followed me.

Now, as I found myself time and space later, stumbling on this necklace, in a routine summer cleaning session, the pain that I once felt at the sight of this necklace was all but gone - in its entirety.  The memory of him and the relationship blew into my consciousness, and for the first time I didn’t feel a dagger to my gut, and the act of holding back tears wasn’t the dance I did. Rather, I stood in gratitude of him and our time together. And the sentimental value I held to this necklace was finally gone. This distinct thought ran through my head: “yea, that happened; it was good while it lasted; it hurt like hell when it ended, but now it’s done...it’s finally done.” And in that exact moment, and with no hesitation of sentimental value, I posted that necklace for sale online and shipped it off to a woman in Georgia within the same week. My hands were finally clean of the heartbreak. Finally.

Now either by chance or circumstance, I met and quickly started dating someone new around the time I finally let that piece of jewelry go. And despite my previous protest of any other suitor, I allowed this man to stick around for a while longer than one or two dates. In good old fashion - fashion - we met in person, at a young adult mixer of sorts, that a girlfriend of mine dragged me to.  And although I protested driving through an hour of LA traffic to get to this function, it was a pleasant surprise to meet this man by the end of the evening.

I was pretending to be interested in some of the pamphlets in the back of the room, as I waited for my wing woman to come out from the bathroom, when he approached me and struck up a conversation. There was instant chemistry as we quickly learned that we are both Catholic school teachers and one of his colleagues was a classmate of mine from grad school at LMU, and a rapid exchange of teacher tales proceeded the small world connection. And in good 21st century fashion, the man looked me up on Facebook the next day, and the rest is history.

As our relationship developed and grew, he surprised me with his acts of service. Helping me set up my classroom, coming to my aid after a knee injury, and a somewhat grand gesture of friendly peer pressure at a karaoke night were just some of the ways he wooed me, made me feel safe, and I felt I could finally trust again. I finally felt like I could let that wall down. And as all relationships do, we went through highs and lows. He shared pieces about his life story and demons he battles with me, as I did as well. I affectionately annoyed him with videos and pictures on our dates, and I enjoyed watching his epic lip singing and ridiculous valley girl accents, and we each would vent or share a laugh from our teacher chronicles from the day.  Our date nights in, with take out, microwaveable popcorn, and a movie as I fell asleep in his arms; trying to keep up with his 6’3 height on any afternoon weekend hike; lesson planning or grading side by side; or trying to get that white boy to dance with me and some coworkers on a few occasions will always be a fond memory for me.

And even though we didn’t last, I don’t regret the time we had together. I needed him for that time, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, perhaps he needed me as well. While we both are great individuals, there were issues of compatibility we both realized some time in. And while the end of our relationship held hurt, and some anger for me, in how he handled a situation, I’m grateful for the last peaceful conversation we had before wishing each other well and going our separate ways. When it comes down to it, our time ran its course, and we had to count our losses.

As I’ve hit milestones of this breakup it’s taken me a bit off guard, and yes it’s caused me some tears; though I’m not ashamed to have cried. In the words of Usher, sometimes you just gotta let it burn. In the meantime I’ve kept busy with what I love doing and those who love me close.

And while there are still unanswered questions in my head, I realized I had to let those lingering questions go. I realized, as much as I wanted more clarity (because who doesn’t like more clarity) at the heart of the questions it really didn’t matter what his answers were. In the words of someone I look to as a father figure at work, he said to me: “Babzy, you’re too much of a gem to worry or waste your time thinking about his answers or reasons why. Because really, why does it matter? And what would it change?” It was then, I realized my own sense of closure came from my ability to decide I don’t need his answers. It wouldn’t define or change my view of myself or my sense of self worth; and it certainly won’t dictate my ability to move forward and meet someone new. It was in this realization, I found a moment of personal growth and confidence.

Now as I compare my inner thoughts, I feel a very distinct difference in the way I feel now (post breakup), then from when I felt two years ago as I held that necklace (post breakup).  The overwhelming sense of content, peace and gratitude now, is a far cry from the feeling of despair and hopelessness I felt nearly two years ago, in the shambles of my breakup with necklace boy.  And that right there is growth in emotional and mental maturity. Forgive me as I dust off my shoulder in pride for myself.

They say you learn more about what you’re looking for in a partner after each breakup. But I can’t help but think after each significant breakup I’ve had, I gain a new sense of clarity of who I am, what’s important to me, and the person I want to become. In two words: self awareness.

While there are still moments this man crosses my mind, and at moments it’s been tough, heavy thoughts haven’t prevailed or clouded my days. They simply pass. The hurt and anger that was once there, has been replaced with serenity and forgiveness. There is strength and wisdom as I turn to people I trust to confide in, and I feel cool, calm and collected. Instead of feeling: “how will I ever find someone again,” I instead feel: “I know there’s someone else out there for me, it’s just a matter of time.” Am I ready to go back on the market now? Well that’s debatable, but I’m taking it in strides. But again the timeless adage rains true: time has healed.

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