Yesterday was an emotional mess combined with all the fun of headaches and anger towards absolutely nothing that encompass who I am. Today, the ‘today’ of when I’m writing this, started out much the same until I gave into the urge to paint and took up the vast majority of the day doing so. It is nice when, at five o’clock you have done something you’re proud of while not having dragged through the hours.
When my roommate then slid my W-2s underneath the door, I immediately jumped in and did my taxes, spurred on by the success of my creation. Afterwards, feel proud of my being responsible and not a lazy slob, I had to sit back and think. What is something productive yet no so much of a pain that I could end the day with? I decided to clean up my computer files because it’s very important. So important, that I haven’t sorted them since 2006.
Many years ago I indiscriminately jammed all my files onto my new computer, and then proceeded to do the same for every subsequent computer since. The vast majority of it is garbage, but there’s quite a bit of writing and drawings with, bare minimum, sentimental value.
I also found something interesting.
In 2009, I decided to start querying the fourth manuscript I’d written for the first time. It wasn’t well edited and the query letters are cringeworthy to say the least, but what’s struck me is that as I looked through my list and copies, I recognized some of the names. Fact is, many of the (few) people I queried back then I have also hit up this year. What’s more interesting is that one of them never responded to the first, but sent me a pleasant, “No thank you,” to the second. I’m clearly getting somewhere!
In my virtual travels, I also found several documents containing names and passwords of many of my high school friends. Upon a quick text they confirmed, “Yes, that is still my password.”
“Good to know!”
But what I found most alarming was a letter I had written to my first ex… that could have easily been mailed to my last.
I suppose I have answered my question on how much control I have over the reoccurring pattern. There’s a good chance that, whether or not it’s who I pick or how I act, the problems were caused by me, and they probably will continue until I know how to break the cycle.
It’s unnerving, because my exes’ personalities different on fundamental levels, but still, the exact same larger issues applied in both. Even the guy who doesn’t count was mentioned in my letter as being a part of the pattern.
It’s empowering, in a way, because it means that maybe I can learn from it. In a strange twist, the fact those men have the same problems is actually more suggestive that it’s not just “how men are” but how the men who I was attracted to are. They seemed like different people on the surface; at times I wished I could put them in a bag and shake them up. But at their core, they had the same goals and the same tactics which conflicted with what I needed.
I know that doesn’t seem to make much sense. But, from the way I saw it, I sought out someone who seemed more passionate than my first, someone more physical, more aggressive. Not too much, of course, because I can’t stand pushiness or being told what to do, but someone who appeared both sensitive and assertive in life. Truth was, he was only one of those things, and not entirely in the way that I meant.
I was looking for the wrong things. I wanted a direct solution to the passionless friendship of the last and found someone who I could tell contained deep feelings and a need to be loved. But what I didn’t worry about was something that I didn’t expect to receive from the jump: respect and love back.
Unfortunately, I don’t mean respect in the assumed sense of a relationship. It wasn’t that they didn’t respect my boundaries—a big reason why we were able to get close—or that they objectified me, talked down to me, or pushed me around.
It was that they didn’t respect me artistically. They didn’t respect anything I did for them. My first ex cared far more about the opinions of everyone, especially males, over mine. He once held the door open for his friend and her girlfriend before shutting it in my face.
It was not intentional, of course, just a representation on how much he thought of me when there were bigger fish to fry.
When we worked together on a project, he was far less experienced than I was, was perfectly fine with plagiarism and clichés, and overall ignored how much I was making the play he wanted in favor of the few things I said point blank no on.
While my latest ex didn’t pander to anyone and paid more attention to my needs, he also needed to be constantly told what I needed from him, ignoring the things I did to make his life easier and constantly seeing what he could get away with. Every morning I’d clean his greasy mess of a white uniform in bleach, scrubbing it down, washing, and ironing it to get it crisp before he had to go to work. I didn’t have a job at the time, on a visitor’s visa, but survived mostly off of my savings, spending a great deal of money and time setting up our lives while he spent most of his money God knows where, but certainly on himself. Ignoring all of that, he would see how lazy he could be, refusing to even carry it inside for me after work. I mean, he began to do it after I told him how insulting that was, but the fact is, I had to tell him.
These things may seem petty, and that’s why you stick around. Trying to glue two lives together involves compromise and not keeping track of who’s done what. Plus, I like working. I don’t enjoy much else. Being productive and in control makes me happy most of the time, so doing all of the household chores, even when I do have an actual job, can actually be meditative for me.
I don’t mind doing the chasing. I don’t mind picking up the boring jobs. But what I mind is realizing a year into the relationship that he’s merely there because he’s comfortable. He has no passion for me, he rues the women he’s potentially losing out on, he has every reason to break up with me, but he just doesn’t.
Sure, he loves me. He cares about me. I’m not stupid enough to believe that they didn’t. But I had to come to terms with that even though the constant criticism was small, even with the antipathy of understanding the effect of his actions, even though they were not the same person, the underlying issue was obvious: I need to find someone who knows how to take care of me sometimes.
I cut them slack because I’m an idiot too. I cut them slack because I want to be forgiven for my callous mistakes. I stuck around until I was absolutely sure that we were never going to grow into the bond I was looking for… and I came out feeling like no one was ever going to care enough to stand by my side.
They are there for me when I make it happen, and I’ve guess I’ve come to expect that. I chose when it started, I chose when I left. They put little energy into making either come to pass. And it makes sense. I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies and no matter what I’m doing, I never depend on other people coming through for me. When they do, great! But I always have several backups in mind.
The underlying issue? They weren’t there for me. Not when it counted. They had be to instructed, fought, and their pouting ignored when I tried to solve my problems. Stopped asking him to take me to the airport? Had to put up with a hissy fit. Asked him if he wanted to come to the movies with me instead of trying to schedule a date that will never happen? Had to put up with a hissy fit. Not only could I not depend on them, I had to take care of them emotionally when I tried to do something for myself.
Why did my letter to my ex make me hopeful that it could change? Because I realized I never try to depend on anyone assuming that they’re going to abandon me the moment I do need them. I don’t bother to vet for reliability, devotion to me, because of course it’s not going to be there in the beginning… or because I don’t think it will happen period. I come up with backup plans and try to fix everything myself and find myself fighting someone who should have been helping me in the first place.
I always say not to write off your younger self as an idiot; you’ll be much more likely to repeat your same mistakes. I read a letter written six years ago when I was nothing more than a “dumb college student” and realize that I had a lot more insight than I do now.
Yes, it was my doing in that I can control it, but even then I recognized that my feeling of worthlessness to the person I loved wasn’t going to be fixed by trying to become more valuable. If I want to find someone understanding, I just need to look for someone who is understanding instead of trying to earn it.
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