I had planned to write about the concept of people “deserving” the good or bad things that happen to them. Because it’s been on my mind. And it bugs me. This may still be that post. I’m not sure. This could go anywhere, at this point. I am severely jet-lagged. Anything could happen.
(I’m in the wrong time-zone. I should be in Munich. I’m coming to terms with this.)
Good things are happening in my life. I’m in a healthy, peaceful, happy relationship with someone who is decent and kind and trying to be the best person he can possibly be. (We just happen to be in different countries right at this moment. Which is a frustration. But not an insurmountable one.)
We have known each other since we were in high school together. We have been friends for a very long time, though life sometimes got in the way and we went years without contact. (During my marriage, for example. Because when you’re involved with an emotionally abusive person you become isolated from the very people you need to stay closest to. Go figure.)
I still remember when I knew we were going to be friends. It was the first time I met him, on the orchestra bus, leaning over the back of my seat to talk to my other friend who was sitting next to him. Both good guys. Both wicked smart and funny and kind. My people. He made me laugh, and he got the jokes. Excellent basis for a friendship at any age.
The first time we tried to have a definitely-more-than-friends relationship was a few years ago. I had been divorced for a while, and I knew there was something between us that needed exploring. So we did, for a little while. But that time around he was not quite ready for me. Which happens. Timing is everything, it seems. And just because you think you know in your core what is right and true, doesn’t mean everyone is on the same page at the same time.
I got hurt pretty badly that time around. I did write about it on here at one point. For the sake of catharsis.
But even in the midst of that anger and hurt, I missed him. I missed my friend. I missed how easy it was to be around him. I missed how I felt when I was with him. And I knew we were not done yet. (Though I sure as hell wasn’t admitting that, even to myself, for a long time.)
But last winter I opened the door again. I happened to see a photo of him visiting a mutual friend, and seeing his face no longer stabbed me through the heart like it had before. I still missed him. It was time.
I gave him the opportunity to explain what had happened, and to apologize in person. And he did. In a way that confirmed what I had always suspected, that he was a decent human who had fucked up and had learned a painful lesson. Hell, I knew as soon as I saw him in person, after two years of deliberately avoiding any thought of him (and failing miserably, I might add). Arrow right into my heart. No stopping that when it happens.
It was like coming home.
I hadn’t really been ready for him either, when we first tried the relationship. I was damaged from my marriage, and had no idea what an actual healthy relationship should look like. Emotional abuse is no joke, people. It messes very deeply with your head. Very. Deeply. Therapy is imperative, at least for me. (I still have times where I wish my ex had hit me physically instead, and that’s pretty fucked up.)
Let me be clear. This is not how it always works. Sometimes people fuck up and don’t learn at all. (My ex-husband is a case in point there.) People don’t like to admit when they’ve made mistakes. They especially don’t like having to face them and apologize for them. And growth is painful. But if you own your flaws and actually learn from them, then you can grow as a human and do better. If you don’t, and you refuse to grow, then you’re going to be a very unhappy person and no one can fix that for you.
No one can fix you FOR you. This is important. Do your own work.
Sometimes people don’t learn.
So did I.
So we started again. Trying it differently, this time. Talking about all of the things we had been afraid to talk about before. (ALL of the things.) Allowing ourselves to tentatively have that level of vulnerability with each other, because we saw what happened when you didn’t do that. Tentatively because we still weren’t sure if we could trust what was happening yet, and when you’ve been hurt enough you learn caution.
We both learned.
We learned that it’s more important to say things out loud, even if you’re afraid of how the other person will react. (He had been involved with someone very similar to my ex-husband. Explosive constantly. Over everything, no matter the scale. He was still in the process of extricating himself from that toxic relationship.)
I knew, intellectually, that it was better to say things out loud. But practice is harder when you’ve been well-trained. So now we are both learning that it’s okay (and necessary) to be honest and open, and he’s started to understand that I don’t go nuclear unless there’s an actual proportional reason.
It takes A LOT to get me to the point where I explode. (A fact that worked in my ex-husband’s favor far too many times.) But it’s me. I can’t be other than who I am, even when provoked.
For example, when I confronted the woman who had been having an affair with my then-husband I was exceedingly polite and the phone conversation ended with her apparently feeling more loyal to me than to him. (To the point where she actually contacted me a couple of months later when my then-husband-soon-to-be-ex contacted her again – which was something he had sworn never to do. Poor fool never expected that she would tell me. Mr. Mensa.)
That’s how I work. I hate confrontation, but I’ll do it if pushed to the brink. And I’ll still do my damndest not to let it overwhelm me and push me beyond logic and reason. (Oh, it happens. Believe me. I’m only human. But it’s rare.) This may make me seem like I’m a lot calmer in the face of adversity than I actually am. But surfaces can be deceiving. Still, self-control is important to me. My pain shouldn’t become someone else’s, even if they may “deserve” it.
(I don’t think people “deserve” good OR bad things happening to them. I think things happen. And then you do what you can with them to either grow or stagnate. But “deserve”? I didn’t deserve to be beaten down verbally for 12 years. No one deserves that. And in my mind I can’t deserve the good things without thinking how maybe I deserved the bad things. And that…bothers me. I need to find a different word. I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking this. I tend to do that. My brain likes to chew on things.)
I’m learning how to not expect anger all the time. A hard habit to break. Even in the face of a rational, kind, decent human. But I am learning.
I spent years with my ex-husband being wrong, being in trouble, being told I was moody and difficult and incapable of doing anything right. (“Right” being how HE would have done it, of course. Deviations were not tolerated.) Told these things by someone who was supposed to love me. Being told, over and over, I was incompetent and not good enough.
I was a “whore” for wearing a tank-top on a hot day. I was a “slut” because I had the temerity to have boyfriends (and girlfriends – God forbid I talk about them ever, because my bisexuality was a huge threat to his stability) before I even met him. I was a bad mother for not feeding my kids all the requisite food groups every day (which I had to report back to him for his immediate criticism each evening when he’d get home from work).
I was a bad wife. I wasn’t the wife he had wanted me to be. The divorce was obviously my fault. (He reminded me of this less than a year ago, when I finally took the last of his boxes that had been stored in my garage over to his place and dropped them off. And yes, I know I should have jettisoned that crap ages ago. Sometimes I’m slow.)
I was never good enough. Nothing was ever good enough, and it was always my fault. Always. (Yep. Still kind of wishing he’d hit me instead. Which is still immensely fucked up. At least I could have pointed to that and said, “See? THIS is why I have to leave.” Words are so much harder to pin down.)
But now, with this most excellent human being I’m lucky enough to be with, I am starting to understand how it should be.
We both have things we need to re-learn. We were both burned before, and it’s hard to unlearn old survival skills.
This time, though, we are learning together. And it’s a beautiful thing.
We must deserve each other.