Sometimes I really need to say something but I can’t. I can’t find the right words. I don’t know how to say what I need to say.
I’m there now. I’m struggling, trying to find a way to let the right words out.
I’m up early. I just spent my first night in my new apartment. Stuff is still in boxes and scattered chaotically around the room but, so far, I like it. I like my new room. I like the change. But I guess that’s easy for me to say right now, I’ve only spent one night here. Everything is still very new to me. This new place is not (yet) home, it still smells like someone else and my stuff has not collected dust. But for me when something is new it’s exciting, so today I take it all in.
I’ve come to love ‘new.’ I don’t mean that in a materialistic way, I like new beginnings and fresh starts. Over the last 11 years I’ve moved more times that I can remember. I’ve lived in 5 (I think) different cities in 3 countries (if you count the summer I lived in Irleand). I think I’ve had my name on about 7 or 8 apartment leases while I’ve also crashed the apartments of a few friends here and there. Some would say I’m unstable, I’m not worth getting to know because I’m not going to be around for long. Those who say that might be right. Although I prefer to think of myself as an adventurer adventuring through life and learning to adapt with each new place and all the people that come with it. I love the people I meet along the way. New people are my favorite part about new beginnings.
When I move I get nostalgic and reflective of where I’ve been. I think of the first nights at other apartments. I miss past roommates who are still dear friends and I wonder what happened to others I haven’t heard from in awhile. I’ve lived in situations where I shared a kitchen with 11 other people (it was challenging) and I’ve lived in situations where I had no personal space of my own (shared bedroom – also challenging). I have yet to live completely on my own and I find it ironic. Growing up my dream was to be a successful businesswoman who drove a nice car and lived in a nice apartment – ALONE. Instead I’ve traveled the world without a fancy car, living in alright apartments (some better than others), and anything but alone. Despite life not turning out how I imagined I’m still happy. It feels right. I like where I am, I’ve learned from where I’ve been, and I truly feel excited about where these next months and years may take me.
Yes, I follow Frank Ocean on Twitter. I like him. I like him not only for his music but also what he stands for. The world needs more men that write love songs about other men, but that’s not what I need to write about today.
I was Skype chatting with one of my guy friends the other day – it is important to note that my friend is male because 10 years ago this conversation would not have happened. 10 years ago straight men terrified me. I couldn’t trust them, I didn’t understand them, and I just wanted to keep my safe distance. I had no idea how to tell if or when a guy was attracted or interested in me nor did I really want a guy to be interested in me. I actually wanted to be a lesbian because I felt safer and I felt I could trust women.
I didn’t get the guts (or interest) to really try my hand at a ‘serious’/'adult’ relationship until I was 22. Like the first time doing anything this first relationship was a massive learning experience. This guy was one of my friends and being Swedish ( and sensitive) I felt like he was a good person to test out this relationship hype with. This was a big step for me. I do believe I was able to trust my then boyfriend in many ways, but in all fairness to him I know that I also held back. I was scared and keeping myself safe. Said boyfriend frequently told me he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of my life with me. He joked about being 80 together and quite honestly I wanted to believe him, but somehow I couldn’t. I always doubted his words and when our relationship ended abruptly I was left feeling like he had proven me right in all the ways I never wanted to be proven right.
My sweet sensitive boyfriend that hated beauty magazines and how they made the women in his life feel suddenly became a lying, cheating, insensitive stranger – The type of man I never would have dated.He moved on quickly with the girl he lied to me about. The quickly got engaged and bought an apartment together while I was left feeling empty and replaced. All the “I love you’s” he said to me were void. All the feelings he described felt fake. All the promises of a future together were now nothing but lies. Breaking up wasn’t the hard part. It was how we broke up and all the lies that hurt me.
I thought above all we were friends and I hoped our friendship would mean honesty and a more peaceful break up. (I guess this is how I was naive.) I felt betrayed, blind-sided, and like everything we had ever shared was completely false. I wanted to dip my toes in the dating game, experience a ‘mature’ relationship, so that I knew I could do it. I wanted to let a guy in, but in the end I felt more confused and insecure about relationships and actually lost confidence in myself. The security, the warm fuzzy romantic relationship feelings that people talked about were even more foreign to me after all of this than ever before.
I went about the next few years avoiding mixing emotional and physical intimacy. I was unable to believe that a guy could or would be romantically interested in me. All the stereotypes I’d heard about men only wanting sex felt like the only truth I could believe. My confusion with men was sorted out by me not having sex with guys I was emotionally close to (and many times actually liked) while only having sex with guys I didn’t really like or was not emotionally close to. These years (and hookups) were sometimes fun, but most of the time I ended up not liking how I felt not caring so much.
So when my friend asked me the other day if I was dating anyone I kind of laughed a ridiculous “No.”
“No?” he questioned me. “No.” I said again. “I don’t really have time for that right now and I mean what actually IS dating anyway?” I questioned. “Is dating a casual lunch or coffee or hang out with a friend?’” “Well … ” he said kinda of laughing at me. “It depends.”
“What!?” I said, “If ‘dating’ is simply being social then I guess I’ve been ‘dating’ a lot more than I ever realized.” (I always considered myself a not much of a dater because I usually only ‘go out’ with friends.) “Where do you draw the line then? How do you know?” I asked. “I mean if I go out with a friend I ALWAYS assume I’m going out with a friend as a FRIEND.” I said. “Yeah,” he said “but that is part of the social dance, Amie. The fun is figuring it all out.”
And this is where I bring it back around to Frank Ocean’s tweet about letting someone you like know and not leading someone you don’t like on. Previously I have unconsciously worked my way into more than one confusing ‘situation’ where I had strong feelings for a guy but could never (verbally) let him know. I always rationalized that if nothing physical happened and no one ever confessed any feelings then we were clearly never anything more than friends. Even though all kinds of other things might have been there. I talked myself out of any suspicion or feeling of a guy friend being into me and undoubtedly by the time I had the courage to admit my feelings it was far too late, the damage had been done. And so would begin a confusing mind warp of back and forth – never really knowing and never really showing any true feelings.
Forming close bonds with (straight) men like my friend on Skype has helped. I need to hear men talk about their heartbreaks, their pain, and their struggles. I need to hear that they care about women, I need to hear that they care period, because I’ve heard experienced it as straight women and I’ve heard about it from a lesbian and gay male perspective. Now I need to know and understand that straight men have feelings too.
I’m still figuring out the ‘gray’ area between ‘friends’ and ‘dating.’ I also still have a pretty big fear of relationships and I’m honestly not sure when that will subside. I guess, like my parents, denial has been a pretty powerful tool for me. So from now on … if I like someone, I should tell them.
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
Whoever said blogging was easy was lying.
I want my money back.
I remember sitting in the therapist’s office as she calmly said,”It sounds to me like you have a lot of grief you still need to process and work through.”
“Grief!?” I thought. “Really!?” I unconvincingly responded.
“What did this bitch really know?” my internal monologue began to explode. She had no idea how experienced I was with grief. We had yet to touch upon my familiarity with death and dying. She had no idea that I’ve been ‘processing’ and ‘working through’ grief for much longer than many people my age. Grief and death felt somehow felt familiar.
My first brush with grief came in 1994 when my 4 year old cousin tragically died. I will never forget tears falling my cousin’s faces at the funeral of their younger brother. My young cousins’ death was my first encounter with tragedy and my first gut wrenching reminder that life is far too unfair.
In 7th grade my classmates and I lost one of our own in a car wreck. I remember feeling numb and confused Monday morning at school the weekend after it happened. I remember going to the funeral home on our lunch break still not believing that he was dead. At 12 & 13, I think we all wanted to believe it was a lie.
Three years later, our class lost another in a car wreck two days after my 16h birthday. Our friend had moved to another town at the beginning of our sophomore year of high school but somehow the confusion, the numbness, the disbelief and pain, were all too present and familiar. My classmates and I organized carpools to drive the 4 hours to another friend’s funeral. I will never forget how it felt to hug his family and wish that it was all a gray dark dream.
The emptiness of loss and how it lingers in the air are easy to forget when you don’t want to acknowledge how fragile life really is. Easy until those reminders catch you off guard every few years. No parent should ever have to lose a child; even though so many do. However losing people, death, is part of life.
During my junior year of high school my uncle came to live with our family during the winter months. My uncle came to Montana every year, only 2001 was different. My uncle was dying of cancer so this visit was going to be his last. January to July was full of grief. Not the massive pow of grief that hits with an expected tragedy. These 7 months were full of slow, drawn out grief filled days. The grief that results from the slow cancer’s slow takeover.
There was grief from knowing that my uncle was dying. There was grief from watching the process day in and day out. There was grief in watching him lose his ability to walk. Grief in watching him lose his strength. There was grief in knowing that soon, very soon, my uncle would be taking his last breath and there was nothing any of us could do about it. All we could do was administer insulin shots and pain meds and watch as the cancer slowly won.
Then there was the grief after he died. Although the grief after he died was almost a sense of relief, because my uncle was no longer suffering. There was also guilt associated with being glad that my uncle was dead – watching someone suffer slowly makes death a contradictory relief.
So when my therapist tried to tell me that I had more grief to process I wanted to scream at her. I wanted her to know that I had processed grief. I knew grief more than she knew. Sometimes it felt as if grief was becoming some sort of specialty of mine. Some special talent or personal strength. One of the emotions I (sadly) knew best. I wanted to argue with her, I wanted to explain to her how she was wrong, but it was too much effort. I would save the grief battle for another day.
Instead, I went home and thought more about her words. “It sounds to me like you have a lot of grief to process. Grief from your childhood … ” kept playing back in my head. Her words haunted me.
No one had ever really acknowledged that I had a tough childhood. No one had ever tried to understand why I was angry or upset. Instead I was regarded as ‘ungrateful’ or ‘bratty’ when I acted out. I was seen as ‘defiant’ if I did not obey my parents or respect them as others thought I should. Other adults told me how ‘wonderful’ and ‘great’ my parents were and scolded me for not being nicer to them. No one dared to look beyond the surface. No one dared to question it. No one flipped the tables over to look underneath. It felt as if the adults around me equated being a good person with being a good parent – two things that can occur both together and very seperately.
It was my therapist’s job to listen to people. It’s her job to tell people they need a lot of (in my case) grief counseling. I’m starting to feel it now though. I feel the heaviness of her words. Her words keep coming back to me as I process and work to make sense of being a child of divorce and my dysfunctional family.
This grief feels more like the day to day grief of watching my uncle die. I have good days and I have bad days. Sometimes I wonder if this will ever end. Am I wallowing too long? When will I get over it? Am I whining and feeling sorry for myself? Will I ever get over it or will my past continue to cloud my present (and future)?
I’m starting to understand that my therapist was right. I think I’m also starting to understand how she was right.
Truth is not always easy to hear, and sometimes denial becomes the replacement best friend. I still question and some days I throw my own small pity party. But it feels like there is something different now, something valuable, in taking the time to acknowledge and recognize my feelings – whatever they are. I hope this minor back track to my past allows me heal and move on as well.
Fuck you grief. Fuck you.
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