by Dr. Blue Craig
Maybe it’s natural to become nostalgic while relocating. Regardless of how fast you seek to flee your current dwelling, most of us experience some type of emotional stirring surrounding our pilgrimage to a new land.
“Please don’t cry one tear for me, by the way I made it through the day.”
As we sang along to the lyrics, each of us felt our own connection to the song as well as that secure pull on our thread of tragedy that binds us together. A feeling of gratitude washed over me. I suddenly felt gratefulness for some of the most ego slaying, heart wrenching, rejecting goodbyes I had ever experienced. I felt gratitude for these moments in a way I could not have at the time or even months after. The stings to my ego, the bruised heart, the scraped knees and all those nights of feeling how unseen I was by true loves’ eye. Those bone chilling lonely times that wine, porn, good friends and no amount of TV or food can fill up. I looked around at the beautiful disaster that occurs when one is moving, and I didn’t see the dirty floors, the open boxes, or empty shelves. For the first time in my life I saw the good the first. I saw my loving, beautiful, imperfect husband slaying a song I had once claimed as my own. I saw my wonderfully perfect snoring dog and I felt a fleeting sense of grounded centeredness.
I wish we could bottle up those moments and poor them over us again. Like shower water made from redemption and hope. I’d call it the empowerment elixir. Moving provided more chances to embrace the past as I leapt forward. While cleaning out a makeup case I found a small colored scrap of paper with a Carl Jung quote on it. After a moment of digging in my mental closet I realized the paper was from a series of quotes I had printed on aged paper for a project that I made as a gift; a gift for the worst boyfriend I’d ever had. I say he was the worst not because he actually was the worst person I’ve dated but because I was worse when I was with him. I was powerless. I let him treat me in ways I had never done before. He seemed so perfect to me that I ignored what was actually going on. I created the most beautiful sculpture piece out of tiny boxes that could be turned over. Each included a quote from Jung or the Alchemist and a small talisman of our relationship or the book. It took days and it was beautiful. When I finally saw him again after New Years Eve he handed me a few bags full of unwrapped gifts. Insult to injury I slept with him afterwards. So grateful in the most pathetic way that he had shined even a little bit of his most perfect precious self on me. I’m finding now that Freud would have a hay day with me as he claims there is no forgetting. However, I cannot recall how I broke up with him. I couldn’t tell you the day, the reason or what occurred. I recall the stormy night he returned and the weeks later when he ended things. He said right after sex that he didn’t feel connected to me. I remember crying hysterically and texting him crazy girl things. I remember he showed up at my house to hug me and I collapsed in his arms then kicked him out. For months after he tried to sneak his way into my life. Only interested in me when I had a steady date or showed no care for him. In fact after I married he called and texted me until I demanded he stop.
All this is to say I felt pathetic most of the time with this man. His rejection made me feel small, insecure, and stupid. Most of all it made me feel tossed around and unstable. Never knowing where we stood or who I was in relation to him and the world. I am so thankful for surviving that one and all the stings he doled out on the way. I wish that was my only story of goodbye being a second chance. I am grateful for the military hero who in a whirlwind romance professed his love for me one night, showed me disturbing pics of people he killed overseas, introduced me to his family then broke up with me over the phone for getting too close. I feel grateful for the fellow grad student whose intensity to pursue me was more flattering than I imagined. I feel grateful for the tantrum he threw when my accomplishments usurped his and I had to dump him on an out of town trip. And the accompanying worlds longest car ride. I am so grateful for avoiding having an affair with a married coworker, whose attention soothed my wounds in the toxic, stifling state hospital environment. I am grateful for the marriage I left, after a man’s addiction knocked me off kilter for a long time. I’m grateful for the painful melodrama that was the man I promised to marry, and his battle loss with ego and mental illness. I have so much respect for the moments in my life that I entertained all those who were not good enough for me.
I am grateful that no matter how many times Love took me down I maintained my sense that I deserved the best. I hold a sacred space in my heart for the summer I grieved the loss of a classmate. We had a strong emotional affair. I left my marriage, moved out and waited for him, only to find poems and feathers in my mailbox, and the always fading promise of being together one day. I respect every tear that fell for him. Every minute I drank myself silly, sifting through our email and texts looking at pictures we never should have snapped. Aching, feeling like I’d died. Yes those were ugly times and I sounded like a real mess. Everyone has messy times in his or her lives. Psychologist, especially grad student’s we don’t have all the answers. Messiness isn’t relocated to a decade, like adolescence. Messiness occurs in areas of our life. Love and misery are not linear.
I didn’t survive these times alone and I’d be remiss not to mention how important my friends were at each of these different points in life. They held my empowerment flame when I could not. Despite all their love, and the ways they tried to compensate for my lack of family or uncoupled status there were still lonely times. I had done everything right after my divorce, according to pop culture; completed my education, traveled, engaged in hobbies, “spent time alone.” Our society breeds this idea that only needy, non-interesting women are desperate for companionship. I beg to differ. In fact I’d say a woman who has her shit together, enjoys a plethora of friends and pursues goals not related to dating probably has a more difficult time finding a partner. Isn’t that trick in America for cis gendered hetero women? Be cool enough to intrigue them, and yet not so independent as to scare them off. Calculating each man’s preferred female neediness number is an exhausting task. Mr. Perfect Awful from above, he loved the crazy needy side far more than he’d ever loved successful smart me (i.e. who I am). So, I dated like it was my job, not because I’m needy or can’t be alone. I did it because I wanted to create a family and to have a partner. There is no less nobility in that goal than any other goal I’ve set out to accomplish. A PhD and a husband have different routes but similar suffering.
If someone had told me that one day I’d quit a job and move to a city I despise for a year, all for love, I’d have told them to bugger off. I’d have killed them if they said I’d take a pregnancy pause from juvenile prison work. If they had told me quitting my brand new awesome job to get married and move away would be the most empowering thing I’d ever do. Well I’d have some four-letter words for those folks. During all those rejections, false starts, failures to launch and horrific romantic disasters I’d never have imagined being married to my best friend and moving yet again, this time near the ocean. In fact I’d have bet you money I was meant to be alone (cue melodramatic music). I never really ever preach positivity, maybe because I’ve made good choices and been burned regardless. My life story is full of victimization and the continual pattern of recreating my neglectful past right before my eyes. In sum, I tend to wear shit-covered glasses.
This essay is inspired by my Anam Cara’s recent ouchey from a man during her quest for love. I felt the sting along with her. She is one of those rare people who passes my test for genuine shock that they are single. Most people have holes I can spot a mile away or wear their explanations of singledom on their sleeve. Not this one. She’s special. That’s also the reason I know if she dates like the day lights running out and still keeps her mind and heart in tact doing so that she’ll be coupled up in that all consuming love that will carry her through the rest of her days here on this go round the earth. My hope for her and all women is that they examine their own stuff, and then go out and demand all they are worth. I hope they demand clarity from potential mates and realize they are worth far more than their weight in gold. Lastly, my hope for all those still in search of “the one” is that when they do find love and life comes full circle that they pay some homage to all the goodbyes and second chances they gave themselves. Over the years I’ve watched patients free themselves from the chains of bad romance and toxic family members. I’ve assisted these brave people in cutting out, and letting go of what once seemed important to them. That act is the most empowering of all. What do you need to say goodbye to? Who do you need to let go? Cut off? Cut out? Is it an inner critic? Is it a toxic “well meaning parent?” Neither deserves a place in our lives just because they’ve always been there. Habit, repetition and blood relation don’t give things, places or people a right to our happiness. Sometimes it takes a simple look inward other times you need a professional to help you identify what needs cut out, someone to be there to guide you through grieving what has to go. Empowerment is painful but stepping into your own worth is priceless.
Dr. Blue Craig is a clinical psychologist living in Sunny Florida. She and her husband and dog are welcoming a new baby later this summer.