2017: A Year of Many Changes

I realize that the year is only a little more than half over, and it has been a tumultuous year so far. This is my life recap:

January
Work: I began working overtime constantly. My strict adherence to trying to maintain a healthy work-life balance became impossible with the work demands. 10-11 hour days became a new a norm.

Love: My one great joy was a long weekend with Seabiscuit for his birthday: Point Cabrillo was beautiful. We went naked hot-tubbing together in Mendocino. We saw whales spouting off the coast. I had never been so happy as that special weekend with him.

Home: Chaos. My ex-boyfriend still refused to move out even though we had broken up roughly 9 months ago.

February
Work: The overtime continued. Fellow coworkers on my team began to leave the company, adding more to the workload for me and the few left behind.

Love: Seabiscuit confessed he loved me, but two weeks later he broke up with me, saying he needed to fix things in his life first before being in a relationship. I was devastated and only had consolation in that he said he still wanted to remain friends, see plays together and wanted to see a Monet exhibit together with me. I think things had gotten too serious for him (neither of us expected our relationship to become so serious so quickly) and scared him. I still think that. He also announces he is most likely going to be taking a job in Texas. A double heartbreak.

Home: After a nightmarish drama (including threats and calls to the police), the ex finally moved out the last day of the month. He took the three cats with him, and I am still sad, even now, that I never got to say goodbye to them.

March
Work: Still craziness as the team shrunk. The burnout began as I felt more and more unappreciated. My boss told me we all have to make sacrifices; her inconsistencies in her directions began. I became very unhappy with work.

Love: Heartbroken and still trying to navigate what it means to be friends now. It was a sudden shift from daily emails to maybe an email or two a week. A great light in my life was no longer there to comfort me. I cried a lot. At the end of the month, he decides against the job in Texas. I wonder then if that was also partly why he broke up: to not have me be a deciding factor in the job decision.

Home: My parents moved in next door. Literally next door. We share a wall. I begin trying to clean the mess of the apartment to make it my own home.

April
Work
: The burnout continues. I no longer know who my boss is anymore as she has become someone I don’t recognize. Our team continues to shrink. I become the sole person on the team as the only other team member left comes down with shingles. When I describe how overwhelmed I am to my boss in a one-on-one, she tells me: “What I’m hearing is this is a role fit issue for you. Maybe you should start looking for work outside of [Company].” she also tells me, “You don’t seem alive anymore.” I realize then that this place I felt was my second home for over 3 years is now a hostile environment.

Love: It is my first time seeing Seabiscuit since February. We see a play late in the month, Dog Sees God, with a couple of my friends. Before he leaves, he hugs and kisses me on the lips. I am happy about that but more confused than ever and still brokenhearted.

Home: I have ripped out cheap, built-in particle-board closet cabinets in order to remove a smelly old strip of carpet (about 60 square feet). It reeks of cat, and no carpet cleaner can get through to the strip of padding straight out of the 1960s that has been glued to the uneven concrete floor beneath it. Fun. Lots of home improvement fun. And chaos as I destroy cabinets. It’s also weird getting used to parents next door. We put in tile to replace the carpet.

May
Work: It’s all downhill. Resentment builds along with the burnout. I feel my boss throws me and the other member of our team under a bus. Despite telling me we all have to make sacrifices and that I need to work now, now apparently it’s my fault I’m burnt out and working more than 8 hours. She used to care about our team, but that care has been MIA for a while now. Our team grows, but it’s a too little, too late effort. By the end of the month, I begin considering other jobs and looking.

Love: Still struggling to understand my relationship with Seabiscuit. It is hard feeling I’ve lost him. I keep asking about when we shall see the Monet exhibit together as it ended that month. At the second to last weekend of it, we tentatively set a date to see it together. I am then heartbroken when he announces Friday he shall see it with his daughter instead but I also realize I can’t be angry with him. He wants to spend as much time with his youngest daughter before she goes to college. It is a double pain. I go to the Monet exhibit separately with a friend instead. Unbeknownst to me, the same painting that is his favorite of the exhibit becomes a painting that inspires a poem when I see it.

Home: My parents offer some comfort, but the boundaries between my apartment and theirs need to be set. While I am grateful for their help, I also feel overwhelmed by constant presence. Sometimes I just need peace and want to be alone. They help with repainting the apartment. The apartment is chaos as things get shuffled around and I haven’t replaced the cabinets I destroyed.

June
Work: At this stage, I’m having multiple moments weekly where I think to myself, “Why don’t I just get out of my seat and quit this job RIGHT NOW?” I feel it is important I quit soon. I know that I will not be able to keep giving 100% any more. The resentment is building, and I don’t want to be that asshole who quits and leaves a mess behind. I will give 100% up until my last day. I apply to a job that opens up and land it by the end of the month.

Love: Still confused. I see another play with Seabiscuit, As You Like It, and am nowhere nearer an answer to our relationship status. We kiss, hug, and hold hands while together. It is very confusing. While our email contact is still distant from what it was, he pulls through during important moments, like especially bad days at work and to help me prepare for the job interview I had. I read the book Sex with Shakespeare and am convinced Seabiscuit is my lost other half. I cry while reading the book. It is the most important book I have read in all of 2017 and might be one of the most meaningful ones in my entire life. (I am grateful for Dan Savage having mentioned it in one of his columns as well as column’s wisdom.)

Home: It is still a neverending work in progress. Painting is still underway. The apartment feels like it will always be chaos.

July
Work: The first week of July, I’m in Alaska on a cruise. Work since then has been chaos, but I know my boss is supportive and will help me grow in ways I’d never expect. Long days, a long commute, and lots of work piles on. Despite how hard I have to work, I know things will get better.

Love: When I realize it is 5 months since Seabiscuit broke up with me and that our relationship lasted just a week or so shy of 6 months, I am very hurt and sad. One friend, whose wedding I will attend later this year, tells me to get over “Seaface”. I am more hurt. I feel people do not understand why the relationship is special. I got to see him today for our play, The Glass Menagerie. We hold hands almost the entire time. I want to talk about us, but as he tells me about his daughters, I hold back. While I am sad to not get more time with him, I am happy for him in seeing how happy he is to spend so much time with his daughters.

Home: I really gotta set boundaries with the parents. It feels intrusive, even though I know they mean well. I feel like I will always be alone if they do not give me space. And after a long day at work and a long commute, I just want my own space. Painting is mostly done but still in progress.

So as we get closer to just 5 more months left, I wonder what’s going to happen next?

Fathers and Daughters

It’s hard to love someone who is much older than yourself.

It is hard to love a man who has grown daughters closer to your own age than he is to yours.

I fell in love with someone 24 years my senior, and when we were together, they were the happiest moments of my life. Every moment felt precious, every minute. Just being able to hold his hand or feel him squeeze mine was feeling as if I were whole.

Some friends have said it’s time to move on. It has been over 5 months since he broke up with me. He had other things in his life to figure out.

But we still see each other occasionally. My feelings are still as strong now as they were then.

I wanted to spend more time with him today after seeing The Glass Menagerie with him, but he planned dinner with his daughters.

He will be an empty nester soon, and he is enjoying all the time he has left with them. Who can resent that? It breaks my heart, but not because he won’t have dinner with me; it breaks my heart because I will never know that: I will never be a parent. I will never have a daughter.

Growing Apart

I know, I know. I’ve been neglecting this thing. Too much work and overtime these days. I hate when my work-life balance is too heavily weighted on the work side. I feel exhausted. I need time to unwind for me. Last Friday, I worked for 12 hours in the office and 8 hours on Sunday. My head felt like mush. I felt unable to do much, writing-wise, and lucky to be able to string a subject and verb together.

The last two weeks have been hard. It’s not just work. It’s still living with the ex.

We are strangers sharing the same apartment. As much as I had hoped we’d still be friends, the number of times where I feel that cannot be continues to increase. We don’t know important things about each other. Our lives are separate. We lead different lives. We don’t know what’s important to the other. Conversations feel forced.

He has no idea of my adventures online through Craigslist. I have no idea what he does after work. He goes out to classes, and if I ask, he’ll tell me. Raspberry Pi, 3D printing, etc. Sometimes he’d be gone for 6-7 hours at a time.

I realize it’s a good thing. It’s good he’s being productive. I’m hopeful it means that he’s overcoming his depression. Good for him.

But then it gets complicated.

He gave me short notice (less than two weeks) that his friend, W, was coming to visit and would stay with us for a week.

W is blind. There was a time, long before we were dating, where they had some sort of a relationship. I didn’t know much about it, but I did distinctly remember asking him about her when the two of us were friends, and I asked if he’d ever consider moving to Japan and living with her. He said yes.

I had always tried to inquire about their relationship, even when we were dating, but he kept pretty quiet and didn’t want to talk about it.

So I soon realize that all his efforts, his classes, his long hours away and, when present in the apartment, are all in effort for making 3D maps for her. It’s a noble cause, but it hurt. It hurt like hell. It hurt because all I could think was how I never saw him spend a fraction of so much time and effort pouring himself into something for me in all 6 years of our relationship. Damn.

This evening, they come back to the apartment together. He had gone to take her around in the south bay with another friend she was staying with for some time, and stayed down there for a few nights. We go out to dinner.

As W fiddles with her wallet and cash, Jacob makes a joke about how she can give him all her 1000 bills (yen).

“Oh, you can hold on to them for when you visit me in Japan,” she says and hands them to him.

He takes them and puts them into his wallet very matter-of-factly.

“When are you going to Japan?” I ask. It’s the first I heard of it.

“We just talked about it,” he says, avoiding the question.

One of the other complains I had about the relationship was never getting to travel. We could never travel anywhere together. I wanted to travel, but he got too much anxiety. We could never do anything together.

I didn’t think it could still hurt. I’m hurt. It hurts.

 

 

 

The Letter

To: JL
From: F
Date: Friday, May 20, 2016, 3:23pm

Dear JL,

I know the last few months have not been easy for both of us. I appreciate your thoughtful apology. I would like to know why you did what you did, but I realize that in some way it doesn’t matter. Things are what they are now.

I hope by now that you realize things have changed. It’s not the kind of change you can undo, but more like a glass vase that’s been shattered. You can pick up the pieces, but you can’t put it together. Even if you manage, it is not the same.

When I describe our relationship to people, this is how it goes:

The first three years were wonderful. We were very supportive of each other. It was a very symbiotic, harmonious relationship. You helped me deal with grad school; I helped you with escaping Gracepoint. You were very sweet. We had a lot of fun together; you made a lot of silly jokes that made me laugh. We understood each other so well that it almost felt as if we could read each other’s minds. I am very grateful for what we shared and all the wonderful moments we had together. I felt very loved by you in those 3 years.

And then somewhere, something got off track. A switch on a train track was flipped in error, and we didn’t catch it. We moved forward side by side for a long time but didn’t notice that we were slowly veering off from one another.

The last three years were the trains veering off. It’s too late now to correct the course. You are a train bound for Chicago and I’m a train headed to New Orleans. Communication broke down, and it seemed like we fell into a pattern of having a serious fight, some agreement, but then nothing would change. Empty words, empty promises. And all the while, I began to feel bitter. I started to feel ignored, neglected, and rejected by you. Then the next year, another major fight. More words, more promises. But nothing changed as we continued to grow apart. It became more rare that our minds were aligned and it stopped feeling like we understood each other.

The bitterness and pain I felt kept growing. It was a slow drip over time, and I tolerated it. I let it go and said nothing, but it was always present. I became more resentful. You made me feel unloved and invisible. At times I felt you cared more and did more for the cats than you did for me. You would buy me things, but it wasn’t what I wanted; every time I tried to express what I wanted, it seemed that you couldn’t give it, or you got upset at me for asking. It broke my heart. And I tried so hard to do so much for you. I went along with your agreements. I hoped things would work. I knew you loved me, and I loved you too.

In February, my team did a disagreement style workshop at our offsite, and I suddenly realized my disagreement style at work was accurate for my personal life, too. Two of my top three reactions to disagreement were 1. Maintain the status quo (do nothing) and 2. Release (let someone else decide.) I suddenly realized that the past 3 years I had tolerated but had really been unhappy. I had let you make the decision for us both, and I had to fight crying in the middle of a team meeting when it all clicked.

I became interested in being more social and began doing things on my own because I felt so neglected and lonely with you. I wanted to meet people who wouldn’t make me feel that way. I hated feeling invisible when you sat less than 20 feet away. I hated feeling as if my existence didn’t matter at all to you–and you were supposed to love me. The only time I seemed aware of how much I meant to you was when we fought, and then I could see you fighting so hard to keep me.

I became hurt so much that I felt numb. I didn’t think it could get worse. I had really tried to end our relationship in April. I had been thinking about it for a long time. I felt it was already over, but you fought so hard, and I hated seeing you so torn and broken up. It hurt me to see how much you were hurt, and I agreed to try again even though I was doubtful. I want you to know that I did give it an honest shot. I was trying to make it work, and I was doing my best despite how hard it was for me, but then the Vicodin incident made me feel as if our agreements meant nothing again and it was the same old pattern: argument – agreement – failure to uphold agreement.

I know you said you felt at times as if you suspected I wanted you to fail, that I wanted things between us to fail. But I was just tired. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of fighting you, tired of being hurt, tired of waiting for changes that didn’t come, tired of my own tolerance for being unhappy. I had been hurt so much that I no longer could expect to be happy with you. I had been so hurt and miserable for such a long time that for me it already felt as if it were over. I didn’t have any hope left that things could get better.

Don’t you remember when we fought in January, I asked what you wanted? I had already been hurt enough then. I asked if you wanted an open relationship because I could no longer understand you. I had no idea what you wanted, but it seemed to not be me, and I wanted a chance to be happy with someone, anyone.

I had waited over a year for you to live up to our promise of our previous fight. I can’t tell you how much it hurt me every day when I wondered if I mattered to you, if you even remembered that promise. I cried myself to sleep many nights because I was so deeply hurt. I would lie awake in torment asking myself if you would ever remember, disappointed as the weeks passed to months and then a full year. Ultimately, it wasn’t important, I wasn’t important enough, to remember.

And maybe that’s not true, but there isn’t a way to take back that it was how I felt for a long time. I realize now that your depression was so deep that you couldn’t see what I could see. Every time we fought, it felt as if you couldn’t understand me. We were speaking different languages and not understanding each other.

Please know that I love you despite how much pain you have given me, but we cannot stay together after the incident at Caleb’s. I want what’s best for you, and I want you to take care of yourself. I want you to get better–emotionally and physically. I know you are bright and creative and can do great things if you dedicate yourself to something, but I cannot be more than a friend to you.

As long as we are together in a relationship, I am a crutch: having me means you can convince yourself that nothing needs to change. I do not want us to fall into old habits. I do not want to continue tolerating what I have in the past where nothing will change. I can’t let that happen. I can’t keep letting myself be unhappy. I would rather be hurt by a thousand people than be hurt again by you.

You need to change for you, not for me. If you cannot love yourself, you cannot love me or anyone else. You have done the best that you can, but you need to take care of yourself first before you can be in a relationship. Please don’t ask me to wait for you or set up any expectations that this is a promise we can be in a relationship again; after everything that has happened, I cannot promise either of those things to you. As long as we live together, a relationship beyond friendship is not even possible.

I know this change makes things very difficult. Please understand that I am not judging you in any way. It didn’t work out, and I am not blaming you. Both of us made mistakes.

I know that the rent market is ridiculous and it would be hard to find a new place. As long as we live in the same apartment, we will have to remain friends. You can live your life and I will live mine. It is too easy to fall into old habits, and I can’t let that happen again. I can’t fall back into a relationship that makes me tolerate being unhappy. If you need to move out, I will not stop you. If you find a place that allows cats, you can take them with you; I know how much they mean to you, and I want you to have support, no matter what your decision. Only my name is on the lease, and I will make things work on my own.

I can support you and share things with you as a friend, but please understand that you have broken my trust. You and time are the only things that can change that. I cannot invite you out to the social events or friends I go to, and you must take responsibility for the consequences of your actions. Some things you will need to do on your own. I cannot make you welcome in a place where you are not welcome.

I realize this information is a lot to take in. If it hurts too much that you don’t want to see me, I can try to stay away for a few days, or if you want to stay with Adam or Kristina, that would be okay. If you can’t stand being so close at night and need a physical separation, I can sleep downstairs on the blowup mattress. I guess I should have let my Dad buy us some stupid futon. It would come in handy about now.

I know this all hurts. It hurt me writing it, but I knew I needed time to collect my thoughts and make sure I said everything I needed to say. Please remember that I love you and want you to be happy, but understand that we cannot be in a relationship. I need to be happy too.

If you want to talk about this in a few days, I have Monday and Tuesday off, or we can talk Sunday after my cooking class. I will be volunteering at Railsbridge this evening, and all day Saturday.

When you finish reading this, please call someone–Kristina, your mom, your brother, your sponsor. I don’t want you to be alone. I want you to have support. Please don’t do anything foolish. Hug the cats, especially Diego. They love you so much. I love you too, but right now the only thing I can offer you is friendship.

Felicitas

Writing a letter

I have been writing out my feelings to JL.

I do not want to feel pressured to stay in a relationship that makes me unhappy. I need to say what I need to say.

I get teary-eyed as I type. I have had to wipe away tears, but I know I need to be honest and I know it will break his heart.

I think the letter is complete, but I still need to send it. I know he will be very upset. I plan to send it Friday afternoon so as not to upset him mid-week. I know it will impact him at work and his coworkers will notice if I send it midweek. Also, because I will be gone Friday evening and most of Saturday, he will have time to himself if he needs it.

I took time off next week, originally planning to spend time with him for his birthday… I had requested the time off months ago, but now I guess I will have time off and he might not want to see me. It looks to be a pretty miserable, a very unhappy birthday.

A Relationship Designed for Damage

Things a healthy relationship should not make you feel:

– Lonely and alone
– Trapped and suffocating
– Neglected and invisible
– Unheard and ignored
– Rejected and not worth it
– Dead and empty on the inside
– More pain than happiness

And yet I have felt those things, all of those things in my relationship with JL. They were issues I raised when I tried to break it off last month. JL would go on binge Civ V playing–to the point where he could sit in the living room, not move for 6 hours, and then when I would ask for an hour of his time, he would say he was too tired or too busy. It was a horrible feeling, to feel as if my own existence meant nothing.

I would express my needs for intimacy. I would try to initiate things–and was rejected over and over, often for the same reason: Too tired. It killed me; it was a stab right to the heart each time, and that knife was twisted like a screwdriver whenever it happened after I watched him binge-play video games all weekend.

So here we are again. More empty words, more meaningless promises. He once promised me he would initiate intimacy because he kept rejecting me when I would try, and each time, it buried that knife deeper. So then I waited. And waited. And waited. I waited over a year before we fought again and I asked if he preferred I see other people and if we should have an open relationship. He scoffed and thought I read too much Savage Love.

I have been vocal about my needs. I have been the best GGG (Good, Giving, Game) girlfriend I can be.

But I can’t be that anymore for him.

He asked me to judge him by his actions over the next few months. He’s been going to NA meetings, and has gone to four this week.

I don’t care. I don’t care what he does. He should live his life because I am going to live my life, and I am not going to waste my time waiting for anyone.

For him, it’s easy to say and ask to give our relationship time: he wasn’t the one who was getting more and more hurt for the last three years. Even he has had moments of realization where he has acknowledged that his behavior towards me in the past amounted to “torture” and was “terrible”.

I had an epiphany back in February when our team had a disagreement style workshop. As I read over my answers, I realized it was exactly what I had been doing my whole life in relationships and why I had stayed in relationships longer than I should.

My top three styles (all tied): release, maintain, decide by rule. It’s the first two that got me teary-eyed in a room with my team, who probably didn’t notice the sudden seriousness that overcame me.

Release is dropping it, letting go, deciding it’s not worth further discussion, and letting the other party dominate.

Maintain is just letting things continue as they are and taking no action.

I have taken these two approaches for too long. Five years of my life have I wasted in relationships I shouldn’t have. Essentially my last two relationships were twice as long as they should have been (JL – 6 years; P – 4 years).

I confided in my coworkers Tuesday because otherwise my only confidant was C, and I wasn’t sure if I should keep some distance for a while. They had the same conclusions I had already made long before this week: 

The thing with addiction is people have to reach rock-bottom before they can change. As long as I am in a relationship with JL, I don’t think he has a reason to change. He hasn’t lost everything; I am his crutch. He has to deal with his depression. He can’t love me before he loves himself.

As Mikey put it beautifully yesterday, “Right now he has loved you the best that he can. He has to love himself before he can truly love you.”