A metaphor to think about on Valentines Day

There have been moments in my life I have felt disposable. I have felt replaceable. One of my biggest fears is that of being forgotten. I have been abandoned. I have been taken for granted.

But I have come to understand that that says more about someone else than it does about me. You see, I have always tried my hardest when it comes to others. I have sacrificed my comfort and stability and sometimes sanity to make sure that things work smoothly with the other person. I have lost myself in that too many times to feel comfortable with. It is a sign of co-dependency. It becomes the currency of a toxic relationship, because you get to remind the other person of just what you have given up for the cost of their happiness.

I told myself a long time ago that I wouldn’t do that again. I was in a situation where I ignored red flags, I compromised my values, and I ignored that gut feeling that told me something was wrong. I second-guessed myself. Only when I was doing it, I wasn’t keeping a tally of the times I did to throw back at the woman I was dating. I attempted grace, tolerance, open-mindedness, which wasn’t right either. I should have been setting boundaries, with myself and with the person I was seeing. I wasn’t keeping a tally, but it was slowly eroding my soul.

I held onto hope for a very long time. Hope that this person would realize they were hurting me with being dismissive, treating me like an option, lying by omission, and telling me if I didn’t like something I could put up or shut up. At the end, I was finally able to get out of that trauma bonded rollercoaster.

At the time, I didn’t think I was lovable. I didn’t think anyone would want me. A friend of mine used to call me the poster-child for monogamy because I held onto that attachment so hard, even when everything was over. It didn’t help that for three years, on and off, when we were on the outs the woman I was in love with would knock on my door in the middle of the night, and I would take her back until walking on eggshells once again ended things with us. It was the definition of a trauma bond and probably narcissistic abuse.

My picker was broken.

When things finally ended, it took months to recover. I’m not proud of that. Most people would have just been able to move on, but when I heal, I need my healing to be thorough. You cannot heal when you are still in the same situation that is hurting you. We worked together, and I would see her around the office sometimes and every time it was a reminder of the loss. It was a rekindling of thinking I was going to hear that knock at the door at 11pm and sex and sweet words and all of that would fix things.

She went on sabbatical and I no longer had to see her around. Not her car. Not her. None of it. A couple months later, I was able to process that and move on. I met someone. Lately, I keep thinking of those times, and how that progressed. It was scary thinking I would be alone, but when I met someone actually good for me, it felt so much better. It wasn’t like getting out of my marriage, where anything after that would have felt better. No, this was someone who saw me, heard me, and treated me pretty well. It was better than I ever imagined with the woman from work. I didn’t have to fight for her attention. I didn’t have to wonder where she was on a Friday night and why I wasn’t with her. And it didn’t matter much at all when I found out she was engaged only five months after we had broken up.

It was actually a relief, because I knew she wasn’t going to be knocking on my door anymore.

I got to get on with my life. I got to breathe easy. I no longer had panic attacks. I was no longer in the situation that left me feeling confused, isolated, lonely, taken for granted, any of those icky feelings. I allowed myself to cut that bond.

I won’t say it felt good, but it was like taking a deep breath after being held under water for a long time. The door was shut. The bridge was washed away. You see, hope is a very dangerous thing. You hope for situations to change, not just with romantic relationships, but with friends, family, work, all of it. Sometimes, no matter what you do to try to change an unhealthy situation, the best thing you can do it to end it. You are the variable. YOU get to change.

Only recently, I found myself in a situation again where I was holding my breath. Just this time, it didn’t take three years to end it. At one point, it took a couple days, then I second guessed myself and tried to fix things, and after that, it took about a month to recognize my values and use my boundaries. And boy did it hurt to put them up. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.

I felt myself go under. Like taking a deep breath and swimming to the bottom of the ocean. It’s dark under there. There’s no light. It’s cold and lonely and…there are monsters. It wasn’t just that situation but others as well.

I’ve been making my way to the surface again for many reasons. Feeling myself break above the surface and breathing in…

Damn, it hurt, and it can be terrifying. Taking that first breath. Or feeling like a dragonfly who has just unfolded its wings and is letting them harden in the sunshine. Where will these new wings take you? What happens next?

The world is dangerous and awful, but it is also beautiful. It is worth taking your next breath, and your next. I’m going to let myself breathe again for a very long time.

You see, today, a friend of mine gave me some closure. And though it stung a little bit to hear the news, my heart felt lighter. I still can’t help but have mixed emotions and hope for the best, but it is no longer my concern. I am free. I felt myself let out a spiritual breath. I’ve done that a few times in the last few months. And each time, I expect to drown, like letting in that breath will just let in more water and it will fill my lungs, but it hasn’t. Each time, I’ve felt the cool sting of fresh air.

If you hold your breath too long, you can hurt yourself.

Goddamn does it hurt to take that first breath. And it is so scary. It’s terrifying because you wonder where your next breath will come from. You wonder if you will be holding it again. Or if you were wrong to take that chance to breathe. But with every breath after, it becomes less so. Then it just becomes natural and we don’t even realize we were breathing.

There’s no more reason to hold your breath. There’s no reason to keep looking at things that will hurt you. That time in your life has passed. Today, you can wake up and take a new breath. You can let it fill your lungs. Scream if you must.

What are you going to do with this freedom? Do you even want to be free?

That pain you feel though, sometimes you miss it, because it reminds you of a time when things were just ending, and the ending is closer to the beginning than you are now. You are beyond it. It’s gone. You aren’t getting it back. And rather than clutch at something that is beyond your reach, turn around and move towards the rest of your life, which you are now headed for. Far from the bottom of the ocean. Up past the surface. And into the light.

Breathe. Just give yourself permission to breathe. And once you are done learning how to breathe again, it’s time to fly.