Monday, March 13, 2006

The Life I Want Wasn't the One I Had

After a great deal of angst and second-guessing, I broke up with B last week.

This wasn't a sudden decision. A couple months ago, I filled out a bunch of paperwork for the Peace Corps. Months before that, we broke up or nearly broke up because I wanted to apply for a game-writing job up in Edmonton. The resulting emotional turmoil made me quickly take this idea off the table.

From the very beginning, we moved very, very fast. We lived in different cities. He wanted a real committment. We had to fly all the time. We needed to know if it was worth it.

And it was always moving way too fast for me. I had to make big decisions very quickly, because when I didn't, emotional turmoil resulted. Sobbing, awful, nights of gut-wrenching soul-baring. I scrambled to figure out how I felt very quickly. Too quickly. Whenever I said what I wanted, I got it, and then there were emotional conversations, backtracking, second-guessing. Any answers I got were couched in emotional language, this terrible stuff that made me want to take back everything I said.

There was jealousy over my friends - and worse - my writing. Sure, I could always "do whatever" I wanted, but the consequences of that meant listening to how horrible and awful whatever I did made B feel. And when you love someone, you sure as hell don't want to do anything to them that will harm them like that.

It got to the point where I was on edge all the time, waiting for the next terrible thing I would say or do that would set off a big emotional reaction. Of the year I spent in the relationship, I can only think of about 2-3 consecutive weeks where we were both actually happy, really happy, and I didn't overly-worry about the next emotional blow-out.

When K moved out of the house, I thought all of my stress and jumpiness and health issues would stop. Instead, they hung on. I stayed depressed. Trying to write was like rubbing blood from a stone. I developed a terrible, recurring case of heartburn and bought my first bottle of Maalox.

And it occurred to me that I really didn't want to be in a relationship. I didn't want to move to New York. I didn't want to committ the next five years - let alone the rest of my life - to anybody. Not just B, but anybody. Not now. Maybe not ever.

It's like you look out at this life you've got, the happy hetero relationship. I'd never have to worry about money. We'd get a picket fence. We'd continue to bash heads over our communication problems. The emotional way of dealing with all things would continue. I would always be waiting for the shoe to drop. Waiting for the next rash of jealousy. And there I'd be, parked in that relationship, continuing to work shitty admin jobs while trying to write. Trying and trying to write. But I can't write when everything's been sucked out of me, emotionally. The books are where I channel all of that energy. If I'm spending every night trying to reassure a partner that I love them, that the world won't explode, I don't have anything left for my writing. All I want to do is go to bed.

There's no reason 300 pages of line edits should have taken me three goddamn months. That's fucking ridiculous.

Why did it take so long?

Because I wrapped myself up in other things.

I rebelled against the relationship for a long time, but B was adament that we were perfect for each other, and I didn't want to fail at a relationship. Not after being on my own for so long. We just had to work harder. Once we moved in together, everything would be all right.

That became our mantra when everything was bad: Once we move in together, everything will be all right.

And if that's not a big warning sign for you, I don't know what is.

I tried to bash away at the committment end. Likely, trying to re-work our relationship at the last minute had something to do with that, something to do with me trying to make it work for me when inside, it felt so wrong. I didn't want to go to New York.

I hate New York.

But I desperately wanted things to work. I hadn't dated anyone in five or six years, and B is a great guy in so many ways, but ultimately, we clashed over too many core things for me to be able to stay. If I have nothing left over to write with, I can't be in the relationship.

That's how it is.

Everything felt wrong.

But even so, I spent the night I finally ended it sobbing in my room, those great, body-wracking, Greek-chorus sobs that come up from deep inside of you, the ultimate expression of grief; it felt and sounded like death, so loud the neighbors probably heard me. Jenn certainly heard me, and came in to offer some kind of comfort, but really, there was no comfort to be had. I was mourning the relationship, certainly, and how much hurt I felt I'd inflicted on everyone by making the break, but I was also mourning a life lost. A whole life path, an entire mapped-out existence, just gone, obliterated, because it felt so stifling. It felt so wrong. No matter how much I tried to fix it, to make it right in my head, it never was.

And I fought hard.

That night, I slept like death, slept soundly for the first time in nearly a week.

I woke up and opened my eyes and felt... freer.

I had carried so many worries. I waited so many days for the other shoe to drop, for the next emotional grief-session. I would spend my days rapidly replying to emails in case silences were mis-measured. I would no longer have to repeat myself over and over again or talk and talk and talk about how I felt all the time.

I could get up and read, work on my books, sleep, without worry, without fear.

And best of all - I didn't feel boxed into a path that had become increasingly claustraphobic.

I could go back to relying on myself, on what *I* wanted. I could apply for the job in Edmonton. I didn't have to twist myself in knots justifying New York. I could go back to standing on my own two feet.

Just me.

I will never understand the media hysteria about women longing for partners. Having a partner has never worked for me. I hurt everyone I'm with, and without them, I always feel so much freer. If I just go around hurting people, what's the point of being in relationships?

I don't think I'm going to date again, really date, for a long, long, time.

Maybe casual sex isn't overrated?

In any case, I'm going to go work on some tDW edits.

15 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

jeff said...

Speaking as somebody who's been on both sides of this:
"It got to the point where I was on edge all the time, waiting for the next terrible thing I would say or do that would set off a big emotional reaction."

...but who was on B's side of it more often than not, I'm glad you were able to break things off, because in the end you feeling that way can't be what anybody--you or B--wants.

Sorry you're going through this, nice that you're seeing the silver lining-ness of the freedom that single-ish-ness can bring.

Sumana said...

Ms. Hurley:

Best wishes. Sounds like you're basically over it, but if you're not, then I hope your recovery is swift.

Simon Owens said...

I'm glad you're feeling better.

Unsane said...

Nothing is overrated which makes you feel healthy inside.

barb said...

wow, this sounds so much like I feel lately. I totally agree with you. Why is it if you want to write, it seems you have to sacrifice relationships??? It shouldn't have to be that way. Does it have to? Iris Murdoch and whassis name? John Bailey? that to me, seems like a good relationship with space for writing.  

Posted by barb

Anonymous said...

Well done for being brave enough to make that break. You need to do whatmakes you healthy and happy.
Take care of yourself and enjoy being single.

ScottM said...

Congratulations on identifying the problem and fixing it. Good luck with your new setup.

T. Comfyshoes said...

My heart goes out to you in both commiseration and congratulation. Sorry and glad for you.

Oh, and if you need anybody to show you around Edmonton, this adoring fan would be happy to oblige.

Kameron Hurley said...

Why is it if you want to write, it seems you have to sacrifice relationships??? It shouldn't have to be that way. Does it have to? Iris Murdoch and whassis name? 

It certainly doesn't have to be that way - but I'm one of those old-white-guy-like-writers who, when I'm in the middle of a project, will lock myself up in my room and lose all interest in reality weeks on end. It takes a really patient, emotionally secure and stable, independent person to put up with that kind of shit. I have yet to find anybody who really "gets" that they'll come in second to the writing. It's a smack in the face to realize it, and it sure makes me feel guilty, but it's true. When I'm in high-writing mode, it's just me wandering around in my head for a couple weeks. And that's gotta be pretty close to living with somebody who's borderline insane.

Also helps if you live in the same city, I imagine, and have known each other for a long time.  

Posted by Kameron

orc said...

It's like living with a programmer, except that your internal monologues are probably somewhat interesting to the people who overhear them. I've heard from reliable sources that when I'm in a coding frenzy I tend to talk about test cases and optimizations strategies, which are not even interesting to other programmers.

It might help when you live in the same city, but when I got terminally entangled I lived 900 miles away from my sweetie (but I loathed my job, so it was really easy for me to quit it and bolt for the coast)

betsyl said...

That became our mantra when everything was bad: Once we move in together, everything will be all right.

And if that's not a big warning sign for you, I don't know what is.


if you ever find yourself thinking "once i'm pregnant, everything will be all right", please call me and i will come over with boxes and help you pack.

uh, not that i've ever thought that myself or anything.

i think that casual sex is just fine, and i wish it worked for me. however, if you'd like to read some about it, google "cluechick", and read her blog.

Diane said...

I've noticed that the less you write on your blog, the more trauma you are having in your life. Eventually someone will stumble into your life that can be all that you need in a partner and that you will be all they need back. I truly believe that person will not show up until you are ready for them.

As far as casual sex, you just need an emotionally casual relationship when the whole point is the sex. Not a one night stand.

Anyway girlfriend, you know you'll be fine 

Posted by Diane

Kameron Hurley said...

I've noticed that the less you write on your blog, the more trauma you are having in your life. 

Yea, all that emotion and expression is going elsewhere. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Anyway girlfriend, you know you'll be fine

I will. Life is long, unless you get hit by a bus.

I'm not planning on getting hit by a bus. So hopefully, I've got a long time ahead of me. 

Posted by Kameron

kate.d. said...

I have yet to find anybody who really "gets" that they'll come in second to the writing.

i won't deny that this will probably be extremely hard to do. but i think you're ahead of the curve in that you realize it yourself, and can be honest and upfront with partners about it. i think i've encountered people who give a lot of lip service to the central place of love and romance, but in practice, routinely prioritize other "passions" of theirs. and that's totally fine, but it's never good to be saying one thing and doing another.

you know, my grandfather was a doctor, and he and my grandmother were married for over 40 years. my mom says that she thinks a big part of why it worked was that my grandmother understood that "medicine came first." can anyone be in that kind of relationship? no. but it's possible.

PerpetualBeginner said...

May I say congatulations on realizing what you needed before you were too stuck to leave readily?

It would really suck to realize you were meant to be a solitary writer after ten years of marriage and two children. Not that I know anything about that...