”I can’t be in a relationship with you anymore.”
I was shocked and gutted. The wound was a mortal one.
Coming on the heels of my failed suicide attempt just 5 days before, I was shattered. She was a spouse, a best friend, the Superman to my Lois Lane. As much as being involved with her was eroding my sanity, and as much as there were (frequent) moments of conflict, she had become my anchor and primary source of joy.
“If I came back from the future and told myself `Look, this is all going to end, and it’s all going to end terribly, and it’s going to be absolutely ruinous from here on in’ - if I knew that was going to be the case, I would still absolutely ride it all the way down.”
-Me, 6/10/2013, on the first night in “our home”
Poor bastard. I had no clue when I said that that our relationship had 9 days to live, or that my welcome in “our home” would be revoked 4 days later. In any event, I would never say those words now, about any relationship. I’m not that person anymore.
So a year ago tonight it was explained to me, for the first time, that she “hadn’t felt safe” in about 6 months, and that she’d been suffering every day. To this day I don’t fully understand what “not feeling safe” meant or how I’d contributed to it, but that’s now a part of her story, not mine. If she’d been counting the days before, I explained, then for me it was Day One of my own vigil, with possibly decades or centuries remaining.
”I will walk this ground forever
and stand guard against your name.
I will give all I can offer,
I will shoulder all the blame.
I am sentry to you now,
all your hopes and all your dreams.
I will hold you to the light,
that's what forever means.”
One year down, and the rest of my life to go. I never anticipated the end. I never planned for it. I never wondered what a post-Shelly world would look like, or how I could function in it. My family clung to me that first night (thank you all!), with Mike even staying up the entire night to ensure that I didn’t self-harm. After that I managed it by clinging desperately to the hope of reconciliation that was (cruelly) dangled before me. It became the new focus of my life. When even that was taken away (about a month later), I ended up in the hospital.
”Save me from the nothing I’ve become.”
-Bring Me To Life, Evanescence
I came out a blank slate of sorts. I didn’t recognize myself or the world. The only thing that seemed to have carried over from the previous incarnation was the incredible support network of loved ones, friends, and those in between. Between them, therapy, and medication I wasn’t able to go back to who I was before, but I did pull together as someone new and quite different. Sadder, more fragile, no longer afraid of death, but kinder, more compassionate, and not entirely incapable of joy. There’s been happiness. There’s been joy. There’s been rebirth and growth and setbacks and oh so much goddamn pain. I have better days and worse days. On the worse days I wake up already thinking about her, and not a single hour goes by that she isn’t in my thoughts. On better days I’ll have stretches of a couple of hours where she doesn’t cross my mind. So far that’s the best I can hope for.
”I wish I knew then, what I know now. I wouldn’t dive in. I wouldn’t bow down.
Gravity hurts- you made it so sweet, until I woke up on the concrete.”
-Wide Awake, Katy Perry
There’s been enlightenment of a sort. I’ve learned a lot about the relationship in retrospect and gotten outside perspectives that I didn’t have before. Things were not as they seemed to me. Kim was on the verge of moving out and surrendering the house to Shelly and me. My relationship with Jessie had faded so far into the background that it nearly vanished. It was my fault for letting it get to that point. But the rest of the Horde and I were not treated fairly. She was not the person she’d presented herself as, attempts to set or maintain boundaries were emotionally steamrolled, and my family and I have paid (and continue to pay) dearly for that. The misrepresentation continued even through the breakup.
”If happy ever after did exist, I would still be holding you like this.”
-Payphone, Maroon 5
And still I love her, in a way that I’ve never loved anyone else. Despite everything, I haven’t found myself really capable of feeling anger toward her for more than a moment, which probably works to my detriment. I pine for her, every day. I still see and hear and read things every day that I want to share and discuss with her. The subroutine in my head that’s always looking out for something cool or fun to buy for her still runs in the background. I still cry, though not daily like I used to. I still manage anxiety and depression. I’m still in therapy and on medication to deal with the loss. I still take prescription pills to sleep at night, and even with them I can’t seem to reliably manage to sleep more than 7 hours or so. Seeing a black PT Cruiser sends me into almost a panic. Giraffes, Muppets, and Superman references make me sad. I am a “whole person” now, but nevertheless feel like an essential part of me ripped itself (herself) away. I’m working on that.
”These wounds won’t seem to heal. This pain is just too real. There’s just too much that time can not erase.”
My Immortal, Evanescence
Maybe the breakup wasn’t just her escaping from an “unsafe” situation. Maybe it was also me escaping from callous disregard and an impending more permanent death, in exchange for dying a little bit each day.
I’d rather be in a wonderful present but forever haunted by past loss than trapped in a nightmarish present tormented by the realization that my best days are behind me. Fortunately, the former option most closely matches my current situation. It could so easily have gone the other way. The best and most noble parts of my life are The Ones Who Stayed- who didn’t give up on me, who continued to find me worth fighting for even when I was so clearly enthralled elsewhere and giving so little back. Every day brings ups and downs, but the general trend is positive. I will always carry this sorrow, and I have every reason to believe that I’ll think of Shelly and miss her (and the future we could have shared) every day for the rest of my life. But I also carry the love and support of the people around me with whom I can look forward to a long life and future together. I have no words to describe how wonderful that is.
As a side note, I began writing this post crying mournfully about Shelly. I’m ending it crying happily about my fellow Hordelings.