Lessons You Taught Me

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I’m the kind of person who consistently tries to learn from her experiences, even the hellish ones. The kind of person who will dig and dig until a gem of insight is found.

Although you gave me a plethora of scars, I am happy to say that even your hellish treatment did not sway me from my self-growth tendencies. You are still responsible for your actions, and always will be, and I am much relieved that you are an ex in the past, and nothing more. But I am happy to say that I have been able to pull many gems from what happened between us.

Lessons I Learned:

  1. Hard, but healthy choices are the best choices to make. That is my new motto. Hard, but healthy choices only. So even if the path I must choose is full of obstacles and difficulties, and I must face head on with my inner demons, I will choose it, if it ultimately means I will be better off in the grand scheme. Which means, I will not stay in a relationship if it tears me up, or it is falling apart. I come first.
  2. Everyone deserves love, yes, but respect is also a necessary pillar in any kind of relationship. I will not stay if there is no respect, because then I am staying at a house with no walls.
  3. Just because people tell me I am ___, does not mean I truly am ___. Sometimes it can get hard to discern between accepting someone’s observation of you as a hidden piece about you that you may not have recognized, and situations when what people say about you are completely false and more having to do with their own issues and projections. In my mind, it comes to one conclusion–learning to build self-trust and insight, so you can better discern between the two and trust in who you know you are.
  4. Love is not the end to all means, and it will certainly not keep a relationship surviving and thriving. In some cases, it can actually keep you in very bad places (i.e., relationships with domestic violence). Communication. Respect. Honesty. Openness. Empathy. These are only some of many parts that stoke the relationship flames.
  5. Self-compassion is essential. I realized my role in the dysfunctional relationship dynamic, and my participation in it (i.e., giving into your emotional abuse, allowing you to blame me for everything, trying too much). But I realized that if I am to accept myself as a human being, beautiful yet very flawed, it naturally follows that I should show myself compassion. It is understandable why I did the things I did, and said the things I said. And I am learning from my own actions. This is the stuff that fertilizes forgiveness, both toward myself and to others.
  6. I have to have standards. Yes, there is such a thing as having ridiculously high standards. But having low standards, or none at all, is just as bad, if not worse. I have to value myself. I have to not only see, but honor my worth. I am important. And I deserve to be treated with love and respect, always. And I deserve to have boundaries when I am not.
  7. There will always be a rather large measure of life that remains unpredictable. One day, I may think things will turn out one way, or that you are the one. The next day, I will find something else, or discover that you were very wrong for me. I used to fight against the chaos and unknown of life, and at times I still do, but I’ve made it a practice to work on accepting this undeniable fact of life. Acceptance brings peace and calm… because I remind myself that even in the chaos, things will ultimately turn out the way it is meant to be.
  8. Not all relationships will last, but that’s okay. Love convinces us when we’re in it that no, this it is, this is the one. But sometimes we do this to our detriment, putting all our energy into making a failing relationship work. But we don’t need to do that to ourselves. All we have is this present moment, and that’s it. We can cherish the love we have in the moment. Maybe there will come a day when the love will be gone and we grow unhappy, or a day when that feeling of love will grow even stronger. #7 makes it so that we can never be sure. But as I am dating now, this lesson is very loud and clear in my head. I feel something with this person, it feels really good, but no need to go into future-predicting. Let the path unfold. And see what the Universe brings to your table. It is what it’s meant to be.
  9. Be with someone who will see you for all that you are, in your weaknesses and all your beauty and glory–and cannot conceive of wanting someone else… someone who treats you like the wonderful being you are. Be with someone who will put in their share of work to keep you in their life, because there is no question in their mind that you are worth it.
  10. I believed when we broke up that I would not find someone better than you. I found the phrase, “There’s more fish in the sea” too cliche to believe.  But standing where I am today, with a new potential ahead in the horizon, patiently waiting, I realize that I was in error. There are better, much better, out there in the wide expanse around me–people are so unique, complex and different, that of course this is the case. I have living proof standing in front of me at this moment that there are better. Perhaps you may be better for another some day, but you were worse for me. I am happy to move on.
  11. Last but not least, never, ever let anyone take who you are, or take your identity. This means rejecting statements that don’t resonate as true for you, or allowing yourself to be consumed by a relationship. Build a life separate from others, an identity with roots deep in the uniqueness and power of you–all the while, sharing that lovely uniqueness with the ones you love.

the curse of exes, part 2

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Even though it’s been almost a year. Even though it has been months since we last talked. Even though you care more for yourself than me. Even though I know all of this too well.

Even still. You are the negative voice in my head, throwing fuel to the flames of my fears. You are the ghost that seems to haunt me everywhere, no matter where I go. You are the wall standing in between my current taste of happiness, to a new potential hope for moving on. Even as I look at him, your residual energy distorts his face and all I see is you. All I hear is you. And the fear shouts at me, convincing me that you have resurrected to come hurt me again, to shame me, and tell me to shut up and behave. My mind goes crazy and my emotions shift into overdrive, and I can no longer discern what is real, and what is just you.

My friends tell me, “Why are you giving him so much power? He hurt you badly and now you’re going to give him the pleasure of stealing the joy of your next relationship too?” And I do not argue, because they are right. Because not only are you an emotional abuser and raging narcissist, you are a thief. I am sure your jealousy is appeased.

Yet the fault lies with me this time. I am letting you steal my present moment. I am letting you taint everyone I encounter.

But I won’t let you. Why? Because I realize something now. Despite all the good memories and affection and times you told me you loved me, the cold, hard truth has risen from the murky water. You never truly loved me. You only fully saw me when we first met. And soon after, I became someone else to you, someone I’m not. I became what you wanted me to be.

But like hell I am going to let you make everyone else who comes into my life who you want them to be. You never cared for my happiness. It was, is, and never will be fair the way you distort people for your ego. Like hell I am going to let your distortions forever infect my mind.

Exes come, and exes go. Some morph into benign ghosts, others take the form of unrelenting demons. I’ll be frank: I wanted better. I wanted things to work. I wanted our dreams for the future to come true. But I cannot hold onto those wants anymore–you never really wanted them anyway. And I deserve better than that. I deserve better than you.

Yes, perhaps you may not understand how badly you hurt me. And perhaps I should release you and pay forgiveness for the sole reason of having a peace of mind within myself. But all the trash you gave to me, the black gunk and slime–I send it back to you. Right where it belongs.

Darling Ghost, may you rest in lovely peace.

the curse of exes

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I was on a date last night and in the middle in the date, I found myself, in the back of my mind, comparing the person to my last ex. Mentally, I took a step back–woah, what the heck are you doing?

I felt guilty, because I am a firm believer of recognizing each person by their individuality, their own uniqueness. Even when people have similar issues or patterns, there are still things about them that set them uniquely apart from others. So I try not to typecast people. I try not to project my own past experiences onto others.

But as I sat with this new guy, I thought in my head, my ex was different than this. He was more flirty and affectionate. But this guy is still just as hesitant and withdrawn in some ways. And I started missing my ex. I missed the physical connection we had, the affection he gave, the good parts of him.

Just like with any kind of grief and loss experience, I guess there will still be moments where you will miss what you lost, even when you feel you’ve moved on. With that said, I am still acutely aware of my ex’s flaws and all the negativity and toxicity he held. Things are still better the way that it is–in no circumstances do I want him back.

But I found myself struggling. I know this new guy is his own person, and I need to allow him to speak for himself and show me who he truly is. But my past and all the feelings attached murk up the water and make it harder for me to see clearly.

As nice as this new guy is, he does not seem as affectionate as I would like and appears to want to take things extra slow. I took an Uber home, and I ended up talking to the driver about my date–she told me in our conversation, “Don’t wait around for a guy. I made that mistake, I thought eventually he would change, but I ended up waiting for 6 years. You’re single. Date around. Don’t wait too long, you’re worth more than that.” I felt like the Universe was speaking to me then. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

I think this is what I would call the “curse of exes.” Even if you know better, you’ll sometimes find yourself comparing the person in front of you to who you were with in the past, or to your past. Maybe it’s out of protection or fear, or out of grief and loss, or perhaps even as a signal that what you’re getting now is not enough for your needs. I’m still trying to figure it out myself, but what I can say at this juncture, is that it’s okay to feel what you feel. And maybe there is merit in holding space for both opposing forces–like recognizing your ex had good, as well as egregiously bad, qualities. That you can recognize that the person in front of you is most certainly different, but they may trigger something in you, speak to your own unique experiences.

As I always say, it is what it is. And people are the way they are.

letter to my abuser

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Dear —,

This letter is not to disparage you, though I’m fairly certain that in your subjective reality, it will be perceived that way. All I can say is my intention is quite the contrary.

My desire is to actually convey that I get it. I understand why you did the things you did. Why you violently raged out of the blue. Why you stonewalled and threw sarcasm in my face. Why you blamed and shamed me, even for things you asked for yourself, and for things that were in reality yours. Why your own hypocrisy was lost on you. Why there were projection and projective identification on your end. Why it was easier to make me the bad one, the one at fault. I understand now, that you did all of these things because you were fearful. You suffer with a very weak and fragile ego, and it was your (dysfunctional) way of protecting yourself. It did not matter how much love I gave, because in your mind, relationships subconsciously mean being destroyed by the other. And you did not want to be “wrong” or “bad,” for what it would mean of your shaky self-worth, so it was easier to make me the bad one instead.

You also never had anyone in your family to model for you what it looks like to take personal responsibility. Instead, what you witnessed and consequently learned from your family was how to blame, how to shame, how to ignore feelings, how to focus on appearance, material things, and status above all else. Your family was never able to love and accept you as you are. It is no wonder why you acted (and still continue to act) the way you did.

I get it now. I don’t expect you to know better than this. Not anymore. You never had the nurturing to make it possible for you to have true empathy. And because I get it, I have compassion for you. I feel much sadness for you. And of course, I can say genuinely that I forgive you. Like an infant, you did not know better.

Yet it is apparent to me that you have not changed much since the last time we saw each other. You are still suffering with your ego ailment, and your recent actions speak of your need to first and foremost make yourself feel better and ameliorate your own guilt. That, too, I get. For someone who was never taught how to manage emotions, you depend on others to instead care, understand, and comfort you. Which is what you did to me throughout our entire relationship–which is why you got mad at me when I asked for support… because in your mind, like the infant, you believed I should be the one caring for you, not the other way around.

Again, I hope you do not take these words as criticism. My tone is equivalent to, “It is what it is.” And you are who you are. I am not asking you to change… that is on you. I realize now it is entirely your choice to change. So I accept you as you are, and feel sympathy for the causes of your wounds.

But in saying all this, I hope that you understand why I have disengaged. It is painful and madness-making to subject anyone to the kind of treatment you put me through, to expect others to emotionally care for you while shaming them for wanting reciprocity. I realized too that everything I profusely apologized for at the end, were things I needed you to say to me (again, projective identification) to amend the ways you have treated me during our year together.

Of course I thank you for at the very least apologizing for your last rage fit. But I am no longer waiting for an apology for all of the others things you did. I see that it is too much to ask for from someone like you, someone who is in too much pain that he cannot see past himself. I am sorry for your pain. But the only way I see any kind of friendship occurring between us is through your expressed remorse. Through empathy. And if I accept that this is something you’re not able to do, then it is better for my mental health if I turn my head away.

As much as you wish otherwise, you cannot pay off the pain that was given to me. You cannot amend this with money. It was with words you did damage–so it is through words I need amends.

I wish you could’ve seen the ways I tried so hard, the ways I tried to love and understand you, but even in this, I forgive you. You could not see me. You are too burdened with your own despair. But I cannot carry your burdens and the emotional responsibility anymore. They’re not mine. So I give them all back to you. It is up to you what you do with them.

This is my sincere wish that God is with you along your journey. I hope you find healing to your pain.

Sincerely,

Anna

still hanging

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Truth be told, I’ve always sucked at letting go.

All the unanswered questions are threads still tied to my wrist, tugging and beating against my thin skin to the rhythm of my heavy heart. They keep me hanging on.

It’s all because of you that I hate being left hanging now.

But I keep it to myself, because I already hear their words spitting harshly in my ears, “That was a long time ago. Shouldn’t you be over it by now? Just stop thinking about it.” Yet I’m coming to find that when it comes to the matters of the heart, time plays a very minuscule role, no matter how much they try to convince you otherwise. It feels as if very little time has passed, especially when I see your face, when I am reminded of you on freeway, at the cafe, or in those moments when you randomly pop into my mind. The wound is still there, bleeding profusely, but I only clench my fists and wish fervently that it wouldn’t matter anymore.

I often tell myself, “You had a serious lapse of judgment there.” The neon sign flashed at me, telling me to turn the other way.

But that’s the other thing. Although in all other cases it is an apt sword, logic, too, cannot tame the tsunami of emotions that flood you when you let yourself go to love.

And when I let the emotions flow, they scream out, I hate you. I miss you. I’m hurting so bad right now. Get out of my head. Leave me be. I want your memory to die away into the deep recesses of my pretend. And how desperately I still want to pretend… but my feet are firmly rooted, and I worry now if I will ever fly again.

When two people break apart, you are left to pick up the broken pieces alone, to make sense of it, to reconcile, to forgive, to move on. But what do you do when you are missing so many pieces, that you don’t have enough to put something together?

So I keep trekking, keep rising up. Hope is my air and I inhale. Make do with what you have.

The threads pull and wrap around my wrist tighter.

My heart is a mangled mess and even though I try and try to re-right it back, I know nothing will ever be the same. I won’t be the same. Maybe I’m not supposed to be. Even with all the agony, pain and despair, we’re meant to be moved, to be affected, to hurt. Maybe that’s the only way we learn and grow.

rant to the ex

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Breaking up with someone does not necessarily mean it is the end. Close book, walk away, completely forget. Most likely, the person lingers in your mind for a (long) while, emotions are riled up, and you find yourself adjusting to a new normal. Although the relationship is over, the adjustment and “moving on” process is another half dozen chapters to the book, if not more. At least that’s what it has always been like for me.

Yet when someone I try to move on from keeps trying to come back into my life, even when I’m just about over them, it angers me. It pisses me off, because I don’t want to care what he’s doing. I don’t want him in my life. Sometimes you need to cut certain people completely out of your life, and he is one of them.

So, this rant is for him:

Stop with the phone calls. Stop with the texts. Stop with the random Facebook adds and messages. Stop trying to edge yourself back into my life, like shit never went down. Stop creeping back in my mind. It’s over. It’s done. You fucked up. I walked away. You had your chance, and you blew it. That’s all there is to it. So stop. Stop trying to stir old embers up. Stop giving a shit about me, and what I’m doing now. Just leave it dead. Forget about me, so I can finally forget about you. For good. Please. No more.

Just. Fucking. Stop.

Okay, rant over.

I suppose no one ever said that break-ups were easy. And who ever did, has never broken up with someone, or had a broken heart. That shit hurts. And the healing process can be a long, arduous one. Although I don’t want to cut people out like this, in this case, sometimes you have to do what you need to do for you. To heal, to move on.