It was a nightmare, not a lesson.
The situations that I had to face, as have come I realise, existed only due to the extreme situation I faced early on, at a young enough age. And as the years passed and I saw the effects of my terrible first partner leak into my subsequent relationships, I didn’t realise that I had not quite learnt to recognise that the same was happening with my view towards their loved ones.
With intense soul searching, recognition of the childhood factors contributing to my psyche, and confronting everything that my younger self had demonised, I was able to, in time, recognise my right to enjoy respect and stability from the person I called my partner. But there still lay trouble beneath the surface, and until recently, I hadn’t realised how it debilitated my ability to truly relax and enjoy the relationship for what it was – a source of love, trust, respect and stability.
So, even through the process of unearthing the inheritance of trauma from deep within me, I realise that the conversation doesn’t end with just this. In fact, I’m only halfway through this conversation, that, at the end of the first half, left me shaking and breathless.
Time does heal all wounds. But sometimes, time buries the wounds deep inside, which, with the appropriate stimulus, burst out onto the surface at the most inopportune of circumstances. And having rid myself of so much trauma already, I’m continuing to rid myself of some more.
All of this needs to come out. So here I am, again, continuing a conversation which, in time, may have a satisfactory ending.
So, to all the parents who have placed me on the other scale, I say this –
It’s safe, isn’t it? It’s safer for me to be your child’s ‘friend’, and it’s safer for you to be nice to your child’s ‘friend’, because that way, I don’t have a claim on your attachment to your child. And before you call it love, let me tell you – love doesn’t tie people down. Love doesn’t suffocate. Love doesn’t limit. Love nourishes, love cherishes, love promotes.
What I see within you is attachment. And attachment comes with a disadvantage – attachment feels finite, and, therefore, cannot be shared. Attachment feels the need to cling onto the person of interest in a choke hold, so that they stay right where they are. And attachment will never, ever, ever let you let go.
The last two times I’ve found myself in this situation, I was young and naive, which is a non-cynical way of saying really bloody stupid. I took it like a doormat the first time around, and I showed no patience the second time around. And, through both experiences, I faced it alone, with no support from the person who supposedly ‘loved’ me. But, to their credit, the first guy was facing far worse abuse from his parents in one day than I did during that entire relationship, and the second guy thought it’d be best to not drag along something that he knew he would never be able to fight for, when the time came.
The third time, though…
I’m no longer stupid, as cynical me would say. I’m old enough to know how to respect and inspire respect. I’m old enough to know what I want, and mature enough to say it without allowing my emotions to take over. But as I stand at the fork in the road, wondering whether to take the ‘easy way out’ (which, by the way, is never easy, but just looks that way) or to tough it out and go down the seemingly dangerous path, I ask myself –
When does patience become stupidity?
When does a long term investment turn into denial against the sunk cost that is staring at you in the face?
When it comes to change, how long is too long?
Most importantly, though… What am I going to regret more – letting go too soon, or holding on for too long?
Even with all my past experience, I honestly don’t have answers to these questions that dance before my eyes on an hourly basis. My anxiety constantly thrums at a low but audible frequency as my unresolved issues periodically pluck at the strings. But, beyond the regret itself lies the label of being stupid, which I fear more than the regret itself. I pride and value my intelligence, and being emotionally stupid is something I have harshly labelled and criticised myself for, in the past.
‘For someone so smart, how could you be so stupid?’
I don’t know. I used to answer that question by telling myself that I would much rather regret doing something than not having tried at all, but I don’t believe that anymore, and I don’t know.
The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855) has a lot to say about regret, actually. In his ‘Either/Or: A Fragment Of Life‘ he talks about life and regret in a seemingly tragic way, but, somehow, it fills me with hope.
If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it; if you marry or if you do not marry, you will regret both; whether you marry or you do not marry, you will regret both.
Laugh at the world’s follies, you will regret it; weep over them, you will also regret it; if you laugh at the world’s follies or if you weep over them, you will regret both; whether you laugh at the world’s follies or you weep over them, you will regret both.
Believe a girl, you will regret it; if you do not believe her, you will also regret it; if you believe a girl or you do not believe her, you will regret both; whether you believe a girl or you do not believe her, you will regret both.
If you hang yourself, you will regret it; if you do not hang yourself, you will regret it; if you hang yourself or you do not hang yourself, you will regret both; whether you hang yourself or you do not hang yourself, you will regret both.
This, gentlemen, is the sum of all practical wisdom.Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment Of Life
What I do know is this – that, at the end of the road, on either branch, lies regret. If I exercise patience and stay, I will regret it. If I allow my past experience to dictate my life now and leave, I will regret it. And having done both at some point in my life, I have deeply regretted my choice, at the time.
But years from now, as I turn around and look at myself in the past with love and empathy, I hope I can turn around, and look at the current me standing at this fork, contemplating a decision. I hope I can look at myself with affection and empathy, and give myself a hug. I hope I don’t criticise myself harshly, or judge me for my choices. I hope I understand that I did what I had to do, and I hope I can support myself then, the way I support my past, innocent, naive self now.
To the me from the future – I hope you read this, and I hope, I really hope, that you understand.
So, as I contemplate the path I need to walk down, I hold the hand of my past self, asking for her courage and her ability to have hope, gaining more comfort from her than I could ever give her.