Thursday, July 19, 2007

A radical measure

Today...well, yesterday, now...was a day of anger and frustration. At very ungaurded moments, I am overwhelmed with these feelings, becoming keenly aware of all I have experienced and lost over the last few months. My life is dramatically different today from what it was on April 21 when I was blissfully unaware of all that was about to begin happening. Sometimes, I feel the pain of those changes, and I have a difficult time finding a healthy outlet. As my primary outlet is writing, you, dear reader, get to be a fly sitting on my mental wall, observing all my thoughts playing out on this blank page.

I was overwhelmed today with a bit of sadness, followed again by anger, when I thought of my ex and how he handled my illness in its early stages. Actually, how he handled it right up until the day when I told him to get out of my life (which I would reiterate forty one days later...). He rarely asked how I was feeling physically, and showed no concern for what my illness was doing to my life. His one and only concern was how my illness effected him, insofar as how it effected my ability to be and to do as he believed a girlfriend should. His sadness came not out of concern for me, my well-being, and the fact that my body had turned against me. No, his sadness came from the fact that I was no longer healthy enough to go on dates with him, I was no longer healthy enough to be affectionate, I was no longer healthy enough to endure more than an hour or so of activity, which limited us to short walks and maybe some time with my family.

During one of the last times we saw each other, he was crying (he cried a lot, rather like a child, and I never understood why) and saying that he thought he lost me. He did not mean that he was afraid he would lose me to cancer, or that my health would fail completely in the hospital and he would never see me again, etc. He only meant that he thought he lost the emotional response he expected to receive from me, despite what I was going through. I was fully aware of his selfish agenda during my time in the hospital, which was why I asked him not to call for a few days after I was admitted. His only concern at that time, and until I broke up with him, was how my illness was going to impact his ideal of how our relationship should be functioning. That was it, plain and simple. He was upset that I let my friends visit anytime, but had asked him to call first. The fact was, my friends did not come to me with an agenda. They came to me with the desire to show love and support, and that was it. As I recall those days, and the weeks that followed, I am mystified by the degree of selfishness in his behavior and attitude toward me. My whole life was derailed, and he somehow made it all about him. I do not understand and cannot relate to that narcisstic tendency.

I am not sure why, but the pure selfishness of his actions and attitude hit me like a ton of bricks today. I guess it's part of the grieving and healing process, and emotions come in waves. I hate that he still has such an impact on my life. I hate that I ever met him.

And yet, I do believe it was part of God's plan. In our last conversation, he said he did not think it was God's perfect will for us to be a couple, but it was God's permissive will. I disagree. I think it was God's plan that we were together for a time, because there were things I needed to learn. There were things I needed to know about myself and my tendencies toward self-destruction via damaging relationships that I may not have learned were it not for Harold. I needed to feel the full impact of dating a man like Harold so I would finally stop and evaluate why I was gravitating toward men like that, and realize that I had some things within myself to work out before I would be ready for the right guy.

I think that there is this idea that if something is not pleasant and does not bring to us what we would consider a "good" result, it is not part of God's perfect will for us. The truth is, we cannot live God's perfect will for us on this side of eternity. God's perfect will for us was compromised when Adam and Eve snacked on an apple. Much of what we are living in today is, at best, the closest thing to His perfect will that we will ever know until we get to heaven. Certainly, there are some areas of life that we can look at and see that it may not have been part of what God would ideally like to see play out in our lives, but that does not mean it is not going to be used as part of God's overall plan for us. If we are sincerely seeking to do God's will, and our hearts are open for God to guide us in our decisions, it seems that we can, by default, trust that our decisions are part of God's plan. Maybe not His ideal plan, but it is not as though we are going to throw Him for a loop.

So, while it may not have been what God ideally had in mind, I think He used the relationship I had with Harold to teach me things I needed to know. He used it to teach me the value of paying attention to warning signs, heeding the red flags I see, and paying attention to what my instincts are telling me about a person. He used the relationship to teach me that what I want and need is important, and if I am not happy in a relationship, I do not have to stay in it. Until the commitment of marriage is made, there is no reason whatsoever to stay with someone who you are not happy with. God used the relationship to teach me that lowering my standards in order to be with someone is to invite trouble. We all want what we want for good reasons, and if we have to compromise those standards in order to make a relationship work, then it is a clear sign that the relationship is one that is only going to bring heartache. God used the relationship to show me that I need to value myself more, respect myself more, and in doing so, to no longer be manipulated by men who see me as vulnerable and approach me with an agenda in mind. I was far too vulnerable to a wolf in sheep's clothing, and I see that now. Now that I have seen it, I can recognize my behavior patterns and see when/if I start venturing down that dangerous road again.

Through the relationship with Harold, I learned that there is nothing wrong with a woman demonstrating strength. It upset Harold that I was not more needy, that I did not cling to him when they told me I had cancer, that I did not act desperate enough and tell him I couldn't make it through without him. It bothered him greatly that I did not need a rescuer. I told him at one point that I did not envision anything happening in my life...ANYTHING...that would ever cause me to need him to rescue me. And I mean that. I have been through some very hard things, and through these things, I have learned how to take care of myself. Yes, I want and need the love and support of my family and friends. But do I need them to rescue me? Harold tried to bring me shame for being a woman who is strong, has her own opinions, is capable of setting her own course without his "leadership", etc. For a very brief time, I did feel some shame for that, as though I was not being a "good" girlfriend. I have concluded, however, that the good girlfriend must die. I am a woman who is strong, intelligent, and capable. I am not ashamed of this, and I guess it just means that I need someone who is strong enough to let me be the strong, intelligent, and capable woman that I am. I am looking for an equal, not a rescuer.

It is through this relationship that I learned that there are some things I will not tolerate anymore. I will not tolerate being manipulated. I will not tolerate being lied to. I will not tolerate being emotionally abused. I will not tolerate being psychologically abused. I will not tolerate a man who claims to be one thing, yet lives his life as something else.

It is through this relationship that I learned that I do not owe my heart to anyone, regardless of what their expectations of me are. I have a right to my own happiness, and if the man I am with is not bringing me happiness, I have the right to tell him so and to end the relationship without being emotionally battered in doing so. He may feel that he made an investment in me, thereby giving him the right to my affections. I disagree, and I have the right to live my life in that light.

I realize that I should expect to be cherished by the one who says he loves me, even if I am in a state of being which does not allow me to give anything back to him except love. Even if I am not able to be affectionate with him, even if I am too sick to spend any real time with him, etc...his love for me should not be based on my performance. I never felt cherished when I was with Harold. I was fully aware that every gift, every token of affection, every touch was merely an investment, and he fully expected his investment to yield a return in the way of a commitment from me. Whether or not I loved him or was with him because I truly wanted to be was not important. He would have been content for me to stay with him to fulfill my obligation to him. It took me awhile to fully accept that this was really happening, but when I realized it, I also realized that I deserved better.

There are so many more things I learned, but this is the crux of it. I know I have written about these things before, and will likely write about them again, but this is all a process. I have never left a relationship feeling so deeply wounded, so brutalized. Maybe he feels the same way. I neither know nor care. All I know is that there are things I needed to learn, and God used this screwed up relationship to teach me these things. It would be foolish of me not to evaluate this relationship, considering the impact it has had on me. There are reasons why this relationship has reached into such deep and foreboding places in my heart, and I want to learn from this experience so I do not repeat it with someone else. There are a lot of "Harolds" out there, waiting for their next victim. I am thankful that God let me see the truth before it was too late, and showed me that I was strong enough to walk away even in the midst of a very difficult season in my life.

I am thankful that I am able to process these things and move forward in a healthier state of being. My body is fighting its own battle, and if I am to win the battle, I need to be free of this sort of baggage that will only hinder my physical healing. My life is too important to me to let something like this take a deep hold on me and fester there.

I suppose the relationship with Harold is kinda like the ct scan that showed my cancer. I did not know the cancer was there, and lived my life blissfully unaware of it. I did not know I had the tendency within myself to gravitate toward and tolerate destructive relationships, and lived my life unaware of such things until Harold came along. Like the ct scan showed the cancer I was not aware of, that would have killed me had it not been found, the relationship with Harold showed me tendencies within myself that had been there all along, and would have killed my soul if I did not recognize them. The cancereous tumor found on the ct scan was removed, and in the same way, I am in the process of treating the soul-cancer that was destroying my life. Harold was just a symptom. I've treated the symptom with drastic and final measures, and now I am going through the process of treating the cause.

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