Do you ever get those splinters in your feet that only bother you sometimes? You step a certain way and you feel the pain shoot up through your foot and leg, but when you go to check there’s nothing there?
I have something metaphorically like that in my heart. It’s one of those things I’d talk about to close friends, in intimate spaces, but maybe not online because you can’t control where your information goes and who gets a hold of it. I’m sick of this metaphorical splinter however, stuck in my metaphorical foot.
I once told my best friend that the shadow of fear is often times (most often) bigger than the cause of the fear itself. If you face your fear, you realize you were able to handle it after all, and that it was a lot smaller or faster than whatever anguish and anxiety it was causing.
So I am facing my fear and utter discomfort in admitting these things not only out loud but in public, in the hope that it will be therapeutic, and that by giving that fear a microphone, it will have been expressed, and the splinter will be that much easier to get out.
I’m talking about my exes. Not every single one of them, surely, but about a handful of them.
My fear is the image they hold of me, and what that might look like. When I am at my most insecure and obsessive, I would look at my exes social media living a happy life, imagining them with their new perfect partner who was better than me in every way, thinking about how I had been just a stepping stone for their one true love.
I imagine them talking to their girlfriend, and if they were to ever talk about me, it would be just to say how I’m definitely not as pretty or smart. I imagine them laughing at me, talking about all the stupid things I said, all the times I didn’t want to have sex, how I hated washing dishes, how much of a child I was and how I am emotionally unstable.
If I got close to their family at all, I imagine this ghost of boyfriend’s past talking with their parents about how good it is that “that” relationship is now over, speaking in polite tones about all the ways that I wasn’t a perfect match, how I haven’t held down a job in years, how I smoke weed, and am financially unstable.
Just as painful, is when I have seen the photos of this ghost replicating things with the current girlfriend that he had done with me. A rewriting of memories, making sure to erase every trace of me, refusing to allow me a space in their hearts as someone that might still matter.
Sometimes just to really anchor all these beliefs in, I like to think back to the very real moment where I realized the person did not, could not, or would not keep up their end of the bargain. “You’ll always be a close friend”, “you’ll always be special to me”, “I could never not keep in touch with you”, they lied.
I, stupidly, still hold my end of the bargain. Everyone I have ever loved I still think about. I still wonder about. I am still curious about. I cannot, (and I have certainly tried) to just erase them completely from my heart. to not think, to not wonder, to not reminisce, to not love. But I am incapable of doing it. I have practice and tried and it feels like trying to do surgery on myself. An attempt to go completely against something I do so naturally that to succeed in not loving would be to succeed in no longer being alive. And despite my ego and pride, every single one still holds a special position in my life in what they taught me about myself and the place they held in the world. They are special whether I see them or not, but I saw them. Despite me not wanting to be with them now as a partner, despite me being very clear that we are not a match, despite me being happily fulfilled and in love with who I have in my poly bubble…They are special, they are loved, they are seen, and they are held.
Despite my best efforts to not.
And lastly, I hate –absolutely hate– how they remind me of my step-dad. How could a man who helped raise me for 28 from the age of 5 years old…how could he walk away and start a new life and be happy? Be at peace? How could he be cruel to me and not ask for forgiveness? Not miss me? Not try to make things better? Not want to come back? How could he abandon me?
It must be me.
And if my own father could so easily forget about me -well- what possible hope is there that some dude is going to want to hold on to me after only 1-4 years of being with me?
That’s the shadow. The shadow tells me all these things are true. And that I am pathetic and weak for not being able to let go of these things.
My love Marty says it would make sense, with the way I love, that I would not simply release these people from my heart and memories. My friends tell me that “it isn’t true” and that “I couldn’t know” if the ghost truly does and thinks these things. My brother says it makes sense that they would want to create new memories with their current love. My mother says to observe the feelings without judging them.
What would I say?
If the roles were reversed, and I was reading this blog post instead of writing it, and it was You feeling this way…what would I say?
Let’s, for a minute, imagine that everything you’re saying is true. Let’s say that this ghost of boyfriends past did replace memories, that he did talk about how inadequate you were to his girlfriend, his family, his best friend. Let’s say he did laugh at who you are, insulted your memory, and painted over the parts of his heart you’d so carefully painted blue.
It isn’t you. It is the ghost of you. It is a part of you that exists only to them, but isn’t you. They didn’t actually see you, who you were, and that’s alright because not everyone sees each other. You didn’t see them as they wanted you to see them. You saw them as you needed to at the moment. You do not need their permission or validation to be who you are because they could never give it to you. You do not own them, the only thing that is yours are the memories you have of this ghost of boyfriends past. It is not who they truly are, and they do not hold ownership of who you truly are. There are probably hundreds of perspectives of who you are, and most of them are probably loving versions. But the one that matters most is the one you have of yourself. They did not abandon you, they continued their life, just as you did not abandon them, you continued your life.
You love them, and want what’s best for them. You want them to be with someone that makes them happy. You want them to be with someone who fulfills them. Not them, nor their partners, nor their families understand who you are truly.
The fact that they walked away, the fact that your stepfather walked away, that wasn’t on you. Life doesn’t revolve around you. People make decisions based on what they can and can’t do. Every time that you’ve tried to be palatable you end up hurting yourself. Every time you’re at your most authentic self you receive the most authentic love.
It’s OK that you have this fear, but it is not true. Regardless, give the fear permission to exist. It does not have to own you. It does not have to haunt you. You can observe it, like mami says. Without judgment. You are free to live your life despite what others may think. Trust yourself. You have every reason to.
Most importantly…I see you. And you astound me.
Whenever people tell me I’m “so brave” for revealing things out in the open I feel like I’m cheating. It isn’t really hard for me to be vulnerable like this, most of the time, as it comes naturally to me. However this? This was hard to do. I was afraid someone might read it and know that I still thought about them. It occurred to me I don’t care. It doesn’t change anything about my life. I’m not trying to prove or hide anything to anyone from my past. At least not anymore. If they want to talk about all the ways in which I was wrong, let them. In the long run, I don’t need to forget anyone. My love keeps me warm, and I wouldn’t trust any of those people to validate me today.
Special shout out to Pedro, Sylvain, and Emiliano, who will never read this, but only ever realized just how truly special I was throughout the years, and held on to me even tighter. This is why friendship has so often times been more intimate, valid, and special than partnership. Partnership has a lot of self-interest and lies that come undone after the first 2-6 months. I don’t need their validation either, but it feels warm and fulfilling to be loved by them. Not as warm and fulfilling, however, as it feels to be loved by myself.
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