Lesson NOT Learned!

3 Apr

Disclaimer: This is not an emotional rant on men and relationships. Just make it through the first paragraph, promise. 

I’m angry. A week ago I found out that my ex is back together with his former girlfriend (a.k.a the woman he cheated on me with & the woman he broke up with 9 months ago to be with me…I know. Somehow my life turned into a soap opera much to my chagrin.). All kinds of thoughts screamed in my head when I found out: He couldn’t even give our relationship the decency of a proper mourning period! I can’t believe I had to find out via facebook! Jesus, what a man whore! He is incapable of being alone! I’m definitely better than HER! blah blah blah. The complexity of our relationship is way too tangled for my writing skills, your attention span, or my computer’s remaining 25% battery life to convey via this blog so I won’t bother. Besides this entry isn’t really about how my ex treated me, it’s about how I’ve subsequently treated myself.

I was so angry when I found out about his new (old?) relationship that I confronted him directly (fortunately via gchat which provides belligerent human beings like myself with an advantage by giving  our words a dry viciousness versus a loud crassness since volume is masked). I proceeded to explain just how much he had wronged me and how unacceptable his behavior has been. The next morning, I laid in bed reflecting on what I had just done. While there was some mild regret, for the most part I’ve been able to keep the “walk-of-shame” feeling at bay because in the two months since I found out about his infidelity I had yet to yell at him. In fact, I’ve apologized for being a bad girlfriend at times. I actually wrote him letters and emails telling him not to beat himself up too much and expressing my fear that he’d overwhelm himself with shame.

That’s when I realized that I’m not really angry at him. Well I am, but that hard pit that’s been gnawing away at me all this while is actually anger and shame at myself. A long time ago when I was a little girl, feeling ugly and dejected by all the young boys I made some promises to myself. I told myself that I was not going to settle. That I would never draw my self-worth and evaluate the worthiness of my life from the presence of a man. If I could find someone exceptional than great and if not then great! That was the start of my personal feminist manifesto. As the years progressed I developed a deep value for forgiveness, a commandment I still hold myself to. People, I believe are fundamentally good.  They are just often confused. I made it my mission to try to see through the confusion as much as possible and give others the benefit of the doubt. And sometimes, specifically in the context of romantic interludes, my nature to see others’ perspectives first got my heart into trouble. So my childhood feminist zeal preemptively kicked in and I made another oath: I will draw the line at cheating. While the act can be forgivable, if a man ever cheats on me I will break off the romantic relationship to preserve my dignity and self-respect.

And so my feminist side was satisfied. This compromise allowed me to continue to empathize and see the good in others while not get treated like a complete doormat. I could have my cake and eat it too! Only I broke this promise to myself. I didn’t break up with him instantly. I mulled on it, and then told him I still wanted to stay together and thought we could work through it. He said no.

“I’m reminded of a passage from a book that once helped me through my divorce. I was a wreck. I absolutely believed that I was ruined, tainted, broken for good. I would never really be able to love anyone again. Then I found this book about Buddhism, and I stumbled onto a single page that has never failed since to soothe me. The passage insisted that believing we are broken is a mistaken perception of our true nature. We are all, it went on, inherently virtuous and noble, but time covers us with layers and layers of experience. We often act badly, for the world is confusing. And we are often hurt, because others get confused, too. And when we look in the mirror– when we build a mental image of ourselves– we see only these layers upon layers. We conclude, I am not a good person, or I have been hurt very badly. But we are mistaken. This is not our true nature. Inside us all, under all those layers, despite years and years of neglect, there is still a virtuous and noble person waiting to be let out. We don’t become good people. We simply cease, slowly, to be deluded by the layers.

That page– just two paragraphs I’d underlined, really– became my calm in the storm. It reminded me that the start of a better life was not out there somewhere, out there in the freak-show universe of spiritual guides, but rather, that the start of a better life was my own goodness, and it was already inside me. It has been there all along, under all those layers. Waiting for me. I just had to calm down, stop looking every-where else for answers, and start letting it out.” – Po Bronson from Why Do I Love These People?

In these moments of angry internal dialogue when I start by chiding Him for the damage he has caused me and then circle around to scolding myself for not walking away sooner, I have to stop and pause. The saving grace of every relationship– good or bad– is that you learned something. You walk away knowing yourself better, or having a new appreciation for communication, or maybe you’re just better at sex. It’s how as a feminist, a control-freak, and introspective junky I convince myself to keep forging ahead and try again. But perhaps, just perhaps… sometimes there are no lessons learned. Sometimes the web of data points are too interwoven, too emotionally charged and fall outside the spectrum of black, white or grey.  And for these stories, instead of trying to reflect and learn maybe, it’s just kinder to everyone (especially ourselves) to conclude that there are no lessons learned.

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