become so numb
I can’t feel you there
I’ve become so tired
so much more aware
I’m becoming this
all I want to do
is be more like me
and be less like you.
can’t you see that you’re smothering me
holding too tightly
afraid to lose control
cause everything that you thought I would be
is falling apart right in front of you.
Linkin Park, Numb
A couple years ago, I left my long time partner and headed out to make my own life. Or at least, that was my intention. Instead, only a month later, my old friend and lover – the love of my life – called me up asking for my help. I put my intentions on hold, packed up and moved half way across the country to do what I could to help him put his life right. I swore to myself that I would do my best for him, without ever letting myself believe that he would feel for me the way I have always felt about him. I couldn’t let myself get caught up in the idea of making “us” work, when the truly important thing was to see him happy and healthy and whole, once more.
This has been extremely trying at times, and more than once I have forgotten my promise to myself and it has caused me tremendous pain to step back and let go of my hopes and focus on what I believe to be most important. Looking at it now, perhaps those moments of weakness on my part have done more good than anything else – simply because those moments were totally real and honest – but whatever the case, I look at the man beside me now compared to the man I found two years ago, and I feel proud of him, and of myself, for embarking on this journey and seeing it through.
I, myself, have grown as much as he, I think. I’ve discovered that I am a strong person. I always felt weak because I knew that anyone I knew could out-stubborn me if they chose. This is still true. But now I understand that this is not a weakness in me, but rather a strength. I refuse to force anything on anyone else. So if someone wants to push, I will always concede, even to my own detriment, at least long enough to allow them to reconsider.
I’ve also discovered that I am a dynamic personality. I still don’t know why. I have always seen myself as a dull person: I’m not gregarious (although I am also no longer shy as I once was), I don’t capture the groups attention with my outrageous stories, nor do I open myself up easily to new people. I sometimes curl myself up in a psychological ball and refuse to have anything to do with what occurs around me. But for some reason, people do respond to me. Perhaps it is my internal strength (that I have just come to see for myself) that people respond to… perhaps it is my refusal to be less than honest when it comes down to it. Perhaps, it is none of these things and all of them. Whatever the case, I now know that it is true. And so I am no longer totally surprised when someone wants to know me.
This gives me confidence in myself. But it also, still, fills me with a sense of responsibility greater than I have ever felt, before. A responsibility to myself to be strong and dynamic and always, always true to what I believe and hold dear. And a responsibility to the people I love to make sure I never ever give them less than they deserve. Unfortunately, I’ve also learned that this is not always possible and I must find a way to do the best I can and live with the consequences.
One thing I have learned over these past few years is that love is one of the most beautiful and important forces in our lives… and it absolutely is Not all you need. Not in a romantic sense. It seems, sometimes that almost everyone I know believes that it is. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe its a personality type thing. But the longer I live the more I realize that love is easy, it’s all of the other components of relationship that make or break it.
So that leads me to think about what I really want from a life partner (or life partners). Looking at the notes I wrote myself the other day, I realize the whole list comes down to one thing. I wrote it as “loving oneself enough to love another unselfishly and as an equal.” But that pretty little phrase probably needs a little explanation.
In life we each follow a single path: but it is a path comprised of many different converging and diverging paths that we are constantly in the process of choosing. To be strong and love oneself is to always confidently choose the path that is right for oneself – even knowing that sometimes the choice will be wrong. When we find ourselves following a path with another person besides us, the danger is that we will choose a path that is not right for ourselves because we want to continue traveling together. But I believe – and I believe this strongly – that it is only when we travel together for the right reason: the right reason being that our paths naturally coincide – that we find happiness and fulfillment and partnership. At the same time, following different paths intentionally and with confidence also brings happiness in knowing that our loved ones are fulfilling their own destiny, as we do so ourselves.
By contrast, and perhaps this is too simplified, but I’ll throw it out there anyway – those that honestly believe “love is all we need” will constantly choose paths that are not their own and then wonder why their lives don’t make sense, why they are not happy, or why their loved ones never seem content. I’d say that the answer is simple enough: because they are expecting to provide their loved ones with everything, and get everything they themselves need in return. But one person cannot be the sole purpose for another.
So I find that what I want is a lover that follows their own path with confidence. And as we walk together, we know that today is beautiful and life is good. And if tomorrow, our paths diverge then that it alright, too, because tomorrow will also be beautiful and life will still be good. And I have to admit, that in the depths of my heart, I believe that it is possible, even likely to find someone that you can travel with for most or all of your life, without either one ever compromising their own journey. Unfortunately, I have met very few people that are strong enough, and love themselves enough to be happy unless they believe that tomorrow is assured.