Last week, I received this email from a reader. I think that you, my ever-patient, loving and supportive readers, can relate to this beautiful story. I know that I did. If you so choose, please offer her some love and encouraging words. Thank you.
I have been faithfully reading your blog for years now. You inspire and give me strength. Thank you for that! (Thank YOU for being so sweet!)
I am not sure why I am emailing you. I have reached out to anyone I can in the hope I can find a place of peace again in my life. You see, I get a lot of great advice, but I can not come to terms with the finality of it and my story seems to have people respond from a place of judgement rather than compassion. I can not blame them for that.
I am a single mom recovering from a marriage of emotional neglect and infidelity. I have prided myself on always doing the right thing and being true to myself, but in many ways I have failed in the latter, time and time again. You see, I am a rescuer too, and my empathy for others is so much stronger than any sense of self preservation.
It has been 6 years since I have allowed myself to care for another man. No, it has been more, since the breakdown of my marriage had started long before that, and in many ways I had disengaged emotionally. I had given up on men, on companionship and on love. My son was the only thing that mattered and the only thing that I cared for.
One day, when walking in my son's swim class, 5 minutes late, his instructor looked up from the water and made eye contact with me, and lightening struck. My stomach crunched up, my ears tingled and I was short of breath. My heart thumped so hard that I felt the whole world could hear it. I had to leave and sit outside for a while to regain my composure. Now, what is strange about all this is that we had been going to the same class and the same instructor for months, and he had made no impression until now, what so ever. He is a stocky boy, 10 years younger than me, pale as the moon, and by no means attractive in terms of my stereotypical taste. And yet, just like that, I could not get him out of my head.
I will spare you the details, but only to say that weeks later, after we had become friends and just as things began developing into something more, he told me of the day I showed up late, of the first moment he noticed me, and experienced a feeling of nausea and pain tinged with excitement and a need to meet me. It seems at that moment, some powerful deity had decided to play with our lives.
My heart and mind fought each other for weeks. At first it was the age and the total gap between our education levels and life experiences (he comes from a rough and painful past, to say the least). Later, it was the discovery (or admission) that he was an unmarried family man, with two kids. I was committed at that point to be nothing more than friends. I am not a "home wrecker", at least in my opinion. I kept my feelings close to my heart and revealed little, while he spoke openly of his, which were almost word for word a reflection of the ones I was trying to suppress. We both had an overwhelming feeling like we had known each other for our whole lives, like we had been a part of each other.
Even when he called for help to the hospital, after his girlfriend had hit and broken his nose (again!), I refused to open up about my feelings. You see, he was an amazing and caring dad who lives for his children. What kind of person would I have been to try and pull that apart? But, even if I had fought this, he was not. He reached out and pulled me to him despite my reluctance. He openly told the mother of his children he is in love with someone else and "broke up" with her. Being the sole bread winner, he continued to live there and tried his best to balance his various roles. Meanwhile, I experienced something new for me: a communication with a partner which was absolutely open, honest and free of fear of judgement. He wore his actions and his feelings on his sleeve and I did the same in turn. We spent several months in which we built each other up and dreamt big. I had never experienced elation as the one I lived in those months. I put aside my qualms about all the things that yelled for me to walk away, and embraced this new love.
I always knew that one day it would come down to a choice for him: the kids or me. I don't want to share too many of his personal history details, but to say that the kids' mother had a history of taking off and keeping the children away from him. It was something he swore he could never allow to happen again. From the beginning I saw the end coming, and we spoke about it. He assured me of his feelings but also admitted what was clear (and how it should always have been!) that his children come first.
As things got more serious between us, as we got more involved, we both began to experience huge fears of that impending day of choice. He told me I was the best friend he had ever had, and I knew in my head he was my soulmate and best friend as well. We battled together over the moral dilemma of what we were doing as well as the guilt he fought daily. I saw it starting to consume him, starting to cloud the happiness we had together. One day I told him that it hurt him to see him in that conflict. I told him I would be okay if he decided to let us go apart and chose to try and mend his relationship at home. A few weeks later he took me up on that.
I still see him, during my son's classes. The pain is searing. I am not just mourning the loss of my lover and love, but the loss of a friend, and confidant. I am hurting mostly due to this irrational but certain knowledge that this is not how things are supposed to be. Just like that first day I was hit by the lightning of love, to this day I know that this man has some deep and as of yet unexplored significance in my life and I in his. I KNOW the choice we made to be apart is the right one for his family, but I also know that whatever joke it was that was played on us is not over.
I have spent the last few weeks focusing on me and my son, and on getting over the pain. I have done everything in my power to stay away from him, and everything in my will to stop thinking of him. I have tried to drink him away, dance him away, date him away, and clean him away. I have tried to hate him, I have tried everything in my power to flush him out of my system. There are days where I do well and days (weeks) where I hurt beyond belief. I know the stages of grief, but I feel I am stuck between denial and anger, but seem unable to move forward from there. I think what keeps me there is knowing he loves me and still cares, and a sick and painful hope that one day soon he will show up at my doorstep and ask to stay.
How is it that one lets go of their "once in a lifetime" and settles for good enough? How is it that one stops hurting? Where does one in such pain find comfort?
I want to stop being the shell of a person which goes through life, step by step, like a robot, smiling when required, chatting, mechanically being what is expected of me, while masking this pain inside. I miss and want to take joy in life again, in the basic things that were my refuge. I want to move forward.
Thanks for listening. Not sure what I expect sending you this, but it is nice to be able to send it all out there into the world and hope that with this email a piece of my pain will leave me too.
I know you are going through a lot now, and I apologize for the rather selfish email. I am tired of being strong, but wanting to be stronger.