Forgive my absence, gentle reader. I have been sick. Am sick, still, in fact.
Last Sunday all hell sort of broke loose. While on a visit to Ocean City with one of my best friends, I was bitten by something, a whole lot. Red welts covered my legs, and then one of those bites got infected, causing my left foot to swell like a Macy’s Thanksgiving balloon. After a trip to urgent care I’m on antibiotics, but my left foot still looks like a bludgeoned piece of meat. Simultaneously, I was experiencing a change of season cold that basically stuck grappling hooks in me. First it was sinus pressure so bad my teeth hurt, then an excruciatingly sore throat, then chest congestion. I have thrown every modern medicine I know at it, and yet it lingers…
But this was all, I believe, just a physical manifestation of the emotional fuckstorm I currently find myself in. That same day I was bitten by sand fleas, and started the sore throat portion of my megacold, I found out that my boyfriend, who was on his second chance already, had been cheating on me. Not just a mistaken affair, but three simultaneous relationships across the country. Give it a moment to reverberate-I certainly did.
Why am I telling you this? Why am I airing my dirty laundry? Well, for one thing, it’s not my dirty laundry, and this is something that I’m doing to remind myself of that. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have nothing to hate myself for. It’s hard. But I’m trying. And telling you all, giving it a name and exposing it to the light of day is part of that.
And two, and perhaps this is the more important reason, to remind us all that we have a heart, and a mind, and a gut. And we can follow any of those, or all of those if we choose, but we have to choose to do so. And I didn’t. When I’m honest with myself I know that I was settling with this man, that I wanted to be in a relationship more than I wanted him, and it took a betrayal of monumental proportions to awaken me to that. I had tried so hard to be understanding of all his work travel and late nights, believing that was just what “a good girlfriend did” even as it felt foreign and wrong. I convinced myself I just wasn’t used to being in a relationship, and that I didn’t have the right to ask for more, or expect more, because every time I did, there was a seemingly valid excuse, and I didn’t want to be the bitch that left someone because he was too hardworking. I was hamstrung by my own good intentions.
In some ways I am grateful that his choices were this fucked up- it enabled me to see the lengths I was willing to go to keep someone who didn’t really want me. It showed me that, if I wasn’t willing to honor myself, no one else would. In one excruciating instant I realized that even if I didn’t know what came next, even if what came next was the rest of my life lived without a partner, compromising my values would be worse. I’ve spent the last year trying to teach myself about self-love, and not losing myself in a relationship, but experience is the best teacher. I wish that weren’t true. I wish I could have learned this from a book, and not from a liar who exposed my heart and my health to danger, but that’s not how it works, at least not for me. I learn my lessons the hard way, each and every time.
So I don’t really know what comes next. Right now I’m hunkering down with friends, and with family. Regrouping. I have some trips coming up, and a new job that excites me, and I imagine that my life will rebound with it’s customary fullness. But there’s something inside me now, as obvious to me as the tightness in my chest, or the deep bruise on my foot. I have been infected by doubt, and distrust, by a fear created by the fallout of this spectacularly failed relationship. And it lingers.