It’s not him, it’s the version of him I’d chosen to focus on, ignoring all the bad behavior which followed, as I have way too many times.
“Addicted to Love” is a great song––it’s also a not-so-great running theme in my life. Last week, at 62 ½, it dawned on me that there’s never been a time––nary a day of my life––when I haven’t had, first a boy, then a man, front and center in my brain. Attempting to add up the hours––the real estate––and what I might’ve done with both had I been more focused on me––rather than them––is depressing as hell.
I can remember being a little girl of not quite 8, chasing 10-year-old Andy Helfman––all day, all summer long––for at least three years running. I eventually caught him and got the chaste kiss I sought, and the satisfaction of discovering he liked me, too. Returning to the city from the Catskills, there was Roy. I picked him on the first day of school; in June he asked me out. I fell for Paul when I was barely 12. I harbored that love for years until he returned it, in his fashion––breaking my heart and hymen. There was Lenny––unrequited; with Randy, I came to wish it was unrequited; Vinny #1, and then Vinny # 2––both mine for the having, and both exceedingly inappropriate.
I sound insanely fickle. And yet, I was fairly easy on the fickle, heavy on the insane. These were not short impetuous crushes. I harbored all of them well past their expiration dates, either until I got them or until the next one took hold, oft with some heart-breaking overlap.
Looking back––how much of my quest was about the conquest? The chase. Winning. Ownership. Not to amass bounty, but to capture––love. To fill a hole, to prove my worth––which I could never seem to do with the people I deemed most important, including my rarely-considered self. I never thought of it in those terms––yet now––it’s impossible for me not to see the pattern.
How many times have I given my time, attention, and power to a guy who either didn’t ask for it, didn’t appreciate it, or used it more as a means to control rather than love.
I followed one boyfriend to the college of his choice, and another, post-degree, to the city of his––in both cases putting aside my own desires. I married the second one, knowing he was a volatile alcoholic. But, he was my volatile alcoholic. I waitressed, putting my career on hold, so he could… sleep. So what if there were holes in the walls behind every picture? You couldn’t see them, so I could pretend they weren’t there. I spent the majority of our years together obsessing… about how to get away from him.
It took falling in love with someone else to manage it.
My second marriage grew from a years-long professional friendship. The romance was built on mutual respect, affection, and ultimately, love. In my mid-thirties, almost immediately, I shifted my focus from my career to managing his and to starting a family. It was my choice, my great privilege and pleasure. For a decade, as his star ascended, our kids blossomed and thrived. When his up came crashing down, it took our love with it. We spent the next 10 years struggling over what once was, trying like hell to get it back––unsuccessfully. Graciously, the kids continued to bloom––magnificently.
As a middle-aged single mom, without a career or a man, I obsessively struggled to find both. My long-starved creative passions swiftly found their voice and vision, and have met with some success. The money and the manhunt have been an exhausting, heartbreaking, ego-crushing exercise in futility. In spite of all the years, and lessons learned, I’m struggling to find my way with both. I’m still giving men who don’t deserve it––and sometimes don’t even know it––my time, energy, and my power. And, there’s always a man––and a way to stalk him.
Back in the day, I did it with the phone: I’d call the object of my desire, hear his voice, or,sometimes hell-forbid, his parent’s voice, and hang up. I graduated to the walk-by––finding any excuse to pass his house, or where he hung out, in hopes of catching a glimpse––a smile––or a moment of his time. What a waste of mine.
Facebook, Twitter and, Instagram took my occasional insanity and turned it into an ongoing opportunity to “check-in” on the latest object of my obsession affection.
Dating apps are an even bigger nightmare, with distance offered at any given moment. Twenty-three miles? Hey! Where the hell are you?
Finally, two weeks ago, I freed myself from the now daily insanity. Julian, my latest (mind) fuck, doesn’t utilize social media (talk about insanity). I had no way to monitor him other than to glimpse What’s App to see when he’d last been on. Why exactly? What did I gain by such behavior? Heartache. I knew when he was communicating, I also knew it wasn’t with me.
I tried weaning myself from looking, but just as it was with pot 17 years ago, I had to quit cold turkey. I’ve stuck to it for 14 days, and it’s working. As each day passes with zero connection, he fades from my mind, and perhaps more importantly, from my heart. With distance, the rose lenses are clearing their hue––less obstructing my view. I’ve come to appreciate that I’d been romanticizing him, focusing on the alchemy of the connection, whilst ignoring the harsh cruelty of the abrupt disconnection. It’s not him, it’s the version of him I’d chosen to focus on, ignoring all the bad behavior which followed, as I have way too many times.
For the first time in memory, there’s no man in my head. I’ve stepped away from the swipe. That leaves a lot of time and space to think about worthy people, ambitions, and causes––and maybe, at last, to include myself as one of them.