Monday, March 12, 2012

Reflections & Musings: It's not all about me.

"They say that time changes things,
but you actually have to change them yourself."
-Andy Warhol

I could not have picked a better partner — someone who shows me that it's not all about me. For so much of my life, I've been obsessed with making myself "whole" again, as though I've been this broken and fragmented individual who needs to fix inherent traits about myself in order to receive love. It's just now settling in that I'm not dysfunctional or irreparable, but that I'm innately human. And perhaps, that's the hardest realization to come to, because being human means being vulnerable to pain, to change, to circumstances beyond my control. It's all the things I tried to escape throughout most of my childhood into young adulthood, and here again, I'm faced with the reality of what it means to live and be in relationships with other human beings.

In the end, we're all in our own spheres of consciousness that happen to merge with one another like soapy bubbles in the sky. Sometimes we pop when we meet one another, sometimes we become attached and float on together and other times, we soar into the ether completely on our own. Each of us is a world of wonder in and of itself. Yet, I've been so cooped up in the iridescent sheen of the viewpoint I hold about our relationship — and what I need him to give to me — that I haven't seen what it really is that he also needs in turn. Because my entire life has centered around tender emotions or introspective interpretations of outside events, and because I feel I've been unjustly wronged before, whether caused by him or by others in my life, then I began to react in heart-jerk ways rather than respond with real consideration for him as a person or as a partner.

Lately, I've shared with a select few people the thoughts in my head, the feelings in my heart, the dialogues I've had with my partner. And, the input that I've been receiving is: "You should thank him for being the soul who volunteered to come help you grow," and "It's amazing the types of dialogue you have with one another — your communication is incredible," and "You've got to love yourself first before you can truly know how to love anyone else. Both of you just want the other person to be happy, but it starts first and foremost with knowing what it is that you want."

Then why doesn't it feel like the best of all things is happening? Why does it feel so incredibly uncomfortable and annoying? After an argument he and I got into yesterday, I confessed that I feel as though I've been pulling away, shutting down, and looking for a way out.

"I can tell," he told me, "it's as though you placed your heart in an origami envelope and now we need to peel away the pieces of paper away, one at a time."

One of the challenges that we've broached before is that I live in a world where I'm slightly removed, one where I can process things in an almost narrative fashion, that helps me write my book. Rather than being fully present, I'm just present enough to observe and interpret rather than be in the moment. While I've thought that most of what I've been working on is to better our relationship (i.e., being tolerant of another person's anger and opinions), what I believe I've been doing is simply picking and choosing on working on the things that are seemingly most challenging, yet would ultimately benefit mostly me and my memoir. It really hasn't been about him or us.

"What does an apology mean to you?" he asked yesterday, after we sat in the car in intense frustration at one another. "What does forgiveness mean?"

Though initially I thought he was asking this as a way to catch me being wrong so that he could be right, what he was really bringing to light is the fact that I have never, ever truly forgiven anyone. "I feel like you make apologies just to get past the moment," he observed, "but instead of letting it go, you just try to bring it back around in another way at another time, so that you can still make your point."

A long time ago, I read that forgiveness involves an element of forgetting. My memory is so selective that this amnesia works in a way where I simply cut and splice previous experiences in a way that puts me as the heroine, the victim, the one who's not at fault. I cannot yet own my mistakes, because I've felt that the message I received loud and clear while growing up is that it wasn't purely my actions and behaviors that were wrong, it was my entire soul and spirit. So, with that enormous wound still on the mend deep beneath the surface, why would I ever choose to be in any adult situation where something I did was construed as unfair, unkind, or inconsiderate?

"I think that in the end, you'd really just like a relationship with yourself. You want someone who you can control, who will say and do just the right things as you would like them to do. And that's not how our dynamic works. We're two alphas here, and that could work, if we just learn how to yield now and again."

Yielding, to me, is submission and not being honored. I've learned that fighting to be right is what I know how to do best and compromising is a concept worthy of consideration, but one I both don't know how and don't necessarily want to grasp. Instead, I want to be in control, I want it all or nothing, just like my eating disorder used to demand. It's either become a perfect size 0 or binge until my stomach is so distended that I can no longer breathe.

Everything that annoys me about him are so clearly things that I'm annoyed with about myself and it's the same exact case with how he sees me as a mirror, too. The difference lies in the fact that he chooses to accept the "not-so-great," because he tells me that the good far outweighs it. He says that our relationship is real. And I? I still want — and am demanding — perfection. It's not fitting into my idea of how things should be, and because of that, then I want to jump on the next plane out of town to the next adventure, the next distraction, the next illusory promise of getting everything I have ever wanted — until it's not anymore.

We got into an argument at his friend's baby shower yesterday, quietly making our own little "scene." Again, I wanted things on my terms, to be resolved right then, to be more important than the whole world around us and the very event and people we were there to celebrate. Am I proud of this? No. And yes, it takes two, but the whole entire play could have featured different dialogues and character exits and stage spotlights. Or, both of us simply could have chosen not to audition. But, we did and then did a bit of tit for tat.

All of this is to say that I am still learning how to be mature, how to be in a relationship that's not a replay of everything unjust that has ever transpired in my life, which I would now like to rectify with this ONE person, right here and now. I don't know what will happen between us, but I do know that at the end of an hours-long assertion of how each of us sees things, we went to get a drink and agreed:

"If we can get past this, then we have a pretty damn good shot. And, if we don't, then we both know we love each other a lot, and that we'll let the other person go to find what makes them most happy."

It might sound textbook, but it's anything but. We are two smart individuals who (maybe think too much and) are absolutely adapting to the dynamic of a relationship neither of us has experienced through before. While it's distinctly grown-up in many ways, it's also still an adolescent process of learning who we are, who we'd like to be, and who we'd like to be with.

I'm going to do my best to stop searching for someone else to tell me how to do it right, and trust that I have a partner with whom we're figuring it out as we go. It's not going to be easy and we're certain there are more arguments to come, but I certainly have found the person who will help me become a greater version of myself. And the same goes for him. That's a tit-for-tat worth fighting for.

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