you give your love to get used (part 2)

(Here’s part 2 of this letter that I didn’t know was going to have a second part. I wrote this before last night when I told this guy I couldn’t hang out with him anymore.)

A question I’ve asked myself a few times is this: how can I be so emotionally invested in someone I don’t know all that well?

It’s true, right? I don’t know you very well. I don’t know exactly why your last relationship ended or what she was like. I don’t know anything about your friends. I don’t know what kind of childhood you had. I don’t know what happened when your mom died.

There are more things I want to know about you, things I guess I’ll never learn. Do you take your lunch to work or do you go out to eat? What’s your cat like? What’s your favorite movie? What do you think about when you go running? What makes you happy?

I wonder all these things, and have allowed myself to become so emotionally invested in you, because I don’t want to think about myself, about my own problems. If I spend my mental time on you I can avoid thinking about my father’s illness, my parents’ living situation, the career I don’t really want anymore, my struggle to make friends in a new town.

It’s simpler this way. I can mope and pine and pretend that it all has everything to do with you and nothing to do with an immense dam of feelings having broken somewhere inside me in the past year.

I said I cry every time we hang out, and I do, but it’s not all you. Some of it is depression, loneliness, the not knowing what I want to do with the rest of my life. It’s having lost the father I knew and seeing him replaced with someone else who looks exactly like him. It’s going to my parents’ house and finding that their kitchen looks like a Superfund site. It’s cleaning it all up and taking out the trash and shooing away the fruit flies while I cry. It’s having nobody to talk to about it, nobody to lean on.

I tell myself it’d all be easier if you wanted to be with me.

And maybe it would, but I doubt it.

I said that I was a deeply flawed person, and I am, but you’ve got your flaws too. You told me your sister said of you, “You’re not a monster. You’re cold, but you’re not a monster.” You don’t seem overly cold to me, but do you remember that quote I told you I like?

“People tell us who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

You telling me what your sister said is you telling me who you are. I don’t think you’re cold now, but that’s because I want to decipher you, solve you like some kind of human puzzle. But would I ever be able to do that? And if I did, would I like the solution?

My last boyfriend talked to me a lot in the beginning. He told me about things that happened to him, how he felt about those things, what he liked about something he’d read, how he felt about political issues, how he felt about the things I said and did.

But eventually he stopped doing that. Eventually our conversations deteriorated into the how-was-your-day-fine-how-was-yours variety, or he’d tell me a joke he heard on a podcast or a fact he’d learned about sharks on Wikipedia. I felt like he was pulling away from me, and after trying to talk to him about the issue a few times with no results, I pulled away too. It was one of the loneliest times I’ve ever spent in my life.

The way people are at the beginning of any kind of relationship isn’t the same way they are in the middle or at the end. They do a lot of emotional work when they’re getting to know someone. But eventually they think, “well, we’re all settled into this relationship!” and they stop doing that work. But that work isn’t the lead-in to a relationship, it is the relationship. When you asked me why my last relationship ended, I gave you this whole spiel and then I hit you with another quote: emotional work is “the backbone of relationships, not the entry fee.”

I’ve told you this before. A person I end up with for the long haul has to talk to me. They have to FUCKING TALK TO ME. Talking is the primary way I feel close to people. It isn’t shared activities or spending lots of time together or even sex. Those things are great but the main thing is the TALKING.

You talk to me now. But you are in some ways a quiet, reserved person. If we were together for awhile, when would you eventually stop talking to me? When would you quit doing the work? When would you go cold?

i give my love to get used

Listen, I have to tell you I can’t be your friend anymore.

That’s a weird thing to say to a person, and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever said it. But it’s true, I can’t.

I know this is the opposite of what I told you. You were there. You told me you didn’t want to date anyone, and I said, “Oh, okay,” and then I went to the restroom.

When I came back, I sat there quietly for a moment, then I said, “The elephant in the room, I guess, is that I wasn’t expecting to, but I really quite like you.” You said you were sorry, and that you really hoped we could still hang out as friends. The lights on the restaurant patio were behind your head, and I couldn’t see your expression. I told you I’d have to think about it.

It was only an hour later when you dropped me off at my car, so of course I hadn’t had time to think about it. But I didn’t want that to be the last time I ever saw you, so I said, “Okay. Let’s hang out.”

Then I went home and cried. I have cried nearly every time I’ve seen you since.

I don’t know why I thought I could spend more time with a person I like and think it would help me like them less. You come across as a serious person, but over the past month I’ve seen you relax a bit as you get to know me. You’ve seemed lighter. You’ve made more jokes. When you helped me pack up my craft fair booth and we decided to see if the two of us could take everything to my car by ourselves in one trip, and a volunteer came by and asked us if we wanted to use an extra hand truck, your eyes lit up as you said, “No! We’re going to do this ourselves!” To see you on a mission, to see you happy to try to do something silly–I loved that.

Sometimes at night when I’m trying to sleep, I make a little list of the things I like about you. I like the way you dress. I like the fact that you read a lot and have things to say about what you’ve read. I like that you always seem to understand what I’m talking about. I like that you’re smarter than I am. I like your politics. I like that the first time we met, I cried a little when talking about something or other, but you didn’t look the least bit uncomfortable or put off. I like that you’re close with your family. I like that when you listen to me talk, you don’t interrupt to try to restate what I’m saying in a different way. I like that we’ve hung out a whole bunch of times but I’ve never, ever seen your phone.

You told me you don’t want to be with anyone, and I heard you, and I understand. But I also know you don’t want to be with me. You respond to my texts days after I’ve sent them. You stand at an appropriate distance from me at all times and are careful never to touch me (though I am careful too). You always say yes when I ask if you want to meet for drinks or dinner, but it’s never your idea.

Sometimes you confuse me. You pay for our drinks. You say nice things about me. After we went to the movies, you dropped me off a ways from my car, and when I told you I had something for you in my glove box and I’d be right back with it, you got out of your car and followed me to mine so I wouldn’t be alone in the parking lot at night. When we walked around at the craft fair, every time I glanced at you you were looking back at me. I said, do you want to look at anything in particular at the fair, and you said, “no, I just came to see you.” You came back at the end of the fair to help me pack and load my booth, which was a thankless chore you didn’t have to do.

But these are all things I’m reading too much into, or else imagining entirely.

This is the problem. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me, and I especially don’t want to pine for someone who doesn’t want to be with me. I don’t want to spend my time analyzing your words and actions, wondering if maybe this thing means you like me, or maybe this thing, or maybe when you said x you meant y or z. I don’t want to walk with you or sit next to you at the movies or in a car and wish I could take your hand. I’ve spent the last month doing that, and all it does is make me sad.

Actually, that’s not all it does. It makes me question myself. It erodes my self-esteem. It makes me think terrible thoughts, thoughts like maybe he’d like me if I were more sophisticated, or more positive, or if my life weren’t such a mess. Maybe he’d like me if I were thinner, or quieter, or had fewer opinions. Maybe he’d like me if I were prettier.

I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want me, but I also don’t want to water myself down or smooth and polish my rough edges in case that’s what it takes for you to want me.

I’m not smooth. I’m not easy. I’m a complicated, stubborn, loud, opinionated, excitable, intense, deeply flawed person, and I don’t want to change that for anyone. I don’t even want to want to change that for anyone. But that’s what’s happening, and that’s why I can’t be your friend anymore.

If I keep spending time with you, one of two things will happen:

  1. As I get to know you better I’ll keep falling for you, and eventually I won’t be able to take it, and I’ll say something stupid.
  2. Or worse, as I get to know you better I’ll keep falling for you, and then you’ll meet someone you want to be with, and I’ll be crushed.

None of this is your fault. You didn’t ask for it. In fact, you specifically asked for not it. No, this is my problem. I thought I could do something I couldn’t, or more accurately, I knew deep down I couldn’t do it, but I didn’t want to lose you. You are the person I like talking to the most, that I relate to the most, in this whole stupid town.

I tried. I tried so hard to be the Cool Girl, to be laid back, to go with the flow, to be what you wanted me to be. But I can’t do that. And even if I could, what would it get me? This is only going to get worse if I don’t let you go.

I hope you are happy someday. I hope you get to leave St. Louis like you want. I hope you find a better job, one you like. I hope you find someone amazing who sees how great you are.

I hope I do, too.

(title from here)

(here’s part 2)

six months

An ex-boyfriend used to tell me that in his opinion, I was capable of more than I thought I was. He would say it whenever there was something I thought I couldn’t do because of my depression or anxiety or endometriosis or whatever else. “You can handle more than you think you can.”

I understood where he was coming from, and I knew he meant well, but I never liked hearing him say it. It made me feel guilty for not doing more. It made me question my carefully-implemented self care regimen. It made me feel like he thought I was acting weak. Sometimes I wondered if he thought I was weak.

The only way for me to know what I can handle is to think of a thing and decide whether or not I can handle it based on what I assume are my limitations. Or I can look at things I’ve done before that I couldn’t handle and not do them again.

Both methods are faulty. How do I know for sure what my limitations are if I don’t test them? And how do I know that not being able to handle something in the past means I couldn’t handle it now? Most of the time I just have to guess. Or sometimes I do a thing I think I can’t handle, and try to prepare myself in advance for the ramifications of the not handling.

Other things happen to me whether I can handle them or not.

Moving to a different state may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my adult life. Here is a list of the things about it I’m not handling very well.

  1. I work from home, so I’m at home alone all day, but in the evenings I don’t have any plans, so I stay at home then too. I go to sleep, wake up and work from home alone all day, and the cycle continues.
  2. There isn’t really anyone in St. Louis around whom I’m comfortable being needy. In Austin I had friends and a sister I could text and say, “Can I come over?” or “I know we’re supposed to go out, but I’m feeling down so can we just sit around and watch TV instead?” or “I need help with something, can you help me?” My parents are here, but they have their hands full with my dad’s care, so I try not to bother them unless it’s an emergency.
  3. I don’t feel very needed. My parents need me for logistical reasons, but I don’t have friends here who text me and say things like, “Can I come over?” or “I need help with something, can you help me?” It’s hard feeling like I’m not part of anyone’s emotional support system like I was in Austin.
  4. When I first moved here, I tried online dating. It was by turns a strange, hilarious, frightening, humiliating and very hurtful experience. Some things that happened still hurt and will probably hurt for awhile. Online dating has made me question my trusting nature, my appearance, my self worth and my value to others in ways I haven’t done in a very long time.

How was I supposed to know I couldn’t handle moving to another state? I’ve never done it before.

I’m not going to undo it, though. I don’t want to move back to Texas, and I don’t want to admit defeat and move somewhere else just yet. It’s only been six months. It’ll get better, probably. Maybe.