The human experience. We all have felt love and loss and we all have loved someone at one time or another. It is best to see these experiences and lessons learned through our relationships with people. This post is about exploring what we learn from our pasts and how it defines us. (Please note: their names have been changed to protect their identity).
My first brush with what felt like love at the time was really an infatuation. I was in high school and a musical for the first time, and I was just starting to come out of my shell, accept myself as an emotional human being instead of burying it. Acting and singing in choir allowed me to be as emotional as I wanted and no one would criticize me for it, at least while I was on stage and in rehearsals. Prior to the auditions I met Mark* in the school library. Well—met is a strong word. We more like stared at each other from across the room. It was strange. I immediately felt a push and pull from him, an intensity of emotion and fate I just could not shake. I noticed he was starring at me and I was starring back. It was only later did I find out who he was, that he was in choir and had a wicked sense of humor through stories I heard about him. Basically, I was so interested in this person, that I was falling for the idea of him through stories and a few glances in the halls and at choir concerts, before we even had a conversation.
However, during my time in the play, we became friends or at least we got to know each other enough to call each other “friends.” I supported him at his concert at a coffee shop, made him drawings, and even a scrapbook. When he’d see me, we’d talk, but sometimes he’d rush to hug me. He even somehow managed to put a letter in my locker. I guess at the time, due to my insecurity, I fell hard because no one had ever treated me like that before, like I was worth something. No one else had rushed to hug me, be near me, talk to me, laugh at my petty jokes, break into my locker and give me letters. During all this time, however, I was tormented with one brutal truth…he had a girlfriend named Sarah* that was pretty serious. Mark* was the type to marry his high school sweetheart. When all was said and done, I confessed my feelings for him through text in a fit of anger over something I can no longer remember. He wanted to meet with me to “discuss it” and we met at a coffee shop and “hashed” it out for hours.
What really happened was I was laid low and a little humiliated as he sat there explaining that he loved me, but not in that way, and that my perception of his feelings for me were really all in my head. I was devastated. It made me second guess my intuition, my intelligence, my very identity as a person. It made me want to bury that emotional person again and hate myself more than ever. I never wanted to speak to him or see him again, and I didn’t.
Years later I ran into him one day on the city bus and we talked and caught up briefly, completely forgiving each other of the past. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he starred at me for a very long time as I walked away, and that’s when I realized something. I wasn’t wrong. I think he had feelings for me too, in his own way. But he wanted to marry Sarah*, he loved and respected her more, and there was nothing wrong with that. More importantly, there was nothing wrong with me. People just make choices and those choices end up making those people who they are and who they will become. It’s all about choices, not feelings. Your feelings only matter when they influence the choices you will make. But it is the choices that define us, shape us, and make us who we are and who we will become. It’s all about the choices.
This experience is a tricky one. Around the time I met Mark* I also met Shawn*. Shawn* was a much older and married man that lived in my neighborhood. We actually met through his wife who worked at my high school.
Years later when I was 21, I ran into Shawn* at a local pub. When I saw Shawn* he looked fatter, and forlorn—broody. When I mentioned his wife and asked how she was doing to make polite conversation Shawn* said, “I don’t know, I haven’t spoken to her, I guess she’s doing okay wherever she is.” I was under the impression that they had broken up or something serious had happened. We talked some more and Shawn* invited me to be in his band with him. Once I was part of the band, Shawn* and I began to get really close and that’s when he explained to me that him and his wife had an open-marriage, technically, but his wife was living in another state and they were currently separated. We began seeing each other and he was the first man I had sex with. Three months later, his wife had called and said she was coming back, and he had agreed he’d take her back so he could forgo a custody battle he knew he wasn’t going to win over their child. So, we broke up.
This time someone was telling me they loved me, but couldn’t be with me which to this day is a strange concept to me. Love was not enough. We tried to stay friends when it was over, but it got to be too hard. Deep down I always knew Shawn* still harbored feelings for his wife and also didn’t believe in “us” enough to start over. Shawn* also had already told me how he didn’t see himself living past the age of forty and was not opposed to ending his life early. He told me this when we were seeing each other because he said that maybe things could be different if him and I were together, and he got custody of his child somehow. I told him to call me before he did anything or finalized plans which he did a year later, by leaving me a voicemail. But at the time of his call, I felt I had already lost so much. I still loved him and was a complete wreck when we broke up. Drinking, smoking, not sleeping, not eating. I lost a significant amount of weight and I was very unhealthy. When he called, I had finally just started to feel like myself again and stopped waking up in the middle of the night crying, crying in the shower, crying in the car, crying anywhere and everywhere.
I also felt extremely guilty for fooling around with a man who was still married and had to be on anti-depressants. I even had my own attempt at suicide during this time. The roller coaster ride of emotions was brutal. So, when he called me back, I told him I still loved him and to not call me again. These words I still regret. He ended his life in 2014. I still have his phone number memorized. I still remember his face, his smell, his smile, his wicked sense of humor, his grace. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him as my friend and ally. I learned from him that love is eternal, but doesn’t mean you’ll have the happy ever after that you once wished. Love is not enough. You can’t save someone from drowning or from suicide just because you love them. Eventually you have to forge your own path in the darkness to finally reach the light.
Although nothing ever happened exactly between us, Mary* and I were the best of friends. I think there was always a sexual tension between us, but at the time I was very religious, or I at least had my moments, and wasn’t ready to come out as a bisexual or bi-curious individual yet. My parents are liberal, but the idea of me being gay or bisexual made both of them uncomfortable. After I told them later on that’s what I was, I was on strict orders to not really talk about it or bring any same-sex partners home. This means that even now I have crushes on women and strong feelings for other women, but have not had the pleasure of another woman finding me and me finding her in that time and space to make a relationship or even purely sexual experience worthwhile.
Nevertheless Mary* and I found each other. I knew from the second I met her that she was needy, demanding, and manipulative, but I was lonely, had no friends, and desperately wanted some company. I fell in love with her and her family and there were several instances where she initiated her feelings for me to which I rejected her constantly because of a slew of excuses that were complete and utter BS.
Eventually the resentment towards me built up, she started to spread lies about me to her boyfriends and family members about how I was a terrible friend and how I treated her, and what our fights were about. To be fair, I probably was a terrible friend because all I ever did was mother her. At first, I did so because it seemed that’s what she wanted me to do, but it later got nasty. She accused me of being a self-righteous snob. She started keeping her real feelings from me and to herself, but started using them as ammunition for battles with me later on.
At this point, I could only feel rage and betrayal, and I cut her off, loathing her with every fiber of my being and soul. It wasn’t until months had passed that I realized I did this to myself. If I was truly honest with myself and her, it is possible, our friendship didn’t have to end in the manner it did. Between us was this possibility of an honest life that we just didn’t have, that I just didn’t have the courage to embrace and, in my cowardice, I tried to seem holier-than-though-art to her and her feelings, convinced it was better if I controlled things for each of us.
There are times when it snows softly, gracefully, eerily, and deadly, that I think of her. I miss her sometimes. But I know with all that’s happened between us there is not an ounce of forgiveness or compassion that can make right what has gone askew. Sometimes you just have to let go and move on, for the past will choke you and drown you when there’s nothing you can do to fix a situation. Admit where you screwed up and then move on.
Casper* and I met in college and we became friends. What started off as a simple friendship slowly became more once I became aware of Casper*’s feelings for me. I remember I had to sleep over on his apartment floor one time because I had been drinking and it had been late, in order for him to even get the courage to kiss me. When he did, which was the morning after, everything changed and changed rather quickly. We fell hard. We fell quickly. But Casper* kept me coolly at a distance suddenly after a few weeks. He seemed determined to not make our relationship about feelings, but rather about intellectual conversations and a lot of venting about our college frustrations.
Eventually we hit a wall that we knew we could never break when he and his family had to tend to family dramas. You see, Casper* listened to his parent’s advice about everything, including our relationship, but neglected to tell me and keep me in the conversation. Eventually I felt like I was dating Casper*’s parents and not even Casper*, that I was in love with the idea of Casper* and not Casper*. I was constantly plagued with the notion that he did not really love me and understand me, even though he did, and dreamed of the day I would be single again, to not have to answer to him with a reason for every little decision I made. After we were engaged and then no longer, and broke up and got back together several times, eventually we separated for good. I learned then that at the heart of my soul is a person that feels and not just thinks.
You see, I tried to lock my heart away again so I could keep Casper* satisfied because if I had truly spoken my mind or shared my feelings, Casper* seemed to disregard them and not take them seriously. Casper* was just scared and so was I, but I can’t change who I am to fit someone, save someone, or make them more comfortable with who they are and where they are in life. I can only be myself and no one should be stuck in a relationship where the love has died on the vine, stifled by expectation and too many nagging fights that are endless. Casper* and I are still friends, but this experience taught me again that love is not enough. You have to truly embrace 100% of the person you’re with and if you can’t, then it’s not fair to them or you when you pretend like everything is okay when it’s not.
Relationships are tricky. They define us, they shape us, they help guide us to who we will become. As a Sagittarius, I’ve done my fair share of sowing some wild oats. Many of which I regretted. But in truth, to regret something is to never truly learn from it. Regretting an experience only encourages you to have to relive it again at some future point. It’s like the old saying regarding resentment, which is like taking a poison and waiting for the other person to die. If you regret everything and anything that ever goes wrong in your life, you’re bound to repeat the same mistakes. It is much better to sorrow for that which was lost, learn from the experience and wish the other person well. It is at least much healthier for you than to go down the shame spiral of regretting the experience entirely because you’re unhappy or hate yourself. You got to love yourself, because no one else will do it for you. I have no regrets, just experiences. May I continue to always seek guidance from the past, learn from it, and be ready for the future.