I love Penelope Trunk‘s blog. She’s not afraid to write about her life. And sometimes that’s positive, but the most interesting and hilarious and insightful posts are always about a negative – some way in which she screwed up, something she found difficult, relationships – that ended.
The tagline is “advice at the intersection of work and life”. I don’t know about you, but that’s where I need it. How do I balance work and life? How do I deal with people I dislike, or dislike me? How do I lead an interesting life?
I’ve had a great few months professionally, but it all starts a little over 6 months ago. One Thursday morning I cracked and broke up with and evicted my then-boyfriend. All I wrote at the time was that I’d failed.
Here’s the thing, for a couple of months before that I had been living with someone who had checked out emotionally and had just remained physically because, I don’t know. It was easier, and cheaper for him. And I tried to fix it, because that’s what I do. Time is invested. Future is planned. Don’t diverge from the path. Things will get better if X and Y and Z change. Whether they do or don’t, it doesn’t.
Sometimes I would yell or cry that I didn’t even feel like he liked me but mostly I thought I didn’t deserve any better than the criticism that was levelled at me – I worked too much, I didn’t work enough on what was important, I was too career focussed, I was too emotional, I shouldn’t dislike this person, I shouldn’t be upset about that.
The door slams. I go swimming. And the biggest thing I feel? Relief. Breathe out. I’m alone. Mostly I was just numb and exhausted. I watched a lot of TV. Of course I cried, and of course I rationalized that maybe it was that living together was too stressful. We tried to date but that ended after an argument representative of so many others we’d had. One of his friends being inappropriate. Me being unreasonable and overly-emotional (apparently). Done.
Of course this is a vast oversimplification, and it goes without saying that I have my own faults.
It took 2 months to get his crap out of my apartment. I spent my birthday on a plane and all I wanted was to come home to an apartment that was just mine. I didn’t. He wished me happy birthday via Facebook and via text. And I arrived to find his stuff there, in my space, where I desperately didn’t want it to be.
An email showed up with a list of my faults. I was trying to focus on my internship and instead there’s a phone call at 11 at night and I’m in tears. He apologizes, but it doesn’t take the sting out of what was written. Including, when I’d bought him skis for his birthday I had been trying to buy his affection. They were the most beautiful skis, too long for me (the difficulty of getting high end skis if you’re female and not tall is another sad story I’ll tell another time) but I’d demo’d them and loved them and thought I would get to ski them. I didn’t. He comes to collect them and I joke – half serious – that I thought I was getting a refund. He says “I apologized for that” and takes them.
Our belongings were separate but our finances were entwined and that was more work. Eventually I got my own Canadian credit card and had my phone in my name. I was free. The last time I saw him he asked if I wanted to have dinner and I said, “I don’t really see us being friends”. I was done.
It’s telling what friends say post-breakup. This time was a new record in people who hadn’t liked my ex. I came across an article about emotional abuse and realized that there were elements of that, that I’d just come to think I deserved.
I avoided our mutual friends, joking that he’d got them and I’d got the apartment. It was easier than I thought it would be, mostly because of the awesome people who I met in EB.
But also because of my friend who I went to Seattle to see for my birthday, just over a month after we broke up. I was a wreck, completely unconfident and pathetically grateful that he would buy me a coffee (let alone dinner) and find me amusing and worth talking too. He sat me down and finished my resume with me and convinced me to let him put it in to a company that I hadn’t even allowed myself to dream of working for.
And then there was Maggie. Occasionally I would tell her things my ex had said to me and she would look at me and say, “Cate, why did you put up with that?”. Between the two of them, they gave me the pieces and I put myself back together. I was productive. I was effective. I was loving my job. I was optimistic about what was next. I was back in the gym, enjoying it, and starting to get over my injuries and back to normal. Now, I have a workout schedule that I would have struggled with pre-kneecap-dislocation. I am insanely excited about my next adventure. I’m stressed, sure, but pretty happy.
I write this because, it’s time. Because it seems right to share that despite everything I do and everything I’m apparently capable of, I let one person annihilate my self-esteem to way below my usual level of low-level-inadequacy-driving-me-forward.
I found out recently that he’s dating someone new. In fact, the passive aggressive I wrote about ages ago. When I found out I laughed for about 15 minutes. There are a number of reasons as to why I found it so hilarious, but mostly it’s because that group of people – when you don’t think they can get more dysfunctional, they do. I’d been thinking that the best revenge is a life well lived, but after that realized that sometimes people create their own poetic justice, and that’s gravy.
And then, I started thinking about the skis. And whilst I don’t care who my ex is sleeping with, the thought of those beautiful skis out with the guy who annihilated my self esteem, and the woman who made me question my sanity – who thinks she’s all that on the slopes and “teaches” hapless beginners, whilst stemming her turns which she makes entirely with her ass… seems like a tragedy.
Of course, the real tragedy is the time and energy I spent on both these people. The amount I allowed them to affect me. I’m fixating on the skis because they are a physical thing that I let him walk away with, that I didn’t hide them as I wanted to because I was so paranoid about being reasonable. The chipping away at my self-esteem is an intangible thing that I can’t quantify. It’s the thing I’m truly upset about.
Walking through the grocery store I saw trashy magazines depicting the latest gossip about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Since that Oprah show and with the Scientology nonsense it’s always about how Cruise is crazy and controlling. I don’t read these magazines and I have no idea what’s being said, but I do notice that Holmes is less awesome since she got with Cruise. In fact I had a friend, who was really really cool when she was single, but would always be like whoever she was dating. She’s now married and lives in suburbia. I don’t know what happened to all the dreams of living abroad and doing amazing things.
Here’s the thing, I let someone make me less awesome. I didn’t even notice it was happening. And when my friend and I looked at each other the other day and said, “dating sucks. What is the point?” This is what I was thinking: I don’t ever want to let anyone make me less awesome again. And I’m scared to be out there, in case they do.