Commitmentphilia

When I began to write this, almost two months ago, I started it by typing:

“It’s been two years since The Best Thing Ever, disguised as The Worst Thing Ever, happened.” 

I then rambled for a bit about my pride in learning, during those two years, so many important skills, such as cultivating healthier relationships and honing my bullshit detector. I talked about making peace with the people who were involved in TBTE/TWTE, which mostly actually meant making peace with the idea that sometimes, people act like assholes and refuse to be accountable for their behavior, and there’s not much I can do about it but move on.

It was cool. I was starting to shape the TBTE/TWTE story into a heroic tale of my strength and awesomeness, and how I dodged a lethal bullet and thank goodness I have learned so much and am pretty damn near perfect now.

You know what, though? It hit me pretty quickly that I am not that writer. I may have been that writer in the past. But now, the writer I am, the person I am, is the one who is here to tell you that TBTE/TWTE still hurts. And that all that old pain continues to mess with my emotional health and safety, my relationships, and my sense of self-worth.

In case it’s not clear enough yet that this is about a break-up: just over two years ago, over paper cups of cheap tea at a donut shop, the person I thought I would be with forever informed me that our relationship was over. Now, this relationship was a huge deal for me. I had never even considered committing to someone the way I did with . . . hmm, let’s call this person X. I invested time, energy, major care-taking through an enormous loss and subsequent grieving period, money, travel, work (so much god damn work), so much forgiveness, so much space for fuck-ups and lying, so much vulnerability and fucking up myself, so much trying into the relationship. We moved in together, something I had never done before, something I stressed the enormous significance of for me, and together we agreed that it meant that we were committed.

I embraced an imperfect being, told them I would stick around and we could be imperfect together, and I just knew that somehow the world would be more bearable and also more beautiful that way, together. Usually, our togetherness made everything better. Sometimes our togetherness made our individual lives harder to deal with. I thought of this as necessary sacrifice. Apparently this sacrifice, this discomfort, was not worth it to X. X processed the dissolution of our relationship in some context that did not involve me, then dropped the news. It was done. Commitment Schmommitment.

(Here it is. I look at what I have written and I am clearly still upset. Angry. Wishing and waiting for apologies that will never come. I am no peace warrior, I am not practiced in the art of letting go gracefully. I can be bitter and let other people’s actions have great power over me. I am human. For many of us, no matter what we espouse about forgiveness and letting go, we have some things we are still angry about, some unimaginable hurt that no one else will ever understand. I am tempted to go back and edit, edit, edit, until it’s pretty and makes you feel good, and insinuates that healing is easier than you think, and inevitably comes sooner than you expect it to. Ultimately, though, I am more drawn by the possibility of letting you, dear reader, in – to visit my wounds, and find comfort and solidarity there. I know that you have some hurts I will never understand. Here is one of mine. Let’s be rage-filled and irrational together, or however we need to feel, in this little pit. All emotions are allowed here.)

So, almost two months ago, when I began to write this, I stopped, and then started again, and then stopped again, and so forth. I was and am so afraid of bringing this all out onto the oft-unforgiving permanence of internet publishing. It’s not my best writing. It might not be very clear. Yet it feels so important.

Here’s why. The real inspiration is this: almost two months ago, when I began to write this, it was because of a new, profound, committed relationship in my life. Without having been able to plan it as such, on the exact two year anniversary of the day I moved out of the home I shared with X, I brought home Choobie.

This is Choobie:

Image

When I first saw Choobie, my good friend Rubin and I had just visited a shelter a friend had told me about, and though we didn’t have much time left in the day, had decided to quickly visit the Oakland SPCA as well. At the SPCA, when I saw Choobie’s little face, I immediately began to cry. I’m sort of a crier in general, but right then, I wasn’t quite sure why it was happening. I sort of sputtered, “Rubin. Why is my face wet?” Ever pragmatic, I decided my tears were simply due to the fact that I love dogs, and here were a bunch of dogs in cages, and of course I would be crying! I kept walking, checking out the other dogs. I half-heartedly smiled at their wagging tales before slowly making my way back to Choobie (nee Dr. Bronson.) Immediately upon seeing him again, the tears reappeared. I sat down and tried to wade through my feelings. It was futile; there was too much going on. I decided to ask if I could play with him a little bit.

Nothing magical happened when we were out in the yard. We played; he was kind of nervous. There was no big sign that said: THIS IS YOUR DOG. But something in me had shifted. I was choosing him.

I wasn’t sure yet, and didn’t have enough time to make the decision right then. I gave the SPCA $25, which bought me, technically, 24 hours. Except I was there on a Sunday, and the adoption department is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. So this gave me until Wednesday. Wednesday, the exact two year anniversary of the day I moved out of the home I thought I was sharing with my life partner.

Sunday night, I dreamt of Choobie. The next couple of days were a blur of excitement and anxiousness and showing off the pictures Rubin and I had taken. Wednesday, supported by another dear friend, Leila, I went to go get my dog. We spent some time with him, talked to the charming SPCA employee, paid the adoption fees. We went to the pet store, bathed the little guy amidst wails and yelps, bought everything we imagined he would need. Then we went home, and there we were, and good GOD was I overwhelmed. I cried and talked and talked and talked, and my dear friend Leila listened to all of it.

I don’t remember when it really hit me, but I think it went something like, “Oh shit. This is my dog.” Somewhere deep in my belly I felt the terror and excitement of committing to a living being until one of us dies. Literally, ’til death do us part. No “This isn’t working,” or “I need to focus on my career,” or “We made a big mistake.” Just us, taking care of each other, in ways that might seem unbalanced or unfair sometimes, until the natural end of life parts us. Wow. Talk about commitment.

I realized just how unafraid I am of commitment. That I am a commitmentphile who had once, sadly, wound up in a romantic relationship with a commitmentphobe. And that the relationship, and its demise, had torn me up and broken me open. I thought the harm was irreparable, and I’m still not convinced otherwise. But now I know, two years and almost two months later, what that breaking and tearing apart revealed in me: a willingness to love, to be in relationship, to commit to another living being, even and especially when the future is uncertain, when all I can do is be open to what comes and try my best to hold my own while respecting and caring for another.

So, yeah. I’ve been trying to write this post for a while – almost two months now. I’ve treated it the way I treat most of the difficult, important emotional work I have to do in my life. I put it off for as long as I can, and it eats away at me slowly until I can’t handle it anymore. No more putting it off. Here I am now, with a new Best Thing Ever, a constructive one. Not a separation, a departure, a severing, but rather, a connection, a coming-together, a powerful choice. True Love.

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