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Rebuilding: Regret

One of the recurring themes I’ve been running into is that we need to allow for our own mistakes, to forgive ourselves for our past transgressions before we can actually move forward in our own lives. This is definitely a huge challenge for me. And a large part of that comes from regret.

regret (v) – feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).

There are many, many things I’ve come to regret. In terms of relationships, they range from things I did that hurt others to things I didn’t do that hurt me. As a parent I regret the time spent being angry and stressed, and I regret the times I have not been present.

I regret not believing in myself and allowing the angry words of others diminish who I am. I regret listening to the toxic opinions of others who mean well but judge from just a snapshot of reality.

I regret not being strong enough to stand up to bullies, and I regret being a bully when I couldn’t handle my own rage.

The key is to learn from the mistakes that cause the regret, forgive ourselves for those mistakes, and move on.

I regret not giving enough of my heart and supporting someone who loved me. And I regret giving too much of my heart to someone who could not love me.

But what is the purpose of all this regret? What does it serve to carry these weights around my neck like iron chains?

The fact is, it serves nothing if I don’t learn. I need to find the lessons in that regret. In addition, I need to learn the right lesson. I can regret not being supportive enough, not loving enough and turn that into being too supportive, too giving, letting myself get run over. And that’s exactly what I did. I overcompensated. I did not learn the real lesson, that I need to be supportive without sacrificing my own needs. That I need to open and willing to give of myself, but only as much as someone is willing to give to me.

And yet the regret is there – that I screwed up something that might have been great because I was too broken to see that she needed more from me. And the regret that I gave so much, so quickly, that I let my heart be invested in a relationship with someone who cannot give back.

I regret that I have allowed myself to get to a level of stress so intense that it ended up nearly killing me. And that I’m heading that direction again if I don’t make changes. And that I’ve let that stress affect my relationship with my daughter, blowing up at her pre-teen attitudes when she really needs support from the only person who has remained constant in her life.

And I will have more regrets. I’m human. I don’t believe we can live a life without regret. To do so would mean you are not making mistakes.  And those mistakes are what we really need to learn from. The key is to learn from the mistakes that cause the regret, forgive ourselves for those mistakes, and move on.

Some days, that’s easier said than done. But I’m working on it.

It Comes In Waves

It was bound to happen.

It’s been a little over three weeks and I’ve been doing pretty good so far. The hurt, the pain is still there, but I’ve been working on the healing. I’ve had a number of insights, and uncovered a number if issues I need to work on. Seemed to be making good progress.

But it’s no surprise that eventually, I would hit a wall. Today was that day.

It wasn’t any one thing. Just a number of little stressors that just built up. Aching and exhausted from a gig yesterday. Having to ride five miles first thing in the morning because there was no room on the bus for the bike. Raining buckets when I was ready to leave work. Getting home and chores had not been done, dog had not been given any water since morning. None of these were all that big.

But they added up. Then include an honest conversation about mistakes made and possibilities wasted. It washed over me like a tsunami.

I lost it. I got home, and all the little things – the room not clean, the dishes not done, the dog’s water – and I lost it. Not immediately, mind you. It took a minute or two. And it took me trying to explain to my daughter where I was in my head.

You see, of late I have been very quick to anger. Hair trigger. And I know why. But she was likely clueless. All she saw was a dad whose face was getting red, was raising his voice, who never seemed happy. And she would be right – I haven’t been happy. I can’t find happiness right now. I’m trying, really, really hard, but I can’t.

So, in all my grand wisdom, I decided that telling her why I was angry and stressed and sour was the right thing to do, so at least she’d have an explanation. Maybe she’d get it.

But the hurt was also bringing out hard truths. Truths that maybe I shouldn’t share. But I couldn’t hold back any longer. I tried to explain to her how her behaviors, her lack of following directions, her choices to do what she wants rather than the right thing, all her choices affect everyone around her, including me. But I could see within seconds that this was going nowhere. We’ve had that discussion before. She just rolled her eyes.

That was it. That was the breaking point for me. That was where I lost composure, and told her a hard, hard truth: That her behavior had been a significant element in my last two relationships failing.

I know, there are plenty of you reading this who just gasped. You’re already judging how awful I am to put that on an 11-year-old. I can assure you, no more than me. But I felt she needed to know, and I am hurting, deeply. When you are told that yes, there might have been a chance to save a relationship, but that your daughter’s behavior was so impactful that it created an insurmountable hurdle, it hurts. Yes my daughter is just a kid. But at some point, she needs to understand the impact of her behavior.

Emotionally, I am destroyed. Torn apart.

And to understand that adults make their choices. They choose whether the behavior of a child is hurtful to them. But that her behavior is also a reflection on me. And that when two consecutive relationships, the only ones in six years, both have that element as a large reason for their crumbling, that it reflects on me. That her behavior is a reflection of me as a parent, and that I must be seriously screwing up and that this is my reward.

No, it wasn’t fair. But I’m not in a fair state of mind. Hell, I’m typing this to keep from just curling into a corner as a sobbing mess. I’m going to turn 50 in less than six weeks, and I have no one close to turn to. I have no back-up, no shoulder to lean on. I just have these waves of pain and emotion crashing over me and I’m doing all I can to get a breath in between.

And I dumped a big part of that on my 11-year-old. How fucked up is that?

Yes, I will apologize, but right now, I can’t. I can’t see straight. Emotionally, I am destroyed. Torn apart. I couldn’t get a word out without breaking down. I can’t get a word on the screen without breaking down.

And it just keeps coming. Every time I think I’ve got things settled down, another wave of pain, regret, sorrow for what I’ve fucked up washes over me again.

I’ll be alright. And I’ll fix this and I’ll move on. But right now, I just want it all to stop.

Rebuilding: Rule 1 – “F” Yes

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am changing the way I look at things from “renovation” to “rebuilding”. I don’t want to back to the way things were. I want – and deserve – better. 

You can see the evolution of this here.

 – Leo

Over the past few weeks, I’ve listened, read and thought about all the advice and help I’ve received and the lessons I have learned. There are still may to learn, but I am at the stage now where I can start putting some things into action.

No, that does not mean getting back onto the dating scene. Still too raw, still too many questions that I need to answer. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start coming up with some rules to live by going forward.

So, here we start, with Rule #1:

#1 – “F” Yes.

I mentioned this idea in a previous post. It’s the basic idea that you need to ask yourself questions like “Is this person attractive to me”, or “Do I really want to spend time with this person”, “Does this person excite me”, or “Am I happy just to hear their voice?”

And the answer to those questions should be, as a rule, “Fuck Yes”. You should want a person in your life that makes you answer those questions with not a lukewarm “It’s ok”, but an enthusiastic declaration that you’d like nothing better.

And the problem that I have run into in the past (and which I’d like to avoid in the future, thank you very much), is that while I can decide the answer to those questions for me, it’s not a one-way deal. Where the pain comes from is when the other person can’t say the same thing. In the past, I have chosen to ignore the signs, thinking “They’ll catch up”.  But it doesn’t work that way.

And that’s when my question to myself should be “Do you still trust this person”. And unless I can say “F Yes”, I need to get out.

So, at the risk of looking like I’m overanalyzing things, I will keep trying to determine if the person who is in my life can answer the question the same way. I would rather be told “no” than to have a bogus “yes”, for two reasons. One, the pain is only extended further by continuing to keep something alive that just doesn’t excite one or the other. If there’s no excitement, no desire, no passion, why bother?

But the second reason is that most people suck at lying. And I have gotten pretty adept at seeing through it. I am hypersensitive, hypervigilant – I have developed this from past experience, learning to see problems before they arise. But in my desire  to keep a relationship alive, I will ignore the truth in front of me. I’ll suck it up and say it’s just a phase, it’ll pass.

But I know damn well it won’t. I can already see it. And my trust starts to go away. And that’s when my question to myself should be “Do you still trust this person”. And unless I can say “F Yes”, I need to get out.

This will be a hard one to follow. Like so many people, I want so much to feel loved and wanted and be part of a “We” that I will sublimate my gut feelings, my emotions, my needs to keep things alive.

But no more. I can’t allow that to happen any longer. And the minute I get the read that they can no longer answer the questions with “F Yes”, it’s time to call them on it and ignore it no longer.

But in the beginning, it’s quite easy to be “ahead” of a potential partner. Does this mean you cut everything off? No, for me it means only giving as much as I’m getting. And if any time I ask myself “Are you getting what you need”, and the answer is no, I either need to accept that’s all there is or move on. And if I can’t say to myself “F Yes, what we have is good enough”, then that’s the cue to exit the relationship. I have to accept that some people may never be able to say “F Yes” to all the questions a relationship asks.

Yes, this will be a difficult rule to follow. The potential pain of being told “no” is immense. But it needs to be done regardless. Which is why it’s at the top of the list. Until I can stick to this rule and not allow myself to give my heart and soul to someone who is not truly excited to have me in their lives, I will continue to put myself through the pain and the heartache. Will I still feel those things? Yes. But not because I fooled myself into thinking something will work out when it won’t.

So, there’s Rule #1. What do you think?

Restoration: What Lingers

Sometimes, I write as part of the thinking process, letting my fingers express my thoughts and work through issues I’m facing. But sometimes, I write to try to reframe issues into something more positive, to redirect anger and hurt. This is the latter.

If you want to follow me on my journey, you can find all the related posts here.

 – Leo

I’ve had 5 long-term relationships in my life, the longest nearly 14 years and the shortest just about a year. And I’ve been hurt five times.

Now, to be honest, in all but one of these, I can see my part in their demise. And even in that one, I have been able to forgive, if not forget. And what lingers is the fact that inside of me, I still have love for each of these ladies. In some cases, it is the love of the person I met. In others the person I have seen, but was never ready to come out. But regardless of how the love is manifested, I still have love for all of them.

I’ve written about trust previously. It is important for me. Very important. And almost all of these relationships ended with a loss of trust. That’s a tough pill to swallow. But it’s tougher when the lies, the dishonesty don’t stop. Like making the case that you don’t have time or desire for a committed relationship,  then going back to trolling the online dating sites less than three weeks later – looking for a committed relationship. Or publicly flaunting your sexual exploits online while pretending to work things out through counseling. How about a long-term relationship where you’ve discussed your partner going on the pill and always being told they really don’t want to, then finding out that they started it less than a week after they ended it with you – while they’re hitting the dating scene?

Yes, these have happened. And yes, they hurt like hell.

Yet what lingers is the fact that despite the lies, the dishonesty, the knowing deceit, I will still have love for all of them.

Yet what lingers is the fact that despite the lies, the dishonesty, the knowing deceit, I still have love for all of them. Why? Because for me, love is not a spigot I turn off. There was something in every one of these women that attracted me to them.

The difficult part for me is getting past that, and getting past the hurt. In one case, it took nearly 20 years. Yes, twenty. And mainly because I had been an ass the last time I saw her, and carried the guilt of that for all that time. Funny thing was, when I apologized for it twenty years later, she didn’t remember it at all. I carried that guilt unnecessarily.

And yes, I still melt a little when I see her picture. Always will. And the guy she left me for? They’ve been married ever since. I envy their relationship for how wonderful it is. I’m genuinely happy for them. And she is a trusted friend.

The one after that? The last time I saw her was when my dad died. She was close with my folks. I hadn’t talked to her in more than 10 years. But I let her know about my dad. She came to the funeral. And I melted looking at her again. It had to have been very uncomfortable for my wife, as the emotion of the day cut through any walls I could have ever put up. And I never saw or heard from her after that day. She was (and I believe still is) married to what seemed to be a very possessive, controlling man. I have in the past tried to contact her, to find out if she is ok. She has disappeared. So I have not been able to achieve the same kind of closure.

We’ll always be friends, we’ll always care about the others well-being, but it won’t ever be “us”. And that’s totally ok.

I very recently did come to closure on a more recent relationship. I believe we truly do have love for each other to this day. Not “in love”, but genuine caring. We remain friends, and we have both been apologetic for the mistakes we made when we were together. We were both broken people and are both still trying to sort out the pieces. We have spoken much recently, and finally got out in the open what to me was the elephant in the room: Despite how we feel, there is just no chance it will ever work out. We’ll always be friends, we’ll always care about the others well-being, but it won’t ever be “us”. And that’s totally ok. We had tried in the past to make things work even after we both knew it wasn’t going to. This was an acknowledgment that that part of our lives was over. And for me, it was like a weight lifted.

And she is also a trusted friend.

In the other two relationships, trust has been damaged. Badly. And I will eventually forgive, but not forget. I’m sure that some of the lies were ostensibly to “protect me”, or to not “hurt me further”. But of course, hurting me is exactly what they did do.

But what lingers in these instances is that there is still love there on my end, even if it is not there on theirs.

They’re broken too. That’s what I remind myself. Their actions are direct results of their not dealing with what’s really going on inside them. I just happened to be part of the debris field. They have to figure out how to deal with their own issues, or they’re doomed to repeat them. I hope they do. And because they are broken, i will end up forgiving.

And so, I love all of them, still. Not “in love”, but love nonetheless. For those with which I have been able to achieve closure, we will be friends as long as they’ll have it. For the one that’s missing, I truly hope that she’s ok. And for the other two, I hope that they are able to sort themselves out. I wasn’t able to do that for them. I hope they can do it for themselves. Everyone deserves happiness.

And to all of them – I love you. Because that’s what lingers.