Who I Am Without You
Relationships end. Sometimes, they run their course. People move away and you lose touch. If only that were the only course they could take.
But more often than not in this life of mine, relationships have ended dramatically. People die, people decided they never liked you in the first place, and people fuck up so badly you have no choice but to… say goodbye.
Some of us don’t like to say goodbye. My therapist says I take too much responsibility for other people’s problems and, as a result, I am too quick to give people the benefit of the doubt when they least deserve it. But why? Why do I do this to myself?
I’ve come to believe that the sole reason I give people so many chances is because the people who love me well have given them to me. Back in the worst of times, I was a terrible person. The people who love me best think I don’t give myself enough credit, but when I think back to the journey I’ve taken to become who I am, it’s hard for me to think about who I could have been. I got into therapy in just the nick of time (7 years old) to be able to work through my own shit enough to be a semi-functioning adult. Thank goodness.
Here’s the bad news about giving people too many chances: They tend to be the people who break your heart the worst.
Over the course of the last year, I learned a lot about boundaries. I learned a lot about who could be compatible with the life I wanted to build. But it was only after intense tragedy that I finally had the stomach to cut people out of my life who kept taking advantage of my sense of responsibility.
It’s hard to learn that people closest to you, people who share your DNA, don’t actually always have your best interest at heart. For very human reasons, sometimes people can only focus on themselves and how everything affects them, despite how it may affect someone else. When you’re the kind of person who tries to consider the rest of the world every waking second of the day (I’m working on it), you can so easily forget that there are plenty of people who just don’t care that much about everyone else. For me, that’s a hard pill to swallow.
In the end, I had to take that pill, shove it down my throat, and finally draw the line in the sand. As much as I believe in people, as much as I like to think in being patient and trying to help people become the best version of themselves, I had to finally accept that some people don’t want to change. They see no reason to change. And even when you tell them how much they have hurt you, it’s not reason enough for them to want better for themselves and those around them. So I let them go.
My dad calls it the love box. Some people have smaller boxes, smaller ability to hold space for you. And it sucks, but you can’t build a new box for them. You can’t force them to expand their reach. You can only accept the other person’s limitations and adjust.
So I adjusted. Some people you have to love from afar. Some people you just can’t talk to anymore without torturing yourself in the process. Some people need to realize that you didn’t need their love in the first place.
Without the people who took too many chances for granted, I feel free. A massive weight has been lifted off my soul as I relinquish any fucked up responsibility I ever felt towards helping them grow. Without them, I realized that I am a person worthy of full love and respect and relationships that don’t seek to tear you down or fill your psyche with lies about who they think you are. Blood isn’t reason enough to put up with people who just can’t help but be cruel to you.
The deepest pain, but the quickest recovery, is when someone decides that they never liked you in the first place. Maybe it’s just me, but this one hurts like nothing else in the world because all you can see are the lies. All you’re surrounded with are good memories tainted by the realization that the unconditional love you thought you were feeling was really full of stipulations that whole time. No matter how safe you felt in the moment, the bomb was ticking the whole time.
When you’re someone who gives their all to people, when radical honesty is the only way you know how to function, I suppose it’s easy to scare people away. It’s probably even easier to attract people who think that you are what they want, only for them to realize down the line that you were really never their cup of tea, at all.
But when these people leave, there is no great relief. Everything just feels empty. The weight of lost time and falsehoods hold you down to the ground until one day… you realize it’s all for the best. You don’t need people who don’t love you taking up your time anyway.
Oh, what callous thinking. I know. But I believe in a finite life that is too short to waste on things that won’t bring beauty and fulfillment. My brain is constantly flooded with the thought, “There’s not enough time!” Morbid, sure, but comforting beyond all doubt for this human. When there’s no time to waste on people who won’t build a relationship with you, who won’t work things out with you, who won’t truly love you, it’s easier to just let them go into their corner of the universe after you grieve for a second. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Without them, I have learned to appreciate unconditional love more than I ever thought possible. Through the fog of all things terrible, I can so clearly see the people who plan on sticking around. When I’m not being my best self, I know there will be people in my world to tell me to knock it off and remember who I am and who I want to be. There is more space to grow when you prune down the weeds.
But who are we without the people who leave this world sooner than we wanted them to? That I don’t know.
When you dream of parties where you sit together and talk shit about anyone, everything, and each other only to have that potential ripped out from under you, there’s nothing you can say or think to make yourself feel better. When you wear their favorite sweaters when it’s too cold outside, there is no peace to be found. Just connection. Because when people die, the only resolution that will bring you comfort is having them back. I don’t think we’ll ever know who we are without them because we’ll never know who we would be had they lived.
Even in the grief and the pain, the only thing I know I can be without my loved ones is a great big bundle of potentiality. They left a great tear in the universe when they left. All I can do is explore it, experience it, embody it until… I look back and see who I became.