07 October 2010

Choosing fondness

It's about time to begin closure, so this is a long post to get a bunch of thoughts out, and a dedication of sorts. Over the last couple of weeks, since the breakup, I keep rediscovering that everywhere I go, something reminds me of some memory we shared or something I appreciate about [him]. Forgetting him or our brief time together just because we've broken up seems not to be an option, nor do I think I would want to forget if I could. I've been through a range of emotional responses: sadness, tenderness, anger, resentment, sorrow, longing. I'm more even-keeled lately, not back to 100% and may not be for a while, but I'm feeling better. The question I've struggled to answer is in what way to remember the experience.

There are a lot of ways I could tell myself to look at what we had. I could romanticize it as absolutely perfect in every way and cry "woe is me" all over the place. I've been tempted to redefine it in a way that's easier to let go. I could remember the whole thing as a brief imitation of a relationship and downplay my "feelings" as romanticized childishness. I could remember it as his experiment, using me to "play house" or try on a gay relationship for size, like someone who can't afford the jacket they're trying on and has no intention of buying it but just wants to wear it a little longer before putting it back on the rack because it feels so nice. I could remember primarily the bitter ending, focusing on my sadness and disappointment about how he ended things. I could remember it as a summer fling that was just fun and outlived its usefulness. I could remember it as my own experiment or attempt to distract myself from more important matters, like building my own life in employment or further education. I could remember it as a starter relationship. I could remember just the aspects that my current emotions magnify.

I don't know how I'm going to look back at this in the long run, but what I do know is that it clearly meant something to me, and none of the above fully describes how I see it now. I also don't know how he looks back on it. I could tell myself all kinds of stories about what he really thinks of what we had, but I don't know, and I almost don't want to because I don't want his perception of it to affect mine. I'd rather remember it my own way rather than react to his perception, real or imagined.

The truth is that I still light up a little inside when I run across photos of him or of us together (I'm filing them away on a backup drive today to stop "running across" them) or think of the moments we shared, conversations, or looks in his face. And I like lighting up a little. I melt a little to think of his cheek in my palm, or the look in his eyes, and I reflect on the conversations we had and laugh at the silly moments or mischievous smirks. I love those memories. When I feel that familiar glow, it's followed by a slight ache, a reminder that it's now "the past", only a memory. But I've accepted that. Maybe I'm still in the process of accepting it. I feel worn out from grieving, though, so it almost seems easier to be angry or dismissive, but that doesn't feel right. So I'm left with a messy mix of emotions which are calmer and quieter than the days immediately following the breakup but still not neatly tucked away. This is to be expected: classic breakup stuff. It generally takes a while for me to really heal and move on from these things, but I think I'm ready to really move forward. Most of the time, the sting of the loss is now outweighed by the happiness of how I felt with him, patting his cheek goodbye in my head, and letting that feed a hope that I will feel that again someday with someone, though I will work on building my life without it for now.

If there is any great cosmic purpose to anything, I'm confident that for whatever reasons, we were meant to be together for that time. When we met, there truly were "fireworks" for me, and the stars seemed to align, and as I said, it felt right. Maybe we would have been amazing together if we'd stayed together, and that destiny was thwarted by theories which will prove to be a mirage of happiness. Or perhaps we were meant to be together to learn a thing or two and to help clarify what we really want and believe. Maybe the Church is right, and he needed it so that he could choose to give it up to prove his obedience. Maybe I needed to experience it to prepare me for better to come. Or maybe there's no "meant to be" about it, and that belief is just a reflection of how much I loved being with him. I am pretty sure we both have learned a lot and grown a lot from it. I'm not big on the idea of "destiny" in the predetermination sense, to be honest, but all I know is that I have no regrets about having invested in that relationship.

So why muddy that with negative emotions around the relationship? After all, part of what motivates me to weather this well is that the relationship felt basically sacred to me, and to trade the sacredness of it for the profanity of a rebound, or the destructive influence of bitterness, feels like dishonoring what it was to me.

After he called things off, I wanted to remember and honor what I loved about "us", so I made a journal entry of my specific memories. I was amazed how many there were. I don't think I've ever so clearly remembered so many specific moments, gestures, expressions, conversations, and places with such unsullied fondness. There were poignant memories, memories of hesitation, or recognizing points of conflict, or awkward memories, or mild regrets about things said and done, but these were far outshone by the happy, uplifting, grateful, fun, and tender memories. We built a lot of memories for such a short time dating. Maybe it's his personality, maybe it's the way we interacted and complemented each other, maybe it's the amount of time we spent together, or maybe it's a reflection of my own feelings, but whatever it is, I have a small treasure trove of memories to quietly file away.

One thing I know: this relationship felt so right at the time, so disarmingly right it felt almost like summer love from one of those disgusting Nicholas Sparks novels. This was my best prospect for a relationship so far, while it existed. We had our differences, don't get me wrong. I could conceptualize the idea of someone being "better for me" in ways, and I may look back a year or two from now and see our compatibility as lacking in ways I can't see now, despite my current feelings, but I considered myself lucky to have him, and I was ready to pursue more and deal with challenges as they came. The differences or challenges seemed insignificant compared to being with him, with all of his beautiful and positive traits and character and the way we meshed.

However imperfect a match we might have been in a few ways, it was clear to me that this was someone with whom I could work through challenges remarkably well, with whom I felt "at home", a really good guy at his core, responsive and sensitive so far, with values and goals I respected and identified with, and that was more than enough to take a risk and move ahead, come what may. There was plenty on which to build: circumstances, beliefs, interests, values, principles, leisure preferences, mutual openness to each other's interests, tastes, and ideas which differ, certain complementary personality traits, the ability to have fun no matter what we're doing, bringing out the best in each other, communication styles, conflict resolution, mutual sensitivity and overriding concern for the other's welfare, a joint eye to the future of the relationship and presence in the moment, apparent emotional compatibility and understanding, and a passion and affection which brought feelings I had begun to think I might not be able to find again...

So even though there's probably valid or at least understandable negativity about certain issues incidental to the end of the relationship, I've decided I find the most peace in looking back fondly, remembering the good times we had and the love and affection we shared, even if briefly, letting go of the unpleasant end and the desire to answer every lingering question, and mourning the loss of something beautiful rather than trying to make it into something easy to let go of. Focusing on the positive--on how good it was (for me, at least) while it lasted--feels right. And even though that initially made me hopeless that I'd ever find something that good again, it now leaves me with a sense that maybe there's another such relationship or better around the bend: that if the stars aligned once, maybe they'll align again. And for that, I thank him: for being the guy he is, for setting a new standard of care, affection, communication, and give and take, for renewing my hope that there might be someone out there for me after all.

I will count myself fortunate if I again find someone who feels so much like coming home each time I see them, with whom I feel absolutely comfortable being myself and being vulnerable, who makes me want to be a better person and brings out positive parts of me I had begun to doubt, who makes me want to sacrifice and make lasting changes, who makes me feel cherished and supported as I am while spurring me towards goals and fulfillment they know I want to work towards, with whom I want to make goals and visions to improve each other, our relationship, and the world around us, with whom I can freely laugh out loud or cry without reservation, who doesn't seem to care any more than I do whether each other is fashionable in dress, appearance, or preferences, with whom everything feels more enjoyable and meaningful just because we're doing it together, with whom I have great personal and physical chemistry and passion but who also genuinely wants to put off sex until we're in a committed, monogamous relationship, to make it special and develop emotional intimacy first, someone who I'm quickly confident would love me just as much if I were deformed, and I them, for whom I feel such tenderness, respect, appreciation, enjoyment, and passion that when they kiss me with such a loving look in their eyes, I can't help but be overcome by gratitude for what we have, let alone what it might become if allowed, and I am moved to tears by the prospect of committing to them and the simultaneous prospect of losing them, a relationship which may be a work in progress but occasionally gives me the urge to shout for joy into the sky to express what I'm feeling, though I hold back because it would seem foolish for such a short time dating, someone who brings all these things and more to enrich and uplift and excite and challenge me...

So, thanks to [you], who may or may not ever read this, for bringing that into my life, even if I foolishly got a bit carried away but didn't express all of that to you, and for sharing with me a glimpse of what we each might have someday, for helping me truly feel like I deserve that kind of happiness and affection (I profoundly hope you felt something similar or experienced joyful realizations as well, that I brought something to cherish to the relationship too), for showing me that someone great can feel for me in return as much as you seemed to. I love what we shared, I love what I felt for and with you, I love the guy I was falling (or had fallen) for, with all his faults and shortcomings and strengths and beauties, and I hope you felt something even close to what I did because you deserve to be and feel fully appreciated and loved and buoyed up. Whatever our paths, or however we decide to look for it, and whomever with, I hope we both find that and more with someone with whom we can each pursue it to a more developed and seasoned love on which to build a lifetime of adventure and challenges, because to risk and invest to achieve that kind of love and companionship in life would be, pardon the vomitous sappiness, a dream come true. That's a dream I'm not ready to give up on quite yet.

Funny how, through the grief and pain and confusion and anger, my heart has kept bringing me back to this place of bright remembrance and a tender goodbye. So to maintain the corniness, I'll express that by dedicating these two videos to you with love, Sapbutt:


Bravone said...

Viktor Frankl said, "We can discover [the] meaning in life ... by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering." and "...any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him – mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity..." Your example of "choosing fondness" is a remarkable example for me. By so choosing, you are determining your own happiness and preserving dignity for the both of you.

Several years ago, I developed an amazing friendship with another man my age. He was the only adult "best friend" I have ever had. Our wives were also best friends as were our kids. We vacationed together, climbed mountains, four wheeled sand dunes, and engaged in deep meaningful discourse together.

He shared his inner demons with me, but I only told him that if he really knew me, he wouldn't like me. He couldn't imagine that would be the case. Turns out, I was right. After three years of wonderful friendship, he started pulling away because, once I dared share my homosexual nature with him, he became "uncomfortable." It was/is the most painful loss I have ever experienced. I have grieved the loss, gone through stages of bitterness, and longing for things to return to how they were before.

Though my experience pales in comparison to yours, I need to adapt your approach of choosing to remember the fond times we shared, and be grateful for them, not continue to mourn for something that I cannot change.

I am so happy you have chosen this path of healing. Sad and difficult times will surely return, even at the most unexpected times, but hopefully, in those moments, you will be able to reach deep and find peaceful gratitude these fond memories bring.

Original Mohomie said...

Thanks. Don't think I'd consider my summer romance, however poignant it seems to me now, belittled by comparison with your three years of good friendship. And yes, I suspect there will yet be tender moments with quiet tears, but I just keep coming back to this. It feels best.