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Of all the things in life, I’ve found that love is one of the hardest to deal with and for one specific reason, that you are never in control. With everything else in life, school, university, friendships, family, the harder you work at them, the better your chance of success. You are in control and you can make or break a situation through hard work, dedication and perseverance. In my experience this cannot be said for love. Everyone has experienced an unrequited love, where no matter how much you may feel for a person, the lack of feeling on the other side dooms you to a miserable and fruitless situation. Although this is a difficult one to get through, it cannot be compared to that where there is love from both sides, and yet the love cannot be. It cannot cope with the stresses and pressures that life throws at it.

Less than a year ago he said that if we had believed in marriage, he would have taken that leap with me, I was in a love that I thought would last a lifetime. No one had ever understood me in that way or appreciated the absurdities and eccentricities that make up me. From my side, I couldn’t believe my luck, that I had found a person that I could connect with on such a meaningful level and yet find so irresistible at the same time, it felt like we fitted in a way I could never have imagined. I believed that through work and dedication we could maintain the relationship for the foreseeable future. But the thing about love is that there are two people involved and even though your entire being shudders and revolts at the words being spoken, by the person you love most, when he forces you out, you have no control. The only route is to accept the situation. I felt that I had been dealt an unchosen and unwelcome set of cards, but that I could deal with them in a manner that reflected my own beliefs, maturity and still sincere love for him. Again, when there is more than one person in the situation, it’s not possible to one-sidedly decide how a situation can be dealt with. As a result I have found myself battling to be the bigger person, the most understanding and accepting person I can be, but with words and actions repeatedly thrown at me that shake that resolution.

I have seen women before, usually older women that have become bitter and withdrawn from love. I have never quite understood it until now. I find myself looking for things to love that are reliable and cannot disappoint. I found a few of these, running, art and its creation, and most especially music. For as long as I can remember, for every tough time in my life, for every great time, there has been a song that gets me and talks to me (in voice far kinder on the ear than my own and with a great melody to accompany the words) but that talks directly to me and makes me realize that whatever I am experiencing, I am not alone. That there are thousands that have gone before me, and many still to come, that will endure the same hardships and celebrate the same thrills. But, is a love of these things sufficient in a life? I still can’t say. What I know for now, is that moving forward is the only answer.

A good and very well-meaning friend told me after our break-up, “Jen, you are like a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes on sale, you won’t be on the shelf for long”. On the shelf, is that what being single is? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what she said, it is always nice to feel desirable, especially when you are feeling low, but I don’t think I want to be “on the shelf”. What does that mean anyway? Waiting, for what? Another guy to come along and fix my life? Him to come back and realize his mistake? Don’t women mistakenly take that route all too often?

After five years, I am alone, and not even in a bad way. Being alone – it sounds so desperate and painful, but people never talk about the liberation that accompanies being alone. When that great, but always unspoken, fear is realized, what else have you got to lose? Along with my liberation came the realization that I am the only person that is ever going to take care of me, so I better do a damn good job of it. Men seem to be good at that on the whole, better than women at least. As women we always seem to be able to find something more important than ourselves. Work obligations, our boyfriend, husband, parents, friends, children, and the opinions of all these individuals, can always be put ahead of our own needs. And so being selfish is a characteristic that I have come to view as positive, that sometimes in life you have to put yourself first. Those friends and family that truly care will understand this and support this, those that don’t were probably not that supportive in first place. I believe the reason that I can see the positives in my situation is that I know myself. I know my own mind and what I want and need better that anyone. I never have to pretend or be dishonest with myself and as a result can provide some of the best and most reliable advice. But I know that this is not the case with all women. So many of us grow up knowing ourselves through someone else, a boyfriend, friend or parent, and when crisis hits us and we are alone, how do we even begin to cope?

I do not know if I will come away from this experience as a better more capable person or as someone forever tainted, but I am moving forward. And before I knew it I was driving down the street with my sound system on top volume jamming to an amazing penny whistle/saxophone combo and I was smiling. I had found that other thing that can make my heart beat faster and lift my spirit, without him.

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