Just trying to make it through life, figuring out if I’m the asshole or not.
The ocean does not apologize for its depth and the mountains do not seek forgiveness for the space they take and so, neither shall I.— Becca Lee.
My sister was going to call me back in ten minutes about 4 hours ago. I wanted to talk to her because I’ve gotten myself into yet another tricky situation.
Last year, I started a relationship with my friend’s brother. My friend also happens to live with me. And she dates my other friend’s husband. It gets complicated from there.
But things didn’t start out complicated. That’s a lie–they absolutely did. I was freshly moved in with, or rescued more-like, by my good friend from high school, after my parents abruptly kicked me out of their house and threw in a free mattress if I went quietly. The reason I was living with my parents as a grown ass adult who was nearing my third decade? Because a year and a half earlier, I escaped an abusive marriage.
So there I was, in my twenties, recovering from a ridiculous, legally-binding catastrophe that most of my unmarried peers and friends dared not hope to relate to, moving back in with my parents, and feeling like I had made a complete shit snowman out of my life thus far. But I had been committed to finishing my snowman for so long that it was difficult to admit defeat and start from scratch. Where would I find the snow to start new when my hands were already shit-stained?
Fast forward about two years. I’ve been single this whole time, working on loving myself, and legally divorced for almost a full year. That’s when my new roommate and newer friend set me up with her brother.
Things were amazing, mind-blowing; I mean, have you ever been with a non-abusive guy after being legally bound to an abusive one?? I felt like a princess.
He listened to my feelings, and after I apologized for having them, he validated me with wise, thoughtful responses. He was kind, not just nice. He wrote music, and played guitar and piano, and recorded songs for me. Our sexual compatibility was unheard of (at least for me)! He was affectionate and playful, always joking with me. He cooked me delicious meals. He stepped outside his comfort zone and went on trips with me. We flew across the country to go to a music festival, and I felt like, this is how love is meant to feel.
But then I went to his apartment for the first time. It was a cramped, dilapidated one bedroom that he shared with his older brother. They had lived there for over five years and seemed to have managed to avoid deep cleaning the place for the duration of their stay. He was deeply ashamed of the state of the apartment, but the two of them were stuck in the inertia of squalor, and not much had been done to remedy the situation other than some surface level cleans here and there.
So, being the loving and supportive girlfriend I am, I offered to help him tidy his room up. We scrubbed his desk, vacuumed the whole room, threw out the trash, removed the dirty dishes to the sink. He and I were both relieved; the room was clean.
And then I came over a couple months later to find the desk covered in food particles, dirty dishes, and trash again. And at the time, I said nothing.
And then time went on, he cleaned up a bit here and there, sometimes with me asking and sometimes on his own accord. Then my only grandparent became very ill and was on her deathbed, and I was a complete wreck. He comforted me until he didn’t know how to do it anymore. We both struggle with mental illness. He told me to practice tolerating the pain. But to me the pain was immeasurable and intolerable.
With my grandmother gone, I realized how much I wanted children. Since my divorce, I had firmly announced to my partner and close friends that kids would not be included in my life plan, due to finances, my mental state, and the nearing end of the world via fascism and climate change. But my heart didn’t believe in those logical reasons and desperately yearned for kids of my own.
My partner decided long ago to not have children because of his mental illness, and unlike me, he has the good fortune not to yearn for those things he shouldn’t. He could only hold me while I cried for the mother that I wanted to be but couldn’t justify being.
I was seeing a psychiatrist for the first time in a while, due to a lapse in health insurance, and as a result, I was on a carousel of different meds, looking for something that worked. One of the ones I tried made me feel suicidal, while another one resulted in me feeling constantly restless and impulsive, like I was losing my mind and spiraling out of control. I clung to anything around me for stability, calling my boyfriend daily. I told him I felt like I was seriously losing it and I needed help, while at the same time anxiously spiraling that I was being too much of a burden and he would get tired of me. He assured me he wasn’t tired of me, but all he could do is tell me it wasn’t that bad and I should practice more distress tolerance.
I was able to start a new antidepressant that made me feel like more of a normal person again. I started slowly getting more energy back. I cut back on my social media, opting to practice a foreign language instead. I started doing yoga in the morning. I skipped my favorite cereal for greek yogurt and smoothies with kale and spinach. I spent an entire day cleaning and organizing my room. My boyfriend helped me hang things on the wall. We found a new video game that we both enjoy and play together, a feat which has been surprisingly difficult for us considering that we’re both gamers.
But something isn’t sitting well with me. Maybe my antidepressants are turning me into an emotionless zombie. Little things are just eating at me, like my partner leaving dirty dishes around my house, or spilling on me and my laptop when he climbed onto the couch holding a full mug of coffee. Or hitting my guitar against its hard case because he was trying to balance the case upright and keep it open with one hand, while putting the guitar in with the other. I piped up, “Just put the case on the ground,” while I watched him attempt this. He didn’t respond until the thwack of the wood on metal elicited an exasperated groan from me and a sheepish, apologetic look from him.
And today when he played guitar for me, my heart didn’t light up like it usually does.
They say that love dies not in grand gestures but in the little day to day interactions. And I don’t want the love I never believed would be possible again to die on me. Is it? Or is this the ebb they talk about when they talk about the ebb and flow of a long term partnership?
Tricky situation, because I can’t talk to one of my closest friends about it. Because she’s his sister. So I called my own sister–younger than me, but recently broken up with a man who didn’t meet her standards, so not afraid to tell the truth. She’s supposed to call me back in ten minutes.