Mulish

I’ve spent the better part of the week being momentarily grumpy over people telling me about me.

You deserve better. You should get a real job. You should go back to school. You should settle down. You deserve a good man. You would be a great mom. You should. You are. You. You. you.

Here’s the thing:

I decide who I am now.

Give it a minute to sink in. I had to. I looked at that statement and balked immediately on the idea of how selfish it is- how self serving. I’ve been told my entire life that relationships are about compromise. Meet them half way. Give of yourself to others. If you love someone, you do what is necessary to make it work. I’ve been working my entire life to be a better person, to be likeable, generous, and humble.

I sat on a couch on Saturday listening to someone earnestly break up with me (my first foray back into the dating world since my divorce). My knees were bent, legs folded under me with bare toes and a raw uncomfortable feeling welling in my chest. I notched my chin onto my palm and watched the shapes his mouth made when he couldn’t look me in the eye. The small divot of fabric over the dip of his collarbones shifted as he wet his lips, punctuating the faltering half prepared emotionally honest statement:

I’m not in a place where I can give you the kind of relationship you deserve.

I must have made some noise of distaste because he paused, brought short by the way my mouth twisted sideways on sour bitten back words. I thought for a moment about the last time someone told me I deserved better. It was a similar moment- sitting quietly curled on a couch as someone walked away.

My ex-husband moved out on Valentine’s day after a month of half heated arguments and new car payments. Everything he deemed worthwhile could be neatly packed into the dove gray Honda Fit.

I was leaning a shoulder against the porch rail; there wasn’t room for me.

He packed his records, his khaki pants, and his inability to compromise away as he told me I deserved a husband who could provide the kind of life that could afford a family. He gave me a hug, fingers digging into the doughy skin over the small of my back before squaring his jaw before driving away – complacent yogurt flavored happiness left me soft and mushy. The dogs were strewn around the living room the way we used to discard clothes. Now, the laundry was started once a day and his shirts never got softener.

J is a kind man, but selfish. L is a sweet earnest boy, but naive.

Neither of them knew me. Neither of them really tried. I was a convenience and an interest to be appreciated, enjoyed, and set aside.

Today I woke up and slipped on my shoes, unreasonably pleased that for the first time in my life my “skinny” jeans are too big. I’m not losing weight for any other reason than I’m happy. I’m not waking up in the morning for any other reason than I look forward to seeing what happens in my day.

I don’t kiss people I don’t want to any more. I don’t sleep with people because “no” seems like such a hard word to say when someone wants something from me. I don’t have to be anything but completely content with the state of my life as is.

I looked up at L, tilting my head and catching a glimpse of the black and white tiled kitchen out of the corner of my eye, only half paying attention to what he said next.

“I don’t see this going anywhere. I can’t be the kind of boyfriend you expect. I can’t be in the kind of relationship you deserve-”

“That’s great, however-” I remember how he looked at me for the first time then when I held up a hand to stop him. He really looked with soft brown eyes and a half scared breath. He saw me, that 35 year old woman who was leaning into the comfort of that brown couch. He saw the way my jaw went tight and I lifted from that core lace inside myself that knows when something is not quite right. I listen to that voice now. I respect it. I want to encourage it because that voice is the basis of my self worth: ignoring it says I can be ignored. I never raised my voice. I didn’t snap. If anything I smiled the words out like a sigh tasting of warm lazy sheet mornings. I spoke from a place of love, because no one loves me more than me. “You don’t know what I deserve. You don’t know what I expect. If this was about me in any way, then this would have been a conversation. This is about you. I’m sorry that I’m taking away your ability to feel like the good guy here, but please, leave me out of your excuses. You already left me out of the decision.”

I shrugged and pulled my sandals back on. I wasn’t going to argue. I can’t fight the way someone feels any more than I can fight the fact that it rains sometimes. I will admit to being annoyed that I’d shaved my legs and that my skin was soft to a touch that wouldn’t come. I was annoyed that something I had been enjoying on a moment by moment basis had been extrapolated out into the future and therefore to a place of uselessness. I was hurt, embarrassed, and horny- never a good combination.

What I wasn’t? Devastated. Overwrought. Depressed. Raging. Thrilled. Broken.

I gave him a hug at the door, his fingers pressing against the back of my neck and the curve of my ribcage before exhaling on his front porch- happiness burns spicy inside me and melts away the grayed layer of soft over my bones. I took a moment to rest my head against my steering wheel and just feel the loss of a small bit of something exciting and simple- the feel of a smile pressed against my temple or the touch of his forehead to the nape of my neck. I breathed in and told myself, the only person who has to live with me on a daily basis, what I deserved:

You deserve to live your life for you.

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