Saturday, June 24, 2006

The State of the Union

I'm not sure I believe in forever anymore. I know it sounds pessimistic, and harsh, and overall negative, but I just don't know.

I was going through my old email account yesterday, the one I've used since before my 20th birthday. It's 68% full of emails dating back to 2001. In an effort to do some long overdue housekeeping, I clicked on a folder I didn't even recognize to empty it. As the screen loaded, I saw what it was: My ex's full name stared back at me, over and over; a full page worth of emails that he had sent in a month's time. It was from back in 2003, when we were getting back together after a breakup. Our reunion is documented through these emails: My reticence, and his promises to be a better boyfriend. Along with promises to love me forever.

That was just over two years ago. My, how brief forever can be. It's not that I'm saying I wish it had worked out with him. I'm grateful that my relationship with him led me to where I am now. I'm a better girlfriend, a better person because of my relationship with him. Sure, I came out of it with some work to do on myself, but overall, it's made me more patient, more understanding, less unrelenting, more willing to give. But we were both so sure that this was forever. And it wasn't. Not even close.

The emails are peppered with phrases like "I can't wait to wake up to you every morning," and I look back at it now, knowing the emotion behind it was forgotten mere months after it was written. Promises of a future, a family, the love I was denied being paid to me. You're my life, I love you so much, I want to spend forever with you. And now I don't know where he is - hell, I don't even know him now - and I'm waking up to Billy every morning. Look where those promises got me.

It makes me fret, prematurely, in my relationship with Billy. Maybe forever to him means a few months, too. But we haven't even discussed forever. I'm too afraid to bring it up. Not to mention that I feel it's too soon to wade into that subject (another thing I brought with me out of my last relationship: A concept of too soon.). But, to me, it doesn't matter anyway. He could tell me anything, and I'll still believe it's only a matter of time before he changes his mind.

That's why fights bother me so much, why a slight chill in his voice is enough to make me believe he's through with me. Because, for me, forever isn't a reality. I know that, in doubt like this, I should look at examples of success, not my own proof of failure. I should look at my parents, 34 years and going strong. My grandparents on both sides. The way my dad's father kissed my grandmother when she lay in her coffin the day of her funeral. How he kissed her on each cheek and the lips and said goodbye, just as he had done before work every morning for the 50-odd years they were married before she died. The way my mom's mom has missed her husband every day since he passed away seven years ago. The way she still talks about him. I should think about that. But when I do, I just see it as something I won't be lucky enough to have.

My masochistic curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to read through a few of the emails he had sent me. He had just shown me the house be bought for us. And he explained his purchase, saying "I guess it's just my way of showing you that I'm not going anywhere, that you can count on me not to flee now or anytime in the future."

I put a lot of faith in what people say to me. Or I used to, I guess. You tell me you love me, that you're going to stay around forever, then I believe you. I think you're being honest. And you probably are. But I don't depend on the changing of your mind, I depend on your sticking to the statement you just made.

And so I put all of my faith in what he said. And I wonder why I'm so scared now, of bringing up the future, of believing in one at all, and then I see that and I remember: I feel like I was lied to. Like all he said was said just to keep me around until he'd had enough. And who knows? Maybe that's all anyone does. We don't know for sure how long we're going to love someone. We don't know, unequivocally, that we're going to stay enamored of them, hopelessly infatuated, attracted to, in love with the people we share "I love you"s with right now. There's no way.

Which makes me miserable.

It comes down to faith: How much faith you have in your relationship, in your partner, but - mostly - in yourself. And I guess I lost mine somewhere along the line. I just don't believe anymore. And I counsel myself: Just be happy right now. Don't concentrate on the future, just enjoy what you have while you have it. Is that sick, or hopelessly self-destructive? I don't know.

But when it comes down to it, it's not an issue of whether or not Billy and I will last for forever. It's an issue of me believing that he loves me in the here and now. And, that, I believe.


anno said...

True love (that hollywood ideal of two people holding hands and going into the future in perfect synchrony) does not last (sorry!). It kind of comes and goes, and in between you need common goals, respect, affection, and a certain stubbornness to keep it together.

The first year of living together, unless you've managed to find a clone (ick!), is notoriously difficult. It's not surprising that you're wondering about things. Good luck.

Popeye said...

I really think the forever is in the moments. It always changes. Even your folks who were married for 30+ years have been married to a few different people who just happened to inhabit the same bodies, I bet.

Anonymous said...

I hope EVERYONE evolves from the person they were as young kids starting out on this journey of self discovery..... (popeye)
I have to wonder how far you and Billy will get, if you are having to walk around on eggshells and not bring up things that are so clearly important to you.
And, anno, true love, the real kind, does indeed last forever.......

Kat said...

Don't we all look back on past relationships and question them? I certainly do. Good relationships are looked back on with a smile and bad relationships are looked back on with "what the hell was I thinking".. But I learned so many lessons from each. I was the one who loved, and I was the one who tried. So, I try not to kick myself in the ass to much because I know I gave it my all. But as your mom and everyone around you have probably said "WHEN THE RIGHT ONE COMES ALONG, YOU'LL KNOW".. and thats exactly what happens. Don't fret, Billy sounds like the right one,. and things are moving along so nicely.. Let nature take its course and enjoy the ride. Its so worth it!

portuguesa nova said...

1. Anonymous's comments on your blog are just as great as they are on mine.

2. The first year of living together is hard.

3. Right up until I had a ring on my finger and marriage certificate in hand, voices inside of me of varying sizes (sometimes big, sometimes small) were constantly trying to convince me that every fight we had, every doubt I had, every stupid thing I was hesitant to bring out into the open would lead to the demise of our relationship. I once confessed this to a friend. She said she felt exactly the same way. So then I kept confessing it to other friends, and they all agreed. We're all happily married thus far. Eggshells and all.

4. Because Antonio and I are from two different countries, it was particularly difficult for me to figure out who was supposed to bring up the whole issue of "what happens if I never, ever want to live without you" issue because that brought into play the fact that one of us would never be able to live remotely close to our friends/family/place where we can turn on the t.v. and hear our own language/etc.

Once we were at a restaurant, sitting across from each other and right before I took a sip of water, the words "I might die if I can't live with you every single day for the rest of my life" (a bit of an exaggeration, but I might have kind of a dramatic flare). I didn't plan for it, and didn't even know that the words were bubbling on the surface at that moment.

But I had analyzed it in my mind over and over again for a long long time just like you are.

You'll say it when the time's right. Or he will. But probably you will, because, come on, look at us.