Je Ne Regrette Rien

Things about me that I know for sure: I read into anything and everything far too much, and I dwell on ideas. In fact, I often get fixated on a theory until I write it all out or talk it through with someone and can finally make sense of the thoughts in my mind. That made me sound more neurotic than I probably actually am. Awesome.

I have this print hanging in my bathroom that reads, “Non, je ne regrette rien“. Roughly translated, it means “no, I regret nothing”. As much as I’d like to believe that I live with this belief every day, I don’t. I over-analyze my actions, words, and thoughts until I’ve forgotten why I’m doing it at all, and I criticize myself endlessly.

One thing I’ve been thinking through quite often lately is past relationships. I don’t look on my former boyfriends with much favor, even though a couple of them really are good people. For two years, I’ve been working on trying to remind myself of the good things I absorbed while with them.

The first serious boyfriend I had was someone I had been friends with for a long time. We had grown up through high school together in church, and he was the perfect person to start venturing into romantic relationships with. We dated twice, neither time being very long, because high school relationships are unpredictable. I was moving off to college and was not a very good girlfriend because I hadn’t learned to communicate my thoughts and feelings yet, but I still look back fondly on the brief few months we had together. From him, I learned that love letters and rocks collected from mountaintops can mean so much more than shiny presents. I learned to enjoy stargazing and night time strolls. I learned about music that I still listen to today. I credit my first boyfriend as the tender-hearted soul who first introduced me to Damien Rice. I learned how tender innocent love can be.

My first college boyfriend was somewhat of a train wreck, but he meant well. We met through university concert choir, and our entire relationship seemed to center around music. My best friend and I had decided to go see his band perform right before Christmas break, and after he got my number at his show, we didn’t go a day without talking. He was older, experienced, and musically talented. The relationship was exciting, but wasn’t meant to last. I caught him in the middle of big lies at least three times and would run away instead of talking out our issues because I still wasn’t mature enough to deal with difficult communication. From him, I caught the love of live shows. I learned how to appreciate the different parts of a song and the technicality of writing music. I learned the simple joy of having a boyfriend make food for you, even if it’s just bacon and eggs. Most importantly, I learned that I could be desirable, even during the awkward first year of college.

That relationship lasted a bit longer than it should have, but after a few months, I had moved on. I had met the man I would marry. We started off as a fling. He had never actually had a girlfriend until me, just a string of girls he had partied with. We spent three months together before I had finally talked him into “defining the relationship”. It was another month before we got into an argument and his rebuttal was that he loved me. Soon, we were on a love high and nothing could separate us. When he got offered a good sales job in Dallas, he proposed in front of both our families, and that sealed the deal. We were going to be forever. We got married eleven months later, and soon after that, we had returned to the town we had gone to college in and settled down. There were bad times, abusive times, but I’ve written about those experiences before, and here is not the time nor place. Things eventually got so bad, so damaging, that almost exactly five years after we had first met, I told him I wanted a divorce. During that, I learned how to accomplish things on my own. My parents don’t particularly agree with divorce and were occupied with a death in the family, so I was left to navigate it by myself.

If I were to sum up my ex-husband in a couple words, I would label him the ideal salesman. He’s verbally charming and knows how to present his product in a way that appeals to all kinds of people. So from him, I learned people skills. I’m excellent at the people part of my job because I observed him for so long. I learned how to make things sound appealing. On a surface level, my favorite thing that I learned from him is how to appreciate beer. High-quality craft beer has become one of my go-to hobbies in the past few years, and I can fully admit that I learned the basics from him. On a much deeper level, however, I learned that people aren’t always as they seem. They can present themselves to the world one way, yet live a different private life. I’ve learned not to trust the people who seem too charming.

Several months later, I reconnected with a special person from my past. We had a different sort of relationship. He was in Alaska. I was in Germany. We spent the few hours that we were both available attached to our phones or computers. Communication was key. We shared poems, had intellectual debates, listened to each other’s favorite songs. We had a fourteen year friendship set on fire by infatuation, and it was the first time I was able to experience the joy that comes with being understood in a relationship for the first time. It was also the first time physicality wasn’t a deterrent in building an emotional and mental connection with another person, so the kind of love we experienced was refreshing. I discovered beliefs and ideas from Kahlil Gibran, Oliver Sacks, and independent rappers from the Midwest who actually had songs that spoke to me. I was appreciated for my contribution toward theoretical discussions, and I was encouraged to share my singing (a thing I hadn’t done in seven years). I learned that I was worth more than just a nice smile, a female body, and comforting words. I learned that I was smart, funny, someone’s dream girl. However, we were both damaged in very similar ways. We were damaged without having time to heal, and we leaned on each other to soothe that pain. Because of that, I learned that healing takes time, and mistrust will arise in a relationship when both parties struggle with the same problems. Eventually, I learned true and gut-wrenching heartache.

After not going more than six months relationship-free, I decided to step back and reevaluate what I wanted. There were men that were temporary during that time, but there were no true romantic relationships. I learned a lot about myself during that year of being single. I learned that I am a subconscious self-saboteur. I learned that I liked the idea of people falling in love with me before I was ready to love someone else because it made me feel worth something. I learned that I didn’t actually share the deepest parts of me with anyone, so I was unable to fully connect with another human being. I learned the first steps in becoming vulnerable.

I spent a year like that. I spent a year learning how to actually accept love from another person, but most importantly, how to love myself. When I spent an entire night talking to a man that I worked with outside on my front porch until the sun came up, I realized that I had also learned to trust. Sharing some of the biggest hurts in my life to someone that I only knew in passing showed me that I had allowed myself to become vulnerable. This man became my boyfriend, and during that time, I learned how healthy love can be when there’s a backbone of complete and utter trust. I learned that someone could actually see all of my flaws and not love me in spite of them, but could view my flaws as reasons to love me.  I learned what it meant to be understood completely, and I’ve gained so much confidence and assurance from that understanding. Now, that boyfriend has become my fiancé. With that stage comes more learning. I’m now learning how to be in a committed long-distance relationship with someone who I’m used to being with every single day. I’m relearning communication skills sometimes based solely on words, because facial expressions and physical presence aren’t always present. I’m learning to stop being so stubborn in my independence and to allow the person that understands me best in the world to show his love for me in ways that make him feel like he’s making a positive impact on our relationship. I am learning to allow this relationship to actually be a two-way street.

I suppose it all comes back down to trying to be a person who can say they regret nothing. It’s being able to completely own all of the decisions you’ve made and accepting what happens next, regardless of the outcome. I’ll need to consistently work on being someone who can be proud of their experiences and decisions, but making that a life goal is one of the healthiest plans I believe a person can have.

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The Beginnings

December 12, 2015

I found myself sitting on my front porch with a coworker who had slightly intimidated me at first. The night had started as a small group of friends playing video games and singing along to Across the Universe. He was the last person to get there, and when he stepped outside for a quick smoke break, I joined him.

We sat down, and I’m not sure how the conversation started, but it turned into me telling him stories about my mental health, my heartbreaks, and my fears. How he continued to sit there while actually caring, I wouldn’t understand for some time, but in that moment, we were the cliche only people in the world. I was bold that night. So bold, in fact, that when I told him of my dreams to become a writer, I followed it up with a project I had recently started. “The most recent time that I felt like not existing anymore was December 8, 2015…” When reading those first pages, he learned more of my darkness than most of the people I’ve known for years.

It wasn’t meant to be anything more than a friendship. I wasn’t interested in a relationship, especially with someone who was leaving for the military a little over four months later. He didn’t want any sort of romantic ties back home when he left.

We spent weeks watching movies he hadn’t seen. We spent weeks talking about hopes, dreams, our own faults, and what we wish we could change about the world. We shared our past with each other, and somewhere in all of that, we started to realize that we could have an incredible future if we were willing to work through distance and time.

I’ve felt special connections with other people before. I’ve been married, I’ve been in love…I thought I was through that. I was convinced that I was far too used up to be loved again. While I’ve felt those connections with others, I didn’t ever think that the other person truly understood every part of me. I’d let certain parts of my personality and character show, but my truth told me that if I let anyone see some of the other parts, I’d be unlovable. This man saw the unlovable parts first. He knew them before he knew some of my good parts, and he’s chosen to spend a lifetime loving all of me.

I realize this is a rather sentimental post. This website has been all about depression and controversy recently. I’ve been fighting some incredible demons in my own life, and I’m not sure how well I’d be getting through it all if it wasn’t for Josiah’s constant love and support. He loves all of me, and while I don’t often feel like I deserve that level of care, I’ll be forever grateful for it.

Josiah
Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, AR – January 2016

The Good is Better Because of the Bad

I’ve been rewatching Skins. There’s a scene in the fourth season between Effy and Freddie where she looks at him and tells him that all of her bad memories are gone, and she only has love left. She had been dealing with manic episodes and psychosis, subsequently getting sent to a hospital and having constant care from a psychiatrist. This psychiatrist helps her to “delete” all these bad memories, but it eventually is shown that this is even worse for her mental health. She loses so much of who she has become because she no longer has bad memories to remind her of her growth and change.

There have been several times in the last few years where I’ve wished to just delete moments in my life, especially regarding past relationships. I would love to be able to remove moments like my marriage and really even just meeting my ex. I convince myself that being able to delete the hurt and pain, the insecurities and fears that I developed would make me a happier person. I go back and forth between this desire and trying to embrace the failed relationships because they’ve taught me how to be stronger, to stand up for myself, and to leave when it turns toxic. I know that facing these issues is the healthy choice. I just don’t want any of that to tarnish what I have now and who I am now. I’m struggling with balancing my past and my future, and I’m not quite sure how to merge the two.

I had never intended to get married again. I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in that relationship that I lost who I was. I’ve labeled myself as damaged, unlovable, undesirable. I had a couple people come through my life after my divorce that I thought would maybe be a long-term part of my life, but I was unaware of my self-sabotaging these connections for quite some time. When I finally noticed my pattern and the unhealthy consequences, I made a conscious effort to change. When I met Josiah (which is probably a story for another time) and as we grew in our relationship and made the decision to get married, I tried to stay aware of my sabotaging tendencies.

I still feel unworthy. I still feel like my ex and my past haunt me. I still have family and friends who ask me about him and if I’ve heard from him. I suppose the biggest reason I wish I could delete all of the bad memories is because I’m tired of my past demanding to be my present. I’m so excited for what my future is going to hold, and I’m thrilled that I have someone who makes a consistent effort to understand. I know those bad moments will eventually fade until they’re tiny specks in a very distant memory, but I’m trying to accept them as ways to fully appreciate what and who I have in my life now. I think that’s the key in all of this: trying to appreciate the lessons learned from all of the hurtful moments. It’s just a very difficult thing to remind myself day in and day out- the bad is worth remembering because it makes the good so much better.

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Navy Pier, Chicago – June 2016

In the Same Town

Sometimes I think I was crazy to move back to Fayetteville.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this town. I feel more at home here than most other places I’ve lived. It has most things I want in a place to live: support of the local community, a diverse art and music scene, all four seasons, exquisite views of the outdoors, and a good base of people.

There are also a plethora of ghosts here. This has always been a place where 90% of the people I run into know who my ex-husband is. He is still very prevalent in the community, and Saturday night, I had to run into him.

On the surface, we can stay friendly. Most of my friends up here are still mutual friends of his as well, so there’s no escaping him. On the surface, everything is fine. Underneath that though is still the hurt, the anger, the sickness that hits when I least expect it. Insomnia has again become a familiar companion at night because not sleeping is still better than night terrors.

I didn’t expect it to still be this difficult. I’ve been nightmare-free for so long. I’ve survived so many things that I thought this would be the same- it would just take time, and that part of my past would no longer be able to reach me. I had a plan. I’ve been through so much healing, and I believed that moving back here would be me saying “I don’t hurt anymore. I’ve taken that pain and turned it into something that made me strong.”

I’ve spent the past two days trying to convince myself that I didn’t make a huge mistake in coming up here. I’ve spent 48 hours thinking of all the good that’s coming from being up here again: I get to be around those friends who are in my same stage of life, who are some of the most supportive women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I get the terrifying privilege of attempting to live on my own for the first time and stretch those wings of independence. I get to have a space that isn’t shared by anyone, which allows me to finally have some peace and quiet after two years of being constantly surrounded by others. There are so many good things that have come from me leaving Texas.

I suppose I just didn’t realize how many ghosts were still haunting me when I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t notice how strong of a hold someone’s actions still had over me. I wanted to be able to say that I was over it and his behavior, his attitude, his voice no longer made me want to curl up in an attempt to not feel so sick. I can’t say that yet, as evidenced by my past few days. It’s far better than it was, which is a welcome improvement. It isn’t good yet, but I’m still holding out hope that there is some sort of healing that will come in time from being back in the same town.

Frankfurter Dom, Frankfurt, Germany - September 2014
Frankfurter Dom, Frankfurt, Germany – September 2014

listening to: Sleigh Bells

Here Comes the Sun

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here

Five years ago, I was in the last stages of preparing for my wedding. I was excited and nervous, but ready for the next step. I was marrying someone that my family actually liked, that I had fun with, and that I believed in.

Five years ago, I was also a wreck.

For the couple days leading up to my wedding day, any little word or action was strong enough to cause tears and panic. I remember in the hours before the ceremony began, my eyes were in a constant state of overflowing.

As most brides will tell you, most of the actual wedding was a blur. For the most part, everything went smoothly, and we were surrounded by people that we loved dearly. Everything I had pictured during the months of planning worked out, and the setting was gorgeous. At the end of the ceremony, we walked out of the church to The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” because I wanted to really capture the hopeful feeling we had for the future.

We made it three years.

Many people who have to deal with the pain of divorce find it difficult to remember the good times during their marriage, myself included. Far too often, I focus on the bad: losing who I was and the activities that made me feel alive, the emotional detachment, his inability to understand hurting me in the worst of ways. I write terrible poems about those times (poetry is definitely not one of my strengths) because there has to be a way to express that pain without hurting others. Despite all of that, I’ve been trying to reflect on the good this week: the smiles, the laughter, the ability to relax, just having someone around all the time. Because despite all of the ugly and sometimes nightmarish memories, no relationship is without sparks of good.

I never saw myself as someone getting married, let alone divorced. Yet here I am, 26 and almost two years divorced. Most of the time, I try to just forget that part of my life, but it was the majority of my early 20s. It shaped me and still haunts me. It taught me what to look for and what to avoid. I learned how to protect and stand up for myself, even when 90% of the people in my life wanted me to go in an opposite direction. It forced me to become far more independent and to stop settling.

So now, I think I’m finally able to embrace my past as a married woman, my present as a divorcee trying to take on life completely independent, and my unpredictable and unknown future.

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Caribbean Sea- March 2015
Caribbean Sea- March 2015