A Broken Give-a-Damn

The day before my college graduation, standing in streets covered with a slippery thin sheet of ice, Mr. Idea and I screamed at each other hunched under an awning a block from my apartment.

It wasn’t either of our finest moments.

It ultimately led to me throwing a high-heeled shoe in his general direction out of frustration, unchartered emotion and a little bit of booze. It didn’t hit him but he was astonished at my actions so much that he screamed (much to the dismay of my roommate): “You threw a shoe at my face! Lindsay! What’s wrong with you?” Equally as loud but through a thick stream of tears and unflattering nose-runnage, I replied: “I just want you to make me feel like you care and you don’t!!! Why can’t you just make me feel better?”

I’d like to say I’ve grown out of that immature statement but the truth is, I’m not sure we ever do. Maybe those totally-Zen, consistently healthy and one-with-the-world people are clear and peaceful in their relationships, but I don’t happen to be part of that demographic.

I’m emotional. I’m impatient. I can overreact. I have a tendency to overanalyze. I think people should give me just as much as I give them, though I don’t take all that much. When I’m mad, I cry. When I’m sad, I cry. When I’m furious, I need to take a walk (and apparently throw things). And when I’m upset in a relationship, as I was with Mr. Idea and probably as I’ll be with any man I date, I tend to think they should make me feel a certain way.

They should be understanding and kind. They should sometimes prioritize me above other things. They should have my best interest at heart and work hard at bettering my life, just as I hope to make their day-to-day brighter. Promises should be made and kept, not haphazardly planned and forgotten. I consider myself a great catch and you, whoever it is that I’m dating, should treat me as such. You should know what you have when you have me, and gosh-darnit – you should make me feel like the most amazing creature on Earth.

Right?

Well, maybe that worked once upon a time in never-never land, but in real life, in real relationship that are messy, complicated and flat-out irritating at times – things aren’t so cut and dry. While your partner should make you happy and positively affect your existence, they are not and should not be responsible for making you feel any way. And if you find yourself yelling at the top of your lungs, Jimmy in hand, begging them to make you feel differently – maybe you should check yourself. Check your emotions. And above all – check on the relationship.

There will be ups and downs and there will be fights. Hell, arguing can even be healthy occasionally and shows you how someone handles themselves in the heat of the moment or when tensions brew. But if there are more bad times than good, if you’re not getting what you want, if you’re not feeling what you want to feel, if you’re not finding that loving feeling as often as you’re battling the urge to run away – then what are you doing?

You’re waiting for someone to make you feel a way you can’t with them and maybe asking them to feel something they don’t. And if you can’t and they don’t, then the answer to your questionable exit strategy is…go. Breathe. Revel in yourself and in the possibility to meet someone who doesn’t frustrate you. Who doesn’t stand outside in the cold threatening to break up with you on the eve of your college graduation.

Because really, the only person who can make you feel the way you want to feel is you. The you who one day finds a love that doesn’t make you doubt or wonder constantly. And if you’re with the wrong one, you can never meet the right one. If you’re too busy fighting, you don’t have any energy to love. And if there is no love left, then girl, go out and find it.

And before you find it, find yourself. Decide your give-a-damn is broken and make yourself feel so in love with you that nothing else can compare.

That Un-Loving Feeling

It was right before dawn. I could hear the birds beginning the same sweet chorus, in the same little tune, they sing to wake up each new day. The sun was peeking into the darkened room, creating stripes of honey gold across my bare arms, and enticing my eyes to greet the inviting embrace of the great outside.

Though the gradual energy of the morning sought to spring me into a tomorrow I hadn’t experienced yet, its warm simplicity didn’t interest me. I was still in the day before – or so I felt – after spending the night restless, uncomfortable, and battling thoughts I couldn’t admit to thinking. Thoughts that threatened to change what I felt was a very important part of my existence.

Even if this something was obnoxiously snoring and possibly drooling down my back. The same back that turned away from him at the end of the night, feeling emotionally broken, undesirable, and still full of anger from yet another explosive fight. In an effort to win back some of his pride and my opinion of his honor – he had wrapped himself around my body, pressing down on me with his weight, and hiding his face in my curly locks. He wanted me to feel protected, loved, and to know that he cared about me.

But all I felt was suffocated. And confused. Bitterly sad. Every bone in my body, as achy as they were from not getting the rest they deserve, wanted to spree from his arms secured around my stomach. Yet, my body was like my heart – so heavy, so hesitant, so highly conflicted, I couldn’t even turn away from the sun glaring down at me. Or wipe away the steady stream of tears trickling its way down my cheek, as I prayed he wouldn’t hear my muffled sniffles.

Hadn’t I wanted this relationship? Hadn’t I fought for it endlessly? Hadn’t I fallen in love with this man, with this person, with this 6’4″ tall drink of water, who seemed to be everything I wanted? Hadn’t I introduced him to my family, to my friends, to those parts of my soul that a few rare gems ever know? Hadn’t I agreed to be his and desired his commitments to me? Hadn’t I longed for him, for this smell, for his presence in my life, for his laughter to fill the heart wounds I was still healing?

Flooded with questions and cheeks flushed with the rush of a clarity I didn’t want to accept, I rolled over to face him. He grumbled, as he always did, to let me know it wasn’t time to get out of bed yet. I agreed with him silently and placed my fingertips on the side of his two-day four o’clock shadow and around the perimeter of his lips. He squeezed my side and pulled me closer, recognizing that I was awake and admiring him. I placed my hand along the back of his neck and nibbled his chin, as we playfully always did to one another. With his blue eyes still hiding under their lids, he gave me a sweet sleep grin, and whispered in a voice that’s just between lovers: I love you, Linds.

And in my head, I thought, “But I don’t love you. Not anymore.”

In the weeks before Mr. Idea and I parted ways, we stopped sharing love and started sharing sentiments no two people should ever say – especially ones who are supposed to be in love with one another. We knew exactly which words would dig the deepest, cut the sharpest, and last the longest. We were not so much in a battle with each other, but placed with the difficult challenge of defending our own egos, which at the time had reached godly-like stature. We couldn’t agree on anything – from what to eat for dinner to how often we had sex. We both were looking for an excuse to be the one to walk away, be the one to pull the rug out from the other person, and send them crashing into the same emotional distraught we were feeling.

Yet, after each argument, each hateful feature that spewed from his speech or mine, he always apologized. He never took responsibility, but of any weapon of mass destruction I had against him, the one that was the strongest were my tears. And those, during the end of our relationship, fell daily. And nightly.

As much as we were not getting along and as awful as our exchanges were – the person I was really battling was not Mr. Idea. It was myself. I couldn’t believe after all the time it took to finally get over Mr. Fire, to put my heart back out in the line of love again – I found myself in the same situation I experienced with Mr. Faithful.

I had fallen out of love.

I had lost my interest. I had lost that love and found that un-loving feeling. The red flags I could let slide at the beginning became too bright, too impending that if I chose to ignore them, I’d be deciding to lower my standards. What had made me ga-ga over him in the first few months had suddenly became the same qualities that made my stomach churn. I didn’t crave him. I didn’t want to make love with him. I didn’t want to touch him. I didn’t see a future with him that was happy. But I could see a tomorrow beyond the mountaintops that was beautiful and full of promise.

That vision, however, for as far as I could see, didn’t include waking up to snoring and drooling, with a man who as much as he could have tried, would have never been what I wanted.

So many times in the past, when I was lonely or hating the single title I had been sentenced to, I feared I’d never fall in love again. I’d never feel that undeniable something that you can only feel from the splendor of someone you’re crazy about. That silly rush of emotion and passion that tell us, “Yes, this could be something.” Now, I don’t question that I’ll one day meet someone who will give me all the right feelings in all the right places – but I fear how sustainable that love is.

To hell with falling in love, what about falling out of it? Is it possible – or dare I say, reasonable – to love the same person, the same way, and with the same velocity as you did from square one? I don’t think so. I think like self-love, like that relationship that will always need developing – romantic love, in its best and most everlasting form, needs to be honest about the waves of change. We can’t, after all, avoid them.

Maybe there aren’t any perfect loves, perfect people, or perfect ways of staying in or leaving a relationship. Maybe falling out of love is just as much part of the game as falling into it. And maybe, just maybe, the best thing we can ever do is admit and accept that someone isn’t right for us. Even if at one point, we swore they were Mr. Right. Even if that means we have to hit the road again, alone. Prepared for another go, another expedition to the dating trenches – another shot at finding a person that won’t only remain by our side, but we’ll want them there, too.