Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hindsight's 20/20

Over the past three years, a lot has changed.  I've lived a dual life, traveling back and forth between Houston and New England. I've seen the end of a 5 year relationship.  I've mourned that relationship.  I've had one night stands. I've had trysts on trains. I've made resolutions and stuck with them. I've made mistakes and I have atoned, only to turn around and make the same mistakes again.  I've learned lessons and ignored them.  But, I eventually get the hint and I generally end up the better for it all. Recently, a friend asked me "If you could go back, what would you tell 20 year old you?"  The truth is, if I could go back, I probably wouldn't tell her/me anything.

I might hip her up to that warrant in Austin.  The one she didn't know about/remember. The one that got her a lovely two day stay  in a Travis County jail.  That would have been good to know. I might tell her to get her driver's renewed before it expired.  Tell her not to laminate her social security card. Or tell her that when she was 30, her mother would win 5 of the 6 numbers on the lottery, coincidentally enough, the sixth number was 6.  I might tell her she to keep being safe and stop worrying, until at least 30, because she doesn't get pregnant or get any STDs.  Or I might tell her to go to always look both ways when crossing intersections. (She would get hit by a car at 24 and then again at 26. I never claimed she was the sharpest tack in the drawer.)

What I couldn't tell her is not to slap him when she found out he'd been cheating for 3 of their 5 years. I couldn't tell her not to worry so much, that her GPA would be fine. I couldn't tell her not to sit in the front lawn and cry or to try to keep it together when everything was all changed in an instant.  I couldn't tell her that sex isn't love.  I couldn't explain to her that moving in with him to try to make it work was a horrible idea.  I couldn't have told her that even though it never goes away completely, the pain of losing a sibling does diminish over time.  I couldn't tell her that drunk sex is almost always a bad idea.  She/I wouldn't have listened. And even if I did, I wouldn't have really understood.  Because, all of these things are learned in a different way.  In order to get the lessons here, the challenges had to be walked.  Their is emotion that has to be felt and a memory stored deep in the tissues.  I had to feel these lessons. They couldn't merely be retold by a third party.  The rewards and payoffs were to big for that. These lessons had to be earned.

I know this to be true for myself, so I suppose it to be true for others as well. When my best friend, sister or mother does something that I find to be seemingly foolish, I know that it's not.  I know that while it might be a lesson I understand, it is one that she needs to walk through. And the fact of the matter is, I don't understand it. Because she has a history and experiences that are different from the ones I have. Her life is hers to walk through and my life is mine.  Our jobs for each other is to be there to listen, cry, hug and support along the way.  I can offer advice and help them reason, but I can't point out a solid solution or say This is what you should be doing.

This is easier with friends than it is with lovers, because we look at them as partners and we invest the future in partners.  We see their actions as an indication of what our future will be like. We lose a level of autonomy when we enter into this "partnership."  Lines become blurred and the idea of sitting back and letting them make their mistakes and walk through their lessons becomes a possibility for burden on us.

In past relationships, I felt that pressure.  I've lived with men and worked hard to be in a partnership, but all I could do was think about myself as a member of this "pair."  At nineteen,  it was intense.  I felt like I gave up parts of me to be with someone.  In a small way, I felt that way up until the end of my last relationship.  As I grew older I felt less and less lost in the pairings.  But, I could never really figure out how to be me (100%) while in a relationship.  So, I am walking through the process.  It is a lesson and a characteristic that I hope to one day possess.  I want to be able to love someone and be with someone, but it wasn't something I could rush.  And it wasn't advice I could take. This can't be learned that way.  So, if I could go back and talk to 20 year old me, I would probably just listen to what she had to say.  The advice and lessons from the past me are far greater than ones the present or future me could offer.

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About Me

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I am the product-child of the Women's Lib movement. I have a grade A education, a promising career and no immediate goal for children or a spouse. I will be 30 this year and I have spent many years in monogamous relationships. In and out of 1 to 2 year relationships, I always dated with the goal of meeting someone special. Most of the time I didn't date. Most of the time I found myself falling into relationship after relationship. These relationships were doomed to fail. They were all built on expectations that were, for me, unattainable. I love meeting new people. I find sex enjoyable and empowering and I am not happy when I am monogamous. So, after my last break-up, after taking some time to grieve, I decided to cut my societal puppet strings and get back in the game. I set out on a mission to spend the Summer of 2010 dating as many men as possible. My only initial criteria was attraction. My only limitation was - no love and no structured relationships. This is my date by date tale of what life can be like outside of the goals of relationships and love.