Tuesday, 11 June 2013

In My Rearview Mirror (or: Hello Again, HB)

Day 306
59 Days Remaining

Every so often an opportunity comes your way and you wonder if it would be wise to take it.  Sometimes it would be best to let it go by the wayside.  Other times, it makes sense to just take a deep breath, steel yourself, and jump in to see what happens.

Such an opportunity came up a couple of weeks ago for me.  Chica, a good friend of mine, was packing up to move back to her old home on the mainland, and asked if I could help her out by driving her car across on the ferry while she drove the loaded moving van.  A free trip to Vancouver (normally $50+ each way just for the vehicle, and paying $16 for each passenger on top of that) sounded good to me!  I agreed, as long as it was all right for my young son, Number 3, to come along.  She was happy to have him join us, especially since her two cats would be in crates in the backseat and she knew my sweet kiddo would be a calming influence for them during the trauma of a long drive and unfamiliar setting.

Vancouver skyline
I realized that this free trip to Vancouver could also offer me the opportunity - if I desired - to see HB.  And when I realized that, I took a step outside of myself to examine how I felt about that possibility.  HB and I stopped talking after we last saw each other at the end of December, but over the last couple of months since my trip to California we have occasionally sent a text message (I sent him a photo from Reality Rally of me with Phillip Sheppard - the Specialist himself - from Survivor; HB loved him on that show and was awed that I got to meet him).  We have reached a point where I felt there was no harm in tepid contact here and there.  Of course, I always double-check how I'm feeling about it, but I have even gotten to the point where there is just nothing left there; perhaps I still feel some remnants of affection, but even that feels as though it is being seen through a screen or felt through a filter.  He is someone I used to care about a lot, but I was fairly sure that I would be okay if I saw him.  I sent him a quick text asking if he wanted to do dinner with Number 3 and myself when I was in town.

It's funny to really recognize how much I have gotten over him.  I remember the days when I would send a text and wait anxiously for one in return.  I would have moments of panic if he didn't respond immediately, or if he didn't respond the way I had hoped or expected that he would. If my text ringtone would sound, my heart would start beating faster, hoping it was a message from him.  This time, after I sent the message, I went about my business and promptly forgot that I had sent anything at all.

I didn't tell anyone that I had contacted HB, and I know that it was because I was worried about the backlash and the worry flurry that I am used to from my friends when it comes to him and my tender feelings.  Chica and I initially met through HB, as he was good friends with both her and her husband, so she had been there and watched the whole story evolve...and erupt.  She had been there for me through our first breakup, and our second, and our third...and she staunchly supported me as I worked through getting past him.  I always like to say that at least one good thing came of my relationship with HB, and that is my friendship with Chica.  Stoney, of course, has also seen and heard it all as I let HB have my heart time and time again.   I knew that she would understand if I told her I might see HB – both of them would – but I also knew that they would likely both worry about my vulnerability to him and his charms.  I was fairly sure I could handle this on my own, but I knew that if I felt conflicted about it at any time, I could ask either one of them for advice and would get solid, constructive help if I needed it.  I didn't feel I needed it quite yet.  So I kept my silence for the time being and continued to reflect on whether seeing him would be a good idea, or a foolhardy one.

When HB wrote back in enthusiastic agreement to getting together for dinner, expressing how much he looked forward to seeing me and Number 3 and imagining how big my little boy must be by now, I read his text and then checked my heart rate (no, not literally).  There appeared to be no physiological reaction whatsoever to either his text or the thought of seeing him – no racing pulse; no thumping heart; no gasps for breath.  No immediate need to throw up, either, so I came to the conclusion that I would be all right if I saw him again.  The realization that I didn't really care whether I saw him or not gave me some curiosity, as though I was looking at a specimen under a microscope and observing no visible reaction.  Hm, I thought; Interesting.  If it worked out to meet for dinner, I decided, we would do so.

The day before we planned to leave, I casually mentioned the possibility of dinner with HB to my son.  He lit up, and that was the absolute deciding factor for me.  HB and my younger son (who met him when he was only 7, and had him as a presence in his life for three years) had a special relationship.  HB looked at my son as the perfect model for his own future children; indeed, he told me that the main reason he wanted to have children of his own was because he was so in love with my little guy.  Number 3 looked at HB as a good pal and a role model, someone he could respect and look up to.  The two of them had always had a special bond, and when the three of us would hang out together I was often left in the dust as they played their silly little games with the energy only little boys (and grown-up little boys) have.  So, for me, seeing Number 3 so excited at the thought of seeing his old pal – and having also noted HB's pleasure at the prospect – meant that I would do everything I could to make it happen if it was at all possible.  I texted HB back, and we arranged to meet at his work on Saturday afternoon when he wrapped up his twelve-hour shift.  He would take us out for dinner, and then drive us back to the ferry to head back home as walk-on passengers.

For me, the most telling moments were not my own reactions to thoughts of or texts from HB.  The moments of highest impact were the ones when I finally told my friends that I planned to see HB.  There were no wary headshakes, no warnings to guard my heart, no admonishments against placing myself directly in the line of fire.  I told Chica as we loaded up the moving van that I was going to head to meet HB for dinner directly after we unloaded at her new home, and she accepted the news with a nod, telling me simply that she'd make sure I got on the right SkyTrain to get to the police station where he now works.  She didn't even ask if I thought I would be okay or if this really was a good idea.  The same thing happened when I texted Stoney from the ferry terminal as we sat in the lineup – no reaction of surprise, worry or caution.  When I asked her about it, she said that she no longer worried about me when it came to HB; she knew that I had grown enough to deal with any emotions that might come up, and she also felt that I had worked through those old emotions enough to be strong enough to see him.  She did suggest that he might try to lure me back in, but also reiterated that she believed that I could handle that.  My friends' faith in my strength and in the knowledge that HB is truly now in my past made me feel really good about the decision to see him, and even more certain that I would be able to handle whatever may happen.

Number 3 and I met HB outside his work and climbed into his shiny new car.  HB looked just the same, but it didn`t rock my heart; it was simply pleasant to see his smile at seeing us and how happy Number 3 was to be strapped into the back of HB`s "cool" Mercedes.  It was just like old times between the two of them, and I'm sure HB also felt it was like old times between us - two great friends hanging out, enjoying each other's company, and sharing a tasty meal and some comfortable casual conversation.  But for me, something had definitely been released that January day when I wrote my goodbye letter to HB - the letter I never sent, but wrote in a furious rant in my desperation to purge him from my system, and shared with my blog readers.  I felt much more relaxed and free than I ever did during the three years I fought to figure out where I stood with HB, because now, finally, I know exactly where I stand, and that it's not up to him.  It was up to me all along, and when I finally made that decision for myself, I let go of every expectation I ever had of him.  I`m glad that I took the chance to spend some time with him so that I could know for sure that The Story of HB is now fully and completely wrapped up.

When HB dropped us off at the ferry terminal, he gave me a long, familiar hug and kissed my cheek and my neck like he used to do, but it didn`t feel as though he was trying to get anything out of me, or to pull me back in.  It just felt as though he was expressing affection in the best way that he knew how.  I gave him a little extra squeeze, and took Number 3`s hand, and we walked into the terminal as Number 3 and HB sent each other frantic and delighted waves of farewell.

And then I went back to my life, leaving HB in my figurative rearview mirror...exactly where he now belongs.


Sunday, 9 June 2013

I'm Not Who I Was

Day 304
61 Days Remaining

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I had a different life than I have now.  I was married.  I had three young children and was an exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed stay-at-home mother.  I had a completely different set of friends and did completely different things and enjoyed completely different things.  I certainly would never have imagined that I, the girl who was terrified of hospitals and couldn't handle driving past graveyards, would end up working with the elderly and dying, and washing deceased bodies to prepare them for their families to view.  Nor would it have occurred to me, as a completely right-brained artistic and dramatic person, that I would ever end up getting a 95% in Math (when I finally managed to finish it, as an adult learner) or attempting to earn a Bachelor's degree in Science.

Yes, my life was filled with many things that are completely different from what I now fill my days with.  One of those things was my best friend, Lori.

Lori and I were the closest of best friends.  I felt as though I knew her inside and out.  We loved to talk and laugh and play with the kids; she didn`t yet have any of her own and adored mine, even babysitting for them on occasion so that my husband and I could enjoy some time alone.  We both loved to act and talked about our dreams to one day star in a film that would change modern cinema and have huge impact on its viewers.  Occasionally, we had the chance to do background work for a movie when a film crew would come into town, and it felt as though our dreams would eventually be realized.  She was a true friend to me, supporting me through all the difficult days as a young mother, and listening whenever marital problems reared their ugly heads.  Her Christianity was an inspiration to me; although I considered myself to be a Christian, Lori had been raised in the church, with a large and happy family, and whose parents were still together.  I longed for the stability and love that Lori had in her life, especially as my marriage was getting to feel as though it was on rockier and rockier ground.  I could see that Lori had a real relationship with God, and although I had followed my husband and accepted his faith and brought it into my own life, I couldn't make that connection with Him in the personal way that Lori so obviously had.  Her trust and faith and genuineness shone out from her.  I loved her with all that was in me.  At least, I thought I did.

For as I asked myself many, many times over the next several years, how could I love someone so very much, and still betray her?

It's so hard to look back on that time, so many years ago, and be able to accurately describe what happened and what led up to that point.  I feel as though I can't outright say what happened between us, for more than one reason: for one, it doesn`t do anyone any good to rehash it; for another, it feels so far removed from me that I literally have a difficult time believing that I was capable of causing anyone - especially someone whom I loved so deeply - such pain.  However, the past cannot be changed, and the fact remains: I did hurt Lori.  I hurt her in a way that wounded her so deeply, I thought she could never forgive me.  And our friendship was instantly, irretrievably, cut off.  Through the selfishness and thoughtless actions that were almost par for the course to me in those days, I lost one of the people who meant the most to me in the entire world.

After Lori discovered my betrayal of our friendship, she immediately stopped speaking to me.  As much pain as that caused me, I knew that she was in a tremendous amount of pain herself, and I longed to reach out to her.  For the first while, I stopped myself, knowing that I needed to give her space, but as the days turned into weeks and then the weeks into months, I found myself creating several fantasies of how we would find each other again.  She would forgive me, I knew it.  She would understand that there was something crazy going on in my head (for although I was still several years away from my Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, I had felt for a long time as though I was in the control of something other than just myself) and she would open her arms and welcome me back into her life.  She missed me just as much as I missed her.  There was nothing that could not be forgiven.  On and on I went in my mind, certain that somehow, I could make this better.  At times, completely illogically, I found that I was feeling angry with her for not being able to understand how much pain I, myself, was in...and the reasons why I had it in me to do what I had done.  She was my best friend - shouldn`t she understand?  Shouldn't she "get" me, and forgive me as a matter of course?

But what I knew most of all was that even if I never got forgiveness from Lori, I needed to forgive myself, and I needed forgiveness from God for what I had done and how I had placed myself above everyone who was dear to me.  I prayed and I stretched my spirit out, longing to feel that connection, longing to believe that God was there and that He would absolve me of all my sins.  I read my Bible and tried to understand what it was within in me that had brought me to this place of misery, and how I could possibly turn my life around and never be that kind of person again.  I finally put pen to paper and wrote Lori a letter of apology, praying as I wrote it that God would keep my heart sincere and that I was not just writing it in order to make things right between myself and Lori and bring them back to where they had been.  I did not want to manipulate her into accepting me back into her life; I wanted to be open, honest and completely straightforward in what I said to her.  I honestly wanted to recognize my responsibility for hurting her so badly, and to tell her how sorry I was for the devastation it had caused her.  I poured out my heart, confessed my sins and apologized as well as I could for her pain, and  asked her for her forgiveness.  I told her that I was trying so hard to see God in my life and that I had asked Him to forgive me, and that I knew that despite everything in me that was still wrong, I knew that I was forgiven.  I wrote, I prayed, I mailed it, and I tried to move on, and began the long, slow, difficult process of making changes in myself and in my life.

A few weeks later, a letter arrived in the mail.  My hands shook as I recognized the handwriting and realized that it was from Lori.  I opened the letter with my heart slamming against my sternum; the anticipation and panic almost caused me to throw the letter in a pile to open later.  But I forced myself to see what she had written, and it was with a grateful heart that I saw that Lori, even in her pain, had done her best to understand where I was coming from and to tell me that yes, she believed that I was being sincere and not just trying to have the last word.  The tears in my eyes became heaving sobs as I read that she had forgiven me, wholly and completely...but she would prefer not to hear from me again.

I had grown enough that I recognized that this was a gift, and that it was enough.  Lori's forgiveness was all I really needed; of course my heart longed for her friendship, as well, but I knew that it could never be the same again.  My heart was lighter after receiving Lori's letter, and I was able to move on.  As time went by and I dealt with other things - namely, the breakup of my marriage and all the other difficulties that brought with it - I had to allow myself to let go of Lori and what could have been.  I knew that the loss was my own fault, and I kept Lori and her family in my prayers. I still think of her fairly often.

There is a song on the Christian radio station that has been played on occasion over the past few years, and every time I hear it, it makes me think of Lori and our lost friendship.

I wish you could see me now; I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I'm not who I was

I was thinkin' maybe I
Should let you know
That I am not the same
That I never did forget your name

I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was... 
I know how very much I have changed.  The past seven years have brought so much growth and pain that I cannot even imagine being the person that I was all those years ago.  Sometimes I wish that I could run into Lori so that she could see, she could know, that I am not who I was.  That I am no longer that person who had the capability to hurt her so deeply.  That no matter what, there is no way that I would ever allow anyone to ever cause her pain the way that I caused her pain.  And that I am so, so very sorry.

A couple of months ago, somehow, I ran across a video of Lori that had been made very recently.  In the video, Lori, her husband, and their three young children were playing and laughing together.  After the initial shock of seeing her after all this time came the longing to talk to her and to hug her.  Then came the pain at seeing her beautiful children and knowing that I had deprived myself of ever getting to meet and know them.  The tears came down as I watched my beautiful former friend...and I could see that she is happy.  As much as I long to know her again, as much as I wish that she could see who I am now, more than that is the joy in knowing that she has a beautiful life and that she has moved on into a today that is better than any of the yesterdays that I was a part of.  My tears of loss for myself melted into tears of joy for her joy.  I knew then that no matter how much I have changed, there is no way that I could ever attempt to make contact with her again.  She gave me forgiveness, and asked for my absence from her life.  It would be completely selfish of me to infiltrate that happiness with all the reminders of what once was.

And almost as though it had been pre-ordained, a few days later I was flipping through a book I hadn't lifted off my shelf in a long time, and a folded letter fell from it.  Again the tears pricked my eyes and my heart jumped as I realized this was Lori's letter to me from shortly after I wrote her.  The handwritten words wavered as I re-read it through a shocked waterfall of tears, but it felt almost as though everything had finally come full circle.  I didn't know at the time, and maybe Lori hadn't known either, but her words to me were prophetic.  As I stood in my comfortable home, a happy woman learning more about myself every day and moving toward an amazing future with a great career, feeling so much closer to God than I ever have and longing to find ways to serve Him and get to know Him better, I read what Lori had written to me so long before:

"What you were was a sinful, wicked woman.  What you are now is fully forgiven.  What you will become is yet to be determined."

I can look at who I was then and know that I am no longer that woman who could betray her best friend.  What I have become is so much more than I was back then.  There is still so much room for me to become much more of a whole person, but I know I'm on my way.  I am so grateful for everything that has happened in my life that has brought me to where I am now, and somehow I know that Lori would be pleased if she knew how hard I've tried, and how hard I continue trying.  And that's enough for me.

 I'm Not Who I Was (C) Brandon Heath, 2007 Provident Music Group LLC

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

30 x 10 = 82%

DAY 300
65 Days Remaining

I've got lots of thoughts to share with you all (often I'll find myself composing paragraphs in my head and hoping that I'll remember them when it comes to blog posting time), but I've been back to being busy as all get out.  Tomorrow, especially, is a very long day: I've got practicum from 6:45 until 1pm, then a training session for work from 1:30 until 3:30, and then actual work from 4:30 to 9:30.  Never let it be said that I am lazy!
Actually, today, knowing what kind of day awaits me tomorrow, "lazy" is exactly what I attempted to be.  After practicum I went and had a nice relaxed visit with Stoney, then spent some time just sitting around the house, telling myself I needed to save up all my energy for tomorrow.  But I had stripped the bed this morning (as soon as my alarm rang I sat up and began stripping pillowcases from right under my head, and pulled the fitted sheet off the corners of the bed until I was smack dab in the middle of a small mountain of linen and had to get up and throw them in the wash), so it needed new sheets.  And I need to eat tomorrow, so an hour or so in the kitchen preparing all the meals and snacks I'll need (so I can throw them into the cooler to enjoy all day) was essential.  And the bicycle repair shop called to say my bike is now roadworthy after languishing in the basement for the past two years, so I had to go get it and ride it home.  And of course the sheets from this morning were washed, along with two other loads of laundry, so I had to fold it.  And now, of course, the blog needs to be updated.  So while I was trying to be lazy, I actually got a lot accomplished, and it felt a lot better than sitting on my bottom all day.  It also had the added benefit of getting me really tired, ready to wind down the day and get to bed fairly soon.

So why, on top of all the other things that I had to do today (oh yes; I also stopped by the high school to bring my tired hard-working oldest child a coffee so that she could make it through her very long day), am I feeling the need to update the blog?  Well, check out the counter at the top of the page:  I am at Day 300 of my year away from dating.

copyright Sara Parets photography
Day 300!!!  I can`t believe it!  I`m 82.2% of the way through this year.  It`s impossible to really articulate all the things that I have learned this year.  Although I can see myself falling back into some old habits, the most important part about that statement is the part where I said "I can see myself".  I am now recognizing these tendencies more than I might have three hundred days ago.  Deciding what to do about them, well; that might be another story.  I'm definitely nowhere near infallible after 300 days of blogging, self-reflection, and dealing with my emotions, but I'm closer to being able to more quickly get myself out of situations that might not be best for me.  I'm hoping I'm healthier.  I'm definitely happier, and that will be addressed in my next blog post.  In the meantime, I wanted to take a few minutes before bed (my self-imposed deadline is 10:00 and that is in one minute) to celebrate another milestone, and to share it with all of you.  As soon as I can relax a little bit, I'll be heading straight back to my keyboard to talk about contentment, faith, and relaxing into my future.  At least, that's the plan.  I'll probably think of seventeen million other topics I want to address before I actually get the chance to write them.  But there are still sixty-five days left for me to talk about all the other things on my mind.

Ready for bed...and a minute past my deadline...