So, according to my friend Bethany, this is not the first or even second time that I have declared a rigid sabbatical from men following a break-up. Which I had sort of forgotten.
“Don’t you remember?” she asked me over the phone recently.
“You mean seven years ago, when the ex-fiancé and I broke up, and I said it was going to be a year before I would date or talk to a man, because I needed to grieve perfectly?”
“Yes, but then when you moved to California a year later, you extended it again, for another six month period.”
“Hmm. Are you sure?” I asked.
“Miranda, I have emails I could forward you—it was this big thing, and you were adamant about it. You just didn’t put it on the internet that time.”
I only vaguely remember this, which is probably why I should put everything on the internet. The one thing that I do clearly remember was the conversation with my therapist Jennifer, when I announced my one-year plan all those years ago, and she made it clear that she thought my “rigid constructs” and “black and white view” of my world were unhealthy and unsustainable, and that I needed to learn how to “become comfortable with grey” because how could I possibly know that “exploring something with someone who comes into your life wouldn’t be a healthy thing?”
Those are actual quotes, guys.
I remember being surprised that my therapist wasn’t even remotely endorsing my swearing off of men for a year following the collapse of my engagement: it was what healthy people did, wasn’t it? I was going to ensure that I didn’t fall into any avoidance traps—I wouldn’t lose myself in a relationship and I wouldn’t cover the pain of the breakup with someone else. I would grieve perfectly, and get a gold star.
Did you catch that? The above, right there? The part where I have an idea about how something should look/play out/be perfect based not on actual personal experience but on ideas of what’s right and what’s wrong that I had somehow accumulated over the years, obliquely? Which is a truly terrible method for forming belief systems?
That’s a construct. At that time, I had never had a huge breakup before, and didn’t even have a pattern of using a new relationship as an avoidance tactic—but I had observed that it’s what some people did and I could clearly see it was a very bad idea. And so, just to be safe, I went on a preemptive pattern strike.
But instead of stopping to discover what would really be healthy for me/what would be a true pattern break—which is what Jennifer was getting at and why she was encouraging shades of grey—in my effort to be healthy and get a breakup gold star, I took a one-sized-fits-all approach and jumped in. And I jumped right into a black and white, construct-filled situation that merely reinforced my pattern, although I couldn’t see it at the time. Because that’s the thing about patterns.
That’s one of the most treasured aspects of close, long-lasting friendships, isn’t it? That we can carry a memory for our friend and remind them when they’ve forgotten an essential piece of the puzzle.
“You think that your pattern is about how you get into relationships,” Bethany continued. “You tell yourself this story—about you falling in love with men and moving so quickly. But, that’s not exactly what happened with the ex-boyfriend, for example. Yes, you moved in right away, but it was largely based on convenience and an exercise in trying something new. You were actually doing a really good job of dipping your toe into a new type of relationship, and of not taking it too seriously. It didn’t have any sort of label—it was grey, and you went with it. You were breaking out of your real pattern.”
She had a point. My ex-boyfriend is my dear friend’s roommate, which is how we met. When I moved back to the East Coast last year, I couldn’t find an apartment I adored for the life of me, and I absolutely refuse to settle on a living space—I typically have amazing apartment karma. Since I was over there all of the time anyway, they both suggested that I just move in and keep looking—or if I was happy staying, stay and if not, leave. Which is what I did—in only nine months versus the four years it had taken me both with my ex-fiancé and ex-husband. Which means I am learning.
Sheila pointed out in the very first love detox post: “What’s really missing isn’t the perfect relationship with someone else…it’s self-acceptance and knowing that you are worthy of amazing things, and worthy of an amazingly loving relationship with yourself, where you approve of yourself right now, imperfections and all.”
That’s what this project is really all about—me getting to know myself, what it is I truly want, who I am and loving that person completely. This project is learning how to give myself the nourishment that I always depended on from outside relationships, because I had been willing to make them my entire world. This project is about learning to let my sparkle flag fly, whatever that looks like.
In discussing this with my other very dear, wise friend Caitlin, she nearly knocked me over with one simple sentence: “You get to make (and change) the rules in your life.”
She’s right. I get to make and change the rules in my life. And if that includes making real-time changes to this project, in service of what is actually healthy and happy making, then I will.
Which is a very long lead-up to say: I am changing the rules of this project, you guys.
More on Thursday, in Part 2.