DISCLAIMER: Heavy topics ahead–read at your own risk.
It is a tale of addiction and abuse, but it all started when he handed me that sprinkler valve. As he explained to me the parts on my fourth day at the irrigation store, I felt the electric shock of the solenoid, only to discover that it was the result of our flesh meeting for the first time.
He turned the valve on. Not the sprinkler’s. My heart. He ignited life and passion in me. His coarse, warm hands guided me on new adventures, away from my anxieties and insecurities. He made me feel fearless. I fell in love. Not only with him though. With myself too. I was fun. Beautiful. Adventurous. From lifting weights at the gym to sneaking onto the football field at midnight, I could do anything as long as he was with me. I felt bold and free. It was the ultimate love story. My favorite love story.
That love story sustained me for years when the love left and it just became a good story.
Until the story became one of many fictionalized tales for why he was gone. Why his eyes were so glassy. Why he kept his car locked in the garage. Why his pupils were so small. Why he was in the bathroom for 30 minutes every night.Why I couldn’t play the hamster game on his phone after mine had died from playing too much Candy Crush. Why he was up at 6 AM on a Saturday downstairs. Why we were always out of aluminum foil. Why he was always tired. Why he always had to go on late night trips to see his sick grandmother. Why I was so alone when my “soulmate” was sitting next to me in a daze.
I believed. I believed that work was exhausting. I believed that he had allergies. I believed, just like I believed Santa Claus was real years after I knew he wasn’t. It was too improbable, but I could cling to the Christmas magic for a few more years maybe. After all, what would I do on Christmas Eve instead of baking the cookies and sprinkling the driveway in glitter, while writing a letter of gratitude to the magical man himself? Offer to help my mom wrap the presents that she would label in feigned handwriting? I knew that Santa wasn’t real. But I knew I could artificially create that magic by lining the yard in carrots for the reindeer. Even though I knew my mom would scramble outside in the cold, wearing her furry flip-flops, to pick them up and dispose of them before morning. Sure it wasn’t a midnight snack for the reindeer, but did that change my joy of lining messages in carrots in the yard? No.
Maybe if I believed, then the lies would become the truth? My truth. I think psychologists call this denial, but I preferred wishful thinking. But I knew. I just knew that knowing meant that it would erase the story I wrote for my future.
As egotistical as this confession sounds, I have always prided myself on navigating my accomplishments with precise intention in a timely manner. From accepting the offer for my dream career before graduating top of my class to buying my house as a twenty-two year old woman, I’ve always been proud of my goals and how I can break down a process to achieve them. Granted, we were supposed to be married by the time we bought the house per the Alexa’s Life Map Version 10.2, but that is the one part of the story I couldn’t control. He hadn’t proposed. He was supposed to by closing, but he didn’t. Was I going to call off closing because I didn’t have a ring? No. I trusted he had some master surprise that he had been planning for at least 329 days. Now, I had the man, career, dog, and green backyard that I wanted. All at 22 years old.
When I recognized his excuses were lies, I realized that my life that I was so proud of was also a lie. But as I sat in my home, gazing at the cabinets I stained myself in a nice java to the paintings I created and collected adorning the walls, I made the conscious decision that I loved my life–lies and all–more than the fear of the unknown. What my life would be like when I had to order the Chinese food on the phone by myself? When I moved back into the room I had when I was four years old? When I was no longer loved?
I didn’t know the answer, so I stayed. Status quo, right?
I focused so much on upholding the status quo that I didn’t notice that I went from breathless terror any time there was news of a fatal car accident where we lived for fear that he went too fast in the Audi to paralyzed fear, while gripping my dog, hiding in the guest bedroom while he was in a fit of anger.
I hadn’t noticed that my fear of losing him was actually fear of him losing himself in a fight.
I guess that is when I lost myself to my fears. When I realized that my perfect palace was a perception plunging away from its precarious perch. Instead of trying to pick myself up from the fall, I tried to pretend it wasn’t rock bottom. I held up the facade of my life and relationship with toothpicks, when I finally found the courage to acknowledge that I had made a mistake. I was going to have to give it all up. Swallow my pride. Sell my house. Start over.
Failure has always been my phobia. I’ve done everything I can to avoid it, even though I preach the growth mindset in my class. I had to accept failure. The life that I spent 4 and half years building failed. It was over.
I couldn’t fix it. I couldn’t fix him. Because I had to fix myself.
But to do that, I had to admit that I was broken.
It took me long enough but I had enough.
It is when I let myself fail for the first time that I found myself. The person that was lost in trying to save someone else.
I don’t know why I am telling this story. It is ugly and confusing, but I cannot help but think of the ancient art of kintsukuroi. The famous Japanese art of repairing pottery with gold to show how it can be even more beautiful for being broken.
On social media, we tend to paint the best pictures of ourselves. But I don’t want to be a slave to an insatiable image of perfection. No, kintsukuroi. It is in our weaknesses that we are strong. It is where we are broken that we mend. I will fix myself in gold. And I will let myself fall again. And I will break. And I will build again in an infinite cycle of risks, mistakes, triumphs, and lessons.