Sunday, October 9, 2011

Interlude: Admitting Defeat

I should be blogging my trip to Portland. I took it. Eventually I’ll get it on the page. But for the last couple of weeks something’s been eating at me and I’ve had a hell of a time trying to articulate it, and I think I finally can, so I’d like to just put it out there.

One of the reasons I started the Project as a purely anonymous pursuit was that I didn’t want to be getting comments from the peanut gallery that is my real life. The people I see on a daily or weekly basis and have a constant line of communication with. However, the more encouragement I got when discussing outside of the blog what I was doing, the more I thought it would be okay. I opened it up to a few people. I’m happy to say that while I don’t have a huge number of readers, that the readers I don’t know outweigh the ones I do, but it is still true that my closest friends read along with my attempts here.

These friends have also been along for the developing relationship between myself and the man I spoke about here. Chris lives in London, 4,772 miles from where I live. I met him online quite by accident.

That’s right, I said “relationship”.

The peanut gallery has had a lot of things to say about what I’m doing, about both Chris and the Project. The reason I publicized the blog was to develop a sense of accountability for my actions, so I welcome the feedback, but now I’m stuck in a conundrum of sorts, and it’s creating an internal conflict that is keeping me up at night.

You see, I am trapped on the one side by people who tease me for thinking of Chris as a relationship. I’ve never met Chris in person, he lives thousands of miles away, and he and I have grown very, very close. It can’t be *real*, of course, it can’t be substantial. How could it be? We’ve never been in the same room together. All we have is our hours of days of weeks of months of video-chats, our emails, our letters, the packages we’ve sent; and all of it can be discounted because the rest of it can boiled down to the simplest of terms: if there is no physical relationship, there is no relationship. Eyebrows raised, heads shaken. We’re ridiculous nerds.

More often than not, I am simply humored in regards to him, as though I am a teenager and he is a passing phase that I’ll grow out of in a couple of months when a “real” relationship comes along. I’ve heard it all. That he just seems romantic and exciting because he’s from another country, has an accent, and when that wears off so will my feelings. That everyone *seems* to have a lot in common in the beginning, and that I’m over-exaggerating the connection because I’m so desperate to be paired. And despite the many times I’ve rejected men with money, even while struggling and on welfare, because I knew I would never fall in love with them and be intimately connected with them, it has been insinuated that I just want to hurry up and settle down because I’m sick of being broke. I’m not here to argue against these points, and I won’t plead my case. You either trust my judgment or you don’t. All I’m doing is bringing you to my next point:

I find it ironic to be trapped on the other side by the same people who are implying that our relationship isn’t “real” reminding me that being in a relationship means that I’ve failed yet again. The relationship isn’t real, but none-the-less it constitutes a failure.

Well, I’d agree with that second bit. I have failed. The point of the Project was one thing: stay single for 6 months. I didn’t do this.

I don’t know how long I managed it, really. I remember reaching 3 months and saying out loud to myself “This is the longest I have been single since I was fifteen years old.” I was proud. To be honest, I’ve been proud of myself quite a bit, even once my relationship with Chris became more serious, because I still felt like I was making progress. Something happened recently that wiped that smug pride off of my face, though.

I’ll start by saying that my boss is a terrible judge of appropriateness. A carrier rep came in recently and despite having told my boss on multiple occasions not to discuss the Project, or in fact my personal relationships (he’s fallen into the trap of “not shutting the hell up” twice previously) with anyone, he did so anyway. The rep went on to agree with my boss that I was in fact “in a relationship”, and that I had in fact failed at the Project and may as well abandon it. Neither stopped for a moment to consider that perhaps I would be sensitive about any of it; that perhaps I would be hurt by the implication that I had yet again failed miserably.  In fact they got a good laugh out of it, while I tried to smile politely and take it in good humor. The rep even went so far as to ask me how sexuality factored into my online delusion – what was I showing this guy during our video-chats, anyway? Harharhar. It’s all a joke.

I went home that night and cried. I told Chris what had happened and shook my head in defeat. I told him that our relationship, one of love, support, tenderness and understanding, was just another miserable failure on my part. I was just repeating the same patterns, falling into the same traps. I had somehow ended up not only in another relationship, but in a relationship whose only ending can be marriage if he is to live in the same country as me. I had not only gone back to what I was comfortable with, I was going to take it further and faster than any relationship in my past. It screamed rebound, didn’t it?

It had all made sense as it was happening. I hadn’t gone searching for Chris, he had simply appeared. I hadn’t been seeking out a relationship, I had slowly and somehow effortless just woken up in one. At some point, with no suddenness whatsoever, I had woken up one day in love. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t aspire to it. I had met a person with like interests who I wanted to talk to. I talked to him more, uncovered more about him that I could understand and relate to. One day I realized I missed him when he wasn’t there, and the next day he was the first thing I thought of when I woke up. I didn’t *try* to fall in love with him, I didn’t set out to be in love. After days and weeks and hours and hours of long conversations and communications and face to face talks long into the night, I was staring into the face not of a stranger on another continent, but of a kindred soul that I could no longer imagine not having in my life. Do with that what you will, I suppose.

 You can imagine Chris’ reaction to being told that a relationship he held so close was naught but a failure. I can’t imagine the hurt I inflicted by suggesting that to him. The poor thing, in his hurt, did nothing but try to comfort *me*, which looking back on it is horrible. Trying to remind me that our relationship is sweet, and special, and loving; that it is in fact real despite naysayers voicing to the contrary. How difficult that must have been considering there had to be some voice of doubt planted in his mind at that point – am I just another in a long line of her mistakes? Is the way she feels for me just another grasp at not being alone anymore?

Perhaps the Project is just a farce now. It probably is. After all, the whole point was for me to stay single for just 6 short months, and I didn’t do it. I fell short. I don’t know how far I made it because I’m not really sure what day it was that I realized I was in love with Chris. I’m not sure when we rounded that corner from friends to sweethearts. In the end, it doesn’t matter, does it? I didn’t achieve what I set out to achieve. The rest is just grasping at straws – at weak rationalizations.

Still, I believe I’ve gained a lot from the Project none-the-less. I’ve come so far since June. I don’t even notice the time I’m alone in my house anymore. I don’t notice my being alone at restaurants. I don’t wrestle with my independence the way that I once did. I feel a value in myself that I didn’t really have a grasp on before. I’m going to keep doing the Steps, even if they’re a lie, because even if I’ve failed in the war, I believe I can still win some of these battles.

I publicized the Project to gain some accountability, but it didn’t really work. I didn’t follow through, and now the feedback I’m getting is to call it a loss and I don’t think I’ll listen to that either. I don’t think I’ll quit. And I don’t think I’ll call it a loss, for that matter. I gained a lot in the journey, even if I never reached the destination. I am still building my ship, even if I already have a passenger. I hope he stays with me through the storms, but if he doesn’t, my ship will still be strong. It is my ship, and I am its captain.