Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Laying things to rest

A few years ago, I ended contact with a girl named Catherine. The ending was bitter and acrimonious, as you can probably tell from this earlier post, and despite the passage of time (four years now), the matter has never really escaped my consciousness. I think today, finally, I could put some closure on this because after four years of twisting it around in my brain, I see a complete picture. Or, as complete a picture as I'm likely to arrive at.

I don't know if the fact that I've held on to an acrimoniously-ended relationship as long as I did is a testament to my obsession with understanding my failings or an indictment of my inability to get past events in my life, emotionally. My favorite answer is both. There was a truth I needed to reach, a truth I could accept as such and not just a justification that we hypothesise, find the facts that lend credence to it and force ourselves to accept and forget, for the sake of our peace of mind. I think I'm there. I hope I am. I'm desperate to get past this but not desperate enough to replace one ill-fitting justification with another.

First up, she definitely made mistakes, some of them unforgivable. She led me on, she took me in, she focused on me entirely and then she withdrew with such force and lack of explanation, it was like a vital organ had been ripped out through my chest. Then, I was given the outsider treatment, the cold eyes that pretend they've never seen you before. Those are harsh because you immediately (and over the coming few years), proceed to recall all the vulnerable moments you allowed her to be a part of and you become ashamed at your own weakness and enraged at the force of her betrayal. The shame, and the rage, are natural. The shame, and rage, I've covered before.

What's new today is my part in all this. What I failed to see at the time and what I failed to understand, even though it was right there, and what I failed to allow myself to accept, because it would have meant forgiving her. Maybe you understand truths like that, not after a certain distance from the event, but at a certain point. Maybe the pain of rejection and hurt will always trump our ability to see what's in plain view. I don't know. All I know is that it's as clear to me now as it wasn't back then.

She had life to live, whereas I didn't which made it easy for me to give up my life to be with her, but not so easy for her. She moved to New York and she wanted to experience life; she wasn't done experiencing it, in fact, she was just starting off. Being in any kind of relationship is no way to do that, in fact, it defies the point. It's too restrictive and involves compromise, which is never on the cards for someone who wants to experience life. To take it in, indiscriminately, whatever it may bring. You learn from life and the hunger for learning can never truly be put aside. I, of all people, should have known that.

She moves here, she reaches out to me, a familiar presence whom she felt comfortable with and engages in a sexual relationship. To me, it felt right, even though I initially had my doubts about it. To her, it was a comfort bridge, something that made a big move from Boston to New York, easier. She felt confident that we could relapse into friendship once it was over-in retrospect, a horrendous mistake. I saw it as her moving here to be close to me.

How humiliating it is to admit something like that. I mean, the ego on me, really. It might be an understandable assumption but out here in the cold, hard light of blog scrutiny, it doesn't make me feel any less humiliated.

By the time she withdrew (with panicked swiftness and uncharacteristic clumsiness), it was too late. My own insecurities and refusal to believe that I hadn't done something wrong had kicked in, and I lashed out every way I knew how. I tried to see it from her point of view (I remember, sitting in my apartment, trying) but I just couldn't. All I fixated on was how crudely she's withdrawn and how cruel it felt.

I made peace with her at the time and decided to keep my distance, a dignified retreat that allowed me to wallow freely in self-pity. Then, on a trip to Egypt, I discovered she'd told someone that I had pursued her aggressively and wouldn't take no for an answer. That set me off again and I hurled fury-laced emails at her, wishing her the worst kind of deaths. Her lying about it so blatantly, I can now put down to a desire to save face, but at the time, it represented her mendacious, vindictive nature and confirmed my own victim-like mentality. That I had been played and boy, was I humiliated.

Since then, we haven't spoken a word to each other. I ran into her on the street, a few weeks ago and we barely acknowledged each other. It's better this way because there's nothing to be said. She fucked up and I didn't understand. I wouldn't want to verbalize my lack of understanding any more than she would her recklessness with my feelings.

There's a really poorly thought out Arabic proverb (adhered to with fury these days, in the mess that is the Middle East) that says "The instigator is the more guilty party" which, in plain English, means if you start it, it's on you. While there's a neat righteousness to it, it's not something I can subscribe to. We're all judged on our actions in this world, but everyone knows the subtle workings of our own mind. I contribute to everything around me and a lot of times, I take advantage of it. Nothing happens in a vacuum and the outcome of things with that girl are as mine as the choices that I poured into the whole regrettable episode.

That's one lesson but it's not the biggest lesson. The biggest lesson, for me, is that people need to live their lives and you can't try and slow them down. In fact, it's best to not get in their way at all. If you can show someone that, that could be the foundation of a lasting relationship. If you, or they, feel that they can't, it's best to get out of the way. There is no stemming the tide of human passion. If it's a passion they can share, they'll invite you on board. If it's a passion they need to fulfill on their own, no amount of flagging down will cause them to take you on. And if they do, they'll hate you for life.

And it's probably for having those passions that you were attracted to them in the first place. It's ironic how you can love someone for something and then when they cite the same thing as a reason for being away from you, you resent them for it. I remember, early on in our friendship, understanding Catherine's need to get out of her shell, explore her passions and succeed away from the insulated reality of her past. I understood it so perfectly and then just like that, I forgot it.

I always used to say I never trusted a girl who'd never had her heart broken. Now, I'm going to modify that a little. I only want to be with a girl who's connected with her passions, at her own pace and decided there's room for me.


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