Anger was getting me nowhere. That was always the case. When I was a little girl, my brothers knew that if I got mad at them, it was only a matter of minutes, after cajoling, funny faces, and tickling, before I burst out laughing against my will, letting them back into my good graces again. I was always the first to cave in an argument.
As I got older, the sulking period grew a bit longer, especially depending on how long resentment had been building up, but that negative time was still a flash in the grand scheme of things. After a defensive eruption of harsh words, I would always wind up feeling worse after the initial high of finally getting the pent-up emotions off my chest. The disconnect always left me feeling empty. So much of my life derives meaning from connection.
Some people can hold grudges until the day they die. I have friends who haven’t spoken to their parents in years. Or who, after some harsh words said in the heat of the moment, lost their best friends forever and pride forbade them from ever making up. I never could understand it. No matter how angry I got, no matter how hurt I was over something, I always sought peace, forgiveness, or some other form of closure.
Around the middle of this week, after I got great feedback and commendation at work, very promising leads for the next step in my career, and an awesome writing project for the summer, I was riding high. I had two fabulous dates with The Brit. I was feeling inspired again. I was re-connecting with friends I’d somehow gotten out of touch with.
During one of my daily chats with Tina, the mutual German friend of Mr. Etiquette’s and mine, I spoke of how I just wanted this cloud of negativity between me and him to be behind us. It was the only thing holding me back from really being at peace with the moment. I told her I felt this urge to reach out and lay down the olive branch between us. She encouraged me, smiling, as I sent the following message:
I’m sorry if u felt I was too harsh on u. I want to let go of this negativity. Life is looking so good for me right now & I want to enjoy it fully w/o the shadow of this ugliness between us. I sincerely wish you well.
There was an agonizing five or more minutes where he didn’t respond, and then the phone rang. Mr. Etiquette popped up on the screen. I anxiously picked up. He talked, and I mostly listened for a long time. I heard his perspective. I let him say what he needed to say. I let him talk about Sara without feeling like it was competition. I listened with forgiveness and understanding in my heart. I felt it when he said he was sorry and that he never meant to hurt me. I said I knew that, but he did. I felt it when he said he missed me and when he told me how much i meant to him and still do. He still confused me with certain words he repeated that I thought still gave hope. I told him why saying those things weren’t fair right now. He understood why it confused me, but he said he didn’t say this things to confuse me. It was just how he felt. He said he really wanted me to still be in his life in some friendly capacity. He didn’t know how we could do it but he asked me if we could try.
After our phone call ended, Tina and I continued our Skype talk. She sounded very happy that we had reconciled to the point of at least making the effort of truly being friends solely this time. Mr. Etiquette started messaging her. He said how happy he was to talk with me and glad we were making amends. He told her he was heading out to see a show. Nosy me asked where he was going. I knew he wasn’t going with Sara, since she only gives him a couple hours on Sunday afternoons right now. They are not boyfriend and girlfriend. They are just moving slowly to start “dating” again.
He told Tina where and asked if I wanted to come. He hated going to the bars by himself. I hemmed and hawed. Thought it was probably a bad idea. But I had just told Tina that the only way I could see us being successfully friends was if we had activities outside the home that kept us positively and constructively doing stuff, not over-analyzing and going into the danger zone of emotions. Tina gave her Swiss opinion. Mr. E and I both deliberated, my dad objected, but finally I decided let’s go for it.
I showed up looking killer. I didn’t intend to. I wanted to just be totally casual in regular jeans and a cute top. Until I realized I had a couple hours earlier put all my clothes in the wash. So I was left with a top I originally had bought for work (but it looked downright scandalous when I put it on tonight), and white tight jean capris. Only thing that went with those were tall wedge-type heels. I decided it didn’t hurt for him to see me looking fabulous, not broken and grieving.
He certainly approved. Unfortunately even in his casual wear, I still found my heart turning over a bit, but I tried to be as blase as possible. Of course, he wouldn’t allow it. We talked of many things. At first he sounded hopeful about Sara, her possibility for recovery. How there were things she was doing now that reminded him of the old Sara he loved, which gave him encouragement. But he admitted he was also scared. He found himself waiting by the phone. Wondering why she didn’t text sometimes. Wondering if he didn’t initiate contact, would she? Wondering if he can trust her to show the next time. I reminded him it’s still so early, she’s not yet getting the treatment she needs, and he’s got to be very patient.
He kept telling me how amazing I looked. How wonderful it was to see me. How much he missed me, my smile, my laugh, how easily we can communicate. “Things are so easy with us. I hope things can be this easy again with Sara again,” he said. Seeing me again reinforced how strong his feelings for me had been and still are. He worried if things didn’t work out with Sara, and I had moved on, he wouldn’t know what he’d do if he lost us both. He questioned whether he was doing the wrong thing, making a mistake to choose Sara now.
I told him there was no wrong choice. Even after he’s proven to himself that there is another amazing woman he was starting to fall in love with, he still can’t fully let Sara go. The only way he will ever know for sure if Sara still is or is not the woman for him is to see a) if she can and will get mentally healthy again to be the happy and wonderful girl he was blissfully in love with for 6 months b) if by then, too much time hasn’t passed that he has given up hope, and c) if they get that far, can he trust that she will stay consistently healthy enough that she won’t completely shut him out again for a year like she did and break his heart all over again. So many ifs I said.
“I have always been a dreamer,” he told me. “What if I’m just deluding myself into thinking she can ever really get healthy?” We talked for a while about the real possibilities that even with the proper medication and therapy, she might not be able to fully conquer this generalized anxiety disorder that she seems to have inherited from her mother. But I reminded him she’s starting to being proactive now and including him in her struggles. That’s a big change in the right direction.
When all the psychoanalyzing got too depressing, talking in circles, we spoke of other things, of the great things going on in my life. He sounded so pleased for me, and I was so proud to be able to share how amazing life was growing for me again even without him by my side. I showed I was strong enough to stand alone from him. I said I was dating again. That made him jealous, he admitted, wanted to know about The Brit. Tough shit. He cautioned me not to move too fast. “Like I did with you?” I asked. And then the music finally started and we got caught up in the joy of just grooving at a show together.
After the show, we talked as he drove me home: “I am a man torn between my love for two different women.” He wondered if the woman he once loved even still existed or could still exist again. Will things ever be as easy with her as they once were, as they were and still are with me? Will intimacy, whenever she allows it again, be awkward and just feel plain wrong? I told him he won’t know until he experiences it.
“There is still more than the wonderful friendship we have between us here,” he said, while we sat in my driveway, unable to leave just yet, very loosely holding hands, possibly for the last time. “You feel it too, right?” I silently nodded. “There was always so much more between us than just the chemical,” he said.
Though this night maybe should have been painful and just opening up old wounds again, it wasn’t. It confirmed to me that Mr. Etiquette wasn’t the completely asshole I’d demonized him into in my own grief over losing him. He didn’t handle things right, but who knows if I would’ve done it better in his shoes. It also confirmed to me that what we shared was real and mutual, and not something I made more of in my head. Somehow that was reassuring. So off we go to be sometimes friends. There’s too much between us now to do more than just touch base every now and then. Yet that’s okay with me now. I have found the peace and closure I needed.