October 15, 2013

5 Things I Learned from My Ex-Lovers.

Something good’s gotta have come out of all that heart-ache and break-up-angst right?


Not that there’s anything terribly wrong with any of the people I’ve shared my life with. We’re all pretty mixed-up beings just trying to navigate a way and find love out here in this big old world. So there’s gonna be mistakes, there’s gonna be good times and there’s gonna be bad.

I’ve been overly cautious with some of them, thrown my whole heart into loving others, been childish, been too clever, been too naive, been too knowing. I’ve rejoiced at the thought of some and winced at the memory of others. I’ve stayed friends with some and wished them only the best, juiciest, most beautiful things for their lives; I’ve also reduced others to nothing more than a passing name in a list of ex-boyfriends.

Most of all, I’ve learned, I’ve learned and I’ve learned.

Today, I am single again (but oh, that tide’s ever-changing too) and finding moments to enjoy only the company of myself. Today, as I sit here, in love with this newfound aloneness and loneliness, I think back to all the lessons that those boys, men, friends have passed to me, mostly unknowingly, during our shared times.

And in spite of all the pain and sadness and splintered hearts across all those years, I can now only say thank you and feel grateful that they have figured at all in my life.

1. There is only today

I had great anxieties in every relationship about it ending, about him loving someone else, about us arguing and falling apart. And when we did eventually fall and break apart, I looked back and realized that I had worried away all that special time together. In the end, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, everything I feared came true and the times we did share I never really, truly enjoyed for what it could have been.

If our seams were to eventually tear and we were to fall apart, then no amount of worrying would have mended it anyway; and if we weren’t meant to fall apart, then all that worrying would have amounted to nothing.

I realize now that underneath and beyond the anxiety and the fear of loss, there is only today, this afternoon, this hour that I can shape, fall in love and play with. Someone told me to live every day with him as if it was the first day we were together—how gorgeous to bring this state of present-ness into every ‘today’ and to allow ourselves to just abide and be and live in the enjoyment of each other.

2. I am enough

My partners have never given me cause to feel inadequate and yet, I have always made myself feel less-than—my breasts aren’t big enough, I’m not funny enough, I’m not clever enough, I’m not brave enough, I can’t do enough of a fancy back-bend. But really, we are always enough, perfectly beautiful just as we are. This is what they fall in love with in the first place: us, just as we are.

It’s only when we feel we’re not enough, that we could be better and change and ‘improve’ and be more-than, that we stop being the person they fell in love with in the first place. There’s that awful irony, that as we try to better ourselves so that they will love us more, we are in fact taking ourselves further and further away from the very person they wanted to love from the beginning.

3. It is okay to be alone (single)

It seems a bit of a paradox that I had to go through so many years of heartache to realize that I’m actually okay alone. I have spent years slipping in and out of that sad need to hold on to someone, something, without even realizing how dependent I had become on a person outside myself to be a happier, wholesome version of me.

Again, I realize now that all the boys who fell in love with me did so because when they first met me, I was alone. More than that, I was so okay with being alone, so free and sassy and happy, that the radiance of my singleness is precisely what drew them to me at all. I forget this all too quickly and before I know it, I’m terrified of the thought of going a day without him.

In truth, we are always going to be okay alone. In fact, most of us don’t realize that we’re sometimes at our best—when the light shines most brilliantly in our eyes, when we dance with the greatest fervour, when we laugh from the deepest nooks of our stomach—when we’re on our own.

 4. It is okay to love with abandon

As well as embracing single-ness, my relationships have also taught me how okay it is to open up my heart with a wrench and let it love completely, totally and with that aching abandon that can only be described as a sort of exquisite pain. How different our lives would be if we have never known this sort of love; and how different we are once we have even tasted a little of  it. In that moment, no matter how brief or how destructive it may be in the end, I think we glimpse the fullest capacity of our hearts—how splendid and spaceless and warm it feels all at once to just love and love and love and love and…

To know this enormous love for even one person awakens us to the possibility that we can even love like that at all.

I am in constant awe of this, for it means I have it in me to love yet another and another and another just like that, to an infinity.

 5. Don’t settle for anything less than endless exploration

After the thrilling new sex, after the wondrous fascination, after the disgruntlements—let there always be room for exploration, adventure, excellent conversation and discoveries about each other. Let’s never settle for anything less because really, we all know that dull, nauseating ache that comes of being bored with the person we’re with.

I’ve had fantastic romps in the bedroom with someone only to sit across from him, one lackluster dinner after another, and not have a single interesting conversation; I spent six wonderful months with another, only to hit an awful dead-end silence when we realized we had absolutely nothing in common and no interest in each other’s lives. I’ve understood that the only thing lonelier than being alone is being with someone who you have nothing to say to.

From all these years of sheer, unadulterated boredom, I’ve learnt that I will now only share a life with someone who is as endlessly passionate about exploring me as I am him, uncovering the mini spectacles of the world and being insatiably curious. For how can we share a life with someone without continuously discovering, creating and recreating it together?

I’m still learning. Every day that I’m alone or I flirt with a guy over text messages or I hold hands with someone who I think maybe I’d like to spend xx number of years of my life with, I’m learning. I stumble, I weep, I laugh, I love a little harder.

I think about the things I could have done differently before, the things I will do differently next, the silly regrets and the silly piggyback rides that still make me giggle.

I’m learning, I’m learning, I’m learning.

I think the best relationship there ever could be—with myself, with ‘The One’ or The-Many-More-That-Are-Yet-To-Come-Along—is one where I won’t ever stop.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photo via Leland Francisco on Flickr Creative Commons}

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