Yesterday, the figurative curtains closed on five beautiful, hectic, too-fast years.
Exactly five years before yesterday, I met the man (then, only a boy), who seemed to be delivered straight from a sun-filled opening in the clouds.
He was exactly the type of person I needed at the time; I was anxious, timid, and my life was a whirling tornado of chaos. He was calm, level-headed and his life was nothing but happy times.
We fit together effortlessly. Our lives soaked in the nutrients of the other person’s disposition and perspective like a thirsty plant. We met five years ago yesterday, and a day later, we clicked together with no question. Neither of us hesitated, or even felt compelled to think about it. We spent the next day, and the next day, and the next 1,776 days after that within a few feet of each other, constantly talking, laughing, eating, drinking, sleeping.
There were several hundred days, maybe even a thousand entire days, of complete happiness. I smiled at him, he smiled at me. I laughed at him, he laughed at me. I kissed him, he kissed me. But then there was a day, or perhaps, just a second, when he didn’t smile back. Or I didn’t think his gregariousness was funny any longer. Or when my kisses, once such a source of joy, became a source of disruption as he sat at his desk, in our home, scouring the internet for work.
A day seems like such an insignificant portion of time, and yet my earliest memories of him are made of nothing but days, condensed into seconds in my mind that flick through my head like the scenery does when you’re looking out of the window of a moving car. I see mostly days spent in the sun. I see my smiling face. I see the two of us hopping into the car to chase after the sunset.
But as my memories of him come closer to today, the car starts to slow down, and the pictures stay longer. I see two sad, tired people sitting across from each other at their dinner table, struggling to find something to talk about. The sunny, orange-y glow that poured into the landscape of our early memories dissipates into a cool, dusky gray.
What day was it, when things started to go wrong? A day seems like such an insignificant portion of time, and yet, a day is all it takes. Or rather, an hour, or a minute, or a second. Five unexpected years blossomed from the choices I made on one single day, and the course of a relationship is no exception to this rule.
He asked me, three days ago, what I had learned since we parted ways. Having asked him the very same question, I was surprised to find myself struggling to answer.
What have I learned?
Relationships do not stay still.
They are not a lifeless, immovable object that sits in the corner of your home. They are not a lamp that shines light onto you constantly while you go about your business. They are not something outside of ourselves that creates who we are and how we feel.
You do not go to a relationship store, talk to a relationship sales-person, and buy a relationship based on a given set of factors and variables that are and always will be the same.
But this is how we go about relationships, too often. We expend so much energy as humans just looking for someone, anyone, to hold close to us at night. Fast forward to two, three years later, and that someone is… such a jerk, or a nag, or a heavy weight tied around your ankle, or the thing that’s holding you back.
And yet many of us stay, for seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, believing that if we just hope hard enough, or fight hard enough, or manipulate hard enough, we can find our way back to the day of purchase, when everything our person brought to the table was exactly what we wanted.
We’re told to struggle through it. We are told to persevere through resentment, the frustrations, the betrayals. We sit and we try with all our might to figure out how to keep it together.
But many of us forget to turn inwards. We instead try to stubbornly will our relationships back into the state we signed up for. We argue with each other out of jealousy and fear of abandonment, under the guise of keeping it together.
“If you would only act the way I think you should be acting,” we say. ”If you would only do the thing you should be doing,” we plead. We can barely stand the presence of the one we supposedly love, but we stress and strain and fight with each other to try and get our loved one to cooperate. That is the second, the minute, the day, that you’ve stopped having a relationship.
Take a breath.
Step back from your partner.
Look at them.
Relationships do not stay still. Nor do the people we choose to love.
So often, when we meet our partners, we feel a sense of relief and safety wash over us, like we’ve arrived at home from a long journey. Life, in all its twists and turns, begins again; this will always be true.
The feeling of home will dissipate and we will see that the person who arrived on our doorstep is not, in fact, able to haul the sun around for you personally, to shine on your life and all of your troubles so you never have to feel pain again.
But we miss that home feeling, that sense of relief, so much so that we pour emotional gasoline onto the very person we love, and strike a match, hoping that the light of the fire will be enough.
If you have a person you love next to you tonight, break away from your closeness.
Roll away from your partner’s warm body for just a moment, take a breath, and look at them.
Remind yourself that the person before you is separate, human, and is not now to be burdened with the task of manufacturing your happiness, even if they do bring you joy. Thank them for being a part of your life, thank every breath they spend sitting next to you, thank every moment when they look your way and say your name and hear the words that you speak.
For your relationship is nothing but seconds, turned into minutes, turned into hours, turned into days, and there is nothing more.
Author: Sarah Wingert
Assistant Editor: Rebecca Lynch/Editor: Travis May
Photo: Ion Chibzii/Wikimedia Commons
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