“I can’t commit to you the way you need me to,” he said.
I read the text five more times as the knot in my stomach tightened. The night before we had dinner, we held hands, we made love for hours and fell asleep in each other’s arms. He whispered “I love you” as he moved inside me. But taking me to get the results of my next CT Scan? Too much of a commitment.
We had been together for a (very tumultuous) year. Just coming out of a 14-year relationship, I ran straight into his arms and fell hopelessly in love immediately. We meditated and practiced reiki. We took long road trips and sang together in the car. We spent our days wrapped in bedsheets, exploring each other; I slept soundly in his arms.
A month into our relationship the effects of four years of chemotherapy for Stage IV cancer hit, and I was as close to death as I’ve ever been. Emergency surgery was required to repair a hole in my left lung that had ruptured, drawing my entire stomach into the lung and blocking my airflow. He was with me every night, helping me walk, making me laugh, reminding me that a soul lived inside this shell of a broken body. I was released after two weeks and we became inseparable.
In so many ways, he brought me back to life. Meeting him was like the power coming back on after a long period of darkness. He brightened everything, he made me feel alive again.
When things were good, they were amazing. But when things were bad…
Our battles were epic. Screaming matches in the streets, texting wars and long stretches of silence. Our fighting was matched only by the intensity of our desire for each other. I couldn’t get close enough to him, he needed ownership of every part of me. He didn’t like my friends, he tried controlling who I spoke to, where I went, what I wore. Yet, I couldn’t walk away. After years of numbing myself to the cancer and pretending everything was okay, it felt good to allow my anger to flow like a river; unfortunately, he was the recipient of that bottled up rage and it slowly chipped away at our connection.
He grew tired of my outbursts, I grew resentful of his control over me. Knowing how unhealthy this relationship was, we decided it would be best to part ways.
But I couldn’t let him go.
Scared of being alone, I hung on to the hope that we could work it out. Until the night I asked him to come with me for my scan and he said no, I truly believed we would get back together. But at that moment, I realized it was over and whatever the future held, I would be facing it without him.
I was terrified. I cried for days and fought every urge to reach out and beg him to stay. Countless times I held my phone, fingers hovering over the call icon by his name. Once again, I felt broken.
Lost and confused as to how to ease this pain, I began to meditate. For the first time in my life, I didn’t run. I didn’t pretend and I didn’t shut down. I sat with the pain and I felt it all; the fear of having a recurrence and going through it alone, the anger at myself for once again falling down this rabbit hole.
After a lifetime spent searching for someone to save me. After yet another night crying on the bathroom floor wondering how to stop this pain, I’d had enough. I realized pain doesn’t begin with broken relationships. This pain had dwelled inside of me for as long as I can remember; always looking to attach itself to something external. I started to notice my patterns, my comfort in playing the victim. I sat there in silence and felt the void no one could ever fill, that drew me to relationships that were doomed to fail.
But we always fall in love with the right person at the right time, when we are ready to see what they have to teach us.
I learned I’m not alone. I have friends and family who love and support me. I am strong. I learned the appearance of happiness isn’t actually the same as being happy. I learned inner peace is a choice and no one can give it to me or take it away. I learned I am worthy of a healthy love.
Through meditation and quieting my mind, I allowed space for my inner voice to be heard. I listened to what my soul needed. I didn’t need a partner to “complete me.” I needed to realize I’ve been complete my whole life, just different stages of growth.
I am not broken and I don’t need to be fixed. I needed to be loved…by me.
There may be more earthquakes and aftershocks ahead, but I’m learning to find my balance.
Author: Kathleen Emmets
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Darla Hueske at Flickr