I was three years deep into a futile pattern of loving a friend who had professed love, but not shown that love fully, clearly or consistently. In short, he was emotionally unavailable. The more he pulled back, the more I gave. The more silent he became, the more I worked – and reworked – my communications, as though the right combination of words would open Pandora’s box of his heart. Three hundred sixty-five days later: “exhausted” didn’t begin to describe what I felt – I felt defeated. I had not only NOT gained the loving relationship I desired with him, but also had lost my joy along the way. My self-worth was tissue paper thin.
Curiosity about his on-again-off-again patterns turned into incessantly worrying “what did I do?” or “what can I do?” And even when he told me several times, in many ways, to not “hold space” for him, I said, “Okay,” feigning insouciance with the situation while maintaining a death grip on the withering hope that the love he gushed intermittently combined with the sweetness of our times together would eventually overwhelm his resistance to be “all in.” I ran up my credit cards seeking psychic advice, became addicted to YouTube videos on law of attraction and attachment styles, cried myself to sleep more times than I can count, swore him off (only to break my promise upon a text message), did cord cutting rituals and secretly felt responsible for my own misery.
These 1,095 days of yearning for him transformed my life. I touched on a previously-undiscovered core wound of unworthiness that had gone unnoticed until this point. My previous relationships weren’t deep enough to deliver me to myself. However, I had given this man access to my inner sanctum, and the connection with him tap-danced all over my deepest fears and showed me shadow selves I didn’t know existed. When I opened up to him, I received parts of me I didn’t know were there; namely, the alienated inner child self wanting to be heard, felt and held.
My mother always told me, “No one can tell you when you’ve had enough.” And it is very true. For each stage of my non-linear personal development, I’ve had to become so tired of experiencing whatever situation I was in that I, finally, decided to change. This was no different. I’m a do-it-til-it’s-done-type soul, and that trait has initiated me into the path of letting go. The day I discovered my neglected child self, I let go of needing him to be any kind of way. All this time, he was showing me me, and without my knowing it, I was being placed on the journey to become the love I’ve always craved – a love so intimate it could only come from within me. I admit, I am in the early stages of my letting go journey, but already I am learning so much.
As a recovering undercover overlover, I am learning to take it one day at a time, like anyone who is in recovery. I focus on anything that makes me smile, and I’m patient when I have trying moments. I don’t try to understand or fix them; I just breathe and let them pass through. I accept that letting go is sometimes a process, and it’s become my self-care practice as well. It requires me to be honest about my feelings and give them room to just be without my judgment or assessment. I am remembering how to soothe myself with childhood comforts of spontaneous dancing, writing, long walks and sitting in sunlight. I am taking an honest look at my finances and making lifestyle changes to repay my debts. I don’t check my phone nearly as much these days, and when I least expect it, I find myself feeling really good. I’ve even experienced a laugh so deep it made my sides hurt. Those moments are coming more frequently. I am finding joy. I’ve also changed the story I tell myself and others. Here it is:
I loved a man who, rather than giving me the love I desired, showed me how to create it for myself from within myself. He mirrored me to me, and although it hurt at times, it was worth it. 100%.
Asha T’nae is a freelance writer based in South Carolina. She is a certified birth doula and a self-proclaimed “recovering undercover overlover,” giving much respect to Erykah Badu for that label.