I’m at the track again after another night of crap sleep; for the last month or so I wake myself repeatedly choking in my sleep. As I warm up, I worry. I’m gonna have to keep it together for 1000m repeats and I’m not feeling confident at all. I’m exhausted. I’m sad. My grief over losing Kevin feels endless. I start at 6:19. Won’t be able to hold that. I pull like hell to keep as much speed as I can through the first repeat.
I’m frustrated as I slow to recover by how awful I still feel and how much I miss him. I catch myself thinking how if he’d just talk to me, if he’d just accept some responsibility for some of what went wrong this wouldn’t be so painful. Some part of me pushes back; Do you? Do you need a man who’s unable or unwilling to repair a ruptured attachment? Do you need him to take responsibility?
I take off again. Angry and distracted, I start to pick up the pace after 400m thinking I’m almost through the repeat. I roll my eyes and struggle to keep the faster pace anyway. I pant wildly as I finish the repeat out of control and slow to a crawl.
If he hurt me it’s because I let him. He isn’t going to take responsibility–so how will I?
I remember the conversation I’ve discussed with my therapist at least three times now–that one ignored red flag that stands out to me in hindsight.
“If you tend to be avoidant in conflict, that might be a big problem for us,” I say during a phone conversation.
“I don’t want to think we’ll have any problems.”
He literally avoided the conversation and I let him. There it was, he told me very clearly. Of course by then I was falling in love with him and in my attunement, read his affection and desire for closeness in the tone of his voice. I was completely in touch with that and let the words pass with no further concern. I could have gently pushed for more information. I could have managed my own expectations. I was so invested in him that I failed to protect myself.
I take off again, running like a machine. My eyes are starting to hurt so I relax them; I don’t need to see much. I let myself go vacant. When I hear the beep I slow.
Do I feel abandoned? How did I abandon myself?
That night I couldn’t calm down I could have tried one more time. Sure, he’d shut down and I was so upset I was hyperventilating–but if I had the presence of mind to write a note I surely had the presence of mind to wake him up. I could have repeated that I was scared and I needed him to talk to me if he didn’t want me to leave. That would have shown a great deal more self-respect than the way I slipped out weeping in the early morning, fearful and deferent to his stonewalling.
“It seems like you need space,” I told him. What about what I needed? When did I say “No, you can’t push me away and stew about this indefinitely. If I am important to you I need communication. If you love me I need you to demonstrate that I am emotionally safe with you.”
Now I’m running through my tears as I grasp the ways I threw myself under the bus to go on loving someone who let me feel like I didn’t matter to him.
I run fast and cry, and I apologize to myself:
I’m sorry I didn’t protect you.
I’m sorry I abandoned you.
I’m sorry I let you be hurt.
I’m sorry I accepted unhealthy relationship behavior.
I’m sorry, Laura. I’m so sorry.
Movement catches my eye and I look up; a hawk flies overhead to circle the wood ahead of me, his broad wings catching the breeze dramatically. I keep running, but stop crying and stare in wonder. I am mesmerized by this bird, by his effortless grace and strength. For now, I abdicate my struggle for responsibility and closure as something I’ve resolved within myself and sail on the wings of my own fortitude.