So far this week, my closet collapsed into a heaping mess, I wept like a dramatic teenage girl, and I had an epiphany as I lay on my bathroom floor. It has been a busy week…and it is only Tuesday morning.
It started out simple enough while I was putting away clothes on Sunday night. I reached up to place a couple of shirts on the stack, and everything came crashing down. Since I was completely unaware of the stress my closet had been under, this mangled mess of clothes, hangers, shoes and wire shelving was somewhat of a shock. Apparently, I had hit the load bearing weight limit. As I stood there looking at what appeared to be a scene from a Hoarding: Buried Alive episode, I thought, “Well shit. It’s time for a beer.”
After a beer or three, I decided to text a friend about how much I missed him. This friend is a fellow veteran. A few months before we had started to text and call each other, and it became an everyday staple for me. We laughed. We flirted. We became friends. We talked about nearly everything under the sun. He wanted to become a teacher. I wanted to write books. We both did photography. We planned a couple of visits and had two of the most memorable weekends of my life. We stayed up half the night talking about our pasts, pain, and dreams. We hiked on a trail and in a canyon while photographing every nuance of nature we saw. We drove around singing songs on the radio together. We held hands and kissed. When I looked into his eyes, I really SAW him. I could see his spirit and the man he was and wanted to be. I was absolutely comfortable in his presence. There were no pretenses or masks – it was honest and true.
Due to living a few hours away from each other, most of our time was on the phone though. As the weeks passed, life became an obstacle. He started a new job. He was under a lot of stress. I left for a month on military duty. I was getting busy at both of my jobs. We still chatted but they were becoming less frequent. I was starting to ask if there was something wrong. I was starting to get sad. We had never really agreed on a relationship status due to the long-distance issue, but clearly some sort of one had formed and I was starting to feel the pain of its absence.
So, in true girl form, I started to act weird. I started creeping on his Facebook page. I posted sad messages about loneliness. Why is he online but not replying to me? I replayed sappy love songs. (See song below.) Why didn’t he invite me to see him last weekend when we were both available? I wrote depressing poems. What did I do that made him stop caring? I lay around staring at nothing. Did he even mean all that he said before? You know, the entire litany of questions that lonesome unloved souls chant went through my head. I was embarrassing.
(This is the video that became my theme song during his silence, and every time I hear it, I will remember the passion and pain.)
Some of my friends had been telling me to stop being upset. We had not known each other very long. He wasn’t in a place for a relationship. He was not ready. He was too young. (He is 13 years younger than I am. Yes, I a may be a cougar.) These things may all be true, but I knew what I felt. I heard his voice. I felt his kindness. I saw his heart. I know what we had. No matter how short, it was real. It was passionate. He was sincere.
With all of that replaying in my head and after beer four, l looked over at the contents of my wardrobe in a massive pile and started to cry. Clearly, he never even cared about me. (As I write this I realize, the connection of these two situations are a bit thin, but in the beer-induced frenzy, it made perfect sense at the time.) My mind kept playing questions (see above) over and over…and over in my head. I could not stop wondering what he was doing. I was looking to see his online status. I would speculate if the girl who liked his post was prettier. Was time with her the cause of his less frequent chats with me? Yet, in the back of my head, I knew I was acting crazy and dramatic and was creeping myself out. So in efforts to remove myself from the temptation and torture of cyber stalking him – I unfriended him. With a click of a button, that was it. Our friendship was over.
Of course, real lives do not react as immediate as they appear on social media. I was still hurt and upset. He was confused and pissed that I just deleted him. I tried to pretend that it did not matter and by the next afternoon, I was on my bathroom floor weeping.
It was the teenage girl kind of weeping that shook your entire body and soul. It was heart wrenching and pathetic. I was in pain of lost love. I beat myself up mentally. Clearly, there was something wrong with me. I was unlovable. No wonder why he stopped talking to me, I was crazy. Why did I have to take a chance? I was ridiculous for even thinking I could carry on a long-distance relationship, especially with someone so young. It was a horrible conversation that would have made for a great Hallmark movie.
However, as I lay there in a puddle on my bathroom floor, I had an epiphany. He was the last straw. He was those last few shirts to surpass the weight limit. Losing him, whether self induced or not, was more than I could bear. I collapsed just as my closet did.
For years, I have been running around taking care of things and people. I have had to deploy and still take care of things at home. I had to finally deal with a divorce that had been pending for over 10 years. I had to find a new place to live after deployment. I had to start a brand new civilian job immediately upon redeploying and moving into that new-to-me house. Shortly thereafter, I started a command job in the Reserves (or wet cat herding as I like to call it). I had to help the kids cope with the adjustment phase of bouncing back and forth from my house to dads now that I was back home. I had to take over caring for my daughter’s dog since she started college and was busy with her job and sorority. I had to be the strong one for my sisters who were going through horrible times. I had to assist dad move into my house after mom died. I had to start the plans to replace my car that had 215,000 miles on it. I had …. I had… I had. The list just went on and on, and I soldiered up and did it all. Suck up and drive on is what we always say in the Army. I was driving all right but the path was sucking the life right out of me. Each battle was taking a chunk out of my armor.
With all of this going on in my life, my friend had quickly served as a beacon of light for me. He was comfort and safety. He made me laugh and feel joy. He became my north and grounded me from the insanity of my demands. Hearing his voice washed away my stress. Seeing his smile soothed my soul. If he was in my corner, I could make it. I wanted to make it. I had hope.
Therefore, when I felt him slipping away, it was all I could take. I felt lost and alone. I suddenly became as frantic as a trapped wild animal. In my moments of fear and self-doubt, I interpreted his moments of silence as personal attacks and rejection. I took his distance as some sign that he must have lied. I was ridiculous.
With the hindsight that an epiphany brings, it all makes sense. It’s no wonder I was absurd. I felt like I was losing my support system. Like my closet, he was becoming my rails, my strength. Without him in my corner, I could not bear any more weight.
As I dig through the pile of clothes and pain, I know I need to rebuild. I must clean out my closet, literally and figuratively. It will not happen overnight, and I am not exactly sure where the support will come from. However, I do know it cannot rely on one person. That is not fair to them or me. One rail cannot support an entire closet of pain, resentment and stress. Step by step I will rebuild a more elaborate support system and pick myself up off the ground.