I haven’t been writing lately because I’ve been healing. I’ve tried to write, but the things on my mind are too big for 1000 words or so, and too raw for mixed company. I don’t know when I’ll be finished sorting it all out, but I’m doing my best, and I think it’s going well.
When I wrote most of the content people likely to read this started following me for, I was in a horrendously abusive relationship. By the time my article on gun control went viral, I had called the Domestic Violence Hotline over a dozen times, and the police at least once. If I wrote, yet didn’t do any single thing that person asked of me, I would be punished for days, and that was always the case. Each piece I published cost me the silent treatment, being deprived of sleep, and being repeatedly told that I was a horrible partner, an ignorant millennial, and pretty much the worst thing about humanity. Yet, I wrote, because it was positive, and I liked it. I still like it, but I haven’t been in a place to write in a while.
I thought I would make it out of that situation unscathed because I’m optimistic, and I journaled everything from the moment I realized I was being gaslighted, so I thought I kept my feet on the ground, and a clear head, and was just biding my time until I could get out. That wasn’t the case. Thankfully, I have wonderful benefits through my employer, and because of that, I am processing through all of this with a therapist. I probably will be for a while. It’s hard work sometimes, but it feels necessary and intentional, and gives me some clue about how to move forward.
At this time, I also find myself in the most beautifully functional relationship of my life. My partner and I knew each other through work for years before we began dating. I’ve mentioned him here before as a friend. I’ve always liked him, and I feel lucky that he and I are together now. He’s kind, and we respect each other, and when I do things for him, it is because I want him to be happy, not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. I have no reason to be afraid now. I am safe, and that’s finally starting to sink in.
I am learning valuable lessons every day, things that would have changed my life infinitely if I had known them years ago. The biggest one is the meaning of the saying, “relationships take work”. Previously, this had meant that I needed to put up with a lot of mistreatment or just irresponsibility on the part of the other person. I thought that “work” meant abdication of self. Now I see that it means being up front and honest about my needs, while listening to his, and figuring out how we can both get what we need out of this. Sometimes those needs are at odds. Maybe he needs more alone time, and I need more closeness. That’s when both people put in the work, and get intentional about figuring out how to reconcile it all. When that happens, and it does when both people try hard, it is a beautiful thing. It’s not perfect because nothing in life ever is, but feeling heard, respected, and acknowledged for the first time in my life is as close to perfect as I could imagine at this time.
That doesn’t mean it’s seamless. Sometimes I ask him if he’s mad at me just because he’s quiet. I did that yesterday. That’s the anxiety talking. It’s got nothing to do with reality. I believe him when he tells me he’s not mad at me. Sometimes I just need to hear him say it. I don’t think that will always be the case. It’s just part of healing. When silence was used as a weapon, as a tool to reject, to isolate, to make resolution impossible, for years, it’s hard to lose the fear of it. I notice it’s less now, even so.
For the first time in years, I have agency. I don’t have to ask if I can do something. I have to coordinate logistics, of course, and it’s courtesy in a relationship to tell one’s partner of plans with some advanced notice, but if I want to go to Happy Hour with a friend, or take ballet class every Sunday, it’s my choice, and I won’t be punished for it, not so much as a passive-aggressive remark. Indeed, everything is different.
I still feel most at peace in the desert. I don’t know why, but I always have. Two days in Odessa, TX, and my anxiety goes away for a week. It’s a simple place. The horizon is far, and the oil wells bob up and down rhythmically. Most people don’t like it there, but I do. Work sends me out there every few months, and that’s when I can really clear my mind. Bouncing along in my work-issued F-350 SuperDuty, with steel toe boots on my feet and my hard hat beside me, I can think in the desert, and I’m at peace with my entire life. Everyone at work knows projects for Odessa and El Paso are mine by default. Yet, no matter how many times I am recognized for these projects, it never occurs to anybody that I need them more than anything or anybody in this lifetime has ever needed me.
I’ve always been a little bit troubled. I was the kid nobody understood, who became the ex-military rebel who majored in engineering yet gave far less of a fuck than anybody else who published far fewer papers and got less money for grad school than I did. I’m realizing now how self-destructive I was, how I accepted less in every aspect of my life that people didn’t see, because I didn’t think I deserved good. I know now that I do deserve good, and now that I have it, my biggest challenge is learning to live like this. Don’t misunderstand me. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the best challenge of my life. This is where my energy is going these days, though. I’m learning to live. I’m learning to be healthy. I am going to be so much more than just ok, even if it means a trip to Odessa once in a while.