A little over 4 years ago, I lost a relationship which was, at the time, important enough to move me away from Philadelphia. The same day that relationship ended, just a few months later, the origins of my relationship with Ginny started. And that, ultimately, brought me back to Philadelphia. More importantly, it brought me back to myself, and possibly a better self due to the struggles I had with depression and other emotional difficulties caused by that loss. In my opinions, the gains outweighed the losses in that case. Ginny is my rock. She always stands besides me and loves me, and I am extraordinarily lucky to have her.
And up until a few days ago, another person was as integral to my life as Ginny is, in many ways. We lived together, laughed together, and when things were wonderful they were amazingly wonderful. Gina was a person I intended to spend the rest of my life with, and now that possibility is uncertain. Now that relationship is gone, at least for now. And I feel lost again.
So, now I spend a lot of time analyzing what it’s like to struggle through painful times, while looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. And being the cynic I am, I’m not seeing beds of metaphorical roses.
Pain, struggle, and all the related emotions and circumstances are hard, especially for someone who struggles with emotional stability and proportionality. The increased introspection brings forth more self-awareness, emotional maturity (at least, hopefully), and forces me to take some more time for re-evaluation. At least, that’s what I have told myself, before, when I healed from such times. But right now I’m not sure if I buy that narrative; at least not completely. It’s true that I think more than usual, but not really that much. I just think about specific, painful things more. I just hurt more. I may not actually be any more introspective at such times (but I’m definitely outside the norm in terms of my normal level of introspection).
I’m starting to think that maybe the narrative of ‘painful times are periods of growth’ is not completely correct. Our brains do their best to maintain the illusions and narratives of a whole self who does not act completely crazy and unpredictable, let alone simply irrationally and unreasonable. Our memories are altered by a process that maintains this illusory narrative to put together our selves and lives into a sensible story. As we remember those times of pain and struggle, we have to put them in a context of where we are when we don’t feel that way any longer, and growth is as good a narrative as any other. In order to maintain some level of consonance with our self image as a stable and grown person, we humans tend to construct a narrative of how the pain we went through made us stronger, better, and more prepared for life. It never feels that way when in the midst of it, though. At the time, it just sucks.
I hope I’m a stronger and better person than I was 4 years ago, but the fact is I can’t be sure. I have painful memories which give me pause when approaching similar mistakes which helped precipitate those painful events, sure, but is that strength? Isn’t that just conditioning, a la Pavlov? Is it not possible that I would actually be stronger today if those painful experiences had never happened? How would I know? Because if I’m stronger and better today, perhaps that would have happened whether I went through those painful times or not.
Then I think of all the utterly obtuse and non-self-aware people I know, and I think that maybe I’m just being too pessimistic and cynical. Why are so many people apparently oblivious to not only their own issues but the cues of others? How have they avoided actual emotional growth for so many years? It seems weird to me to not be introspective, but I guess my introspective nature looks weird to them, too. I’m getting off track.
What I want to know, essentially, is whether the pain we go through when dealing with loss–whether through death, break-ups, etc–is actually ever good, or whether we create a narrative which makes it seem good in retrospect. Because when we’re better, things look better. And so in that case we can weave memories to fit how we feel. If we are fine after the shit is all over, then the crappy days, weeks, or months we just plowed through must have been worth it, because here we are! Right? But that’s not how the brain works. Sometimes, we just feel better because we forget the pain (or, at least, most of it), new good stuff happens, or because we ate the right foods that day to help support a healthy mind. And then we reconstruct the past to fit the present state of mind.
I really am being cynical and pessimistic, aren’t I?
I’m dealing with loss right now. I’m hoping that I will run into some ‘finding’ as well. The fact is that I am on the verge of starting a new relationship, so I may be repeating the pattern of losing and finding simultaneously, but it’s also premature to make any hay out of that. The happiness I am feeling from that is somewhat mitigated by the pain of that other loss, but it’s still happiness and hopefulness. But mostly, right now, I’m feeling sad, hurt, and angry (mostly at myself).
And I miss her. Badly. I’m trying to make sense of my life without her in it, and it just doesn’t make much sense at all. I think of things I would usually share with her, and I can’t. Too painful to talk right now. And everyone keeps telling me that this might just be temporary, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way. I’m just going to have to wait out the worst of this, and hope that when I feel better things will be different. The scary thing, however, is I don’t know how they will feel better. The uncertainty of it is terrifying. I guess I just need to practice patience, and hopefully all will be better soon.
In the mean time, I can’t stop moving forward, otherwise I will spin my wheels into a rut of listless sadness. I need to keep moving forward, and hope that maybe that lost relationship might be found when things feel better.
But for now it hurts too much.