I just finished reading the sequel to Me Before You, which is called After You. It’s the tricky navigation through the mire of grief at losing someone you love. And, just like it’s predecessor, it helped me process a whole bunch of feelings bundled up inside me. So, welcome to extremely vulnerable post, part two.
Once upon a time, I met a boy. Met is such a casual word. What really happened is this boy walked into the room, and before I even saw him, a shock of electricity went through every vein, artery, and capillary in my body. Then I looked up and saw him standing in the doorway or our American Lit class. He filled me with both thrills and terror. So I decided I would never talk to him.
However, that didn’t stop him from talking to me. Which he did over the next few classes, and every class after that, and after a while every day.
He was a writer. An incredible, ground-breaking, rule-breaking, paradigm-breaking writer. And I drank it up. We exchanged our writing, and in doing so, bathed our minds in each others’ souls. Writers, you know what I’m talking about. In his writing, I knew him like no one else did, and he did the same for me.
By the end of the semester, I couldn’t tell if I was in love with him or if he was my best friend, or maybe he was my muse. Now I know that it was all three.
Over the next seven years, we never lived in the same city again. But we kept in touch. Close touch. Figuratively and literally.
It was all ambiguous. There were no rules, no boundaries, and absolutely no commitments. Our relationship was based on intellectual thrill-seeking, and no matter how many lines we crossed and how much we hurt each other in doing so, in the end neither of us could bear to lose the other for too long because we needed that intellectual adrenaline rush that no one else in the world could give us. And we just couldn’t stop sending each other our writings.
Well it finally came to a point where I, being the female full of feelings, needed to know. So I asked. The answer I got echoed a thousand other compliments and pieces of praise he gave me over the years: You’re perfect. You’re the best that womankind has to offer. I can’t live without you. I need you more than you can possibly understand. I love you. I can’t “bring myself” to commit to you.
Were you expecting that last one? Cause I sure wasn’t.
I tried really, really hard to let go at that point, but I couldn’t manage it. There was still some little piece of fishing line knitting my soul to his. Even if it was just one piece. And I kept breaking all my rules for him. I couldn’t get his voice out of my head. I knew him so well, that even without talking to him, I could ask his advice in any situation and know what he would’ve said. And in turn, there is still no other human being alive who knows me as well as he does.
About a year ago there came a day when he, in a very writer-ish way, helped me to realize that the reason he could never “bring himself” to love me in a romantic way is simply because I am too fat.
Now, for any woman this is beyond devastating. But for a woman who has had body image and depression problems her entire life…
Let’s just say I finally had the courage to burn the bridge completely. I could not deal.
But his voice is still inside my head. A year later, and I hear him commenting on every choice I make. And with this unfathomable sense of worthlessness – because no matter how amazing my personality or intellectual prowess is, I will never be good enough – for reasons that aren’t 100% in my control. I mean, there were times in our relationship when I was the skinniest I’ve ever been in my adult life and it still wasn’t enough.
Over the past year, this worthlessness has consumed me. Not only did this come a year, almost to the day, after a different man I loved, and had chosen to marry despite all obstacles, decided that depression and pornography were more worthwhile than I was, but it came from the one man who I thought I would always be able to count on never leaving me. I mean, I already knew nothing romantic would ever happen between us (hence I let myself fall in love with another man), but I never imagined it would come to a place where our friendship suffocated in the pain of impossible expectations. Impossible for both of us.
And then I was left crippled, writhing in the emptiness and self-loathing left behind by losing two men I had loved with so much of my heart, there was none left to protest. And as a result, not by choice, but by instinct, I have been running – sprinting – from every man who expresses interest in me. I went on dates and cried when I got home because the level of anxiety was so severe. Guys that I found attractive made me nauseated the moment they reciprocated interest. Because I couldn’t – still can’t – believe that a man would be interested in me for realsies. So if a guy acts interested, it simply means he is after something, or a teensy bit out of his mind. And both scare me so much I can’t breathe.
(To the one guy who broke that barrier, if you’re reading this, I can never thank you enough for your gentleness.)
There are a lot of my closest friends who are gonna be upset reading this, because they despise these two men I am talking about, for what they put me through. But I’ve learned something, and I’m finally not mad anymore. Particularly about the writer, because I know that he loved me. (The other I’m not so sure, because seriously, who picks depression and pornography over a living, affectionate woman who wanted nothing more than your happiness? Mind-blowing.) And that’s really what I’m here to talk about, now that you have the background.
A few weeks ago while driving, the radio was talking about some recent correlation studies, and they said that people who complain about their lives are miserable because they are obsessed with themselves. The people who are most happy are those that forget themselves in uplifting and serving others.
This is not a new principle to me. I’ve been taught that my entire life. But for some reason, it didn’t click until today that the only reason why thinking of him (the writer) makes me so miserable and why what he said to me hurt so deeply in the first place is: I am obsessed with myself.
Maybe not in every way. But because I am so insecure about my body, that also makes me incredibly, incredibly vain. No amount of compliments is enough for me. And that’s really not okay. Any person who doesn’t find me attractive, and even if it is simply because I’m not their “type,” could easily become a villain. And that’s just not right. (And right now anyone who does find me attractive also becomes a villain, so that’s just straight up messed.)
Yes, the choice he made to give up a woman who loved him deeply – all of him, the light and the dark, because I knew every bit of it – simply based on arbitrary systems of measurement is pretty much the worst. But beating myself up over it for a year and what could’ve been years to come actually is the worst, and I’m done.
So here it is. I am dead-set and determined from this moment to figure out how to get lost in others and stop being obsessed with my ridiculous self. Because my body works, and works pretty freaking well to be honest with you. I’m not in danger of death from being fat, and I do sincerely enjoy exercising and eating healthy and I do seek those things out. So I’m not doing too bad. And that’s enough. I’m enough.
There was once I man I loved. I still love him in many ways. He made a very poor choice. But it’s okay. He doesn’t define my worth. I do.
And I’m going to get a whole lot more valuable.
You see, it’s like this moment from V for Vendetta (one of the greatest films of all time):
I lost the precious thing: a piece of my heart, of my soul. But I lived. I chose life. I still have it. And as long as I have it, I will pick up the pieces and make something from it.