Then Her Heart Hardened

I have some very important information for all you out there in cyberspace: break ups suck. It has been over a week now since Army blindsided me and I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt more drained. I’ve arrived, however, to the point where I am sick and tired of all things lovey-dovey. I find myself glaring at couples I pass, I laugh maliciously at sweet little notes found on Pinterest, and if another rom-com movie trailer is played on my TV, I swear I’m going to go live in a cave somewhere. I am just sick of love. And I’m sick of caring.

***EDIT: Okay, so this post was written on Monday, June 29 and scheduled to be posted on Friday, July 3. It is now Wednesday, July 1 and I’ve realized something crucial: I am stronger than the girl I was on Monday. However, instead of simply deleting this text and moving forward, I’m going to let it post. But not without a bit of editing to be shared at the end. For anyone going through a break up experience right alongside of me, take note. In only two days I’m already better! So onto the original post…

I went out Saturday night with some of my best girlfriends. It was meant to be an evening of fun and laughter and girl time, and for the majority it was. However, being a good looking group of girls, the night proceeded to bring numerous guys. By the time we left the second bar, I had six drinks bought for me, four of which I had to give away (you’re welcome, ladies from Cadillac) on account of needing to drive home safely. The night continued with me being poked, prodded, and forced to stand awkwardly close in order to hear their slurred, cheesy pick up lines. By the end of the night I was left with a banging migraine and an aching heart.

I felt the need to let my girlfriends know how much fun I had though. Perhaps this was to try and convince myself, but I think it was more so I wouldn’t hurt their feelings. They wanted me to have fun; that’s why they invited me out. They wanted me to forget; that’s why they kept pushing the night to continue. They wanted me to know how much they care, and though I am glad they do, in my heart I can’t seem to muster that kind of want in return. I just no longer want to care.

I keep being told things like, “Don’t let this harden your heart.” “Get out and just meet someone else.” “He isn’t worth the pain.” “You’re far too amazing to even care.” And I appreciate the support, I really do, but I can’t help but feel that the advice is falling on deaf ears. I feel so drained of all feelings right now. I’m just… empty. I feel as if I allowed myself to gain all this momentum into happiness and then crash into a wall. Just like a butterfly, I had burst out of my cocoon just to find my wings clipped. No matter how much I try to live day-by-day, the past and the future keep pounding me into a submissive, wallowing shell of a woman.

I thought that X was the pinnacle of the hurt in my life. Every person I dated following X left a bad taste in my life. They were liars, cheaters, immature bullies, and far-too hopeless romantics to be taken more seriously than a first date. The exception was Army. He broke every rule I had set for myself on the dating front; he was someone I could actually see myself being in a committed relationship. (I mean, just read Drag Out My Demons for the full disclosure of what Army was and is to me.) Then he broke my rule for relationships: I fell in love with him… and I told him! My one rule! Do not be the first one to say those three words. Yet I did. I feel like an absolute idiot for letting myself become so entwined.

Because, in the end, he too became the exact thing I feared: someone okay with leaving.

Sometimes I laugh at myself. This week I’ve been laughing a lot. Looking back, I’ve taken so much pride in things that make me weak. Caring about someone as much as I did (do) Army is a weakness. It’s a weakness that is physically, emotionally, and mentally harming me. And being one with a low tolerance to pain, I’m calling quits. I’m tapping out. I’m surrendering.

It’s time to just let it go. Let go of the care and the sadness and the feelings of need for anyone but myself. I’m sick of being the one continuously trampled upon. It’s time I thought about myself and focused on myself more than every other person in my life.

From here on out, I no longer care.

*** EDIT: Pathetic, right? Not even two days ago I was going to allow this one person to beat me into a raving, uncaring crone. I was going to enable this guy, who cast me aside for his own personal selfishness, to change me. For the worse, may I add. No, no, no…

Ashley, caring is not a weakness. Caring is actually one of the strongest ambitions a person can have. Seriously, look at the world. Were there more people who truly and genuinely cared about others, the world would not be turning the way it is now. No, caring is not a weakness, and you are far from being weak.

Today I was told by a friend that I am the most emotionally strong woman she knows. I have not felt very strong lately. But you know what? It’s been only a week since I was hit by a train of loss and grief. And within that week I have forced myself to smile through the tears, gone to work when all I felt like doing was crying, enjoyed time with family and friends, met new people, planned a short summer vacation, and simply continued living. All while refraining from reaching out to the one person that I wish were there for me at this time.

I’m not weak.

I’m incredibly strong. 

A caterpillar can become a butterfly after a lot of time and effort. However, no matter how hard a butterfly tries, it can never be a caterpillar again. Army helped me grow out of my cocoon and become the person I am today. I will be eternally grateful for his assistance. It is not possible, though, for me to diminish into a lowlier person. I will not let it become a possibility.

I will keep living my life as the “f****** amazing” person Army left. I will not stop caring, I will not stop feeling, and above all I will not stop being happy. This is simply a bump in the road, and though my heart still hurts, I know deep down that he’s the one who’s losing out. Not me.

Letter to the Army

Nine months ago I met someone who changed my entire outlook on life and love. He was sweet and endearing and funny and, above all else, he looked past my exterior and fell for me, all of me, Ashley. We began seeing one another on a weekly basis, going out, enjoying one another’s company. And somewhere in between the joking and the laughing and the conversations, I fell in love with him.

Last night, he broke my heart.

There’s something odd about the way love works. People always say, “All you need is love.” but in reality, sometimes love is not enough. For Army, it seems that the latter is true.

I had this gut-feeling that something odd was going on in our relationship. Until about three weeks ago we were on a regular routine of date nights, weekend festivals, and monthly theater outings. Somewhere in the business of life and friends and dating, a key part of our relationship was lost. I’m still unsure what this key is or was, so I’m not positive on how to ever come to a concise closure on our relationship. As soon as I heard his voice asking to come to my house, I knew. I just… knew.

Army no longer felt he was at the mentality (I believe he used the word “level”) of providing me with my needs in terms of a long term committed relationship. Perhaps he felt I was rushing the relationship too quickly. Perhaps he was frustrated by not knowing what exactly I need and how he should supply the necessary energy. Perhaps he simply needs some time focusing on his new job and the stresses of finances. Or perhaps he’s just selfish and no longer wanted to consider two people when he could just himself. Whatever the case, he has every right to feel the way he does. That is how relationships work after all.

There were two people involved in our relationship though. And this was not what I wanted. In all honesty, I’m at a complete loss for words. When you love someone, and especially when you’re in a relationship with that person you love, all you want is to do right by him or her. The “needs” I had were not what I deem unreasonable: a hello and goodnight every day, care enough to ask how my day has gone, and be happy to be with me. For the majority of our relationship, my needs were met. And I was ecstatic; I was in love.

I do not want or need more at this time in my life. I’ve been on the track to marriage, and at this point in my life I’m not ready for that anymore. I have so much more I want to do with my life before I start a family: pay off my debt, travel the world, buy my own house. The only thing I wanted out of our relationship was time together, and I definitely didn’t need an ample supply of time; just enough to know I was worthwhile to someone.

When Army left me last night, he had tears in his eyes. That might have been the hardest part of the entire break up. Actually, even though the break up was very emotional, it was not incredibly dramatic. There was no screaming or begging. We simply talked. And sat. We were mature and, if anyone had been watching, it had to be obvious how much we care for each other. We sat together for over an hour. He held me, I held his hand, and we just talked. Him more than me, I suppose, but it had a strange calming air to the entire event.

Our talk consisted mostly of how much we enjoyed being in a relationship together. He told me he loved me, loved being with me, and that he always enjoyed the time we spent together. It’s simply something with him — it has nothing to do with me — and he’s lost on how to fix it. “I’m f***** up,” he said. He just isn’t ready for the same kind of commitment I am, he said. He tried to make it clear how he felt: that it was unfair of him to continue leading me on and treating me how he had the last few weeks when I could move on and be with someone much better than himself. I suppose, in his mind, he broke my heart to ultimately heal it.

That’s a difficulty too, though. I think he feels as if I wanted more from him than what we had. I didn’t and I don’t. I simply liked being with him. I liked having him as a companion. As a friend. That’s what I ultimately love about him; he is my friend. A true friend is hard to come by nowadays. You know, someone who you want to involve in every event, share secrets with, complain to and rant with. Someone who shares common interests with you and who is fine with not doing a damn thing other than vegging out. Someone who’s smile alone can make your entire crummy week vanish. That is what is most hurtful about losing him; I’m losing one of my best friends.

Even with the mature way we handled ourselves, I have so many questions left unanswered: where did we go wrong? Is there someone else? What could I have done better? Is there a way to compromise our levels of needs? Can we continue being friends one day? I think I did ask these things, or perhaps he even mentioned them, but with all the thoughts swirling in my head yesterday… I have no memory. All I remember is the hurt of losing him in my life.

The memories I do have are ones of happiness throughout our few months together. Out of all my relationships, I can honestly look back on mine and Army’s and have no regrets. I mean, breaking up obviously means there must be some regrets, but I don’t know where and when they occurred. I thought our relationship was pretty solid.

Before I met him, I was just living day by day. I enjoyed my life, I enjoyed my past relationships to a degree, but what Army and I had… It was what I needed to revamp my lifestyle. I needed a friend and he came at a dire point in my life. As I said, he helped me re-see how great life can be.

Now, I’m not saying I foresaw a potential future for us. I don’t think I ever looked that far ahead. Because with Army, I didn’t need to. I was satisfied with where I was in the then-and-now and there was no reason to put stress on an already happy and healthy relationship.

As with all relationships, when I say we were happy and healthy does not mean we didn’t have our issues. We were different people with vastly different backgrounds. He is moody and impatient, I am emotional and (sometimes overly) social. Yet, in the grand scheme, I do not believe that our personalities and histories negatively impacted our relationship. At least, that’s how I am going to look at our past. I think our opposites attracted, making us stronger as a couple and threw us out of our comfort zones to make us stronger individuals.

And (I’m chuckling to myself) that’s probably not a great way to look at it because it only confuses me more. I’m just not sure where we went wrong.

As these thoughts literally fill my entire mind, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • I do not need a boyfriend to be happy. I am plenty happy on my own. However, being with Army made me happier. That is what I cannot get over; I’m going to miss him absolutely because he makes my life a little more bright.
  • This break up is not what I wanted. I never once considered ending out relationship. I may not have been happy over the past few weeks but I thought it was just a rough-patch.
  • His decision to end our relationship weighed heavily upon his relationship maturity level and not on who I am as a person. I was the best girlfriend I could be to Army, and with that thought I am at least a tad bit proud.

In time maybe we will come back together as friends in the least, or perhaps we won’t. The possibilities are unknown, and though that terrifies me, the unknown is better than knowing someone I deeply care about is unhappy with their life in some respect due to me.

In the end, there’s always a new beginning. I’m not sure what God has in store for me. At this time, I do not want to dwell on what could have been (though I know, especially at night, I will). No, instead I want to look forward and jump into the unknown with no parachute.

There are two things I know for certain though: I’ll be okay. Just not today.

I Am Good Enough

Today is the first day of summer and guess what is on my mind? It is not the fortune of having incredibly beautiful weather or the sweet freshness of snacking on Michigan cherries or even the enjoyment of partaking in a wine festival with lovely people surrounding me. No, my mind is too consumed with myself. My mind is noticing the slight peeling on my legs from last weekend’s sunburn and focusing on how I’ll never be that sun-kissed tan girls desire. It is cringing at my size compared to the women walking by and analyzing every inch of my body with skepticism. It’s criticizing every movement I make, every step I take, and every thought I have. No, my first day of summer has not been one of relaxation and excitement… but I do not plan for any other day of the year to be like this.

In the past, I was really terrible to myself and relentlessly compared myself to others. No matter how many times I read or heard about how food or lovable I was, I didn’t believe it. Then I met people who helped me to see the person I truly was and I began to love myself. That was a changing point in my life.

Now I’ve dipped a toe into the waves of depression and I hate the coldness of its bitter lapping. Even though all those who helped turn me around are no longer in my life (at least not in a capacity more than weekly texts), it is time for me to love myself again.

Gone are the days when I meticulously look for evidence that I am a nobody, that I don’t deserve to be loved, and that I’m not living up to my full potential. I can’t hate myself into a version of myself I can love. A happy life does not work with this kind of thinking. So next time I begin to feel there is something wrong with me — that I’m not in the type of relationship others of my age are, that I don’t have a certain amount of money in my savings account, that my social circle is ridiculously small, or that I don’t look or act a certain way in the presence of other — I’m going to remember these few key facts as to why I am more than good enough to love.

  1. My mind is the best liar in the business.
    I’m considering getting the quote “Don’t believe everything you think.” tattooed on my forearm so every time I look down I’m reminded of this powerful consideration. I mean, seriously, take those five words to heart; thoughts are just thoughts. It is unhealthy and physically draining to give so much power to the negative ones!When my mind begins to wander and wonder at possibilities that have no grounds (or are the exact opposite of what I have been told) I am going to reply, “No.” No to the lies and the late-night worries. Instead I’ll focus on what I do know for sure and the positivity in my life.
  2. There is more right with me than there is wrong.
    I tend to magnify my perceived flaws and cast them on my entire self without even considering all the things I do like about myself. My biggest distress is with my appearance. My skin is too pale, my teeth are too small, my arms are not lean enough, etc. So when I look in the mirror and see a lot of disgust, I’m going to change my outlook and name five things I enjoy about myself.
  3. Focus on progress rather than perfection.
    This goes along with number 2 in regards to playing heavily upon my appearance and lack of self esteem. However, I have made huge strives of progress. No one is going to be perfect and it is ridiculous that I continually stress myself out aiming to be so! I mean, I exercise every day, eat healthy with still enjoying my life, and I have lost 60 pounds in two years. Stop downgrading your success, Ash!Outside of looks, I am quite the perfectionist in all aspects of my life. One of the biggest causes of self-loathing is the need to get everything exactly right. I strive for perfection and success, and when I fall short I feel less than worthless. So instead of berating myself for messing up and stumbling backwards, I am going to give myself a pat on the back for making an attempt and coming as far as I have. Not everyone is willing to continuously put themselves out in the world to try to succeed, and it is amazing that I keep doing so regardless of how many times I fail.
  4. The people I compare myself to compare themselves to others also.
    A friend once told me this, and it never really hit home with me until right now. (As I sit at compare myself to every person walking by, have you…) Everyone compares themselves to other people, especially now with social media allowing such ridiculous claims or wealth and health and high-end living to be circulated throughout the globe. It’s smart to remember that the people who seem to have it all actually do not though.
  5. Sometimes being annoyingly simple is best.
    I love being a complex person. I like thinking about others rather than just myself all the time, I like having a busy schedule and partaking in life on a daily basis, I like throwing myself out into the world and learning new concepts and ideals.However, sometimes being annoyingly simply is okay. I won’t be successful if I keep telling myself I’m a failure, I won’t reach a higher potential by believing I’m not living to my full capacity, and I won’t become more worthy or lovable by saying I’m not. Just be simple, Ashley, and believe in the positives.

The only way to achieve self-love is to love me for me, regardless of who I am, what I look like, where I stand, and even if I know I want to change.

I am a great friend, a passionate worker, a trusting girlfriend, a caring volunteer, and a hard-working individual who goes for what she wants. I am a good person. And being good is enough for me to love.