i mused on this a few weeks ago, right after my sister got married. i admired her for her bravery in doing that, realizing for the first time what a brave and bold thing it is to do to be married in front of friends and family. a public declaration of ‘i bet this will work. i will work my ass off and trust that this other person will do the same to make sure of it. and you all are the witnesses.’
but i just realized a new thing that ‘i love you’ can be shorthand for.
you are part of my narrative. can i be part of yours?
and the fact is of course that when you’ve reached the point of saying that the other person is part of your narrative already. the important aspect is the admission – and the permission that you are giving.
you are part of my narrative. you have already changed me and my storyline. and when this ends, when you leave me, i will be left altered.
so it makes sense that so much of the cleanup of a love affair gone badly is the attempted reversal of change (impossible!), the denial of it, or the decision to cut that other person out of your narrative, to deny them continued influence on your story line.
which does not by any means end their influence. apart even from their actions, the effect they might have on you is in part your responsibility. but the point here is that permission has been withdrawn. the interference becomes intrusion. unwelcome. unlawful.
my instinct in that situation is to end that storyline. after enough time, depending on circumstances, i can reincorporate that person back into my life, knowing that my central narrative will remain unchanged. they no longer exert the influence they once did. i know others that do not make the same decision. sometimes i judge them for it, often i envy them their ability to keep people that hurt them part of their life. to no longer be hurt, or to no longer make the fact of that hurt known.
i think the price for me is too high. i reserve the right to be wounded if you hurt me. i reserve the right for that to be a fact that is known – not advertised, but not swallowed completely.
i have judged others, unfairly, when they have reserved that right when i hurt them. it is very easy to say ‘get over it,’ when the fact of someone’s pain is inconvenient. i have been learning through experience that that is never a very helpful thing to say.
it is interesting, once your storyline has played out a little longer, to recognize what relationships remain important, pivotal. what would make it into your biography. and then there are the loves that, despite being all-important and all-consuming for as long as that person is part of your storyline (including the period after the relationship ends), in a few years become unmemorable. the changes that they left are superseded several times over by what follows.
i am uninterested in giving someone permission to enter my storyline in that capacity for the time being. it is a bad risk.
but i am learning that for something to be important, for it to have a change, perhaps positive, on my life, it does not have to be perfect. it does not need to end well. i have never properly given myself permission to fail. i have not accepted that as part of my narrative. and the fact remains that it is, and always ineluctably will be. so accepting failure is about the healthiest action to take right now.
i am allowed to fail.