Thursday, March 13, 2008

Open Letter To A Friend

Dear Friend,

I wanted to write you this letter because it's difficult to find the time to tell you in person, now that you are so busy with your new love relationship and we rarely spend any time together, just the two of us. I feel overwhelmed with the strangest sort of anguish over you these days, as I watch you compromise everything you told me you had dreamed of, and always offering some kind of half-assed justification in response to my concern that you have deviated noticeably from your dream.

Well, "half-assed," that may seem harsh. And who am I to talk, really, but that's just it. Don't you see? You remind me so much of myself, only you had it all figured out. You had a plan. You had a dream. I listened to your dream and I heard you tell me, "Please let me know if I get off track because love relationships have always muddied my thinking a bit in the past. I'm cool with work relationships and family relationships now, but it's time to try out a new love relationship, and I am sure I will need guidance."

Don't you see? You asked me to say this to you. You made me promise to tell you what I see as an objective outsider. And I've tried to tell you here and there. Mostly the big standout kind of stuff really. You seem to be happy and all, why would I want to rain on your parade? But I feel like a crime is being committed and I'm not calling 9-1-1. It's affecting my own life, not telling you what I feel in my heart about what you keep asking me to comment on, knowing that you don't really want to hear anything that will burst your bubble. Not like I feel comfortable with this role. In fact, I've tried to distance myself from it all, but each time I make an out-loud declaration to myself that I am walking away and not looking back, there you are telling me something new that I just can't listen to, that just eats me up inside because I feel like I'm obligated to say something.

But I've kept my silence mostly because I fear projecting myself onto you. You remind me of myself, but you aren't me, after all. You are you. And who is to say that if you do something similar to what I did that it won't end up quite differently? But it's so complicated for me.

You see. You were my hope. My hope that HAD I gotten myself and my life together better before getting emotionally involved that I would have made better choices, for better reasons, with better results. Love, after all, is rarely the problem. That's the good part. But I've learned that we can love a lot of different folks, for good reasons and not-so-good reasons, with good results and with not-so-good results. And I can't help but feel like I'm watching myself make the same kinds of fearful decisions all over again when you tell me why you are changing your mind about what you wanted so much.

As the objective outside observer, I hear your fear and feel your weakness. You're so afraid that if you wait for more of what you want, that you will lose what you already have. I hear you explaining away a Faustian bargain by saying, "But it will be so much easier," and that you are "just so tired of worrying" about these other things that it makes the compromise worthwhile.

How can I convince you that it won't be easier, and that the compromise will haunt you mercilessly forever? I promise. I have much experience with exactly the type of situation you describe. As your friend, I absolutely have to tell you that giving up what is important to you, my dear one, in order to feel like you are getting ahead financially is the oldest trick in the devil's book, Tricks for Stealing Human Souls.

You can brainwash yourself into thinking that if you just give up this, and this, and this, and this, then you can have all that you have ever wanted, but you will be utterly mistaken.

Oh, and any woman who gives up so much to have round-the-clock companionship and financial security, may get those things, but at what cost?

If your goal is to save money to travel, but you live with someone who hates change and won't go away for the weekend before you move in together, will the easiness of paying the bills make up for the fact that you have to travel alone, or don't want to because you want this companionship?

I've heard and read over and over again lately (because I've been asking for answers to my big "Why is my life like this?" question) that any woman who gets involved with a man, thinking that things will change, is a fool. Some things may change, and yes, miracles do happen, but when you have the facts staring you in the face and you choose to believe that those facts will magically change when the nature of the relationship changes, well, you're dead wrong. Now, most veterans of long-term relationships will tell you that things do change, but rarely for the better. The things we overlook now will be there with a vengeance a year after you move in together.

Relationships do require "work" and lots of communication, to be sure, but if you are the emissary of "let me make your life easier for you now so that you will return the favor to me later when you are feeling better," you will most certainly always be on the short end of the stick. And giving you financial support is nice, but it's also very easy. It's easy for the man to bring home the bacon. It's hard-wired. But that's bacon that gets spent on what he likes to spend his bacon on, especially if you're the one making all the compromises (and even if you aren't a lot of times...).

Oh Friend, this is worse for me than if you were one of my daughters. Why? Because I would pay my daughters' rent, offer them a room in my home, help them find a roommate, help them find a new job, sit down and discuss how to make the most of their own money....ANYTHING I could do within my power to keep them from feeling like they would just be so RELIEVED to not have to worry about money that they would give up on their dreams at the first hint of a bite on their love line. And why? Because I did this twice. Which is not to say that I did not love, but NOTHING was EASIER because I made the decision on financial relief/security because I thought it would just be too tough to do it on my own for a while. And not forever, mind you, just for a while, to be completely sure and settled. To give myself time. Just for me. Just because.

I know I must be some kind of horrible friend for saying all of these things, but I have to get it off my chest. I truly have started to feel like I'm in hell, watching myself wimp out on the big screen, over and over again, like Prometheus getting his liver eaten over and over again. I feel like I have to give you the, "it's not you, it's me" speech and break up with you. I just can't watch and listen. It hurts too much.

I know you love this guy, and that's great. I just can't watch you give up on just about everything you told me (and not only me) you wanted for your life. I can't watch you compromise like I did. And I've waited and waited, hoping NOT to feel like this. (Waiting for some hint that you aren't the only one compromising at least.) I've practiced focusing on your happiness and the love you share with this man. But every time we talk, you tell me of a new compromise, and your reasons for them are so close to home I want to scream and cry and gnash teeth and rent garments. I mourn for your dream because it was my dream too. And you were my hope. And I feel like a shitty friend for feeling so desolate about something you seem convinced is a good thing in the end.

I hope that it is. I really do. I prefer to envision a day when you come to me, shining and happy, content and loved, sunburned or windburned or waterlogged from your latest adventure, telling me how wonderfully all those compromises turned out in the end.

But right now, I can't believe it. My life won't let me believe it. My heart won't let me believe it.

I hope you can forgive me.

I wish you the best of everything.


PS--Please read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert before you give up your lease. I'll give you my copy. I just know too many women who waited until they were comfortable with being alone before they found peace with the love of their lives. If you need him to take care of you, you'll always be playing the need game. It isn't worth it, in my opinion, but this is YOUR life, and I'll get out of the way the only way I know how. I've never felt like this before, and I hope that if I'm crazy and/or just plain wrong, you can overlook it and forgive my shortcomings!

© Nicole J. Williams, 2008, all rights reserved.


Allyn Evans said...

Much to think about. I guess it leaves me wondering why the relationship and following dreams are mutually exclusive?

My ten-year-old daughter told me the other day that she was never going to marry because a man would get her in way. This surprised me because her father and I don't model this to her. However, she's observed that in most cases being married to someone does interfere. She said, "I want to travel the world. Even if I did marry and he loved to travel as much as me, we'd probably be traveling to different places."

I encouraged her to not make this decision prematurely. There are so many ways to put together love and freedom.

The gift we can give our daughters is to help them see it.

Thanks for sharing, Nicole.

Camellia said...

Oh, that magnolia. And if you feel you 'need' the support, you will end up hating the guy because you feel inadequate. He will have to pay for your perception. That's the mirror.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Thank you for this, Nicole. I think we've all been through this at oe time or another--to one degree or another. We novelist find that the specific is usually universal, too. In fact, my novel, This Is the Place, deals with this feeling of being abandoned, displaced.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Kathe Gogolewski said...

Dear Nicole,

I find this post incredibly moving. It sounds like you have approached the issue from multiple angles, and have allowed your impressions, initial and otherwise, to filter through your heart. This is truly an well-articulated letter of love and forgiveness, and I thank you it.

Kathe Gogolewski

Ute said...

What a lovely letter. Yes, very moving.

Found my way here through Zenmomma.