Monday, March 1, 2010

The Anniversary of Love's End: Celebrating a Fresh Start

"Tears of shame filled her eyes. She was going to dump her beautiful husband like a redundant paragraph."
-Rebecca Miller, Personal Velocity

Two years ago to the day, two girlfriends of mine drove from Manhattan to New Jersey to lift me from an old life. It was there, during that sad 90-minute drive with Mai at my side and Kristina at the wheel, that my new beginning commenced.

I've spoken in length about making the tough decision to leave X, the first person I ever loved, ever called my boyfriend and the only one I have (and probably will ever) marry. In the aftermath of that relationship's burning, I've risen from the flames like a phoenix, flying in the direction of my ultimate calling.

X was all giving in that relationship. While he thought about our future, all I did was concentrate on my own. He begged me to come to San Diego and be his wife, start our life together once I graduated from undergrad--but I had different plans. Instead of being with my husband, with the man I vowed to spend for better or worse with, I flew to New York, where I attended New York University--my first step in the direction of me.

I guiltily chose me. It was the right decision, the right one for me.

It took years to come to the place where I let the guilt go and realized that many of the actions I took in my relationship with X were about me, rather than about us. X deserved a woman who would wholeheartedly pledge to be his wife, his companion, the one who would have sacrificed her selfish dreams of being a writer in New York for a life with him in San Diego.

I just wasn't that girl who was so sure in love--I was still looking for me, searching for the ultimate plot of my own life. I was too young, too driven, too lost to be anyone's wife, anyone's everything.

But in New York, we continued to compromise, trying to strike a balance between my selfishness and the marital collective--even though my actions were all about me: I threw myself into my studies, interned at several publications and finally landed a job at my dream publication. My accomplishments, while the result of my own hard work, equally belonged to X, who sacrificed his own wants and needs for my selfish dreams.

In the last year of my relationship with X, I had a moment of disturbing clarity that made me sick to my stomach. What had we done wrong for me to suddenly realize, at this moment, while watching TV on the couch we bought together, that I was leaving.

That moment of clarity echoed what I saw in Parker Posey in Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity. While her husband read the paper as she sipped her morning coffee, "Suddenly a terrifying though came to Greta's mind, clear and cruel," the narrator says of the young, ambitious New York editor. "Tears of shame filled her eyes. She was going to dump her beautiful husband like a redundant paragraph. She reached out impulsively, as if she'd stumbled, and grabbed his arm...There was nothing she could do."

While X is not a martyr to the greater good of my needs, his wrongdoings in our relationship are his to share, not mine. But he is very much a giving influence, a centrifugal force that propelled me to greater heights in the five-plus years we spent together.

"Can you see how responsible he was for my beginning?" Katharine Hepburn wrote of her first husband Ludlow Ogden Smith in her memoir Me. "Absolute generosity--no strings--give give give. Dear Luddy, thank you."

It's with this same amount of gratitude that I thank X for his unwavering generosity. As our relationship deteriorated at the altar of my dreams, he remained constant in his praise and support of my vision, willing me to blossom into the person that I was supposed to be.
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