You wouldn’t come; that’s all I needed to know.

When you see or hear my name (Jace or Rose, if you couldn’t get used to the new one), what adjectives immediately come to mind?

I’ll go ahead and answer the question. If I wasn’t me, I would think:

  • happy,
  • friendly,
  • sad,
  • depressed,
  • creative,
  • animal-lover (which is more title-like), and
  • possibly suicidal (which is, granted, more of a phrase than it is an adjective — but regardless; I would think it!).

I’ve been existing in a blue-grey world for a while now, learning how to manage this wild and constantly changing interior landscape while simultaneously struggling to maintain a positive and stable exterior. Knowing how much it sucks to feel sad and worthless, I strive to bolster others with my words and actions as much and as often as possible so that they (hopefully) won’t feel as lowly and bummed out as I often do.

And after a lot of introspection and self-administered therapy, I was crazily able to crack the code to my depression; a good bit of it is – unsurprisingly – biological, and there’s little that can be done about it (bc no, I will not self-medicate), but a fairly large chunk of what I found sitting there in the vault was situational and – therefore – removable!

By talking with patient, loving friends and blogging without reserve, I’ve been able to uncover and process through the things that a less mature and less brave version of myself had buried:

  • Melissa’s stupid absence
  • Bobby’s sudden death
  • Chris and I’s divorce
  • Bruster’s horrific murder
  • My gender identity (spoiler: female and emerging feminist)
  • My sexual orientation (spoiler: bisexual with the likelihood of straight)

And as a MAJOR plus, I’ve recently figured out how to reign in my feelings of inferiority… and doing so was surprisingly simple. What helped? A friend who relayed a powerful message that had positively changed their own mindset: “You aren’t nearly as important in the eyes of others as you think you are.”

This was one of the most liberating statements I’d ever heard in my life. In the past, when I tried to imagine how other people perceived me, I would always choose for them to view me through a negative filter. Well, I’m changing the lens now.

And while you might THINK that they’re thinking about you, most of the time, people are actually NOT thinking about (or judging or criticizing or hating) you AT ALL! Isn’t that wonderful? What a relief…

The current state of affairs: I’m single and learning to rely on myself for happiness and a sense of purpose; I wrote and self-published a book this summer, which is pretty fucking cool; I’m returning to college this fall as a Spanish major (so that I can help bridge the gap in our horrifyingly divided country)… and all of these statuses and accomplishments and activities are giving me a new sense of confidence and a renewed sense of self-worth. It’s great. And that’s a HUGE understatement.

So what’s your deal, then?

Ahhhhh, there’s ALWAYS SOMETHING, isn’t there? The lingering sadness that has been weighing on my heart recently has — unsurprisingly — been Christopher-related, and I’ll try to explain it for the last time here (wouldn’t that be lovely?).

***

When we decided to separate romantically two falls ago, I had this idealistic notion that very little would actually change between us — that our best friendship would persevere through the awkward and grief-fraught transition. I imagined us getting coffee together a few months down the road — writing songs again, playing gigs again, and picking out new TV series to watch together… I sincerely believed that, outside of physical stuff, our relationship really wouldn’t change that much. It would just take a little bit of time for us to adjust to this new norm, and I was happy to wait out the hard part; re-purposing our vacant room and enduring his strange silence.

 

But I was severely mistaken.

A miserable year and a half passed where Christopher and I would only run into each other incidentally; in the produce section at the grocery store, where I’d offer a hurried hello (so I could retreat to my car and cry), or back at the house, where he’d return to quickly pick up an overlooked possession or two and then roll away, his familiar black SUV speeding out of my neighborhood to go park itself elsewhere. Even the car didn’t like me anymore.

And about four months ago, I decided that I’d had it, and that I was going to make myself entirely vulnerable by being perfectly frank with him about how I was feeling.

In a nutshell, I said (via text message, because I’m not THAT brave): I AM SO MAD AT YOU, CHRISTOPHER. We were together for FIVE YEARS, and now, you act like I mean nothing to you. Why can’t we be friends? Isn’t that how the song goes? Why won’t you make time for me once, twice, maybe four times a year? I love you more than anyone in this world, you JERK.

To be fair, when he replied, he tried to be kind, and I can’t rightly blame him for being truthful, but his response was condescendingly brief; he simply didn’t have time for anybody other than his new girlfriend.

[Who, sidebar, ***I*** set him up with.]

Well gee… what kind of “thanks” is THAT, I muttered inwardly.

I hate taking vitamins, which is why Charlie has to barter with me in the mornings, promising a cup of orange juice or a bottle of my favorite Kombucha in exchange for me choking down some zinc, d3, and b12. 

 

But Chris’s open admission that I was no longer a priority of ANY kind in his life was the toughest pill I’ve ever had to swallow.

 

And last night, as I was reading this article on anger, I asked myself… why him? You love hard, Jace; you always have… and you’ve loved and lost quite a few souls by now. So why is this one so hard to get past?

 

Well, I think I’m finally ready to operate on the very heart of the matter. Ready to go under?

 ***

Unsurprisingly, Chris knew me better than anyone else ever had (or, to date, has). He and I’s relationship was the closest bond I’ve ever experienced with another human being, and I cared about him so much that I would have died to protect him. I still would… isn’t that annoying?!

 

So — I bared my soul to the guy, right? No reserves. I trusted him, not with everything (because things are just things), but with all of me. He was my confidant, best friend, partner, and companion — you name it, Chris was it. I memorized facts about him more committedly than I had memorized material for tests in school; I observed his behavior and patterns like he was padding through tall grass on National Geographic; I enjoyed discovering new things about him, surprising him, and seeing his face light up with a smile. I took pride in his accomplishments and planned my whole future around the perimeter of our relationship (sidebar: don’t do that with anyone… EVER). 

And then, when he turned around and walked away from us — and from me — so easily and painlessly, it implied to me that he felt that he was leaving nothing of value behind him.

His smooth departure made me feel:

  • worthless
  • dispensable
  • ugly
  • boring
  • uninteresting
  • stupid
  • naive
  • used

And yet it surprises me that I’ve experienced a heightened sense of depression and a record breaking level of low self-esteem during the past two years… hmmmmmm… #correlatemuch?  

 

And feeling so sub-human made me angry at him — why angry? Because while I cared for him more than words could possibly express, I was absolutely powerless to make him care about me again or to remember our wonderful friendship (which I thought had been tucked safely inside of our romantic union… spoiler: IT WASN’T!). 

I felt like an ugly, old thing from his past that he had just swept under the rug — an unsightly photograph tucked into a dusty cardboard box of his that he never, ever thinks about, and CERTAINLY never opens; it seemed like, romanticism aside, I held nothing else for him. And thinking that he thought this made me feel like a body without a soul.

And for the last two years, I’ve been telling myself — deep down, he has to care. Surely he must! I mean, how could you love somebody THAT MUCH and then not care for them at all? Impossible!

I would imagine scenarios (and don’t judge me for this; I’m sure you have done something similar!) where I became seriously hurt — critically injured — and was withering away inside of a gloomy and sterile hospital room, spending my last few days or hours on life support systems.

In these scenarios, mom and dad would drive into town from Tennessee to say goodbye; my bestest friend in the world, Charlie, wouldn’t leave my side until the machine pronouncing me gone beeped him out of the room; and my manager, Shelby, would come by to check on me a few times, because she’s a wonderful human being…

And long at last, Christopher would show up, just as I’d known he would.

And it plays out something like this: he sits down onto the chair beside my hospital bed. He takes my left hand, smiles at me, and – with tears in his eyes – says that he’s sorry for abandoning me; that he HAS missed our friendship… he just didn’t know how to express it… and that he’s going to miss me, and miss playing music together, and that will finally take that EP of ours somewhere and have it pressed onto vinyl — that maybe someone at Seasick Records can help him with the process…

“But you know that he wouldn’t come, Jace,” I whispered to myself last night, interrupting the scene. I was absentmindedly stroking my German Shepherd, Silo’s, coarse fur; he was sitting on the couch at home, curled up beside me in a similar fashion to how I imagined Chris would be there, beside me, in the end.

“He would not come. You want so badly to believe that he still cares about you that you imagine this scene to comfort yourself, but you have to imagine it this way instead; you’re in the hospital, dying. Your parents are there, Charlie is, perhaps, there also, and Shelby possibly visits, too… but Christopher never comes. Do you understand? He does not come.”

I cried and cried and cried, and then I dried my tears and watched a movie on Netflix; it was a film about a girl named Jessica – – a struggling playwright living in New York who just wanted to make her mark on the world and find somebody to love who would also love her back.

***

Am I whole now? Healed? Fixed? 100% sane and stable? Can I be happy forever now?

Ha! I’m optimistic, but I’m not unreasonable. I know that this is just one dip in the road that I’ve navigated myself past and that I have a thousand more potholes ahead. But I am learning better ways of handling my disappointment, sadness, and despair.

What I appreciated most about the article (mentioned above) was what it said about forgiveness. I can’t state it any better than it was originally worded, so here it is:

Stranger still, it is that wounded, branded, un-forgetting part of us that eventually makes forgiveness an act of compassion rather than one of simple forgetting. To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt, to mature and bring to fruition an identity that can put its arm, not only around the afflicted one within but also around the memories seared within us by the original blow and through a kind of psychological virtuosity, extend our understanding to (the) one who first delivered it.

Oh yes — this struck a chord with me; to forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt…

I was so hurt when another trusted friend abandoned me; knowing that they must have pictured me in their mind, weighed me on some kind of mental scale, and then ultimately judged that I wasn’t worth their time pierced me right through my fucking heart.

But I’ve grown and changed a lot since the wound was inflicted. I’ve learned how to cope and adapt in new, healthy ways, and I’ve even got a bit of leftover hope bottled up somewhere. It’s currently keeping cool in the freezer, actually; it’ll last longer that way.

Friends — I write about my feelings and experiences to soothe my own soul, but I also always hope that something I share might resonate with you somehow, or help alleviate some of your own pain in some small way. If you’re currently fostering sadness and anger (they’re closely related), know this: forgiveness isn’t a matter of forgetting… it’s an act of compassion towards yourself as well as the person who injured you.

For me, this means that Christopher has a right to choose his friends. I wouldn’t want him to be my friend purely out of sympathy — that would be terrible; even worse than his absence. And if I’m being completely honest, if a world without me in it really makes him happier, then I don’t want to be in his world. I really do love him that much. The jerk! 🙂

And for me, forgiving him for hurting me AND reassuring myself that I’m not a worthless human being because one human being on this planet doesn’t seem to like me has taken that tiny, sick ball in my stomach away. You know what I’m talking about, right? It’s that cloudy, turbulent, nauseous sensation that comes over you when you’re very sad or very worried about something.

Yeah… I’ve got a ways to go, but I can remember Christopher now — his smile, his laugh, and other little things about him — without feeling like I’m going to throw up. It doesn’t feel like he’s dying anymore and I’m being held in a suspended state of grief because of it; it (sadly) feels like he’s already died and as if I’ve already mourned his passing.

It’s as if letting him let go of me has freed me from it all. It’s like this — I’ve felt myself dying in a hospital bed without you. I’m going to be okay. I know that I hurt, and I can imagine how you feel; I’ve experienced the entire spectrum of emotions regarding us and now here I am and there you are. Why relive that shit over and over again?

I know how to comfort myself. I know what to do and where to go when I’m feeling down. I take a walk or ride my bike and then sip on a coffee that makes my heart race or buy a tub of spicy guacamole that makes the insides of my mouth burn. I pet my dogs and take a bath that smells like lavender because Charlie is SO THOUGHTFUL and he always keeps bath salts on hand for me. We watch an episode of That 70s Show together where I fawn over how cool Hyde is and rave about how cute Kitty is. We write stories and draw pictures together, creating and animating new worlds like demi gods, and then sometimes, I write a song to tell an old friend things they don’t care to hear me say… but I still get to say them. I can spit the poison out now; I won’t swallow it, or keep it safe in a vial, anymore.

I recognize both my inherit value and the right of others to choose their company… and if I’m not someone whose company they enjoy, I have to accept that fact while remembering that their exclusion of me isn’t necessarily the soul-crushing rejection I’ve always taken it to be. It’s often a mere matter of preference, or of chemistry. Now, I thought we had it, but let us remember that I’m notoriously naive when it comes to these things.

Aun Aqui

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