I fell for the wrong man once. It was doomed from the start, even though I didn't know it then. I was in my late 20s, and the life I had lived until then had been sheltered. I was the girl who listened to her parents, who got good grades, who had clear rules of morality. I spent most of my 20s hoping to meet a man who met my parents' requirements. The problem was that they did not meet mine. I rarely met a man I found attractive, and I worried that something was wrong with me, that I was too frigid. When he came along and my heart did the little thump, thump, I felt relieved.
He had traits that I used to put on a pedestal - a dry wit, intellectualism, a tortured soul. Before I knew it, a cavalier version of me that I hadn't known existed stepped forward. Perhaps because I had been guarded for so long, my emotions suddenly opened up with an intensity I didn't know I had. I wanted to give in to the experience and let it happen. I didn't care how it might end. I assumed that I could then walk away and resume my normal life. I didn't know that your emotions can grab you as if you were a piece of wilted spinach and thrash you around. I didn't know that what I thought was in my command could consume me and take over, drag me by my hair even as my brain grappled for control.
The relationship slugged on longer than it should have. The happy moments were overshadowed by tortured exchanges as I demanded a logical explanation for what he couldn't -- or didn't want to -- put into words. The first time we broke up, I talked to a few friends. The second, third, and the fourth time, I kept quiet, ashamed that I was so out of control, that I couldn't walk away and mean it. I knew it would never work. I knew it the first time we broke up. But my emotions kept dragging me back, as if I were caught in ripples of waves that kept pulling me in over and over again.
I wasted so much time first trying to fix what I could not, even as he told me it could not work, not really. Then I wasted more time fighting myself, trying to convince myself that I had to extricate myself, even as I let myself get pulled in deeper. One day, I suddenly realized that I wanted a normal life, a life that comes with a family, children. It was no longer enough to have the freedom marked by staying out as late as I wanted without having to make a call, grocery shopping for one, not having to compromise. The intense emotions - as much as I indulged in them - did not make a life. I needed more. I found that I was no longer embarrassed to admit - to myself or others - that I wanted to meet someone to marry and have children.
Sometimes, when I am walking hand in hand with Jeff, I wonder if I could have gotten here without that tortured experience. Could I have realized how much I wanted this life had I not lived so long with what I could not have? I wonder what it was in myself that was so tied to that dead-end relationship, what kind of a strange comfort I felt. Why I had endured so much less than I deserved. That's when I grab Jeff's hand tighter and kiss his sweet lips. And thank him for finding me.