But I've also learned one key thing recently: Loving yourself.
While this may be a simple and trivial concept, it's something that most people haven't learned--and in many cases, some never learn it at all.
To that regard, this is what I've learned in the past 6 months. Through great trials and tribulations, I've begun to scratch the surface of knowing how to love myself.
Her name, though unequivocally unoriginal, is not Muffin. But for her privacy, we'll call her Muffin.
By all accounts, Muffin is actually perfect in every way imaginable to a mere mortal of a man. From how she speaks, to the way she stared at me when she thought I wasn't looking. As an aside, I will miss that stare. There's a silent longing and love in the way she stared at me. In such a way that needs no recognition, it's her own way to silently show love. It's for her, and not for me. At least not for me to know. The way she was detached, yet remained so intricately connected to me, is something that I have always fathomed--and greatly admired.
She's not afraid to hurt my feelings if needed to make me learn. Perhaps, I think that's one of the major reasons I fell in love with her. She kept me grounded to my imperfections, selflessly making me impervious to my own flaws that have the potential to hinder my growth. That's why I truly love her. In everything that she has done to, for and with me, she's made me grow as a person. In every way imaginable, she's made me the better version of me. And for that, I'm eternally grateful.
In my previous relationships, there was one thing in common: the passivity and lack of brevity in lieu of hurting them. Those relationships wore me down layer by layer, as if I were an onion that was slowly peeling away, making tears flow as each layer is removed along with a small piece of my heart. The upside to those relationships was that all that was left of me is my core: the essential and most vital part of me that drives me forward. It's that which gives me the determination to go after my heart's desires. The downside is that the same essential core is now vulnerable to the world that is forever changing and adapting.
And that's where Muffin came in. The essential core that was left of me from previous relationships was fortified by a hardened shell: a single layer of fortification that would have withstood even the test of time had it not for my incredulous miscalculations.
It started in the summer, after I had returned from my UK vacation with my previous girlfriend. What started out as harmless work-place flirting blossomed into something more. I think, for me, it started after she'd joked around with our co-workers that we were actually dating. A simple, harmless joke. And the more we played the part of that joke, the more I actually believed it. And not too long thereafter, I actually was smitten. Not because she's physically beautiful (which she is--she's a goddess incarnate), but because of her tenacity and drive to get what she wants. That quality about her just drew me closer and closer until she had full control over me--physically, emotionally and mentally.
I've always been jealous when it comes to the attention my partner would give to other people--other men, in particular. I wasn't the possessive and aggressive type, but rather the silent one who may or may not disappear when such interactions occur. The indirect passivity of my actions
Perhaps, that's where I should start this story: the end of the story.
Alcohol and jealousy are probably not the best combination to go hand-in-hand. Evidently. But we live and we learn, to say the least.
The Patriots were down by the end of the first half, and I've knocked down 5 double gin-tonics, a few shots of whiskey and a coffee-based cocktail (don't judge me). At this point, I'm still coherent. My inhibitions, while impaired, are still there. I can still comprehend the environment around me. Muffin, too, has had equal amounts of alcohol in the form of Vodka ceasars. While I don't blame alcohol for our actions that night, there still exists the possibility of correlation between stupidity and alcohol consumption. A positive, linear relationship exists between the two variables.
Like I said, I'm silently jealous. One guy joined our party and almost immediately, I've become non-existent to Muffin. Every time I spoke, she spoke over me. Every time I voiced an opinion, his was the only one Muffin would consider. Admittedly, I wasn't the only one noticing it. A few others in our party had texted me saying things like: "are you okay?" or "hey, what's going on?". It was probably one of the most embarrassing things I'd been involved in. And a part of me couldn't handle that public shaming--and so I paid our bill and walked out.
I recognized as I left that she will definitely not approve of what I'd just done, but it's too late to go back now. I just have to swallow my pride and hope that she doesn't end up hating me.
Muffin is not the type to chase after a sulking boyfriend. She's not the type who plays the typical relationship mind-games. Either you're in it, or you're not. There's no in-between. That's her philosophy when it comes to relationships. When it comes to anything, actually. I didn't hear from her until the next morning that we shouldn't see each other anymore.
I'll admit, that hit me hard. Harder than my break up with my previous 7-year long relationship. And I've come to the conclusion it's because I actually wanted to spend the rest of my life with Muffin; and that because my incredulous impulsivity, we are no longer together and that's no longer a possibility.
She says that "it's okay", and that "it's not in the cards for us for now", and that may be later on "we'll see where we're at" and perhaps reassess. I'm not tooting my own horn (always been such a weird saying to me), but I know that she still is holding on to me. But in her own way, she's protecting both herself and me from wasting our time if we've not figured out our lives. If it's meant to happen, then it will. It's a devastating time for me, but I'm grateful for her and what she's done for me in such a short amount of time.
So that's where we stand at the moment: apart, but remain interconnected in each other's lives. It's hard to imagine otherwise. We'd planned our lives together. Where we're going to live in the next year, where we're moving to 5 years down the line. Heck, even what ring I was going to get her when I proposed (it was a 3-carat radiant cut diamond ring, by the way). You don't plan those things if you don't imagine being in each other's lives forever. And maybe down the road, we'll revisit those plans. Again, we live and we learn.
Let's assess what she's taught me now.
Self-loving is such an abstract concept that consists of a plethora of different factors--some of which are just as abstract, some are a little more obvious.
Patience is one of the things that she's taught me. If something is supposed to happen, it will happen. That's the nature of the universe and the reality about every event that has happened or has yet to happen. She's taught me that there shouldn't be the need to rush into anything because if the universe wants it to happen, it will allow it, despite your inability to comprehend the time scale. Even as I sit and type this, I can appreciate that time will resolve all my issues. Whether it's now or 10 years from now, I've accepted that I can be patient for what's yet to come to me.
Even when we first started dating, we were off to a rocky start. I had not accepted the end of my last relationship, and that I was rushing into a new one--at least that's how she saw it. And she had plenty of reservations in getting anything started with me. So we gave it some time (albeit not a lot of time), but we ended up getting together. The attraction between us was too strong to be impeded by my history. There was just something so right about us that made me invulnerable to the concept of time.
But as we started dating more and more, time perception was growing in my subconscious. I was planning things with her (like marriage and vacations), but I was not pushing it like I would normally (not that I'd planned a marriage before). I wasn't hastily getting eager to get these plans up and running. I was learning to slowly accept that these grand plans are comprised of millions of smaller pieces that we'll pick up together. Piece by piece, one at a time. Slowly but surely, we'll get them all.
She's younger than me, but is already more mature than I could ever be. More cognitively enlightened. A true goddess, like I've said before.
Respect for your spouse is a big thing that she's taught me. Now that may sound awful--that I have not been respectful of my previous partners. But in this case, "respect" is very different. Of course I respected--respect--my previous partners. I did not treat them as my personal property that I could do with as I pleased. In this case, the respect is the preponderance to constantly defend her from anything--be it a small, harmless joke about her quirks or a massively deafening insult to her intelligence. She's taught me that loving her has to come with respect and the cognition that doing so is a large undertaking. "Love fully", she tells me.
I remember telling her a story that one of our co-workers was making a joke about her to me. My response was that: "she just likes to get sh*t done" and that "she's doing your work that you're supposed to be doing" but that "rather, she's picking up after you". And I remember Muffin lighting up. I wasn't meant to tell her that story. I wanted to do things for her without her recognition. But she really enjoyed that little anecdotal occurrence.
And when I walked out on her that night, I knew that respect just went out the window. I had thrown what she's taught me like it was non-existent. And for that I am forever regretful.
Forgiveness is easy. Anyone can forgive. But getting back to the "before" is next to impossible. Getting back to when there was nothing to forgive is the true test of perfection.
Being alone is something she's teaching me now. And it's an important lesson to be taught, I have come to believe. One will never know what one needs or wants in life unless they have been alone. Learning to be alone is comprised of a couple of things--most notably, being independent.
Muffin is probably the most independent woman I've ever met. She's capable of accomplishing everything without the need of anyone. I've come to learn that when she strongly believes in something, she will go at it fully. And when she wants something, you better bet that she will have it. Immediately. That's definitely something I've admired about her. And that's something she's definitely teaching me. My independence, I am learning, is extremely important to me. She's taught me that I don't need her to get stuff done the same way she doesn't need me to get her life in order. We only needed each other to be there for each other and make our ordinary lives extraordinary. Together, we could've paved new paths; but she taught me I could have paved brilliant paths myself. Being with someone is to share your brilliance with someone. Not having to need their brilliance to make yourself brilliant.
Being with someone should be comprised of being independent of one another, as well as ironically (and paradoxically) being dependent on each other. The dependence for one another stems from the emotional support when one person can't compensate for oneself anymore. But primarily, there should be a degree of independence from one another, such that each moment spent with one another is precious and unequivocally beautiful. It should be simple.
Perhaps, the most important thing I've learned from Muffin is to love completely--without reservations or hesitation.
Before, I would love plenty, but half-heartedly. Now, I'm learning to love less frequent. But when I do love, I would love truly and fully--wholeheartedly and without hesitations. Loving less, but fully, is giving me self-satisfaction beyond recognition. One reason is that it makes you more impervious to frequently getting hurt. But the caveat to that is when you do get hurt, you hurt a lot; but patience, self-respect, independence, and ability to accept oneself, all play a crucial role in cushioning the blow, if you will.
Muffin has a high turnover for emotional pain. It will hurt her momentarily, but will immediately bounce back because she's learned to deal with the pain so efficiently that almost nothing can break her spirits. That's one-up she's got over me. And that's one thing I'm learning from her. Even post-breakup, she's still teaching me things about how to love myself. No one has ever done that for me. No one has taught me what she's taught me. Especially not in the short period of our time together.
I've loved her so whole-heartedly in our time together--and still do. I've defied my previous school of thinking to realize that I, too, am important. How I feel, what I want, and who I want to be are all important to her, too.
In everything she's done so beautifully, she's taught me all these factors that comprise how to self-love. And that's a very important part of living: loving yourself is so vital to living that without it, you are alive but not living. Self-loving shows you that despite many obstacles and tribulations in life, you can come to accept them and use them to progress positively.
Perhaps, this chapter of our lives is done in this book called life. But hopefully, there will be new chapters hereafter that depict our lives together still. But for now, I'm forever grateful and happy that I've come to learn how to love myself by being with Muffin.