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There may not be any Sunday Scaries I’ve ever experienced that were more brutal than me being still slightly hungover while poring over the relationship that I’d spectacularly torpedoed less than 12 hours earlier. The mixture of shame, regret, embarrassment, loss, guilt, and stupidity I felt is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Okay, maybe I would wish it on him, but that’s just because I’m a bad person and he is an even worse person. But that’s a tale for another time.
As I contemplated what greasy, completely unhealthy food I would order in for dinner to curb my hangover and give me some fleeting feeling of happiness, my phone began to rumble. My heart skipped a beat when I saw Jennie’s name appear on my lock screen.
“Hey, I’m outside your building. Can you let me up so we can talk?”
The time between when I buzzed her in and when she knocked on my door is what I imagine a death row inmate might feel while walking the Green Mile. I had left things in a spot where Jennie felt emotionally manipulated, disrespected, and hurt by me, a stupid idiot dummy who couldn’t figure out how to rationalize his emotions. This visit, I assumed, was to deliver the final nail into the coffin.
When I slowly opened the door, she was standing there, staring at me with those adorable, brown, Disney eyes. With a slight, wry smile, she pulled me in close and kissed me before whispering, “I’m not ready to give up on you.”
Nothing she could have possibly said other than “I’m late” would have shell-shocked me as much as those eight words had. She had already whisked past me and sat on my couch, beckoning for me to join her before I could collect my thoughts. As we began to talk about each of our feelings and how we were communicating, I started to slip into a bit of anxiety, wondering how I could unfuck the mess I’d made. But Jennie made it simple. She wanted to know from me, straight-up, whether I liked her or not. I told her that, of course, I did.
“So then what’s the problem?” she asked.
“I know it’s cliched and everything but…you deserve so much better than me.”
“Please don’t do that,” she said sharply. “Don’t presume to tell me what I do and don’t deserve. I like you. I want to be with you. If you don’t want to be with me then just say that.”
I didn’t want to protest because it was a wonderful thing that she said. But there was that feeling, still gnawing away at me, that something about us was just not going to work no matter how much we liked each other. So I revealed to her the deepest, most basic core fear as to why I didn’t think we could work.
“I just don’t know how I can keep up with you. I mean you’re energetic and social. You love planning events and always having a happy hour with your girlfriends on the books. You’ve got this great, bubbly energy and I’m…you know…kind of a cynical, depressing individual.
“You like to spend days together followed by nights out with your friends. Afternoons filled with outdoor activities, visits to wonderful museum exhibits or art galleries, and weeklong trips full of pampering. Me…I like weekends where I don’t even leave the apartment. I feel drained, anxious after spending hours on hours with someone, anyone. Sometimes I want to stay with you all night, other times I’m so goddamn exhausted that all I can muster is energy for a few hours before I’m desperate to go home and be alone. It’s not because I don’t love being around you, but I need that time to myself.
“You always want me around, which is a great thing. But I usually want to be by myself. I don’t want you to feel hurt or dejected when I don’t want to stay the night or not see you for days at a time.”
I inhaled heavily before saying what I really feared.
“I don’t want to hold you back from living your life. Because I don’t know how well I can do in your world.”
She leaned against me, lacing her fingers in between mine.
“But that’s why I like you so much. You’re so calming, chill, quiet. I feel like whenever we’re together I can release all my energy to have fun with you, but you can also keep me from going overboard. When I’m doing too much, overextending myself, you’re there to tighten my energy level. You’re there to keep me balanced and make me feel safe.”
“Is that enough?” I asked her softly.
“It’s more than enough for me.”
She stayed at my place for a while, just laying there with me as we talked, watched TV, and planned what we would do for the next week before she went to her parents’ house for Christmas. After a few hours, I kissed her goodnight and watched her traipse out into the cold winter night, with plans for the rest of the week. We were together again, but now I needed stop dancing around my feelings.
It really is an amazing thing, to have someone say that you mean so much to them. When you feel like you aren’t yet the person you’ve striven to be, it’s easy to lose sight of the person that you are. For almost all my adult life, I’ve always felt the need to improve myself. Improve my outlook, my mental stability, my physical condition, my diet, my lifestyle, whatever. When I look at myself, all I see are the flaws. When Jennie looks at me, she sees a person that I know is there beneath the flaws, someone better than I’m probably willing to admit to myself is there.
Finding someone like that, who loves you despite all your deepest fears, insecurities, and shortcomings is rare. It might be the rarest thing in the world. I’ve never had it happen to me. My relationships have always been based on pure physical and emotional fire, which flame out in spectacular fashion, or as girls take me on for my potential, hoping to fix me up and ending things when I don’t change quickly enough for their liking. All of these experiences solidified in me that I could not find love without more time and incubation. Jennie doesn’t want that. Jennie just wants the person that I am an always fundamentally have been.
That is some scary shit for me. To have someone just say I as a person am what they want. For one, it makes you feel unworthy of them being able to accept all these flaws you’ve so desperately convinced yourself you need to fix. But even more so, to stop this work I’ve done and just be myself in a relationship, if it fails it would confirm my deepest fears that I am, in fact, not good enough.
But after Jennie had left and I sat there in my living room, I thought really hard about the implications of what she said and what I wanted to be. I realized that when people say “you need to love yourself before you can be loved,” they mean you just need to be able to accept someone loving you to be loved. Until you can get out of your own head and just be in a moment of pure love, it will not happen for you. So I made my decision. I’m all in.
The apps have been deleted, accounts deactivated. I’m going to stop stressing myself to have washboard abs, a full head of hair, or a prestigious, high-paying job. I’m going to stop wondering when I’ll be good enough for a girl, and appreciate the girl who thinks I’m already good enough. I’m going to be kinder to myself, as kind as this girl that for some reason just always wants to be around me.
And I there is one thing I would like to say to my girlfriend when she reads this. I will stop trying to be a person that I think is deserving of your love, but I’m going to keep trying to be the best version of myself whenever I can. You protested when I said you deserve better than me, and you were right. But you definitely deserve the best I can give you, so I will give you my best. I just hope that’s enough. .