To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to change you is the greatest accomplishment.” – Emerson
I’ve struggled to write this entry for months now. If I am being honest, probably well over a year. Maybe before I even landed in France.
I don’t even know where to begin.
So, I guess, I will just cut to the chase with this.
Rip off the bandaid so to speak.
Who knows who is reading this anyway.
I’ve very recently broken up with the man to whom I was engaged to be married and who was the reason I moved to Europe. At least I think we have broken up. The past several months have been such a blur of crossed lines, conflating emotions, and misunderstandings (both cultural and emotional) that I don’t even know. This is what I do know: several weeks ago, I suggested that the Parisian and I take a break to give him space to focus on a series of things – his father and work primarily – and we have not talked since.
To say that the weeks since have been difficult would be an understatement. I have been a human roller coaster of emotions and thoughts. I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone and, for the most part, haven’t done. I knew I couldn’t do so until I had parsed through all that has happened over the past several years. And, I knew I couldn’t do that in Paris – the city was too charged with memories and funky energies of all that had happened. So, I got on a train to Spain (San Sebastian to be exact), not knowing whether I would stay for the weekend, a week or longer.
It was a healing trip. I walked countless miles; meandering on trails that run along the coast and through ancient village streets. It gave me the quite literal space I needed from my current life situation to write, to feel, to (begin to) heal, and to reframe my perspective.
As I have gone through this process, my thoughts keep returning to the question of truth. More specifically, how many truths I have been hiding. Hiding isn’t even the right word because I have been honest to a degree – but always to a degree – about my life here in Paris. There are so many half truths I have told people – friends, myself, random people I meet – for the past two years that it’s been hard for me to know what the real truth is anymore.
That is why I think….I think…I am doing with this blog post rather than just holding these thoughts close in my journal. I want to own as much of my truth publicly as possible. To share some of the pain and difficulties I have experienced, even as I go through the process of releasing their power over me. For far too long, I have let these experiences be a source of shame and embarrassment, when in reality they are the reason I am becoming stronger everyday.
I am hardly unique in hiding truths from those around me – particularly the dark ones. Everybody has a dark truth; generally, more than one. Something that they are seeking to bury, to hide from the world around them. It could be a perceived character flaw, a weakness if you will. More times than not, it is something that has happened or is happening in their lives. Rather than embracing and sharing what is fundamentally human about our lives, we seek shelter in the protection of perception, fearing the inevitable judgment that rains down from the public heavens that comes with honesty. This is natural; but it is not necessarily healthy.
The Parisian and our life together is my dark truth; one that I have been struggling with for quite some time. It has been the lens that has blurred everything else about my life in Paris, the reason that I came, and why I have continued to stay.
When I moved here, I carried on my back not only the inordinately large (both in size and number) checked bags into which I stuffed my life to date, but also a belief that I was blessed to be the one to have the opportunity to live out a true dream (how egotistical does that sound?). I was a woman reconnected with her long lost Parisian love and destined to have both a love and life that was bi-continental in nature. That’s the story I told not only everyone I left in Washington, DC as I packed my bags and as I went about my life here in Paris, but also (in hindsight, most dangerously) myself. But that’s the thing, stories are stories and the truth is an entirely different matter.
I have to digress for a moment. There were certainly words of skepticism…of caution along the way. But by in large, there were words of encouragement…of optimism. Maybe these words were fed in some small part by a small belief in all of the Elizabeth Gilbert / Julia Roberts (think Eat, Pray, Love) and Frances Mayes / Diane Lane (think Under the Tuscan Sun) genre books / movies that fill all too many late nights…if not by others than certainly by myself. It’s only been in the two years since that fateful decision to move that I have come to learn just how much reservation others had and continue to have. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have moved had people been more honest with me. I definitely would have still made the decisions I did. But perhaps I wouldn’t have felt the need to hide so hard…which I did…from most everyone around me when things didn’t go as expected. I was still holding on to a dream, my public rationalization for making such a huge shift in my life, and felt the need to support the perception that that dream was becoming a reality.
The reality of my life here has been so far from the perception that I have led some to believe that it is occasionally hard for me to explain this moment of truly waking up.
The truth is that almost every promise that was made to me has been broken.
I was promised a life together based in France. The reality is that the plan for us to live together has never really happened. I was told two days before I left for France that I didn’t have a place to live as he had not found an apartment for us. I have since lived in 3 different apartments in the city that I found myself (a point of personal pride). Where has the Parisian lived? Well, that is the hardest and most embarrassing truth I have been hiding. Even though we have been engaged for over a year and a half, he still spends over 50% over his time in an apartment he co-owns with his ex. The rationalization? He is heavily invested financially and has to be primarily residenced there to protect that investment, per French law. I’ve been skeptical of this citation to say the least, but took it at word. Most likely because I was too afraid of the truth.
I was promised a life that was deeply entrenched culturally both here in France and in the US. The reality is that every trip to the US was made alone, every return (save one) met by a bus / taxi driver, and every meeting with an immigration attorney or officer alone.
I was promised support in establishing myself professionally. The reality is that every potential business contact developed through my own friends. On this, he did try. He sought to bring me into the startups he was developing and connect me with contracts. And, while I loved the legal work I was doing for him (albeit for free), the other contracts were never a fit. They were never a fit because they were reflective of his professional passion and totally unrelated to a world I knew.
Beyond these promises, there were a million other emotional cuts he inflicted but those are far too personal for me to share at this point as I am still grappling to understand the impact that they have had on me.
Reading this, I am sure you are wondering why I stayed. I have had this question asked of me point blank by the (very few) friends I have talked to about us. I have even asked that question myself – quite a lot – over the past several months and definitely over the past few days.
I stayed because, despite all of the difficulties and hardships, the good was always greater than the bad. I was with him because the love we have – or I guess had, as I really can’t speak to his feelings at this point – is a truly extraordinary one.
Our connection (I know, cliche) was beyond anything I have felt before.
We understood each other.
I stayed because he saw me for who I really am and loved me for it. He helped me to feel like less of an oddball, understanding the root of my root and embracing it. He believed in me, what I could be, more than anyone (save my mother) ever has before. Perhaps most importantly, he had the ability to make me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry.
I stayed because I admired him. There is an inner strength to him that makes you think that he could break mountains, if he wanted to do so. He has perseverance and a belief in himself that was empowering, almost addictive. And, when he is kind, it is like a truth that just washes through you and makes you feel clean.
I stayed because I believed if we were able to just get through all of the trials we were facing and were finally able to be together, then there was nothing we couldn’t conquer.
But for months, the question of whether we could get through the trials became a very real one. There were issues that were brewing. Almost all of them boiled down to one core point of contention: how we view and prioritize our relationship. I put it first, wanting to understand and navigate the cultural differences to create an open and supportive environment. He put it last (and if it was a higher priority for him, it didn’t feel that way), always focusing on an almost never ending stream of life events taking up his energetic bandwidth. Neither of which were healthy.
There were times, in fact most of the time, that I understood his need to do this. The matters he was having to tend to were serious – and very often life or death, especially when it came to concerns with his father. We would talk through these matters – sometimes calmly, sometimes highly charged – and there was always a call for understanding, primarily mine of his situation. And I tried. Was I perfect? Not even close. I was insecure, scared, argumentative, and searching for a place to put blame for decisions I made entirely on my own. I said things I never could have imagined coming out of my mouth…and immediately regretted saying them yet knowing there was some truth behind.
But after nearly two years of living in Paris spending the majority of the time focused on his needs – his professional endeavors, the ebbs and flows of his father’s health, and financial concerns – without receiving any support in return, I was nearing the end of my emotional and energetic rope. I had no sense of security, of a real home, and felt that he wasn’t investing the time necessary into our relationship to not only make us work but thrive. As a result, little things would set me off or send me in an emotional meltdown. The result, understandably, was driving him away. He felt I needed too much support, assurance of his feelings, and constantly reproaching him for any shortcomings.
I knew that a breaking point was coming, I just didn’t know what it would be until it was there.
After days of having my calls and texts go unreturned, I had finally had enough of the questions and uncertainty and called for a break. I did this not because I no longer wanted to be with him. Quite the contrary, I did it because I wanted to make a life with him but knew that would not be possible with things continuing to progress as they were. That break has since quickly spiraled into what I can only assume is a break up.
This has left me shellshocked, especially as I continue to learn details about things that have been going on his life of which I was unaware.
I am left both without and still with too many words.
I am deeply heartbroken.
I am confused.
The one thing I am not is angry.
I am not angry because I still love him.
And, I do still want a life with him.
I have already faced torrents of comments from the few friends I have talked to about this feeling. And I know more will come. But if I am to heal, then I have to be honest. And the truth is that the core of my heart still hopes and wants us to find our way back together. However, not as we were. But as a mutually supportive, loving, and accepting relationship. I have also come to terms with the fact that the chances of this actually happening are unlikely. And, that’s ok.
In going through what seems to be an endless number of relationship articles that Medium is feeding me these days, I read:
Sexy is taking responsibility for your life. It’s waking up everyday knowing that you might fail at something but continuing on regardless. Sexy is muddling through life absolutely terrified, but still knowing you’ve got the guts to do it.
It’s been so long since I have felt sexy for any reason. If I am going to feel sexy for any reason, though, I want it to be because I am taking ownership of my role in this, even as I am not sure how much sense I am making of all of this at the moment.
When I moved to Paris, I broke every rule I held tight to all my life. And, I’ve continued to break them since being here. I moved to not only another city but another country for a man without any firm plans to be married and without a job or clients for my firm lined up. I moved here because I believed in the word of another.
And the dark truth I have been hiding for the past two years is that virtually every word that was uttered to me was betrayed. I believed in the power of a dream and love and they have been used against me as a weapon.
In trying to hide that dark truth, I have driven so many people away that there are times that I have questioned every relationship in my life. I have shut people out and I have completely shut down at times. I have done so because I didn’t know who I could trust with the truth I was living. Those decisions, though, were entirely mine…to build a wall…to shine a face when I could….and to hide from the world when I couldn’t. I have no real idea of the damage it inflicted, but that is my own path to follow.
As I let go of the dream that was us – The Parisian and myself – I want to do it honestly. To mourn what seems to be the loss of love, while treasuring all that it gave to me. And while I needed to acknowledge the times of pain, I will not hold on to them. I will not let those times have any more power over me. Rather, I am learning from them and focusing on the joy that The Parisian gave me – and the gift of knowing a true love, even if it wasn’t enough to keep us together.
As I do this, a new dream is beginning to take shape. And while I have no idea where it will be based or who will be in it, I do know it will no longer be centered around the life of another. Rather, it will be founded in honesty and inspired by the hope and beauty of my own potential. It is a new life of my own making.