This morning. Saturday and I don’t have to work this weekend and I woke up thinking: what should I do with my freedom today?
I need to finish planning my upcoming trip.
I need to balance some credit card statements and find that one medical bill I couldn’t find last time I paid medical bills.
I need to get in a run, weather allowing (we had a huge snowstorm yesterday and might get more today).
I need to clean the bathrooms and finally get a grip on my disorganized running clothes and find my other amethyst earring.
But what I do I want to do?
I wandered into my craft room and I remembered that one of my before-my-birthday goals is to finish my birthdays-in-my-40s layouts. I have all the journaling written and just have three years I haven’t put together, mostly because I need to find and print a photo for each of them. This led me to scrolling through scrapbook layouts I’ve made about myself, and then there it was, again, the pain of a lost relationship.
I’ve written about this a little bit on my Instagram but not blogged about it. To sum up: A person I was very close to rejected me. I am hesitant to write about it for many reasons, mostly because it fills me with shame (as well as despair and sorrow and embarrassment and many other difficult feelings I don’t have words for). This was done with a spirit of me being too stupid to understand why, and even though I have read and reread the emails and replayed the conversations in my head, I only have a few scraps of understanding about why this happened. This experience has been so painful. Worse even than the death of my parents in a way, because she isn’t dead. She just didn’t want a life with me in it.
This experience shadowed much of 2022, and this year I am trying to not let it pull me down anymore. I am trying to feel what I feel about it, rather than resisting feeling my feelings out of their sheer awfulness. Flowing through instead of getting snagged—I have a whole image of the landscape of what these feelings look like, and equate finding myself in the emotion of it to being swept down a river, and I am trying to float now instead of being trapped by the current against a sharp boulder. Sometimes I find calm waters, but sometimes something surprises me and I am right back in it, in an uncontrollable flood of emotion (if I could just clearly know what was wrong with me that I earned rejection, if I just knew exactly what it was).
Flipping through layouts this morning was such a surprise.
Because she is in so many of my layouts. Some about our relationship and things we did together. Some about my kids but she’s there in the pictures too.
Seeing all of those images, remembering those experiences we used to have together—seeing myself, really, in how often I wanted to document my relationship with that person and how much I loved her.
I can’t look at those layouts and find happiness there anymore, even though the moments at the time they happened were happy. Not knowing how the relationship ended. I look at her in the pictures and wonder was I already annoying her then? When did it really start? What kind of meaning do I prescribe backwards through time---how can I remember laughing with her now I know that all along there was something wrong with me and how I am?
Looking at layouts this morning reminded me all over again how important she was to me. How much our relationship mattered to me. And forced me to question all over again: was it one sided? If I mattered to her like she mattered to me, how could she reject our relationship? Which makes me think I didn’t matter to her in the same way, and so in a way I have lost everything, the meaning of the past memories as well as future experiences.
But I also felt glad that I made those layouts.
I haven’t documented all of our experiences. In fact, when I closed my album and went into Facebook, thinking it would cheer me up, a memory of her from 2015, when we saw Margaret Atwood together, was the first thing I saw. (I didn’t ever make a layout about that.)
And now I doubt I will ever be able to go back in time to scrapbook any of it.
What would I be able to write about those past experiences? I can’t see them through any other lens than “eventually this person rejects me.” I can’t write “I loved this day” or “I loved this experience” because the reason I loved it was that she was with me. So I can’t, any longer, trust what those past experiences meant to me.
I can’t get it back—how I used to feel within our relationship.
Which just reinforces something for me.
There is often talk in the scrapbooking industry of being “caught up.” A sort of underlying worry that you haven’t told all the stories.
I let go of that expectation a long time ago. I will never be “caught up.” I will never scrap all the stories, and I am OK with it.
But I also, now that this has happened, understand more why people care about it so much.
Because things change. Relationships change in ways you just never expect.
So I’ve added a new goal to my scrapbook-this-soon list. A layout documenting the relationships I have with the people I love right now.
Maybe doing that would help me to be a little bit more trusting. To not, whenever some bit of conflict pops up, start to worry that I’ve irrevocably damaged another important relationship.
To celebrate that right now, we love each other.
And maybe, as I practice flowing more, as I perhaps find more calm waters, I can celebrate that without the caveat
(in case I ruin it in the future.)