I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
We were driving along Lake Shore Drive and the waves were crashing white. It was about midnight and we were both pretty tired from running around all day. I reached out to the gear shift to rest my hand on hers, and she flinched and pulled away as if it was instinct. I wasn’t even mad, just tired of being sad. She saw me turn to look back out at the lake and she apologized. I didn’t even wait for an explanation because she knew how I felt and I knew her damage. I knew it was the damage that made her flinch, to pull away, to be distant, unaffectionate – and it was that damage that I did my best to love away. But the love was futile and late because her subconscious did everything it could to push away anything good or healthy. Even now, I wonder if I had stuck around long enough, I could have had the chance to see her conquer her demons. I often wonder if I had walked away too soon. Not because I harbor romantic feelings, but I simply wonder if she would have eventually evolved through the nightmares and the drugs? I wonder if she would have been able to finally smile when I walked in the room and would I have been able to hold her hand without an apology?
That kind of stuff takes its toll, you know? I tried, I really did. I gave so much. Much more than I could. And it really is the little things that either wear away at your soul or heal your heart. And I thought that I would lead by example. To be a walking example of actions over words. To not simply write “I love you’s” in birthday cards, but to make her feel it. To show her. To do the little things you see in movies and read in books and I finally understood the giddiness that infects your heart when it’s full of a future with a magical woman.
But every time I felt like I was making a difference. Like I was doing a job I could finally be proud of, she pulled her hand away. Or didn’t hug me when I walked in the door. Or shouted venomous words through gritted teeth. And all I could feel was sad. The anger left a long time before when I learned about her abuse and stupid me for thinking if I tried hard enough, I could love it away. And I tried. I really tried.
I left her about a year later and it wasn’t easy to walk away from someone you had pictured a future with. To walk away because I knew that her damage had finally caught up with my health. That her demons finally started to overpower my hope. And I lost my smile. And that happens when love is neglected. And I held on for a long time. Longer than I would have ever told anyone to hold on. But I couldn’t base a future on a foundation of sadness and disappointment. And when I walked away no one blamed me. They understood. They knew it had weathered me. It had dulled my shine because my optimism didn’t stand a chance against her cynicism and pain and mistrust. A good partner knows how to compromise, but a responsible partner would never allow someone they love to sacrifice who they are as a person. And while it was my job to support her even when the nightmares and addictions came back around – you can only expect good people to feel neglected and unappreciated for so long.
So I walked away because my love is not unconditional. My head and my heart need to be nurtured and appreciated. Because I will wither away. Fade. Dull. If I don’t feel loved and I really don’t think that’s asking for much.
Because it isn’t.
And fuck anyone who thinks it is selfish to keep yourself healthy. Because happy people make this world a better place. And happy and healthy people attract other happy and healthy people and that’s what we deserve – to get back what we put out in to this world. So no, I wouldn’t blame you for leaving if your heart continued to get crushed. If your love was not reciprocated. And if someone treated you like a nuisance and not like the wonderful fucking person you truly are.
So yeah, you’re damn right my love is conditional.
And anyone who thinks otherwise is simply selling themselves short.