Layers

 

Originally published in September 2015

 

There are layers to the pain I’ve collected over the years.

Sometimes people make it sound like you go through hard things, and then you get over them, and then you go through new hard things. So you’re only ever dealing with one thing at once.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never fully gotten over anything.

The freshest pain hurts the most of course, but that doesn’t mean the old things don’t hurt too.

People talk the same way about love – you fall in love with one person, you fall out of love, you break up, and then you fall in love with someone new.

Me though, I carry everything around with me always. Partially because that’s just the way I am and partially because I choose to – everything I’ve been through and everyone I’ve ever loved is so important to me that I don’t want to let them go.

I’ve fallen in love more than once and they were both real, and both loves co-existed at the same time, one just under the surface.

And now as someone else shows up I find myself falling for someone new while still being in love with someone else, and someone else even underneath that.

I don’t fall out of love, I only fall in it.

Just another reason to feel sorry for new guys, I guess. No one’s ever going to get my whole heart, not anymore.

Up until this year I thought a couple of things. First, that you can only love one person at once. Second, that it wasn’t real love if you find yourself falling out of it, because real love never dies. I still believe the second, but these two beliefs combined made me think I would never move forward or find someone new, because if I did, that would mean that I was never really in love, and I knew that I was.

Although I get much better at coping with it, to the point where most days I’m okay, even happy, the number of things and people that can hurt me grows everyday.

Yesterday morning I came across the first photo of my ex that I’ve seen in months and it fucked me up for the rest of the day. I didn’t realize that I had been gone so long or how much he would change, or how much I would. He looks good and I worry that I was as bad for him as he was for me, even though I tried so hard to only ever make his life better. I remember how it was only a couple of months ago that we talked almost every day and I wonder for the millionth time why he let me go. I realize how much I’m missing in his life – TIFF, the Jays actually being good, which book he’s reading currently and what number it is on his list, and I don’t even know what else and that’s the point. And how much he’s missed and will continue to miss in mine – cutting my hair, the scary day I was in the hospital for what turned out to be a benign tear in my lung, changes in my career, the Taylor Swift concert I’ve been excited for since even before we met, my birthday this week, and I want to pick up the phone and text him and say I’m sorry, you were right, just so he could be there, even though I wouldn’t mean it, because I will never believe that he’s right about us.

And then several hours later I came across a photo of my first ex and his boyfriend, the first one I’ve seen in years since I have his stuff hidden on almost all of my social media – I used to be triggered so badly that I wanted to end my life, because that’s what happens sometimes when the person you thought you were going to marry someday changes their mind. At first I smiled and said “aw” and hit ‘like’ – and then it fucked me up even more. I remember how the first time I saw a photo of the two of them was the moment I realized that he loved him now (and they weren’t even dating yet). I’m reminded once again how unfair the situation was. Is. It’s not fair that he gets to ride off into the sunset when I was the one who grew up wanting that more than anything, who put in so much effort into our relationship that it tore me apart. And it’s not fair that I STILL haven’t found that; I’ve only had more failed attempts and more heartbreak, and they’re still together.

But tonight, I’m going to go to the gym and there’s a guy there who likes me a lot, and I’ll smile and laugh and feel pretty and sexy and desirable and wanted.

He’ll play a song I like and I’ll be dancing and my climbing partner will be like stop dancing, pay attention, and I’ll watch him watch me.

And I’ll be present in that moment while also remembering dancing alone on New Year’s Eve and pretty much completely ignoring my future boyfriend, knowing now that that was the night he decided he wanted me. And underneath that I’ll remember dancing with my favourite person on New Year’s Eve three years ago and how I still have a photo of us from that night framed on my wall.

We’ll stretch and get ready to go, and on the way out I’ll come up with a stupid question to ask him. We’ll probably talk about Taylor Swift because that’s all I know how to talk about, and I’ll be charmed as I try to find the perfect time to end the conversation and leave him waiting for me to come back the next day.

And then I’ll remember that he has a girlfriend who he probably thinks I don’t know about, and I’ll remember the Australian guy I had a thing with for like two weeks last year who cheated on his girlfriend, who told me I was too good for him, and whether he meant it or not, he was right. I’ll remember my ex asking out a girl I know after sitting right next to me and how much that hurts. I’ll remember my first ex deciding he wanted someone easier, who looked better on paper, when we were teenagers soon after telling me we had a chance and that he might still love me. I’ll remember being on the other side of the situation, leaving someone for a shot with my first ex who didn’t deserve me no matter how many nice things he said, trying to sleep listening to the guy whose heart I broke crying in the next room.

All of this will take place in my head at the same time, within the span of about five seconds. And I’ll walk out, thinking about his girlfriend, careful not to blur any lines, and wonder if this is going anywhere, except this time, I won’t especially care because it’s just for fun – after all, we don’t really actually know each other.

But maybe someday I will, and he’ll be another addition to my collection.

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