The man I waited to love was very patient. I waited a full year before I would even let him in my house. In that year we grew to really know and understand one another. I felt understood in a way that I had never felt in my life. I believed that I loved him and that he really understood what a sacrifice I was making in telling him so. I'm not sure, now, that it was love. It was safety. It was a kind of security I had never known in any facet of my life. My entire self was safe there. He never judged me. He never asked me to be something other than what I was. My little quirks that had always driven so many crazy were adorable to him. I could wake up after a drunken evening where I'd been nasty to find him in the kitchen asking, "How do you want your eggs?"
After a year together he asked me twice to meet his 12 year old daughter. I was afraid to do that. I didn't want to screw it up. I literally had to see a therapist before I committed to it. From all he had told me about her, I loved his daughter long before I met her. I didn't want to be the next person to walk into her life, tell her I cared about her and leave her later. I knew how that felt and I would never do that. My therapist helped me get to a place where I was sure that I would never be that kind of person. I finally met her and she was even sweeter and more lovely than I had imagined.
We had custody of his daughter. Actually, he had custody and we were together so it felt like I did, too. Her mother wanted nothing to do with her so it was the three of us. I made every sacrifice I could to take care of them. I wanted them to know how much I loved them and wanted to take care of them. I went overboard. I tend to do that. I will be working on coming back from the financial sacrifices I made for a long time. I don't think I regret them, though. It was where I was at that time and they both enjoyed a security that neither of them had ever known, so I think it was worth it.
Toward the end of our relationship I started to feel irrelevant. It had been apparent for a long time that he was incredibly selfish but I made many exceptions and excuses for him. But I finally got to the place where I told myself (and him, though my self was the only one listening) that I deserved a man who would be seen in public with me. I deserved a man who would take me on a date, ever. I deserved a man who did anything for me for the past 3 birthdays or Christmases. I wasn't going to leave him, though. I had long talks with his father and decided that I would stay and take care of them until his daughter graduated. I didn't want to let her down. I hoped that in this time he would learn that I was worth making the small sacrifices that I needed him to make.
Just before Thanksgiving in 2013 I had to leave. I learned something that I couldn't unlearn. I would never be able to commit the next 5 years of my life to him. I wanted to maintain my relationship with his daughter but that wasn't possible. I am unable to write about the tragedy as it is not only mine, but it was one that would change my life forever. The pain and confusion were so profound that I wasn't sure that I would be able to live with it for the rest of my life. The tragedy was compounded by the knowledge that this commitment I had made for the rest of my life was ending. For good. I felt the most intense feeling of solitude that I could have ever imagined. I had gone through a terrible loss when Audrey went to college, but she was still in my life and would always be my daughter. This was something decidedly worse. I thought that if I died, that would be great.
I decided when I left him that I was done. I was never going to be able to date again. I decided that no matter how long I live and no matter how lonely that lonely becomes, I would rather be lonely for the rest of my life than ever be vulnerable again.
I found this picture today cleaning out my iPad looking to make space.