I think Portia Nelson's "Autobiography in Five Short Chapters" has been posted on this site before but the message is so powerful that it bears repeating. When I look back on my life and the relationships I've had, they definitely fit a pattern that is familiar to me. I keep walking down the same street, falling into the same hole. I eventually climb out but I'm depleted and diminished. It is an unproductive cycle that I continue to repeat not because it's good for me but because it is familiar. It's like that quote that's attributed to Albert Einstein about the definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and expecting different results.
I have been seeing a man for a while that I met on an online dating site. I was looking for friendship, maybe a relationship but no expectations beyond that. He is looking for someone to take care of him. He was married once about 30 years ago and flatly acknowledges that he's never been faithful in a relationship. But he said he's ready to turn his life around and give it a try with me. Uh, what?
How did I get that honor? I'm being sarcastic. It wasn't an honor, it was humiliating. Give it a try with me? I must have looked like I was volunteering for the challenge. Other things started to appear over the time we were dating - he was cheap. Not frugal. Cheap. He had excuses for not using his car so we took my car most of the times. He never once put a dime of gas in it either. When we ate out, we either split the bill or he paid some of the time and I paid more of the time. Again, he had excuses. He had a lot of bills last month, his investments were down, he didn't get his commission check. He has a good income, he just prefers not to spend it. There have been times when I could have used his help with things, simple stuff like when we would go to the store together and I would buy groceries to cook dinner for him and I would be the one schlepping the bags from the store to my car and from my car to my home. He would be with me but just watch me do it. Yes, I'd say to him "can you get some of those bags"? and he'd help. He'd take the lightest ones, leaving the heavier ones for me.
There are 10 other examples but the point is that I knew I was walking down the same street as I had before. I welcomed yet another man into my life who didn't respect me probably because I didn't respect myself. But this time it got to me in a way that it never has before. Something inside of me said "enough, stop this". I knew how the story would end if I stayed with this man and while there were more things wrong than right with the relationship, I was negotiating away my happiness just to have someone in my life.
Last night he something very hurtful and I just couldn't dismiss it. I knew if I stayed in the relationship there was going to be more pain than happiness, more regrets than good memories. So in a calm voice I looked at him and said "this isn't working for me anymore". He was stunned, absolutely stunned. He didn't say anything.
Then I walked away. Not with anger, no slamming of doors, no emotion. Just walked away. I went home, made myself a nice dinner, watched some TV, answered a few emails and slept more soundly than I had in months.
I'm finally walking down another street.
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost ... I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in ... it's a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down another street.