Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Life is Funny

In the last year I’ve had a lot of change in my life. I went from being in an 8 year relationship to being single to meeting a wonderful new man. I became a homeowner for the first time. I sold my old car and bought a new car—on my own—for the first time. I adopted my first puppy.

There has been so much new in my life lately that I feel as if I’ve hardly had time to reflect on how these changes have affected me emotionally. It almost feels as if I started running last October and haven’t stopped.  And while this past year has been in many ways one of the best years in my life it has also been very, very tough. I’ve struggled financially—trying to balance living on my own with homeownership has not been easy. I’ve struggled with letting go of a past relationship and opening up my heart to someone new—also not easy.

So yeah, there have been some major challenges for me this year. Deep down I knew I probably wasn’t dealing with all these changes in the most up front manner but I was coping. I would handle the situation at hand and then move on. Until this past weekend I thought I was doing okay and then I had an unexpected run-in with my ex and his girlfriend.

It was Sunday afternoon and Erik had picked me up from a girlfriend’s house (I had spent the night with some good friends after a girls night out on Saturday) and wanted to stop by the pet store to get Lulu some dry food. The pet store we go to is a small locally owned business in Grant Park. As we walk in the first thing I notice is a chow dog staring me in the face. I look up and immediately recognize the person attached to the chow dog as my ex. I look further beyond and see my ex’s girlfriend chatting with the store owner.

Now, you may wonder how I know that this is my ex’s girlfriend. Well, funny little side story. The ex’s new woman used to be good friends with my brother. When my ex and I were together we would hang out with this girl for game nights, drinks out, and other such festivities. This continued, at least for my ex, the entire time we were trying to work things out in our relationship. He would go out and spend weekends and evenings with this girl, sometimes not coming home until 2 am, and wonder why I would be upset. On one occasion he actually blew me off on a Friday night to hang with her. He said they were “just friends.” Which, to give him some credit, I’m sure that nothing was going on between them physically at first but if there was such a thing as cheating on someone emotionally I would say he had hit the nail on the head. I mean what guy goes and hangs out with another single woman until 2 am and expects their ex to believe that nothing is going on—even if it is just "intellectual conversation"?

So at any rate, they were together pretty much the second our break-up was official which I gleaned from Facebook--pictures of road trips to Charleston, Ohio, and kissy pictures from Curacao were dead give-aways. I was not “friends” with him at this point but I think we all know how things get around via friend of a friend comments—someone that we were mutually friends with would comment on a photo and then it would show up on my newsfeed, etc, etc. But back to my original story…

When I first saw them I didn’t know what to do. My first instinct was to run to the car and hide. Then I thought better of it and decided that I was bigger than running away and hiding and that I needed to confront this situation head-on. Yes, I know this wasn't entirely necessary but did I mention that this wasn't the first time I had seen them out and about together? Atlanta isn't that big and it was bound to happen sooner or later so why not get it over with?

We were the only 4 people in the store and the ex’s new lady was getting the low down on products from the sales clerk. Erik and I were ready to check out almost immediately but had to wait for the clerk to finish. Eventually my ex and I made eye contact, there was an awkward smile and nod of acknowledgement but I couldn’t speak. I didn’t know what to say. Should I say hello? Should I introduce Erik? No that would be weird. We hadn't communicated with each other since March and I can't say that converstaion ended well. This internal debate raged for what seemed like hours (but was probably minutes) and then the clerk finally came over, rang Erik and I up, and we walked out.

After we left I felt a whole range of emotions. First I was angry—why did this have to happen? Isn’t the city big enough that we should never have to see each other? Then I was sad, but only because of the situation. I mean I was with this person for 8 years—we lived together and loved together and yet we couldn’t even look at or speak to each other? Very sad. Finally I was relieved. Relieved to have had this run in past me and know that I am better for it and that I am happier now and in a better place (and I'm sure he is too).

On a side note (if I am being honest) I didn’t know whether I should write this post because I didn’t want to come across as the bitter ex-girlfriend because I am most definitely not. There is no part of me that wishes I was still with my ex or that wishes him ill will. I was hurt by someone I loved and trusted and (sadly) that takes a while to heal. I lost a family and friends when that relationship ended and I don’t know many people who can fully recover from that type of loss in a month, 6 months, or even a year.

Luckily for me I found a very understanding guy when I met Erik. He knew that I was carrying along some baggage and he respected the fact that I had just come out of a break-up. He gave me the space to figure out that I could fall in love again and the courage to trust my gut feelings, which were huge steps in my personal recovery process. Oh and he also has a wonderful family and friends who have so lovingly embraced me so that helps too.

In many ways it has been a year but it has only been a year. So long that I feel as if my ex and I broke up years ago but so short that I have to remind myself it is okay to still grieve a little and continue to let the past go.

Life is funny like that.

Seeing my ex this weekend was a small reminder that I am still healing and that every now and then you have to stop running, reassess, and move on. It’s okay to be sad—acknowledge it, don’t beat yourself up, remember what has come from that sadness, and embrace all that is currently good. And there is a lot of good in my life and a lot to be thankful for even if it is sometimes easy to forget.  

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