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I met him in our college Spanish class. After admiring him from afar for the better part of a year, we fell into a heated relationship. I was crazy about him.  Our relationship was tumultuous. Until it wasn’t. Eventually the passion was gone.

We were living together, making a home and making plans. Three years together and talk of a future, but I knew it wasn’t working.

I tried to save us. For well over a year I tried. He was pleasantly apathetic.

Eventually I was done.

He called. He wrote. He begged me to give him another chance. He promised to make changes. Things I had pleaded for, he now promised to deliver.

It didn’t matter.

I was done.

That’s how it works. You try. You fight. You fight for your relationship.

Until you’re exhausted and tired from all of the effort. Until you realize you’re the only one putting in the effort.

It’s that cold realization that is the nail in the coffin of a relationship. The loneliness that comes with the scratching and clawing for love… and looking around and realizing that no one else is getting their hands dirty. The harsh loneliness of sharing space with someone.

That was a long time ago. Just after that relationship ended, I fell in love with my husband. I was gun-shy and not looking for romance. I tried to talk my way out of it. I told him I had fears. I told him that I needed more than he could give. I couldn’t live a life of complacency.

I told him that I get bored easily.

He promised our life would never be boring.

I told him I need passion. I needed fire.

He promised a lifetime of passion.

I told him I needed someone who wouldn’t give up easily.

He promised me he would fight for me. For us.

That was over 18 years ago. Three houses, three kids, three dogs ago. A lifetime ago.

It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes it’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Hard because we all have something, something that burdens us. Something that lives deep inside of us and comes out sideways. Hard because we’re all pretty messy inside. Hard because all of things that we all carry are forced to mingle with all of the messiness of this person you share a life with. And they bump up against each other and they feed each other and they confuse each other. And sometimes they hurt each other.

So what do you do with all of this?

You pick a fight.

You pick a fight with yourself. For yourself.

The fight you choose is the fight to become a better you. You trudge into the stagnant waters of long held pain and damage. You wade into the muck and you start cleaning it up. You fight through all the barriers and the defenses that we each cling to like a tattered blanket of comfort. You get dirty and you fight.

You fight through all of this because it’s the only fight you can really win. You can’t fight for him. It’s not about fixing him. If it was, there would be no break ups. There would be no divorce. The idea of fixing the person you love, of fighting his battles? That’s just a fantasy. His issues are his. They are borne of different things than yours. You can try to fix them but it will be fruitless. You can spin your wheels for a lifetime trying to fix someone else. Focusing on them and all of their stuff. This won’t get you far, I promise. It’s a twisted path to bitterness and disappointment.

But you can fight for you. You can work through all of your stuff. Recognize it. Deal with it. Learn from it. It may give you some peace and strength. It may stop the cycle of your stuff feeding his stuff and the chaos of emotions that tag along with that. It may give him enough room and space to see that something’s changed and that maybe, maybe he can start to work through his stuff too.

Regardless, you fight for you.

I picked this fight in recent years. It has been scary and hard and at times I’ve come close to giving up. But now I’m starting to see what comes after the fight. Some peace. Some healing. The burden of all of my stuff is much lighter and I feel more free. I am not so weighed down. I’m not as confused by my emotions. The other side of the fight with myself is a good place to be.

My husband has also picked his fight. He’s trekked into the depths of what burns deep inside of him. He’s never been one to be complacent or apathetic. Eighteen years and it’s never been boring. I’ve seen him refuse to give up and refuse to let me be the only one fighting.

I think back now, to that day years ago. The day I tearfully told the man I loved what I needed. What I thought was impossible for someone to give. The day I thought I should give up on love because my expectations were too high and unattainable.

He didn’t try to change my mind or my expectations.

He accepted the challenge and the needs of a naive young woman who thought she knew what she needed.

I never needed him to fight for us.

But he gave me things I didn’t know I needed. He did more than share space with me. He didn’t just sit and watch me fight my battles. He listened. He supported. He loved. And when I wanted to give up on my demons? He started fighting his. He showed me that vulnerability is the bravest place to be. He got his hands dirty with me. In fighting for himself he showed me just how much he loved me. The lengths he would go to to be better for us.

I didn’t need him to fight for us.

I needed him to wage his own fight.

I didn’t need him to fight for me.

I never needed him to fight for me.

I’m capable of doing that for myself.

I can fight my own battles.

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“Welcome to the inner workings of my mind
So dark and foul I can’t disguise,
Can’t disguise.
Nights like this,
I become afraid
Of the darkness in my heart…
Hurricane”

-MS MR, Hurricane

This has been a crazy year. At the dawn of 2013 I declared that it would be “The Year of Not Learning.” The previous year had been kinda tough. There were revelations, there was a touch of drama, I learned a lot. So I decided that for 2013 I was going to just coast. I had done some work on myself and my relationships already, it was time to take a break and just “be.”

It’s funny how the Universe doesn’t always listen to me. Maybe it’s because I’m not a walking Chinese Calendar. But it’s such a reasonable request. A little blissful ignorance is all I was asking for. I guess starting therapy for the first time in my life probably didn’t help. Therapy makes you think. A lot. About stuff you really don’t want to think about. That’s why you pay someone else to make you do it. Like a trainer at the gym. You could go do 500 sit ups and 500 lunges on your own, but you won’t. Sure, I could sit and think about my life, think about my thoughts. Work through some issues. But I won’t. I’ll half ass it the same way I do at the gym. I won’t really dig deep and feel the burn.

So, therapy and all that. It makes you feel stuff. Stuff you purposely have avoided feeling. It makes you (if you’re doing it right) take the lid off of the stuff you had so carefully put in a box, buried in the back yard and placed a giant boulder on top of. That stuff.

Sometimes life calls you out.

I started this blog the same month I started therapy. Coincidence? Who knows. But the things you learn about yourself when you start sharing your thoughts and your writing with the world- it’s fascinating. The things I’ve learned from reading some talented writers on their blogs- some of those things have been moving. Profound. Touching. Some of these things have knocked me off of my feet.

I recently had a blogger respond to one of my blog posts. This is a writer I have a lot of respect for, so when she said she could relate to what I’d written, I was honored. I felt gratified, like maybe I’m doing something right. Maybe if my writing connects with at least one person then it’s not totally indulgent. When I started writing in response to what she’d shared with me, I started to feel like a fake. I felt like I had touched on some things I was feeling but I kept them on the surface. Because that’s what I do with the really hard stuff. I keep it on top where I can see it and keep an eye on it and control it. And this writer, she doesn’t do that. She’s hilariously funny, some even say she’s snarky. But when she’s real, she’s gut-wrenchingly real. She’s the kind of writer I aspire to be. And her comments to me were more real and had more depth than my 1000 plus word blog post. I felt like a fraud.

I don’t know if I would have realized this without therapy. It doesn’t really matter, but what does matter is I’m starting to feel. What I’m allowing myself to feel isn’t fun. It actually kind of sucks. But I know it’s healthier than keeping it buried and pretending like it doesn’t exist. There’s a lot of stuff buried in that box. It can be overwhelming at times. If this was an anonymous blog I’d write about it here. What I will say is that I have realized that anger and grief are the two emotions I don’t allow. These are the two emotions I have shoved away my entire life.

Grief.

Fourteen years after losing my brother, I’m realizing I never grieved. I’ve had sad moments, I’ve cried, I’ve missed him so much it hurts. But I haven’t grieved. I got married 10 days after he passed away. My new in-laws stayed at my house for two weeks after my wedding. Then a few months later I was pregnant with my son. I never had time. And the truth is, I didn’t want time. I wanted to dive back in to work. I wanted to stay busy and preoccupied. But over the last few weeks, I’ve felt it. The only time I truly fell apart was at my brother’s funeral, at the grave side service. I collapsed in tears and wept uncontrollably in front of everyone as we were walking to our cars. But I gave myself about 45 seconds of tears before I pulled myself together.

Last week was the very next time that I cried like that over my brother. I wept uncontrollably, I didn’t try to stop it. I let it happen and I felt it. I wrote through my sobbing. I could barely see the computer screen but I wrote. And it helped. I don’t know if I’ll ever post what I wrote, but it helped writing it. It felt like purging. I was pretty sad for the next few days and my husband knew something was up. I kept brushing off his questions. Then Saturday night as we were putting together the kids’ Easter baskets, I started crying uncontrollably again. I had to explain to him through my sobs why I was crying, what had happened a few days earlier. He got it. Thank god he got it. He held me and let me do what I had to do. I wish that was it, but I’m pretty sure it’s not. Two good cries aren’t going to get the job done. But I now know that I can allow it to happen. I will try to loosen my death grip I’ve had on all these feelings.

Anger.

This emotion baffles me. When I feel it, I don’t know what to do with it. I usually don’t even know why I feel angry. And then I decide that if I don’t know then it must be unfounded, so I squash it like an annoying little bug. But lately, I’ve been really feeling it. Not often. But for someone who doesn’t usually operate in anger, I have had some random fury building up inside of me. And I do mean random. I shouldn’t want to throw a plate across the room because one of my kids forgot to put it in the dishwasher. That’s not a normal response I would have to such an offense. I haven’t actually thrown a plate yet but it’s been real hard to resist. Like I’ve had to pry my hands off the plate and walk away. So obviously I have some work to do there.

I want to be real here. I am walking the line between writing about what moves me and what’s on my mind and keeping some things private and respecting the privacy of the people I love. Sometimes it blocks the flow. What I am yearning to write about I can’t. Then I have to try to get creative and pull something else out that still feels real. It’s an uneasy push and pull and I’m really hoping I don’t fall on the wrong side of that line. I’ll write through some tears I’m sure. And when I’m feeling angry I’ll find something, some issue, some place where someone’s being an ass. Someone that is putting people down, stifling progress or passing judgement. And I’ll write about it. I’ll exorcise some demons through words. I will transfer all that rage onto some unsuspecting prick and I’ll love every minute. Or I’ll throw a plate… damn you, feelings.