Sunday, April 15, 2012

Oh, so I was a ghost

There's this terrible moment of realization when you're watching a character on TV or in a movie (or in a TV movie) that reminds you of yourself in the worst possible way. There's an even more terrible moment when your dad suggests the comparison.

Today, on the phone with my father talking about broken hearts and trying to repair my own, I went into a - maybe I shouldn't be sharing this - full meltdown over the past few months. Because I feel I don't have any more stake in the situation, I'm at last free to share a little bit about what I've been going through. Here's a rough timeline.

First, I had a boyfriend. It only lasted a couple of weeks. We broke up and it was not mutual. I had not been in a relationship before and I was not ready to go through what I did. I didn't understand the complicated inner workings of romance and the fact that it's inevitable that one person will fall much deeper than the other. And I fell, and I had my heart set on the situation.

We got along well enough, but it was not what a relationship ought to be. Even at the time I knew we weren't in it for the same reasons. I would talk with him and he'd interrupt me with a kiss (it sounds cute, but sometimes it just isn't). I would ask questions and he would respond, but he didn't really seem to care much for what I had to say. He would make passing comments about political issues and when I followed up with my thoughts he ignored them.

I still wanted it to work, so I brushed off all the negative treatment - specifically the clear lack of interest in me as a person - and kept being myself. At times I got so caught up in what I did like about being in a relationship that I couldn't see what was wrong with it.

Soon, I didn't have a boyfriend. When I expressed to him that I would only date if I felt that there was a possibility of long-term commitment, he couldn't respond. When he expressed to me that he wanted a relationship with physicality - let's just be frank here, a relationship with the definite promise of sex - I couldn't respond. And so we discovered that our expectations were entirely different. And it ended.

And I cried. And for a while I gave up on me. I woke up every morning thinking I had failed in some way and that I had no reason to do anything anymore. Deep down I knew none of this was my fault. If anything, I had my priorities straight and that was something to be proud of. But I still held onto a little piece of hope that kept me believing that even if I felt like I'd lost, maybe in the future I could win again - maybe he'd change his mind and like me enough to work through our differences.

I thought wrong and I did wrong by myself as a result.

So this is me, apparently. Thank you for the photo, BBC.
Today when I was on the phone with my dad he told me, "You're like Miss Havisham."

I haven't read Great Expectations for a few years. When I did read it, I was 14 and very lazy. I only got through about 1/3 of the book and left the rest untouched, unread, unabsorbed. But when my dad told me I was like Miss Havisham, I knew the comparison wasn't a happy one.

Later I decided to watch the new Great Expectations mini-series that has been airing on PBS. In it, my dad's words gained some clarity. "It is wise not to plan the years ahead too completely," Miss Havisham says in one scene. "Everything that was certain can change in a heartbeat."

I listened to Miss Havisham and felt my dad's description of me hit harder than anything had ever hit me before. Instead of handling a loss like a strong, independent woman - something I thought I was - I was turning into a pitiful damsel who fainted at the idea of her man leaving her. I wanted to be the girl who sang "Many a New Day" and talked about how "a kiss gone by is bygone," but I was being the woman who still wore her wedding dress years after - in my case just over half a year after - being left.

The way my dad described it was absolutely perfect and yet positively tragic. "[Your ex-boyfriend] has been living life at a normal pace since you broke up. For him it's been several months. It's just a distant memory, it no longer matters," he said. "But for you, it's still November. You're still living the week after you separated."

That week has been playing over and over and over for me. It never goes away.

Or it never went away.

Until finally I got my kick in the head. I sat down and asked - and I received the confirmation that the hope that I had harbored - like the wedding dress Miss Havisham wore - was for naught. We were friends, that was all. And it was something to come to terms with. I had to brush off the dust that's been collecting these past few months as I sat waiting and wondering. I had to let go of those times when I let weeks feel like days, days feel like minutes.

In the Great Expectations mini-series, there's a scene where Miss Havisham walks into her dining room to find Pip looking at a table where a grand wedding cake sits covered in dust and cobwebs. "It is the ghost of a wedding cake. And I am the ghost of a bride," she says. "Time stands still, yet everything turns to dust."

But what's the use of letting time stand still? Why let the dust collect when there are so many better ways to keep yourself occupied (ways that won't interrupt you when you talk)?

It was finally clear to me - thanks to my dad, thanks to Charles Dickens, thanks to Miss Havisham - that the months of waiting were over. The corner of my mind that still held hope for the future was gone. I could take off the wedding dress.

So I'm no longer a ghost. Unlike the white lady with the lace gown and the curly pale locks, I'm brightly-colored, tan and my hair is still 100 percent brunette.

And I'm happy. And no dumb boy is going to make me sit in dust ever again.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great post, Rachel-- thank you for being so open! I think a lot of girls can relate to your situation in some way or another. I'm glad that you're finding strength to move on, because you definitely deserve someone who respects what you have to say :)