The night before last I couldn't sleep. I can't remember what I was thinking about but I know I wasn't worried about not having a job. Sometime in the night I started thinking of my three exs. I've been hanging on to these men because of what they represented not because I missed them or had regrets about not seeing them anymore. Frankly if I never saw any of them again it would be a wonderful thing. What these men represented to me was three-fold: permission, support, and inspiration. This all has to do with writing, of course.
As most of you know I've been wanting to write since I was a child but I only started working regularly in the last seven years or so. Part of the reason I waited so long is I held this belief that I couldn't be a real writer without being in a relationship that nurtured me as one.
I'm going to pause right now because this is huge. I'd always been somewhat aware that I held this belief but it's impossible to overstate the impact this belief has had on my life.
Okay, I'm back and feeling, well, a lot of things but I'm going to plow ahead with this post. I started out believing I had to be with someone who was creative, who had a lot of interests, and who would encourage me to write and support me in all those endeavors. This person would have to have his own creative outlets. I had this belief that we would merge together, become more than the sum of our parts, and together we would be unstoppable.
The primary reason I fell in love with my ex-husband is because he actually encouraged this belief. He would articulate it regularly and talk about how we would work on writing together. He is a good writer but I can safely say that I'm a much better writer, by my standards, than he will ever be. His sentences might be prettier but the man chokes when it comes to telling stories. I drafted my first novel, a young adult story of about 150 pages, when I was with him. I did it simply because I wanted to see if I could. I finished it in three months, and it was a real story with beginning, middle, end, plot twists, character development, and surprise after surprise. Three months of difficult work because at the time I had no concept of the idea of endurance. When I was done I asked him to read it. He said he would, he never did. He was jealous that I had managed to complete this draft, and he was angry about it. I was looking for support from him and never got it. Writing while I was with him was tremendously difficult but I managed to do some of it anyway.
The second ex had so much going for him. I was enthralled with who he was and what he'd done. I actually wanted to be like him because I found him so fascinating. I longed for his acknowledgment and encouragement. The breakup was very painful and drawn out. The reason? I felt that in order to progress with my writing I needed him to give me permission to write so I was holding on to him as tightly as possible. Ugh. I know. That's bad but I can say he started me on the current course with my writing, gave me those initial pushes. Now I know that's all he did.
The third guy was artistic, tormented, and lived in a beautiful house with amazing murals on the walls that he'd painted himself. I thought I could provide him with some grounding and he could provide me with inspiration. Never happened. We spent six weeks together at most and I'm sure he's forgotten about me by now. The relationship only stands out in my mind because of these misguided hopes I'd placed on him.
At least I can be honest about my misguided hopes as childish as they are.
While sitting in the dark in my room listening to my dog snore next to my bed, I realized I've come to define myself as a real writer with a body of work. People I know think of me as a writer. I'm firmly on that road now and have been for a few years. I've had help from plenty of friends, family, my writing group, you good folks who read my blog, etc.
And I did all of that by myself, without a significant other to give me permission, support, and inspiration. Instead, I figured out how to find all three of these things on my own. I sat in the dark and I said out loud, "I did everything without you. I don't need you anymore. I'm a WRITER and I got here without YOU!"
I can't put the blame on these guys. All that baggage I placed on them was coming from me and my fears but it took me this long to figure it out. I feel so far ahead of these guys now. Though I was still holding on to them, I could look behind me and see they were fading in the distance. Now I'm not looking back for them at all. I feel light and even more relaxed than before. The weight is gone. Ahead is the promise of more stories and more characters. I've proved to myself that I can supply the elements necessary to make those things happen, I don't need to insist that someone else give them to me. It's been a tough, years long lesson but I'm grateful for it anyway.
Thanks for reading.