Today I called my exboyfriend. No, I called him back. Well, really I called him back in response to his call about my email.

In the course of this past year many, many things have changed in my life.  Some where my doing, my choice, some were not. Right now I’m not even sure I my choices were mine. Or made in my right mind.  Or something. I mean, I own them, I take responsibility for them, but I’m still reeling from them and trying to understand how it all went down.

I had a lovely man we’ll call Oak.  He went away. For six , then twelve, then maybe eighteen months. We wavered and hemmed and hawed then agreed it was deep true love and I decided to wait. Patiently.  Like a sailor’s wife on the shore, dramatically, wistfully, longingly.  I was going to be steadfast and strong. We made plans for the future. A year wasn’t so long to wait.  What was six more months? Oak was 7000 miles away, but we had the internet, it would be fine, time difference be damned.

The thing is I already felt betrayed, abandoned and unloved when he decided to leave.  Obviously I wasn’t good enough for him to want to stay or to wait for me to go with him. But I swallowed it and smiled and wished him great adventures and did my best to remain loyal.

However, merely two months after Oak left, Hawthorn came calling and courting. We had so much in common, but I vowed we’d remain friends, and Hawthorn agreed to honor that. It was nice to have someone to go to the movies with, talk books with, be less lonely with, while Oak was 7000 miles away.

Hawthorn got me a job in his office when I desperately needed it. And then the rains came and my city was completely altered in a weekend by incredible floods. And work changed and life changed and everything was unreal and dramatic. The world started to feel like it was unravelling. My panic attacks had been intensifying for months but the storms sort of pushed  me over the edge. And Hawthorn was there with me, through all of it.  Telling me I was beautiful, and that Oak was insane for leaving me and coming to my house in the middle of the night when I heard weird noises and freaked out (this is more benign than it sounds written like this, I mean only that he made me feel safe).

And so I called Oak, 7000 miles away, and broke up with him.  I told him I was sure we’d never be happy together and that it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. I told him it wasn’t about Hawthorn, but simply that I couldn’t wait, I was too afraid I would wait and then we wouldn’t work out anyway.  Oak told me loved me, that he didn’t want to be with anyone but me and that he didn’t understand what was happening.  I broke up with him anyway.

The summer passed.  I cried and cried and cried.  I told myself I was mourning the loss of the future we’d planned. I told myself I was mourning the departure and subsequent broken friendship with my best friend (also partly my doing). I worked and worked.  The floods left so much disaster in their wake; there was lots of work to do. Work to bury feelings and life under.

Fall came and I moved in with Hawthorn.  We scuttled about hanging pictures and painting rooms and cooking dinners and snuggling in.  I took him to meet my parents over Thanksgiving. We planned vacations, we shared books, we had dinner with other couple just like you’re supposed to.  We came back from a week away, went to the neighborhood pub for dinner and there was Oak. Back from across the ocean, unexpectedly, in my city.  Hawthorn encouraged me to meet Oak for a drink and clear the air so I did.  It was awkward.  Afterward I cried and cried and cried and cried.  I told myself it was because I felt bad for what I did to him, breaking up with him when he was too far away to have any say, any recourse in the matter.

Life went on.  We made plans to visit Hawthorn’s family over the Christmas holiday.  Four days before Christmas he broke up with me. No, but he told me he wasn’t sure he wanted long term commitment, that he wanted to scale things back, that he’d never taken the time to be himself and do the things that he wanted to.  That he wanted to still be friends, still work together, maybe to still date me, but he was moving into the guest room and we weren’t going to call it the guest room anymore.

I went to Christmas with his family anyway.  We plastered on smiles.  I took a lot of Klonopin. We came home. Hawthorm painted his new room.  Moved his furniture in.  Helped me rearrange my room so it didn’t look so much like there was big gaping hole of absence in it.

Hawthorn has treated me kindly through all this, been affectionate, we’ve had slightly angry sex once or twice.  He still hugs me in the morning and kisses me when he gets home.  I have always thought there should be space in relationships (ironically the only fights Hawthorn and I had had previously were me asking for more space and him feeling put out).  I wonder if having our own private spaces won’t be just what we need, won’t be the thing that saves this relationship.  And yet, I can’t help feeling hurt and abandoned once again.  Like maybe I’m not good enough, even though I’m assured it isn’t me, it’s him.

And so I emailed Oak and told him all of it, the anxiety, the fear, the depression, the need for safety that had been steering my choices and suddenly seemed so stripped away by Hawthorn’s new room. I guess I thought he should know how the world had turned what I’d done to him right back on me. I asked for his forgiveness (though I suspect, as always, it’s really me that I need forgiveness from).  He called me, I was too panicked to answer (the phone has been continuously problematic for me).  I called him back.  I explained about medication and therapy, about being scared.  I tried to explain about Hawthorn.  I talked myself into staying here, in this house.  Maybe because Hawthorn and I will work it out, or maybe just because, even with everything, it’s a reasonable place to try and get better, to get through therapy before I make any more sudden decisions.  Oak listened patiently.  Offered good advice.  Told me of his own sad life complications.  Told me to call when ever.  Offered the shoulder I really need to lean on.  And long after we’d hung up and gone about our days, as I got ready for bed and sat down to finish writing this, Oak sent me a text message: You are safe and life will get better. If only someone would stroke my hair and say that to me every night before bed, I might not be as screwed up as I am now.

A pair of veteran oak trees with a hawthorn in flower