To be perfectly honest, I can't remember if I ever sent it. I'm fairly sure that I didn't. That would have been just as well, because now, with much greater perspective, I fully realize what I only suspected back then: When someone says, "Don't contact me; wait for me to contact you," what they really mean, and without a shred of doubt, is "I do not, and will not ever, want to see you again."
Even if they claim otherwise. Even if they preface the statement with "I love you."
"But that interpretation is too harsh," you may object, "because it leaves no room for the person to change their mind!"
To which I respond: It doesn't matter if they change their mind. They have used a sword when they should have used medicine. Communication is the life and soul of a relationship. You cut it off, and the only outcome is death.
Ten years ago I was not wise enough to immediately see this, and so, when Carolyn called for "time apart" so that we could "become friends later", I haplessly agreed, imagining a bright, not-so-distant future in which we had lunch together and talked out all our lingering misunderstandings. Needless to say that future was my dream alone. That letter was my final act in casting that dream into the past.
Last year, when I heard the same statement from Monica, I knew it meant one outcome, and one outcome only, unless I could impress upon her how vitally important it was that we keep talking, even if just to more fully understand why we were incompatible or unsuited for each other. But that was asking too much. Far too much chaos had surrounded our meeting, and there was still far too much chaos in my life, and she was not interested in participating in it, and I could not blame her. "It hurts too much," she said. So she made her choice and I turned myself slowly inside out and back again, waiting for the most intense feeling of certainty that I had ever felt in my life to wither away and die.
What's incredibly frustrating about the whole experience is, that feeling became irrational the second she made that request, because how could someone who inspired such a strong feeling also be determined to bail completely out of my life? It was something that I absolutely could not reconcile. I tried all kinds of different approaches, ways of seeing it, ways of interpreting it, and nothing fit. Until suddenly, late last year, it came to me.
Monica had the things I sought for myself. A large collection of friends, a job she was totally fulfilled by, a pleasant living situation, good health, and an endless supply of energy, humor, and guts. As I sank into the excruciating task of unraveling a beautiful, care-worn eight-year relationship with La, whom I'd loved dearly, and bringing every single scrap of who I was into question and testing it for the appalling flaws I knew I'd find, I was painfully aware that Monica's life was a model for where I wanted to end up. If I could only just slip into the dynamic we had alone, and thrive on the feedback loop of her presence while I evolved into a new version of myself...
But who was I kidding? My need to redefine myself almost automatically disqualified me from long-term stability. She knew it, and I was in denial of it.
But now, the good news: What I've learned.
I've had many heartfelt discussions with friends and family, especially the lovely Erika, since those realizations stole over me late last year. I've aired my frustration with the emotional trap I maneuvered myself into - and what it did to me - countless times. The most important thing I've learned in those conversations is that the feeling of certainty I felt is not something carried and conveyed to me by other people. It is something I create within myself, by being able to recognize what I want. The question is, and has always been, what do I want?
Last year, around this time, I made a list of traits. That list was based most heavily on my last two intense relationships, and was an attempt to summarize the person I wanted to be as well as the traits I valued in others. It's a pretty good list, but it turns out it's actually too specific.
What I really want, is this. As an adult, the closer I've been to that character, whatever the circumstances that inspire it, the happier I've been. What I need to do is continue to re-architect my life such that it compels and invites me to be that person.
Now that I have my health back, and have taken a big chunk of time to think about things, my momentum is starting to gather again. Today I read Arthur C Clarke, scanned photos, wrote, and chopped wood in the back yard. The nice lady next door gave me some fresh tomatoes from her garden, which we will put to good use. Erika just came home with a pile of groceries. And now, I am going to take a nice, candle-lit bath. Certainty will return, as it has in the past. I just need to keep reaching for it.