truth noun \ˈtrüth\
the truth : the real facts about something : the things that are true: the quality or state of being true
“I gave everything I had for you, until you used me up and left me.”
My last blog post where I discussed my upcoming nuptials and past marriages was my most popular with readers ever, with the exception of one person. My high school sweetheart, and first husband, whom I married at 20. He took great offense to my brief portrayal of him and made that clear in a public post on my Facebook wall. Amidst all of the joy and congratulations and love, there was a heart-stabbing “this is utter bullshit” comment, including the quote above.
Oh dear. This was certainly a different version of our story than I had told.
Afterward, he privately apologized via message but said I had “misrepresented him” and requested that if I was going to reference our relationship in the future “to please remain truthful.”
I was so taken aback by the whole thing. First I wanted to lash out, to defend myself, definitely React instead of Respond. But I had just landed in Santa Fe for a 4-day writing and meditation retreat. Between the altitude sickness swimming my brain, and the purpose of my trip, I thought it best to pause. I had to Reflect before I could Respond.
What is the Truth about a relationship? I know what my experience was. I know my truth, my version. I actually can’t know his. And, frankly, in a two-line paragraph in a larger piece about the love of my life, how could I help but misrepresent a nearly 10-year relationship?
For a number of years, my first husband was my best friend. He was the person I could confide in, depend on, and loved dearly. I thought he hung the moon. Until I didn’t.
Somewhere in our early 20’s, I said I would leave our marriage if he continued drinking. The night I knew this to be true, my heart broke. I was certain I would be married to him forever. And suddenly, maybe not.
In my naiveté, I thought that quitting drinking would solve alcoholism. At my tender age of 21, I really believed that the problem was alcohol. And that him quitting for “me” was reasonable. (Oh youthful ignorance.)
Once he quit drinking, he stopped hanging out with most friends. He engaged with me less. He starting working 12-13 hour days. He took the dog for an hour walk each night then fell asleep watching tv in the living room. I was lonely. Really lonely. And sad. In those days, I required a lot of external attention to be ok emotionally and I was receiving minimal.
And in those hours he was working, I was changing. I was questioning my life, who I was, what I wanted. I spent more time with friends than I did with him. I lost weight I’d been carrying for a decade. I started smoking cigarettes again and hung out at my unrequited high school crush’s nearby record store, having fantasies about a different life, trying to reclaim the part of me I’d misplaced along the way.
I wanted a way out. I’d gotten so lost.
I’d been lost for years before we even met. I nearly failed out of my first 2 years of high school and wasn’t doing so well at my new boarding school either.
Not too long before I started dating my high school sweetheart, I’d received a 58% on a test from my absolute favorite teacher. It had a big red See Me on the top of the page. She sat me down and told me, “You don’t merit this grade. You earned it. But you don’t merit it.” I swallowed my sob and just sat there. I wanted to disappear.
Then I started dating #1. He liked me. He really liked me. It must mean that I was worthy, that I was enough. I did an about-face and went from Rebel to Jane Academy. Total transformation. I even went on to deliver a prestigious speech the next year and detailed our relationship as my turning point. (It was my first public unveiling of personal story.)
But the problem was, I still quivered on the inside. All the time. I was never good enough, no matter my achievements. I was always trying so hard, and feeling desperate and overwhelmed in the face of it. I’d leapt from rebel to good girl without actually trekking through the muck between.
I was needy and neurotic and I used the love of my first husband to try to feel okay. With his love, I could feel whole, at least momentarily. But I wasn’t whole. And trying to fill that “wholeness hole” is never ending. It cannot be filled from the outside. It always requires more. More more more. Keep telling me I’m ok. Keep validating me. Prove that you love me. Prove that I’m worthy.
It was a long, unending road and we both veered off.
Here is what is True. We grew up together. Sometimes painfully so. We both hurt each other in ways I couldn’t even understand at the time. There were years of my life where he was the best part of it. He was, and always will be, my first love.