Category Archives: Relationships

Lost to love

Lost to love

‘Girl Before a Mirror’ by Pablo Picasso

I’ve been dating ever since I was 15 years old. I can count on two hands the number of relationships I’ve been in, but only on one hand the number of serious ones. And out of all the boyfriends I’ve had, I’ve only ever really been in love with one, because he was the only one who could ever meet me on my own level, and who knew how to make his life fit seamlessly with mine.

That last statement comes off a little ironic, because in all my years of dating, now matter how I felt about the boys (and later men), I always made a point of adapting myself to them. I learned their habits, their idiosyncrasies, and their lifestyles, and found a way to make room in my life for them. On some occasions, my friends mistook my conformity for actual love, and pointed out that I was losing myself by allowing my life to revolve around my boyfriends’.

I maintained that I wasn’t doing that, and that I was just being flexible, because any woman with a brain knows that it’s much easier to adapt to a man than to try and make a man change his ways for her.

It wasn’t until a few days ago that I finally saw myself through my friends’ eyes.

I came across a post on Instagram that read: “Relationships aren’t built on how many times someone tells you that they love you. Relationships are built on all those times that they didn’t tell you, but showed it to you instead.” And at that moment I found myself thinking, If this is love, then I don’t want it.

As someone who was raised to speak her mind and never say things she didn’t mean, I don’t think I’ve ever taken back anything I’ve ever said or written about anything or anyone. Truths are hard to hear, and read, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s only because people don’t want to have to live with them. My career as a journalist only sought to reinforce my belief in writing the facts — only after having incontrovertible proof that they are true, of course — so that I never had to feel guilty or take them back.

So it was an enormous step out of my comfort zone, not to mention against my own principles, when I was asked to remove something from a recent post, but because it caused a lot of unnecessary backlash i.e. drama. And after much raging, swearing and crying, I relented, not because what I had written wasn’t true, but because I was being asked to by the first person in the world I would have given up everything for.

Immediately after I edited that post, I was filled with a sense of self-loathing and resentment so profound that I knew I would never forgive myself — or him — for what I had been made to do. I was a hypocrite for backing down on what I believed in and doing what I had always been taught never to do, all for the love of one person. I had, once again, allowed every aspect of my life to be controlled by someone I neither know nor respect, all for the love of one person. And in loving someone too much, I had lost myself.

If this is love, then I don’t want it.

A year in tandem

A year in tandem

tandem

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger — but only after it makes you wish it had killed you. And there is no one who can attest to this more than I.

As I wrote nearly six years ago, time is the unkindest cut of all. It sweeps by, impenitent and without a care for whether or not we are willing to go along with it. It hovers about, watching us make mistakes, but never allows us to do penance for them even if we have learned our lessons. It lets — and occasionally even helps — us make decisions and then only shows us the consequences of those decisions when it has become too late to undo them. It turns us against our principles and into people we’ve striven for most of our lives not to be. Worst of all, it will never wait for us.

Which is why today, exactly a year since I got dragged into the travesty that is Empire: Lebanon, I am reminded more than ever of how Time is also the biggest excuse for not doing what we know we should. We spew the incredibly clichéd declaration that “there is a time for everything in life”, because we are too weak and too cowardly to do the right thing, and before we know it, Time has swept by and left it all a little too late.

I am guilty of the same sin. I spent the past few months trying to figure out what to do with this joke of a life that I lead now, because a part of me was too terrified of the unknown, and too angry to accept that the most of important part of this life was under the control of someone I neither know nor respect. And now that I’ve finally decided that what I really need to get out of this life is to literally get out of it, even if it is a little later than I had originally intended, I know that Time is of no consequence, because there are some things that one can never get away from.

The past year has been, hands down, the most insane of my life. In an almost out-of-body experience, I have watched myself living day by day wondering when all this hoopla will end, how to get out from under the telescopic eye of my 48-year-old stalker, and how some people can live with themselves knowing that the people they claim to love are miserable because of their own childish, selfish choices.

But this past year has also been a blessing of sorts, because after making me wish that it had killed me, it taught me to divide and conquer my anger and grief, and channel my energy into making the most of what I have left and finding a way around such obstacles. And I know now that some things need no name or label, because there are some things that will never be understood by anyone except those who are living through them, and no name or label or person can ever change that.

Strength in weakness

Strength in weakness

walk away

“I thought you were stronger than this, but it seems you are not at all, not when it comes to this.”

Those words were said in a moment of anger, during the heat of an argument, but whether or not they were meant, and whether or not they will ever be taken back or apologized for, those words found their mark.

I always thought I was stronger than this, and at one time or other I probably was. How many, many times before had I risen above all the difficulties in my life — be they personal or professional — and been able to divide and conquer, overcoming each difficulty with as little emotional attachment as possible? How many, many times before had I been able to sigh and say, “Fuck this shit, I’m out,” and really made good on my word? So what was so different about this that everything I had stood for, everything that I believed I could be, had completely gone out the window to the point where I can do nothing except curl up and pray for death?

And then I realized the difference between all those other times and this time: He was the one saying it. No matter how many times I had said it to myself, it was unnervingly different to hear it from someone else.

I’ve always tried to think of myself as a strong person. When my family moved back from Paris and I had to start my life here in a new school at the irritating age of 15, the kids at school started a rumor that I stuffed my bra and called me Tissue Girl and Asian white trash, but I laughed it off in their faces and waited until I got home to cry. When an ex-boyfriend in Buffalo couldn’t stop lying about his other girlfriend in California, I packed him up, threw him out of my apartment and shipped him off to the west coast. When I received my last job application rejection at the dawn of the 2007 financial crisis, I decided I’d had enough and needed to move back to Malaysia so that I could regroup. When Shirley got pregnant at the peak of her relationship troubles, I sat with her night and day while she contemplated raising Aiden alone; I thought that no matter what life teaches you, you don’t know strength until you have to be strong for someone else.

But when my now-ex-boyfriend’s crazy estranged wife 16 years older than I am decided to drag other people into the drama of our relationship by hacking into his email and stalking me with fake accounts on Instagram and Twitter, I became a blubbering mess.

I used to think that strength meant standing in the eye of a hurricane and still being able to hold my ground, no matter the circumstances, until I could find a way to calm the storm and get out of it alive. So I fought for my relationship; I watched myself become almost as insane as my rival, if only a little more ethically sound. But in the last few months, I’ve slowly come around to the idea that, just perhaps, strength isn’t in fighting tooth and nail for something that will never be ours; maybe it’s in knowing when to say, “Enough,” and walk away from the fight with something much more important — our dignity, our pride, and our self-respect — still intact.