I knew the moment I had to leave.
I was surprised at how certain I felt. For months the thought of packing up my belongings and dropping a key at the front door crippled me. I'd think of the sound of that final click; the release of my hand; my eyes taking one last glance over the Prussian door. All of the memories made, the people we turned into and lost over the years, how we couldn't find ourselves in each other anymore.
It didn't wash over me like a wave crashing violently on the shore. It didn't approach me like a tsunami roaring from a distance.
It arrived quietly, assuredly, and with no invitation or intent on leaving. I understood that there was no other option. I either ignored its presence and remained stagnant, tired and depleted, or I grabbed it by the hand and let it lead me toward the unknown.
I could stay and endure unhappiness or risk sadness knowing that I'd discover my own bliss again. This was the war that waged ceaselessly in my heart and mind for months; a war I had started and was content with watching from the sidelines.
I wasn't the player of my own life anymore. I was the observer, scanning the battleground to avoid any impending conflict or rivalry. As long as I wasn't on the front lines required to actually do something - to right any wrongs - I was safe watching at a distance. This was my idea of leading a “normal” life and being in a “good” relationship.
When the thought of being alone and having to move back to my parents house crept in, I’d feel as though dirt were being thrown over my face as I was buried alive.
My heart would pound ferociously in my chest whenever the montage of doom would play.
There I was, in bed with a greasy head and three day old clothes, binging Netflix on my laptop in my old childhood room that my parents recently painted robin egg blue, (one of my least favorite colors), Mom checking in on me every couple of hours as I’d collapse onto her lap with tears dampening her pants, and the heavy weight descending upon me of feeling completely and utterly alone.
Whenever I imagined these hypothetical scenarios, I was the victim, never the doer. I was the one that life was happening to, rather than the woman who was making things happen. I never gave myself credit for handling adversity. I couldn’t envision a scenario where I was the one taking control rather than being controlled.
It didn’t matter what stories my mind conjured up though. I was ready to face my fears. I began stepping into darkness. I didn’t need to see light just yet to lead the way. I knew that I’d find grief just beyond nightfall, and I understood that by meeting my heartache was the only way I’d ever be free.
The day that I made the decision to leave was the hardest. The days following that where I actually moved my belongings out of our apartment were surprisingly easier. He was away for a few days and I saw this as my one and only opening to leave and veritably stick to it. If he was home and I had to collect my things with him watching TV in the living room or witnessing me throw boots and clothes in a box, I don’t think I would have went through with it.
If I felt his eyes on mine and saw the sorrow in his gaze, my heart would have broken more than it already was, and I’d let fear or guilt rule my decision making. I would have stopped the theatrical performance of placing one item after another in a suitcase and I’d sit next to him on the couch to talk things out, listen to empty promises, pretend to believe that things would be different this time, feign trust in him again, all the while knowing that nothing would ever change and I’d never be as happy as I could be.
I’ve been here before too many times to count - where despair crept up from my stomach, into my chest and lodged itself firmly in my throat. Uneasiness and panic would overcome me until I was paralyzed by my own defenses. The voice within would beg me to listen and trust my instincts, but I’d always choose the opposite - to stay and hope for the best - even when truth would eternally be resting at the center of my heart.
I’ve repeated this cycle for as long as I can remember, with multiple men, in varying situations, at all different ages. It didn’t matter what the circumstances were or who it was that I was dating. I created a habit of sticking things out at my own detriment, blindly believing that old habits don’t die hard, people can change, wrongs aren’t always repeated, and as long as someone loved me, I was safe.
That could be enough, right? I always made it so that it was.
Until I couldn’t anymore.