For the last 29 years, I have been primarily focused on, motivated by, and invested in a primary relationship. For those who know me, you know it hasn’t always been the same one. There have been two profound and lengthy relationships, ones which I would call “marriages” despite the legal limitations. Those two relationships dominated the last 18 years. There were others, not as long but also important.
During those 29 years (and, yes, every time I write that number I taste a little vomit in the back of my throat), my energy, my earning power, and my ego were all wrapped up in the identity I clung to as one half of a coupled whole. I heard myself introduced as the unit so often I now have to remind myself that my first name isn’t actually “Deband.”
These relationships were deeply important to me, and I certainly don’t want anything I write to imply otherwise. My most recent relationship, especially, is still a tender place deep within that alternately sends waves of sadness and release flooding through my spirit. I mourn it daily. But, this particular post isn’t really about that, . . . the “that” which is still too real and close and painful to take life in the written word.
This post is about what I didn’t focus on for the past 29 years. My drive, my natural abilities, my career, my professional fulfillment. It is about the Ph.D. I didn’t get (yet!), the job security I didn’t manifest, the retirement fund I didn’t build. This is not the fault of my relationships; it is the fault of the way I was in my relationships. I operated on the principle that relationships always took priority, but I never realized how I neglected my relationship with myself.
I was a hell of a partner in many ways. I knew how to show up, support, be strong. I knew the characteristics of a “good partner,” and I knew just when and how to display them. I knew how to appear the way I knew others, my partner AND friends and family, expected me to appear.
Some might say I was playing a part. If you are currently mad at me, your verbage would be that “it was all a big act.” But the only act a person can keep up for 10 years (18 years, 29 years) is a delusion perpetuated on self. A consciously directed duplicity would be a role that I, for one, could never maintain for an extended period without breaking out of character.
What really happened is this: I loved some people really well for a long time over the last three decades, but I never had the proper perspective on where I fit in those equations. I helped to create a sense of home and family, but I forgot to build in my personal aspirations or pave a way for my core needs to be met. Deband was all over it, but Deb was nowhere to be found.
So, I’m 47. I’m filling out grad school applications. My car is the bottom-of-the-line Toyota, the kind I would have bought at 22 when I still could only dream of the cars I would yet own. I fold my own clothes and toast my own bagel.
I have two dogs and a five-year plan. Most importantly, I have me. Perhaps for the very first time, I have me.