Or the same thing over again. It would seem.

As if my brain is a card that can’t be punched in one go, I need repeats in order to learn most things. Whether it’s something trivial like catching someone’s name (guaranteed to forget after only 1 introduction) or remembering a fact or quote, even the plot of a movie. But also when it comes to more profound things such as lifes lessons. Failures. I have to experience them again, lest I forget. However with every second go-around I have an advantage, I might not know the not be able to name the details, but I remember the shape of the thing and memory is a strong thing when connections are sparked.

I guess this is why I tend to turn things over and over in my mind until I’ve sensed the exact shape of it and know where I can place it.

I’ve been busy the last few weeks, although I’ve been lurking around and following all your stories I can tell my heart and mind needed time to put things in my life into place. All while placing myself fully into every experience. So what happened? Nothing dramatic to be honest. But I did learn something.

A bit of context before I share my lesson learned :
A few weeks ago I slept with rebound guy again, we hooked up at a party at his house and had a generally stellar night. The week after he was at work, we had a goodbye party and the two of us ended up as the last two people there. I’d already told him I couldn’t have sex because of the IUD but he decided to stay anyway. We swapped poems for some reason (I translated his favourite on GT even). It could have been an interesting evening if we hadn’t had to carry another co-worker to his house with us who could no longer stand up straight. (I’ll spare you the vomit stories)
Nevertheless we had a sensual night and the week after we stayed in touch a bit more than usual. He had a school deadline, a trip to Germany to present his work and some other stuff. On friday I got in touch with him asking what he was doing. It was about a million degrees (heat wave) and I was lazy and drinking with coworkers with 0 intention to head in his direction. We toyed a bit about how far away we lived from each other and how his/my side of the city was obviously better. After mentioning that at least I had curtains and he had a racing bike, he headed on over my way. Quite unexpectedly. He spent the night and headed out the morning after. That morning was even hotter and a coworker (lets call her Sarah) and I spent the day chilling in my friends inflatable pool (ahh yeah!), he had to leave and Sarah texted our other coworker (lets call him.. Michael) to ask what him and rebound guy were doing. They were having a bbq at the park and we were welcome. So we hung out in the park, drinking, eating, listening to music with a knot of people. After we went to Michael and Rebound guys house with Michaels girlfriend (they say they aren’t dating but they are the annoyingly adorable couple who just haven’t said it out loud yet) and her brother. We hung out there until well past midnight by which time I was half falling asleep from the heat and we all headed to bed. When I say went to bed, I mean that rebound guy showed me out (half to my surprise, half to my delight, the couply adorable setting had killed my lady-boner). We did kiss, he sighed a ‘what are we going to do about this’ (we often mutter about how we find each other unbelievably sexy) I wished him a happy holiday next week and he mumbled a ‘who knows when we’ll see each other again’ (probably at work in august, when he’ll start, funny/hot story about that! For anyone who wants to know in the comments) I shrugged and left.

Over the course of this last week I started noticing myself feeling weirder and weirder. After the not-sex night I kept thinking about him. (not so much in a butterfly way, more of a, sex-daydream kind of way) But more than that.. I started feeling insecure about the situation. A panic of ‘this is too much’ mixed with a strong sense of ‘I wonder what he thinks/feels about this’. Which is fairly odd since I thoroughly want nothing more than the situation we have.

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I’m usually the one contacting him and he’ll either take a bit to respond (a few hours, a few days, which he always apologises for, which I always tell him he doesn’t need to apologise for) and then we’ll have a bit of back and forth that’s fun and then nothing. I’m the one who takes the initiative which obviously made me feel pretty in control for a while but now it made me feel weird.

Stranger still, I found myself acting almost too casual towards him. In a way, I think this was to please him. Not intentionally. But by being pragmatically cool I could maintain a certain composure. A sense that whatever he does or whatever happens, I’m fine. Not only that, I realised I started looking up to him and his friends (his BFF Michael is a good friend/coworker of mine and the girlfriend is now an intern with our company). For what they know, for how they interact. The sense of ease and grace between the three of them. And I felt lesser than them. When they discussed things that I enjoyed at some point in life (but disregarded as I’d grown older and into a new phase, as I did every so many years) I’d simultaneously engage in the conversation and feel less knowledgeable than them. It doesn’t help that my brain retains only the barest of memories of anything that happens in my life. Or perhaps it does.

I realised as I drove home from their house that this was the same attitude I had towards my ex in our earlier days. I’d act cool and spend evening upon evening with him and his friends on the couch, waiting for my alone time with him. Until it was my turn. I hated that. Not all the time, sometimes I enjoyed those nights a lot, but far too often. I never expressed a desire to do anything different. Instead when I didn’t feel like I was ‘up’ to hanging out with people who I didn’t particularly get along with and who seemed to look down on me (they had this odd macho-guy thing going and although I’ve always been ‘one of the guys’, here I wasn’t) I would just stay away, retreat, to recharge. I realise now that he must have had a very confusing time with me. I would feign or posture the strongest casual composure you could imagine, then pull on him when my emotions would get too strong and then react coolly as soon as he’d catch up. Pretending I didn’t care. Or that it wasn’t his problem, but only my own. I didn’t share how I actually felt, because the truth was I did care with him. Very much so. I was deeply in love with my ex, almost instantly. But I realise now that I was trying to keep myself safe in the only way I knew how. By withdrawing. Or by pleasing.

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Once upon a time I read a story about how adult children of alcoholics have a hard time maintaining and forming adult relationships. They cling to whomever will take them, but bite as soon as anyone would get close. Like a hurt dog.

I realise now that this has been automatic behaviour for me. Learned as a child. Expressed as an adult. I’d seen it’s color and the vagueness of it’s shape but I was helpless to counter it, because I couldn’t bring it into words. I didn’t understand it. And we can’t fight what we don’t understand.

All of this clicked like a puzzle as I drove home through the cool night air. A shower had broken the pressing heat in the city and with it, cleared out the cobwebs in my head.

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One day I’ll want a relationship again. When I do I want it to be open, without posturing and without bullshit. Playfulness but no games. That will have to start with me. Until then, I’ll only have a friend with benefits if I feel confident in my own skin. If I can teach myself not to substitute my own behavior or wants with those of someone else. No matter how minor. Now that I know what it looks like when I let even the smallest bit of myself slide, I can prevent it next time.

Until then, my heart belongs to no one else. My heart is my own.