It’s been a long time. More than a year, I think.

Sometimes I gain a sense of lucidity, and think, “How has it been more than a year and a half? How am I more than halfway to being a social worker? How have I been in a relationship this long?”

It’s been a rough go here. I’ve dealt with a depression that has kept me pretty numb through a lot of my time here. Only recently have I begun lifting above it. I hope the lifting continues, and I feel like me all the time again.

I have found myself pulled time and time again into the past, back to my time at BYU. I don’t know if it’s that my experiences there were so emotionally impactful, or if I miss having such a close-knit group of friends. I’ve questioned time and again whether or not I simply can’t let it go. The past, that is.

In my moments of lucidity, I find myself wondering if any of this is what I really want. I’ve gotten burned out to the point of nearly throwing in the towel. I’ve gotten isolated to the point of cursing out Seattle for being so tough to break into socially. But even beyond that, I’m not being me, and that feels worst of all. I hate not being me.

Sometimes this relationship feels all wrong. Not in the character of the person I’m with. Not in the respect and mutual admiration that we share. Not really even in the life goals we have. The details don’t match up; he wants to live where I don’t, and he has visions for a future family that I don’t care for. But home and family, those things are right on par.

No, the dissonance is in the feelings. It’s in the way I care for him, but don’t find my heart beating heavily when he looks in my eyes. It’s in the way I enjoy him, but my soul doesn’t leap when he enters a room.

Really, what lacks is the Cinderella Story factor.

For those who don’t know, A Cinderella Story is a Disney film starring Hilary Duff from a number of years ago. I’d rather not google it to find out, because I don’t want to feel old when I’m not. It’s all about a modern high school girl who works too hard and doesn’t quite fit in, but online she’s found her perfect match.

They learn that they’re at the same high school. And they decide to meet, at the Halloween dance. She steps down the stairs to the dance floor wearing a magnificent ball gown and a masquerade mask framed by golden curls. She finds her prince waiting in the middle of the floor, only to learn he’s the captain of the football team (yeah, I know, but it’s a Disney film based on a Disney film based on an old fairy tale. Cliches are gonna happen).

In her insecurity, she doesn’t remove her mask, but the two step out of the ball to a magnificent pavilion in the garden where a small band is preparing to play. They dance, and Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be” plays, the two of them falling deeply in love.

Just so you can experience it, I’ll post it here:

It is possibly the cheesiest drivel Disney has ever produced, but when it first came out I fell in love with this scene. Even to watch it now fills me with the same intense warmth and passion I felt then. I dreamed of loving someone like this, of feeling like I’d found my perfect match, of falling helplessly into someone’s heart. I even wrote letters to my “cinderella”. Yeah, I still hadn’t accepted my sexuality yet.

The feeling of this love is effortless. It’s such that you can’t help but love someone. In fact, you keep getting pulled in, and you want to be pulled in. Completely. Absolutely. Into glorious oblivion. Vulnerability isn’t pain, but rather freedom. This person sees your soul, and makes it feel right for being out in the world, rather than hidden where no one can hurt it. They feel right. They understand you. They are like you. And they love you just the same. There’s no better-than or less-than. No sense of superiority or inferiority. Just two people, who fit like pieces of a puzzle. Best friends. Finally home.

This is what is lacking. This is what I want. I don’t know what it means that I don’t feel it in my current relationship. Perhaps that I have emotional issues to work through. Or perhaps, it’s just not the right fit.

I first got inklings of this mismatch a bit over a year ago. I thought with time things would sort themselves out. I thought I would open up again, love freely, and things would be fine. Even if I hadn’t thought things would change, I was so desperate for structure and social interaction that I used the relationship (and the subsequent friends and roommates it brought me) as a lifeline.

Perhaps I needed it then. Perhaps it, like many relationships, is only supposed to be in our lives for a time.

I am aware of the potential to try and use people and relationships to fill holes. Sometimes at work as people come in and out of the store, I see a beautiful man, and I feel that instinctual urge to latch on, like a leech, gaining some sense of identity from him. But instantly, I feel the truth that I don’t want to be someone else. Really, part of what I’ve missed in this relationship is my sense of identity. Of being me.

I also realize that no one can give me the identity and emotional solidity that I need. Only I can give that to myself. And the more I’ve focused on that, the more I have felt more complete and more like me.

This cycle of contentment in the relationship and dissatisfaction has gone on for more than a year. Each cycle gets a bit more intense, and I have to face the realities of it more.

A few days ago, I was very distressed by this. I spent much of the day weighed down, feeling trapped by the relationship and feeling incredibly guilty for feeling like this with a boy who gives so freely. I avoided him that night, trying not to make eye contact too much. As we got into bed, I pulled out my phone and read one of the articles I’d collected in my year of rounding this cycle.

The author addressed the question of whether or not a feeling like mine was a sense of fear or resistance to intimacy, or an impression that the relationship wasn’t right. She says that the key is not to focus on what to do. That will only bring chaos. Instead, she said to focus on what it is you want. What do you feel now, and what do you want to feel? Make it concrete. Focus on it. Give it all your energy.

If it was fear, then those feelings will subside and peace and contentment will fill the relationship. If it was an impression to leave, then the other person will naturally distance himself, and the relationship will end without pain or chaos.

I’ve still yet to see what my feelings have been. But as I have focused on what I want to feel, what life I want to live, I have found a strength and solidity I did not have before. I have found the me that I am at my core. And the man who fits this picture doesn’t latch on to that me, nor does he have to carry that me. He walks beside me, two independent and strong people. We are best friends, and we share an intimacy and rapport that I’ve never shared with anyone.

I picture us sitting on a porch overlooking a sunset on the beach, a glass of red wine in each of our hands. I see the light and vitality in his eyes as he looks at me. I see him laugh and lean in as he connects to something I say. His words don’t just say “me too.” It’s in the way he moves. They way he looks. He understands me. He is like me.

We share goals and dreams and there is laughter and playfulness in our life. We dance in the kitchen to club music, singing like crazy to the music. We are lifted by the relationship. Energized. Empowered to be us, together.

It’s possible that I’m dreaming up something as cheesy as the ball dance from A Cinderella Story, but that is the feeling I want. And frankly, the strength I find from that core “me” lets me say with all seriousness the line Lady Gaga sings in her song “Gypsy”:

“I don’t wanna be alone forever, but I can be tonight.”

I’m not afraid of being alone anymore. Because being me, alone, is so much more fulfilling than being something else with anyone else.

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