December 3, 2018

The pain of deferred maintenance

I was at the dentist three times last week.

Two of the appointments were to scrape away years of build up, and one was to replace a filling that was partially failing. As I sat in the chair, I let my mind wander. Because of conversations I had with someone recently, and for the mind's ability for free-association and metaphor, I thought about my marriage and the counseling we attended as it unraveled, while the technician dug in and occasionally touched a nerve.

We went to a marriage counselor for four months. The counselor was legitimately terrible, at one point saying "we are not here to save your marriage." Even so, there was some benefit into digging into the issues and neglect in our relationship. I have never been so raw and exposed as I was then. I can credit that time for changing who I am and how I approach relationships, romantic or otherwise. I can still be a somewhat private person, but I am leaps and bounds more open about my fears, feelings, failings and fractures.

I saved this some time ago. Sometimes you see a meme or quote that speaks to you and expresses something you've been feeling but couldn't quite distill. You see it and and think "yeah, that is it".

Then you read it the next day and think, "well it isn't that simple but this totally explains part of it."

Even after months of counseling and painful digging into the neglected parts of our hearts and feelings, I never got an answer as to why she felt our marriage was not salvageable. Because of this, and my propensity to self-analyze/blame, I tore into the wounds opened in counseling before they could scab over. I desperately wanted a 'why' and I could only examine myself at that point. On the one hand, the lack of an answer made me question everything about myself, and there was some growth as a result. On the other, it definitely delayed my recovery.

I was asked the other day if I missed that relationship. I didn't have a particularly satisfying answer.  As I have written before, I do not know if that was my one or best chance or not, but contrary to the meme I do not think, "I am not over her." I suppose I miss the promise that it held, and mourn the way I/we let it fail. That said, I recognize that relationship is long gone, we are both very different people now, and I do not think on its loss much anymore.

At one time I imagined that my ex and I would sit down over coffee or wine some day and speak freely about the 'why' once sufficient time had passed. I am actually seeing her in person for the first time in nine years in just a day or two. I do not know what to expect, except that this meeting is just perfunctory. There will be little time to do anything but awkwardly chat, and no revelations will be forthcoming.

With the time that has passed, I feel less and less that I need a 'why' in order to fully heal and close that chapter. I so desperately needed it back then, but I don't know that it would help me as much now.

But damned if I am not still curious.

Much like my dental care, my mental health care cannot be a once-a-decade check in. Massive healing can happen if you choose to sit in the chair with professionals after avoiding them for so long, but a lot less blood is shed with regular maintenance and upkeep.

As I look to the possibility of new relationships, I must maintain my desire to improve, and trust that healing is the result of all the work that was done.

And don't forget to floss.