On December 10th 2011, seven years ago, I got engaged. I had been with my partner Otter since November 27th 2007. We bought a house April 12th 2012, and split up in May of 2014. That is no longer the longest running relationship I’ve been in. I look back on it though and I can say it was probably one of the most, if not the very most, toxic relationship I’ve ever been in. Not just for me, certainly for both of us, because we were both pretty terrible people for each other in different ways. I have so many stories I could tell of ways in which we battled against each other, how I grasped for control, how he lied about everything from the minuscule to the great, how we both poisoned each other with anxiety and fear. It’s hard to zero in on one memory, one lesson, one moment of failure, or one moment of joy.
I don’t actually remember much joy in that relationship, except maybe in the earliest days. Thinking back though, most of it was joy of experience and indulgence. I remember late night runs with our friends to taco hell and stuffing our faces full of gooey cheesy goodness that we could suddenly have in abundance because as college students we were adults, and had no real adults to tell us that maybe trying to eat enough burritos to feed a small village all at once was a poor life choice. I remember the first winter break, where I was kicked out of the house and spent it with him, how we ate out every day and it felt like a celebration. I felt so grown up being able to get in his car and go anywhere with him, instead of having to rely on where my feet or the metro or my parents would take me. I remember on breaks how he would drive the hour down from his place to mine, and our hurried frenzied sex in the car in my parents drive way in the middle of the night before we would go in to their home and curl up in separate beds because they would never consider the idea of letting us sleep together under their roof. I remember the first time we went to Disney, a vacation we could never have afforded on our own but that my parents gifted to us. It felt so grown up to be on vacation together, but most of my memories are of us getting drunk, the sex, and making pesto in the hotel room kitchen naked. In fact all of my great memories with him revolve around food or sex in one way or another. I’m sure there was more to the relationship then that, but I can’t remember any truly soul touching conversations or any times I felt like I was expanding and growing as a person.
I am still a hedonistic being in many ways. I love to cook and make rich foods that are bursting with flavor. I love savoring new cuisines and experiencing the deep taste of cultural heritage that I know I can never truly understand, but get a glimpse of through the evolution of a food culture that’s progressed for centuries. I love touch, both platonic and sexual, from the few people I am comfortable enough to let into my space. I love kink, and walking the lines of pleasure and pain and sensation drawn out over a moment until it is endless and overwhelming. There are so many physical pleasures in this world that add to the wonder of existence, and are gratifying to share with my partners and loves and friends. But the most savory thing of all in my life right now is that these hedonistic pleasures are not the only isolated source of joy, and not my sole way of connecting to the beautiful people I share my heart with.
One of the milestones that occurred right after my relationship with Otter ending was my starting back in school. It was necessity, I needed to pursue a career that I could both enjoy and that could support me, now that I would be taking over ownership of the house we had bought together and supporting myself on my own. It marked an extremely important change though. As I transitioned away from a relationship that was filled with, after all the lies and control and fights and neglect, a self indulgent seeking of pleasure in the material world, I began to focus again on higher learning and growth. How could I have lost so many years to an alcohol filled haze and so many burrito filled nights of gooey cheese and comfort, but not much else? I was someone who had prided myself on my intellect, my lust for knowledge, my fascination with the human mind and the human condition. I was someone who had given all that up for the comfort of a warm body with an income, midnight trips to taco hell, and a pretty ring. When he finally left, after it was all over and I was left with a human shaped hole where I had stashed all my codependency and loneliness and straining for security, it was a massive relief. I was empty and lost and it felt glorious. I was not alone, I had various other partners who were glorious supportive and loving people, but none were that picket fence and two and a half children shaped normal facade of comfort and security. And in my emptiness I saw the road to growth and learning again unfurling in front of me. I slowly began to stretch out all the cramps in my mind, spent a few years filtering out the daze of alcohol with several bumps in that road, and began unfurling my brain and heart again to reach towards a sense of real fulfillment.
These days I still have some of the glorious people who stood by me through the ending of that relationship and my growth following it, in my life. Some of them were there from before my engagement, and some from before I even ever got into that relationship. There are many who have come along after as well. What I can say of all of them is they are not normal, they are not picket fence and two and a half kid shaped humans, they are not people who bring me joy only through hurried sexual escapades in the back of a car and midnight trips to taco hell, they are not people who I try and control or people who lie to me and make me grasp out harder in fear. They are people who encourage my personal growth, my love for knowledge, my dabbling into psychology and philosophy, and my desperate need for conversation and to be challenged. These days I have learned to never sacrifice my progress and personal growth for comfort and hedonistic pleasures. As much as I love my food and my sex and the comfort of stability and security, it is only valuable to me in a life also filled with challenges and mental exercises and a pursuit of knowledge and understanding. I need to feed both my body and mind, and I need progress. I am too much for a house and a marriage and a life with a sweet but normal partner to contain. I can be endless as long as I can always grow, and I won’t ever lose that again.