I got this book, not because I heard of it or the author before, but because the cover caught my eye at Barnes & Noble and when I read the back, “The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.” I had to have it. Let’s just say we’ve all been there, right?
Funny side note: The first time I read ALL the words on the cover of this book was just now, as I was adding the picture I took to my post. It caught my breath. Why did I not notice before?
A few weeks later, when I finally got around to reading it (my to-read pile was already pretty deep), I was initially disappointed. Shallow college kids and their party antics? Not really my thing, even when I was a college kid. Even back then I was shaking my head at the kids around me. Is this just something everyone does because they are finally out from under their parents’ thumb? It struck me as ridiculous, even to the 19-year-old me. So, I wasn’t enjoying the story because I couldn’t relate. I couldn’t get into any of their experiences but I kept reading. Then I realized what kind of a person she had fallen in love with; a narcissist with no real regard for other humans, someone who regularly, and in every context, only uses the people around him as a means to an end, like tools you find in the shed.
I’ve recently found myself interacting with a person like this as well and it is excruciatingly painful. You spend so much energy trying to reach them. There has to be a person underneath all that pain that has made them act out like this. You know that everyone has their own agenda, their own needs and goals, maybe you can help them through to the other side, maybe you’re the one that clears the shadows out and makes him a better person. That just isn’t possible and it’s not about what you can do. It’s him. It’s a personal journey that only they can travel. You’re just a site along the way.
But it’s so hard for an empathic person to give up and let go. You don’t want to be another painful experience in their life. You want to be the healing for them, the medicine. But the more you try, the more he slips away. It sucks.
The book became personal for me once I got about two-thirds through, as you can probably tell. It was also eye-opening to my situation and healing for my heart, even though my situation was really the same as the characters’ in the book. As I put it down, in tears, something dawned on me. We can’t go looking for the things that help us heal, we have to be open to healing. We don’t know where a path will ultimately lead. We can’t just give up at the first sign of trouble or boredom. We have to follow it through and see where it goes, learn from what we find.
That’s what I did with this book and with the relationship. At first, I was frustrated and then angry, then hurt, but now…well…I can see the important lessons that I was able to learn about myself. I learned how to interact with another type of person (book) and how to learn and react faster next time. I won’t close myself off away from any danger, books or people. I guess I can’t learn much from doing things the way everyone else does, the safe way. I learn best from risk, even though I’m a risk-averse type of person. I’ve been starting to wonder if I was born that way or learned to be that way: a reflection for another time for sure.
“Sass, you learn almost everything from your relationships,” CJ said. “They’re how you figure out who you are.”
Some people may take offense at that idea but they’re missing the real point. It’s not that relationships define who you are. It’s more like you can’t really see who you are directly. You can see part of you, but not all of you, not without a mirror. The relationships you get into and out of are like that mirror. The more you have, even the unsuccessful ones, the more glimpses you get. I wish I had known that earlier in my life. I spent my teens and twenties getting into and out of relationships, not to learn about myself but to find a partner to take care of me. How could I find someone to take care of me if I wasn’t sure of who I really was? I did the same with co-workers and friends. “What can you do for me?” was typically my thinking.
Lucky for me, the man I chose just happened to be a perfect match, but I didn’t always think so. We’ve been learning who we are together for the last twenty years. But I’m not talking about only a marriage relationship. Friends, lovers, co-workers, etc. all teach us different things about ourselves. We can’t do it alone. We all learn from each other.
I’ve met a lot of very emotionally immature people lately and I’ve learned something different about myself from every one of them. Hopefully they learned something about themselves by dealing with me. I won’t cut myself off from human contact just because some people can be lame. No one will get anywhere that way!