I was fourteen the first time I got kicked out of the house. The next few years, often enough, I’d move back in with my mom or dad, but never for very long. Fourteen’s when I had my Macaulay Culkin/Good Son epiphany – that I can do whatever I want. From then on, I was done with curfews and rules. When I moved in with my dad, I regularly came home to an empty house – which meant I didn’t even have to come home. Nobody was keeping tabs on me. I liked it. I liked not having to answer to anyone.
The thought that I might not be cut out for “sharing a life” has occurred to me before. I’m not great at making concessions. Doing what somebody else wants me to do instead of what I want to do isn’t something I’m good at. I like being away – in whatever city – and living out of a backpack. It’s an adventure. Nobody gives a fuck where I am or what time I’ll be home. I can go wherever I want, sleep here, sleep there. It doesn’t matter. The last time I did that was in Sarasota, for “No Real Than You Are.” Things eventually got ten kinds of fucked up but that’s a different thing. The being-on-my-own/adventure part was awesome. I had a fucking blast when I first got there.
On our way to Sarasota, a Friday, Heather and I weren’t getting along. Things got better but then, Saturday, got worse. I pitched the idea of “breaking up” for the first time. It got really intense and emotional but we figured it out. On Sunday, she went back to Jacksonville, leaving me in Sarasota for a month to make the movie. Riding around town each day, having places to go and things to do, I felt so alive. I felt really free. I started thinking about if I’d happier on my own. But I’m not ever on my own. “Pretend for a second that I left Heather,” I thought, “how would that play out?” I already knew. I’d run around for a minute, get into a little trouble, have a little fun, and wind up in a relationship with another girl within a month. That’s how it always goes. I fall in love way too fast. And if I’m going to be in a relationship anyway, it should be with Heather… right? I had to think about that. Why did I love Heather? Of course she’s [insert romantic/positive adjectives here] but if I’m really being honest it’s not about the laundry list of nice traits; a lot of people are smart, pretty, sweet, [whatever]. Admitting it to myself made me feel more self-centered than I’d ever felt in my life. What I most loved about Heather: she loves me.
– “So, Sam – what do you look for in a girl?”
…um… An affinity for… me.
That’s most of it anyway. She loves me enough (and she’s stable enough) that – should something go awry – she’s not gonna lose her shit or do anything really fucked up to hurt me. If we break up, I’m just gonna date somebody else. And there’s no guarantee that that girl will love me as much or be as even-keeled. I’d have to be crazy to leave her.
That was July. In August, I told her about it. I didn’t know how she’d react, but the next day she said something about being more in love with me than ever. When she says stuff like that to me, my kneejerk response is always “WHAT’D I DO??” Like the answers to most questions, I had to drag it out of her, but she said it was what I had told her the night before. “The thing about me loving you ‘cause you love me?” I asked. “Seriously?” I hadn’t exactly expected her to find it endearing.
[Quick interjection: For the first time, it’s occurred to me that she may have only said she “loved me more than ever” because (in light of what I had just told her) that would make me love her more… If that’s the case though, I don’t think it was conscious].
Shit’s been fucked up for the better part of two weeks. Not in a loud/battlefield kinda way, I’ve just felt seriously unloved. But, yesterday morning, things did get hostile.
I’m not happy and she doesn’t love me – or doesn’t treat me like it anyway – so why the fuck am I even bothering?
Tuesday, Wednesday, and one day last week, I didn’t sleep in the bed. It felt wrong; it was way too intimate for us. I’m not connected to this person – I’m not gonna sleep beside her.
I had a lot on my mind but I didn’t wanna let my emotions call the shots. I was making plans but wanted to be sure that they still made sense when I was a little more relaxed. I wanted to be certain that I wasn’t acting out of anger or hurt. After all, I love her. If I’m about to break up with her, I need to do it in a loving way. It shouldn’t be cavalier – if it’s really what’s right for me then I wouldn’t do it in a way that hurts her. I took some time to sort everything out and when I felt I was in a good place, I told her I needed to talk before she left for work. I let her take her time getting ready and continued to sort out my feelings, in my head and on paper.
“My plan is to move out at the end of the month. I’m not happy, I don’t feel like you love me, and I feel like we’re completely disconnected.” She said she didn’t feel that way at all. If she was upset by this news though, she didn’t show it. That’s perfectly in line with what I’ve come to expect and a perfect example of my biggest issue with her: an unwillingness (or at least hesitancy) to share how she’s feeling. She barely said anything in response; she just stood there. I’d stand silently too, waiting for something that never came, before saying something else or asking her to please respond.
The whole thing just reinforced my idea that we might not be compatible. That we couldn’t communicate. When I ran out of things to say, we just stood there. Even if it was ending, I wanted to be loving. I gave her a hug. She hugged back the same way she always does: just barely. I went outside to smoke a cigarette and she left for work.
I thought about it all day as I painted. I’ve written a lot about it the last few days, but I wrote more on my canvas. A lot of it’s been obscured by paint but – of the (still visible) statements that strike me as having genuine relevance – here’s what it says:
I wanna live alone in a city where no one wants me. I wanna be a stranger. I’m so much more interesting when you’ve just met me. I want a recurring guest role (for just one season) in your life. And yours. And yours. I like long distance friendships. I like sex for the first time. It’s only been 9 months I’ve known her. It’s only been ten months I’ve known me. I love her but I don’t know what the fuck that means. What’re the implications? What’s my obligation? Is this about me or about her? If I’m getting an ego again, then I’m a fucking joke. Because I am a joke. I’m fucking Halloween every day. I wanna wake up alone on my birthday. I wanna go days on end. I still don’t know what’s real or right. I’m insane. That’s part of the deal.
Late last night, we finally had a back and forth conversation. “When I said I was planning on moving out at the end of the month, it’s not like I was committing to anything. That was just my notice, if I’m still unhappy. I don’t actually make plans because I have no idea where I’ll be, how I’ll feel, one moment to the next.” In the end, she said if she was gonna make an effort that I had to try too. That I couldn’t still be upset. “I can’t just flip a switch in an instant and be okay. Then again, there’s a good chance I’ll wake up tomorrow and be totally fine.”
Which is exactly what happened.
And today, everything’s been okay, so I’m okay. Today. Right now.
Later? We’ll see… But I’m gonna try and I can already see that she’s trying so I’m hoping for the best.
There’s a good few things that come up in the text on the canvas that I didn’t begin to touch with this statement. But I wanted to push this out into the world already ’cause I’m ready to move past it. The parts that really hold water – I’ll have ample opportunity to look at later on down the line.
I’m not sure I really even accept the concept of a personality disorder but … Do other people really not think / behave / feel this way? I kind of have a hard time believing that. Then again, I go back and forth with it. I mean – obviously – I’m not ashamed (or I wouldn’t talk about it as much as I do) but…
- Signed, limited edition (#/100) 12×15″ Eradicating the Threat of Happiness prints are available in my webstore. Each print is packaged in a sealed Crystal Clear acid/lignin-free plastic archival sleeve, with a heavy backing board, and a single sheet artist’s statement on the reverse. Shipping and handling is free.
- The original painting sold January 4, 2014.
- For information regarding the availability of other original pieces, I’d be happy to send you a current price list or arrange a meeting.