I’ve learned what I probably could never have fully imagined. I’ve learned that Anger kills you from the inside out. Something I understood in concept but had never experienced before this. It’s not the affairs themselves that will kill you, it’s the anger that surrounds them and all the lies you realize you’ve lived that will kill you if you let it get too tight of hold.

I’ve learned that this is my final try. Meaning? It is sink or swim. I’ve been married twice before. I take responsibility now for my bad choices and my failure to respect myself enough not to enter damaging relationships with men who have baggage they don’t claim. I take responsibility for my naïve belief that I could fix people with love. Save wounded souls. Turn entire worlds around. All with love.

I’ve learned you do not, cannot, change people. People change themselves and only when they are ready.

I’ve learned that people throw relationships away too easily. Immediate gratification and entitlement are a way of life in our society. If someone fails your expectations you can just toss them aside or cheat on them or blame them for everything wrong in your life but actually fighting for a committed relationship… that’s something that is rare. Divorce is easy. There’ll always be another person out there to meet and fall in love with right? Someone better. Except the reality is… there may not always be another person out there. My new reality is that I have learned better isn’t always out there. I’ve also learned that if it’s worth having, it’s worth fighting for. It’s all skin in the game here folks. Either I make this work or I continue on alone.

I’ve learned I’m ok with that. With being alone. Being single. Now, a lot of people might hear that and say that’s just silly. That’s so short sighted and a little too dramatic. You can never say never right? Someone else will come along and I will fall in love again. Ok, so maybe by some unplanned miracle someone would come knock on my door and be the ideal match for me but beyond that? My search for a soul mate comes to an end. I have died trying, so to speak, and I’ll choose solitude over relationship if this one somehow fails. Fate may bless me but I have no intention of looking for that fate.

What would I do with myself? All kinds of things! I would pursue my own interests. Learn to re-build my confidence again. I would search for all the ways to make a contribution to the world and I would throw my energy into that along with parenting my special needs child. I’d try to be a better friend, a better daughter, a better boss. I’d take all the energy I have spent over the years trying to please men who for one reason or another couldn’t love me the same way and I would put it to use learning to love myself for exactly who I am! No, I wouldn’t search for a relationship again. If this doesn’t work…a new plan is in order.

Along with this I have learned that there is no reason to wait for the above. I can pursue my interest and channel my energy any way I want to. I no longer need to BE what others need me to be. I can be me. I’ve also learned the importance of finding all the parts of me that have broken off over the years.

What do I feel, believe and dream? What inspires me? What gives me energy and what takes it away? When do I feel most alive? All of those things matter. I’ve focused too hard and too long on giving everything I have to others around me. Exerted too much effort on perfecting all the details in my life and my job while hiding all signs of weakness to others. Too much time and effort conforming to responsibility and routine and succeeding and surviving.. but not nearly enough time living. I should be able to do ALL of this whether I am in a relationship or not. I do not need to put others lives ahead of mine. It is time to stop being a savior.

I’ve learned that even while I doubt everything about myself right now, I like me. I have faith in me. I’m a good, honest, sincere person. I give more than I take but it’s become a fault not a gift. I’m creative and quirky and under all the refined corporate image I’m a bit of a wild child. A free spirit. And I like that spirit. Truthfully I’m tired and worn down. I’m learning it’s ok to admit that. I need to rest and I need to heal. I need to allow myself the time and priority to do so. In short, I’ve learned I was mistaken. I am not superwoman. I cannot carry the world on my shoulders.

I believe I’ve finally started to define the things I need and don’t want to live without:

o Depth and substance in my life. I’m growing tired of the shallowness and materialism I see in so many places. I’ve always had these feelings but I’m finding my tolerance level is lower than even I myself realized. I want a simple life but I want it to be full and purposeful. I’m tired of being bombarded by things that make no difference in the world, other than to zap your strength and energy. I want my thoughts to matter. I want the company I keep to matter. I want to cherish all the people who bring this substance and depth into my life and I want to stop expending energy on those that cultivate the petty and the chaotic everywhere they go.

o Learning and growing in my life. I’ve always craved these things and I think I always will. It’s simply who I am. I need to explore, think, discuss, LEARN and expand my mind. I’m bored senseless with all the mindless things we’re bombarded with. I want someone to share this craving to expand with me. Not to make me feel I’m too deep and too complicated. I don’t want to have to censor my thoughts or my enthusiasm for a subject just to make other people comfortable. And I won’t do it anymore.

o More art, beauty, books, and romance in my life. More paying attention to the little things, the beautiful things, savoring and making each day matter. Small romantic gestures. A note. A kind gesture. A sincerely felt compliment. A wink. A soft touch of love. A whispered word. A sexy smile. A dance for no reason at all. I want these to be a way of life.

o More sensuality in my life. There is a critical difference between sensuality and sexuality. For me, one must come before the other. I have learned that can’t change this. Sensuality is what I have always been about. It has to be part of me and part of my life before sexuality means anything to me at all. The textures around me, the scents, the tastes, the sounds, all of it an exotic joyful way of living. I want touch, kisses, flirting, hugs, messages, dancing, silk, velvet, exotic oil, walks in the woods, eye contact, drawing out the seduction from morning to night. I crave the experience of building anticipation and desire as much as I crave the end result. I need more simmering and less flipping light switches. I want to try new foods and wines more often and to remember how it felt to pay attention to ALL of my senses, I want to feel savored, cherished, and pursued by the person I love and I want him to be both passionately strong and tenderly humble while he does it. I want him to inspire and intrigue me and I want to inspire and intrigue him in return. But if that turns out to be unachievable I am learning that sensuality is a way of life. One I long surrendered to other necessity and demand. I’m learning it’s a large part of why I am now so out of balance with myself and so with or without a partner, I will reclaim my sensuality. And I will NEVER…..EVER…..let another person take it away or choke it to death again. It’s mine and I own it and you can not reshape me.

For a bit over a year now I have felt like an outlet for an orgasm. A tool to be used. Overly demanding in my feminine needs. I’m not saying that my partner treats me this way. I don’t believe he has any intention to do so. But I can also sense he’s often frustrated by me and my needs. He wants a clear instruction manual to explain why I’m so complicated and what makes me tick. I make no sense to him, thus he has no way to know how to meet my needs and is at times threatened by the ever changing me. He feels that nothing he does is correct. He’s frustrated that he can’t read me and anticipate what I want when it’s all so cut and dry for him. Not only in terms of the simplicity of getting aroused for sex but in terms of balancing his life. His job/status/talents are what he believes define him, he earns a living, he comes home for his idea of family time, he wants a lot of sex. He needs food and sleep. He craves risk and adventure from time to time, like racing cars. That about sums it all up. He has a difficult time grasping my searching spirit. My need to know, learn, experience, reach out, change things, leave an impact. Music is a sound to him. He focuses on the beat and whether it appeals to him. I focus on the intricate details of it, the rhythm, the change ups, the lyrics, the harmony, the message, the memories it brings to mind or the desires it plants. Art is visual to him. Color and form. Which by the way he has an amazing eye for. Art is a window to the artists soul to me. It makes me wonder if I see what the artist wanted to convey. I look for the message. I feel not see the art.

As you can see, a lot of this is simply male female differences that are at play. Some of it is me. I will admit that. I’m tremendously complicated. I know that I’m like capturing the wind at times. What I really want is someone who hungers to know what works and why it works and when it works no matter how many tries it takes. I want someone to explore me body, mind and soul until they have created in their own heart the one and only map of me in existence. Why? Because taking on that study of me is the ultimate message that you love me as I am and find me interesting enough to do so. It’s the greatest sexual message ever sent…I will take you in with all my senses and every fiber of my being and learn you. Which takes me back to my choice to choose solitude if this relationship can not be healed completely enough. What I long for and what normally occurs are two different things. I would rather find ways to express my sensuality alone than struggle to hold on to it in a relationship that does not let it thrive.

You see, over many years the sensuality has died inside of me and because of that sexuality has died inside of me too. Sexuality is now a struggle, sometimes even a physical aching inside that I feel for hours after intercourse. Sometimes it’s everything I can do to carry through with sex right now. I work hard to put my mind in a different place than my body in order to get by. But, sometimes I think that above ALL ELSE, I want my sensuality back!! When it becomes part of me again, the sexuality will follow. It won’t be within the hour and probably not tomorrow or the next day. It’s not that easy. It’s taken decades and dozens of betrayals and lies, a couple of failed relationships and a lot of years of being used and manipulated by people I was trying to love (read save) to reach the point where sensuality finally got up and walked out on me. Slamming the door for good measure. Now I need someone with patience. Someone who thinks I’m worth the effort of trying and waiting for. My partner is trying to be this. I think he wants to be that. But with his past baggage and his own recovery in process I also know he isn’t giving me what I need in this area. And I am learning that in the end it is a task I must undertake on my own anyway. Reclaiming my sensuality and refusing to let it go ever again.

o Confidence. I also want my confidence back. What I’ve discovered is that my confidence away from him and in his presence differ drastically. Never in my life have I experienced such a lack of confidence and such uncertainty in who I am. I understand this is an accumulation of circumstances that have led up to this state but this is foreign to me. I’ve never considered myself exceptional but I’ve always considered myself worthwhile. Adequate and even special in my own ways. Fiercely strong and independent. I remain strong and independent in many external areas of my life, yet internally…I now question everything. And never so much as when I’m with him.

When I’m with him I become the sum of all my flaws. I feel less than inadequate. I feel like I’m under a microscope. Every blemish, every pound, every wrinkle, every new emerging gray hair, every dark circle, every vein, every bad hair day, every patch of dry skin, or unshaven body parts feels like it is amplified and broadcast to the world. There are literally moments when I stand in the bathroom and have to will myself to open the door and face him. Moments I stare into the mirror with a sinking sick feeling in my stomach and an overwhelming urge to just crawl into the bathtub pull the curtain and cry.

That is INSANE. I still after 16 months can not comprehend WHO THE HELL this weak woman is. What have I become? While I understand it to be irrational I still can’t seem to gain control of it. On the outside I rarely reveal it. On the inside it’s an endless loop playing in my head. Every time I get close to accepting that I am who I am and I’M WORTHY and I’m attractive, I remember the simple concept debated for centuries, that men are not made for monogamy and that there will always, always be another woman he craves and desires more than me. Even if only for a few seconds. As he readily admits and even defends, he is a man. He can’t help it. I understand it, but that doesn’t help me. In fact, the more I understand it the less I can believe in relationships period. This is one of the things I think about often when I think of that 24 month marker and whether I will be recovered by the time it arrives and I wonder at times, is it really worth this much pain and doubt or would the pain of leaving one day be worth it simply for some relief from constantly feeling insignificant and less than enough?

The question I ask myself again and again is will I ever again feel like enough in his presence? It’s hard to conceive of at this moment and that scares me. Let me be clear. My partner does not degrade me or insult me. He does not pick at me. In fact he compliments me now and then. Shows sexual desire for me often. It is not abuse or neglect that make me feel this way. It is the reality of two things.  1)  I was not enough. He still cheated. And…2)  the odds will always be on the side of cheating because men are wired to fantasize sexually. He and every man on earth is wired to desire other females. And I can not get past it.     I would in many ways, rather be alone than deal with these odds. I’ve been through enough. In that regard, I am ready to be done.

o Less materialism. There’s living comfortably and living excessively. There’s a saying…”I wish you enough.” That’s all I need. Too many possessions and status symbols just become the chaos and stress that often go with getting them and maintaining them. They are all baggage that can weigh you down, it doesn’t lift you up. I want just enough to be comfortable and secure. I guess you could say two things I have learned are that I only need enough and that I also want to BE enough.

o Less negativity, complaining, criticizing other people, judging other people, posturing, manipulating or lying. I mean seriously! What is it with people always cutting other people down? All of life seems to at times become a reality TV series. I’ve had my fill of it. Take your gossip and your superior attitude somewhere else if you don’t have anything nice to say about people.

o Less exposure to violence and hate (movies, tv, violent sports, internet sensationalism, family feuds, work politics and backstabbing) I know it sells, I know it thrills, but would it really be so bad to promote something a little more compassionate in the world? For our kids? For ourselves?

o MORE exposure to goodness and caring.

o More communication. What we want, need, feel, think about, care about, dream of. I want to share this, not hold it inside for fear of being too complicated, too deep, too much bother.

o Honesty. I just can’t stomach dishonesty any more. I’ve lived immersed in a world of lies and secrets for most of my life. My fathers infidelities were the start of what would be a very warped normal for me for way too many years. Honesty means something to me. It guides my life. I expect the same in return. When it’s so easy to lie that there is no second thought, no stopping to ask yourself if it’s really necessary, if it’s really honoring or just serving your own purposes?.. When there is no after taste of guilt lingering behind in your mouth, no nagging remorse in your head, no worry that you might be found out, no attempts to steer as close to truth as possible….Well, then lying has become a sickness and I have learned that I can’t have that sickness in my life anymore.

o More focus on health. Giving up these last few cigarettes a day, focusing on healthy food, activity. I want to nourish my mind, body or soul. Life is too short and I have wasted far too much of mine on the wrong people and the wrong things. It is time to nourish all aspects of myself. For me and my own well being, not to please anyone else.

o More balance

o More give and take in how we manage the house and chores AND caring for each other. If I have to plan, shop for and cook all of our meals then I want him to at least make me coffee twice a week. On Saturday and Sunday mornings. Is that really much to ask? It’s a small gift to give for never having to worry about your own meals and it’s a simple way to say “you matter to me and I want to spoil you the same way you always make the time to take care me”   I’m not sure why this seems like such a big thing to ask for but it’s something my partner rarely thinks to do it unless I ask for it or hint at it repeatedly.

o I want to sing more
o I want to dance more
o I want to stand naked in the rain just for the sensation of the cool rain sliding down my body
o I want to get closer to nature
o I want to make more people smile

These are just some of the things I have learned about myself on my trip to hell and back. What things have you learned about yourself? It seems every journey good or bad, teaches us something, hey?