Yeah. Sound familiar to anybody else?
Ever since I was a kid, I was always in search of A Soul Mate. I knew what I wanted to find, and I knew I was ready for it, and I thought I knew how to find it. I never pursued anything sexual with anyone I wasn't Serious about. I knew that having relationships like chain-smoking was a bad idea, so I almost always took anywhere from six months to a year and a half in between them when they dissolved. I tried to convince myself that I was getting closer every time, that every girl and every relationship was a little healthier... and I won't say I didn't learn things. But the relationships themselves always lasted the same year or so, and the phases of attraction, and infatuation, and controlled obsession, and painfully gradual and unwilling separation, and bitter regret never did get any different.
The last one was a little lengthier, a little more codependent, and as for its eventual and inevitable dissolution... well, they're never easy, and that one was no exception. We worked together, and we honestly still loved each other pretty deeply even after we couldn't bear to be with each other anymore, so... taking a new job a hundred miles away was something of a bittersweet relief.
That was three years ago - and for one reason or another, things were... different after that. I was in a new town, and I didn't know anybody outside work, and for ONCE - in spite of temptation and opportunity - I kept my damn pen out of the company ink. So my usual in-between period came and went... and I didn't have enough friends, or possibly the right friends, or maybe friends with the right circles of friends, to indulge in my usual serially monogamous antics.
Eventually, I had the first Random Hookup of my life. And no, this isn't the part where I tell you it was a Life Changing Experience, and I suddenly had this profound epiphany, and Things Were Never The Same Again. But... you know, although it WASN'T what I wanted, it wasn't as valueless as I'd thought it would be, either. We didn't have a damn thing in common with each other, and we could probably never even have really been friends in any Deep and Meaningful way. But we did have good sex, and we did respect each other, and in that very limited and temporary way, we did care about each other.
I didn't quite know what to make of that. Or if there necessarily was anything to make of that.
One way or another, the same thing happened with one woman (or, uh... ::coughs:: two) or another, several times after that. Always with someone who was clearly Not My Type. Never with any illusions that there was any future beyond a few casual hookups. Each time, it happened a little more easily and a little more comfortably than the last. And, wryly, I wondered what the hell I was Doing with my life, and why the hell I was Wasting it. But... slowly, I started realizing that my life was on a pretty even keel. Maybe it wasn't what I'd always dreamed of. But... it was stable. Maybe it didn't fulfill me on every level I wanted to be fulfilled. But... slowly, I started realizing that while I wasn't perfect, I was, honestly, happy. And suddenly, I wasn't so sure I WANTED Another Big Serious Relationship anymore. I didn't want to be alone, and random hookups weren't enough, but - I didn't want to wreck my life again, either.
So recently, a good friend visited me. We knew that something might happen, but we'd both, I think, for various reasons, pretty much decided that it wouldn't. But... it did anyway. We'd both, I think, for various reasons, figured that if something did happen, it wouldn't mean anything beyond sex between friends. But... it did anyway.
But something was different. For one thing, things did just... happen. Easily. Comfortably. Without any awkward, dramatic, Defining Moment where The Die Is Cast for more-than-platonic stuff. And although it pretty obviously meant more to us both than a random hookup... there wasn't that old, familiar, headlong dive into that bottomless pit of Realizing That She Could Be The One.
So there wasn't an enormous, capitalized Moment... but there were a lot of moments. And they didn't seem to need capital M's to mean something. And I didn't quite know what to think about it... and that was okay too.
She was only here for a few days, and when she left, neither of us was quite sure what to make of what had happened. After a couple of days, we started talking about it. Slowly. Carefully. And it started becoming more and more obvious that, even though neither of us expected it, and - difficulties - made anything conventional seem pretty unlikely to succeed... that there was still a lot there that it just didn't seem to make sense to ignore.
On the surface, it looked a lot like more of the same old same old - the Boyfriend Bomb went off again, run for cover! But underneath... something really was different. This wasn't any meaningless hookup, and hell yes, I wanted more. But I really knew that circumstances made things pretty unlikely to succeed between us. I wasn't trying to convince myself that she was My Ideal Woman that I had dreamed of since I was a kid. I liked her a hell of a lot for an awful lot of reasons... but I didn't lose sight of reality.
And when circumstances did rear their seemingly inevitable and certainly unwanted heads all too soon thereafter... I was disappointed. I made a gently bleak post about the art of falling on my LiveJournal. But my life didn't shatter, and I didn't sit around cursing her name for failing any unreasonable expectations, and I really stayed her friend, instead of just wanting to stay her friend.
Obviously, all of this has been running deep in my own unending river of occasionally-conscious thought. Bits of flotsam and jetsam have been surfacing seemingly at random, in a dialogue with Sarah-Katherine (motel666) yesterday, and again in an impromptu conversation with my friend Lori last night.
I guess Fight Club and the twelve step program both had it right - you really do have to hit "rock bottom" before you can open your eyes and genuinely see what's going on with your life. I didn't know it when it was happening, but those few years of casual sex with people I knew damn well couldn't possibly be serious girlfriends, much less lifetime partners, weren't a waste of my life after all. They were teaching me how to see what was worthwhile in a partner in intimacy WITHOUT needing to make her My Ideal Woman. They weren't fulfilling my needs entirely, but they were at least relieving enough of the sexual and emotional pressure to give me the time I needed to appreciate the value of a life that's stable, even if it's not Perfect.
Maybe I'm kidding myself. Maybe the Boyfriend Bomb went off, same as always. Maybe I'm fooling myself more articulately than I ever managed to fool myself before.
But you know what? I really don't think so... I think things just get better from here.
Thanks for listening, and good night.