I won’t be getting my happily ever after, at least not the kind that shows up in the romance novels I read and collect and have been devouring of late.
I love those stories. It’s one of those secret things I wanted, a partner to grow old with and a big family.
The lack thereof makes me sad sometimes.
It’s not going to happen, at least not the way I dreamed. I’m no longer in the right demographic, no longer at the stage of my life where I begin the process of building a life with someone.
Some things in life aren’t time-dependent. You can put them off, you can get to them later without much in the way of consequences. This isn’t one of those times.
But how was I supposed to commit to building a life with someone? I was already committed elsewhere.
I had my hands full with my eating disorder. I wanted my secret dream but I didn’t want it enough to change the way I was living my life. I wanted my eating disorder more.
I would get to my life later, once I was perfect, once it was the right time.
I once thought I’d marry an Italian man. Preferably one who was Catholic, back in the days before I understood a bit more about Catholicism and how it and I are not a good fit.
The problem is, I come from a small family. One of three from an only child and one of three who scattered to the four corners. Our family reunions could take place in a restaurant booth. When I thought of Italian-Catholics, I imagined large families. A built-in network.
I wanted that. I wanted a big family. A family that talked and played and laughed. A family that fought together. I wanted kids running around and tumbling over each other. I wanted a house that was loving chaos. I wanted a partner, someone to build a life with.
I planned to go about getting it as soon as I had perfect legs.
And time passed.
I wanted a man who loved me too. I wanted a best friend. I wanted the dream. If I had to go through the obligatory farcical miscommunication that shows up in serial romances, that was fine. As long as I got what I wanted in the end.
My imaginary Italian-Catholic fellow was perfect. Tall, good-looking, and well-off. Supportive, smart, kind, handsome, and responsible. He’d want to spend time with me and our family. He’d want to build a life.
But my eating disorder was not ready. I wasn’t ready.
I did eventually stumble into a relationship. He had two little girls he was raising alone with no idea on how to do it. I would have put up with a lot for them. They needed someone desperately. I wanted to make a good life for them.
After two years together, we added a son. And still, the relationship was nothing like my imaginings.
In part, it’s because I choose poorly. I picked broken. The combination of two damaged people coming together was unhealthy.
My children’s father had some good qualities, but he was also damaged by his upbringing; the good times got less and the bad times got worse as time passed. He was passive-aggressive and abusive. He was bipolar and had a drug problem. He had anger problems that often ended with crying children and holes in the walls.
Not a good choice for someone who struggles with boundaries.
Not a good choice for someone who thinks they’re responsible for the world.
You never think you’ll be the person who ends up in an abusive relationship. Unfortunately, once you’re there, it’s hard to leave. If you can just do the right thing. If you can just find the right words. If you can just, you can fix it. If you can just, you can make everything better. And he needed help. It’s oddly seductive, to be so needed, even when the situation itself is so dysfunctional.
It was nothing like the books. And nothing like my dreams. And nothing like my friends’ lives, or my parents’ marriage, or my siblings’ relationships. But I couldn’t go. He needed me. That’s sort of like building a life together, right? Need is almost like a partnership.
It’s almost like living the dream.
Even though I was throwing up multiple times a day.
But there were the children to consider. And he was sorry. He was always sorry
It eventually ended.
In more than one way, the death of my family was a relief.
He was out of the house. So, there was that. It was quiet again. We stopped walking on eggshells. I didn’t have to watch my words. I didn’t have to patch any holes.
Plus, he was out of the house. There were no other adults around, no one to monitor my behaviour. No one to notice or challenge me on what I was doing.
I tried, very hard, to do the very best for my son. To be normal for him to the best of my ability. Some years went better than others.
What I didn’t do was try to get involved in a relationship again. I gave up on the idea of finding love, building a family, growing a life. I still thought I had unlimited time. I would wait.
Wait until I was perfect. Wait until I was thin, wait until I was beautiful. Until then, my eating disorder would be in charge. Hidden, so no one would know but in charge. Almost nothing was done without her approval or permission.
And I didn’t think about time passing, because you’ll be perfect one day and then everything will be fine.
But time passed. Time didn’t care that I was busy being mentally ill and didn’t get around to doing the things I wanted to do in the window of time available to do them in.
I can’t have the life I imagined. I cannot have a big and boisterous and connected family. I will not raise multiple children with aunts and uncles and cousins. I will not have a pregnancy that is celebrated by a partner.
I don’t have a decades-long relationship under my belt. I did not raise my children and build a home with someone. I have no funny home-renovation stories, no stories about when daddy forget to pack the barbecue for camp, no memories of wild family-reunion weekends.
No long-term family friends.
I won’t be doing any of those things. The window is closed, the time has passed and I cannot get it back.
I will never have the life I dreamed about, the dream I never told anyone about.
I will never celebrate a golden anniversary. I will probably never celebrate a silver.
I wanted that life, that family. I wanted a great many things.
My neuroses wanted what they wanted more.
Time passes and some opportunities are lost forever. You don’t think about that when you’re putting everything off. You do what you need to do to survive, you keep marching on, but in the back of your mind, you still think that there’s time. That someday will be coming.
The window for that someday has closed.
I try to be okay with it. Things are as they are and all that. My life isn’t terribly different from my friends’, baring the ability to share partner-based anecdotes and hold certain kinds of memories. Most of the people I know are currently single anyhow, having abandoned their partnerships once the children were grown. And there are other somedays out there for me. I believe that. I hope for that.
Still, there is a part of me that wonders. There is another part that grieves. I guess I didn’t spend enough time thinking about the opportunity cost.