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chasing the past

I had always enjoyed the pursuit of love.  I was born a romantic.  For most guys, the sweet and sentimental side requires a lot of hard work and effort to develop.  But for me, I always felt like it just came natural.  I was always a pretty emotional individual, and I never had any problem with communicating my innermost feelings to the opposite sex.  I definitely enjoyed the chase of it all, but I appreciated the relationship side of things as well.  I took great pride in my ability to make others happy.  Perhaps it helped me to settle some of my own insecurities by allowing me to validate my worth to someone else….I don’t know.  But there was nothing like falling in love.  Seeing that glow in my partner’s eyes as they made every effort to cling by my side…it gave me chills.  I couldn’t get enough.  In a very real sense, I had become addicted to that feeling.

Considering the events of the previous couple of years, most people in my position would have chosen to give up on love for a little while.  Take a break from it…experience what it was like to be single.  Allow some time to become more comfortable with the independent version of Matt.  Run around with the boys, drink some beers, kiss some random women, enjoy life.  That all sounded great…to everyone but me.  I was a relationship guy, and I LOVED being in love.

But love was again on the run from me.  It had been about 4-5 days since our last conversation during my drive home when I again heard from my newest pursuit in Chapel Hill.  She apologized and we talked through things, and of course I forgave her and immediately refocused my sights on her heart.  For the next several months, we embarked on a long distance relationship with one another.  It was tiresome…flights back and forth and weekend visits that never seemed long enough.  But, in many ways, it was a lot of fun too.  We had both found ourselves in a bit of a rut in our jobs, so our weekend escapes to visit each other were always anxiously welcomed.

There was something so adventurous about it…it was all very spontaneous and and unique.  Honestly, looking back on it I think that’s what made it so attractive to both of us.  A lot can be lost in a long distance relationship.  You aren’t really provided the opportunity to get to know the other person very well for who they are day in and day out.  And when you see them only on a short weekend, every moment is filled with passion because from the minute that you first greet each other, the clock is ticking…soon you’ll find yourself saying goodbye again.  We really had no idea how we’d do if we were in the same town with one another and needed to maintain a “normal” relationship.  But the travel was getting old, and if we were going to continue to pursue a future with each other, one of us was going to need to consider relocating.

I wasn’t good at compromising on moving…see a pattern developing here at all?  It all ties back to my anxiety and my constant need to maintain control of my life.  A move could have sent me spinning wildly out of control, and I was afraid to risk it.  I wasn’t overly happy with where I was living, but it was a known and secure setting, and I needed that.  And quite honestly, it made logical sense for me to stay put as well.  I owned a house and had a job less than 5 miles away that paid me fairly.  My parents lived only a short drive away as well.  She had been renting in North Carolina and her family was from Florida.  At the time, she was ready for a career switch.  So it made the most sense for her to come to Pennsylvania if we were going to continue things with one another.

In April of 2008, about six months after we had begun dating, we made our plans to move her north. She had mentioned potentially renting a place of her own initially, but of course I discouraged that.  I wanted to fill that void that had been missing since my fiance left, so I encouraged her to move in with me right away.  It was all happening very quickly, but I figured that if she was renting we’d just be wasting that place anyway since we’d be spending so much time together, especially initially as we got a feel for the new “local” relationship.  Ultimately she agreed.  Probably not the smartest decision for either of us, but we decided to run with it.

Interesting story…the weekend that I went down to Chapel Hill to help her pack and make the move to PA, something incredibly terrifying happened.  As we traveled up I-85, roughly an hour or so into the drive, we encountered a vehicle that had spun wildly out of control.  I was leading the way, and my girlfriend was following close behind me.  She had just called me on my cell phone to talk for a few minutes, and as we were chatting, we noticed a truck that had been paralleling us in the passing lane speeding wildly into the grassy median.  Then as the driver worked to gain control he turned and headed directly for my girlfriend’s car at full speed.  I watched it unfold in my rearview and held my breath…thankfully he missed her by less than a foot and flew onto the shoulder.  I stayed on the phone with her and kept her calm until we could exit and gather ourselves together.  She was shaking uncontrollably.  It was one of the most frightening things that either of us had ever experienced.  Was this a sign of what was to follow in our relationship?

The next year or so that we spent living together was filled with more stressful and generally sad memories than good ones.  Of course, we had the honeymoon stage initially.  We really had been looking forward to seeing each other on a regular basis, so early on it was very enjoyable.  I had taken great care to make certain that she had all of the space that she desired in my house.  I painted the guest bathroom and offered that she could keep it all to herself if she wanted.  I went out and bought new shower fixtures and a whole new set of bath towels.  I wanted her to be excited about the change of scenery, and I hoped to make the transition as comfortable as possible for her.

But the transition was not easy for her.  She struggled to find a new job for several months, and I think the emptiness of being in a new place without friends was wearing on her at the same time.  She seemed depressed and irritable.  The house and the small town setting were not a good fit for her.  She really took no interest in making it feel like “home” or in sharing in responsibilities inside or outside of our place.  Things were not developing as I had hoped.  I had set out to fill the void of my missing fiance, and in a sense I had only created a bigger one.  I wanted her to be something that she wasn’t.  We were two different people with two completely different objectives.  She was just test driving a new phase in her life, and I was looking to settle down.

I did continue to make my best efforts to try and build romance and spontaneity into our more quiet lifestyle.  I wanted to make her happy…I wanted her to love me, and most of all I didn’t want to fail.  For Christmas in 2008, I planned a fun getaway for the two of us.  She and I had begun watching the show “Diners, Drive Ins, & Dives” on a regular basis.  So I planned a seven day trek around the country where we’d have the opportunity to visit several of the show’s venues along with quite a few other local popular eateries.  I booked hotels and thoroughly researched all of our stops.  And then I prepared and laminated a “Daily Specials” menu that listed all of our destinations by day of the week along with the places where we’d be eating.  I planned out the mileage and gave her envelopes marked “Time to fill up”, each containing enough cash for a tank full of gas.  And then I bought her the DVD set/and book from the show, and presented everything to her in a deep frying basket.  It was one of my most creative ideas ever.  I really thought that she’d be more excited…her reaction left a lot to be desired.

On the trip our first stop would be Roanoke, VA.  From there we’d head to Nashville and then on to Memphis for New Year’s Eve.  The next day we’d head to St. Louis, and then Indianapolis.  Our final destination prior to returning home was Pittsburgh.  This was going to be an amazing time…how could anything possibly go wrong?

Here’s how…Memphis, Tennessee –  New Year’s Eve 2008.  We were getting ready in the hotel that evening and she proceeded to lose it on me for taking her water bottle from the bathroom and drinking from it.  A huge argument ensued, and as a result neither of us felt much like going out and celebrating.  But eventually things cooled down and we made our way to Beale Street to eat at a local BBQ joint.  The mood was slightly better, but she still was maintaining a bit of a rough edge.  As we stood outside after dinner contemplating our next stop, I made the mistake of asking her what was wrong and why she was still hanging onto the argument from the hotel.  She lost it again.  I turned my back to her for a minute, and when I turned around, she was completely gone.  I began to panic.  Where was she?  Was this really happening or was I dreaming it?  I began calling her cell phone but she wouldn’t answer.  I walked up and down several blocks with no idea where she was…and then eventually, I got a hold of her, and she told me that she was in a cab heading back to the hotel…I had “ruined” her night and her New Year’s.

Her actions were completely uncalled for and childish.  I had never seen anything like it.  This is where my next decision should have been to grab my bags, find the car, and leave her for good.  But instead, I found a cab, ran back to the hotel and pleaded with her to make the most of the rest of the night.  Eventually we made up and the trip continued…and there were some good times, but while heading out of Pittsburgh, another major argument developed, and she was absolutely vicious to me.  I could hardly even continue driving during the explosion of emotion that followed.

What was I doing in this relationship?  Why was I so determined to keep fighting for something that was so detrimental to my well being?

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