It wasn’t something I wanted to do, I’ll be honest. It just seemed like the least bad of the bad options I’d left myself.
And I want to be perfectly clear here, this was absolutely no one’s fault but my own. I’d spent months wallowing over a breakup and doing nothing to dig myself out of that hole. This. Was. My. Fault. I did this.
But a lot’s happened since then, a ton of which I haven’t even posted about yet. I’ve got hundreds of frames and maybe a dozen video clips sitting on the hard drive just waiting for me to get the time to do something with them. I’ll get to those as I can, but first I want to take some time to reflect on my personal journey. There’ve been some interesting changes that I see in myself, and a few important realizations about life, the universe, and everything, not the least of which is this is something I *needed* to do for myself.
Now, I could probably just write all this in my Journal of Impossible Things and keep it to myself. But I think there’s a certain amount of catharsis I’ll get from posting it here, and I think there’s also a certain amount of journalistic integrity that I feel toward this project that insists I hang out some of my dirty laundry with the fresh, clean stuff if I’m going to feel honest about it.
And I don’t know, maybe there’s someone out there who’d just be interested in my navel-gazing.
I guess the first big lesson I learned about myself I learned when I was in Louisiana the first time, back in March. It was there that my dear friend Meghan taught me to let go. I was still dragging around the heartache of the breakup with my partner like beat up, moth-eaten luggage full of moldy bread, and I was never going to get anywhere until I let it go. But she also taught me that I didn’t have to let go of everything. I could still hold on to the good stuff, like the love, and maybe just put it in my pocket. It was a “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” moment for me. It didn’t happen in an instant, hearts are complicated and take time to mend when they’re broken, but it was an important epiphany that it was possible. After months of pure wallowing, I finally gave myself permission to start healing.
And with that came the realization that no one gets to decide how I feel. Not society, not my friends, not my former partner, not even me. I get to decide what I do about how I feel (and in this case, there wasn’t anything I could do about it), but my heart does what it wants. I learned to just accept that and be happy that my heart was happy again. I like being happy.
And my heart *is* happy. It’s ridiculously happy, and optimistic for no good reason, and just full of hope and love and happiness. And that makes me happy.
The most obvious lesson I learned about myself is I’m ok being by myself. Now, don’t get me wrong, I *like* being in a long-term, committed relationship, but it turns out I don’t need to be. This is a great shock to me. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who was just not built for being alone. I’ve gone out a few times since the breakup, but each time has just reinforced the notion that a romantic relationship is not necessary for my happiness. It’s been almost a year since the breakup, and here I am.
Did I mention the happy part?
And no one but me is responsible for my happiness, and I am not responsible for anyone else’s. Now, I like adding to someone else’s overall general well-being and happiness, and I like when someone does that for me, but if I’m going to be happy, I can and need to do the heavy lifting on my own. I think this was the hardest lesson for me to even understand, let alone learn. But being on my own for a year really helped. I’m going to be ok whether I ever enter into another romantic relationship or not.
I feel like I remember who I am. I got so lost in my wonderful relationship that I forgot I was an actual, separate human being. I’ve learned I can’t let that happen again. It’s a lesson I thought I’d learned in a previous relationship, but apparently I’m a little hard-headed. While my partner taught me it’s ok to put down my camera and just experience the world through my own eyes, I forgot to pick it back up sometimes, too. My photography, all of it, dwindled to nearly nothing. I wasn’t scheduling models or clients or even birding or creating any art of my own. I was too busy wrapping myself in trying to be her everything and hoping she’d be my everything to hear her when she tried to tell me that’s not healthy.
I’m sorry I didn’t listen because, as usual, she was right.
I once heard Reid Mihalko described as a giant Golden Retriever puppy, and I think that’s the best synopsis of him I’ve heard. I think in some ways I’m kind of like that, too. If I’m in love with someone, I’m going to want to crawl in their lap and lick their face and beg to go to the park to chase the birds and squirrels. It’s a thing, almost literally (I don’t actually care about the squirrels).
I want to know every detail of their life outside of me and my first instinct is to want to do things together. I love doing things together, going places together, cooking together, and even cuddling and spooning all night in bed. But y’know, it’s ok to have some time apart and interests and activities that are each person’s, alone. And I’ve always known this one in my head, but again, Golden Retriever puppy.
But y’know one of the great things about Golden Retrievers? They’re smart, and can actually learn to be home alone without peeing on the carpet or chewing your slippers. It takes a little patience and a little effort, but they (we) can be taught. And part of learning this lesson is just being alone for awhile and figuring it out. The Making Lemonade Road Tour has been good for me, if sometimes painful, in this respect.
I can be alone and not pee on the carpet. I’m stupidly proud of this new talent.
I might still chew your slippers, though, and I’m definitely going to lick your face.
“What’s that,” you ask? “Did you find a place to land?”
It’s just that I don’t think of myself as homeless anymore. Home is where your heart is, as they say, and my heart is most definitely still in Wilmington. I just don’t live anywhere at the moment. Somehow, that’s a different thing for me.
That said, I’m starting to think about ways to bring the wandering to a close. I haven’t come up with much of anything yet, my financial situation hasn’t changed much in any sort of stable way, and my options haven’t really either. But I’m thinking on it, and I have a feeling an opportunity will present itself when the time is right. If nothing else, I’ve learned a little patience.
Until then, I need to get back to processing the photos and videos I’ve taken so far, and seeing what else is in store for me along the way.
Images & Content © 2012-2017 Louis Shackleton
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