It’s amazing the healing you’re able to move through years after leaving a toxic relationship behind. Whether romantic or friendship, toxic relationships damage even more than your soul – they’re damaging to your inner being, your authentic self, the beauty inside you. As I became more aware of the toxicity of some relationships that were in my life, I made a vow to cleanse and purge these people from my inner circle. One of these days of reflection reminded me of a toxic relationship I was in some many moons ago. As I sat contemplating, I was able to move outside myself and see what I had not been able to see back then. Remembering those times that hurt us is an important therapeutic process – one that writing has helped me work through. Reflection of past toxic relationships can open avenues of healing and teaching, and my first lesson had presented itself in the form of an ex-boyfriend.
Eventually, my relationship with him fell apart, unwound by mistrust and dishonesty, one thread and one betrayal at a time. For quite a while there had been nothing holding us together but a shared history. For him, I had given up so much and now, at last, he was free to do as he pleased – not that he hadn’t done so all along. He was far too interested in having a good time to adhere to any rules or consider anyone other than himself.
Dishonesty had come to him as easily as music had; he had a natural talent, it seemed. He’d never worked at anything. He’d never even considered such a possibility. That he was unfaithful should have been evident: whenever he lied, white spots appeared on his fingernails, and each time he was with another woman, he developed “liar’s cough,” a constant hacking, a reminder that he’d swallowed the whole truth. I finally started to pick up a sweet, dying odor, the unmistakable scent of a liar and a thief. He always had the hot response of a liar, syrupy and much too easily spoken. I had taken note of the way he licked his lips, how his eyes darted to the left; I began to be unmoved by the satiny tone of his voice. He was marked by the distinctive scent of his lies, a leathery, acrid smell. That’s how he smelled – like old shoes, like dashed hopes.
Every time he came back to me, he swore he was a changed man but he had remained the same person he’d been all along, when I had first spied him from my apartment window many years ago. The guy who had always looked for trouble didn’t have to search for it after a while: it found him no matter where he was, day or night. It followed him home and slipped under the door and lay down beside him. He believed in doing as he pleased, no matter who might be hurt. He had become the empty inner landscape of a man who has lied for so long he can no longer recognize the truth. What velvet tale can you tell? What foolish heart can you break? What shameful alibi can you concoct?
All the same, he had never presented himself as anything other than the unreliable individual that he was. He’d never claimed to have a conscience. Never claimed anything at all. It was I who had insisted I couldn’t live without him. I who forgave him, who was desperate for one of his dreams, one that would remind me of the reason I fell in love with him in the first place. What attracted me most to him was the trait that disappeared first. There were other people in the world, he’d forgotten about that. Overlook what’s right in front of you, hope for the best, enjoy yourself, and don’t waste a moment worrying about what’s out there, lying in wait. His psyche worked that way; just cover up the facts and everything would be fine.
Some people, like him, don’t see what is right there in front of them. Some people need to be led by the hand or they’ll miss the most important facts of their own lives. There are some situations where all you can do is to simply let go and move on – gather courage together and choose a direction that carries you toward a new dawn.
Our relationship had lasted four years too long, but because of it I had become the fearless woman in my dreams, the one who would walk through fire for the ones I loved, the girl with the light hair who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted most of all. I felt as though I was flying. If this was fearlessness and independence – the soft warmth under my feet, the scent of beauty as I breathed in, the ferocious speed of my pulse – I wanted more of it. I wanted it all the time. I stood blinking in the glittery light, feeling as though my heart might burst. That charismatic girl in me had been with me that whole time, silently in the background, disapproving quietly; knowing I would come to my senses sooner or later. It’s as if the world were beginning and ending at the very same time. Gulping down a mouthful of air, for once in my life, I had become alive within myself, and learned how to leave the past behind.