Taking Up Space

I was out to lunch today with the boyfriend at one of our regular pizza places, down near my old apartment in the city. We got back onto discussing the topic of living spaces, and his desire to buy a home. I mentioned once again how I feel conflicted about wanting to move out. On the one hand, my financial situation is awesome right now, since I don’t have to pay rent to my dad and step-mom while I’m in school. On the other, I’m finding that I’m becoming more and more unhappy here, not because I have a bad relationship with my dad or step mom, but because living with them clashes with the idea of who and what I want to be. I’m 27 and terrified of the idea of living with my parents until the age of 30. It makes me feel so immature and unprepared, student status be damned. Even if it’s not true, it makes me feel like a failure. Especially since I’m divorced. 

It feels like either decision would come with some amount of regret – stay here, and continue to feel conflicted about myself and uneasy about living in my dad’s house; move out, and lose the benefit of being able to drastically reduce the amount of debt I’ll have once I finish graduate school, which is better for the long-term.

It really comes down to enduring short-term unhappiness and discomfort for the benefit of my long-term financial health. I knew this would be something I would have to deal with before I even moved in. Yet I’m still having a hard time trying to either come to terms with my decision to stay here, or take a stand for myself and be honest about my need to have my own space.

My boyfriend’s response to my thoughts on the matter were mostly short and brief, along the lines of “yep, it is what it is.”

This is a typical interaction between the two of us; I mention something that’s on my mind, perhaps a bit complicated or without a direct answer, and his usually shrugs and says something similar to “yep” or “gotta do what you gotta do.”

And I just… I just wish that he’d put more thought into it. But, he’s right on one thing: it is what it is. Can’t change much about that.

Anyway, today, after a few minutes of not saying anything, I asked him what his opinion was.

He shrugged and said he didn’t have any opinion, because (and this is paraphrasing) my living situation doesn’t affect him personally. I’m typically over at his place most of the time anyway, so there’s no real reason for him to be negatively affected by where I live.

Sometimes, his approach to things is so logical that it hurts my emotional brain.

Sometimes, when I throw a line out there like that, I wish he could catch on to the fact that I’m fishing for emotional support, not just someone to help me analyze my current situation or lead me on a step-by-step path to decide whether I feel like I made a mistake or not.

So I told him that. I said, “sometimes when I bring this stuff up, when I ask your opinion, I’m kind of looking for emotional support. You know, someone to say, ‘that sucks, I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with this.'”

He smiled and said, without missing a beat, “Okay, I’m sorry you’re having a hard time with this.” Sort of mechanically, though, as if he couldn’t help but feel awkward trying to provide me with comfort. He didn’t even look me in the eye.

And I came to realize during this conversation that, once again, I didn’t know how to ask for something from my relationship, at least not in a way that makes sense to him. I realized that I was still lonely, and that I wasn’t necessarily going to find help or clarity in talking to him about it. What I wanted was for my boyfriend to hold my hands and say something like, “hey, I know this is rough, I can’t tell you’re conflicted about it. I’m sorry. Want to talk about it?” But what I got instead was a shoulder shrug and someone telling me that he couldn’t form an opinion about my situation because it didn’t directly affect him.

His intent isn’t malicious. He didn’t say those things to make me feel bad about myself, or to tell me to suck it up and fix my own problems. He’s a generally kind-hearted person, and I know that he does actually care about how I feel about things. But he doesn’t know how to read emotions very well. He didn’t know that I was looking for someone to comfort me, and I didn’t know how to ask him for that in a way that “clicked.”

So after that, I just kind of dropped it.

I think I have some kind of trouble taking up space. I have trouble asking for others to make space for me in their minds and hearts. I have trouble knowing how to make space for myself. I have trouble trying to understand what kind of space I need in the first place.

I’m talking about both emotional and physical space. I don’t know how to ask for these support systems. I don’t know how to reach out and make myself vulnerable to others. I don’t know how to make it clear to my boyfriend that I just want him to listen and comfort me, that he doesn’t always have to approach things from a problem-solving perspective. For fuck’s sake, I don’t even know how to tell my own father that a tiny room in his basement just isn’t enough. It’s not enough space for me to live. I keep feeling trapped, even though logically, I know I’m not.

I’ve always sort of operated under the guise of getting out of other people’s way. I don’t want to impose. Even yesterday, my therapist drew a teeny, tiny little circle on her notebook and told me that the footprint I’m trying to leave on others is “like this.” Then she pointed to my actual foot and said, “you’re allowed to leave a footprint that’s at least that big.”

Sitting across from my boyfriend, I realized I just don’t know how to ask for that. I don’t know how to tell him I need it. All because I don’t want to seem like I’m demanding anything. I don’t want to feel like I’m imposing on his emotional space by asking for anything. And inside, I keep shrinking a little every time I concede.

I don’t know where I got the idea that I shouldn’t take up space, or that I shouldn’t impose, or that somehow by asking for something that I am a burden on others. That mindset might be traceable back to my earliest childhood days, back when my parents had a turbulent behind-closed-doors marriage. They rarely fought in front of me or my brother, but the tension was palpable, their dissatisfaction apparent. I often felt like a peacekeeper. Either that, or I retreated to my room and spent my time alone when they fought. And when they divorced, I don’t distinctly remember feeling like it was my fault, but I felt like there was something I had to do in order to help fix it, or to make sure we didn’t lose the house.

I always felt like I had to be more grown up. Taking care of others, maybe. Putting their needs first.

And this issue with my boyfriend, well, I know it’s my responsibility to learn how to speak out, and tell him what I need. He’s not a mind reader. If he were, we’d be in an entirely different place right now. But, he’s not…and so here I am, blogging about it anonymously, while he’s out having fun with his friends at a local tap house before they go to a soccer game tonight, and then on to a friend’s birthday party later.

Yes, he’s out there, and I’m in here. It’s frustrating to feel like I’m dating someone who is so normal and even-keeled that trying to share my personal story with him would feel like dumping an entire truck of baggage on his head. All the shit I’ve slogged through just to get here, and he doesn’t even know. He doesn’t ever ask, and I don’t ever really tell. I just write it out and talk to my therapist about it and try to let it go.

Why do I keep feeling like a burden. Why do I keep feeling like I don’t deserve to take up that space. Why do I keep feeling like I shouldn’t ask for help when I need it. Why do I think that this failed strategy is ever going to work?

Anyway, I’ll write more about my first 12-Step Meditation meeting soon; I am very strongly considering going to an Alano meeting tonight, while my boyfriend is out at his game. Oh, and here’s a kicker – I didn’t even tell my boyfriend that the Meditation meeting last night was based in the 12-Steps, because I’m not prepared to let him know that this whole sobriety thing is a bigger deal than I’ve been letting on to. I don’t even know if I’m fully ready to admit that to myself. For all he knows, it was a regular meditation meeting that I was trying out for fun. How do I even bring that topic up? “Oh, by the way, I know I rarely talk about my sobriety with you, but I’m actually looking into recovery groups these days. Because I’m learning more and more that I can’t do this alone, and since you’re not a problem drinker, I can’t expect you to understand. Especially since you still drink.”

Fuck, man. I’ve just gotta get out of my head and go somewhere. This whole rumination thing just doesn’t work.

Day 99.

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