I’ve spent the last two days thinking about a comment I received from a reader regarding the article “Chaser.” I realized that I neglected to address a matter of the utmost importance in that article, so this article is an addendum of sorts to “Chaser.” I have never written an addendum article before, so we’ll take this one step at a time, together. First of all, if you didn’t read “Chaser,” go read it, or this article isn’t going to make any sense at all, obviously. Not to mention it was a great article, so come back when you’ve read the fucking thing. Those of you who have already read it may continue.
Okay, so it was a rather slow week for comments and then out of the blue, I received this beautiful comment from Suzanne who wrote:
“Wow! What a beautiful heartfelt article…As I read it I felt an intense emotional reaction start within me…I recognize your experience as my own. I also recognize it in some of my close friends. Thank you so very much for reminding us that we do not need to convince anyone to love us. We are deserving of receiving love and being accepted just as we are. I also support the most important step that you took: ASKING FOR WHAT YOU WANT. The people who really love you will make the necessary efforts to change their behavior and give what we deserve.
Beautiful comment, right?
I thought for a moment and responded,
“What a wonderful compliment. Thank you so much! Yes, you are utterly perfect just as you are and anyone who can’t see that is not worth your time. It is their problem, not yours and if you let them go you will make room for people who love all of your authentic qualities. They won’t need chasing. Asking for what you want is crucial as long as you are willing to face the fact that you might not get it. Some people can change and others cannot, or are not willing to. Either way, ask! As you are worth it.
I felt good about my response and went on with my day, but something was sticking in the back of my brain, poking, picking, bugging me. I realized it was my warning that as I had encouraged her to ask for what she wanted, I cautioned her that she might not get she wanted.
It was at that moment that I realized what I had forgotten.
There was such a huge part of the process that I had neglected to directly warn my readers of before sending them off to cease their chasing and begin to ask for what they wanted.
Searing, excruciating, unbearable, undeniable, heartbreaking pain.
I didn’t chase those unavailable men because I was glutton for punishment, needed a hobby or because I enjoyed dining for free. Just because they were emotionally unavailable didn’t mean that I was emotionally unavailable. I cared about those men. I’d go so far as to say that I even loved some of them. There are a couple of men that I can literally remember what it felt like to be held in their arms in the dark, and if I weren’t married would give anything to be there again just for ten minutes or to see the look in their eyes as I told a funny story and see reflected how beautiful they found me to be. For that moment, I was higher than the stars. I shared my body, or my secrets, or my friendship, and when they were not willing to give me what I wanted in return, even if that was just a conversation when I was in pain and needed a friend, there was a piece of my heart that broke, permanently. I experienced serious pain over plenty of those men.
I still carry those memories and feelings with me. I may be married, but I am still human and still a woman. Don’t expect to lack desire for someone because you have decided to stop chasing him or her. You may have moments when you feel great strength and think to yourself, fuck him or her. I deserve better. You might even temporarily hate them, and those are great freeing moments, but don’t be surprised to find yourself curled up on the couch the very next day crying for an hour, desperately wishing they could have been able to give you what you wanted. They couldn’t. It hurts. Badly.
I will never recover from the fact that my mother was either unable to love me or unable to show it appropriately. She has been dead for twenty-three years. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. She broke my heart as a child, and there is a piece of me that will never be whole as a result. It is an authentic part of who I am. There is literally nothing that can replace that relationship, and the closest thing I have found to solace is in loving my own daughter and how much her personality ironically reminds me of myself. She is my living, loving proof that there was something very wrong with my mother.
When I warned Suzanne to be prepared for the possibility that she may not get what she wants, it is because I realized that in my life the only person I have ever asked to change for me who has been able to do so is my husband. I told him that he would need to change to continue our marriage, and he decided that he was willing and was able to make that change. I happen to know that he took extensive, proactive action and worked hard to make it happen. He decided that his love for me, and our marriage was his priority. It was completely up to him. There was absolutely nothing I could do to convince him either way. I got lucky. Once. Thank God.
The Pain of Letting Go
As I wrote in “Chaser,” I had written a reasonable, thoughtful email to my father at around the same time that I would no longer be chasing him and that from now on our relationship would be up to him. He did not return my email but called about a month later. After several conversations with my husband (as my father was initially angered by my email) and then a few conversations with me, he claimed that he wanted to try to change and would contact me more often. He has only seen my children, my husband and me twice for a weekend in the three years we have lived in California. He rarely calls and visits are proposed rarely. We have not been invited to their house.
I was hopeful. I really wanted to believe he would be capable or want it badly enough to do the work. After some time has passed, I can report that unfortunately things have not changed. He is either unwilling or unable to make the change. I am not a priority for him. Every time he explains why he hasn’t called, he has a perfectly legitimate, reasonable excuse. He always does. For as long as I can remember, there has been a reason that I am not a priority in his life. The reasons change, of course, but they always make sense.
No one is going to call and explain that they haven’t contacted you because you aren’t their priority. Of course, not. Great excuses are earnestly explained, but at the end of the day, the reality is that you are simply not that important. Don’t fool yourself. My father treats me much like a distant cousin.
My husband reported after one of his phone conversations with my father that my father had described me as someone my husband did not recognize as his wife. My husband was baffled. I often wonder if my father will die never having known his only daughter. As a parent, it is unfathomable to me and very sad, but there is absolutely nothing I can do. I have experienced so much pain over his lack of interest in me that I don’t even know how to begin to explain it. The hurt and betrayal goes so deep, but the reality is that without me chasing him, there isn’t much between us, and I am slowly beginning to lose interest in those who are not invested in me. Finally.
Pain can do one of two things: It can make you bitter and angry, or it can make you a better person. Pain can burrow deep down into the center of your soul, creating a circular spot where empathy and compassion can grow, allowing you to become a deeper person, capable of understanding others’ pain and experiences. A quality that possesses great power and can enable you to do great things, it is also one you might wish the person you had been chasing possessed.
Ultimately, the answer to recovering from chasing really is to surround yourself with people who see your light. The good news is that you will find them more easily (and maybe you already have some), the more you allow yourself to shine as you let those you have been chasing go. People who appreciate and want you, especially and only you, for your authentic qualities without having to be asked. There will also be that rare person who is willing to change in order to stick around.
However, you need to prepare yourself and make some space for the pain that will occur when you give up the people you have been chasing and the moments that you realize that the people that you had hoped might change are unwilling or unable to change. Unrequited love, whether involving a spouse, a lover, a friend or even a parent, is incredibly painful. Writers have been depicting the torture of unrequited love for thousands of years because it is universally, inescapably painful. If you do not prepare room to experience and brace yourself for the unbearable pain that will reign over you when your heartfelt, pleading message goes unanswered or you see the look in your lover’s eyes indicating you are never going to get what you want from him or her, you will be back to chasing by the time you finish reading this very sentence. Honest to God. Trust me. I’ve been there.
I hope I have clarified any misunderstanding regarding the grave nature of the topic of chasing and the pain involved in recovery. It will get easier with time. I promise.
Now, Be Brave! Be Authentic! And get on with it…