The Bigger Picture

Valentines Day: Straight, No Chaser

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I have a friend named Gracie who revealed, in light of the annual recognition of all things love, her anguish over a failed relationship from six years ago. The last thing Gracie wanted or needed from me was cursory “get over it” or “you should be happy for him.” I put on my tuffy pants and we had a chat about fear, pain, and a few other messy topics.

I told Gracie that for whatever reason, the feelings of bliss she and Sir Douche shared came to an end. And that kind of rejection hurts. Deeply. From where I stood, it looked like she had been holding on to rose-colored memories of the way she thought things were; feelings of resentment, angst, and agita; which resulted in her keeping their heart closed to potential opportunities because she was afraid of being rejected. Over the years, Gracie mixed in fears of never finding someone who would love her the way she thought her ex did. How could she grab on to something new while holding on to something old. 

Gracie warmed up to the idea that when faced with the option of living in a new (or potentially uncomfortable) emotional space, she might be reliving previous hurts not because it felt good, but because it was familiar. The majority of people would much rather stay in what’s familiar—even if it’s painful—than tread the deep waters of the unfamiliar regardless of how beneficial the end result might be.

This is where I thought my head was going to pop off. Gracie’s wasted eight years of her life on someone who has moved on and hasn’t looked back. Gracie lives in Chicago. There are dozens, if not hundreds of available men out there who would be more than happy to go out with her, if she gave them a chance. Those are pretty good odds, when you consider that all she needs is one man. But you know what? Gracie can’t meet them because she’s comfortable wallowing in the “that was the only man who’ll ever love me” stew.

This was difficult conversation to have with Gracie, but sometimes a good friend is the only one who’ll give it to you straight, with no chaser.

You see, Gracie has so much going for her. She’s smart, funny, personable, has the biggest heart for people, and she doesn’t bullshit people. When she gives her word, people know that Gracie will take care of it. This woman has character, and I don’t mean that in any theatrical sense. She’s got backbone, the intangible “it” scores of people pretend to have. And when she wants to, Gracie can look like a million bucks. 

Gracie doesn’t get that the aforementioned qualities are gifts from God. Not every man is looking for a woman with character. And that’s okay, because any man who’s less than her equal doesn’t deserve her. What’s most frustrating is that she doesn’t see all that she is and all that she’s been given. She doesn’t see what it is we who know and love her admire about her.

To Gracie, and anyone else out there looking to make a change in their life, it’s not as hard as you’re imagining it to be. You want to talk about hard choices? I know people—who have faced cancer, the loss of a loved one, have shed some serious weight, battled drug addiction and/or alcohol, and dealt with the loss of a child—I’ll put you in touch with them. There’s no magic pill or frontal lobotomy that gets you through it. Change is a process and it’s done minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. It’s a choice. Yes, it’s work to move from what’s comfortable into the unknown, but think of it this way: you’re not putting yourself “out there,” you’re putting yourself back into yourself.

Little by little, anyone can do it. Sometimes we can treat ourselves worse than anyone else on the planet. And in those instances, we’re the only ones who can change that. A little confidence goes a long way.

If you’ve got a word or two of encouragement for Gracie, please feel free to leave your thoughts as a comment on this post. I’m sure she’d relish reading them. Thanks.

6 thoughts on “Valentines Day: Straight, No Chaser”

  1. M. Dolce says:

    It seems to me that your friend “Gracie” is in the midst of a battle between a state of solitude and loneliness. Once she realizes her worth to her friends, to the man that will truly win her heart, and most importantly, herself, she will soon come to understand that she is loved.

    1. Clay Rivers says:

      Well said, M.

  2. Thaddeus Setla says:

    20 years ago I married what I thought was the love of my life. I met her in school and we were two crazy in love kids that at life without much understanding of consequences. Never really thought about what better or worse meant, but that was about to be tested.

    We split up, got back together and in one moment our lives changes with the news of her being pregnant. One year later I began to question whether or not she was my daughter as my with brown eyes and brown hair I didn’t think I could make a blonde hair blue eyed kid. Once I received the devastating news that I was not the father my grief was hard to bear, but that girl still needed a father and I had to make the decision to either hang around and be that father or move on.

    I told my wife that I wanted to stay and be the father and raise her still as my own. To my surprise my wife told me no and then said me she wanted a divorce. I was devastated emotionally and my attachment to the only two people I thought would be around for the rest of my life were gone.

    I moved out of state and tried to start a new life. I tried to date, but the nagging question of what did I do to cause this? Or how did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? These were all poisoning any and all relationships I was in.

    After three years I thought I was ready to move on when my ex-wife contacted me on facebook. We began talking again and ultimately decided to have her fly out where I was just to spend a few days together and see if we had what it took to make it work again. On the day she was to arrive she called and said she couldn’t do it. Again she took me on another emotional roller coaster that left me in her wake.

    The next week I flew back to see family as I learned my grandmother was sick. The day I flew in I was just one week after this emotional event with my ex, but something in me changed. That night I flew back I went to a holiday party and met a woman that after 3 weeks I proposed to her and have been married now 13 years with 3 kids of my own.

    The moral of this long story is that just when you least expect the right person to be in your life, the moment in your life when you are emotionally wrecked from all that has happened to you, don’t forget to open your heart because that right person just might walk right in.

    1. Clay Rivers says:

      Ted, sometimes firsthand experience is often the best endorsement of a principle. Reading your direct account of having the bottom fall out of your world repeatedly and your conscious decision to open your heart again is an inspiration.

  3. Faye says:

    Gracie, don’t let that one man be the man who controls your life while he enjoys his with another. He chose to move on, now it’s your time and your chance.
    Your references are glowing, but I don’t think I’d publish those in an ad in the Trib. Just look around. Walk in different places. And when a man looks at you, and there have been several, huh? Now, when they look back, smile and open up. Enjoy a conversation and a lovely time.
    But do be selective, dear! One must be careful! Like when we’re buying shoes, we don’t take that first pair we can snug onto our feet. No! They have to fit and be comfortable to become our dear old friends that we choose time after time. So, shop awhile. And enjoy the shopping! You’ve all the “money” in the world!
    Believe in you, you’re worth this.

    1. Clay Rivers says:

      Faye, you raise some very good points and give some very good advice. Thank you!

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