Sitting over a winding road
Photo by Justin Luebke / Unsplash

A longtime friend finally found the courage to turn around and drive away. Why this was important

Dave doesn't call very often. Usually it's on Christmas, when he's lonely. Or,  if he needs some kind of emotional support (yeah, like at Christmas) when he's lonely.

I just said that. Dave repeats himself, too, emotionally, like most of us do.

I get lonely at times, and that makes us vulnerable.

I've had a silly crush on Dave for years. We were roommates, then became the best of friends. He's 62, a lifetime bachelor, finally facing down the fact that his options are starting to narrow.

Took a while, right?

However, Dave likes head cases, women who desperately need rescuing. He's been involved with one of those for some years now. They live six hours apart. He's also been around during the fifteen years I've been involved with a man so emotionally remote he might as well live in Croatia. Fifteen years. Finally I moved four states away, although he and I still talk.

Well, not any more, we don't. There's that, but first Dave's U-Turn.

Dave and I have teased each other unmercifully for going back to our respective partners over and over again. I've got a longer history with my partner, but the story is the same. After a typical and deeply disappointing interaction with our partners, we'd reconnoiter. Then we would spend considerable time bashing said partner and hollering NEVER AGAIN, until...


We'd go back to them and the cycle would repeat itself. NEVER AGAIN has a long tail called "until the next time I cave."

Sound familiar? Do we just repeat these patterns forever and ever amen?

Or what?

So Dave calls. He's all FULL of energy and confidence. He's en route to Denver from Durango, a six-hour trip, to see this woman who has been such a headcase and problem for him. There's just something there. That something is that she constantly needs rescuing. That's catnip for Dave.

Just as my partner(ex-partner)'s unavailability is catnip for me.  Those behaviors feed our stories of unworthiness that we carry about ourselves. I asked him if he was on his way to see That Woman, at which point we both started laughing uncontrollably.

Of course he was.

He was regaling me with how positive he felt, how in charge, when a call came in. He said he'd call me back.

Finally, he did, an hour later.

The call had been from the Lady in Question. Before he'd even gotten to her house, she'd started in on him. Long story short, he ended the call, whipped a U-Turn, and was on his way back to Durango to pack up and camp for three days.

As soon as he told me this installment, we laughed so hard I feared he might wreck his truck.

When we stopped howling, however, we teased out what had just happened.

For years, Dave's need to rescue this woman would override his good sense and need to protect himself. He'd have kept right on driving to Denver. He'd suffer through three or more days of abuse, invest his time and money cleaning up her place and trying (unsuccessfully) to get her back on her feet, then return to Durango lessened in every possible way.

Exhausted, physically and emotionally, and financially drained.

This time, he whipped his truck around and headed home for a weekend of pure rest and fun.

THAT is what we celebrated. The U-Turn. After all this time, choosing himself over self-flagellation in a defeating relationship was huge.

To his credit, Dave said, "Dude (he's always called me Dude) I will never EVER make fun of you for going back to (That Guy) again."

As for my circular behavior with my longtime whatever-he-is, he quit calling me weeks ago. My habit has too often been to overcompensate and chase him down.

Not this time. I did my own U-Turn.

I sent him a kind email wishing him luck and that was that. You're on your own, Sparky.

You and I-and Dave too- know that trying to fix someone else is a stand-in for fixing ourselves. We get it. That doesn't stop our wanting to be with that person who pushes those buttons, which is why it's so hard to stop.

Now. Is there a possibility we might do it again? Go back and be sorry we did? Of course there is. We're human. However, having done the U-Turn once, it gets a whole lot easier the next time and the time after that, until we just keep going.

The road to a healthier us has skid marks. That's where you and I, in whatever dysfunctional relationship we may have with ourselves around food or bad habits or smoking or partners, finally get us to the point where we do indeed make that U-Turn.

Capturing the moment of my daughter hugging her best friend, Oreo, in the woods
Photo by __ drz __ / Unsplash

Last night I was standing with a lovely group of women of mixed age (I was the oldest) at my friend Shannon's kitchen. We were talking, as we women do, about our bodies, our boys, our partners, our challenges.

My contribution was that every time I finally made that Big Decision, it wasn't the result of an intellectual argument. Wasn't at the end of hours, days, weeks years of berating myself. Nor was it at the end of a long, logical discussion about what such choices were costing me.

It was, every single time, from quitting smoking to eating better to stopping an eating disorder to losing 85 lbs, every single time, it was choosing myself.

Choosing life.

Stating above all else that I am worth loving enough to change this behavior.

If you're a fan of SMART goals, which I taught for decades, you might agree that the failing of this teaching template is the letter S. It needs two of them. The second and most important S is "SERIOUS." We can have all the other elements, including being very SINCERE, but until we are deadly serious about any particular goal, we simply will  not change our behaviors.

Dave got serious about how his time, his heart and his sense of peace were more important that his compulsive need to be a savior of self-destructive women. He wants good company, not to be part of a perpetual, drama-laced clean-up crew that had no end in sight.

And I am serious about not being involved with someone for whom I simply am not a priority. We spend time doing what we love. That man has never given me the time.

My U-Turn is a statement of my worth, and I am building a community of people here in Eugene and online where I can give value and receive value.

It takes what it takes for us to get serious. Both Dave and I are grateful, even as we guffaw at our propensity to head back to what has hurt us in the past. Because getting to the U-Turn takes what it takes.

You're not ready until you are ready, not a moment too soon and not a moment too late. Even better is to recognize that every single time we went back to that partner, we were practicing for the day when we wouldn't. So we owe them that, for being our best teachers. For if they hadn't helped us, we'd just do the same thing with the next dysfunctional partner who fed our story of unworthiness.

Here's to leaving bad habits, bad choices, and bad influences in the rear view mirror.

Our Past is Behind Us.
Photo by Jake Weirick / Unsplash

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