I remember as my parents neatly folded up the blanket I’d slept with all my life. I was heartbroken. I watched as they placed it on the top shelf of my closet, the shelf that no matter how clever I was, I knew there was no way I would ever be able reach. I cried.
The night before had been the last time I was allowed to sleep with my blanket. They said I was now too old, and that sometimes, it is best to let go. They assured me everything would be OK, that I’d still be able to sleep safely and soundly. I didn’t believe them. In fact, I was furious. I remember thinking, “I’ll bet Linus's parents (from The Peanuts) would never do this to him. They would never be so cruel.” I still turn on The Peanuts sometimes, and still note him walking around with his blanket. Me, I had to retire mine and grow up.
I had a vivid memory of this blanket, my parents, and the shelf, shortly after my ex-boyfriend asked me to get back together with him.
Although he had a girlfriend at the time, he said he thought I was actually the one for him. He asked me to forgive him, to trust him again, to give us another try. I thought back to our beginning, our relationship, and remembered all the times he’d made me feel safe. So I considered it. I missed him. I missed that blanket.
I want to be someone's first choice. I have always wanted to be someone’s first choice. But I’ve rarely felt chosen. At the beginning, though, I had felt chosen by him. He called me bug. I called him monkey. He stood up in a class we took together soon after we started dating and announced that I was going to be the woman he married. I believed him. I was someone's first choice. Finally, after 35 years, I was someone's first choice. He chose me. He provided me with comfort as I slept soundly next to him at night. He felt like my blanket.
Almost three years later, it was clear I was not his first choice. We lived together, but I spent many nights alone while he went out clubbing without me. It got to the point where he just stopped inviting me. He no longer wanted to come upstairs for dinner, nor give up his weekend nights to take me on dates unless I pleaded. Talk of marriage was a strain for him. When other women badmouthed me, he no longer stuck up for me. In fact, I saw the emails, texts and photo messages from other women that made me quite uncomfortable. He never cheated on me, but it didn’t feel good. It didn’t feel good at all.
Still, I held out hope. I told myself it was just a phase. All relationships have their ups and downs. This was just a low moment for us. We’d make it through. It could still work. While my head said this, my heart already knew what was so. I was no longer his first choice. Going to bed at night, I no longer felt safe and secure, the way that I did as a young girl lying next to my trusted, tattered, soft yellow blanket. We broke up.
At first the breakup was hard – extremely hard. I cried, I resisted, I was scared and angry and frantic. But I kept feeling my feelings and talking to friends and writing, and even had an unexpected and quite uplifting rebound relationship. And after only a few months, I was surprised to notice that I felt amazing. I was no longer sad, I was confident. I felt secure in myself – happy, even. I was content.
Then the emails and text messages began. They started off slowly at first. He missed me, he’d made a mistake, he’d given up too soon. I knew he had a girlfriend, so I couldn’t believe I was getting these messages, but there they were. And I’m not clear as to why, but as I received more of them, I felt sad for him. I could see what pain he was in. I wanted his sadness and pain to subside. For some reason, I thought I could help him. So I wrote back.
We started talking on the phone. He explained that while his girlfriend was nice and fun, he was unhappy with her. He shared a lot about what he felt was wrong with her. He even shared with me that he’d given her the Christmas present he’d originally given to me (flying lessons). He didn’t tell her it had been for me first. And he said that when they were using the gift, he’d thought of me the entire time.
In that moment, I realized I didn’t want to be a part of this. It didn’t feel good, and at first I couldn’t place why, exactly. Then I realized that when he and I had been together, he had done the exact same thing. This time, though, I was on the other side: I was the one he was talking to behind his girlfriend’s back. He was doing to her what he’d done to me, and I was a part of it.
I told him we could no longer speak until he either told her he was still in love with me and had been reaching out to me for a month, or he broke up with her. We didn’t speak for two days. Then he called me to let me know it was over. He’d broken up with her.
I invited him to come over that night. It was nice. It was real. It was honest. Finally, it was honest. We spent that week talking, snuggling, laughing, going to our old favorite date spots, and crying.
One night, he told me he knew he wanted to marry me. He said he knew I was the one.
When he said it, I could tell he meant it. Yet I couldn’t quite take it in. It felt like my trusted blanket … almost. It actually felt more like the replacement blanket my parents tried to pawn off on me years later when we couldn’t find my real one. Every time they brought out the replacement blanket, I knew mine had been lost. While it looked and felt almost the same, there was something not quite right about it. I hated that replacement blanket.
I wanted to explore this more. I told him that while I was loving our time together, my heart didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel protected, so
I’d put a wall up. I was protecting myself from the past pain in our relationship. He said he understood and would do anything. He said he’d put in the time to gain my trust back.
I wanted to believe him. In fact, a part of me really did. Then, almost a week in, his (new) ex wanted to see him. She wanted him to come over. He was honest and told me, and I requested that they meet in public. He went to her apartment.
I lost it. I called and texted, but he’d turned his phone off. I was an emotional rollercoaster. I was sad, I was angry, I wanted to trust him but I couldn’t – he was proving that right then, in that moment, and I was livid and heartbroken and totally nuts. I was someone I do not like being, someone I only am with him. It was the bad part of our relationship all over again. All the same feelings of rejection and anger and helplessness, all the same crazy rage and despair. Why couldn’t I get over this? What was wrong with me?
At some point, it occurred to me that I couldn’t get over it because I wasn’t meant to get over it. My “crazy” was just my way of protecting myself, protecting my heart. I knew what had happened when he saw his ex (me) the last time. My fear was that he was doing to me what he had just done to her, a fear grounded in reality. And when an animal is fearful, it becomes protective. I became a protective animal – a crazy wild animal, yes, but one that knew exactly how to protect me from the pain I already knew.
Six hours later, he called me. I don’t know what happened with them that night, but I do know what happened next. We took a few days off, and when we spoke next he said, crying, that he had feelings for us both. He didn’t know what to do.
Now, let me tell you: my blanket was loyal. It always chose me. It never even would have considered being some other girl’s blanket. It was mine. I told him to come and say goodbye to me. He refused. I sent a few more messages, confused and hurt. I felt sad he could say goodbye to her in person, but not to me. Then I got an email from him entitled, “Closure.”
It was very nice; he said he wanted to try things with his ex,that ‘we’ were over (again). I read it quite a few times. But while I expected to be upset, I noticed I was laughing. This was an odd reaction. I cry over practically anything, so the fact that I was laughing was a complete mystery. Then, all of a sudden, it hit me: I didn’t want this. I’d been protecting myself all along. I actually had been someone's first choice all along, just not his.
I was my own first choice. I chose me when I chose to protect my heart. After all these years and all the relationships I’ve had, I finally chose myself first. I chose my own wellbeing over someone else's, which felt both new and old and like a relief and a like being an adult. I’m on my own side. I take care of myself. I’ve got me.
There is a time and a place to sleep with your blanket. There is also a time to put that blanket on the top shelf of a closet, way in the back. My parents were right. Sometimes you have to put something away in order to move on. It’s how you grow up. This relationship is one of those things. While I still have my childhood blanket in my closet and I look at it from time to time, I never sleep with it. It was from a different time and a different place, and I was a different person then. Now it belongs in my closet. Now it will stay there.