The Ability to Choose

Jan 31, 2014 by

Nineteen weeks until we know whether it’s a boy or a girl!


Six weeks until we know whether it’s a boy or a girl!

          Last April was a challenging month. Olivia had recently told me that she may not want me in her life, causing a piece of my heart to break off and go missing. At the time, she was everything to me. She was literally my only friend. From my second year of university until then, I had chosen to ostracize myself from most everyone I knew, having generally lost trust in people. From age 19, my concern had been, if my best friend could once drop me for six months, what was to stop everyone else from leaving me too?

          Leaving them first.

          My mentality was that the less I associated with people, the lower my chances of rejection. Ironically, I distanced myself from friends that had done nothing to earn my distrust, and clung to the very one that had. In 2009, I remember laughing with Olivia at people’s responses to me deleting Facebook. In the initial months of my online absence, it was frequently remarked that I had dropped off the planet. I thought it funny how quickly social media had turned into the premise of my generation’s social lives. I didn’t have Facebook anymore, so people no longer felt connected to me, I analyzed. How ridiculous, I thought then. I didn’t yet appreciate the validity of their comments. It took me until The Happiness Experiment to realize that people did not think I disappeared because I got rid of Facebook; they thought I disappeared because I did. I was nowhere to be found. I stopped making an effort to talk to or see other friends, I lost interest in going out, and I declined social invites to the point that people gave up sending them. I was living in fear. Olivia became the entirety of my social life. (After the six months during second year that Olivia did not want my friendship, I ironically became the only friend she wanted. Her nonno had passed away, so she needed me. Though I had just chosen to say goodbye to her, I was too desperate to be wanted to stick to my decision when she unconsciously played the best friend card. We became a two-for-one deal again, which would eventually lead to our demise.) At the end of March 2013, my social life took herself away from me. I officially had no friends, and it was completely my fault.

          Fortunately, by then, I was already a few weeks into thinking with a happiness-experiment mindset, whereby I was intent on aligning my wants with my actions. Olivia didn’t know about this. No one did. I didn’t yet know its significance. I didn’t know that trading my typically negative thought pattern for the pursuit of happiness was going to be my saving grace, I didn’t know that The Happiness Experiment was going to be a blog, and I certainly didn’t know that I was going to actually make myself happy. “Happiness experiment” was just a mantra that I was using to overcome guilt in order to allow myself to do as I pleased. However, the moment that my best friend muttered the possibility of goodbye, The Happiness Experiment became my foundation for healthy coping.

          In the seconds following Olivia’s notice of leave, a chaos of panicked thoughts attacked my mind. I forcefully pushed them away in order to think strategically about my response. For the second time, my best friend didn’t want me. The first time, my reaction was unhealthy. There were nights during second year that I literally begged Olivia to include me in her life. I lost my independence, my pride, and my confidence, and I was still bearing the repercussions years later. I decided to progress more wisely this time around. Yelling at Olivia would not undo her decision, so I didn’t. Crying would not undo her anger, so I stopped. Continuing to look at her would not undo her resentment, so I left. I made a choice not to act for Olivia by attempting to change her mind through desperate acts. I could do nothing to alter her decision. I could, however, choose how I wanted to proceed. With The Happiness Experiment humming in the back of my head, I thought about what I could do for myself to make this situation a happier one for me – or, rather, less sad. I asked myself what I could realistically do in that moment to help myself. I settled on calmly telling Olivia that I needed to leave. I drove to my parents’ house in the middle of the night, arriving alive only by miracle that my driving was not impaired by my tears. I would not return to mine and Olivia’s apartment until the end of April.

          It is because of April 2013 that I know I can get through whatever the fuck is thrown my way. Instead of collapsing to the floor, that month, I learned and employed healthy coping strategies: I continued building confidence at the gym, I sought company in books, and I began writing what would become this blog. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t magically better. I cried every single day. To keep it together at work, I was taking discrete cry breaks in the bathroom multiple times daily, smothering my sobs with toilet paper so the people in neighbouring stalls wouldn’t hear. I often worried that the despair would never go away, but I was adamant that succumbing to depression was no longer an option for me. I had let myself give way to it for too many years. I was ready to fight.

          Thus, by the end of April, I was clubbing in Niagara with five chicks I barely knew, and pressed up against the back of an elevator by some guy my tongue once knew. Faster than expected, I had learned how to let myself go. From that night in Niagara onward, I’ve been living happiness. I stopped looking for that piece that had severed from my heart one month prior, and I became grateful that it was lost. It had hurt a lot more than it had helped, and its hole was being filled by self-generated happiness. The daily tears I cried dried, the companionship I found in books was replaced by friends, and the taunting bathroom floor I feared became just a floor.

          Before that, though, somewhere between the night I lost my only friend and the night I reclaimed my social life, there was inspiration. One day in April, just as I had returned to my desk from one of my mini breakdowns in the bathroom, I overheard two of my coworkers talking. I knew little more than their names then, but their conversation caught my attention.

          “It’s amazing how much life can change,” I heard one of them say. “Five years ago, I thought I was going to be single forever, and now I’m married to an amazing guy.”

          I did not know the context surrounding this statement. I did not know what happened five years prior to make this girl think she was destined for loneliness. What I did know was that, regardless of where her life was five years ago, she was presently happy. I told myself that, in five years’ time, I would be her. I would be the girl in disbelief of my own happiness.

          Little did I know that I would not have to wait five years, because I was mere weeks away from happiness. Little did I know that this girl and I were soon to be friends. Little did I know that her words were only a sample of the degree to which I would be inspired by her full story.

          Friends, recall that, last summer, I joined my work’s baseball team (#TheHappinessExperiment). This girl was the team captain, and it was during our weekly games that we got to talking, finding common ground on the subject of dating. At the time, I had just begun vocalizing that I was looking for a boyfriend. (It’s hard to remember a time when I wasn’t singing my boyfriend song to the world. My search is so well-known now that I’m asked about my dating life more often than I’m asked about my weekends.) I didn’t know how to go about getting one (I’m still trying to figure that out #singlegirlproblems) when this pretty lady suggested online dating. I had been playing with the idea of online dating, but I didn’t like the stigma surrounding it. (Wow, I forgot that I essentially delayed online dating because of what people might think. I clearly don’t care about that anymore, hence this blog.) She changed my perspective. It was by a baseball diamond early last summer that her story began to unfold.

          After ending a bad relationship and being single for three years, she joined Match in June 2010. By the end of that month, she was having coffee with the first guy on the site that she had winked at. They met at the Yellow Cup Cafe in Etobicoke. In preparation for their date, she had gone to the cafe with a friend the evening before to decide her order in advance. (This made me laugh, because I would totally do something like that. I knew I liked this chick already.) When she returned the next day to meet him, she waited in the parking lot for his text that he had arrived. When it came, she claimed that she was almost there, despite already being parked outside. Once she accidently-on-purpose walked in five minutes late (I found this just as amusing as her order pre-plan, because I also prefer a guy to arrive before me, except that I am accidently, not-on-purpose always late #Italiantime), they proceeded to order. He commented on her prompt decision-making before admitting that he had looked up the menu the night before so he would be prepared.

          “I did that too!” she confessed. “Except that I was actually here!” (Cue my hand clasping the gate of the baseball diamond to prevent myself from falling to the ground as I awed at the undeniable cuteness.)

          One year later, she was living with him. By him, I mean the coach of a university girls’ hockey team and one of the future coaches of Team Canada’s girls’ hockey team for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. (I’m sure you would agree that she scored.)

          On October 10, 2011, they planned to visit his parents in Wasaga for Thanksgiving. That morning, he suggested that they go out for breakfast. She would have preferred to eat breakfast at home in her pajamas, but he talked her out the door.

          “Let’s go to that Yellow Cup Cafe,” he suggested, feigning nonchalance.

          She thought it a bit out of the way, but she followed his lead.

          Upon their arrival, all tables were taken but one: the one that hosted their first date. (FYI: Romance cripples me. I was losing my ability to stand by this point in her story.) Somehow, she still had no idea that a proposal was coming. (The only table available in a busy cafe just happens to be the one where your relationship started? Come on, girl!) Trying to throw her off (not that she was on to him), her boyfriend was texting all throughout breakfast. Quietly pissed that she could have been cosily eating at home given that he was attending to his phone, she went to the bathroom to cool herself down. She came back to a ring. They were married on July 14, 2012. (Why she hasn’t submitted this stuff to Match to be featured as a success story yet, I do not know.)

          So this is what she had meant by how much her life had changed compared to five years prior, I thought to myself. – Sold! I was convinced to start online dating. I realized that my future boyfriend and I could share a cute how-we-met story even if we started online. Furthermore, I understood that the cute how-we-met story didn’t matter as much as the cute relationship, which I wouldn’t have if I didn’t start boy shopping. With my new friend’s help, I had my online profile set up in early July. I had definitely been inspired, but I didn’t know then that her story was not so simple.

          At the beginning of September, she and I went to Punta Cana with two other friends. (It is actually because of her that I went at all. She kindly offered me one her flight passes from work, ensuring me a cheap 130-dollar seat on the plane. I’ve said it before, but it is always worth reiterating: I have incredible friends.) One evening during dinner, I got her back story. That bad relationship she had emerged from three years before meeting her husband was more like a decade-long love turned betrayal. She met the douche (I get to call him that because I have friend privileges and because he is) at a pub in October 1996, and they were a couple by January 1997. By December 2005, they had moved in together. (There was a year sometime in between, during which they were broken up by her choice.) Understandably, she thought she was going to marry this guy. She loved him. She was willing to give up her future kids for him (because he didn’t want any). She was in it.

          He was not. By 2007, he was in someone else. Knowing it, my friend confronted him about cheating on her with their mutual friend (re: douche), and permanently ended their relationship. (P.S. That mutual friend was married. P.P.S. She wasn’t the other woman; she was one of other women.) Unfortunately, because they shared a home, walking away wasn’t as easy as cutting contact. She was stuck living with him, as he continued seeing his friend/her ex-friend, for six months. In January 2008, she bought a condo, moved out, and started dating.

          There’s more.

          A few months ago, on November 16, she and I were at Lisa Marie for brunch when I began to pry into her survival tactics for living with a guy who cheated on her. I specifically remember the date, because I had told Olivia that morning that I thought it would be best that she and I stop living together. I wasn’t certain yet, but I had given Olivia notice that I was highly considering ending our friendship. If I were to choose to cease all contact with my best friend, I knew that I’d be living in awkward territory for months before the actual move, because I would be required to provide my landlords with reasonable notice of vacancy. Thus, I was in need of advice on getting through the months to come of residing with someone who I clearly resented, I possibly no longer liked, and I was miserably failing to get along with. In giving me more insight into her post-breakup story, my friend said something to me that stuck: “I knew I could choose to be who I wanted to be in that situation, and I was not going to be the poor girl who got cheated on.”

          How fucking powerful is that? Darling readers, if you take anything out of this girl’s story, let it be that we can choose to be who we want to be. Instead of being angry at the douche, she continued to be kind and respectful toward him. Instead of telling his side project’s husband about the affair, she stayed out of it. Instead of falling apart, she moved on. All of this forced me to consider who I wanted to be in ending my friendship with Olivia, motivating me to strive to refrain from fighting with her, to change my perspective on my living situation, and to get up if I fell. Of course, my friend had her broken moments during those months with her ex, which only provided further inspiration for me to check myself back into life after nights that I temporarily checked out. On the few occasions since mid-November that I’ve fought with Olivia or I’ve sought refuge from our bullshit through sad songs on repeat in my bed, I remembered that it is acceptable to break once in a while, as long as I self-repair. My fuck-ups, falls, and fractures are all opportunities to remodel. My friend proved it, and I was determined to emulate her example. I was fixated on being who I wanted to be. In fact, this was the primary factor in my ultimate decision to separate from Olivia. I refused to continue being the person I was in her presence, the only version of myself that I didn’t like.

          As for the rest of my friend’s story to date, it was during that brunch that I found out her fertilized egg was soon to be implanted in her uterus, and we would know on my birthday whether or not she was pregnant. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, so we made a pregnant-or-not-pregnant code: I could assume she was pregnant if she didn’t say anything to me about it on November 27, and she would tell me if she was not. When November 27 came, she wished me a happy birthday unaccompanied by bad news. In response, I discretely wished her stomach a happy birthday too, as a fetus had evidently come to be. (Okay, I shrieked. I was not-so-discretely told to shut the fuck up.) The child she had wanted – the one she would have forgone had she not been cheated on – was hers. As she had succeeded in getting herself a husband, she had succeeded in getting herself a baby. We’ve been bathroom breaking at work together on post-ultrasound days since to admire her child’s tiny features.

          As a side note, one of my favourite perks of having older friends is that I gain premature insight into future life stages and choices. Thanks to my now pregnant friend, I probably know more about in vitro than the average 24-year-old. I’ve also learned more about menstruation and reproduction than I have since high school bio, which is knowledge that I’ll be putting to good use once my sex life reactivates. (Future boyfriend, I could be what you’re doing right now, if you would only make yourself current!) For example, there is a point during a woman’s cycle when she cannot get pregnant, deeming condoms unnecessary. Even more vital information: this period of natural birth control is variable, deeming condoms absolutely necessary at all times. (The 30 seconds of utter happiness I experienced between receiving those two pieces of information made the disappointment to follow that second bit completely worth it.) I’ll take a million plastic-ruined moments over one unplanned pregnancy, thank you very much.

          Prospective accidental pregnancies aside, my friend’s intended one was finally announced yesterday! She celebrated with cupcakes by the same bakery that supplied her wedding cupcakes. I was given the heads up a few days in advance that cupcake-eating would be in order. I told her that I would consider breaking my usual healthy eating rules for her baby announcement, but I couldn’t make any promises. She came by my desk enough times throughout the week, excitedly hoping to persuade me to eat a cupcake, to make me realize how important it was to her. Come Thursday, I was biting into pink icing atop a bite-size chocolate cupcake that I can still taste. (God, I love cupcakes.)

          Her baby is due in early August. If I’m still single by then (I better not be), my friend has been warned that I will be using pictures of me with her baby as guy bait, subtly demonstrating my future wife potential to boys with any potential. That’s right, guys; girls can play your game too. I see those adorable pictures of you with your nieces and nephews, and I will soon raise you a newborn. (I have a feeling this tactic will have the opposite effect on guys that it has on girls, but it’s worth a shot!)

          To my friend who is now proudly showing off a baby bump, you didn’t know it then – you barely knew me – but your words replayed in my head throughout April 2013, helping me through a very difficult point in my life. I will never cease to be amazed by how one person’s words and actions can unintentionally have great meaning to someone else. So, thank you for supporting me before you even knew that you were. Thank you for being my first dating cheerleader, excitedly asking me about every date and motivating me to keep going after you hear the mostly shitty details. Finally, thank you for sharing your story with me, and allowing me to share it with my friends through The Happiness Experiment. It is an absolute pleasure to walk into work every day to be inspired by the woman that kept me pushing for happiness without trying, the woman who made a choice to emerge from a toxic relationship with dignity, the woman who landed her Prince Charming because she took action to go find him, and got her happily ever after because she did what she had to do to go get it.

          Congratulations on your pregnancy! I am unbelievably happy for you (you know I wouldn’t eat a cupcake for just anyone!), and I am so appreciative of the opportunities to jump at the mention of ultrasound the way that you jump at the mention of date. Your baby is going to have an amazing mom. That handsome charmer or little beauty will only need to look as far as you to be inspired.

Happiness Tip: Choose to be who you want to be.

 
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