I’ve never told anyone this and I don’t know if I ever will, but my favorite song is “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. I’ve listened to it for years–since puberty probably–but I never understood it until a couple of years ago. I finally interpreted the song for what I thought it meant instead of just liking the tune.
When I was in the process of realizing that I needed to break up with my ex-boyfriend, this song made more sense. It didn’t apply completely because there were so many things wrong in the relationship and I don’t think I was to blame but at the same time, there were so many aspects that it did apply too. A contradiction, right? Let me try to explain.
He was a roller coaster. We were good. Then we weren’t. It was all based off of his moods. Or if my most recent comment made him tick. Or m
aybe it was a thought about a previous comment. It didn’t take much to trigger the guy. Sometimes, it took nothing at all.
“How to Save a Life” was a song that I liked that eventually became a
true story in my life.
Step one, you say we need to talk
He walks, you say sit down, it’s just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left, and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came
I don’t remember if I pictured our break up ending like this, but the final one did. After our so-called ‘break’ where I had initially tried to cut ties with him, I went to his apartment, and this first stanza is how it went. Minus the smiling. I remember he dressed nice that day wearing a shirt that I had never seen before. As he begged me to stay, and promised he’d change, I couldn’t stop thinking of this song. It helped me to power through. Before that chapter in my life, the song was just a song. But in that moment, with him sitting across from me, it was my life. And I was saving my life.
Let him know that you know best
Cause after all, you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you’ve told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And I pray to God he hears you
That night, while I was trying to break up with him, he apologized for everything he’d ever done. He said he realized he hadn’t been the best boyfriend and such, but I still couldn’t believe he had never realized this before. Through all of my tears. Through people giving us judging looks – him as the asshole that he was and me as the victim who wouldn’t leave the guy. Like the night during the Christmas light festival that we got into a fight over the gratuitous sentence on my paychecks “Remember, without the customer, this wouldn’t be possible.” Or something along those lines. And he hated it. He hated customers. But I remember thinking it was so cool because how many companies really take the time to appreciate the people who keep the lights on and the business running?? Sure, there are terrible customers that make you want to pull your hair out, but most of them aren’t like that. Customers are the basis of any business. And I love that the company that I work for never lets us forget that. As a child of business owners, I realize that customers are a very important aspect, if not the most important element. Sorry, tangent over.
Anywho, back to thinking about how The Fray wrote that song for me…
He asked me why I never told him before that month that I was unhappy. But I told him that I had tried for so long, and he just never listened. By this time, the new Emily was starting to emerge so I did tell him that. 1 point for me. Actually, a million points for me because that I love that girl, and I love that I have broken out of my shell so much since him. I told him some of the things that had caused me to finally realize we needed to break up, but I didn’t apologize for things I didn’t do. I didn’t grant innocence. I put the blame on him. I didn’t retreat into the timid Emily. No, I was turning into the strong Emily I am today. And I let her shine through that night to make up for the previous two years when I had pushed her aside just like he did.
For so long, I had tried to be there for him. To help him throughout all of his challenges, the accidents, the failed driving tests, the inability to be an adult. But I was done. I was destined for greater than nursing an adult’s emotional wounds when all he did was pour salt on mine. He was a manipulative, controlling, contemptible person (did I use contemptible right? I was trying not to say asshole…)
If he had just stopped for a moment in the passed two years and thought about how he might have caused my tears, he would’ve realized the things I had been saying. But he hadn’t. And now, that’s okay. I’ve moved on. He’s in the past. Without him, I wouldn’t have the insight that I do on emotionally abusive relationships. Thanks to that guy, I’ve experience things I never thought I would. Things that I would’ve looked upon other girls who were experiencing similar situations with pity. I would’ve wanted to ask them why they’re staying in a such an abusive relationship. But now I know, that when you’re in that situation, it really is so much different. You don’t see things like a normal person would. You push things aside such as his temper, or his attitude, or his comments that are such huge red flags, away and pretend they’re not as big of a deal as everyone says they are. Yet, you don’t tell anyone about any of this because you know that your friends and family would hate him if they knew all of that. Because somewhere, deep down, you knew it was all wrong. It just takes a long time to realize it. And thankfully I did, and I did something about it.
“So often survivors have had their experiences denied, trivialized, or distorted. Writing is an important avenue for healing because it gives you the opportunity to define your own reality. You can say: This did happen to me. It was that bad. It was the fault & responsibility of the adult. I was—and am—innocent.”
-The Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass & Laura Davis