Flashback Exes

by Leslie Pitterson

I don’t remember my exes with a fuzzy glow effect on the borders of my memories.  Mine generally don’t fit that bill.  I’d love to say that the men from my past come to my mind like a fade to a scene from a Lifetime movie but to be honest they never seem to play out that way.

For the most part, my memories creep on me like shell shock.  Shaking the mess out of me, leaving me thrown and immobile.

I wish I could remember more flowers and touches, more orchids and kisses to be exact. But there are more thorns than I’d like, more silence and pain than I’d like to remember.

In the past few months, I’ve found myself in a stalemate with love.  I’ve been vigilant about mapping out my way forward—well, as much as life permits.  The one thing I can’t control is when love gets here; when that person crashes into me is out of my hands.  Love, it’s organic like that.

These may sound like the musings of a girl who has resigned her life to fate but I’ve that hard truth after trying to force relationships to bloom from unfertile soil and unready, unwilling men.  After bucking up against the wall, I’ve stopped being disgruntled about it and accepted that it’s just not my time.  My time, as it turns out has been better spent in moments alone than wrapped up in someone’s arms.  And yet, my mind seems to be floating back to the times when I was.

In the past, when I would think about past relationships it felt as if I was drifting.  Now, I am adamant not to be swept away by memories but to study them instead.  Examining them as if they were case studies, highlighter in my hand, messy bun atop this head of mine.

I’ve been deliberate in gleaning lessons from my past.  I can still count my relationships on hand—ironically, ending on my index finger.  It’s a tough process to re-examine broken relationships, one I wouldn’t recommend unless there is enough distance between you and those last loves.  Past flames have a nasty tendency to flare up when you get too close and there’s no need to be burned again.

Even when you’re accessing those memories deliberately, they still require you to handle them with care.   No one wants to admit it, but the loves from our past often say more about us than they do the other party involved.  For every ex I look at and think, “What was I thinking?,” I have to ask myself, “Who was I then?”  And that’s the hard about flashbacks, memories and drifting thoughts: that ex-evaluation is really self-evaluation, whether we like it or not.

When it stops being reminiscing and it stops being missing, looking at the men in your past can serve as a map to where you once were.  It’s hard for many of us to admit but the men we have loved have been in our lives because of a choice.  There may have been moments where it was hard and times when every part of it felt like a struggle, but there was one initial, reoccurring choice to love them and it was ours.

Looking back, I have to say—there were good times.  Under all the overwhelming hurt, there were moments where I felt light as air.  For all my griping about trying to love without trust or argue without respect, there were nights when I fell asleep convinced there was no one else in this world that went to sleep feeling as full as I did.  There were genuine feelings, words spoken but in the end it was not enough.   And this is part of ex-evaluation, too.  Sometimes the part that matters the most with love isn’t what it became, but what it never was.

It’s taken some time but I understand now, that there were some things my exes never were and never could be.  I spent years trying to chisel a wall that wasn’t ready to fall.  Looking back, I know that I was not meant for the love I had envisioned.  That what I was afraid of wasn’t who would leave, but the me that I would be alone with.

Personally, I’ve realized than in every void I tried to fill was a vacancy I was scared to confront.  The offenses of my cheating ex made it easier for me to justify not dealing with my chronic distrust.  The cold, dismissive one made it easier for me to downplay my destructive tendency to shut down.  While their actions remain unacceptable and their behavior was unkind, for me to disregard the lessons each of my exes gave me would be ignoring some major lessons that I was meant to learn.

Some women’s faces can look weathered by time by concurrent loves and heartbreaks that have taken their toll.  But I wonder if they had taken real moments for meaningful reflection, perhaps the wrinkles wouldn’t have creased as they did.  I wonder if the marks on their faces, the dimness in their eyes, the deep resentment could have been avoided.

There’s more to this than collagen fixes and nip-tucks, because the true tragedy isn’t just being worn out by life.  It’s losing your spirit to loves that you’ve lost without clinging to shreds of a lesson.

I said to a girlfriend the other day that I felt like love was the one class that was messing up my overall life GPA.  But I’m starting to think that unlike college, this course isn’t being graded.  No matter how much of a failure I feel like, there are points for participation.  I’m reviewing the material not for an exam but for my next crack at this thing.  After spending years feeling like I was never going to graduate, I’m realizing no one truly leaves here.   The point of all the memories, laughter and sadness, was so that I could learn what I needed for next semester.

So it’s ok if love’s lectures have not been fair to me.  I still shot the seat down in the front row.

  • http://www.theposhmiss.com ThePoshMiss.com

    As Eddie Long said in a conference I was in recently, sometimes you lose baggage at the baggage claim and it is your choice whether you are going to get new clothing or wait till they find the old baggage.

    Time to buy new clothes.

  • http://www.falliblesage.com FallibleSage.com

    “I felt like love was the one class that was messing up my overall life GPA… I’m reviewing the material not for an exam but for my next crack at this thing.”

    I like that.

  • Jas

    Read the first few paragraphs and couldn’t finish. This sounds like something that should be in your personal journal…

  • Ericka

    Amazing article. Sometimes I also find myself wondering “What was I thinking? and “Who was I then?.” Its refreshing to know that someone else takes a closer look at failed romances, as I do this myself. The great thing about those trips down memory lane is the ability to realize that those starting places don’t define us and its also great to see how much we’ve progressed. I find comfort in knowing that I’ve grown since these experiences and although I sometimes find myself spending a little too much time in a memory, I will just as quickly send it back to the memory bank because thats its proper place and I know that if I were still in those circumstances I would truly weep. Progress is great : )

  • binky

    I’ am a firm believer that your past is the past for a reason, dwelling and having flashbacks won’t change anything because it is kind of detrimental and it keeps you from moving on and accepting the things that can’t be changed…short answers a bunch of “Coulda, shoulda, and woulda.” Yes, love and old relationships do imprint themselves upon us like a fine stroke of a pen but it is up to us to determine weather we let that fine stroke become the main picture we want others to see when we are searching. There is nothing wrong with sometimes revisiting, accessing and determining your growth and how you change as an individual in your love life and with certain people but sometimes we need to leave the memories where they belong and look at love like a verb because it is always in action and always moving on not standing still or in the past.

    And honestly, if you are remembering more of the bad than the good or focusing on the “throns” of these past loves in your memories/flashbacks then MAYBE you haven’t come to grips with those past relationships and a part of you is still living it out or holding on to them like you are in them because you haven’t reach a sound conclusion and end them properly in your mind/heart or MAYBE it is a pattern of dating similar men…just my 2 cents…we all process and move on from things differently but at some point you just have to let go and come to terms with it.

  • nine

    wow, this was really good. Changed my views on some things

  • Pingback: Who Is Your Flashback Ex? | Naughty Online

  • http://thefreshxpress.com/ Alissa

    “Love was the one class that was messing up my overall life GPA.” This is how I feel!

    I loved this article. I always love your articles.

  • http://www.pandorabraceletdiscount.com/ Pandora Bracelet

    No one wants to admit it, but the loves from our past often say more about us than they do the other party involved.

  • http://ineverupdatethatsucka.com Baby D

    right! waaaay too long

  • http://besoulfullyunique.com Alaina L Lewis

    @Pandora. True statement. I never thought about that, but now I have to reflect on your honesty. They do.

    @Leslie Pitterson, Nice Article.

  • MimiW

    Another timely and right on target article. Eat, Pray Love had me in tears! This one spoke exactly to my frame of mind right now – finding out where I go wrong, why I go wrong and what I need to work on for myself to get it better, dare i say right, next time around. I’m in the post breakout analysis stage – we’re far enough apart that I feel safe in rethinking and reliving the years together and sifting through like Angela Lansbury to crack the case. I know it wont be an ‘aha’ moment as I believe we only know the truth through situation and not through thought. But I certainly am searching for the answers because I too have too many ex-es that make me cringe and ask myself “what was I thinking?:”

    I can’t wait for your next article. I enjoy them very much!

  • http://www.ilovelivelife.blogspot.com Amanda

    I completely disagree Jas. The article is personal, yes, but it’s also relevant to many of the female readers on here. I know it hit home for me. Your words are greatly appreciated Leslie,keep doing your thing!

  • http://twitter.com/supaflynfuchsia Fuchsia

    This was really good for me to read. Thank you for being honest and open about real feelings that come with love lost and lessons learned. Excellent Article!

  • Hitz

    As a male who has often preached the importance of self evaluation, I must say that this piece is in-line with my thoughts and practices as well. Keep in mind that often the revelations are cause for adjustment and without the adustments nothing will change!!

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