There we were…two lost souls in Mexico, both unknowingly searching for someone to feed each other’s soul. Well, at least that’s how it seemed, when, I, the soul-searching empath who thought she was safe from any more toxic energy vampires, saw him. Him. The guy who screamed “Damaged!” and ”Stay away!” All of his giant red flags were waving in the wind…But instead of ignoring them, I playfully danced with them, knowing I was dancing with the devil.
I had gone through a hard breakup three years before we met. Those three years I spent finding myself were a struggle but as time passed, I found such beauty in the breakdown...and then I found happiness again, within myself. I went on a yoga retreat in Bali, working with a healer. I then took a beautiful trip surrounded by friends in Italy. I traveled often and spent my time meditating in the parks. I balanced lots of precious alone time with special time with friends. I had it all. And you would think after all the work I had done, I would have protected my energy better. I thought I learned from my last mistake, but I was about to find out I had so much more to learn.
It happened quickly. It was not a match made in heaven, but his unexpected charm hooked me. Like a moth to a flame, this damaged soul was drawn to me…and I liked it. He partied. He partied a lot. My “nights out” had changed to consist only of dinner and deep conversations with people close to me. He was everything I was no longer & everything I swore I would never do again. You see, this man only swam in the shallow end...and subconsciously, I thought I could teach him how to swim in the depths of the deepest. I was sadly mistaken.
I was so busy with my amazing world that his words were enough to keep me intrigued. It felt good to have someone pining over me. Having such a love for travel, I liked that he lived in a separate country. I liked that the distance allowed me to “protect my space” and keep him at an arm’s length so he “couldn’t hurt me.” I looked forward to the weekends when I would jet-set to see him. It was like a mini vacation every few weeks. It became an addiction, an unhealthy one. Deep down I knew it was wrong, but I yearned for it to feel right. So I kept pushing on.
I got lost. I started to take on some of his unhealthy patterns, taking care of myself less, and going back to the things I swore I wouldn’t do anymore to my body, my soul. I started smoking on occasion and drinking more than usual. It felt good to “let go” a bit. After all, I was only 33 and he made me feel “safe.” Or did he?
At the time I thought I felt happy, but deep down, my soul yearned for more. Aesthetically, this man had a face that if I could have created one myself, this was it. His soul was a bit tattered but I saw the potential. He kept his heart in a metal cage, yearning for love. And I wanted to give.
But I eventually realized that you cannot give to someone who has no desire to receive.
And just like that I was drowning. I was drowning! How could I let this happen? Why didn’t I stop?! I was better than this. Or was I?! I thought I learned the art of letting go?!
I stood outside of myself and saw that this WASN’T love. It was attachment. And after months of back & forth and tears and name-calling and trying, I realized this was another lesson. I hadn’t learned completely the last round...so I needed this swift kick in the ass to learn again, to teach myself. And from that moment, I learned how to heal within a toxic relationship.
To add to the madness, we allowed ourselves to get pregnant. It was the most joyous experience in my lifetime, yet trying with a toxic partner. The experience gave me more stamina to not give up on this man-child, however, I realized I needed to put myself first. After our little indigo child was born, of course I wanted to make it work. We tried. But it was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. It doesn’t work.
Motherhood has been the most incredible experience of my life. My daughter truly is my best friend and knowing her soul chose mine is one of the most incredible feelings. He was meant to be in my life for this reason. And this reason only.
I began setting boundaries. I spent more time back in the States working in NYC, keeping my child and my own well-being in mind. I rebooted my passion for fitness with weekly spin and yoga classes. I went on regular walks in nature with my little bean. The need for his reassurance and “love” was no longer in the forefront of my mind. I began feeling myself again. Healing. Protecting my energy. The Universe has ALWAYS kept up its part when it came to providing for me, but the more I focused on myself, the more blessings came through for work. I rekindled a ton of professional relationships. I balanced a life as a new mommy, working as a freelance artist as well as made time for my fitness routine daily. I believed in myself.
And as the story goes on…I remain in the midst of the aftermath. I am still sticky from the web of entanglement, but no tear-stained eyes this time. I just hopped off my bike for my morning spin class with a smile. I keep my eyes towards the sunshine so the shadows continue to fall behind.
By Hilary Shawn
Art by Rebecca Shapass
Hilary Shawn is an artist through and through. A perfect mixture of light & dark...her Aura attracts many. An empath who had started her writing in 4th grade, she remembers writing her 1st piece in her mother’s bed, titling it "Stairway to Heaven." It was about a friend climbing the stairs to the pearly gates. The next morning they received a phone call that a close friend & neighbor had passed that night in a freak car accident. Her ability to write & create art from the depths of her soul has always made her feel extremely vulnerable to share. It is with growth, soul-work, strength & becoming a mommy that has given her the confidence to finally put her work out there to share her stories of strength, pain, struggle and happiness with the world. Her goal is to become a yogi, write a book, continue traveling all while balancing life as a single mama & freelance hair & makeup artist in NYC.
Rebecca Shapass is a filmmaker and multi-media artist from New York City whose work explores themes of femininity, sexuality, and nostalgia through found footage and diaristic films, installations, performances, and photographs. Her work has shown at Open Signal (Portland, OR), Puffin Cultural Forum (Teaneck, NJ), Microscope Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), amongst others. She will be a part of Smack Mellon’s 2018-19 Artist Studio Program where she will also be a NY Community Trust Van Lier Fellow. You can keep up with her work on her website or via Instagram.
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It's Not Personal is an inclusive dating collective and growing anthology. INP creates opportunities for women/womxn to share their dating experiences in safe spaces, empowers them to find comfort in their relationship statuses, and inspires them to have a healthy relationship with themselves through the tools of art and writing. INP does workshops, events and has a monthly column with BUST Magazine Online, as well as works to raise money for RAINN. For more information, be sure to follow It's Not Personal on Instagram join the Facebook group, and send art and writing submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.