I looked across the table at Nicole’s face. I was intimately familiar with every single bit of her beautiful face. We had dated for several years and we were engaged to be married. But I suddenly saw her as though it was for the first time.
“I can’t marry you,” I thought to myself. “I absolutely can’t marry you. We’re not right for each other.”
I had known this for a long time, but I had been lying to myself. On the surface, Nicole was everything I could want. She was a tall, beautiful and well-educated woman from the Midwest. She had moved to Birmingham because she loved me and wanted a future with me.
I had been lying to myself about her for quite some time. After I broke up with her early in the relationship and she begged me to give us another chance, I relented — even though I knew better. When she told me she wanted to move down here for us to date full time, I didn’t promise her anything, but I also didn’t tell her what I knew — that it wouldn’t work.
After we dated for awhile, I found myself engaged to marry her. She wanted it very much and I didn’t seem to have a better alternative. I gave her a ring — which made her happy — but I knew better.
On that night in a restaurant — 10 years ago this month — I finally stopped lying to myself. I don’t know what it was about that moment, but something changed. As I stared at her beautiful face, I simply knew that my charade had to end. For the sake of both of us, I couldn’t marry this woman.
I broke off the engagement and we’ve gone separate ways. She’s happily married to someone else now and I’m happy for her. I have nothing bad to say about her, but I’m very happy I didn’t marry her.
With every positive major change in my life, there has been such a moment.
You see, I’m very good at lying to myself. When I know what I want, I can convince myself I’ll have it if I just wait long enough. And if I’m afraid to change something which I know is wrong for me, I’m good at convincing myself that things will somehow turn out fine if I’ll ignore what should be obvious.
One of the most horrifying realizations of adult life is that we are our own worst enemies. Other people might lay the foundations for our mistakes and disasters, but we’re almost always the ones who pull the trigger for these self-inflicted wounds.
When I look back at the things I’ve learned, I can see the ways in which my childhood left me ill-prepared for making emotionally healthy decisions in some cases, but with every single one of the major mistakes I’ve made along the way — the mistakes which fill me with regret today — I find they were all within my own power to change.
When I’ve made mistakes, I can almost always point to one moment when I made a decision that led me to somewhere I regretted.
There are moments when I’ve given up on something or someone I wanted when I shouldn’t have. There are moments when I’ve let fear keep me from attempting something I wanted to do. But there are moments when I’ve done the right thing — quit lying to myself — and made the right decision. It’s not always obvious in the moment which moments are which.
The common thread, though, is that there’s always a moment when I’m facing a choice between two paths. In retrospect, the right choice is always obvious. In the moment, fear and indecision can make things look confusing.
I’m more aware than ever lately of those brief moments of decision which change everything.
I have a feeling some more of those moments are coming for me soon. I’ve had to make some painful changes lately and I know the path I’m on isn’t sustainable in an emotional sense. Something has to change. I keep telling myself I can keep living the way I’m living — but I know I’m lying to myself.
Whether I like it or not, I’m approaching one of those moments of decision when everything will change. I don’t know what the decision will be, but I feel it coming.
Self-deception is a terrible thing. Admitting truth and making the right changes — however painful they are — is the only way to change a life and redeem lost hope. I just hope when that moment comes this time, I’ll be able to have the courage to stop lying to myself — and make whatever change I need to make right now.
Note: The name in this article has been changed from the actual woman’s name.