Your desire to know me inside and out sparked my fear of having to deliver something I wasn’t sure I was capable of. It made me feel smothered even though I craved emotional and physical intimacy. When you wanted me, I felt blind. I would leave you altogether so I could re-connect with myself.
When I did stick around, I waited for you to give first. I waited for you to express yourself, lay the path down for me to follow. If you gave, then I gave. If you held back then I did too. If you showed up, so would I and if you bailed, well, I may have beat you to it.
I thought the way to love was to give you only the good stuff, the acceptable parts of me, the giving and loving parts, the cute and pretty ones, the laughing ones, the always happy ones and you’d love me forever. I refused to show you anything else, because I learned that it’s not “attractive”, it’s “weird”, and or “crazy.”
Despite all of this effort you left anyway, leaving me utterly confused.
The Universe sent me an open hearted man when I was busy making other plans as it often does. I had never experienced anyone like him. He was capable of demonstrating what it meant to be open emotionally and sexually. He communicated everything. He told me about his thoughts, his fears, his loneliness, and his desires. His sharing made me ask myself “What do I want? What do I fear? What do I think?”
His presence made me question everything I knew about love and being in a relationship. I discovered I had been going about it incorrectly. I had to give, let go of control, and be myself first, not wait for a ring to arrive on my finger and then let it all out. I took tentative, curious steps toward him, opened up and started talking.
He listened carefully. I felt seen and heard in ways I had not experienced before. He asked me thoughtful questions. He kindly called me out on my shit. He cherished my spoken and written words.
I delighted in sharing my life with him. I was learning what it meant to feel safe enough to let go, to exhale and fucking rest for once. He didn’t require perfection. He didn’t need me to look a certain way. He found me talented, interesting and lovely just as I was.
I expressed how I felt about him, which was something I rarely did. I told him how grateful I was for him, how absolutely incredible he was, how much I appreciated him. It was completely freeing to say everything, to not hold back, to let it all out and know that I was doing my best. I didn’t worry about scaring him.
He regarded me with interest and held me with an open palm when I told him about my inclination to bolt when it eventually came up, like it does. I saw the choice was mine. He wasn’t going to pin me down if I wanted to go, he wasn’t going to chase after me. I chose to stay, explore with him, and learn about how it felt to be still with someone while the fear subsided.
The whole time we were together I had the sense that this wasn’t going to be my forever, and that I better relish this moment, because I didn’t know when the next one would be despite our creating future plans. I worried about not being able to get all the words out in time. Those feelings haunted me, tapped at my brain and I tried to keep them at bay by saying everything I needed to say, scared or not.
I eventually called and told him about what I felt when I was eight hundred miles from home, preparing for a job interview.
“Hey ladybug!” his warm voice answered on the second ring.
“Hi! Sorry to call so late. I can’t sleep.” I told him, running my hands through my hair.
“You nervous about tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but there’s something else. Promise me we’re going to do this right? You’re not leaving me?” I stared out the window, half expecting him to say “You know what? I can’t. I can’t do this long distance thing with you.”
“I’m willing to go down the yellow brick road with you my dear.” he assured me. “I’m not excited about a long distance relationship but we’ll work it out.”
I made the decision to move before we met, and when I told him this he didn’t make me choose between the city I loved and him. He encouraged me to continue my job hunt, and assured me several times that we were going to figure it all out together.
My hands started to shake. “I just have this feeling something is going to happen.”
“Listen. Everything is fine. Go to your interview. Be yourself. They’ll hire you on the spot.”
I continued to stare out the window, the uneasy feeling still hanging around like a stray cat wailing at my backdoor. “I love you.” I said quietly.
“I love you too."
The next morning, I went to my interview and was hired.
My world shattered two weeks later when he died. Grief blasted me in the face with the realization that I was leaning on that relationship and all the ones before it for safety, and that I had spent the majority of my life in hiding. It showed me where I disallowed trust and experience into my being. I saw firsthand through the outpouring of love, hugs, and kind words people freely gave just how much I was previously squeaking by on bread crumbs of all the goodness that had been available to me all along.
My head had a hard time accepting this despite my thirsty heart cracking open to receive. It was replying it’s old story while my body reacted the way bodies do when emotions are bursting through hearts, lungs and limbs. My body wanted to process the sadness, the shock, the anger and the confusion, but my mind was working hard to make everything neat and tidy again. My brain wanted to make this pesky body stop all its functions. It said there was no time for grief, for sadness. It wanted to decide how much love I was allowed to have, how many tears were allowed to fall, because if one more drop of tears fell than what it had allotted for, then I would be out of control I was not allowed to lose control in any sense of the word. I believed that if I felt everything, I would be taken over, possessed, and that would be the end of my life.
Eventually, my body won.
I took my time using the broken shards of my crumpled being and through the hot sting of tears and the unfolding of the days ahead, made something out of it. I crafted a new foundation, a new normal to stand on.
This hasn’t been a pretty project. I was a mosaic of sharp edges and squishy bits that were so vulnerable they bled when you so much as looked at them. My skin was turned inside out and all the calcified nerve endings, the places where I cut off parts my life force were on the outside for the world to see.
The judgment I feared from other people didn’t come. In the days, weeks, months and eventual years that passed I was held, listened to and loved. I questioned and examined everything. I started looking at what it was I wanted and needed and stopped worrying so much about what everyone wanted from me. I was so tired of setting myself on fire to keep everyone warm and cozy.
Grief allowed me to trust people. When I was at my lowest point it was other people who extended their love, condolences and kindness to me. When I was at my most vulnerable, it was other human beings who held my hand and reminded me I was loved, I was ok, I was here and I deserved to be here.
It was grief that showed me what it meant to be open, honest and real. It was allowing myself to cry, to be held, to ask because there was nothing else to do. The pain was so great, so loud that I had no choice but to let it out. I gave no fucks who saw my display of emotion. I cried all over everything and everyone. I cried for more than just my lost love. I was crying for all the ways I’ve held back with people, held back from myself. I cried for the pleasure I refused to let myself have, the love I shied away from, the words that weren’t expressed.
I’m practicing now instead of holding still and waiting to react to you. I practice every day looking you in the eye when I speak to you, when I express myself to you. I practice sharing my thoughts and listening to yours. I practice being present so I don’t go too far in the future. I understand now that the lesson I’m learning sits here in the present moment. It’s not inside of tomorrow or next week or next year. The learning is right now.
When my head dances with painful thoughts of possibly losing you as it does from time to time, because habits, I gently pull myself back to what is happening in the here and now. We’re together, sharing a life experience in this moment and this moment is all we have, its all that’s guaranteed. I observe you with curiosity and fascination, not with possessiveness, or fear. I want to soak you up, expend all of my energy here with your body next to mine, your heartbeat in my ear.
I want to love you with my whole heart, whether it’s for a little while or forever. I want to give everything I have, everything I am capable of and not shy away from you or anyone. I want to be so intimate with you that it’s uncomfortable. I want you to tell me the truth of who you are while I do the same.
When I get to the end of my life, I want to know that I loved with everything I had, that I took care of my desires, my wellbeing and joined you on the playground instead of watching from the sidelines.
I want you to know that I love you, I love you, I love you.