Mental Health · Relationships

Amends

Spring loaded. I push away from anything that might hurt me eventually. Wrap up in myself and say it’s for the best. Try instead to salvage open wounds disguised as relationships. Tell myself I am not deserving of the goodness of being safe and loved.

But sometimes I learn to grow instead.

So I drive back to Andrew’s house and tell him about who I am. How I get scared and run away instead of facing it. How I always pick the biggest shift available instead of working on the small things. How I seem to always choose wrong when it’s flight, fight, or freeze. He follows up with me.

Surprised, I listen to him describe the kind of person I am. He unearths the flaws in my system with delicate precision, but lacking accusation. Does not leave me with instruction on how I can be different. Not even the hint that I should be. Instead, his voice is doused with a tenderness that says he understands it, it’s okay, he loves me.

“Everyone gets scared sometimes,” he says as he curls his fingers up in mine. I plant my trembling feet next to him and together we continue putting down roots. Interwoven.

Photo courtesy of Li Yang.

Autobiography · Personal Development · Relationships

Strength

We sit in his car and I wipe tears away with my coat sleeve. I’m reminded of how my Portland therapist taught me the difference between being tough and being strong. The difference between acting like nothing hurts and knowing things will hurt, but doing them anyway.

My best friend tells me my heart is always going in fifty directions. That is must be hard if not impossible to follow something like that.

On the wall in the restaurant two signs hang next to each other. One reads “be strong” while the other “be gentle”. Finally I’m at the place in my life where those two demands do not seem at odds with each other.

In his apartment I wrap my arms around his waist and hold him as close to me as I can. One part pride, one part relief, two parts heartbreak. I cling tightly to the idea that wanting different things does not make either of us undeserving people, just not right for this partnership. And I can’t help but feel a little swell in my chest when I think about finally standing up for what I want in life. But no, that doesn’t make it easier when we kiss at the door, say “I love you”, and I walk out for the last time.

It’s a new kind of ache. One where I stand with my feet firmly planted. It does not question or try to pull in any particular direction. I know what I want and I know if that’s the way I’m heading. Know when it’s time to change course. Narrow my vision. Finally honest.

I think about having children in the next couple years and begin to look at all my options. Think about the things I want to do that don’t involve a partner. Think about my past relationships and what works and what doesn’t. What builds me up and what immobilizes me. Think about how to do this all differently. It’s my dreams. It’s my job. It’s my sobriety. All of this. This belongs to me. And if I don’t want to, I don’t have to share it with anybody.

An interesting feeling. Walking on the ground with my own two feet. Not tip-toeing around anybody. Not sieving everything through someone else’s list of wants and needs. And for the first time it does not feel selfish or pointless. It feels like taking care of me. And that feels… Worthwhile. Finally.

Photo courtesy of Ray Hennessy.

Autobiography · Personal Development · Relationships

Leap

They’re coming. Due dates and anniversaries. Reminders of where we were this time last year. What changes. What doesn’t. I ask Tanya to talk me down and she refuses. Tells me that I can’t shy away from the person I am anymore. It’s time.

She tells me I’ve been trying to squash it out. Ignore it. Pretend it doesn’t wrap itself around my heart and squeeze. Tells me she’s been hearing the words between the lines for years now and she’s tired of me not listening. I’m reminded of the time Chuck asked me if I ever had maternal instincts and I flinched, held my breath, gave the answer I felt was right, even though it wasn’t honest. “No. Never.”

And I leave the room when they’re talking about babies. Ignore the swelling bellies of those closest to me and work hard to build up excitement instead of jealousy. I think about holding my nephews. Burying my face in the smell of them and knowing they’re mine even though they’re not. Tell myself being close is enough. I get this part of life by proxy and that has to be okay. Things are different than I thought they’d be, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t all beautiful and lovely. It’s not that I’m not happy, it’s that there is an ache in the bittersweet.

I think about the year spent planning to get pregnant. About the appointments with a midwife and giving up caffeine. Therapy and tracking everything. I try to not resent Mason for leaving me. Try to be glad I’m not bound to him eternally by a child he wasn’t ready for or maybe just didn’t want in all honesty.

My mother drove me to my first therapy appointment after Mason and I split up. I don’t remember if it was before or after he’d officially asked me for a divorce, but it doesn’t matter. I knew on the winter solstice of 2015 that my marriage was over. In the car my mom started talking about family friends and their new baby. I thought about the life he promised then denied me. Thought about how hard I’d tried to convince myself I didn’t want it anyway. I’d rather travel, write, keep my freedom. Keep my marriage happy. Keep everything the way it was. Hold on to anything. But in a moment of clarity I realized it was all bullshit. That I do want to be a mother. The world calls me. So I sobbed. In my mom’s car with her staring wide-eyed at me. The only time I ever showed any of myself honestly during the course of my divorce. Transparent heartache for the life I’d no longer be living. Not out of missing Mason, but out of missing what I thought the two of us would make together. A life. A family.

But the strings I tied to him are coming back to me. And I get to tie them to whoever I want. I have the option to tie them to nobody. The bell that called is still calling me. And I don’t have to be dishonest or feel guilty. I’m still dreaming the same dreams and now all I’m counting on is me.
Photo courtesy of Gabriel Garcia Marengo.