My mood goes in and out like the tide. Eroding me even when things are good. Emotions in general exhaust me and I try to spend more and more time avoiding being alone. Don’t feel it. Whatever it is. Don’t.
In the middle of the night I put out a plea on Facebook for someone to take a walk with me. A friend I don’t know well takes me up on it and we trudge around The Hill and talk about nothing of consequence. Life is simple, beautiful, goes on.
Days later we get back the light. The perfectly cloud-dispersed echo of sunshine. It shone off V’s face, danced in his eyes as Andrew drove us south. Hands out the windows the three of us took deep breaths at the sight of our mountain. A reminder that life is simple, beautiful, goes on.
Back at their apartment V leans over the stove. Stirring and inhaling deep. I like to watch him cook. It feels like a metaphor for what we are all doing here. Making something new. And we all sit down at the table and eat the dinner we prepared together. We’re building something. Learning to trust it.
Andrew asks me if I have a blog post geared up for Tuesday and I shake my head. V tells me he doesn’t know how much it matters what he thinks, but that my writing is “really good”. It’s just the kind of nudging I need to not give up on me. So I sit down and write this while Andrew draws and V finds music to play us.
So I think maybe life goes on. Maybe we keep building even when we think we’re not trying. Even when we don’t think we can. Life comes at you. On the express lane when the light is perfect and the windows are down. Hands at two and ten. Our lives in Andrew’s possesion without even considering it.
He sleeps in bed as I stay up writing. I can feel my stomach churning over the familiarity of it. Wondering if curling up on the floor and sobbing is what’s next. This is too much like it used to be. But I can catch myself on the edge of it now. Talk myself back down gently. Coax back in the breathing. Anxiety that is bubbling purely out of habit. A reminder that I’ve been scared of showing myself for so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to be seen. Held. And he rubs my head and tells me he doesn’t want my feelings to be ignored for his comfort. He wants me to speak honestly. Radically. Tells me my hurt is never an inconvenience. He asks if I need him and I finally have the nerve to say, “Yes. Please.”
Nadine tells me it’s okay to not know how to be okay. That this, as with everything, takes practice. I learned how to be broken. Became exceptionally good at thinking I needed fixing. That I was secretly unlovable and it was only a matter of time before everyone figured that out. Before those I cared about truly saw me and exited my life accordingly. A lifetime devoted to perpetuating the idea that other people somehow know what they’re doing and that I am doing this all wrong.
Close to midnight a stranger from the Internet parks in front of my duplex. I usher her inside and give her the tour of my new apartment. Pour a glass of water for each of us and go sit on the patio. The warm night air clinging to our shoulders and shrinking the space between us. We live in different worlds. Separated by years and lives of doing it all different. But in this city, on this day we both just needed someone to sit and talk with. Human interaction. A hug. Someone to laugh with about how ridiculous it is that life is so hard to live. A reminder that none of us do this uniquely. That none of us do this alone.
At lunch days later a friend I managed to keep after the divorce asks me if he can tell me a secret. “None of us know what we’re doing. There is no right way to live.” And we talk about how we fumble along and find good people to share it with.
That night I whisper into Andrew’s chest that I’m afraid I’m going to make the same mistakes I made before. That I will get wrapped up in feeling like I’m not enough and eventually exhaust him. Tell him I’m afraid I’ll need more than he can give and he’ll start to feel helpless. I replay every relationship I’ve ever been in. I relive my entire marriage in an instant. But he does not flinch. Just pulls me close and says, “I’m not going to let that happen.” And bit by bit I start to believe him. And bit by bit I start to see myself as the people around me see me. And bit by bit life turns back into an adventure rather than only misery.
There’s a disconnect between the things I want to do and the things I think I should be doing. Expectations that I make up to project on other people. A constant disbelief doing what I care about—what makes me happy—is enough for those around me. The obvious flaw is that even if it wasn’t good enough for them, why should that matter to me? I don’t light fires in my heart to keep you warm. I do that for me. Don’t I?
I find myself regularly doing the things I think other people want me to do. Constantly hearing things that aren’t being said, picking up on cues they never meant to send. My whole life becomes wrapped up in doing what I think would make people comfortable. What would make them able to breathe easy. I can make myself satisfied in the process, yes. But it will always be only satisfactory. It’s lacking heart. Continue reading →