“What do you most desire?”
“What do you most fear?”
I was on the verge of feeling like I could truly open up; I was on the edge of getting safe, of being invited, of feeling loved.
I thought there was someone who was ready to let me be ME with them, to spend the time, who was willing to wait until I could revisit the shared space, travel together, get to know each other… as it was put at the time – not by me – “vet” each other (I was thinking more “pet” but I guess that’s just my sauce rising, my playful optimism shining through).
It’s hard for me to open up in intimacy. I don’t know why it’s so hard, but it is; and it seems to be harder now than it used to be.
Lost love plays its role. The hardened places where it’s hurt in the past; but the longing to let those places dissolve in trust wells so deep and deliciously old wounds make sense, past pain is welcome, I am retrospectively deeply grateful for the damaged places.
There’s the fear of not being enough. However foolish, however transparently fallacious that fear is to the more-evolved mind, to the being at ease, nevertheless the reptilian response, that wary lizard of the brain, has an uncanny ability to tremble around it in bouts of self-consciousness, nervousness, sympathetic arousal.
It can take encouragement to move through that; it can take some soothing. I began to taste the possibility of that tenderness; not expected, not allowed-to-be-wanted but – once potentially forthcoming – so desired. A sweet balm seeping into possibility. Can it be true? Could this actually be on offer? And from someone I might actually want it to come from? Who could be an equal and bring as much to the party? A match. Game, set, match… What? (“What? What?”) OMG – it actually might be… it looks like it is…
I was stunned. Gob-smacked. As many “what’s?!” tumbling from my stunted on-the-spot expression as there’d ever been. (I know you jam with the what’s – yes, I’m speaking to him here as much as anyone.)
So much possibility spiralled in my mind, in my heart, in every cell. Connection I’d only ever before imagined (my track record of relationships is one of compromise, not meeting as equals, not feeling matched) seemed within touching distance. I could reach out my hand and almost feel it…
But there was a physical divide now. And this intimacy had only seemed to bubble up once I was at a physical distance… alarm bells ring but I silence them as I know the tightly shut off, shy way I’d held myself in unfamiliar waters had played a significant role. I’m well-practised at keeping myself to myself, throwing up barriers, walls, disconnects like a reflex.
I have to calm down a lot to settle into myself, to open, to allow myself out and someone in; I crave this possibility, the chance at relaxing enough to really connect. To just be the chilled, funny, talented, quirky, generous, playful, energetic, balanced, diverse, open-minded me that flows once I’m dropped in, who opens completely once relaxed; who giggles gregariously when safely embodied, who – when at ease – stands tall, bosses life, dances, sings, and who (for the people I trust and let go around, to my continual joy and astonishment) is beyond cherished.
“Debs, don’t go back, you’re too special,” Big G – who knows a lot about my recent past – implored when I was chewing over the possibility of return, the potential prospects with this person, before the plans were made.
But that was over-protective to my adventurous mind. My close friends know me, know the me-without-guards so can fully get me, and they know the me that has lived through a lot already and need for me not to be hurt again, to cut a break. They seem to need it for me more than I need it for myself (both the not-hurt and the break).
For me, the risk seemed worth it. What I sensed, the connection I felt, the intrigue I had, made it worth it. Worth any risk. Even when a friend joked I should travel in a separate vehicle, and, as I probably wouldn’t – that I should have an emergency escape plan prepared “just in case, Debbie” (and he wasn’t joking at this point), I felt it was worth it.
So I booked a flight, reorganised my plans for the summer, pushed away two invitations to apprentice with mentors, made way for the new scheme, putting faith by feeling, trusting the invitation, following the crumbs left along the way – trifles light as air are to the invested confirmations strong: “I’ve never been happier” “I’m so ready for something juicy” “When you’re ready, I’m here”.
I was so ready.
Actually, the logistics are still so ready.
I have the flight booked. My previous plans remain derailed, the invitations declined.
But last week the road trip that would have culminated in my 40th on the 13th July was called off, exactly this time last week: I pen this post on Wednesday 16th May, 2018.
I had sensed a change in our interaction over the last couple, three, four weeks and tried to push down my rising anxiety. ‘Have faith. Maybe he’s just busy,’ …but it didn’t seem like that. Interest waning? Interest going elsewhere? I know there’s a tendency for that… butterfly heart, “so many beautiful flowers, why should I settle on just one?” to quote my wise friend who made the remark holding our natal charts side by side… so, that’s what I sensed, but I didn’t want to believe it… we ignore our instincts at our peril.
I had the impulse to send lines of verse articulating my fears, like this one I’d held back from sending on Sunday 29th April: “I said nothing, thinking of all the things you / understand and / all the things you don’t / like how I will love you forever but / probably from afar / not in the way you want and / how you’ll find somebody new / to be with […] and / really, I miss you already” [Yrsa Daley-Ward].
I kept a note of when distrust arose, the moments of doubt, “I doubt him completely” as I found penned in my day planner (Thursday 3rd May); a trail for a future self.
‘Pretend it’s OK. Maybe it will be. We’ve made plans.’ A picture appears of a roof box purchased for the planned road trip (on the same Thursday) amidst this new trend of comparative radio silence. ‘Maybe it’s OK. Why would he be sending this picture if it wasn’t? It doesn’t feel OK.’
It wasn’t. The possibility evaporated. The invitation was taken away.
I wasn’t surprised. I already knew even though I didn’t want to know. I was hurt.
I was replaced. To the day. Before I was even told, I had been replaced. (I still have a flight from Paris to Toronto on the 27th June: the seat could be yours… get in touch if you want it!)
Agency was pulled from under my feet. Wasn’t even given the chance to say I wouldn’t be coming over. It was a fait-accompli: “the road trip won’t be happening”. Gaddamit, I know! Let me say it, at least. Give me that grace.
I expressed an amount of relief amongst the distress, gratitude for the mercy of nipping it in the bud before it went any further, I’m trying to remain generous at this stage. “Yes, it would have been worse if mid-way through I had to be like, Debbie, this isn’t working.” Hang on! Allow the possibility it could be me calling it off… I know, we know, it wouldn’t have been – it’s not the way I move, but allow it, give me some dignity, please.
“There was always ‘efforting’ between us anyway,” …or words to this effect. Yes, I know (even though ‘efforting’ is not a word). My dis-ease was always present, and maybe there was more to it than that – probably there was, but I was really looking forward to finding out what might emerge with me set to rest, held in security and ease, invited.
I know I’m different when I’m on edge; my nearest and dearest tell me how different their experience of me is in these moments – that it’s *not* the me they know. And that’s all you’d ever really experienced, I believe, apart from glimpses of the settled self, or should I say non-self – so, of course, it would have felt effortful, for us both. There had been the chance we would get to move past that, drop into something real. There had been a chance.
I speak (stiltedly) about the loss, and the tone I sense of unrequited love, quoting Auden, ⏤ may the more loving one be me. I start to talk about how something which had seemed so close-to-perfect was now disappearing, again. Tell it to someone who cares! I’m met with a slightly disinterested recitation of clichéd concepts: “desire, attachment…” spiritual watchwords bombard me from the iPhone screen I’m clutching for the ‘break-up’ video conference. Wait! I’m talking about a specific experience of mine, informed by a unique personal history, something hard to express; let’s wait before we generalise, dismiss, bypass.
“You never know who’s just around the corner.” An assumption that I’m actively searching for what I thought I’d found in him. Actually, no. It wasn’t that, it was you. I was interested in *you*. I’m not on the ‘look out’, I don’t do that in life; I never have. Even if I were, if that were my way, it’s not so easy for me to replace what seemed to be a special connection with a fresh interest in another. And I wouldn’t be so quick to do so, either. The locus of my attention is specific. Not so easily aroused in the first place; not so easily refocused once it has been trained on another. I like it that way. The individual is too sacred for it to be otherwise. Their essence needs to be honoured, held, space created. However little actually happened between us, I became invested and need time to grieve what now can not be. It doesn’t just take a palate cleanser for me. I’m no butterfly.
So here I am. Bee. Spider. Stag. Sometimes scorpion. (This tale I tell isn’t meant to sting; I just need to get it off my chest, literally express.)
I honour what was yet to be. I grieve for it. I am relieved on many levels I won’t be asked to open up, it’s easier. “What do you most crave…? What do you most fear…?” The relief is a little hollow, in truth. The time, place, and person when, where, and with whom I can open, am truly invited to – as I thought I had been (“when you’re ready, I’m here”) – will be deeply, life-rockingly transformative.
But not yet, not yet. Softly. Softly. Steady as she goes, Kasia. Hang in there, rock star…
…and I have a feeling that within the last few weeks you forgot – viscerally – who I am, of the little that you know me, at least.
…and I have a feeling that you forgot, stopped feeling, who you were with me. “I’ve never been happier.” You spoke those words. It makes me wonder.
…oh, and it makes me wonder…
It makes me wonder about the dangers of trusting. It makes me wonder about the peril of taking words at face value, of leaping in when you know relatively little about another. It makes me wonder about the phenomenon of limerence, the ease some of us have to fall head-over-heels, lead with our hearts, throw all caution to the wind facing the prospect of love and connection.
In love, in honesty, in heart-opening, transparent grief: I am sorry we are not exploring what could have been.
In love, in honesty, in heart-rending relief: I am glad we are not exploring what could have been.
And an almost coda which needs to be voiced: what if we could have met as equals? I was the displaced one, a traveller in strange lands, constantly resetting my compass, bending over, supplicating, disposing myself to fit in, tribe creation from scratch.
What if we had met in a place where I was already standing my ground, as truly we can only do when we’re settled, have our networks around us, life holding us, our work flowing; rhythms, resources in check, tribe all around?
Would I have even stopped by? Would I have recognised your face?
I tear up (the eye sort) at the thought, as the trifle of our plans tears, rips, ripples, falls away, light as air.
But whatever, Wesley, “as you wish!”
“…hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…”