Letting Go

When you have been hurt by people in the past, it can be really hard to trust people in the now.  And it isn’t the fault of whomever you are with now if someone before hurt you, but it is also not easy to keep the two experiences separate in your mind and heart.  As a result, we often try to control things in new relationship and new situations—to keep things safe and metered and carefully mapped.

But things like love and care don’t flourish in an environment where things are safe and metered and carefully mapped.  Passion can’t exist there.  Trust can’t exist there.  So, by trying to prevent hurt from happening we create a place where the happiest and most healing relating is also prevented.

I’m certainly not proposing that we let any and all experience happen to us, without setting boundaries or ensuring our health and safety.  We definitely need to be safe and have boundaries.  But there is only so far we can take those boundaries and that safety before they transform into something else—something more sinister and potentially damaging.  If we are not cognizant of what we are doing with those boundaries and that safety, they can become control.  They can become an inability to let go.

The other night I had a date.  It was an amazing date.  We had an early dinner and drinks, and there was not a moment of dead air between us.  We talked about all sorts of things, and then we dropped my leftover food off at his apartment on our way to a karaoke bar.  We had tons of fun.  We drank, he sang, we made “friends” with a group of Guns and Roses fans on one side of the bar, and a beautiful mother and her daughters celebrating a milestone birthday on the other.  He held the room captive as he sang, and every single person clapped and sang along with him.  He loved being on that stage, and his excitement was contagious.

Eventually we ate again, because we had been out for so many hours and had so many beers.  We took a cab to another bar, and once more he brought everyone into his state of excitement and his love of song.  And I watched him with pride.  Because between songs he was talking to me.

He was more than talking to me.  He was holding every word, and passionately engaged in conversation, and geeking out on my fandoms as hard as I do—maybe harder.  He was wrapping his arm around me.  He was holding me close.  He was kissing my lips.  And I felt honored to have him there doing so.  I felt blessed by his presence, and I felt privileged to be his chosen companion.  I was certain that he could choose lots of other women, but he was choosing me.

And I still refused to let go.

I didn’t sing on stage.  Which makes no sense, because from childhood I have been desiring the stage, and loving every moment I was allowed and able to sing upon it.  And while I am a bit self-conscious about my voice today, with hoarseness and the breaks of a pubescent boy often plaguing my vocal chords without warning.  But that wasn’t why I didn’t sing.  There were plenty of singers worse than I who took the stage.  And I sang loudly from our little table in the corner, with him at my side.  I didn’t go up because I was pretending I didn’t want to.

I wasn’t pretending for him.  I was pretending for me.

I was pretending I had too much humility or shyness or reservation to perform on stage.  I was making excuses for myself and to myself.  Because being up there meant being vulnerable.  Being up there meant I had no control over the outcome.  Being up there meant opening up and letting loose and letting go.  And I wouldn’t do it.

Later that night, back at his apartment, when I took off my shoes and my sweater and my scarf to be more comfortable and cool, the tattoo on my left arm was in full view.  After having hugged and kissed me a bit, he ran a finger over that tattoo, which boldly declares, “Enough”, and he said, “I assume this is about taking your life back.”  Taking my life back is how I described myself on the media platform where we first came into contact with one another.

He had the right of it.  That tattoo is part of fighting back, and saying I have had enough—that I won’t take any of the bullshit I do not want and that I create my experience from now on.

But that tattoo is also about reminding myself that I am “Enough”, just as I am and without any comment or consideration or care of another.  I am not almost good enough.  I am not lacking.  I am not without value or merit or reasons for pride.  I am, wholly and completely, enough.

And in that moment I started to cry.

I wasn’t entirely sure why at the time.  Further thought on the subject, however, brought me to the place I stand this morning.  I know now that I cried because I wasn’t acting like enough.  I wasn’t letting go and letting my true self shine.  I was controlling and metered and safe the whole night.  I was in the presence of another for only a few short hours.  But in those hours, I wanted to be what he admired, instead of being all that I am and waiting to see if he might admire me.  I wanted to create an ending where I don’t get hurt more than I wanted to create something real and deep and true.  And the moment I felt that was what I was doing, I wept.

Crying on the first date is usually a terrible idea, as a general rule.

But even then he was fabulous, and walked through that moment and moved forward with me to the next.  And a bit later I reluctantly left, wanting to remain curled up in his arms, but knowing that my poor dog needed my attention more than I needed the attention of this man.

The next day, thinking it all through once more, I felt ashamed.  I felt foolish.  I felt the familiar weight of having pretended instead of having let go to be myself.  And last night my text went unanswered, and all I could think was that I hoped that my pretending did not take the opportunity to be with this man again from me.  I hoped so much that my refusal to be vulnerable and true didn’t take away the joy of that night and leave me always wishing for another.

I still wait in hope.  And I hope that this realization will offer me a chance to step up next time, and to boldly belt out songs from that stage.

While I do want to see this man again, there is more to it now than a connection with a potential partner.  There are all these layers of decision that we must navigate in every single moment.  And in the moment, I denied the truth and didn’t let go.  In the moment I played safe and controlled and let the hurts of the past define me, and not the heart and the soul and the spirit of the present.  I sought approval, instead of seeking joy.

Sometimes, when people ask me about my history and what I might regret, I shock them with my answers.  They think that my bad marriage or the night of binge drinking where I was sexually assaulted before morning or my drug use or any number of “bad” or “sad” or “regrettable” decisions should be what leaves my lips.  But it is not those things that haunt me.  Because during that time, when all that chaos was happening around me, I still held fast to me.  I didn’t feel like that woman needed to hide in the shadows.  That woman took the stage.  That woman built her own fucking stage if there wasn’t one to take.  That woman was brave and powerful and wild in ways that her later incarnation has not been.  I regret leaving her behind.  I regret not being her on Friday night.  I regret that I forgot that I am enough.

I believe that this man will offer me another chance.  I believe that he is kind and caring and understanding, alongside being fun and courageous and cuddly and cute.

And when that chance comes, I need to swallow any hint of reservation, of safety, of control.  I need to jump up and sing out and let vulnerability rule the day.

I need to trust that I am still, and always, Enough.

I need to let my heart love.  I need to let my spirit fly free.  I need to find and hold joy.

I need to let go.

 

Making Enemies and Infuriating People

I have a friend who often uses the hashtag #makingfriendsandinfluencingpeople, which I believe is based on a book about doing just that—using specific strategies to create connection and influence others.  I also believe that it was a book popular within business circles some years ago, so I have suspicions that the influence part was what was stressed, and the getting what you want from others is the point of using the strategies.  I don’t know how much we can then call that “friendship”.  (But I haven’t read the book, so I can’t speak to its tone or effectiveness with certainty.)

My friends—the true and real and lasting ones—are people whom I suffer with and rejoice with through all sorts of circumstances.  And I don’t think that a book of strategy for connections would have been useful in the development of those relationships, because they were forged in fire, in many ways, and that forging was often horribly uncomfortable.  Really, the way that we became friends was by not appeasing one another, and by venturing into dark waters together … some of which I thought would drown us both and destroy our connection.  But the thing about being willing to sacrifice your friendship for the good of your friend is that it strengthens the bond with the people who are best for you, and offers those who would not be your friend through both thick and thin the opportunity to walk away.

I was recently speaking with a dear friend via Skype, and we questioned how we became friends at all, since we were both very closed to connection and guarded and mistrusting and walled off at the time.  But, as we discussed it, I realized that sharing mutual distrust for humanity was what bonded us.  And that sounds a bit weird, but we created a connection out of not connecting.  We shared uncomfortable space.  We were both different.  We were both damaged.  We were both in need.  We both knew frightening dangers and horrible pain and devastating events in life.  And because we shared all of this, we were able to quickly dive into the dark waters together.

Other friends have been less quick to dive in.  Some friendships were not cemented until years without communication had passed, and the realization that the challenges the other had placed upon us were meant to love us, and not to harm us, and the remorse and the forgiveness and the forgetting of the division and distance made the bonds strong.

Suffering plays a big part in friendship, because the best way to connect is to break together and to heal together.

Religious texts mention this frequently.  Warnings against fair-weather friends, and commands to support one another, and models of rising and falling together abound, not just in one religion, but in many.  Life together means a life of ups and downs together.

I think that one of the reasons we fail, and make enemies instead of friends, is that we react harshly when we are incapable of rising and falling together.  When we think that individualism is of high importance, and we refuse to imagine that those falling are doing so because that is half of life, but believe that falling is a moral failure, we speak in ways that harm others.  When we are falling, and nobody will hold us as we do so, we sometimes lash out in what looks like anger, but is truly fear at its core.  When we are afraid of falling, we pretend to be rising, and we become disingenuous and dishonest and untrustworthy, which breaks apart bonds and ruins relationship.

We make enemies and infuriate people when we don’t allow ourselves to enter the dark waters together.  When we avoid the falling half of life, and try to wish away the times of struggle and the dangers and horrors that accompany life together, we cannot treat one another in positive ways.  We make up excuses and judge individuals harshly and create scales of worth and value or hierarchies of wrongs and sins and evils in order to justify our refusal to join one another in the sorrows, and be half-friends who only stand in the moments of joy or praise or pride with others.

I am in a season that lacks joy or praise or pride, and others use the scales and hierarchies in attempts to discredit me, so they don’t have to accept that this season—this falling—can happen to any of us at any time.  They hurt me with accusations and define me with degradations, in the name of fairness and righteousness and, at times, even in the name of god.  And I don’t quite understand the instinct to distance one’s self from the one falling.  It seems like far more work to uphold the excuses and the judgments and the scales and the hierarchies than to simply hold onto one another as we fall and as we rise.

I understand that the dark waters are a bit frightening, and that it takes work to swim through to the other side.  But many of us aren’t offered the chance to ignore those waters.  Some of us have been drowning in those dark waters since we were small children.  Others of us wade in the dark waters daily due to lack of resources or abusive acts against us or illnesses or addictions or living in the midst of violence or deep loss.  But those who have a choice, and those who choose not to venture into that space are failing the ones who are falling, and pretending at goodness by attaching themselves to those that are rising.  Being that fair-weather half-friend makes a liar of you, because your joy and praise and pride is not your own, but it is stolen from another.

As one who has been in the dark waters for a lifetime, I want to share something with you.  It is terrible and desperate and contains horrors … and you should long to dive in.  Making friends and influencing people is meaningless if it is this false, half-friend sense of friendship, and the only influence is yours upon others, and not theirs upon you.  Diving into dark waters builds relationships that last and that stand firm in the face of overwhelming circumstances.  Diving into dark waters, and holding one another while we are falling and while we are rising, offers us the fullness of relationship that superficial connections cannot achieve.  Trust, boundaries, vulnerabilities, honesty, and deep love can only accompany these dark-water friendships.  Everything else is insufficient, and you are missing out on love and life if you don’t have people in your life who are holding you while you rise and while you fall—who don’t attend your struggles the way they attend your happiness, who come to the parties and not the funerals.

This is the fullness of love—the “unconditional” that we hear about, but rarely experience.  Rising and falling together.  Suffering and celebrating together.  And refusing to hold on to any judgments or scales or hierarchies.  Wading in the dark waters, and connecting in the midst of that murky river, with walls stripped down and conditions removed and humility and trust and the knowledge that brokenness is not all-defining, but that we can build a beautiful love from the bits and pieces, is a most fabulous use of time and energy.

I don’t often make friends and influence people.  I live a relatively humble life, and I don’t get out into the world to make connections very often.  And sometimes I make enemies and infuriate people, but not for the reasons listed earlier in this post, but because I push back at people’s refusal to accept the existence and the pervasiveness and the importance of the dark waters, and I try to break down the judgments and scales and hierarchies that some hold more dear than love.  But I seek, every moment, to be the type of person who holds humanity in high regard, and who seeks to hold every human I meet as they rise and fall as a result.

I don’t always succeed.  Because even as I seek to break down judgments, scales, and hierarchies, I was conditioned to hold them in higher esteem than humanity and love.  So I know that it is a fight to continue to hold everyone as they rise and fall.  I know that it isn’t easy.  I know it doesn’t always come naturally at first, and there are days when you will revert back to the scales or judgments by default (and you are usually overcome with shame when you realize you have done so).  However, every moment of that fight and every discomfort that results from diving into the dark waters is worth it.

Love—in the most deep and pure and deconstructed form—is worth it.

Rising and falling together is love.  Meeting needs is love.  Standing together in the darkest of moments is love.  And if you don’t brave being in the deep, you won’t find love.  You will find the half-friends who let you remain unchallenged in the good times, but abandon you in the difficult times.

When the deep rises up and you find yourself wading the dark waters, you want to be held by true love, and friends who are there for the whole of your experience.  And you want to hold onto others as they rise and fall.  Because a deeper, richer, more full life is the reward for holding on.

I want that life.  I want those friends.  I want that love.

Do you?

Dare to dive in.

 

Impression

 

I was talking with a friend a while back—one who became a friend after a couple of dates and still occasionally gets a “benefit” or two when I’m in the mood, but who doesn’t want to date me any longer. (Which is fine, because I don’t want to date him now either.)   But I asked him what it is that made him certain he didn’t want to date me, and his response was that we didn’t “click”, or that he wasn’t “feeling it”.

Yesterday I had a lovely lunch with a cousin.  He is the cousin I hold most close and have more than a familial pseudo-connection with in the great web of cousins that spreads out across the country (even though we only see one another once every 8 to 10 years).  We talked about how his punch to my shoulder in our childhood, and my calling him out on doing so and not letting him bully me, was somehow the starting point and the bonding moment that glued us together and kept us loving one another throughout the many years since.

It got me thinking about the ways we judge people.  It got me thinking about first impressions.

I have a friend, whom I love, that I had negative impressions of when we first met.  She was often late to class, and she was always behind on assignments.  She often sat alone in a corner and seemed distant and in her own world.  And later I discovered the reasons she was alone and fighting to keep up with things.  She was suffering one of the deepest and most challenging losses one can suffer, and suffering it without the love and care and attention she deserved at that time. Had I let my first impression be the thing that defined her, and not replaced that with something more or deeper, I would have missed out on a wonderful friendship with a beautiful woman.

I had a co-worker that was convinced I was having an affair of some sort with another co-worker.  She was certain that the treatment I received from him was different from that which others received.  She was right that I had connected with that co-worker in ways that others had not, but her first impression—the one that said him liking me better than some others was akin to romantic interest—was completely unfounded.  We just got along well, because we were both honest and supportive, and we had mutual concern for those whom we served at work.  We were a lot alike, and we developed a lasting friendship.  Now I often claim that I wouldn’t be making it through life without him, but we still have no romantic interest in one another.

One day a friend of an ex-lover was over visiting me.  She mentioned something about being jealous of him and his interactions with me.  I said she ought not have been jealous, because I would have enjoyed a similar relationship with her. This led to a lovely evening of eating and drinking and laughing and kissing and spending wonderful moments together.  Had her first impression not been corrected, we might have missed out on that fun night.  That one night was the extent of our flirtation, but it broke down the false impression of me that she had held for years. She finally discovered the queer side of me.

So, today, I remain fascinated by the ways we frame things, and we create identities and scenarios based solely on first impressions.  Our cognitive biases cause us to connect or disconnect based on one moment or characteristic or idea.  And I can’t help but think that this often causes more harm than good.

I don’t want to be known as who I am in only one moment.

We are more complex than can be demonstrated in one moment, or one interaction, or one day. The whole of our identity and the depth of our own scenarios cannot even be grasped by the self without careful consideration, so we shouldn’t conceive identities for others based on a glance or a short and impersonal first interaction.

I dare bet all that I have that each of us has moments that we are not proud of.  I would also dare bet that the moments we would like to have everyone see as the “real” us are not complete representations of who we are.  I think that none of us wants to be considered only from the point of a first impression.  None of us is wholly what we are in one moment.

I had a good friend who saw me at one of my worst moments.  I rarely break in such a deep fissure sort of way in front of people.  I try to hold those moments in until I am alone with a pillow over my face to muffle the sobs and screams.  But once in a while they slip out while in the company of others.  And this particular time that I broke in front of someone, that relationship was immediately and irreparably harmed.  That moment began to color all the other moments—the “better”, clearer, more comfortable moments.  We still wish one another hellos and happy birthdays and the occasional missing yous, but we aren’t close like we once were.  That brokenness became who I was, and that became too much to deal with.  It is a common occurrence, and I never lay any blame on the other person, because I know my pain is too deep and strong and heavy a burden to bear.  I know that I don’t want it on my own shoulders, so I won’t think less of anyone who doesn’t want it placed upon their shoulders. But I sometimes miss those people.  I sometimes wish I hadn’t broken into pieces then and there.  I wish I hadn’t let that impression be.

But I am all of me.

The false impressions are crap.  Stop making people one thing from one moment.  It isn’t helping any of us.  Let people be complex and diverse and dichotomous and incongruent and broken and good and loving and deep and broad and beautiful.  Let them be all that they are.

Let me be all that I am.

I am the same woman when I connect well with someone as I am when I don’t click with another.  I am the same woman when I break as I am when I look like it is all together.  I am the same woman kissing my male ex-lover as I am making out with his female friend.  I am the same woman when I display strength and wisdom as I am when I fall to my knees and break down in desperate sobs and self-loathing.  I’m not one of those moments, but a compilation of all of those moments.  And there are even more parts of me that I have yet to discover and to share.  There will be many more new impressions to make. And I will continue to become.  I will be more.  Let me be so.

The greatest mistake that we make, when we frame our lives and our interactions, is to believe that a moment makes a lifetime, or that a year makes a decade, or that a decade makes a millennium. We are not a moment.  And the way we frame things needs to include the opportunity for continual reframing.  We must not take a single impression and make it the definitive truth about a person or a situation.  We need to leave room for complexity and deeper understanding and change and discovery.  We need to let people have this space to be all and become more.

So, my musings of this morning leave me in a space where I am working to be open to more and more moments, and to reserve judgment, and to not give my initial impression and interpretation more power or weight than it deserves.  My goal is to be and let be.  My goal is to become and let become.

I want to be known for all of my parts and moments and impressions and connections, and I want to know others in that same way.  And that is difficult, because we are so accustomed to framing things in one way, and we are not accustomed to being open and honest, and we are very accustomed to presenting an image that is pleasing to the rest of society rather than letting the whole of who we are show.  So, being known for all my parts and moments means being exceptionally vulnerable.

Being vulnerable is very difficult, but it is a requirement if I want to be known for all that I am.

I said to my cousin yesterday that I have never “come out” as something because I don’t really have a definitive way of expressing what it is I am coming out as.  But today I realize that I need to come out as proudly broken and queer and brilliant and challenged and disabled and strong and beautiful and angry and calm and loud and insufficient and overflowing and amazing and growing and awakened and stubborn and addicted and stressed and fighting and accepting and loving and good.  I need to proudly wear the banner of all of the things I am.  And doing so is a vulnerable act, but one that I am willing to perform.  Because it is worth claiming and calling out these things if the result is being known in all my complexity.

Be all you can be. (Not necessarily in the army, but just in general.) And let others be all that they are.  That is a beautiful thing.  That is a way of connecting to one another that allows us all to grow and have more interactions and more beautiful interactions and more truth and more love in our lives. And who doesn’t want all of that?

I want all of that … and more.

 

Naked As We Came

 

I’m listening to Iron and Wine. It is a little depressing.

It isn’t depressing because of the death aspect. The spreading of ashes around the yard doesn’t frighten me a bit. In fact, I am uncommonly comfortable with the concept of death. Maybe that is in part due to the losses that I have endured already, and the many people that I have “laid to rest”. Maybe that is also due, in part, to the times that I have had to face my own mortality.

It isn’t something everyone faces. Many people don’t sign the pre-operative forms that express that you may not come out of this procedure but are consenting, nonetheless. Many people don’t hear the diagnoses that make you wonder if you will still be around next week or next year or next decade. Many people don’t get the calm, and totally bullshit, speech about how “you needn’t worry because it might be nothing, but we need to make certain”. (If they really believed it was nothing, they wouldn’t need to make certain of anything, obviously. They do think it is something. They don’t refer you to specialists for normalcy.)

So, I’ve stood by as they lowered friends and family into the ground, and I’ve known the threat of death enough times to know that I don’t want to be put in the ground, but scattered to the wind. But the thing that makes me a bit depressed about the Naked As We Came song, is that I haven’t really imagined scattering someone around the yard, or them scattering me. My visions of death are rather sterile, and not at all attached to the presence of persons loved or who love me. I always seem to imagine my end in ways that connect with bright lights and cold metal tables, and not with the loving gestures of saying goodbyes and sending on those whom we have known with grace and beauty—casting them into the universe in their new ashen form, and in doing so, letting them go.

I remember after my friend Charles died, I spent a lot of time around his place and his family. There was something comforting about being near them, and they were just a bunch of good guys, in general. One day Pops, Charles’ dad, blurted out, “Catch!” He tossed me a little box wrapped in brown paper and I caught it.
“That’s him,” he said, almost too matter-of-factly.

But it was very matter of fact. It was a fact that this little box of ash held all the matter that was Charles. Charles + fire = this little six pound box. Holding him in my hands was not really all that significant. It had been significant to hold him before, but now all passion and connection and feeling was lost.

I’m not cold and crass in the ways that that statement might seem to express. I said my goodbyes as he lay dying in the street…crying out to the sky with a voice so pained that it hardly seemed my own. Sometimes you feel pain in ways that make your own pain foreign to you. I have that experience a lot, actually. Probably because my childhood made me an expert at dissociation. I can stuff my pain into hidden places and not find it for ten or fifteen years.

But I digress…

So death is not the struggle—not the thing to fear or fight against. But the not having someone who scatters those ashes is a fear. Or maybe not a fear, per se, but more of an unfulfilled longing.

My dad recently chose to impose a DNR and remove medication from my mother. She is in the later stages of Alzheimer’s and has spent most of this year in a nursing facility. My dad cared for her for the past several years, but she is unable to communicate, and doesn’t always cooperate, so it became impossible for him to keep caring for her at home.

I watch him now (or listen to him, I suppose, since I haven’t seen him in a year) and I see the ways he mourns this loss, slowly and deliberately moving through a grief and a death that doesn’t seem to have an end. Alzheimer’s is brutal that way—it takes so long to bring about the end.

I see him care for her in ways that I couldn’t have imagined ten years ago. It wasn’t that they didn’t love one another. I think they always have on some level. There were worse times and better times in their relationship, for certain, but that is what you sign on for when you vow “for better or for worse”, right? But these last few years, watching him become her caretaker and watching her slip from adult to teenager to toddler in her mindset and capabilities, I have seen something beautiful. I have seen a kind of love that my parents never allowed one another in their younger, more prideful, more strategic periods of living. Because when it all falls apart the need for one another becomes so great that all the other things sort of disintegrate. The need to be right, or to dominate, or have things be fair, or to maintain your autonomy, or any number of things that we insist upon in our relationship, all faded away for them and they became wholly devoted to one another. And some of that devotion was borne out of the reversal of their roles and an ability to show a side of themselves that was previously held in check or deterred in some way. My mom was always a control freak, until she lost control of her own mind. And my dad was always dependent by default because of that. And this period in their lives has flipped that relatedness on its head. My dad is the one in control and my mom is dependent upon him for all things. It allowed parts of them to be brought to life and strengthened their relationship, even while it slowly brings an end to their relating to one another.

And, while I don’t wish a slow, debilitating death upon anyone, least of all myself, I find myself envious of their experience in some ways. The romanticism of giving up everything for the one you love. The commitment to keep fighting and keep loving someone else through the thick and thin of life and relationship. The beauty of a history that can be passed on and can create legacy where once there were just a couple of lives. These things are the things that my life still hasn’t held.

And it isn’t that I am desperate for those things now. I’m not. I’m rather resistant to the idea of being tied to someone or not having autonomy or dealing with the complicatedness of joining lives. But there is something about having those things in my old age, in the spreading of my ashes around the yard, that seems very desirable, and the knowledge that I do not have that is what seems depressing, at present.

Of course, my beautiful daughter would scatter me to the wind with love and blessings and grace. I won’t just get dumped in the trash, thankfully. I’m sure that all the goodbyes spoken and felt will be beautiful and loving and good. But, that care and love and building of a home together are still such lovely ideals.

And here we have it again. The life of contradiction. The dichotomous being that I am.

I want to be alone, but I want to build a life with another. And you can’t really do both, I don’t think. I love the “both/and” option, but I don’t know that it is always a possibility. I can’t really avoid relationship and also have an ash scatterer in my life. And that is also depressing. Because it means I need to choose. And choosing means summoning a bravery that I’m not sure I currently have at my disposal. Because both options require what I haven’t yet got. One requires the opening of the self to the risk of being hurt and damaged in new ways. One requires giving up the ideals and the futures that Naked As We Came offers, and letting go of the ash scattering love. Both seem too difficult to accomplish today.

They are too difficult to accomplish today.

And they were actually too difficult for any partners in history to accomplish in a day. I suppose that is a comfort. It took 45 years for my parents to find the place where this transformation happened and I could see their love in this new light, so it might take some time for anyone to develop this idyllic relationship.

Your ash scatterer doesn’t just magically appear, I suppose. They are forged over time.

That seems a bit less depressing. That offers a bit more hope.

Maybe I can still build a home…after I am ready to risk. Certainly not today. But maybe someday. Maybe soon.

Hopefully, before I become ash.

Shifting. Choosing. Being Safe.

Today my therapist asked me questions. Deliberate questions. The kind of questions that make you know that she is thinking about things—piecing things together and circling back toward topics that we may have touched on but that I haven’t connected in significant ways yet.

I suppose this shift from me babbling about whatever comes to mind to her directing the conversation is good, but it also makes me suspicious. Because I may not be aware enough to tie together all the pieces of my life and my history and my psychology, but I am definitely aware enough to know that she is directing toward connections of which I am yet unaware. So I have spent the moments since therapy trying to decipher the code of today’s questions and direction. But I haven’t gotten there yet.

I did notice I am too damn nice.

I am generous to a fault.

Tony and I didn’t have any real altercations until a year into our relationship? While that is technically true, he never really cared all that much about or for me. I tended to be a convenience for people back then. I let things happen to me and around me instead of choosing my own life. The choosing only happened in the ending of relationships, never in the midst of relationships. Which is why I still don’t seem to like relationships. I’m always afraid they won’t be chosen, that they will just happen in that same historical way.

Do you suppose my therapist knows that I am a liar?

Of course she does.

Silly question.

I’d rather be alone than be controlled, or be a convenience. I’d rather choose to be alone than not choose and be together.

I don’t think people really understand that. I don’t think people really understand that singleness is healthier and more beneficial for me than being in relationships has ever been. I don’t think they can reason that out, in part, because most people don’t have a fucked up amygdala from childhood, so they don’t compensate for everything they sense in their hypervigilant state. They don’t avoid the argument before anyone else knows an argument is on the horizon. They don’t see a twitch in the corner of an eye and veer the other way. They don’t accommodate every single impulse to protect the self. They don’t even know that the self is at risk. They don’t have an all-encompassing need to find safety.

But I do.

Every moment is a threat, and every moment is an opportunity to avoid a perceived threat. And that makes being alone feel like safety in ways that being in relationship never can…or, at least, never has. Other people hurt me and I was left alone to cope with that pain, and now I would rather avoid that pain altogether. I couldn’t avoid it when I was young…I was captive to it, because children have nowhere to run. Now I can run and I can hide and I can avoid and I can control my own environment. So I do.

And maybe, once my therapist is done assessing my responses to the questions, that tendency to not be in intimate relationship will abate, but for now it stands. For now I will make certain that I don’t fall into the trap of being only what someone else desires of me by not being with someone else. Maybe someday, when she says, “How is the dating going”, I won’t respond with my usual, “Meh.” But today is not that day.

Today I’m going to make some dinner and crack open a beer and be alone with my beautiful single life.

Today I’m going to feel safe.