I got confident. Satisfied in the emotional roads I have traveled over the last eleven months. Secure that I have become a better version of myself. Stronger. Stable in my worth. Steadfast in using my voice- standing behind my feelings. This foundation was laid in a vacuum. A place in my life devoid of real risk. Real vulnerability. It is easy to say that you are secure in your needs and wants when you are protected by cast concrete walls. Walls you subconsciously never intended to disassemble.
It’s funny, I thought all of the scary stuff was behind me. The big obstacles hurdled. My husband left me. My nightmares became reality. Single mom became my new identity. A new terrain to traverse- one I never expected. And I survived it- though not unscathed. I thought part of me died. The part of my soul where hope resided. The part of me that even wanted to try loving again.
That part of your heart locking up isn’t scary. It’s a relief. A relief to not have to worry about it. To never consider those possibilities. To be comfortable in the loneliness. The predictability of the pain.You can fill the shadows in other ways- the company of beautiful friends. The laughter evoked from your child. Appreciating the physical touch of a chiropractor or a hug from your mother.
When you bar your heart- decide that a life of solitary confinement romantically is the best path- you are protected from potential heartbreak. That’s not to say you won’t date, but you never enter a situation in which you may fully release your heart to someone. You don’t have to trust someone if you keep your soul under lock and key. You control the levels of vulnerability you are willing to endure. The heartbreak you’re willing to risk.
I didn’t anticipate losing those protections. Taking a risk- or even wanting to. My walls being dismantled before my eyes was an event I never fathomed. Yet when it began, I had no control over it. I was frantically searching my mind, trying to reinforce the levy’s. What was happening? The panic sets in. The exhilaration of love not overshadowing the fear of potential pain.
Love is terrifying. It is the single most frightening act a person can engage in. Because the risks are innumerable. And worse, they are all unknown. And it’s loss is the most painful experience to endure. It is an invisible wound. One that cannot be mended with needle and thread. A wound that will most assuredly leave behind scars that run deeper than you realize. Scars that don’t surface until you are staring down the barrel- wondering if you are strong enough to endure the risk again. Because when you previously walked down that path, you were naive. You were unaware of the heartbreak that could be just around the next bend. After experiencing that grief, you want to barricade yourself away from it. Protect yourself from the potential sorrow.
After my divorce, I was convinced that I could live a life without love. That I could be content with dating relationships. Transitory companionship. Filling the shadows in my heart with chasing dreams- adrenaline rushes. Time with friends and family. My son. Then fate intervened. Turns out, I couldn’t lock myself up in the tower, shielding myself from uncertainty.
I couldn’t run from him. I didn’t want to.
I still don’t want to run. But I am holding my breath. I am waiting for another fateful letter. Another collection of words that will shatter my mended heart. Because as much as I have worked to find my voice, I still fear that I will make the same mistakes. That the person I am is not lovable.
That I will drive him away, just by existing. The core of who I am, too damaged to stand the test of time.
I can be difficult. At the foundation, I have an odd sense of affection. If I love you, if I want you in my life, I will not whisper sweet nothings in your ear. Not in the traditional sense. Instead, I will tell you that you are a mess, with a smile that stretches across my face. I will laugh at the qualities that endear me to you- the words you stumble over, the silly things you say. Essentially, my playbook of verbal affection was written by a five year old boy. A quality not all people appreciate. Anxiety can add a sharpness to it. An overcompensation within me. An edge- armor- to protect my insecurities.
My anxiety feels like an entity of it’s own. A being that lives within my mind and takes control. Control of my emotions. Control of my thoughts. Control of my words. Sometimes, I can see the words that it uses my mouth to project. I follow them as they cascade out of my mouth, uncertain how to make them stop. How to properly modulate the tone with which they are spilling from me. Unable to dull the sharp edges before they can cut. The trait I have worked for years to eradicate. The battle I am still knee deep in. Though progress has been made, it never seems like enough.
Vulnerability is a sliding scale. This is something I have discovered over the last year. I always knew that I battled with it. Showing my hurt feelings. Asking for help. But over the course of the last year, I realized I also struggled with the minor tasks. Telling someone I am excited to see them. That I miss them. That I am happy they are on their way. Even with my closest friends. This isn’t something I only struggle with romantically.
I have mastered the lower end of the spectrum. I have learned to text “yay!” instead of “ok” when my best friend says that she is on her way. I can tell people that I miss them. That I can’t wait to see them. This added to assurance in my growth. Confidence that has faltered, now that my barricades are crumbling, my heart unprotected. Striving to not make the same mistakes. To trust the words and actions of a man that says he loves me. All of me. The sharp words. The jagged edges. The malicious ghosts that fuel my fears. The parts of me I don’t love. The parts I cannot fathom someone else would be able to.
I am no longer setting my foundation in a void. No longer working on myself in isolation- in theory alone. And I realize, that this is the scary stuff. This is where the nightmares nest, waiting to reveal themselves. Because this is where I can be damaged again. This is where I can learn that I may not be enough. Or I may be too much. But this is where it can all be different, too. This is where I am embraced when I cry. Where my insecurity isn’t judged.
I am not repairing myself in the safety of solitude anymore. I am insecure. I am unsteady on my feet- my voice falters when I speak sometimes. But the words still form. And so far, they haven’t been met with disdain. I am not alone. For the first time, I have someone helping me piece my heart back together. A safe place to land. I just have to learn to trust it. To believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that it isn’t fleeting. That I can be loved- really loved- for everything I am and everything I’m not.