And so it began.
Someone I admire, admiring me. And all I could think was I’m not overly proud of that piece, why that one and why me?
Instead of just being happy, I was embarrassed. I knew I’d written better. Could do better. I tainted my own excitement and his compliment with it.
Good job Sarah.
I had a very expensive glass of scotch bought for me as a congratulations.
That tasted funny too, what with all the tainting.
I was at the same restaurant I had been at 3 months prior and the waiter reiterated everything I did, said, ate and drank 90 days before.
When did I become memorable, noticeable?
I don’t understand.
‘He whom I admire’ messaged me a little less than two weeks later and spent 12 hours talking to me.
And I spent some of that time silently enumerating all the things that were wrong with me and why it wouldn’t work instead of savoring the moment and listening to him explain why.
Same thing I did when he liked my writing.
Didn’t serve me at all, just lessened my enjoyment of a very profound experience (or two).
I messaged someone today, one of the sparse handful that know (a hand that has wrapped itself around a firecracker and held on like Darwin’s dummy, so missing a few digits) and said,
“If I knew then what I know now, it still wouldn’t be enough”.
I chuckled to myself around my coffee cup. Which reminds me, I need new coffee cups too.
There is no bitterness attached to that thought. Just a wistful smile.
It’s a good memory, most of them are. Ones I wouldn’t trade for anything.
I just know I’m not done learning and it’s okay.
That first night, lying in bed, hearing his words crashing over me like waves, drowning in them, in him. It was a baptism.
But I didn’t come out clean.
He said I was perfect (for him), I was what he always wanted and…
All I could think was ‘he is going to find out that I am not shiny/pretty/whole, then what?’
So I hid. And when I wasn’t hiding, I came forward as my idea of what he wanted.
I was wrong. Mostly due to the not listening.
He left those versions of me as quickly as I could invent them. I don’t blame him.
The thing he coveted/loved most about me was my penchant for telling the truth. I was acting out a lie. All the while knowing what I meant…
After another absence I thought I had it all figured out.
I sent him a photo, only looking at the thumbnail on my phone, knowing he doesn’t like filters and fighting my urge to use them. He said he loved that he could see my stretchmarks. Something in me withered and died. Not what you would think or what I did before…I wasn’t embarrassed of my body, I was ashamed of believing he wouldn’t love it/me. That was a good little death.
Took me forever to see he loved what I am/can be, not what I look like.
He called again. Said I wasn’t meeting him with enthusiasm, I wasn’t bringing my own joy to the table. I feebly squeaked that I thought I was protecting him.
Instead of arguing, I opened all the way up, as me.
There was ebb and flow and wet.
A few years ago I watched him embark on a relationship with another girl. The whole internet did. I wasn’t stalking, he was just in my newsfeed way back when it was less cluttered and he was open about it/her.
I remember being jealous of her. How sweet to have a man of that caliber and depth celebrate you so openly. I wondered about that feeling of being claimed and adored for the world to see. Even then, I wasn’t sure if I could handle it.
After the first night we spoke I thought to myself, this is how it begins. I get to be that girl. And I knew I couldn’t handle it.
For the better part of a year I envied her. How easy it had looked between them. Or I’d imagined it that way…how there were no minefields for her to cross, no hoops to jump, no riddles to solve. No maddening absences…
Ah there it is. There was one absence, the last one. And he has never spoken of her again.
What I failed to realize and see and remember really that the last I ever saw of her on his timeline was she visited and then…nothing.
I don’t know the details. Not my business. I never asked.
She is inconsequential. I wanted something that lasts…
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight, gotta kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight. (Bruce Cockburn)
He called me on my birthday and tore into me for about an hour. Then we had make up phone sex for the next hour.
I tried hard to listen this time, he has been right 99.9% of the time in retrospect, so I tried to silence my inner voice of ‘not good enough’ and really listen.
He wasn’t wrong.
He left me the next Tuesday. Again. Said I embarrassed him, and I can think of 3 things I said that might have done exactly that.
Before he left he basically double-dog dared me to go to intensive cognitive therapy. I now understand why almost every time we spoke I felt myself being broken open and examined.
I kinda liked it, this being ripped apart, because every time he left and I rebuilt on my own I felt better, faster and stronger with an added bravery that hadn’t been there before.
I did a lot of soul searching during his last absence, for once actually putting in some work instead of layering bandages to cover the loss.
Sadly my focus was NOT me doing any actual work on myself, but my attitude about the situation.
I decided I wasn’t all in.
I was too busy protecting these things in and about myself to give myself completely to him.
I had had a taste of living publicly and having my movements scrutinized and watched and it felt yucky.
Pendulum swung far and wide and I landed on disappearing in him completely.
That isn’t it either.
He didn’t want a prisoner, willing nor otherwise. Not another sycophant nor a slave.
More like a dirty pirate hooker (just for him, not on the phone with a business partner) with substance and soul. Someone he could be proud of.
Not there yet.
I likened myself to a hoarder’s house. No one wants to open the door and show off the mess, no matter what treasures might be buried in the clutter. Half this garbage/baggage isn’t even mine, just left behind by those I let in the door.
I’ve seen what happens when people get sick of their own shit. I can clean this up, I know I can.
First order of business, change the locks.
I have to figure out why I do what I do and let the right things go. Be whole, productive, clean and proud on my own.
I don’t think he is coming back, this is not about that.
This is about someone I admire seeing potential in me and shaking me up enough to actually do something about it. He has fulfilled his purpose, I can’t ask for any more than that. He was patient enough.
He left Tuesday night. I had a realization on Thursday at 5:46 pm… it was this.
As I sit here alone with my thoughts, something occurred to me.
Him leaving might have been the most pure, unadulterated, selfless act of love another person has ever shown me.
I was ready to disappear in him. He could have had all of me, all to himself, 7 ways from Sunday, ‘til the end of time. But probably not on Sundays because football.
Instead he told me I was intelligent, talented and capable of changing the world if I could just change myself.
He left me to do the work I needed.
This might just be a line I am feeding myself, but it tastes enough like truth. I know the difference between horseshit and horse leather.
Whatever gets me doing what I need to do which is going to therapy/rebuilding.
He said was done with broken women, it just so happens I am done being one.