Monday, November 10, 2014

Another step on the path

Every day, I am becoming more and more myself.

Who was I, if I was not myself?  I was certainly out there living my life, doing things, having friends, being a mom, volunteering, keeping a house, thinking Deep Thoughts....but I was not myself.

Not that long ago, my life felt very, very small.  No matter what I did, I did not know how to please my husband.  My health was in constant jeopardy, and spinning out of control (thank you breast cancer, and the barbaric treatments that we undergo when diagnosed because more sophisticated treatments aren't's still mostly slash, burn, and poison).  My finances were dismal.  Everything felt so precarious, so much so that it was hard to dream.

Bit by bit, I've lost some of those old shadows that blocked my light, and bit by bit, as the light has hit different parts of me, I've felt more illuminated.  More myself.

Finding the courage to ask for a divorce.
Finding a job that paid the bills.
Taking Katherine on an airplane.
Becoming more active - hiking, running, snowshoeing.
Managing my house, including little upgrades and maintenance.
Dating (and realizing that I was attractive enough in every sense to be desirable).
Finding a career again - so different than a job, so much better.
Finding success at that career.

Little things, big things, but they've all added up.

When I bought my new car, my dad said, "You just don't know where you'll be in a few years, and if you'll even want this car any more," and I thought "hhhmmmm I think it suits my lifestyle, so even if I got mega-raises I don't think I'd invest more than this in a car...." but my dad said, "I mean, you could get married and then you'd have more money, sharing a household."

Dad and I are not on the same page with that one.

Right now, when I think of improving my life, I think a lot about career, and the strides I've made, and the new strides I must take.  I think about travel.  I think about things I'd like to do - skiing, beachcombing, taking an art class for fun, throwing a Christmas party, biking through spring tulips, writing a book, finishing an essay I am playing with.  I don't really think about dating.

Dating sounds good in theory.  I mean, in theory, who doesn't want love, romance, sex?  Who wouldn't like to share the Sunday New York Times over good coffee and croissants, or go for a waterfront run, or find new hikes, or SIFF films, or dance at concerts with a beloved?  And it'd be GREAT to have somebody to do the dishes if I cooked, or to swing by the cleaner's on the way home from work.

But in practice, it sounds like I would have to let someone in to the new life I've created for myself, and share my physical space.  (My house has gotten more "me" by the minute.  Inexpensive art, pictures in faux-silver frames, antiques.  And - one of my quirks - empty kitchen counters, no clutter at all.  I LOVE my empty kitchen counters, and the idea of someone leaving jars and toasters and knick-knacks and cereal boxes on them makes me very, very unhappy.)  At the end of the day, I love my big bed with the toile sheets and way too many throw pillows.  (What man likes toile?  Or, what straight man, anyway?)

And there's Katherine.  We do so well together, and we've found ways to make it work, and we're laughing so much.  This weekend we went to the friend's cabin with my friend and Tessa's friend, and the four of us played board games and were silly and it was so innocent and charming and goofy and I wouldn't have changed a thing.  There wasn't room for romance in that cabin - in part because the car was full, the cabin was full, and I loved the girls' weekend parts, where my daughter looked so relaxed and happy to be with me, and I don't know where a romantic partner's energy would have fit in there.  We've got our household routines down, from Sunday night folding and TV watching, to the frenetic weekdays-gymnastics schedule.  There are so many many girls in PJs giggling.  We eat what we like eating (and lately, that means this eggplant dip that is to die for, that we sometimes eat for dinner, no matter how weird that is - it's healthy and delicious and we like it so who could judge? but who else would want to eat that?).

All of it seems so silly.  But Katherine is nearly twelve, and she's growing up so fast, and I just don't feel like accommodating anyone else's schedule, no matter what other niceties they offer.  And I'm career focused when I'm not focused on her, so those are good excuses.

But the reality is still that I'm afraid.

I'm afraid that letting someone in would upset all of that.  I'm watching a friend fall in love right now, with a guy who seems fantastic and loves her back, and her daughter - Katherine's friend - is falling apart over it.  It is not for the faint of heart to witness: the daughter is clearly distraught, and taking it out on her mother the way that only a hormonal tween can do.

And more than my fears for Katherine - because I think I could introduce someone slowly, meet Katherine's needs, bring more love to her life - I fear for myself.

I fear that I would, once again, give up all that I hold dear for someone who doesn't value me.  I'd lose control of my finances, my career, my parenting.  I'd put someone else's emotional needs before my own.  I'd agree to live in a way that didn't make sense to me, that didn't map to my values.  I'd become small again, and I'd hide my light because it was too bright and gaudy.

I'm somewhat amused by these thoughts, because a wiser part of me knows that deep love makes a person grow, not shrink.  Because the kind of love I dream of would make my light even brighter, and would never ask me to dim myself.  Because the kind of man I would love, would be patient and kind, not only to me, but to my daughter, and he would jump right in on game night and make us laugh with his antics, and he wouldn't mind at all if we did girls' weekend sometimes without him.  He'd want to allow me to be me, because he wouldn't want a shrunken woman, he'd want the fullness of me.  All of me.  And it could be beautiful, magical, magnificent.

One day, I want the big, glowing, amazing white-light love.  I really do.

But it's a step on the path to acknowledge that I'm not ready, that I'm closed to it, that I fear it.  I do believe that the truth will set us free, and this is my truth.

So, I keep going.  Working.  Mothering.  Signing up for ski lessons.  Planning girls' weekends.  Caring for my house.  Getting ready for the holidays.  Enjoying my life.  Counting my blessings.

But I do hope that I can free myself of these fears enough to let someone in someday.  One step at a time, though, and I'm content to be where I am right now, knowing that I'm always moving forward.  One little baby step at a time.

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