Saturday, May 30, 2015

A filled closet

When Bryan and I were married, we shared a closet.  My home, which was ours back then, was built in 1923 when people didn't have as much stuff as we do now, and the closet is only about 7-8 feet long, with a shelf up top and a bar for hangers.  He had his half, and I had my half.

Which seems fair, except that I had more clothes than he did (he preferred to cycle through about 10 polo shirts and a couple pairs of jeans and a couple pairs of slacks, whereas I had blouses and skirts and dresses and slacks and jeans and long coats and short coats and so on).  My side of the closet was completely crammed, and his had room to spare.  Let it be noted that he didn't want more clothes, he was perfectly content with his small wardrobe, because fashion isn't his thing.

One day I noticed that he had lots of space, and that I was crammed, and I put a couple things on his side, past the bracket holding the bar in the middle that marked his vs. mine.

He was livid.  He told me that it wasn't fair and that I took more than my share.  (Ironic, given spending habits and household work and childcare etc.)  He put my things back on my side, pouted, fumed, and stomped his feet.  (How sexy, right?)

When he moved out of the bedroom (first to the basement, and then to his own apartment), I took over his side of the closet.  My clothes now hung, wrinkle free, with room to breathe.  I could feel myself feeling relaxed, even as the clothes relaxed.  We were both less confined.

Over time, I've transitioned the plastic hangers to wooden ones, and what's more, I've added to my wardrobe.  Now that I'm in charge of my own finances, I've picked up some nicer clothes for myself (again, ironic: our married income was much greater than my single income, but I am so much better off financially without him spending so much on himself) and the closet is once again filled....with my things.

The closet feels symbolic of my own growth, of my own taking care of myself, of my expansion into the world.  It's prettier now.  It's feminine.  It's mine.

And this, perhaps, is a problem.

I'd love to have a partner.  I'd love a man who lights up when he sees me.  I'd love to fall asleep in someone's arms.  I'd love sex (lots and lots and lots of sex).  I'd love to share vacations, meals, planning for the future.  I'd love to share chores, errands, crises, and joys.

Except that maybe I wouldn't.

I don't want to give up any space in my closet.

I want to share my life with someone, in all of its messy glory, but I don't.  I don't want to give up half the closet.  I don't want to eat the way someone else wants to eat.  I don't want to compromise the way I parent.  I don't want to share finances.  I don't want to deal with someone else's schedule.

I don't want to be consumed, eaten alive by someone else's desires.

I am terrified of giving my heart to someone ever again, because last time I tried that, I was eaten alive.  I lost so much of who I was in my marriage, and I allowed someone to bully me, to blame me, to put his wants and desires in front of mine.  I allowed myself to be treated unkindly.  I took on too much, I asked for too little, and I turned the other cheek until I felt black and blue (thankfully metaphorically).  I lost many of my dreams in the process, and I'm still breathing life back into them, still working on healing them.

I am well aware that in true partnership, there is so much more to be gained than there is to be lost.  I am well aware that my marriage was truly and deeply dysfunctional, and that I will never agree to that behavior again.  I am well aware that I am operating from a place of fear, and that without opening my heart up, I will not be able to invite another person into my heart.

But I do not trust myself to choose a partner wisely.  I do not trust myself to give my heart without giving up my spunk and sass and sass.  I have thrown out the baby with the bathwater: I won't let anybody in, because it might not work out, and because I might not  know how to manage it.

Well, shit.

I am not a fearful person.  I am courageous and strong and brave and I've proved it a hundred times.  (Next up: speaking publicly about my breast cancer experience.  And after that: topless photos and my story, to be published in a book geared at women newly diagnosed with breast cancer; the first photos - not of me - were recently published in The Huffington Post.  These are not for the faint of heart.)  I manage my life relatively fearlessly.  Last weekend I went backpacking - with a far-too-heavy pack filled with 20 year old equipment - with my daughter, in the wilderness, for two nights.  I am not a fearful person.

So I'm going to have to work through these fears, too.  I believe that romantic love and companionship is one of the greatest blessings in a life, and I will not exclude myself from that possibility by operating out of fear.

I don't want to give up space in my closet, because I don't want to be small and powerless.  I don't want to share, for fear that when I offer the first bite, I will be gobbled up until I'm not even there any more.

I want to find ways to expand my closet so that there's room for two, and expand my soul, so that there is room for two.

I'm not there yet.


  1. Hi PollyAnna, I'm Lindsey! I have a question and would love to speak with you in regards to your cancer journey. Could you please email me at your convenience? Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing from you :) lindseyDOTcaldwellATrecallcenterDOTcom