If you had asked me what I was looking for in a relationship six months ago, I would have told you it wasn’t a relationship. I was looking for company. I thought that was what I wanted, because it was simple. I wanted company for the nights when I didn’t have my kids. Someone to laugh with over dinner or to walk with and discuss literature without grades and term papers being involved. I wanted a connection that was as superficial as I could easily commit to. Or not commit to.
Mishegas. I wanted a heavy dose of mishegas with two helpings of batshit crazy lady. I pushed my boyfriend away. Repeatedly. Hard. For nothing he did, nothing I thought, and every spooked hint of the feels I had no control over. I pushed him away because I was falling in love. Somehow he is still around and even finds a way to love me back.
I was asking the wrong question. What I should have asked myself was, “what are you afraid of?”
There was something so profound about being completely vulnerable after my miscarriage. I let my walls down. I was defenseless. I wasn’t looking for failure. I was in a space where all I could do was be loved and held. In that space my fear was muted by loss and I was able to live outside of that fear long enough to see what I was blinded to before.
My boyfriend is a really special guy. I wouldn’t have seen it while asking the wrong question. He was supposed to be company, so when he wanted more, I freaked out and backed away while pushing him as far as I could.
Today I’m asking the right question: What am I afraid of? The answer was commitment.
I made a commitment. I was married and kept my vows. I never had a crush on anyone while I was still with my husband. I was faithful. That marriage and the dreams I held for our lives vanished without warning. I was afraid that if I committed again, I could lose it all again.
I talked to my nephew on Mother’s Day and he told me that being Yessie on the prowl was what he knew. I was being who he grew up with. That was shocking to me because I didn’t realize how easily I slipped into those old habits while online dating. I had no sex but I was just as broken as I was as a teenager.
I was afraid of losing control.
I worked hard to get my finances where I wanted them. (Recent grief retail therapy doesn’t count.) I was proud of being able to lease a car on my own. I was happy with being able to do what I wanted whenever I wanted. The idea of someone else in my life that might try to control where I went and who I went with scared me. My boyfriend has a degree in finance and wanted to share his expertise and knowledge and I freaked out about financial abuse and control.
I was afraid I wouldn’t have my space. We both crave each other while also needing space. I don’t feel suffocated and had nothing to fear. We fit in the ways that matter.
I was afraid of losing my voice and not being heard. I didn’t know how to ask for support or how to be a partner.
For Mother’s Day my boyfriend bought me a leaf blower and weed whacker. Initially there were giggles. It’s not traditional. Years ago I would have been angry. I like tools. I’m terrified of circular saws but I’ve been looking at Dremels for a while. I want to replace mine. The thing is, he was watching me. When we lost our twins, I was pulling weeds like I was exorcising demons. He wanted to support that. He watches me carefully and he can see shifts in my mood that I can’t see. The projects I take on are balanced. He knows I have it covered and it’s cute to watch him struggle with not taking over, but he partners with me and listens for what I don’t say.
I was afraid of what co-parenting might look like. It was hard enough trusting my ex with diaper changes, let alone a new man who doesn’t know my kids like I do.
I had this moment on Mother’s Day where my boyfriend stepped into the step-father role with Kid3. He was teaching him how to use a BB gun. He showed him how to use the safety, and reminded him to point it to the ground. He even used a stern Dad voice in setting boundaries about needing supervision. It was a moment where my fear was replaced by that feeling you get when a man is being a great role model to your child. It’s somewhere between heart bursting and melting while your libido reminds you that you are far from dead in all of those lovely and tingly ways. It was a moment where that lioness that protects her cubs also marks the territory that is hers. It was a terrific moment to be me.
I sat back on the porch and watched them and kept wondering what on earth was I afraid of.