“Can you believe I got out of the house without my phone?” he told me at day’s end.
I was confused because he was in touch with me all day long, like always. He was texting, leaving me funny voice notes and messages and sending the occasional picture of something that interested him. He wasn’t without his phone.
“I went back to get it” he clarified.
This was curious to me knowing this was no casual feat as he works nearly an hour from his home.
He answered the why question ringing in my brain before it made its way to my voice.
“I knew you would worry if you didn’t hear from me for eight hours and I wasn’t going to put you through that” he shared amused by the razzing his co-workers gave him over making that effort strictly for me.
Those words breezed over my soul like a breath of fresh air sent from a secret island inhabited only by those who feel naturally safe. I could hardly believe he went that distance for me.
I have never been with a man who proactively addressed my abandonment fears without me having to say one word. Having spent a lifetime pretending and struggling in silent panic when an intimate partner didn’t call when he promised or worse yet, no-show on me altogether, I was walking on new terra firma now. With someone who had their own roadmap.
John, my fiancé and I, know this separation agony well. We both lost parents as young children—my mother when I was five, his father when he was nine—both to cancer. We know the deep matrix of memory that reminds you sometimes those most important to you leave home and never come back.
Exacerbated by his own mother’s death just six years later and my sister’s murder when I was twenty nine, we have navigated a life of desperately desiring closeness while being terrified of its possible consequences simultaneously. This is a world we don’t have to explain or excuse to each other.
When one has learned far too young that the person you rely on the most is abruptly snatched from your world forever, there are skins that develop.
These layers of I’m ok/I’m definitely not ok build over a lifetime creating a blanket of faux security while on the inside a child is desperately hoping someone will come along and gently peel them away only to wrap you in their arms once they find you.
That almost never happens though. What I typically found were men who were annoyed at a request to follow through on the smallest of promises or deemed me “high maintenance” or used that D-word “drama” when I got afraid. Then they would leave, becoming a string of self-fulfilling prophecies.
It took someone who knows this delicate territory to anticipate its twists, turns and potholes. It takes a true love to want to learn and anticipate the deepest wounds so they don’t inadvertently drop even one grain of salt in them.
I used to rationalize my angst in prior relationships with internal phrases like “well you will get triggered in a relationship in order to heal”. I don’t disbelieve this but at the same time would think “isn’t this supposed to be the one place I feel the most safe?”. I never seemed to find that safety I so desperately needed.
What I found was a lot of pretending. I would ignite my easy-breezy persona acting like I was cool, going overboard to appear low maintenance, tolerating way too much disconnected behavior while suffering intensely on the inside and boring my friends constantly with the same old story, the same old excuses for poorly behaving men. Men I’d groomed to treat me just like that in my attempt to not show my true vulnerability.
I was miserable and I didn’t know how to stop. So I did just that. I stopped.
One day in tears I said to a dear friend “I have to change. I don’t know what or how, I just know that I have to change”. And I set about throwing myself in to the avenues I know work for me. I re-took seven seminars that Spring in my professional modality called Myofascial Release—the healing approach I’d been studying for twenty five years. I became a beginner again and started at the first level course. I went in to each Seminar with a sincere attitude of wanting to change even though I really didn’t know what that meant or where that would lead me. I simply chose to let go over and over again in to the arms of strangers and friends.
I sobbed and felt knives in my back of deep betrayals and humbled myself with raw humiliation and the relief of sincere apologies.
I decided to fill the void of space around me with plans of getting a puppy. I emerged from that deep dive content and happy and optimistic.
Right up until that one late night that a stranger from across the country responded to my poem, titled, of all things, “Safe”. A conversation ignited, an uncanny kindred spirit was discovered and just as my poem prophesied, I landed on safe ground with him.
We will marry in six weeks. We have spent these months of discovery, among other interests, learning what each others’ deepest wounds are and ways to avoid pitfalling in to them. The most loaded ones are unspoken as we gaze in to each other’s mirror. We are creating our safe nest and I feel almost never triggered.
They say opposites attract and there may be something to that.
For me though, it took a person who has endured a similar trajectory of trauma to fully understand me and head me off at all my own passes.
Our sameness created the foundation of security we both have longed for our whole lives.
And those wounds are healing, without retraumatizing but with love, from the inside out. I didn’t get the puppy (yet) but I got something much more from just the idea of that wagging tail—I got a loyal man who isn’t leaving and whose best friendship I can count on. Someone who is willing to drive two hours during their work day just so I won’t panic. And in the process I’m regaining my wholeness.