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Friday, August 23, 2013

"There are things known and unknown, and in between are the doors of perception." ~Aldous Huxley

I remember once telling a young friend how much I value my alone time--and then I felt like a fraud because I was immediately visited by a vivid memory of wandering about my empty house during one of those "alone" times, feeling overwhelmed with longing and sadness to the point that I fell to my knees and whispered, "I'm lonely." After years of being able to connect deeply with only one person, my soul was dying. I believe it was then that I began cataloguing all the reasons I was not deserving of such depth and connection and I decided that, perhaps, people only connect with their spouses and everyone else in the world was incidental.

I began carefully guarding everything meaningful in my life, making certain I didn't share it in casual conversation. After all, if I was speaking with a person who would simply chat with me and then forget I existed, it was vital that they know nothing about me. Soon I had built a persona who was a brilliant conversationalist, genuinely interested in whomever I was speaking, while passionately guarding all the things that make me Samantha. I had in my repertoire, short personal anecdotes designed to make the other person laugh and relax while telling them nothing about who I really am, but which would keep the conversation moving while allowing my new acquaintance to feel that they were learning more about me, thus encouraging him or her to share more personal information of their own.

It was a defense mechanism. Learning all I could about people with whom I interacted allowed me to ascertain the level of safety I felt with them. It also put them at ease and ensured that they felt congenial toward me--I was interested in them, therefore I was their friend. However, knowing that they knew nothing concrete about who I really was also served to make me feel defensive and a bit condescending toward them. I felt little respect for people willing to talk nonstop about themselves, but unwilling to dig deeply or care enough about me to find out who I am. The loneliness I had felt previously ballooned into a nameless ache.

I immersed myself in projects that required no one else. I read everything I could find, practiced incessantly, worked constantly. I drew enjoyment from running and being aware of my environment. I noticed everything. I took classes to become the best mother I could be and spent time with my children. I played with recipes, planted flowers, wrote terrible poetry, became a brilliant business woman and successful teacher. And when the loneliness whispered at me, I ran from it, refusing to look at a problem that could not, in my mind, be resolved.

Finally, after years of running, someone caught up with me. He made his way deeply into my heart. It was dreadful. I didn't like it at all. My entire being rejected the way this person pushed at my boundaries, repeatedly trying to connect with me on different levels. And when I eventually gave up and allowed myself to bond in friendship, he grew out of our friendship, put it aside, and disappeared from my life in a rather ugly way. In the meantime, I had allowed myself to indulge in other relationships--real connections with real people who seemed as interested in me as I was in them. And it was still dreadful. And I still didn't like it.

I can list endlessly the reasons why relationships feel frustrating and unsafe. I can blame PTSD and not bonding with parents or family members. I can name people I know who also struggle with maintaining and understanding relationships. All this is unhelpful. I can't seem to move to a place where I accept that some relationships are temporary, and that's okay, and some last longer--also okay. I am always afraid.

I've never really thought of myself as a fearful person. I do things all the time that other people would avoid because they're intimidating or difficult. But in the area of interpersonal relationships, I live in fear.

A year after DJ moved out, I told Adam that I was pretty certain DJ didn't love me anymore--didn't even think about me anymore, really. I cited reasons. I had many. They seemed logical to me. I spoke of this dispassionately. I said it was regretful, but DJ was an adult. There was nothing I could do about it. I heard Adam sniffle. When I looked up at him he was weeping. He said I was wrong.

For days I wondered why my words had made Adam cry. Finally, I asked him. He told me it was hurtful to him that if, indeed, I felt DJ was becoming distant, I would allow that to happen without making an effort to find out why, or without trying to change the situation. He said DJ spoke of me often, admired me, loved me deeply, wished he had more time to spend with his family. He said it made him sad that I had difficulty understanding that I was loved and he didn't know how to fix that.

Many of my posts on this site, probably 80% of them, map my struggle as I try to understand people, love, and relationships. I talk frankly of my feelings and fears linked to those things. I discuss the agony I feel as I try to build and strengthen the relationships I've formed in the past eight years, even as I am afraid and insecure. I talk of boundaries, and relationship health, and trust--all of which are deeply important to me, but terribly difficult for me to maintain.

And I don't know if I will ever stop feeling fear. I don't know if I'll ever know how to accept love without question. I don't know if the times when I feel abandoned or ignored, fabricated by my subconscious, will stop feeling normal and expected. I don't know if I'll someday reach a point where I don't need frequent reassurance and expressions of love in order to continue facing the incessant fear present in each relationship in my life.

I don't know.

But I'm trying. I've been trying for eight years. It's been a miserable mixture of wonderful and terrifying and dreadful. And I'll keep trying as long as those involved will stay. Someday, though, I want to stop being afraid.

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