Two years ago a longtime friend invited me into a romance.
Love has always been a complicated thing for me. Historically I have avoided it. Friends would accuse me of being too picky, and although I couldn’t disagree, it was an unconscious survival strategy. Sometimes when I travelled I’d have a brief sexual encounter to fill my need for human connection, safe in a timeline that avoided any longing beyond the time it took me to get back home and into routine.
My family of origin is broken—very broken. I come from a long line of heartache, which is a conclusion I have crafted from the innate ways I have run from vulnerability of any kind, all my life. I didn’t have to learn this from anyone, I believe I came into this world with the stains of ancestral pain throughout my body. So when my friend asked me to risk my heart, I stood with great trepidation, at the crossroads of potential. It could have gone either way: unbearable pleasure or pain. It was both.
I immediately said no. But I’m a middle aged woman with the heart of a child. The woman inside wanted to experience the love being offered by this friend, and she trusted him. The child wanted it more, and trusted him more. It took me several months to come around, but I did and the reward was immediate. Our physical compatibility was undeniable and we poured our bodies into one another with complete abandon.
It’s not the first time I have confused sex with love.
Quickly and wordlessly he was unable, or unwilling, to show up for the emotional side of me. I was starving for affection, perhaps starving for my family’s lineage of missed connection, so I stuffed down my hurt and showed up for the crumbs of love anytime they were tossed my way. Those crumbs were the richest most decadent treats, and I would savour the aftertaste far beyond the time of consumption. The longing that followed was a bottomless pit. I would spend weeks at time in the damp cold dark stink of abandonment, but I’d be ready anytime he tossed down his rope, in hopes that this time, I would be brought to safety.
Somehow I blinked and two years had gone by. Two years waiting for him to fully arrive. Two years blind to my own worth. Two years hoping that this friend was not actually doing this to me. Fuck.
I have blamed myself for every part of it. Why did I take the chance. Why didn’t I demand more. Why didn’t I walk away. Why didn’t I protect and value the fierce woman I was, and am.
They say the first heartache is the worst. I always took this to mean the first venture into chosen love, but my perspective has shifted. Like many of us, my first love happened at home in my family. I have spent my life chasing down that familiar dysfunctional dynamic, in hopes of having it play out differently. This one—my friend—has been the hardest loss. Because it was a cruel disregard for the soft parts of me that I so willingly surrendered.
Don’t get me wrong, I have learned a great deal from this. I am empowered by the further healing of my old wounds. Wounds that had to be scratched and brought to the surface anew. I am reminded of my worth. But perhaps the biggest take-away is the realization that I have allowed toxic positivity to gag me for much too long. The ability to extract the lesson, and reason with my pain—in order not to feel it—has kept me from truly healing some very real hurts.
I am in a deep deep place of feeling right now. I hate it. but I am going to rest here for a bit and see what I can burn away with this fire.
I don’t normally get so personal, but maybe you needed to hear some of this too. Your heart is so special. Take care of one another dear friends.