I cannot be the only person in 2016 America who finds it difficult to be an independent adult in my relationships when I used to be needy and dependent. What I mean by independent is to feel like the same person from one day to the next, grounded mainly in my creative work and pursuits with our Goldens, doll-crafting, and being together without parent-child dynamics in our road.
I am the veteran of many intensely painful co-dependencies, with agendas in which unmet need met unmet need and two ungrown people had a contract to fill each other up. In recent years I had a four-year spell in an apartment alone in which I wrote five ms of poetry, three novels and a memoir and found out that I was actually happy and productive in my solitude, that I pined away for no one, that there was an adult me to get to know and nurture.
During that time someone I’ve sustained a close relationship with, first romantic and then a friendship, was nearly my sole visitor, dropping by once a day to chat and then be off to our old house in the country to write himself.
I admit to having times of wistfulness for him, and having written more than one or two wistful poems. But I was very much in touch with my need and desire to take care of myself and overcome my need for a partner.
Then in the spring of 2013, the ceiling fell in. One day, after I read him a recent draft, he let it slip that he loved me, was in love with me. I was stunned, and jettisoned from my routine into a maelstrom of feelings. Something I had not permitted myself to dream of ever occuring had burst through the door.
At the time I was sure of my newfound strength and I opened up to becoming part of an “us” once more. Shortly thereafter, for a host of reasons, I returned to the six acres and modular where we had variously lived as lovers, friends, adversaries over property issues and so on across 25 years.
All was well, and despite rough spots, we have worked things through. As I write he is asleep in the next room. I ordered myself not to think about him, not to fall into the trap of thinking i wouldn’t be able to get to sleep if we aren’t curled up together–we have separate spaces in our house and generally sleep separately after an evening of transforming my room into our tv-snacking–once in a while love nest.
The something different is that of late I have become worn down, sometimes needy, sometimes angry, struggling to feel that wholeness again, that delicious not-needing of someone.
I have been terrified of losing myself, and I’ve been doing a lot of crying. I haven’t been writing as much. We’ve been navigating a lot of rough water.
Tonight I heard myself say, “Stop thinking about him. He’s gone to bed. You’re tired–why don’t you go to bed too. Now look at me: writing about it, when I had intended to get going on a new manuscript.
I lost three days and nights of sleep and I could not remember my way back to the strong me. I absolutely hate this. I forget that I know how to put my arms around myself and soothe myself, and that it is my job, not anyone else’s.
We all play different roles. Many of us seem to be able to be lover, mother, confidant, artist, writer, teacher…without losing our emotional balance and becoming terrified that the I, the creative Self, the one self-defined and centered and non-needy, has abandoned one.
Panic may be the real perpetrator here; panic, and that I do think too much. He does not seem to have the needy, often lost and terrified inner child that I do–she who didn’t get enough love to become a secure person.I know that my Minnesota friends remember the desperate alcoholic who begged them to help her, who didn’t believe she could help herself, who was living out a script handed to her by her mother.”Women are weak. You will always be dependent on a man. You need to be taken care of”.
How do we detach and be about our work and not need for awhile, not cave to the impulse to run run into those strong and tender arms on the other side of the wall, or put ourselves to bed tenderly, as our own mothers, forgiving ourselves for not being paragons of strength, the goddesses of our own lives?
The most terrifying thought of all: I am losing myself. There will be nothing left of me if I don’t make a break for it.”
Why is this happening? Why am I suddenly afraid to lie down in my own room with a few of the dogs, glad that he is asleep and getting his rest, and that I don’t have to disturb him–he would gladly come back and snooze with me–but we did that tonight. We did that and then we needed some time apart. And now I am so very, very tired. PLEASE tell me I’m not the only one struggling to be whole and be close to someone at the same time. Tell me it’s really possible. xxxj