Living out loud is always worth the effort. But I do get awfully tired.
December 27, 2022
I’ve been working. A lot. I have the office job in Olympia two days a week, and quite unexpectedly, a short-term contract opportunity arose. I’ve been working on-site in Portland two days a week.
David, my new fellow, lives in Portland. Quite serendipitously, we’ve had the unexpected luxury of spending a great deal of time together. It’s going well.
What’s different this time? I ask myself that a lot. A lot of things are different.
David is “age appropriate”. That’s something I haven’t had in a long time. You can’t embark on something meaningful and long-term with someone not of the same generation. Well, some women can, but I can’t. Or more aptly, I’ve not been willing. When you have to explain the origin of the term "going postal”, they’re too young. That’s not even a good test. If they’re more than ten years younger, they’re too young. I’ll draw a line in the sand on that one. From personal experience, that is. No judgment, though. I was an active Cougar for many years, and it was fun as all fuck! But it’s nice to be beyond that, if I am indeed beyond that. There’s a peace in moving out of that season and into something calmer and emotionally safer.
David is the kind of man who is cut out for relationship. I said that out loud, yesterday, and then I followed with, “I am not the kind of woman who is cut out for relationship… I think… if you look at my history... or maybe not. There’s a lot to be said for having simply never met the right person.”
So ya. That’s where I stand on that one. I think I may well be cut out for relationship; the stars simply haven’t aligned yet. It’s such a miracle when things all come together, it’s so rare. And it simply hasn’t happened for me yet. But I’ve always known it would. Is it happening now? I don’t know yet. Seems promising, that’s for certain.
There are so many things Jeff told me, in his pivotal role as friend and supporter, that come to mind as I build out this relationship with David. This:
“Make sure he holds your hand in public and will kiss when u ask”
David holds my hand in restaurants. He’s not naturally demonstrative, but he’s making an effort, I see it. When I reach for him, he’s responsive. When I tell him to kiss me, he kisses me. He’s shy about it in front of others. But you know what? Too bad so sad! I’m not asking to make out. I’m asking for a kiss. I’m not going to ask for a kiss in an inappropriate location, but I am going to ask for a kiss when I want one. And I expect one when I request one.
I want a man to be proud of me, to be proud of being with me, to respect, honor, and value me, all the time, everywhere. I’ve let men slide on that way too long. But I’ve no one to blame but myself. “You teach people how to treat you.” Yes, I do. And David is learning exactly how I want to be treated. There is no ambiguity.
Both of us have health issues. That concerns me. I’m my mother’s caregiver and it’s horrible. I can’t begin to tell you how horrible, how miserable I am in this role, how angry and resentful. I’m doing it, for now. I choose this role, for now.
Do I want to be a caregiver to my partner? No. Is an unknown number of years of happiness worth the risk of being a caregiver to my partner? Yes. Is there any guarantee he won’t be the one taking care of me? No. No guarantees on anything in life.
Is an unknown number of moments of happiness worth the risk of devastating loss? Yes. I’ve come to believe. Yes. Will I regret feeling this way? Maybe. Probably a bit, but probably not a lot. Living fully is my fiercest core value. STAY OPEN. It truly is the most rewarding way to live.
Suffering cannot be avoided. Experiencing the eviscerating pain of loss is our lot in life, across the board. Choosing to avoid commitment for fear of loss is allowing fear to dictate my life’s choices. I won’t live like that. I’m terrified, but I’d be terrified no matter which path I chose.
It’s scary being alone, it’s scary being in love, it’s scary to make a big commitment. I embrace the fear. Actually, I don’t. But I thought I’d say that and just pretend. Just for this moment. Because that’s the only way I can get through and into the next moment. And it’s always worth it to push through the fear. In the lookback, I’m always thankful for the times when I've chosen to TAKE THE RISK.
When David explained the extent of his heart condition, I was filled with fear, consumed with fear.
“So, if we stay together, one of us is going to have to take care of the other while we watch them die!” I said in my oft-used panicky wail.
Calmly holding my eyes in his, he replied, “Yes. Pretty much. That is what a relationship is.”
I had a think on that, for several weeks. I held my heart in fearfully, for several weeks. And then I remembered what Jeff said to me more than five years ago. The man we were talking about was too young, it didn't work out. But Jeff's advice is solid nonetheless:
"You are worth letting a man who cares about you to take care of you. Help each other take care of each other. That’s what a relationship is about. You deserve that, he deserves that. The worst thing that could happen if he moves in with you, is that you both won’t want that. And that’s OK, that’s what life is about. There is NO HARM in trying and getting out of your comfort zone. You have a person that wants to be with you, for you, knowing your flaws, that’s rare. DO NOT SABOTAGE THAT. It sounds real to me. Anyway. That’s just my thought."
There’s so much value packed in that statement it lays me out flat. Jeff called it, David confirmed it. I don’t have the history; I don’t have the experience of a decades long marriage. And neither Jeff’s nor David’s marriages were what I’d call “happy”. But they were functioning marriages. And neither of them were miserable all of the time. I know there were tremendously rewarding stretches, enough to keep both of them invested long-term. What an admirable thing that is.
If both men, both of whom I love and respect deeply, can profess they believe relationships are about caring for one another, with all the sacrifice and discipline that requires, I’m compelled to take their word for it, regardless of the turmoil inside of me. The fear is not going to go away. Hopefully it will lesson. But for right now, I choose to deliberately step into the fear. Because that is how I want to live my life.
There’s so much more to say. I’ll stop here. Being caregiver to mom has me quite worn out today. I’m feeling quite defeated. Making all these bold assertions is healthy and healing, but also quite tiring. Living out loud is always worth the effort. But I do get awfully tired.
"Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time."
Photographer's note: "These are my parents. This photo was taken Christmas and even though my mom squeamishly refused to kiss my dad, my dad took the opportunity and this photo was the result." -Esther Ann