*Warning: salty language ahead!
I walked into her living room, and she gave me a hug.
It was no big deal—or, at least, that’s what I told myself.
I hadn’t felt the warmth of a female embrace for too long. I immediately felt a flood of dopamine and other warm brain chemicals overtake me like an intravenous shot of anti-depressants. I warned myself silently to be careful. There was nothing there. Just my imagination.
It’s funny, though. Sometimes I am wise enough to listen to my intuition, and sometimes I find all the right blog posts and articles in my feed to convince me to do the opposite. This was one of those times.
There it was: an article that said, “If You Have A Crush On Someone, Let Them Know.”
I imagine, looking back, that by “crush,” it was likely referring to more than just one meeting, one Reiki session, one moment in time that I and the surplus of loneliness I experience was able to make a mountain out of, when it was clearly straining to even be a molehill.
This is what makes loneliness dangerous at times. Every member of the opposite sex who is warm, engaging, and not married becomes a possibility.
Unfortunately, when she reminded me that our relationship was purely healer/client, it caused me to spin out into what Brené Brown generally refers to as a “shame spiral.”
Allow me to open up fully and completely to you: I was having a difficult time not seeing myself as a creepy old man rebuked by a pretty woman. This was hard to digest. I was once a cute rock singer. There was an awful lot of cognitive dissonance going on there. I walked around for days in what felt like a faded black-and-white film, with a weight on my chest that made it almost hard to breathe.
Is this what I was now? Did I need to accept that I was merely the sum of my physical appearance?
It felt as if I were a rickety ship being thrown by the ocean swells. So, eventually, gravity and calmer waters helped me to right myself. When enough time went by, I was able to realize that, no, I am no longer a cute rock singer, but most likely not a creepy old man, either. Just a lonely human being looking for love. I can’t imagine there’s a shortage of that population in the world.
Still, though, it was the beginning of wintertime in New York, and it required a great deal of energy to not float away on the most unhelpful thoughts. I sometimes couldn’t help but wonder, when I saw all of my friends in their seemingly stable marriages and partnerships, why it was that I always found myself alone every five or six years. I still couldn’t tell if I was bad at relationships or just bad at choosing partners. Or both.
I had the opportunity recently to express these concerns with a therapist. I’ll never forget her response:
“Your childhood was fraught with trauma and instability, and your early adulthood was marred in addiction. You built survival skills and defense mechanisms for a planet that doesn’t even really exist. You’ve got quite a bit to work through, and, although I am not recommending that you go it alone for the next 10 years, you will have to find the right person to stand by you. I don’t imagine that will be easy.”
Nothing worthwhile ever is.
I suppose I am fucked up. I am, at the very least, not the illustration of perfect mental health—but that does not mean I shouldn’t love every part of my wounded self. How can I possibly expect that someone else will, if I can’t?
Life is going to be painful at times. The only way to prevent that is simply not to participate in it. It’s quite simple. If I didn’t want to be rejected by this Reiki practitioner, I could’ve kept my feelings to myself.
On a Sunday morning recently, when the world seemed brand-new, I was able to appreciate the fact that I don’t allow myself to shrink into the background like that. That I had the audacity to put myself out there and get beat up a little. The alternative is so ugly: walking around not knowing if I could’ve experienced delicious love, had I cared enough about myself to open my damn mouth. Nope. That isn’t for me.
In this case, at least, rejection was the lesser of two evils.
Perhaps I am fucked up—this is the hand I have been dealt. I had little control over that. What I do have control over is how I choose to play that hand. I want to embrace life, not hide from it.
So, I will do what I have always done. I will be a survivor. I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep it moving.
I choose to love every part of my fucked-up self.