9.4 Editor's Pick
February 10, 2022

I Love You. I Need You. I’m Scarred & Scared—but I’m Not Sorry.

I'm scarred & scared

*Warning: well-deserved strong language ahead! 

“I’m feeling fragile, and it would mean the world to me to have your body next to mine.”

Those are the words I did not say to him that night.

Those were the words he needed to hear to know how I felt.

In my defense, not that I am trying to be defensive, I didn’t know what it was that I needed until the moment to ask for it had passed.

We had just had an intense, lengthy conversation followed up by bringing our bodies together in the sweet way that we do. The eye gazing, the locking my leg around his waist, his hand in my hair, my hand on his face. The sounds, long sighs and pregnant pauses, and the inevitable ache of our release. This is how lovemaking is with us and I always want more.

It’s no wonder he didn’t intuit how I felt. I never want him to go. Besides, it’s not his job to guess my needs. As an adult, it is up to me to speak them.

I want more of this man, no matter how long he lingers between my sheets or I hang out at his rustic little cabin. I want him with dinner between swigs of dark beer. I want him over coffee, both of us babbling around our mugs, listening to NPR, talking about dreams and what our days hold.

I want him. I need him. It hurts to say it, but not as much as it hurts to hold it in.

I have done the hyper-independent thing. I’m good at not needing anyone until I’m not and then I’m a hot anxious mess. I have done the long-term, live-in relationship where I was lonelier than I am now, living alone with my dying dog and my ostentatious cat. I had the fiery, passionate blaze of a relationship when I was young, for which I nearly burned down my life.

What I have not had, until now, is a man who I want to grow up (even more) for and with.

How do we learn to love each other, as adults, with wounds and needs that have not been met?

I slowly inch closer to someone I adore who sees me as an empathetic and tantalizing flame—someone who has been badly burned. And for me? Well, as someone who has been frozen to intimacy for so long, I feel myself trembling in response to a shared yearning for warmth.

I am thawing—melting—in what feels, at times, like uncontrollable waves.

It’s teeth-chattering, bowel-loosening hope. Hope that I have found my forever person and, on the way, I have to figure out how to live with myself, as well as him, in this every day.

Every day is both the hard and the easy part. It’s easy because there is time and space between us, and I need that. I’ve never allowed myself to take my time getting into a relationship before. It’s hard because there is time and space and I need him in a way I don’t think I have ever really needed anyone before.

Yes, I need him. I love him and though it scares me shitless—I am not sorry.

For me, being a bit promiscuous was easy. They got me, a full fucking shot of Justice, for a night maybe two.

They got me naked and within whatever state I was in leading up to that. They didn’t get my fears, they didn’t get my anxiety, they maybe got a taste of my care, but they didn’t get a real glimpse of who I am and what I am made of. They sure as hell didn’t get to touch my needs. They got to scratch an itch and maybe hang around for breakfast.

I was in control of who, how, and when, but not anymore.

I can thank him for that—the goddamn cowboy who has my heart. Once he worked his way into my awareness, I’ve never been able to shake the scent of him. I bury my face in the pillow after he’s been in my bed and it smells like home, damnit.

I’d ask him to put it back—my heart—but it’s changed, and it won’t fit in my body the way it once did. It hangs between us like a dreamcatcher in an ancient forest.

I like it that way—my heart—hanging out of my body, sensitive to each passing vibration, vulnerable to the touch, incapable of closing down, yet simultaneously terrified of opening.

Opening is what occurs when we share our needs. It’s inevitable.

For many of us, simply asking for what we want, let alone saying what we need, has been met with fear, shame, ridicule, and rejection. It hurts, so we take our heart and we tuck it away. We get stingy with it; we start to think if we keep it close we can preserve what’s left of it. So, we stuff it down and bury its impulse to beat for something other than what we have deemed safe.

Hearts aren’t meant to live in our bodies anyway—what a waste. Hearts are meant to be shared with lovers, with children, with friends and family, and even with strangers.

It’s not just about sharing our hearts with our loved ones, either. It’s about letting our hearts beat the drums for our hopes and dreams. It takes courage to love, it takes courage to share ourselves with the world, with other fucked up and imperfect humans. And it takes courage to court our passions.

Yes, this care, this responsibility, can feel heavy at times.

But it’s not that I am bearing a burden. It is the gravity of something important happening in my body, something that I want to hold lightly and at the same time, it holds me to the earth in a way that less significant encounters simply do not.

The fear, too, is heavy and familiar: that I won’t be met.

The fear of not having our needs met is, undeniably, the number one reason we don’t speak to them in the first place.

It’s not fair though. It’s not fair to those who do want to learn to love us. It’s not fair for the people who are out there in need of our gifts—you know, the ones we are too scared to offer because we are so busy obsessing about how we aren’t worthy.

We can’t let the burden of fear shut us down to the reality of love.

We can’t let our insecurities stop us from speaking what’s in our hearts or prevent others from receiving what they need from us because that sure as hell is not fair.

Being vulnerable is scary. Courting our dreams is damn scary. Falling in love is fucking terrifying. So, what to do?

There is only one path that I can see.

I’m going to claim my needs and share my love, and though I am most certainly scared, at least I won’t be sorry.


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Justice Bartlett  |  Contribution: 397,040

author: Justice Bartlett

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Editor: Nicole Cameron