Monday, August 27, 2012

Don't Fade on Me

Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball

Don’t Fade on Me

If someone goes two days without calling me, I’m convinced that I’ll never hear from them again. It wasn’t until I first got involved in therapy that I learned the proper label to describe my symptoms. These are fears of abandonment. Establishing an indisputable reason why was difficult at first, but  I held myself up to enough scrutiny to find the proper answers.

In the times before feminism and greater empowerment, women found their own fates hopelessly linked with that of their boyfriend or husband. Their dreams were his dreams. Her life was his life. For them, being cast aside was a fate worse than death. For me, being discarded for any reason created pain on par with nothing else. Regardless of how separation was intended, I believed I had been rejected once more.

In addition to having a difficult infancy, separation anxiety persisted beyond birth into early childhood. Mom literally dragged me to preschool day after day. When it was time for class to begin, I pitched a fit, every morning. Clinging bodily to her, I had to be forced to disengage and head inside the building, to immediately take my place at my desk. I became less clingy and fearful with time, but the same basic anxiety remained.

Once I called my preschool teacher “mother” by accident. She found the slip-up cute, but I found it horrifying. I remember running to the center of the room, instantly in tears. My confused and sympathetic classmates circled around me. They meant well, but I had now become the center of attention. Having every eye in the room on me was the very last thing I ever wanted.

Years later, these anxieties kept me from being much of a baseball player. Being able to hit is what separates the average from the skilled, and I never developed the ability. With every eye on me, from the outfield to the dugout, the pressure was simply too much. I could field, but that was a solitary pursuit I performed by myself. I had no time to ruminate, only to react. For a time, I hated myself for not performing as I thought I should, but now I know that introverts like myself work much better in isolation.  

We return to the present day. I was seeing someone again. She stayed in almost continual contact. I might receive seven phone calls every day, each for a different reason. For a while, I didn’t mind. I saw a reflection of myself in her behavior and didn’t want to be hypocritical. I even found this attention blitz endearing. I craved being needed, being wanted. In love, I was a giver, but had learned to be careful of how I sought to heal and enlighten others. This world has no shortage of takers.

My relationships with women weren’t always dark and dysfunctional. Periods of sweetness and romance existed alongside the more trying times. I remember the comforting silence and contentment of a lengthy embrace. I recall hours cuddled in bed, thinking of nothing else but how I enjoyed her company. The more dramatic and dynamic experiences tend to rise to the surface more easily. Tragedy wins an audience with ease.

Some people aren’t the relationship kind, or at least not the marrying sort. My dating history and the people who comprised it never truly reflected my intentions. Life had been challenging in many aspects. Basic interpersonal communication had come at a price. I suppose I never believed that anything would come without sufficient exertion. I stumbled through the dark for years, as if blindfolded. Did I learn more from insight, or from the process of elimination? Who knows.

She had to be constantly reassured. I went with her once to a gathering of her friends; I left realizing how different she was from all of them. She hadn’t given herself the opportunity to form any sort of intense bond, preferring the role of impassive observer. But at the same time, I knew how much she needed membership in some group to which she could belong. She treated friends the same way I often responded to relationship partners; even if they weren’t a good fit, they were at least something.

I knew she was lost and incredibly self-doubting. A lassiez-faire, brooding acceptance in her fate made her appear defeated, beat down by life. Her situation made my own problems seem minuscule in comparison, and without meaning to, she boosted my own self-confidence. I loved her but could not intervene; if I did, she only pushed me away.

If only her faith in herself had been more prominent. When she left me, the fears of being cruelly jettisoned once more were proven true. Had our ending concluded with harsh words and raised voices, my worries might have been justified. Instead, our parting was sad and bittersweet. She wanted to stay together, noting that I’d pushed her to finally take control of her life. I couldn’t be angry, but I could surely feel hollow and rejected.

Later she came to me in nervous gratitude. I’d gotten her out of her parent’s house and into a better job. If only I’d been able to observe these breakthroughs myself, instead of hearing about them secondhand. I have nothing but spleen for several people I’ve dated, but not for her. She tried, though I wish she had not given up at the end, immobilized by doubt.

Though I practiced serial monogamy, I was after a soulmate. When most people were finding themselves and dating around, I wanted something permanent and lasting. I was always out of step with my peers, or at least years ahead of schedule. I had a vague notion of what I wanted, but  eventually recognized that my offers of healing were sometimes insufficient, sometimes unwanted.

I always had the opportunity to turn around and start over afresh. Relationships ended and another episode entered, keeping me single for a little while until I recovered. The one-two punch of demoralizing mental illness and relationship collapse threw me back against the ropes. In the midst of a catastrophic life, one is afforded no time to mourn, no time for lamentations. Would this new person, he or she, be the one for me?    

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