I’m in love. I’ve known it for some time and it has taken some getting used to. I don’t do the dance of intimacy easily. The steps are not familiar to me. At 48, I have never been married and I carefully navigate friends, acquaintances and lovers with artful dexterity, never getting too close so as to manage the dialogue of actual relationships.
Past experiences have taught me to protect myself, to hold people at arms’ length. I recognize that it is a control mechanism. I do have some insight; I realize that the bullying I experienced in my adolescence has a lot to do with this.
For years, I was unaware that I distanced myself from people. I had been told that I was standoffish in college, that boys were intimidated by me. But I had a lot of “friends”, had been very popular. So I blew off the comments. But this behavior really manifested itself during my illness when I almost completely withdrew from all but a few close family and friends.
In the past few years, I’ve consciously worked on breaking down my barriers, letting people in. It’s been met with mixed success. I can count on one hand the genuinely intimate relationships I have—the people that know me inside and out, my sister, Kathy; girlfriends, Libby, Linda, and Coletta; Alexanndra, my intrepid counselor; and finally, P., the love of my life. It is my relationship with P. that in turn astonishes, terrifies, excites, stimulates, and soothes me.
Ours is an unconventional relationship. We have known each other for over 25 years; we were lovers in our twenties, parted ways only to reconnect via social media years later. We have yet to meet again; instead we have been communicating via phone, email and text, reconnecting and rekindling our relationship through cyberspace and the sound of our voices over the past almost three years.
The question begs to be asked, why haven’t we met in person in these past three years? P’s life is…complicated, complicated in a way that I don’t need or want. He has some decisions to make and I don’t think he is remotely ready to make those decisions. That alone scares and cautions me. It gives me pause.
But I don’t think I ever fell out of love with P., all those years ago. He was my soul mate then; now he has evolved into something much deeper. I can tell him anything and everything. I can imagine what it was like to make love to him as if it was yesterday. The touch of him, the smell of him, his taste. I simply cannot imagine him not being in my life.
And yet I stumble. What would it be like to really be with someone? To share your heart and soul, willingly, with that other person? I know P. would give me my space, would respect my spirit and individuality, my independence. It’s the intimacy that is scary and lovely, all at the same time.
He’s such a strong, charismatic, yet patient man. I said his life is complicated right now, even as I wrestle with moving forward. He is wrestling with his own thoughts: is what we have real? Or is it rooted in some long ago passion? I wonder if those are the real objections and if it is more a fear of breaking away from what is known and familiar. Like me, he is not a risk-taker when it comes to his emotions and I think the virtual relationship we have is safe and comfortable for him. It doesn’t rock the boat or change the status quo.
But at some point too much time passes and you’ve lost your opportunity. I’m so very conscious of passing time, time I want to spend with P.
Even as I write this, I can mentally see me dancing from one foot to the other, indecisive. Am I ready?
I think we both need a bit more time.
P. is one of the most driven people I know and he excels at his career, athletics, and academics. You’d think that would make him insufferable. Instead, he is one of the most down-to-earth, modest, astute, and kind people I’ve ever met. And he makes me laugh, completely disarms me. I am myself with him, no barriers, no guard. I forget myself with him and am totally at ease.
And that is foreign to me. I’m used to being completely in charge, alert, in control. I know I should think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread but, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is he for real?
What am I so afraid of? To fall in love? To take a chance on maybe getting hurt? Perhaps it’s time to parlay my ability to take risks in other parts of my life to love and intimacy.
P. always teases me about over-analyzing things. I can’t approach a situation without sizing it up from every direction. Sometimes I need to mentally shake myself.
And perhaps I need to stop trying to choreograph every step of my future. Just let it happen. Loosening the reins of control, ah, that is indeed scary. But a little improvisation, a few daring high-kicks, could push me out of this solitary rut.
What possibilities could the future hold? A committed relationship? Marriage? Friendship? They all have their precious and priceless benefits. I realize that with P., we already have a deep and abiding friendship.
So maybe the steps toward intimacy aren’t so hard to learn. I’ve always shortened the learning curve with every new skill set.
I’m not naïve, I know there is give and take with every relationship. I know that you have to want to make it a priority, make what you have together important over your careers and other life distractions. I get that. But when I imagine what my life with P. could be like, it feels like it would be…effortless. I have to trust that and take my first step.
Late at night, as my body relaxes and I begin to ease into sleep, the image of P’s face drifts into my mind. And I imagine falling into his arms and murmuring softly, “Come dance with me…”