The Emotional Capacity for Fire
It has been a long time since I was in a committed relationship. Like years. And my last experience at bat was not good. In fact, it was the most devastating love affair of my life. It is very hard when you find the one that you want to spend the rest of your life with and they do not feel the same. And they leave in a very painful and damaging way. It has taken me a long time to recover from that particular loss. And I will admit, I am scared to do it again. Less scared than I used to be, but it still makes me a little sick to my stomach.
I have dated in the intervening years mostly doing a disservice to the men I dated because I was not ready to love again or really even let them in on any kind of emotional level. I was closed for business on the emotional front. It isn’t that I didn’t care, it was just that I couldn’t allow myself to admit that I cared or allow them to see any kind of emotional caring. I left any and all connections over the years because the guys deserved more and I just didn’t have it to give.
Sad state of affairs but that is where I have been. And it was all I had.
I am now in a new place. A place where I feel finally healed from the past. I no longer wish the old flame to rekindle because I know that the only result of that particular conflagration is to burn my heart down again. And after all the attempts at a controlled burn, I know that no matter what I tell myself, that person, that man will only light me up and burn me to the ground. No thanks. I am over that and I do not want that kind of whatever the fuck that was. Love would be a convenient term but it would not adequately describe it because I am pretty sure that love isn’t supposed to leave you standing in the ashes of your life.
So the fiery intense, passionate love that once almost consumed me is over, blessedly, finally. It has been over for al long time but my heart refused to let that go. I carried a tiny ember for years that his occasional presence in my life would reignite and allow for what I thought was a controlled burn, but always I was again left standing with my heart of ash.
It has taken years. It has taken more of me than I would like to admit. It has taken what it has taken for me to finally arrive at a place where I am ready to love someone else. My heart no longer belongs to that fire starter. I am free. And that is a pretty big statement from me. I wish him well and I do not want him back. In fact, I will not allow him re-entrance to my life because I love the life I have built and re-built in the wake of his fiery and most destructive exits. And this new life I have built with a lot of fire retardant.
But no matter how ready I think I am to love someone new, I am still afraid to go there emotionally. And love without vulnerability and transparency cannot really be love. Love requires all of us. The whole person. The loving, emotional, sexual, physical being. Love requires that we show up to be wounded again with all our parts. Because love requires all the parts to love. Love that is missing companionship will find only limp along so far. Love that is missing passion, will find it elsewhere eventually. Love that is missing honesty, will turn to bitterness. Love that is missing tenderness will form into a workable partnership that is cold to its inhabitants.
Love requires a whole person who loves first themselves and then a true willingness to give that most loved person to another. Another who can and might reject and leave this most loving offering of yourself. Sigh. It feels almost impossible sometimes.
I have reached a place in my life where there is a large part of me that is just ok as I am. I know alone. I like it and I enjoy it. I am not lonely most of the time and my life is safe and good and relatively easy. Love makes much harder terms. And while I cannot live one day without the love for and of my kids, or family or friends, romantic love seems like something that is a lot more optional...
But is it?
Not for me. I have to keep trying even if all I ever do is fail. I know I can do alone. It is being part of a loving partnership that I am uncertain of my tenacity and capacity. So I know that is what I must do. It is where my work is. It is where I must go.
I am scared to be emotionally vulnerable with someone new. It terrifies me. The scars from my previous burns are still real and tender. But what choice do I have? To allow someone to just inhabit my life as some sort of human furniture? Allow them to be close and there but never really allow them into the interiority of my self, my heart and mind? Why bother?
I have been working on my emotional capacity and am wiling to go there again. But I have to own that I am terrified and that makes me weird and awkward. I am kind of like one of those cat that you meet on the street that wants to be petted but as soon as you begin to walk toward me, I run just far enough away so that you can’t but then as you get frustrated and begin to walk away, I run back and beckon you again. I am going to let you pet me ultimately but I am going to make it a long process that is going to be frustrating for both of us.
I guess though I am really only interested in the people who are willing to withstand my awkward advances, who are able to see the fear and not judge me for it. Who are willing to see me and my fear and are willing to put the time in anyway.
I have the emotional capacity. What I am working on is getting around my fear to share that capacity with someone new. Loving is risky business. Being available and present and honest and open is also hard. Being emotionally transparent is an act infused with fear. But as someone who has walked through fire, many fires, I have developed a knowledge about the fire. Fire only burns you if you are not similar ignited. Fire matched with fire only creates a brighter burn. I was dry brush before, playing in a fiery storm. Today, I have found my own fire and have tended it carefully. It is much less risky to merge two flames than it is to throw the kindling of your soul onto someone else’s fire. I know that now. And that knowledge is the basis for a renewed willingness to show up as I am, fire within me burning brightly and allow myself to be willing to merge that internal fire with another’s flame...
Ok, I can do it.