Today Renee came and knit with me at the bench. “Am I seeing double?” C. asked smiling as she drove by. I did a second hour of knitting since I felt motivated to knit longer after Renee joined me. She was working on a gauzy bright green scarf. I am catsitting again for the neighbors downhill from the bench. A magnet on their fridge caught my eye: “I hate being bipolar. It’s awesome!” It was a picture of a woman smiling, circa 1950. The cats were nowhere to be seen.
I got an insight about the source of my worries yesterday. I’ve been in a relationship now for 9 months–that’s 5 months longer than any of my previous relationships. I’m in deep, and I feel vulnerable like a pilot in the cockpit, dashboard full of red flashing lights…not that I’m having red flags go off or anything like that. It’s just that it feels dangerous to reveal all my faults, fears, desires, and eccentricities to another person who is not family or female friend, to whom I have no permanent bond. It feels crazy to spend so much time with someone who now knows me well enough now to do lasting damage. Emotional intimacy is a two-edged sword. It feels wonderful when we’re together and doing well, but when we’re apart or struggling, my mind starts imagining various scenarios for how it could go swiftly down the toilet.
Here’s the insight I got. I think I’m having contractions. My heart enlarges to love, then like a muscle it tightens into a knot of fear. The relationship is quite possibly being born, emerging into a new closeness and commitment, its contours and solidity becoming more definite, more permanent. But like the distant islands in the Bay today socked in with fog, we are a mystery, veiling and revealing parts of ourselves over time. It requires trust to believe that this person who is a biologically separate being is still there…is still here rather, loving me as much as I love him even when we’re physically miles apart. (He in Seattle, me in Bellingham) It’s like prayer. And like prayer, making and maintaining a connection with one who’s uncontrollable and wild and other, is both exhilarating and scary. A passage from the familiar and known to the unknown. Even though the unknown invites me, shimmers gold with joy around the edges, it’s a reality that I cannot enter without shedding my identity these 17 years as a no strings, independent, self-contained woman. Expand–Contract–Expand. Inhale, exhale. Open, close. Nature is made up of these seemingly contradictory movements, processes, movements. Seeing the fear as part of a larger, natural movement toward love helps me fear it less. No one judges a mother for having labor pains. Framing my fear this way is helping me be less hard on myself and more hopeful about the approaching joy. Fear is not my ultimate destination; love is…though what shape it will take is still in the making.