“…But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet: On Marriage
Ian, my partner and main care-taker who I started dating just a few months after getting sick, just left on a six-month long trip. GASP. I start round 4 of IVIG today and he’s not here. DOUBLE GASP. Shocking, I know. To ease the blow, I’d like to address the question I continue to meet: “Oh my god, Ian’s leaving for six months… WHILE YOUR SICK. ouch. You’re OK with that?” In short: “abso fucking lutely” (to quote Big from Sex and the City). I have the relationship that I’ve been dreaming up since my days as a school girl, if you can believe it. Yes, he’s “leaving me” to go on his trip while I’m sick. HA. That’s one way to put it. Here’s how I see it: Ian is living his life, he’s leaving for six months because he has an epic dream to fulfill and Lyme Disease doesn’t steal dreams – neither do I. You know what else I keep from infiltrating my life and controlling me/ my dreams/ my relationship? Fear. I choose to see this time apart as a blessed time that I get to have my own evolution, focusing solely on my recovery in mind, body, and spirit. I imagine that when he and I meet again in a few short months, we will be all the more equipped to love one another wholly and truly. I wasn’t always this way. I just reread that sentence and was like, “who wrote that? Not me.” I got to this particular relationship after a grueling trek, escaping the many booby traps set for me, and learning my lesson the super fucking hard way.
My undeniably defective childhood really worked in my favor — it was like receiving the “Everything you Should Never Do: Rules for Life” handbook. I’m forever grateful to own that book. I flip through the metaphorical pages for reference every single day. Like all of us, as a child, I was a victim of circumstance. I was in an abuse cycle with no freedom or insight to choose otherwise. I look back on my childhood only with a deep sense of relief that it’s OVER; that I can wake up in my own bed and choose who comes in my front door. When I tasted some personal freedom at the age of 13, I was quickly addicted to the power of choice. I do not want to be held down by anyone or anything. I run away when I feel controlled. I watched my Mother suffer, making faulty choices, under my Father’s tyranny. We all suffered, and I vowed to never be a pawn in a dictatorship dynamic again. I would never marry someone I didn’t love (like my mom did). I would never marry someone like my dad. I would never raise a child in a home like that.
The only sure-fire way I knew to get around my nurtured instinct (which was to date alcoholic assholes) was to date “safe” people. I moved all the way to Hawaii with my low-risk-assessment investment. I moved to Maui (arguably one of the most romantic places on Earth) to participate in a passionless romance. We bickered like an old couple in a scenery that demanded loving with abandon. He was wonderful, sweet, soft, safe, and everything my Father wasn’t so I spent nearly four years convincing myself to stay, and I grew to love him very much in that time — like he was my big brother. He was my excuse, in fact, for why I was unaffected by my childhood …see, I’m dating a totally normal, nice man, I don’t need therapy. I could have settled and stayed, but it would have been out of fear. I knew I wasn’t happy, and I was the great protester against the restrictions that fear conceived. I wanted my freedom, and I took it. I left for Los Angeles, ready to grab the big-life I craved by the balls and have my fucking way with it. I left vowing to NEVER end up in a passionless romance again — safe or not — it wasn’t worth it. The next person I was with, I decided, I would crave and love and feel an intense physical desire for.
I got what I wanted. I met a charismatic man who met the criteria: I craved him, all right. I was addicted to him, obsessed with him, unable to exist without his validation. The ups and downs were more extreme than my previous experience with hard drugs. At last, my childhood trauma caught up with me, and I had met my Father in age-appropriate, rock-star form. Our turbulent relationship held the potential to completely destroy my life. I almost did everything I vowed never to do: marry someone I didn’t truly love, marry my Father, BE my Mother, and raise a child in an almost identical setting to my own loathed childhood. I suffered so badly in the cycle of abuse and insanity that I still wake up almost everyday grateful that it’s over. It’s over because I fled. I got the fuck up out of there, this time deciding that if my only options were “passionless,” “abusive,” or a horrifying combo of the two, then I would happily live out the rest of my life SINGLE.
Totally defeated, I sought help. What was wrong with me? I had a lot of work to do, and for some reason– that I can only describe as grace –I was prepared to change. I wouldn’t even go on a date, let alone flirt with a person of the opposite sex for about 4 months. I had spent at least ten years using sex and coquetry as a way to legitimize my existence and suddenly, swiftly, I was different. I began dating. This time, I didn’t throw myself into a mosh pit of men. I sat and observed, confident and patient, waiting to be asked to dance and then, if satisfied, perhaps we’d dance again. No rush. I had a sense, a deep intuition, of what I wanted. “I want a man who I want to do everything with; and a man I don’t need to do anything with,” I stated over and over again.
Fun fact: Ian is actually only in my life BECAUSE of Lyme Disease. We share a mutual bestie who suggested we meet (platonically) since we had similar struggles with chronic pain/illness. If Lyme brought me him then it’s all been worth it.
I was undeniably attracted to him and intrigued by him but what really won me over was his uncanny ability to leave me the fuck alone. Here was a man who did not pester me, that wasn’t needy, jealous, or controlling. A man who knew how to ask me out, to take me out, to compliment me, respect me, show me kindness and love, and then disappear for a few days because HE HAD A LIFE, and I wasn’t prematurely at the center of it. We dated for three months before we committed to one another. I knew I was falling in love with him one sunny day in June, just a few weeks before we had “the commitment talk.” I knew I was ready to venture into a relationship with him, but I didn’t know how it would go. With help from my friends, I lived in the day and not in the future. I was present for each new development staying “properly invested” as my dear friend Laura would say.
How it has gone? Better than I could have EVER imagined. The love between us is fierce and grounded; stupidly romantic and entirely “realistic.” A friend once told me that “maturity is delayed gratification.” I have spent the last couple of years with Ian endlessly gratified because of the solid foundation we slowly built. Don’t get me wrong: He’s a super annoying MAN: he has a poor memory, he’s messy, and he has this ridiculous tendency to rob homes of all of their coffee mugs. My own cabinets have been depleted of mugs to which he responds, “drink coffee out of a bowl!” No. And, oh my god, all of those things bring a goofy hormonal smile to my face. He’s just my favorite human. So how have we had such a successful relationship in the midst of illness? Why hasn’t he left me after all of the crying I’ve done, and all of the fun I lack? How is it that just when I believed I was at my least lovable and least sexy, I found the true love of my life, and a man who makes me feel sexier than ever? And– WHY IN THE FUCK AM I OK WITH HIM LEAVING FOR SIX MONTHS?
Ian is no stranger to chronic pain and though he is one of the most active people I know, he, too, has been through various struggles of the body which has been a breeding ground for compassion. He also just so happens to be naturally good at putting himself first while simultaneously being a present, and caring partner. I remember the first time I cried in front of him. I broke down, saying things you pretty much never want to say, “Do you think I’m pretty..?” etc.. He held me for a while, comforting me, “You’re so beautiful and great and special and smart..” and he kissed me everywhere, and then he LEFT. Hahahahahaahah. He left me in tears. Thank God. Ian has taken such great care of me while never losing sight of his own personal goals and ambitions, and I have taken great care of myself while being a supportive girlfriend, and never losing sight of my own personal goals and ambitions. It’s hard for resentment to grow in a garden like that. I have a support network that extends way beyond Ian, and, more often than not, he is NOT my first phone call when I am in crisis. I, personally, have to be aware of my tendency to look for my adult partner to fill the role of “parent.” My first step is always to meet my own needs. Talk about freedom: a life where I meet my own needs/ parent myself.
So when this long-term trip came up, a trip that he has been attempting/planning for over 3 years ( before I came into the picture), I got on board to support him (sometimes ungracefully). I want to be a catalyst of my partner’s growth, not a hindrance. I remember once when I was itching to get Ian to TELL ME WHAT TO DO about a career path. I said, “You’re supposed to tell me to keep acting. You’re supposed to tell me that that’s what I’m best at and I shouldn’t stop. ” Blatant Subtext: I need validation. He looked at me, obviously unwilling to give in to my childish demand and said, “I will support whatever makes you happy. That’s what I’m supposed to do. I trust you.” A world where I get to do what’s best for me and not try to fit in the mold “he’s” prematurely created for me to make him happy? Genius. And I long to do the same for him. I trust him, and I believe he needs to do this trip. This doesn’t mean that I’m not afraid. I have fears by the dozens: What if he gets hurt, what if he meets someone else, what if he falls out of love, what if I fall out of love or meet someone else, what if he doesn’t want to come back, etc.. It’s just fear, “story-time” if you will. Control is an illusion anyway so I sit powerless, in the certainty of uncertainty — enjoying the journey, watching it unfold — taking care of myself and wishing him the best trip.
I recently had a life-changing energy healing session, and this particular Reiki master said, “if I had a prescription pad and needed to prescribe a treatment for Lyme Disease, I would simply write ‘love yourself’.” Love starts with self. “Give your hearts but not into each other’s keeping,” as Khalil Gibran writes.
Fun and Love,
PS: If you’re having struggles with your relationship, I suggest you reach out Here