Fluidity

Sam and I have decided to change the parameters of our relationship. Which I suppose is another way of saying we’ve broken up. But our situation has been so unusual from the get that to call it a standard breakup would be misleading.

If it were a bit more normal I probably wouldn’t put out this open blog entry. Breakups are always too complicated and painful and personal to sum up well in words. But people have been so fascinated by our connection–some creating distorted rumors and suppositions, some just understandably curious, that the story might as well come from the horse’s mouth. And it’s easier for me to put it down here than have to explain and re-explain to everyone in my social media orbit.

Despite this, 2018 has been pretty great so far and I am clearer than ever on who I am and where I’m going. This is a welcome change from the confusion, self-hatred, and sorrow I experienced during 2016 and 2017 that Sam helped me navigate through. I feel infinitely lighter and more optimistic in general.

He and I came together at a time when we needed each other but didn’t know it. It made no sense to me in the moment. Why would a 24 year old (at the time) be interested in spending quality hours with a woman as old as his mother?  And vice versa. Why would I damage the comfortable, partnered existence that I had and had loved to enter into something so clearly unwise? I had fully intended to spend the rest of my life with my ex. It’s still difficult to wrap my brain around it sometimes. Looking back I can see that I was in denial about some aspects of him and about some aspects of our life together.

Many people in the orbit assumed that hormonal changes had driven me out of my mind. And it is partially true–there was an element of uncontrollable madness that took over steering the ship. I was so confused about what was happening inside of me that I coped by partying and running from silence. In quiet moments my brain never stopped racing. In my retrospective mind’s eye the images from that time period are midnight blue tinged and spinning, like a drunken polar night that goes on for months into years.

That murky phase is done, not to be repeated. My wise mother says that once we learn something fully it becomes a tool we add to our personal toolbox, then it’s unnecessary to have to purchase it again. Now I understand that my soul insisted upon change that my brain and heart didn’t want or understand. There was a rhino-sized weight of baggage that needed release and I couldn’t do it in the relationship I was in. I had to burn myself down to bitter ash to make that happen. It was excruciating, devastating. But at the end of the tunnel I found some self-forgiveness and let go of crap I’ve carried since childhood, maybe from other lifetimes.

Throughout all of this soul-searching chaos, there has been this stalwart kid who is not in any way equipped to handle the midlife crisis of a woman who is high-pitched on a good day. He hung in nonetheless. He still hangs in, with patience and acceptance of who I am at any given moment. And he has taught me some things. That I can trust some people. That life doesn’t always behave in predictable ways but that I can trust my inner voice, no matter how far from the beaten path it sends me. That sometimes our spirit might be ahead of our thought process. That love doesn’t always follow the rules.

I have also learned quite a bit about societal perceptions about aging which is my mind are often erroneous and imprisoning–serving to delude us into thinking that sickness and decrepitude are inevitable, and that people automatically become undesirable and uninteresting after the first blush of youth fades. This mentality is outdated and I refuse to adhere to it.

Most of Sam’s male friends are unbothered by the age difference between him and me. I have noticed that his buddies see women as people more than men my age. Which is not to denigrate my peers, just to say that there is an ease between the sexes that we didn’t have growing up. Some of my male friends in my age group initially found Sam’s presence somehow personally threatening and took it out on him by treating us and/or him like a joke. I still have near-strangers on facebook adding snide comments under photos, as if by denigrating him they can somehow take the sting out of it for themselves.

Women in all age groups veer wildly on opinion. Some women I know, and some that I don’t, have sent me facebook messages with enthusiastic variations on “You go girl!” I’ve been extended fist bumps at parties. Then at other times Sam and I have experienced women’s anger toward me when they figure out what’s up. Young women sulk at my thievery. Women my age are much more straightforward. We overheard one growl, after groping him, mind you, “Why is he so interested in HER? She’s one of US.” Another time a woman standing next to us in a bar angrily and repeatedly demanded to know my age, with no pretense of civility. To which I finally responded, “Old enough to know that I don’t have to tell you my fucking age.”

But both my closest male and female friends have always remained supportive and understanding, despite whatever misgivings they may have or had. And in the end, after being forced to examine my insecurities about myself and the effects of time, I arrived at a place where I don’t care so much. I would love to look 25; I have every beauty gadget available for purchase. But for the most part I’m comfortable in my skin. I feel loved and lovable, and Sam helped and helps with that. He is a conscientious and caring soul and there are deep reasons that we came together.

But we have always known that our connection would have to be fluid. He has things to learn that he can’t do with a hybrid girlfriend/mom padding every fall. He needs to make his own stupid mistakes on his own. He needs to practice on some little girls before he commits to a lifetime with a woman. I love him and I want him to have everything in the world without being held back. And while I don’t know whether I’ll ever go back to a “normal” relationship with someone closer to my own age, I do occasionally enjoy the company of an adult who can pick up the tab and do their own laundry. I want to wake up early and meditate and go to the gym. He wants to stay up til 5 am every night and close the bars. It’s natural that we would be in different places in life.

So we’ve both come to the conclusion that while we wish to remain partners in crime as much as possible, we are not going to call one another girlfriend or boyfriend anymore. We are committed to remaining close and being gentle and communicative with one another if/when other people show up in our lives.

Which of course is easier said than done and this weekend, right about the time I was twisting my arm patting myself on the back for being the most mature human being to ever walk the planet, I had an emotional meltdown that involved much weeping and irrational panic. Separation and change, no matter how small or necessary, feel like death to me. I hate it. I want everything to stay the same and everyone to belong to me and me only. But Sam was there to talk me down and assure me that he wasn’t going anywhere.

So that is another gift of this connection, the very fact that it isn’t a linear march into retirement means that it can roll with the punches. When I was young I thought the only real love was romantic, and that romantic love was all about drama and insanity and passion and great Wuthering Heights highs and lows. That was draining and terrible and bad for my health. Then I thought I would find that one person to stay with for the rest of my life. Which I did. Then I crashed that car into a tree where it exploded and burned my eyebrows off. Now I value all the love in my life equally. My friends, my family, my animals–they’re all pieces of the puzzle that make me whole. There is so much love in the world to be had if our hearts are open to it. I’m not attached to form anymore.

Thank you friends, for reading, and for your constant support.

With Sam smaller

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