I'm scared that I might be losing my capacity to love. Or at least the willingness to let it in.
"Don't stay up too late. I'll be waiting for you in bed. You know I can't fall asleep unless you're there with me." Jason Gilbert wrote this in a recent blog post over on The Times of Israel (where I also overshare).
Reading those simple words slapped me with a cold reality check.
It's been so long, I've forgotten what that feels like in real life. I can only recall it in memories triggered by certain smells, songs, and moments like this. Worse, I don't ever want to feel that way again.
I once thought it'd be impossible to share my bed every night with someone as I'm too restless of a sleeper. But love flooded into my life and soon, night after night, we found a way to make it work. I learned to sleep still on the right side, he changed his sleep positions to not snore (as much) for me over on the left. Once upon a time, I too couldn't fall asleep if I wasn't cuddled in my love pocket -- that space in the crux of his armpit where safety existed. If I squeeze my eyes shut as hard as I can, I can still feel his chest hair curled under my nails and a scratchy beard nuzzle my face.
I remember that safety used to smell like his blend of sweat, cum, and vodka, but when I inhale, I can't smell it anymore. Safety used to feel warm and sticky like tacky fresh/ post sex skin. Now it repulses me. Safety became rules: no sleepovers, no intimate life details over romantic dates, no personal details, and definitely no meeting the parents. Safety had become: "I'm done with you, how fast can you leave so I can wash my sheets?"
I once told a girl friend: "If you want to really know the character of someone, get divorced or have a serious break up with someone you built a life with. Who was this stranger? When did we go from 'I love you', to 'I just want you to hurt as much as I do'?"
Abandoned by a belief set that failed me, a crushing depression set in. On the right side of the bed I crawled under the covers and stayed put for months... careful not to roll over onto the left. This is the place that 'hurt' created. Picking up the pieces took more than a few tries. Starting over was part running away and part denial. A new life meant purging the one we built together.
I did it though. I did all of it. But this life had walls and they weren't as retractable as I had hoped they would be when the time came. Wounds scabbed over in isolation and self loathing. The scars were invisible, but their hold was invincible.
Three years of cold sheets and sometimes casual bedfellows; the rules meant to keep me safe were also simultaneously keeping the love out. This was the place that 'fear' bred. Fear of showing that I could be hurt. Fear of failing... again. This was the left side of the bed I still couldn't bring myself to sleep on.
Last year in a rare moment of vulnerability I was served up the statement: "There needs to be some rules until you are secure and safe... and only you will know when that is."
It stuck with me.
My capacity to love was fading and that realization scared me more than it did to try and risk being hurt. If hurt came my way again (as inevitably all things do) I wanted to at least fight the good fight. Slowly I started to make my way onto the left side of the bed and let go of the rules.
This is the place that 'hope' blooms.