Monday, October 11, 2010

Knocking Knees

When I was first learning to drive, nothing scared me more than having to navigate my way from the freeway on-ramp into speeding traffic. My fear made me drive slowly and more cautiously—thereby annoying other drivers so they were even less likely to let me in.

Several years ago when my ex-boyfriend moved in with me, I sort of resisted letting him make my apartment feel like his own. I never encouraged him to put his art on the wall or knickknacks on the shelves. Instead, I found places for them...which made it seem like he was just a visitor in my apartment.

If you're not picking up on the theme here, it's about me struggling with The Merge.

My latest difficulty with this concept doesn't involve fear of crashing or a mental siren telling me I shouldn't have let my boyfriend move in in the first place. Nope, this time the merge-worry is of the what-if-he-dies variety.

In my decade of dating before Mr. Wonderful, I became quite accustomed to seeing the backs of men as they walked away from me. And through all those losses, I knew I could always retreat to my single life. Like a convenient side street that ran parallel to the freeway. It was calm there. There weren't other people around. Everything was familiar.

Getting married is like entering the merge superhighway and knowing that you don't want to get off because most every exit leads to a bad part of town. I'm going too far with the driving analogies, aren't I?

The bottom line is that if, God Forbid, something should ever happen to Mr. W, I won't just be able to go back to my old single life like I used to. We will be so inextricably linked. My every emotion will be intertwined with and pinned to his existence. He will be my other half. And that wrecks me. Because someday, I might lose him. And even if it's 50 years from now, that just means I'll have to carry around 50 heavy years of memories.

Merging is scary.

My older sister told me this sort of fear was totally normal before one gets married. I thought people only got worried about being committed to the same person for eternity and how that could be like eating the same thing for breakfast every day for the rest of your life. But apparently there's this whole other chapter in the wedding jitters book.

I remember when I was in college, in my on-again off-again relationship, I thought the only emotion I could feel that would be strong enough to overpower love would be hate. But now I think maybe fear is the only equally powerful feeling. To let yourself love someone SO much makes you SO vulnerable. It's seriously terrifying.


Jane Moneypenny said...

It's definitely scary, but I also think you went through ALL the crap you did to get here. Everything you've been through was setting you up to be ready for this. Funny how you and I go through the same thing but in very different ways.

Except in this manner, I don't know how it is to have anyone in my life or count on anyone but myself.

Jeff said...

Here’s the thing about the freeway: some people manage to merge just fine. Some never get on. Some get on and crash. And some miss their off-ramp and keep going until they’re hopelessly lost. See? You don’t have a monopoly on freeway analogies. Now, the bottom line isn’t that you won’t be able to go back to your single life. The bottom line is that your fear is real. Eventually it’ll happen. One of you will take the big dirtnap (and by the way, there’s no guarantee he’s going first). Your sister’s right - it’s normal to think about it before you get married. In fact it’s normal to think about it after you’re married. But it’s not normal to be crippled by it (and I’m not saying you are). It needs to be placed in context – put away in the denial box, along with the other real fears we live with on a daily basis but make an unconscious decision to ignore. Like “I could get killed crossing the street.”, “The house could fall and crush me in an earthquake.” and everyone’s perennial favorite, “I could drop dead from a heart attack.” As far as the part about carrying 50 heavy years of memories, I think you’re looking at it the wrong way. If you two were lucky enough to be together 50 years, those memories would be a blessing, not a burden. The goal isn’t to fret about the years after the loss of your spouse; it’s to make the most of the ones with them. No matter how much you love someone, how powerful or profound the feelings, the most harmful thing that can happen to either of you is to think you cease to exist without the other. To my way of thinking, that would be the real loss.

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I think you can extrapolate this argument to life in general. And that is, life is scary. It's full of risks. No one is immune to all of them. Eventually, we will all be affected, whether it's tripping on an uneven sidewalk, getting robbed or losing a loved one. But, the thing you have to remind yourself is ... the highs of living life? And I mean, really living it. Passionately? Those highs are so worth the trips and falls along the way. I have no doubt that all the good and memorable times you've already had with Mr. W and will have going forward will make it worth that day when the two of you part ways. Focus on the good stuff; don't let the scary, bad stuff get to you. xoxo

Sizzle said...

Um...why do you think I go to therapy? ;-)

But seriously, that vulnerability, that openness to someone else, it's intense! I often become overpowered by the fear and have to fight through it to stay here because that single life looks less scary. Who would have thought I'd be saying that!? I don't and won't go back though. There is too much good stuff where I am now.

So yes, you might someday lose Mr. W but maybe you can think of the 50 years of memories as the biggest gift life ever gave you rather than a weight you'd be buried under? All of this is worth it.

Danielle said...

Your fears are definitely different than mine, but fear in any language is hard. All I can say is "deal with it face on".

geekhiker said...

Still, it's probably less scary than the thought of becoming that scary old lady in the run-down house at the end of the block with the fifty cats...

jennerilizations said...

It's that fear that reminds us not to take our boys for granted.

Crap, I gotta go hug mine now.

blakspring said...

i hear you, but know that that day is most likely very very far away. it won't make it suck less, but concentrate on now. and make sure you always have other support systems, friends, etc around. they will be there to ease any eventual pains.