Chicago, Sept. 24

It used to be that I’d keep a part of myself back; hold myself apart in an attempt (somehow) to protect against the emotional assault of another. Relationships were what I sought, but were also a state in which I could lose my way; lose myself. And that was something to fortify against.

Now at 38, I wonder how much of where I find myself is owing to the echoes of relationships past. They came and they thrived, until they went. Five years, then three, fours years, now two. Each a tattoo upon my heart of time not always well-spent. For good or for ill, they’re indelible marks I wear always.

And yet, these days I somehow find myself sharing more of myself than I’ve previously allowed. These days, I’m sharing my hopes and dreams, my fears and confessions. It’s scary and yucky, and it’s heartening and real.

Here now is someone who values the best of me, sure, but someone who also welcomes the parts of me I wish I could undo. He knows how I cry into my pillow for no reason. He knows why sometimes I look down at my dinner plate in silence, and he understands. He recognizes me, fully; the first man to do so perhaps. He sees me and in being seen, I am undone. All I am and all I have is laid bare.

I can’t help but falter with this newfound vulnerability. How do people do this? I wonder. How can they tolerate it…the exposure, the risk, the consequences of being so unguarded? 

My mind is a spin cycle of unease, but there’s a particular hope tumbling around in there too. This time…this time surely…things will be different.

And if they aren’t?

What’s certain is that this time I’m different. I’m more open, honest, all-in. Perhaps, in the end, that’s all the difference I need.