“Freedom means you are unobstructed in living your life as you choose. Anything less is a form of slavery.” -Dr. Wayne Dyer
My ego, master of separation that it is, viewed the fact that I had narrowly escaped an engagement ring as a near death experience. Since my ego is also a workaholic and doesn’t enjoy vacation time, it insisted on returning to Florida to protect me.
It flew first class. Upon landing, it began to present evidence that my boyfriend had started a business of managing my life. It was tough to deny this, or the fact that his first act as CEO was hiring himself as my personal critic. But deny I did.
What was getting harder to deny was my feelings. The day after he took me to the jewelry store, I got stuck in traffic that wasn’t moving for far too long. The symbolism was lost on me, as was the great disparity between the stressor and my melodramatic meltdown.
I pulled into a lot at a packed beach with too many spots to be legit, emotionally desperate to get out of my car. When the parking attendant came over to tell me it was for marina members only, I burst into another round of tears.
“I’ve been there,” she said. I didn’t yet know where “there” was, but I think she did. She let me stay put.
Grateful to be at the beach, I reflected on my overwhelm. The traffic I’d sat in was a small part of the story, but it was only the introduction. Traffic can be frustrating but it doesn’t bring me to tears. I journaled in attempt to understand what was truly behind them.
As someone who values freedom, I don’t take very well to people making plans for me without my input. It felt like my boyfriend already had his life scripted and had just been waiting to cast his next wife.
And a stepmom for his son, who he’d requested I watched one night while he worked, since his ex was “unavailable.” I’d heard that word a lot that week, and my boyfriend’s tone had an edge when he said it. My interpretation, mixed with things he’d shared with me, was that this was code for her not particularly feeling like mothering on any given day…or ten straight, as was the recent situation.
(In time, I’d get to know this beautiful woman, who would become a friend, and understand that she went through the same abuse I did. But back then, I only had his word about her to go on.)
I didn’t mind. I deeply enjoyed having his son, who I absolutely adore, there with us. I don’t want to bring details about him into the blog for the sake of his privacy, but this kid is such a character!
This was early in our relationship though and as much as I loved the idea of hanging out with him 1×1, I was scared. He wasn’t my child and was a bit of a daredevil. What if he got hurt on my watch?
I’ve learned not to respond on the spot unless I am 100% certain of my yes. It helps me check in with my intuition and avoid making choices I may later regret. My boyfriend reacted to me wanting to contemplate his request as if I had said, “Absolutely not!” and cursed him out for asking. His agitation seemed incredibly bizarre and I figured he’d just misunderstood.
“Is his mother on strike?” I’d wanted to ask. My inquiry came out much gentler than that. He explained he didn’t want his son there when his exwife – this particular one- didn’t feel up to that for various reasons. She was dealing with a health challenge, so he just let her choose what days worked for her.
That made a lot of sense to me and I respected it.
He shared a few more things about their past, and it dawned on me that he was starting to project whatever unresolved feelings he had about her onto me. Understandable. We all do it when we haven’t worked through our stuff from past relationships.
With empathy, I chose to lighten his load by doing several loads of laundry and cleaning his apartment. I thought it would be a nice surprise and hoped that my thorough dust removal efforts would help him and his son with their recurring coughs.
He didn’t seem terribly impressed by the fact that I’d devoted a sunny afternoon to that. Instead of gratitude, I got the sense that this is exactly how he thought I should have spent my day.
The fear I’d been smearing on the Petri dishes of my psyche began to grow into something visible without a microscope.
Who was I pretending to be here? I wasn’t going to be able to – or want to – maintain the patterns that were falling into place so quickly. If I did, I was going to fall into a time capsule and wake up a 50’s housewife.
Nothing against those selfless beings of love. It was a different time and they didn’t have the sense of freedom, choices or opportunities I’ve come to cherish in my life. I’d chosen not to marry and have kids for a reason. My vision for my future involved book tours and speaking engagements, not folding a man’s laundry.
I’d made that clear right from our first conversation, but maybe he hadn’t understood. Journaling about this at the beach helped me realize I would need to remind him.
I initiated the discussion when I got home. I shared how the abrupt changes were throwing me off balance a little.
All I needed was for him to be compassionate and let me know he understood what a big adjustment this all was for me.
Needless to say, that’s not what happened.
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