Not because there was a life changing event. Not because I was leaving high school and home and my friends. And not because I was getting ready to go off to college, the east coast and an unknown life.
It was because I was in love and in a deeply committed and satisfying relationship, the kind where you wake up in the morning and remember what you have and what you’re in—and it floods you with warmth and joy and YES! It was because it was one of those rare, extended periods—as in concentrated time, as opposed to 5 minutes bursts that occur every now and then—that I felt so sure, so committed, so ‘in it’.
It was because the relationship I was in was with me.
Not because someone broke up with me or because I couldn’t find anyone to love or to love me. And therein lies the rub. My high school boyfriend wanted to be with me, but I’d broken up with him when I left St. Louis for the summer. He eventually drove all the way to northern Minnesota to be with me, but I said no…again. There was a also a ceramics counselor who fancied himself in love with me, but I wasn’t having that either.
No brag, just fact. (Thanks for that one, Joe.) My point is that the summer was so memorable because this ‘wanting to be on my own’ was purely voluntary. Chosen.
And I’ve been thinking about that summer. Remembering what it felt like—to be so happy…with just me. And, 19 years later, I’m seeing something I hadn’t noticed before, about why that time was so profound. The something is this: there’s a marked difference between reaching out. And reaching in.
- Things are beyond your grasp, beyond your control.
- Essentially, they are other. Not you.
- And I don’t believe there can ever be total fusion of the two separate parts. But it’s what we spend endless effort trying to make happen.
- In a relationship, we’re trying to get others to say what we need them to say, to act like we need them to act, to read our minds.
- In the writing, well, it’s kinda the same. And the room for reader interpretation is pretty big, like the penthouse suite.
- I’ve seen too much now to believe that this complete fusion is possible. Cynical? Maybe, but I’m calling ’em like I see ’em. So often lately I’ve thought it would happen—with this group or these two people or maybe those three—but, nope.
- Things are right there, available, customizable, known and understood even before you know and understand.
- Essentially, they are familiar. You.
- And the thought of fusion is actually redundant. We don’t need to spend time to make it happen, we just need to be. There is no separateness.
- In this relationship, it’s private, not on display. And you only have to answer to you. You get to see you.
- In the writing, well, it’s kinda the same. I mean, it’s ALL in there, inside.
- I’ve seen enough now to know that complete fusion exists. I’ve been lucky enough to feel it.
I’m thinking about rekindling this old flame.
Though there are moments when I think that will be impossible. Those are the moments when I’m standing alone in big, flat, open spaces with nowhere to hide. When there is a blank screen in front of me. When the idea of writing a book is dangled. When I feel like being loud, out loud, aloud and allowed. When I don’t want to be alone. When I want someone to read and love what I’ve written. When I’m looking out.
But, I gotta say, this remembered love affair has been peeking at me lately, from around random corners. It’s most abundantly felt when I’m writing, or in a groove with my work in general. It’s certainly there when I’m running et al. Sometimes it just appears and fills me up and says, “Remember how good this feels? How whole? How peaceful? How utterly painless?”
And I remember how alive I was during the relationship, over the course of that summer. By no means a hermit, hiding, sad or scared—but a good friend, an adventurer, a happy spirit, a big punch of delight, a live-er. Because I had everything I needed.
It’s that remembering that makes me want it back. Makes me want to call it and say, ‘Hey, it’s me…I was thinking we should see each other, even if it’s just for lunch.” Even though I know we’re going to end up in bed together.
And even though I’m still, out of habit, looking out—I’m clearly thinking, Nah, I’d rather stay in.
Image: Tony the Misfit