The summer after my senior year in high school sticks out in my mind. Prominently.

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.

Reaching out:

  • 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.

Reaching in:

  • 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

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • This really resonates with me. I remember a good friend of mine telling me, “If you don’t go within, you go without.”

    The relationship with self is of my upmost importannce as it should be. Ayn Rands Virtues of Selfishness closed the gap of whether or not it was “OK” for me to be selfish. I never agreed with how others used the word to gain leverage over me in their favor.

    To be in love with myself is such an untalked about phenomenon it seems but it’s where the best reslationships stem from. At least the ones I have had. To independents moving forward as one.

    I realize where the bad relationships stemmed from too. Looking outside of myself in someone else for something to sustain me. Bad idea.

    Love your reaching back for the sense of self (and posting about it) as it’s one that comes across as a natural feeling and fit.

    Love it.
    .-= Tony Teegarden´s last blog ..Delivering Happiness: A Path To Passion Profits and Purpose (Review) =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Yes!!!
      “I realize where the bad relationships stemmed from too. Looking outside of myself in someone else for something to sustain me. Bad idea.”

      So, so true.

  • Van says:

    I feel the same way right now, actually. Again, I always love how well you articulate yourself in your blog posts. I’d expand on it more here but I realized I wrote my feelings on a random clandestine spot on the web:

    http://vanstorytime.tumblr.com/post/597914293/no-sir-i-dont-want-you

    I think tonight I’ll organize, make some art, then do some research. Nice to rekindle to relationship with yourself…
    .-= Van´s last blog ..Tutorial: Fun Recycled Bottle Bangles =-.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Well, that’s damn near spooky, Van! Can’t think of a better person to be on the same page with…

  • Joe Ruiz says:

    Very nice. So you were listening! Wow. Great concept you have given me a lot to think about.

    Seems like I can hear you pontificating as we move from the appetizer to the main course. That Wall Eye is good stuff you know.
    ;-)

  • Edgy Mama says:

    You’re the only person you get to spend every second of your life with…
    .-= Edgy Mama´s last blog ..The slippery chute of parental hypocrisy =-.

  • Alisha says:

    Wow…this really resonates with me today as… well I won’t get into it hear. I’ll tell my psych tomorrow :p
    Thank you for this though.
    .-= Alisha´s last blog ..Home Life =-.

  • Trece says:

    What a wonderful description, Julie. I envy you this love. I don’t know it, from a personal existential sense. But your piece resonates with me because I keep hearing a phrase from an early Carly Simon tune, “The Way I Always Heard It Should Be”: “. . . I’ll never learn to be just me first, by myself. . .”
    I don’t know anything about who I might want to be with because I’ve never been able to be with ME.

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