change · connection · fear · growth · love · self-abandonment · self-support

Doctor of Philosophy




If you have read my blog for any period of time, you may be
aware by now that I seem to have a knack for interpreting the human species and
their actions. I observe, report, make conclusions, and sometimes adjust my own
behavior to meet the findings of what “healthy” or “happy” people seem to be
Philosophically speaking, in all my deep-cover research on
human behavior, I may well have earned myself a doctorate in human behavior.
However for every inner tube of polymer, there is a flat of
pavement, and it is where the rubber meets the road that I become hesitant.
It is all well and good to observe, predict, and theorize,
to take note of actions of others and even of myself as a predictor and indicator
of action’s next steps. However, there is also the parable about the monk who
spent 20 years in a cave becoming enlightened, and upon emerging decked the
first guy he had a disagreement with.
It is only in practice that we actually learn. (Though, I do
submit that research and reflection help.)
When my mom came to visit a few weeks ago, we began to discuss my romantic life. (Unworried, as she said she was, that I would have any trouble when I was finally ready. She’s not the “where are my grandchildren” type, she said.) I told her a
little about my extra layer of protection around my castle wall metaphor. I
told her that my work currently is about coming to trust myself and my boundaries
enough to let people close enough to know me.
I told her my doubts about feeling capable of a) letting
those guards down, and b) evaluating approachers in a level-headed way. I told
her that I am scared to learn to trust myself, because I’m scared that I can’t.
She responded with a story of her own. She’d taken issue,
herself, with the word “trust.” The airy and elusive nature of that word. And
she’s replaced it with the word, “rely.”
Several years ago, she signed up to be a part of a tour
group that would travel to Scotland to see the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her
friend asked her if she was nervous to go by herself, with no-one she knew? My
mom replied, No. She knew that she could rely on her own effusive and collegial
personality, and that she’d make friends.
She didn’t say that she could trust herself to do this; she
said that she knew she could rely on
herself. That she had her own back, basically.
And she invited me to think about it this way instead: Can I
rely on myself? Do I have my own back?
… Well, judging by a very long history of self-abandoning
actions, it’s hard to answer that with a complete affirmative. But, when
pressed, I know that it is true—that it is true now: I am here for myself, even when things are hard…
and even when things are great.
My own pattern of looking the other way, of procrastinating,
of dismissing myself has begun to lessen. If I look at it honestly.
And so, can I rely on myself? Well, I think I can.
And, here’s the rubber/road test: If I do think I can rely on myself, support myself, be
compassionate and encouraging and honest with myself… Then… it means I’m going
to have to allow the sentries around my castle to stand down, and let
my natural boundaries do their job.
I’m going to have to trust myself (word disparity aside) and
take actions that are indicative of a woman who trusts herself, inviting in
those who are supportive but also challenge me to be my best self, and inviting to leave those who
are not.
I’m going to have to have my back.
And I’m going to have to let go of the reigns. My reigns
have become most like bonds, and not the fun kind.
I am scared to try this new way of being out “in the field.”
But I am also scared to continue limiting my connections with people. (And
again, if you’ve read me for any length of time, you know that, mostly, I’m
addressing the case of chronic single-hood I’ve managed to carry for as long as
I’ve been of dating age. Chronic single-hood is most like being Typhoid Mary.
You feel fine, but no one wants to be near you.)
I know that I can’t (and don’t want to) go on the way I have. I’m too young to
be a spinster, and too old to be a bachelorette.
In the observational reality of modern relationships, I may
be deft at cataloguing and quantifying. But my absence of field research also
means that all of my assumptions about my own viability, accessibility, and
health are purely theoretical. 

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