A few weeks ago, I lay in bed with my head resting on my boyfriend’s chest, arm thrown across his torso, and we spoke in circles and tangents about a bunch of things, and at one point, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. He said he wasn’t able to think of anything because he is in a place in life where he doesn’t really pine for objects. His desires are largely related to his comedy career. He paused, laughed, and said that the Mike of a few years ago would not recognize his present self.
I laughed and said that the old me wouldn’t recognize me, either. My own reflection would seem foreign.
Two years ago, I did not see myself in this town, job, apartment, or with him. I could not have fathomed it at all. I would not have anticipated the way my faith and religion would change. Maybe change isn’t the right word, but there isn’t another that seems to for either.
At no point in the first thirty-three years of my life did I see myself as happy, either. I was so certain that happiness – lasting happiness – was something that other people got to have. And then my life exploded and fell to pieces and floated back together in a completely different arrangement.
This kind of happiness is new, and sometimes scary. I am often terrified that it will vanish. That fear becomes anxiety, and a couple of times, I have found myself trying to explain it to him.
How do you explain anxieties to someone without sounding like you are crazy or messed up? I don’t really know, but I know this: his response has been breathtaking. It’s like someone gave him a cheat sheet that lets him in on how to listen, reassure, make me laugh, and redirect, all in the right amount and order, so that I come down off the panic ledge. It doesn’t take long, and I find myself back to normal – my new, happier normal.
Last week, my brain was pickled in hormones and it responded by making me feel like every minute was a swing between wanting to cry and rage. This is really unusual for me, even with hormones involved. For a week, my brain latched on to everything it could find as evidence that I wasn’t happy, that all the good things happening are ending, that I didn’t deserve to be happy. I knew it wasn’t true, but knowing that doesn’t mean anything when anxiety is involved. It made me feel like I was going crazy.
And for a week, whether he knew he was doing it or not, he helped me hang on, believed in me when I didn’t, loved me even when I didn’t feel like myself. It’s no wonder I love him to pieces.
There are a few things going on in my life that make me feel like I am at the start of a new chapter. It’s exciting, terrifying, overwhelming and exhausting. That has meant some bumpy days, but good days, too. It’s a new chapter in this weird ass adventure that has become my life. He is farther into his adventure than I am, but we get to figure it out together. I can’t wait to see what happens.
In the words of my therapist, my “brain doesn’t run on jet fuel, it runs on rocket fuel,” by which he mean my brain runs hotter and faster than average. It can be a good thing, like when I catch on quickly in school, but it can also be a bad thing, particularly when my super fast brain tangos with my anxiety disorder. Anxiety is perpetually asking what could go wrong? and my hyperthinking brain comes up with answers at warp speed. This is why I sometimes refer to myself as Super Anxiety Girl: able to jump to the worst possible conclusion at any time!
Just a couple of posts ago, I wrote about how horribly online dating has been going, and the responses from my friends were either a. It has been just as awful for me, or b. It worked for me, so keep trying! Figuring I had nothing to lose, I kept at it.
There was a profile I’d noticed a few times, but he had made the first contact. At first, the interactions seemed stunted and awkward, but I kept talking to him, and eventually, we fell into some good conversation. CJ asked me out just after publishing that post, and I said yes. A lunch date wasn’t too much commitment, I figured, and so despite all my previous online dates going terribly, I shaved my legs, consulted my bff about which skirt to wear, and carefully decided on Yves Saint Laurent Glossy Lip Stain in Vintage Rouge. My hopes were admittedly not sky high, having been let down before.
The food was so-so, but holy crap, we clicked. What was supposed to be lunch turned into 3.5 hours and only ended because I had to go pick up my mother. We giggled. Our knees kinda sorta touched under the table. He sweetly asked permission to kiss me before he did, and the kiss wasn’t bad at all. I smiled the whole way home. I hadn’t been gone from the restaurant for 20 minutes when he texted and asked if I wanted to hang out that evening. I said yes, and when he texted me his address, it turned out he lives four blocks from me. We ended up watching Harry Potter and Comedy Central and talking until 3:40 AM.
The next few days, we texted, hung out after he got off of work, and it is weird how well we both seemed to fit together. He’s 35, has a reliable job, owns his home, has a stable, normal family who lives in town, is kind, funny, sweet, a good kisser, and doesn’t seem to mind holding my hand. We kind of fell into each other and I wish I could explain it better than saying “we just make sense,” but that’s honestly how I feel. Somewhere along the way,very early on, we decided we weren’t going to see anyone else, and a bit after that, we decided that it suited us to use the boyfriend/girlfriend labels.
In a few weeks, I went from hardly talking to him to feeling like I’ve known him for forever. One night last week, I had to drive from northern Illinois to Detroit and back in one marathon drive. Twelve hours on the road, not counting the hour and a half I spent stopping for gas and delivering the packages to the Chrysler plant. I was happy when he called me after he got off work, but I never imagined he would stay up literally all night to talk to me while I was on the road. At times, we didn’t even talk, we just were there, silent, miles apart, but still together.
All these things are wonderful, right? Right.
Except that this relationship is different than all of my previous relationships. It’s less complicated, more intense, faster, deeper, scarier than any other relationship I’ve had. And that’s where Super Anxiety Girl swoops in.
On Monday, CJ and I spent the day in Chicago, my favorite place at my favorite time of year. He traipsed around Macy’s, Millennium Park, and the Magnificent Mile with me, in the rain, no less! When we got back to his place that evening, we talked and watched TV, and in the midst of the conversation, we ended up in a weird place. I’ve fallen a bit farther than he has. Not that he hasn’t fallen for me at all, but he’s more cautious. I told him that I didn’t expect us to be in exactly the same place, and that’s the truth. I told him we can slow down and take things easier. It had seemed so easy for both of us to fall into the relationship, but we responded a bit differently.
I left his place and almost cried while I drove home. The next day, I barely heard from him. The day after that, Christmas Eve, I didn’t know what to think. Were we over? Had it ended that quickly? What had I done to screw it up? Was he lying when he said that he liked being with me/that it was unexpectedly “right” with me/that I was beautiful, smart, and vibrant? Did I misread every kiss/every hour of handholding/every “thinking of you” text he sent me? Was I too much of myself too quickly, and that turned him off? When he talked about going to a Bulls game or a theater show sometime, was he just blowing hot air? But more than anything: What is so very wrong with me that makes me so undatable and undesirable? A million questions a minute, each worse than the preceding question, and it didn’t stop for nearly two days.
Looking back on that conversation now, I see that it wasn’t as catastrophic as I felt it was at the time. Truthfully, it was going too fast for both of us. Slowing down is a good thing. But slowing down doesn’t mean ending. Being in slightly different places doesn’t mean not being together. I have come down from the proverbial ledge on that one, but it was a tough few days of questions without talking much to him. However, we’ve texted since then, and we’re good.
We were originally going to see each other Christmas night, but he rescheduled for tonight. Then, tonight’s date was rescheduled for tomorrow because he works at the airport and there are flight delays. It has been an epic feat of cognitive behavioral skills to keep myself from over thinking the reschedules. I know that flights are delayed, and that means he has to stay. It’s not that he doesn’t want to see me.
It has all happened really quickly, and it has been really intense. It scares me. It’s nothing like my previous relationships, yet I’m terrified that history will repeat itself. In the past, whenever I hit a rough moment in a relationship, the guy bailed. I wasn’t ready for someone who would stick around through it. As smart as I am when it comes to many things, relationships are where I feel like I hardly know my head from an acorn squash. The cues that everyone else seems to pick up on fly right over my head, and all my intuition is useless.
Dating CJ has been so much fun, and endlessly exciting, even if it’s hell on my nerves. I’m honestly glad he said something about needing it to slow down because I didn’t realize then that I needed the same thing. I hope that this lasts for a while, because I really like him. It is completely new territory for me, but oh sweet mercy, I hope it works.