(And so, having discussed the shortcomings of devoting one’s life to one’s career and the scary nature of love, we return to discuss fear and adjustment.)
One day, you realize that you let someone into your life. Someone has made it past the guard dogs, barbed wire fence and security cameras. Someone has charmed the guard dogs, cut the barbed wire fence with an angle grinder and shot out the camera lenses. Someone has coerced you out of your fortress. Someone has talked you down from your tower. You want to run screaming, but there’s this voice in your head saying, “No. This is The Guy. Do not run this time. Do not run.”
I have let someone into my rib cage.
He has taken my heart somewhere.
I can only hope it is in a climate-controlled safety deposit box of some sort.
I have spent 33 years learning what I was supposed to learn in order to get here. It took a long time because I was busy learning a bunch of other stuff. Love was the hardest because there were no books. No college major. No papers written and returned with red ink. I had to be self-taught and I kept slacking because I didn’t know what to do. I can code you some nice HTML, but I don’t know any rules on PDA or what to say to let someone know you really like them without freaking them out. I don’t know how to say things that are unpleasant when I fear hurting someone else’s feelings. I don’t know how to meet his parents or friends or siblings or any of that. I don’t know how to have a decent day when that person says I hurt his feelings, however accidentally. It’s like there’s an entire volume in the Encyclopedia Britannica of life that nobody bothered to mail to me. It’s the “M” volume: men, mathematics and Megadeth. I don’t understand any of those.
Also, I was scared.
I was scared that, if I told him I loved him, his conquest would be over. The mission would be complete and there would be nothing left for him to do but become completely bored with me and treat me more and more like some old piece of furniture. I was scared that he would change my life so completely that I wouldn’t recognize it anymore. I was scared that he would change his mind. He would find some little stupid thing about me that he didn’t like and then not be able to tune it out. It would grow bigger and bigger until he couldn’t stand to be around me. I was scared of a future that wasn’t completely up to me. Best case scenario, I was scared that I wouldn’t die first and I would lose my mind. My friends would find me sitting on the floor of my closet clutching a whore sandal and drooling on myself. Then, I realized some things.
1. When my dad went first, my mom didn’t lose her mind.
She’s probably in Kentucky somewhere thinking that her job as my mom is done. That there’s nothing else she can possibly teach me. This is incorrect; one of the most important things she ever did as my role model was keep going. She spent years watching him wither away slowly. She was there when they pronounced him. She kept going. She went to Zumba and walked her little dog.
2. Living your life behind a thick wall of concrete nouns is no way to live.
At some point, everybody has to focus on their career. Everybody has to get the plane off the ground. Then, one day, you look at your life and wonder if that’s all there is, just a life of answering emails and hoping to make more money. Forty more years of being on an unstoppable treadmill, working and working just to get one more outfit or a slightly nicer car. Shortly thereafter, you realize that there is either something more to life or you should go shoot yourself. The only thing scarier than the possibility of having your heart broken is the possibility that you are so safely walled up that no one can find your heart to break it.
3. I am harder to kill than previously thought.
I was scared that someone would break my heart and I would lose my mind. I would end up catatonic, unable to do anything but sit perfectly still and try to figure out what the hell had happened. I would find some horrible way to blame and punish myself. Then I realized that my own brain had been trying unsuccessfully to kill me for a little over 20 years. The only person’s brain that I trusted, the brain who knew me better than anybody, the brain inside my own head, had been manipulating and fucking with me for more than 20 years and hadn’t won. I had told it to sit down and shut up. I was ten feet tall and bulletproof and didn’t even know.
(Come back tomorrow for dessert.)