By Paige Pancratz
A new beginning. What is that really? I started dating an ex lover again this past summer after being apart for 13 years. We had dated in our 20s and I was her first love. It was a brief, strong connection but ultimately I broke her heart badly. Like really badly. We happened to work the same gardening gig this past spring and there was a certain way we could share honestly about what we had learned from our most recent “failed” relationships that made me wonder, “do we have similar values?” And then there was a certain way we always ended up laughing hysterically on our ladders while trimming vines. And then there was that smile at the end of that one day and the way my body responded. And then, of course, she rides a motorcycle and took me for a ride through Garden of the Gods and it was all over. A new beginning? Not yet.
We slept together and I was gratefully reminded that she is the best kisser of all time. Things felt good. We talked a couple days later about how we both just wanted to keep things casual, that the sex is good and that’s all we’re really interested in. Let’s have a fun relationship, we decided. Perfect. I thought briefly about that Sharon Olds poem, Sex Without Love, and then I walked home excited to be connected but not totally connected.
We kept hanging out and in the next few weeks it became apparent that we were “feeling more than we expected.” Let’s talk about our feelings. So, we did. And we agreed we were falling in love. Or there was a possibility of that. Let’s start showing more of ourselves, we decided.
Then, a few months later, we broke up. I was carrying a lot of guilt from the first time we were together 13 years ago. She still carried the hurt from 13 years ago that made it hard for her to trust me. There was a lot of performing going on to prove we were more mature and well-adjusted in the world after 13 years. And then there were all the belief systems we carry around in ourselves that got really loud and defensive when we started to let each other in. We were faced with meeting ourselves where we were and it got scary. This can’t work. I’m not ready. I don’t want to be seen fully. We’re broken. I’ll decide for you that you can’t love all of me. All the stuff. The old stuff.
And then things got interesting. Thank god. Because after years and years of therapy and energy work and yoga teacher training, I was more than a little discouraged to see the same sad trajectory of another “failed” relationship. And, the usual finish/start line to this old trajectory is I arrive at 1.) I believe I’m broken and can’t be loved, and 2.) I search for someone/something new to fill that hole in me that says I’m broken. But strangely, here’s where the new beginning showed up (don’t they always show up at a perceived end?). I recognized the fear and got curious. Am I really broken? Can I really not be loved?
They say a miracle is a change in perception. (I say “they” because I can’t remember who actually said that.) And I think that is all a new beginning is, a change in perception. But how does that happen? I think you need to get really curious and be really open to letting go. Letting go of attachments to what things should look like and just show up. As you are. We know this. It seems to be in Facebook quotes a million times a day. All the pop psychology and Ted talks speak to this. So after years of hearing this advice, I tried it. I don’t think this can happen with just anyone. But I think we do know when our gut says, “try it with this one.” And maybe that’s where I’ve arrived. I finally want to be seen. I wondered if we could meet each other in our messy, scary fear of the stories we make up about ourselves that have calcified over time and look like truth. She was brave and agreed to try. Oh, shit, I thought.
And that’s where we are now. We don’t define ourselves as together. I have no idea if that’s what this is about. We only hang out periodically. We decided to shelf the sex for now (this part is difficult, but seems necessary right now). All the scaffolding I had erected to support what I thought a relationship should look like is slowly falling away. It’s weird. We agreed to one rule: she’s not allowed to show up on her motorcycle. And a few simple intentions. Let’s create a safe space to be vulnerable and show up and see what happens. Let’s let go of liking or disliking what we hear and just allow each other to speak from our hearts. Let’s admit to what hurts or feels hard and help each other understand why. We have simple therapy 101 tools like communicating with the phrases “the story I’m making up about this is” and “what I hear you saying is.” The “what the fuck is going to happen?” and “will she love this part of me?” questions aren’t going away, but, damn, they get quiet during the truth telling/seeking/remembering/
Editor’s note: We asked Paige to share her experiences as they resonated with the Break-Up Blog. We’re so grateful to be a part of her journey.