They say perception is reality. If that is so, then there is beauty in everything.
There is beauty in the darkness as well as in the light.
Sometimes the story never changes. But, the characters evolve. They grow, their world view expands and it adds another layer to the story. Change is constant and inevitable.
Change is never easy. When you have to change a fundamental aspect of your personality it can set your world askew. A long time ago I decided to live my life on my terms, to stop trying to be someone I was not. I was married very young and tried to be who he wanted me to be. I was still learning about myself and eagerly followed his guidance at first. For him he had this idea of what family would look like, the things you do, the things you say and how you behave. He even had a template for how we spent our daily lives. He like the idea of church without the morality of it. He was more about the traditions than the nuances. For the most part he was a good person, believed as I believed in integrity, trust, honesty and loyalty, but for him there…
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He became a real presence in my life from the moment he stood in my door way, with those mischievous eyes and that knowing smile. From then on, I couldn’t imagine him not being in my life, part of my life and part of me. I was so nervous, annoyed, anxious, frustrated, every emotion tied into one, turned into itself and upside down. My skin was on fire and my head was a jumble of thoughts. My heart was beating in uncontrollable rhythms and he was hours late. I couldn’t decide whether to hug him or shake him. I was raw with emotion and he was cool as can be. The way he looked at me, his eyes following my every move. My frustrations turn to actions. I felt my hand on his cheek with a loud crack. He didn’t flinch. He never took his eyes off me. “The other cheek is jealous,” he said with that cool and controlled manner. Then that sudden expansive passion of raw emotions. He’s all things, all at once, perfection and imperfection. He is my chaos and my peace. He is my beacon and my light.
…all these years down the line and I cannot imagine my life without him.
I am the calm before the storm. I am that terrible silence that will shatter your very soul.
We don’t drift apart. We tear at each other, trying to untangle the silken web of love, affection and passion. We try to undo the layers of happiness and pain. We thought we could run fast and far, it changed nothing, not distance, not time and not silence. It hurt and smothered our joys. It took us into a darkness and we became lost. Then he looked and I looked. It was a slip and a slight and that light in the darkness, that was YOU; That was ME; That was US. We’re inescapable, insatiable and invincible. We were inevitable.
He is part of me. I am part of him.
In the fiercest storm, you are my haven.
By A.N. Bayat
You know my sacred name
not ever meant for all
You held me with your gaze
You hold my fragile heart
You’ve held it a million years
You’ve had it from the start
i should have walked away that day
i should have gone invisible
i shouldn’t have answered your call
i should not have given all
i should have closed my heart
i should have turned my back
i should have lost my faith
i should have sailed away
i should have forgotten you
what would life have been if I’d never looked your way?
What would it have been if I’d turned and walked away?
If I’d never taken a chance, what I would have missed?
i can’t imagine my life if i had never smiled
i can’t imagine it if i had never ever tried
i can’t imagine life if I’d kept it locked away
i can’t imagine it if I’d not left that door ajar
turned on that light
expressed that moment
or handed you my soul
What would our lives have been
without that loving tender kiss?
what would it have been
without that comforting embrace?
How would it all have changed
without your understanding smile?
How would it be different
without your caring patient gaze?
I would never have known love
happiness or joy
I can stand every ounce of pain,
sadness and tears
because you are always here for me
to love away my fears…
who ever thought I’d love a man
so course and rough around the edges
but loving from the start
that’s why over all the years
all the distance in between,
No one else has ever held my heart
or known my sacred name
You’ve held it a million years
you’ll have a million more
There is that awkward moment or moment of truth when everything seems to meld together. It’s that moment when I walked in and found my significant other in bed with someone else. Maybe it began when I found a little slip of note in his pocket and I felt that gut wrenching feeling. Maybe I had doubts or suspicions. But, the reality is more horrific than any in the imagination. What do I do? Do I pull it all away or go into denial? Do I confront or retreat? That moment makes up every moment thereafter.
My first instincts saying a lot about me. As a young woman, my first instinct was deny it. I was naive and I wanted to believe in the “happily ever after.” I wanted to believe that people were honest. As time passed, that denial sunk deeper and became confrontation. He always had excuses or counter attacks. Then the denial and innocence began to fade away. I built walls in order to survive and maintain my family. Those walls eventually engulfed me and became my second skin.
I’ve relived that moment over and over. From that marriage to my subsequent relationships, that young girl lost her innocence in defense of that perpetual discovery. It’s every woman’s worst nightmare. I wanted to believe the lie. I wanted to believe there was a good reason. Then the excuses and justifications lost their ability to shield the truth. It left only a suspicious mind, always looking for evidence of another indiscretion. I’ll never be that innocent again. I know the signs. I recognize the lies and half-truths. It left an angry, distant and suspicious shell from one relationship to the next, always awaiting that awkward moment.
Anger is my best defense. If I’m angry then it can’t hurt me. If I’m angry and close away my heart, it can’t touch me. When I face that awkward moment eventually, it is no longer awkward. It has no power as long as I have control. My defenses are strong. I almost expect it. I know the lines, the excuses, and the anger deflected. I have a rebuttal for every response. I’m ready. I take a deep breath. I know them all. I’m always ready for battle. I became hyper-vigilant. I noticed every odd look, hidden conversations, late nights and even the inconsistent stories.
That’s how I started my married life, in denial and eventually in defense. At first it was to save a destructive relationship and eventually it was to save the stability and innocence of my children. Every time I felt the sting of the pain, I’d get up every day and try to ignore the hurt. I accepted more just to be able to stay. I kept hoping that I could work it out. I allowed my heart to be dragged around, always hoping things could be worked out, and hoping they would change, I spent those early years, begging, pleading and in constant anxiety and fear of losing my family. Then one day I stopped. I stopped looking for evidence. I stopped hoping things would be different. I stopped hoping he would change. I stopped looking for a reason. I got stronger.
Eventually I expected it in every relationship. It was never a surprise. The lack of expectations was the best defense. The anger was still there. The suspicion and then suddenly I didn’t even realize that I’d become jaded and immune to the reactions. I had moments where I eventually didn’t let it go that far. The minute I saw things going awry, I left. I made my move before they did. I always had a backup plan. It kept me safe. It kept me from being hurt. I saw the signs before I had the evidence. I was out the door. That served me well until it didn’t.
In the beginning I would find the awkward silences, broken plans, and the working late, missing money, little notes in the pockets of his uniform with phone numbers or dates which had no significance to me. Eventually it turned into finding rolls of film, small trinkets and gifts, a lipstick souvenir from a trip abroad or deployment. I’d find a small scroll with love poems from her. A pair of earrings in a plastic bag he kept as a souvenir of their time together. Every trinket and every note left scars on my heart. There was never just one. There were many. Some were nameless and faceless. Others had clear meaning in his life. He memorialized them in pictures and love letters. All that forgiven until it wasn’t. I was never in the dark. Sometimes I wonder if maybe it would have been best, as he figured it out, if he’d left me in the dark. He never did. He would ensure that I knew. He found odd pleasure in leading me to evidence. It kept me controlled. He’d let me know I was replaceable. But, we had a child. I had a family to protect. He got odd pleasure in knowing that he always had a backup girl. His actions left me hard and jaded about relationships and motivations. Eventually I found myself 30 and my marriage at an end. I’d grown up. I’d forgiven. But, I had not learned to let go.
I threw myself through every opportunity. I focused on my career. There was no time for serious relationships or at least that is how I justified it. But, in reality it was my defense mechanism. In that time I had learned to run, hide and disappear. I’d learn to keep people at a distance and shut away my feelings in a tight little part of my heart. No one got past my defenses, even as many tried. I jumped quickly into the “hook up” culture. I told myself it was safer and that is all I had time for in my life. I began a sexual resurgence unlike that within my marriage. I experimented with different lifestyle choices. I had spent my entire adult life with one man. I had only one sexual experience. He had been my first. I didn’t know. After him, I lived all of my sexual fantasies. I fell into my first threesome, into short dalliances with varied sexual fetishes. I learned what I liked and what I did not like. I found and learned myself in that time. I had a new found freedom. I wasn’t ready to let it go or lose it.
None of this was dependent on love. It just was part of the landscape. I never realized how tall, and extensive those walls had become until the day I met him. He would chip away at them, He’d push and pull them apart wanting to be heard and understood. But no man could get that far. I turned away from him. I didn’t notice that he kept trying over the years. I pushed through with wild abandon believing that somehow I had become free. The truth was that I had not. I had released my body. But, I had not released my heart. It was chained and locked away behind impenetrable walls. He eventually found his way through all those walls, all my defenses and eventually even found that hidden space where my heart lay. In the time that he’d been trying, I fell into short lived rebound relationships, friends with benefits, even affianced. But, none of it served my purposes until he reach me
My time with him was the best time of my life, so I thought. He was loving, affectionate, strong and supportive. When he looked into my eyes I felt he was looking into my soul. He refused to allow me to divert my gaze from him. He forced me to see him, to look at him “I’m right here.” He recognized my fear. He didn’t exploit it. He protected me. I was still so new at love. I was still so exposed and vulnerable and then I was just afraid. He embraced me and my fear. He embraced my heart and vowed to protect it, to stay and never leave. He said all the right things. But, more appealing, was when he handed me his heart. Suddenly I knew that I had found something real. But, those old fears came back. I began to see the inconsistencies. I began to see the half-truths, the unspoken words. Suddenly his own fears began to pull him away. I had run and he’d stopped me. Then he began to run, hide and disappear. Nothing was more terrifying for me than being left alone and defenses gone. As quickly as he’d come, he was gone.
I was left naked and scarred. I could never go back to who I was before him. I did try. I tried to fall back into that lifestyle, those defenses and that familiar arena. It never quite worked. I ended up in another relationship. Parts of me trying to find someone to fill that void he’d left behind. I didn’t know why he’d suddenly just left me. I waited for him for a year. I thought there had to be a reason. I knew him. He’d never hurt me. I just knew that. I believed. I fell into step in a new relationship. He was fun and accommodating. I brought all the excitement. I tried to remake my relationship him. But, there is no replacing or reconstituting a love where it doesn’t exist. I accepted that the best I could do was a good physical connection. I found it with this new guy. But, it was shallow and empty. It wasn’t what I craved or what I missed. He followed me into all my adventures, those which I had tried to experience with my love. The new guy was always ready, willing and able to be fully in my life. My heart wasn’t and couldn’t be his. Within a few months, my love reappeared. He was back from the rock he’d crawled under. He wanted to work through and start where we had paused. He tried to step back into place. I was hurt and angry. I kept him at arm’s length. I held on to my new relationship. It became my new defense. But, my love would not go. He gave his reasons. He explained his absences. He tried to undo and patch the wounds. It was too soon. I’d waited a year for him. Being with another man and moving on was the most painful and heart wrenching moment of my life. I’d pushed through it in order to survive. I had felt my heart ripped away in that first moment with another man after my love was gone. I felt the physical tearing away of my heart. My walls came down visible to my senses, sharp and white. The brightness of their sudden appearance left me afraid. One moment I sat under a tree with my new guy and the next my world had disappeared and I was behind huge white walls. I felt them slam down around me. Then I heard nothing. I saw or felt nothing. It was momentary, but long enough for the new guy to see a blank stare. It felt like a physical pain when I made the decision to have sex with him. I felt the ache of my fragile heart as it fell to pieces. I looked to the stars for answers. I looked for my love in their twinkling brightness. But, all I found was an overcast and dark sky looming over me as if it felt my grief. He was gone. I was letting go.
The minute I’d moved on he was back. He bared his heart to me. He opened up his wounds to show me his pain. I felt the missing pieces begin to try to slip back into place. He was familiar, my love. He was security, safety and comfort. His soft voice in my ear pulling me toward him. But, he’d hurt me and I was angry. Had I missed the signs that I was so ready to notice in every previous relationship and in my marriage? Had I become so blind with emotion that I could not see the lies, the awkward moments or the evidence? I turned it over in my hands looking for answers. But, ultimately I realized I hadn’t missed anything. I knew him. He had laid his cards on the table. I knew his moods. But, there was a missing piece or pieces. There were things he held back. But, he’d told me that he would protect me from anything he felt would hurt me, even himself. Then I began to see how he’d run, and disappear. He no longer answered all my questions. He always gave me reasons and excuses. He’d say that he would explain eventually. He was vague and mysterious. It wasn’t alluring. It was distracting. It made me afraid, afraid to trust him and afraid to trust myself with him. I clung to my new relationship until I no longer could. Then I ran as well. I pushed away my new guy. I pushed away my love. I pushed away my friends. I ran far enough until I thought I was safe. I married someone else. I thought if I did that, I would never run back. I could never be hurt. My new husband was my new defense. I was looking for someone that could not hurt me. I was hiding behind someone that had no hold over my heart. I was safe. But, it didn’t last. I couldn’t stay. Before long, I’d pushed him out of my life as well.
Eventually I was pulled back into working through things with my love. Even that was short lived. I was still running, trying desperately to rebuild my walls. I kept him at arm’s length. I became self-destructive. No longer had the control and power I had over my life as I’d once after my first marriage. I was still vulnerable and afraid. I made excuses not to see him, even though the very thought of him made my heart ache. I pushed him away and made excuses about why I couldn’t make a commitment to him. He would call, reach for me and I would push, hide, and run. I wouldn’t quite disappear. I always responded to him and answered him. But, I allowed my anger, pain and frustrations to continue to rule my decisions. I was afraid with a fear so deep it only felt like reason. I was hurt with a pain so profound it only felt like logic.
I jumped into the next available escape, another relationship that I thought I could use to fill that void left by my love. I wasn’t in love by any sense of the word. I was hiding, running and pushing my love away for hurting me. I felt his reach. I felt his pull and love. I pushed. I ran. I felt the melting of my heart when I knew he was thinking of me, looking for me and wanting me. I wanted him too. I was afraid. My new relationship seemed the perfect solution. It began on my birthday. It was new, fun and exciting. There were no emotions there. At best he should have been nothing more than someone to have a drink with and lose myself. He shouldn’t even have been sex. I was not interested in him in that way. He had his appeal as a friend. But, I wasn’t attracted to him. Once again in self-destruct mode. I was hurting myself or punishing my heart for daring to love. This new man bull dozed himself into my life and my home. Before I knew it, I was living a life to horrible to explain. I lived daily in fear and terror. Even in the calm moments I was afraid. But, my love never left me. He began to distance himself. But, he was always there with tid-bits of advice and comfort. It never occurred to me that he was hurt too. It never occurred to me that I had caused him pain as I ran and jumped through and into relationships and marriages to escape my own pain. It never occurred to me that he was hurting too. He couldn’t leave and neither could I. He became my beacon. He became my light from the darkness in which I was engulfed. My love became the man he’d always promised me he would be. He became my protector and supporter. It never occurred to me that he had begun to keep me at arm’s length in order to stay and steel himself from the pain of me and another. We were always more alike than different.
After the horrible relationship with the other, I was finally free and alone again. I pulled myself away from everyone. I slipped into my corner to lick my wounds. For the first time in my life I didn’t feel strong. But, my love was always there even when I had stopped expecting and waiting. He did not leave me. I kept my distance. This time I was not ready to jump into fire. I was healing. I couldn’t bare for him to see my pain. But, he knew. Because you see in those years he’d become my confidant and the only person I truly trusted. He had become the only person to which I knew my heart was safe. Even as he hurt, he protected me. I have looked around every corner and every possible angle in which he might be trying to deceive me. But, that suspicion just wasn’t there. That need for walls never appeared. I wrapped his protection around me. But, I had become numb. I knew he loved me. But, could not hope. I carried our memories in my soul. He pushed them away. He was in pain. He wanted to forget. I eventually began to accept that he did not care and he did not trust me. Maybe I had imagined us. It was safer for me to believe and to hold on to that idea. It never occurred to me he had been hurt too. I wouldn’t let myself think it. It never occurred to me that he hurt every time I ran. He hurt and felt it every time I hid, and distanced myself. He hurt every time I threw myself into another relationship. He was strong and he stayed.
We’d dance around each other, trying to figure out if it was safe to come together. He’d move forward, I’d retreat. I’d reach for him, he’d smile at me and distance himself. Years ago I expressed our initial encounter as a moment and not knowing how or why it happened. It just did. Once again we are going about our lives and in the next we are standing close, questioning and wanting to never let go. One day as I was living my life, it happened. He stopped and I stopped and I don’t know how, but we found each other standing still at the same time. There he was once again reaching for me and I wanted to reach for him. I did. I moved toward him as he moved toward me. We found that moment again.
After all this time he was still with me and me with him, always locked in each other’s hearts. But, this time we are more aware. We are not blinded by love. We know each other. We have learned each other. We have and see the cracks in the perfection. We have learned to accept and even love each other’s imperfections. He knows me, my moods, my fears and my worries. He knows my joys. He knows what makes me smile and he knows what makes me worry. He knows when I am hurt, upset and he knows when I can’t contain the joy. He became my best friend. We learned each other over the years.
Then came the awkward moment. I found myself standing with him defenses down and suddenly we were there, with the doubts and the misunderstandings and fears in full view. Here we were once again. His vagueness and my fears. In the past he’d react to my anger and fear by distancing himself, ignoring my tantrums. He’d shut down. That would only make me angrier and determined to be heard. It pushed him away. It drove me away. Here we were once again. I fully expected the full retreat. But, he didn’t. He knew me. He inched forward. He reached for me, and comforted me. He reached and pulled me close. He listened. I found myself confused at his reaction and his patience. He cared. He had told me so. We were strong. He had told me so. He wanted to know. He wanted to hear me. He wanted to explain. He left no stone unturned. We had both learned. I accepted him. He accepted me. We knew how difficult we both could be. His reaction tempered my behaviour. Suddenly I wasn’t angry, hurt or afraid. Suddenly the remainder of past hurts melted away. He had been holding me all this time. He’d been letting me heal. He’d become gentle with my heart if not my body. In our first moment together again, I felt his love for me in his sudden embrace. I felt his emotions. They were raw and unabashed. They were limitless, powerful and encompassing. I felt his embrace with such urgency. It healed us both. I began to understand that he had hurt too. As he held me in his arms, I felt his sigh reverberate through me. It shook me to the core. I felt his need for me, not just physically, but emotionally. I felt his hurt begin to heal with mine. I was confused. I’d built every moment after on the false pretense that he didn’t care. He’d used me. He didn’t. He didn’t. He didn’t. Then I could no longer use that to shield me from my own insecurities. Because he did love me. Then the horror of my bad behaviour became visible in the realization that I had been causing him pain. I was too engrossed in my own pain to notice that although he was silent, it all had hurt him. In my self-destruct mode, I had caused him pain. So much misunderstanding and miscommunications. But, it was different now. Neither of us hid or ran. We stood still. We explained. We talked. We listened. It was our learning curve.
It was the moment that he expressed his thoughts. He thought I would sleep with someone else to spite him, in a moment of anger. Then I truly began to see how he had perceived myself destructive behaviour and how it had affected him. I thought back to just days before and our argument and how he’d seemed to disappear and I became angry. It was an old pattern with a different outcome. I had become frustrated the silence and inconsistent messages. He’d called me trying to make me smile and trying to make me feel better. In the midst of his busy work week, he’d taken time for me. I had rebuffed his comfort. I refused to answer his questions. I shut down. I made him feel that in my anger I would react self destructively as I had in the past. I was going “out” with “friends” and leaving him no recourse but to distance himself to protect himself once again. But, he didn’t go far. He stayed. He held on to me. He understood my reactions and my actions. It hurt him. But, this was different. We were different. We were older, more mature and more aware of each other. We did something new. We didn’t hide, run or disappear. We didn’t try to sweep it away. We engaged each other. We communicated. We listened. We argued and we stood still, refusing to run. I realized we’d both been afraid to argue, to fight because then we might scare the other away. We had glossed over so many things, his pain, his hurt, his fears and worries in order to protect me. But, that day he stood up to me. He didn’t hide. He spoke. He opened up and placed his heart in my hands. He gave me his pain. He gave me his fears. He gave me his anger. I had a choice. I could have abused that moment. I teased him, trying to lighten the mood. But, he was himself again. The man I knew from long ago. He wanted me to understand. He wanted me to hear him clearly. He made his perspective known. I held on to a small bit of my pride and I reassured him; but not completely. I was still afraid. Then I knew I had no reason to be afraid. He was trusting me. I wanted him to know his heart was safe with me. I was done running, and hurting us.
In an awkward moment it all came to be tested. I had come full circle. There was that evidence, names and possibilities. My reaction was denial. I was innocent again. I was naive again. His reaction was defensiveness. I knew this dance. I’d done it with my ex-husband. I’d done this before. Here was the past coming to take away my security and stability once again. I confronted. I tried to be angry. I tried to strip away everything and be angry. I couldn’t. I felt sad. I felt grief. Then he stopped. He distanced. Then he stopped. He pushed. Then he stopped. He didn’t run. He didn’t hide. He didn’t disappear. He didn’t try to hurt me. He didn’t try to make me feel replaceable. He explained. He was open and honest. It wasn’t what I expected. I tried to be mature and understanding. But, those old doubts and fears slipped between us. But, he stood firm. He remained connected. He explained his defensive response. He didn’t run. I had to stop and think. This was different. He wasn’t him. He was my love. He was standing still, for me, and for us. I had no anger. I had no doubt as we face each other, circling trying to decode our attitudes and perceptions. I had no feelings of mistrust. He corrected the situation. That awkward moment didn’t break us. It made us stronger.
He’s never been like my ex-husband. He’s never tried to hurt me deliberately. He’s never tried to tear me down. He’s believed in me. He’s supported me. He’s loved me, held me, cared for me and protected me. I paid him in kind with pain and he forgave me. In his openness, I suddenly saw his perspective. I was too busy being selfish, I didn’t realize that with all his responsibilities, obligations and stresses, he made room for me in his life, the best way he always could. He made time for me in between his crazy schedule.
I still have fears, I still have doubts at times. But, then I remember he gave me his heart. I won’t abuse that. I do not know where life will lead from here. I’m living for today. I am enjoying him. We are having fun and making memories. I am reacting differently than I did in the past, being unassuming.
I love him. I once lay my heart open to him. I gave him a part of myself years ago, that I have given to no one else. I let him in and gave him the ability to hurt me. He knows all the ways he can hurt me if he so chooses. But, he has never chosen to abuse his power over my heart.
I am still difficult. He is still difficult. Now we are difficult together.
The true test of love is not how we come together, nor is it how you kiss or gift, it is in knowing how to hold each other and how you get over the past and not dwell within it. We’re learning to fight for each other.
We all start one way, shiny and new, with no bumps or bruises. Somewhere along the way it all begins with first bump, the first skinned knee or slight cut. At first it all seems so innocent and even unintentional. There is need to worry because we are taught that falling is part of the process of moving through life. We can’t move forward without the occasional scrape or nick.
What they don’t tell you is that eventually it all begins to fall together leaving you but a wisp of what you once were. Who you start out to be is not who you become. Where once you were shiny and new without a blemish the years and trials leave you battle weary and worn. Even when you can’t see it on the outside the scars are more than skin deep.