Happily Ever Anxious

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So this whole dating thing: it has to be addressed. You can drop your marriage like a hotcake, but you don’t get to just leave. You know all that baggage from your past? You’re carrying it with you to the next phase of life whether you like it or not.

When I first became a single mom, my main focus was surviving daily life and caring for my very young children. I tip-toed around in the dating world, but looking back, most of that was about distracting me from the pain and regaining my confidence.

Lately I’ve taken a step deeper in relationship, and ironically it’s throwing the focus back on myself in a way I wasn’t open to before. For a good two years I had one foot in and one foot out of whatever situation I was in. I kept waiting to feel that “yes, this is it!” moment, but it never came. I actually started to believe that “yes!” feeling was a thing of the past—something that would probably never show up again in my adult life.

Then I met this guy. He swooped in on the heels of Hurricane Matthew and blew down every wall I had erected in response to my past. For a couple months I was insanely happy. It felt good to feel again, especially when all those feelings came rushing in spiked with a refreshing dopamine buzz. But pretty soon another cocktail of feelings blew in. I was happy and in love…and anxious as hell.

It first hit me when I left town to visit my boys’ grandparents in the midwest for eight days. For a whole morning I wandered around the house trying to soothe my anxious feelings. I exercised, drank hot tea, took a warm bath, and checked my phone obsessively. By that afternoon I figured out what it was about. The last time I made this trip, I probably got cheated on. I’ll never know for sure, but hey, yay for me for discovering and acknowledging the source of my discomfort.

I got back in town and everything was fabulous again. But then my guy got sick and had to stay away for a couple days. Once again I panicked. That’s when I realized I was in trouble. To top it off, he started traveling for work, and I knew something had to shift.

Usually I’d keep this mess to myself. Post-divorce Melissa has been pretty cool (some would say cold) when it comes to men. You know all those men from your 20s who wanted to stick around for fun, but bolted at any hint of a relationship that required elbow grease to keep it going? That was pretty much me post-divorce. And my 20-something-year-old self still remembered to stay cool on the outside to avoid rejection, because I really couldn’t take that shit.

One morning I finally let it out. I acknowledged it not only to myself, but to him too. That was just the beginning. I’m still doing a shit-ton of work on this. Most of my effort involves caring for myself and focusing on my goals. You know that whole codependency thing? I’m pretty sure I have that.

My reflexive way to navigate relationship right now is to protect myself from being deceived again through obsessive, constant focus on other and signs that something might go wrong. What I’m attempting to shift into is self care and self focus. I go forward slowly with eyes and heart wide open, secure in the knowledge that I’m strong enough to thrive no matter how life and relationship unfold for me. This isn’t happening overnight, but I’m learning.

I also let this out to a girlfriend recently and she reminded me of a concept I learned from a Marriage and Family Therapist years ago. Sometimes present situations remind us of things from our past, which trigger helluva uncomfortable feelings and behaviors. What we have to do is stop and say “What’s happening now reminds me of what happened then. But this is now and that was then, and I’m free to have a new experience.”

Self talk is another powerful tool I’ve been using lately, and the affirmation from the Gaia Remembrance card has been especially helpful:

I bless my past. I’m grateful for every experience. For every experience has helped me expand my understanding of love. My life is forever unfolding as it should. The past, the present, the future are one. I honor and respect my feelings and emotions because they’re part of my story.

I know how I want my story to unfold from here, but I don’t know what the universe has in store. For now I’m chewing on this mantra:

What is mine I cannot lose. What is mine cannot be taken.

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