The Birth of Control Issues

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” – Kahlil Gibran

If you’ve been a reader for a while you know that I have a special place in my heart for those of us with ‘control issues’. I am one of those people who get anxious when I am faced with a lot of things that are outside of my control because it means that my emotional and/or physical safety is at risk – or at least that’s what my mind thinks.

Remember – we developed control needs when – at some point in our life – there was a perception of chaos or we somehow perceived that we were emotionally threatened. In an effort to calm down, relax, reduce anxiety… we searched for ways to create a sense of safety. To do that, we pulled in and engineered the circumstances in our environment to the extent that we were able.  If someone was inside the sphere under influence – they were also pulled in.

I’ve been accused of needing to control. It’s true. I do occasionally attempt to over manage, govern, inflict authority, etc… in situations where not doing so may leave my emotional welfare up for grabs.

I will not apologize for this – it is my survival mechanism. It is how I manage risk and make it through difficult times.

I will acknowledge though, that in this effort to create emotional safety in my world I am sometimes overbearing and unthoughtful about the other people in my space. For that – I am apologetic. Please know that I am not interested in mastering YOU. I am only seeking resolution for the risk that I am unwilling to take.

Here are how control issues manifest:

When I was married and my husband drank a lot I would feel as if he wasn’t there for me. He would either get sloppy or emotionally distant. He was unable to take care of responsibilities and I felt as if the weight of the world fell onto my shoulders. – NOT A DESIREABLE FEELING. To get rid of that feeling, I would beg him not to drink. I would hide the alcohol. I stopped wanting to go out to dinner at any restaurant where there was a bar. I never wanted to entertain or go over to friends’ houses if there was going to be beer. In my mind – if he didn’t have access to alcohol, I had a partner and someone to share the responsibility. I was fearful of being the only one accountable… what if I failed?

When my kid’s friends started to drive, they wanted to transport my own children around town. Of course, the idea of having driving freedom is a highlight of all teens – a rite of passage. But… I didn’t have any control over my children’s safety if they were in the car with someone else. In an effort to control for MY own fears and feelings, I’d take the kids anywhere they wanted to go – I’d drive carloads of young women around town all afternoon and wait – sometimes at the expense of my other commitments so that I wouldn’t have to cope with the risk of them driving with someone else which stimulated my fears of them being unsafe – ultimately MY fear of feeling loss.

When I was married, I paid all the bills. (surprised?) I had a lot of fears that revolved around not having enough money. If we didn’t have enough money for the mortgage or the car payment they could get taken away (my parents had a car repossessed and a house foreclosed on when I was a kid). As long as I was the one paying the bills, I could ‘control’ how and when the payments were made. If my husband spent money without my knowledge it immediately triggered my fear that we may not have enough and ultimately that we would be homeless which, might be a little dramatic but that’s where my mind went.

Notice that in each case the underlying component is FEAR. In each case, I am attempting to mitigate the negative feelings that I WILL FEEL if things don’t go smoothly. I become afraid that YOUR actions may generate a problem for my emotional safety. Somewhere along the line I’ve adopted the idea that if you do … (this)… , I will feel … (that)… usually based on some historical event that either personally happened to me or that I witnessed.  Consequently, I have surmised that if I can keep you from doing (this) – I won’t feel (that). The most fundamental problem with this instinctual strategy is that I CAN’T CONTROL YOU and it leaves me vulnerable.

No matter how hard I might try to control for my own fear – in the examples I’ve provided they require something from another person – who may be feeling as if I am attempting to dominate their behavior. Superficially – I AM trying to control the situation but…

… not because I am interested in having control of YOU – but because I am trying to have control OF ME.

The crux of this whole effort – and where everyone gets stuck is – that we HAVE NO CONTROL OVER OTHERS! People are not puppets – nor do any of us want to be. We are designed for self-mastery… to want to make decisions for ourselves.

We have a vision in our minds – we all do – of what a comfortable, safe life looks and feels like. We have an idea of how to accomplish that vision. When we have experienced successful collaborations, we generally learn to accept that there are many roads leading to the achievement of that ideal. However, people who have been abandoned, betrayed, and left to their own devices learned that they were solely responsible for reaching the objective and therefore, develop a premise that they must go it alone and have to have command in order to be successful.

My mom said a thousand times if she said it once… “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” That statement all by itself is probably enough for me having learned that ‘I had to have control’. Remember – if something is done ‘right’ – that’s good. We will do anything to create more ‘good’ feelings… they create a sense of emotional safety. Indirectly, and I’m am sure without any obvious intent, it was one of the ways that I was taught that to do it yourself – to have personal control – was the way to emotional safety.

However, we do not live in isolation – nor do any of us really want to exist all by ourselves. We come together in pairs or groups with the intent of achieving a joint vision and we must learn how to achieve emotional safety without the deleterious effects often produced by the ‘control issues’ that formed along the way.

Tomorrows post will address that problem.

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Escape Route

Continued from Armoured Up

Running away from any problem only increase the distance from the solution. The easiest way to escape from the problem is to solve it. ~ Anonymous

When Abee said she “just needed to be alone” I realized that any progress toward a new beginning I thought existed, was only in my imagination. It was possible that she needed space now that the house was empty and she could privately grieve but I wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when I was investigating company accounting statements that I actually understood. I noticed a number of charges to the corporate American Express card that were made at retail stores for hair products and swimwear. Obviously curious, I checked the dates on the calendar only to find out that it was the day I had offered to hang out with Abee. Remembering back in more detail I recall that Hubby hadn’t been around either. We didn’t tell one another our plans anymore but I was in the habit of paying attention to when he was or wasn’t home. Well, I’ll be damned. He had taken her shopping on the company’s dime…

A few other incidents occurred across a couple of months that forced me to keep very close tabs on how much money was being spent from OUR company’s funds. Also, the time that Hubby and Abee were spending together in public increased as I received frequent ‘reports’ of them being seen out and about. I had to surmise that now Mom was gone, there was no more voice of reason about the impropriety of their relationship. Hubby attempted to intermingle his weekends with the girls into spending time with Abee as well but they were confused as to why Abee was around with their dad, helping him find a new house, etc. No one was being honest and I was getting fired up.

No matter how hard I worked to cope with the depth of the betrayal from my husband and sister, it was constantly in front of me, requiring me to readjust on a daily basis. There was never time to build tolerance as every time I turned, it seemed as if there was another question from someone… “are they still together?” “What does she see in him?” “What do your kids think?” “I can’t believe it!” or something that brought it all back to the front and center of my consciousness. It didn’t matter what coping mechanism I was using at the moment, I had to find another one. It was as if I was building a tolerance to the methods most common and had to constantly find something better or stronger to help me get through the next round of questions or the next battle of nighttime tears from the girls. There were days when I would be driving into school crying out of frustration on how to put that relationship into perspective. There were nights when all of the broken promises bombarded me like slivers of fragmented glass, ripping metaphorically into my already damaged heart. I was tired of hurting. I wanted to escape.

It was a stressful spring all around. I had missed a week of classes while in San Deigo and so I was playing catch up with my classes. I was noticing my mom’s absence daily as I would attempt to pick up the phone and call to ask how she was feeling or to see how her bridge game went. One evening I was sitting on my bed thinking about mom, going all the way back to my childhood. I remembered, even after all those years, the day she had left to join the Army. As a twelve-year-old, I wanted to come home every day to my mom. I wanted her to teach me how to cook and sew (well, she didn’t really sew…) I wanted her to talk with me about girl stuff and play Barbie’s before bedtime. One this particular evening, as I was reflecting on the pain I felt as a child when mom left and the pain I was feeling that night, wanting to turn to my mother for solace… I cried out in deep desolation, for all of the times that mom had forsaken me. The sorrow escaping my body had been suppressed for more than three decades and yet it wasn’t only that, it was for everyone who had left me – intentionally or otherwise. In that one moment, I understood the intensity of my abandonment sentiment. I grasped right then how I had moved through my life from the footprint of rejection and desertion.

I wrote letters that night to Mom, Rocky, Dad, Hubby, Abee, and a couple of other incidental people who had left me or rejected me for what was to them – either nonvoluntary (i.e., Rocky & Dad) or conscious decisions motivated by needs that did not include me. I was able to recognize that outside of death, those people weren’t really leaving ‘me’… they were focusing on what was good for them. They were satisfying their own needs instead of considering the needs of others and while this is what most of us do… many of us are satisfying the OUR need NOT to hurt people we love.

This is the great dichotomy in which we live really… if we make decisions that make us happy regardless of how other people feel – will we ‘really’ be happy??  If I know that by choosing one direction of happiness for myself means that many others will be miserable… can I still experience the joy I was anticipating? Where exactly is that balancing line? Where do my needs and the needs of others intersect? Why does someone always have to sacrifice?

I considered my own pain. It was quasi-torturous to stay in that house, the one we built together – in the town where we had dreamed of raising our family… to hear people say that they saw my sister and Hubby at the such and such restaurant or driving down the road together… If I moved, I could escape all that. I wouldn’t have to be in the same town with constant reminders or notice the look on people’s faces who knew that my sister, the one I bragged so much about when we hired her to work for us, was hooking up with my soon-to-be-ex-husband. I wouldn’t wonder how many people were whispering behind my back. It would be easier to leave – to start anew but the girls… they wouldn’t want to go; they had been raised here. They were embedded in our community, in scouts, sports, and school. They loved this house, their rooms, and the neighbors. I didn’t want to pull them away from their lives. I could go. But then, I would be just like my mom. Leaving my kids to pursue something that offered me personal relief even if it was going to be temporary.

Funny that my oldest daughter was almost exactly the same age as I was when mom left me. Is this life offering the same lesson? Can I break some kind of karmic string if I stay and stare down the temptation to relieve myself? It was so enticing… the possibility of ending in-you-face-betrayal simply by relocating but I couldn’t do it.

I sat on the edge of Sara’s bed one night specifically to let her know that I was there with them, that I would always be there and that from everything… absolutely everything comes something good if we are patient enough to wait for it. I explained that nothing was more important than self-respect and that no matter what happened in her life, no matter the man (or men) she would meet – that compromising self-respect should never – ever – be an option. I hope she heard me. I believed that maybe, just maybe – a reason for all of my turmoil was to teach my daughters and that – gave me hope.

In-Between Spaces

Continued from Back to School

“One thing you can’t hide – is when you’re crippled inside.” ~ John Lennon

My family was still divided over Abee’s involvement in my marriage; so many little things had surfaced over the course of a year that it made it impossible to distinguish truth from fantasy. We hadn’t celebrated the holiday’s together and it seemed as though I saw Mom less and less. She was doing great though. She had finally acclimated into her community and made friends. She was getting involved in a number of activities and that alone may have diverted her attention but in part, she continued to be torn.

I discovered, quite by accident, that she had enlisted Hubby’s help around her home – the one she shared with Abee – to do some maintenance items. It was an impossible task for me to be unreactive as the man who had so deeply betrayed me was now doing favors for my mother… didn’t anyone in my family have boundaries?? Of course, because I loved Mom, I wanted her to ‘be taken care of’ and it was nice of him to offer but I just couldn’t reconcile it. In my mind, he was doing it for Abee too… she lived there. Was I never going to be rid of this pain? Was there always going to be this crazy reminder of how two people whom I loved deeply made a conscious decision to delude and abandon me? Was there never to be healing in my family unless I acquiesced, gave in and offered consent for this inappropriate relationship? It continued despite my pain, despite Mom’s disapproval, despite family fracturing.

I was grappling with a few conundrums… first, and probably most importantly, I came to realize I had control ‘issues’. I can hear at least a dozen laughs in the universe as I type these words and while I know that I liked to ‘be in charge’… my intent has never been to ‘control’ people – only situations where my involvement was necessary. If there were people in the peripheral… well then, they got sucked into the control vacuum. It’s important to understand, and I preach this to my clients, that control is what we utilize – as human beings – to feel emotionally and physically safe. If I can be directing my environment, then I know what to expect – I am can be more prepared for uncertainties. Without control, I am vulnerable and vulnerability means that we run the risk of experiencing pain.

I had assessed this assertion a time or two in the past when it surfaced and had been identified as problematic but this time it was in my face – I was noticing it, or rather, the lack of it and I identified the crux of the problem each time Mom told me Hubby had helped with something or if someone said they had seen Hubby and Abee together – out in the community. I’m not sure why people felt the need to disclose their observations, but it was much more common than one would imagine – they were not inconspicuous. There wasn’t anything for me to do but to learn how to ‘accept’ their transgressions. The place of acceptance was still w.a.y. down the road on my growth journey so for now… I was focusing on letting go of the things over which I had no ‘control’.

And that was my second ‘issue’. I needed to ‘let go’. Really – there were so many things that I had to ‘let go’ of that I literally, made a list. I wrote letters to people who had slighted me (but didn’t mail them) and meditated on the things that needed to go… I imagined each of them in a bubble and watched as it drifted away… I pictured each item as a leaf that dropped onto a stream and swiftly floated downstream… I cut the list into a thousand pieces. Each of those ideas worked a little and after each technique was completed, I felt a little lighter. I warn clients of the expectation some of us develop that if we commit to ‘let go’ of something that it disappears… it may not – in fact, it often does not. We need to practice letting go. Today, one of the most effective methods I use is to open my hands. The brain is powerful and if I am thinking of something and deliberately open my hands – there is a perception of letting go. For me, driving is when I usually allow my thoughts to run away and one may frequently observe me controlling the steering wheel with flat palms.

What I really needed to ‘let go’ of – was needing control. That was my prayer. It may be a cliché to say “Let go and let God” but what is the choice?? It doesn’t matter if you believe in an old man God, or Mother Nature, or an energy field in the Universe… opening your heart to the experience of vulnerability, of not knowing, is the challenge. It became important for me to chant “trust” to myself in meditation and while perfectly conscious throughout my day. I was constantly reminding myself of my most basic spiritual beliefs… that everything happens for a reason; that I was walking a specific journey; that there was ultimate balance in the universe.

I think the most difficult part of this was that almost every day there was something else to ‘let go’ of. As long as Hubby was living at the house I was aware of his movements and I tortured myself by keeping tabs on the company’s balance sheet. I still had access to the American Express cards and the checking account. I could see that when they traveled for business they were only getting one hotel room instead of two. I could see what restaurants they dined in with dates and times. Part of me convinced myself that the investigating was due diligence for the divorce – which it turned out to be – but it was entirely unhealthy. It was agonizing to watch, week after week, the manifestation of disloyalty but I couldn’t pull myself away from it.

I existed in this space between being the person I wanted to be…. strong and growing – contrasted with a person who was trapped in the anger and dismay of a failed dream. I vacillated constantly between the light and the dark. There were days when I simply couldn’t talk to anyone because I was ashamed of how negative my thoughts had become. It took all my strength to stay up…

One morning as I was driving to school I was talking to Hubby about some of the divorce details. We were at very different points of agreeableness. It was a difficult conversation and I felt as though I was getting the short end. There were days when I felt explicit loathing – as close to hate as I had ever come – even though Love was supposed to be ruling my heart. I had a meeting with one of my psych professors to discuss research I was doing for her. I sat in the parking garage and cried – again – it was almost a daily habit as we hashed out our agreement and then took a deep breath and walked across campus to her office. I was thankful for the early winter air as it quickly hid the emotional evidence of tears.

I sat down and began the dance of small talk in preparation for moving on to more specific topics. She asked me a series of questions that somehow triggered an emotive response and tears once again, sprang to my eyes despite my strong opposition. “Damnit”… “I’m sorry,” I said, “I hate it when I am this weak” … “so sorry”.  I shared that I had a hard discussion with my soon-to-be-ex-husband on the way in this morning as I tried hard to control myself and she looked at me with genuine empathy. It’s important to describe her because she was indeed my professor, but she was all of 28 or 29 years old, tiny… very petite, and gentle. She was soft spoken and quite deliberate with her words even though her smile was seemingly spontaneous. “Silly lady,” she said as she reached over to touch my hand “don’t you realize how much strength it takes to show emotion?”

Needs

“You know, life fractures us all into little pieces. It harms us, but it’s how we glue those fractures back together that make us stronger.”  -Carrie Jones

I felt foolish and stupid and lost. I stood by the front door of our home and looked out at the gorgeous open space in front of me. We had built this house when all of that was just farm land. Today, there were twenty-five other houses in our neighborhood and I wanted to be in any one of them – any home but mine where only chaos seemed to perpetually exist. I wanted to be someone else, any one of those neighbors.

It was an upper middle-class neighborhood, mostly families, about half were single income households. It was the kind of neighborhood where the parents stand at the bus stop in their slippers holding coffee cups that were either empty or turned cold as we stood there – no matter the season – and chatted about our busy lives, children, and home life. They thought mine was great because I didn’t ever let them see beyond the wall that I had built to keep the absurdity contained. Some of us attended the same church, most of us were involved at the school in some capacity, and if nothing else, we ran into one another at the grocery store at least once a week. In all those places, perception – illusion – was important. I had fought hard to fortify the mirage no matter where I was, to hide any indication that ours wasn’t the typical suburban marriage. Only a handful of very close friends got to see the garbage in my life and even then, it was only the stuff that was still floating on the surface. No one got to unlock the mental drawer and open that file tucked deeply inside.

My heart was shattered. I didn’t understand how it could – again – be decimated so intricately. I thought I had stitched it together with glue and string and secured it with locks… I thought I had buffered its ability to be broken ever again. This time it was so, so complicated. My family, my mom, my sister, the rest of us – our daughters – what do we say to our daughters?

I didn’t ask Hubby to leave, he didn’t seem to want to go. We didn’t know how to move from this point. Hubby could not explain how or why things had gotten to this point, only that he was confused, ashamed, hurting, and undecided about the next step. We scheduled back to back therapy appointments to try and unravel all the emotions and thoughts that had us both thinking we must be crazy.

Abee didn’t come to work on Monday and I was a little worried. I called Emma to make sure someone was looking out for her – after all, she was my baby sister. “She’s here” is all Emma said to me. Of course. She would run. She ran to the only place that was safe since mom was away – to her twin.

Mom flew home but she didn’t fly into our area – she flew to Emma’s city. She went straight to Abee who apparently was comatose or something. WTF?? Because I had three kids and a business and a life – I didn’t get support? No… it wasn’t that. It was because I didn’t surrender to the pain. Not yet anyway. When I finally got to talk to mom she was a little less adamant that it hadn’t happened but she did point the finger directly to Hubby. He was the problem! Being almost 20 years older, he should have known better – he was a devil. She hated him. She was going to take Abee and move, far away – out of Hubby’s reach.

Wait, What?

“You’re leaving again? what?” I didn’t know how to respond to this. I didn’t know how to process the words that I heard my mother speak. Abee was the victim here? Seriously? I got mad. All the feelings that had been abated over the last several months as I saw them – well, didn’t see but felt them carry on an affair right under my nose – with total disregard for me and our family – lashed out at my mother.

“What about me? Why do I end up being punished for this? I’ve waited more than twenty years to have you be a part of my life in a meaningful way and you’re leaving again? Because of this?”

I unleashed all the abandonment sediment that had rested in the riverbed of my soul for all these years and thoughtfully dared my mother to do it again. I wasn’t going to let it happen. “Please mom, please stay. We’ll make it work.” I said. “I need you”.

Mom was house rich and cash poor. She would have lost a ton of money if she left. Sadly, she was financially dependent of Abee for the lifestyle that they lived. It wasn’t possible for mom to stay and for Abee to leave. Abee was dependent on us for income.

It ran over and over in my mind and I couldn’t find another solution. If I wanted mom to stay – Abee had to stay – Abee had to work – she worked for us. Shit.

My back was against a wall. In therapy, all I did was run through possible scenarios and none of them ended with mom staying a part of my or of my children’s life unless Abee continued to work for us. We paid her more than she could probably get somewhere else and mom’s livelihood was directly tied to her income. I was between a rock and a hard place; cornered, if I maintained the need for mom to be here. She was the only person I felt like I could count on. For me, healing required her presence.

Our therapist thought I was crazy and Hubby was against it but I demanded that we find a way to work through it and keep everything as it was. I went into hyper-control mode – attempting to manage some degree of emotional safety. I squared up and directed almost every detail of my day so that I could stay in ‘safe mode’. I turned into a robot of sorts – moving from one task to another so that our children were as insulated from the trauma as they could be. Clearly, something was wrong and we tried to comfort them but we were entirely imperfect. Our fighting was too loud, our words too strong, and our uncertainty too deep to maintain consistent levels of composure.

I couldn’t talk with anyone except mom and my therapist. Who would believe this? Even the therapist was incredulous that we could make this work. I insisted that ALL of us be in therapy – with her. It seemed logical to me that if one person was on the inside of our thoughts and emotions, our dysfunction, and our healing process; it would be easier. I refused to listen to her challenge to my rationale and she eventually yielded to our request albeit with the caveat that it was highly unusual and may someday make a great story. (!)

I felt incredibly alone in my anguish. My best friend, my sister, my confidant, was no more. My husband, my partner, my supporter, was gone. The combination of the betrayal and loss of what I thought I had was more excruciating than even the death of Rocky twenty-one years earlier. With death comes finality. This was different. Even though I moved my desk into a different room in our building, when I walked into the office every day I was reminded of the deceit and deception that had existed in my life. We still had to work which, meant meetings, phone calls, and planning sessions; it couldn’t be helped. We were small, there was no place to hide.

My instinct, my priority, my need …was to keep my family together and that’s what I set out to do.

Prince Charming Remix

“We race through our life without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go.”  – Jim Loehr

Moving wasn’t a problem for me. I had done it approximately every 12 months since I was 12 years old with one two-year exception those last couple of years in high school. Fortunately for me this move was considered a ‘corporate’ one so the packing, loading, and moving was completely managed by a third party. I was present for the pack-out and everything went painlessly until the moving men lifted the mattress and box springs to reveal the (thankfully still boxed) dildo that E had given me as a gag gift which I had stored under my bed. My face abruptly surrendered to a warm crimson flush and I was immediately torn between a quick grab and hide or a quick run from the room pretending that I hadn’t seen a thing. I bolstered my pride and exited the room reminding myself that I’d never see these men again. Today I am sure it’s not the first one that they had ever seen but then – I felt as though it might as well be a scarlet letter plastered on every box that they packed and carried onto the moving truck. I imagined myself branded.

I moved first into his apartment until we received the occupancy permit on our townhouse. One might imagine that a lot of information can be gleaned from a man’s bachelor pad. The only thing I realized is that he collected Playboy magazines and considered salt and pepper ‘spices’. My commute to Jersey was grueling and to compliment the difficulty, I had enrolled Francis in a Catholic school not far from our new house; a school that didn’t offer transportation so I drove him into the city daily and picked him up from their aftercare program by 6 pm.

I had a vision of what constituted a family. I naturally fell into thoughts and routines that had felt comfortable when I was married. I failed to distinguish them from my marriage with Rocky and this new relationship. I wasn’t on the same page as my new guy. As a matter of fact, we probably weren’t in the same book or perhaps even in the same library. I intellectually knew that he would need time to adjust to a lifestyle with a child that wasn’t biological his but the emotional part of me had difficulty balancing that logic. I was straddling life between being a single mom and a couple. The triangle had yet to close.

Wedding plans were furiously moving forward as we moved into our home and began to establish a life together. We were getting married in his hometown. We used his church and his pastor. For the second time in my life I was going to marry on terms that were dictated predominately by my future husband in terms of location and clergy. The other details were mine or ours as it would be and it took years for me to realize that each time, I was so eager to be loved that I acquiesced my own wants. I recall telling myself that it wasn’t important to me. That I was compromising. Indeed, that part may be somewhat true. It is also true that I felt if I were to make my needs known or demand they should be a priority – that the plan may decompose, self-destruct, and never manifest. I had somehow developed a belief that if I didn’t ‘go along’ with the desires of my partner, that I could be – would be… dismissed.

Our relationship had challenges – after all, we had known each other all of 5 days before a proposal, 12 days before an official engagement, and 6 weeks before moving in together. In addition, there was a cute little (almost) 6-year-old in our midst constantly – yearning to get to know this new ‘dad’ and we were still attempting to learn about one another – all three of us. I was afraid. Plain and simple – I was afraid that if I allowed myself to really love this man – he could leave me and I would experience something similar to the pain that I felt when Rocky died. I was constantly in a state of vacillating between wanting to be in love and afraid of loving.

In addition, I had fantasized for six solid years about what it would be like for my son to have a father. There was a solid, visceral, and vivid picture in my mind of what that entailed. It wasn’t manifesting in the way I had dreamed. The raw, organic paternal representative that I had envisioned all these years was slow to emerge. I had very little empathy for what it must have been like to integrate an immediate ‘family’ into the life of a serial bachelor. He was a year older than me and had never married.

Back then it was less typical for people to wait until their 30’s to marry. As a female, when you met someone that age you would simply assume they were divorced. When I found out he hadn’t been married I was immediately suspicious – why not? Of course I heard everything that sounded like a string ensemble to my heart “he had been waiting for me”. I was completely impervious, simply devoid, of an understanding of how gullible I was.

Work wasn’t working. The drive, the change, the people… it wasn’t working for me and I didn’t want to move back into a sales position. It didn’t seem like an alternative to me because it would have put us in the same sales office, competing against one another. He was the top broker in that region. I was at least smart enough to know that our egos (and hence, our relationship) could not have afforded such direct rivalry. His success afforded me the option to work or not.

I quit – by fax machine. I had thought long and hard about my decision and had drafted a superb resignation letter but I was pretty much a big ‘chicken shit’ because I knew that I would be disappointing a lot of people. A few whom had invested a lot of time and energy in my success and I was quitting – letting them down – giving up. I didn’t have the heart to face their disapproval. I faxed my letter at 9 am. They were incredulous. It became a ‘story’ that I never lived down; a sublime example of ‘what NOT to do’ in a corporate environment.

It was early 1990 and everything had changed. My life had pivoted in a way that had been unimaginable just six months earlier. I adopted a narrative of romance – it was all so romantic. Seemingly, for the second time in my life, Prince Charming had infiltrated my world in such a way that I appeared to be rescued. Perhaps this time it was more a reality than a simple perception. I was no longer alone, broke, or a sole parent. I was beginning to dream again. I allowed myself to visualize a future that included another grownup. I was again, allowing myself to depend on someone to be there; to have my back, to be reliable.

There was only one problem.  Just under the level of my conscious awareness, fear was woven into my thoughts, actions, and reactions. No matter the reassurance or behavior, no matter the support or reinforcement, I had learned to distrust that someone who loved me would ultimately be there for me. In retrospect, I wonder if I somehow intentionally chose someone who would fulfill that prophecy.

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