I open my eyes. It’s early, but the conversations from last night wash over me like a bucket of ice cold water, jolting me awake with the sickening dread slowly leaking into my stomach. I recall the vulnerable truths that spilled from my mouth, all while fighting the urge to clam up to avoid rejection from a man I don’t think I’m ready to be rejected by, but in the light of the morning I’m afraid that I revealed too much of myself.
Just as the panic begins to set in, the soft vibrations of his snore pull me back to the present. I look to my left and catch my breath because he’s still there. I pause for a moment to be sure I’m truly awake. He saw me and still he stayed?
He saw me, and still, he stayed.
My heart settles into a calm, steady rhythm. Is this what safe feels like? I can’t recall a time I woke up next to someone feeling this way, but I like it, and I don’t want to leave this space yet, so I urgently grab his hand tightly to keep him there and drift back to sleep.
Two hours later, we’ve dragged ourselves from the bed and have made our way down to the restaurant attached to the hotel. We sit down and he comments on how he could see me serving at a restaurant like this one. I scan the menu and get excited to find my all-time favourite amongst the bacon & eggs, pancakes, french toast, and waffles. We order, and while we wait, we chat, take sips of our coffee, and people watch over each others shoulder. This is the natural, easy rhythm I’ve been waiting so long to settle into with someone, and realizing it makes it difficult to not grin at him like a lovesick moron.
But as quickly as it took me to decide on my order, the mood shifts.
Our food arrives, and after a few bites, he puts his fork down, takes a breath and quietly mutters, “I haven’t been honest with you…” I cautiously look up to meet his eye to confirm what my sinking gut is telling me: this was too good to be true. My eyes dart back to my bagel and lox in my hands in an attempt to distract myself from the stark reality of this moment, but my stomach flips and I have to set the bagel down on the plate and focus my attention on keeping the first few bites from making an unwelcome reappearance.
As I try to comprehend the scene slowly unfolding in front of me, I look over his shoulder and make eye contact with a man we had met in the hot tub on the roof patio the night before. He looks away quickly, but I don’t need more time with his eyes to know that he can tell what’s going on, and I realize in an instant that this is all happening in public.
I’m being dumped in a restaurant attached to a hotel that serves shitty bagels and lox.
My stomach settles, and I can feel myself already making excuses for him, ready to say, “It’s okay! I don’t care! I forgive you! I love you enough to look past this!”, but instead, the strength that had fought its way back to me after over a decade of trying to prove my worth to a man who would never see it took over, drowning his voice out and reminding me, “You are worth more than this. You deserve better.” And for the first time in a long time, I believe it.
Before he has a chance to fully explain why he needs to end things, I find myself walking out. It didn’t matter what sort of reasoning he had come up with to soften the blow, the fact remained that he simply didn’t want to be with me. While it was a painful thing to accept, I knew ultimately that it didn’t matter because I had found someone who was happy to offer me all of the things I deserve.
Just kidding. I’m talking about myself obviously.
In my thirty-two years of existence, I have yet to find someone, besides myself, who can offer me all of the things I believe I deserve: Someone who will brave my storms and relish my calm waters. Someone who will adventure with me but who can also sit in silence by my side. Someone who will choose me daily despite the challenges that come with me, and sees me as their best decision. Someone who will hold me close, but will also give me the space I need for growth. Someone I won’t have to try to convince to stick around. Someone who wont be reckless with my heart and instead protects it. Someone who loves me deeply and fully. And most importantly - someone who can put up with being featured on my instagram stories on a regular basis.
That’s not to say that person doesn’t exist, I just haven’t met him yet. I’m learning to be okay with it because I now understand that the one person I have no choice but to spend my entire life with is actually enough for me. I would love to give of myself to another in the same way that I am able to give to myself, but I can’t put things on hold in hopes for it. Life isn’t going to wait until I have someone in the passengers seat before taking off. I just need to buckle up and go, and at this point in my life, I really don’t need a passenger to enjoy a good road trip.
My nights used to feel like I was sitting in an enormous, empty, dark cave. The deep echos of my loneliness were terrifying, and at times, crippling. I didn’t feel comfortable sitting alone with myself in the quiet of the night, so I’d fill those hollow spaces with late shifts at work, endless hours of Netflix, and messages with people I barely knew (it speaks volumes that I was more comfortable talking to them than to myself). The problem was that the hollow spaces stayed hollow, because I was never filling them with anything of any value, and I realized that the only way to feel less uncomfortable in that space night after night was to become acquainted with the person I was spending every night with:
I’m sorry. I can’t stop. It’s me. I’m talking about me.
If you’re spending time with a person you’ve just met, but all you’re doing while you’re with them is watching shows, texting other people, and flirting with weird dudes from Newfoundland to get a few extra tips while this person sits at the bar and waits for your shift to end…you’re never going to know them any better and you’re never going to get comfortable being with them. So, as crazy as it sounds, I started sitting with myself and spending time talking through things out loud as if I were conversing with another person. It started out awkward - I often found myself picking up my phone or opening my laptop to distract myself. In time though, I became someone I looked forward to spending time with, and eventually someone I loved. I could finally give myself the grace to sit and cry through the heavy moments, the encouragement to face fears I struggled to face and challenges I was intimidated by, the permission to laugh and enjoy life and even live a little recklessly while there was pressure from others to take things seriously, and the freedom to explore my own desires and passions and chase after them. Ultimately, I became the love that I always wished I had.
So it’s as simple as this: I no longer fall asleep waiting for someone to hold me, to comfort me, to make me feel safe. Since realizing I can do all of those things for myself, my nights have become much different. Every morning when I reluctantly drag myself out of bed, I swear to myself that I’ll be in bed before 11:00, but every evening, 11:00 rolls around, and I almost always decide that I’m not ready for sleep. When the kids are asleep and the house is quiet, this is the best part of my day because I finally have a chance to reflect, dream, plan, and create. This is the part where I remember that I’m on my own and get to make all of the decisions. The part where rather than drifting to sleep beside my partner feeling safe, secure, and loved, I turn off the lamp and curl up inside my duvet, whole alone, and succumb quickly to the welcoming embrace of slumber - never concerned with which side of the bed I fall asleep in because every spot in this bed is mine. And just like my bed, every space in my life is my own right now.
I know it wont last - a time will come when I will have to share these open spaces with another and will miss this overwhelming independence. Mornings when I wont get to decide what music is played while breakfast is being devoured. Days when I will want to watch my favourite episode of The Office on Netflix again but will end up caving and watching a documentary that puts me straight to sleep. Nights when I will crave the extra space in the bed to stretch my legs and drink cheap wine, keeping myself entertained with my own ridiculous antics.
So for now, I sleep peacefully alone, content with the understanding that my life is mine; I listen to loud, annoying pop music as I eat my bacon and eggs in the morning, I laugh hysterically at Kevin spilling the chilli for the eighty-third time, I gleefully stretch my limbs to every corner of my bed as I splash a little moscato on my blanket and drunkenly make another dumb but hilarious purchase online, because in the right time, someone will show up and distract me from these little, unimportant (but currently valued) parts of my day.
And I won’t have to grab his hand out of desperation to keep him by my side in the dawn of a new day, because when I open my eyes, he’ll already be holding mine. He will see me, and still, he’ll stay.
But until then, I see you, and I’m staying.