Not too open, not too closed

Today’s mantra: I will listen to my fear, but I choose not to be ruled by it.

Sometimes I feel like I will starve. Not literally, not for lack of food. But I feel like I will die for lack of connection, for loneliness. I know, it makes no sense, especially if you figure in that I am married to a man who really loves me, caring sisters, and a slowly growing friendship circle.

But the thing is, I haven’t always been safe in relationships, especially in relationships where you’d expect to be safe: with parents, with my ex-husband. These were people who were supposed to love me, who said they loved me, but who in various ways didn’t treat me well. And then because I didn’t learn how to define and protect boundaries, there have been various other betrayals and violations along the way. I’ve written about some of those before.

The point is, sometimes in an effort to protect myself from betrayals or even disappointments, I put up walls. I hold myself a little aloof. I choose to do things by myself. It’s safer that way. But it doesn’t help with the hunger for connection. It leaves me aching with loneliness.

I’m not alone in this struggle with vulnerability, of course. So many of us struggle to find a balance between overprotecting ourselves and failing to make deep connections, on the one hand, and being so open that we don’t distinguish between safe and unsafe people.

It’s just become very resonate for me today. One reason is that I received a message from my yoga teacher, the one I had a falling out with, asking to meet with me. Or more precisely, I texted her with a simple yes or no question. I heard nothing back for five days, and then she asked to meet with me, though she didn’t say why. I’m not sure what to think. She is a fabulous yoga teacher, and I’ve very much missed her classes. But I don’t feel comfortable with her now. I don’t really want to meet with her, though I already said I would, so I suppose I will.

The thing is, she is very good at getting me to open up, to talk about how I’ve been doing, how is my depression, what’s going on with my withdrawal from Effexor. I told her about those things before I learned that maybe it’s not all that wise to trust her. Yet I know it would still me easy for her to turn on her warmth (which is real) and make me open up to her. I don’t really want to, but I know that part in me that wants to feel seen responds to her type of energy. So I suppose I’m afraid I’ll open up more than it’s really safe to do.

Another reason I’m struggling with the balance of open versus closed is that someone I have thought of as an increasingly close friend has more or less ghosted me. That is, she’s stopped responding to most of my texts and no longer initiates communication. “Ghosting” is an exaggeration, to be fair. But I had been thinking of her as a close friend. And I need close friends. I have probably mentioned before that before I quit my job back in September 2016, when I used to work all the time, I had good relationships with many of my co-workers. When I left that company, I thought I would keep the friendships, but for the most part, it hasn’t worked out that way.

As I’m sure you know perfectly well, it’s not that easy to build close friendships once you are out of college. In the so-called real world, everyone is busy with work and their own families, and it’s hard to find the time to build the closeness that used to come back in the days when you’d stay up half the night talking about philosophy, crushes, music, or whatever fed your passion at the time. Add to that the nature of my work–freelancing from home–and it makes sense that I have been feeling lonely. So recently I’ve been more intentional about reaching out to people I like to try to spend a little more time together and see if there is a chance to develop something deeper.

I told E today in therapy that my painful experience with my yoga teacher, along the sense of this potential friend having dropped me, make me want to close myself off again, just for self-protection. Better to be lonely than rejected; I suppose that’s my theory there. But E of course encouraged me to continue to take risks so that I can connect with others. Of course she agrees I should be cautious, not open fully to everyone, and allow my intuition to guide me. But my intuition is not the same as my fear. Sure, I can listen to my fear and take some precautions. But I want to live larger than my fear would allow me to. Hard as it is, I want to sustain enough openness that there is room for me to be connected to others.

(Note: Written April 22, 2019, even though I didn’t post for another week.)

3 comments

    • Hit send too soon on that last comment. Anyway, continuing on. What makes it so hard is that despite the fact that we live our experiences alone, we crave the connection. And you’ve had so many of those connections end in sour ways, so of course this is difficult for you. I’m glad that you seem to be working through it with that powerful insight you always have, choosing to deepen relationships even amid pain and confusion and lack of certainty. That’s real courage. I hope your conversation with the yoga teacher goes well; perhaps just choosing to have it can be seen as a win for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. […] she has an edge to her. I’ve learned that it’s worth keeping my heart open to her–a little guarded maybe, but never closed off entirely–because she has so much sweetness to offer. I’ve learned she often shares that […]

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