How far away can I go and still be connected?
What can I — and do I — want to do for myself?
And exactly how much of me am I willing to give up for love or simply for shelter?
At several points in our lives, we may insist: I’ll do it myself. I’ll live by myself. I’ll solve it myself. I’ll make my own decisions. And having made that decision, we then may find ourselves scared to death of standing alone.
– Judit Viorst, Necessary Losses
Sometimes, we don’t even know this old push-pull is operating until our minds yank us into position and force us to see.
Or, in my case, the body does the yanking. At the start of the new year, it all comes rushing, this longed-for independence. No men are waiting in the wings. The ex has moved on to a new girlfriend. The condo is galloping towards me. What happens? I fall.
And fall again.
And end up in urgent care.
In a cast. On meds. Then in a splint. Unable to work for days on end.
Then wrench my back. And suffer mightily.
And retreat to the safe but suffocating confines of my family’s care.
Some part of me refuses to step forward into the open mouth of adulthood. A long-ago self insists that this is too much. It wobbles. I slip. My center of gravity tilts. I stumble. I need. I reach backwards and downwards for the kind of help that children demand.
Fear is a clever thing. I does an end-run around rationality. It kicks the legs out from under the boldest stance.
And so, I convalesce. I gather strength. Someday soon — Next week? Next month? — I will be able to come to a sitting position on the side of my bed without grasping for a handhold, without gasping for breath. And then I will make my way down the stairs. Out the door. Into the wide open day.
I just have to keep acting against the illusion of falling, the trickery of my fright. Alone is never alone, not really. All around, these kindnesses. These people. These approaches moving in the opposite direction of rapprochement. This mind more powerful than fear.
These ways forward I have not yet found. These secrets, waiting to reveal themselves.
Viorst, Judith. Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies, and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow. Fireside, New York: 1986