It’s been just about two weeks since he and I parted ways at the airport. He was tired and excited and his mind was elsewhere as we gave each other a quick goodbye, stumbling over our words in a sleepy sort of confusion. I stood there and said goodbye, my heart was racing, but my mind was spinning out of control. Was I going to see him again? Was he going to be coming back to me? What was going to happen to the relationship? What was going to happen to the plans and ideas we’ve been storing up for the future? What happens if he falls out of this thing with me and into something else with someone new? What if I’m left alone after this very moment? On and on, my brain kept coming up with these worst-case scenarios. This kept going on for days and days after he left.
I spent a LOT of energy worrying during the first week of his adventure. As I tried to shut my eyes at night and sleep, suddenly all of the horrible things that I worried about flashed vividly behind the backs of my eyes. Rejection, dejection, all of the mistakes I’ve made since meeting him, all of my flaws, all of the reasons he has to not believe in us and what we’ve got going on. I worried about his choices. Who was going to take advantage of him, or ask him to compromise his integrity. Worse yet, was he going to compromise himself for the sake of a fling in a foreign country with someone who, in the end, doesn’t matter or has no real meaning in his life? Those first nights were all flashbacks for me, replacing the faces of those who have burned me with his face, and that grin that I got when these past loves of mine had pulled one over on me. Somehow, though, my mind had convinced my body that what I was imagining was real, and like I had done years ago, I went into panic mode. Over and over and over again, I caught myself unable to breathe, unable to think about anything else. I reached for the bottle, hoping that booze would quiet my thoughts. I turned to my friends for a “there, there, calm down” text message. In the mornings, I would wake up with a sense of purpose and energy, focused on myself and what I was doing, but by the middle of the day, my thoughts would wander to what he was up to, and by the time the sun went down, I was in a panic if I hadn’t heard from him, or if I did hear from him, what sort of messages were buried cryptically between the lines. What was I missing?
I had a night spent with one of his good friends, a person who’s known him for a decade, and the first and only thing he really had to say to me was not to worry. “He is a loyal man,” was the phrase that stuck. He and I shared some wine and talked late into the night, and by the end of it, I had found my breath again. The next day, what his friend had told me resonated. It wasn’t until I took myself out for a run, something I’d been back to doing since his last trip, taking myself out every other day in an effort to regain control over my state of mind and body, that the switch flipped. I don’t know if it was the mileage, the song, the way the sun hung in the sky, but when I finally saw what everyone else has seen in me and my approach to what Ray and I share, it was as if this giant scale fell from my eyes. I looked over all of the messages that Ray and I had been sending back and forth while he was away, and instead of reading between the lines, I took them on face value. What he’s been saying, and how he’s been treating me while away, is exactly as he said it would be. There is no underlying thread of secrecy, distrust, or disloyalty.
The fact is, when I take away my own filters and fears, Ray is being just as he’s always been – forthright, honest, and far less complex than I make him out to be. In my mind, I complicate him. I’m the one putting all of this weirdness upon the relationship. I’m the one who is looking for the faults, seeking the cracks, worrying about the nonexistent ways that he and I are falling apart. I have spent the last eight months waiting for him to decide to move on. My own fears of trust, coupled with my past experiences, have built up this reflexive reaction to not believe what I am told, especially with regards to affection and relationships. He has his quirks, his facets, but we all do. When it comes to how he’s treated me over the time that I’ve known him, and now while he’s on his adventure, he has not changed or morphed into some sort of monster. The cause of all of my anxiety and worry has not been him. It has been my own damned mind.
Realizing this while he’s been away (and it could only happen while he was away) has made a huge impact upon me. Instead of worrying, instead of bracing for impact, and living on high alert, finally I’m able to focus on the things that bring me joy. I am back to writing. I have enjoyed the runs I’ve been out on. I feel like I’ve got space and time in my life to be Thom, just like he insisted I be from the very start. I also have a refreshed approach to why I want to do the things I want to do with him. I’m not seeking to prove myself to him any longer. The things I’ve done – few that they’ve been – have all been in order to garner his approval and perhaps keep him interested in me. I’ve done things simply for a nod from him, fearing that any misstep I take would be the end of everything. That’s not to say I haven’t been forthright, but it does mean that my motivation for whatever I’ve done may not have been coming from the right space inside me. I recognize this now. Maybe I’m stumbling over my words about this, so forgive me. Basically, I know that, going forward, when I do something for him, it is not just for his approval, or acceptance. It will come from a different place inside me. It’s a place where I have always wanted to give of myself, but have been too afraid, too badly burned, to reveal that part of me. It’s a subtle change in how I approach this thing that Ray and I share, but it’s quite fundamental for me. I’ve needed this revelation.
He comes home in about a week. His last week will be spent in Spain, exploring the wine regions, ending up in Madrid. A quick visit back to London, where he intends on checking back in with friends he has there, and to do some shopping for those of us back here who’ve missed him, and then he’s back.
I don’t know if he will visibly see the changes in me that have occurred while he’s been away. I’ve hinted at them in our messages back and forth, but for him, and for me, actions will underline anything I’ve said. I want him to come home to a person who is better, less afraid, and who applies less pressure to the relationship. I want him to come home to open, supportive, strong arms, and a sense of clarity that wasn’t there when he left. I was a mess when he boarded that plane, but I’ve done what I can to make use of the time apart in order to clean up some of that clutter. I feel like I’ve changed for the better, which will serve us both better going forward.
I feel like I can breathe again.