Monday, August 6, 2012

on wanting

All of my life I have believed that if I admit to the universe that I want something, or that something I have is making me happy, then I will be refused it / have it taken away. It's a form of cowardice around being vulnerable: the only thing which could make a break-up worse is having admitted to other people that I actually liked this guy, because in that case they would be aware that the break-up was affecting me emotionally. Better to let everyone think that I dated a guy for whom I felt complete indifference than to have anyone suspect that I might have shed a tear or two when the relationship ended. I would rather be attacked by fire ants than be pitied, and for most of my life I haven't been able to tell the difference between condescending pity and the compassion someone who loves you feels when you're going through horrible things.

When Claudio and I bought the house, I did not tell any of my friends that the process was happening until we had signed the papers and the key was in my hand. To mention it any earlier would be to jinx it, guarantee it wouldn't work out. I had to tell my parents, for financial reasons, and even that felt horrifying, because it required me to say, out loud, "We found a house we want." Using the word "want" was the biggest taunt I could throw in the face of my destiny.

When the cancer possibility was first raised, I didn't say anything to anyone but my family and close friends. I told my boss but didn't mention it to any other co-workers until the actual diagnosis had come through and I knew I was going to miss a lot of work. Even that was just to forestall rumors: I knew the most common rumor would be that I was pregnant, and given what was going on with the marriage at the time, I wouldn't have been able to handle that.

But once I was diagnosed, I thought, I want to be able to talk about this. And so I announced it on Facebook (ah, modernity) so that I could use bad cancer jokes as status updates and my friends would know why. The happy side effect, which I had not anticipated, was that I received tons of support and rallying-round, and I felt as if (new age-y alert!) good energy was being sent out into the universe on my behalf.

So I started asking for that good energy, for good thoughts. Quite literally: I posted on Facebook, prior to the second surgery and to the initiation of radiation therapy, asking for good thoughts (one of my friends described it as "collective mojo", which I love and have explicitly asked for since). When I had the MRI in March, I asked again, and I will do so when I have my mammogram next month. At the very least it reminds me how many people wish me well, which makes me feel stronger and braver and more positive, and that can never be a bad thing.

And then, last month, I met Berowne (yes, that's going to be his nickname; he knows why). Even though we met at the house of friends who were invested in us hitting it off, I wasn't initially sure if I wanted to tell anyone at all, even those friends. There wasn't anything to tell at that point beyond, "I met a guy; I like him; he asked for my number." But even that triggered the old fears that the universe would laugh scornfully and say, "Oh, you had the unmitigated temerity to say OUT LOUD that you hope he calls? Who do you think you are, someone who gets what she wants without having to pretend that she doesn't want it?" (True fact: I have played coy to inanimate objects, and not all of them were telephones.) Those old fears told me to keep it a secret.

Instead I told everyone. My friends-only blog was all Berowne, all the time. Texts and e-mails flew fast and furious. My brother was visiting when Berowne first got in touch with me; said brother got an earful. Anyone paying attention to my Facebook updates could guess what was afoot (sudden Mary Oliver overload? PERHAPS A CLUE). My mental process was: fuck it, I want good energy around this situation too. And that it wouldn't be the end of the world if nothing happened. I might feel a bit of a fool in that case, but I made a deliberate decision to trust people with that. To trust them with my excitement and, in the event that there is disappointment, trust them with that too.

As aforementioned, he did get in touch with me despite my unmitigated temerity in wishing he would, and we've been going on dates, and talking on the phone a lot, and it's all rather delightful and calm. Except, of course, when I panic briefly but impressively, and think, You're texting me from another woman's bed, aren't you?*; but generally talking to him for about ten minutes dispels my worries.

I am pretty sure I don't know how to process a universe which responds to requests. Like I said, the effect is all about feeling that, with this many people rooting for me, things are going to go well; and then, with that optimism and hope, I am more relaxed and healthy and willing to let things happen. I stop trying so hard. I get more sleep. I take better care of myself. These are all things that improve my mental, physical, and emotional health. I am not generally a new age-y person, and I know what's going on here. But I let myself enjoy, too, the special-snowflake feeling of: the stars aligned for me here. It feels a waste not to enjoy that. To ladle on the Mary Oliver with a trowel: “You can have the other words - chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity. I'll take grace. I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it.”
Who knows what will happen with young Berowne; we're not rushing anything. But I feel like I've learned a lesson even getting thus far, and trusting my loved ones with my emotions as I'd want them to trust me with theirs. I don't have to pretend to be superhuman any more. I don't have to pretend I never cry. By the same token, I don't have to pretend that I am far too cool to get giddy around a crush. (For heaven's sake, I have a blog devoted to nerding out over books and my obsession with my dogs; no one thinks I'm cool.) 

Next post: actually about books. I promise.

*I know I said I don't want to invade others' privacy, but there is a really solid reason I believe someone would be capable of such a thing. Let's just leave it at that.


  1. When I met my partner I felt like the universe was conspiring toward me. It was delightfully easy--romance without drama?? Tastes great; more filling!

    1. I don't even know how to process a lack of drama, to be honest. My brain and I frequently have this interaction of late:

      Brain: I don't have any way to compute this, so I'm going to fall back on, He Doesn't Like You And This Is Doomed.

      Me: Makes sense. No, wait, it doesn't!

      Brain: TOO LATE