- It’s like I was holding my emotions at bay until it came, and when it did, there was no hiding.
I want to get married. I want a ring on my finger. I want the world to know I am someone’s partner and that we have chosen one another to do this thing. I want to be a wife. I want to be a mom. And I wanted it yesterday.
I ebb between acceptance that it’s not up to me when that happens (because I do not believe in proposing myself nor giving ultimatums for someone else to do it for me) and flow into it will never. I ebb between showing up in the relationship that Mike and I have and flow into terror that I won’t get what I want. I ebb from trusting the process and its timeline to flowing into a sense of urgency that shadows what I already have and am living.
Christmas came and went, and I was sincerely appreciative of the presents I received with no underlying expectations of one of them being a ring. We’ve talked about it; I know where the money is, and I am OK with it.
New Year’s came and without announcing itself, was an entirely different story. An unrelenting and persistent irritability and discontentedness was gnawing at me. I felt anxious, depressed, and tired going into bed New Year’s Eve and woke up feeling exactly the same and at a loss.
Until I started sobbing. Out of nowhere. I had taken a nap and done what I know to do to take care of myself, but once I allowed myself to just sit there, not write or type or be creative, not ask for anything or go outside and move, it came. And it came hard. I sobbed. I shook. I let myself rock and held myself tenderly without asking any questions. I understood then what my irritation and discontentedness was: sadness. An incredible, aching, sadness.
In 30 minutes I was going to speak at the place of my very first meeting over 17 years ago about my first year in recovery. With the rain outside cleansing us all of what is and isn’t working, there was no coincidence. My tears flooded with the notion that I am closer to 36 than I am 35. The tears fell that in the past 17 years I have done so much, but none of them amounted to a ring on my finger or a child to bear. The tears begged that something might be wrong with me, that I still had an underlying belief and written story nearly cemented that maybe I really am not good enough and maybe really will end up alone and despite knowing in the fullest sense of the word that God has spared me these hardships by steering me away from the men that did want to marry me and the child I could’ve had with one of them at 20, I just had to be really fucking sad for a few minutes.
I let myself be where I was, and I didn’t try to change it. I didn’t intellectualize that a ring doesn’t change Mike or I’s relationship or the trajectory in the interim. I didn’t intellectualize that prior to now I wouldn’t have been ready or truly wanting of a child to bear. I didn’t intellectualize that my age doesn’t matter and in 2021 miracles happen every day with regard to having families. I didn’t intellectualize that I have accomplished amazing things with my 35 years of life and 17 years of sobriety. I didn’t intellectualize that the man downstairs shows up for me in a way that no one ever had. I didn’t intellectualize that nothing was different than yesterday.
And then I could get under it. I could verbalize my sadness and come back downstairs and let Mike hold me and listen to me. He asked what he could do for me and in that moment, I knew it was nothing. He’s not one to say shit just to say it to make me feel better, and while that aggravates me sometimes it is also one of the things I also hold dearest about him, too. I didn’t want him to get down right then and propose – I want it to be right for him, too. I didn’t expect him to make me stop crying or to make me feel better. I knew it would pass and I knew I just had to be there, right where I was.
I made a phone call and heard how to be even more tender, and to give myself grace and allow myself to keep learning what is very painful to learn about me right now. I was encouraged to ask Mike explicitly if he wanted to marry me, because while we share a home and a life and bills and talk about our future, I had never heard him say that explicitly. I have said it, and for someone as direct and bold as me, that shit is hard to say. And near paralyzing.
I do not want to be rejected. I do not want to be left out. I do not want to be vulnerable and not received, but that is what being vulnerable is! It is opening and softening and disclosing without expectation. It is trusting that you are held tenderly without another human giving you what you think you need. And while I was willing to risk asking him to say to me what I needed to hear, I was terrified he’d say “I don’t know” or “you know, you’re kind of a dick sometimes and I really have to evaluate how often I want to deal with that for the rest of my life” or “I’ve peaked inside your head – you’re insane” or “would you want to marry you, Alison?” But I booted up and came back from a rainy, freezing walk and asked him anyway. I started from a place of “I” … and shared that while I didn’t want to ask and didn’t even think it was entirely fair to ask, I needed to know if he wanted to marry me (at some point). And guess what he said, without hesitation?
“YES, I want to marry you. And I’ve told you this before.”
As it turns out, you really can explicitly say what you need to say and ask for exactly what you need while also continuing to do all of this internal work. You can do so while knowing that you may be the only one to grant yourself true peace and love and joy, and that God is really your partner in life. You can do this and still let the human across from you be the God with skin for a second and save you from yourself.
I’m learning so much about this – to rely on God and myself the most, but to also allow other people to take part. We’re not supposed to be alone. Relationships are where we thrive, whether you want to admit it or not. They are also our greatest teachers – they show us who we are and who we can be and who we might want to aspire to be. They give us purpose and they give us cause and they give us reason. I need to always bring it back to me, and let it begin with me, but god damnit I can bring you into it with me, too.
It’s just nice to explicitly know that he wants to come now, and I needed him to say it. And above all, it’s OK that I really needed him to say it, and to paint light on the reasons I’ve been faltering and withdrawing and hiding – old behavior dies a slow, long death. Old behavior begs me to get attention elsewhere and to guard myself first so that you can’t hurt me. If I judge you first, you can’t hurt me (as much).
Unfortunately, that never works – ever. We just end up hurting ourselves more in the process.
Why does it have to hurt so much sometimes before we just ask?