There we were, my dharma punx buddies and I sitting around the campfire a few years ago at a campground in the Berkshires. We were laughing, joking and talking when our friend Pete asked, “do women find men who are spiritual attractive or do they see us as pussies?” or something like that. A passionate conversation erupted between the group about relationships, love and spirituality. Evenly distributed between men and women, the details of romantic relationship experiences were exposed over crackling flames of the campfire. I don’t remember much more of what was being said… I had a different experience than my contemporaries under the star filled summer sky.
Sinking deeper and deeper into my camping chair, literally clinging to myself for dear life a darker emotion was taking hold. I couldn’t speak or move… because this debilitating emotion was paralyzing. There were words and tones I could hear, snippets of discussion but my experience went somewhere else. It was gripping.
A moment of silence fell among the group and in that moment I took my opportunity to force out this sentence through a few small sobs, “I am afraid.”
My friend Paul responded, “of course you are, you’re allowed to be, you’ve been through a lot.”
There it was. Validated by a close friend who truly understood this layer of suffering that was enveloping me. I was allowing myself to admit to this deep rooted fear, and the beginning of an exploratory journey in clarity where I allowed myself to dig deep into it and practice letting it go.
Some people are afraid of spiders, or heights, or fire, or the dark. Me? I have a fear of love. It’s not the loving part that is the issue, it’s the pain that befalls me when it ends in heartbreak. One would think that age and time would have taught me to be able to get though these romantic failings more easily, but the blows I’ve endured to my precious heart have left irreparable scars. In my years of practice, I’ve cleaned up much of the blackness, the scar tissue that I’ve let become a protective layer. In my other kinds of relationships, I’ve learned to be vulnerable and open. Yet with romantic love, I continue to suffer this feeling of tremendous trepidation. My fear tells me, “of this… I am certain another heartbreak will kill you.”
It was a ‘mommy’ time weekend this week, I took the Zman and his buddy snowboarding at a little local mountain. Bathing and makeup seemed optional, so I passed making the effort for comfy baggy snowpants and a tee shirt. As usual, being done well before my gaggle of little boys were done with their riding, I went into the bar for one post-ride beer. There I met… a guy. It wasn’t much of an unusual entry to a conversation, amusement about my beer snobbery, chatting about the area, how neat this secret HV treasure is and such. I could have been sitting there for hours or minutes… time in that moment seemed to not really take hold. What did surprise me from this chance meeting were three things… one, that he actually asked for my phone number and two.. how unusually bummed I was that they left so soon and three… how incredibly aware I was of the magnetic sparks manifesting in our first meeting.
There was no waiting time … he texted, I texted back and a hang plan was set. Me, the jaded ice queen hermit was going to embark on a real life date in the real world with a real guy.
And the date was… the best date I’ve been on since my divorce. I won’t kiss and tell, but I can tell you, I still feel those unmentionable kisses in my toes.
… and now… the ‘game’ of dating begins and all that fear that arises with it.
The spiritual warrior me wants to be true to myself, to say what I want to say or do what I want to do. No games, no illusions or delusions.
Unfortunately, the mature 40 something chick I am knows better… knows that I have to now play the game filled with rules, the sport where I’m supposed to be a surprise, mysterious, aloof. What sucks is, I’m really none of those things. I’m far from mysterious, jeesh I must be the least mysterious lady on the planet. Pretend? Follow protocol? This rebellious feminist finds all this so very contradictory to my beliefs.
One of the reasons I hate dating the most is the sport of it… the ‘rules’ that are going to shape how the relationship will be moving forward. I’m supposed to suppress all the characteristics that make Elissa Jane… me?
More perpetuators of this debilitating fear, having to be something else, someone else or I am going to blow it somehow. One of the greatest parts of my personality is my fearlessness. I’m afraid of nothing… well almost nothing. When people recoil at the site of a daddy long legs or the view from the edge of a tall mountain I unintentionally judge them, like really what’s the big deal? In the presence of this gripping fear of heartbreak and inauthentic game playing that is all encompassing, I realize that I can relate. If I hadn’t learned what I did in my Year to Live practice, I would do what feels safe and walk away. That’s what people in fear do… run from the very thing that ignites the trigger.
Trust me… all these little fabulous sparks are blowing up the powder keg and I am reminded that this thing will lead to that pain. I can see the dots connecting.. the tape play out.. or can I?
The scariest part of all is… while the fear is still there… the delusion isn’t. I can’t see the heartbreak or the end, I can’t even see past dinner time later tonight. It is my enlightened and rational self that hears my friend Gary say, “right now, it’s like this.”
I really have no idea what is coming next or what will happen, if we’ll go out again (I hope we do) or if we don’t. I don’t know what anyone else is thinking, and frankly it’s none of my business what other people are thinking about me. The only thing I have control over is this aversion I’m feeling triggered by memories of a pain that I’ve endured from other dating scenarios in my past. Am I going to give those relationships that didn’t work out my happiness? No.
For today, in this moment, I’m grateful for feeling this way again, romantic, hopeful, curious… and even vulnerable. I’m ok with all that is arising because, well, I’m ok with me.
Human nature is filled with fear, and I guess just like people who are filled with phobias of other kinds, I need to be compassionate to myself and give myself the same understanding I’ve learned to give others.