Today at work, I mentioned to my coworker about my weekend, and with a happy sigh and a smile after describing something he (my partner) either said or did, I said, “I love him….”
She paused on her way out of my office and turned around and asked the question:
“I know it’s not fair to compare, but…is it the same or different as it was with Tony?”
It’s timely she asked, because just yesterday I was pondering how the tone of a statement I’ve said and heard many times has changed over the past few years.
I don’t know who I am without you.
Who I was with Tony would have said those words laced with romantic overtones. In fact, I probably did say them. They’d have been absolutely true, but at the time, I thought that’s what love was. The inability to extricate myself from my relationship to him.
When he passed away, something extraordinary happened: I survived.
That’s right. All those times I had said, “I’d die with out you,” turned out to be wrong. I didn’t die. I wasn’t immediately ready to get on with my life – that was and continues to be a process, but I didn’t cease to exist.
I also had no identity of my own. I was Mrs. ______. I was Tony’s wife. I was caregiver, step-mother, bread-winner.
But, I had no sense of who I was without defining it by my relationship to him or others.
We’ll fast forward many, many months. I entered into a D/s relationship that started online and long-distance, and then became in person and fairly close to 24/7.
Remember, I was in a different place then, emotionally. Newly-widowed, still trying to figure out what my life was about, reestablishing my priorities, and not really wanting to face reality yet – I let someone else (someone I trusted) take control over me.
I won’t paint the picture with swaths of black. There was good that came out of that relationship. I got my house cleaned up. I ate healthier and exercised more. I quit smoking. I started focusing at work a little more. I did responsible things for myself because he wanted me to. It was what was in my best interest.
I became VERY needful of his guidance. I wasn’t in an emotional place to guide myself to where I needed to be. I just wanted to hide under the covers and have someone wake me up when it was over.
He asked me one night, over skype – what I would do if he were to suddenly disappear. I panicked. Full stop. I panicked hard. Hyperventilating, indescribable fear. I could not stand the thought of losing another one. He realizes now (and feels terrible for) his mistake in asking me that question.
But in that case, “I don’t know who I am without you” was not romantic. It was laced with fear. I was not yet ready to face the world alone.
That relationship ended when I started coming back into my own. There were some issues I won’t get into, but I was starting to get a sense that I was taking orders from someone whose wants no longer seemed to align with my best interests, and it started pushing me further and further away from wanting anything resembling a 24/7 relationship or a “Dominant.”
That’s when the real work began. It was slow. I’ve written about it time and again. I asked myself a lot of questions. I dug down into the why of my decisions and my needs and figured out who I wanted to be and charted my course to get there. Sometimes people helped along the way – people who gave me advice that worked. Sometimes I learned from the terrible advice (or actions) of others who showed me very clearly who I did not want to become.
And now, here I am.
“I don’t know who I am without you.” That phrase falls flat now. It’s not romantic. It doesn’t cause panic. It just doesn’t ring true at all.
I know exactly who I am. I know who I am, and I know that I am changing. I know that I have goals and aspirations that are all about me, and that – when I am ready – I will work on achieving those goals for myself.
I know who I am without him. And, I love him. Those two statements are not in opposition of each other anymore.