On October 6th, my blog turned 8. Eight years of blogging about sex, gender, relationships, parenting, and whatever else comes bubbling to the surface. Throughout those years and all those posts (1,148 total), I’ve posted some pretty vulnerable stuff, digging into the heart of relationship troubles, gender identity and depression. This post is from that first month in October of 2008 and touches on vulnerability (The Fear of Being Important to Someone):
The other night, I said something that I didn’t fully understand at the time. Do you ever do that? Have the words come out before you really know what you’re saying, or why? I was responding to something said to me, “That scares me.”
“What do you mean, what scares you?”
“Um, it scares me to be important to people.”
I couldn’t explain it at the time, and luckily wasn’t pressed to, but I’ve been thinking about it today trying to figure out what I meant.
Why does it scare me to be important to someone else? Being important to someone tends to imply responsibility and expectations. Not that I want to be a loner, not at all. I love the people in my life, I want to be needed, that makes me feel good and gives my life much of its purpose. I guess my problem is that I worry. I worry about not being able to live up to the expectations people have of me. I worry sometimes that I won’t be able to maintain relationships to the level I, and they, have come to expect.
Sometimes I want to run away, hide, to ‘turtle’ until my batteries are recharged, until I feel like I can manage all the expectations in my life again. I’ve worked hard to be where I am, to have a family, a career, a very nice life but sometimes I want to run away from it. That’s all kinds of fucked up, I suppose, but that’s how I feel sometimes.
I guess I probably sound ungrateful. You might not have times like this yourself, where your accomplishments and the things you have actually feel like burdens. Maybe I sound like a whiner, maybe I am. What I know is that when I’m feeling this way, it’s frustrating and I get angry at myself. I know I have a good life, I know it’s inconsiderate and ungrateful to feel this way, but this is my truth. Sometimes I want to be anonymous, I want to make choices and do things and act in ways that I can’t anymore. Because I have responsibilities, because people depend on me, because I’ve gotten what I wanted in life.
I’m ambitious and driven to do more and challenge myself. I want to maintain and create new friendships and close relationships. So this pattern continues and I’ll be here again, thrashing around like a hormonal teenager who doesn’t want to buckle down and do her homework or take out the trash. It’ll happen and I’ll get over it and I’ll move on.
I don’t think it’s being important to people that scares me, exactly. What’s really happening is that in these moments when I need to shirk my responsibilities to others, when I need to turtle and hide from the world, I’m afraid that I’ll hurt the people I love, the ones who are important to me. I’m scared that they’ll need more than I can give them, and that I’ll try, but never quite fill the need, and in the end, I’ll lose them anyway. I’m scared of not being enough.
I’ve been non-monogamous for over nine years now and I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned about relationships, certainly, but I think I’ve learned at least as much about myself. I’ve learned about the rewards of vulnerability, about how to be open and honest and scared but not withdrawing. I’ve become much more aware of the way I react under a lot of different situations and even better, how to communicate with my partners about my reactions.
Evoe reposted a blog talking about poly and trust and consent that really resonates with me. In any kind of relationship, we should be there by choice, we should be actively consenting to all that the relationship entails. Well, I guess we can’t choose our family, but otherwise, we’re in a position to choose. I find it liberating and empowering to acknowledge that every time my partner and I have sex, we are actively consenting. I know that we are together by choice and that choice is actively given and not taken for granted.
There are still times when I feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being in relationships, of creating a situation where I might mess up and fail my partner in some way. I don’t feel it as strongly now as I did in the post above, and a lot of that is because I have many years of experience now. That experience has taught me that when engaged in an honest, vulnerable relationship that is consenting and respectful, it’s OK to make mistakes, it’s OK to not always be your best self. Showing up and being present is key, accepting both your partner and yourself for where you are in that moment is essential. I am very blessed both in the relationships I have now and in the ones that I have had, for all they have taught me.
Nine years of poly and eight years of blogging…. and still so much to do and learn.
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