It’s been almost four years since the sociopath was forcefully extricated from my life by the police. Four years to heal, learn, grow and to rebuild. I’ve been feeling pretty strong, centered, together. And yet, no matter how much I heal or grow, I still shy away from an aspect of being human that drives the creative spirit to express itself through books and poetry, songs and movies, paintings and sculptures and all kinds of other art forms; ‘a loving relationship’. In fact, I have pretty well convinced myself that I was content to spend the rest of my life ‘a single’. I mean, really, my life is full. Two daughters living at home while going to college, my career, my writing, a busy social life filled with friends with whom I love to share time. This is a good life. Anyway, I’m fifty-three, I’ve had my share of relationships gone bad. Who needs to risk another one? Who needs a man?
The yearning for relationship arises when I’m not looking
And then, one day, I felt the spark of yearning arise within me. It happened at the end of a long day, after coaching at a life skills seminar I volunteer for. As I drove out of the hotel parkade, I saw one of my fellow coaches, Tom, helping a woman who had slipped on some ice. She was one of the trainees, not very well known to him, but he helped her up and looked at her with concentrated care and concern, giving her his rapt attention. I remember catching my breath as I witnessed the look on his face and being struck by the wonder and beauty of the moment. At that moment, in his eyes, there was no one else in the world.
It was the second time that weekend I had been touched by the same emotions. The first time had been earlier in the day when the brother of one of the coaches who was in the training program had made a commitment to change his life for the better. His sister, a coach, had stood with tears streaming down her face as she witnessed the miracle of her brother’s decision to turn up for himself and choose to live life without fear. Tom walked over to the woman, put his arm around her shoulder and looked at her as if she was the most precious, unique being in the world. It wasn’t a sexual gesture, there were no strings attached. She is happily married. For Tom, showing support, sharing his strength was what counted in that moment. And he did it, totally focused on the person with whom he was interacting.
I watched his face and thought, “I want someone to hold me like that. I want someone to look at me as if I’m the most important, precious, unique person in the world to them in that moment.” I was a bit taken aback by my thoughts. Really, who wouldn’t be? Dedicated mum, career woman, committed to spinsterhood, and there I was thinking about a man holding me? Not in this life.
Can I grow through relationship?
Needless to say, once the thought was put out into the universe, the collective will took over. One day, while least expecting it, I met a Jack. He asked me out. I said yes. He makes me laugh. He’s kind and caring, funny and sensitive. Articulate. He is comfortable talking about his feelings. Sharing who he is without fear. He helps me see the positive notes in every song running through my life.
That was four months ago. Slowly, cautiously we are moving closer. It isn’t always easy. My triggers can be pulled with one word, one gesture. Like the time I couldn’t reach him on his cell phone after he’d promised to call me. Alarm bells started clanging and I felt myself falling back into the time of the sociopath when the cell phone was the umbilical cord strangling the life out of me. I wanted to run from Jack, from memory, from the past. I wanted to run back into the security of my aloneness where I had control of my life without having to adjust or accommodate someone else. I wanted to cry.
He called me the next morning before I’d even had time to take the first sip of my coffee. He apologized before I even mentioned the missed call the night before. He’d gone out with friends and hadn’t wanted to wake me up by calling too late.
Yes. There was the voice in my head that wanted to say. “Uh uh. Sure. Tell me another lie.” But, there was also the voice of reason. The voice that has witnessed the truth and honesty of this man since meeting him. The voice that met with one of his long time friends, who is also his lawyer, who confirmed that Jack is who he says he is (this is the man responsible for our meeting). I weighed the one event against the hundred of little and not so little events over the past four months and realized that my fear of the past was blinding me to the truth of the moment. This man is who he says he is and gives me the grace to be who I am, in all my beauty, warts and all.
The challenge is to trust myself
In relationship with him, I have realized that the biggest challenge is not about trusting Jack. It’s about trusting myself – to not over react to emotional garbage dredged up by the simple fact that I am exposing myself to another human being in the process of building ‘a relationship’. To trust myself not to run away when the pain hits from areas of unease I do not know reside within me until the trigger is pulled and the furies from the past are unleashed. And to trust myself to face the truth, whatever it is, without fear.
Since meeting Jack I have been amazed by the memories that have bombarded me at the most inauspicious times. I can be driving along a road when suddenly some forgotten moment from the sociopath drama will rip my peace of mind apart. Some quiet moment together with Jack will erupt into mayhem through a psychic blow kicking out from my solar plexus, looking for release.
When these memories first started exploding from within me I wanted to scream at Jack, “I can’t do this. It’s too tiring. Too demanding. Too emotional.” But, that would have meant turning my back on what I’d asked for; someone to look at me as though, in that moment, I am a precious and unique human being. Did I want to let go of what I had to step into what I didn’t want? A life in which I lived in fear of the past?
It ain’t easy, but it’s worth it
I want to live my life without fear. And so, in those moments when fear stampedes through me, I wrap my arms around him and thank him for giving me a safe place to unearth memories that have no place in my life today. By facing them, I can let them go. By trusting myself to turn up for me in relationship, without running from what I fear, or hiding from the past, I create a world of freedom in which I can continue to learn and heal and grow – alone and together with another human being.
I’ve been lucky. Jack read my book about the encounter with the sociopath, The Dandelion Spirit, about a month after we met. After reading it, he gave it to his mother to read, who subsequently told him about her similar experience with a man, after his father’s death. That sharing created greater intimacy between them. Just as it is creating between Jack and me. He understands my fears. Understands my trepidations. He too has his, the baggage he carries with him. Together we are growing through them. And in those moments when I feel the darkness descending, pulling me back into that ‘other time’, all I need to do is ask him to wrap his arms around me. In his care and concern, I breathe freely again and know these fears shall pass as long as I let them go.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not always respond with grace and aplomb. Sometimes, I want to tear myself out of his arms and go back to hiding in dark closets. Sometimes, I want to say something hateful to make him go away so that I won’t have to face these demons who lurk inside waiting to catch me unawares. Sometimes, I just want to quit.
I grow as the past recedes in the distance
Today, I know the truth. I’ve grown too much to quit. I know that as long as I bring myself back to the moment, back to what is real, and beautiful, and honest in my life today, I can deal with the turmoil within, without having it tear apart everything and everyone around me. As Liane Leedom counsels, as long as I control my impulse to ease my pain by acting out in hurtful ways or doing harmful things, I am centered in my life, my triangle balanced between my ability to love and my moral reasoning guiding me in what I am doing, saying, being and creating.
Relationship after an encounter with a sociopath is hard. It requires a commitment to stay true to who I am. My beliefs, my principles, my values. It requires me to turn up for me, every moment of every day and ask myself, “What do I want to create in my life today?”
With or without a man in my life, my answer is always the same. “I want to create my most incredible day yet, filled with love and grace and peace of mind. I want to create my most beautiful life. The life I deserve.”