Fun fact about Oldman (my heretofore blog name for my boyfriend, because using real names on the internet weirds me out a bit. He has the nickname of Oldman from a friend of his due to his ancient-feeling wiseness, and also because he can get cranky and jaded and complain about crazy young kids.): I am his first girlfriend.
What? Yep. You read that correctly. I am Oldman's first relationship. As you can imagine, this information was a red flag at first. My over-thinking girl-brain ran through all the things that could be wrong with him. I pictured bags of toenail clippings stored under his bed, strange habits of eating toothpaste or hoarding pet lizards, or membership to some kooky cult. I quickly realized that none of those things were true. I don't really have a good explanation. I guess he's been quite shy in the past, and picky, and for whatever reason, it just never happened. Whatever. Who cares.
After my over-thinking girl-brain relaxed and I allowed myself to be in the present with him, it became quickly apparent what a PLUS this is! No crazy exes to deal with (and if you know me, you know I've had more than my share for several lifetimes). No falling in love with Oldman just to hear him say, "Actually I just realized I'm still in love with my ex-girlfriend/fiancee/whatever." (Which is what I heard from the last three guys I dated before him.) No relationship baggage whatsoever.
And he's not a 17 year-old who is just dating for the first time and making all of the necessary, sloppy mistakes. He's a grown man with a life full of experience and wisdom, and 30 years of pent up chivalry just waiting to be unloaded on some lucky girl. You better believe every door gets opened, every chair pulled out, and every heavy bag carried - and that's just skimming the surface of the way he tends to me. (This is very new for a "strong, independent woman" like me - whatever that means. Screw it. I'm drinking it up.)
But the best part about this relationship thing being new for him is that it has become new for ME. I think this may have been the only way that my jaded, run-through-the-wringer heart could have possibly looked at romance without a scowl. It feels like I'm taking him to a city where I've been a hundred times before, and seeing all the sights with new eyes through his wonder.
I had no idea how many stories I had built up around relationships. I had so many certitudes about what love was and was not, what being a boyfriend or a girlfriend was or was not, what being in a relationship meant or meant not. (Certitude: a story that has been held for so long in one's mind that it has become unquestioned Truth.) One by one, without even trying, he is blasting them away.
On our road trip down to Louisiana to visit his parents this week, I played some of my songs for him. I have a few scratch recordings of songs I have written over the past several years, most of them inspired by some kind of pain in my life. I guess I felt obligated to play them for him, and then to tell him the related stories of pain from my past.
As I was telling them, I could feel a knot growing in my throat. My body was saying to me, "Stop. Do you really need to tell these stories again? Are they even true anymore?" But I kept talking, spilling out all of my "And then this awful thing happened to me and blah blah blah."
I wanted to stop myself, but I couldn't. It was like I was on autopilot. I had convinced myself that he couldn't really know me without knowing these stories. But that's like saying that the stories are me, and obviously they're not. They just abstract words to describe past phenomenon. And I see now how in the re-telling, I cause more pain to myself and to the listener.
He listened intently and patiently, saying nothing, holding my hand, rubbing my back, etc. After a long period of silence after the stories were finished, he said, "I love who you are today. Let's you and I take our long-held stories of past pain and not tell them anymore. No more tragedy. Let's write new stories together. Let's start now." Everything in my body relaxed, and the knot in my throat disappeared.
So I have been thinking about stories and certitudes, and how easy it is to allow them to define your life. And I pose this question to you, dear readers: What stories are you dragging around behind you, convinced that they define who you are? What old stories are limiting the boundaries of who you could be growing into today? Perhaps it is time to stop writing tragedies. Perhaps this holiday season, the best gift you could give to yourself is permission to be a new you, every day, and every day, and every day again.