Finding Courage

Last night I dreamt of Mom, that I was crying and hugging her, telling her that I loved her and missed her. We were standing inside the hardware store, but in my dream it was my work, which is appropriate because she worked at Sears for 30 years, and I now work in retail myself. The dream tells me I can acknowledge that I’m still grieving the loss of my mom, that I don’t have to judge myself so harshly and tell myself that I’m acting like a spoiled brat who wants attention. At the same time I know I’ve reacted out of self-centered fear towards my boyfriend and jealousy over his daughter. In other words, I can be gentle with myself for my feelings and even for my actions, and at the same time I can forgive him for expecting me to go to his dad’s for Thanksgiving. Because it wasn’t so much him asking me to go to his dad’s as it was that I felt like he was telling me to get over my grief and now be there for him.

Thanksgiving was the catalyst for all of this conflict with my boyfriend. Or ex-boyfriend, whatever he is. I became blinded with self-centered fear over the audacity of him to ask me to go to his father’s for Thanksgiving after my mom just died three months prior, and I wanted to visit my sister and stepfather. But did I really want to visit my sister and stepdad? I felt obligated to, even though they didn’t ask me to—I didn’t even know what I wanted. What I really wanted was attention, the attention my boyfriend had showered upon me when my mom first died, because I still felt sad, and I loved the attention he gave me. Then I held on to that resentment and let it grow. Underneath it all throughout our entire relationship has been a deep-rooted fear of abandonment on my part. And on his part too, though he shows it in a different way.

Yesterday I sent him a long, heartfelt email explaining how I felt:  afraid, resentful, jealous. That I reacted out of self-centered fear, and I want to try to work this out, no matter how hard, but that we must start on new footing. That I love him.

And he replied that he misses me and loves me, that he is terrified it won’t work out, but he hates being apart, and he wants a few days to consider it. He brought up my mom, and I remember thinking, as I read it, that he was just feeling guilty and beating himself up for something I was being a brat about.

But then I had this dream, and it tells me that yes, of course I’m still grieving, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean I should try to manipulate or control others into doing what I think they should do, but it does mean I can be gentle with myself and acknowledge that this will take time.

I just really miss her and wish I could talk to her. I want to introduce her to the world so you can all see how beautiful and wonderful she was, warts and all. And maybe I will. Maybe I will write a book about her. I would love to do that, to have the energy, passion, courage, and perseverance it takes to write a book. I don’t know if I have it in me.

Thursday I start class, and I worry that I’m wasting my time and money on such a thing, when I could be following my true passion as a writer, that I could be writing a book about Mom. Or I could be at the gym, at a support group meeting, out with friends, or doing any number of things to support my personal growth. But my therapist pointed out that I don’t like my current low-budget lifestyle, and I want to be able to get my own place and buy myself nice things. Doesn’t everything take work? I’ll have to work for this nutrition degree, just like I’ll have to work for anything else, and I’ll still be writing and working on my personal growth in the meantime regardless. And I can see myself as a nutritionist helping people with eating disorders, or diabetes, or whatever. I would be the nutritionist who didn’t try to change them but who gently guided them to make healthier choices and not to beat themselves up for eating a cookie. My mom had an eating disorder, and as a recovering alcoholic and someone who eats emotionally at times, I can understand what that might be like. I’ve never been overweight, but I felt like an ugly child, and that feeling of insecurity never really disappeared.

There’s no way of knowing what it would be like to be a nutritionist until I do it, just as there was no way of knowing what teaching would be like until I did that. A part of me feels like if I could just somehow go back to doing that and get used to being in front of a classroom, if I could just work hard enough to get more than an adjunct position (which was very hard, by the way), maybe I could do that and write. Another part of me says to just take the nutritionist route, and at least I’ll have a well-paying job, and I can find any number of jobs in different areas. In the meantime I’d still be writing, because I write to survive. Then there’s the me who wants to just stay where I am: the easy, low-stress route, but of near-poverty, working at the grocery store, while writing in my spare time.

Regardless of what happens in my relationship, I need to stand on my own. It would be easier to do without a boyfriend. At first I thought it would be easier to do with a boyfriend, because I had this idea we’d live together, and he could support me while I do what I want. But this is work I need to do, for myself.

For now I’ll go to class this semester and see how it goes.

As for my relationship, I feel that he will come back to me, but that it won’t be easy. My hope is that we will start anew, each of us focused on our individual growth while maintaining a healthy relationship. The thing is, we don’t know what that looks like, or if it will work.

I am scared to death. But all I can do is walk through it, one day at a time.

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