Playing it Safe

There was a boy in Greece.  An intriguing boy, with kind eyes and a warm smile.  Devastatingly sexy native accent aside, I found myself thoroughly attracted to him, and very curious about him.  So, I did the same thing I always do when this occurs.  I put up a huge wall.  I avoided talking to him.  I made a point not to look at him.  When our eyes did meet, I’d look away quickly and smile at the floor.  I told myself that this was all in my best interest, as well as his.

An old friend of mine calls this my “iron curtain.”  His metaphor shocked me at first, mainly because I don’t take kindly to the idea that people can see through my defenses, or my efforts to conceal them.  But honestly, whether I like it or not, I need to be seen – just like everyone else.  As much as I try to prevent it, and I truly do, I crave connection.  I fear it, but I also crave it.  Regardless of what it leads to, whether there’s a spark or simply a comfortable platonic vibe – I’ll never know.  Not unless I allow myself to take the risk and lower the curtain.

It’s incredibly frustrating to be aware of my unhealthy behavioral patterns, and yet still continue to display them.  I suppose it’s better than being unaware – but seriously… I thought spending 3 years in weekly therapy and discovering why I do what I do, would be enough.  After all, isn’t awareness half the battle?  Exactly.  It’s HALF the battle.  The other half?  Consciously choosing to break the pattern, and exiting that safety bubble.

In some aspects of life, I’m completely fearless.  I could jump out of a plane or off a cliff without fear, and with nothing separating me from death but a parachute.  I can drive across the country, alone, with no idea what lies ahead.  When it comes to matters of the heart, however, I avoid, avoid… Avoid.

For me personally, it’s not really a fear of rejection.  It’s more the fear of being vulnerable.  Being open, exposed, and utterly “naked,” is the most frightening thing in the world.

I’m not going to delve into my dating history.  That’s not the point, and it would bore you into a snoozefest.  I can only say that my experiences have been extremely limited, due largely to the fact that I’ve always played it safe.  To avoid being hurt, to avoid feeling abandoned, to avoid the heartbreak – I’ve kept myself protected and hidden.

This shouldn’t suggest that I’ve never opened my heart and fallen head over heels in love.  I absolutely have, a few times.  The pattern I was faced with acknowledging (at the right time and with the right therapist), was that when I have fallen hard, it’s always been with unavailable men.

Whether they were otherwise involved, simply not interested in me romantically, or heading in drastically different directions in life than myself – these are the men whom I’ve allowed myself to fall for.  While knowing it would never become anything more than wishful fantasy on my part, and falling into the familiar heartache of wanting what I knew I couldn’t have.  At least that heartache was familiar, and I knew exactly how it would feel.

I desperately want to break this pattern.  I want to be open.  Not only to intimacy, but to the mere possibility of a connection with another human being.  The former cannot exist without the latter, and my cursed iron curtain prevents both – that much is certain.

To the boy in Greece, I want to say – thank you.  Thank you for sparking my curiosity and my interest, even though I was too stubborn to tell you as much.  Thank you for engaging in conversation, even though I definitely didn’t make it easy.  Thank you for the smiles, and the laughs, and the questions, and the drinks – especially the laughs.  Laughing is my favorite.  Thank you for the reminder that I’m not dead inside… As much as I try to deny it, I am still a hot-blooded woman.

Oh, intimacy… One of my messiest areas.  This may never, ever change.  But what can change, is how I respond in these situations.  Can I get over my fears, and just let go of my need to play it safe?  Can I meet a handsome boy, and not immediately feel the need to hide behind my iron curtain?  Ultimately, can I get over myself, not overthink everything, and just LIVE.

Here’s hoping.



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