So, my therapist has been talking about me to other clients. I’m totally cool with that–it’s in a good way. It’s like what Ellen Gilchrist said about her family’s reaction when she writes about them: “They don’t care what I write as long as I say they’re good looking.” The story that my therapist shares with others is the one I wrote about yesterday, when I met my second husband by the side of the highway when he stopped to rescue me. She tells it to people who are rebuilding their lives and wondering if they’ll ever find someone to love. The advice she gives them and that she gave me when I was rebuilding after a divorce was this–focus energy on YOUR life, not who you’ll share it with. Plan the life you want, down to every detail and when you have it in place, you’ll be able to see the person who fits into it. Don’t worry about looking for them first.
I had spent 10 years trying to make myself into a person who could make a life with the person I had picked out when I was 22 years old. The problem was, Fartbuster didn’t much like the world because he was smarter than everyone else in it and didn’t see the point in bothering. I had to get smaller and smaller and smaller to keep him comfortable. For example, I told him I wanted to get back into writing and he said to go for it. But when I came home at 8pm after my writing group, he was all pissy “because there was nothing for dinner.” Ummm, you’re a grown man with a debit card, a car and an Arby’s. Feed yourself. I wanted to travel. The only place he would go was England because we spoke the language. He ended up SCREAMING at the snack bar lady at Stonehenge because there was no ice in his drink. I told him I wanted to have kids and he said that he really didn’t see how they could be worth the effort–we would have to run the dishwasher more often. His number one concern about having kids was that I might gain weight. Yeeaaaaaah, I’m not making this up.
Still. When it was over, I felt like I was starting from square one and I’d never catch up and get to have the life I wanted. The Baby Store was going to be all out of babies by the time I got my act together! The Happy Store would be closed for renovations! I needed to FIND SOMEBODY and do it quick. My therapist told me to pump the brakes.
My first assignment was to visualize the life I wanted. Not in generalities like “I want to find love, ” but specifics: do I want to come home and cook dinner or go out to eat? Do I want to listen to music and talk or eat in front of the TV while watching CSPAN? Do I want to go to bed early or late? Do I want to exercise? How? Do I want to spend weekends with family or camping in the woods? What color should the bathroom towels be? Where do I want to go on vacation? What do I want to do for holidays? Every sentence had I as the subject…not we.
I started living my own life. I cooked lasagna for one. I put on a swimsuit for the first time in 10 years. I went to the beach with my family. I tried tequila shots for my 32nd birthday. I went to movies on Sunday afternoon, all by myself. I threw parties and went to parties. I bought season tickets to Chastain concerts. I volunteered with my college and a literacy project. I joined a writing group. I attended the Unitarian church. I read all day or walked all day or shopped or slept or stared out the window. I planted daffodil bulbs. I walked my dachshunds. I did a lot of work on myself. I went on some dates and turned some others down. I woke up one morning whistling. I realized that I was happier on my own than I would have been if I were still married. That was a really good day.
And what do you know? A few days after that, my car broke down and I met Richard. Our lives bumped up against each other’s and it worked. Love plopped right into my lap when I had quit chasing it. I think Nathaniel Hawthorne compared happiness to a butterfly. If you chase after it, it will always elude you; but if you sit peacefully, it will sometimes alight upon you.
For years, I thought of Richard as the White Knight who swooped in and rescued me. He was my reward for the miserable decade I had tolerated. When he died, I was PISSED. Not at him, but at the great scale of justice that had taken away my reward, my rescuer.
But here’s the thing my wise counselor pointed out. There were two people who met on that cold and blustery day by the side of the highway. Two stories. One of those people was going to get sick and one of them was going to die. One of them was in need at that immediate moment, but one of them would have a much greater need four years down the road. Richard, brave and capable as he was, would need someone courageous and stalwart and true beside him for that great fight…and it turned out to be me. I was his White Knight. We rescued each other.
If you are feeling like there’s no white knight coming to the rescue, look more closely…it might be you.