It’s not that I don’t have dreams about us together, about things like walking down the beach holding your hand or you laying on my arm until it falls asleep. It’s not that I want to be alone or that I want to push you away. It’s not that I don’t want someone to share my life with.
That is not it at all.
But I can’t show you the way I cried myself to sleep some nights. I can’t show you the way watching a father and son play drives a knife into my chest. I can’t show you how I want love and I am terrified of love all at the same time. I can’t show you the way I look at you knowing that you could be everything I need but knowing that you could be the very thing that destroys me. I can’t show you because these are the thoughts that are in my head. This is the minefield that is my mind.
This was never the plan. I was supposed to meet my high school sweetheart. I was supposed to go to college. I was supposed to change the world. I was supposed to settle down, get married, have a couple of kids. There was supposed to be a house and a dog and maybe a minivan. But none of that happened. Somewhere the plan went terribly awry; the plan never materialized.
Along the way life happened; wounds were dealt, scars were formed, and bonds were created. Now a smell, an image, a place, it all floods my mind with pictures. They paralyze me with memories of things I should have done, I shouldn’t have done, people I hurt, and opportunities I should have taken. I should have taken that job, I shouldn’t have broken up with her. I should have faced those demons before then, but I hid. I shouldn’t have taken that first drink. I should have ignored that text message. I shouldn’t have ignored THAT text message.
There is a part of me that never feels good enough or strong enough. That part of me still remembers not having a dad around and wondering why. There is something that gets broken in a boy when his dad isn’t there to guide him. That part of me still remembers the aching desire for validation that never came. So I looked for it, God, did I look for it. I looked for it in girl after girl after girl, leaving a wake of hurt in my path. I looked for it in sports, in rebellion, in theater, in religion. When I was old enough, I looked for it in work, in adventures, and material things. I desperately went to anything that promised to make me feel good enough, smart enough, or accomplished enough. With each one of these attempts and failures the wounds deepened. Each one seemed to only reinforce the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with me as a person. It was a constant reminder that I destroyed whatever I touched, people and things alike. Every season would end, every person leaves.
My life has been epitomized by integration of loss. I lost my father. I have lost jobs and homes and callings and passions. I have lost relationships and friends. I have lost motivation. After every time I manage to find my way through, but with every time a new brick gets added to the wall. With each brick, the fighter in me gets a little stronger, a little more resilient. And I fight. I fight against my past, against my upbringing, the wounds of my father, the wounds of my faith, and I fight against my own expectations for myself. I want to fight for you. I want to fight for us, but for now, the walls are too high and I am too afraid to let you inside them. I am afraid of what you will see on the other side of them. I am afraid of how you will see the brokenness and the pain and it will be too much for you, the same way it has been too much for so many before you.
I have felt the passion. I have felt the intimacy and the connection that another person can bring into life. I have seen the beauty of being vulnerable. I have seen the wonder of opening yourself truly and fully to another person. But I have also seen that come apart at the seams. I have watched it slowly unwind. I have seen the looks become more distant; the messages come less frequent; the conversations get more and more shallow. Then as quickly as the fire was lit, it is snuffed out and I am left figuring out if it was all worth it in the first place.
It’s more difficult to be alone, but I know what to expect here, there is a consistency here. I don’t have to worry about anybody showing up because they won’t. Here, that hope doesn’t exist, but that protects me. It is me and only me. It is scary allowing myself to care so entirely about you. It is scary opening myself to you, all of my hopes, my dreams, and my aspirations on display for you to see. If it falls apart that means I will have to start from zero again. I will have to pick up the pieces, wade through the fallout, and somehow find my way back to some sort of normal. I will have to go through the emotions again, the questions, and manage to get back to a place that is not so crippling.
It isn’t that you are not incredible or beautiful or talented or wonderful. I see it in the way your hair looks when you wake up. I see it in that ridiculous laugh of yours. I see it in the way you look at every sunset with complete and utter awe. I feel it every time your eyes light up at the sight of me. I feel it every time you wrap your arm around mine or you look past some guy to find me. But me, I am broken. I am inconsistent. I am a scared child masquerading as a grown man with a hell of a poker face.
I do have dreams. I have dreams about the day the battle doesn’t rage in my head. I have dreams about having a happy relationship; one that is filled with laughter and joy and adventure; one that is filled with passion and intimacy and love. I have dreams about a safe place to come home to, a place to make memories, and a place to build a life. And I have dreams about the person willing to stand by me long enough to see all of that come to pass. I can’t tell you when, but, hopefully, one day, I will find the strength to make those dreams into a reality.