I left work last night with a feeling of anticipation and uncertainty fueled, I’m sure, by the fact that I haven’t had a cigarette in ten days. Yet another attempt to quit.
I have a confession to make though. Right before I arrived home I pulled into a 7-11 and bought a pack. I sat in my car for a few minutes, thinking over the decision, finally opening the pack, pulling three cigarettes out, and left the rest perched atop the trash can outside the store. One to smoke when I got home. A second to hide somewhere in my house for an “emergency”, and a third in case the one I planned to smoke, tasted so good to my body and psyche that I would want to have another right after, without depleting the soon to be stashed back up. An addict with a plan.
I awoke early with a start. Some image from my dream state jostling the sleep from my body. I try to shake it off, but it doesn’t work, so I resign myself to the inevitable. I will be tired and wanting of sleep sometime in the afternoon in the middle of my first of three days with Stella I have every week.
My thoughts turn to her. She will be full of enthusiasm upon her arrival in a few hours and filled with ideas of how our day should proceed. I will acquiesce at first, glad to be in her company again, and we will fill one another in on the days spent apart. Then my sleep deprived body will demand some attention. I’ll need a plan that doesn’t involve a cigarette.
She is almost seven now and the past couple of months has seen a shift in our relationship. She has become more autonomous. We are engaging on a whole new level and a friendship is emerging. I imagined this happening when she was older, not sure why, when her survival did not hinge on my every decision. It’s an easy friendship filled with laughter and ease.
Other friendships have also taken hold this past year.
They used to come easier to me in my youth. Some have been fleeting and others endure. Time and distance has changed their content, but the substance remains the same. My heart has been opening to the idea that friendship is still possible. That it is allowable and necessary. That may sound strange, but it’s perhaps how one navigates through life when your heart closes itself against the world. When fear takes hold. Fear of being rejected by another human. Fear of the intimacy needed for true friendship. Fear that you are not worthy.
These new emerging friends have been kind and patient with my insecurities and doubts and I am grateful for it. I am trying to be a better man. A better human. I am willing to allow myself to stumble as I navigate this new terrain. And I am sorry to those that have tried in the past only to be met with my fear.
And what of that feeling of anticipation and uncertainty from last night? Those feelings I tried to control with a cigarette? They are still there. They are part of what an opening heart looks like. Being vulnerable is what feeds the fear. Allowing myself to be vulnerable to the emotions that are unleashed by an open heart is the first step against fear.
The second step is to invite others in.