For the first three months of our relationship, I probably tried to break up with Tyler at least 400 times.
“We have different thoughts about politics, we should break up.”
“The sky is blue, we should break up.”
“The cat yawned, we should break up.”
Any excuse, any absolutely asinine reasoning that my mind fell to, I was ready to bail. And holy shit – after he told me that he LOVED me?! Instead of feeling joy, I felt panic. I felt fear. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility. I felt, more than anything, incapable. What had I done? I couldn’t do this. This was too much, I wasn’t ready, it would never work, I would just get hurt. I came home and went over and over us with my fine tooth “should we break up” comb and tried to beg a reason into existence. In those early days, I asked my mom, my brother, every friend I had, “do you think Tyler and I should break up?” and they all just stared at me like I had grown a second head and told me to calm myself down because he was an incredible person.
I worried myself to DEATH in the beginning, and I didn’t understand why until literally just this moment – because I was grappling with the reality that I had something I didn’t want to lose, and that was scary! Duh. Jeez, I’m always so late to every party. Seriously, though – I wanted to get him before he could get me – because that’s what I was truly afraid of. Maybe he thought I was funny and pretty and cool to be around, sure, but he would find the real me eventually, the first time I had an episode of IBS and screeched that I needed a toilet, or even worse, the first time I had an anxiety attack in front of him and went from human to feral in two seconds flat, and then he wouldn’t want me anymore. I’d wake up one day and the good morning text wouldn’t be there, and I’d feel it in my gut like I’ve felt so many other times before, he’s gone. It’s over. And Tyler, with his heart and his mind and all the light that shone around him, could not just be gone.
Well, in super cool news for me, Tyler isn’t gone. He’s been here for a year – one year today! Our Taco Bell love story has bloomed and grown and is now a year old. And for the record – he handled my first panic attack and IBS episode with grace. He handles everything with grace, really. His head could be on fire and he would check on me first before putting out the flames, and I’m dead ass serious about that. He is SO good, so fundamentally wonderful (except for his road rage, but hey, no one’s perfect). The truth is, I want to be near him so that I am good, too. I want to give back the peace he’s given me. He helps me see things in ways that I have never considered, in ways that I would never find on my own.
Being with Tyler has been humbling because I’ve learned a lot about myself through getting to know him. I’ve learned about the things that I needed to work on that I probably never would have been brave enough to try to confront, had he not come into my life. But because I love him, I want to be better for him, and better to him. Being reactionary on a dime, the weight of my words, bad habits and trying personality traits of mine – these things all carry a much greater gravity for me now, because I have someone who listens to what I say and feels for and with me, and I don’t want to hurt him just because lashing out is sometimes easier than trying to open up.
What I wish I could tell my little scaredy self a year ago is that the reality of a relationship isn’t what Facebook makes you think it is, not by a long shot. It isn’t all selfies at baseball games and man crush Mondays – it’s something that requires effort on both sides. It is hard, and some days it can be really, really hard. It’s also an adjustment, and I’m still adjusting every single day. That’s the give and take of allowing someone into your life – you have to actually give AND take. It has been hard to share myself with someone else, I’m not used to doing that without fear of emotional punishment. It is still a struggle to not push baggage from past relationships at Tyler, and I have to tell myself: he is not them. But while there is work, there is pride, too, in maintaining a relationship – I have gone from being responsible for solely myself to being responsible for something I want to protect and nurture and work on with someone else. Just this little space in the ether that we occupy, a cosmic garden that we both tend to because we want to, not because we have to.
The brevity of what it means to be in a relationship like ours is many times impossible for me to think about, much less understand – because at the end of the day, I don’t know what I did to deserve it, and I will never understand why I’m allowed to have it. But I just roll with it. Maybe Tyler is like a human thunder shirt for me – you know those weighted shirts you put on dogs during storms to calm them? Maybe that’s why I get to have him. Because even when I’m wrong, even when I’m scared, even when I’m stupid, even when I’m terrible, Tyler is THERE, unflinchingly there. Calm and steady. Even when I go away inside, he’s quiet until I’m not anymore, patiently waiting for me to come back again. I never knew what patience truly meant and what it cost until someone loved me like he does.
So that’s what I’ve learned, in the past year. Hard doesn’t equal escape. It doesn’t mean you run. It just means you need to hang in and work out the kinks together, that you ALLOW someone to help you when you hurt, and that you give all of those things back to them when they need it, too. Because when someone sees the real you, the mess and the mayhem and the shame and all of the things we try to cover up every day and still wants to be there, that’s it. That’s all that counts. Loving someone past the superficial, past Facebook ideals and Pinterest boards, that’s more than anything. It’s everything.
Happy anniversary, Tyler. Thanks for truly seeing me and not running into the wild like you should have. Thanks for promising that the future will be better and making me believe it. Thanks for all the PePaw music you’ve made me listen to. Thanks for every adventure we’ve been on, for every city and state. Thank you for driving me to Texas for dinner.
And lastly … thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the farts.