Both Feet In

Author’s Note: This experience took place a number of years ago and includes the bravest moment of my life, a single decision that changed my life’s trajectory forever.

“It’s chilly out there,” I said to my date as I climbed into his car and turned on the seat heater. “I can’t say I’m a big fan of winter.”

“The car should warm up pretty quickly,” he said, cranking up the heat.

“That place was cool,” I said making conversation. “I’d never been there before.”  

“I’m glad you liked it. Did you want to go meet up with some of my friends down the street?” he asked, not wanting the night to end. “There’s live music.”

I glanced at my phone, noting the time, stalling, unsure I was ready to meet his friends. “I think I better get going. It takes me an hour to drive home.”

While we’d been dating for over a month, I had consistently shied away from anything that would integrate our worlds too closely. I had mastered the art of keeping one foot in and one foot out.

He sighed, disappointed.

“You know Sara, right now I am all about you. I’m not interested in pursuing anyone else. I think you’re adorable and there’s real potential here. But there will come a time when I will need you to make a decision. Not today. I’m not asking that. I’m just telling you, there will be an end to my patience with your indecision and I will move on. It’s ok if you’re not into me, I just don’t want to waste my time.”

I said I understood and he put the car in drive. We were both quiet as the blocks passed, but my mind was whirling.

This man adores me. He makes me laugh. He’s cute. He is interested in what I have to say. He opens my car door and spoils me. He treats me as I should be treated. What is wrong with me? Why do I hesitate?

A light snow started to fall as we drove, changing hues with the traffic lights. Leaning my head against the window, I suddenly felt incredibly weary. My divorce years ago had led me down a destructive path I felt I deserved, an appropriate penance for my failure to hold my marriage together.

You had someone who loved you once and he left you, remember? You don’t deserve the adoration of a man like this. Once he sees you for who you really are, he will be out the door anyway. And you’ll be right back in despair. Imagine how much that will hurt.

A tear slipped free as I realized what I would miss out on if I continued to believe my negative thoughts. They were slowly squeezing the life out of me.  

“What’s wrong?” my date asked looking over at me.

I couldn’t answer. There was no easy way to say what was happening in my mind.

“Why don’t you come inside for a minute,” he said when arrived at his house. “Maybe drink some water before you get on the road.”

I followed numbly behind, my life baggage weighing me down.

As he filled a glass with water, I stood awkwardly at the door, trying to hold it together. Then he turned, and studied me, his face softening.

“Come on, let’s sit down,” he said gently, lightly taking my hand as he moved to the couch. Setting the glass of water on a nearby table, he gathered me to him, wrapping his arms around me.

His kindness broke me. No one had treated me with softness in years. I collapsed into him, sobs wracking my body.

“It’s going to be ok,” he said. “You’re safe.”

Time passed as we sat together. He held me tenderly while I cried, whispering soothing words of comfort now and then, unfazed by my overwhelming wave of emotion. Inside, I mourned all I had lost before this moment. My husband. My security. My self worth. My dignity. My understanding of the world. My confidence.

I don’t deserve someone like this…

But what if I do?

I won’t be able to make this work…

But what if I can?

I am not good enough. I will never be good enough…

But what if I am?

Years of grief, doubt, betrayal, and sadness poured from me–and he absorbed it all. With patience. Tenderness. Strength. Kindness. Unafraid to walk with me through my darkness.

I never said anything. And he never asked me to. He simply provided the safe place to land I had been looking for. Occasionally he would murmur kind words, telling me things would be ok, that I was safe, that I was worthy of his attention.

As his words challenged my inner critic, I became angry. Angry with my inner voice for keeping me in a dark place. I desperately wanted to see me as he saw me. I wanted to be kind to myself, forgive myself. I wanted a different life path.

“I’m in,” I whispered.

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