So I think my internal storyteller deserves a Pulizter Prize.
A remarkable thing happened with A: I discovered that giving him what he needed wasn’t going to be all that hard at all. All it took was one very simple thing: I put him on my calendar.
He requested that we sit down to go over my calendar and schedule some time together. I was pretty fearful of this, as I felt there was no possibly way I could give him what he needed without compromising my own needs for autonomy. But that was, in fact, just another story.
As it turned out, when we looked at the calendar, I was only able to schedule one day for him: an evening that we would spend in the garden together. That was all I could give him for next week, and beyond that, we weren’t able to schedule, only because he doesn’t yet have his work schedule for the upcoming weeks.
Later we went for a walk, and I asked him if we could talk about the things we’d started talking about earlier, regarding his needs for my time and attention, and my need for independence and fear of his needing too much of me. And he said he was actually feeling pretty good about everything, and the reason was pretty simple.
I had put him on my calendar.
Just once, and just for an ordinary evening in the garden. But my doing that quelled his own little voice about not being important. It showed him that I was willing to make him a priority, among all my other priorities, and it gave him an anchor—something to look forward to. It seems like seeing his name on my calendar helped him see himself as part of my life.
I need to do more, of course. I need to keep scheduling time for him, and I think he consistently needs something with his name on it on my calendar, even if it’s a ways out. I probably need to schedule post-travel reconnect time with him before I leave town, to help him not be so anxious while I’m away. And I need to be more mindful of him on a day-to-day basis, remembering to connect in small ways. (Another cliché: it’s so easy to take another person for granted when you see them every day.)
However, what’s really remarkable about this experience is just how much I’d been able to work myself up with fear and worry over what he needed from me, when the solution was really so simple—and so very similar to what I need, too. Looking back on the situation, my concerns had so much more to do with my own fears than with what he really needed from me. I was much more focused on what I couldn’t give than on what I could.
Now for some perspective, the initial conversation was very intense, as they do tend to be when I’ve been away a long time. And the trigger that got hit when we talked was one that had been sensitized by many years of history between us. But still. It’s amazing how much easier things keep turning out to be when I stop worrying so much about them, and when I let them unfold instead of trying to control, predict or resist them.