you and me

To Have And To Hold: I Am Not A Machine.

We’re sitting on his front porch, discussing afternoon plans. The air is chilly, the sky gray and heavy with clouds.

I’m staring out at the leafless trees across the street, my head resting on his chest, my arm across his belly. His head is on mine, his arm around my shoulders. I want him to come over later.

“Tonight’s probably not going to work. It’s easier for me to hang out when I’m not working super early,” he replies.

“I understand. The offer is there if you change your mind, but I get it.”

“I’ll see you Tuesday for sure.”

“Yes,” I nod, still staring at the trees.

He kisses the top of my head, and I smile.

I’ve been having a hard time at work. The service industry is where my skillset has been my entire professional life, but it’s eating away at my insides.

When I feel drained from being around the tumultuous energy of other people and their issues, I reach for food, alcohol, or the internet in an attempt to numb the buzz of chaos vibrating through my limbs instead of using meditation, writing, drawing, or spending time with a friend.

I’ve spent a lot of time ignoring my desire for the comfort of human touch. I’ve boldly stated that I don’t like being held as if I’m some kind of robot stripped of humanity whose sole purpose is to serve other people and ask for nothing. I’ve behaved this way for most of my adult life. I’ve never asked for anyone to hold me.

My desire to give and receive affection was peeled away in earlier years. I’ve felt shame for wanting to express love and allow myself to receive it and trust the giver at the same time.

The previous day, I was having a hard time interacting with people. I don’t know what triggered it, or what got me so upset, but the tears wouldn’t stop.

A coworker pulled me aside and asked what was going on.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what has gotten into me. Being here feels like too much today.”

“Come here,” she pulled me into a tight hug, and I let myself notice and feel everything in that moment. I felt the warmth of her body, the softness of her belly against mine and I let go and cried.

She held me tighter and took the deep breaths I probably should have been taking. I saw the judgmental mean girl who lives in my head creep up, rolling her eyes and telling me, “What are you crying for? What is wrong with you? You’re hugging her for too long. Let go.”

I held on anyway, acknowledging that something hurts and crying is normal, even if I can’t pinpoint what’s gotten to me. Experience has taught me that if I don’t let it out now, if I don’t acknowledge that something wants to be released, it only gets louder, and I’m so sick of running away.

My coping devices don’t work anymore, leaving me no other option but to feel it all.

“I’m here for you… anytime,” she said into my hair.

“Thank you,” I replied, wiping the tears off my cheeks before sighing and getting back to work.

Cars pass by, as well as people with their dogs.

I shift my awareness to my arm draped across him, studying how it fits over his torso as I fill my lungs with the damp air and say, “I’ve never said this out loud to another person before. I’ve been struggling lately, and noticing my desire for comfort. To just be next to someone and be held. I’ve never wanted it before. Or maybe I haven’t let myself want it, but I do want it.”

He nods against the top of my head, and holds me tighter.

“I’ve felt guilty for asking for comfort. I’ve worked so hard at being an independent, self-sustaining human that to ask for help, or say the words ‘I need’, or worse yet, ‘I want’, feels like I’m taking something from you. I struggle with wrapping my mind around the fact that maybe you want to give said comfort.

Maybe you’re happy to offer love in that way. Maybe you’re happy to hold my hand, my body, to let me cry, talk or just be silent.

Oftentimes I’ve felt like I need to ‘suck it up’ and ‘push through’ to get a job done while my body is desperate for rest, for a slower, gentler pace, for some downtime with another person — where everything is still, quiet, and the only sound is of air coming into and out of our lungs.

Every time I state my desire, each time I speak on my own behalf, I feel better regardless of how you respond. In the past, I may have felt like being held, but I would never utter those words. My fear was not receiving what I was asking for, or worse yet, I feared being ridiculed for wanting something.

I see that regardless of what your response is, as long as I’m showing up for myself and stating my needs, that’s all that matters.

With every embrace, I practice sinking a little more into it, softening and cultivating a feeling of safety with another human. I let my body tell me who feels safe to be around and leave the rest behind.

In letting people in, I’ve been able to connect in a deeper manner. I’ve grown more capable of accepting my feelings, emotions and experiences. When old memories that no longer serve me, or someone else’s stuff I’ve taken on that does not pertain to me, comes up, I can let it all go and choose another path.

Learning to honor my needs lets me love other people better and accept their love, knowing I deserve love, touch and care.

I’ve spent far too long priding myself on productivity, on being a machine, and smiling through it all, when on the inside I’ve been falling apart, screaming for relief.

I am not a machine. I am a living, breathing human being, and am reminded of my humanness when someone touches me, offers their love in a physical way that feels grounding, and brings me here to this moment, where the senselessness of the world fades away and all I can hear is the beating of my heart against yours.”

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MelissaLeeMelissa Lee is a Seattle-based writer and artist. Her work has appeared in xojane.com and the Garland Court Review. She blogs about sexuality and writes erotica. You can contact her via email.

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