I woke in the middle of the night paralyzed by fear. My heart raced. I frantically tried to remember what I’d been dreaming, what created enough havoc in my subconscious to send my mind spiraling to the dark side.
I couldn’t remember. Nothing was lurking.
Except the THING.
The THING had been tugging at my mind for several days. The THING kept popping up into my thoughts. This wasn’t a new THING. It’d been around the block with me; in fact, it had been around the block so long it had bought a house on the block. It nagged at me, caused arguments with Simon, made me distrustful and wary. Every time I thought I put the THING to rest, every time I let my guard down because I felt certain of the THING’s death… it would pop up out of its grave, right as I walked by. Creepy, this THING. And it had an uncanny sense of my vulnerability. It lurked and waited for my weakest moments, and BAM! That’s when the THING would rear its ugly, unwelcomed head.
Now it was 2 a.m., and this THING had cozied up to my brain, entangled itself, choking out all the good thoughts. Oh, I could have stopped it before it staged an all-out coup of my mind. But I thought I could engage with it just a little bit. Fatal error at 2 a.m. The THING is to be engaged with only in the light of day.
The next morning, I stumbled into the kitchen, bleary from lack of sleep. The THING had tormented me, wrestled me to the ground, brought me to tears until 4 a.m. Simon looked concerned. I bravely soldiered on, unwilling to let the THING have any more of my time. I would survive this bout with the THING just like I had all the others—I’d ignore it until it went away.
But this time the THING was outmatched. It turns out that big foundational shifts in life (like a partner transitioning from one gender to another, say) lead to deep soul searching. This searching forced me to wrestle with difficult truths, to question long-held beliefs about myself, and to discover what it truly non-negotiable for me. Simon’s transition has also made him more aware of—and able to address—my emotional needs as his partner. Hand to God, sometimes its like he’s seeing me for the very first time.
Just as I was about to embark on my daylight rendezvous with the THING, Simon texted me and asked me what had kept me up all night. Two miraculous things happened next: 1) I told him exactly what was going on. No minced words. No tiptoeing. I just spoke my unvarnished truth—clearly, sensibly but unwaveringly. 2) He HEARD me. He heard the words behind the words. He heard what I’d been trying to explain for what feels like an eternity. He heard me.
Maybe the key to self-knowledge (and to relationships) is relentless truth-speaking—broken only by pauses to listen for subtle interior changes, to look for fractures and places of regrowth. Maybe. But I know this for sure: never, ever give up on what you need. Never. Keep speaking your truth until you are heard. You are worth hearing.
Ultimately, a 15 second texting interlude sent the THING packing once and for all. It is dead. I am sure of it. But just for good measure, I flicked it off when it turned to leave. Because I am self-aware, not mature.
Image: Romain Briaux