For quite some time now, Fear has successfully convinced me that I can’t and I shouldn’t, therefore I didn’t and I wouldn’t…until recently, when I decided that he had dealt the absolute last blow to my self-esteem. After years of putting up with Fear manipulating me, embarrassing me in front of my friends and family, relentlessly criticizing me and starting pointless arguments right before I meet my girls for drinks, I decided the only way was out.
There was no going back after this, so I packed my shit (again) and prepared to go out with a bang.
Much like the other fights we’d had over the years, I cursed and damned him to hell loud enough for the neighbors to hear, threw stuff and threatened to burn the place to a crisp.
“This is it!” I yelled. My wild eyes narrowed as the suppressed madwoman inside me clawed her way to the surface. “Don’t call me, don’t come looking for me at my mama’s house or my job and if you see me in the streets, I suggest you cross to the other side.”
That said, one enraged sweep of my arm cleared a nearby dresser of its contents. Cologne bottles and picture frames clinked and crackled loudly, breaking beneath the pressure of my angry steps. I slammed his door and kicked it as a final expression of utter disdain.
A few months passed and I was becoming accustomed to the idea of living without Fear. This undoubtedly left me feeling raw and exposed, like a freshly peeled potato. I cautiously approached the idea of going it alone, living life in a Fear-less manner. Little by little, I allowed my mind to tip-toe towards that possibility, carefully spoon-feeding it positive imagery and promises of a life fulfilled.
Just as my optimistic mindset began to blossom, Fear showed back up dressed in his signature style, smelling of his favorite cologne. It was the same scent I stomped on during my grand finale exit. When I noticed the smell clinging to my shoes, I’d tossed them in the trash.
Judging by the relaxed manner in which he stood, for a minute I thought he had no recollection of the foul words I hurled that dreaded night. But I mistook his stance for a smugness that wasn’t there. He appeared unshaken, but as I looked closer, he actually leaned against the house, the bricks supporting him and putting an end to the nervous two-step he’d been performing before I noticed him.
He apologized (which he’s never done), asked if I’m doing ok (he never cared before!) and wait for it—told me he missed me and spoke those three words without missing a beat. Back when we were together, I would have given anything to hear him say this. After pausing to retrieve my mail (and my mouth) from the ground in front of me, my breath caught in my throat and I knew I wouldn’t live without him. The key was to learn to live with him.
I have to turn my back on him regularly these days when he approaches me with foolishness from the past, but my gestures are made in peace. I don’t proceed with anger. I don’t have a bag packed or a final destination. We’ve come to terms with one another and I now realize that he can’t control me, nor I him. The only thing I can manage is myself.
“Look, it’s not like that anymore,” I remind him sternly when he tries to romance me into coming back.
I don’t kick him out or rehash fights from the days when we didn’t know how to co-exist because I’m realizing that it’s counterproductive. I intend to live a healthy life in spite of him. He’s along for the ride and happens to be one hell of a backseat driver, but ultimately I’m controlling the vehicle. Besides, we have a daughter to raise and although her dad may be an asshole, I can’t deny his role in giving her much-needed life.
“Persistence,” I call out to her. “You ready to roll?”
Before she can respond, her dad tries to sneak his way into the driver’s seat and in unison, she and I both snatch our heads around and give him “the look.”
“Dad, the last time you drove, we didn’t make it very far so how ’bout you let mom do the driving, mkay? Oh, and I call shotgun.”
From whom did my child inherit this sass? I’m not sure, but it will definitely come in handy when she starts driving me around. Unlike most mothers, I am looking forward to the day that she takes the wheel. With any luck, that will be sooner than later.