I have been single for well over three years now. As much as it has been a good chapter of self-discovery and an opportunity to recuperate from the damage of my divorce and the ongoing draining battle for access to my girls, there have been many times when I’ve craved intimacy, companionship and togetherness. Particularly since cancer came uninvited into my life.
At times I have loved the freedom and have revelled in my own space, I’ve been selfish with the time spent with my girls, and have even been accused of being reclusive – a title I cannot avoid owning.
But fighting for survival over the past two years completely on my own has been brutal in so many ways, and looking back now I realise just how much I desperately needed that special person over that period. It has left its own deep scars.
The harsh reality though, is that I was not in any shape to be in a relationship. For a lot of that time I was still clinging to a past relationship. Convinced that somehow, she would be back, the woman I still adored and longed to share my life with. That she couldn’t be the person I needed her to be especially after contracting cancer hurt in ways that are hard to describe.
However, it had been a toxic and emotionally abusive relationship, and perhaps you can relate, those are by far the hardest to let go of and close the door on. Regardless of the fact that intellectually you are well aware that it’s the healthy and wise choice.
Her ongoing rejection particularly in the light of a terminal prognosis left me questioning the belief that I could actually be loved as I am.
The timing could unfortunately not have been worse. Cancer robbed me of so much confidence, it rocked me to my core and stripped away much of my self-worth, it seized all of my energy, and at times plunged me into deep consuming depression.
Childhood traumas played themselves out in this narrative too, deep seated fears about being loved, accepted, and understood. I worked extremely hard to peel back the layers and expose those fears, to deal with them and heal. It’s a long and painful process, notwithstanding the additional trauma of trying to survive brain cancer.
A couple of truly remarkable women entered my life over that time, but I was hamstrung by my own self-destructive insecurities, the deep relationship hurt and damage I had yet to heal from, and the effects of the cancer combined with its debilitating treatment.
I was no good to anyone, and if anything, I was more likely to hurt somebody else.
And so, I retracted, closing myself off every time anybody got close. It hurt though, because I wished it could be different. It made me feel that I was incapable of finding love and that special person. I tried to be as vulnerable, authentic and honest as I could be, attempting to protect both myself and anybody who got close.
It’s nigh impossible to truly give when you’re protecting yourself at the same time. The outcome is also almost always going to leave you a little more broken than before.
A number of months back I finally managed to free myself emotionally from the past, and felt for the first time in ages a beautiful sense of new energy. Letting go of something that had plagued me and negatively consumed so much of my emotional and mental energy was a tangible release.
The fact that I still had a Glioblastoma in my brain remained a worry. How could a woman reconcile a massive health risk and a damaged man with the risk of love?
I didn’t, and still don’t ever want to be somebodies rescue project. I don’t want pity, and I certainly don’t want somebody to attempt to heal me.
Yet I now find myself trapped. I am cancer free and I don’t subscribe to the supposedly high chance of it returning. Intellectually I finally think I might be ready, I comprehend all of the dynamics, and I have evolved enough to understand the pathology of my previous choice of partners. I have owned my substantial part in the demise of each long-term relationship. I have grown a massive amount.
But the more I consider not being single, the more I realise that the damage from my battle with cancer runs far deeper than I ever thought. Emotionally and spiritually I am still in tatters. I feel like a negative drain on those close to me, and am extremely intense. Light and carefree are concepts that have become foreign, and I have less internal confidence than ever before. I have retracted in certain ways that lead me to feel that I can never come back.
I feel as though I am living in a vacuum in certain aspects of my life. I cannot be the person I was before the cancer, and yet I do not know who I am now. How is it then possible to give of myself to another person…what am I giving? Who am I giving?
A fresh journey of self-rediscovery should be one taken alone I’m sure. But the uncertainty of self leaves me feeling so terribly vulnerable and exposed. Hyper sensitive to how people perceive the post cancer Richard. Questioning whether people can see how fragile I am, in so many facets a shadow of what I was before.
I cannot pretend to be anything I am not. Cancer has taught me that there is little point in any pretence. The façade is so easily stripped away, and the world as you knew it turned irrevocably upside-down, revealing true character.
Yet that character is sometimes foreign. It will be a while before I regain confidence in who I am, I’m learning a new language of self.
I survived cancer once, only to have another cancer return, and having survived again its practically impossible to live without a fear of the future. I try to live my life in the present, living each day as if it could be my last with an intimate knowledge of what the value of life is. My greatest concern is for my girls, and therefore they get every bit of energy and commitment I can give.
Happiness is a state of mind, and not a destination nor possession … I know what makes me truly happy.
I have learned that my responsibility is not to make someone else happy, we each own that responsibility for ourselves, But I don’t want to disappoint someone else, and I know that right now I am going to disappoint a prospective partner over and over again. I’m just not ready.
My eldest daughter Mackinnon spent some time over the December holidays compiling an interview questionnaire for prospective dates for her dad. And this fun and innocent endeavour actually forced me to confront my current reality, hence this blog.
I don’t believe that I am good for anyone, nor do I have what it takes to make somebody feel loved and wanted. I am insecure and broken, and unable to truly give. I am defensive, and have so many walls. I am just not relationship material right now…no matter how much I crave that special person.
And that’s ok. It has to be ok. And besides, I have two loves of my life I am lucky enough to share my world with.
I know that I need to heal myself, I need time, I need to figure out how to love myself, with all the damage, with all the brokenness. How to accept who I have become, to be gentle with me. Until that time I will continue to fall into the trap of protective insecurity, and I will land up hurting somebody else.
I know what that feels like as it happened to me, and nobody deserves that.
There is a part of me that feels that I might need to be single for a very long time yet. Maybe that’s just what my journey is, and maybe I will never again find that love. I don’t know, but for now I’ve removed ‘single’ from my status, and I’m not open to dating.
And that’s a good thing.