I operate from a place of lack. I said that a couple weeks ago but I didn’t develop the thought. I think articulating it to myself the first time it popped out of my mouth surprised me. I operate from a place of lack. There! I said it! Now it doesn’t seem to control me. I operate from a place of lack so even in the midst of plenty, I am forever fast-forwarding to when there will be none.

It’s happened all my life, but lately when this m.o. most shows up is when Bae visits. Hard as I try to stay in the moment my thoughts keep returning to the fact that she will have to leave eventually. And there will be a lack, a void coming my way. Somehow having a lot of her in that present moment, sometimes all weekend, pales in comparison to the not having when she finally leaves. It is more prominent when she’s leaving me in my apartment versus me leaving her after spending time with her. The absence in the former is very palpable. I don’t know if it’s because it’s my place and it feels empty or because I don’t realize how alone I feel until there is someone around and it is time for them to leave.

This sense of lack has been a part of my existence for as long as I can remember and I hadn’t really dealt with it or even acknowledged it until recently. I think for a child whose parents left and never really returned, every leaving evokes that early body memory and I go to that place. As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned how to negotiate this moment much better, and in ways that don’t leave the other person feeling guilty for leaving. In the early stages of adulthood, I didn’t understand this dance I would have to do for the rest of my life. I am no longer clingy or manipulative nor do I throw temper tantrums or pick fights, but nonetheless the deep sense of lack abides even as I control myself and my show of emotions and remember that even though I may be losing them at this particular time, I will see them again. Especially in the case of Bae who professes: “I am going nowhere!” It’s complicated me thinks…could it be that as a child who was left with caregivers by parents who never really returned, I am constantly filled with dread of never seeing the person again? Or could it be that my return to face the silence and emptiness of my full life freaks me out?

My earliest recoverable memory of this affliction was when I was doing my first MA program and a friend of mine came to my campus to do some programming that spring. I hosted her for the week she was there. It came to the end of the weekend, and time for her to leave and all of a sudden tears were pounding at the back of my eyelids. Thankfully the tears didn’t roll down until she had backed out of the driveway. I let it all out once I returned to my upstairs apartment. I wailed. I remember how scared I felt that I could cry so bitterly after having had a wonderful fun week with my friend. Even now almost 20 years later when I recall this incident, it takes my breath away that I could descend to such depths so acutely. Of course now I look back and I can see the signs. That fall I had had my first bout of recognizable depression complete with active suicide plans; the depths to which I had descended were beyond comprehension to me or the many friends who surrounded me. So it could have been that this friend’s leaving could have been on the heels of that long bout. No matter what could have caused it, the utter despair of being left in the driveway was surreal.

I wonder if this illness has its roots deep in a place so primal and formative. That perhaps there is a chemical imbalance, yes, but that perhaps also, the sense of lack ping-pongs me between the poles of happy and sad. The primal need to be safe and to belong, and to feel taken care of and feel meaningful to others could most possibly have been ruptured and that will never fully heal, and will continue to impact my mental health. Perhaps this sense of lack will always follow me and that I will forever be negotiating that space between the poles. Perhaps what will change is that as this partner continues to say yes, I will negotiate this affliction in such a way that I do not have to hurriedly lock my door and lean against it while the tears completely ruin whatever wonderful and bright things happened prior to this person’s departure.

It is difficult to pause the body memory of then, which often kicks in auto pilot without my permission, and the now of this wonderful, beautiful person standing before me, loving me, and needing to leave so she can go take care of her stuff. I have a sneaking suspicion that the body memory has long built a home in my cells and is going nowhere, so, the goal is to take what I know now, what I know to be true, and let that comfort the rocking four-year old who is scared of losing the most important person to her. I need to take the lack that will inevitably come as soon as the person says goodbye, and have that be in conversation with the amazing love standing before me saying: “see you later my love!”

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