How Fear Changes

One of my goals for January was to move my office out of my kitchen and into the second bedroom in my condo, creating an actual workspace with natural light and more than just a narrow desk for working on. Of course, that meant going through the boxes marked “OFFICE” that I never unpacked when I moved in here over a year ago. Truthfully, the contents of those boxes had simply been thrown in haphazardly over two years ago, when I moved my office from my marital home into the townhouse my ex and I had shared for a year after splitting.

The boxes had all kinds of treasures in them from life before my divorce – my WPPI member certificate, proof prints from several maternity session clients, forgotten journals half filled with my scribbling. And at the bottom of one magazine storage box, a paper folded in three.

It was  a letter from my ex-husband, my “something to read” gift from the last Christmas we’d spent together as a married couple. Neither of us knew, that day, that six months later our marriage would be falling into irreparable pieces. A love letter of the type that men write to the women who have had their babies, who run the households and keep life afloat. My former husband wrote me many love letters over the course of our relationship (I even received 14 of them, one a day, leading up to our engagement). He was always very good at expressing himself through his writing and this letter was no different.

It’s funny how lost love sneaks up on you, to remind you of the good moments. Though my marriage coming to an end needed to happen, though I chose to end it, I still feel myself feeling that little twinge of grief every now and then, sad that our love story didn’t last the lifetime we’d both hoped it would. And this letter was one of those little pokes in the ribcage, a tiny ‘Remember? When it was good, it was so good’ whispered as I held it in my hands and read it.

I carefully refolded it and set it down on my desk, and noticed I was crying. And that these tears weren’t the usual sadness in missing the happiness we had had. No, instead, these tears were related to a fear I have rarely given any voice to:

What if no  one ever loves me like that again?

Now, it’s probably worth noting that I am so NOT that girl who thinks I need love or a partner to be complete. My life has been richly blessed for the last two and a half years, and I have rather enjoyed singlehood. Being single in my 30s has been amazing (though being single with children in my 30s has also brought it’s own set of craziness), and I wouldn’t trade it.  But what if the rest of my path is walked alone? Am I okay with that?  There is something really lovely about being adored, about having someone love you fervently (And loving them back with that same passion) and getting to share the highs and lows of life with someone else.

So, what if no one ever loves me like that again?

One of the things you’ll hear Christine and I say a lot is to sit with the discomfort, to examine and dig into it. To get a feel for it.

And when I did that, I realized something.

This fear has changed, over time. Early on, I was so convinced I couldn’t manage being alone. That alone was going to be worst thing that could ever happen to me. That I was unworthy of love and would never find it again. Then I fell in love fast and hard with a man who used my heart like a doormat, and the fear intensified. Now I’d proven it – love was a terrible, terrible thing. To counter the fear, I closed down. I said “I don’t want love!” to anyone who would listen. I turned my nose up at romance, at the vulnerability of falling in love.  I quoted Suzanne Finnamore a lot – “Divorce is a snakebite. One´s next thought should not be, Where am I going to find another snake?”

Now, the fear isn’t that I won’t be worthy. I know I’m worthy. It’s not about insecurity or a desire to fill up loneliness with a body – any body. It’s that I’m ready. I’ve gotten brave again.  I want to share this life with someone else. There’s been a subtle shift in my attitudes and I no longer wrinkle my nose up at my friends’ mentions of their loves. I don’t roll my eyes at the big splashy proposal videos all over Youtube. I’ve even, maybe, possibly said the words “If I get married again, I’ll…..”

There are messages in fear. And it’s so important to try to find them. On the surface, fear might look like one thing, but truly be another.

I’m not worried that I won’t find love again – I’m  ready to be open to it. It’s a subtle shift, but one that can change your path entirely. Do you have any fears that have changed for you in meaning over time?


Stephanie Ostermann

I’m the sort of girl who you meet for coffee and end up pouring your entire heart out to. The friend you come to when you need someone to call it straight. No bullshit. No extras. Just truth.

I’m a communicator. That’s a PC way of saying I like to talk, but I also spend a lot of my time listening, and over the years, I’ve developed a sense for subtext – how one or two words can change your entire message, what people are really trying to say and how to weave the varied layers of your story into one cohesive brand message that your clients fall in love with.

When I'm not acting as editor in chief for Vivid & Brave, you can find me geeking out over words here.

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