"Relationships" would be the theme of 2020-2021 if I were to name it.
My relationship with self was my primary focus. I was in a lot of pain in my life. Work was tough. I felt more alone than ever. I was constantly tired, cancelling meetups with friends, and found it really hard to get out of the house. I would have rather been someone else at that point because being me hurt so much I didn't know what to do. I am thankful in that moment I was insightful enough that I got a somatic therapist. This brand of therapist focuses on the connection to the body and getting familiar with understanding how the body informs your digestion of what happens around you. I was so disconnected that I had no words to explain how my body felt when I was asked at moments in early sessions.
When I finally got used to getting in touch with those feelings and letting it elevate what my mind and other senses were experiencing life started to feel very different. I was already a deep analyst of others as a protective mechanism growing up and I had learned to please people and predetermine what they want to stay safe and loved. It was at this time that the depth of my pain really started to be felt. I realized just how lonely, disconnected, and anxiety ridden I was. As a lover of information, this was great news for me because then I could start working the problem with this new insightful companion I met called my body. I had lots of pain in my life but there was one that had the largest mental footprint: Work.
It was so all encompassing it intentionally gave it proper noun status. I was an extremely hard working employee that loved to please. I walked into work a people pleaser and it was happily lopped up. I had a growing sense of pain over the years that had grown so loud that it was the dominant conversation in my head. At work, I was an anxious mess inside most days and works exceeding hard not to let it show. I'm sure so of my coworkers would be surprised to hear how I would go to meetings and become so anxious just being there with the possibility of speaking I'd sweat completely through my shirt. To add insult to my injury, I struggled to take care of myself out of work and still thought about work in preparation for Monday morning.
I started to realize the issues I saw as problems were, in reality, my gifts in the wrong context. I saw my hurting as a symptom that I was doing something wrong, something that needed fixing but it was my deep sense of what's right alerting me that I was out of alignment. I grew to learn that I was completely ignoring the more nuanced messaging my body was urgently trying to send to my mind. I'm amazingly skilled in analytical thinking, and it's driven most of my success in my work. I could no longer ignore or sideline the communication from my body I so clearly heard. The hurting was an internal cry for help. A cry that I was used to hearing because it was the same language I would hear from the child in me still wanting things that hadn't been addressed.
Then, I opened my work laptop and realized I couldn't do it anymore. I learned too much to go back to the way I was successful before and my inner knowing was certain I needed to explore to find my new way.
So I resigned.
It was hard, but the day I was done there was a euphoric feeling of possibility and confidence I had never felt before. I saw new avenues where they had previously been overgrown paths so real that I could almost touch them in my mind. With this new space of mind, that connection to body deepened and the clarity of connection to my wanting inner self increased. I knew right away one thing he had been longing for most of my life: to be heard and understood. Historically, I've felt this most with my friends. I was able to show them a side I didn't feel able to with family tied to my identity as black, gay, and nerdy. Casting off work, which was my internal basis of my identity up until that point, allowed more space to consider what I also wanted and needed from my friendships.
I had a long list of people I'd consider friends but then I'd think about who I felt truly saw inside of me and understood the list was way shorter. I began thinking about working through why I felt so distant from so many people that I historically felt really close to. That work started a walk all the back to my early life story. I was abandonment early in life by my father never to hear or see him again, and I have a long history of people I care deeply about leaving me and never speaking to me again for reasons I'm not told. One of my first major friendships left a mark on me specifically because of this loss. I know he's special in my life story because I remember his name: David.
I was in kindergarten/first grade and lived in Greenbelt, a suburb of Maryland. David was a white kid my age who lived in my apartment complex. I remember my school being right down the hill from our apartment so I could walk to school so David and I spent a lot of time together. We used to read scary stories in the dark closet of his parents bedroom with a flashlight, and even discovered Playboy for the first time together. We sat by each other in class, and had cubbies next to each other where he'd talk about his love of the Jets (his dad's fave team). We moved at the end of that year across town and I felt afraid that I wouldn't talk to David again. We exchanged numbers as kids do, but I quickly lost the number in the move. I have vivid feelings of that day. I went up to my room and looked out the window on a very picturesquely sunny summer day and cried sending out mental thoughts hoping they'd reach him so he'd reach out back to me. We never spoke again.
I now realize how that leads me to adult Henry doing whatever I can to make sure no one ever leaves me again. I was "okay with whatever" so often I lost sight of what I really wanted or how to ask myself that question. It was painful to realize that this permeated all my friendships ever since that day I cried for a friend that I lost to circumstance. I took this as part of my work to first decide what I wanted from a friendship, search myself for those who's friendship I felt deeply, and to let them know how I felt about it. I was terrified because I had that history of worrying about someone leaving me in the back of mind thinking everyone would be done with me for being how I was. My expectations of failure were way off, and I've deepened a number of my close friendships into something more beautiful and complex than I could have imagined.
All of this brings me to this moment. I have never, and I don't use that word lightly, felt so completely in alignment. So much of how I move through life runs first and foremost through my internal filter of what I want in a way that I could have scarcely imagined possible. I feel connected more than ever after also realizing my dislike of texting for the negative impacts it has on my connection to who I'm talking to, and I am delighted daily by the wonderful humans that surround me. We exist together, are appreciative of each other, and teach each other through our lived experiences without judgement.
When I think of a possible future romantic relationship I know this same qualities I feel from my friends and family MUST be present. The depth of my other relationships has shown me that a new way of relating to others is not only possible, it's achievable and feels way better than what I'm used to. There's so much excitement in knowing what is in store for me, and what I have in store for him. This aligned self I've revealed is a nuturing caretaker who's polishing his dad skills every day. This future partner is gonna a super lucky dude and I know we'll share that deep love and understanding with our family.