It started with a glance that stretched into a gaze. I was looking at her, really looking, after barely-looking for months. I took the moment, savored the time.
I saw the curve of her jaw, the way her lips rested together, the tension in her forehead that smoothed out as I continued to look. We were matched, eye to eye. I noticed the red rings, the puffy places under her bottom lashes. She'd been crying.
As the gaze lingered, under the spotlights of being seen, something shifted in her eyes. She was basking in being seen as much as I relished doing the seeing. It felt like forever since we'd done this. I had missed her, missed noticing her actively, instead of just passively hauling her around my life.
Eventually, I broke the spell when I stepped back from the mirror by the back door. I flipped off the light, picked up my towel, and went outside to the hot tub.
As I floated in warm water, I looked at the night sky through twisted wisteria branches. Relaxed, I reflected on the mirror-me, on how startling it was to gaze into my eyes. When was the last time I looked at myself in the mirror for anything other than skin inspection, hair combing, or teeth brushing? When was the last time I looked at myself, out of connection or curiosity?
During the Bodysex filming in Betty's apartment last autumn, I took a handheld mirror into the masturbation circle. I looked at myself while I came on camera, sharing with the circle how I like to look in eyes while I orgasm. How long had it been since I'd mirror-gazed during selfloving? Six months, at least.
As I stretched out in the tub, swirling the warm water around my wrists and flexing my toes, I promised my mirror-self that I would recommit to her. I've been taking her/me for granted, becoming casual and forgetful in my relationship with myself. And given all the life changes over the past year, abandoning myself is the last thing I should do.
That interlude at the mirror, on my way outside, was the timely reminder that I am truly my own primary partner.
After five years of making a life together, my wife and I split up over the summer. I continue to feel raw and relieved and lonely as I grieve the shift from life-partnership to something else.
Last month, my lover of a year moved halfway across the continent. He feels 1500 miles away.
I am alone.
I sink into alone-ness, as I learn a new form of balance.
When I say I am alone, it's not to say that I don't interact. I have beloved ones and beautiful friends and delightful loving encounters that are connective and nourishing and sexy and fun.
What I mean, when I say that I am alone, is that I'm reconfiguring what it means to be in primary relation to and with myself. It's a very different center of gravity, being in relation primarily to myself, as opposed to the ways that I've tended to be in relation to other people.
During my twenties, when I was in a long-term polyamorous marriage, I was publicly disdainful of the hierarchy of primary v. secondary (or tertiary) relations. And yet, in my heart, I found sanctuary in the knowledge that I was in primary relation to my husband, and later to our other partner.
During the first half of my thirties, when I was in a long-term monogamous marriage (that was legally a domestic partnership because marriage between two women isn't recognized where I live), again I found sanctuary in the primary relationship with someone other than myself.
The way that I did dyadic (or triadic) relationships was to leave myself. The basic unfairness of such a choice, not only to myself but also to those with whom I partnered, cannot be overstated.
I am committed to making it right. I am committed to settling into relation with myself that is primary, focused, and centered. Dragging me behind, along for the ride, trailing a half-step back, isn't how I wish to live.
I want to love myself fiercely, with a fullness and depth of appreciation and gratitude that I deserve. Not that I deserve to receive outwardly, but that I crave and require to receive from only one person: myself.
This is not a strategy to become a Whole Person so that I can then find a Healthy Relationship with someone else.
This is a course correction, a return, a realignment with the woman who looked back at me, visibly relieved that I was finally looking in her eyes, making connection.
all photos courtesy of Mark Gamba