Both J. and the Dogster modeled for me for this one. J. — while finishing up another work project on his laptop, the Dogster — half asleep and indulging in a belly rub from the both of us.
I was still thinking of intimacy, feeling safe and close to each other. Feeling that you can relax and let go, feeling aligned, like there’s a direction the two of you share. Knowing that there’s this other person that you can trust, that you both care about this relationship and it’s neither’s sole responsibility to keep it going, it’s something you both care about. Knowing that you have things and ways of your own, and they’re still yours to keep and pursue, but that there’s support when you need it.
J. and I have completely different ways of feeling connected and loved. For him, it’s a default state: if we decided we’re together four years ago and he told me his whole life and what he thought worth telling then, that means we’re together and he is assuming “loved and connected” as default states. For me, it’s the opposite. I don’t have a default for that. I’m not good at trusting and feeling loved and connected in general, so for me, it’s a world of constant tiny little updates on better days, and constant second-guessing on worse ones. I have to make a conscious effort to know I can feel safe with this person.
One way I feel loved is through tiny routine updates from my partner. A few days ago I asked J. how he was doing, what was going on inside him. He looked surprised and said: don’t you know everything about me already? In his book, he’s told me everything that matters, and it’s unclear why anything else would be important.
In my book, I feel close when I hear stuff like “I’m hungry”, or “I saw a dead pigeon on my way to work”, or “The Dogster is just super cute right now”. Tiny updates of what’s going on in my partner’s head, what they’re thinking and feeling. Not the grand stuff (though I care about that too), but the little things.
Being together with the Dogster, cuddling him or playing ball with him, laughing at the awkward position he’s sleeping in or at the fact that he’s yet again asking for food with this “I’ve never eaten in my whole entire life” look on his face makes me feel like I have a home, and even if it’s for precious seconds, I can relax.
On worse days I can get scared: what if the Dogster is really the only thing that we have in common?
On better days I’m just happy that he’s here with us. I love the Dogster a lot. I know I’m not the best dog parent for him. Having my particular set of mental health issues makes me very unstable in any role, including that one. But I really try. And I love seeing his happy face when we’re playing. Or his paws stretched out in the air when he is in his chill mode. Or feeling him breathing beside me when we’re all snuggled up for sleep.