I love being fussed over. It’s a guilty pleasure. A few years ago when I first started dating my last boyfriend, he came to visit me in the US. I remember the way he and my mother bickered over me, how they gently “fought” over who got to keep me and who was stealing me away from whom.
“She’s coming with me to England!” my boyfriend said to my mother, yanking me into an enormous hug.
“No way!” my mother cried, pulling me back to her. “She has to come back some time! Who is going to feed her?”
Of course my mom knew I could feed myself, but her question went beyond my self-sufficiency. She was asking him, “All the way out in England with you, dear boy, who has stolen my daughter’s heart, how will I know she is loved? How will I know you will be there to talk to her and soothe her when it’s midnight and she finally gets the courage to unpack her anxieties? Because she’s been doing that since she was 13: all day she’ll be fine and then at 11:59 PM she’ll be bawling her eyes out. How do I know you will listen with patience and kindness the way I have been for the last eleven years? How do I know, strange boy in my house who my daughter adores and I am forced to accept, you are not leading her on a wild goose chase to a strange land where she’ll be alone and I can’t tell her she’ll be okay?”
And he was telling her, “At night she wakes with a start, either from an anxiety attack or some sudden, uncontrollable fear. I always pull her close to me and tell her she is safe. I hold her until she can sleep again. When we can’t be together we talk all day and all night on Skype, she unpacks her fears and I listen. If that isn’t enough, if she is still anxious, we leave Skype on and I watch over her while she sleeps. I know it helps because she is smiling the next morning. In England she’ll be with me, and I promise she’ll be as safe as she is with you.”
I don’t need people to fill in the gaps, to love the bits of me I cannot or refuse to love. But I find a lot of comfort in remembering this snapshot: in my mother’s devoted, ceaseless protection and my then-beloved’s tender, stalwart love. I felt safer than houses with them.
But it doesn’t do me much good now. My mother is an ocean away and cannot kiss me good night and the boy who stole my heart, well…I can’t expect him to watch over me while I sleep anymore. It leaves a hollow feeling in my chest. I need someone right now.
I’m an introvert by habit: I hate enormous crowds and loud noise and I really hate when the two combine into a swirling social vortex nightmare. But I need people, I need my friends. Even if I’m not actively engaging with them, I feel safe knowing they’re nearby. I miss my college where, if I couldn’t sleep at 3 AM, I could walk down the hall in my PJs and find some other friends who couldn’t sleep either. I didn’t even have to tell them something was wrong, we’d just talk about comics or anime or German history until I felt relaxed enough to sleep. Sometimes I’d pass out in the student lounge, surrounded by my friends and their babble. One of my girlfriends would inevitably notice and mutter, “Poor thing, we need to get her back to her room,” not knowing I preferred to stay with them.
But it’s 3 AM here and there’s no one awake. I need someone to either leave Skype running while I sleep or to hold me close until I unwind. My self-love in this is a simple cry for help. Writing about my need for safety and protection and love does not make me weak. Asking for that love does not make me weak. If anything, it’s more loving to acknowledge my limits and ask for help when I have hit those limits.
So, to anyone who reads this: I can’t sleep. Send love.
This self-love post was submitted for the 31-Day Self-Love Writing Challenge. Even though January is over, you can continue to write from the prompts if they inspire you. February’s self-love writing prompt is Be Your Own Valentine. Join our February Self-Love Writing Challenge Facebook event to continue sharing your self-love journey in a safe community.