Hold My Heart – Part I

Queen's throne

In the weeks following our kiss in the parking lot, Cory and I saw a lot more of each other. One evening, he came over for dinner, and I made a savory pumpkin sausage soup. His grandmother called near the end of dinner – Mimi, he calls her – and since I knew from our conversations that she basically raised him, I waved him off to answer the phone while I washed the dishes.

Once I had finished scrubbing the pots and pans, I ventured into my living room where Cory was laying sprawled out on the couch. Seeing my approach, he scooted over and patted the spot next to him with the hand that wasn’t holding his phone. When I sat down, he pulled me down to a lying position and maneuvered me on top of him so that I was laying flat on my back on top of his stomach.

We laid there for a long time, Cory talking on the phone to his Mimi as he gently stroked my arm, my body rising and falling with his breathing. There was nothing sexual about the interaction, and yet there was a profound emotional intimacy in sharing those moments together.

When Cory got off the phone, he’d had enough down time and – like his puppy, Stout – was eager to do something active. So he taught me AcroYoga, a combination of yoga and acrobatics. I’d never heard of it before, but I have a yoga mat, so we put it down and started with some basics – throne, queen’s throne, front plank, plank on plank and front bird. It was terrifying and thrilling and silly and sexy and exhilarating all at the same time.

Cory mentioned that AcroYoga is something he did a lot with his ex-fiance and that it’s a great trust-builder in a relationship. I wondered what he meant by that and why he shared it with me. Was he looking to build trust with me? Was he testing how much I trust him? Was he hoping to build new AcroYoga memories? Was he thinking of her when he was with me?

When Cory and I did the plank on plank position, Cory did some push ups with my weight on top of him. “Show-off!” I teased.

In response, he flipped into a handstand against the wall and started to do handstand pushups. His untucked shirt fell and flopped into his face, so he righted himself, took off the shirt, and resumed his handstand pushups. He knew I was watching, and he wanted to be watched. He liked showing off for me. 

After a few reps, he turned around so that his face was to the wall. “This way you can see the muscles in my back,” he told me. Oh geez. This man made me feel so many conflicting things all at once. Was he attractive to me? Yes. VERY. But his desire to show off and the bluntness with which he directed my gaze to the muscles in his back quickly reminded me that he is very much a still-maturing 24-year-old.  I smiled to myself, enjoying the moment but also chuckling internally at the absurdity of the situation. Guard your heart, I told myself. Too late, I replied, looking into his happy face as he righted himself again.

Later in the week, Cory had me over for dinner. He’s rather health conscious, so he made us fish and broccoli with a side of mac-n-cheese, a personal favorite of his. After dinner, he showed me his bedroom, gesturing for me to sit on his bed while he perched in his computer chair. He pulled out several old folders of weathered sheet music – mementos of his days as a music major. Then he rummaged around in his closet for a moment, emerged with a small box and opened it to reveal a conductor’s baton.

He held it gingerly, and I could tell it was very special to him. “This was my first wand,” he told me. “My college choir director bought it for me when I graduated,” he added, handing it carefully to me.

I took a few swishes with it, smiling at the electric blue handle – an expression Cory didn’t miss. “Yeah, he teased me about the color I chose, but it suited me.” He looked at me and grinned – an adorable, innocent, sideways smile that reminded me of all that could have been… and perhaps all that still could be.

Returning to the pile of sheet music spread out on his bed, Cory instructed me to pick out a few favorites; then proceeded to serenade me for about an hour, giving me a private performance as he sang some of his old pieces from his undergrad showcases. I occasionally harmonized, but I quickly learned that Cory derives great pleasure from showing off and being delighted in, so I let him shine and showered him with praise.

After a while, Stout was ready to go out, so we took him for a walk around the block. Figuring I should head home so Cory could study without distraction, I gathered my things on our way out to walk Stout.

As Cory walked me to my car, I reached over and interlaced my fingers with his. I was a bit shy, but it felt natural after all we had shared together, from kisses to stories of our pasts; our joys, our hurts, our hopes and dreams.

Cory allowed the interaction, but I sensed a slight hesitation from him. Ah, so it’s one thing to kiss me in the privacy of an apartment but another to hold hands walking through the parking lot. Funny how holding hands can be so much more intimate than kissing. And his reaction was telling. It hurt a bit, but I chided myself that I shouldn’t be surprised.

When we reached my car, Cory opened the driver door for me, as I had come to expect. He briefly kissed me goodbye and closed the door for me after I climbed in. I started to drive toward the exit gate of his apartment complex, but just as I reached the gate, I saw Cory and Stout in my rearview mirror running toward me. I slowed to a stop and rolled down my window, wondering what I’d forgotten.

When Cory reached my car, breathing hard, I started to form a question with my lips, but before I could speak, Cory bent down and kissed me. “Stout wanted to say bye,” he said breathlessly by way of an explanation.

I couldn’t help but smile. It’s obvious that his heart is spoken for, but as much as he hurts me sometimes, this man is adorable. 

Authentically Aurora

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Life at Sea – Part III

blonde-yacht-sailing-sea-sunlight-landscape-woman-wallpaper-817181130I feel like Bryan and I had some really important, enlightening, breakthrough conversations over the last couple days of our trip. We have struggled with emotional intimacy (neither one of us seems to want to be emotionally vulnerable), so I’m grateful that we were finally able to articulate certain thoughts and feelings to each other that will hopefully blossom our relationship as we live out our respective revelations.

I needed Bryan to hear the implications of my struggle with perfectionism and the havoc wreaked by the voice of my internal critic. So often when he – in completely bewilderment – has watched me shut down, it is because his words (unbeknownst to him) have been warped by the perfectionistic voice in my head to tell me that I am wrong or stupid or incompetent and therefore unloveable. The brokenness of this way of thinking is something I’m keenly aware of and still learning to battle effectively and consistently. My hope is that Bryan’s understanding of this struggle will ease our communication going forward.

Bryan needed me to hear his experience with the burden of always having to be the responsible one. The oldest son of six kids, with their father having passed a few years ago, Bryan is also the wealthiest and most highly educated of his siblings. As such, he shared with me that he perpetually bears the brunt of his family’s needs in addition to requests from countless friends for loans, a place to crash for the night, travel advice, networking favors, etc.

Bryan has a way of putting those around him at ease. He is connected and competent, and that unfortunately causes many of those around him to switch off their brains and lean too heavily on him. I did that to him this trip. In an effort to leave my high-strung Type A personality at home and just enjoy my free-spirited vacation, I intentionally didn’t print off our itinerary, and I forgot to call my credit card company to let them know I’d be out of the country. As a result, Bryan was always the one both driving and navigating, paying for expenses I couldn’t cover with my wad of cash, and generally ensuring we survived the day unscathed.

As nice as it was for me to unplug and just depend on someone else (for one of the first times in my life – a deliberate choice I made), Bryan told me that he was hoping for a partner; he expected us to operate as a team, and he had counted on my usual independence, responsibility and organizational skills to come through on this trip. He was disappointed by my dependence and perceived neediness, and I was hurt by his frustration and resultant emotional distance.

We had some hard conversations, but hopefully we now better understand one another so we can engage in healthy, joyful, life-giving interactions in the future. Time will tell if choosing vulnerability was worth the risk.

Authentically Aurora