Keeping Fireflies in Jars

I am obsessed with the beginnings of things. Aren’t we all, though?

I get so easily caught up in it all. The tangible physical sensation of connecting with someone new emotionally. In the beginning, when it’s all innuendo and flirting and smiling across the room and getting to know what someone’s hand feels like in yours. It’s craving the surprises each new conversation brings. When seeing a message from them on your phone is enough to change your whole day.

Very few things will make you feel as good about yourself as a beginning. The feeling of having intrigued someone. Knowing that a person genuinely wants to know who you are. That someone, somewhere, is thinking about you and smiling.

I love falling in love. Not the loving itself, so much as the falling. I’m bad at the loving, but good god am I great at the falling. I miss it. Terribly, actually. But that’s another post. And maybe love is too loaded of a word. More than falling in love, I want to fall into the person I’m with. I want to freefall and splash right into their mind and heart and swim around for a while.

The problem with beginnings, though, is that they’re only the beginning until they aren’t anymore. And then what?

An ex of mine and I used to talk on the phone every night for hours and hours on end. We talked about everything you could think of, from what your stats would be if you were a D&D character (nerd love) to religion (he a staunch Catholic, and me an equally staunch Atheist) to our innermost fears and beyond. The conversations were never forced; we didn’t have to struggle to think of things to talk about. We took turns asking each other questions. Anything was fair game, but the rule was you had to answer your own question after the other person did.

After a few months of this, coming up with questions we hadn’t asked and answered already got a little tricky. We found ourselves asking more silly surface questions than thought-provoking ones. The game had to change. No more questions. Just one directive. “Tell me something I don’t know about you.” That shift led to some of the most intimate conversations I have ever had with another person, to this day. Those late-night talks still have a place in my heart that few other people have ever come close to, almost ten years later.

That relationship crashed and burned to the ground rather unceremoniously, but also resulted in one of the dearest friendships I have (with someone else), so I guess all’s well that ends well. I think somewhere deep down though, I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since. I’ve been trying to replicate that sense of wonder. And I’ve come close here and there, but it’s never sustainable.

What makes the beginning of anything so magical is the possibility of it all. That this might end up being nothing, but it might also end up being exactly what the two of you need in that moment. Where we lose our way is getting hung up on what everything means. What is this becoming? What is this going to be? What are we doing? Where are we going?

I know for a fact that I’ve spooked people by getting too deep into that too early on. I used to want people the way I wanted to catch fireflies. You’re beautiful, so I want to keep you in this jar where you’re mine-all-mine and I can watch your pretty glow whenever I want. But there’s something about a firefly in a jar that just isn’t as beautiful as it was before. The beauty of fireflies isn’t just the glow; it’s watching them twinkle together, it’s following them with your eyes and losing them for a moment, only to find them again. You lose all of that when you keep them captive. Well, that and they die.

I’ve also scared myself out of being with people by doing all that fretting. But if I hook up/keep flirting/go on a date with this person, what’s going to happen? Are they going to keep calling me? What if I don’t want them to? What if I fall in love with them and they don’t want me? What if this is all I want? What if they want something more than I do and I don’t know how to tell them? What if I end up hurting them? What if I end up getting hurt?

The inside of my brain can be an exhausting, exhausting place.

My particular brand of social anxiety is one in which I can’t tolerate pressure at all. I freak out. Something about me not knowing how to establish or enforce boundaries so I just hope people intrinsically know where they are and get resentful when they don’t. Anyway. I’ve intentionally stopped flirting with people and made sure nothing happened just so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of it all.

I really didn’t need to, though. Things are going to be what they’re going to be. Someone might be in your life to rock your entire world, or they might be in your life to rock your bedroom for one night. Those are both beautiful things. You never know what can happen with someone, but the only way to find out is to just let it be.

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