I Step Back

I step back. In confrontations, I step back. I am a peacekeeper and I shy away from anger.
In competition, I step back. If I believe I cannot be the best, I lose my desire to continue. And I rarely believe I can be the best anymore.
Largely uncoordinated as a child, I never participated in sports. Never. Even now, I stay away from tennis and volleyball and softball games, even at family gatherings or impromptu social events. I play few games, only Poker and Trivial Pursuit and only with family. If the tide is not going my way, I fold. I step back.
I write. I have always written. My first published work was a story I wrote as a second grade student; it was featured in NYS Creative Writer. I wrote more stories but none reached that pinnacle of success or surpassed it, so I stopped writing creatively. I stepped back.
It took almost 50 years for me to pick up the creative pen again. Retired from the law, I vowed to complete the romance novel I had been playing with for years. In the meantime, I wrote a short erotic romance. It was published by the first publisher to whom I submitted. So was my next short story. I finished my novel. Several agents and editors were “very interested.” But, a few rejection letters and silence from the rest, and it sits in my “Submissions” file. I’m not going to be the best at this. I am no Nora Roberts or Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I lost my heart for writing romance. I stepped back.
I moved on to non-fiction and wrote a memoir of my dating-after-50 adventures. My writing teacher praised each of the essays I penned. My writing sisters complimented my humor, my honesty, my voice. Everyone loved the title “Cocktales.” Once again, agents and editors were “excited” about my manuscript. But, no takers. The manuscript and the beautiful cover illustration also sit in my submission pile. I stepped back.
I stepped back from love too. I never believed that anyone would love me the best, that I would be the most important person to the person who was the most important to me. There, I was wrong. The best man I ever knew loved me the best. I knew I was not good enough for him, even without the constant reminders from his mother and my own. Being the middle of five children had taught me about my own short-comings in the “loveable” department. But my husband, I still believe, loved me as much as I loved him. And my confidence grew. Then he died. And I stepped back.
I waited a long time to try to find love again. Even then I disguised my search as one for romance not love, because who could love a 50 year-old, overweight, scarred widow? But, I found my heart opening and I realized that I was looking for love.
I started to give my heart to an old love, a love I had known for decades. But then I realized that, just as when we were teen-agers, I was not his first love. And I would never be his last love. I was his “waiting-until-my-next-true-love-comes-along” love. I caught myself before I let down all my defenses and loved him. I stepped back.
I read a silly romance this morning about a young woman who “steps back” from the man she loves because she believes he loves her prettier, wittier, younger sister and not her. It was like a bucket of cold water had been dumped on my head. Of course, the heroine will decide to fight for her man and he will realize that she is his “true love” and sweep her into his arms. It will have a “happy ever after” ending. It is a romance novel after all.
I will never be the best romance novelist, but I write great romances. I will never win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature but my essays are wise and witty and honest. I am not Georgia O’Keefe, but my paintings make me happy and make others smile.
I may never be the best love of another man but perhaps I can be the last love of someone who will be my last love, too.
I step back in.


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