I just want to let you know that this love gig is rough. Yes, I know that it's supposed to be the foundation of all good things, right? It's supposed to lift and heal and soothe and be the miracle amidst pain and turmoil and have unicorns and rainbows and like, Neil Diamond in the background or whatever...but sometimes, it flat out bites. It hurts. It sucks. It turns the world stark and grey. Sometimes all of the risk and rejection associated with the 'TRY' of love is just...cruel...and disheartening...and makes you feel straight up broken. And foolish. And it makes you never want to 'TRY' ever again. Because it hurts...and it hurts hard.
I don't want to get into the finite details of my love life (or maybe the lack thereof - I'm making no admissions...yet). It's it's own equal brand of hilarity and plain sad. Fine, I'll tell some stories to illustrate, but that's not the full focus of my rant today. I will say, it's kinda not where I wish it was. I will say my track record shows I pick in a way that makes me feel kinda stupid later. I will say, that I've had my fair share of putting myself out there (because that's who I am) and a few instances where the response/reply was not what I had hoped it would be. I've had plenty of conversations in my head about the signs...about being gullible...ugh. I've shed plenty a tear...some completely out of my control. I've eaten many a log of cookie dough (thank you, dear girlfriends for introducing this ritual), or pint of Haagen-Daas coffee ice cream...and then thought I was going to die from the remedy a few hours later (the different brand of tears of pain and regret). I've foregone many a comforting meal because my heart felt shattered and nothing helped. I'll also admit that, of my own accord, I've turned down a hopeful boy or two and felt badly, but did it...knowing it had to be so because it was the right thing to do...I've allowed myself to like two people at the same time (don't judge me - that was WAY early in my life)...and suffered the sorrow and humiliation of that choice. I've fallen completely in love a couple of times...and I consider myself lucky to have had them genuinely love me back for a blissful, but short, while. For now...that description...that status...or experience is not the case. And I find myself in a position where I've reflected a LOT on this whole LOVE process...what I want...why I want it...and, surprisingly, arriving at the conclusion that I really may NOT get it...and taking it a step further by coming to a place where I'm genuinely ok with that probability.
#Hello...is it me you're looking for?
When I was young(er), I thought the one thing I was missing in my life was the affection of another person. I had my Mom, my family...but I wanted a love...and an adoration that was 100% my own. I thought that if I could JUST find that/have that in my life, I would be/know happy. The real problem was that I had very little true love for myself, so love in it's various shapes and forms and methods made this need very confusing. My own voids added to the chaos. I could conform to just about anything that another person needed me to be. Really. It's the whole Gemini thing. I would pay attention, deliver on making them feel special (because they were), and initially ask for nothing in return. And I would ultimately find myself miserable. I could give and give and giiiiiive...and then get bored because: a) I hadn't allowed them to get close enough to me...and they really had no clue who I was. Most of that was because of self-guilt. But I didn't accept myself and I was worried if my true colors were shared - they would reject me...so arms length was the only comfortable proximity...even though I wanted more...b) they couldn't access my need because I didn't even know what that was, and c) if they gave, it was never truly enough because I was a void. SO MUCH messed up stuff...that took years to open my eyes to, and accept in it's ugly forms...and then discern between what I was giving/getting and what I really needed.
The media and the world exposes us to so many different varieties of love. In my case, I knew what it meant to be physical from a VERY young age (not recommended). I saw things and connected it with the brand of affection I was looking for. When I gave it/got it...it left me sad, and empty. Not all love given or received is done so equally. Not all forms are meant to express love. And I was too young to figure that out.
|This has nothing to do with the story right now, it's just a pretty picture of my celebrity crush.|
#one less problem without you
While, yes, the concept and power of love offers the ideal of wholeness and completion...or this perspective that if you have it, it heals...if your objective in looking for love from another person is ultimately to fix YOU...the reality is that it almost never will...at least not fully. Case in point, I met a guy once who expressed interest in me. I want to say from our first or second conversation, it was about what dreams might be fulfilled if we pursued a future together. This was straight out the gate. I didn't think he was serious at first, but then it was clearly evident that he meant it...and I was not game. Those kinds of discussions are not normal or comfortable for me...I was genuinely flattered, but..the feeling was not remotely mutual. At the time, I really REEEAAAALLLY liked someone else with all my heart...and to my dismay it didn't pan out. So, I did what I do and shut my heart down for awhile. I lacked the willingness to try love with anyone else for awhile. My ego had been a little wounded and, in my head, I consequently hated boys for a spell. I still wore a good face. No one would know that I lost the battle or the war or whatever, but I did...I knew...I could feel the effect. This is my way to deal - good, bad, right, wrong; I don't care. This is the way I cope. For the boy I wanted but couldn't have, I shed an alligator tear or two privately. I held counseling sessions with myself and offered sound advice that it was WAY better like that, right? - sure...for reasons unbeknownst to me...I had to put that want and hope...that pining...away. I had logic. I had reason. I had all of the stable methods of dealing with the issue...but when I was alone, I could hear the softness of his voice in my head...I could close my eyes and quite vividly see the details of his face...like the way his eyes shined when he smiled...or the ring in his laugh...and it conjured a colossal lump in my throat whenever the image was mustered. My love for this boy was unrequited. My heart ached...and there wasn't a replacement. I knew I couldn't just snap my fingers and be over it - even if there never was an 'IT' to speak of. I still had to let him go...because holding a candle where it's not wanted is parallel to torture...and I don't/won't do that to myself if I can help it. I needed the time to heal. I clutched to the distractions - embracing my work, diving into things that were meaningful to me, loving my peeps a little harder, and doing things that restored that strong feeling in my soul. I wasn't going to find the answer in this other guy. There was no rebound to this feeling...and I told him the straight truth...but that didn't stop him, however, from asking me consistently, diligently for my time, for my emotions, for my attention. Overzealous. Harmless, but overzealous. I finally relented and agreed to go out with him, if only to prove that I was not/could not be what he needed...a fixer/a magician.
That evening was difficult. MOST of the conversation was good...except the too many to count parts where he verbally bludgeoned and gouged himself over and over again. I actually had to tell him to stop - the self-deprecation was hurting my heart and making me angry. Suddenly, it was HIS fault that I wasn't into him. It was HIS fault that I wasn't attracted. It was HIS fault that the sky was blue. It was HIS fault that there was too much ice in my water. It was HIS fault for all the things...and I couldn't handle it. Just. Stop. Already. Pleeeease. omg. Stop.
While he very well MAY have had this perception of himself, what it intuitively felt like, to me, sitting across the table from him, was fishing. Fishing is a tactic where I cut myself down and I tell you how lame I am, and YOU tell ME (out of kindness and mercy) that it's not the case - that I'm AMAAAAAZING and brilliant and blah blah blah. And then it seems like YOU like ME because you're pouring compliments over me. It's a stupid approach. But peeps do it. In this case, I wasn't biting, but I also didn't want a front row seat to this self-harm. The more he'd clobber himself with his self-proclaimed incompetence, or his self-surrendered lack of intelligence, or his self-declared twisted self-perception...the more I was inclined to sit there with my brows knit together...wondering when he would have enough and be done already. Exhausting. Pointless. Banging my head on a spiked wall would have been more fun...and less painful.
|Again, totally unrelated image to the point, but just a public service.|
#i am beautiful no matter what they say
WHY are we gentler with strangers than we are with ourselves? WHY is that?? I don't get it. I am HAPPY to extend kindness and grace to people I don't even know...and yet, I cannot forgive myself for weakness...No. I must. Because at the end of the day, I'm all I've got. Right? I have to look in the mirror and take account of all of my junk...I want to be happy...how can that truly be if I self-loathe? The two sentiments cannot exist in the same space. It's either one or the other. One will seep into the other and vice versa. Overall, I think Other Guy would be more content in the world if he was his own ally FIRST. Rather than looking to someone else to fix him, give him validation...or define him externally as enough.
#send me an angel
Being a fixer...being a Savior to another person is an almost impossible role to magnify and fulfill. And I acknowledge that during early stages of my life - I was perfectly willing to try to be that. I was able and ready to pour love over whatever wounded soul entered my life...ask my Mom - so many friends would come home with me who were from horribly abusive situations. I would offer kindness...and compassion...and friendship. In some cases, I'm still a rescuer...still a healer...but I can see where it's really useful (mainly with animals...not so much with people any more). Now that I'm in adult relationships, I'm not at a place where I see wisdom in being an emotional Savior.
Have you ever been a lifeguard? At first, you think, I will SAVE EVERYONE!!! And then, in training, you realize that you also have to protect yourself...SAVE yourself...be smart about approach and technique, because peeps in survival mode...in their own fear and desperation, will take you down to save themselves. I know that sounds harsh - but it's the only example I can use right now to illustrate my explanation. Someone drowning is not going to wait patiently...when they have a chance to grab hold to something/someone else who is buoyant, they will...even if it means the Guard is going under. They're not thinking about mechanics, or how much air the guard has, or that their ride is suffocating. Nope. Stay alive. So, I bring it back to day-to-day relationships. Peeps gotta figure out their own ish...and fully taking on the pain of another is often unhealthy if it's one-sided and you don't have the support you need to tread through it. Truth: I don't want to be someone else's fixer. I don't want to be a Savior. I don't want to be your mother, either...and I don't need you to be my father, or to save me. Period. I'll love you/take you for who you are - flaws and all. I would expect the same approach in return. We're people, we're human, we ALL carry baggage. In an ideal situation, we'd be cool to work our stuff out together.
My first marriage was all whirlwind. I mean, I was so beautifully wrapped up in what I thought was the romance and it was magical. My second time around, my approach was more about foundation - friendship and trust. I took WAY more time to get to know my second guy, to be sure I was asking the right questions - all of it. I've learned that in love, agency is always the wild card. As much as we claim to know the heart of another...we really can't. We can have intimate familiarity, we can observe patterns, we can have indepth conversations...but peeps still have choice. They can choose to be loyal, to be faithful, to be true...or not. This is always a reflection of THEIR agency, regardless of you.
|This is my celebrity crush looking at me like I'm crazy when I think that I'm not enough.|
#the only exception
So, basically even with two failed committed relationships under my belt (ugh, the admission), I still feel like I've been relatively lucky in love. I've known love - even in boyfriend relationships - that has been profound, and amazing, and powerful. Loved to the extent that I really did feel that ANYTHING was possible...that the world was a perfect place because they were in my life. I've had love that has challenged me as a person; partners who have seen me in my truest form, and accepted, and supported me to grow...and relationships where I have known indescribable joy. Again, despite the end result, there WAS love at the origin of those stories. Well, at least for me there was. And I'd like to think it was present for them, too...but the reality is that I can only control/base this post-thing on what I know...aaaand...yeah, in my head, I'm saying my heart was in the right 'love' frame of mind.
With that, can I say that I've had a handful of friends who have known the worst pain and suffering in their relationships because of choice/agency on the part of the other? Can I explain that it's senseless? I mean, yeah, there are reasons...but sometimes, even knowing the 'why'...it never makes it fall into place where it takes away the pain. Beautiful people...who were hopeful, and loving, and devoutly faithful to their significant others/spouses...who feel like their hearts have been ripped out of their chests, put through a meat grinder and are actively working to try to make sense of the mess. Choice is the wildcard. Sometimes you cannot explain. Sometimes you cannot make this right...I can only tell you that whatever you decide - to stay or to go - it's completely your call based on what YOU can live with. And that's all. You don't have to stay and deal with the residue if you can't. You don't have to leave that person if you don't want to. But it's YOUR call, and noone can take that from you...even if you may want someone else to make that choice on your behalf/tell you what to do. You have to decide what you can live with. ALSO - you'll live. I promise. It may not feel that way today or tomorrow...but in the wise resounding words of my mother...one day, you'll wake up and it won't hurt anymore. I say this with firsthand knowledge. It's true.
At some point during my marriage, we were talking divorce more than we were talking togetherness. And again, I'm not going to slap the walls with all of my business, just this story in particular. I knew I needed something to NOT lose the last shreds of my mind. Our personal dysfunction was starting to make me crazy and I wasn't feeling like myself. I sought therapy. I found a male therapist (in the event that my man would go - he totally would have discredited the opinion of another woman...and I thought that the difference in opinion would be helpful/insightful for me in the journey) and we started to meet. After a few months, my man agreed to come to one visit. It was painful. He was a total wall and missed the point of the whole thing. From a pride standpoint, counseling was a waste to him - he needed to talk to noone (not even me) and it shut down any potential from that resource. I went back - because it was genuinely helpful for me. After months, the therapist asked if he could give me some advice. He asked if I had ever waterskiied. I told him I had. He asked me what happened when people fell. I wasn't sure where he was going with the example, and I told him to tell me. He said, usually when people fall, they get dragged behind the boat for who knows how long. People actually tell themselves that from that prone position - in the process of the drag - that they can fully get back up on their feet. I could see the visual in my head. He went on to say that all it takes, though, is to let go of the rope. It's not about fixing or changing HIM...this is totally about recognizing where my control lies in all of it. I get to control how long I hurt. I get to decide how long I'm dragged behind the boat...or not.
In recent articles and posts, I've come to really appreciate Melissa Hartwig. She's the founder of the Whole30 and regularly posts personal bits about her journey, her life...and she has this style that resonates with me. Today, actually, she wrote about the steps we take to deal vs. not deal with our stuff. She says, "So I did something. And it WAS hard. But listen: It was not harder than the path I had chosen by doing nothing."
In the course of all things that frustrate or hurt...in any process we endure...in any relationship...we have choice. Hang on...or let go...and in so many instances, they both bite. Both paths impact you. The opening or closing of your eyes to a situation...both are gnarly. The let go can be in any situation where you feel like you settle, or don't have control...just let go. Start over. Position yourself. Try to get up. If you fall, let go. Only you can decide how long you hold on to the rope. Your call, your standard, your specifics, your choice, your life.
Love, first and foremost, to be healthy, to be real, has to come from love of self (in some form). Acknowledge issues, yes, maybe you screwed up and you screwed up badly; yes, it probably could have been done better or you could have used better judgment; no, you have no idea why you did that and you probably never will; no, he/she didn't dig you, that doesn't mean you're not worthy or that NOONE will love you...whatever. Learn. Move on. You do yourself a wretched disservice in withholding love from yourself and wallowing in guilt, like being a pit with no PERMISSION to get out. Guilt is like the smell of campfire - it permeates EVERYTHING. The only way to get rid of it, is to wash that ish away. Showering, washing clothes, airing it out, tears if you must - just STOP DRAGGING THAT STUFF AROUND. If you did it, you did it. It's part of being human. Get over yourself already. Go back to the beginning and start over - this time, you know more. So, do more. Be better. Stop being your worst enemy already. Dude, be your own hero. Do things that make yourself impossibly proud of who you have become EVERY DAY. But for real, do it differently. Continuing to make the same choices, the same mistakes, following the same patterns...will never land you in a different place. If you think you're a bag of poo - do whatever you need to do to change that perception. BE YOU...in the best possible version based upon who you are today...with the aim to do a little better. For yourself. In a way that nobody else may ever know.
I may never find or be graced with the type of romance that I dream about...and, in reality, that's ok. I can choose to apply that definition to myself however I want...and in the long run, I want that lovely satisfaction and peace that comes with acceptance...with defining myself as worthy. I'm on my own side. I'm my own protector. I'm my own rescuer, my own personal savior because I can make those needed choices to save myself from pain and anguish and discord. And MAYBE, just maybe, if something knocks on my door one day, it'll be more about just seeing what kind of magic can be made one step at a time.
You know what's beautiful? Peace. Peace of heart, peace of mind...and there are moments where I feel that...like when I'm with one of my kids and they laugh whole-heartedly. I think to myself then - I'm lucky. There are moments when I'm laying in bed in the morning, and the curtains are wide open, and I have the most amazing view of the very tall trees behind my neighbors house that are bathed in the light of the rising sun and look gold at the tip tops...and I think to myself - I'm lucky. I may not have what I had initially hoped for, but looking at what I DO have - what remarkable blessings and grace exist in my life...I'm good. I'm happy. I'm healthy. This path is me-specific...yours is you-specific...so let's walk it. Find happy or joy in the different steps we take. Freaking out over the trips and falls...and then letting them go instead of sabotaging the journey with play by play from 4 trips ago. I'm NOT at ALL saying 'look at my life!! (flipping my hair) it's SOOOO awesome..." I'm saying 'look at OUR lives (pointing between you and me) - look at how different they are (opening my arms and hands up wide)...and how uniquely beautiful they are (shaking my hands emphatically)...look at what you've overcome (grabbing you by the shoulders)...look at what you can DO...for reals! look at how special you are...look at how full our lives are because we're connected as people and friends.'
Whatever your relationship status - whatever your current love situation - to have a successful relationship is not the sole defining factor in a meaningful life. It's ideally wonderful to have, yes. It adds a wonderful texture to this experience in life. It's just not a black spot upon you if you don't. Love of self, however, IS a defining bar. It will guide you through your decisions, through your paths...self-love is different from conceit or pride...it's loving this distinction, this personality, this life that is uniquely yours. So, try to be nice to yourself. Try to stop bludgeoning yourself, your heart (in its fragility, or even its fierceness...or it's tenderness), your loveliness (your kindness, or your humor, or your shiny eyes)...just start over if you need to. Use your sensibility. Lean on spirituality. Find your giggle that rings brightly when you use it. Read every day if that's what does it for you. Indulge your personal happy. Find your glow and let it SHINE. Unrestrained. Unbridled. Just be, baby. In the words of Billy Joel, 'I love you just the way you are.'
Unless you're my celebrity crush...then, I DO LOVE you. I'll adore you FOREVER. ;) just kidding. kinda. ok, fine. maybe not kidding. And I'm not sorry, either, for plugging in a bunch of pictures of him. You're welcome.