I thought about starting this blog with, "I've spent years trying to figure this love thing out." And although that sentence is true, I'm so far removed from it that it doesn't even make sense to me anymore. What is there to figure out? Do we ever really figure out love?
Here I am at 52, in a new relationship. Is it great? Sometimes. And other times, not. Hearing someone ask "could he be the one?" irks me to no end. It's like listening to fingernails on a chalkboard. "No, there is no one", I tell them.
I was married twice. Well, technically three times, if you count my first husband, whom I married, divorced, married and divorced, again. Let me start over. I was married three times, to two men. (That sounds like I married two men three times, but you get it.)
Marriage, what a concept! What does marriage have to do with love? At my age I should have some answers, but I don't. I'm winging it through this life. You're probably thinking, why should I bother reading the rest of this blog? Hang on, it gets better!
I will tell you this: there is no love better than loving yourself. I know, it sounds cliche. Self-love is plastered all over social media, and that's not such a bad thing. There is overkill, though. But for those who don't know how to love themselves, I'm glad that self-love quotes and images are out there for everyone to see on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the like. A simple glance while scrolling through news feeds can spark something, anything that might help someone who really needs to hear it.
I came across how to love myself the hard way, as usual. Nothing ever comes to me easily. Long before social media influences, books on the matter and support groups, I was alone out there in the vast wilderness of self-loathing, clinging to men for validation. "Choose me, love me, don't leave me!" I soon learned I was not alone. The majority of women I knew were in the same boat, and it was headed down the rapids.
How did we get this way? Were we raised to be needy with no self-value, unless, of course, a man gave it to us? I could analyze that for hours, but I won't bore you. You know who you are and how you got here. None of that really matters anyway. What does matter is what we did next.
We, the insecure ladies of the world with no self-confidence, battered and beaten by motherhood, careers and marriages, managed to pull ourselves out of the miserable world of waiting - waiting for a man to love us, to give us what we thought we deserved. We woke the fuck up. At least, that's how the scenario went for me.
In my personal experience, a mental breakdown was necessary. I left. I walked away from my home, my kids, my husband, everything. It wasn't a choice. I had given myself away, so much so that there was nothing left to give. I prided myself on being a martyr, the do-gooder, the worrier, the saint, the caretaker. I was everything to everyone. I sacrificed myself. And no one put a gun to my head, I did this all on my own.
It was only when I lost myself, and I mean all of myself, that I hit rock bottom and was ready to build myself back up, for the first time in my life, and I was only 35. I wasn't ready to look at my part, but I was ready to crawl into a therapist's office and whisper my secrets. Even that didn't come easily for me. I'd rather talk about my latest nail color, or redecorating my living room, or my recent trip to the beach in Mexico. You know, the bullshit that we think is real. Over time, and a prescription for Prozac, the words flowed out of me like an uncontrollable river of obscenity, betrayal and infidelity.
Like wading through quicksand I grasped at anything I could to get myself out of the mess that I created. Blaming others was no longer allowed. I was all there was to blame. Through the muck I went, like pulling a hair-clog out of a bathtub drain, full of goop and nastiness, I verbally vomited all over my therapist's office. Thank goodness for her, this angel in my life. For the first time ever, someone allowed me to be me. And even I wasn't sure who I was.
I learned how to love myself, and how to be happy with just me. I didn't take a class or go to a seminar. I got on a bicycle and rode for 28 days through the bike trails of Southwestern Michigan. But that's a story for another day. My point is, I had to be alone and be okay with it. I was alone, and I felt like shit.
It was painful, like I was being reborn. Literally, I felt like I was being pushed out of the womb, gasping for air. It was life or death for me, there was no middle ground. When big changes come my way, they're dramatic, never subtle. Slowly, I began with little things. Self-love, for me, meant taking long hot baths using essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus, drinking herbal teas and listening to soothing music. Long walks alone, putting my bare feet on the earth and meditating. Spending long periods of time in quietness, journaling and sleeping were my favorite things to do. Over time I started to feel happiness, and I don't mean constant-happiness. I thought that was the goal. It's not realistic. I learned that I could be happy even in the worst situations. Happiness is a state of being, and certainly not a permanent place of bliss. That's something else entirely.
I learned what happiness was and how to get there, which naturally evolved into self-love. I was in love with me, happy and content. I no longer needed someone else so that I could feel gratification. I was doing that all on my own. I took care of myself, held myself accountable and became responsible. This didn't happen overnight, it took years.
Relationships with men came and went over time, and I learned more about myself through each one of them. Each of them, the one for me, at the time. And that's when an epiphany hit me like a two-by-four to the head. I was ready for a committed, mature relationship. Wow, I never thought those words would come out of my mouth!
Just when I wasn't looking, he appeared. He wasn't a knight in shining armor riding in on a white horse to save me. I wasn't a damsel in distress needing to be rescued. This wasn't a fairytale, it was real life. I was a mess after three solid days of writing, starving and standing at a grocery store deli, waiting for my turn and eyeballing the fried chicken in the deli-case. He was standing nearby, wearing a t-shirt and shorts, attempting to make small-talk with me. I was in no mood for that. Finally, I was served, sat down in the corner of the grocery store cafe and began scarfing down the chicken and coleslaw. He approached me again, and I wrote down my website and handed it to him, not expecting to ever hear from him.
But a couple months later he found me, in of all places on a Facebook advertisement for my latest book. He commented, "Hey, I met you at the deli!" From there, we messaged each other, and I agreed to meeting him the next day to sell him a signed copy of my book. Sure enough, the following day he walked into my work studio, handed me a twenty dollar bill and asked, "Are you hungry?"
"I'm starving," I said, and off we went to The Asylum, which for those of you who are not familiar with Jerome, Arizona, The Asylum is one of the best restaurants in town, my favorite. That was three months ago and we've been together pretty much most of the time since. It wasn't love at first sight. It was something much more meaningful than that. It was friendship, which grew into compassion and understanding, which evolved effortlessly into a deep loving relationship.
If you got anything out of this blog, I hope that it is this:
Be happy with who you are, and then fall in love. Fall in love with yourself first. Don't go looking for someone to love you. If it happens, let it happen naturally. Stay away from fairytales, they'll only let you down. And when the one drifts into your world, open up and let him in.