I don’t know how to exist in a healthy relationship.
I am literally just barely recognizing that I’ve never even had one, and it’s terrifying to feel like some weird lens has been removed from my eyes.
At 30, I’m finally learning (ready to learn? hoping to learn?) skills vital to loving and being loved.
I am opening up about this because we live in a world where nobody even really knows what a healthy relationship is. Nobody teaches us anything other than what it “should” look like from the outside.
Is it the family on Instagram who looks like a photographer follows them even when they go take a shit? Is it the smiles on the vacation where everything looks posed and somehow effortless at the same time? Is it the movies? The brunch table?
But I do know there is so much shame attached to admitting maybe you don’t have it all figured out. There’s so much guilt tied to not being where you are “supposed to be” quite yet.
And I’m learning that where I’m supposed to be is right here.
Where you are supposed to be is right here, too.
Right now, I am lucky enough to be experiencing a love that feels safe for the first time maybe ever. And that love starts with myself.
A love that feels so safe, I can hold a mirror to myself and examine the things I no longer want to see. And when I see all those things (believe me, there are a lot!) I can forgive myself for the defense mechanisms and survival skills that used to serve me, recognize that I needed them at some point in my life, and exhale knowing I don’t need them anymore.
This love is so safe that it also causes all my past fears, resentment, anger, pain, and trauma to leak from my pores completely against my will.
I have had to learn how to sift through these feelings, let myself experience every trickling tear as it falls down my cheek, and just sit in it until I uncover what it’s trying to tell me.
This has caused me to feel really angry at times. I feel angry because I don’t particularly want to feel these things.
I feel angry because I am tired of doing the work sometimes.
I feel angry because I am finally being seen for who I truly am, and who I truly am needs to outgrow the shield of armor I have been walking around wearing for far too long.
Making these changes and even just admitting these things is almost paralyzing. I walked away from every “failed” relationship I’ve had knowing they did something worse than I did, so it was surely all their fault.
I often joked that my life played out like a bad Lifetime Movie at times, but I think I forgot that I’m not an actress playing a role, stepping off the set to return to my perfect family. I am a character in a very real life that doesn’t end when someone yells “cut!”
But even when I paused to ask myself what I could or should have done differently, I wasn’t ready to know the answer. So I didn’t see it.
Even though it was right there in front of my face.
I have listened to podcasts about relationships until I was blue in the face. I’ve read books on marriage, independence, commitment, and even tantric sex. I have talked with my friends and my counselors until our voices grew hoarse.
And, still, I have no f**** idea what I’m doing.
I haven’t the slightest clue how to love without leaving or be loved without the fear that someone else is about to walk out the door. I have abandonment issues and elements of anxious attachment that might make for great TV, but they don’t make for very good endings in real life. So I’m learning how to change the ending.
I’m learning how to change my habits, reframe my patterns of behavior, and stop trying to control every damn thing happening around me all the time. Because, frankly, I’m tired. Controlling everything is exhausting! And all it takes is realizing that controlling everything doesn’t make us any more safe than leaning into life and just taking the curves as they come. In fact, it’s a much more enjoyable ride when you allow yourself to stop predicting every single little pebble in the road you might encounter, and just close your eyes and feel them as they rattle beneath your feet.
You are a match for every pebble, storm, and boulder you encounter.
You are always stronger on the other side.
I have FINALLY started to recognize that all my attempts to nurture and parent those around me won’t hold a candle to the terrified little girl who lives under the covers of my heart. But I am ready to see her, acknowledge her, and protect her. I am ready to turn on all the lights in all the closets I’ve been too scared to revisit and hold her tightly while she sees there is nothing left to be afraid of.
I am ready to love myself, stand tall on my own two feet, AND STILL face someone else as they give their love to me while I know deep in my bones that I deserve it.
My heart quivers as I even type those words, but man it feels good to let them out.
I hope you know that if you don’t like the story you are living, you can always change the ending. And I don’t mean that in a drastic flip-your-whole-life-upside-down kind of plot twist, I mean quite the opposite.
If you don’t like the story you are living, pause for a moment at the page you’re on and ask yourself why. And rather than flip to 5 chapters down the road, just change a couple things so the next page feels a little bit better. It doesn’t all happen at once.
And sometimes we don’t know where to start or how to do it alone, and that’s where professional advice, knowledge, and asking for help comes in.
But it can be done, I can tell you that.
I might still be stuck on a page I don’t really like, but the ending will be different because I am brave enough to stay on that page until I figure out why.
Instagram is fun, but this is reality. And I just wanted anyone else who confuses the two sometimes to be reminded which is which. xoxo -M