When I was 19 years old I met the man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with. Yes I was young and dumb, but more than that I was in love. For me, falling in love is a lot like a bolt of lightening. It hits me all at once and by the time I notice something has changed, it's too late. I'm theirs.
It turns out I wasn't destined to spend the rest of my life with Ryan though. While we started as a couple who could grow together, one day we started growing apart. And while falling in love may be a quick flash of light and heat, falling out of love was a sad song playing in an empty room. It happened so gradually and over so much time that I hardly even noticed it at all. But it was still too late.
I spent a lot of time after Ryan figuring out what I wanted and who I wanted to be. Settling down when you're 19 is not easy. I spent most of my adult life as the other half of a pair and I wasn't sure what that meant for me anymore. I wasn't sure if I liked who I was or the direction of my life. More than anything though, I was tired of being bored. Of feeling like I was missing out on all the fun. I wanted to say "yes" more and take more chances and see where it took me.
And I did all of that.
I said "yes." I stayed out too late and hung out with my friends too much. I embraced the opportunities life gave me and learned how to be happy alone. In fact, I got so good at being alone that I started to think it was the best option for me. I am always too loud. Too emotional. Too intense. Too quick to make things about myself. Well, this way I could make everything about myself and I didn't have to apologize to anyone. Dating was a way to meet new people, but never anything more. I rediscovered my sexuality and that was all I would ever allow anyone to be. A way to scratch an itch and a good conversation. If you couldn't do that, then you would never hear from me again. If you could, well I might call you time to time but never anything more and never anything with any real meaning.
Sometimes we do things for so long that we think that's who we are.
Eventually I met someone who made me pause and that simple moment of hesitation was all it took for him to worm his way inside my heart. But even though this man managed to piece together my fractured heart, I couldn't see a future with him. There were too many things that didn't quite fit. Too many doubts. I had been single for a long time and I didn't want to compromise. In a weird way the experience made me both hopeful and unsure of the future. I mean, how could I not want to be with this kind, patient, thoughtful man? I started to think that maybe I had been given my big chance at love. I had seven good years with Ryan and maybe that was it. And I told myself it was enough. Seven years is more than most. It would be greedy to hope for lightening to strike twice. It would have to be enough.
The thing no one told me was that you can't just open your heart up and expect to be unchanged. Suddenly, my loneliness had an edge it didn't have before and I couldn't just go back to the person I was. I didn't even want to go back.
And on a day unlike any other day, someone walked into my life and turned it upside down.
At first I didn't want to admit it to myself. I had made new friends and was trying new things and I didn't want to be bothered with it. I'm having fun and he's having fun and why can't that be enough? Right?! And I guess it was for a little while. But then lightening struck again and I knew something was different. In some small way I'm not even sure of, this man shattered all the petty comforts I had surrounded myself with. Suddenly, I didn't want to see anyone else. That itch that always needed to be scratched started to heal and I started to crave the type of relationship I had thought I would never want again.
Everyone else felt hollow in comparison to him.
Everyone was surprised and in a weird way that surprise hurt me. It made me realize that I had worn a mask for so long that no one could tell where the mask ended and where I began. I had buried my loneliness so deep inside me that no one could see it anymore. I couldn't even see it. But the people who knew me best understood and I took solace in that. They knew me from the days when I was with Ryan and they knew I wouldn't say I wanted something unless I was sure.
But it's not enough for me to be sure is it? He has to be sure as well.
But how do you convince a man that even though you seem to have changed everything you're looking for, you really haven't? How do you prove that this is the very thing you've been looking for the entire time but you had just convinced yourself to stop looking? I said "yes" so many times and I was always left wanting more. That emptiness I carried inside never abated. Now I am left with the daunting task of trying to show something I can't even explain fully. Sometimes I feel like I am Lennie Small squeezing that mouse to show how much I care. For me love has always been a verb and every cell in my body screams out to prove how much I care. It's been a hard lesson to learn that love doesn't always mean leaning and sometimes letting go is the real proof.
Tomorrow is New Years Eve and I don't know how I should feel about it. Part of me feels like I am dragging the same tattered suitcase into the new year. Like maybe I was right. Maybe I did have my chance at love and I am just throwing myself against a wall. It's hard to accept that sometimes that flash of light we see is just a reflection across the surface of the water. Not everything we feel is real and not every person we love deserves that love. The other part of me is more optimistic though. I may be a romantic but I am also pragmatic. I can see the truth to my feelings in a way no one else can. I would never set myself up for failure and I trust in the magic of lightening strikes. He has become the tune my heart hums and I am forever changed for it. It's not always easy to take a look at yourself and realize maybe you're being selfish. It's unfair for me to challenge others and then run from being challenged myself. So maybe this experience will teach me to love in a way that is deeper and less selfish and lasting. Maybe...maybe things will work out.
God I really hope things work out.
But if they don't, at least I've learned that I do want to share my life with someone. I want someone who can bring out the best in me and teach my son some of the lessons I haven't thought to teach. I want to grow my family and build a life of love and acceptance. I want laughter and tears and messes and hard times. I want it all. So optimism wins out and I go into 2016 with my spirit high and hopeful for the future. My heart may be a little battered but maybe being too much isn't always a bad thing. If I seem a little sad lately, this is why. No one said love was easy right? They just said it would be worth it.
Lightening struck twice and I am so very thankful for it.