I remember feeling hopeless. I had felt sad and lonely before, but hopelessness was different. I felt completely defeated by love and I was convinced that I wasn't meant for a relationship. I was so lonely and everything around me felt bleak. It was winter and the trees were dead, it was cold and dark and the season felt endless. The feeling of hopelessness is one of the worst forms of sadness I've ever experienced. Hopelessness has no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no silver lining and hopelessness is so exhausting that we can lose our will to believe that yes, love exists and yes, we deserve that love.
For a long time, I couldn't understand how everyone around me made finding love seem so easy - I had friends who would break up with someone and a week later be in another relationship. They made it seem effortless - while I was going on horrible first dates, they were moving in with their new significant other. I didn't understand it; how was everyone in "normal" relationships except for me? I remember thinking, feeling, believing and even asking out loud: what is wrong with me? Why doesn't anyone want me?
The answer was simple: I didn't want me.
I was waiting for someone else to want me enough for the both of us - I was waiting for someone else to save me. I spent a lot of time - most of my life, to be honest - picking myself apart and focusing on what was wrong with me. Whether it was my weight (even when I was thin I had a horrible self-image) or my personality or my job or my clothes I thought everything about me was wrong. Every time I dated someone, I felt grateful that he even wanted to be with me. Because I felt like there was so much wrong with me, I just dated whoever gave me attention because I was too afraid of being alone. My dear friend M. once told me that I needed to wait for someone who was just as incredible as I am, and while I loved what she said, I wasn't ready to believe her. I was afraid that if I held out for incredible, he would never come along... I was afraid of recognizing my own incredible spirit.
Being incredible isn't easy. It means letting oneself shine - and letting other people see it as well. Being incredible isn't about thinking I'm better than anyone else because it has nothing to do with anyone else. It means knowing that no one can make me feel incredible - it's something I had to find by digging deep within myself. When I felt hopeless, I wasn't allowing my shine to come through. When I just accepted any sort of attention I could get from a man, I was diminishing my spirit. When I felt like there was something wrong with me, I was snuffing out my spark.
There isn't anything wrong with me - there never was. A relationship didn't come easy to me because I wasn't ready for a relationship. Once I stopped filling the void I felt with meaningless men (aka the Strike) I had no choice but look at myself in the mirror and face myself. Instead of distracting myself by dating, well, everyone, I allowed myself to take stock of my life and I realized that I hated myself. Even though I was really good at faking my confidence, inside I was completely insecure. Dating all the time helped distract me from the insecurity, and when I stopped dating, I was no longer distracted. I had no choice but to get to know myself and I hit rock-bottom in a pit of loneliness.
All I wanted was a boyfriend to take the loneliness away. I figured if I met the right man that all the pain would disappear and we would just jump into a healthy relationship. I invented the ever-famous Peter Baca and I convinced myself that I would be happier once I met him. As time passed, I didn't find Peter Baca but something began to stir within and I began to grow. I learned that being alone wasn't the worst thing that could happen to me. I knew that eventually I was going to be okay and I had renewed faith that yes, someday I was going to be in a normal relationship.
There really isn't such a thing as a normal relationship. Basically, normal is whatever works for a couple. What may seem odd to one is what works for another. F. and I took a long time to get to each other. Our eyes didn't meet from across a crowded room, nor did we have a typical first date that led to a second date that led to a third etc. In fact, we had our first date back in 2009 and that was it. Over the next two years, F. and I hung out twice and exchanged a few phone calls and emails (we were also friends on Facebook). Between the first date and when we actually began dating, I was in three other "almost" relationships and had gone on a long list of dates. I all but wrote F. off as someone who yet again didn't want me when all along, we just weren't ready for each other (and thankfully he was paying attention to that fact; I was too busy looking for validation to notice).
F. is a wonderful man and every day we learn more about each other and grow closer. He is the first person I want to call when I have good news and the first person I turn to on a bad day. I am less afraid of being happy and everyday I'm reminded that this relationship is a good one. When we began dating, I felt lots of things all at once - happiness, fear, anxiety, exhilaration and, interestingly enough, calm. I was calm because deep down past the fear and anxiety, I trusted myself. I trusted that I was doing the right thing and I trusted that regardless of the outcome, I was going to be okay because I am enough!
F. and I are not perfect people. While my soul has done a lot of healing, I still carry some open wounds. I still get insecure at times and sometimes I need approval more than I should. Believe it or not, I still feel hopeless at times - I feel like we're moving too slow or we aren't "normal" enough, but that is just fear talking. When I feel that way, I remember that this relationship is built on communication, honesty, respect and trust, and while we may move slow, we move together.
Movement beyond hopelessness is pretty damn incredible.
Next time: Silly Love Songs